Kristine Berey previews Beethoven Lives Upstairs in The Suburban: “Fleming describes the music as being a character in the play, sometimes just underneath or very present, but never jarring or frightening.”
Read on The Suburban’s website: Beethoven Lives Upstairs concludes Geordie Productions’ 35th season
Kristine Berey – April 27, 2016
When teaching kids about classical music, Beethoven is not an obvious first choice. His music is beautiful, and has much joy and humour. But like his life and personality, it is also revolutionary, dramatic and tragic, seemingly too complex for young children.
Dean Patrick Fleming, now in his 10th and final year as artistic director of Geordie Productions, does not underestimate his audience, aged 6 and up.
“Sometimes we treat kids like they’re dumb, and they’re not. They’re super smart, smarter than adults,” he says. “Sometimes they get cheated out of a good story because adults don’t think they’ll get it, but I think challenging kids is the best thing we can do.”
Geordie’s upcoming show concluding its 35th season, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, is Fleming’s own adaptation of Susan Hammond’s award-winning Classical Kids’ CD. Fleming’s then-wife Lisa Kagan “fell in love with the story” 18 years ago and they created a theatrical version. “It was 1998, my son was one year old and he grew up listening to it. At Geordie, I decided to do it again. It is similar but decently different than back then.”
Beyond the personal connection, Fleming says the play has everything that he has loved at Geordie. “It’s a great story, it is very theatrical in the way we produced it and I’m surrounded by an incredible group of artists, actors, stage managers and designers.”
Starring Lucinda Davis, Quincy Armorer, Leni Parker, Eric Hausknost and Alex McCooeye, the play is about a little boy learning how to appreciate a musical genius, as his first impression of his eccentric neighbour changes. “The music starts and doesn’t stop. The whole play is underscored with Beethoven’s music.”
Fleming describes the music as being a character in the play, sometimes just underneath or very present, but never jarring or frightening. “With kids you have to be careful with volume, so we were really aware of that. Our sound designer was incredibly careful.”
At Geordie, Fleming has directed plays with classic and modern storylines including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Little Prince, A Christmas Carol, and Chloe’s Choice among others. He chooses material according to themes that interest him. “It has to be a great story, it has to say something about the world. That’s been most important to me at Geordie, talking about the world kids and adults live in today. We are commenting, raising questions about that world. The artist holds up a mirror, not to answer but as a way to let kids know it’s ok to ask questions.”
Themes that preoccupy Fleming include war, isolation and fairness as perceived by children. He says theatre is about starting conversations. “I’ve always been interested in what a child might be thinking when watching the news, and how that gets translated in a child’s mind.”
When directing Chloe’s Choice, Fleming says he wanted to create a play about religion after the PQ government attempted to bring in a Charter of Values. “I wonder how a kid would take that info and put it against an ‘everybody’s equal’ poster in school. The things we teach are not always the things kids see adults doing in our world.”
During his years at Geordie, Fleming says he has grown as an artist, thanks to the people he worked with. But he says change is important, and is pleased that it is Mike Payette who will take up the torch. Like Fleming, Payette has a history with the company. “I’ve known Mike since he was 16. He has a deep love of theatre, I was very happy when I heard he got the job.”
Though change is important, it is never easy. “Leaving is very bittersweet,” Fleming says. He has no concrete plans for now, just a desire to spread his wings. “A big thing for me from the very beginning, for the rest of my life, is creating visual theatre that is exciting to watch, that does things only theatre can do, that can’t be done in film or any other art form.”
Beethoven Lives Upstairs runs Apr. 29 to May 8 at the D.B. Clarke Theatre, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. For more info call 514-845-9810 or visit www.geordie.ca