Well, no one lit me on fire after the first one, so let’s plow right ahead and post interview number two in the Visitorium’s pre-Fringe buildup! This time, I sat down at ANOTHER Bridgehead (note to self: there’s lots of ambient noise at Bridgeheads, and it makes transcription later a total bitch. STOP DOING INTERVIEWS THERE! Thanks very much.) to talk to JODI SPRUNG-BOYD, director of awesome recent shows like EURYDICE and MAMAMOUCHI. She is also co-founder of Theatre Sasa (with boyfriend Dylan George), who are mounting two shows at this year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival in Studio 311…THE OPEN COUPLE, and LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED.
Visitorium – Who and what is Theatre Sasa?
Jodi Sprung-Boyd – Sasa is a Swahili word, it means ‘Now’. Our company started overseas when we were in Dar-es-Salaam (in Tanzania), working over there, my boyfriend and I. We were over there for two years and while we were there we started working together, started creating theatre together. The name wasn’t decided upon until we came back we started deciding what we wanted to do here. I was finishing my Masters, he’s in Toronto, so we haven’t been working or collaborating together to much over the last 2 years because we haven’t been able to. We started thinking what the company was about, what we were trying to say…our backgrounds are in bouffon, in clown, a lot of our theatre is direct-addressed to the audience. And we were thinking about something that was relevant, motivating, exciting, something that was…Now. So ‘Now’ just kept coming back to us. And Sasa is a word in Swahili that’s used all the time, they’re living in the present moment all the time. They’re not thinking about tomorrow, they’re focussed on what’s happening in the present. All conversations end and start with Sasa…like we say ‘okay’, or ‘all right’, they say Sasa. So that’s how the name came to be.
V – What’s the story behind THE OPEN COUPLE?
JSB – The Open Couple is the first show that I did as part of my Masters in directing, that was in the spring of 2010. It was my first one, and I didn’t know many people here yet…it was with Mado Boyes Manseau and Ken Godmere. It was a really wonderful show and we had great feedback from it and I decided to do it again. We were originally trying to do it for the Fringe last year, we put in an application, were going to do a BYOV, but it just wasn’t coming together with the rights, and translation…Mado and I had pretty much translated the whole thing.
Dario Fo wrote it…he wrote it as an apology to his wife for his adulterous ways. Franco Rame announced on public TV that she was going to be divorcing Dario Fo, but Dario didn’t get the memo. He wrote this as an apology, it was never meant to be produced or performed. Franco shared it with a few of her friends and one of their Swedish friends really liked it. The first time it was performed was in Sweden. Dario Fo to this day refuses to ever perform in it, he will never play the man in this piece. The only English translation is a British translation, and a lot of the humour is cut out of it. We’ve watched Italian videos of it with Franco Rame performing in it…my Italian is so-so, and Mado’s French is stronger than mine (there’s a French translation as well). We put a new translation together because there’s a lot of modern, relevant information about what’s happening now and today, so we had to change it…even from last year to this year we’ve had to update sections of it. It’s been a lot of fun.
It’s about an open couple…about a woman whose husband decides that the best thing to liven up their relationship that’s getting dull and stale is to have an open relationship. She’s not really up for it, but she agrees because she loves him and she wants to make it work. This is a story about how open relationships are not easy, and don’t really work.
V – What can you tell me about your cast?
JSB – Mado Boyes-Manseau…I started working with her on the Open Couple, I got know here, she’s almost finished her undergrad at Ottawa U. She’s a wonderful production manager and stage manager as well. Ken Godmere was part of the original cast, but he’s doing his own one-man show this summer (Vernus says SURPRISE!) so Sean Sonier is taking the part of The Man. Sean is also doing undergraduate at Ottawa U…I worked with Sean on EURYDICE, he played the Lord of the Underworld. I’ve gotten to know Sean on a bunch of different projects, and the two of them know each other well. It’s great to work with them together. It’s telling a completely different story, and its really wonderful fining something totally new in the script, that is very different than how we did it a year ago. It’s a much younger show now, a younger couple. And also the stakes seem to be much higher, less slapstick physical comedy. That’s still in there, but the highs are higher and the lows are lower and the tension is greater with this couple. It’s exciting
V – Are you involved in the other Sasa show, LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED?
JSB – I am directing that one as well. I’m able to do two because one’s a remount and my lead is the same lead, so…Mado is pretty good at carrying it through. It’s not as much work as Lovebug Louie, so I’ve been back and forth for the past few weeks, between Toronto and here, rehearsing Lovebug Louie half the week, Open Couple half the week. Dylan George, my boyfriend, is performing in Lovebug Louie. That’s a piece originally titled NAPALM THE MAGNIFICENT and it’s written by David S.Craig…he directed THE FAN with Odyssey last summer. Dylan’s known David for a long time, and I just got to know David this past year. We kept talking about NAPALM because Lib Spry showed it to me in a class during my undergrad many, many years ago, and Dylan saw it as a kid. It’s a piece that Dylan and I both talked about it when we started dating, it was a piece that revolutionized our understanding of theatre and what theatre meant. What is this bouffon? What’s it about? It’s so pressing and so in your face, and yet it’s really exciting and telling us something that no other theatre is telling us.
We tried to put it together in 2004, we were both living in Montreal doing our undergrad, but we didn’t have the right tools. We had no training in bouffon. We talked to David about it, we started to rewrite sections of it, and we kind of put it to sleep. Then we went and trained overseas with Gaulier in Paris, worked on bouffon with him, and that helped to clarify a lot of what we were trying to do with the script. So it’s been a work in process for 6 years now, of looking at this script, editing chunks of it, getting excited about what to do with it. Trying to find a new character for Dylan as well…because it’s a bouffon show you can’t take David’s character (he wrote it but he also performed it) and have someone else do it. We had to develop a new bouffon character and David really encouraged that when we started talking to him about mounting the piece. We found Lovebug Louie. ‘Lovebug’ was a virus in the 80’s that annihilated all these computers…you opened an e-mail that said “I LOVE YOU” and it would set fire to your computer. So that’s where the name Lovebug Louie comes from. ’A Blessing From the Cursed’… David changed the name of the piece every time he performed it for different audiences, so we tried to find a name that works now, for today. There’s some chunks in it that are really new, we talk about how great it would be to be a dictator, how wonderful and exciting that would be because we have such addictive personalities. We talk about how wonderful it would be to be part of the 1%. Lovebug DREAMS of being part of the 1%…he creams to be part of the 1%. These are all little updates and changes we’ve made to the script to make it more modern, today, whereas in the late 80’s/early 90s when David performed it he talked about wanting his own death squad, and what happened with coffee in Columbia. We talk about Oil, in Canada, and ‘ethical’ oil. So those are the updates and changes we’ve made. The character in particular was a long time in making.
V – So…you guys have a headquarters in a Coffin Factory?
JSB – We do! In Toronto. I’m moving to Toronto on July 1st once I’m finished my Masters, and we’ve been looking for a work/live space, because Dylan’s just got a tiny little bachelor apt. there right now. Looking, looking, talking to friends, and nothing like that is ever posted or advertised. Finally got a call from a friend who said ‘My friend is living in this building and there’s another space, and if you’re interested you have to call now, and go see it NOW.’ So we went and it’s this beautiful little space in an old coffin factory down at King and Bathurst, right down on the water. So we’ll have our own rehearsal space, which is great for a brand new company just starting out.
THE OPEN COUPLE and LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED both play from June 14th to 24th at the Ottawa Fringe Festival in Studio 311, on Ottawa U campus (check the Fringe website for prices, map and showtimes). And stay tuned tomorrow for Fringe-terview #3!