Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Introducing Frank Nickel - Executive Director!

It's official! Frank Nickel has been appointed Executive Director for Rosebud Centre of the Arts (for details, click here). Born and raised in British Columbia, Frank received a B.F.A. in Theatre from Simon Fraser University. He comes to Rosebud after spending the past 10 + years working at Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre, most recently as General Manager. Since 2004, Nickel has produced over 65 productions in Vancouver, co-founded two theatre companies (Genus Theatre and District 13 Presents), serves on the board for The Royal Canadian Theatre Company, and improvises with The Panic Squad. In 2015, Nickel received the John Hobday Award for Arts Management from Canada Council for the Arts.

Frank as Antipholus of Syracuse in Shadow & Dreams Theatre's production of The Comedy of Errors.

In regards to theatre, it sounds like you've done it all! Let’s have a list of all the roles you’ve filled over the years. Go!
(In your brain say these as fast as possible like a tongue-twister) Sound designer, lighting designer, props buyer, carpenter, producer, actor, bartender, painter, welder, seat repair technician, front-of-house manager, box office, ticket ripper, volunteer coordinator, costume sewer, airport driver, usher, stage manager, running crew, quick-change assistant, projection designer, vacuum cleaning expert, production manager, IT guy who sorta-knows-what-he-is-doing-but-some-of-the-time-makes-it-worse, poster putter upper, board member, and… General Manager.

Frank enjoying some of his more glamorous theatre responsibilities.

When did you first discover your passion for theatre?
I was in Grade 11 drama and my teacher did a half semester on improv games and I fell in love with the theatre then and there. The idea that you could say or do anything and whatever you did was “correct” blew my high-school brain wide open. In university, I realized that within the crazy world of improv there is a detailed framework of rules that make it work. The freedom within the form is what keeps me captivated as an artist and arts administrator.

What’s a project you’re proud of?
In early 2012, Pacific Theatre joined forces with the Arts Club Theatre and Bard on the Beach to be the lead proponent to outfit a new 44,000 sq ft theatre and production hub in Vancouver’s Olympic Village. The prospect of building a new 'state of the art' theatre was daunting and thrilling at the same time. As Budget Chair of the 12 million dollar project for the first 8 months (at that point the project became too expensive for Pacific Theatre to keep participating in), I learned more about capital projects, financing, partnership building, costing, and governance than any M.B.A. program could have given me.

During this time I managed to connect with the Head of Lighting at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (the largest non-profit theatre organization in North America) to arrange a private backstage tour of the Thomas Theatre, a 'state of the art' flexible venue (thrust, arena, avenue) that can accommodate between 270-360 seats depending on the configuration. With automated traps, lifts under the stage, and electronic fly systems in the grid, I was in theatre geek bliss for 2 hours. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing theatres in North America, but this is my favorite so far. Looking back at that point in my career, I’ve realized a personal bucket list item for me will be to build a new purpose built theatre space that helps move an organization into the next phase of its life.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Thomas Theatre. Round Configuration.

You’ve co-founded two theatre companies of your own (all while managing Pacific Theatre). Can you tell us a little about them?
I started Genus Theatre right after I graduated from SFU. Myself and five other classmates were inspired by sketch comedy and Saturday Night Live’s use of short films, so it seemed only logical to start a company, write everything from scratch, and invite our friends and family to a makeshift venue to see what we had come up with. Six original shows later, we knew we had something special. But as with most things in life, life started to demand more of us. Genus is still alive, but all the original members have since moved on. In 2015, I co-founded my second company with my best friend, Mark Vandenberg, (District 13 Presents) so we could produce one of his original musical parodies in the Vancouver Fringe Festival. And it worked! Hunger Games: The Musical was a hit at the Fringe, selling out 6 of our 8 shows and garnering some decent critical acclaim. The following year we produced Catching Fire: The Musical and we are on the wait list for the 2017 Fringe Festival to hopefully finish off the trilogy. Mark and our good friend Rick Colhoun (founding member of Hokus Pick) are collaborating on our next passion-parody-project, Die Hard: The Musical. Who knows where that will go, but it is a ton of fun to be in the rehearsal room and work with a bunch of talented producers and musical theatre actors to bring these parodies to life. Does it count as work when you end up laughing 80% of the time? Here’s our poster from the first show just for fun.

