Teen play looks at life’s real Mon­sters

> BY HOLLY MCKENZIESUTTER

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

Be­ing a teenager is ter­ri­fy­ing. It was true in 1818, when 20-year-old Mary Shel­ley pub­lished Franken­stein, one of the world’s most fa­mous mon­ster sto­ries, and it’s still true 200 years later, as the young cast of Mon­sters pre­pares to per­form the orig­i­nal the­atri­cal piece—a play that in­cor­po­rates drama, dance, mu­sic, ac­ro­bat­ics, and a cast of the world’s myth­i­cal mon­sters.

Elaine Carol of Mis­cel­la­neous Pro­duc­tions has been de­vel­op­ing the play for al­most four years. But the vet­eran play­wright and direc­tor tells the Straight over the phone that she’s “suit­ably scared” as open­ing night looms.

“It’s at that awk­ward-teenager stage. We’re kind of get­ting ready for the prom and it hasn’t fully sunk in,” she says. “For our young casts, once we start mov­ing into the theatre and the dress­ing room, that’s when it starts to sink in that this is some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­thing special, some­thing pol­ished, and has more depth than a high-school mu­si­cal.”

Mon­sters started the same way many Mis­cel­la­neous Pro­duc­tions pieces do: with a deep dive into a press­ing is­sue in Van­cou­ver’s schools. Carol de­cided on bul­ly­ing, and after run­ning youth work­shops in Van­cou­ver, Toronto, France, and Bel­gium, she be­came fix­ated on the idea of mon­sters and how they are cre­ated.

Carol says she re­al­ized that the one mon­ster rec­og­nized around the world was Franken­stein’s. Upon reread­ing, she was struck by a line from the novel’s in­fa­mous crea­ture: “I was benev­o­lent and good; mis­ery made me a fiend.”

Ideas of trans­for­ma­tion and what makes a mon­ster are at the heart of the play. An “in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence of mon­sters” meets and de­cides to retell the story of Franken­stein for the au­di­ence, with his­tory’s myth­i­cal crea­tures play­ing the parts. The fea­tured beasts were cho­sen from the cast mem­bers’ cul­tural back­grounds. Au­di­ences will meet a Filipino fallen an­gel called an Engkan­tada, a Rus­sian trick­ster spirit called a Do­movoi, and a Tai­wanese moun­tain de­mon called a Mox­ina, just to name a few. Fig­ures from his­tory, like the no­to­ri­ous Robe­spierre and the dic­ta­tor Pol Pot, also take on prominent roles.

Carol notes that the ori­gin sto­ries of­ten tell of crea­tures that were once good but were trans­formed as a re­sult of abuse or ne­glect—a theme she finds rel­e­vant to youth au­di­ences.

“If you look at the mon­sters and myth­i­cal crea­tures, many of them start as gods and god­desses. They were col­o­nized in dif­fer­ent ways,” Carol says. “This is what I learned in par­tic­u­lar from the Filipino kids. In many cases it was Chris­tian­ity or some kind of or­ga­nized re­li­gion that made these an­gels into devils.”

Carol doesn’t try to sug­ar­coat the fact that the play is dark. But au­di­ences can ex­pect en­ter­tain­ing moments and orig­i­nal songs, in­clud­ing a hip-hop dance num­ber, as well as com­po­si­tions by Cris Derk­sen.

And while she’s as scared as any direc­tor would be lead­ing up to a premiere, Carol is con­fi­dent that her scrappy young cast are more than ready to bring Mon­sters to life.

Com­poser and pi­ano star Lu­dovico Ein­audi reg­u­larly fills the world’s gilded cul­tural palaces with his warm, en­tranc­ing mu­sic. Be­ni­amino Bar­rese photo.

By Wil­liam Shake­speare. Di­rected by Michael Scholar Jr. At Stu­dio 58 on Satur­day, Septem­ber 30. Con­tin­ues un­til October 15

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