Although the scenes in Lion in the Streets happen in an ethnic urban neighbourhood of Toronto, the play will bring its UVic audience to a place somewhere between reality and dreams, memories and fantasies.
A lost Portuguese girl wanders, frightened and looking for answers, witnessing a series of dark moments in the intertwined and troubled lives of several strangers in her community. As Isobel watches these strangers try to hold on to their own humanity, she finds understanding, forgiveness and ultimately redemption.
With an extensive history devising new work for the stage, director Conrad Alexandrowicz wants to take a similar approach to this Canadian masterpiece, which is often produced in a university context. Teaming up with designer Allan Stichbury, the pair decided that rather than designing the world of the play in advance and placing the actors into it, they would collaborate with the acting ensemble to develop the design elements around the actors’ movements. The shape and function of chairs and other props are being decided during rehearsals.
“This is a process that’s often used in devising new theatre works,” said Stichbury. “It’s important pedagogically for our students to study different approaches to play design and development.”
Alexandrowicz also sees the process help the actors.
“The exploratory design process will happen congruently with the acting process, and I think it will really help the actors delve deeper into their very challenging characters,” said Alexandrowicz. “It’s such a good play for young actors to bite into.”
Alexandrowicz will also draw strongly on his background of dance and movement and to bring a dreamlike choreography to the transitions between the unflinching honesty of the more realistic scenes. This movement-based, dreamscape approach was met with much enthusiasm by Judith Thompson in a recent series of conversations between the director and the playwright. Alexandrowicz has a BFA in dance from York University and an MFA in directing from the University of Alberta, and is also the founding artistic director of Wild Excursions Performance. This spring he devised, created and presented Mother Tongue in Vancouver, based on the works of poets Lorna Crozier, UVic writing professor emeritus, and Erín Moure. For the Phoenix, he has also directed Good Person of Setzuan and La Ronde.
Alexandrowicz will speak about his approach to Lion in the Streets at a free pre-show lecture on Friday Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. Performances of Lion in the Streets start Feb. 10 with shows through Feb. 21 including a matinee that day.
Single tickets: $14 student/$20 senior/$24 adult. See the full schedule at phoenixtheatres.ca (where lectures are also podcast) or call the box office at 250-721-8000.