What’s your “must-have” morning ritual?
Venti Americano from the 'Bucks with a splash of cream and 1 sugar. I have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but unless I do a full-on brunch I tend to skip right to lunch after my Americano.

Netflix recommendation(s)?
My wife and I have several we’re enthusiastic to share, in no particular order: Sherlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Crown, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Stranger Things, The OA, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Downton Abby, & Marco Polo.

What do you do to unwind?
I split my time between reading non-fiction and playing computer games. At the moment I’m reading Team of Teams, an autobiography about General Stanley McChrystal’s military career and playing Sid Meier’s Civilization VI on my PC.

Frank on set as "Cop" in Untold Stories of the E.R. (2014)

What’s a dream on your bucket list?
I want to live in London for the better part of a year at some point in my life and immerse myself in the theatre and culture of the UK.

Frank & Karina Nickel in New York. 

What’s the greatest obstacle facing Theatre in 2017?
Now that’s a loaded question! The theatre has faced many challenges for many years, but more recently, so much entertainment and arts are available online or in movie theatres. The Met - Live! at Cineplex for example. It’s world-class entertainment for $11 at your local cinema. And these kinds of options are becoming very important competitors to those who present live performances. Just as newspapers are challenged by the existence of online news, so are theatres and opera companies and ballet companies, particularly those in midsized cities, competing with the very large, famous organizations whose art is now available to people electronically. As a result we have a generation of children who are coming out of high school without the kind of hands-on background in the arts that I  and many of my friends and peers had. As these children grow up and go to university and get married and have disposable incomes, they would typically become our subscribers and donors and board members, but instead it's trending that a significant majority of them won’t be there for us and for the arts in general. It’s a big area of discussion for arts leaders in North America and something that needs to be addressed at the local school level. If you try and address the issue by marketing to twenty-somethings who have had no connection to the live performing arts throughout their formative years, it’s most likely already too late.

Frank in his another one of his many jobs - IMPROVISOR with The Panic Squad.

What are you most looking forward to, in the shift from Vancouver to Rosebud?
I’m looking forward to a lot of things, like way less traffic and a slightly slower pace of life. But the biggest thing I’m looking forward to is a reset of life in general. Some people have a mid-life crisis and they buy a convertible. I’m looking forward to a mid-life reset: a new province, a new home, a new job, and new community. I didn’t think I would be that guy, but the more I think about what’s exciting about this transition, it’s the overall newness of everything. Oh, and I want to get a dog.

Lastly, what’s Frank Nickel’s motto?
I have a few snappy quotes that I like to remind myself of every now and then:
  • You never look good while getting better at something.
  • Life is about collecting experiences, not things, so spend your money accordingly.
  • There are certain truths in life that will always move you forward, saying “yes, and…” is one of them.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Staff Spotlight: Mark Lewandowski

Managing Director for Rosebud Theatre, Mark Lewandowski has been an integral part of the Rosebud community for close to 30 years. In addition to his “day job”, he acts as an instructor and production advisor for student final projects. He also keeps busy with acting, directing, and music ensembles. Selected directing credits include 'Billy Bishop Goes to War', 'The Proposal', 'Christmas on the Air', 'Treasure Island' (Rosebud Theatre); 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown', 'The Triumph of Love', 'Frank Dickens' Christmas Carol' (Rosebud School of the Arts); 'The Last Five Years' (Earthen Vessel Creations); 'You Are Here' (Schramm-a-lam Productions); Ten Times Two (Sun Hat Productions); 'Where the Magic Ends' (Soap Box Theatre) and 'Rilla of the Island' (Story Girl Productions). A frequent collaborator with Fire Exit Theatre, company directing credits include ‘Furniture of Heaven’ ‘Craving’ ,'To Forgive, Divine', ‘Sarah and the Dinosaur’, ‘Here Breaks the Heart’, and ‘Halo’.

Where did you grow up?

