The first crop of actors at Fanshawe

The first students in the new Fanshawe College acting program are now engaged in their coming-out performances, and the program administrators have made a couple of interesting choices for their first productions: back-to-back presentations of hundred-year-old Russian stories. One is a family drama by Maxim Gorky and the other a black comedy by Nikolai Erdman.

Fanshawe already had a technical theatre program, but now, in partnership with The Theatre School, they have started a two-year acting program as well. Practical classes and performances are at Ann and Talbot, in the space that started its theatrical life as the Old Factory Theatre, thanks to the efforts of Phil Arnold.

The space was taken over by The Theatre School, which has operated elsewhere in London for over twenty years, and Artistic Director Sean Quigley approached Fanshawe to propose a partnership that would use The Theatre School’s space and experience to offer accredited courses in acting.

The new program accepted 44 of the 250 applicants for their first year of operation, and these two productions are the public’s first real chances to see the students and the new program in action.

If this program is a success, it could bode well for theatre in London, because it will give local actors the opportunity to get accredited training without leaving town and it will also attract aspiring actors from elsewhere. With any luck, that would mean a general strengthening of the pool of actors in the local theatre community.

The first production, which runs from March 22–27, is The Petty Bourgeoisie by Maxim Gorky, a drama about a dysfunctional 1903 Russian family. The following week (March 29 — April 3) features The Suicide, by Nikolai Erdman, a comedy about a man who is planning suicide, when he is approached by several groups who want his endorsement so that they can claim him as their martyr.

A Caribbean Play in French

In another theatre collaboration, The French Department at UWO teamed up with London’s French Community Centre (Centre Desloges) in 2002, and they offer up plays in French every year. If you say the name “London” with a French accent, it sounds like “L’on donne” (“we offer”), and that is the name of the new company created by Lydia Lamontagne: “Théâtre L’On Donne”.

The play is La Folie Celat by Martinique poet, playwright, novelist and Caribbean Studies scholar Edouard Glissant. It is set in present-day Antilles, but the movement of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean figures prominently, because of the presence and importance of ancestors in many African religions and cultures.

La Folie Celat, directed by Servanne Woodward, was presented once at Centre Desloges, and the final performance will be at Conron Hall, UWO at 6:30 pm on Friday March the 26th.

It all makes for interesting fare in town these days — a contemporary play from the Caribbean, written and presented in French, and a couple of century-old tales from Russia in English.