Dean & Michele on Creating AS I LAY DYING

Why As I Lay Dying?

Michele: Language, images, gestures and freedom of the imagination have been our obsession for the last 34 years. We have explored the language Julio Cortazar, Boccaccio, Dante, Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Brothers Grimm, The Bible, Moliere, Gozzi and Botho Strauss, among others. We read William Faulkner many years ago and were fascinated with his unique structure and incredible vocabulary. This journey back to Jefferson to honour the promise made to Addie Bundren that she be brought home to be buried transgresses triumphantly all the principles of good taste. Scandalous, it becomes heroic. This is what appealed most to us as artists.

William Faulkner claimed to write the novel in 6 weeks and that he did not change a word of it.  What was your process for the adaptation?

Dean: Michele and I spent the first month of work alone adapting the novel.  We searched for ways to transform Faulkner’s fiction to the theatre. Then we began to work with the actors in the space taking a number of the scenes that we had written and searching for the mise-en-scene of the production. We worked day in and day out part time for about a year. And then for the last 5 weeks we worked full time. We work like artisans. We search for solutions. We follow our hunch. We adapt the text and write with our bodies because images and gestures are as important to our adaptation as the words.

The current showing is a “workshop presentation”.  Can you explain what a workshop presentation is?

Michele: Our process of creation involves a long period of development with the actors in the space. It is vital that the collaboration that begins in the space with the actors continues with the designers. In order to do this it is important to put the work-in-progress in front of an audience. We work in an empty space with essential props and costumes making the lighting a very important part of the story telling so what you will see at the Theatre Centre this week is a very polished piece of theatre that we will continue to be developed next year at which time we will premiere the work and invite the theatre critics to come and review it.

What are the next steps for As I Lay Dying?

Dean: The next step will be to go back to the rehearsal space to continue to fine tune all the details of writing, acting and the mise-en-scene and then next season remount and premiere it. We will tour this show over the next few years, as well.

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