Theatre Naught Re-emerges with Long Day’s Journey into Night
By Ezekiel McAdams
November 24 2002
For Skye Brandon, getting the opportunity to do Eugene O'Neills highly regarded play was a dream come true.
Brandon is directing Long Day’s Journey into Night, which is Theatre Naught’s first production in several years.
Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill is regarded by many as not only his magnum opus but one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. Set in 1912, It was written in 1940-1941 and was produced posthumously in 1956 in Sweden.
The play is a tragedy taking place within a single day. The events centre around the Tyrone family in Connecticut.
Brandon is one of the founders of Theatre Naught, a drama company which came into inception in 2011. Originally conceived as a co-operative, the company strives to tackle Shakespeare and the classics. The company has produced King Lear (2012), Cherry Orchard (2013), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (2017) and Death of a Salesman (2018).
The company’s name is derived from the experience of performing King Lear. “That’s the reason where the company name was born out of. Naught is used so often in King Lear and there’s something neat about that. We’re a theatre without a physical theatre.” Brandon laughs.
Brandon’s involvement as director was a happy accident. Actor Jaron Francis was the initial driving force behind producing the play. Initially set to debut spring 2020, the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic instantly halted any plans which led to a hiatus. “I wasn’t set to be the original director. Jaron Francis had started putting it together. The original director made the call they couldn’t commit to the time and probably because I directed Salesman and some of the cast were the same, they came to me but I’d rather be in it at this stage in my career, then direct it. But I’m not going to say no.” Brandon said.
Brandon has always been drawn to the play’s material. He first read it as a theatre student, watched many film adaptations and was always intrigued of the autobiographical nature of the play. ”This writer has injected so much of himself into it. Everyone knows that the names are slightly changed. It’s not the O’Neills it’s the Tyrones but everyone knows who he is talking about. I think some people would think it takes a lot of sacrifice and guts to write some hard truths about yourself and your family and to put it out there for everyone to see.”
One thing that surprised Brandon was the play’s vernacular and social stigmas in juxtaposition to our modern day. “It used to be that person’s crazy. Now we have clinical things that have been labeled and diagnosed. What used to be dismissed as that person’s a hophead or that person’s a drunk. We have a better understanding of addiction and various spectrums of mental health and what mental health can do to addiction.”
Brandon also noted that during rehearsal that dialogue felt more natural. “It seems so natural, he was on to something. It’s actually more realistic then when you first think, reading off the page.”
It wasn’t just the shift in production that changed but also dealing with the confines of a pandemic that Brandon had to adapt. He said they were looks of zoom meetings and rehearsing digitally but he felt for himself that it wasn’t that much different then rehearsing in person.
Brandon found assembling the ensemble both comforting and challenging. “I know all of them. Gordon Portman and Cheryl Jack were both in Death of a Salesman. Jordan Harvey, whom I’ve known for awhile but I’ve never worked directly. It’s kinda cool that I get to work with someone fresh out of theatre school. It kinda makes you work that much harder, as opposed to falling back on shorthand. Shorthand is great it makes things go faster but I can also see how it makes me lazy.”
Long Day’s Journey into Night is playing at the Refinery through On The Boards from November 25- December 4. Tickets can be bought online at ontheboards.ca or at the box office.
“I hope there’s a sense of empathy. I think it’s pretty easy to be cut and dry and this person did this, so they’re no longer in my life. But watching the Tyrones, they all have reason to be angry and bitter towards each other. They still love each other to. There’s a willingness to forgive but can’t forget. There’s still this love underneath. There’s still the ability to empathize as difficult as it may be, there’s something kinda beautiful about that,”