The Changeling, by Middleton and Rowley, Directed by David Latham

The National Theatre School of Canada's 'The Changeling,' is playing from February 25th to March 1st, 2014, at the Monument National in Montreal.
The National Theatre School of Canada’s ‘The Changeling,’ is playing from February 25th to March 1st, 2014, at the Monument National in Montreal.

I can hear you now, Brawlers: “The Changeling isn’t a Shakespeare play! Some guys we’ve never even heard of called Middleton and Rowley wrote this one. WTF Bard Brawl?!”

I know. I’m breaking the rule, setting a dangerous precedent, using the might of the Bard Brawl to promote the works of what Daniel we call ‘lesser playwrights!’

But there’s a good reason for that, one I know you’ll understand: we’ve joined the Wolfpack!

Who? These guys?

Can you believe that, once upon a time, these guys were the hottest thing in wrestling?
Can you believe that, once upon a time, these guys were the hottest thing in wrestling?

No, not that Wolfpack, this Wolfpack: Montreal Wolfpack, #WolfMTL.

(They might want to consider this theme music though.)

What is Wolfpack Montreal? In their own words:

Welcome to the pack.

You are a creator.
You are in Montreal .
You are in training.

Wolf has been created to bring together studying Montreal artists from all programs. It is the creation of a pack. A network of artists to share, promote, collaborate and discover the work being created amongst us

We think that’s awesome, awesome enough to get Brawlers Miki Laval, “Mister” Nicholas MacMahon, Daniel J. Rowe and myself out to the premier of The Changeling, a play which isn’t even Shakespeare!

You can check out some great images (and get more information about the play) by checking out the National Theater School of Canada’s website.

Well, maybe there are some Shakespeare connections. Like the fact that he was contemporary of Shakespeare’s and the suggestions that he might have collaborated on a few of Shakespeare’s plays like Timon of Athens. (Heresy! The Bard works alone, inspired by his pure and unattainable muse and does not converse with hacks like Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.)

So, what is this play, anyhow? I’ll give you the Bard Brawl low-down. (So, if you don’t want to know what happens, skip this next bit.)

Beatrice is supposed to marry this nobleman Alonzo de Piracquo. Seems like a nice enough guy, mom certainly likes him (It’s actually dad – Vermandero – in the text). But while at church, Beatrice ran into this other guy, Alsemero, and they completely fall for one another. Totally screwed, right?

Well, turns out that mom has this really ugly servant, de Flores, who Beatrice despises but who is madly in love/lust with Beatrice and would pretty do anything to get with her. So ‘fair, virginal and noble’ Beatrice basically uses him to kill Alonzo de Piracquo. When she then offers to pay him a bunch of cash for the deed, they… work out another arrangement. Gross.

With Alonzo de Pracquo out of the picture, Alsemero and Beatrice are free to get married.

But now for the main event: the wedding night. All good, right? No, there’s a huge problem: Beatrice is no longer a virgin and it seems that Alsemero’s friend Jasperino knows she’s been sleeping with de Flores.

But wouldn’t you know it, Alsemero is actually some sort of alchemist and he has a potion which can allow him to know if a woman is a virgin: when she drinks, she yawns, then has a sneezing fit, then starts to laugh and finally gets depressed.

Luckily for her, Beatrice happens to learn about this beforehand so when he gives her the potion, she just acts her way through the different phases. A whole different meaning to ‘is she faking?’ He buys it for now but she’s afraid he’ll figure it out later so she offers Diaphanta, her waiting woman, a bunch of cash to wear a mask and sleep with her man on her wedding night. Also gross.

because they are afraid that Diaphanta might spill the beans, De Flores and Beatrice conspire to have her killed and set fire to her room. Bang. She gets shot by De Flores and her body burned. It looks like they’re going to get away with it but them Alsemero learns the truth about Alonzo’s death and the messed up shit that’s been going on.

