Monday, November 25, 2013

The Question... Caleb Harrison on directing Old Times

Provocative Pinter
by Estelle Rosen

Caleb Harrison is from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. He loves his friends and family. He tweets (@venedikted), co-manages Scrivener Creative Review (@ScrivenerReview), and is finishing his degree in Linguistics, Psychology, and Russian at McGill. He writes.

CHARPO: Old Times has been interpreted as mysterious, puzzling and haunting. Silence on stage seems an essential element in this play. For Pinter silence on stage is the essence of drama.  What kinds of challenges does this, and the fact students are performing adult content, present? As an aside, Pinter once said he can't sum up any of his plays. This is what happened. This is what they said. This is what they did. He also likes to provoke. What is the provocation in this play?

HARRISON: Old Times is all of those things and more.

Silence is an important component in all art. Silence at its core is simply an absence. But it is much more than an absence; it is an opportunity. On a practical level, silence in this play is used to allow room for the imagination. The audience needs silence to see what is said. The reason for this is that all of the action happens off stage. There are also times when the opposite effect is achieved: an overwhelming collage of images that the audience can only briefly imagine.
It is challenging to temper silence because the people in the audience have conflicting needs (in terms of processing time). The goal is to find an intermediary quantity of silence so as to direct the audience’s thinking—to amalgamate their minds.
I’ll leave the more abstract interpretations of silence up to the audience.
I’m not sure I know what “adult content” is. But let’s assume you mean things like age, responsibility, regret, and so on. Consider your life. Consider the lens you look through as you walk or trudge through life. Now think back to how you used to see things. When we do this we conjure a falsity; we view our memories with a lens removed from that which observed the initial encounter. But memory is vivid. Our rational brains construct rational stories to make up for the holes in our memories.
But what am I talking about? What does this have to do with “adult content”? Everyone, regardless of age, can relate to having a past. Our pasts are made up of iterations of the self. At any given point in our past, we are a different iteration. To separate yourself from any one of your past selves doesn’t make sense. You are you. You are who you were and who you are. But in this production, and this will answer your question regarding provocation, the characters are their old selves—that is, their former selves. All we are is who we were, and that is who the characters are. So in that sense, the fact that the actors are younger only reinforces the ambiguity of identity, identity being largely drawn from memory.
That all you are is who you were is a haunting revelation. The notion carries a heavy fatalism, one that we try to avoid by enumerating the ways in which we have changed over the years. But there is no escaping the pervasion of the past, of our past. In Old Times, the audience observes their present selves observing their past selves.

Old Times runs Nov. 27-30 Dec. 4-7

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