Monday, November 11, 2013

The Question... Juliet Paperny on The Tempest

Holding Interest
by Estelle Rosen

Juliet Paperny is in her third year at McGill and facing the difficult question of what to do after graduation. After moving to Montreal from Vancouver she had to get used to two things: the frigid winters and the huge workload. The latter had been standing in the way of extracurriculars for a while; as a history and psychology student there isn't much room for outside projects. Ms Paperny had been acting since she was six, had helped direct for a few years in high school and has always been a Shakespeare fanatic. It was the end of last year when she decided to pitch The Tempest to Players' Theatre. She has since found her involvement with the McGill theatre community very rewarding and worth the hours of dedication. Though she is still grappling with the daunting task of post-undergraduate decisions, she's convinced this experience will stay with her no matter where she ends up. 

CHARPO:  What was it about Shakespeare that converted you to a Shakespeare fanatic, and  
as a fanatic, what is your opinion on the controversy whether Shakespeare wrote all those plays. The Tempest has been adapted in a variety of styles besides theatre including music and literature. Tell us a little bit about what form this production will take.

PAPERNY: William Shakespeare provided us with comedies, tragedies, histories and blends of all three; and what’s more, they’re all free to perform. I chose The Tempest because it’s one of the Bard’s rare combinations of humour, misfortune and fantasy, all taking place in real time. The Tempest pushes the boundaries and provides the audience with wondrous escapism. I selected The Tempest for this very reason. Players’ Theatre attracts many different people but for the most part, the audience consists of students, students with work, stress and little free time to spare. If they’re taking the time to come to the theatre in the middle of November it better be something that will hold their interest.
There have been many interpretations of The Tempest; the most recent film version starred Helen Mirren as Prospero. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Prospero is the banished sorcerer that calls up the tempest and brings his enemies onto his shore to seek vengeance, and eventually pardons them of their wrongs. Typically played as a male role, the director’s choice in the film to star Mirren shifted the dynamic completely. I have made this switch with another one of the characters: Gonzalo, the loyal, aged lord, or in this case lady. Role reversal in Shakespearean works always seems to translate seamlessly and I believe that it was done time and time again in the great Globe Theatre: men, playing women, playing men. Ariel, Prospero’s androgynous tricksy spirit, has also been made into a female role. Through these adaptations we have multiplied the female characters by three, adding some femininity to a male-based cast.

I have steered clear of a period piece and instead have decided to present the production in a relatable way; it’s very physical and interactive. Players’ Theatre is an amazing space to present productions. The black box theatre layout – a diamond stage with an audience to the actors’ left and right – creates an experience unlike other spaces, providing different perspectives of the scene depending where you are situated in the audience.
There has always been a hot debate disputing whether Shakespeare was the true playwright of all of his artistic works. I believe the importance of the plays lie in the works themselves. There is only so much to be inferred from what we know historically about the life Shakespeare lived: a few signatures, a marriage to Anne Hathaway, a will and some portraits. Pointing fingers and the futile search for proof is useless and does not change the impact Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have had on the evolution and study of literature. The first accusation of this false authorship was made as a harmless joke centuries after the Bard’s death. Whether the man we have come to thank for these texts was the true author or not, the history of the plays and the works themselves deserve to be commemorated, celebrated and performed.
The cast is great and they’ve really transformed Shakespeare’s last play into a delightful lesson on revenge, forgiveness and camaraderie. The process has been incredible so far and I can’t wait for it to come to life onstage. So take the time out of your busy schedule and choose a night to treat yourself to the theatre. I promise you won’t be disappointed. "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not."

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