The critically acclaimed and international award-winning director Paolo Emilio Landi has taken the reigns on Quill Theatre’s latest production, The Heir Apparent. A French play adapted into English by David Ives, Landi was asked by UR to contribute his skills to the production which opens this weekend.
Together, Quill Theatre and the University of Richmond have produced this show that hopes to be unlike any other production of this French comedic classic.
“This play is a blend of a few different styles: Restoration comedy, Commedia dell’arte and dash of the playwright’s (David Ives) own modern sensibility,” said James Ricks, the production manager and sound designer for the show. He said it’s been a particularly exciting production because of how they plan to incorporate so many design elements on the VMFA’s Lesie Cheek Theater stage.
“[Landi] has done an amazing job of creating the balance of all these elements.” he said. “[And] The VMFA theatre is a wonderful space for us to play in.”
Ricks noted the older proscenium style of the theatre and its massive stage creates a unique challenge for the company while allowing for plenty of room to move around in.
This production will feature rhyming verses in iambic pentameter that contributes to that classical restoration feel. That, coupled with the fact that the play is a comedy is sure to provoke a laugh or two from audiences.
Ricks, the production manager of The Heir Apparent as well as the sound designer for the show. “It is perfectly suited to this particular production, as it is a
While the play might appear foreign, many of the themes are universal and relatable.
The Heir Apparent is set against the backdrop of Paris in 1708 and follows the character Eraste’s love for the lovely Isabelle. The problem is that Eraste cannot inherit his fortune from his miserly Uncle Geronte until his uncle’s death.
“So the challenge was to revive and play with the idea of having people dress like they were in 18th century France and [talk about taxes] or be referring to health insurance,” said Landi. “The difficulty of course, was that the language was very accurate and very funny sometimes. The references were difficult for me because I’m not American, I’m Italian. So I had to rely upon the help of friends, fellow professors at the university and some of the actors to understand why a line was supposed to be funny and that was the reference.”
With pre-production having started a little over two and a half months ago and rehearsal having gone on for seven weeks plus, the contributors are excited to finally share their hard work on April 7th.
“I think the audience will very much enjoy the fact that we are working with them. I mean they are not going to be watching something but be part of something,” Landi said. “They will probably be thrilled that we, on some occasions, will talk directly to them, we will include them in our performance as they were actors.”
Ricks echoed these optimistic feelings about how the audience would receive the play: “[Opening night will be special for me in] seeing the audience response to such a dynamic piece,” he said. “It will also be exciting to see the actors blossom in front of an audience… [all] they need is some people out there to soak up all that hard work and reward them with laughs!”
Under the direction of Landi, Ricks and co are confident the production will come alive onstage. The difficult job of balancing the diverse elements involved has been expertly handled according to Ricks who said the directors understanding of the production will help to elevate not only their show, but local theatre as a whole.
“Since the ancient Greek times, theatre is not just something you can live without- or art general. It is not just a surplus,” said Landi. “Art and theatre is a way of showing who we are, to ourselves [so that we may] discuss things or address critical issues. Through art, we are enabled to live better, together.”
Landi’s dedication to the community and belief in the power of art has allowed him to work across borders, languages and cultures.
“[Theatre] is not something that you watch, it is something you take part in. So I think that, the important issues have to be discussed not only by politicians, but shared by the community,” he said. “See, when you guide someone to see a performance you are not only showing something, you are establishing a link among the people sitting in the house [as well as, a link between the audience and actors]. In time of division, in time of aggression, in time of fear- theatre is a very good medicine.”
Tickets for The Heir Apparent can be purchased through the VMFA’s Visitor Services, or through QuillTheatre.org. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and on Sundays at 2pm. There will be a special preview performance on Thursday, April 6th. Snag tickets here.