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The BackstagePASS Update

Listen Up: Director's Talk

Director Peter McGuire gave a wonderful lecture on Valentine's evening. He spoke about this labour of love Picnic is one of his favourite plays and the joy of truly collaborating with the students on this production.

If you missed it, tune in now and listen to the audio recording of Peter's talk posted here.

Listen to the lecture now:

In the press:
"Picnic is the exact type of production I love."

There's a lot to love about Picnic and our local reviewers are commenting on many aspects of the play. The common theme seems to be how relevant the questions asked by William Inge are to our lives today. Here's what some of them had to say.

(Picnic continues nightly this week until Saturday, February 22 at 8pm with a 2pm Saturday Matinee with Sign Language Interpretation.)

La Couvée

Theatre blogger and Monday Magazine writer Janis La Couvée writes in her online review:

"Picnic may be set in small town Kansas in the early 1950s but there are definite parallels, even to our more sophisticated and inter-connected age.... Playwright William Inge... excels in writing classically-structured, compact ensemble pieces where each line of dialogue serves to slowly reveal the character’s complete back-story. The language is sparse and elegant...

What is remarkable about the Phoenix Theatre production, under director Peter McGuire, is the ease with which young actors successfully play roles decades older than they are. There is an astonishing naturalness to performances by Forrest and Ashby in particular as Mrs Owens and Mrs Potts (shown below) — weighed down by regret, hoping to salvage something good out of lives gone awry, placing all their hopes in a younger generation...

Hayley McCurdy shone with a quiet sensuality in the dance sequence, suddenly aware of her power over, and subjugation to, the eternal “bad boy” Jenson Kerr. And Kerr, in a departure from his macho image, draws an exquisite portrait of a soul equally tormented by his inability to escape his pre-determined position...

Beautiful period costumes by Pauline Stynes also highlight socio-economic differences — the luxury afforded by some, the care taken by others. Jonathan Maxwell’s substantial and solid set design grounds this piece — it wasn’t until the very end that I realized the deconstructed nature of the houses, which serve as a powerful metaphor for the lives of the characters.

CVV Magazine

Erin Anderson, the reviewer for the online culture magazine CVVMagazine.com appreciated the performances by our student actors:

"...Jenson Kerr as Hal ... smolders when in contact with Madge (Hayley McCurdy shown right with Kerr). McCurdy brings complexity to what on the surface is a bit of a shallow role and her scenes alone with Kerr are some of the most compelling and electric...

One of the standout performances here is Michelle Morris’ portrayal of the single schoolteacher Rosemary. Morris manages to capture both surface and hidden emotions found in her character, whose arc is one of the most moving in the entire show... As Millie, Lindsay Curl excels at delivering the boisterous energy of a kid but also the burgeoning awareness of a precocious teenager (shown below).

Picnic boasts truly complex female roles, each dissatisfied or restricted in her own way: Madge, self-conscious that beauty is all she has to offer; Millie, proud of her intellect but also wanting to be beautiful and knowing that beauty gets women farther than brains; Mrs. Potts, wishing she had stood up to her mother and held onto the husband she loved; Rosemary, flaunting her independence and carefree lifestyle while feeling more and more trapped; Flo, wanting to keep her daughters from making her mistakes...

Picnic is definitely a strong showing for the Phoenix and the play remains a relevant and engaging piece 60 years after its debut... as a show overall it holds up to the standards of professional theatre and offers audiences a very moving story in the process."

Nexus Newspaper

Camosun College's newspaper sent a reviewer to Picnic and was interested in the play's examination of self-worth and breaking free:

"In climactic moments of passionate demands and a fist fight, questions are asked of the characters that the audience in turn asks themselves: "What can you do with the love that you feel? Where is there you can take it?"

... the cast was strong for collegiate theatre. Exceptional performances are given by Julie Forrest (shown above with cast) as the strong and witty Flo Owens, whose history you only wanted to know more about; Hayley McCurdy as Madge Owens, who performed a very convincing dance number with shirtless Jenson Kerr (playing Hal Carter), and Dallas Ashby, who plays Helen Potts, the neighbour across the road...

All in all, through the play's examination of self-worth and the archetypes of the pretty one, the smart one, the rich one, and the reckless one, the audience learns what it means to break out of predetermined roles."

The Marble

"Picnic is the exact type of production I love. Multiple costume changes. Elaborate set. Music. A dance sequence. A fight. A make-out session. It’s nice to see UVic theatre students show off their non-acting strengths. Costume, lighting and sound were effective. Not to say the acting didn’t rise to the occasion. I’d feel bad signaling out individual actors, as they all deserve praise.

...it contains a wonderful amount of romantic comedy tropes that I’ll always enjoy: girl falls for the bad boy, girl wonders if beauty and brains can coexist, girl tries to avoid the mistakes of her mother and my favorite, a story centered around an event the audience never gets to see. If you’re a fan of nostalgia, add Picnic to your February theatre schedule.

Times Colonist:

While Adrian Chamberlain didn't love all the aspects of the play, here are a couple of standouts from his 3-star review:

The drama's subplot... concerns Rosemary, a spinster schoolteacher (and secret good-time gal) who's desperate to get married to Howard, a reluctant shop-keeper. Rosemary's final plea to Howard, made after a night of carousing, is genuinely moving — and on Friday night was well-performed by Michelle Morris (shown left with Markus Spodzieja as Howard).

Designer Jonathan Maxwell has created a wonderfully evocative set, dominated by a clapboard house with a weather-worn patina... A splash of visual vivacity is provided by colourful period costumes by Pauline Stynes.

Other interesting articles, news stories.

More Photos!

Don't you love our gorgeous photos for Picnic?! We're ever so thankful to David Lowes at Arts Studio21 Photography who always makes us look good. If you want to see more? Check out the gallery on our website or like us on Facebook and see almost 40 other awesome phots from the play.

Phoenix eNews is a regular email magazine (5-6 times per year) for those interested in the Phoenix Theatre and the not-for-profit productions with the students at the University of Victoria's Department of Theatre.