Elmwood Theatre gears up for performance of Silva Semerciyan’s The Light Burns Blue
By: Stephanie Townsend and Zaina Khan
No matter the location, nor the situation, easy access to information seems to be a given in our modern world—and the answer to any question is at our fingertips. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this accessibility comes at a cost. That cost is the ease with which the truth can be distorted through all kinds of 21st-century technological wizardry. This results in a kind of cynicism that makes nothing real and everything distorted.
If we travel back 100 or so years, a similar kind of wizardry was taking place, and the ensuing controversy held many people’s fascination, especially as it provided a bit of respite from the events that were shaking up the world. Photography was still relatively new, but it was becoming more commonplace. Cameras were becoming easier to handle and more and more people were taking up the hobby. The pictures that were taken were real—what else could they be?
The Light Burns Blue is an exploration of this very question. Playwright Silva Semerciyan has created a new text that reimagines an old tale, bringing to light fresh ideas surrounding truth and art. This story takes place in 1917, when much of the Western world was reeling from the horrors of World War 1. Two young cousins—Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths -- enter the picture with their own images: photographs of fairies. For the grieving public, these ethereal images were proof that the spiritual world did exist. Many, including novelist and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, saw the photographs as a recognition that psychic phenomena could be captured. This fostered the hope that the loved ones lost in the Great War would not be gone forever.
Of course, not everyone believed in the fairies, and a play is nothing without conflict. Enter Winifred Douglas, a zealous journalist who is not so easily convinced of the authenticity of the images taking the country by storm. She is determined to reveal the truth behind the girls’ story and is perplexed when her investigation leads to more questions than answers. As she probes deeper into the secrets of the photographs, the audience is left with its own questions about what is true and what is art.
Elmwood Theatre is taking on this challenging question in their upcoming production of Semerciyan’s timely play. With a cast of over 20 students plus a local Ottawa actor, this production is sure to strike a chord with everyone. At the heart of it all, Grade 12 student, Alex Byrne, takes on the part of Elsie Wright as she and her group of seven friends maneuver their way through the loss of many family members due to the Great War. In a world of her own, Alexa Bothwell, portraying Winifred Douglas, attempts to make her mark in a profession almost exclusively dominated by men.
Many months of hard work have gone into creating the feel of the inter-war years, including lessons on early photography, cameras, and darkrooms as well as the history of the time period from Canadian artist and photographer, Paul Elter.
Director, Angela Boychuk, believes that students should be involved in all aspects of the production, both onstage and off. Props are built by students during an extensive two-day workshop. As well, all costumes are designed and created by our student-run Cappies award-winning costume team. For The Light Burns Blue the costumes have been designed to suit the time period with the colour palette of blues, greys, and purples, reflecting both the play’s title and illustrating the hardships and hopes of early 20th-century English society. At the same time, the costume team has worked carefully to provide a glimpse into each character’s personality through the use of unique designs. The hair and makeup team has created a variety of period-appropriate guises, encapsulating the fantastical essence of fairies in contrast to the woes of warfare. Our Cappies award-winning lighting and sound crew are working hard to evoke the time period, and the student stage managers help to keep props and the stage under control. This production is a team effort, and everyone is very excited about opening night.
Elmwood Theatre has received many awards from the prestigious Canada Capital Cappies program, including Best Play for their 2015 performance of The Madwoman of Chaillot, 2016’s Les Belles Soeurs, and 2017’s Blue Stockings.
Performances of The Light Burns Blue run from February 27th to March 2nd at 7 p.m. and March 2nd and 3rd at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors. Purchase your tickets today!