Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Sunday Read: Alison Darcy on Scapegoat Carnivale's Bacchae

intense, dramatic, harsh and notoriously hard to stage

Alison Darcy is a living legacy. She has gone far beyond being the daughter of directors Maurice Podbrey (Centaur founder) and Elsa Bolam (Geordie founder) to becoming one of the finest director/artistic director/actors in the country. Her company, Scapegoat Carnivale, scored huge with their production of Medea, and is once again tackling the Greeks with The Bacchae.

CHARPO: What is your role for this production?

DARCY: My role this time around is solely as producer. It is my first time stepping out of a Scapegoat production creatively. It's a super odd feeling for me. I haven't even been to the rehearsals yet.

CHARPO: The Greeks again...why?

DARCY: We're not done with them. There's too much good stuff there. Andreas and Joe [Shragge, co-translator and co-director for the production] felt compelled to do the script and eager to do another translation of Euripides because he was such a master of pure theatre. Also I think their idea to set it during the Great Awakening is inspired. And we had such a great reception to Medea, I think Montreal audiences are excited to see new interpretations of classics, especially ones not often done. The Greeks are the originators of Western theatre, these are our fairy tales, the founding of the Judeo-Christian theology and our society. What better well to pull from? Maybe a trilogy could be in the making.

the team we have on this is insanely good

CHARPO: And why Bacchae?

DARCY: The Bacchae is often considered one of the best plays of Western theatre. It is tough and rarely done, intense, dramatic, harsh and notoriously hard to stage. It is a challenge. Also the story is incredibly compelling. I think Andreas felt absolutely drawn to it as a director which is crucial when mounting such a difficult piece, this isn't a play that should be done by any director for hire - the passion to tell the story is critical to its success. And the team we have on this is insanely good so you can't go wrong with that.

CHARPO: I'm assuming there was talk at the highest levels of the company on how this play would be approached. The Bacchae, in recent decades, has been used as an excuse to go fairly explicit - nudity, out of the norm sexuality - to bring in a new audience. Was this route discussed and, perhaps chosen?

DARCY: Actually, the approach has been left completely in the hands of the translators and director. I trust them implicitly to their own vision. As for doing the show because it has nudity or sexuality...well that is just not  a factor at all. We pick shows because they are interesting, smart, emotionally resonant and magical. Whether or not someone gets their kit off or not is irrelevant. If it calls for it in the script them they will probably do it. But I can't imagine that nudity or any kind of sexuality displayed on stage in this day and age would really be reason enough for an audience to see a show. The net has much more of that than theatre ever will, so if that is what someone is looking for they can do it cheaper just staying at home. Plus it's Montreal, seriously who is shocked by nudity anymore?

CHARPO: Are you happy with the progression of the company?

DARCY: Absolutely. [Gaƫtan Charlebois is] the one who told us on the day of our creation to take it slow, and we have. We are careful with our work, we take pride in it, we work hard, we enjoy it and I think that shows. We love the artists and theatres we work with, we have had wonderful people working with us on our shows and we feel the continued support as we strive to take bigger steps every day. My collaboration with the other members of Scapegoat continues to excite and surprise me, and that is a rare thing.

I think everyone could see the joy involved and recognized how ambitious a project it was.

CHARPO: Were you happy with both the production and reception to Heretics of Bohemia [the company's last production]?

DARCY: The Heretics was a crazy ride. We took big chances and I am really happy with the results. The responses we got on it were mixed, but I think everyone could see the joy involved and recognized how ambitious a project it was. I think we tried some things that might not have been either understood or liked by everyone, but I am fine with that. I am proud that we tried something new and exciting. I would be happy to go back to it one day and keep exploring it. It wasn't safe and I enjoy that tremendously.

CHARPO: How's funding?

DARCY: Brutal. We had to do the Indiegogo thing this time. Thank God for our super generous supporters or literally the show would not have gone on. The Councils are great to us, but even with that it's never enough. Something big needs to change soon if we are all going to keep going with this anglo theatre scene in Montreal. We have been doing this piece-meal shit for too long

CHARPO: What's up for the future?

DARCY: A workshop reading of Lindsay Wilson's commissioned play Blind about the murders of people with albinism in Tanzania and surrounding countries, their body parts are being sold for their purported 'magical' properties. Lindsay, Joe and I have been slowly developing the script since she and I initiated the project in 2010. Lindsay did a six-week research trip to Tanzania last year.

In April/May our residency show at the Segal (in the studio space) will be the first installation in our development of a new adaptation of the Faust myth which Joe and I are creating together from the Goethe and the old Germanic chapbooks from the 1500's. It is a huge project which addresses both the first often-performed book and the second wildly fantastical, rarely-touched book. We have big plans for this show in the long run, some great names are already involved. All I can say for now though is that the performance this Spring will be only four workshop performances. We originally advertised that we were going to do Bar Kapra: The Squirrel Hunter by Joseph but we have decided to push that until next season so we could take advantage of the amazing resources the Segal affords us for the development of Faust since it is such a beast.

This year Lindsay Wilson is our artist-in-residence, and next year it will be Jeremy Taylor, who is already working on a new script for us which we are very excited about.

Also I may have a few more things up my sleeve for next year...

The Bacchae is at Centaur Theatre October 11-20

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