Senior ANDY Editor
Are artists getting framed? Do you feel framed by society? Framed, this year’s Fall Major production by McMaster’s School of the Arts, premieres this week to much anticipation.
Framed was conceptualized by upper-year Theatre & Film Studies students who wanted to address the way in which artists are perceived and often framed by our present society. The director, professor Peter Cockett, explains, “Framed is about artists, the way they are perceived in our society, the difficulties they face and their ability to reframe our world.”
The play subtly interrogates public attitudes towards the importance of art in its many forms. Six different artists (a ballerina, a sculptor, a street artist, a singer and two digital designers) are mysteriously drawn to the Alternate Dimension coffee shop. There, an unusual barista, with otherworldly insight into the plights of the artists he encounters, magically compels his customers to confront their artistic pasts and come to terms with the circumstances that made them give up on what they loved.
The types of artists’ lives explored in this production were thoughtfully chosen. Cockett explains, “We chose kinds of artists that allowed us to explore different aspects of our central idea. The street artist, for example, allowed us to explore the issue of legitimacy in the art world. Who defines what is art and what is not?”
This production plays on the many meanings of the word “framed.” “The frame has a double meaning in our show. Our artists have been framed by social expectation, and thus the frame is a restrictive presence that limits possibilities. But frames can be moved, and one of the principle values of art for me is its ability to re-frame experience and allow us to see the world in fresh perspective,” explained Cockett. One of the most striking aspects of Framed’s set design is the clever ways that it plays with frames and layers of perception.
Framed is the result of the combined effort of three different classes: the summer term’s Performance Research and Planning, Performance and Community Outreach and Major Production Workshop. These classes gave students a realistic experience of what the realities of creating and staging a play really are.
Cockett was eager to sing the praises of his student cast and crew. “I asked this cast to engage with a complex topic and I have been impressed with the maturity of their response and their commitment to the creative process.”
The first image I saw when I walked into the dress rehearsal was the whole cast and crew standing in a circle together, holding each other’s hands. This pre-show ritual is representative of the relationship between the creative team members that devised the show. Devising, as a theatre process, is all about unity, cooperation and the fusion of collective ideas. There is little hierarchy, and everyone involved, from actors to designers, share the responsibility of inventing the premise, formulating dialogue, building sets, etc.
The benefits of devising processes, as Cockett explains, are that it “brings a multiplicity of perspectives to bear on the issue you are dealing with. It also encourages active engagement from all participants and a sense of collective responsibility within the creative process.”
Framed is a thought-provoking production that both entertains and challenges audiences. Viewers cannot help but consider the power and potential of art to reframe our world, and what is lost when passionate artists lose hope.
Framed is playing on Nov. 11, 12, and 16-19 in Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103) at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at COMPASS and at the door.