Schumiatcher Shoebox play has many stories and many moods
Kate Herriot maintains that The Story of Mr. Wright is “different than your average story.” For the play’s cast, who are staging it as part of the Globe’s more experimental Schumiatcher Sandbox series, different is good.
The Story of Mr. Wright is unique in the fact that the cast and directors helped create it. “It [is] a devised piece of theatre … our two directors came to us with this story in a workshop that we did last fall. They came to us with this story about this Mr. Wright, this medical miracle that happened in the fifties … [the story] sounds unbelievable.”
The cast and directors then also added their own personal touch to the character’s story. “We strung together the story of Mr. Wright, and, just through conversations we’d had in rehearsal, we decided that there are a lot of medical miracles that happen in our own lives, or times we’ve experienced the power that story can have over [one’s] mind.”
This realization led the cast to incorporate their own stories into the narrative. “We then proceeded to take the essential parts of [Mr. Wright’s] story and incorporate the fact that, throughout the show, it’s very clear that we’re not just playing characters; we’re also playing ourselves as ensemble members. We took little bits of those stories and interspersed them with scenes of Mr. Wright’s story. The fact that we’ve all got stories from our personal lives makes it really unique because it’s really hard to play yourself on stage.”
Amalgamating the narrative with cast stories is likely going to be a surprise to audience members. “If you know us, [you’ll] come to the show thinking that we’re going to tell you a story and play characters that aren’t [ourselves], but at the beginning [think], ‘Oh, that’s just Kate. That’s just her telling her story,’ that’s something that’s really interesting especially because the theatre community is quite tight,” Herriot explained. “And so [there will be] a lot of people … in the audience who are at least familiar with our faces; it will be interesting to hear stories from our actual lives.”
Subsequently, The Story of Mr. Wright has an atypical feel to it. “It’s a narrative, but it’s also got this sort of documentary feel to it because there’s all this field research. It’s sort of like a docudrama because you get the very dramatic story of Mr. Wright, but then you get all these little facts and things that are real and that you know are true. It creates that tension between coming to theatre to hear a story that’s not true [and] coming to theatre to learn about something; it creates a conflict between what is real and what is a story.”
The intermingling of the stories causes a shift in the tone and mood of the production. “[The play’s tone] flips back and forth. We’ve got this mood when you’re in the hospital scenes [that’s] very cold; you can hear the heart monitors, and it’s sterile and a bit eerie. When you flip out of that, to either when we’re talking about the process, or when we’re talking about the stories from our own lives, it’s totally natural, warm, personable. There’s a complete turnaround of tone between those scenes.”
Although there are distinct stories from the different cast members, they “all have to do with medical miracles or the power of the mind, thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to get better,’ and then you get better – things that are just a little out of the ordinary. Sometimes [they’re] for the worse; it’s not always that [the characters] get better. There are some very sad stories in the play as well. Overall, we end up telling a [narrative] about medical miracles, and the really seductive power of story and how it affects [one’s] mind.”
This is no ordinary narrative piece of theatre, and Mr. Wright turns out to be no conventional hospital patient. “Mr. Wright’s pretty interesting because he’s a total believer. If he finds someone of authority that he trusts in the medical establishment, he just hooks on to them, and whatever the medical establishment says about his (quite advanced) cancer, he totally, totally believes it. In rehearsals we’ve been trying to figure out, ‘Who is this guy?’ We’ve been trying to imagine this person whose mind has such incredible power over his body.”
The Story of Mr. Wright runs from Jan. 20 to 22 and Jan. 26-29 in the Templeton Studio Cabaret at the Globe Theatre. Tickets are $20 and are available from the Globe Theatre box office, in person or online.