David Earle, Peter Randazzo, Christopher House, Carol Anderson, Kenny Pearl
Michael J. Baker
Denis Joffre, Susan Rome
Ron Snippe, Peter McKinnon
Assistant Stage Manager:
Anne Barry, Brenda Davis, Rachel MacHenry
December 14, 1983, Toronto Dance Theatre, School of Toronto Dance Theatre and Dancemakers
Premiere Dance Theatre, Toronto
Toronto Dance Theatre: Lucie Boissinot, Michael Conway, Karen duPlessis, Merle Holloman, Christopher House, Helen Jones, Benoît Lachambre, Grace Miyagawa, Sara Pettitt, Suzette Sherman, Luc Tremblay
Dancemakers: Artistic Directors -- Carol Anderson, Patricia Fraser
The Company -- Conrad Alexandrowicz, Francisco Alvarez, Carol Anderson, Richard Bowen, Patricia Fraser, Ken Gould, Susan McKenzie, Zella Wolofsky
Guest Artists from Toronto Dance Theatre's past companies: Ricardo Abreut, Billyann Balay, Kathryn Brown, Norrey Drummond, Nancy Ferguson, Donald Himes
Other Guest Artists: Jonathon Burston, Murray Darroch, Pam Tate, Eric Tessier- Lavigne, David Victor, Phyllis Whyte. Students of the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre: Sylvie Bouchard, France Salmon, Gina Desjarlais, Karen Forsey, Ian Betts, Anne Barry, Fiona Drinnan, Ricardo de la Fuente, Michael Menegon, Brenda Davis, Remi Falquet, Gillian Ferrabee, Emily Hackett, Suzanne Miller, Lynn Snelling, Rachel MacHenry, Anne Marie Lalancette
Roles were danced by the following: Priests -- David Earle, Peter Randazzo; Beggars -- Carol Anderson, Lucie Boissinot, Karen duPlessis, Ken Gould, Christopher House, Benoît Lachambre, Susan MacKenzie; Acrobats -- Christine Adderson, Diane Bartlett, David Victor; Courtesans -- Patricia Fraser, Merle Holloman, Helen Jones, Sara Pettitt; Bishop -- Ricardo Abreut; Banner Dancers: Duke -- Conrad Alexandrowicz; Men at Arms -- Francisco Alvarez, Michael Conway, Luc Tremblay; Lepers -- Billyann Balay, Jonathan Burston, Ricardo de la Fuente, Donald Himes, Anne Marie Lalancette, Pamela Tate, Phyllis Whyte; Penitents -- Patricia Beatty, Michael Conway, Murray Darroch, Remi Falquet, Suzette Sherman; Gypsies -- Francisco Alvarez, Monica Burr, Grace Miyagawa, Eric Tessier-Lavigne, Luc Tremblay, Zella Wolofsky; Three Kings -- Richard Bowen, Murray Darroch, Donald Himes; Bride -- Suzette Sherman; Groom -- Michael Conway; Townspeople -- Billyann Balay, Jonathan Burston, Donald Himes, Suzette Sherman, Pamela Tate, Phyllis Whyte, and students of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre: Sylvie Bouchard, France Salmon, Gina Desjarlais, Karen Forsey, Ian Betts, Anne Barry, Fiona Drinnan, Ricardo de la Fuente, Michael Menegon, Brenda Davis, Remi Falquet, Gillian Ferrabee, Emily Hackett, Suzanne Miller, Lynn Snelling, Rachel MacHenry, Anne Marie Lalancette; Inmates -- Patricia Beatty, David Earle, Ricardo Abreut, Murray Darroch, Donald Himes, Peter Randazzo, Pam Tate, Phyllis Whyte; Miracle Play: Mary -- Carol Anderson; Joseph -- Benoît Lachambre; Angel -- Christopher House; Ox -- Karen duPlessis; Ass -- Ken Gould; Shepherds -- Lucie Boissinot, Susan MacKenzie
Court of Miracles was conceived by David Earle and directed by David Earle and Kenny Pearl. Court of Miracles is divided into two acts. Act 1: Pageant of the City. A square in a city in Northern Europe in the Middle Ages during the Feast of St. Nicholas. Pageant of the City does not tell a story, but rather presents the panorama of life in Medieval times. The Feast of St. Nicholas was a holiday when lepers and penitents shared the streets with courtesans and royalty, when townspeople were crowned and became kings, where a wedding of royalty was shared with the common, and when everyone, rich and poor alike, was confronted with the everyday realities of Life and Death. Act 2: Feast of Light. A home for the socially discarded on Christmas Eve. Each inmate re-enacts one of the seven deadly sins: anger, pride, sloth, greed, hunger, lust and envy. Finally, envy steals each person's sin, which was their only remaining possession. The beggars arrive with their gifts to perform the miracle of Christmas and are themselves witness to an unexpected miracle.
