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eNews: "...So we can all enjoy a good laugh"

These are interesting times. Stock markets are dropping, then soaring, then dropping again. Entire countries, if not continents, are going broke. They say the recession will continue longer than expected. So what's there to laugh about? Rookery Nook brings us back to a simpler age, an innocent time...where the worst trouble two honest gents could get into was being caught with a woman in wet pyjamas. Rookery Nook is a play written, as Director Bindon Kinghorn says, "...so we can all enjoy a good laugh." Watch the video to see how much fun you're in for!

Read on below to learn more about this 1920s farce by the playwright that filled houses with farces like this for over a decade!

Video by Jamie Tanner

Behind the Scenes: An Aldwych farce presented in the Aldwych way.

“[Farce] can be one of the happiest of theatrical forms. It is also among the most difficult to write. Ben Travers, undeniably, was the twentieth century’s chief practitioner.” (London Times, Travers' Obituary:1886-1980)

It is this happiness that led Bindon Kinghorn, director and long-time Theatre Manager at the Phoenix Theatre, to want to rediscover the humour of farces from the 1920s.

I love the silliness of the English farce; even this play’s name sounds farcical!” says Kinghorn of his upcoming play at the Phoenix Theatre, Rookery Nook, the second of nine incredibly popular plays by Ben Travers that became known as the Aldwych Farces.

“There is something pure and simple about these old farces that I am trying to discover and recreate for Rookery Nook,” comments Kinghorn. “Unlike the sex farces of 1960s and later, it’s all very innocent and a lot of silly fun.”

Ben Travers playwriting career was one of the longest and most successful in the history of theatre. His series of comedies included some of London's most popular plays of the 1920s and 1930s. All of the nine farces performed at the Aldwych Theatre had lengthy runs, totalling almost 2700 performances. The plays made stars of many of the actors and quickly became staples of regional professional and amateur companies throughout the English-speaking world. Travers wrote for screen and theatre late into his 90s, long enough to see a resurgence (after decades of relative obscurity) in 1976 when he had three plays running simultaneously in the West End: a new farce The Bed Before Yesterday, a commercial revival of Banana Ridge and a revival of Plunder at the Old Vic and the new National Theatre. Travers revelled in his surprising resurgence, and was honoured with the title Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Around the time of his 90th birthday, Travers was interviewed on radio and asked whether he was a bit old to be writing sex romps. Travers replied quick-as-a-flash "Ah but you see, I have an awfully good memory".

But the choice of Rookery Nook has some personal nostalgia for Kinghorn as well. “Before I came to the University of Victoria in 1973, this was one of the first plays I worked on professionally in England,“ says Kinghorn, “So it seems appropriate at this stage in my career to direct it." The play is even set in his home county of Somerset, which he proudly shows off an old printed map of the seaside region.

With boater-hatted gentlemen, bobbed-hair flappers and a Tudor cottage by the sea, Kinghorn sets his Rookery Nook in the nostalgic and stylish era of 1926 – the same year it was written. In the play, Gerald and Clive (seen here portrayed by Derek Wallis left, and Jonathan Mason right, with Lucas Hall portraying Harold Twine in the centre), two fun-loving and unfortunately overly-helpful young friends, find themselves caught in a tangled web of silly white lies and flirtatious innuendos when a pretty girl arrives at their rented cottage seeking protection and a shoulder to cry on. (Oh, my! So what’s a gentleman to do?)

In a fast-paced array of pranks, jokes and comings-and-goings, it makes a mockery of the pretentious class system and the oddities of the British way of life – ridiculing a tyrannical sister-in-law, her hen-pecked husband, an interfering housekeeper, a Prussian neighbour and a crazed admiral. (See below, Mrs. Twine and the daily woman Mrs. Leverett, portrayed by Hayley Feigs and Breanna Wise).

"Farce in the 1920’s was a mockery of familiar characters or types of people and situations known to the audience," says Kinghorn. "It was a fine line between satire, which makes a point, and just a gentle prod in the ribs. No one was meant to be offended. It was written for pure fun and enjoyment."

