Greystone Theatre has already sold out all showings of its third play of the semester, and the play hasn’t even opened yet.
Upper-year arts students, including many drama students, at the University of Saskatchewan have been working on Into the Woods since early January. The Tony Award-winning musical, written by Stephen Sondheim and based on the book by James Lapine, follows characters from Grimm’s fairy tales — Cinderella, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood and more — as they converge in the woods.
The production director for the Greystone rendition of the play is assistant drama professor Julia Jamison.
Into the Woods is “a mixture of farce and melodrama,” Jamison said.
The first act follows the characters as they work to accomplish their goals.
“In act one they pursue their own wishes,” Jamison said. “It’s like seeing fairy tale characters come to life in pursuit of what they want. In act two we see them become humanized because they have to deal with the karmic repercussions of what they did to get their wish.”
She said the play is more morally complex than the stories children grow up with.
“In act two we see them experiencing loss and the kinds of things that make us think a little more deeply, think a little less black and white,” Jamison said.
Rehearsals for the Greystone team sometimes meant gruelling 14-hour days.
Jamison pointed out, however, that two separate casts alternate performances of the play. She said that while having a double cast divides screen time, it is helpful in case players fall ill.
“It’s really hard to fake it if you’re a singer and you’re sick,” she said.
The set, designed by Jenna Strangeland, is the same for both productions.
Jamison says that despite identical scene direction, costumes and set design, the productions are very different.
“It’s hard to define it,” Jamison said. “The difference is just the way that the characters are interpreted by the different people.”
Although Jamison is the lead director of Into the Woods, she gives credit to all involved in the production, noting how well the cast and crew worked together.
“The students are particularly adept at creating community,” Jamison said. “It’s one of the really compelling things about being in this department — how these students take care of each other. We’re spending hours and hours and hours together problem-solving collaboratively, so what’s wonderful is that you just see the respect build and the borders cross.”
Into the Woods opens March 21 at the John Mitchell Building on campus.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/Photo Editor