When did you come to Rosebud?
I came in 1989 as a student. I was going to stay for two years and then start my own touring company. They decided to start a touring program when I was in my second year, so I focused on apprenticing for that. (At the time, the goal for graduation was to create a job for yourself.) When I graduated, I ran the touring program for a few years, and when the previous theatre manager retired, I moved into that position and changed the focus to be production manager. I haven’t left since.
The 1989 class of Rosebud School of the Arts. Mark Lewandowski, centre. Photo courtesy Royal Sproule.
What made you stay?
Too lazy to leave, maybe?
Seriously, I can not imagine working anywhere else. Rosebud has shaped me, both as a person and as an artist. I value the sense of community and the integration of faith and art. I love the interaction with the students. While it’s not ideal or even idyllic, I just don’t know how leaving would improve my life.

There’s a graphic I saw a while ago. It’s a four-circle Venn diagram which shows an intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for. The centre of which is Purpose. I feel like, living and working in Rosebud, I’m pretty close to that centre.

What does your current position at Rosebud Theatre entail?
My position now is Managing Director, but I wear a number of different hats. The M.D. job overlaps with production manager duties, so most of my job is about setting the broad parameters of budget and schedules, writing contracts, and ensuring everyone has the resources they need to do their job.
I also do some teaching and advising of students. And there’s always the mentoring as they work alongside us and develop as artists.
This year, I’m also Head of Lighting, which means that I oversee the lighting department and the implementation of the lighting designs for each show.

Favourite part of your job?
So many things. I think the thing I’d miss the most if I left would be not having interaction with students and mentoring these young artists.
Although it’s not part of my official job, I do feel most alive when I’m directing a show. I do get some opportunities through my work in Rosebud, but mostly it’s because I live in the community and there are lots of opportunities with student final projects and other things.

What’s something that drives you as an artist?
I love being a theatre artist because it’s so collaborative. I do some work as a single artist (playing music mostly), but I prefer to work with others. I love working with other people who inspire each other, both with ideas and with a passion for the work, as well as a dedication to excellence. When all this comes together to create interesting and inspiring stories that impact an audience, it’s amazing.

Do you have a passion for a particular role in the theatre?
Directing. There was a period of a couple years that I had too much on my plate at work that I turned down directing opportunities. I got pretty cranky at that point.

Has there been a defining moment, or a particular experience in Rosebud that has stuck with you over the years?
So many. But something recently happened that I think reinforced what directing means to me:
This past fall I was directing the student show, Frank Dickens’ Christmas Carol. For a two-week period during those rehearsals, I had an unusually high work load including some stressful meetings and some personal crises all happening at once. In a five-day period, I had only 20 hours of sleep. I walked into rehearsal with the students and was frank with them. I asked for grace if I was short with them as I was exhausted and could barely focus. If I were to close my eyes, I would be immediately asleep. However, within ten minutes of rehearsing, I had complete focus, feeling fully energetic, and excited about what was happening. And after rehearsing for 8 hours, I was still able to do more work and still feel fresh. This happened two days in a row!

Directing certainly fills my artistic well. It’s my bliss.

Mark gives notes to the cast of Frank Dickens Christmas Carol. Photo courtesy Rosebud School of the Arts.

 What’s something co-workers and Rosebuddies might not know about you?
Well, being here for over 25 years means there’s very little that someone here doesn’t know.

I suspect that only the old-timers know that before I came to Rosebud, I had two wives. I leave it at that. It sounds so much more interesting that way. (OK, it had to do with working at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village outside of Edmonton as a first-person interpreter for two summers. But that’s all I’m saying.)

Any upcoming projects?
I’m currently working with Fire Exit Theatre directing a show called How the World Began. It opens in February.
I also will be directing our theatre-for-young-audience show, Snow White. That starts just after How The World Began opens.

What’s challenging you about ‘How the World Began’?
At first, the subject matter seemed tricky, [“an ethical firestorm about evolution vs. creation”] but I have a great cast and we’re finding our way through much more quickly than I expected. So the challenge is now about upping everyone’s game and digging deeper into the show while keeping the clarity of the story.

Any New Year’s Resolutions?
Finding a better work/family/life balance. Living in Rosebud means that I’m not far from my work, and the nature of my job means I’m often on call. Mentoring students also often happens outside of work hours. Plus being in a small community means that there are only so many people to do things, so I’m on several boards as well as on the fire department. So, it’s tricky trying to balance all of these things.

