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Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview: Renée Hodgins (director, Kiss of the Spider Woman

Rehearsal shot of Kiss of the Spider Woman with Zara Jestadt (unmasked) (Photo credit, Eric Chad)

(This article is a result of CharPo's partnership with Upstage: Theatre on Radio on CKUT)

by Estelle Rosen

Renée Hodgins has been a member of the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society (AUTS) for approximately three years. Asked about the origins of AUTS, she replied. “…at the time there weren’t a lot of opportunities for anglophone musical theatre in Montreal, particularly at McGill. We do have Savoy Society focusing on Gilbert & Sullivan but not many opportunities for contemporary musicals. I love musicals. But what I’m really drawn to are musicals that have something to say. I respect Guys & Dolls but that doesn’t have the kind of message that engages me. I like presenting theatre with rich material.”

When asked if she thinks Kiss of the Spider Woman falls into that category, she replied. “Yes. The historical aspect, its timeless universal issues as social justice, relationships,  torture, executions are issue sadly relevant today.Theme of story is conflict between personal emotions, relationships and desires versus political idealism and activism.”

In the novel, written by Manuel Puig, set in 1975 in Argentina, two diametrically opposed inmates, Molina and Valentin,  are thrown together. A more unlikely pair would be hard to imagine. Molina lives in a fantasy world to cope with prison life. Valentin is a fierce Marxist revolutionary. 

In response to the question whether such a powerful play was readily accepted by AUTS executive, Hodgins indicated.  “This play is a risk for AUTS from a marketable point of view. For the past few years, they’ve been selecting musicals with a less powerful message.” 

Kiss of the Spider Woman has been presented on film, and as a stage musical.  The current production from AUTS is an ensemble show. Considering many of the cast members are too young to remember this piece, I was curious about their reactions.  She said. “The first question I was asked was is there a happy ending? Gradually as dialogue went on among cast members, they came to understand content and their own reactions to a play that isn’t clear cut in what’s real and what’s fantasy.”

In response to the question what she would like the audience to come away with,
she said. “If the audience comes away with feeling something, if we’ve touched their emotions,  if they are excited, if they are disturbed, we will have succeeded. Basically  I like to leave space open for audiences to make their own interpretations.

McGill Arts Building Moyse Hall January 20-29. Click here for details.

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