Bone Cage draws out UAlberta talent – curious arts

Catherine Banks’ 2008 Governor General award-winning play, Bone Cage, presented by Edmonton’s Theatre Yes from now until Oct. 4, features a host of UAlberta talent in the cast and creative team.

Neil Kuefler

Neil Kuefler

Neil Kuefler (’14 BFA) and Alyson Dicey (’12 BFA) are playing the leads with recent stage management graduate Kate Quinn-Feehan (’15 BFA) calling the show. Melissa Thingelstad (’05 BFA), artistic associate at Theatre Yes, worked as assistant director with Heather Inglis at the directing helm.

I caught up with Melissa Thingelstad before the curtain went up last week to find out more about the project.

Q: What are some of responsibilities of an assistant director?

A: Working as an assistant director differs from director to director, depending on what the needs are on any given production and what skill set the assistant director brings to the project.

Heather and I are very well-versed with working together artistically. In this case, I am less of an observer and more involved in sharing my thoughts and feedback with the director and the cast. If she was working with some of the cast members, I might be working on smaller bits with others, coaching to help people get where they need to get to.

I also did quite a bit of movement coaching, talking to the actors about what is going on with their bodies, moving in space and helping them to get grounded.

I’ve also been an extra eye and ear for the director. The consequence for me, as I am relatively emerging in the directing field, is that I’ve had this great opportunity to be amidst someone’s process and consider my own process through that.

Q: Are opportunities to act as an assistant director few and far between?

A: I think there are lot of people in our Edmonton theatre community who would love to have assistant directors work with them… but you can’t wait for that opportunity to come to you, you might have to write for a grant and make the offer.

Sometimes we are shy about mentorship in a professional setting. Often people want to come across as though we already know everything. But approaching someone and saying ‘I am really interested in extending my career into this avenue, and I value your work, and I think I could really get something out of being a part of it’ — I think there are plenty of people that would be open to that.

Q:Catherine Banks’ Bone Cage is a contemporary Canadian master work, built around young characters in a rural Nova Scotia town where logging is a way of life. Director Heather Inglis has said how exciting it

Playwright Catherine Banks is a two-time Governeor General Award winner.

Playwright Catherine Banks is a two-time Governeor General Award winner.

has been for her to feature a cast of Edmonton’s up-and-coming actors in this Theatre Yes production. What kind of opportunities does the script afford the young actors like our grads Neil Kuefler and Alyson Dicey?

A: Catherine has written quite a gritty piece of contemporary theatre and the bulk of that load lies at the hands of the young performers. There’s a lot of subtext being played in there and there are big emotional arcs happening. It is an ensemble cast with six young actors in the company and I think it is really fair to say that each of them have a full arc to dig into. The production genuinely showcases their skills to the Edmonton community.

In working with young artists, they bring this energy to the table that is very fresh and exciting. A lot of them are working in their own companies already and making their own work. There is this neat relationship that’s happened where we are working together and they are eager to find new ways of working with us and each other.

Q: Community engagement is the buzzword right now. I see Theatre Yes not just talking the talk, but leading the walk down that path. Can you please speak to that mandate?

A: Theatre Yes looks to put out adventurous, intelligent, risky theatre that pushes boundaries. Some of those boundaries have to do with social structures and we feel strongly about telling stories that are connected to the contemporary world and issues that are going on.

Bone Cage is particularly relevant in the context of Alberta specifically, where we have a natural resource industrial economy. It gives us an opportunity to look through another lens at the lives of people working in natural resource industries across the country and gain a deeper understanding potentially of the psychology and struggle that workers come up against.

Bone Cage runs until Oct. 4, 2015 at La Cité Francophone (8627 91 Street) in Edmonton. Tickets are available through TIX on the Square. Photos supplied by Theatre Yes.

Theatre Yes is hosting several opportunities for community engagement including:

ConstructingBone Cage: An artist talk back
Wednesday, Sept. 30 following the 7:30 p.m. performance, featuring Catherine Banks, (playwright), Heather Inglis (director) and Neil Kuefler (playing the role of Jamie). Moderated by U of A Drama faculty member Stefano Muneroni.

Rattling the Bone Cage: Free play reading by Catherine Banks
Thursday, Oct. 1 at noon in the Timms Centre lobby, U of A campus, presented by U of A Department of Drama, hosted by U of A Drama faculty member Kim McCaw, and supported by the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Canada Council’s Play Readings Program.

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