Director’s Notes: The Kaufman Kabaret – curious arts

Studio Theatre patrons will be the first audiences to see The Kaufman Kabaret by Hannah Moscovitch (March 24 – April 2, 2016), the story of the first entrepreneur to introduce birth control devices to married working-class women in Canada. For reason number 25 in our 50 Reasons to Go See A Play series, director Kathleen Weiss speaks to how the making of a world premiere performance is such a special theatre occasion for artists, technicians, administrators and audiences.

One of the great pleasures of directing for the theatre is working on an original script.

Kathleen Weiss.

Kathleen Weiss.

Knowing that your team is the first to bring to life an untold story is a special kind of thrill. When you are accorded the privilege and challenge of directing the work of a master playwright, the process of script evolution and the shaping of the production is intense and rewarding.

Collaborating with Hannah Moscovitch on this relatively unknown episode of Canadian history has been a rush for all of us. In addition to the fact that she is such an accomplished and imaginative playwright, one of the delights of working with Hannah has been her openness to the cast; she honoured their ideas from the beginning of the process.

Hannah has given us an amazingly rich palette with its many layers of theatricality, and a plethora of intriguing characters, some real, some invented. At the centre of the story is the enigmatic A. R. Kaufman. Is he a kind and generous benefactor to his poor employees? Or is he a ruthless opportunist dedicated to race purification? Indeed the script is full of provocative questions about morality, feminism, social welfare, medical ethics and sexual politics, all presented in a meta-theatrical surround.

It was important to me to keep the image of the poor as a constant presence in the staging of the piece, and the virtuosity of the acting company furthered the chance to realize the hovering presence of the underclass within the cabaret framework. It has been a gift to work with this lovely group of graduating BFA actors who have brought to the process such extraordinary dedication, energy and skill.

Sarah Feutl and Corben Kushneryk with Morgan Grau in The Kaufman Kabaret by Hannah Moscovitch (March 2016). Photo by Ed Ellis.

Sarah Feutl and Corben Kushneryk with Morgan Grau in The Kaufman Kabaret by Hannah Moscovitch (March 2016). Photo by Ed Ellis.

I have relished the collaboration with superbly talented MFA designer, Hannah Matiachuk, who is responsible for the luminosity of the physical production. I am always appreciative of Drama’s superb staff and faculty when I work at Studio Theatre.

The Kaufman Kabaret ensemble. Photo by TJ Jans.

The Kaufman Kabaret ensemble. Photo by TJ Jans.

After years of directing, I still find the unique alchemy of making theatre a special kind of miracle. Starting with an empty space, some carefully crafted words on paper, and the extraordinary gifts of actors, designers, technicians, we make something out of nothing. So many talents are brought together to make a world appear and the story contained in that world unfolds before the audience, breathing only in the ephemeral time frame of a live performance.

by Kathleen Weiss

Feature photo by Ed Ellis.

Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: The Kaufman Kabaret
Dates: Mar. 24 – Apr. 2, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee Thursday, Mar. 31  at 12:30 p.m.
$5 preview performance on Wednesday, Mar 23 at 7:30 p.m.
No show on Sunday, Mar. 27.
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $12 student, $25 adult, $22 senior, available online now at TIX on the Square and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.

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