A Beautiful View at Centaur (photo: Tim Matheson)
...Beautiful View is what we see when we look at someone we love...
by Sarah Deshaies; edited by Estelle Rosen
Tell us about your play, how did Michelle and Liz meet?
Ultimately this play is about a friendship. Two women meet randomly in a camping goods store which is the beginning of a 20 year friendship, though not quite that simple.
In the Prologue, two women enter the space, not sure what they’re doing there – nor is the audience sure. Audience plays the role of witness to this friendship.
The story of their friendship is interrupted by the women agreeing or disagreeing about how accurate previous scene was to what actually happened – a meta element to the way the story is told.
...there’s something perfect about friend relationships...
At the centre of all this is the fact these two women when they first meet fall into a sexual encounter, each thinking the other is seducing them. Neither identify as Lesbians but they end up having this sexual relationship. They become friends later but that night always colors everything that happens.
On one level the play talks about why we label, what is the purpose of labelling, and looking for definitive labelling isn’t necessarily entirely beneficial to life.
On another level, the play is about the perfection of friendship. I can name many people who talk about 30 year friendships but can’t name too many that can talk about 30 year romantic relationships so there’s something perfect about friend relationships although this relationship is transformed somewhat because there is sex involved. They do seem like a couple – one is ok about that but one is uncomfortable - hence the tension.
A lot of my plays start that way; with a notion, a cast and a title.
How did Michelle and Liz develop in your mind?
Being the last production I was going to be doing with a theatre company I’ve had for many years - da da kamera - I wanted to work with two of the actresses I had worked with a lot. Interestingly, this show was made when we were in residence at Usine C in Montreal. A lot of my plays start that way; with a notion, a cast and a title. Over time, it developed into this story.
So you never have the challenge of naming a play.
I’ll question a title, flip a title, but the theme is contained in the title.
There are two elements to the title of this play. I devised a lot of the play while on a month long camping trip by myself hiking, seeing a lot of beautiful views, so there’s a literal beautiful view. Camping plays a big part in the play.
The other element of Beautiful View is what we see when we look at someone we love. Hopefully what we see is our best selves; to see our true best selves is often what we see through the eyes of someone who loves us.
We’re talking about betrayal, about mortality, about heartbreak. Actors tend to go there because it’s delicious. I encourage brevity and levity.
You mentioned the play was built around two actresses.
I’ve done the play now with 4 casts. What I do is name the characters L and M and allow actors to choose any name they want. I’m asking them to bring as much of themselves as they can. Spontaneity is important to the feeling of the play. It’s difficult to ask an actor to bring themselves and not hide if they don’t feel ownership of the character.
When we first rehearsed in Vancouver, they said they had learned the play. When they did it for me, it turned out they had taken It very seriously. There are dark sides to the play but ultimately it’s a comedy.
That’s why I insist on directing the play. It’s very rare I let anyone direct this play. People tend to take it more seriously than I want them to. They go for the drama and ignore the comedy. We’re talking about betrayal, about mortality, about heartbreak. Actors tend to go there because it’s delicious. I encourage brevity and levity.
I’m 48 – I don’t get nervous any more. I’m excited.
Opening night tonight - any jitters?
No – I’m 48 – I don’t get nervous any more. I’m excited. For me, the audience is the next step in the process. I always find it funny there are parties on opening night. The play is only starting – also odd is that the Director usually leaves on opening night – there’s so much more work to do.
To May 22