First presented in 1993, Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia has been dubbed by critics as possibly “the greatest play of our age.”
That’s a pretty grandiose statement. But there is no doubt that Stoppard’s play about love, literature and the second law of thermodynamics continues to intrigue both directors and actors.
Much to the delight of audiences, the Citadel Theatre presents Arcadia through the Robbins Academy program for emerging and mid-career theatre professionals. It opens tomorrow night at the Citadel Theatre and runs until April 11.
While tight theatre budgets allow for a short rehearsal period usually ranging from two to four weeks, Arcadia’s actors enjoyed the luxury of attending a five-week residency at the Banff Centre to fine-tune their skills.
One of the fortunate few was St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus Luc Tellier (Peter Pan). Tellier plays a dual role – that of the bratty younger brother Augustus and the self-elected mute Gus Coverly.
“We didn’t work on Arcadia. It was mainly to build our skills as artists without the pressure of the show. The program was based heavily on classical theatre. We got into the nitty-gritty of Shakespeare and Restoration pieces,” Tellier explained.
An apt tutorial since Arcadia slips back and forth between two time periods – 1809 and the present day with a setting in the same room of an English country house called Sidley Park.
To enhance their performance skills, actors worked 12-hour days, six days per week studying text, learning to waltz, taking fitness, stage combat, voice and dialect classes.
“Everyone had the opportunity to explore what they were good at and what they’d never done before. I had the idea I’d play a lot of catch-up. A lot of the actors had been doing this for decades, but I was really excited to see everyone had something to work on. There is no finish line. You’re always working for more.”
When actual rehearsals started at the end of February, the entire cast was text ready.
“We came in knowing Arcadia inside out, backwards and forwards. The masks were gone. The walls came down in Banff. We were able to ask real and specific questions without first wading through facts.”
Part of the rehearsal process included a visit from a university lecturer to explain thermodynamics.
“It was a really inspiring morning. We got the math down pat. It was what we wanted to know. He had the answers we needed.”
Stoppard has long been lauded for his artistic brilliance and Arcadia is textured with many layers.
“On the surface it’s about time and how we perceive time. It can be seen as introduction to thermodynamics and steam engines, but that’s on the surface. We come to understand and what we want to know is the burning passions people feel.”
“It reminds us that even though our thoughts, our passions, our interests are entirely different, underneath it’s the wanting to know that unites us.”
Citadel Theatre/Robbins Academy
March 25 to April 11
9828 – 101 A Ave.
Tickets start at $30. Call 780-425-1820 or online at citadeltheatre.com