Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Play as research, research as play.
Humorous Magistrate was a play I directed and edited for the staged (aka dramaturgy) as part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada research project led by Professor Mary Polito. Polito, her colleagues and graduate students uncovered a manuscript in the University of Calgary Archives that had not been performed in 350 years. The piece was an editing and performance challenge, which blended my areas of interest and training so I was asked to direct the piece. It was a massive undertaking that served to prove something I have long believed: performance has as much to offer the research community as textual scholarship when it comes to exploring meaning. The project culminated in performances for audiences that included some of the world’s top textual scholars. In a talk back session, one of the leading scholars in the field explained that we had figured out something he had been working on for ten years and he asked how we did it. The actor who delivered the lines in question casually replied, “well, I had to figure out how to say the words.” It is a deceptively simple statement that masks two years of work on a project that included companion courses and an extensive collaboration with our costume shop, a team of designers supervised by Douglas McCullough and the legendary JP Fournier as fight director. The approach was designed to push as hard as we could on every area of theatrical practice and the result was a play that was popular with audiences despite not being a particularly good example of dramatic writing.