Experience Mark’s passion for collaboration and storytelling in Fire Exit Theatre’s ‘How the World Began’, playing in Calgary at the Engineered Air Theatre February 1-5. For tickets and information, visit Fireexittheatre.com

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Rosebud's Young Company: Hannah Andersen & Kaia Wilson

This week we’re talking with actresses Hannah Andersen and Kaia Wilson, currently making their debuts on the Rosebud stage alternating the role of Susan Walker in 'Miracle on 34th Street.' Hannah is in Grade 3 and in her spare time you can find her horseback riding, playing with her animals, or spending time with her family. Kaia is 8 years old, born and raised in Rosebud, and has always had a strong love of theatre. She was first inspired to act when she saw Rosebud’s 2013 production of ‘Chickens’.  

Tim Dixon and Hannah Andersen in Rosebud's Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Is this your first show?
Hannah: Yes, this is my first show.
Kaia: Mm hm. First I’ve ever done on the Rosebud Theatre stage.

What was your favorite part about rehearsal?
H: My favorite part of rehearsal was the reaction from all my fellow cast mates when they realized I was already off-book at first read-through.
K: I don’t know. Probably some of the run-throughs at the church. But then coming here [to the actual stage] I got super surprised with all the stuff, it was so different from the stuff in the church.

What do you like best about your character?
K: Oh, that’s a hard question.
H: I like the journey of being a girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus to becoming the little girl who does.

Kaia Wilson and Tim Dixon's 'Monkey Business'. Photo by Morris Ertman.
Do you have a favorite line or scene?
H: My favorite line is where I yell at Mr. Gailey for being late to Thanksgiving dinner.
K: Probably the monkey business. That’s what we call it. Favorite line? I think probably I like the lines in the first scene and the second scene. It’s kind of hard to find out which one I like most, because I like most of my lines.

Do you ever get nervous?
H: I did get nervous at the beginning but I would pray and everything would be great… and now I still pray but don’t get as nervous… unless it’s someone I know sitting in the front row. Then I just work hard at not smiling.
K: No. Well, the first time, yes, I was a bit nervous. But now I’m not. Half of the run through on the first [show] was nervous for me. The second time I liked it and I wasn’t nervous anymore.

Has there been a funny moment in performance?
K: Once my hat fell offstage. It fell on the floor when I was talking to Kris Kringle about school. So, the first time Santa Claus picked it up and put in on the chair, and then it fell off again, but the second time it rolled OFF the stage. One of the people in the audience that was in the front row picked it up and put it on stage. And I picked it up while I was passing through.

Do you believe in Santa?
K: Yes!
Sure do!

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?
H: Celebrating with my whole family!
K: Eating a turkey dinner. Also I like opening the presents.

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?
K: Maybe Gingerbread cookies, but I also like Ginger Snaps. But I also like sugar cookies.
H: Gingerbread.

What’s a show (or character) you’d like to play someday?
H: I would like to be Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
K: Hmm. I think one of the characters in The Sound of Music. I don’t think I’d be young enough for Gretl, but I forget the name of the girl between Liesl and Gretl. Marta, I think it was Marta.

What advice would you give kids who want to act?
H: That’s a hard one, as this is my first role.
K: It’s really fun, but also, on the first day it can be pretty hard to do, because there’s so many people watching you. Just pretend it’s a rehearsal, that’s what I usually do.

What do you want for Christmas?
H: I would love a sweater with thumb holes.
K: There are a few things I’m asking for: a Zoomer Puppy and a Zoomer Monkey, and an E-Z bake Oven with lots of food mix, a china tea set, and a doll.

Lastly, is there anything next for you, coming up?
H: I will be focusing a lot of my attention on my new pony Kiwi! She’s great!
K: On Tuesday is our opening for our school show. I’m being an angel. We get to dance around pretty green ribbons and stuff. There’s a show in the show called Goldie and the Wise Guys, but the whole thing is called Unplugged Christmas.
I’m also thinking about recording a CD sometime… I’ve written one song, and I need to finish my other song. My mom might help with her friends Alix and Lauren. [a.k.a., the Dearhearts]. But yeah.

