Sunday Feature: Interview - Theatreworks Artistic Director Adrian Proszowski
Thirty Years and Beyond Greeks and Romans
We're not always in a theatre, we're not always outside, it really depends on what the story demands.
by Lisa McKeown
Adrian Proszowski has been Artistic Director of Theatreworks Productions since 2006. During his tenure thus far he has produced and acted in both CREON by Ned Dickens and The Menaechmus Twins by Plautus. Born in London Ontario and raised in Ottawa Mr Petroszowski has been passionately engrossed in the arts since he attended Canterbury High School for the Arts before leaving Ottawa to train at George Brown Theatre School in Toronto. Since graduating George Brown he has been a company member of A Company of Fools, an Ottawa based troupe dedicated to the plays of Shakespeare. Adrian Proszowski has worked across Canada since graduating George Brown Theatre School. Notable roles have included: Oberon in Company of Fools Winters Tale/Midsummer Night’s Dream mash up A Midwinter’s Dream Tale at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa, Rad in One Thousand Cranes for Carousel Players cross Canada tour, Michael and two other characters in Kevin Kerr’s Unity 1918 at Theatre Aquarius, Louis in Michel Marc Bouchard’s Heat Wave at Sudbury Theatre Centre, Sammy in Blood Brothers at 1000 Islands Playhouse, King Louis XIII in Three Musketeers (The world premier of an adaptation by Tom Wood) and the Knight in Little Women the Broadway Musical at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. He was one of 14 chosen from across Canada to participate in The Robbins Academy at the Banff Centre and Citadel Theatre. Upcoming: Adrian Proszowski will be directing the world premiere production of Ned Dickens play Paulo and Daphne commissioned by Theatreworks Productions.
CHARPO: So can you talk a bit about the history of Theatreworks Productions?
PROSZOWSKI: Theatreworks Productions was founded in 1984 by Bernadette Jones. It started out with a mandate of doing new Canadian works, and Canadian premieres of international works. Throughout the 80s and 90s Bernadette was doing a lot of New York playwrights, she had a space called Off Off Broadview over at Gerrard and Coxwell, and the Adelaide Theatre. She then moved off to do film and television around 2006, when I came on board.
Though I'm into Canadian plays, that mandate of new Canadian works seemed to me like one a lot of people were doing and doing well like Factory and Theatre Passe-Muraille. So I was like, what's our niche going to be? And my passion is classical theatre. And one day I was hanging out with a friend at Jackman Avenue Public School. And I was hanging upside down off the monkey bars and I saw this circle of stones, and I was like, 'whoa, look at that over there!' So we checked it out, and it was big circle of stones with a stone in the middle. And we realized it was such a great theatre space. My friend said he'd always wanted to do Antigone, and so the wheels got turning, and we started thinking you know, how can we do this play with Theatreworks Productions, and that's really how the reworking of the mandate got started.
It depends on where we are politically at the time, and the ideas that are sparked by the piece.
CHARPO: Is it a conscious updating of classical Greek and Roman plays, or a rewriting of them?
PROSZOWSKI: It depends. The first production we did was Ned Dickens version of the Antigone story, which was a new adaptation. But then we did the Menachmus Twins, which was just a straight up version of the original play. So it depends on where I'm at, what I'm seeing that's going on around me, and on the piece: does it work in its original form? Or does it work better if we adapt it? It depends on where we are politically at the time, and the ideas that are sparked by the piece.
CHARPO: What appeals to you about the classics?
PROSZOWSKI: What appeals to me is how relevant it is to today. So much of what happens in the world today: war, relationships, communication, is similar to what it was like back then. Our situations can be just as epic, and just as funny. That's probably the main thing. The language is also really interesting, the way they told stories. There's so much great food for actors and directors to get the creative juices flowing in terms of how to tell the story.
CHARPO: So you've mentioned the particular kinds of content Theatreworks aims to produce, but is there a particular approach you take to theatre formally speaking?
PROSZOWSKI: There is, in a way. This is still a new direction for us. A lot of those years have been about how we do things. I'm all about working with an ensemble, and creating together. We don't work specifically from things like physical movement, for example. It depends on the show. We tell the story of the play where it best suits that story at the time. It could be outdoors, at a cafe, in a pool, in someone's basement. We're not always in a theatre, we're not always outside, it really depends on what the story demands.
Oh, big dreams, big dreams!
CHARPO: What is the upcoming 2014 production of Paolo and Daphne about?
PROSZOWSKI: The idea came out of reading Ovid's Metamorphosis. The idea was to have a story where there was someone who was new to a country, who was having trouble finding their way between the traditions of their homeland and adapting to where they now live. And this person at some point falls down a rabbit hole and into some of the stories of the Metamorphosis, and through those stories, discovers how to negotiate their new life. So I talked to Ned Dickens about it, and he went away and came back with Paolo and Daphne. It tells the story of a man and a woman, two co-workers, and it's loosely based on Apollo and Daphne from the Metamorphosis. They both have their own ghosts they're dealing with; they have a relationship too: Paolo is in love with Daphne, but she can't love him back. And one summer day after they've had an argument, this mysterious woman appears: Illyria. She's from Yugoslavia, and she's lived through the Bosnian civil war, and she comes to Paolo seeking help in becoming a citizen, so that she can atone for a son that she left behind, who was the product of rape. And through that story, the characters come to settle on their own lives and their own stories. And they come to a place where they can start from scratch again, in their own lives. And we're going to do that in September/October.
CHARPO: As a final question: what are your future plans for the company?
PROSZOWSKI: Oh, big dreams, big dreams! We have another show coming up next year called Iphigenia Redux written by Nicholas Billon and directed by Alan Dilworth. A couple of years ago at Summerworks they did Iphigenia at Aulis in a classical style and they were thinking of doing the sequel, Agamemnon, and I had approached Nicholas and asked him if there was anything he was burning to write, and he said let's do Agamemnon, so I said let's do it! He went away and wrote an amazing contemporary version of Agamemnon, which I liken to a kind of cross between Modern Family and Dexter, there's all kinds of chain saws and crazy stuff like that at the end of it. So it begins as a classical piece in Act One, and you come back in Act Two and it's modern day Toronto Rosedale, and the shit is about to hit the fan! And then there's a one man version of the Illiad that we'd like to do after that, and then just build from there. We're also thinking of starting a reading series for the winter months, of works that are part of our season or something that we're thinking of doing, and wine or scotch tastings and that sort of thing. So lots of big plans!
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