On Saturday, January 28th the Lion in the Streets cast and crew had the honour of having a noted playwright and dramatist come see the show and then tell them what she thought of it... at some length. Welcome to adjudication night.
If you've never been to an adjudication before, I recommend it; if you've got any interest in the craft of theatre, a good adjudication is riveting. The adjudicator comes into the show having already read and studied the play the way that a director would: they'll have formed their own ideas about the characters and the story beats, while still being open to the production's interpretations. Every aspect of the production on stage is subject to comment, from individual character choices to the selection of scene change music. Often adjudications come in two phases: a public phase, where the adjudicator addresses the audience with their overall impressions, and a private phase when they can question the actors and the production team in depth.
Our adjudicator was Lindsay Price, a professional playwright for over twenty years and an experienced dramaturg and workshop leader. (And also an old neighbour of ours: she studied at Laurier, and lived for a year on Princess Street.) Five minutes after she arrived at KWLT she was already in her seat and taking notes on the set design, and she barely stopped writing through the course of the show; as we've done in the past for adjudications, we kept the seat next to hers open so that her penlight wouldn't bother anyone. She kept her public adjudication short, about ten minutes all told; she started by talking about the play itself and how challenging a piece it was: it's an emotionally charged peek at the animal inside... it's chaos in civilization. After a bit of talk about the language and imagery of the play, she came around to the production itself. The first thing she mentioned was the set and how much she liked it, both in itself and as a vehicle for the play; she admired the flow of the space, and the broken glass that gave Isobel so many places to hide and watch from. She talked about the actors and their intensity: all of the actors have to go to dark places, and I never felt that the emotional moments were out of control for them. She spoke of the precision of the production, how smoothly all of the changes went and how well-rehearsed they must have been. And she talked about some of her favorite acting moments, in particular how successful the actors were at differentiating their several characters and how much humanity they gave to some apparently unsympathetic characters.
After a short break while the audience (mostly) cleared out of the lobby, the doors were closed and all members of the production present gathered for the private adjudication. The public largely served as an outline for the private: where she gave her impressions in broad strokes for the public, in the private adjudication she got into much more detail. While the public was basically a lecture, the private was far more of a conversation. The technical portions of the adjudication were fairly short, since most of the designers were unable to attend; Erin answered many of Lindsay's questions about the set, and they spent a while discussing broken glass and its role as a visual symbol in the production. The lion's share (if you'll pardon the usage) of the discussion was about the character choices, both by the actors and the director; Lindsay talked about both what she thought worked, and what other choices might have been made to good effect. (Having peeked into last Saturday night's performances, it seemed to me that the actors have taken her feedback to heart and refined even further the painful beauty of this show.)
So what happens next? This was a preliminary adjudication for the Western Ontario Drama League's upcoming festival, next month in Guelph; Lindsay has been travelling around this part of the province since November watching and adjudicating shows, both the ten contenders for festival itself and those (like our Poona last year) that just want the feedback. She'll be giving her report to the WODL general meeting on February 19th, at which point she'll announce a number of awards as well as the five shows chosen to advance to festival.
If you haven't seen Lion in the Streets yet, I implore you to come see it; this is maybe the most impressive piece of theatre I've ever seen on our stage. You've got three more chances as of this writing — we've got tickets available for each of the 9th, 10th, and 11th — with the possibility of at least one more.