There’s only another week or so to catch Hannah and Kaia performing as the endearing Susan Walker in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, playing on the Rosebud stage until December 23. Weekends are largely sold out, but select weekday matinees and weeknights are still available. For ticket availability and information, visit rosebudtheatre.com

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Director's Chair - Paul Muir talks 'Miracle on 34th Street'

Paul Muir returns to our Mainstage, reprising his directing role after last year’s ‘Mass Appeal'. Previous Rosebud Theatre directing credits include ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’, and ‘The Homecoming’. His BMO Studio Stage productions ‘Confessions of a Paperboy’ and ‘Underneath the Lintel’ played to sold out audiences and were remounted on the West Coast at Chemainus Theatre Festival and Pacific Theatre. No stranger to the spotlight; selected acting credits include ‘Outside Mullingar’, ‘Our Town’, ‘Man of La Mancha’, ‘Voice of the Prairie’, and ‘Billy Bishop Goes to War’. Education Director for Rosebud School of the Arts and resident company member for Rosebud Theatre, Paul holds an M.F.A. in directing from York University, and a B.A. with specialization from the University of Alberta. He served as artist-in-residence at Trinity Western University in 2014, and has worked as a professional actor and director for various theatre companies across Canada. 

Rosebud Theatre
Paul Muir in action. Photo by Kelsey Krogman.

First of all, had you seen the original 'Miracle on 34th Street' movie before directing Rosebud's production?
Yes, I saw the original 1947 film with Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and Maureen O’Hara as Doris Walker when I was young. Maybe 11 or 12? I remember having a similar reaction to it as I did with watching the original It’s a Wonderful Life. I was totally taken with the sentiment of both those classics. I remember being significantly moved by both films. I loved them!

How does the classic Christmas film figure into directing a staged version? Do you use the original for reference, or reinterpret everything?  
I haven’t actually seen the original film for years. I did watch a couple of scenes on YouTube just to remind me of certain things while working on this show, but I didn’t really use it as any kind of reference. Mostly I took what was on the page, and tried to find a way to tell this story in a way that would flow from scene to scene. This adaptation by Caleb Marshall was written for a very different kind of theatre than what we have here in Rosebud, so there are always some [interpretive] challenges in finding a way to translate the story for the Opera House.

What surprised you about the story as you spent more time in the world?
Well, I must say I continued to fall deeper and deeper in love with all these characters as they came to life with this cast. I could not have imagined a better person to play Kris Kringle. When Morris and I were going through potential actors for that role we went through a number of names, and then Morris suggested Tim, and that was that. The choice was obvious. He’s perfect! I can’t imagine a better person for Kris Kringle.

Rosebud Theatre
Paul gives rehearsal notes - while wearing sandals on a snowflake. Photo by Jordan Cutbill.
Is this a play about belief in Santa, or something more?
Well, of course so much more. We talked a lot in rehearsal about the importance of belief, of the competition between consumerism and the true meaning of Christmas, and the need for a sense of “home” and “family” in our lives. Hope is a big theme in this play, and how we must never give up. This story is about the miracle of belief. I think my favourite line in the play is "Faith is believing in things even when common sense tells you not to." It’s about a little girl being given the miracle of a home and a family. It’s about the miracle of a single-mother revealing her true heart. It’s about the miracle of a young lawyer discovering where his real gifts lie in the legal field. And about the miracle of a simple store helper discovering his true calling as “deputy" Santa!

Did you believe in Santa, growing up?
Of course I did - I still do! The idea of Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Saint Nicolas, being an embodiment of the heart of Christ is SO important to help us remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Is there anything significant about the time period (late 1940’s) the story is set in?
I must say, one thing that really struck me about this story was what it meant in its time. Imagine a story in 1947 of a single mother and career woman with a very significant role and set of responsibilities at Macy’s Department Store. Doris is in charge of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as being Mr. Macy’s second in command. That’s huge! And fantastic! Also, Fred is portrayed as a pretty "sensitive guy" in many ways. His sensibilities are much more "now" than 1947. It's quite refreshing.

