"Anchored in truth": on directing and comedy with Beau Jest director, Jessica Garden!

 

Tell us a little bit about Beau Jest. What draws you to the story?

Jessica Garden

 

It has been such a privilege to delve into this hilarious and heartwarming play with this incredibly talented and dedicated ensemble. 

In a time where division and polarization is intrinsic to our culture, it's so refreshing to engage with a story that is about connection, relationships and bridging divides.  At its heart, this romantic comedy is about coming of age, navigating familial and romantic relations and discovering what it means to exercise true autonomy which requires one to take responsibility for their own feelings, actions and choices.

One of the things that I love most about Beau Jest, is the way James Sherman examines the nuanced dynamic between grown children and their parents.  This script so beautifully explores what it means to be a parent, a child, a brother, a sister and poses the pinnacle question: What do we do when our beliefs, worldview, and ideas about what is best for us shift, and no longer align with our parents’ values and hopes for us?

It is compelling to see the absurd lengths that Sarah is willing to go to, in order to please her parents.  However, through the course of the play, we realize that as long as Sarah chooses to hide behind a facade, in an effort to avoid conflict, she also negates any possibility of true and authentic relationships with her parents.  As her psychologist brother states in the play: “The only one who is keeping you from living you own life is you, but when you consider your own feelings, it’s scary isn’t it?   Feelings are scary.  Because then you have to take responsibility for yourself.”

I am excited to share Sarah’s journey with audiences.

 

Last year, you directed The Miracle Worker, which is definitely not a comedy. Do you approach directing comedy differently? Tell us a little bit about your process.

 

It was a honour to direct The Miracle Worker last season.  Whether I’m directing a comedy or a more dramatic piece, I always approach it the same way.  We start with the story.  We explore meaning and we explore the characters, their relationships to one another, and the world that we create for them to inhabit.  We start with connections between the characters, we start with what is real and what is true to the lived experiences of these characters. 

I often say in rehearsals that trying to be funny kills the humour.  What is always most true and most compelling and (in the case of James Sherman’s delightful and pithy script) what is funny, is what is anchored in truth and importance to the characters.  Some of the most compelling comedy in this script comes from conflict and I am awed by the beautiful work the actors are doing bringing their characters to life.

 

What moment are you most excited about people seeing in the show?

 

It’s always a unique pleasure to share with audiences the play that we work for many months to collaboratively create together.  One of the gorgeous things about this play is that everyone who sees it will be able to recognize something of themselves, of their family dynamics and of their pain and joy in the characters and relationships we see unfold. 

In this sense, live theatre is truly a unique medium as it reflects our own humanity.  Each of us has been a child and many of us have been parents; the universal truths in this play will be accessible to audience members of all backgrounds and in all stages of life.

 

This show will be in the Abby Arts Addition, which is essentially just a bit hall. Tell us a little bit about what the set and design will be in this "created" theatre.

 

I’m delighted to be presenting this play with Gallery 7 in the Abby Arts Addition.  It is always a challenge, but a rewarding opportunity to create a stage from scratch and I have been so delighted to collaborate with Calvin Baker in creating a vision for the space that underscores the important themes examined in this play.

Our hope is that each audience member will be drawn into the world of the play and feel as though they are sitting in Sarah Goldman’s living room as the drama, comedy, and romance unfolds. The nature of the lighting, sound, set and props design beautifully compliments the script and venue, giving audience members a wonderfully intimate theatre experience.

 

What can audiences expect when the lights go down?

Mikayla Wust as Sarah.
Photo by Dianna Lewis.

 

You will see the story of a young woman who is at a critical crossroad where she is forced to make two life altering and difficult decisions.  Sarah must decide whether or not to be honest with her parents about who she loves, who she is and what she envisions for her life. Or, she may choose to continue deceiving her parents and by doing so, sacrifice a real relationship with her family.

Secondly, Sarah also has to make a difficult choice between two lovely, but very different suitors.  Will it be the adoring ad executive or the charming aspiring actor? 

 

How have rehearsals been going so far?

 

When we went into the rehearsal process in November, the tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania had recently occured.  This horrific hate crime was on all of our minds and we each felt even more acutely, the profound responsibility we share to bring this family of Jewish faith to life in an authentic and respectful way.  We have been humbled by the opportunity to explore the Shabbat and seder celebrations during rehearsals and we have again and again come back to reflection upon Gallery 7’s Judeo-Christian mandate and origin. It’s beautiful to recognize that communities of faith have so much more that unites than divides. 

It’s been a gift to work with highly trained and experienced actors, and more importantly, actors who are passionate, not only about the art form, but about realizing their characters and about telling this story.  The dynamic in the room has felt like family from day one.  I am so grateful to each and every one of them and to their families who enable them to do such wonderful work.

I so hope you will join us at the theatre and take in this hilarious and charming story about family and love in all its forms.

 


 

 Beau Jest is coming Jan 25 to Abbotsford—get your tickets now!