Thursday, June 26, 2008

There's more to life than theatre

This will be my last entry for a while as my family and I leave today for a vacation in rural Nova Scotia. We try to go every summer to a tiny fishing village on the Bay of Fundy where our big excitement is watching the tide come in and playing in the brook behind the house. The house itself is more than 100 years old, filled with memories of my father as a boy, a place I visited often in my childhood. The wood stove that my grandmother used is still in the sunny yellow kitchen but it is merely a countertop now. The hammock in the yard is gone, but the trees that held it remain, even taller than when I was a girl. And you can still see the Bay from the verandah and watch the sun slip silently into the water at the end of the day.

So far away from the bustle of the city, the village does not have a single store (though it does have three churches). Our house has no television, no internet, no phone. We can't get cell reception until we drive a few miles away from the shore, over the "north mountain" towards the Annapolis Valley. Like all great vacation spots, it's very not here.

I am planning to see some theatre while I'm there. A company called Two Planks and a Passion is doing an outdoor production of Our Town, which was once the most-produced play in the world. It might still be. Groundbreaking and filled with wit and wisdom, Our Town deserves its place in American theatre history and on the playbills of high school and college drama programs around the world. It also deserves a place at professional theatres but the large cast prohibits frequent presentation so I'm looking forward to this one.

This past week I saw four shows, a big step down from my Magnetic North frenzy. Two were small musicals with big heart, one was almost pure spectacle, and one was simplicity itself. For pure spectacle, nothing beats Cirque de Soleil, a company whose artistry, athleticism, and aesthetic brilliance can't fail to inspire and delight. I was struck in the performance by the sense of awe that filled that big tent and it was hard for me to imagine someone not believing in God after witnessing such ingenuity.

The simple show was the Pulitzer-prize winning Proof, produced by Pacific Theatre's current acting apprentice, TWU grad Becky Branscom, who also starred as Catherine. It was stripped-down theatre with only a few chairs, evocative music, and stark lighting (designed by TWU grad Lois Dawson) to create the experience.

Except that's not true at all because story rules this show. I have often said that the only element without which theatre could not exist is actors. This production proved my thesis. This is an actors' piece and the actors in this production shine, bringing the humanity of the characters to the surface. Jackie Faulkner is another TWU grad in the show, playing Catherine's sister Claire. This production is a tribute to their talents and Becky's determination and I'm very proud of them. I'm also pleased TWU has included Proof in its 2008/09 season as its truths about relationships, pain, and healing have much to offer our audience as well.

Thornton Wilder's theme in Our Town is an admonition to pay attention to your life, to see the beauty in the simplest of moments. We might think that the mundane activities of our lives are unimportant but he reminds us that each "normal" day is a precious gift, filled with a significance that might not be understood this side of eternity. As I play on the shore with my kids, I will be doing all I can to follow Wilder's advice to live life "every, every minute". I suggest you do the same.

1 comment:

erin.germaine said...

that place sounds so wonderful. it reminds me of a novel- something about a young adventurer growing up in a little town full of stories and secrets. i would love to see that place- i could smell the fresh air simply from reading your description! i hope you enjoy your time there- and have no run-ins with carnivorous wild beasts. :)

thornton wilder is such a great writer. i did a project about the aspects of transcendentalism and realism in his works- focusing mainly on "Our Town" and "The Skin of Our Teeth." Both- great plays. i would love to see the latter done- i never have! actually come to think about it- i've never seen either production! it's too bad i cant be there with you.

it's great to read your blog! i am so excited about this newfound distraction- its so great to be able to read the thoughts of others and share your own. oh the beauty of free speech. down with big brother!