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Innocence Lost Diary

Note; This is a collection of posts from January 2013, grouped here so you can read about the production diary in chronological order. ~marc

During the month of January I’ll be following the development of Centaur Theater’s production Innocence Lost: A play about Steven Truscott. The play by Beverly Cooper deals with the events following the 1959 murder of a young girl in Clinton, Ontario, and the subsequent wrongful incarceration of 14 year old school-mate Steven Truscott.

Director Roy Surette and the cast have given me the unique opportunity to attend rehearsals with my sketchpad. I’ll be drawing live while the actors go about the work of building the characters and story. The drawings are both a document of the actors at work, and a visualization of the story they conjure from the page.

Innocence Lost opens at the Centaur on January 29th, 2013. My sketches will be on display in the theater lobby throughout the run of the show.

Come back often throughout January for updates!

12Dec21_CentaurTheater

Part 1 – Jan 7 – First week with the Cast:

I’m the new guy here. There’s a 13 year old actress in the cast, who clearly knows more about what’s going on than I do.

The actors are quite incredible. They’re learning the text as they go, switching back and forth through multiple characters, jumping forward and backward through the scenes. It’s really interesting to see it happen. To call them mercurial would be an understatement. Some of the cast are switching between ten different roles. They collectively represent the entire town, showing us how everyone reacts to the terrible events of the murder and the strange course of justice that followed.

13Jan03_Centaur_Day01

In the first few sessions, I’ve been sketching rapidly. Trying to memorize faces as the actors read, re-read and discuss the text. They call the first few days ‘Table Work’ – for reasons that became fairly clear. It was very much like watching a jury deliberate for hours. Everyone trying to determine, what does my character know at this point? Who knows what rumors, what are the police doing, how did events move so quickly to their bizarre conclusion.

13Jan03_Centaur_Day02

I’m just learning the faces of all the people involved. They’re sitting down, but they’re not still by any means. There’s the usual fidgeting of people in a meeting, but also plenty of emoting and gesturing and debating. The faces are constantly in motion.

13Jan03_Centaur_TableWork_Combined

Next week they get up on their feet, and I’ll begin to see scenes come to life. Looking forward to it!

Part 2 – Jan 14 – Getting on their feet:

After the first few sessions of reading, the actors are up on their feet, doing blocking. The internet says the term comes from a practice of ‘using small wooden blocks to represent actors, moving these about on a miniature of a set of a planned work’. For these guys it’s walking through the script, half reading, half acting, getting the feel of things – sometimes calling out ‘line!’ when they need a hint from the production crew. Sometimes calling a stop to say – ‘wouldn’t it be better if I stood over here?’ Or ‘would my character know this at the time?’

13Jan03_Centaur_Blocking

It’s fascinating watching them work – I can see why the Actors Nightmare is a play about forgetting lines.

I’m continuing to study the faces. It’s challenging, as each actor has multiple roles in the play. Each time I’m wanting to portray them slightly differently. I’m imagining once they’re in costume it’s going to look even more impressive. People changing age and persona right before your eyes.

13Jan14_Centaur_JennyYoung

13Jan03_Centaur_TableWork_Michael_Spencer-Davis

I was glad to get a good one of the playwright, Beverly Cooper – she was only here for a few days, so I made sure to get a few of her. And of course, the director, Roy Surette. I’m not sure what’s the right thing to say about directors – puppet master? collaborator? cheerleader? It’s certainly some of all of that.

13Jan03_Centaur_BeverlyCooper

13Jan03_Centaur_TableWork_RoySurette

As the actors block the scenes, sometimes a posture will happen, just for the briefest second, that really tells the story. Here’s a couple from early in the play, as the school kids are just finding out that their friend has been murdered.

13Jan13_Centaur_Who'd want to hurt Lynne

13Jan14_Centaur_Do you even know what rape is_Q

At the end of a session I grabbed a shot of Steven Truscott’s bike leaning in the corner, with some other props – a detective’s hat, some old bakelite phones, a super 8 movie projector.  I don’t know what some of it is for, but I know that bike will be in a big scene soon.

