We sit in the dark dusty basement one particular faculty member loves to call home.
The basement of Denton hall is a chameleon, a small ever changing creature capable of some very colourful appearances – just like its residents. Over the years it has been a home of vaudevillian French theatre, Middle Eastern war zones, a post-apocalyptic landscape, and now the capital of the Chechen Republic of Russia, Grozny.
We are waiting to begin one of the most substantive shows of our young careers. We are waiting for the Director. He touched down from Tokyo about 4 hours ago, left in a car from the airport in Halifax, and arrived in Wolfville in time to make the class he was teaching at the end of the day. His arrival in our Atlantic Standard Time was late at night, though for him it felt as though it was tomorrow morning because of the previous time zone.
We figure we can keep waiting for a minute before we start the first read through of the show.
This semester the Acadia Theatre Company puts on Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov. Chekhov is known for such works as The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, and for working alongside another theatrical titan – the director Stanislavski. It is a bold statement within the theatre community anytime a name like Chekhov is used; like Shakespeare or Wilde they carry with them responsibility and reverence. The Acadia Theatre Company’s shows are growing bolder still with its reinterpreted vision for this Russian classic. Set in the modern day of smart phones and classic rock, it stands in such stark opposition to Dr. Devine’s strict adhesion to linguistic continuity and multi-cultural approaches.
Pronunciations are key, which has provided a fresh challenge to many actors in the theatre company. Characters who speak two or more languages are particularly difficult to play. The preparation time for a show normally takes about 400 man-hours for a director: from beginning the process through to opening night. Sometimes this happens rather suddenly as in the case this semester, with the show being changed mid-semester in 2015 to its current schedule. The abrupt timeline shift was a bit of a surprise to the students within the company, but they are always up for a challenge. Many second year students stepped into leading roles for the first time. Among them are Katie Chevel and Stephen Roberts, who each won the award of Best Actor in last year’s Minifest.
Chevel comes to Wolfville from the coast of British Columbia and was given the role of Masha, the morose middle sister. When asked why she chose Acadia, she said “I was supposed to go to an arts school in Vancouver, but my best friend from kindergarten said he was coming here to pursue theatre. We were both involved in theatre in high school. He convinced me to follow my dreams and we both went to Acadia together.” Now she is starring alongside women from across the country, each with the same goal. Roberts comes to us from the Annapolis Valley, playing Andrei the brother of the Sisters. He brings enthusiasm and charm to the character who is overrun by the women in his life. This semester also sees the return of Malia Rogers. Always eager to perform, she has returned to acting after releasing her recent album Nomad on iTunes. A few business students have also found their way into Russian military gear this semester. They are taking advantage of the company’s cross faculty approach to casting.
All shows at Acadia are built from the ground up to help educate students in the theatre process. They showcase the artistic talents of many students behind the scenes. Taking the reins of the technical side of production will be Katherine Jenkins-Ryan, who has designed for the ATC in years past. Jamie Loughead will also be contributing in many ways, among them lighting designer. The use of projection within this show also highlights a modern take on a literary classic. Students from across faculties are assisting again this year to both learn valuable skills and to provide for other students. With so many contributions coming from behind the curtains, it is important not to forget to highlight them. Two very dedicated fourth years, Robyn Gallant (stage manager) and Kasey DeVries (set and prop manager), prefer the backstage as their queendoms. Gallant has to be ready for absolutely anything. She is often seen toting her impressive kit which is capable of thwarting anything that Murphy’s Law can throw at her. She is experienced in theatre from her years as technical director of Spotlight Theatre Company in Prince Edward Island. DeVries is in her element behind the doors of the ATC shop. Able to conjure up any prop or set she’s been asked to do for the past 4 years, her experiences have given her the ability to dress a student in a tiger costume while inside an onstage bathtub – without the audience seeing a thing.
The students within this dusty basement are obsessed. For years, its inhabitants have stretched, altered, painted, plastered, cut and demolished it, only to rebuild it again next semester after it has been put back in order. Every small glow taped corner of the basement has a magic to these strange few. Some have just begun to call it home, while others are getting ready to say goodbye to it as though it were an old friend.
The Acadia Drama faculty is a small tight knit family rarely seen away from the corners of the BAC or Denton Hall. We are content learning about the phonetics of Russian dialect and the philosophy of guns, but we are eager to showcase our work to you. Please come and support the students and faculty here by spending one night enjoying yourself at the Acadia Theatre Company’s production of Three Sisters.