Sage Theatre is starting their exciting new season with some big changes.
First, there’s a recent move from their old home at the Pumphouse Theatres to the West Village Theatre. Then there’s the fact that they have also recently come off of a successful matching campaign, where they exceeded their fundraising goal.
So to say that the past few months have been busy for the company would be an understatement.
But that quick move to the new location also meant the need to launch their first performance much earlier than they had anticipated, triggering them to jump to the challenge and get a show ready in record time.
Artistic director Jason Mehmel is taking everything in stride, and is looking forward to their season opener, Apple by Vern Thiessen, a story of “sex, secrets and second chances” that doesn’t fit the regular romantic triangle mold. After reading many plays this year, Apple struck a chord with Mehmel.
“In terms of where I was in my life, where we are in Calgary culture and Canadian culture, that play spoke to me, even though it’s not a new play,” he says. “In a lot of ways that play pushed ahead of a lot of very great plays (that I had read) specifically because of how it impacted me — this is a play I feel very personally connected to because I think I have been where these characters are, metaphorically. I imagined the play when I read it and it sort of leapt off of the page.”
According to Mehmel, “intimate” is a word that they use to describe themselves at Sage, but since taking over as artistic director he has taken it further, to “bold, intimate, thoughtful.”
“That bold, intimate, thoughtful phrase has sort of become the three things that I will have to judge in the play and choose based on that, and I feel that Apple definitely does that.”
With Apple, Thiessen has created a scenario wherein the male character, Andy, finds himself unhappy in his marriage when he meets a young, mysterious woman, Samantha. Matters are further complicated when Andy’s wife Evelyn is diagnosed with cancer, and we see these relationships shifting. Mehmel further considers the evolution of these characters’ relationships, in that “whether or not we say it, to this person we are a friend, to this person we are a lover, to this person we are a husband, or, this situation makes us a victim or a hero or caregiver or what have you.”
“And in this play these characters essentially keep redefining themselves based on how their situations are changing,” he says. “The circumstances bring them to the points where they need to make these decisions about how they are defining themselves, so it’s much more incidental and I think that’s what gives it it’s sort of true life feeling.
“This is a play that isn’t overtly trying to explore any particular political subject other than the subject of people living together, the depth of relationships, and how we identify ourselves in our relationships.”
Sage productions often raise morality issues for their characters, and indeed for the audience as a participant, encouraging you to consider “what would you do in this situation?”
With regards to Apple, Mehmel elaborates on the complexity of the story and the issues raised: “What’s interesting is the actual stuff that happens in the play – there’s infidelity, there’s a woman who is diagnosed with cancer – but the play is not about infidelity and it is not about cancer, it’s about how these characters are choosing their lives through these events.”
The story also has some interesting twists and character development, and, unlike romantic comedies that are formulaic with their trajectories, Apple, according to Mehmel, “goes left when all of those other stories would go right. There are no melodramatics, and I think that’s actually what makes the audience lean into it because so much more powerful than anger is love and forgiveness.”
Apple by Vern Thiessen is presented by Sage Theatre and opens Thurs., Sept. 14 running until Sun., Sept. 23 at the West Village Theatre. Tickets and info at sagetheatre.com.
Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.