April 28th, 2014

*Once* stories on stage at the In the Soil festival

Ferris wheel at In the Soil festival

Ferris wheel at In the Soil festival

This past weekend, I went to see the theatrical version of four stories from *Once* presented by Twitches and Itches theatre company in St. Catharines, as part of In the Soil festival there. I actually tried to take a picture of the (sold out!) crowd before the lights went down, but my attempt to be unobtrusive meant that the photo is illegible. So above is a ferris wheel that was part of the festival, but had nothing to do with the play. At least it’s on the same general wavelength as the play was–cool and unexpected.

I’ve known that director Colin Anthes was working on this production for a while, and I was quite interested/excited, but I haven’t asked a tonne of questions and tried very hard not to volunteer any opinions. I figured I’d had my say in the stories, and if this group wanted to take on the task of bringing them to the stage (which I imagine was pretty hard), they deserved the right to do it any way they could think of. I learned from the very magical experience seeing the film version of How to Keep Your Day Job come to life that the best way to be amazed by your own work is to let someone else completely recreate it. It’s so stunning to see what they find.

And the *Once* play on Saturday was truly stunning. It was actually 4 little playlets: “Chilly Girl,” “Fruit Factory,” “Cal Is Helpful” and “The Words,” enacted one after another. From talking to Colin and reading this essay by one of the actors, I know that the plays came together collaboratively, with the whole cast involved, and it showed in the vigour and joy of their performances.

The cast was Eduardo DiMartino, Collin Glavac, Hayley Malouin and Caitlin Popek, the stage manager Nathan Heuchan, and the adaptor Colin Anthes. Their versions of these four stories were all incredibly faithful to the texts, while still very different from them. It was amazing how much room they found to vary pace, tone, focus, with almost no real rewriting (I think I caught maximum three small instances when the actual prose was different, each time in logical ways to make up for cut scenes or other practical matters). The humour in a number of the pieces was highlighted, the pace quickened, and some of it was simply different than I imagined. Which is good–no writer should ever get too caught up in her own imagination being the right imagination. I was also really surprised by how much music this group found in the stories–they used music in a lot of surprising ways in the plays, but actually a lot of it came from within the stories. It really surprised me, in the best possible way.

It’s possible that *Once* the play will get remounted at some point in the future, and I sincerely hope it does because more people would enjoy seeing it, I’m sure. Until then, I certainly did!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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