Giving scripts some poetic justice

Playwright adds twist to theatre

Take one look at one of playwright Adam Seelig’s scripts and you’ll see this is no ordinary play. The sentences are irregularly scattered across the page with no punctuation, sparsely placed words and bountiful white space.

While the script looks more like a histogram than a play, there is a method to Seelig’s madness.

“When at first the actors look at the script, there is a moment of disorientation,” he said. “Within a minute of reading it, they realize there’s a natural quality to it, a real conversational quality.”

That conversational quality is partly what defines Seelig’s interpretation of poetic theatre. His production outfit, One Little Goat Theatre Company, focuses on the theatrical format that aims to present a highly interpretive play to the audience.

Seelig, who founded the company in 2002, is currently showcasing his fourth play, Like The First Time. The play is about a woman named Fulvia who is torn between her life as a single woman and her life as a wife and mother.

The playwright also directed Like The First Time, which is based on a play by Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello.

Seelig said he previously utilized the bizarre script format in a poetic novel, but this was the first time he employed it dramatically.

“It allows for a real openness of interpretation for the actors,” he said. “It puts a lot of responsibility in their hands and their voices.”

He said the style developed naturally over the course of his writing. Due to generous white space on each page, the dialogue has to be short and punchy.

“Because of the format, I really can’t write all that many words,” Seelig said. “There’s hardly a word in this play that is more than two syllables long.”

But poetic theatre also demands a level of ambiguity not only in how the actors deliver their lines, but also in how the audience interprets the text.

“In traditional theatre, interpretations are imposed on the audience,” he said. “The audience is often expected to react in a certain way, is almost told to feel a certain way.”

Seelig said he left certain elements in the play unclear, such as why Fulvia left her family, in order to keep the audience asking questions throughout the play.

“With One Little Goat, we take a step back from that and rather than force our material on the audience, we really open it up to them as more of an offering,” he said.

Seelig had full artistic control over how the play would be presented and said while poetry and theatre have always gone hand in hand for him, he approaches the two very differently.

“I write the play, and then I put it down and forget about it,” he said. “When it comes time to direct, I pick it up with a new lens . . . That’s very important.”

After explaining his creative process, Seelig explained the main character in Like The First Time.

“I see Fulvia as a dramatic version of many of today’s contemporary women in our society,” Seelig said. “Women who are forced on a daily basis to live a double life as career women on the one hand and people with family responsibilities on the other.”

He hopes the play will inspire viewers to think critically about women’s roles in society and how they have changed or not over time.

“These are two worlds that are difficult to reconcile, and there are many women in our present city that experience that day in and day out,” he said. “That double life is represented dramatically in this play, in an exaggerated way.”

Seelig is the recipient of a Commonwealth Fellowship and a Stanford Golden Grant for his work on Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts. He lives in the Annex.

Like The First Time will be playing from Oct. 28 to Nov. 13 at the Walmer Centre Theatre.

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About this article:

By: Omar Mosleh
Posted: Oct 13 2011 2:54 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto