Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Photo by Heidi Hamilton

How did the idea to adapt a Shakespearean text incorporating Bouffon come about?

When Stephen [Drover] asked me to write an adaptation of Titus Andronicus I wondered how to connect with a play I felt was emotionally vacant but intriguing.  “What makes people so angry they kill children?  What is under such rage? Terrible hurt probably, and terrible grief.”

While adapting the play I was the Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta, working in the same department as Professor Michael Kennard, aka Mump from the incredible duo Mump & Smoot.  Michael teaches clown there and I was inspired by the rigor and the fearlessness he used in his hilarious student presentations.  I felt that given the blood-bath of the 21st century, Bouffon were more suitable to my adaptation because they bring a primal urgency to a story that both begs to be taken seriously and begs not to be taken seriously.

Can you tell us a little bit about the effect that the Bouffon style has on the piece?

The Bouffon style opens up both the emotional and the farcical aspects that are already in Shakespeare’s play.  He must have enjoyed writing it, and there are some beautiful passages, as fine as any he wrote.  The murders and the outrage might even be funny…and the funny is sometimes sad.  The world of revenge is an over-the-top world driven by sad, angry people.

What is something about the show that audiences may be surprised to learn?

Perhaps members of the audience might be surprised to discover that nothing is sacred, that everything is human, including the worse things people do to each other.

Can you describe the show in 3 words?

Fun Meets Death.

What most excites you about bringing this piece to the stage?

Marrying Shakespeare with Bouffon offers another perspective on Titus Andronicus in the 21st century.

Peter Anderson in “The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius”. Photo by Stephen Drover


The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius runs from Nov 22 – Dec 3 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $22 and can be found here.

IGNITE! Festival: An interview with Chalene Scott, director of ‘Mighty Qualified, Plenty Smote’

Every year in May, The Cultch hands over its facilities to young artists in town to bring you the IGNITE! Festival. Chalene Scott is one of the three emerging directors selected from an application process this fall to participate in the IGNITE! Mentorship Program and direct the three new plays presented in the festival.

For the mentorship Scott was paired with director Stephen Drover (Penelope, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot) for guidance along the way. Chalene is directing Mighty Qualified, Plenty Smote written by emerging playwright Ronan K. Nanning Watson (also a participant, paired with mentor David Geary). The directors cast their own shows, found a crew to produce them, and will debut these brand new scripts starting next Monday in the Vancity Culture Lab. We had a chance to chat with Chalene about the play she is directing and the process she went through.

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Sean Fabisch, Deanna Rayne, and Chalene Scott – Photos by Maurice Tsai

Can you tell us a little bit about the play?

Mighty Qualified, Plenty Smote is a sort of surreal look at right and wrong. The main action revolves around a devil-figure, Staniel, trying to obtain a woman’s soul, but the woman, Liona, doesn’t believe in souls or the devil. We have a hero whose good intentions may have led her to do “wrong” things, and we have a classic villain who may be motivated by the purest ideals. So who’s right if everyone is wrong? On top of that, there’s a chorus of amoral and philosophizing child-mystics with no clear agenda, helping and hindering at will. The play explores themes of morality through blues music and sensationalism.

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Shon Burnett, Keren Katz, and Chalene Scott – Photos by Maurice Tsai

What drew you to this script?

The first immediate draw was that the script terrified me artistically. I had never done a show so incorporeal and transient in terms of setting and character. So, obviously, I had to direct it! Then there’s the lovely way Ronan (the playwright) plays with language and themes. I just sort of fell in love with it after the first reading.

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Keren Katz, Shon Burnett, and Chalene Scott – Photos by Maurice Tsai

What is something that surprised you about the IGNITE experience?

There have been many pleasant surprises thrown my way by IGNITE. I really had no idea what I was signing up for when I submitted my application. IGNITE takes  such good care of its participants! When I got the full schedule, I was surprised to see so many workshops aimed at forging the skills that young artists need to forward their projects, companies, or individual art. I think it’s amazing that the participants are supported not only in creating the art they were accepted into the program to create, but are also given the skill to continue creating afterwards.
Rob (Robert Leveroos, Youth Program Manager) has done an amazing job keeping everyone organized, but I was so pleased to see how much the youth panel is responsible for. I’m a huge advocate for giving youth the opportunity to experience responsibility in a safe environment before they have to deal with high stakes responsibility in the “real world”.

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Photos by Maurice Tsai

Tell us about working with your mentor Stephen Drover. Is there something you’ve learned that you can share with us?

Stephen’s been great to work with. He’s supportive in a very constructive way. If I come in with an idea and ask it it’s crazy, he won’t tell me what he thinks. Instead, he’ll give me a few more tools so I can decide for myself. I think the biggest lesson has been that there are no absolutes and when in doubt, I should trust my instincts. We have instincts for a reason and to ignore them is to spit in the face of artistic expression.

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Keren Katz, Beni Spieler , and Shon Burnett – Photos by Maurice Tsai

Your production marks a first in the IGNITE! Program, you’re working with three youth aged 10-11, tell us about that decision to work with such young performers.

After I got the script, I spent some time with it, as one does, and fairly immediately realized that the chorus could not have the same effect (in fact, their effectiveness would be significantly diminished) were I to cast adults, or even teenagers. There’s something weirdly gripping about seeing the devil pandering to a posse of preteens. I knew there would be extra challenges in casting kids so young, but ultimately, I knew it would be worth the effort. So far, I think I’m right.

 

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Sean Fabisch, Gauri Roy, Shon Burnett, Deanna Rayne, and Keren Katz – Photos by Maurice Tsai

How has it been to work with them? What can audiences expect when they come see your show?

They’re all wonderful to work with. The trickiest thing about the kid’s roles is that they really aren’t written for children. Audiences should not come in expecting to see a children’s show. The themes are mature and the young ones rarely get to say anything they’d be likely to say outside of the show. They’ve risen to the occasion beautifully, expounding strings of large, complicated ideas that I think, would sound weird coming out of anyone, let alone a ten-year-old.
There’s also some blues music and shadow-play in the show. Something for everyone! (Except small children. Don’t bring the kids. We have a few foul words.)

 

The show is part of the IGNITE! Theatre Festival, May 5-10.
Monday, May 5: Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote and The Lies We Tell 6 pm
Tuesday, May 6: Party Princess No. Five and Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote 6 pm
Wednesday, May 7: The Lies We Tell and Party Princess Rule No. Five 6 pm
Thursday, May 8: The Lies We Tell and Party Princess Rule No. Five 6 pm
Friday, May 9: The Lies We Tell and Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote 6pm
Saturday, May 10: Party Princess Rule No. Five, Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote and The Lies We Tell 2 pm
Saturday, May 10: Party princess No. Five and Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote 6 pm

Tickets start at just $2 and can be purchased online.
Full festival information at igniteyouthfest.ca