Last night (Nov 6), Alumnae Theatre’s Main Stage, just vacated by the Toronto Irish Players, was crammed with actors crowded around tables set up in a square. I think there were 13, but may have lost count. It was the first read-through of Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance, which will run January 25 – February 9, 2013.
Also present for the read were producer Kathryn Binnersley (who provided yummy snacks) , executive producer Ramona Baillie, stage manager Margot Devlin, sound designer Angus Barlow, dialect coach John Fleming (who had to leave at 8pm to go to the Studio for a Drowning Girls rehearsal – he’s also dialect coach for that production, which opens Nov 16), assistant stage manager Sangeeta Wylie (who read the stage directions), and wardrobe supervisor Julie Da Costa (who answered an ad on Craigslist…).
Director Paul Hardytold the cast that he wants to make this classic play – centred around a gathering of upper-class society folk, and first performed in 1893 – relevant to modern audiences. Instead of keeping the time period in the 1890’s, he’s transposing it to the 1980’s! Think shoulder pads and big hair.
Costume designer Brandon Kleiman (unfortunately not present) will have his work cut out for him. Yes, it will still take place in England. Paul joked that he had briefly considered setting it in the Muskokas, but decided that wouldn’t work! The newer time period means that actors can be freer and looser in their body postures, and not have to worry so much about keeping a “classical” stance. Accents will also be mellower for some characters; less upper-crust RP.
Realizing that the change in period means some of the dialogue won’t work. Paul has already done some cutting, and plans to do more with the actors’ input in early rehearsals. But it’s quite humbling to realize how little really needs to be changed. For example, the “East End problem” that stuffy politician Mr. Kelvil mentions still exists in present-day London.
The script is divided into four Acts, but we will play it as two, with a break between Acts Two and Three. The reading ran for 55 minutes each half. Paul suggested that the actors treat it like a dinner party, peopled with smart, interesting, fully fleshed-out and real characters engaged in constant intrigue. He was delighted with the performances tonight, finding that they pointed out even more depth in the script than he had noticed on the page. “Your thoughts?” he asked the cast. Jason Thompson (who gave a hilarious read as the holier-than-thou Archdeacon Daubeny) responded, “Cocaine and A Flock of Seagulls.” Ooo-kay. Channeling the 80’s, already, hmmm?
Lord Illingworth – Andrew Batten
Caroline Pontefract – Gillian English
Miss Hester Worsley – Sophia Fabiilli
Mr. Kelvil, M.P. – James Graham
Lady Stutfield – Lindsey Higgs
Mrs. Arbuthnot – Áine Magennis
Frances, the maid – Kathleen Pollard
Gerald Arbuthnot – Nicholas Porteous
Mrs. Allonby – Paula Schultz
Farquhar, the butler – Daniel Staseff
Lady Hunstanton – Renee Stein
Archdeacon Daubeny – Jason Thompson
Sir John Pontefract – Michael Vitorovich