by Rose Scollard
Three plays, all beautifully written and astonishingly original in viewpoint and structure, depict different interpretations of the theme of women moral making choices.
The first play, Tango Noir takes place in October 1917, shortly before the execution of Marguerite Zelle for treason. Better known as Mata Hari, Zelle had once taken Paris by storm with her exotic dancing and, more recently, had been pursuing a successful, albeit stormy, career as a courtesan. In the play, Zelle interacts with the French novelist and actress Colette, dreams that it is she who is Mata Hari struggling with a surreal version of herself played by a male actor who also shifts into embodiments of Mata Hari’s jailor and Colette’s real life husband.
Bête Blanche, written as a companion piece for Tango Noir, depicts a woman, Faye, who is at an earlier stage of self-determination than Colette in Tango Noir. The structure in each play is a mirror image of the other, with the whole forming a sort of theatrical diptych on the struggle for spiritual integration.
In Preservation Blues, the third play in the collection, a young photographer Cass, examines photographs she recently took in a surreal and ephemeral New Orleans. A series of voices slip in and out of her narration, with imagery and tales that underline the protagonist’s rapidly increasing moral decay.
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Rose Scollard, co-founder of Maenad Theatre, wrote Metamorphoses I & II, Maenad’s first production. Three other of her plays — 13th God, Bete Blanche/Tango Noir, and Shea of the White Hands — also premiered with Maenad. During her time as Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Writers playwright-in-residence (1997) her play Caves of Fancy, about Mary Shelley and the creation of Frankenstein was presented at the University of Calgary’s international Shelley/Wollstonecraft conference and published in Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).
Fifteen of her plays have been collected electronically in North American Women’s Drama, Alexander Street Press. Firebird, a play for young audiences, was translated into German as Feuervogel and premiered with Frie Kammerspiele in Magdeburg, Germany (2003). Tango Noir, a collection of three of her plays was published by Frontenac House (2012). She is co-author with Caroline Russell-King of Strategies: The Business of Being a Playwright in Canada. (Playwrights Union of Canada, 2000).
Among her theatre awards are the CBC Write For Radio Prize for The Man Who Collected Women (1988) and Alberta Culture Playwriting Competition prizes for Uneasy Pieces and Nosey Parkers (1985). Shea of the White Hands was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (1995). Her play I Ain’t so Tough will be produced by Urban Stories in Calgary 2016.
Tango Noir is riveting in its sensuality and theatricality.”
~ Joyce Doolittle, NeWest Review
Bête Blanche curls itself around the listener like a cool white drape on a close July night. It is tantalizing and thoroughly engrossing, a near perfect production in every respect.
~ Colin Snowsell, The Weal
Tango Noir is witty, artful and literate, finding Calgary playwright Scollard at her best. Director Gerri Hemphill comes close to approximating the shifting moods of a dream world, colouring certain moments with Kevin Labchuk’s brooding musical score, which slips in quietly, builds and then abruptly vanishes. And a central scene in which Henri’s Colette and Collette’s Mata Hari slowly apply makeup to their faces is entrancing.
~ Martin Morrow, The Calgary Herald.