13Jan14_Centaur_props

Part 3 – Jan 17 – Drawing Emotions:

13Jan14_Centaur_Dont build your hopes up_you don know_some funny things can happen

[ Don't get your hopes built up. Anything can happen. ]

We’re getting into the actual scenes now. Not just reading through it, but doing the scenes over and over. Looking for the best way to imply emotions. To show the undercurrents. The drawings come out less like portraits, and more like versions of the characters. I find when the actor is playing younger, (they often switch between addressing the audience ‘now’ and what happened ‘then’ within the same scene), the drawing also comes out younger. It’s the same people – but I’m drawing them smaller, more vulnerable. I didn’t start doing it on purpose – it just happened.

13Jan14_Centaur_They found her dead_Q

[ They found her dead? In Lawson's Bush. ]

Sketching from life usually involves exploring a city, drawing architecture. Maybe sometimes drawing people doing interesting things – usually it’s people doing something work related. It’s not often that you draw people in emotionally charged situations.  Drawing these actors, I’m seeing expressions of anger, shock, disbelief, grief. A greater range than I’ve ever drawn. Perhaps not the ultimate truth, (they are acting after all, and you can tell they’re holding back some juice for later on) but still – emotional situations a sketch artist just doesn’t usually see.

13Jan14_Centaur_I couldnt think of anything sadder in the whole world

[ I couldn't think of anything sadder in the whole world. I still can't. ]

13Jan14_Centaur_The father arrived in a belligerent manner asking why Steven had been picked up

[ The Father arrived in a belligerent manner asking why Steven had been picked up. ]

The great thing about the actors in rehearsal is they give me the scenes over and over, rewinding the action, trying on a slightly different attitude or emotion. (They actually make rewinding noises, walking and talking backwards speedily re-setting to the start of a scene. Really. Not kidding.)

This experience has been much more interesting than any drawing workshop. I get to draw the thing from life, but I also get three or four tries at it.

13Jan14_Centaur_Eight to One_Upheld his conviction

[ Eight to one. Upheld his conviction. ]

Part 4 – Jan 21 – Courtroom Drama:

It’s getting close to the end of rehearsal. Time is running out – I’ll be drawing right to the last minute. We’re hanging the show for opening night Tuesday January 29th. We’ll be having a small meet and greet from 5-7 pm, if anyone would like to come down to see the drawings, and I hope, also see the 8 pm show. As of this writing tickets are still available. (Purchase tickets here).

13Jan14_Centaur_Im curious how a fourteen year old boy comes to be sentenced to hang

[I’m Curious how a 14 year old boy comes to be sentenced to hang?]

Innocence Lost is about the aftermath of a murder. So of course there are trials and appeals, interrogations and interviews. Some of these scenes have all the dramatics of a police procedural. Big shot expert witnesses, testimony of the first responders. The stuff we’re so familiar with from our Laws and Orders and CSIs.

13Jan14_Centaur_you there be hanged by the neck until you are dead and may the lord have mercy on your soul

Allan Morgan is particularly cracking as the judge – spitting lines like ‘…there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.’

Or the judgmental cop asking – Do you like girls kid? Maybe take’em into the woods?

Director, Roy Surette calls this Perry Mason Stuff. Some of the 20-something actors had to pull out phones and check that on Wikipedia.

13Jan14_Centaur_You interested in girls_Q

13Jan17_Centaur_DrDr

What’s more interesting is the way the play handles the real situation. What it must have been like for the kids in the witness box. All of them seem out of their depth testifying – do they even know they’re building an incriminating timeline? Do they understand that it really does matter if it was 7:00 or 7:30 when they saw Steven and Lynn? Why are the authorities interrogating these school kids and not looking closer at the military personnel in town?

13Jan14_Centaur_Pippa Leslie

Pippa Leslie is particularly chilling as young Jocelyn Gaudet. Could this girl really comprehend what was going on? She seems hell bent on executing her classmate with testimony. Tying the noose with her words. Was she a thoughtless  kid lying for the attention, or just scared enough to say whatever the crown prosecutor wanted to hear? Did she make a small lie early, and end up way too deep?

It’s hard to say – who knows what any one of us would have done at that age. The crazy thing is that it ever happened. The idea that a gang of seventh grade kids could reliably testify in a death penalty case!  I understand why the story is still controversial.

