Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Feature: Evan Tsitsias on directing I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

The Imperfection of Love
by Evan Tsitsias

Evan Tsitsias trained at York University, Sheridan College, and has his professional Training Certificate in Theatre of the Oppressed from Cardboard Citizens in London, England, where he trained with Augusto Boal. He is also an alumni and member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, the Tarragon Playwright's Unit and the Co-founder/Artistic Director of the Directors Lab North.

In preparing to direct this show, I read almost every review ever written about it. Some raving about how hilarious and true to life it is and many griping about how dated it is with clichés and stereotypes that permeate the piece. So of course I began to scramble, thinking of how to update it to reflect 2013 and not the 90’s culture that was its genesis. I was on a mission to revolutionize this show and make it relevant. 

It was in this moment that I realized, perhaps this piece is not so dated.

Off I went, planning and plotting. Then, while directing the first production last year in Burlington, I had to leave in the middle of rehearsals to write and direct a show in Germany, then return back to Toronto and finish the rehearsals for “I Love You” here.  One day while in Germany, I was waiting for my  friend to complete her day long shopping expedition and as I looked for a place to sit and wait for her, I noticed two husbands sitting on a stoop flanking the front door holding their wives's shopping bags and purse.  Their image mimicked the exact position I placed one of my actors in rehearsal for the scene where he too, is waiting for his wife to finish shopping. It was in this moment that I realized, perhaps this piece is not so dated. Even across the world, men wait on stoops for their wives to finish shopping.

Perhaps relationships, as much as they have evolved post Oprah, still echo the same struggles since the dawn of man. I think there is a piece of us in each of these characters. A piece of truth. This is why I love this show and laugh at it so much. As much as I pretend not to recognize myself in any of these characters, I believe this show endures because of the innate truth inside these scenarios. I recognize myself and people I know in almost every scene in this show. This is a testament to its longevity. Yes, it is heavy on archetypes, but that is one of the reasons it resonates with audiences. Archetypes are built on truth.

So we went into rehearsals with this in mind. We’ve still been exploring ways to create three dimensional people inside a few of these two dimensional characters, and it’s been a challenge at times. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a certain type of humour because of it, but more often we’ve found even funnier ways to portray these characters. It’s been an amazing process and a lesson in patience.  Remounts are also a little precarious. Sometimes things that worked the first time don’t seem to land the second time around. We keep finding new gems. We’ve been layering the scenes more and more  now that we know what’s worked and what can be finessed. The rehearsal process has been a whirlwind with a quick turnaround. But what hasn’t changed is the synergy between the cast. Four very different performers who each bring a completely different background to this work, but somehow balance each other perfectly. 

It’s been a very fun process. I’ve been working on such dark themes and matters the last few years in all of my work it was a huge jolt to dive into comedic material like this. Music theatre is in my bones and in the rehearsals I realized what a gift comedy is in our lives. The ability to forget our troubles and simply relax and laugh for a couple of hours is just as important as depicting struggle and strife on stage. I’m glad I’ve had a tiny hiatus from all my dark matters.

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