The weight of directing a stage adaptation of a novel penned by a Canadian literary giant like Alistair MacLeod is keeping Brian Taylor awake at night.
“I do feel under an enormous amount of pressure,” the dramatic art professor admitted during an interview about two weeks before the opening night of No Great Mischief, a staged reading of the novel of the same name.
Authored by Dr. MacLeod, a professor of English and the department’s writer-in-residence for the winter semester, the 1999 novel follows the tale of two brothers from Cape Breton Island, and explores the bonds of their family, descendants of a Scottish clan dating back to the late 18th century.
The book has won numerous awards, including the Trillium Award in 1999 and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2001. It was adapted into a stage production by David S. Young and premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto 2004, and was subsequently presented in Ottawa, Vancouver and Halifax.
The English department teamed up with the school of dramatic art to do a staged reading of the play in honour of MacLeod’s many achievements, and to celebrate the University’s 50th anniversary. Opening on February 28, it will run three consecutive nights in the H. Clifford and Joan Hatch Studio Theatre at the Jackman Dramatic Arts Centre.
MacLeod, who has seen the play staged in several other cities, said he’s thrilled that an adaptation of his book will be staged on the campus of the university he joined in 1969.
“It’s very exciting,” said MacLeod. “It’s nice for me and it’s very nice for the drama students.”
Besides directing in the play, Taylor will join the nine-member cast, and along with colleague Michael Keating, will star as one of the two MacDonald brothers who the book’s plot centers around. Drama students Erik Helle and Tristan Claxton play the younger versions of those characters during the flashback scenes.
Taylor said the production will be “like a radio play with images,” and very true to the novel’s central themes.
“It’s been streamlined, but nothing essential has been changed from the book to the stage,” he said. “Part of the book’s appeal is its simplicity and the strength of the words he’s written. It’s a very human document. It’s a beautiful piece.”
While the burden of doing the book justice is weighing heavily on his mind, it’s apparent that most of Taylor’s pressure is self-imposed. And he remains confident the play will be a fine tribute.
“I want to do my best for Alistair and his family, and for our students,” he said. “But they’re so talented and hard-working, so I’m sure it’s going to come together in the end.”
Tickets can be obtained by contacting the University Players box office at 519-253-3000 ext. 2808, or by using the on line ticket order form.