VICTORIA, B.C. – For their first public theatrical presentation of the 2018/19 season, students in their second year of studies at the Canadian College of Performing Arts are showcasing their talent in two disparate shows playing in repertory.
Stage Door, the American theatre classic by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, opens Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the College’s Performance Hall, 1701 Elgin Rd., with an additional evening performance Dec. 14 and 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 15.
This witty, fast-paced valentine to live theatre, popularized by a considerably different 1937 movie version starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, chronicles the hopes and struggles of several aspiring stage actresses who reside at the Footlights Club, a bustling boarding house in Depression-era New York.
Middletown, Will Eno’s existential humour-laced drama that has been described as a contemporary equivalent to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, opens Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 14 and the closing night performance on Dec. 15. By turns profoundly moving, darkly comic and surreal, the play journeys into the universe of a small American town that is anything but normal, with stops from the local library to outer space.
The Dec. 15 Stage Door matinee and Middletown’s 7:30 p.m. show that day are Relaxed Performances. These performances are open to everyone, but intended to be welcoming to those who find the theatre environment challenging.
Stage Door and Middletown presented unique challenges and rewards for both directors. “It’s madness, and it’s fun,” laughs director James Leard, describing the comic chaos in Stage Door, a show he says he wanted the students to particpate in to have the experience of doing a big, 1930s-era American theatre production on a box set.
Stage Door allows its cast of 17 young women and four men to “explode the stage with all kinds of activities and comings-and-goings” — notably in a scene in which a star is coming to the school to take pictures with them.
“It had to be choreographed, with 14 women having to get offstage at the same time. They come rushing up the stairs and through this one little exit at the same time, trying to get off so they can get changed and look good in the pictures.”
A challenge for Middletown director Stuart Aikins, whose play explores a lifetime of human experience from birth to death within a few blocks, was finding a unique way for his student cast to handle its mature subject matter.
The play contains strong language, and discussions about drinking, prescription drug usage, suicide and death.
“You’re dealing with students 19 to 21 who don’t have a lot of life experience, and I felt it was important for these students, who face crises, wants and desires and failures, to use things from their own lives to look at these characters,” said Aikins, who did not want his young cast to play much older than they were.
“They’re also coming to realize there are so many choices to make in the play, as in real life.”
What: Stage Door / Middletown
Who: Canadian College of Performing Arts
When: Dec. 12, 14, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 15, 2 p.m./Dec. 13, 15, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 14, 2 p.m.
Where: CCPA Performance Hall, 1701 Elgin Rd, Victoria
Tickets can be bought online at ccpacanada.com, or over the phone at 250-595-9970.
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Michael D. Reid
Public Relations Liaison