There’s also a subplot where an old, jealous doctor, Dr. Alibius, marries this hot, young woman named Isabella and then keeps her locked away in his asylum where he thinks he won’t have to worry about her having any affairs. Of course, two enterprising young men poses as mental patients and get admitted into the asylum where they are free to try to pursue Isabella. Of course, the doctor has left his servant Lollio in charge of the place in his absence which kind of complicates things. So the two would-be suitors, Franciscus and Antonio, pretend to be nuts and Lillio toys with them, probably because he tries to get with Isabella who doesn’t want anything to do with him.

While all of this is going on, Tomazo, Alonzo de Piracquo’s sister (it’s a brother in the text), has been trying to get to the bottom of her brother’s death. Apparently, Franciscus and Antonio work for Vermandero and because they disappeared right when this business started, they become the two principal suspects.

Tomazo’s about to kill them when Alsemero shows up and explains the whole thing. As he does, Beatrice and de Flores kill themselves so their on their way to hell. Tomzao’s satisfied that justice has been served and, in the end, everybody basically admits that they’re lying, scumbag sinners.

You can also read about the play on Wikipedia. (Just don’t put that in your bibliography, kids!) Or, even better, why not read the damned thing yourself,here, for free? (No charge for the play, but consider buying a copy of ‘Zounds! as a thank you for saving you the legwork?)

We thought that the play was great! (For something which wasn’t The Bard, of course.) If you want to read a review of the play, you can check out what the Montreal Gazette has to say about it. (A good review, in my opinion.)

Here’s the takeaway. It’s $9 for an awesome show put on and acted by a hugely talented and driven group of young theater students who want to make English theater in Montreal a thing again! (You know the type: brilliant and creative young people who got to choose to take drama class instead of being forced into extra chemistry and physics classes in the final years of high school, a situation which is definitely made-up and which has never happened to one or more Bard Brawlers.)

The Changeling is playing until Saturday, March 1 at 3 p.m. at the Monument National, 1182 St-Laurent Blvd. You can get your tickets online at ent-nts.ca. If you are paranoid that theaters secretly use their websites to steal credit card information, you can all them instead at 514-871-2224.

Brawlers, Wolfies: go see this while you have the chance.

Stay in Touch Brawlers (and Wolfies, too)!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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A conversation with the director, Pericles

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey closes its 51st season with a sparkling and wintery new production of Shakespeare’s Pericles.  Performances run through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison.  Individual tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by visiting www.ShakespeareNJ.org.  Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, Pericles is Shakespeare’s grand “once upon a time” adventure tale with equal parts One Thousand and One Nights, Homer’s Odyssey, and the episodic romance of Shakespeare’s own The Tempest, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. Pericles carries audiences on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean, encountering everyone from kings, goddesses, pirates, pimps, and magicians along the way. Pictured:  Governor Cleon of Tarsus and his scheming wife Dionyza (left: Clark Scott Carmichael and Jacqueline Antaramian) deliver tragic news to Pericles (Jon Barker). Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey closes its 51st season with a sparkling and wintery new production of Shakespeare’s Pericles. Performances run through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, Pericles is Shakespeare’s grand “once upon a time” adventure tale with equal parts One Thousand and One Nights, Homer’s Odyssey, and the episodic romance of Shakespeare’s own The Tempest, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. Pericles carries audiences on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean, encountering everyone from kings, goddesses, pirates, pimps, and magicians along the way. Pictured: Governor Cleon of Tarsus and his scheming wife Dionyza (left: Clark Scott Carmichael and Jacqueline Antaramian) deliver tragic news to Pericles (Jon Barker). Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Daniel J. Rowe

Few theatre companies delve into the lesser-known Bard play Pericles, and what’s up with that? There are pirates! The Shakespeare Theatre Company of New Jersey, however, has done the right thing and dove right in. Director Brian B. Crowe spoke with the Bard Brawl about the company’s reasons for staging Pericles, and some of the ideas the production followed. The production runs until January 29, 2013.

