No angels were harmed during making of not-so-contemporary comedy

VICTORIA, B.C. – The Canadian College of Performing Arts’ “Company C” Studio Ensemble is gearing up for its second show of the 2020-21 season, Paradise Lost by Canadian playwright Erin Shields. Taking to the stage in western Canada for the first time, this live-streamed version of Paradise Lost will also be the first student production since the play’s premiere at the Stratford Festival in 2018.

This season’s “Company C” comedy opens its four-day engagement Dec. 3. While the company had hoped to replicate the model employed for last month’s run of Yerma, with extended COVID-19 related protocols implemented to ensure the safety of cast and subscribers attending live, limited-capacity shows, Paradise Lost performances will be solely live-streamed to adhere to new provincial guidelines.

Erin Shields’ Paradise Lost is a modern take on John Milton’s epic poem that covers the genesis of Adam and Eve and Satan’s plot for revenge. In this hilarious, thought-provoking adaptation, Satan is an empowered woman bent on taking down an unforgiving God by crafting a plan to corrupt his newest creations: the endearingly naive Adam and Eve. From Shields’ clever use of lyrical language to timely allusions, this version is a witty and heart-warming parable.

In Paradise Lost, which won the Quebec Writers Federation Prize for Playwriting and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, Shields examines this story through a contemporary lens, challenging societal norms by refocusing the traditionally male narrative around a strong female lead.

Facilitating this production is Indigenous award-winning playwright, facilitator, and educator Yvette Nolan. After performing her play The Birds last year, “Company C” is thrilled to welcome Nolan to the team, inspired by the former Artistic Director of Native Earth’s contributions to the construction and presentation of Indigenous theatre in Canada throughout her career.

This production features an Indigenous female lead as the protagonist (Satan) opposing a white male (God), bridging such current global themes as social injustice, gender equality and feminism to the play’s relevance today. Given the societal shift the pandemic has contributed to, and events leading to a new political climate with the imminent departure of U.S. President Donald Trump, Satan’s observation that “I freed you from blind obedience to a psychopathic dictator, to a deranged monarch, to a bloodthirsty general, a bully, a thug,” has palpable relevance, even if she’s referring to God, not Trump, and a patriarchal system.

Noting that we learn gender roles and stereotypes from popular culture – through movies, music and advertisements, for instance – Nolan praised Shields for turning them on their ear.

“Erin challenges those roles with her funny, clever, joyful play,” says Nolan. “She challenges the audience to question what assumptions we have inherited, and how we can be more conscious in how we live.”

Heather Burns, Director of Education and Programming and “Company C” Studio Ensemble Manager, says she has been “humbled and impressed” by the level of commitment to each other and the College by the 13 students who make up the intensive training collective, especially during the pandemic limiting external social activities.

“Their willingness and accountability to reducing social and personal interactions, keeping their activities based in the program and sacrificing external experience has enabled them to maximize their program delivery and internal interactions,” she said.

Advisory: Mature themes and language, sexually explicit content and violence.

What: Paradise Lost
Who: “Company C” Studio Ensemble at the Canadian College of Performing Arts
Where: Live-streamed from CCPA Performance Hall, 1701 Elgin Rd., Victoria, B.C.
When: Dec. 3, 7:30 pm; Dec. 4, 5 and 6, 2:00 and 7:30 pm.; Dec. 6 at 2:00 pm.

Livestream Ticket Prices
Single Viewer: $16.45
Household of 2: $27.01
Household of 3+: $42.85
For livestream tickets:

Michael D. Reid