Like most drama productions, Augustana’s winter show I Shot a Duck was a tumultuous process: amidst the chaos of auditions, set design, costumes, scheduling, and rehearsals, also included hard work, a desire to create good entertainment, and, of course, a love of theatre. But unlike most drama productions, I Shot a Duck sprung from an entirely different play, which became another play, and another, before its final incarnation, which you can see in the Augustana theatre at 7 pm nightly this Wednesday to Saturday.
A brand new piece by Edmonton playwright Jason Chinn, I Shot a Duck was brought to the Augustana drama department as The Greek Show back in September, and even before that, years ago, under a different title, when drama professor and director Kevin Sutley approached Chinn about first producing the play.
“Jason had the first act for a two-act show inspired by classical Greek theatre,” Sutley explained. “I really liked what was going on with the first act, and said why don’t we do a first production at Augustana?” Because The Greek Show had a big cast, which is usually not easy to get produced in professional theatre, Sutley thought Chinn could take his experience working with Augustana’s drama department to eventually rework the play for development in the professional theatre.
However, things didn’t run as smoothly as planned, much like the creative process in general.
Students in the pre-production class began working with the script that Chinn had re-written from the original, but with which he was still frustrated. Halfway through the term, the script was changed again to incorporate different characters and by end of the term, the ten-minute prologue (and a large part of the cast) had been cut as well. Still unsatisfied, Chinn took the Christmas break to re-write, and when the second term began in January, Augustana had a winter production that had the same main characters but was no longer Greek theatre. Instead, I Shot a Duck tells the story of a family of artists struggling with their artistic lives (sound familiar?) and is inspired by three of Chekhov’s plays: The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, and The Seagull.
When asked how the students who had been working on The Greek Show felt about embarking on a completely different production, Sutley confessed that they were quite shocked.
“But that’s the creative process, and it was a good learning experience,” he added. “The biggest thing is that Jason [Chinn] had the courage to just throw it away. I had a teacher call it “killing your babies,” – you love them so much but you have to be real with yourself. That’s a lesson they’re going to remember because they lived it, it wasn’t just someone telling them about it.”
The new script had the main characters from the originally planned show, but none of the prologue characters (because it had been previously cut), which meant that there were a lot of students that had auditioned with nowhere to go. Sutley decided that in order to incorporate everyone, they would add another show: A Human Write by Amy Sutton, a short one-act play about a writer with writer’s block (once again, the familiarity!).
Although similar in theme, A Human Write is stylistically very different from I Shot a Duck, which will ensure the evening is fun and varied. It was also directed by fourth-year Sammy Lowe, who, according to Sutley, added a lot of interesting movement and physicality to the play.
Sutley also hinted towards the fact that A Human Write might fit into the evening not just thematically, but quite literally as well.
“Maybe the writer in the first play is the creator of I Shot a Duck…maybe…” he winked. The two plays also share the same set background, painted by an Augustana art class, as a testament to the interdisciplinary nature of all things Augustana.
With the story behind the play as interesting as the play itself, Augustana’s drama department presents A Human Write and I Shot a Duck, this Wednesday to Saturday at 7 pm nightly. Tickets are $15 (general admission); $5 (students) and are available at the door.