Kinghorn points out that farce has changed considerably since the 1960s. Later farces by Joe Orton (e.g. Loot and What The Butler Saw) are darker and forced audience to wake up to the conundrums of every day life. Later, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Mr. Bean use farce to mock British pretensions with a more harsh satirical style. But as Kinghorn says, "That is now, Rookery Nook is THEN, and it’s the then that we are trying to discover and recreate ... Farce, ‘pure and simple’".

To learn more about Ben Travers and the Aldwych Farces, join Dr. Denis Johnston, a UVic grad and long-time Audience Outreach Director for the Shaw Festival for our free Preshow Lecture. See below for details.

* Written with thanks to Denis Johnston.

Upcoming Events: November

November 2 , 2011:
Public Preview Nights for
Rookery Nook
The public are welcome to join us on preview nights, the Tuesday & Wednesday prior to the opening night of of the show for only $7. Tickets for these shows are made available to the public only after 5pm on these days.

November 3 – 19, 2011:
Rookery Nook

By Ben Travers
Directed by Bindon Kinghorn

Evening Performances @ 8pm
Matinee November 22 @ 2pm
Ticket Prices

Fast paced and full of witty repartee, this stylish 1920s British farce is comparable to the comedies of Traver's contemporary, Noel Coward. On holiday at the Somerset seaside, two fun-loving young cousins, Gerald and Clive, get caught in a tangled web of silly white lies and flirtatious innuendos. But what's a gentleman to do when a pretty girl arrives in wet pyjamas seeking protection and a shoulder to cry on? With tyrannical Nosey Parkers for relatives and neighbourhood busybodies lurking in the kitchen (with the cat!), Gerald could find his six-week old marriage in the lurch!

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor:

Friday, November 4 @ 7pm:
"Ben Travers and the Aldwych Farces"
Preshow Lecture for Rookery Nook

with Dr. Denis Johnston,
UVic grad and long-time Audience Outreach Director for the Shaw Festival

Rookery Nook was the second of nine "Aldwych farces," a series of comedies by Ben Travers that included some of London's most popular plays of the 1920s and '30s. Dr. Denis Johnston will give an introduction to the play, the author, and the team that created this phenomenal series at the Aldwych Theatre.

Thursday November 17 @ 1pm
Orion Lectures Series: Applied Theatre
What the Hell are We Doing Here?
with Dr. Ted Little
Department of Theatre, Concordia
Associate Artistic Director, Teesri Duniya Theatre
Editor-in-Chief, alt.theatre:
cultural diversity & the stage

In his talk, applied theatre practioner Ted Little will reflect on techniques, approaches, and technologies for performing oral histories, based on the SSHRC-funded project, Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and Other Human Rights Violations. He will discuss the rewards, challenges, and possible “collateral damage” involved in using applied theatre for the goals of social memory, truth, justice, and reconciliation.

November 19, 2011 @ 2pm
Sign Language Interpretation performance of Rookery Nook

We are pleased to present sign language interpretation for a play each year for our audiences in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community as well as all audience members. Featuring international Deaf interpreter, presenter and performer Nigel Howard and hearing interpreter Jen Ferris. To order tickets for this special performance, fill in and return this form or call the Phoenix Box Office at 250-721-8000.

November 30 & December 1, 2011 @ 8pm
Woyzeck: The Choreography of a Mad Man
Enter the mind of a madman through a dreamlike telling of murder based on a true story.  Woyzeck, a low-ranked soldier, struggles with suspicions of his lover's infidelity and societal pressure as he mentally deteriorates.  Performed in the original German text, the workshop production's expressive acting makes it enjoyable and accessible for all. Woyzeck is a first-time collaboration between the Germanics and Theatre Departments in a new course, Performing German Drama, taught and directed by Professor Elena Pnevmonidou. Büchner's famous play was unfinished when he unexpectedly died at the age of 23 in 1837, leaving room for interpretation to make every production unique. $5 tickets are available at the Phoenix Box Office (250-721-8000) November 29 - December 1.

January 13, 2012 - Deadline
Call for Submissions for 2012/13 Spotlight on Alumni

Alumni! Are you working on a production with other UVic Theatre alumni that might make an excellent contribution to the Phoenix Theatre's 2012/13 season? Next season is also UVic's 50th Anniversary, so help us celebrate! Click here for details on how to submit your proposal.

