AGNES B

Written and Directed

by David Ferguson

 

90 mins

Performers:

Treena Stubel

Lynda Raino

Ingrid Hansen

Rod Peter Jr.

Cathy Fern Lewis

 

Musical Director & Arrangements:

Cathy Fern Lewis

Dramaturg: Jennifer Wise

Designer: Miles Lowry

Costumes: Syreeta Wootton

Suddenly Dance Theatre presents
Suddenly Dance Theatre presents

AGNES B

Written and Directed by David Ferguson

AGNES B is an original Suddenly Dance Theatre production inspired by the life of cabaret singer and actress Agnes Bernelle (1923-1999).

 

Agnes Bernelle used a quote from Gertrude Stein -- "Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really frightening" -- to introduce her memoirs, The Fun Palace (1996). Her own life - a life interrupted by war – surpassed the plots of the films and plays in which she appeared. Torn between cultural, familial, and religious allegiances, torn even between the demands of motherhood and her career on the stage, Bernelle saw her life as a kind of fair-ground fun-house, full of unexpected twists, disorienting new environments, inevitable pratfalls, and an exhilarating slide down to rescue at the end. From her escape from Nazi Germany, to the controversy of becoming the first ‘non-stationary’ nude on the English stage, to her associations with Orson Welles, Winston Churchill and The Rolling Stones, Agnes Bernelle became a cult figure known as an early multi-media pioneer, who worked in radio, dance, theatre, film, television and cabaret. Agnes Bernelle eventually found her own place as an artist in Ireland, by embracing the theatrical tradition she had for so long tried to relegate to the past: the satirical cabaret-song of her father Rudolph Bernauer, her childhood, her roots in Berlin. 

"AGNES B is an entertaining hybrid of dance and storytelling ‐ filled with dark comedy, song, dance, dramatics"

GRANIA LITWIN, TIMES COLONIST 03/11/2010

WHO IS AGNES BERNELLE?

DIRECTOR'S NOTE

IMAGES & PRESS

SEE THE TRAILER

WHO IS AGNES BERNELLE?

 

AGNES B

WHO IS AGNES BERNELLE?

'The first geriatric punk in the business'

Agnes Bernelle (1923-1999) used a quote from Gertrude Stein -- "Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really frightening" -- to introduce her memoirs, The Fun Palace (1996). Her own life - a life interrupted by war – surpassed the plots of the films and plays in which she appeared.

 

Torn between cultural, familial, and religious allegiances, torn even between the demands of motherhood and her career on the stage, Bernelle saw her life as a kind of fair-ground fun-house, full of unexpected twists, disorienting new environments, inevitable pratfalls, and an exhilarating slide down to rescue at the end.

 

From her escape from Nazi Germany, to the controversy of becoming the first ‘non-stationary’ nude on the English stage, to her associations with Orson Welles, Winston Churchill and The Rolling Stones, Agnes Bernelle became a cult figure known as an early multi-media pioneer, who worked in radio, dance, theatre, film, television and cabaret.

 

Agnes Bernelle eventually found her own place as an artist in Ireland – by embracing her inherited theatrical tradition of the satirical cabaret-song while performing to a new generation as ‘the first geriatric punk in the business’. 

    

   

AGNES B

Director's Note by David Ferguson

 

I met Agnes Bernelle in 1996 during a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. At that time, Agnes was translating her own autobiography THE FUN PALACE into German. Each morning, on adjoining balconies overlooking the courtyard, Agnes would tell me stories.

 

She invited myself (and designer Miles Lowry) to visit Castle Leslie – where she once lived with her family and first husband Desmond Leslie. By coincidence, Desmond happened to be visiting also – which was a surprise to Agnes. We were left to wander the Castle as Agnes and Desmond met in private. Later, we all went for a walk to the other side of Glaslough Lake. As we listened to the ex-lovers reminisce, we tried to be as invisible as possible.

 

Upon returning to Canada, Agnes sent us her music. I discovered this 76 year old was in fact a Diva  - who possessed an arresting songbook – with black-humoured or socio-political songs spanning generations.    

 

This work attempts to portray Agnes Bernelle the way she would see herself in the story of her life. As a well-learned and hard-earned Diva, Agnes Bernelle knew that a posthumous retelling of one’s own story is a serious compliment - and must include at least a few wrinkles. 

 

The narrative is inspired by stories Agnes told me and is a merging of imagination, memory and research. In fact, Agnes was a compulsive story-teller and I soon discovered she always embellished, changed, or misremembered her own tales. Through interviews with her friends and family, press clippings and television archives, I found that Agnes surrounded herself with people who listened and loved to perpetuate this ever-evolving drama.

 

I became haunted by her music and her cast of characters. Through this experience, I have felt a biographer’s obsession - how someone else’s life-story can become another’s life-pursuit.

Premiere:
AGNES B premiered at the Belfry Theatre's SPARK Festival in March 2010 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada as a work-in-progress supported by the Incubator Program to assist in the creation of new plays.  Created with support from Suddenly Dance Theatre, BC Arts Council, CRD Arts Development, and The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland.
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Photography Credit for all images (unless noted): MILES LOWRY