By Caleigh Crow
Marc-André Casavant, first-time director of L’eau des nuages, has been doing solo performance work, including spoken word and experimental theatre performances, for about ten years. He’s naturally drawn to more heightened work, describing his creative interests as the “wild, strange, in the spirit of David Lynch”. Compared to his previous work, he describes L’eau des nuages, adapted from the novel by Daniel French, as for the ‘grand public’ which he saw as an opportunity to add some heightened artistic elements, so the show would still to be recognizable as distinctly Marc-André. “It’s beneficial for me as a first-time director, as my first time working with other people and collaborators that the story is very simple,” he says.
The story revolves around a tense, emotional love triangle, ignited by a lost Oscar Wilde biography left on a café table. As Marc-André says, it’s a story that could happen to anyone, but he saw the opportunity to elevate the story with other artistic elements. “One of the reasons that I agreed to direct this play is that I was touched by the characters and the story,” he explains, “but my vision was to make it more complicated with the treatment. I show it very poetically. I’m doing a theatrical, poetic, contemporary piece.” He pauses to reflect, “I see it now more like a show than a play.”
As a solo artist, he was used to being the beginning and end of the creative process. “I really like doing things by myself with no boundaries and no concessions,” he explains, “but I think that I’ve been comfortable doing that for years because a part of me was afraid to share those weird things with others.” Now with a cast and crew looking to him for leadership, he’s had to grow and learn creatively. A good place for Marc-André to start was to reflect on his previous experiences being directed on film sets, and use what he likes about being directed as a jumping off point. “I think it’s good for the actors when they are working with somebody who knows how it is to be directed,” he says. “I’ve been directing them during the whole process the way I like to be directed. That means that I want to be considerate. I like to be directed in a soft way, and I was directing them in a soft way as well.”
However, that doesn’t mean he’s completely left behind his boundary-pushing tendencies. Once the show was cast and rehearsals started up, he took the time to do exploration exercises to get the actors familiar with the play, their characters, and Marc-André’s vision. “I want my actors to feel ready to give, because this is all about giving,” he says, “the challenging thing was how to start, then I just tried different things.” He suggested, “Let’s work with music, let’s work without music, let’s work with movement.” It was important for Marc-André to build a foundation of feelings in the actor that they would draw from when more rigid blocking rehearsals began in March. “That was fascinating because I was working with the instinct,” he comments, “I’m sure that instinct is going to be marked on your body somewhere. When we started the mise-en-place, different things were already there. They have the liberty to use things from the past sessions.” He says with a grin, “That was working.”
Another beneficial addition to the rehearsal process was the presence of the author, Daniel French, who is an acquaintance of Marc-André’s. Since he’s departing not from the story but from the form, it’s important for Marc-André to have the author’s reassurance about his directorial vision. “He’s really open to my ideas, and he’s always been so that made the work easier,” Marc-André says, hopefully. “He’s open to the work, and he knows my work, first as a solo performer. he’s open, I think he likes my vision, my creativity.”
Now that the show is a little further along in the process, Marc-André can reflect on the process, and ask himself some key questions. “As a new director, how could I work differently? How could I explore the actors and the material and their interiors in another way? How could they explore themselves and the work from another perspective?” he asks. Marc-André is grateful for he opportunity to try, and I can tell by the way he hints at his “next time” as a director that this isn’t a one-off role for him. “I’m the kind of creative person who is waiting to be ready in this career to do things, so that’s what happened with that project,” he replies. “I was ready.”
L’eau des nuages runs from June 8 – 18 at Theatre D’Aujourd’hui. For more information and tickets please click here.