Taking Amadeus into an asylum felt natural for director Chari Arespacochaga.
Also an MFA student at the University of Victoria, Arespacochaga brings her vision of Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning play to Phoenix Theatre March 10 to 21.
Antonio Salieri tells his tales from an asylum on the last night his life, sharing memories including devious schemes to destroy the career of his rival, music genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“As written it is not an accurate source of history, it’s a witty retake … We’ve taken the re-imagining a step further and we’ve set it in an asylum,” Arespacochaga explained.
“Coming from that we remained with it as him being in an asylum, driven to this asylum by all those memories that have haunted him all his life… It gives him an urgency, compelling the story.”
Arespacochaga headed to UVic with an already-strong resumé in professional theatre. She’s directed major Broadway shows in Manila and Singapore and her credits include Footloose The Musical, Doubt, Spring Awakening, The Full Monty, Legally Blonde, Avenue Q, Rock of Ages and several Disney productions including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Tarzan.
“I always hope for someone walking in who’s never seen theatre before and will want to see any sort of theatre afterwards. There’s always a hope of audience building no matter what you do,” she said.
Fourth-year student Pauline Stynes also returned to school, following a career in tailoring, to be on the designing side of costumes. Her costumes for Amadeus help the audience blend the line between Salierie’s characters – the tattered asylum patients and affluent members of the 18th-century court.
Faculty member and set designer Allan Stichbury creates the skewed world of the asylum by using a dramatically raked stage lined with many doors to create a minimalist corridor that references the actual 17th-century Bedlam Hospital.
Sound design by Brian Linds will infuse the production’s soundscape with iconic classical melodies (including some works that were recorded on the UVic School of Music’s own pianoforte played by theatre student Christopher Green). Lighting by instructor and alumnus Michael Whitfield transports the audience into Salieri’s asylum, where the luxuries of the past mix with the decrepit present. Fourth-year student Jaymee Sidel is the stage manager.
“It’s a great interactive mix of students and industry pros. New thoughts colliding with more experienced thoughts. It’s been dynamic,” said Arespacochaga. “I’ve always tried to take a chance on a younger or newer designer and mix it up, with maybe a designer I’ve used six times already. That way there’s always a new point of view that can open your eyes to a different side of things.”
Public previews run March 10 and 11 followed by evening shows March 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 21.
Tickets range from $14 to $24 at the box office 250-721-8000. Visit phoenixtheatres.ca for more details.