Saturday, 5 August 2017

Dramaturgy Ornata: Dieter Brusselaers @ Edfringe 2017

The World Premiere of Maria Ornata, a dramatic one-man show written and performed by Belgian actor and playwright Dieter Brusselaers.

A unique, imaginative story-telling experience that pays tribute to the poeticism and grandiosity of classical theatre.

Bewilderness Theatre Company, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017

A hole has been ripped through the fabric of reality. Heaven and Earth have collided, leaving both mortals and deities lost in chaos. The only one who knows what has happened is the Archangel Gabriel, and now it's up to him to tell the tale of how it all came to pass.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Maria Ornata was inspired by the 1663 play Faëton of Reuckeloze stoutheit by Joost van den Vondel. It is a mythological story about the brazen son of the sun god Phoebus almost scorching the Earth with the sun chariot, nearly driving humanity to extinction. The catastrophe is only averted when the Heavenly Council of Greek gods decide to interfere: after all, if humanity would not be around anymore to make sacrifices to the gods, they would starve too.

According to popular lore, Vondel wrote this play after his play Lucifer was censured by religious authorities for depicting biblical characters and the theatre it was set to perform in had already provided an expensive backdrop depicting the Heavens. 

Maria Ornata takes Vondels backdrop as well as the basic premise of the relation of mortals and deities being one of vital mutual dependency, and repopulates both with the Saints Vondel was forbidden to depict.

Maria Ornata was first written as full-cast play, structurally following Vondel's lead, and then developed into a one-man show with roots in a more narrative form theatre.

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

Yes, but not necessarily in an explicitly political manner. The thing that sets performance in the arts apart from propaganda is the fact that its very aesthetic can move the mind and alter ideas: a theatre production can help generate a sensitivity that is vital to an empathic and open-minded society.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I started doing theatre as a teenager, and was thrown right into Shakespeare by my drama teacher. I very quickly recognised that both performing and viewing stories that laid outside my direct personal life experiences but resonated with it helped me to develop. Yes, Medea's anger is larger than life in comparison to my personal experience. But it also processes the ur-emotion first birthing the kind of jealousy that was recognisable to me.

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

The performance is very text-based and involves many characters. The approach my director Alex Romberg took me in started off from a simultaneous mapping out of the high-strung, lyrical text and the development of a physical identity for each character. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Bewilderness Theatre Company is a new company, and Maria Ornata is its debut performance.

For me personally, Maria Ornata is completely in line with the kind of stripped text-based theatre I usually write and/or act in. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

An aesthetic epiphany brought about by mostly verbal means that will leave them thinking about their own views on reality and its limits.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

In my experience, with highly poetic language the first concern is that of translation - making beautiful words resonate with meaning. This is the benchmark for all the physical and communicative tools we have used shaping this performance.

Using lyrical language and embodying many characters, Gabriel reenacts how the Celestial Beings of Heaven start to feel their powers weaken as their influence on Earth plummets. For the first time, they worry about fading into oblivion. Matters are made worse by Dei, an ambitious mortal engineer who meddles with nature by inventing a mechanical sun. The deities who sit on the Celestial Council demand that the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Heavens, intimidate Dei and win back human devotion. Mary must walk a razor's edge between self-preservation and respect of humankind's free will as the fate of the Heavens hangs in the balance. 

Maria Ornata originated as a Dutch-language play with a large cast, inspired by the seventeenth century playwright, Joost van den Vondel. This spring, Brusselaers adapted it into an English solo piece during the Can Serrat International Art Residency in Spain. 

Dieter Brusselaers is a Belgian actor, playwright, and artistic researcher. He also performed self-penned material with Antwerp-based young collective TG Bara,  and as a finalist in Frappant TXT 2012, a prestigious Flemish contest for new writing and performance. He also contributed a chapter to the book RuPaul's Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture, which is due to be published by Palgrave MacMillan in September 2017. 

Maria Ornata is directed by Alex Romberg, an emerging director from the United States. She most recently co-directed Claire by Emma Adler, a co-production between East 15 Acting School and The Harvard Advocate. She is the founder of Bewilderness Theatre Company, which aims to use the multi-cultural flair of its members to respond to the modern world and to create a sense of adventure, imagination, and deep thought onstage.

Maria Ornata runs at Greenside Venues, Infirmary St (Venue 236)  in the Ivy Studio
Aug 4-6, *8-12, 14-19, 21-26.
11:20AM (Aug 4-6, 8-12, 21-26) | 10:10AM (Aug 14-19)
Duration: One Hour
Tickets are £8.50 (£6.50 Concessions)

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