Monday, 2 June 2014

Interview with Theatre Concert's An-Ting Chang!

Concert Theatre's The Rite of Spring/Romeo Juliet (Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli)
I had the pleasure interviewing An-Ting Chang, Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Concert Theatre, an exciting innovative organisation whose productions combine classical music with drama. 

Please could you tell me a bit about Concert Theatre and your theatrical and creative aims?

Concert Theatre interweaves classical music and drama to create a new kind of expression. The existed music and the existed play are chosen by their common points (like the ‘sacrifice’ theme in The Rite of Spring/ Romeo and Juliet) and connected through their contents and structures. A stronger expression is hence created by overlapping structures and themes between the music and drama. Music is very powerful in its expression. However, it may be difficult to stay concentrated throughout a concert and get all beautiful nuances. In Concert Theatre, music is visualised and transferred into a ‘meaning’ in the drama. The theatrical expression is enhanced by the strong power of the music. The aim is to make a more ‘complete’ performance and let audience appreciate both arts more.  

Concert Theatre's The Rite of Spring/Romeo Juliet (Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

Your current production, Rite of Spring/Romeo and Juliet is touring around the UK in receipt of excellent reviews at the moment.  What is it about the show that made you want to bring it on stage?
When I first performed ‘The Rite of Spring’ in a concert, I thought about transforming it into a Concert Theatre to make a physical theatre incorporating masks. I also imagined some theatrical structure inspired from the music. On the other hand, when I first read ‘Romeo and Juliet’, I felt the ‘hatred’ side stronger than the ‘love’ side in the play. I thought it is because of the ‘ancient grudge’ which prevents the young lovers to stay alive and together. One day these two ideas suddenly linked to each other. I found the ‘sacrifice’ theme in the music, a virgin who is chosen in a pagan ritual, becomes the sacrifice and dances until death, reveals also strongly in the play – all young people except Benvolio died at the end because of the ancient grudge. The dissonant music serves for the violent and hostile environment in the play, and the strong rhythm matches the play that everything happens within a short time and lots of fatal events are caused by the missed timing. I found it fascinating and feel there are lots of striking coincidence between the two works. All of these ideas propelled me to produce this performance. 

Concert Theatre's The Rite of Spring/Romeo Juliet (Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

Please share with me what have been your production highlights?
We created a movable piano in this production. The piano is the biggest part of our set on the stage. Unlike the traditional concert in which the piano stands still on the stage, our piano moves during the performance. We created a piano frame connected to the stools, so the pianists move along with it and do not have to chase the piano during the performance. The actors move the piano to created different space on the stage and the movement also becomes a theatrical language. They can also jump around the frame and the piano becomes an addition stage on the stage. We had a hard time to create the frame because of many reasons, like there different size of the pianos we are playing with and the material need to support the move well, but we finally make it work brilliantly. When I first move along the piano in the rehearsals (I am also one of the pianists in the performance), I felt quite carsick during the rehearsals, but I am getting used to it now in the performances!

Concert Theatre's The Rite of Spring/Romeo Juliet (Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

Please share with my followers why they are encouraged to see Rite of Spring/Romeo and Juliet?

There are lots of reasons which have been pointed out by the critics. We got four stars on WhatsOnStage, which says ‘words are important in the theatre but so is movement’. Movement is such an important part about the theatrical expression and we are using it fully to express the old story you have read for many times (there is no spoken language in this production). Everything Theatre which gives us four stars also said ‘This was the best piece of physical theatre I’ve ever seen and is a great specimen for showing audiences why physical theatre should be given the time of day.’ Views on the Gods said (which gave us five stars), ‘If you feel you have seen enough Romeo and Juliet, let these young people surprise you.’ The production shows a unique perspective of the music and the play and expressed with depth and imagination. At the point of enjoying both music and drama in a single performance, Theatre Tourist said that ‘
the concept of blending classical concert and theatre together an innovative and creative idea and the production itself is exciting and fresh

Concert Theatre's The Rite of Spring/Romeo Juliet (Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli)

What theatrical works aspire you to plan for future productions?

My next plan is plan is to create a Concert Theatre work based on Schubert’s song cycle ‘Die schöne Müllerin’. The story is that a young man settled down at the work as a miller during his wander through the countryside. He then fell in love with a miller’s beautiful daughter, but he thought she was in love with a hunter. Therefore, he committed suicide at the end. The poems were composed by Müller and there was a real story happening between Müller and other poets when creating the original scenes of ‘Die schöne Müllerin’. I’d like to interweave the song cycle with the historical event to create the intricate world. 

I would like to say a big thank you to An-Ting Chang for taking part in this interview and sharing with us their innovation to close the relationship between classical music and live drama.  I'm very excited to see the The Rite of Spring/Romeo and Juliet when it visits Leeds during June.  Further information about Concert Theatre can be found via its website.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Dawn, especially liked the interview question and answer section. :-)