“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde’s oft-quoted aphorism tops the director’s note for A Beginner's Guide to the Night Sky, a new play from The Villains Theatre, written by Colleen MacIsaac and directed by Garry Williams.
“Everything I make is a queer work, “ says playwright Colleen MacIsaac, “because that is who I am and how I see the world.” The show is a practical observational astronomy class that moves through music, memory, and magic to teach us about what we can see from our tiny place in the universe.
The two hander stars trans masc actor Rooks Field-Green as Léo, a young non-binary architect, and Geneviève Steele as Albertine, music teacher and amateur astronomer, who teaches night classes in star gazing. With an elegant set by Brenda Chicas-Duran, an evocative lighting design by Matt Downey, well-considered costumes by Noella Murphy, and fight choreography and intimacy direction by Audrey Eastwood, the production treads lightly and deliberately.
Villains Artistic Director Dan Bray steps into a new role: Stage Management.
“This work is really close to my heart,” continues MacIsaac, “as it draws upon elements from my own life of being a nonbinary person and navigating that identity with my parents who are on their own learning journeys”, though they emphasize that “gender identity isn’t the main conflict of the play.”
Rather, the play explores the ways that love and grief are intertwined. “There is no real conflict,” says queer director Garry Williams, “except for our struggle to accept the inevitability of death, and dying”. When Albertine starts to show signs of cognitive degeneration, Léo is forced to come to terms with their relationship, and ultimately their perceived place in the universe.”
“The play is philosophical, smartly constructed, and tender”, says Williams. “MacIsaac has a queer sensibility – a poetic inclination, a love of double meanings, and an interest in non-traditional form… the play has an irresistible pull. And we have a star-studded team!”
it draws upon elements from my own life of being a nonbinary person and navigating that identity with my parents who are on their own learning journeys
Music director Jenny Trites agrees, calling the show “a gem – I think we’re creating something really special.” Assistant director and movement coach Lara Lewis, a queer mixed Mi'kmaw theatre artist from Kjipuktuk who primarily works as an actor and dramaturge, led the cast in developing fun, inventive choreography and movement sequences for the original musical compositions by MacIsaac and Trites. “It’s a Musical now!” quips production assistant Trisha Dhar Malik after Dress Rehearsal.
While the play is not a Musical, this beautiful, funny, and moving production will take place outside on the Dartmouth Waterfront under the night sky, with scheduled indoor performances in the Rotunda at Alderney Landing on Sundays and runs approximately one hour. “Put a reminder in your phone to bring some tissues”, says composer Jenny Trites. And dress warmly.
Tickets are PWYC, and free child care is provided for every performance.
For tickets visit www.easternfronttheatre.com.
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Eastern Front Presents Colleen MacIsaac’s New Play A Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky
Runs September 26 - October 8
7:30 pm nightly, Tues-Sun
Alderney Landing Waterfront, Ferry Terminal Park