Phoenix Theatre: BackstagePASS
|February 2013 • Act 6 Scene 4|
If this email does not display properly, please see our website phoenixtheatres.ca
February 14th is Valentine's Day (or as some may call it, Singles Awareness Day). Whether you are in a relationship or not, we all want to feel pretty, and yet on other levels, we all want to feel secure enough not to care about our looks. It's hard to confront our own ideas of prettiness when the media subjects us to air-brushed images of ideal attractiveness every day. Neil LaBute's provocative play Reasons to Be Pretty urges us to go more than skin deep this Valentine's Day. Read on for an interview with the well-known actor who is taking on LaBute's black comedy as part of her MFA in Directing here in the department. And however you celebrate it, have a lovely Valentine's Day.
By Max Johnson
Christine Willes has been a doctor,a demon, and a DC Comics super-villain – and this year she can add “director” to the list. Willes is a Vancouver-based actor who is well-known for her appearances as the evil Granny Goodness on Smallville (see video link below), Delores Herbig on the Emmy-nominated TV series Dead Like Me (see video link above) and the devil's hilarious administrator Gladys on Reaper (shown at bottom). She came to UVic for her Masters in Fine Arts in directing and now, as part of her practicum, Willes is directing her fellow students of the UVic theatre department in Reasons to Be Pretty (February 14-23).
The play, written by Neil LaBute, is a blue-collar black comedy about the relationships of four friends and lovers, and the perils of contemporary society's obsession with beauty. Typical of LaBute's work, it's very four-letter word-friendly. Willes, also known for her work as an acting coach, has used scenes from this play and other works by LaBute to teach university actors in the past. She even appeared in LaBute's 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, which he wrote and directed. What is it about LaBute's writing that speaks to her?
“LaBute doesn't sugar-coat human nature,” she says. “In theatre, we hold a mirror up to nature... and just as sometimes it's very difficult to see our own reflection in the mirror – because it's seven in the morning, you haven't had any sleep. Or with me, I don't have any makeup on, my hair's a mess, sometimes I just don't want to see that. Coaxing the audience to look at something that they know intellectually is true, but don't want to get all stirred up about without being gently guided... is a task.”
For the past month, Willes has been focusing on gently guiding the student actors of the production through rehearsal. “They've been engaged very deeply, in ways that I haven't seen before.” She thinks it's because of the contemporary nature of LaBute's script and themes – and because the actors contributed to which themes Willes chose to highlight in the production.
“I put two on the table that were not negotiable,” she says. “One was 'appearances,' and one was 'the battle of the sexes.'” Both are topics Willes is passionate about (when she sends you an e-mail, her signature is automatically accompanied by a quote about how women “constitute half the world's population, perform two-thirds of the work, but earn just 10 percent of the income and own only one percent of property”). But the student actors found significance in other themes as well, and the production examines them too: for instance, the story's coming-of-age nature, and the questions it asks about “the slippery nature of ambition.”
It's a storytelling process that Willes hasn't had the luxury of experiencing in the more fast-paced film and TV world. “Collaboration there is: 'You hire me to do a job, and you are paying me... to show up with a performance intact that you can tweak – but that's all you're going to have to do.' That's it... That is the process.” At UVic, theatre allows for the kind of collaborative and organic working environment Willes doesn't often see as a screen actor. “I've been surprised by joy, working on this. Because the people I'm working with also enjoy working in this way... that's been very, very rewarding.”
“I use the metaphor of 'performance as a garment,” she says. “As an actor, I wear the garment one way. As a film and TV actor, I wear the garment another way. And as a director, I turn the garment inside-out. I have to approach it from a completely different point of view, even though the tasks are the same.” Audiences can see the benefits of Christine's approach when Reasons to Be Pretty opens at the Phoenix Theatre on Valentine's Day.
February 12 & 13, 2013 @ 8pm
February 14 - 23, 2013:
What is it to be "pretty"? Why do we care what other people think? After all, as LaBute says in the play "Love is blind, sh#*!head. It is."
Friday February 15 @ 7pm
March 14 - 23, 2013:
Check out other events at the UVic Fine Arts Faculty.
Also at Intrepid Theatre, their January festival of international theatre called Winterlab, presented work by UVic alumna Kate Braidwood (BFA ‘03). Braidwood is the co-artistic director of Wonderheads, whose mask-driven, supernatural silent comedy Grim and Fischer had previously been part of the 2011 Victoria Fringe Festival, where it won Pick of the Fringe and Best Physical Theatre. Braidwood also makes the masks used in Wonderheads’ performances.
This January Langham Court Theatre’s contemporary drama, That Face featured two current students, third-year Melissa Taylor, and first year Katherine Taddei. It also featured production work by second year Katelyn Clark.
Andrew Wade (BFA ’11), last seen on the Phoenix stage as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, has kept busy since graduating from UVic. Over the winter, he’s played Van Helsing in Awkward Productions’ Dracula: The Musical?, stage-managed Shift Theatres’ Closer, played multiple characters in APPLAUSE! Musicals’ Flora the Red Menace – and appeared in several roles-of-a-lifetime as Jesus, Santa Claus and others in the Rock Theatre Co. New Year’s Revue at the Revue. Wade isn’t slowing down in 2013: January saw him act in Fighting Chance Productions’ Side Show, he plays Mr. Zapatella in APPLAUSE! Musicals’ Fiorello February 14-16, and April-May will have him appear as Filch in The Beggar’s Opera for Seven Tyrants Theatre Society. He writes about his experiences as an actor, director and more at http://adewade.wordpress.com.
A stampede of UVic students and alumni will invade this summer’s 2013 Victoria Fringe Festival. Companies with familiar faces in the festival will include Molly Noonan (BFA’12), Da Vinci’s Kitchen Dramatick Theatre Productions (John Green, BFA ’12), Singles Awareness Theatre Company (current students Blair Moro and Amy Culliford), Random Samples Collective and Story Theatre Company (Jim Leard, BFA ’70), Silent Zoo Productions (current students Francis Melling and Josh Turpin) and Performance Inspiration Group (current student Rain Mair).
If you missed the whole gang of theatre alumni in the December production of Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride the Cyclone here at the Phoenix, you can invite your friends and family to catch them along their national tour. After leaving Victoria the production went to Calgary and back to Vancouver (at the Arts Club Theatre until February 16), and then they take off for Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon before returning to Nanaimo in April. For details or to follow their amazing ride, check out www.ridethecyclonemusical.com.
Win tickets to Reasons to Be Pretty (February 14 - 23) at Phoenix Theatre. Answer the following question. Name the two other plays in Neil LaBute's trilogy of plays that includes Reasons to Be Pretty.
Correct answers will be entered into a draw for a pair of tickets! Email your answer before February 18 to win!
The Phoenix Theatre would like to thank our sponsors, individual donors and community sponsors for their support of our programs and talented students! Thank you!
Your logo could be right here! Find out how to reach our 10,000 audience members and UVic community of over 25,000 students, faculty, staff...and you'll also support emerging theatre artists at UVic! Contact Adrienne Holierhoek to discuss a customized sponsorship package to meet your company's goals.
Phoenix eNews is a regular email magazine for those interested in the Phoenix Theatre, the not-for-profit productions at the University of Victoria's Department of Theatre. Do you know someone who would love to know more about us? Please feel free to forward this message to a friend!
|© University of Victoria 2008|