Bard Brawl: Why did the theatre decide to do Pericles, such and obscure play?

Brian B. Crowe: We are first and foremost a theatre that is excited about classics of all ilks – specifically Shakespeare – but we will also try lesser known pieces as well, and there are some lesser known Shakespeares as well and that certainly falls into that category. 

This particular season we were looking for something for the holiday spot, and I had workshopped a production of Pericles with some of our students a few years ago, and didn’t know much about it prior to that, and kind of fell in love with the magic of it, and the intrigue and the great resolution at the end; this family reunited, good wins out, and there’s honour in it and the bad guys get what they deserve, which doesn’t always happen in real life so it’s nice to have it on stage once and a while.

B.B.: …and there are pirates!

Pictured: In the colorful kingdom of Pentapolis, Pericles (Jon Barker) battles a knight (Jordan Laroya) during Princess Thaisa’s birthday tournament. Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Pictured: In the colorful kingdom of Pentapolis, Pericles (Jon Barker) battles a knight (Jordan Laroya) during Princess Thaisa’s birthday tournament. Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

B.C.: …and there are pirates, and there’s incest and there’s a brothel, which is everything you need for the holidays.

B.B.: Was it a challenge to introduce the audience to the play? Did you get a lot of reaction right away? When you do Romeo and Juliet, you know it’s going to be packed. When you do Pericles, a lot of producers/directors might be a little nervous they won’t get the audience.

B.C.: We have a pretty exciting audience in the fact that they love to come to the smorgasbord of things that we’ll give them and they’ve got a well-refined palate, I guess you could say. They know that whatever piece we do we will find some form of elegance and artistry to bring to it. Obviously the play itself has it.

It’s mainly just really pushing the fact that we’ve all seen A Christmas Carol 9,000 times, we’ve all seen the Nutcracker. I can’t even tell you how many variations of A Christmas Carol I’ve seen; some of them are great, some of them are really not.

A lot of people want an alternative to it.

We had an audience member who said, ‘I had no idea what I was coming to.’ She said she had been to the theatre before and like the work that we did. Pericles could have been anything to her. She sat down in the theatre and she said, ‘let’s see what happens.’
She had a blast, and she said it was not a problem to follow. We actually changed up the Gower narrator to be a three-woman chorus that is present throughout the entire show as opposed to him just popping in throughout the show. They become extensions of the goddess Diana. She said for her particularly that was a great way to navigate the show and she had a blast.

B.B.: With Shakespeare you can always pull themes out of the play. You mentioned the Gower theme of honour and duplicity and how to conduct yourself as a ruler. How did you explore that issue as far as Pericles trying to understand how to react?

B.C.: One of the things that we talked about very early on in the rehearsal process was the journey of Pericles and how he starts off as this young ambitious sort of 20-something at the beginning of the play out to make his mark in the world: I’m going to win this evil king’s daughter because she’s beautiful and no one else can, and that’s going to become my claim to fame. That will be the legend people will tell about me.

Pictured: Heroic Pericles (Jon Barker) embarks on an adventure unlike any other, under the watchful eyes of the Chorus (left to right: Amaya Murphy, Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith). Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Pictured: Heroic Pericles (Jon Barker) embarks on an adventure unlike any other, under the watchful eyes of the Chorus (left to right: Amaya Murphy, Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith). Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

That kind of young, youthful approach to life. Literally just seeking adventure and honour for adventure and honour’s sake not for necessity.

It’s interesting for being a young king, he doesn’t do much ruling throughout the play. He’s off to get Hesperites and that doesn’t work out, he then has to run for his life so he’s not being the ruler again, then he helps out Tarsus which is great, so he does something and he’s actually honoured there. In this production, when we’re navigating it through, we kind of said, ‘well this is an honour that you’re looking for, this is something that you were looking for,’ and the approach was humbled and that’s not kind of legendary. That’s not what he was looking for, but he sees that he can actually do good in the world instead of just doing good for himself.

