When Justin Shaw was deciding on a theme for the UPEI Theatre Society’s upcoming show, he came across a statement that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had made about ordinary people not caring about the arts.
“It was a quote that I, as well as a number of my peers, found quite baffling,” says Shaw, president of the society.
He was referring to what Harper said during his visit to Saskatoon last month: “I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up — I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.”
Later, as Shaw was putting a poster together for the UPEI Theatre Society, the prime minister’s words continued to ring through his mind.
“Suddenly, I came to a stunning realization — he was correct.
“Ordinary people don’t care about art. Extraordinary people do,” says Shaw, whose insight has inspired Extraordinary People Care About Art: An Evening of one-act plays.
Consisting of two plays, the show will hit the boards of UPEI’s Main Building Faculty Lounge, Nov. 8-10.
“The evening is not intended to be anti-Harper or anti-government, rather it is pro-art. It really captures the ecstasy of imagination,” says Shaw, show producer.
Ben Hartley agrees.
“I care very deeply about theatre and acting ... so it’s nice to be able to channel my feelings into something productive and imaginative,” says the UPEI student who is directing An Actor’s Nightmare, a show starring Adam Gauthier, Andrea Avery, Caitlin Krahn, Quimby Barrows and Ben Hayman.
As the title implies, the play deals with a performer’s worst fears.
“The lead, played by Adam, comes into a theatre, not sure of how he got there or what he’s doing there, and is told by a stage manager that the person he is understudying has been in a car accident and he has to fill in for him.
But he doesn’t know any of the lines in the play,” Hartley says.
What happens next is “incredibly funny,” he says.
“As part of his nightmare, he ends up going through four plays: Private Lives by Noel Coward, Hamlet by William Shakespeare and A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt, as well Checkmate by Samuel Beckett.
“At the same time, he’s working through some issues that he’s experiencing in his real life . . . I won’t give anything else away other than there are plenty of laughs in it,” says Hartley.
The second play, Smitten, pulls out laughter from an unordinary event.
“It’s about a young couple in love. One day the girlfriend arrives at her boyfriend’s house and starts to uncover a sinister plan he has for her,” says UPEI student Ashley MacLeod, who is directing the play starring Toni Timmins and Dan Bannerman.
“It’s a wonderful black comedy about the development of a relationship between two people who don’t know the difference between everlasting love and death,” she says.
But what inspires MacLeod most it that the students have total artistic control in the production.
“It’s something that we’re doing totally on our own with very little faculty involvement. It’s just us directing the production.
“Also, all the funds raised go straight to the UPEI Theatre Society. It will help us continue doing this kind of work in the future,” she says.
AT A GLANCE
What: Extraordinary People Care About Art: An evening of one-act plays (including The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang and Smitten by Anna Stillaman and Mark Matthews.)
When: Nov. 8-10. Doors open at 7 p.m. The first play starts at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Main Building Faculty Lounge, UPEI.
Tickets: Available at the door. Admission is $5.
For more information, go to http://www.upei.ca/theatre/theatrehome.