Theatre By the River set to present Maureen Hunter’s Transit of Venus

Performance coincides with unique astronomical event

Theatre By the River’s Mel Marginet is directing a reading of the play Transit of Venus, which follows the life of an 18th century astronomer who strives to discover the mysteries of the universe. Supplied

Lovers of both art and science will be pleased to know that local company Theatre By the River (TBTR) will be putting on a show to combine the two disciplines. This is because a rare scientific phenomenon known as the Transit of Venus is poised to happen on June 5, 2012.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the term, the transit of Venus is the observed passage of Venus across the face of the sun, an event that occurs only every 121 years.

In light of the spectacular astronomical happening, TBTR will present a staged reading of Maureen Hunter’s play Transit of Venus on Tuesday, June 5 and Wednesday, June 6. The play follows the life of Guillaume Le Gentil (played by Darcy Fehr), an 18th century astronomer who strives to discover the mysteries of the universe.

The play has a lot to offer thematically, including an interesting contrast between Le Gentil’s relationship with the cosmos and his relationship with the other characters.

“You’re really struck with the choices he makes,” says Mel Marginet, who is directing the production. “You see it really poised in the play. You see where it could be perfect for his discoveries and his professional life, but also you see how he could make a choice to be with the love of his life.”

The play will be staged as a reading, which means there will be little to no visual effects. This is something that Marginet doesn’t mind.

“I love readings because you focus on the story,” she says. “You don’t worry about the lighting or the costumes or planning an actor’s blocking.”

Table readings may sound simple, but that is far from the truth. Leading man Darcy Fehr gives insight into what a reading entails.

“You have to make many choices as an actor,” he says. “There’s a limitation of the things you can do with a table read and there is a lot of emphasis on voice to carry the emotion of the story.”

Viewers will not only get the treat of a well-acted and produced reading, but they will also learn more about the Transit of Venus from the University of Winnipeg’s Let’s Talk Science program.

U of W astronomy professor Vesna Milosevic-Zdjelar will open with an hour of discussion and give the audience an opportunity to watch the passing of Venus via satellite.

This outreach is nothing new to TBTR, whose mandate is to connect with audiences in unique ways. Marginet says working with Milosevic-Zdjelar is a delight.

“She is just so on board,” Marginet says. “We got together for coffee and hammered out all of the ideas. She’s just been wonderful.”

Theatre By the River presents Transit of Venus, directed by Mel Marginet, at the University of Winnipeg (Room 4M47) on Tuesday, June 5 and Wednesday, June 6. Tickets are $10. Visit

Published in Volume 66, Number 27 of The Uniter (May 30, 2012)

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