Posts tagged ‘masks’

Sigurd the Dragonslayer

Struts and Frets astutely pull together their own special take on Sigurd’s portion of the saga, where pop-culture references abound and a laugh is always around the corner. – Winnipeg Free Press

Sigurd the Dragonslayer was an adaptation of part of the Norse Völsungasaga, the saga of three generations of heroes in the clan Völsung. This is the story that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas, large parts of the Lord of the Rings mythos, and the Looney Tunes sketch What’s Opera, Doc?.

In the section, our hero Sigurd is trained by his foster father Regin to slay Regin’s brother Fafnir, who has gone mad with greed and turned into a terrible dragon. After Sigurd kills Fafnir, Regin betrays him, and Sigurd kills him too. Now completely alone, he sets off to seek his place in the world. He rescues Brynhild the Valkyrie, and finds first hospitality, then betrayal in the royal hall of the Niflung clan.

For this production, we were joined by our very clever and talented friends Michael Ostry and Hailley Rhoda. Stylistically, we continued to mix and match various design and writing elements: full-colour, translucent plastic shadow puppets; story theatre; our house blend of corny jokes and pathos. Script-wise, we really wanted to focus on the relationship between Sigurd and Brynhild, as well as Sigurd’s personal growth over the course of the story, building on our success with writing the character of Gilgamesh the year before.

For our efforts, we were rewarded with the Best of Fest honour for the third time in four years, and Ariel and Jessy jointly won the Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award. This is an award given out every year by the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for the best new original script by a Manitoba author. Huzzah!

Pictures below the fold.

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Theseus and the Minotaur

[T]he production never overwhelms and comic relief in the form of visual gags and clever wordplay is always elegantly timed to keep the story moving forward. [4 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press

King Minos has a terrible secret. His stepson, the Minotaur, is a half-man, half-bull monster, born of a curse incurred for trying to cheat the sea god Poseidon. Every year he collects human sacrifices from the nations he has conquered to feed the Minotaur, but this year is different. This year, Theseus, a brave young man from Troezen (“Treason?!”) has taken the place of one of the prisoners, and he intends to put a stop to the blood debt. He’ll have to deal with a diabolical king, a flesh-rending bovine abomination and a girl with an obsessive crush to do it, but by Zeus, do it he will.

Our company’s sophomore production premiered at the 2009 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It incorporated a lot of the same techniques as Perseus had; story theatre, masks and puppets. Doing this allowed us to begin solidifying a distinctive “style” in the minds of our audiences, many of whom had seen us the previous year as well. But we did attempt to stretch ourselves somewhat as well. Perseus was a very comedic, family-friendly show – it was, after all, part of the Kids’ Fringe. Theseus, on the other hand, is a more tragic story, so we had to strike a balance between comedy and drama.

Whereas the designs for Perseus had been drawn from Greek vase paintings (flat and black – perfect for shadow puppets!), Ariel designed flat, wooden puppets for Theseus, to be manipulated live on stage, based on Minoan frescoes, which are far more colourful. (Pictures below the fold.)

Theseus and the Minotaur was well-received by both audiences and critics. It helped us gain a wider audience and demonstrate that we can bring off comedy and tragedy alike. By all accounts, it was another success.

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Gilgamesh

Thanks to clever segues and the actors’ spot-on timing, this complex production never overwhelms. Not a minute is wasted. [4 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press

This year, we decided to depart from Greek mythology and try something a little different. We settled on The Epic of Gilgamesh as the perfect way to challenge ourselves further.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written story in recorded history, originally carved on honest-to-goodness clay tablets. (Which made the adaptation process difficult – the tablets are so old that there are quite literally holes in the story.) It’s an ancient Mesopotamian legend about Gilgamesh, the semi-divine King of Uruk. After Gilgamesh spurns the advances of Ishtar, the goddess of love, she takes revenge by striking ill his companion Enkidu, the newly-civilized wild man of the woods. Gilgamesh watches in horror as Enkidu grows weaker and weaker, and then dies. Having never experienced the death of a loved one, Gilgamesh is horrified, and vows that this will never happen to him. He sets out to find Utnapishtim the Immortal and learn the secret of eternal life.

In rehearsals, we continued to develop our own distinctive style, and brought back techniques we’ve used in the past. We kept the convention of using masks for the non-human characters. We brought back the shadow puppet screen and created a new host of shadow puppets, but with the addition of panels of coloured cellophane to lend them more character and versatility. The major stylistic difference was in the writing; we abandoned story theatre (where characters narrate their own actions and private thoughts) in favour of a single narrator, Utnapishtim.

Gilgamesh was our most mature, dramatic script yet. We took a risk by moving even further away from straight comedy, which comes easier to us, and it paid off. We won Best of Fest for the second time in three years, and we’ve received more recognition for this show than any other so far.

Two pictures below the fold.

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Perseus & Medusa

Perseus & Medusa was our very first show as a company. For a couple of us, it was our first paying gig.

P&M was an adaptation of the classical Greek myth, incorporating masks, shadow puppets and story theatre. It documents the tale of Perseus, a champion from the small island of Seriphos, chosen by Athena to slay the gorgon Medusa, a monster so terrible that all who look on her are turned instantly to stone. Of course, Perseus has extra motivation given that King Polydectes has told him that he wants the Gorgon’s head for a wedding present, and Perseus must retrieve it on pain of death. Except that unbeknownst to Perseus, the King’s marriage to “Princess Hippodamia” is a sham; he really wants to marry Perseus’s mom. Yeah.

The show was written and produced by the newly-formed company for the 2008 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It incorporated mask work, story theatre and shadow puppets. This formed a blend of elements with which we were familiar and those which were new to us; perfect for our first show as a professional company.

There are a lot of funnybones on that stage. These actors have great timing and know how to deliver a comic line, which they do, one right after another. S&F Players recommends it especially for kids, but this teenage troupe has pulled off the trick of mounting a production that defies any age limit for the audience. [5 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press

All things considered, it was one heck of a maiden voyage.

Athena (Kerri) and Hermes (Dan) send Perseus (Ariel) to find Medusa.

Perseus and one of the Nymphs (Kerri Potter).

The masks of the three Graeae (three sisters so old they have only one eye and one tooth to share between them) and Medusa.