Five actresses playing one character: August Strindberg is one of very few playwrights whose work could not only accommodate, but possibly benefit from such a device.
“Each one of us is going to play her differently, but it is as though she is of one heart and one mind,” Bobbi Goddard explains. The graduating BFA student is one of five women playing the central protagonist in Studio Theatre’s production of A Dream Play. Written by Strindberg after he suffered a bout of psychosis, A Dream Play follows the daughter of the gods, Agnes,descending to earth and meeting with a host of characters embroiled in various suffering and strife. Studio Theatre is using Caryl Churchill’s adaptation of Strindberg’s 1901 original.
“The main drive is a desire to understand humanity, which sounds very grand,” Goddard says with a laugh. “But at the heart of it is the desire to understand how life on earth is so difficult. It’s amazing to me how contemporary it feels; it doesn’t feel like Strindberg was writing so long ago. The questions he’s dealing with are very current.”
In addition to casting five performers in the same role, Studio Theatre’s version of A Dream Play also puts audience members on stage with the actors: seating is on the actual Timms stage. (It’s a lot bigger than it looks from the usual seats.)
“There’s something very heightened and theatrical about being in that space,” Goddard says. “Already we feel like we’re in on a secret, because usually that’s hidden from us. It’s an opportunity to share very close moments not just with your acting partners but also with your audience, because you’re breathing the same air, literally.”
Strindberg’s work is famously a precursor to both dramatic expressionism and surrealism. It’s also fixated on the darker aspects of human experience, but Goddard identifies a surprising streak of optimism in it as well.
“There’s something sort of magical about it,” she says. “There’s a desire for magic in humans, a desire for hopefulness, a desire for things to get better. Even though Strindberg was going, ‘Oh man, maybe life really is just hell on earth,’ he still saw beauty.”
Until Sat, April 4 (7:30 pm)
Directed by David Kennedy
Timms Centre for the Arts,
$11 – $22