I hear second hand, that there are people in Clinton who still say the jury did the right thing, despite what we know today.  Would you want to say your dad almost got a kid hung? Tough situation all around.

13Jan17_Centaur_Testify

Part 5 – Jan 25 – The Cutting Room Floor:

Just a quick report today. At the Centaur, the actors are finally up on stage, rehearsing in the theatre, in the actual set, testing lighting, music and sound (and some clever video effects). Here in our studio we’re in the midst of cutting mats and assembling frames. It’s all coming together. Starting to become a real show.

13Jan23_Centaur_Costume_and_Hair01

The other day I went backstage (or, I should say, below-stage) to see the costume and wig fittings. All that stuff takes place in a cramped basement full of old props and miles of electrical cables. The costume shop is packed to the steam pipes with hats, shoes and clothes from every period of history. The working spaces could be called ‘utilitarian’ – low ceilings, a tiny few barred basement windows, but nonetheless you can feel the theatre magic going on.

I was promised full access to the production – but strangely they didn’t let me draw the costume fittings. After watching the actors pour out emotions day after day in rehearsal, I would think seeing them in their underwear wouldn’t be a big deal :) But, at least I got to watch a wig-fitting!

13Jan23_Centaur_Costume_and_Hair03

The stylists are clearly at the top of their game – it was a whirlwind of styrofoam heads and disembodied hairstyles in a tiny room, barely wide enough for a dressing table and a hilarious pink satin couch. I was drawing tucked up into a corner, perched on the smallest sink I’ve ever seen.

I got a kick out of all the mirrors with rows of lights. It doesn’t get more ‘backstage’ than that.

13Jan23_Centaur_Costume_and_Hair02

I’ve saved my favorite sketches for the last in this series. See you next week when the art is up in the gallery and the show is on the stage.

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.

13Jan17_Centaur_BikeRide

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.

13Jan17_Centaur_PippaTestifying

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.

13Jan24_Centaur_Onstage_03

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.

13Jan14_Centaur_They'll send him to Collins Bay_He'll be in a penitentiary with hard criminals

[“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.

13Jan25_Roy_Surette

[Roy Surette]

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.

~Marc

36 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2013 5:04 PM

    Hi Marc, I am going to enjoy this! Could you tell us what drawing materials you are using? Thanks.

    • January 7, 2013 9:09 PM

      Hey Don – nothing too unusual, pencil, ballpoint, (I guess this is different) brush and ink instead of brushpen, and the usual watercolors. Working on Strathmore smooth bristol board and Canson Montoval watercolor pads.

  2. January 7, 2013 6:34 PM

    Hey, Marc, this looks like an amazing project. Perhaps they will use your beautiful drawings to illustrate a history or to seek funding. If I were them, I would ask you to donate one drawing for an auction. They would not doubt make a bundle.

    • January 7, 2013 9:07 PM

      Heh – well it’s always possible we’ll sell out the show :)

  3. January 7, 2013 9:29 PM

    Wow, really cool project, keep us updated! Years ago I used to draw at rehearsals of philharmonic orchestra for my diploma work, it was incredible experience. :-)

  4. January 7, 2013 10:08 PM

    Marc,
    This sounds like so much fun! What a great idea!
    Bethann

  5. January 7, 2013 10:11 PM

    Great sketches and nice start to the project. Drawing people in motion is not easy, but you’ve captured these people quite nicely.

  6. January 15, 2013 5:16 PM

    These are looking great! Now that I realize how hard these are to do I am doubly impressed with your skill.

    • January 15, 2013 5:20 PM

      awww, pshwaaaa – now you’re making me blush. Give yourself a few weeks of training, you’d be doing this and more. It’s really a great workshop, staring at this gang all day, days on end :)

  7. January 17, 2013 1:29 PM

    Beautiful writing and art work. It’s the next best thing to being in the rehearsal hall with the company. Thank you.

    • January 17, 2013 1:50 PM

      Well, thank you very much Tracey – I’m always tickled to hear my writing is getting better :) It’s much easier to track the progress with drawing. BTW, I noticed your site about V/O training – I might check into that someday – that could be something I need! (I’m slowly working on some videos – might have to do my own VO at least at the start).

