Research showcase

February 9, 2016

For faculty members across the university, research and creative activity is an opportunity to learn, discover and give back. What goes into researching a novel? How do composers bring the black dots on a page to life? What happens to the chemicals we regularly spray, pour, dump and store? We’ll explore these questions, and more, in our faculty research series.

All the world’s a lab

Jim Guedo’s laboratory has bright stage lights and heavy curtains. He interprets data from scripts and his published work is ephemeral, lasting only for days or weeks at a time.

“That’s what I love about directing live theatre. We work incredibly hard for weeks, months or even years, and then it’s over. But there’s an energy that comes with bringing a story to life in front of an audience—everyone goes on the same ride and it’s different every night.”

  The university’s production of the “whodunit” Curtains runs Feb 3 to 13.

Jim may not be a researcher in the traditional sense of the word, but the parallels between the research process in biological sciences or chemistry and the creative process Jim follows when staging a theatre production are more striking than you might think. Like research, it can often take years to bring a performance into the public realm—seeking out funding, collecting data, collaborating and making sure the work finds an audience.

“My research and creative work is in the preparation, rehearsal and production of a piece,” says the Theatre Arts program coordinator. “I love the classics, including Shakespeare, but contemporary work is my focus. I’m drawn to plays that let audiences explore the creative process of theatre.”

That focus led Jim to direct Passion Play in 2014—a modern, ambitious project with a cast of 11 actors. “It took five years from start to finish, but I read the play often over the years to keep it alive in my mind,” says Jim. “Seeing it on stage was like seeing a labour of love finally come to fruition.”

After directing Coriolanus for the 2015 Freewill Shakespeare Festival, staging The Realistic Joneses in the spring of 2016 was a pendulum swing in the opposite direction for Jim. He says four-character human comedy has a unique, off-kilter voice. “It’s also very small scale—like a detailed finger painting as opposed to a broad canvas.”

Ultimately, Jim says that his creative work—whether directing, designing sets, lighting, or soundscapes, or writing an adaptation—is about uncovering the story behind the script. “Our responsibility is to the playwright. We have to make their story visual. We have to make it physical. We have to find the life underneath the words so they lift off the page.”

And if he doesn’t feel passionate that he can do that with a play, he won’t take it on. “If there isn’t a passion or burning desire, it will be a hollow experience—both for me and for the audience. “

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