…and then he has another disaster, and then he falls in love and loses that love, and then he becomes a more mature and better king through the trials that he’s gone through…

By the end, when he thinks he’s lost his daughter as well, he has the ability to truly respect the relationships that he sort of went willy nilly for.

It’s like someone going on the bachelor and thinking they’re going to find marriage and true love because it’s a big show and this is what it is, Then, 30 or 40 years later actually finding it.

I think it’s (the play) very contemoparary and works for modern audience because it’s all about instant gratification, and that’s not what life is about. Life is about finding these moments – especially during the holidays where you can look back on your life, look back on your relationships – and this is a wonderful happy ending, but it takes 15 years to get there and realize what he has.

The honour and the legend that he hopes to be, that he starts the first scene with, he actually does win in the end.

BRIAN B. CROWE (Acting) is in his eighteenth season with The Shakespeare Theatre where he is currently the Director of Education. Mr. Crowe also directs in-school residencies, teaches in the Summer Professional Training Program, and works with the Junior and Senior Shakespeare Corps for the Theatre. The Star-Ledger called Mr. Crowe “one of the state’s most ingenious directors” for his work on Love’s Labour’s Lost and named him Best Director of a Drama (Julius Caesar and Wonderland) as well as one of three “theatre artists to look for in the new millennium.”Other directing credits includeRed Herring and A Perfect Ganesh at 12 MilesWest;  Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest (DayTony recipient), Noises Off, the Midwest regional premiere of The Beauty Queen of Leenane andPatient A with The Human Race Theatre Company,where he is currently a resident artist;Somewhere in Between and Children of a Lesser God at Dayton Playhouse. Mr. Crowe received BFA degrees indirecting and acting from Wright State University, and was a Fellow at the 2000International Salzburg Shakespeare Seminar.

A conversation with the director, Othello

Othello, directed by Alison Darcy. (courtesy the Segal Centre)
Othello, directed by Alison Darcy. (courtesy the Segal Centre)

Daniel J. Rowe

It is one of Shakespeare’s most engaging and intriguing works: Othello, now playing at the Segal Centre in Montreal. It is a favourite of the Bard Brawl and watched with scrutiny by viewers. Check out brawler Eric Jean‘s review. Director Alison Darcy spoke with the Bard Brawl.

Bard Brawl: Othello is huge in scope and theme, and it’s been done a lot. Does that add pressure or do you enjoy that?

Alison Darcy: Both. I think it adds pressure and I kind of enjoy it. Of course everyone has their own ideas about the play and about Shakespeare and how it should be done, and I like the fact that there is no should and this is the way our team felt that it’s truth was being revealed in the most interesting way in the moment. This was what we wanted to offer from it. It’s interesting to challenge people with that because so many people have really strong preconceptions about how Shakespeare should be done. It’s interesting not to necessarily always follow that, but to go with what you think is the truth of the play.

B.B.: In the same sense don’t you find that often people allow a lot more exploration these days then they used to?

A.D.: For sure. Now, it’s almost expected to have your own interpretation, but it’s still, when it comes down to actual technique of the language or certain characters, people still have their reservations and their favourites and their favourite lines and their ideas of what things mean. Before it used to be more stylistically, they would say that it would have to be done in a certain period or a certain focus on the language in a very specific way, accents or whatnot. Now it’s more about interpretation, but still people have their preconceptions and they come out quite ferociously at times. People are quite willing to go to battle to defend their ideas of how Shakespeare should be done. Particularly this play.

B.B.: You use water as a metaphor throughout, and the final dramatic scene was very much centred on it. Can you tell me a bit about why you decided to use water in that way?

