Brave New Play Rites Festival presents
After two decades focused on screen-based storytelling, Sara McIntyre returned to the theatre to direct the premiere of the short play “Aurora” written by award-winning playwright Ramon Esquivel. The production was part of the 2015 Brave New Play Rites Festival produced by the UBC creative writing department that ran at Studio 1398 on Granville Island, March 12-15.
“Aurora” is the story of lovers Halen and Kai who reunite two years after Halen has jumped from the Aurora Bridge in Seattle.
Ramon challenged himself to write the characters with gender neutrality. He created an intimate, fluid exchange that combines personal details of depression and suicide with wonder at the interconnectedness of our molecular and biological planet.
Sara chose to cast two young women – Allie Pev and Rachelle Tomm – as Halen and Kai, and focused direction on the intimacy, elation and heartache of the relationship.
The set used five plain chairs to represent the bridge railing and create a barrier between the actors and the audience. The only audio effect was recorded traffic sounds captured on the Burrard Bridge. Confined lighting created a secluded meeting spot under streetlights at midnight.
The minimal effect was an elegant representation of the suspended, supernatural encounter in the script, and the magic of live theatre’s ability to take an audience into imagined circumstances with just a few gestures. The set focused the audience’s attention on the performances, which were nuanced and joyfully realized by the two young actors.
“At our first meeting to discuss the play, Sara shared insights and posed questions that demonstrated how thoroughly she had been studying the script”, says Ramon. “I commend her for steering me towards heightening the tension between the two characters, and for infusing more desperation and drama into their respective arcs. Seeing Sara work with Allie and Rachelle, I was heartened by how much time they were taking to explore the relationship and dynamic between Halen and Kai. They took rehearsals into the streets and onto a real bridge, and Sara herself recorded ambient street noise on a bridge in the middle of the night. I knew the story was in the hands of committed and caring theater artists.”
Sara enjoyed the opportunity to workshop the script with Ramon in the weeks of rehearsal afforded by the festival schedule. She says, “Our tiny budget and the minimal stage direction in the script freed me to concentrate on the characters’ journey and the suspension of disbelief that this narrative required. I find that no matter how elaborate or sparse a production is, only when the story has heart and performances are strong will audiences be moved.”
Every show ended with misty eyes and sighs of satisfaction – a pretty good sign of success.