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Bloody Poetry focuses on literary rockstars of the 19th-century

By Jason Herring, November 27 2014 —

The University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) is bringing their production of Howard Brenton’s play Bloody Poetry to the Reeve Theatre opening Nov. 25.

Set in early 19th-century Europe, the play centres around the lives of English romantic poet Lord Byron and his mistress, Claire Clairemont, as well as influential literary figures Mary and Percy Shelley. Most of the storyline is true to history, with Brenton taking only minor poetic licence with the plot.

The group is exiled from England due to the public’s vilification of the writers’ private lives. They struggle to come to terms with their role in society. Despite the difference in era, director Brian Smith says these internal conflicts are still relevant today.

“We’re asking questions about justice, about morality [and] about the common good that are very similar to the kinds of questions that young people are asking today,” Smith says.

Smith calls these figures “the rockstars of their generation.” These writers were radical for their time, both in their challenges to the conventions of literature as well as their often controversial private lives.

For the students involved in the production, the play is a full-time commitment, with the entire two-and-a-half-hour production having a rehearsal period of only six weeks.

“It’s a big challenge for students who are carrying full course loads and rehearsing five nights a week,” Smith says. Smith notes it’s an impressive commitment by these  students, all of whom are training to pursue a career in theatre.

A dedicated stage crew backs the actors, including Master’s of Fine Arts student Denis Baptista, who composed the play’s original score, and Kerem Çetinel, a theatre designer originally from Turkey.

Though the main mission of the SCPA’s productions are to provide practical experience to students, Smith says the school is intent on working to meet a professional standard and the community’s expectations.

The SCPA will present Bloody Poetry from Nov. 25 – Dec. 6.

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