A Rehearsal of a Play of a Composer by a Poet

A new play by Mike Czuba (World Premiere)

Saturday, August 11, 2012
8:00 PM
University Theatre
University of Calgary (200 University Court NW, Calgary)
$20 (adults) / $15 (students/seniors)
Call (403) 240-4174, e-mail, or at the door
This somewhat surreal two-hander stars Aleksander Ristic and Trevor Reuger, and is directed by Barry Yzereef. It explores the complex relationship between poet and avant-gardist Jean Cocteau (played by Reuger) and the composer Erik Satie , as Cocteau reviews his memories of the late composer and attempts to get a young Actor (played by Ristic) to understand Satie and his milieu.
The concept of the play is that we are watching Cocteau direct an American actor in the role of Satie in a play that Cocteau wrote in New York in 1939 called Soyons Vulgaires. The play takes place 15 years after the death of Satie. The action takes place during the final rehearsal where Cocteau has only called the actor playing Satie, because he feels he does not fully understand the role. Cocteau, in an opium haze, directs the actor in a series of ‘scenes’, which run the length of Satie’s life and career. We discover that Cocteau’s intentions are for the actor to fully embody Satie and bring him to life so he can finally exorcise him from his life. Cocteau has been attempting to do this for 15 years since Satie refused to see him on his deathbed. We also discover that the play will never be produced.
“I was interested in investigating the idea of ‘sketches’ or unfinished pieces of music by a composer. Satie abandoned many unpublished, unknown and unfinished pieces in his apartment. I decided to look at the play as a series of sketches, of unfinished moments in time, because Cocteau was never finished ‘re-writing’ them. Pull the focus back a little further and I, the writer, took sketches of Cocteau and Satie and finished them in a way that stays true to their characters but might not be what they would have choose. Each of the ideas discussed have allowed the music of Satie to exist as its own character and the concepts of music as man, collage, repetition, the mirror, as physical entity and sketches have given the play it’s scriptuality. Early in the development of the play, before the research into repetition and mirroring, I scribbled a ‘narrative equation’ into my notebook: 
‘Actor needs Cocteau – Cocteau needs Satie – Satie needs Cocteau – Cocteau needs Actor’ 
When I returned to review my old notes, I was struck by how this ‘doodle’ had become the actual shape of the play and how it fit so easily into the concepts that were bubbling to the surface. Satie’s music was burrowing in deep.” 
“Another element of the music I wanted to utilize was its power as an entity. Yes, Satie wanted music to resemble a chair and not “go into convulsions”, but for my purposes I wanted the music to carry a certain amount of antagonism between the characters. Music was Satie’s art and the thing that Cocteau could never fully penetrate, so it already had an element of violence.” 
“I was interested in creating a piece of theatre that challenged audience’s expectations of what theatre is and could be. The spirit of Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau are within the pages of Satie et Cocteau: A Rehearsal of a Play of a Composer by a Poet and I hope to continue their work by challenging conformity and to never, ever be predictable.” 
– Mike Czuba 
Satie et Cocteau also features incidental music performed by the musicians of the Mountain View Festival, which runs from August 5 to 12, at several venues in Calgary. The play also inspired Festival Artistic Director Kathleen van Mourik to create a series of concerts based around Paris, the music world during the lives of Satie and Cocteau, and the interplay between the popular music and classical music of the time.

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