By Justin Chandler
The Ryerson Theatre School’s newest play, Tales from the Vienna Woods, is a complex story that’s been equally challenging to produce, said production manager Laura Paduch.
“This show is probably the most complicated I’ve worked on in a position with so much responsibility. With so many different departments working in connection with each other, it’s like a big machine.”
Tales from the Vienna Woods was written by Austro-Hungarian born playwright Ödön von Horváth. It takes place in Vienna, Austria during the late 1920s and follows a young couple whose relationship depicts life during the current global economic crises at the time. The play’s cast are all third-year performance acting students at Ryerson’s theatre school. The play, which runs until Feb. 11, is performed at the Ryerson Theatre.
Paduch, a fourth-year performance production student, said she has worked in management roles on about 10 plays. She said the play has 15 scenes and takes approximately 40 students to run.
Eva Peringer, a third-year performance acting student, plays five roles in the play. She said she has to run to a dressing room after each scene. Peringer has a team undress her and put her into her next costume.
The play was difficult to prepare, not just to put on.
To prepare the play’s score, the play’s musical director Leslie Barcza had to transcribe and arrange music only available in audio recordings.
“For a musical, where the text is all written out, you’re preparing music that everybody knows. In this case, it was almost like a salvage operation because we were presented with a text in English and a list of songs we had to find somewhere,” said Barcza, who teaches music at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Cynthia Asperger, the play’s director, said Tales from the Vienna Woods is one her favourites of the 20 plays she’s worked on with the theatre school.
Asperger is the director of the performance acting program at the theatre school and has a long list of acting credits. Tales from the Vienna Woods is one of the first plays she ever saw.
“Because of its great story, memorable characters and good structure it’s just a very well made play. [It’s also about] compassion and humanity and that’s what we’re trying to portray. A society in a time of great trial, a variety of people and how they deal with it,” said Asperger.
She said money troubles in the play ring true today. “Everybody relates to [money], all the young people. They’re all broke. They all understand what that is,” she said.
Third-year performance acting student Scott Kuipers plays Oskar, the show’s male lead. He said he understands Oskar even though he does terrible things.
“[The play’s characters are] just such real people. Everybody just wants to be loved and they just want to get by, they just want to survive and they end up turning on each other because that’s how it works. It’s just such a truthful play and it has so much heart in it.”
Barcza said the play is a neglected masterpiece that shows audiences “the folly of human behaviour.”
“For me [the most special thing about the play is] the way it helps me understand the behaviour in Europe in the 1930s. Some people were so horrible but they were still human even when they were being horrible,” he said.