The Court of Miracles was an area in Paris dating back to the Middle Ages, in which the inhabitants gained their livelihoods through their imaginations.
During the ten years that Court of Miracles was performed, sections were re-staged and re-choreographed using many different companies and soloists. For example, in 1985 guest artists were Jackie Burroughs, James Kudelka, Veronica Tennant, Lawrence Adams, Brigitte Bourbeau, Donald Himes and members of the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre. Other guest artists through the years included Celia Franca, Lois Smith, Lilian Jarvis, Danny Grossman, Erik Bruhn, David Wood, Angela Leigh, Russell Kilde, Jeffrey Mayne, Susan Macpherson, Ken Irving, Cameron MacMaster, Michael Querin, Michael Trent, Julia Sasso, Gerry Trentham, Carolyn Woods, David Rose, Dion MacArthur, Gérald Michaud, Naoko Murakoshi, Kathleen Pritchard, Darryl Hoskins, Sasha Ivanochko, Janet Kearsey, Learie McNicolls. Court of Miracles was performed in Toronto, Windsor, Barrie, Waterloo, St. Catharines, cross Canada tour (1990) and Philadelphia (1991). Dancetheatre David Earle remounted Court of Miracles at the River Run Centre, Guelph, Ontario, in December 2003.
Interview with David Earle, September 28, 2002
There was an area of Paris in the middle ages where the street people lived; people with every kind of physical disability. They would go into the city to beg and when they returned, legs, arms, hearing, sight were all miraculously restored. The people of Paris lovingly referred to this area as the Court of Miracles. It's all about street theatre. This area is still referred to in the Michelin Green Guide to Paris.
It broke my heart when I first saw the needy people during our stay in Lisbon, but when I remained after the tour I observed them donning their supposed infirmity and began to see behind the façade. A pitiful beggar woman (to whom I had previously given money) received an American twenty-dollar bill, marched into a store and bought a Fudgsicle. When a potential 'donor' came by she hid the Fudgsicle under her arm and resumed her grotesque, pitiful shape. Another beggar, huddled in front of a monastery, hailed a taxi and drove off when the people who had given her money had moved on. Begging in supposed need is undoubtedly a timeless occupation. So it seemed very timely, when so many people are depending on others for their wellbeing, to create my Court of Miracles.
I approached all the modern dance companies in Toronto hoping that, together, we could create a Christmas show to rival The Nutcracker, but the only interest came from Dancemakers. I chose the music, although James Kudelka later changed some sections. His contributions were epic -- the Banner Dance, the Wedding, The Gypsy Dance and the Finale. Each year sections changed, were dropped, rechoreographed or added, depending on the cast and the guest artists involved.
The opening image of the acrobat crossing on a tightrope while carrying two candles came from an engraving I fell in love with in a Paris gallery. The image struck me as the perfect metaphor for the artist. You have been given a light and you have to carry it safely across the void, blindfolded.
I envisioned three large ladder-type structures for the set, but our set designer Ron Ward created phenomenal multi-purpose structures. For example, a large plank that the acrobat used as his tightrope to walk across the stage later became the table inside a set piece for the inmates' feast.
The curious thing about Court of Miracles is that, although it had a cast of sixty, ten good dancers could handle all the technically difficult roles. It became a kind of community on stage -- from the very young members of Canadian Children's Dance Theatre to the seasoned guest artists.
In Act 1, I wanted to show the unchanging nature of society and the potential for play when people gather together for celebration. Act 2 opened in an asylum-like 'home for the socially discarded' with only grey costumes and grey hangings -- a dramatic opposite to the colour, action and brightness of Act 1. Each inmate represented one of the seven deadly sins until 'Envy' stole everyone else's sin, leaving them with nothing. The beggars arrived and offered the inmates the things they had begged or stolen from people in Act 1. The first gift, an orange, stems from my childhood memories during the war when an orange in December in Toronto was an exceptional treat -- almost miraculous in itself. The beggars enacted a Miracle Play that concluded with the set pieces revolving to display a Nativity scene. The inmates then gave up their gifts to the Christ Child. So it really was about the poor giving to the even poorer, giving to God. In that moment, a miracle transformed the asylum into a great castle hall where the inmates were entertained and dined on gold platters. Just when the people thought they had given everything possible to transform the inmate's existence, the inmates took the tablecloth -- which was actually seven rainbow robes lined with gold -- and to the astonishment of the assembled company ascended the ladder as seven saints.
One of my unforgettable memories of Court of Miracles was in the first year when Benoît Lachambre played a beggar in Act 1 and Joseph in Act 2. He had injured his leg so we choreographed everything for him with a crutch or a staff. He did a phenomenal job and was utterly unforgettable.