PuSh Blog

The revelations of As I Lay Dying—A curatorial statement by Norman Armour

December 12, 2016

Photo: Katherine Fleitas
Photo: Katherine Fleitas

Theatre Smith-Gilmour is a staple in Toronto theatre scene. I’d venture to say that they are signature company for certain generation of devised theatre makers in Toronto. It’s long overdue that they are out here. And so apropos that the work they are bringing is an adaptation of William Faulkner’s opus, As I Lay Dying. Iconic, challenging, and epic. Set in the deep south, the novel is written in a form stream of consciousness with multiple narrators.

The Wikipedia entry reads, As I Lay Dying is a 1930 novel by American author William Falkner. Faulkner said that he wrote the novel from midnight to 4:00 AM over the course of six weeks and that he did not change a word of it. Faulkner wrote it while working at a power plant, published it in 1930, and described it as a “tour de force.” Faulkner’s fifth novel, it is consistently ranked among the best novels of 20th-century literature. The title derives from Book XI of Homer’s The Odyssey, wherein Agamemnon speaks to Odysseus: “As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.”

Theatre Smith Gilmour has never been afraid of tackling the great stories, indeed the “greats” of western literature. An equally acclaimed and popular production of the company is their staging of Chekhov short stories, aptly titled “Chekhov Shorts.” Sold out runs, back and back again for several remounts, the production caught the city by fire. Hoisted up with great pride and fanfare, this treasured company of 35 prolific years behind them, was hoisted up and celebrated for what was considered virtual second-coming.

Success then… but what of 12 years or so later? Lest you think that As I Lay Dying might be some lame attempt to repeat a past success, to cash in on a formula, or recipe for abundant box office tallies, below are the awards it garnered from the Toronto theatre scene:

  • 2015 Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominee – OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE – ENSEMBLE
  • 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominee – OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN – Andre du Toit
  • 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominee – OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY
  • Voted ONE OF THE TOP 10 SHOWS OF 2013 by NOW Magazine

The company bio reads, “Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith met in 1978 while studying at the School of Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France. In 1980, they formed Theatre Smith-Gilmour and have since created 38 shows, 25 of which have been original plays. The company has toured across Canada several times and to 14 countries throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and Russia. Their work has been nominated for 35 Dora Awards (winning 10) as well as being nominated twice for the Chalmers’ Best Canadian Play Award.”

Photo: Katherine Fleitas
Photo: Katherine Fleitas

The BMO Theatre Centre at the Arts Club Theatre Company’s shining new headquarters in heart of Olympic Village is simply glorious. I’d go so far as to call it a new place of worship—the city’s newest church of the theatre. Once you enter the room and experience its architecture, its beautifully conceived modular, movable seats, walkable lighting grid, and floor that can raise and lower in sections, in minutes you will readily understand why it is such a valued addition to our community. This is, indeed, scared ground.

This will be the first-time for PuSh to present in the venue with our venerable partner the Arts Club Theatre Company. As I Lay Dying is the pitch perfect choice. And I can’t wait. I hope you’ll join me for the work’s—and the space’s—revelations.

—Norman Armour
Artistic & Executive Director


Catch As I Lay Dying throughout January 2017 at Vancouver’s newest performance venue, BMO Theatre Centre, located in Olympic Village. Buy tickets from the Arts Club Theatre Company today!

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