"A salute to our roots as a faith-based theatre": Ken on Pageant Wagon Theatre
Coming up next week, we are presenting a unique theatrical offering, live-streamed directly to your home, called Pageant Wagon Theatre!
We asked Ken Hildebrandt, our Executive & Artistic Director, to give us some insight into what it is and what we can expect to see.
1. What is Pageant Wagon Theatre? Where did the idea come from?
Pageant Wagon Theatre is a direct reference to the Medieval drama festivals held between 1200 AD and the late 1500s.
These festivals featured plays created and performed by various guilds and were based on familiar Bible stories. Entire cycles of plays, starting with the Creation and ending with the Last Judgement, were performed over several days, and in conjunction with important Church celebrations. Some cycles were performed on decorated carts or wagons that rolled through the City, allowing crowds at each stop to see each and every play in the cycle.
When we were brainstorming ideas for what to do for our G7 Lite: Service Pack 29.5 season in light of COVID restrictions and our need to adapt our programming to suit an online environment, we saw an opportunity to present dramatic readings of plays from both the Medieval and Elizabethean period that explored matters of faith and spirituality, a salute if you will, to our historical roots as a faith-based theatre. These plays are not produced often, but they are important artifacts that chart the emergence and growth of Western drama in general, and religious drama in particular.
The fact that we couldn't have in-person events over the past few months, and that we're literally bringing these plays to where the crowds are made the connection between past and present rather interesting. With our event, city parks and town squares are replaced by people's homes, and the ancient pageant wagon is replaced by people's televisions and computer monitors.
Thus, Pageant Wagon Theatre.
2. Why did you pick Everyman, The Second Shepherd's Play and Macbeth?
Everyman and The Second Shepherd's Play are early examples of religious drama, a tradition of theatre that continues even to this day. As a theatre, we are particularly interested in how faith and the human experience intersect, and the pandemic offered us an opportunity that doesn't come by very often to explore these ancient forebears of faith-based theatre, and re-introduce these plays to a modern audience.
Macbeth may not be a religious drama in the truest sense of the term, but it does explore themes related to spirituality, as well as the pitfalls of greed, lust, control, power and misaligned allegiances. These are important religious themes even though they may not be directly connected to a Bible story or parable.
3. How is this different from a regular Gallery 7 production?
Pageant Wagon Theatre is quite different than our usual Gallery 7 productions.
First, we're performing what we call 'dramatic readings' of these plays. Actors are 'reading' the plays but in character. The focus is on the text of the plays, rather than all the trappings of sets, costumes and lighting.
Second, we will be live-streaming these plays into people's homes. While we'd love to have people enjoy these plays in our usual venues and as fully-realized productions, we just can do that right now due to the pandemic.
With that said, we have maintained the 'live' element with these performances. Actors will be on the Abbotsford Arts Centre stage performing in front of cameras each night in real-time so anything can happen, just like in a live performance.
4. What can we expect to see when we tune in from home?
Audiences can expect a unique theatre experience. You'll see our wonderful actors performing with energy and enthusiasm as they share these thought-provoking and entertaining plays.
Audiences can also expect a journey into classical theatre and experience plays that don't normally get produced here in the Fraser Valley. People will have a great opportunity to see how people of earlier ages viewed faith and spirituality and how it impacted their lives.
I think it will be a rare and fun exploration of theatre history and how themes of yesteryear still resonate today.
5. What are you hoping audiences will take away from all three shows?
I may have already touched on this, but I hope audiences will first and foremost be entertained and enjoy this rare opportunity to experience plays from our past.
I hope they will engage the themes to see how faith and spirituality intersects with our modern human experience. I trust they will be moved, will be entertained, and will be challenged.
Really, these plays, despite their age, are really quite ageless and still speak to us today.