She Stoops to Conquer

Starting June 18, Halifax’s Theatre Arts Guild tickles the funny bone with She Stoops to Conquer, the story of a wealthy English countryman who arranges for his daughter to meet the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. Director Jolene Pattison gives us the details.

How did you get involved with this production?
I got involved in this production though a series of happy accidents.  I was approached by TAG to direct a different show but circumstances made the rights to that show unavailable. When we started exploring alternatives, I kept coming back to She Stoops to Conquer – it is funny, it is a classic, it is a relatable story for all ages.  The TAG board agreed it was a good choice and we were “off to the races”.

Why the choice do do this particular piece?
As a director, She Stoops to Conquer is an exciting mix of new and familiar territory. The basic story is about young lovers (two sets of them!) finding each other; most of my directorial experience is in musical theatre so this is one of my favorite themes to explore. All of the characters are richly drawn and the show is well balanced in telling their stories. Part of the appeal for me in any show is the challenges. This play, written in 1773, does not use the vernacular; we have all been using our dictionaries and pronunciation guides! I love the wonderful vocabulary and beautiful phrasing though - almost everything sounds elegant. However, here are some words and phrases that are jarring to a modern ear; we want to keep our audience in the story so we have fine-tuned the script when appropriate to make sure we are faithful to the intent of the show.

What are the challenges in putting this work together?
I have enjoyed the challenge of telling this story without music; musicals have the luxury of telling us about the action through this added dimension.  Here, we are adding the extra dimension through costumes, props, set, and movement. It is amazing how differently a modern young person moves! I am taking a bit of pity on the actors and we have moved the story a few decades ahead to we can be in more comfortable costumes….the fact that I love Regency period settings has (almost) nothing to do with it.

What are the rewards?
The biggest reward in doing this kind of production is the opportunity to work with a talented team. I have a fabulous cast, most of whom I am working with for the first time. It is just a delight to see them discover all the nooks and crannies of the characters and of the dialogue. The production team is wonderful – creative, inspiring, reliable. I have acted with some before, crewed with others, and taught the remaining team members.  Yes, I teach Office Administration at the Community College; the graduates of the program have the best skill set for any project you might have on the go. I have one graduate on stage and three in my crew.  It is great when all the facets of life complement each other like this.

What's next on your own theatrical agenda?
What am I doing next? Very good question. I know we are planning a fundraising concert at St Matt’s in the fall. After that I think I will be ready for a musical. Something fun, something good for all ages, something with an uplifting ending…

She Stoops to Conquer
June 18-July 4
Pond Playhouse, Halifax