Revisionist fairy tales kick off Fountain School's theatre season

"She Herself is a Haunted House" runs through Saturday

- October 22, 2015

"Tell us another." (L-R): Ivy Charles, Chloe Forrest, and Madeleine Tench portray a chorus of dead Brides hungry for ghost stories, with Peter Sarty as their common lover, The Marquis. (Nick Pearce photos)
"Tell us another." (L-R): Ivy Charles, Chloe Forrest, and Madeleine Tench portray a chorus of dead Brides hungry for ghost stories, with Peter Sarty as their common lover, The Marquis. (Nick Pearce photos)

You know these stories … but you don’t know them this way.

The Fountain School of Performing Arts is launching its annual season of theatrical performances this week with its first production: She Herself is a Haunted House, an adaption of Angela Carter’s twists on several classic fairy tales.

See: Fountain School Stage Productions 2015-16

Directed by Theatre Professor Roberta Barker, the play is written by Fountain School alumnus Kristin Slaney, who graduated three years ago with her BA (honours) in Theatre.

“Roberta was my professor during my undergrad in Theatre Studies, and I've kept in contact with her since graduating,” says Slaney, who is now finishing her third year of a masters of fine arts degree at New York’s Columbia University.

“Roberta was the one who first introduced me to the stories, and who had the idea for an adaptation. Through her and discussing it with her I came to become engaged with the stories, and really fell in love with Angela Carter.”

"How beautiful the snow in mid-winter. Invincible and immaculate." Rachel Smith as The Snow Child. She also portrays The Woman.

Carter (1940-1992) was a renowned English novelist and journalist who often dabbled in fantasy and magical elements in her fiction. Among her more famous works is 1979’s The Bloody Chamber, which contained 10 stories loosely based on classic fairy tales.

Slaney has taken Carter’s macabre and passionate spin on these tales, which include everything from Puss-in-Boots to Bluebeard, and woven them into a singular production.

“These are very gothic stories,” says Slaney. “It will be a very Halloween-y time, I suspect. Lots of ghost imagery, haunted feelings.”

Alexandra Cubbon plays Puss-in-Boots, modelled after the fairy tale of the same name.

When it came to composing original music for the production, the Fountain School also turned to some new-ish members of its alumni ranks. Craig Lang and Alex Arnold both graduated with their Bachelor of Music degree this past May. The two worked together in their undergrad studies, including on a final composition project.

“We wanted to score an action scene [in a movie] that was appropriate to score, but didn’t already contain music, so we did the Pentagon break-in from Mission Impossible,” says Lang, describing the experience of watching their final project become a live performance synced with the film.

The two were connected with Dr. Barker through Fountain School faculty member Jerome Blais, who approached them when Dr. Barker was looking for a student who might be interested in working on the play. They ultimately decided to collaborate on the project.

“The score Craig and I composed is very dark and cinematic, and matches the various tones of the play,” says Arnold. “Early on we knew that there was going to be a lot of sound. I don't have an exact figure but I would say close to 80 per cent or more of the play is accompanied by sound in some way.”

“The best part was being able to collaborate with so much talent,” says Lang. “Not just Alex, but the entire crew and cast. There’s so much energy, and so much talent."

"You have a fine throat, m'sieur, like a column of marble." Kiera Lunn as Countess Nosferatu and Evan Rudic as The Solider in the story "Lady of the House of Love."

As for Slaney, she’s been in New York during the rehearsal process, but was able to workshop the first draft of the script with actors last January and has been collaborating with Dr. Barker via Skype throughout the process.

“Getting to come home and see my work happen at the place where I first started writing plays is pretty exciting to me,” she says. “I'm so looking forward to it!”

She Herself is a Haunted House runs through Saturday at the Dalhousie Arts Centre’s Sir James Dunn Theatre. Performances are nightly at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are available from the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office.


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