Q&A: Reframed

Acting Up Stage Company's Mitchell Marcus talks about innovative partnership with AGO

Presented by Acting Up Stage Company and the Art Gallery of Ontario
Written and composed by Sara Farb & Britta Johnson, Erin Shields & Bryce Kulak and Julie Tepperman & Kevin Wong

Reframed is Acting Up Stage Company’s latest initiative to foster Canadian composers, lyricists, and bookwriters and the creation of new Canadian musical theatre, in partership with the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

This hybrid art experience couples three pairs of prominent Toronto playwrights and composers with a painting in the AGO’s permanent collection for the creation of an original 20 minute musical. All three pieces are performed nightly for an intimate audience inside the AGO’s Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery where the paintings are hung.

The three new works being presented at Reframed are Sara Farb and Britta Johnson’s He Is Coming inspired by Otto Willem Albertus Roelofs’ He Is Coming, Erin Shields and Bryce Kulak’s La Casati inspired by Augustus John’s famous painting of his socialite lover The Marchesa Casati and Julie Tepperman and Kevin Wong’s The Preposterous Posthumous Predicament of Paulie Peel inspired by Canadian artist Paul Peel’s The Young Biologist.

Here, we chat with Acting Up Stage Company Artistic Director Mitchell Marcus to find more about this unique event.

Theatromania: Tell us about Reframed. What inspired this partnership between Acting Up Stage Company and the AGO?

MM: For the last five years we’ve been running a program called NoteWorthy that brings together playwrights, composers and lyricists from across Canada to explore collaboration over a two-week period. Robert McQueen who runs the programs gives an assignment where the writers select a painting from an art book and write a short musical inspired by it. After our 2014 edition of NoteWorthy, Robert and I were talking about how to share the kind of extraordinary work that is coming out of NoteWorthy with the larger community, in a more thorough creation process that includes a production component. We came up with the idea of recreating the assignment with a major art gallery. We approached the AGO and were blown away by their immediate enthusiasm and reception.

Theatromania: Why were these three specific paintings selected from the AGO’s permanent collection?

MM: Robert and I toured the AGO with David Wistow (Interpretive Planner at the AGO) and selected a particular gallery that felt inspirational, and technically viable for the number of people we hoped to accommodate. The gallery is a Paris Salon-style gallery with a few dozen works hanging on the walls. We gave the writers the freedom to choose any work that spoke to them in the gallery to use as their source material. Fortunately, each team chose a different painting!

Theatromania: How would you describe each of the 20-minute musicals in a few sentences?

MM: First off, they are exquisite dramatic and musical works. Britta Johnson and Sara Farb’s He Is Coming tells the story of an elderly painter on the day she is forced to vacate her legendary apartment. Kevin Wong and Julie Tepperman’s The Preposterous Posthumous Predicament of Paulie Peel examines an imaginative young boy dealing with the loss of his father. And Bryce Kulak and Erin Shield’s La Casati looks at the passionate and unique relationship between the subject of the painting (Marchesa Luisa Casati) and painter who painted it (Augustus John).

Theatromania: What have you learned from this experience so far?

MM: Reframed has reinforced two things for me.

1. Canadian writers are exceptional. We are collectively on the cusp of a huge boom in original Canadian musical theatre, and seeing three short works by six amazing local writers only reinforces how exciting the future of new Canadian musicals will be.

2. Audiences are intrigued and excited by this idea. This cross-disciplinary collaboration has been incredibly rich, allowing us to move outside of our own musical theatre genre and look at how the arts can work together in Toronto to make exciting things happen.

Reframed runs from April 12 - 17, 2016. Visit actingupstage.com for more information.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2016-04-12 - Sun, 2016-04-17


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