In addition,  I think it was very bold to tell a story like this in the wake of WWII... the importance of a story about belief was timely. And it's just as timely now. 

Morris Ertman
The courtroom cast: Miracle on 34th Street from the screen to the stage. Photo by Morris Ertman.
You’re not only the director of this show, but the Education Director of Rosebud School of the Arts. How does belief play a factor in being an artist?
Well, who I am as a person of Faith, as a person who tries to follow the teachings of Christ, and who I am as an artist, is really indivisible. My Faith and my desire to be a Storyteller often feel one-and-the-same. My Faith informs everything I do in some way. And as Education Director at RSA of course that becomes a big part of my teaching, and planning, and even my administration work. It’s all to purpose. It’s all mission-driven if you will.

Were there unexpected moments in rehearsal?
I loved working with the children in this show. We have two wonderful little girls playing the role of Susan Walker (Kaia Wilson & Hannah Andersen) – they each take a few shows per week… and a great young guy playing the little boys’ roles (Asher Eliuk). They were all surprisingly fabulous to work with. I remember giving a note to Kaia one day about her character, and she responded with something like, “Yes. I know. I feel so close to Susan Walker. I understand that she wants a family and a home. I feel like I could almost be Susan Walker!” Well, that’s how actors talk. Here she is, as a 9-year-old, talking like an experienced actor. It was delightful.

Do you have a favorite holiday movie?
Hmmm… I’ll give you a few. It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Love Actually, and of course – Miracle on 34th Street.

What’s your favorite Christmas treat?
Turkey, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, and my Mum's Creamy Celery!

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas Season?
Well, to be honest, I’m looking forward to taking a break. It’s been a busy term. [understatement]

The family friendly, heartwarming, belief-inducing & inspirational 'Miracle on 34th Street' plays now until December 23rd. Weekends are largely sold out, but there are several weekday matinee and evening performances still available. For tickets and information, visit rosebudtheatre.com

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Constructing Characters: Costume Design with Victoria Krawchuk

Victoria Krawchuk is a Calgary based designer returning to Rosebud Theatre after her stunning set and costume design for 2013's 'Our Town'. Currently she's responsible for the irrepressible and energetic costume design of 'Miracle on 34th Street'. Select costume design credits include The Transalta Grandstand Show (Calgary Stampede); Richard III (The Shakespeare Company); Shadowlands (Fire Exit Theatre); and set and costume design for Fight or Flight Response (Verb Theatre). Victoria received a BFA in Theatre Design in from the University of Alberta in 2013 and co-owns Little Lion Workshop. 

Rosebud Theatre
The cast of Rosebud Theatre's Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

First off, tell us a little about yourself as a designer. How’d you get started in theatre design?
I got started in theatre when I was 15, volunteering in the wardrobe at Storybook Theatre in Calgary. At that time, I had seen Lord of the Rings, and felt so inspired to be creative or do something in film. I loved to sew, and I learned a lot from the Storybook costume designer, which landed me various volunteer costume design positions from then on. At 19, I went to University of Alberta, and took their BFA theatre design program, learning about sets, lights, and costume.

What’s your favorite thing to look for as you go about creating?
In any project, we are all drawn to things that others wouldn’t be drawn to (as Morris reminded me) - that’s the thing that gives each show its specific flavor. I look for things that I like, whether on Pinterest, researching, finding something from the period I adore, or when I’m out and notice how people dress on the street, in a mall, out for dinner. Sometimes I find inspiration by other types of artists, sometimes it’s the color or texture that inspire my costume palette. Those sparks of insight are my favorite thing to discover, and inspire my creation.

Design by Victoria Krawchuk
Costume Rendering: Kris Kringle. Design by Victoria Krawchuk.
Can you tell us a little about your process?
It starts with reading the script a few times, noting elements that ‘must’ be in the show, and then doing a lot of costume research… in this case, 1948. I look at a lot of vintage catalogs (Sears) and sewing patterns because those tend to not be so ‘high-fashion’. Then, talking to the director, I use our first chat making sure we’re on the same page in terms of the characters (who they are as people), and  our second meeting focuses on what they’re actually wearing. From there, I work on rough and final designs, thinking about color, who needs to ‘pop’ on stage, who needs to blend in, and what color says about the character (hopefully subconsciously) to the audience. Sometimes though, performers discover new things about their character in rehearsal, which puts a different spin on the design. I think that’s what keeps it fresh. Designs for this show were due in April-May, but there were discoveries in October that changed some of the looks. Specifically, a Stenographer’s belief in Santa changed her from being in black & white to a soft orange dress she now wears in the show.

