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Theatre student’s new role as assistant director

by Julia Bryant March 24, 2015
Theatre student’s new role as assistant director

A Concordia protégé assists in the direction of the Centaur’s The Envelope

Concordia theatre student Mitchell Cohen has had a unique opportunity to work closely with the artistic team of a new play premiering at the Centaur Theatre March 24.

Cohen has been involved with The Envelope, written and directed by Montreal playwright Vittorio Rossi, since its early stages of writing.

The play centres around two producers who gather at an Italian restaurant to vie for the film rights to a new play premiering at an imaginary theatre located in Old Montreal. They’re asked to choose between an indie L.A. filmmaker and a millionaire local film producer, who offers them an envelope full of cash. The play examines the conflicts between ambition, loyalty, money and ultimately art. The show will be Rossi’s 10th play staged at the Centaur.

Cohen overlooks the script with playwright and director Vittorio Rossi in preparation for the premiere of The Envelope on March 24. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Cohen explained that the play isn’t so much about the big issues, but more of a snapshot of one point in time. “It’s not the kind of play that thinks of the big questions in life, and talks philosophically about this and that,” he explained. “It’s a very specific story about the film industry.”

As assistant director of the show, Cohen says he’s learned a great deal from working with Rossi in a professional theatre environment.

“What I’m figuring out is how to navigate a cast, and that everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses, and the subtleties of knowing when to say something or when to hold back,” said Cohen.

Though he has plenty of experience working on productions, Cohen had never really seen things from the director’s point of view before.

“I’m an actor, and directing is not the thing that I necessarily want to be doing,” he said. “My true love and passion is acting.”

Cohen explained that his role with the show is not a clearly defined one, but one that he feels is appreciated. “My job, I feel, is to work in the framework that Vittorio is trying to place,” he said. “Every director needs to have a voice, and every director needs to have their own touch. My job is to help keep that afloat.”

Cohen went on to say that he has high hopes for the play’s opening. “I can honestly say that there’s been a ton of progress in the last week or so, and I think that we’re going to exceed a lot of expectations,” he said.

When asked to describe The Envelope in one or two words, actor Leni Parker, a Concordia theatre alumna, called it a “power play.” Ron Lea, who studied theatre at both Concordia and the National Theatre School, described it as “a sledgehammer.”

Cohen described the show as being made up of small pieces rather than a sweeping entirety. “It’s going to be a lot of interesting little moments that tell a story,” he said. “We’re taking a very interesting, rather truthful story and telling it as it is, which I find very fascinating.”

The Envelope plays at Centaur Theatre from March 24 to April 19.

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