DEEP THOUGHTS-- Actress Natascha Schulmeister portrays the daughter in The Ghost Sonata

RDC theatre studies unveils mysteries of The Ghost Sonata

Red Deer College theatre studies students are wrapping up the year with an ‘expressionistic, surreal chamber play’ in Studio A.

The Ghost Sonata, written by August Strindberg in the early years of the 20th century and translated by Carl R. Mueller, opens this evening with performances running through Saturday. Curtain is 7:30 p.m.

A matinee is also set for April 16 at 1 p.m.

The story follow a student by the name of Arkenholz who idealizes the lives of the rich inhabitants of a nearby apartment, which he can only glimpse through a window from the street below.

When he meets the mysterious Jacob Hummel, he begins to unravel an unknown connection between the old man and his own life. And while the old man helps find him a way into the apartment and the opportunity to meet those people he had only previously glimpsed from the street, Arkenholz is shocked to find their lives and the world in which they live it not at all what he had imagined.

Indeed – the living dead ultimately take over the stage, and Arkenholz discovers a ‘nest’ of betrayal and sickness and a world full of death and ghosts.

Under the direction of guest director Mieko Ouchi (the dada play), the tale, which was written in 1908, takes on a extraordinarily stylized approach. It’s also described as a ‘chamber’ play, meaning it’s performed with a small cast with a minimalized set in a relatively small space.

Ouchi, who had studied the play previously, said historically speaking it’s a key production in the development of modern theatre. This makes it ideal as not only a extremely unique creative experience for the students, but a rich learning opportunity as well.

To begin with, August Strindberg was a gifted, albeit rather mysterious and eccentric character. Ouchi describes him also as something of a renaissance man for his times.

“As August Strindberg started to question the world, I think he started to question the basis of reality,” she explains, pointing to the playwright’s increasing interest in symbolism and expressionism over the years.

Again, as RDC students have explored the material, which has several oriental references as well, it has certainly sparked conversations about the play and the mind that brought it to fruition.

“It’s really interesting for the students to learn about the time period also. People then were really finding out more about Asia, and it was quite the trend. I also think the students have been interested to see how people at the time were becoming more open to other countries and spiritualities.

“The tantalizing glimpses into other places and other worlds were very intriguing to them.”

Rounding out the creative team are Patrick Beagan (set design) and Carrie Hamilton (costumes.) Beagan’s creations have tapped into the oriental references including Japanese shoji screens. A motorized revolve allowing the audience to see the outside as well as inside areas.

Hamilton works her usual magic via costume that bring to life the dark world of the cast of characters.

Ouchi works as a writer, actor and director in theatre, film and TV. A graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program, she has been working professionally across Canada since 1992. The Red Priest (Eight Ways to Say Goodbye), her first full-length play, has been produced across the country, and was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award in 2004, winning the Carol Bolt Award from the Canadian Authors Association in 2005.

The Blue Light, her second play, won the Betty Mitchell Award for Best New Play in 2007. Her award-winning films Shepherd’s Pie and Sushi, By This Parting, Samurai Swing and Minor Keys have played at more than 30 film festivals across North America and aired on networks including the CBC, W Network and Bravo!

For Ouchi, directing offers an exhilarating opportunity to share from her experience and connect with theatre students as they continue to find their way.

“I really enjoy the process, the rehearsal times and the craft of acting and helping students find out things about themselves may perhaps didn’t even know.”

Strindberg was born in 1849 in Sweden. He was an early proponent of naturalism and gained fame through his play Miss Julie and what is considered the first modern Swedish novel The Red Room.

He is also considered one of the pioneering artists who explored expressionism. The Ghost Sonata comes from this later expressionist and symbolic period of work and was completed four years before his death in 1912.

The Ghost Sonata is recommended for ages 14 and up.

For tickets, call 403-340-4455 or check out www.ticketmaster.ca.

mweber@reddeerexpress.com

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