Red Deer College theatre studies students are wrapping up the season on a decidedly romantic note with Summertime.
Penned by Charles Mee, performances run April 17-19, 20-21 in Studio A. There is also a matinee on April 20 at 1 p.m.
Directed by Lynda Adams, Summertime is described as a stylized ‘romantic, sexy romp’ that begins with a young man, James, who is in search of someone to translate some English captions into Italian.
Enter Tessa, a translator, who is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.
And what starts out as a simple love story between James and Tessa reaches heights of great complications as other family members, friends, neighbours, the cook and a pizza delivery guy become involved in the unfolding drama.
Loosely based on Shakespeare’s masterpieces Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, the story reveals its Shakespearean roots as James’ courting of Tessa is either hindered or enhanced by the influences, forces and motivations of others around them.
Playwright Charles Mee draws material for his plays from the Greeks and Shakespeare and then creates his own version of a contemporary equivalent.
“He does very edgy work,” explains Adams. “And it’s very mature – almost to the point of making me blush,” she added of Summertime in particular.
The play also taps into several different streams of emotion.
“One student said the first time he read it he thought how funny it was. And then the next time he read it, he thought ‘This play is so sad’,” recalls Adams. “So it’s very poignant. “It’s the kind of comedy that has all these underlying themes running through it about love and life.”
As Adams points out, Mee prefers to provide a vehicle for directors, designers, actors to explore a less linear application of telling story. This style of writing is more ‘collage style’ and opens up a whole new world for artists and audience points’ of view.
“It’s beautifully written and it’s quite poetic,” she says. “This also lends itself quite well to the choral work we are doing, too.”
The journey for Summertime characters James and Tessa, and all the players who drop into this summer playground, is full of poetic revelations depicting everything from bravado manhood, female sexuality and broken dreams to unrealized and realized fantasies, rejection and undying love.
Adding to the overall experience of staging Summertime was that Adams and several theatre studies had the opportunity to meet Mee in New York City this past February.
She recalls the visit as a meaningful and very enjoyable session where the students were free to ask anything they wished, and Mee was enthusiastic and accessible.
“It was fantastic – it was really great to get his take.”
Adams said 51 plays by Mee have been produced around the world. “He’s very accomplished. He’s also written many books, as he was a historian before he was a playwright.
“Another reason I really love his work is that I love installation, performance pieces. I love the fact it has that application to it.
“I really want that feeling of walking into an ‘art’ piece. Some of the actors will already be onstage when you walk in, and they are developing a movement score. There will also be some people in the audience. So when you sit down, this performance art piece will be happening around you – and then the play will begin.”
Ultimately, exploring the spectrum of nuances that surface in Summertime has been a joy for Adams and her troupe of talented young actors. It’s been a creatively challenging piece but a ‘stretching’ and stimulating experience for the students as well.
“We’re all in it together – collaborating and learning from each other. It’s so exciting,” she explains. “So it’s really been fun. We’ve had lots of laughs, but there are lots of tearful moments in it. Hopefully, we’re going to be able to capture that emotional rollercoaster that (Mee) has provided us with.”
This plays contains mature subject matter and coarse language.
For tickets, visit www.blackknightinn.ca or call 403-755-6626.