MythWeavers at Crosby Center

Not just clowning around

By Dagney C. Ernest | Feb 06, 2019
Mary Weaver has been exploring her clown character for decades.

Belfast — Church Street has hosted a lot of Mary Weaver’s work over the years, much of it at The Playhouse, her tiny theater space across from the police station; and on the pavement itself, thanks to the Church Street Festival. In 2017, a portion of that community event took place at the Crosby Center, as the renovated former city high school has become known. For the next two weekends, the Crosby will host “* Ask Me No Questions,” an original work conceived at, but too big for, The Playhouse.

The production is a collaboration on many levels. Weaver, who did agree to be asked some questions a few days before her troupe loaded into the venue, said Crosby owner Kiril Lozanov and she “seem to like to work together,” and that getting MythWeavers Theater Company on the main stage was a goal.

MythWeavers is the name Weaver has used for years to encompass her work, which has trained several generations of local young people in Creative Acting. “* Ask Me No Questions” has a larger cast that comprises many a Creative Acting alum, as well as those still young enough to be working with Weaver. Of course, she also produces adult plays — which accounts for the age range of 8 to 75. “* Ask Me No Questions” also features an actor not often seen in Playhouse productions — Weaver herself.

“This is a play with my clown character as the central anchor. It’s a play without dialog … not to be confused with a mime performance,” she said. “This is the theater work we have called MythWeavers Theater since 1982.”

The ensemble has been working together since the fall to create “* Ask Me No Questions” and, for the last month or so, has had regular rehearsals to develop the humorous play through the Commedia dell’arte all’improvviso style of improvisation. There is a recorded soundtrack and colorful costumes — lots of them, made by Weaver, whose costume barn has been known to enhance many a Church Street Parade, as well as less public Halloween and Feast of Venus ceremonies.

“Well, I'll just say that everybody has at least three costume changes — some people have a couple of costume changes in each scene,” Weaver said.

Pulling those off, literally and figuratively, was a challenge to be taken on the weekend before opening, when the company moved its show into the Crosby. As much an educator and an artist, Weaver was focusing on that in advance.

“All of these people will work on a quote-unquote real stage with wings and exits and multiple stuff — how do you go to where your costume is in the two seconds you need to get it out, and how do you leave your other one there? So for me in my teaching mode, this is really very, very, very good training,” she said.

In  “* Ask Me No Questions,” the actors perform with gesture and movement. Some of the performance is abstract, Weaver said, and some has a linear storyline. Each actor plays multiple characters — hence the costume changes — as the show explores, in three acts, Imagination, Shadows and Fairytale. All of it is infused with humor and “is a sight to see,” said Weaver.

“We have cats and dogs and rats and clowns and bugs and bees and a dancing dragon! We have no dialog, so we're compelled to act with our bodies and our hands and our intentions and our magic … to me, it's the core of acting,” Weaver said.

Moving to the Crosby also meant solidifying the second act, in which actors interact with their shadows. Donna Short is doing the show’s lighting and Phil Prince, also in the cast, is handling the set.

“We’ve done theater since 1982; he’s done more with me as an adult than any other adult, a real collaborator! He's doing the set and the painting,” Weaver said.

Longtime-students-become-adults Jacob Fricke and Julia Clapp will reprise and extend their Columbine and Pierrot act. And Weaver’s whimsical, maybe a little mystical, clown will get a chance to really take stage. It’s about time.

“I started clowning in Belfast in 1982 when I came, but the first time I can remember doing this kind of stuff, I probably was 9 or 10 and I was in my kitchen, on roller skates, listening to the falling leaves,” she said. “So it turns out I've been trying to make this some kind of language for a long time.”

This many years since, she hints that “* Ask Me No Questions” might be the last time to see her on stage — not that she’s made any decision or deadline to that effect.

“I really don't get to do this … to act in anything. And certainly, nobody knows what to do with my clown,” she said with more cheer than rue.

As director, she is aiming at a show of no more than 75 minutes, including intermission, of entertainment. A few days before taking over the Crosby stage, things were looking good.

“I'm happy to say I think it's going to come together,” she said.

“* Ask Me No Questions” will be presented Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m., Feb. 8 through 17, at the Crosby Center, 96 Church St. Tickets are $15, $10 for children, with a family cap of $30, paid at the door. For reservations, call 370-6622.

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