A.D.: For me it came from the text. It’s really prevalent in the text – water as a theme. It’s constantly referred to as being symbolically linked with deceit, and with passion. It says, ‘she’s false as water.’ A lot of the major themes are linked to water in the play, and so I was originally already playing with that. I also find that elementally, it’s very connected to the way the play moves. It’s a very quick-paced, mercurial kind of text, and it shifts and changes very quickly as does Iago’s mind and the way he moves and it feels like water to me.

The ending and the way I used the water in the ending? I like to leave it open to debate. People have been very vocal about it. Some people really didn’t like it, and some people absolutely love it. What’s more interesting to me is what people think it means. Some people are just absolutely baffled by it and others have very clear ideas about what metaphorically it meant. I have my own ideas about it of course, but I have no interest in didactically forcing that opinion on anybody else. It’s an allegory or it’s a metaphor and it’s there to be interpreted… It’s what I felt encapsulated that moment for me in the play. The fallout from the climax and the gushing of everything emotionally and psychologically that comes forth in that fifth act.

B.B.: You can’t do Othello without addressing race, but you don’t seem to push that theme far, and in not pushing the race card as far as you could have a lot of other themes emerge like the Emilia feminist line. She was really good.

A.D.: She’s amazing, and maybe it’s because I’m a female director, but I’ve always found the female characters in this play particularly moving. People often kind of hate Desdemona – not this version though, people have I think been liking this Desdemona. I always found it unfair for people to judge the character the way they did and I don’t find historically that Emilia gets her due, as such a strong character. I guess my leaning were in that direction to explore.

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t explore the racism. I think what I did do was change the conversation a bit, so that it wasn’t necessarily racism, but it was more about ‘outsiderism’, which is definitely something that is very strong in the play and they do treat him as an outsider, and I think that the exoticism of him and the separation of him constantly creates a personna that he allows himself to engage in: the story teller, the magnificent warrior that I don’t think he really is. I think he enjoys the language and the story telling, but when it comes down to it I think the insecurity that he has being part of this kind of society that doesn’t ever really accept him is then really used by Iago to draw him out of his safe zone.

I’ve always thought of the handkerchief as being a real symbol of who he is. It’s this ellaborate, exotic, foreign item that is valued for its exoticism and its beauty, and for how different it is. Everyone wants to get it copied. Everyone wants to have a piece of it.

Apparently at the time it was actually very gauche that – if you were within the same social class as someone – to ever show your wealth as being exceeding of theirs, so the only kind of way to make yourself better than your neighbour was to find exotic items and things from far away. It was to have these little secret closet collections.

I’ve often thought of Othello as, in a way, a rarity that’s been collected from a foreign land and brought to Venice and cherished because he’s different and odd. Therefore, his actual self, his sense of real self is muted by this idea of who he is; this exoticism. He even says the way he won over Desdemona was by telling these fantastical stories most of which we know are not true. I think he identifies with that idea of being a curiosity, and he thinks that that is his value.

So then when this handkerchief, which symbolizes the same kind of thing, is so easily dismissed or given away by her, it’s like she’s giving away his identity.

 Sean Arbuckle (Iago) - Photo by Andrée Lanthier; (courtesy the Segal Centre)

The handkerchief is a symbol of who Othello really is, according to the play’s director.  Sean Arbuckle (Iago) – Photo by Andrée Lanthier; (courtesy the Segal Centre)

I feel like the play is really about sense of self and about the way that your identity can be stripped from you due to racism or whatever it may be. I think that’s what destabilizes him, not just the jealousy. Just becoming that jealous, it never really made sense to me, and it’s always a problem people have with the play. Why does he go so crazy so quickly? I feel it’s because Iago knows exactly the precision point how to attack him, and it’s with this sense of self. It’s also because Iago also his sense of self was undermined and taken away when his status as a warrior was taken from him by Othello.

Darcy-Alison2Alison Darcy is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre. In addition to directing, producing and teaching theatre, she has been acting professionally since childhood.  

Tickets can be purchased from the Segal Center box office, either by phone at 514-739-7944 or directly on the Segal Centre website site. Prices startfrom $24. The play runs until December 1st.

