Sitting in on “I Am Marguerite” rehearsal, April 1

Bloggergal picked a good day to check out a rehearsal for I Am Marguerite, which opens on April 10. Not only was the cast in full costume (for the benefit of photographer Bruce Peters, who snapped away during the run), but it was also director Molly Thom’s birthday – no foolin’! Producer Ramona Baillie surprised Molly with a cake, and everyone sang “Happy Birthday”.

Bones (prepared by set designer Marysia Bucholc) for "I Am Marguerite".

Bones (prepared by set designer Marysia Bucholc) for “I Am Marguerite”.  Photo: Bruce Peters

Before the run started, I got a chance to take a close look at the bones onstage – yes, they’re real! Set designer Marysia Bucholc bought them at St. Lawrence Market – a giant cow bone and several large fish – and boiled them to remove the flesh. “I got excellent stock out of it,” she says!

Sound designer Angus Barlow was sitting at a production table in the middle of the house, beside stage manager Margot Devlin (Kelsey Rutledge takes over as stage manager on Saturday for the rest of the performances). Angus played a recording of a new lute piece by composer James Langevin-Frieson for Molly’s approval.

There was a small audience watching the run – assistant director Meg Moran, assistant producer Dale Stewart, set designer’s assistant Fotini Paraschos, lighting designer Wesley McKenzie, and costume designers Peter DeFreitas and Toni Hanson.

 Having read (OK, devoured) Shirley Barrie’s amazing script for I Am Marguerite, I knew that it is not a straightforward telling of a historical event. But this performance blew me away.

"I Am Marguerite":  Marguerite de Roberval (Daniela Pagliarello - front left); Eugene (Christopher Oszwald - front - right); Jean-Francois de Roberval (Chris Coculuzzi  - left rear); Damienne (Heli Kivilaht - centre); Queen of Navarre (Sara Price - right rear).

The play begins with Marguerite (Daniela Pagliarello – left front in this photo by Bruce Peters) marooned on a deserted island off Newfoundland in 1542.   Wisps of smoke conjure up Nfld fog; eerie wolf howls raised goosebumps. And she sees a ship approaching – there is the possibility of rescue.  How Marguerite wound up on the Isle of Demons for two years, and her relationships with her ambitious brother Jean-François (Chris Coculuzzi – left rear), her old nurse Damienne (Heli Kivilaht – centre), her lute-playing lover Eugène (Christopher Oszwald – front right) and her mentor the Queen of Navarre (Sara Price – right rear) is told in a series of scenes that flow into and out of each other, fluidly jumping around in time.  It was not at all confusing: for example, sea noises and gull cries would cue us that a scene was taking place aboard the ship that sailed Jean-François and Marguerite from France to the New World, where he planned to be “King of Canada”.

Shirley Barrie calls I Am Marguerite “a play for a soloist and a quartet of voices”, and that description seemed perfectly apt when reading the words on the page, but it came to magical life when I was watching it play out on the stage.

After the run, all the designers took turns conferring with Molly or the actors about what worked, what didn’t, etc. I eavesdropped on costume designers Peter DeFreitas and Toni Hanson, talking to Sara Price, who plays the very regal and proper Queen of Navarre. In addition to the most stunning gown – seen below – Sara also sports an amazing wig, which Peter made by attaching various hairpieces to a black velvet cap.

Costume designed by Peter DeFreitas for the Queen of Navarre in "I Am Marguerite" (world premiere April 10-25, 2015 at Alumnae Theatre Company)

Costume designed by Peter DeFreitas for the Queen of Navarre in “I Am Marguerite” (world premiere April 10-25, 2015 at Alumnae Theatre Company)

Having spoken last week to props designer Razie Brownstone (who was experimenting with fabric and gelatin), I was very interested to check out the fish that Marguerite catches and eats in the play. Tonight she worked with a fish made from fabric, with a handy pocket to accommodate her stabbing and gutting it. “There was talk of putting gummy worms in the pocket so I could eat them as fish guts, and I’m so down with that!”, Daniela told me. But the fish I saw tonight may not be the final version in performance.

Ramona insisted that everyone on the production team gather onstage with the actors to have a photo taken. There will be official photos coming soon.

In the meantime, don’t forget to reserve or purchase a ticket for the WORLD PREMIERE of I Am Marguerite, running April 10 – 25. http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/i-am-marguerite.html

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Filed under 2014/15 Season, I Am Marguerite

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