Don Juan Comes Back from the War
The legendary womanizer faces the consequences of his many dalliances.
Shaken by his experiences in war, Don Juan, the last man in all of Berlin, returns home to a pandemic and a line of women he's wronged in his life, providing plenty of ghosts to haunt him.
“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet plagues and wars always take people by surprise.”
(19) Mark Honigsbaum, The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris, W.W. Norton, 2019.
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"Dig Deeper" section!
Click "Learn More" to see an interview with some of the cast of Don Juan!
What surprised you about the play?
What was a moment in the production that stood out to you, and why?
If you could give Don Juan one piece of advice, what would it be?
A digital version of this production will be available to view from March 26-28, 2021.
Ticket Prices: Students $5.00 & Adult/Seniors $10.00.
For online viewing options for this production, please contact the U of A Studio Theatre Box Office via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone: 780-492-2495.
Don Juan Comes Back from the War was initially slated as part of the 2019-20 Studio Theatre season. Sadly, it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Drama is excited to present this production in March 2021, albeit with a limited run and in keeping with Alberta health and safety protocols.
"A dramaturg is a member of the artistic team of a theatre production who is a specialist in the transformation of a dramatic script into a meaningful living performance."
(5) Michael Mark Chemers, Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy, Southern Illinois University Press, 2010.
An Interview with the Designer, Jeremy Gordaneer
So this project was originally slated for last season; how has the pandemic shaped this production and your approach to the play?
Yeah, almost a year later! COVID has inserted itself in the process, in my mind, as a grumpy collaborator. It has posed challenges, created difficulties, but also forced us to re-visit ideas around the staging and props use which freed us to make more interesting choices. Choices that tend towards the abstract which I find more exciting theatrically, such as how do you engage with bodies from a distance? and are there objects/props that can do that work?
You would think that a several month delay would give time to consider and reconsider the design, but I didn’t give it much thought during the lockdown, mostly it was just floating around in my subconscious and every once in a while a thought would occur, and I would chat with Amy about it, or adjust something in the set or lighting plot. I guess it was nice to have the time for things to steep. The hardest thing was trying to remember what we were talking about and why we made certain decisions so long ago.
What was your overall vision for the show? How do you make the Don Juan myth fresh?
My overall vision is a version of austerity, something that is prevalent in our world right now as well as in the post-war worlds of the play. I have started to refer to it as “the Colour of Used.” -which isn’t exactly a colour, but more of a muted feeling or atmosphere. It’s a concept that includes re-using, making do with what you already have, sustainability, anti-capitalism, and entropy. Hopefully this will seep into all the elements of the design, so everything from the set to the props to the costumes to the paint, and even the lights should reflect this in some way.
We are not setting the play as a period piece, but thinking of Don Juan as coming back from all the wars, all the times. This decision enabled a freedom in our choices specifically in the costumes and props by allowing us to pull from stock without being too concerned about being “period specific” -which, of course, is considerably more expensive, and the movies do it better anyway. By opening up the time period to an an asynchronous “all times” it, by definition, includes 2021. To quote Amy:
“[We're] not staging the play as a period piece since it was a hybrid of post-
World War I Berlin seen through the filter of post-Weimar Republic 1936 and then adapted in 2012 and presented in 2020 [now 2021]. Furthermore, we add the filter of a Canadian audience watching and Canadian production team working on an English script based on an Austro-Hungarian author writing about post-war Berlin."
As far as making the myth fresh… all I can say is that we are doing it in 2021, and very aware of that.
What were the artistic influences that shaped your design choices?
Early on I looked at visual art, mostly German expressionist and post war paintings. I was also drawn to the installation artist William Kentridge and the materiality of work from Kris Verdonck. In Kentridge, I found an interesting and visceral grainy low tech/high tech approach, and with Verdonck there is a particular crossover conversation between the visual arts and theatre which is inspiring to me. Nothing specific from these two appear in the design, but they were present in my brain as I was starting to think about Don Juan.
Along with that I drew heavily from my own artistic interests and preoccupations and personal memories of visits to Berlin, as well as iconic representations of the city such as Wim Wenders' film “Wings of Desire”. I tried to not read the script for as long as possible, gathering information from chats with Amy and drawing from her abundant thinking and document generation. This was an attempt to de-emphasize the script, and give ideas time and space to develop and allow a design to emerge slowly like a risotto. It was a bit of a counterintuitive provocation to reduce the possible limiting potential of having to adhere to any preconceived notions that the script might exert. Of course, I eventually ended up going to the script and parsing details, once there was a clear design concept already in place.
"We are not setting the play as a period piece, but thinking of Don Juan as coming back from all the wars, all the times."
What's your favourite design element in the show?
I’m not sure- as I haven’t seen it all together yet- hopefully all the elements come together to create some sort of affective and not absolutely definable atmosphere… But if I had to choose, I think my favourite design element would be an idea of remnants that gather throughout the show, cumulating in the final scene as graves. The remnants are surplus furniture props, set pieces and scenic painting elements that remain in the stage picture after their corresponding scene is over. They create an overlapping assemblage of memories from previous scenes, and foreshadowings of coming scenes, and, in the end, re-gain their agency. I like how it suggests a non-linear time structure, and a sort of whirling mix up of the different scenes.
What has been the hardest part of the production to pull off technically?
It is a large show, with a lot of moving parts. There are six individual scenes, each with a different location and sensibility, so it was a challenge to conceive of that and (physically) find places for everything to live in a cohesive world- all while staying within the budget.
The pandemic didn’t help.
What do you get up to when you're not designing shows?
I paint. I draw. I walk. I wander around the internet. I worry.
Don Juan – Garett Ross
Landlady/Woman with Knife/Abbess – Rowe Anne Rivet
Woman 1/Nurse 3 & 5/ Rioter/Nun 1/ – Morgan Donald
Woman 2/Nurse 2/Rioter/Nun 2/Prostitute 2 – Julia Van Dam
Woman 3 /Nurse 4/Girl/Prostitute 1 – Hannah Wigglesworth
Woman 4/Nurse 1/Rioter/Nun 3/Young Woman – Sophia Healey
Woman 5/Matron/Mother – Kristi Hansen
Image by Jeremy Gordaneer
Director - Amy DeFelice
Fight Director - Patrick Howarth
Movement Coach - Marie Nychka
Voice Coach - Michael Kaplan
Set/Costume/ Lighting Designer - Jeremy Gordaneer
Sound Designers - Mic Herbold, Matthew Skopyk
Assistant Costume Designer - Rebecca Cypher
Assistant Lighting Designer - Rory Turner
Stage Manager - Frances Bundy
Props Assistant Stage Manager - Sherry Alvaro
Wardrobe Assistant Stage Manager - Liz Page
Dramaturg - Collette Slevinsky
Design Advisor - Guido Tondino
Directing Advisor - Jan Selman
Stage Management Advisor - John Raymond
Production Manager - Gerry van Hezewyk
Technical Director - Larry Clark
Lighting Supervisor - Jeff Osterlin
Head of Lighting - Anthony Hunchak
Head of Sound - Shane Marsh
Property Master - Jane Kline
Head Carpenter - Darrell Cooksey
Costume Manager - Joanna Johnston
Cutter - Julie Davie
Lead Painter - Rebecca Cypher
Department Chair/Artistic Director - Melanie Dreyer-Lude
Administrative Chair - Julie Brown
Theatre Administrator - David Prestley
Box Office Coordinator - Candice Stollery
Office Coordinator/Admin Assistant - Helen Baggaley
Marketing and Communications Associate - Erik Einsiedel
Check out our interview with some of the cast of Don Juan!