Theatre Studies launches with ‘Lost’ opportunity

On March 3, Western formally launches its Theatre Studies program with a two-day event. The centerpiece of the launch is a staging of Milton’s Paradise Lost, adapted and directed by Montreal-based performer Paul Van Dyck.

Incorporating puppets, computer animation and a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack, including a heavy dose of the Rolling Stones, Van Dyck brings to life Milton’s tale that begins moments after the battle of Heaven, as Satan finds himself and his followers cast into Hell. This unique staging won Best Production at both the New York Frigid and Atlantic Fringe festivals.

It arrives at Western thanks to the keen eye of English and Writing Studies professor John Leonard, an internationally recognized scholar on the poetry and prose of John Milton.

“It is surprising how successful it is as it does everything Miltonists would predict would be the wrong thing to do,” laughed Leonard, who the Times Literary Supplement once called “one of the greatest Milton scholars working today.” “Milton’s special effects are so special they are difficult to make believable on the stage or screen. Journeying through space, for instance, can be done now. But journeying through chaos, well, how exactly would you visualize that?”

Leonard encountered the play during a gathering of North American Milton specialists in Montreal – a tough room for anyone attempting to stage the impossible.

“We all went into the performance with grave reservations and doubts,” Leonard said. “Yet, everyone left with full enthusiasm.”

Paradise Lost will be performed at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 3-4, at The Arts Project, 203 Dundas St. Opening night includes a celebration of the Theatre Studies program launch via a discussion of performance, creativity, and adaptation, led by English and Writing Studies professor M.J. Kidnie and Leonard.