KAFKA'S APE to Return to Infinitheatre at Bain St. Michel, Nov 7-24
Infinitheatre presents the remount of its hugely successful world premiere of Kafka's Ape, Guy Sprung's adaptation of Franz Kafka's A Report to an Academy, from the original German. Kafka's Ape runs from Nov. 7-24 at Bain St. Michel. This disturbing satire is a theatrical tour-de-force starring company favourite Howard Rosenstein as keynote speaker, the primate Mr. Redpeter. Born in 1883, Kafka is one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Sprung is pleased to add this show to the theatre's history, "In addition to new Quebec work, part of Infinithe?a?tre's mandate is to tackle and adapt classic plays when the themes and characters are relevant. The last classic the company produced was a bilingual version of Beckett's End Game/Fin de partie in 2001."
Sprung is thrilled with the response the play garnered during its original run, "During the last week of the February performances we were turning audiences away. We are bringing the show back to be able to offer it to schools, particularly CEGEPs and universities, as well as Montreal audiences who missed the opportunity to catch one of the most exciting productions of the city's past theatre season." Sprung is looking forward to revisiting the production, "Last season was the premiere of a first draft of the play and an initial exploration of the central character. This new rehearsal period will allow the company to polish the script, deepen the tragic ape to human internal journey and have the time to expand and define the onstage relationship between Redpeter and Mrs. Redpeter."
Captured on the Gold Coast and imprisoned in a cage, Redpeter's only escape route is to become a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking member of the Peace Industry, the entrepreneurial world of mercenary soldiers. In detailing the journey of his enforced evolution from Apehood to Humanhood, Mr. Redpeter is a living embodiment of the irony that perhaps now he is more animal than he ever was as an ape. Witness a human become an ape become a human before your very eyes...
When Kafka's piece, Ein Bericht an eine Academie (Report to an Academy) was first published in 1917, the Great War was still raging. Millions of human beings were coerced into an orgy of killing each other and proving Homo sapiens to be vastly superior to gorillas and chimpanzees when it came to mass murder and genocide. Writer/director Guy Sprung has adapted Kafka's story, originally a tale of the captured simian turned into a celebrated variety show act, and has Redpeter end up as a distinguished member of the 'private security industry', a euphemism that white-washes his reality as a mercenary soldier. Sprung is certain Kafka will not object to this contemporizing of his work, "Just as Redpeter, in the original, had to distort his animal nature to be accepted into humanhood, so in our version he has to distort his nature even more to be assimilated into one of the most heinous occupations that Homo sapiens has embraced on its evolutionary journey- the privatization of the killing and the subjugating of other human beings for profit." Kafka's central thesis, that other animals have a dignity and a respect for Mother Nature and their own species which Homo sapiens have lost, has been nudged into the 21st century. Sprung adds, "My father's generation of Canadians who volunteered to fight in the Second World War must be rolling in their graves to see the military turned into a for-profit enterprise."
Kafka's works are filled with themes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality and mystical transformations. Infinithe?a?tre's version has brought into the context of Kafka's tale a more immediate access by having 'a report to an academy' (of nineteenth/early twentieth century scientists) become instead 'a keynote address to the annual general meeting' of the fictitious company, Graywater. Ironically one of the largest of the 'Private Military Corporations' doing business with the American government today is called Academi, formerly known as Blackwater*. Mercenaries are hired by the PMC industry from various international elite military units, including former Navy Seals, British SAS, Contras and Chilean Commandos. "Was Kafka able to see into the future?" queries director Sprung.
Kafka's theme of alienation resonates for Rosenstein, an actor who has chosen to retain his Austro-Hungarian Empire 'Jewish' name, "I often endure people making fun of it even after working with them for decades. It is fascinating and sometimes exhausting to wonder what goes on in the minds of others about me, simply because of my name." Kafka was a secular Jew; assimilated into Prague society, yet still an outsider. Rosenstein is pleased to revive his actor's journey into 'apedom', "My passion is to find a way in to a character and 'disappear' within it. That is how I find the mystery in performance, as a conduit for the universal subconscious. Redpeter is an extremely rich find for just such an attempt. Kafka is a genius for getting at the heart of the human experience." Sprung is impressed with the way Rosenstein had the guts to dive in to the character all the way; to dig down deep into millions of years of shared evolution and portray an ape-human with a tragic dignity. He notes, "We watch him as Redpeter and we can laugh, we can be moved, but we cannot escape the horrific, wrenching realization that the evolutionary law of survival of the fittest has set our species, Homo sapiens, firmly on the path of self-eradication."
