OUT LOUD Theatre Focuses on the Mind
Providence’s ever-challenging OUT LOUD Theatre spent last year exploring the public domain, with material such as Dracula and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus free to use, develop and interpret at will. The result was a grab bag of vision, sound and fury that often reached further into some of the material than any imagined possible. For 2017, artistic director Kira Hawkridge streamlines her focus on the mind and individual mental health with a season titled “This Way Madness Lies.” The three-part series kicked off March 10 with Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade, featuring Rico Lanni as Jean-Paul Marat and Natasha Cole as Charlotte Corday. In June, OUT LOUD explores an original adaptation based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 6,000-word short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, featuring Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley, Ottavia De Luca, Sarah Leach, Erika Rethorn and Kerry Giorgi. The women will rotate roles over the course of a 15-performance run, playing The Woman and The Wallpaper, respectively. The season concludes in November with Shakespeare’s King Lear, featuring Alan Hawkridge in the title role.
“Marat/Sade, The Yellow Wallpaper and King Lear all provide road maps to dive deeper into this season’s overarching concept and exploration of madness, the mind and our individual mental health,” says Kira Hawkridge. “We begin the season in a facility occupied by various patients with Marat/Sade. The world is expansive. We are experiencing a play within a play. The actors are existing in two parallel worlds at any given point — one of the patient, one of character, one of the historical revolution that they are retelling, and one of the actual revolution that is being manufactured around and through them. The Yellow Wallpaper closes in, focusing our scope to one room — one set of specific circumstances: five women experiencing a collective and terrifying evolution that cycles round and round on an endless loop. And we end the Season with King Lear, inside of one individual mind and the way that particular mind sees and experiences the world around them.”
Of the three productions in Season Five, Hawkridge reluctantly singles out The Yellow Wallpaper as the most ambitious exercise. “With five core ensemble members, we’re working to devise this piece over a one-year period,” says Hawkridge. “We have already gone into rehearsals and plan to open next June/July. Our goal is to create five individually devised pieces in which there is one woman and four ‘women in the walls,’ representing ‘the wallpaper.’ Each night the ensemble will rotate, creating a five-part production piece that in theory could endlessly loop. Performances will span Thursday through Monday, each night featuring a different ensemble member in the role of the ‘the woman.’ The piece will be devised by an all-female cast and will be one of the most extensive undertakings OUT LOUD has ever attempted.”
Up first, however, is Marat/Sade and OUT LOUD ensemble members eagerly weigh in on their feelings concerning Season Five. Ensemble member Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley (Marat/Sade’s Simonne Evrard) tells Motif, “This piece has brought me to a whole place outside my comfort zone that I didn’t even know existed. This ensemble works together very well, experiencing a world that is over-stimulating, unpredictable, raw and vulnerable. For me, Simonne requires a new level of exposure and openness, of tension and anxiety, and yet she has a surprising quiet strength underneath a fragile surface. She fascinates me. I am thrilled to share such a nuanced character with our audience. It’s normal for us to have an assumption of what ‘crazy’ people in an asylum are like, and I’m looking forward to showing just how human each individual character truly is.”
Natasha Cole, who plays Marat/Sade’s Charlotte Corday, offers her viewpoint: “Navigating the layers of (Peter) Weiss’ play … from the world of (the asylum) Charenton, to the world of Sade‘s play, is both challenging and thrilling. As the play graphically depicts the events of the French Revolution, a very real revolution bubbles beneath the surface of the asylum walls. Witnessing each patient’s personal evolution treated with humanity is joyful, uncomfortable and heartbreaking. We’re building a delicate animal with immense care, so I hope audiences can enter Marat/Sade with open minds and moveable hearts.”
Exploring mental health issues in the context of theater is certainly not new, but Hawkridge seeks to tie the season together in a manner that will facilitate a broader discussion on a topic that ranges from the personal to the universal, from family to politics and our common humanity. The challenge is to make the mental world a physical one, one of Hawkridge’s singular talents.
“Our ensemble is ready to dive into the boundless potential and utter magic of our mental capacity and the individual internal worlds that we all inhabit,” says Hawkridge. “We are eager to create experiences through various lenses: questioning, challenging and interfacing with the unknowable.”
OUT LOUD’s The Persecution & Assassination of Jean-Paul MARAT as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de SADE runs through March 19 at 134 Mathewson St in Providence. Tickets are extremely limited. To purchase online, visit eventbrite.com/e/out-loud-theatre-presents-maratsade-tickets-31744308080.