The beauty of the “bau probe”

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by Yvette Nolan

This is such an alien concept that most of us didn’t even know the word – bauprobe. The very idea that we could be in the theatre weeks before we open, with our set pieces, trying out staging, is so outrageous that we don’t even have a word for it. Now that we’ve done it though, I don’t know that Signal will ever again create work without it.

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In preparation for A Soldier’s Tale which runs February 20 – 22, we spent two days with the set pieces – rolling flats, wooden crates, bottles – and the team of designers on the stage of the Fleck theatre at Harbourfront Centre. We discovered so many things that we are able to address now, weeks before we actually move into the theatre. The stunningly beautiful panels are more transparent than we had anticipated, and will require some adaptation. (In the world where the bauprobe is de rigueur, the panels would have only been mockups, and we would just build new ones based on our experience onstage, but very few theatres have those kinds of resources, never mind the fledgling Signal Theatre. So, we adapt.) Sound and video designer Andy Moro took advantage of the time to try various projections on various parts of the stage, and he and Michael were able to make choices about placement and effect, with the input of lighting designer Liz Asseltine. Fight director Simon Fon staged a fight with two performers that will be rehearsed from now until we open, a physical action that informs the text that Tara Beagan is creating for the second act.

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The greatest gift of the bauprobe is the reduction of anxiety.  Michael kept remarking that the discoveries we were making now gave us time to respond, that if we were finding these things when we moved into the theatre, three days before we opened, we would be forced to compromise, to abandon some elements that were integral to the vision.  Instead, we go into rehearsal able to focus on the work, the story of how when we go to war, the war comes home with us, with the confidence that the space, when we move into it, will be ready for us to fill it.

Yvette Nolan


All photographs by John Lauener.

(Pictured: top-Danny McArthur, fight–Simon Fon, w. cast/ words–Tara Beagan)


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