Hopelessly devoted to drama

Director Mark Cassidy’s Forms of Devotion intimately examines the implications of a failed relationship

Heavy in music and non-verbal sequences, the visuuals of Forms of Devotion resonate strongly
Heavy in music and non-verbal sequences, the visuuals of Forms of Devotion resonate strongly
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Theatre Kingston’s latest show deals with a subject more controversial than sex and death: faith.

The theatrical adaptation of Canadian writer Diane Schoemperlen’s book of short stories, Forms of Devotion, explores how we adapt our conceptions of faith to the constraints of the modern world. Schoemperlen’s original book, inspired by Victorian wood engravings and juxtaposing their themes with those of contemporary life, was published in 1998. A decade later, the subject matter is more relevant than ever.

For this reason, Director Mark Cassidy presents its current incarnation, an intimate production examining various forms of devotion through one couple’s break up.

“There’s a journey in the play toward hope, which sounds sentimental but in this day and age it’s important to find some sort of hope in what seems to be a world that’s crumbling,”Cassidy said.

Kingston Theatre’s production of Forms of Devotion explores Schoemperlen’s book with the idea of a break-up in a stripped down and unconventional fashion.

“It’s a very different take on theatre. Non-linear performance-based. It’s not so much based on text but the momentum in the play is created through action,” Cassidy said.

The production is heavy in music and in non-verbal sequences. Images created between the actors communicate the internal world of the characters.

“We experimented a lot with different visual possibilities in the workshops as far as slide and video imagery to respond to the fact that it’s a book of stories, of pictures. What we found to be the most theatrical way to being visuals into the play was through the bodies of actors.”

The set is simple, with a variety of lighting stages. The small Baby Grand allows for an intimate performance. There’s seating on three sides of the stage, guaranteeing a different perspective for every audience member.

Cassidy, who’s originally from Kingston and currently co-artistic director at Threshold Theatre in Toronto, says he’s found the study of devotion to be an inflammatory one.

“I find sometimes these days that people are more comfortable with sex and death.”

The seemingly more exciting sexual subject matter serves as a vehicle to understanding the spiritual.

“We riffed on the relationship between the sexual relationship and the spiritual relationship,” he said.

Due to the internal nature of Forms of Devotion, adaptation to the stage was no easy feat. Cassidy thought it best to communicate the personal musings on devotion as a physical dialogue between romantic partners.

“Our whole take on the book is everything is distilled down into the relationship of the contemporary couple,” he said. “It suggests the idea of a couple breaking up deas of faith and fidelity, jealousy, hope, things that come out of a mid-life crisis.”

The crystallization of Schoemperlen’s themes into a relationship is an appropriate one, given the changing tenets of faith in contemporary society.

“Diane pokes fun at things we have faith in, like comfort, convenience and technology,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said although the placement of faith in superficial and inanimate entities is much maligned, people’s devotion to romantic love may be just as misguided.

“We have this idea in the North America, in our modern world, that love is the new religion. We think romantic love will solve our problems.”

Cassidy also adapted Schoemperlen’s previous book, In the Language of Love.

“I don’t usually do a number of works by the same author but this came along which I thought was fantastic and had a lot of theatrical potential. We had moved to Toronto, called her and asked if we could act on it.”

The production is a return to familiar haunts. Kingston is Schoempelen’s hometown, and Cassidy did the show the first time in Toronto in 2002.

“It’s great to be able to revisit it, to explore it again. The themes are still as relevant as humour. There’s a lot of humour in the book, but there’s also a lot of really poetic insight into our search for meaning.”

Much of the responsibility for this search still lies with the audience, Cassidy said.

“It could be interpreted in a couple of different ways. My hope is that the imagery will be interpreted on different levels.”

“It’s asking, who are the faithful, and faithless and what does that mean?”

Forms of Devotion is running at The Grand Theatre from Sept. 23 to Oct 10. Tickets for Adults $25.10 Senior/Student $17.75

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