The Power Struggle: Modernization vs Replication

Studying theatre has always been an interest of mine, but I never thought to consider theatre as more than a performance on a stage before a hopeful audience. Since reading Palgrave’s Theatre & series, I’ve been reminded to keep an open mind towards, not only what theatre is, but what it has the potential to be. The proceedings in a court room, a sacred religious ceremony, or even a lecture from a professor are examples of performances in the real world.

Since taking the Destination Theatre course I’ve been observant of events in my life that have performative aspects. Since arriving in England, I have immersed myself in London’s rich and ubiquitous theatre scene. So far, I’ve seen sensational shows like Young Frankenstein, Witness for the Prosecution, and A Winter’s Tale. By the end of our 14-day adventure we’ll have seen a whopping ten performances in different theatres, but hundreds of performances by ordinary people within the city.

A recurring complication of the performances in London is the persistent power struggle between a replicated production and one that will please the majority – the tourists. Whether these presentations are within a theatre or in the real-world there is an unceasing desire to please the high-paying consumers. With this desire comes the decision to reproduce original performances or modernize them. This decision can severely influence the audience’s reaction towards a performance.

Two productions from this trip are highlighted in my memory when it comes to modernizing an English performance. The changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and AWinter’s Tale at the Globe Theatre undertook the challenge of modernization with some success and failure.

A Winter’s Talein the Globe Theatre was a performance accompanied by high expectations following our day of extensive programming concerning the elaborate costumes and theatres within the facility. The Globe Theatre is a reproduction of the original Elizabethan playhouse that was destroyed by fire in 1613. The Globe’s desire to replicate most aspects of Shakespeare’s vision is present, but the reality of a budget often takes precedence and impedes their efforts. Employees continue to make a valiant effort to ensure visitors have an authentic experience of the Globe, but in the case the case of their production of A Winter’s Talethe authenticity was almost completely lost in their efforts to modernize a Shakespearean classic. The production used modern-day clothing and props in order to differentiate members of the cast from Bohemia and Sicilia, but I personally found that this decision restricted my comprehension of the entire show.

In contrast, the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was a huge success for all audiences looking for an authentic and modern mix of an English production. The performance started with the traditional guard routine followed by two English marching bands that presented perfected pieces. And to my surprise, one of those pieces was “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars. The use of this song allowed most of the audience, especially younger spectators, to connect to an element of the long traditional ceremony. I personally felt the performance maintained a perfect balance of authenticity and modern entertainment.

I believe that maintaining the authenticity of a performance is the surest way to achieve success. In the case of the Changing of the Guards ceremony, a small modern twist captivated the attention of audience members of all ages. As for the production of A Winter’s Tale, their attempt to modernize a classic led to an overall degradation of the quality of their production.

 

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Fear of the Unknown: Destination Theatre

I’ve always been very passionate about the performing arts. I’m originally from Ottawa where my mom urged me to immerse myself in the arts at a very young age. Between dance class and gymnastics, I was a busy little lady. Living in the city we were able to attend an innumerable amount of live productions. This opened up an entirely new world of performance for myself. Once we moved to a small town on the shore of Lake Huron my opportunities involving performance and arts dwindled. Although dance and gymnastics were still available, my new small town couldn’t provide the same rich arts environment as Ottawa had.

Early in my childhood I became a closeted theatre geek. I would beg my parents for tickets to Toronto’s newest performances rather than the new “it” toy. I took pride in my love for performance, but it was often hard to find friends that really understood and loved my passion the way I did. Often times I made new theatre friends unexpectedly after eavesdropping on a conversation about their most recent theatre favorites. Once I moved to London, I realised that I needed to crawl out of my shell a little more if I wanted to really enjoy my passion for theatre. This is much easier said than done.

Since becoming a student at Western I’ve been surrounded by an environment of people with many opinions and passions similar to and different from my own. The exciting environment of being around unique individuals pushed me to concentrate on what I loved rather than the judgement of others. Growing up in a small town it was very difficult to develop and pursue any passion that differed from the very strict status quo that was apparent within the community. Being that Western is a very social and encouraging environment I have found that I am able to more openly and enthusiastically pursue my passions. This positive social setting has given me the confidence to take risks and try new things that I otherwise may have passed on.

IMG_5666Originally when I first saw the advertisement for Destination Theatre, the program seemed too good to be true. How often is it that you can find a course that allows you to study your lifelong passion abroad regardless of your current degree? I was in disbelief after reading the synopsis of the course and immediately started talking myself out of applying in fear that I wouldn’t be accepted.

Every element of this course left me anticipating a summer of traveling and theatre, but I couldn’t help but wonder, what if? My excitement for this course was paired with anticipation for what could be my dream summer, while also keeping my hopes at a reasonable level. I went back and forth between the application before I finally felt confident enough to take a chance and apply. Once I was accepted into the program I began to lose confidence in my abilities to impress my classmates. My biggest fear was that I would have the least amount of theatre knowledge in the class and seem incompetent. I’d go back and forth between days of convincing myself that this was an awful idea to packing my bags three months in advance. This anticipation and dread quickly melted away after our first class when I realized that we’re all just university students trying to expand our theatre knowledge and have some fun on the way.

In about three months our small group will be flying into a new city with open minds and anticipation for a trip of a lifetime.