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Michael Burtch lends a creative hand to upcoming theatre production

The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, presented by In Your Eyes Projects and Theatre Algoma, is coming to the Shingwauk Auditorium
2017-11-26 In Your Eyes Projects Michael Burtch
Scenic Designer Michael Burtch at work creating sculptures for In Your Eyes and Theatre Algoma's production of 'Girl in the Goldfish Bowl'. Photo by Dan Nystedt for In Your Eyes

In Your Eyes Projects and Theatre Algoma are teaming up to produce Canadian playwright, Morris Panych’s Governor General Award-winning play, The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl. This Sault Ste. Marie premiere production features scenic design created by Michael Burtch and is directed by Joseph Lauzon and Loretta Durat.

The production takes place in the Shingwauk Auditorium at Algoma University, Feb. 28 and March 1-3, 8 p.m. General admission tickets available at Station Mall Box Office and online here. For special reserved seating tickets, visit here. This event features a licensed bar. For details about the production, visit the website.

“Algoma University’s Theatre Algoma is pleased to welcome In Your Eyes Projects with their production of The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, the first of two plays to be produced this spring in our theatre.”  Producer Bob Cooper contends, “Theatre can play an important role in the life of a university by encouraging students to tap into their creativity and their ability to explore and discover relying on a broad array of disciplines while working as a group towards a common goal. We hope that this will encourage the community to visit and work on our campus. We are looking forward to a long-standing partnership with In Your Eyes Projects.”

“Playwright, actor, and director Morris Panych is a man for all seasons in Canadian theatre.” (Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia) He has written 30 plays that have been produced worldwide in a dozen languages. His plays possess a ‘theatre of the absurd’ style examining existential themes creating antic comedic surreal worlds. His work poses broad philosophical questions regarding human interaction and isolation and the relationship between fantasy and reality oscillating between hope and despair. Girl in the Goldfish Bowl is “arguably Morris Panych’s best play.” (Canadian Literature)

The year is 1962. The Cuban missile crisis is at hand, and in the small B.C. fishing town, Iris, a precocious girl of 10, proclaims, “These are the last few days of my childhood.” The death of her goldfish, Amahl, accompanied by air-raid sirens during the day’s school drill have ushered in the end of a universe that is inherently ordered, where the spirit of her departed goldfish can, of course, be reincarnated in a lost and amnesiac drifter, Mr. Lawrence who has arrived to save them all.

The cast assembled for this production includes a strong experienced ensemble of actors: Marc Beaudette, Lucas Beaver, Darielle Chomyn, Sandra Forsell and Penny Gribbon. They begin their work when rehearsals commence in December.

Girl in the Goldfish Bowl is a memory play and highly expressionistic where reality and fantasy appear intertwined. The play takes place in the memory and imagination of Iris and moments shift abruptly from comedic and farcical to tragic; from playful and surreal to heartbreakingly real.” Director Joseph Lauzon adds, “The play has always been a favourite of mine given its highly imaginative form and its ability to create a world filled with fantasy, conjecture and possibility while tackling issues that are so close to home such as loneliness, family relations, love and sacrifice, and our difficulties in reaching out and trusting in a cruel and tenuous world. It is a coming of age story that embraces the healing power of the creative imagination placed against a world intent on destruction.”

“What attracted me the most upon reading this play for the first time, cover to cover without moving from my seat, was the dialogue.” Director Loretta Durat muses, “Panych creates a miraculous group of characters through such very precise dialogue, not only in the specific ways they react to things but in the actual rhythm and tone of the speeches. I can't help but read the play out loud every time. Whether he is creating dialogue for a child who is also all seeing and an old soul or whether he is creating the harsh sound of detachment and cynicism or the stuttering rhythm of loss or a disjointed dialogue of a confused mind there remains still a mystery there for us to uncover and interpret and the audience to discover. It's a pretty exciting script. And leaves much to the imagination most definitely.”

“Last season, we had the pleasure of working with Michael Burtch and his contributions to Red greatly enhanced that production. His knowledge, creativity and passion were infectious, and the cast, crew, Loretta and I came to love him.” Joseph further maintains, “Given the expressionistic elements in Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, we immediately knew he was the person to create a scenic design that would make manifest that imaginative world that would honour the script, inspire the actors to play and transform the space for the audience.”

“Panych's Girl in the Goldfish Bowl is compellingly witty, sad, zany and dark, heavily layered and entertaining, all at the same time. For Joe and Loretta to have given me the opportunity to design a set for it is as exciting as it is challenging.” Scenic Designer Michael Burtch further explains that “the play unfolds in discursive memory sequences, it's dream-time sense of dislocation demands an intuitive, non-linear approach to the space that will spark the audiences' imagination. This play resonated deeply with me on many levels, not the least of which is the triggering of my own memories of the Cuban missile crisis and the absurd thought that diving under our schoolroom desks would save our asses from nuclear annihilation. The missile crisis of course is the pretext for exploring deeper existential issues and those in turn are driving my search for creative expressions that will do justice to this engaging play.”

While the Shingwauk Auditorium is the ideal intimate space for this highly inventive play, there is limited seating for each performance and producers Thomas Brandstetter and Bob Cooper urge people to buy their tickets early at the Station Mall Box Office before they are sold out.

For more information regarding this production and other IYE projects, go to the website.