The Triumph of Love

From Tuesday (March 26) to Saturday (March 30), DalTheatre presents The Triumph of Love. This French comedic play was written by Pierre de Marivaux and was first performed in 1732 by the Théâtre Italien. The eight Dalhousie students, in their final year of the acting program, will be performing the story that begins with Princess Léonide disguising herself as a man in the name of re-establishing Agis—the man she loves—to his rightful spot on the throne. The Triumph of Love is classified as Commedia dell’Arte, an energetic comic-dramatic art form (that originated in 16th century Italy) characterized by extreme physicality, improvisation and vibrant costumes and/or masks. It is then most fitting, as you will see in the interview below, that Gabrielle Houle is directing the piece. Read on as Houle describes her own intriguing theatrical background and some of the creative exercises she and her team have done to prepare for this week’s performances. ~ Story by Michelle Brunet

 “Audience members can expect nothing less than a feast for the eyes.”

AE: What is your own background in theatre?
GH: I have a background as a theatre practitioner and as an academic. I am currently completing a PhD at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. My research interest is in the area of the performance history of the Commedia dell’Arte. Prior to the PhD, I completed my training in theatre at Laval University (Québec) and at the University of Costa Rica. I soon fell in love with masks and masked-performance, and travelled to the US, France and Italy to study with mask-makers and masked-performers there. Since then, I have worked as a mask-maker, an actor and a teacher. Earlier this year, I created a series of masks for a production of Molière’s Amphytrion (Glendon College/York University, Toronto), I participated in a new working session of The Proust Project, a play-in-progress directed by Moynan King, and I acted in Eleonor, a devised play directed by Thomas Morgan Jones. We will be working again on this play (Eleonor) over the summer, this time with the support of the Blyth Festival.

AE: Have you directed a play at Dalhousie Theatre, or another university, before?
GH: This is my first time directing a play at Dalhousie Theatre, and it has been a real pleasure to work on The Triumph of Love with the students and faculty of the theatre department.  The previous production I directed at a university was Masks on Meds, a show inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte tradition that included a performance of Molière’s The Flying Doctor. This production took place at the University of Waterloo.

AE: What drew you to The Triumph of Love?

GH: What I find exciting about The Triumph of Love is the juxtaposition of comedy and drama within it. Marivaux wrote this play in 1732 with the actors of the Comédie Italienne, also known as the Théâtre Italien, in mind; the characters are therefore bigger than nature and go through a journey filled with the mistaken identities, secrets, and double-entendre typical of Marivaux’s plays and of traditional Commedia dell’Arte scenarios. The structure of the play offers countless opportunities to explore rhythm in performance, and the text also allows the actors to invent physical gags. The Triumph of Love is a good challenge for the actors and for the director; it is dynamic, sophisticated, and fun.

“Together, we looked at eighteenth century paintings, borrowed gestures and postures from these images, and carefully explored how we could transfer them onto the stage.”

AE: What can audience members expect from this production?
GH: They can expect nothing less than a feast for the eyes. Designer John Pennoyer created colourful and luxurious costumes inspired by eighteenth-century fashion, while scenographer John Dinning  invented a lavish set that will transport the audience to a hidden garden in the French countryside.  I prefer not to reveal too much about it, though, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

AE: How has it been working with the students in preparation for this
GH: It has been a privilege to work with this particular company of actors. There are eight performers in total, namely (in order of appearance on stage) Maggie Hammel, Cody Lockett, Erin Johnston, Hugh Cape, Gillian Clark, Elspeth Bullock, Jennifer Provost, and Philippe Demers. All of them are in their final year of the acting program at Dalhousie. Together, we looked at eighteenth century paintings, borrowed gestures and postures from these images, and carefully explored how we could transfer them onto the stage. Each actor also had creative input in the production; some of the most irresistible moments in the show were entirely discovered and choreographed by the performers. The result is playful and entertaining. You should come see it!

The Triumph of Love
Sir James Dunn Theatre (Dalhousie Arts Centre, Halifax)
Tues. March 26 ~ 8PM
Wed. March 27 ~ 1PM & 8PM
Thurs. March 28 ~ 8PM
Sat. March 30 ~ 2PM & 8PM


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