How do you make your design more than just 'era-appropriate' clothes?

Design by Victoria Krawchuk
Costume Rendering: Doris Walker. Design by Victoria Krawchuk
For me, it’s about going inside the characters’ heads and thinking… Where would they go shopping? What would be most important in their wardrobe? What are they dressing up for? Do they care what others think? What does their job require them to do? As I search, I’m drawn to certain things to reflect that character. Sometimes color, or the cut, or pattern.
Some of the characters I have very specific feelings about, while others I truly went with my gut. I wanted Doris to look icy cold, hence the navy blue and cool grey tones she wears for much of the play. I wanted Fred to be warm and inviting, with lightness about him. Kris Kringle, of course, in red as a civilian and as Santa - but I wanted it pretty subtle, hence the cranberry jacket he wears. The transformation Paul Muir (the director), wanted to create, was that belief in Santa caused a noticeable change to a character’s costume. Throughout the play, when Susan, Doris, even Macy and Gimbel believe - they don brighter scarves and hats suggestive of the transformation inside.

Design by Victoria Krawchuk
Costume Renderings: Susan Walker & Fred Gailey. Design by Victoria Krawchuk.

You’re also one half of Little Lion Workshop – Tell us about what you do, what you make?
Little Lion Workshop is the company I own alongside my husband, Curtis. We create custom commissions of costumes, props, and scenic elements. Our focus as been cosplay commissions - you know, those people who dress up in stunning handmade costumes and go to Comic Expos like the ones in Calgary and Edmonton? We essentially take a drawing from a video game, movie, or anime, and try to bring it to life as accurately (and to scale) as possible. It’s a really nice break from costume design, because I’m still creating, which is what I love, but don’t have to be the design force behind it. I get to just build something I see.

What’s one of your favorite pieces?
In September, I built prosthetic silicone special effects makeup pieces to go on a cosplayer’s face (Mileena, Mortal Kombat). It was so satisfying doing something I had never done before - making a mold, creating silicone prosthetics. I was pretty happy with the end result!

Do you have a dream project on your bucket list?
In University we got to do a non-realized project in a 'found space', where you take an unconventional space, and use its elements to make it a place to do theatre. I would really love to use some sort of old, abandoned space to tell a story.

What’s currently inspiring you, artistically?
I’m most inspired by art that is intentional about driving emotion through beauty (and sometimes juxtaposition). My Instagram feed is filled with all sorts of different ‘makers’ other than theatre designers. [People] who create their living as painters, illustrators, cosplayers, tattoo artists, jewelry makers, makeup artists, etc… The way they see the world so differently than me, but still manage to tell story, is what continually inspires and challenges me to continue to create my art.

Rosebud Theatre
Cassia Schmidt, Mike Thiessen, and Peter Church play the Macy's executives in Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Favorite Christmas movie?
Growing up it was a tradition for my mom and I to watch Alastair Sim’s Christmas Carol, on Christmas Eve. Now, as an adult, I still convince my husband to watch it with me Christmas Eve.

Favorite Christmas cookie?
Chai Shortbread!

What’s up next for you, and where?
In February, I’m set and costume designing two shows in Calgary (Macbeth at CYPT, and Bridge to Terabithia at Storybook). After that I’ll be in full swing designing costumes for the Calgary Stampede Grandstand show. (We start working on it in December, but it opens in July.) This will be my third year designing it, for over 120 young Canadians and guest talent.