This Othello is Not Airtight but it Does Hold Water

Eric Jean

The Segal Center‘s production of Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre‘s Othello is a version of Shakespeare’s play in which the humours of the rain and sea seem to mirror the tempest at the heart of Othello.

Taking their cue from Othello’s accusation that Desdemona is “false as water,” Alison Darcy (director) and Joseph Shragge (dramaturgy) created a version of Othello which highlights the watery imagery which permeates Shakespeare text.

Andrew Moodie (Othello) - Photo by AndrÇe Lanthier
Andrew Moodie is Othello at the Segal Centre. Currently playing. Photo by Andrée Lanthier

As they describe, “water is present in the geography and language” throughout the play in the canals of Venice, the sea at Cyprus, the hypnotic currents of Othello’s storytelling and of course in Desdemona’s tears. This is foregrounded in this production in the ongoing sounds of waves and rainstorms and in the flickering blue light which submerges us in the same dramatic depths as the action taking place on stage.

The bare and unadorned dramatic space is used to great effect. The traditional Renaissance rapier-and-dagger sword fights were greatly appreciated by this Shakespeare and D&D nerd.

The staging of the final act of the play is particularly striking as a drape drops and hangs from the ceiling, serving triple duty as bed covering, curtain and murder weapon. A chilling portrayal of one of Western drama’s most famous homicides.

Despite this strong staging, the play does suffer from uneven acting at times.

As Othello, Andrew Moodie often lacked intensity and presence. In the first scene, when Othello is discovered by Brabantio and his men, Othello admonishes both his men and Brabantio’s to “Keep up [their] bright swords.” However, the delivery of the passage seemed flat, without conviction. While he did deliver some admirable performances at time – the seizure scene in act III springs to mind as particularly noteworthy – Moodie seemed to be searching for his character at various times throughout the play.

Moodie with
Moodie with Sean Arbuckle as Iago. Photo by Andrée Lanthier (courtesy the Segal Centre)

In contrast, Amanda Lisman quickly found her character and, particularly after the first act, delivered a strong performance as Desdemona. However, Julie Tamiko Manning, in the role of Emilia, was one of the stand-out roles of the evening.

Sean Arbuckle’s Iago was also excellent, switching seamlessly between counselling Roderigo to keep sending him money, implanting his poisonous suggestions into Othello’s psyche and playing at being just one of the boys with Cassio.

Maurice Podbrey offered a commanding performance as Brabantio in act I but Paul Hopkins’ Montano was, in my view, the weakest member of the company and made one thankful that he had only a minor part.

Amanda Lisman (Desdemona) Julie Tamiko Manning (Emilia) _ Photo by AndrÇe Lanthier.jpg
Amanda Lisman (Desdemona) Julie Tamiko Manning (Emilia). Photo by Andrée Lanthier

While the synergy between Iago and Othello seemed forced at times, the exchanges between Iago and Cassio, as well as those between Emilia and Desdemona, were not only inspired but made the Shakespearean verse seem as natural to the ear as everyday speech. Fortunately, Moodie and Lisman seemed well-matched as husband and wife and if this Othello failed to convince that he could command armies, he could at least persuade that he could charm Desdemona’s heart.

One of the most successful scenes of the production took place in act IV, scene 3 between Emilia and Desdemona. Emilia and Desdemona’s conversation about the infidelities of men, delivered so matter-of-factly by Julie Tamiko Manning and Amanda Lisman only a few moments before Othello arrives in the bedroom, perfectly captures and prepares the tragedy which is about the follow.

Despite its’ imperfections, this production of Othello remains a very successful staging of Shakespeare’s text and one definitely worth seeing.

Or why not offer the gift of jealousy and murder for the holidays this year?

Tickets can be purchased from the Segal Center box office, either by phone at 514-739-7944 or directly on the Segal Centre website site. Prices start from $24. The play runs until December 1st.

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