Yeats in the theatre Focus on the words: Behind the masks, actors
rehearse The W.B. Yeats Project. In alphabetical order are Stephanie Bogue
Kerr, Laura Burke, Chris Cook, Jon de Leon, Sacha Engelhardt, Vanessa
Johnson, Shannon Lynch, Ralph Prosper, Charlene Rockwell, Esther Scharf
and Kim Sheppard.
by Clare Byrne
Michel Forgues, director of The W.B. Yeats Project, the
first theatrical production to be staged in Concordias F.C. Smith
Auditorium in eight years, had a confession to make: Theatre bores
Conventional productions that follow the authors stage instructions
to the letter leave Forgues unmoved. When I go the theatre, I want
to be surprised, he said in an interview.
Forgues, former director of the Theatre de lUniversité de
Montréal (TUM), has done everything to ensure a novel experience
for the spectator in this production, which opens tonight. This project,
through its choice of author, choice of plays and staging techniques,
is designed to surprise.
First, the author: William Butler Yeats. Yeats considered himself a dramatist
first and foremost, but was infinitely more famous as a poet. The lyrical
beauty of his poems, set in the context of the Irish independence movement,
forged his reputation as one of Irelands finest writers and secured
him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, but his plays are still a
largely unknown quantity, so why Yeats to kick off the theatre season
Yeats raw materials are Irish legends, full of ghosts and
spirits, very hard to stage, Forgues said. The challenge for
me was to stage these plays in a way that is plausible for the spectator.
The four short plays which will be tackled by Concordias theatre
students are Purgatory, The Words Upon a Window Pane, Dreaming of the
Bones and The Shadowy Waters.
All feature phantasmagoric figures. Purgatory plays out the remorse
of a son faced with the ghosts of the drunken father he killed and the
mother who died giving birth to him. The Words Upon a Window Pane enacts
a séance, in which the ghost of Jonathan Swift invests a medium
as she tries to make contact with the other world.
Yeats was greatly influenced by Japanese Noh theatre. The Dreaming
of the Bones is an example of Yeats plays for dancers, with
Noh-like masks, dancing and chanting of verse. Finally, The Shadowy
Waters, not so much a play as dramatic poem, speaks of the authors
disillusionment with the pursuit of love.
Actor, director and writer Forgues has produced over 50 plays. He cut
a progressive figure at the Université de Montréal, where
he taught drama for five years before becoming director of TUM in 1997.
Two years ago, he resigned from the U de M to take a break from theatre.
He started writing in 1997 and, like Yeats, writes both poetry and plays.
Now back in the directors chair, 53-year-old Forgues said hes
very, very pleased to undertake his first English-language
project at Concordia.
The team is extraordinary, he remarked about the actors. About
the F.C. Smith Auditorium, which is located underneath Loyola Chapel,
he exclaimed, That theatre has got a soul!
Forgues staging of the Yeats plays promises to be as unconventional
as the plays themselves. There is no décor like in
Shakespeares time, when they would announce a forest scene with
a wooden beam marked Forest!
The Theatre Department stages four or five plays annually. The 200 theatre
students participate in all aspects of production, from set design to
lighting and costume creation, giving them invaluable theatre experience.
The W.B. Yeats Project runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3. Tickets are rock-bottom.
For details, call the box office, at 848-4747.