The first thing that comes to mind when people hear the word “Magellan” nowadays is the GPS system that helps them get to Kelowna. UBC BFA alumni Angela Ferreira, writer and director of rEvolver Theatre Festival's The Peaceful Sea hopes to remedy this by reminding everyone of the ambitious explorer behind this name -- Ferdinand Magellan -- with her new production.
Revolving around Magellan’s expedition to explore a westward route to Southeast-Asia from Portugal, the play covers the beginnings of the ambitious plan as well as the trials and tribulations of the journey itself. The production also emphasizes Magellan’s encounters in Brazil and the Philippines, as both were important milestones of expedition -- the latter location being the place of his demise.
Ferreira, a BFA graduate in Theatre and French, has performed, written and directed plenty of works for a variety of troupes, and is currently completing her MFA at SFU. For her, the story of Magellan was a somewhat unexpected topic, with the production inspired mainly by casual summer readings of Over the Edge of the World, a biography by Lawrence Bergreen, and the journals of Antonio Pigafetta, both which focus on this expedition.
With that, Ferreira became fascinated with the idea of the mentality of an individual taking on such an ambitious challenge.
“I think the piece explores more of the determination behind the character of Magellan rather than focusing on anything else,” said Ferreira, who sees the production driven more by character development than just a historical retelling. “[It’s] examining what that is, and how that affects others and conversations others have amidst someone who is so determined to make something happen."
Simultaneously, it became a matter of sharing a story which Ferreira believes is not told enough.
“It started off with why I hadn’t heard of [or] seen a show about him because of his circumnavigation was a huge shift in history,” she said. “My goal is that the audience will take in what we have to offer and have conversation about who he was [and] also [the fact] that this person instigated change in the world."
This is not the first time the play will be performed in front of a live audience. The production has already premiered in Victoria and since then Ferreira and her team have added more to it.
“This show has an increase in how many songs we have, we have more movement and that was my wanting to fill the space with different kind of energy than simply performing,” she said.
One design choice for the production is, with the exception of Magellan, all performers will almost constantly switch to different roles in scenes, tying in with the constant energy Ferreira hopes to achieve.
“The thing that will stand out the most stylistically is how the actors do this in terms of believability because they are believable,” she said. “It’s interesting to see the depth of each character and then have to switch it on a dime.”
Some design choices, such as costuming, are still being tweaked according to Ferreira, even with the production due in a few weeks. This is on top of other challenges such as effectively summarizing the story in an hour and ensuring a proper representation of each stage of the journey. This is not just for the sake of correctness, but also for the audience to come away with an ideal experience.
“[I feel] like [we have done our] job if they have a basic understanding of the story -- if they were entertained or moved or intrigued…. [If they] feel like they’ve experienced something, that’d be a big success to me,” said Ferreira, who along with her team, hope to bring more support to the theatre community too as they do for Magellan. “It’s important for people at UBC taking theatre [to know] that they can go on to make theatre that is supported by the general community around them and that there can be longevity in [it]. Just gotta make good work.”
The Peaceful Sea will be presented at the rEvolver Theatre Festival from May 21-24. Tickets are $15-20.