Theatrically, audiences were fascinated to be part of the 'meta' experience of discovering their own ape-nature by watching both Rosenstein and Alexandra Montagnese, who plays Mrs. Redpeter, transform themselves into apes, then transforming themselves back into varying degrees of being human. Movement coaches Anana Rydvald and Zach Fraser helped the actors find the 'ape' in themselves. Rydvald explains, "I worked with them studying the movements and vocalization of the chimpanzees and then worked on perfecting that in ourselves-- going on all fours at first, finding the way they hold their shoulders, arms, back, etc., how they place weight and inhabit rhythm; what their faces do, how they look, eat, drink, threaten, cuddle, play, etc." Fraser then continued the work, taking the actors up on their feet and fine-tuning the movements. He adds, "Howard is an uncanny fit for the role. He brings together human and ape, sophistication and elegance, with raw animal force. Sometimes it is the ape that is more graceful and sometimes the human more brutish. There are many layers of nuanced movement incorporated while maintaining the flow of storytelling through the text. It is beautiful to see the moments when it all clicks- all of a sudden we have an ape speaking to us!"
The action of the play takes place in the ball room of the Ritz-Carleton Hotel. The ace crackerjack team supporting the actors' and the Bain St. Michel's transformation is set and costume designer, Ariane Genet de Miomandre; make-up designer, Vladimir Alexandru Cara; lighting designer, Eric Mongerson; spine-tingling video, sound designer and composer, Nikita U; movement coaches Zach Fraser and Anana Rydvald; and stage manager, Michael Panich.
Upcoming for Infinithe?a?tre in The Bain: The winners of this year's' Write-on-Q! playwriting competition will be announced at the beginning of November. Prizes for the competition have been substantially increased; first prize is now $3,000, a second prize of $1,500 and a third prize of $500 have also been established. Infinithe?a?tre's annual series of free public readings, The Pipeline, presenting three new Que?bec plays, runs Dec. 4-8. Direct from Japan, Hanafuda Denki (The Dance of Death), a Goth-Manga-Kabuki-Pop gender-bending musical treat for the senses, plays Jan. 13-18.
Kafka's Ape, presented by Infinitheatre, runs at Bain St. Michel, Nov. 7-24, 5300, rue St-Dominique (corner Maguire) Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 pm; Sunday matinee at 2:00pm. Tickets: Regular: $25; Students/Seniors: $20, Groups: $17 Infinitheatre 6Packs available (6 tickets for $75). Box Office: 514 987-1774 ext. 104, online at www.infinitheatre.com with PayPal, Ticket sales at the door are CASH ONLY. Media Opening Night: Friday, Nov. 8 at 8pm. Pay-What-You-Can Sunday: Nov. 10 at 2pm. Talkback Tuesdays: a post-performance informal discussion with the artists
Guy Sprung- Text adaptation, Director: Guy Sprung is a Montreal director, writer and actor, who has been practicing his craft for over 40 years. He also has the responsibility and good fortune of being the Artistic Director of Infinithe?a?tre.
Howard Rosenstein- Mr. Redpeter: Howard Rosenstein is born and based in Montreal. Past credits with Infinithe?a?tre include The Leisure Society, directed by Ellen David; and with director Guy Sprung on Arthur Holden's Ars Poetica and Father Land, on Amy Lee Lavoie's Rabbit Rabbit, on David Sherman's The Daily Miracle, and on Nicolas Billon's The Elephant Song. He was last seen performing strokes in The Bain in Jim Burke's Cornered, directed by Paul Van Dyck last March. Howard just finished shooting in an actor- driven production of Flip the Bird, which he hopes will see the light of day, and continues working on the web series Heroes of the North (heroesofthenorth.com).