Acting a play of one

Urban Curvz Theatre is bringing Quebec playwright Jennifer Tremblay’s award winning play The List to Calgary from May 30 to June 8 at the Epcor Centre’s Motel.

The List is the story of a woman who writes lists to desperately attempt to control and order her daily life after a tragic event.

Tremblay received the Governor General’s Literary Award for French Drama in 2008 for La Liste and Shelley Tepperman’s translation was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation in 2012.

The English translation of the play is being directed by Micheline Chevrier and performed by Esther Purves-Smith. Chevrier and Purves-Smith have worked together before on three different productions including The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum (2000), Perfect Pie (2001) and Hay Fever (2003).

The play focuses solely on The Woman who is the only character on stage.

Purves-Smith says what attracted her to the play was the The Woman’s exploration of responsibility, of striving for a perfection that doesn’t exist, comparing herself to everyone else and feeling judged, isolated, lost and alone — feeling that she lives a life she landed in accidently.

“I think that those feelings are probably more universal than many of us are willing to talk about,” Purves-Smith says.

For Chevrier, who’s spent 30 years directing plays across Canada, the greatest attraction to direct the play was the language.

“I wanted to hear it, not only read it but hear it,” Chevrier says, “because of its rhythm, its lyricism and the images it evokes.”

For Purves-Smith, who has never done a solo performance before, the challenge she says is in the different relationship with the audience.

“I need them in a different way then when I’m doing a scene or interacting with other actors on stage,” Purves-Smith says, describing it as a more intimate hug.

Chevrier says the process of developing the production and rehearsing the play is different with only one actor as well.

“I always believe as the director that I partner with the actors in presenting the show,” Chevrier says. “In this case it’s a far more intimate collaborative process, because the actor is alone on stage and therefore embodies practically the universe, the world you’re trying to portray. You have to have a great amount of complicité — a real partnership, an intimate partnership in all the decision making.”

Chevrier says she works together with Purves-Smith to develop the little details of the world they are bringing to life in a way she wouldn’t necessarily do with a larger cast.

“I don’t feel like having a discussion with 17 people about ‘does the chair belong there?’ ” Chevrier jokes. “But with one person you do. It’s different.”

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