Questions about Life Is a Dream

Aleksandar Lukac aka Sasha Lukac is a director known on both sides of the Atlantic, a former Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Serbia who now teaches and directs in his own inimitable style at York University.

Aleksandar Lukac

Director Aleksandar Lukac

I’ve had (full disclosure) the privilege of working with him, writing music for a couple of his shows as well as watching him transform an opera I wrote into something unbearably powerful.

Next up for Sasha is Life is a Dream, previewing Tuesday March 8th then running March 9-12 at Theatre Glendon.

I asked him about the play and the production.

1) In your presentation of Life is a Dream how do you reconcile
Wagner (Gesamtkunstwerk: dramaturgy as in a dream, absorbing us completely in the illusion)
Brecht (the avatar of self-conscious theatricality to break the spell/ illusion)
is LIFE presented as a DREAM, in Life is a Dream?

Well I am going completely eclectic with this production. We start with a heavy dose of Commedia and venture into some Theatre of Cruelty and then come back to Commedia. I was trying to push genres out of their place of comfort and enjoying the resistance this caused – when I say resistance I don’t mean from the performers but from the theatre rules – the connectors between the scenes of different nature are the hardest to bridge – knowing that you have established one language for the audience and then inverting it, creating a shock or the need to readjust to the new form – and then back again. In that sense it is very Brechtian.


2) Please talk about the style that might have been used in the original show in the 17th century, and whether this has any significance vis a vis your interpretation.

I also do not know much about the style from the period (1635) but am finding it intriguingly comical – completely different from Shakespeare even though the periods are very close. Almost as if there is a significant philosophical difference in what theatre means in general. It seems that Calderon’s theatre, despite its myriad of classical Spanish ethical motives, takes itself far less seriously then the Elizabethans did. So it was easier to throw the play through an aesthetic chopper so to speak.


3) The Eventbrite promotional message for Life is a Dream includes a very unconventional announcement, unlike the usual instruction to shut off our mobile phones before shows begin:

This performance encourages participation with the audience through the use of social media. Make sure to visit our twitter @LifeIsADream_GL and to use our hashtag #DreamGL. Cellphones are encouraged during this performance, so make sure to bring your smart phone! Make sure to stay up to date on our Facebook event page and twitter feed.

Does the social media aspect de-familiarize this world / reality, employing or reinforcing a Brechtian distancing and dramaturgy?

Absolutely – since the social media is only a part of the production – activated when Segismundo is actually released from the cave in which he had been held captive for 27 years – we are asking the audience to use Twitter to teach him about the world – what should someone waking up from this dream know about our world/time before they decide how will they conduct themselves as a king. Which rests on the original premise of the play. We are not filtering any tweets so I anticipate everything.

4) What can you tell me about what you’re exploring in this production, both for the interpretation and pedagogically with your students?

Really it is an exploration in trying to make the theatre experience relevant in today’s world. Most of educators today cannot teach without the frustration of seeing their students deeply immersed in the tiny screens of their cellphones – it is hard to talk to the tops of the heads without the eye contact. Of course I am old school but you realize that this will not change so it is smarter to try to incorporate it in the process rather than regulate it. Allowing the students to explore the potential of social media in performance is an important aspect of that incorporation. I have been doing it at Glendon Theatre for the past four years – enjoying the fact that much of it wouldn’t be possible in professional context – due to Equity rules which make live-streaming quite impossible. Our productions of Marat/Sade Occupied (2012) and WWI Revisions (2014) are still available on YouTube.

5) Why is this a good text to use in a student context?

Since I teach a political theatre course – Life Is A Dream seemed like a perfect opportunity to investigate some classical universal themes – in this case, how do we clumsily attempt to prevent political disasters which, for whatever reason, seem inevitable. Even today, we push panic buttons, build walls, imprison people for years on in an absurd attempt to force a worldview on them. King Basilio does that to his own son because of what the stars have told him and of course this experiment fails miserably. I find this very similar to western reliance on skimpy or, at best, one-sided evidence of danger, before we employ the cruellest and usually most inefficient methods of prevention.

6) Why is this a good text that an audience would enjoy?

It is actually very funny and also functions a bit like a tele-novella – so a lot of intrigue, love and honour mixed in.

7) Do you use music?

Interestingly enough our set (Design by Duncan Appleton, Tech director of Glendon Theatre) is a video game – a mash-up of Super Mario and other games with interactive videos – which is very exciting on its own – so a lot of music is directly from a number of games and other popular culture venues.


8) What do you hope to see / expect to see in the social media side..? do we get into some sort of meta-theatrical or meta-textual place with the use of twitter / social media?

Last time when we did WWI Revision we had some extremely provocative tweets that had actually helped the whole Brechtian aspect of the production. For example, at a point in the play when actors were at the most serious exploration of contemporary wars (that were arguably a direct result of the world divisions that came after WWI,) we received some inappropriate, comical tweets that actually stunned the audience in the house – particularly since we also played some actual news footage of conflicts. It left us all in shock but also made everyone think that this is exactly the world we live in – half of the planet is in total disaster and we are collectively far more worried about which Kardashian did what to whom. This collective, for lack of better word, blindness is also manifested in the elections south of our border. I am hoping that perhaps some of that will seep into the show through the audience participation.


Theatre Glendon’s Life is a Dream previews Tuesday March 8th, with a run beginning Wednesday March 9th to run until March 12th and note that performances begin at 7 pm, at Theatre Glendon – 2275 Bayview Ave YH188, Toronto, ON M4N3M6, Canada

  • Livestream:
  • To tweet into the show: #HeySegismundo


This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Popular music & culture, University life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Questions about Life Is a Dream

  1. Pingback: Life is a social media exercise | barczablog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s