Check out other events at UVic Faculty of Fine Arts.

Phoenix Phacts: Faculty and alumni updates and accolades

Congratulations to our many faculty for their accoldades and accomplishments!

Following her induction as a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada last year, design professor Mary Kerr will be receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba this November. Mary recently designed, co-created and co-wrote Bella: The Colour of Love inspired by the life of Bella Chagall (wife and muse of Marc Chagall) with collaborators: playwright and performer Theresa Tova, composer Matt Herskowitz and director/co-creator Alistair Newton. It had its world premiere at Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts this spring. Mary will be designing our February production of Eurydice.

Theatre History professor Jennifer Wise's play The Moons of Jupiter was a finalist this year in the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition. This biennial nation-wide open competition, judged by a distinguished panel of playwrights and directors, is one of our country's most important awards for playwriting. The Moons of Jupiter, based on the lives of Galileo and his family, was written for the International Year of Astronomy and workshopped in 2009 at the theatre department by Dean Sarah Blackstone and theatre students. The play competition judges commended the play for its "very strong voice," its "fascinating idea," and its "very discerning" and "demystifying" treatment of history and father-daughter relationships. Congrats Jen!

Acting and movement professor Conrad Alexandrowicz was the recipent of an important "Research and Creation in the Fine Art" grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a new project which seeks to embody the text of a newly commissioned poetry cycle by Writing faculty professor Lorna Crozier. A music component will be created by Alexandra Dawkins, Head of Woodwinds in the School of Music. The performance piece will feature students and professional actors and dancers in a mounted production as well as the development of a film with Writing Department professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley. Development begins in the spring. We look forward to the seeing the results!

Ever wonder what a theatre designer's house looks like? The arts and crafts home of UVic design professor Allan Stichbury and his wife Joanne was recently profiled in the Times Colonist Homes section. Stichbury designed the set for Pacific Opera Victoria's production of The Flying Dutchman (pictured above) and the upcoming Vancouver Opera production of The Barber of Seville.

Theatre instructor and recent PhD recipient Will Weigler has been in the news lately discussing the results of his research for his doctoral thesis and upcoming book. Weigler interviewed almost one hundred people about their most unforgettable moments in theatre -- their ah-ha moments. He analyzed these experiences and patterns emerged in common staging or direction. Read more about his fascinating research in the Times Colonist and the Victoria News.

After this summer's successful production of Fire, acting/directing professor Brian Richmond, also the Producing Artistic Director of Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, is working once again with alumnus Zachary Stevenson (BFA '03) with the presentation of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story this November 15 and 16 at the Royal Theatre. "Zachary is simply one of the most talented actor/musicians I have ever encountered and I’m very excited to be working with him again,” says Richmond. See our PERKs section below to win tickets!

Also on the alumni list this month ... Ingrid Hansen (BFA'09) of SNAFU Dance Theatre is playing the part of Fuchsia Groan in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast at William Head Correctional Institution as part of WHOS (William Head On Stage). Directed by alumnus Ian Case (BFA '90) Gormenghast runs until November 12.

Recent graduates Alexander Plouffe (BFA '11) and Sarah Koury (BFA '11) have got their start in professional theatre together in the Alberta Theatre Company's production of True Love Lies. Their friendship together at UVic was profiled in a Calgary Journal article.

Alumni! Want to see your activities listed here. Send your recent success stories and we'll publish them in our next Phoenix Phacts!

Email Perks & Interesting Links:

Enter to win two tickets to Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's presentation of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story with Zachary Stevenson. Answer the question below to win:

Name two other plays in which the multi-talented actor Zachary Stevenson has played a musician.

Correct answers will be entered to win a pair of tickets to the show.
Email your answer to win!

Sponsor Kudos:

The Phoenix Theatre would like to thank our sponsors and individual donors and community sponsors for their support of our programs and talented students! Thank you!

Community Friend: Cadboro Bay Village Merchants
Including: Cadboro Bay Book Company, For Good Measure, People's Compounding Pharmacy, Pepper's Foods and Smugglers Cove Pub

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