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Student director explains Paradise Lost

UCC offers the opportunity for IB students direct a production on their own. This year IB2 student Sam Hodgkins-Sumner directed Paradise Lost, performed at UCC on April 23 and 24. He describes his incredible experience below:

My experience with Paradise Lost started over this year’s December break. Having acted in the fall play, I wanted to experience a show from the other side of the curtain before graduating. My time in higher level theatre had also allowed me to cultivate an appreciation for the significance of production elements including lighting, sound, costumes and set). Dr. Dale Churchward had suggested that I try to adapt a great piece of literature for the stage.

I kept this in mind as I stepped into the Air Canada Centre on December 23 to attend Kanye West’s Yeezus tour. As I witnessed one man’s god-sized ego fill up the space amidst religious imagery and colossal staging, something clicked.

Why is society so scared to face its oldest and richest stories in this new post-God era? Why isn’t there more of this, I asked myself? West’s juxtaposition of a holy aesthetic with a modern, irreverent twist inspired me to take on something epic. What better, I decided, than Milton’s classic? It is an archetypical tale, but one that retains relevance. It tells the story of how the vanity and pride of an individual led him to drag others into a similar wretched state. From events such as the financial collapse of 2008 to the conflict in Syria, it is evident that vanity, pride, depravity, good, and evil are still at play in the world today.

In order to infuse Milton’s cosmological subject matter with a modern significance, I would need a capable and creative team. I handled the sound and costume elements, intending for a modern style to clash with the text’s rich language. Rachel Metalin served as my faculty superviser, and her support and assistance was invaluable to shaping the show. Ian Pica-Limbaseanu and Imran Jessa, respectively set and lighting designers, transformed the Chu into an ethereal space.

Ahuri Theatre’s Dan Watson also ran a workshop for the cast on using Japanese Butoh, a form of dance, to create the physicality in their performance. The actors, Hudson Southey-Gordon, Elliot Fish, Nestor Grandal, John Gilchrist, Kate Urquart, Alexandra Holgate and Jacqueline Chesney, conveyed the story of Paradise Lost effectively as an ensemble. Each of them brought their own distinct style to the table, and these yielded two strong shows on April 23 and 24.

The experience of directing this show was unique for me. It allowed me to cultivate my skills in leading an ensemble, and organizing all production elements. It was not always easy, but formative undertakings are never meant to be easy. I learned a great deal about theatre, and I am extremely grateful for those who helped me in achieving my vision.

Sam Hodgkins-Sumner IB2

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