A Yorkshire Tragedy

A Yorkshire Tragedy
Vile Passéist Theatre
June 19-24, 2012
Bus Stop Theatre, Halifax

Vile Passéist Theatre presents A Yorkshire Tragedy by Thomas Middleton (1608), opening this Tuesday night at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax. The haunting, Jacobean era drama is directed by Dorian Lang, an alumnus of Dalhousie University’s Theatre Studies program (2011). Arts East recently spoke to Lang about his already extensive acting/directing/producing career and his current role with what has been dubbed “one of the finest one-act tragedies in early-modern drama”.

How have you been involved with Vile Passéist Theatre in the past?
I directed A Chaste Maid in Cheapside with VPT in 2011, I was involved in the rehearsals for Bartholomew Fair (2011), and now I also sit on their board.

What theatrical roles have you been most passionate about?
Since graduating from Dalhousie, I have taken on as many directing projects as I can. I hope to continue studying directing, and continue making theatre that will inspire and inform. I have an ongoing interest in producing early modern plays, but my aim is for each new production I direct to be completely different from my last production. The challenge that I enjoy most about directing is the need for quick adaptation, and instant inspiration to keep up with the new needs of a show.

For those who have never heard of Vile Passéist Theatre, what would you like them to know?
Vile Passéist Theatre produces English early modern plays that were not written by Shakespeare. Why should that matter to the average person? The stories we know and watch involve us in history. Have you ever though about how television viewer records may become the fascination of future scholars as they try to understand what interested the 21st century Canadian? We at VPT are trying to reach back and understand what was in the mind of the people during the turn of the 16th century. As we continue to explore these early modern plays we find many debates that are still present in our current lives. In that time, Shakespeare was well acknowledged as a leading playwright, but he was by no means the playwright. It was the rigid tastes of the intervening centuries that edited many early modern playwrights out of our common knowledge, and it is our hope to pick up that lost thread of storytelling to complete our understanding of the 16th century, and more importantly our own time.

What is it about early modern plays that excite you?
I am attracted to early modern plays because they drive at their message with heightened language, which only emphasises the beauty of the described moment.  In our visually based society, the art of being able to describe a feeling in painfully beautiful ways is often lost. The very best examples of these plays surpass moralizing and reach a point where we understand the motivations of all parties because of the exquisite understanding imparted by the playwright’s text. I love the opportunity to explore that heightened text, and taking on the challenge of trying to communicate it with equal clarity today.

What will intrigue audiences most about A Yorkshire Tragedy?
The play is extremely fast paced. This is actually a striking first for VPT because it is not only a one-act play, but it also will be less than an hour long. Despite its short length, the play does not pull any punches.  Instead it has a late point of attack that plunges us quickly into the bloody decent of this aristocratic household. Also, A Yorkshire Tragedy is an example of how Middleton’s writing often uses domestic current events to form the plot of his plays, unlike Shakespeare who is famous for setting the majority of his plays anywhere but the country in which he was writing. Middleton was writing in response to a famous murder case, and using the methodology of the time to explain the actions of the murderer. For that reason we have been describing it as a precursor to true crime drama, and it certainly was the early modern equivalent of CSI, Criminal Minds, or Dexter. VPT endeavours to explore Early Modern staging techniques as well as performing early modern texts. This performance will be exploring the lighting of the time, and attempts to simulate the candle light that would be used in indoor theatres.  Many of our other design choices have revolved around this choice, and will result in a unique performance.

What’s next for you?
In preparation for this year’s Fringe, I’ve been working on an adaptation of A Yorkshire Tragedy called Stay at Home Dead. It combines the themes of A Yorkshire Tragedy with contemporary family murders, specifically Nova Scotia murder cases.

Is there anything you would like to add?
With a record small cast size for VPT (8 actors), this production nevertheless involves more newcomers to VPT than any previous production. A combination of innovative design, fresh approaches on early modern works, and a powerfully fast moving play will result in an unforgettable performance that should not be missed.

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