By Amy Pino
Armed with a passion for the arts, a unique idea, and plenty of inspiration, Doug Gallagher, Hillary Younglove, and Jenifer Coté are directing a production based on a script adapted from “The Canterbury Tales” (Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400) that will push the limits of a traditional spring production. This spring, SA will put on a mobile play adapted from “The Canterbury Tales” that will physically take the audience on a journey around campus.
The play will have large pageantry puppets made by Hillary and her students, and it will be accompanied by music that will travel with the production as it moves around campus.
“I have loved ‘The Canterbury Tales’ for quite a while. I did a miniature version of this concept with a group of sixth graders about 12 or 13 years ago at a small school in Sebastopol,” said Doug. “I always kept it at the back of my mind that it might be interesting to do with a different group someday and elaborate on what we did there.”
This production is based on a concept that Doug, Hillary, and Jenifer were inspired by while visiting a village in the Italian Alps where they studied and created large pageantry puppets.
Doug taught a class first semester in which a group of students adapted “The Canterbury Tales” into a modernized script that will be used for the spring production.
“I taught a course last fall that was centered on frame stories which ‘The Canterbury Tales’ is a good example of,” said Doug. “The second half of the semester I worked with 13 students on creating original versions, kind of rewritten versions, modernized to some degree, of the original tales that Chaucer wrote in the 14th century.”
Doug is also looking forward to working with the music of “The Canterbury Tales” era, as well as working with contemporary music to modernize the production.” Because this is a progressive play, we’re going to have music on the road as we’re moving from place to place, so students will be singing or playing instruments as the crowd moves along,” said Doug.
Doug expects about 30 students to be involved in the production. The large puppets often take more than one person to puppeteer, and Doug is looking forward to getting the audience involved in this aspect of the production.
“I want the audience to feel like they are involved in the production and in a sense I want the cast to feel like they’re kind of part of the fabric of the audience, that we’re all doing this thing together, and that the audience is going to have a part in making the play work,” Doug said. “Some of them might be made to be puppeteers on the spot.”
Doug is not worried about this spontaneous nature of the production; rather, it is what will make the production unique and exciting. “There’s this improvisatory kind of liveliness that I hope we can pull off,” Doug said. “That’s the most exciting part but it’s also the scariest part, because you never know what you’re going to get in terms of an audience and how are we going to, as a cast, encourage the audience to not just be passive, but to become active.”