As the credits for Moonrise Kingdom rolled, Cleo da Fonseca and Giuseppe Di Lonardo knew: this was going to be the next adaptation their theatre troupe would be doing.
Founded by Di Lonardo, the Thespian Theater Troupe has been adapting movies for the stage for the past five years. Spearheaded by Di Lonardo, da Fonseca and Frantz-Patrice Séïde Cameau, the school troupe from Collège Brébeuf have adapted such movie classics as American Beauty and Donnie Darko. Their latest production is an adaptation of Moonrise Kingdom, which was staged Feb. 27 and 28 at the Brébeuf auditorium.
The Thespian Theater Troupe is one of Brébeuf’s three theater troupes, and the only one that performs in English.
The other two theatre troupes at Brébeuf focus on classical and musical theatre. Since he couldn’t sing and wasn’t fond of classical plays, Di Lonardo took it upon himself to found his own troupe, with the goal of specializing in adapting movies and bringing a more modern approach to the school’s productions. The first time he pitched the idea of an English-speaking troupe to the school, he was turned down. Undeterred, he returned the year after with a more concrete and developed idea. Cameau joined soon after, along with da Fonseca.
“Movies are easier to adapt to as a kid. We grew up not so much with theatre, but with watching movies,” said da Fonseca. Studying communications at Concordia, she is the co-director and co-producer for the troupe, along with Cameau and Di Lonardo.
“It’s something that I wanted, and I figured others would too,” said Di Lonardo. After graduating from Brébeuf in sciences, Di Lonardo volunteered to continue running the troupe. Cameau and da Fonseca, also volunteered to stay on despite also having graduated.
Da Fonseca credits the teachers, actors and especially the coaches for the success of the troupe. Whereas she, Cameau and Di Lonardo focus on production, the coaches guide the students to their full acting potential. “The acting is made possible by the coaches. Without them, the magic wouldn’t have happened,” said da Fonseca. The coaches, Thomas Khullar, Boyao Zhang and Olivier Archambault Bouffard, are former Brébeuf students who are volunteering their time.
Pierre Drolet has been an English teacher at Brébeuf for the past 20 years. He is the staff liaison for the troupe and supports it wholeheartedly.
“Like anything, it took a few years to find its legs,” said Drolet, who thinks that from a creative standpoint, the troupe is very good for students and gives them a sense of accomplishment. “After the production, they’ll be tired and useless in class, but they’ll be beaming with pride.”
The troupe has become a close-knit, but not closed family, continually inviting additional members. Da Fonseca’s hope is that in the future, the Thespian can become an independent company while maintaining its original members.
From start to finish the production of Moonrise Kingdom took nine months. The storyline followed the movie closely; however actors were given a fair amount of leeway with their lines and were encouraged to add their own personal twist to the show. As most characters from the movie are either very young or very old, the troupe faced a substantial challenge in embodying their characters. Nonetheless, they did so effectively and put on a great performance, keeping the audience in stitches the whole time. The troupe also showcased an effective and impressive creativity in terms of props and space, turning the stage from dense forest to bright living room seamlessly and effortlessly. For a student play, the troupe did an excellent job of bringing everything together in order to put on an amazing show. The future is full of possibilities for the Thespian, said Cameau, “I don’t know where it’s headed, but it’s headed somewhere great.”