Another great man falls; NASDA picks up the pieces

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29 Apr 2016

NASDA's latest play looks at the secrets behing Brecht's work Ara Institute of Canterbury student Dearna Doglione plays one of Brecht's slighted women in The Collective, an entertaining and thought-provoking production opening at Ara on 13 May.

 He was a giant of modern theatre, credited with writing and producing plays that demanded audiences adopt a new style of critical reflection on issues of social injustice - but it seems that the German director Bertolt Brecht was himself exploiting others to build his formidable reputation.

The Collective, by feminist New Zealander playwright Jean Betts, uncovers Brecht's deception and aims to right the wrongs of theatrical history by giving Brecht's women their due. Third year Ara Institute of Canterbury student Dearna Doglione, from the institute's National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA), plays one of the women credited with significantly contributing to Brecht's work in The Collective which runs from 13 to 19 May at Ara's Christchurch city campus.

"The play is about the women in Bertolt Brecht's Collective of communists. Basically, he used intelligent women's yearning to work together for 'the cause' for his own desires; he seduced them into writing his plays for him," Doglione says.

"Everyone that has studied acting has heard of the great Brechtian methods and his apparent genius, but to uncover the story of the women who were really behind his most famous works... it's important to question - to really think – and not just agree with everything that's handed to you."

To understand the play, the NASDA cast discussed the social context of the 20th century (Brecht died in 1956), the contemporary situation for women and reflected on their own personal experience. "History was written by powerful men to flatter other, more powerful men. We are lucky to be in a time where that is changing but we owe it to the women of the past to tell their stories."

It's not the easiest play to negotiate, itself using Brechtian methods, but freelance director Mel Luckman says the play is audience-friendly. "You don't need to know anything about Brecht. The plays shows his hypocrisy. It's not a history lesson, it is not a lecture but it is very entertaining. It uses a lot of comedy so you can enjoy the play, but then also talk about it afterwards."

Luckman has given the cast the freedom to explore ideas in a very collaborative rehearsal process. For the actors, this is preparation for the real world of theatre.

"I am learning so much about the pure craft of acting," Doglione says. "I am lucky enough to have scenes with a few of my talented peers and am learning so much about sharing energy and fighting for power - all what makes the job hard but fun."

While they are being challenged, it is within the context of the NASDA environment.

"NASDA has passion, talent and a family dynamic; it's such an important start to a stage career to be in a place where you are supported while being taught your craft, because you take it with you. NASDA is creating a future of kind, hard-working professionals, and I am lucky enough to be a part of that legacy."

The Collective is at the NASDA Theatre, Ara City Campus, Madras Street, Christchurch from 13 to 19 May, 7.30pm (no show Sunday 15 May). Tickets are $18, ($12 concession) from https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/the-collective-tickets-24612232851