Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department (DART) is in the process of gearing up for their upcoming winter mainstage production entitled Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Originally written by Ann-Marie Macdonald in 1988, the play remixes and plays with your expectations of Shakespearean plays, while adding in modern, comedic elements.
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) follows the journey of Constance Ledbelly, a scholar at Queen’s University in Kingston studying Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Eventually, Constance is brought into the worlds of both plays, Cyprus and Verona, as Constance subverts the tragic endings of the plays by saving Desdemona and Juliet.
“We chose this play because it’s a comedy with a lot of depth,” said Director Danielle Wilson. “February is so dark and depressing; I was laughing out loud reading this play, so it’ll definitely be a good stress reliever.”
The Department produces two mainstages each year, primarily run by students for course credit as part of their program. Everything from set design and lighting, to costume creation and acting, is a pedagogical and communal effort from students studying Drama.
“At Brock we get a tool box of skills,” said Mark Harrigan, assistant director and fourth-year DART student. “It’s so great to get hands on experience, and to figure out all the intricacies of what it takes to put on a play of this calibre.”
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) was a massive undertaking for Wilson, as well as the students and production team. The process of finding a play began in early last year, and proved a nine-month process from play selection to opening night, with countless hard work and late nights spent rehearsing in between.
Many of the students in the play had already been involved in a mainstage before, whether it was acting or assisting with stage production and set design. Despite this, it took a lot of commitment from students, and required a lot of organization and drive to balance exhaustive rehearsals and preparation with other course work and responsibilities.
“Every rehearsal takes a lot of energy, there’s a lot of movement, and the role itself, is very high energy. You have to do your best managing rehearsal time and still try to have a life,” said Katelyn Lander, a fourth-year DART student who plays Desdemona. “It was difficult to work with [the] heightened [language of the] text, but it was a great learning experience.”
When many of Shakespeare’s plays were first presented, they would be played by all male casts. Since then, we’ve come a long way, as Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) shows with the plays three main roles being taken on by strong, active women.
“I feel empowered playing this role,” said Raylene Turner, a fourth-year DART student who plays the role of Constance Ledbelly.
Both Lander and Elizabeth Amos (fourth-year DART student playing the role of Juliet) agree that their roles aren’t traditional, and are certainly not what audiences would expect from a Shakespearean female lead.
“My favourite scene is definitely the introduction to my character (Juliet) on stage with Romeo,” said Amos. “In this show, they’re so far past love that it’s hate. It’s a really high energy scene and right away it shows the audience that this play won’t be what they’re expecting.”
“This definitely isn’t what you remember from Grade 9 English,” said Turner. “Don’t let the Shakespeare scare you away, it’s a very funny play and you’ll be laughing no matter what.”
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) will be the second mainstage production in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts’ theatre, and the customizable space provided a lot of opportunities and a few challenges for the production team.
“At first it was a challenge to get to know the theatre,” said Wilson. “The Dramatic Arts Theatre is much smaller than the Sean O’ Sullivan at the main campus; we had a large set and [we were] afraid that it would overwhelm the stage. It’s amazing to have our own theatre, and we could rehearse on stage a lot more than at the other theatre”.
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) will premiere on Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Dramatic Arts Theatre in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Tickets can be purchased online at firstontariopac.ca: general admission is $18, with a discounted price for students at $15. Other performances include: Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 28 at 2:00 p.m., March 4 at 11:30 a.m., March 4 at 7:30 p.m., and March 5, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.