Tag: Wagner Ring Cycle
Audiences Get a Little Taste of The Ring Cycle
by Paige Listerud
Time races mercilessly toward their February 13 opening, but both Joanie Schultz and Blake Montgomery looked as cool as cucumbers during an open rehearsal of The Ring Cycle — their 6 hour-long theatrical adaptation of the Wagnerian classic The Ring of the Nibelung. Someone wondered just what was Richard Wagner on when he wrote his Teutonic masterpiece and we, in our turn, could ask the same of The Building Stage’s co-directors. But since, quite obviously, Schultz and Montgomery have made no small plans, one must simply wait with bated breath for the finished product—bound to be either a theatrical extravaganza or a fiasco of epic proportions.
Open rehearsal baited us with only two scenes; one in which Rhinemaidens on aerial silks toy with the affections/lusts of Alberich the dwarf and another in which Wotan must come to terms with a colossal misstep–promising his sister-in-law, Freia, Goddess of Love, as payment to the Giants for building the fortress Valhalla. No doubt, part of this production’s fun will be its traffic in the most basic emotions—whether it’s an ugly guy getting spurned by unfeeling hotties or a frustrated wife’s attempts to rein in her not so bright, king-of-the-gods husband. Since we weren’t treated to any samples of the compositions by Kevin O’Donnell that are slated to accompany the action with a 4-piece rock band, it’s impossible to know just how much more visceral this show will get. It’s difficult not to over-anticipate pyrotechnic effects, ala KISS. Still, one must patiently restrain oneself.
The most difficult aspect may be drawing in an audience willing to stay for 6 hours, even if the directors have culled the show down from 16 hours of full-scale opera. Joanie Schulz, who recently received the 2009 Denham Fellowship Award, conspired with Montgomery two years ago to stage the production and has been working on the script since September. “I think the experience would not be so different from taking a weekend day to watch your favorite TV series on a DVD set,” she says. “And having sat through all of it in rehearsal, I have to say there is something gratifying about spending all day in a different world. Plus, it’s the middle of winter and there will be food and blankets and hot cocoa. I’ll certainly make sure everyone gets a blanket.”
As for the potential over-the-top nature of the production, “Obviously, the language is very heightened. There’s a lot of alliteration. You get used to it. But as far as the theater experience being too heightened, I watched reruns of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and the emotions of that show are high melodrama. So I think most people are quite used to that. In theater you can worry whether that’s too much, too big, too far out. But on the other hand, we are going for a theatrical experience and consciously using very theatrical techniques to tell a story. Besides the aerial silks, we’ll be using shadow puppets and other kinds of puppetry. Essentially, we’ll be using very old theatrical effects—things theaters were using long before Mary Zimmerman.”
Some of the more athletic performers, Rhinemaidens Lindsey Dorcus and Sarah Scanlon, meet the added difficulty of saying their lines while shifting themselves in various poses suspended 10 feet above ground. “We really intend to bring the sexy,” says Scanlon. “The stakes have to be high in our scene with Alberich. We’re stomping on his manhood. And from that he’s led to foreswear love and forge the Ring of the Nibelung—because that’s what sets up the rest of the action.”
“It’s really a lot of fun,” says Dorcus, “in that we’re seductive but also very childlike. We do not really comprehend the ramifications of what we’re doing. It’s all a game. We flirt and then reject him when we’re supposed to be guarding the gold. It’s also nice being otherworldly. There’s a certain freedom in not being human.”
That feeling seems common throughout the cast. Darci Nalepa, recently seen in Circle Theatre’s A Perfect Wedding, takes on a gender-bending role of the trickster Loge. “But more than playing a male, I’m playing an element, since my character is the embodiment of fire.” There is something rather superhero about the clan at Valhalla. Cast members further hint that there may be something tribal in the costuming, although none have actually seen anything from the costumes department. “That’s not because they’re keeping it secret. It’s that they’re as overwhelmed as we are.”
Indeed. Time speeds on. Updating an ancient myth for contemporary consumption demands maintaining a balance between making it accessible and keeping it eternal. (and keeping it in budget?) We’ll see how The Building Stage fares in its awesome adventure. Stay tuned.