Ignition Theatre is gearing up to present one of the most highly-anticipated productions in its accomplished history with The Year of Magical Thinking.
Penned by Joan Didion, the powerhouse one-woman show is based on the bestselling memoir of the same name, and stars Red Deer’s own Leslie Greentree in her stage debut.
Performances run April 5th through April 14th in the Nickle Studio, located in the Memorial Centre.
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets are $20/$25 and are available at www.ignitontheatre.ca and at the box office 30 minutes prior to curtain.
In this adaptation of her award-winning memoir, Didion transforms the story of the sudden loss of her husband and their only daughter into a stunning one-woman play.
“Honestly, it was my wife (and stage manager) Stephanie who encouraged me season after season to consider programming The Year of Magical Thinking,” explains Matt Grue, Ignition’s artistic director.
“I was drawn specifically to its tone and its approach to grief. In many ways it’s the antithesis to something like Tuesdays with Morrie. It is a play about grief, about family and about moving forward; but it isn’t present with swells of music or melodrama. It’s raw, honest and sincere.”
Of course, one-person plays bring about an array of unique challenges. “You have to have tremendous confidence in the actor and the text because you can’t, as a director, compensate with bells and whistles and other performances and ‘B plots’, et cetera.
“This play in particular is very ‘still’. Unlike other one-person shows I’ve tackled in the past, there is hardly any movement for almost two hours.
“That may seem like a ‘simple’ choice, but actually it is a very bold choice to allow the character and the text to tell the story without complicating it with unnecessary staging. So the work is exclusively about dissecting the text and poking and prodding the actor to explore deep layers of subtext, to make interesting choices and to really find ways into the world in a much more deliberate and intricate way than I might demand of an actor in a more traditional play.”
Pretty much from the get-go, Grue also knew precisely who he wanted in the starring role as well. He describes Greentree as a dear friend, a respected colleague, and, “The voice through which I heard every word each time I re-visited this play.
“Only one problem: she is not an actress. Or should I say, wasn’t an actress.”
Not to worry.
Greentree, who is also an acclaimed and extremely gifted writer and poet, has met and exceeded any expectations with her raw talent and boldness.
“It was not lost on me what an enormous task it was to ask (Leslie) to trust in both myself and our company to helm an incredibly emotionally demanding one-woman show, especially given the fact she had never taken to the stage in this capacity, or anything like it before,” he said. “I am so proud of her work, growth and strength in creating such a beautiful and dynamic performance.”
Over the years, Ignition Theatre has presented some of the most memorable theatre in Central Alberta including Tuesdays with Morrie, Deathtrap, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama, My Name is Rachel Corrie and Bug among others.
“I could be wrong, but I think we’re the only company to tackle one-person shows in our region and I think that speaks to our commitment to bring diverse theatre to our audiences and, as always, I’m excited to share those experiences as we continue to cultivate our audience.
“I’m also excited for Leslie, who has been to the edge and back several times during an incredibly demanding process, and finally give her an audience. And to give the audience her beautiful performance.
“Leslie has actually never acted before. It’s a little wild to approach someone who has never acted before and ask them to star in an incredibly demanding one-woman show. But I’ve always gone with my gut, and each time I read the play, it was Leslie’s voice. I knew what the challenges would be, and there have been challenges, but it’s been incredible in ways I find difficult to describe to see someone grow the way she has.”