Q&A: The Circle
Calgary's Geoffrey Simon Brown on exploring good and evil, teenagedom, and his Tarragon Theatre debut
Presented by Tarragon Theatre
Written by Geoffrey Simon Brown
Directed by Peter Pasyk
Calgary-based playwright Geoffrey Simon Brown wrote The Circle as his final work while at the National Theatre School. This Fall, Tarragon Theatre brings the play (which follows teenagers coming together at a high school garage party) to Toronto as part of the company's 2016/17 season.
Now on stage in the Extraspace, The Circle is directed by Peter Pasyk (Why Not Theatre’s Late Company, Coal Mine’s Killer Joe) and features a young cast of emerging Canadian artists including Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Jake Vanderham, Jakob Ehman, Nikki Duval, Brian Solomon and Daniel Ellis.
Here, we chat with Simon Brown about his experience developing the show.
Theatromania: Tell us about The Circle. What inspired this play?
GSB: One of the big things that drove this play is sort of an ongoing interest that I have with how we are driven, as a culture, by stories of good and evil; good people and bad people; heroes and villians. I personally don’t believe in good and evil, so as I’ve grown as a playwright I’ve really tried to break that open and try to explore that in my work. I think this play is an attempt to tackle that head on and ask: how and why do bad things happen if no one is inherently good or bad?
I‘m also exploring the feeling of youth, of teenagedom, as this time where everything is being tested. When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I felt like I was constantly pushing things to see how far they can go before breaking. I think we’re all desperately searching to find a place to belong and what the rules of that world are. I think that has to be defined person to person, but it’s a really terrifying and exhilarating time to be alive. Sometimes I feel like I’m just coming out of that. Sometimes I feel like I’m still inside that.
Theatromania: How would you describe the show in a few sentences?
GSB: The Circle is a play about six teenagers from different backgrounds and levels of privilege coming together for a party in someone’s garage.
Theatromania: Has the production changed a lot since it was first staged?
GSB: Yeah, I mean, the play is really character driven. A lot happens, but it’s not really plot based. So the play is completely different depending on who the players are. Both Peter Pasyk (who’s directing in Toronto) and Ann-Marie Kerr (who directed it in Calgary and at the National Theatre School) have both been really dedicated to telling the story and have been very faithful to put up the play that’s written on the page. But how that story unfolds changes quite a bit depending on what the actors are bringing to the story.
Theatromania: What have you learned from this experience so far?
GSB: I’ve learned that there is an exceptional number of talented artists out there willing to fight for this story. I’ve learned to let go a little more, as hard as that is, and trust the words on the page, as I let Peter and the actors do their thing. I’ve also had a great time in Toronto. This is a cool town. Good job guys.
Theatromania: What’s next for you?
GSB: I’m developing a show for Theatre Junction in Calgary with a bunch of teenagers over the next couple years. It’s an amazing group and process. We’re developing the show as we go so it’s hard to say what it’s about yet. I’m also working on a few scripts of my own, but nothing has developed enough that I want to brag about it yet.
At the end of the season, my company, the Major Matt Mason Collective, are putting up a show called Little Red that we’ve been working on with Eric Rose over the last four years. It’s a devised piece based on Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a very visual show. If you’re in Calgary, you should check it out!
The Circle runs until November 27, 2016 at the Tarragon Theatre. Visit tarragontheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.