Final post in the Innocence Lost Production Diary
Part 6 – Feb 1 – Artistic License:
So: we come to the end of the production diary, but the beginning for the play.
Last night was the sold-out premiere at Centaur Theatre. We can finally see it as it was meant to be – with music, lighting, and scenes flowing one into another.
During the dress rehearsal, I was given a little lamp with a dimmer, so I could sketch next to the stage manager Melanie St-Jacques. She sits surrounded by crew, computers and mixing boards, wearing headphones and mike, calling out in a steady, calming voice a constant stream of cues. Spotlights, sound effects, and video clips – fade this effect, bring up the next. All in perfect timing with the actors. Like an orchestral conductor crossed with NASA mission control.
I’m amazed at the leap from rehearsal to stage. It’s a huge jump in the experience. Once again, I’m sure I’m the only one surprised. The actors and crew know this feeling, but for me, seeing what was already impressive reach that next higher level – it’s really quite a thing.
Frankly, I didn’t really understand live theatre before this experience. Now I get it. My form of art is mostly a solitary practice. It’s been eye opening seeing this kind of team work.
I’ll leave you with my favorite sketches from the project. These are the ones that went off the rails. The ones where I got a bit carried away. Sketching what I felt, rather than what was actually going on.
In rehearsal, without the lights and music, I formed an instantaneous impression of this scene. They actually do this – the entire cast is there, floating around the two children on the bike.
I only saw it happen a few times. Had no idea it was coming, and it was over in a second. As long as it takes to bicycle across a room. They said “let’s do that one more time” – I immediately grabbed a new sheet and scribbled furiously.
On stage, it’s an unsettling, ghostly scene. To me, more than a little ominous. I saw it as the overbearing presence of the community gathered in judgment. All the lies, the gossip and the fear that built up around these kids.
Beverly Cooper told me I missed the point entirely – that it’s meant to be redemptive. (That’s what I get for asking! Always go with your instinct.) Certainly the mood is completely different on stage. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. But this remains my favorite sketch as it is, just because it’s an example of how everyone responds differently to art.
Here is Pippa Leslie again, as Jocelyn Gaudet, on the witness stand. I found her small scenes the most chilling. I couldn’t help but think of the Salem witch trials. Children testifying about life and death.
This one is a little more light hearted. Allan Morgan as the first cop to interview Steven. There wasn’t a costume at this point – just the hat. He actually had a rolled up magazine, or winter gloves or something, stuck in the pocket of a bulky military surplus sweater. I swear he was miming a gun-belt. The real 1950 cop uniform is even weirder on stage – all brass buttons and leather belts. Like a fashionable Italian fascist.
[“They'll send him to Collins Bay! He'll be in a penitentiary with hard criminals!”]
The actual staging of this line is completely different. There was a slight change in the script for clarity, and there’s a bunch of other people in the full scene, and Julie Tamiko Manning looks completely different in her 50’s housewife costume and wig. And of course, she’s not clutching a page of the script. But still, this was one of my favorite captures of a line reading in rehearsal.
So there it is! This has been a tremendous project. Enriching artistically. Educational for me, coming from outside the world of theatre. I’m very grateful to be allowed the opportunity. And of course, I’m hopeful I’ll find a chance to do something similar another day with another production.
If you are in the area, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to see the play here in Montreal, live at Centaur at the time of this writing, or when it opens at the National Arts Center in Ottawa on Feb 27th.
Thanks for following the production with me, and thanks to Centaur Theatre, the cast and crew, and Creative Director Roy Surette for making this happen.