‘Epic theatre’ and ‘perfect comedy’

Theatre St. Thomas will be putting on two shows this year, Bertolt Brecht’s A Life of Galileo and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Rehearsals are in full gear for A Life of Galileo. It’s the story of 17th century researcher professor Galileo Galilei and his struggles against the authority of the church, while proving his hypothesis that the Earth revolves around the sun. TST’s artistic director Robin Whittaker will be directing it with a cast of 28 people — his largest group yet.

First-year student Nathanael Telman will star as Galileo in his first production with TST. He hopes to pursue theatre as a future career, so he says the long weekend rehearsals are worth it.

“I’m there close to 24 hours every weekend, but it’s fun,” said Telman. “I love it so I don’t care”.

This year, Whittaker and other STU professors are also hosting a series of lectures and events about Galileo’s life and works.

Nathanael Telman will star as Galileo in his first production with TST. (Young Joo Jun/AQ)

“I think also what’s so important about this play is how it speaks to our times now, which was also important to Brecht, [the playwright],” Whittaker said.

Bertolt Brecht originally wrote and rewrote this play before, during and after the Second World War where he witnessed firsthand a growing Nazi authority.

“So Brecht is writing as much about Nazi Germany and World War II as he is about Galileo,” said Whittaker. “[He] used a historical moment in order to make a statement about his own historical moment, I think our production is going to make a statement about where we are now.”

Fourth-year student Telina Debly, who will play Galileo’s daughter, Virginia, said the play’s dialogue on the truth versus the status quo is “very timely.”

The production itself, in line with Brecht’s own philosophy, will feature an open backstage during production. The actors will be sitting amongst the audience when they are not on stage. Even the tech booth will be on the ground level.

“Brecht is very Marxist and wants the means of production to be very visible for everything,” said Telman.

“His whole thing is that he wants the actor to very consciously put on the character and then kind of take it off as you step off the stage,” said Debly.

“You’re gonna be able to see the actors getting into costume before entering the scene. We don’t have any invisible hands in the show. You see it all”.

Whittaker is the director for this year’s production of A Life of Galileo. (Young Joo Jun/AQ)

Along with the absence of the backstage, the theatre will also be set up with projections.

“There’s actually going to be a planetarium from the ceiling of the Black Box,” said Debly.

TST will also be doing a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in January 2019. It will be directed by Ilkay Silk, a member of The Order of Canada and the former director of Theatre St. Thomas. Last year, Silk directed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

“Oscar Wilde’s play has been called the ‘perfect comedy’ whereas Galileo is more epic theatre and drama, so we thought it would be a good contrast to that,” said Whittaker.

The lighthearted comedy surrounds two friends who share a name. It follows their endeavours with marriage proposals, family and cucumber sandwiches.

Silk directed The Importance of Being Earnest with TST in 2008. Although the play is scheduled for second semester, Silk has already begun rehearsals.

The Life of Galileo will premiere at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 21. The Importance of Being Earnest is set to premiere on Jan. 30, 2019.

Both productions will be held in The Black Box Theatre in James Dunn Hall. Admission for students is $5 and regular admission is $10.

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