Farcical fantasy features wizards, pendants and swordfights

It’s easy to find parkas, gold pans and sled dogs in the Yukon. Swords, however, are hard to come by.

It’s easy to find parkas, gold pans and sled dogs in the Yukon.

Swords, however, are hard to come by.

In fact, Anton Solomon recently had to rent six swords from Edmonton and buy another one from an armoury in Vancouver.

The artistic director of Moving Parts Theatre is not wearing tights or a feather in his cap, but he is a fan of farcical fantasy and sword work nonetheless.

And with eight swordfights in the works, Moving Parts’ upcoming production Swordplay promises some spectacular fights.

“It’s why movies like Lord of the Rings, Tristan and Isolde, Gladiator, Alexander and Troy are so popular,” said Solomon.

“Because of the archaic weapons, people think it’s kind of quaint, romantic, cool, neat.”

Stage fights do for visualists what poetry does for intellectuals, he said.

It’s not about glorifying the violence, it’s about using the fights to illustrate or magnify the emotional moment between actors, he added.

“We are using the swords as a metaphor for how people deal with conflict.

“Sword fighting is a martial art and it has lines and beauty just like dance does — the rhythms swords make when they impact make their own statements.”

It’s an interesting thing to watch, he said.

And during the last few months of rehearsal, the cast found an unwitting audience in the bystanders who became mesmerized by their swordplay practices.

“Wherever we rehearse — in the hallways, outside the Wood Street School — anyone walking by stops and watches.

“There is a fascination attached to it,” said Solomon.

“We could do a play that had nothing but swordfights in it and people would come, or they would enjoy it at the very least.

“It’s more interesting than a gun fight — bam — done.”

However, Swordplay does offer more than just swordfights.

It’s a farcical fantasy set in the wizard-infested kingdom of Pendar.

There is good and evil, an outlaw princess disguised as Captain Jack, a mean thunder god called Tundar and a series of characters who sound like they fell off the shelves of a drugstore, including Barium, Barbitol and Raeban.

It’s lots of fun, said Solomon.

“And if you don’t smell ham leaving the theatre, then there’s something wrong.

“You’re not taking away life’s lessons, but it will make you laugh,” he said.

“Theatre is one of the few art forms that relies upon the presence of an audience. You can paint alone, or play music alone, but in theatre the audience is needed to create the moment with the actors. And the set, the props, the lights, all that is gravy.”

It is similar to watching sports; people are there to share the moment together as it occurs, said Solomon.

“Theatre is about doing the things in public that are normally done in private.”

Solomon chose Swordplay to push the limits of his theatre company.

“I give the actors parts they will have a difficult time doing, so they are forced to stretch, develop and step outside their comfort zone,” he said.

“It is like weightlifting, why lift the 20-pound weights when you know the 30-pound ones will do more for you.

“As Jerzy Grotowski said, ‘You must go through the boundaries of pain and terror to perfect art.’”

In this case, performing over-the-top, exaggerated, farcical theatre is Moving Parts’ challenge.

At first glance, farce seems to step away from the modern theatre aesthetic, which is to be believable, said Solomon.

But farce must be believable too.

“You still have to play for truth, but the truth is just a different reality than ours.

“It’s a matter of accepting that we will do odd gasps; we will strike poses when we speak and we will bolt out the door and come back again because we have forgotten our socks.

“It’s kind of like doing Shakespeare, where you have to accept that they are speaking in verse as a reality, even though nobody on the planet speaks in verse on purpose,” he said.

Swordplay is a far cry from Moving Parts’ November double-header, the dark drama of Caryl Churchill’s Fen and David Mamet’s Reunion.

“That’s the thing with small communities, you can’t be the same person on stage,” said Solomon.

“The bigger your palette as an actor, the further your range.”

Solomon is training actors. That’s what Moving Parts is all about.

The Guild Society is a community company. Nakai focuses on new works, while Moving Parts is an actor driven company that functions as a training ground, said Solomon.

The company trains once a week all year, and much more frequently when preparing for productions.

This April, Moving Parts plans to run a weekly improvisation piece based on suggestions given by the audience the previous week.

The first show will be built on suggestions garnered from the audiences of Swordplay.

“There will be a space in the program for them to write their favourite fairy tale suggestions,” said Solomon.

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Theatre from the University of Saskatchewan, Solomon went on to study at the Banff School of Fine Arts.

Trained in fight choreography, he was actually the fight choreographer for Swordplay at its 1990 premiere at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.

He first came to Whitehorse in ’91 to direct the Guild’s production of Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet. And returned two years later to direct its production of MacBeth.

During this run, he fell in love with the stage manager, and married.

In ’97 the couple moved north for good.

Solomon started his own company because he got tired of waiting for theatre gigs.

“There is not a time that I can remember when I was not thinking of theatre,” he said.

“My friend once said, ‘It’s one thing to pick a career, but this one picked you.’”

It may have picked Solomon, but it doesn’t pay the bills. He works in Human Resources for the federal government by day and haunts the theatre by night.

Swordplay runs February 1st through 4th and 7th through 11th at Porter Creek Secondary School, in the Hemlock Café.

Tickets are $12 and are available at Well-Read Books. Shows begin at 8 p.m. sharp.

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