PuSh Blog

The Show Must Go On Cast Dia-blog: Adrienne Wong & Max Wyman, Jan 13

January 13, 2010

By Adrienne Wong, performer in The Show Must Go On

Hi Everyone,

I’m writing on Wednesday, January 13th. Last night we met in East Vancouver at Progress Lab 1422, a big warehouse rehearsal space that is much different from the Dance Centre where we’ve been working. After a couple days off, all performers arrived excited to learn the final two songs of the piece.

Picking up on Max’s comments about our Skype conversation with Bel on Saturday: I was quite surprised by the degree of controversy TSMGO generated in Paris. I told one friend who said, “sometimes when the Paris audience hates it that’s a good sign.” In any case, I think my background in theatre makes me more open and interested in playing games with the audience and challenging the assumptions of those roles. I wouldn’t say that this work erases the boundaries between audience and performer. The piece certainly toys with those boundaries, sometimes heightening the differences, sometimes reversing the direction of the gaze to flow from stage –> house rather than the usual house –> stage. But the integrity of performance – and therefore performer – remains intact.

I want to shift the gears of this conversation a little bit to talk about the cultural specificity of the work. The relationship between the music and the choreography is very close. On Saturday, Bel mentioned how the piece was received differently by audience members who didn’t understand the English words in the songs, that without that understanding the choreographic choices seem random or arbitrary.

I’m curious about what came first for Bel during the creation of this piece: the narrative or the songs?

The use of popular music really underlines for me the space this cultural product occupies in our imaginations. We use pop music to speak for us. The singers passionately express what sometimes we only wish we could. But more than that, this piece demonstrates how pop music has a global reach and affects individuals all over.

Tonight we will start running the piece and working through details. This is my favourite part of the rehearsal process: when I get to figure out how to go deeper into the work and make it fully my own.

By Max Wyman, performer in The Show Must Go On

The questions that Adrienne raises about the use of the pop music have been teasing me since the start of this process. I wouldn’t want to speculate on which came first – the narrative or the songs – but it’s clear that the songs were first chosen for the significance of their titles in the development of the central narrative thread of the show. The names of the songs propel the show along. In that respect, the lyrics are almost superfluous – except that different members of the audience are of course going to bring different kinds of personal or cultural freight to them.
For instance, one of the songs, on the surface a passionate love song, was the focus of great debate when it was released, years ago now, with regard to its ambiguous and ˝dark˝ subtext. Dina and Henrique were not aware of this until we told them the other night, but some members of our audiences certainly will be, and that is bound to colour their response to our performance. The title, though, functions in quite a different way in moving the show forward.

There is an additional complication here, in that much of the sweetness of the piece comes from the emotional effect of the music and the lyrics set against what is happening on the stage.
Bel says he wanted to be sure that he chose songs that were universally known, not just by English-language audiences, and he seems to have done a pretty good job at that (though I understand that, despite the global reach of pop music, the Buenos Aires cast took exception to what they saw as Western musical imperialism implicit in the choices). But Adrienne is quite right when she says that without an understanding of the titles the choreographic choices would seem random or arbitrary, and I would guess that could well be at the root of some of the negative response in non-Anglophone audiences.

Last night we reached the end of the piece, and Henrique made a generous gesture of ˝giving over˝ the work to the cast. Now, he said, it is up to us to make it ours, to make it sparkle, give it life. And I thought of the words of Bel at the weekend. To allow it to work, he said, it is important for us to be a community, but within that community we have to be ourselves. One week to opening night. It promises to be an interesting week.

The Show Must Go On is part of the 2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and is presented with SFU Woodward’s and The Dance Centre. Jan 20-23, 2010 at 8:00pm, The Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, SFU. Click here for full details.