Dorothy Cosby Atkinson, founder of Edge Theatre Ensemble, has wanted to direct August Strindberg's "A Dream Play" for quite some time.
"I've loved this play since I read it in college," said Atkinson. "When I happened upon Caryl Churchill's new adaptation, I appreciated her feminist view of the play."
Strindberg's 1901 play follows the structure of a dream as characters and actions melt into other scenes and a mysterious door dominates the stage imagery. Agnes, the daughter of a god, descends to earth to observe human beings. During her travels she meets with a wide variety of characters representing various ideas and ideals.
"It's very dark in places but also comedic-I think if people like David Lynch movies, they will get a kick out of this," said Atkinson. In Churchhill's adaptation, certain 19th-century references are removed and replaced with those more relevant to a modern audience as well as the occasional shifting of scenes. This adaptation was first performed by the National Theatre in Eng-land in 2005.
"Churchill stayed pretty close to the original-she modernized a few scenes and shifted a few scenes around," explained Atkinson. During rehearsals, Atkinson also encouraged the ensemble's actors to keep dream journals and incorporate their own dream imagery into the play.
"We talked about anxiety dreams and other symbols that came into our dreams," she said.
Atkinson also decided to use Meyerhold technique to inform the actor's movements. This stylized system of body movements developed by the Russian V.E. Meyerhold requires careful control by the actors.
"I started learning Meyerhold last summer and really liked the technique," said Atkinson. "Since only three people in the ensemble (including myself) had experience with Meyerhold, we spent about a month of rehearsal just working on the Meyerhold training."
The result has created "a dreamlike atmosphere for the play," said assistant director Alexis Tabor. "Along with the sounds and lights, it's a very physical and psychological exper-rience."
"Basically, we tried to completely transport the audience to another world for 80 minutes," said Atkinson. "When people walk out onto the street after the show, they may see the world in a different way."
And if they do, that would address Atkinson's original inspirations.
"Meyerhold believed that the most successful theater experience was one that prompted a huge conversation afterwards-one where people go out to eat and argue about the play that they've seen," she pointed out.
"A Dream Play" runs at Freehold Studio/ Theatre Lab's East Hall Theatre, 1525 10th Ave. East (2nd Floor) through May 19. For times and ticket information, call 800-838-3006 or check the company's website: www. edgetheatre.org.
Rosemary Jones writes about arts and entertainment for the Capitol Hill Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.