by Tracey Tong
Bright Marigolds is not about sunshine or flowers. Ryerson’s latest theatre production is a play on the names of two 18th-century playwrights, Carlo Goldoni (“bright”) and Pierre Marivaux (“marigolds”).
Directed by John Van Burek, Bright Marigolds is a collection of scenes depicting how far people will go in pursuit of love. If it were a movie, the trailer would include scenes of love, despair, loyalty and lust — acted entirely by the second-year theatre students.
The topics covered in Bright Marigolds are as intimate as the seating arrangement for the play — the audience sits on the same level as the performance.
“The scenes are about the conflict between the head and the heart. People are smart — their head tells them one thing, but their heart wants to go in another direction,” says Van Burek, who translated the plays from French and Italian to English.
“Logic can rule; common sense can rule; life is complex; science is full of flaws and enigmas. That’s the human hears in essence, and that’s what the play’s all about,” says Van Burek.
When asked if he’s encountered problems in putting the show together, Van Burek gets a twinkle in his eye.
“Twenty six,” he says. (There are 26 cast members. Coincidence?)
More seriously, Van Burek explains that there was a struggle to conquer styles. “Making their language work is a big challenge because people used more words 200 years ago than they do now.”
Daniel Schneiderman, who plays Florindo and Lelio, explains that “the bright scenes in Bright Marigolds are comedic, but not slapstick. And we had to really work on the names and the pronunciation.”
This is the Toronto guest director’s second time back at Ryerson in three years. His credits at Ryerson include Romeo and Juliet and Lysistrata. The founding artistic director of Le Théâtre Français de Toronto, he has also taught at the National Theatre School and at York University.
Van Burek enjoys working with university students. “With students, you have to rethink what you are teaching and you can’t assume everyone is on the same wavelength. You have to create the wavelength. One of the greatest moments is when people understand the material and not just the script,” he says.
Van Burek also says he has more artistic freedom with students. “I can do material here that professional stage won’t do. Who’s going to do Marivaux?”
Nicky Philips, who plays Corallina, agrees. “We’ll probably never get the opportunity to perform this material again. And the text work is challenging. The way they speak is so different from the way they speak today. You have to make it true to you.”
Jennifer Waiser, who has the role of Rosaura, chimes in, “There’s so much meat in this play. It’s fun to attack.”
Fun seems to be something the actors have a lot of, despite their dedication to the show. The students have rehearsals everyday, which leaves little time for a social life outside of the play. But don’t feel sorry for these budding actors yet.
“This is what we want to do,” Phillips muses. “I think we get along very well; there’s good chemistry between all three of us.”
“It makes rehearsals enjoyable,” says Schneiderman.