THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE
Starts September 8
Victor Mitchell Theatre (Pumphouse Theatres)
Morpheus Theatre is going to push past the brink of memory. Seven actors are set to work with director Tim Elliott to bring playwright Roger Clintons The Mail Order Bride to life, with all of its vivid recollections.
"Russell Teeter comes to close down the farm," says Elliot. "And hes never met his grandmother, so (farmer and neighbour) Harold acts as an intermediary to introduce them to their life, and to his grandmother."
The process of telling the Teeter familys stories involves a whorl of remembering on Harolds part. "Theres an interesting structure: we have Harold remembering Charlotte remembering her parents. Layers and layers and memories and memories," Elliott says. "There are imaginary characters and there are real characters. The real characters of course live in real time. But, the imaginary ones the grandmother and the grandfather, and Russells mother all age over the course of the play. And so they go back and forth between 1908, 1924 and 1943."
The actors must summon from their reservoirs of skill, as no effects or costume changes can take place. "All the aging will be done through the acting all these changes happen while the actors are onstage," says Elliot. "For instance, (in one scene) Charlottes the grandmothers husband has just died. So shes about 75 at the time, and she remembers various sorts of memories. She picks up a coat that shes about to send to the rummage sale, and remembers that its the one that she wore when she first met her husband. She walks down the steps, and she goes from being 75 to about 38. So she (the actress) has got to do it all with acting: theres no way to change costumes, no way to change hair, no way to change makeup or anything."
The amount of character change and the structure of memory in Clintons play requires a lot of work for Morpheus, but the group hasnt struggled very much translating from the page to the stage. "It hasnt been a difficult rehearsal process." Elliot says. "It was a little difficult to read it through the first time, and to sort out where everything and when everything was happening. But, once we got into the rehearsal process, and we had a chance to put a physical shape to these different times, it all seemed to fall into place. And it became a lot easier."
The Mail Order Bride was written by Alberta playwright Roger Clinton. The play hasnt gone unnoticed it can claim such titles as winner of both the Alberta Playwriting Competition and the Alberta Writers Guild Drama Award.
"Its a poignant look at life on the prairies in the early 1900s, when the settlers were first coming out," says Elliot. "They faced hardships, and its their story, too. It is a strong play, and Im enjoying it. Ive seen it a hundred times by now, but still, every time I watch it, something new comes out."