Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Seven Siblings Theatre Tackles Steve Martin in a Bar

Director, Erika Downie
courtesy of www.sevensiblingstheatre.ca 
Seven Siblings Theatre presents
Picasso at the Lapin Agile
By Steve Martin
Directed by Erika Downie

DESCRIPTION: " Sparks fly as Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein debate the meaning of the universe and its inescapable ties with art in this surreal comedy." -SST

donna g: Steve Martin is not a name that readily comes to mind when the average person thinks of playwrights. How did you discover "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"?

ERIKA DOWNIE: Steve Martin’s plays found me. I was at my university bookstore picking up textbooks and it stood out as something I needed to read. As “fate” has it Martin’s works also found their way into the hands of Will King, the artistic director and co-founder of Seven Siblings, and Madryn McCabe, the third co-founder and marketing and publicity manager of the company.  When I moved to Toronto last summer it was the first play the three of us decided to put into our 2016 season because we loved the rhythm of the comedy, the fantastic relationships between all the characters and the atmosphere of a 1904 Paris café.

donna g: What is it about the play that appealed to the company?

ERIKA: The imagined scenario between Picasso and Einstein and the surrounding characters and the interactions between everyone was the biggest appeal.  Our company is defined by putting on works that are based in the realm of the fantastic, a heightened world, situation or moment. Picasso has these beautifully crafted fantastic relationships that was supported by Martin’s comedic skills and all of us just fell in love with the script as a whole.   

donna g: The major names in the play are, obviously Picasso, but there is also Albert Einstein. Did you do any research into the backgrounds of each man, or did you base everything on what Martin presented?

ERIKA: With every play I do research and with Picasso at the Lapin Agile my research was more focused on the artistic movement of Picasso and the scientific writings of Einstein and how these men shaped science and art, as we know them today. I also did a lot of research on the other characters of the show discovering that each character did have some tie into the lives of Picasso and Einstein, which just made this play richer. This is just the beginning of my process, it’s in marrying the play to the research where the challenges, but also the magic, happens.

donna g: Setting the show in an actual bar is wonderful idea. Was this something that Seven Siblings wanted to do all along? How did you manage to get Round Venue to buy into your project?

ERIKA: We absolutely wanted to set Picasso in a bar from the get-go. It was important to us because of how we wanted to treat the audience in within the play, as another character. We did a lot of hunting for the right venue, and it was a wonderful find on Will’s part.  He did all the legwork to seek out the best venue for our production. Approaching Round Venue and discussing what we wished to do in their space was a great experience.  The programming at Round is unique and community based so when we approached them with the idea of Picasso taking place within their space and how we wanted to involve the Kensington Market community they hopped on board. 

donna g: I'm always interested in how characters are dressed. This is a period piece set at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Could you please talk about the process of finding the right look for the characters, especially for Erin Burley who plays three different characters, and for Andrew Gaunce, who plays the very comical, Schmendiman?

ERIKA: Schemendiman was fun to costume; Kate McArthur our production manager did a lovely job with accenting the buffoonish qualities of Schmendiman. We discussed that he needed to stand out in the most outrageous way and that required breaking the blues and neutrals of Einstein and Picasso and really making him pop out of the picture.  Erin’s costumes were based in the blue and green palate of the colour spectrum because her characters where meant to represent Picasso’s blue phase. I commend Kate because if we didn’t have access to a specific costume she would build it out of materials that were lying around her house. With all of the costumes on the show Kate and I sat down and discussed the most important quality being the silhouette of the period rather than the full out period costume.  She took that idea and made in to what you see on stage today, and I couldn’t be happier. -END-

Erika Downie is a founding member and company manager of Seven Siblings Theatre. She holds a BA and BFA in Acting and is a certified educator in the Michael Chekhov Technique.

Dylan Evans and Will King
promo photo courtesy of Seven Siblings Theatre

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Featuring Dylan Mawson, Jamie Johnson, Madryn McCabe, Will King, Erin Burley, Erik Helle, Dylan Evans, Andrew Gaunce and Maxwell LeBoeuf
Stage Manager Jocelyn Levadoux
Production Manager Kate MacArthur
Lighting Designer Parker Nowlan
Dialect Coach Margaret Hilda
Front of House: Gwendolyn Hodgson

Performances and Ticket Information
February 18 at 7:30pm (Preview)
February 19 at 7:30pm (Opening Night)
February 20 at 7:30pm
February 21 at 7:30pm
February 25 at 7:30pm
February 26 at 7:30pm
February 27 at 2:00pm (Matinee)
February 28 at 7:30pm

Preview $15
February 18-21 $20, February 25-28 $25

Round, 152A Augusta Avenue, Kensington Market, Toronto, Ontario

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