Under the Shadow of Wings is the title of a book-length philosophical essay by Maurice Maeterlinck. It means, I suppose, that we all live under the threat of inevitable death. And within that context we have choices to make and reactions to have. Both plays (Death of Tintagiles and Karna and Kunti) reflect this reality. In both death and doom are inevitable, but we have existential choices and the plays depict some of those, which lead to enhanced human dignity and also despair.
Hanna Bondarewska, Misha Ryjik, Paula Rich, Rob Weinzimer, Mary Suib, Gavin Whitt, and Meera Narasimhan in Ambassador Theater’s Death of Tintagiles by Maurice Maeterlinck, directed by David Willinger. Opens at FLASHPOINT January 27, 2011 as part of a two-play offering Under the Shadow of Wings along-side Rabindranath Tagore’s Karna and Kunti. Previews Jan 25th and 26th. See the main Ambassador Theater website for tickets and more info: www.aticc.org. photos by magdalena pinkowska.
In a matter of 24 hours, my life changed from one of 8th grade middle school actor to a serious thespian as “Tintagiles” in the professional production of Belgium Nobel prize playwright’s Maurice Maeterlink’s Death of Tintagiles with Ambassador Theater. Having acted for 2 years at Mark Twain Middle School in Alexandria, VA and this past fall as “Charlie” in Willy Wonka at Mount Vernon Children’s Theater, was no preparation for the audition process and lengthy and serious rehearsals led by Director David Willinger, a Maeterlink expert.
The audition was crazy. I had contacted Lilia Slavova, a theater director and teacher that I met last year at an improvisation class at Synetic Theater. I told her that I wanted to take lessons and get more serious about acting. She proceeded to tell me about an audition being held the next day . Tomorrow? Yes! That is when I scrambled to learn a monologue with my middle school teacher, Sara Lebowitz, that day and the next, the day of the audition. Professional actors should always have several monologues already prepared for situations like this, a valuable lesson learned!
I arrived at the audition where a new theater company, Ambassador Theater, was looking for a young boy to play a part, with all professional actors. Hanna Bondarewska, the founder of the theater instructed me to do the monologue on videotape to be sent to New York. New York, I thought wow, this is big! I controlled my nerves and delivered my monologue. Then, I read lines from the play with the founder of Ambassador. My mom was able to watch secretly in the adjacent room.
I got the part. Rehearsals started in January and were 3-5 times per week. What impressed me most at the first meeting was that we didn’t jump in to learn lines or “block” the play. Instead, we spent hours talking about who the playwright was, what the Symbolist movement was, how he was ahead of his time and in some ways how truly depressing the play is. After all, I as “Tintagiles” die in The Death of Tintagiles.
This play is one of two plays featured under the title of “Under the Shadow of Wings – plays of Mystery. The other play featured is from India called Karna and Kunti by Rabindranath Tagore. The Embassy of India and Embassy of Belgium are sponsors of this program. The plays are recommended for ages 10 years and over and will be held from Jan. 25th – Feb. 12 at Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint in Washington, DC.
Gavin Whit and Meera Narasimhan in Ambassador Theater’s Karna and Kunti by R.Tagore, directed by David Willinger. Opens at FLASHPOINT in Jan 2011 as part of a two play offering Under the Shadow of Wings along-side Maurice Maeterlinck’s Death of Tintagiles.
REHEARSAL REPORT: NOTES FROM OUR POST-READING EXERCISE
Complete this sentence “This play is…”
Rob – Hopeless.
Paula – Scary.
Meera – Very deep.
Gavin – Very confusing. Having a hard time understanding the play. It’s very vague and the relationships seem almost incestuous. Doesn’t under stand why Tintagiles is being swept away. …
Hanna – Spiritual and symbolic. Lets you connect with life and death and it’s inevitability. About how to fight before the power takes over. Tintagiles is the final dream of the family. Ygraine is for life and fears death. Ultimately, the mystery of the family isn’t important. When the play is slowed down, it’s like a meditation and a maze of energies. Tintagiles is the last bit of life.
Misha – Extremely right. The play is a fact we don’t want to accept. Death is inevitable. The playwright was very philosophical. Plays with the concept of the “unwritten rule”.
Mary – Putting her in the position of being out of control and following orders.
David – About attachment. Realized once he was attached to his car, he realized that if he lost it, he would be in pain. It’s about losing what’s important.
Rob – Wondering how much self awareness is in his character. “Act as though there’s hope left.” Pretending VS the actual ability to hope.
Paula – Painful. The characters revel in pain and enjoy it. It’s how they live and there’s a certain sensuality involved.
Meera – Symbolizes life. Winning VS losing and the different personalities. Ygraine is a control freak and refuses to accept defeat. Death is finite. The play is a global picture of life.
Gavin – Fascinating. There is a reason for the story being told. Death is at the end of life. The play is not about life and death so much as it is about losing what’s important. When Tintagiles was first sent away, that was a death of sorts. It’s about the death of innocence. The Queen is all powerful and could have killed him on his way there. Why are they fighting? Nobody else is there. Loss is natural. If you were tortured for 50 years, you would look forward to death.
Hanna – A dream and a nightmare. The family sent the boy away to save them. They are happy to have him when he returns but are afraid. Ygraine is powerless, like a child. She isn’t a control freak, she’s trying to save her family.
David – Symbolistic. One of the first symbolic plays. Nothing is set and everything is open to interpretation.
- Symbolist theater is about the merger of emotions and energy, nothing is mathematic. It’s not show-off theater, it’s more grounded. A culmination of all aspects of Art.
The cast for Under the Shadow of Wings had their first read-through today. It was an intentionally low-key affair, with the actors given deliberate instruction by director David Willinger not to act. That will come later.
“If it’s really really boring, you’re on the right track,” Willinger said. “It’s such a strong text, it stands on its own by just saying it.”
This led to some unintentionally funny moments, such the climax of The Death of Tintagiles, when 12 year-old actor Misha Ryjik screamed in terror with little more than an uninterested, “Aah.”
Discussion of the plays will come another day, though Willinger did mention his ideas for an elaborate chase to follow that scene, a “Magnum Opus hunt for Tintagiles.”
“It’ll be like Scooby Doo!” Ryjik suggested, “With all of them coming out of doors!”
Proper rehearsals for Under the Shadow of Wings begin January.