Drama production explores war, politics, and art

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker
Opens March 8th in Theatre of the Arts, University of Waterloo

“This is a huge show for us” says UWaterloo Drama production manager Janelle Rainville about the final production of the department’s 2011-12 season.  Opening in Theatre of the Arts this Thursday, Scenes from an Execution features a cast of 16 students and one professional actor (Heather Hill, actress and voice teacher). Rich in language and ideas, the production also features sophisticated performance and design elements including an original sound score performed live, a major video component, and a 13’ x 8’ pool of water in which the actors perform.

Scenes from an Execution posterHoward Barker’s Scenes from an Execution takes us to 16th century Venice, shortly after The Battle of Lapanto: an event that changed the course of history by preventing the Ottoman Empire from advancing further into Europe.  In the play, the head of state has commissioned the most talented and extraordinary artist of the time to paint this pivotal victory on a canvas measuring 1000 square feet. The size of the project alone suggests the outcome will be a major public event, but, as we discover in the play, the painting of the Battle of Lepanto proves also a contested encounter. Galactia, the artist, possesses a vision and approach to her art that turns the painting into a traumatic experience, mirroring the slaughter of the battle itself.

A contemporary British playwright, Howard Barker’s work often confronts art and politics. A master of incisive language and dark wit, his work at once illuminates and provokes. Barker wrote Scenes from an Execution in 1984, in part as a response to Margaret Thatcher’s aggressive attack on Argentina over British territory in the Falkland Islands. In many ways, his text is even more poignant today, post-911, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a time when the idea of Europe is questioned.

Along with the play, the Theatre of the Arts Gallery features ‘Blood & Paint: A Feminine Response to War’, an exhibition of contemporary women artists’ responses to military conflict. Paralleling the story on the stage, this exhibition features the original work of over a dozen diverse female artists, including prominent Canadian artist Gertrude Kearns, member of the Canadian Forces Artists’ Program. Also on display in the Gallery duringScenes is a digital presentation on how the Battle of Lepanto served as a turning point in Europe’s history.

Scenes from an Execution runs on March 8, 9, 10 and 15, 16, 17 at 8pm. The production is a collaboration between University members and theatre professionals: direction by professor Andy Houston; lighting and set designed by Arun Srinivasan and Kelly Wolf, respectively; costumes designed by Jocelyne Sobeski of the Drama department; original music and sound composed by Meghan Bunce; video segments by Drama/Digital Arts Communication student Tallen Kay; and, dramaturgy and gallery curation by Drama students Robert Motum and Simon Thibodeau.

- Arts Communications, with information from UWaterloo Drama