Two Corpses Go Dancing, a play based on a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (I.B.S.) and adapted by Andrew Taylor, is currently playing at the Fringe Festival in Victoria. This Yiddish folktale is narrated by a dybbuk (demon) who brings back to life two wandering souls for the opportunity to regain aspects of their former lives. Music and comedy contrast with this dark subject matter.
Martlet: What prompted the writing of Two Corpses Go Dancing? What is your connection to the original story by Isaac Singer?
Andrew Taylor: I was introduced to Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories when I was traveling through Poland. I was given a stack of books by my friend’s aunt for the train ride to Gdańsk. I found the stories fascinating, so it became a summer of finding more short stories. When I stumbled upon “Two Corpses Go Dancing,” I found there was so much in the story that jumped out of the page I wanted to see it on stage. I felt like it was a tale that hadn’t been told yet and needed to be.
Martlet: Did you find it hard to incorporate humour with the dark nature of the play?
AT: In many ways, the humour was already there. I found myself laughing at the first read of the book. I feel like I was able to incorporate some of my own humour within the writing of the play, but much of it seemed to gel with the feel of the book, or at least that was my intention. I find that the humour and dark nature are very much layered within each other throughout the story/play; every comedic moment is coupled with a dark undertone. I suppose that’s why it can be considered a dark comedy. The subject matter is morbidly unnatural but contains a feel of truth, honesty and familiarity that can be amusing as much as it can be haunting.
Martlet: It’s been a year since the last run of Two Corpses, I believe, in Saskatoon. How was the show received then and do you anticipate or hope to extort any different reactions from Victoria’s Fringe Festival this year?
AT: The very first run of Two Corpses did very well. We received a lot of positive press and word-of-mouth was incredible, not to mention that we were a local show and had the support of friends and family. I can say that the show is very different from what it was. The first script tended, as well as my direction tended, to be less naturalistic and focused more on the comedic side. With the revised script and the vision of a different director, we wanted to let the darker moments of the play be more apparent. Through it, we found a show that was much more haunting than the previous one. It scared us a bit, and that was a good sign. For Victoria, we really hope to let them live and relate in those dark moments with us. We hope to amuse and entertain, but we also want them to feel the deeper aspects of the story/play and leave with many thoughts and questions.
Martlet: How difficult was it to adapt Singer’s short story into a 90-minute play? What creative liberties did you allow yourself?
AT: The adaptation was tricky. Like many I.B.S. stories, this one was all too short and full of mystery, which works for a story but not so much a play. As far as arc goes, the story suddenly finished in what felt like the middle of the action, so for that we had to take liberties in shaping and elongate the story. We also introduced other characters and/or expanded on people and themes that were merely mentioned. Through this, we were able to finish the story. I feel that there is an aspect of this story that is of our own musing, but I’d like to think that it all keeps within the world of the story and can only embellish the original themes from the short story.
Martlet: If you could be brought back to life in any time period, including the future, what would it be?
AT: I would say either 1969, or late 19th century. Both are periods of artistic enlightenment in their own way.
Two Corpses Go Dancing at Victoria Fringe Festival
Metro Studio Theatre, 1411 Quadra St.
Friday, Aug. 31 @ 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.
$9/$11 (plus $5 Fringe Visa Button)