Tuesday, June 24, 2014

espresso | artistic director notes

Our season closer has closed. But I feel like posting one last thought - to put a period at the end of that final paragraph in the story of our 30th Anniversary Season. So here: my notes on that marvel of a play, ESPRESSO.

When I think back on Espresso's debut at Pacific Theatre, so much comes back with clarity. The story, its authenticity and rawness. Specific moments. The array of vivid characters. Images. Even a decade later, so much remains. But what hit me earlier this spring when I turned again to the script was the language. This is first and foremost a play, a performance piece, meant to live and breathe and move on a stage. But – and I feel this more strongly than with any of the dozens of works we've premiered at Pacific Theatre – it is also a work of literature. The words, the turns of phrase, the shape and juxtaposition of sentences.

When I think back to January 2003, I also remember the people whose sacrifices brought the play to the stage in the first place. The company was in a dire situation financially – in fact, it was a play of mine, Mercy Wild, that got us there! – and it looked unlikely that we could even stage another play. But we knew we had to honour our commitment to Lucia's play, and Scott Campbell found a way. He trimmed the costs as far as they could be trimmed. He talked with artists – the design team, technical crew, actors, stage management, everyone – and let them know that we wouldn't have the money to pay them. People refused to leave the show, and worked for free, or for a pittance of what they had contracted for. Seasoned professionals like Morris Ertman and Kevin McAllister simply committed to get the play onstage, regardless of their pay. Scott worked crazy hours, long into the night, up ladders and in the tunnels, it seemed almost single-handedly doing whatever was needed to make up for the crews we couldn't afford to hire.

Espresso blew the walls out. It made up all the money we had lost on my play, and then some. And we were able to go back to the artists whose sacrifices put the play onstage, and pay them. Extraordinary.

And I remember the response. The audiences – before long, you couldn't get a ticket. Our fellow artists, the Jessie jury, the critics – I'll never forget the closing paragraph of Colin Thomas' review, which I can nearly quote from memory. "Espresso deserves many, many more productions. Artistic directors from across the continent should be flocking to Vancouver to experience it."

So here we go, offering one more of those well-deserved productions – the culmination of our thirtieth anniversary season. Nothing could better embody the essence of Pacific Theatre – like a five-course Italian feast, served up with love and passion and artistry from Lucia's kitchen. Food for the soul.

Buon appetito!

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