Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Feature: David Reudelhuber, Producer, Brave New Productions, on Art

l-r Donald Rees, Nir Guzinski, Sean Curley (Photo credit: David Reudelhuber)

Brave New Productions, all grown up
Yasmina Reza, the painting, the men
by David Reudelhuber

Sitting at his breakfast bar overlooking misty downtown Montreal, Donald Rees and I are supposed to be discussing our plan for Brave New Productions 2013. But the conversation has veered off (as it often does) into banter about our next vacation, our end of year party and subsequent arguing about who has the best cell phone. After 10 years as friends and collaborators, we have learned to speak to each other in factoids, not unlike text messaging. A free-flowing dialogue of opinions on various topics that would sound bizarre to anyone listening in.

Donald: I’m thinking we should have a Muppet in the end of year video.
David: Cool. Do you think I should buy my sweaters for Fall now or wait? I need new sweaters.
Donald: Wait. Do you want tea or something? I have this new tea...I think you should be the sole producer of ‘ART’.
David: What kind of cookies are those? I love your new couch! So modern.

Dave and Donald
And that’s how it started. Donald had (in his own way) asked me to produce playwright Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’, for Brave New Productions’ 10th year anniversary. Since we were having one of our ‘efficient’ talks, punctuation was not an indicator for me and I did not realize that Donald was referring to ‘ART’, the Tony Award winning comedy with worldwide success that has been performed in more than 35 languages. The play is about how the friendship of three men is challenged when one of them purchases a very expensive white-on-white abstract painting. Donald made this clear some days later in a barrage of text messages about winter festivals and venues.

Six months later, we are overjoyed to have been selected as a partner in the MONTREAL EN LUMIERE festival’s Nuit Blanche with our mounting of ‘ART’ at Théâtre Ste. Catherine. We are delighted to have Emma McQueen directing once more and have welcomed back Brave New Productions alumni Nir Guzinski as Marc, Sean Curley as Yvan and Donald Rees as Serge.

‘ART’ is Brave New Productions, all grown up. I met Donald when we were students at Dawson College with questionable hairstyles and dreams of performing in front of an audience. We have worked hard over the last 10z years to be a fully independent company and recruit people who are as passionate about entertaining audiences as we are. With each production (this will be our 10th) we have debated what we consider to be Art. We have disagreed at times. Is it song & dance? Is it tongue in cheek comedy? Drama? ‘ART’ suits us perfectly as it is the perfect balance of dry wit, hilarious comedy, drama and depth.

The characters in ‘ART’ allow the audience to take the stance of the skeptic, the somewhat naive enthusiast and the unabashedly optimistic in consideration of what one perceives as Art. Sounding much like any conversation that Donald and I have over biscotti, the script is enthralling in its seeming simplicity and minimalism. Emma McQueen expertly navigates the subtleties in the script and provides guidance to the actors for the moments between the lines, where Yasmina Reza places great importance. Sean, Nir and Donald also have great chemistry as a trio of real-life friends and their varying personalities suit the script well. This is very much a play for actors, as the characters allow them to get carried away in emotions with hilarious results. Yasmina Reza’s exploration of masculinity and materialistic social values comes roaring through in some scenes and almost make me blush, hearing myself in the words of the characters. Her wry sense of humour is squarely set in mockery of the type of conversation I have on a daily basis, and the self reflection that ensues is both squirming discomfort and remarkably freeing. This play alludes to being about an object but the real story is in the audience, and which character each person identifies with the most; it interrogates the subjectivity of how we perceive Art and what value we attribute to it.

I cannot think of a better play for our 10th anniversary. A play that makes us question our own perceptions of Art and entertainment will drive us toward a better performance for our audiences. I’m also truly honoured to be working with such a hard-working team who is so passionate about their own Art and dedication to their craft. All of our rehearsals are filled with laughter and positivity.

Our final rehearsals are coming up and I am confident that when the lights go down at the end of the show, the audience will have been thoroughly entertained and will go home thinking about how they perceive Art. In the end, Donald and I can disagree about what we consider to be Art sometimes, but what really matters is that we work it out over lattes and put on the best show we can: we can only hope Yasmina Reza would agree.

Art runs from February 28-March 9

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