Sunday, 30 July 2017

Old Dramaturgy: Christian Barry @ Edfringe 2017

Playwright: Hannah Moscovitch
Director: Christian Barry
Songs by: Ben Caplan & Christian Barry

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story is a humourously dark folktale woven together with a high-energy concert.

This genre-bending music-theatre hybrid starring Klezmer-folk sensation Ben Caplan is inspired by the true stories of two Jewish Romanian refugees coming to Canada in 1908.

It's about how to love after being broken by the horrors of war. It's about refugees who get out before it's too late, and those who get out after it's too late. And it's about looking into the eyes of God.

From August 5-27, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story is playing at Canada Hub (part of the Summerhall program), every night at 9:30PM, except for Mondays.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story is a hybrid, grown form 3 unique seeds. First, I was a fan of Ben Caplan. He is an electric performer and a unique talent. I wanted to bring Ben’s power and presence into the theatre. Second, there was a burgeoning international refugee crisis and the Canadian gatekeepers (namely our former Prime Minister) were being shitty. 

The politics of fear and division were being employed in a sad attempt to win an election while children were drowning at sea. Third, my wife, Hannah Moscovitch discovered that her great grandparents had fled persecution in Romania and made their way to Canada by way of Pier 21 in Halifax, NS.

Is performance still a good space for
the public discussion of ideas?


How did you become interested in making performance?

Michael Jackson. When Thriller hit the shelves in Canada, I was lucky enough to have two older siblings with great taste in music. I spent hours upon hours, nose to nose with the hi-fi stereo, soaking up MJ’s brilliance. 

I think that record is largely responsible for the early-stage development of several of my performative instincts: Choreography, singing, rhythm, and a respect for performers that embody a whole-hearted wild abandon. MJ and Ben Caplan have that particular trait in common. Increasingly, I find myself making shows with professional musicians. I think Thriller is a big part of why that is.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Our approach in making this show was organic and practical. Ben and I wrote songs, while Hannah researched and unearthed her Paternal family’s history. We knew we were making a concert-theatre hybrid more so than a “musical”. However, we took structural inspiration from the great musical Cabaret - where the songs in the “here and now” are always commenting on themes or exposing subtextual ideas that live in the scenes. 

We were nearly always working at the same time, but not always in the same room - Hannah would write, Ben and I would jam, then we’d come back together and smash things together. Eventually we had an albums-worth of songs, and a one-act play. Then it was my job to put it all together in an interesting package.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

People who are familiar with my work will likely recognize some stylistic tendencies - minimalist staging, "Brechtian" structural devices, direct address narration - but ultimately, each new work is unique. There is no road map when making these shows. Form and content are developed in responses to one another. Image informs the development of text and vice versa. The most important thing is assembling a team of wonderful and inspiring collaborators, then I try to design a process that encourages generous risk-taking.

Usually it takes 3-4 years to amen a new 2b show, from inception to opening night. We dedicate a great deal of time and resource before we take our shows on the road.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I am hoping that people are able to put a human face on the refugee crisis. This is a show about Jews fleeing Romania for Canada in 1908. But it’s also about today. Here. It’s about people looking for a place to call home, and a place to build a life. And maybe fall in love.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

See above. 

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