The Mirvish production of Cloud 9, playing at the Panasonic Theatre until February 21st, has a fantastic, interactive website, with all sorts of neat features and additional information about the play, the playwright and the artists involved in the creation of the show. There are also blogs written by the actors, which I find especially exciting and fascinating. You should all make sure to check it out.
As an incentive, here is an interesting Q&A from director Alisa Palmer, which appears on the website:
“Now that CLOUD 9 is up and running, director extraordinaire Alisa Palmer is finally able to sit back and take a breath. So we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about some of the more unconventional aspects of CLOUD 9 and her fondness for Caryl Churchill’s work.
Q: A hundred years pass between Act 1 and Act 2, but the characters age only 25 years. Why do you think (playwright) Caryl Churchill wrote it that way?
A: In an essay about the play Churchill says that while creating the play, she and the actors turned to their own lives for inspiration and discovered that many of them were raised with social and sexual values that were so out of date they might have come from another century. Churchill shows how antiquated the values are that shape us, and she makes an old-fashioned Victorian comedy from the family dynamics in the play.
Q: Why do the actors play different roles in each act? For example, in Act 1 Betty is played by Evan Buliung. In Act 2, Betty is played by Ann-Marie MacDonald – who played Edward in Act 1. It’s fun, but it’s confusing too.
A: All these choices are quite provocative and I think they’re meant to make you aware of your own assumptions. A man plays Betty in Act 1 as a way to put her ultra-patriarchal behaviour in relief. It also trades on the tradition of men playing women in British theatre. In Act 2 Betty is played by a woman, because now the character is more in touch with herself and her own gender. A woman plays a boy in Act 1 to highlight his effeminacy – and how behavior that is so appropriate in one body is not at all acceptable in another.
Q: Talk a bit about your cast and how you chose them. These are challenging roles and some of these actors are playing parts unlike anything they’ve done before.
A: I chose these actors quite simply because I love their work and their talents. I’ve worked with almost all of them before, and those I haven’t worked with I’ve admired and had on my list to cast as soon as I had a project to put them in.
When I cast them, I was very aware of putting them in roles that would really stretch them, in roles they may never have another opportunity to play.
Q: You’ve directed quite a few Caryl Churchill plays. What do you find so appealing about her work?
A: I like her insights into how people communicate. People in her plays always say what they mean, but they rarely know that what they mean isn’t always clear in their words. There’s always a deep hidden river of emotions running beneath what seems at first to be pedestrian language. And I love the way she jettisons the viewer into very intense moments of people’s lives with little warning.
She also cares about how power and abuse are passed from one person to another and she is perceptive about what the chain or power is in society. She is one of the only writers of theatre who sees how women and children are caught in a society that is working against them, but she never sees them as powerless.
And she seems to love theatre as passionately as I do. I could go on….
Q: Why, in your opinion, is the play is called CLOUD 9?
A: Cloud 9 refers to a state of utopia, a kind of nirvana or heavenly feeling. And everyone in the play is looking for that feeling. But clouds are quite elusive and illusory… just like happiness.
Q: Complete the sentence “I’m on Cloud 9 when…”
A: I’m on Cloud 9 when I’m watching the show with an audience. I’m on Cloud 9 when I’m eating supper with my children. And I also do like a nice full-bodied red. That can put me on Cloud 9 too.
Also- check out this video of Ben Carlson singing the Paul Sportelli song “Cloud 9”, it will probably encourage you to book your tickets today.