See more photos of Victoria’s work at www.victoriakrawchuk.com but experience 'in-person' the detail of her transporting costume design in 'Miracle on 34th Street', playing now until December 23rd at Rosebud Theatre. For tickets and show availability information, visit rosebudtheatre.com

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Peter Church

Although this is Peter Church’s first time on the Rosebud stage, he’s no stranger to the area. He can often be seen performing next door in Drumheller’s Canadian Badlands Passion Play. An actor, playwright, and theatre instructor, Peter spent 8 years as an ensemble member with The Classical Theatre Project ('Romeo & Juliet', 'Othello', 'MacBeth', 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', 'Hamlet', & 'Oedipus Rex'). Performance highlights include the Dora Award nominated production of ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ (Brookstone Performing Arts), ‘The Rainmaker’ (Pacific Theatre), Shadow Government (Cloud Ten Pictures), and A Camelot Christmas Tale (CTS Television). Recent projects also include his staged radio play adaptations of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Pacific Theatre) and playing the role of Education Manager for Carousel Theatre for Young People. 

Photo by Morris Ertman
Cassia Schmidt and Peter Church talk shop in Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
That’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately! My wife and I have been residents of Vancouver for 3 years, but have actually just decided that we’re going to relocate to Drumheller in order to continue our work with the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. Once Miracle on 34th Street closes, we’ll go pack up our things and make the move! It feels a bit like “coming home” since I grew up in Airdrie before moving to Toronto in 1999.

What’s the best kept secret about your current neighborhood, Rosebud?
The Brie Bites at Wild Horse Jack’s!

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? Least favorite?
One of my favorite traditions is listening to Christmas Carols. Traditional songs like 'What Child Is This?', 'O, Holy Night', 'O, Come All Ye Faithful', and 'Joy to the World' can always jumpstart my Christmas Spirit.
My least favorite tradition is probably the forthcoming “Black Friday”. At its worst, it encapsulates the ugliness of human greed and commercialism. At its best, it’s just too much for me to bother with.

You’re a playwright with a number of radio play adaptations. What is it about radio that inspires / challenges you? Do you have a penchant for a time period or particular genre?
Radio drama, to my mind, is one of the purest kinds of Theatre. It hearkens back to the early storytellers around the fire, and demands active “co-creation” from the audience. As a performer, radio plays are challenging because your performance, of course, has to be distilled down to just your voice. It’s heightened, exciting, subtle, and rewarding – and certainly very challenging. Many of my stories are often set somewhere between 1935 and 1950, because it’s a period of history I find particularly interesting.

You’re ALSO an instructor for theatre. What’s the essential lesson you instill in your students?
Be honest. And be you.

What’s inspiring you right now, artistically?
Film Noir. I love the style, the dialogue and the dirt.

Any particular projects in the works?
In September, I was commissioned to direct my radio adaptation of a short story for Jason Hildebrand Creative Arts. We’re just editing the final touches on it this week, and it should be up and available for download [here] before this interview is released. It’s a poignant Christmas story called The Wooden Angel, and it tells the story of Emiline, a young girl eagerly awaiting the return of her father from the Mission Field in Ecuador, and the final piece of the nativity set he’s carved for her.

Coffee or tea and how do you take it?
Whiskey. For some reason, I’ve never enjoyed hot beverages.

In ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, you play Shellhammer, the head of the Macy’s toy department. What’s a toy you always wanted for Christmas? Did you get it?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget opening up my Nintendo on Christmas morning. It was the original NES (for which I’m pretty sure everyone my age remembers desperately pleading.) My parents had hidden it in an old suitcase in our basement so I couldn’t even find it when I tried peeking!

Lastly, since your name begs an ecclesiastical question… If you were a character in the nativity, which one would you be?
I’d probably be one of the Shepherds – standing in poops when the heavenly host appears.
Like them, I’m not the kind of person we imagine that a Holy God would invite to participate in His Story. And yet, I stand breathless in my little field – slack jawed, small, and irreligious. None of it makes much sense, but I walk towards Bethlehem anyway… to see this thing that has happened.

It may not be radio drama, but 'Miracle on 34th Street' is your chance to catch the dulcet tones of Peter Church's delightful depictions of Julian (Shellhammer) and the Judge. Playing now until December 23rd, visit rosebudtheatre.com for ticket availability. Saturday matinees are largely sold out, but there's a variety of afternoon and evening shows open on the calendar (but filling fast).