Wednesday, July 24, 2013

In a Word... Jeremy Michael Segal and Logan Williams on The History of the Devil (Fantasia)

Barking Mad
Clive Barker is successful in making us all look a little deeper and ask, “What the fuck?”
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Title 66 Productions' mission is to move theatre in an exciting direction, bringing forth new ideas of drama, art and performance to create work that is representative of art in the 21st century. Inspired by playwrights and artists including Chekhov, Brecht, Beckett, Dali, Bob Wilson and the Dada movement, the company looks to fuse acting at its purest base with an innovative design concept. They are gaining recognition as an ambitious company unafraid to take on large projects.

Jeremy Michael Segal - Director and company Co-Director
Mr. Segal is a Montreal-based theatre artist and a graduate of the Dawson College Professional Theatre Program. Trained as an actor, his focus is on the performing arts, though he is interested in many different artistic mediums. He first delved into the world of directing when Title 66 first staged The History of the Devil last year. 

Logan Williams - Set and Costume Designer; Jesus, Lilith, The Actor, Judge Felix Popper; and company Co-Director
Mr Williams is a multi-practitioner of theatre arts, based in Montreal. A graduate of an acting program, he has an avid background in costuming and directing. He has worked for and alongside Scapegoat Carnivale, Geordie, Black Theatre Workshop, Teesri Duniya and The Segal Centre.

CHARPO: For those who don't know, tell us about why Clive Barker has become so important in the world of horror and fantasy.

SEGAL:  Stephen King was quoted as saying, "Clive Barker is so good that I am literally tongue-tied." At my young age of 22, I won't pretend that I have any vast knowledge of the greater world of fantasy and horror, but I can definitely say why I believe Clive Barker's work to be so important. Clive Barker creates worlds that burst off the pages of his novels (or plays), often revealing expansive fantastic worlds hidden within our own. He manages to weave stories that are full of a childlike sense of magic and exploration, all the while exploring the truth of human nature. While shedding light on grand ideas of existentialism, hell, heaven, history, religion, and sexuality (to name a few), he always allows the readers to gain specific insight into the minds of the characters and how they cope with their worlds being revealed as but part of a larger supernatural realm. Clive Barker has an unflinching, wondrous imagination - people are captivated by his charisma as a creator of worlds.

CHARPO: How did you begin the build of the production - what was the aha!- 
let's-do-this moment and what followed that moment?

WILLIAMS:  Upon closing the company’s inaugural production, we were looking to evolve into something bigger. We all sat down with Barker's Incarnations, a collection of three plays, in which The History of The Devil (or Scenes from a Pretended Life) wraps up the series. On reading the first few scenes, it seemed as if we were destined to stumble upon the piece. We were immediately drawn to the amount of actors required and the number of characters in the play, excited by the prospect of playing a plethora of characters each. The play’s themes also resonated with us as we pursued the avenues of relatability and the idea of having a large audience connect with our company. It was, however, the chance to test ourselves and push our limits as people and as theatre artists that ultimately led us to create this piece. As Co- Director (with Jeremy Michael Segal), I am constantly promoting and stressing the importance of testing limits and refraining from being comfortable - complacency will not push art forward. In the end, the play speaks to just that; no one is perfect and everyone has flaws. 

CHARPO: Was there a time where you stepped back - like Barker's readers and film-fans sometimes do - and thought, "What the fuck is this?"

WILLIAMS:  It has been pretty constant throughout our process in mounting both productions that we think just that. It is important to constantly question the play and its message, and Clive Barker is successful in making us all look a little deeper and ask, “What the fuck?” In my mind however, the first time this happened was when we first started dissecting the play. Our stage manager spoke up about her interest in two characters, slithering hussies from the 1190's, and her thoughts on who they were. Our conversation lasted an hour and we were unable to come to any conclusions or concrete ideas about the characters. We left uneasy and ripped apart and from then on, the questioning hasn't once stopped! 

We were exploring new forms of performance and movement that none of us had much experience with

CHARPO: What was the chief difficulty in the initial production?

SEGAL: The History of the Devil was only the second show that Title 66 ever produced; most of us were still rather fresh out of theatre school. The production was a huge undertaking. It was telling the story of the Devil himself, spanning thousands of years, with 34 characters played by eight actors. My concept for the show was quite ambitious as well, both technically and artistically demanding. None of us had ever attempted to tackle anything so enormous, so the whole process was a constant learning curve, especially considering that it was my first time ever directing. 

Artistically, we had to push ourselves to our limits in order to construct this spectacle. We were exploring new forms of performance and movement that none of us had much experience with, and making use of masks on top of that. I wouldn't say that this was a major difficulty, but we were definitely in unfamiliar territory. 

Mounting the first production of The History of the Devil was like taking an intensive business course… except without a teacher! It was an absolutely amazing experience in that sense. I learned so much about the business of theatre that it would be hard to put it all into words. 

I think above all though, the greatest lesson I learned is the importance of communication. Open communication solves many problems that would otherwise run rampant. Of course, there are always financial issues which I imagine most independent theatre companies struggle with… but that's a whole other story…!

CHARPO: Finally, how did you get into Fantasia?

SEGAL:  It's an absolute honour to be included in the Fantasia Film Festival's programming this summer.  Mitch Davis, Co-Director of Fantasia, saw our production of The History of the Devil last year. I'm happy to say that he loved the show and was later openly supportive of our work.  A few days after we closed, I came home to an unread message in my Facebook inbox. It was Mitch—he contacted me to congratulate us on our production. He introduced himself as Co-Director of Fantasia and offered to give us a place in the Festival's programming. I was in complete awe that someone so influential was so appreciative of our work. 

I think a large factor in him taking an interest in us is how young we are. As I said, it was a mammoth  production and to take it on so early in our careers was a very bold choice. Having met him, it's clear that Mitch is a very passionate and driven person and I think he saw that passion in us. I can't even begin to express our gratitude to him for taking a chance on our company. It's surreal to be where we are right now.

The History of the Devil is part of Fantasia and runs August 1, 2, 3

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