Walking Through The Waste Land

Exiled's Co-Artistic Director and Production Manager, James Wilkinson, talks about his why he decided to direct a poem in motion adaptation of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land

"First and foremost, I really love the poem. There’s so much delight to be had in the line by line aesthetic bliss of Eliot’s language and the mood it invokes. Even if you’re not catching all of the literary references that he’s tossing in the mix (and there are a lot of them), you can ride along on the landscape that Eliot is creating. I’ve always thought that the poem radiated a passionate energy that readers don’t always associate with it. I think this is partly because it’s been stuck in academia being dissected for almost a hundred years but also because if you listen to a recording of Eliot reading the poem, you’ll hear him do it in a very dry delivery. One of the great things about working on this project has been finding the human heartbeat within the poem and giving voice to it. There’s so much power to it.

I was also intrigued by the idea of creating something completely and purely theatrical. You can’t listen to a recording, or watch a video of the performance at a later date and get the same effect as if you’re watching it live. I wanted to build something where the power of the piece comes from occupying the same airspace as our actors and letting them pull you through the journey. It was also an opportunity to work with abstractions. Although the poem is very theatrical, we (the actors and I) couldn’t approach it like a traditional character-driven narrative. We got to expand our toolbox and play around with how each section was performed and the action that surrounded it. That’s why I gave the project the subtitle: A poem in motion. I think that no two audience members are going to walk away with the same interpretation of the piece.

I was really blessed with actors for this piece. I’ve worked with Laura and Alex before and they’re friends of mine, so I knew they were talented and wonderful to work with, but I wasn’t quite sure how they’d feel approaching something so intangible. They not only rose to the challenge, they took every idea I threw at them and ran with it, so the rehearsal process has been the opportunity to watch something blossom. I think this weekend the audience is in for a real treat."

Join us 5/21 or 5/22 at The Green Room in Somerville tickets here.