Squirreled away in three separate classrooms on the campus of North Park University are the rehearsals for the three conjoined plays of Gjenganger: 3 Plays by JohnFosse— A Summer’s Day, Autumn Dream, and Winter. This report comes from Wm. Bullion, director of A Summer’s Day.
This is a very different play. Jon Fosse’s A Summer’s Day has only been done once in the U.S., but many times to great success in Europe. Fosse is a household name over there, but in my experience he’s second (debatably) only to Michel Tremblay in the pageant for Most Neglected International Treasure.
Does his New World obscurity come from our inability to “get” him? I don’t think so. I think we Americans don’t think we have the time to get him. Fosse’s tempo is glacial, his emotions eternally pre-volcanic. By the time you’ve finally gleaned what the characters are really feeling, it’s too late—the glacier has buried you and you can only lie there under it, decimated.
Over here, we have a culture that is very quick to interrupt, quick to cut to the chase, and our emotions, if not on our sleeves, are loosely in our holsters with the safeties off. We’re quick to the joke, and quicker to cut to the quick. So the cast of A Summer’s Day—my beloved collaborators Jan Sodaro, Mimi Sagadin, Marika Mashburn, Josh Harris, Mandy Walsh and Linsey Falls—has their work cut out for them. How do we have those intense emotions that are a hallmark of the Chicago actor, but not show them so much, and still have the deep impact that the piece requires?
Like acting Shakespeare, the answer is in letting Fosse’s text do the heavy lifting. If an actor concentrates on holding her emotions back, the text will out; she’ll find herself undone by the heartbreakingly sparse language Fosse employs, no matter how noble an objective front she puts up. It’s impossible not to be undone. This is a very different play and our audiences are in for a treat.
|Jan Sodaro & Marika Mashburn|