Hedda Gabler – talkback matinee

Back again – as I mentioned, busy times at Alum this past weekend.

As I edit this post, I’m listening to a CD compilation of popular tunes from the 1930s (an opening night gift from composer Rick Jones): It was great fun, but it was just one of those things…

So, first a confession: I didn’t actually see the matinée. This is because we were sold out, so Ed Rosing and I gave up our seats for paying customers who hadn’t already seen the show – we ended up hanging out in the lobby with Mike and Margaret Spence, house manager PJ Hammond and bartender Shelley Cahill. We did hear some big applause at the end, though (as we waited in the tower stairwell to go up for the talkback), and the audience sounded as though they thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Second confession: I was a talkback moderator virgin. Until this talkback. I introduced director Jane Carnwath, as well as the design team folks in attendance: lighting designer “Super Mike” Spence, set designer Ed Rosing and costume designer Margaret “The Costumator” Spence. And, of course, our fabuloso gals in the booth SM/lighting op Margot “Mom” Devlin and sound op Eileen Lonergan. Jane introduced the cast, then I fielded queries from the audience.

Hedda’s dance/movement sequence came up early on in our chat with the audience. Folks were interested in its genesis and – even more so – its meaning. Jane explained that it was specified in the script that there be a movement piece for Hedda off the top of the show – how it was done was up to the production. Actor Sochi Fried worked with composer/movement coach Rick Jones, starting with movement improv to create the final choreographed piece. The dance of entrapment, as I like to call it, reveals Hedda’s inner world – the emotions she doesn’t show, let alone speak of.

Period also came up: was it scripted this way or a choice? In this case, setting Hedda in the 1930s was the director’s choice – a time period similar to the original period in that women are still subjugated to a male-dominated society – but stretching those boundaries – and Lovborg refers to an impending war in his manuscript – in this case, it’s WWII. Also, Jane is a big fan of the frocks. 🙂

Lighting was also mentioned as integral in creating the mood (especially the stove fire effect when Hedda burns Lovborg’s manuscript), as was the set (which also contributed to the feeling of entrapment and claustrophobia – both for Hedda and the audience) and the intimacy of the space, especially the closeness of the audience to the playing area. Folks sitting in the front row feel like they’re sitting in the Tesmans’ living room – not a comfy proposition given what unfolds. 

And, of course, the cast – and casting choice – was praised. One audience member, while aware of the names of the actors, found the cast so believable, she found herself thinking of them in terms of their characters – and some of the cast admitted to this too, in the early stages of rehearsal. Sochi and Malcolm talked about the process of finding character – fun but challenging to play such wild, “bad” people. And, while blondes don’t necessarily have more fun – especially in this play – Leslie’s Thea definitely broke the “dumb blonde” stereotype.

Shout out to the groups who came to see the show on Sunday: folks from Thumbs Up and meetup.com, and a group of Sheridan College students.

Four performances left, kids (Wed – Sat this week) – we close this Saturday, November 27 – so get out while the gettin’s good.

In the meantime, here are some more production pix (by Joshua Meles). Top to bottom: Judge Brack (Andrew Batten) exerts his influence on Hedda (Sochi Fried); Hedda (Sochi Fried) and her husband, George Tesman (James Harbeck); Hedda (Sochi Fried) and Thea (Leslie McBay) watch the alcoholic Lovborg (Malcolm Taylor) take a drink.  

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