Mar. 06, 2013 - Issue #907: Garbage Goes Green
The Age of Arousal
Tempestuous socio-sexual changes roiling just under the surface of those tight-laced Victorian bodices—it's the heart of playwright Linda Griffiths' Age of Arousal, and it's what co-producers The Maggie Tree and Blarney Productions envisioned while working on their upcoming iteration of the show.
"It's a really sexy play," says Maggie Tree founder and actress Kristi Hansen, who plays protagonist Rhoda. "An image that we have used a lot is the image of bursting out of the corset: that's sort of what's going on at the time and in the play as well."
Age of Arousal follows Rhoda's story as an "odd" woman in 1885 London, where for various reasons that include the effects of war, rampant alcoholism and disease, the ratio of women to men was nearly four to one—so many women remained unmarried and were thus unpaired, or odd. Together with her lover Mary Barfoot (Sandra Nicholls), Rhoda runs a secretarial school for other odd women, a background against which the play depicts a fundamental sea change within women's traditional roles as wives and mothers.
As director Wayne Paquette describes, playwright Linda Griffiths was "wildly inspired by" an 1893 novel by George Gissing titled The Odd Women.
"One of the great things that [Griffiths] has done in this play is she's coined this phrase called 'thoughtspeak,'" Paquette says. "We get to see two characters dialoguing, and then also they go into their inner thoughts; we see their inner thoughts explored and talked about on stage. It's an interesting dynamic of how we present ourselves but also how we're feeling inside and what that really means to us."
From the synopsis alone, it's clear that the script is rife with competing gender politics, something particularly poignant for Hansen's company, and especially for this particular co-production with a male director. The Maggie Tree's mandate is to support the development and visibility of women in creative leadership roles in the arts, and Hansen admits to relishing the various contradictions within feminism as well as the run-ins she's had with the same.
"You get told certain things—you're not a good feminist if you do that, you're not a good feminist if you do this; I just think that's a really interesting part of the movement, in that it's such in flux, it's always changing—we're always asking questions within it," she notes.
From Paquette's perspective as a male director working alongside this feminist rhetoric, he notes that there are other avenues of engaging with the piece.
"I've tried to approach this on a very personal level, so that these are individuals," he says. "And I think [Griffiths] is very smart to not make this sort of a slogan piece. It's about six people and their personal struggles. Each one of them is in a stage of transition. Their ideals, their beliefs are being challenged, and they're not skirting but they're going to an edge where they're now seeing the other side of things; they're seeing the world in a bigger way.
"No matter where you are in your life, no matter who you are, woman or man, no matter what's going on in the background, you still have your own personal responsibility to yourself and what you want to do, what you want to contribute to life, to this world," he continues. "These are just people who are trying to find their place in the world."
Fri, Mar 8 – Sun, Mar 17 (7:30 pm; 1:30 pm matinees March 9, 10, 17)
Directed by Wayne Paquette
C103, $20 – $25 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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