The sentence in the obituary that rings truest for me says “everyone believed there was so much more to come from Sten’s life.”
I discovered the bad news when I went to the Guild Festival Theatre website to see what they would be producing this year. I’d seen their 2011 debut, shows in 2012 and 2013, gave them a pass last year (my trip to Europe last summer meant I couldn’t make it) and now wondered what they would be producing this summer.
I have been thinking a lot about aging, having just read the Hutcheon’s book about creativity in later life, namely Four Last Songs. We’re all getting older of course and I am sure I’m not the only one looking at the future wondering “what next”…? And so when I stumbled upon the news of Sten Eirik’s untimely death (much too late for the memorial service) it seemed especially upsetting, because I wanted to see the next chapter in the story of GFT as led by Eirik.
I shook his hand at premieres while enjoying the fellowship of opening night excitement. I shared the URL of reviews with him via email that he accepted graciously. I remember a kind and generous man, i remember an excited group of people drawing upon his energy & vision, a sense of great things to come. But even so I had a sadly superficial understanding of his life, wishing i’d had an opportunity to get closer. I’d been delighted to see a couple of actors with whom I’d worked appearing in GFT shows.
I want to remember the three GFT shows that I did see, to go back in my mind to what I saw and what that all portended.
The 2011 Debut was for me the most magical, just the fact that the promise of the Guild Festival Theatre –a stunningly beautiful outdoor performance venue that has only been used intermittently but never with a resident company—was finally being fulfilled. I don’t know what struggles preceded that premiere, only that the money was there to put a professional theatre company onstage.
And the product was surprisingly good. I’ve seen lots of productions of The Cherry Orchard, a work that is often weighed down by the pretentiousness associated with the author, Anton Chekhov. Eirik steered his cast towards a lighter more comical tone, that in no way compromised the serious implications of the play. The gorgeous setting –outside close to the edge of the lake—made for some magical moments, particularly in the lyricism of Act II. It was better than i had dared to hope for.
Season two meant additional ambition, in an original musical adaptation of Aristophanes Clouds, and a fun romp with great energy. Season three was a more deadpan approach, in Moliere’s Misanthrope, and again a thoughtful and original meditation upon honesty.
I was unable to make it to last season’s Importance of Being Earnest.
GFT will produce Romeo and Juliet, their first Shakespeare play from July 16 to August 9, 2015. While the founder has passed, the dream lives on.