Director riffs on Buffini’s barbed commentary
I sat down with Jan Selman to chat about the Department of Drama’s upcoming Studio Theatre offering, Loveplay by Moira Buffini, opening Thursday, October 30. Jan is a professor within the Drama department, and is directing Loveplay.
Q: What is it about Moira Buffini’s plays that encouraged the Drama department to celebrate her work this studio season?
Conversation about Moira Buffini was in the air last year; she was looked at in depth in two different courses offered by the department. Her plays have a huge range, and you can’t pin her down. She tackles some major contemporary issues, in a very theatrical way. This is why we chose to explore her work further. Buffini really gets the theatre – what theatre can and cannot do, and exploits the theatrical potential. It is highly attractive to the actors, directors and designers, and allows us to showcase the talent our department has.
I was also looking for a play that is humorous. It just seems like a time when there is so much tough stuff going on, that we just need to take a moment and laugh. I was so happy to find something that comes from a politically astute point of view, but also has a lot of humour.
Moira Buffini’s Loveplay. Scene from Age of Innocence. Photo by Ed Ellis.
Q: Moira Buffini is part of a growing number of internationally recognized feminist playwrights. How do you comment on the feminist themes in Loveplay
Well firstly, the play takes apart a whole set of loaded gender situations that are quite universal, and goes through the centuries to explore them. It asks us to look at gender politics, perhaps, with a feminist lens. I choose to emphasize the term gender politics, because I think Buffini also wants us to pay attention to men’s sexuality and the oppression of males. She comments on women and their treatment in society through the ages, but she has a range of perspectives to offer, and that makes the play and its ironic critiques lot more credible. What affects our understanding about our gender roles, and what has that done to our capacity to be here and now, with whom we love?
If, for instance, Buffini got into some of the feminist issues in the earlier centuries and stopped there, we would recognize those as standard feminist views. But then she goes and makes it more complex, to reflect the complex era we live in. I think Buffini is very clear headed, which makes her writing incredibly rich.
Moira Buffini’s Loveplay. Scene from The Classical Age. Photo by Ed Ellis.
Q: What is the role of satire in Loveplay?
This is a satiric play, with lots of funny moments, but not every scene is a satire. I think ‘barbed commentary’ is a more fitting description. The play establishes the social and situational conditions that cause conflicts, and asks how we can unseat those. I think this play wants us to work with setting up stereotypes for the eras, and then to destroy them, letting the cracks show. This play is all about juxtaposition, surprise, and that is where the humour and commentary lies. Many scenes are structured so that you get people laughing like heck, then suddenly you get a barb in, and stop the scene or moment and let it hang. That is what we are going for.
Moira Buffini’s Loveplay. Scene from The Renaissance. Photo by Ed Ellis.
Q: How do you comment on ‘love’ in the play?
I feel that nowadays, and historically, as the play shows, there is much pressure on relationships. We need to be highly aware of all the social, political, economic, demands of relationships, but at the same time be fully ourselves with the people we love. Easier said than done, right? And that’s what I think is going on in this play. One of the characters exclaims early on in the play, “Act like a human being!” I love that. I think this is Buffini’s message about love, and her challenge to us.
Moira Buffini’s Loveplay. Scene from the Enlightenment. Photo by Ed Ellis.
Q: And finally, why should Edmonton audiences come to watch Loveplay?
Everyone should come to watch Loveplay because it is very funny, but with a serious intent. It is an engaging and sharply drawn play. It makes for a great evening at the theatre, and gives us lots to debate about at the bar afterwards! Loveplay is a critical romp through the centuries, and encourages people to think about their own worlds. There is also a thread of human experience that runs through the play, and it asks us to look at our hearts, at what ultimately makes us human beings.
Moira Buffini’s Loveplay. Scene from The New Millennium. Photo by Ed Ellis.
Other than that, our production of Loveplay showcases six fantastic actors, and a highly talented group of designers, managers and technicians. It displays their range, knowledge of theatrical devices, and what they can make happen on the stage. For a play like this, where worlds and eras change in a matter of seconds, the creative team has invented a lot of smart and quick theatrical transformations that surprise and delight.
About Jan Selman
Congratulations to Professor Jan Selman on recent her appointment as Director of the University of Alberta’s Community-Service Learning (CSL) Program for the next 18 month period. Jan is a Full Professor in Drama and the former Chair of the Department of Drama. Her area of expertise is in directing and dramaturgy, and she specializes in participatory and community-based theatre. Her work has earned many accolades, including induction into the Royal Society of Canada. She has a long history of involvement with CSL and a strong commitment to community-engaged research and pedagogy. Jan Selman’s full bio and CV on the UAlberta Department of Drama Faculty web page.
Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: Moira Buffini Festival
Featuring:Loveplay by Moira Buffini, October 30 – November 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee November 6 at 12:30 p.m.
$5 preview performances on Wednesday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m.
No shows on Sunday.
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $11 student, $22 adult, $20 senior available online now at TIX on the Square and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.
Directed by Arts faculty member Jan Selman and designed by faculty member Robert Shannon (sets and costumes) with MFA theatre design candidate Zsófia Opra Szabó (lights), Loveplay features UAlberta BFA Acting students from the graduating class of 2015: Nikki Hulowski, Maxwell Theodore Lebeuf, Kabriel Lilly, Dylan Parsons, Zvonimir Rac and Morgan Yamada
For full cast, creative and production team details see http://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/loveplay .
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