Phoenix Theatre: BackstagePASS
|November 2012 • Act 6 Scene 3|
If this email does not display properly, please see our website phoenixtheatres.ca
eNews | Behind the Scenes | Upcoming | Phoenix Phacts | Perks | Kudos
eNews: A classic parable for here and today
In October, the Victoria Foundation released Vital Signs, their annual check-up on the state of Greater Victoria's community. Again, their figures paint an image of a city where the average wages are lower than the cost of living, and homelessness is an issue. In our November show, the influential 20th-century playwright Bertolt Brecht gives us a funny and heartbreaking story of one woman's attempts to do right, and be a good person in a society where everyone is struggling to survive. Read on for more info on the director's inspiration for Good Person of Setzuan. Our wish for Victoria this fall is to take care of each other and keep striving for goodness in our imperfect world!
Behind the Scenes: Creating an "anywhere" city for Setzuan
It could be any city…any big international anywhere city. It could be Victoria. It is every city. In his classic parable play Good Person of Setzuan, Bertolt Brecht asks many difficult questions of his characters and of his audience. Why is it so hard to do the right thing… to be a good person?
While developing his production for the Phoenix Theatre, director Conrad Alexandrowicz (seen left) couldn’t help but think, not only of those caught in the global economic crisis, but also of the poverty and homelessness in his own city.
“I was curious to see how the philosophical questions and moral lessons of Brecht’s original translated to a world that has grown more thoroughly corporatized and materialistic than that of his day,” said Alexandrowicz, a professor in the theatre department who is also the Artistic Director of Wild Excursions Performance.
“We live in one big globalized world now. Corporatized culture and branding in China is as similar to its effect in North America as it is in many places across the world. Now more than ever, this parable is universal and therefore, it could also happen here in Victoria. Brecht's play is as topical and poignant now as when it was written – if not more so.
The trials of living in Victoria were recently recounted in the Vital Signs report (produced by the Victoria Foundation). It described a city where a “living wage” that keeps up with expenses should be $18.07 per hour, but the minimum wage is only $10.25. 11.3% of people in the region live in poverty and rental costs continue to increase – if, at 3% rental availability, you can find a suite available at all.
Economic times are also tight in Brecht’s mythical city of Setzuan when three gods come in search of “one good person.” They are dismayed to find the search is so difficult. After seeking accommodation at many households, wealthy and otherwise, it is at the home of an impoverished young prostitute, Shen Te, that they find good will. However, Shen Te’s troubles really begin after a thank-you gift from the gods places her new-found status, new tobacco shop and her generosity in jeopardy and makes her an easy mark for theft, deceit and corruption. To avoid financial ruin, she re-invents herself as Shui Ta, a shrewd, no-nonsense male cousin to protect her business interests.
“It’s an incredibly clever play,” said Alexandrowicz. “Brecht shows great depth in his understanding of the human condition and the way that different classes operate in a money-centric society."
Alexandrowicz’s vision for the play is mirrored in the set designed by fourth year student Simon Farrow. It is dominated by a large panoramic skyline of a big “anywhere” international city that includes references to Shanghai (World Financial Centre), New York (the waterfront), Johannesburg (the designer’s home town), Kuala Lampur (Petronas Twin Towers), Dubai (Burj Dubai) and Soweto (Orlando Nuclear Towers). Recent MFA grad, Bryan Kenney's lighting design spotlights the action, including Brecht's many theatrical asides where the actors philosophize to the audience, and creates amazing coloured evening skies behind the row of skyliners. These corporate towers loom over a downtrodden slum that can magically transform from Shen Te’s tobacco shop, to Sandalmaker’s Lane, to a restaurant’s private dining room.
The costumes for Setzuan's residents, designed by fourth-year student Kat Jeffery, also have a globalized inspiration, merging Western street style with a sense of Orientalism which seemingly channel the uniform-like style that became synonymous with China's communist revolution. The three gods, on the other hand, are colourful hybrids of many eastern deities. In a reference to growing corporatization, the Setzuan slum's characters all sport armbands that promote different international corporate brands.
Third-year student Francis Melling has composed music to accompany Brecht's song lyrics in the play and is overseeing the music direction. "Francis is incredibly talented," says Alexandrowicz. "He's integrated Brecht's lyrics into contemporary pop music that will have you singing along by the end!"
(Photos of Conrad Alexandrowicz and the set and cast of Good Person of Setzuan by David Lowes.)
Upcoming Events: November
November 6 & 7, 2012 @ 8pm: $7 PREVIEWS
November 8 - 24, 2012:
It could happen in any city. It could be Victoria. Brecht's timeless parable play tells the humorous but heartbreaking story of Shen Te and her attempts to do the right thing and be a good person in a society where everyone is struggling just to survive. As topical and poignant today as when it was written!
Friday October 12 @ 7pm
Check out other events at the UVic Fine Arts Faculty.
Subscribe and you could WIN books!
Planning to come to Good Person of Setzuan? Consider upgrading to a season subscription and you'll see the remaining 2 shows in our 2012/13 season – Reasons to Be Pretty and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown – for as little as $12.
PLUS! Upgrade on the night of your show and you will be entered to win a a book on the history of Victoria's Chinatown from Cadboro Bay Book Compay!
Details at www.phoenixtheatres.ca. Order through the Phoenix Box Office by calling 250-721-8000 or fill out this easy subscription form.
Phoenix Phacts: Updates from our alumni,
|© University of Victoria 2008|