Talking Lysistrata with Director Leah Cherniak
Leah Cherniak is the Co-Founder with Martha Ross of Theatre Columbus (now Common Boots Theatre) in Toronto. The company created over 30 new plays and has an excellent reputation for innovative productions of classics. Leah studied theatre at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris after graduating from U of T with a theatre degree from the University College Drama Program. She is an Associate Artist with Soulpepper Theatre Company. We caught up with her in early April as she was starting to get ready for rehearsals.
Q. Are you excited to be bringing this new play to an audience for the first time?
A. I’m always excited to be doing something new with David – even though it is just a single performance. He’s a fantastic talent and I’m really enjoying working with him on putting this reading together.
Q. Is this play a modern classic or a classicly modern one?
A. It is definitely modern and contemporary but I think of it more as a complete reinvention of a classic play. The main characters are there but the situation, dialogue and the struggle are completely reimagined for today’s audiences.
Q. What has intrigued you the most about reading the play so far?
A. I directed another version of this play about 15 years ago so it is really fun to read something you are already familiar with and then see how the playwright has adapted and changed the source material. I also love the fact that the women in this play are the strong characters that move the action and are counteracting the actions of the men’s agenda. It’s also really funny.
Q. Lysistrata is a dramatic reading rather than a full-on play – how does that make your job as Director more difficult?
A. As a Director I can only prepare so much because we have very limited rehearsal time. This makes the project more fun but also more challenging. We will need to really focus on the essential parts to activate the audience’s imagination and bring the world of Lysistrata to life.
Q. I understand that there will be some Greek Chorusing going on – how will you be using that?
A. Lysistrata is not a musical but the Greek chorus will bring some music and song that will help to play up the comedic aspects. The songs have a lovely cabaret style vibe that sets the comedy going from the beginning and sustains it throughout as the they keep coming back with “new and improved” messages for the cast and audience.
Q. How do you feel about the issue at hand – is climate change affecting your life today?
A. Experiencing Lysistrata & the Temple of Gaia is a great reminder to everyone that we need to keep focused on this issue – we need to get on with fixing things and stop talking about it. The play is not prescriptive but still very forceful. Comedy is a great way to get a point across to a broad audience.
Q. What do you think the audience should know about Lysistrata before seeing the show?
A. This is not some kind of fusty old Greek classic. David has done an amazing job of making this play really contemporary and witty. It will be a delightful afternoon.