Binnie Brennan plays viola with Symphony Nova Scotia. One day in the middle of a performance, a spider swooped down on a trail of gossamer and made itself at home on her instrument. She continued to play. The incident made an impression, and Ms. Brennan committed it to paper as a short story. She gave the story to David Overton, a playwright and professor of theatre at Dalhousie.
Now A Spider’s Tale is enjoying its world premiere. The entire fourth-year acting class (almost 20 students), 37 members of Symphony Nova Scotia, students in costume studies and in a playwriting class, guest conductors, composers and designers are all taking part. Oh, and a guest director — Hans Boggild. He starts off our interview by estimating that bringing A Spider’s Tale to the stage has involved more than 200 people and been two years in the making.
See photo essay: A Spider's Tale. Photography by Nick Pearce.
“I’m relatively late in the process,” he adds, raving about the set design by Dal’s Peter Perina. “We have an incredible design.”
The set is incredible – a mirrored spider web suspended over the heads of symphony players and platforms to add extra room and depth for performers. The space is still packed – especially during key sequences like an 18-person chase scene, accompanied by original music by Chris Palmer and Zach Florence.
Mr. Boggild has roots at Dalhousie — “way back about 30 years ago,” he was an English major and already involved in the theatre. “This for me,” he says thoughtfully, “feels like coming home.”
Leading up to opening night, it's crunch time — meaning four hours of rehearsal weekdays and a full day on the weekends. Performers are honing their mime and physical theatre abilities and, of course, their musical aptitude. A former artistic director of Eastern Front Theatre, Mr. Boggild speaks admiringly of the students; they’ve risen to the challenge.
“Always with a new play, you discover things as you put it on its feet … (the students) are very dedicated and working very hard. But I don’t think about the fact that they’re students. I think of them as artists.”
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