  8. January 17, 2013 3:59 PM

    It’s so interesting to see the progression through your eyes. And to the see the emotion they are trying to convey come through in the sketches.

  9. January 17, 2013 5:05 PM

    I am Bev’s pal and just want to say I LOVE these. Which do I love most? Maybe the 1st, or the father or eight to one. Keep changing my mind. Congratulations.

    • January 17, 2013 5:36 PM

      Thanks for the good words Cathy. And I just want to say, an illustrated version of The Painted Girls would be a tremendous project. Just saying – you know enhanced e-books are all the rage these days. I would happily practice with pastels for a chance to draw from the book :)

  10. Pete Smith permalink
    January 17, 2013 7:58 PM

    Love this. What a grand idea. Evocative, inviting, disturbing at times.

    • January 17, 2013 8:12 PM

      Thanks for stopping by Pete. It does seem like a creative synergy – live drawing and live theater. If you’re interested, there are a number of active location sketchers in the Toronto area. Possibly we could send an artist your way.

  11. January 18, 2013 2:53 PM

    Great sketches, and equally fascinating to hear how you’re changing, too, as the play develops. Enjoying these a lot!

  12. January 18, 2013 3:27 PM

    Nice work Marc!

  13. Julie Tamiko Manning permalink
    January 19, 2013 12:39 AM

    Mark, it is such a pleasure to have you in the room with us. It’s incredible how your drawings and writing relay the feeling in the room so perfectly. Thank you!

  14. January 20, 2013 7:00 PM

    Fabulous perspective on production, thanks!
    I will get to see it when it comes to Ottawa….http://nac-cna.ca/en/englishtheatre/event/2673

    • January 20, 2013 7:25 PM

      This is a bit premature but there is some discussion about putting the drawings up in Ottawa – so you might even see some originals there!

  15. January 21, 2013 12:50 AM

    Terrific drawings- full of movement and energy. Would love to see a portrait of the young girl!

  16. January 21, 2013 9:11 PM

    Your drawings are electric, Marc, they really capture the feel of the production. I hope you’ll add your commentary alongside them because your words add even more depth.

  17. February 27, 2013 7:39 PM

    Simply beautiful work and a great project. I am now very inspired!

  18. Linda Patton permalink
    February 28, 2013 10:05 PM

    Marc – what wonderful work and very inspiring! I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me what pen you use for your cast group sketches, costume shop, etc. and also for the stunning exterior theatre/stock exchange drawing. Love your drawings. Thanks

    • March 1, 2013 12:01 AM

      Ah Linda, I have tricked you :) For the costume shop sketches – it is just a pencil drawing! I scanned the pencil sketches and adjusted the color in photoshop :) For the rest of the ink line, it is either brush and ink, or (for the finer lines) ball point pen.

  19. March 25, 2013 8:50 AM

    Marc,
    Now that the full “diary” is online, the experience appears even more rich than it did moment-by-moment. We’re working on getting access to a local community theatre group, for a rehearsal or two, here in Quebec City. Thank you for the inspiration – I doubt I would have thought of it without following this project.

    • March 25, 2013 12:28 PM

      Very cool – hope that works out. I was thinking of trying to bring a similar project to the ballet in town here, (when time permits – not in plein air season!)

  20. Gail Dupras permalink
    April 20, 2013 11:35 AM

    Hi Marc, I’m so glad to finally be able to contact you. My son played Steven Truscott in the play Innocence lost and I would like to purchase on one of your sketches as a keepsake for him. how do I gou about it. Looking forward to hearing from you

  21. Carol permalink
    July 4, 2013 4:59 PM

    A HUGE thank you for sharing the sketch notes and the diary. You are not only talented but very generous. What an awesome project!!!

Trackbacks

  1. First week with the Cast of Innocence Lost « Citizen Sketcher
  2. Part 2 – Innocence Lost Production Diary « Citizen Sketcher
  3. Part 4 – Innocence Lost Production Diary « Citizen Sketcher
  4. Part 5 – Innocence Lost Production Diary « Citizen Sketcher
  5. Final post in the Innocence Lost Production Diary « Citizen Sketcher
  6. Addendum: Innocence Lost Production Diary: The drawings travel to Ottawa! | Citizen Sketcher

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