Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Conversations with Cooper

Andrew Cooper is a guest artist currently onstage in 'An Inspector Calls' as Gerald Croft, an aristocratic entrepreneur and future son-in-law to the well-off Birling family. When Andrew is not perfecting his upper-crust accent or busy working as an actor/theatre creator, he can be found beekeeping, booksmithing, or would-be-pottering. Previous credits include: ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Chickens’, ‘Pith!’ (Rosebud Theatre); ‘Twinkle’ (Burnt Thicket); ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ (Chemainus Theatre Festival); ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (Suspension of Disbelief); ‘The Canadian Badlands Passion Play’; ‘Sunong’ (Wycliffe U.S.A.); ‘Paradigm Shift’ (Summit Theatre). He also very recently devised the original play ‘Kaspar Hauser: The Riddle of Refuge’ with Fireside Theatre to raise money for Syrian refugees.
Andrew Cooper
Justin Lanouette, Andrew Cooper, Meghan Hanet, and Nathan Schmidt in Rosebud Theatre's An Inspector Calls. Photo by Morris Ertman.
So, are you enjoying dressing formally every night to act the part of a wealthy British playboy?
If by playboy you mean tender, caring, mindful and supportive, then yes. It’s a good team (creative and production wise). Rehearsals were great fun, especially working under Karl Sine’s direction for the first time since we graduated - he has really come into his own.

You (and Karl) both graduated from Rosebud School of the Arts in 2004. What have you been doing since then?
I’ve wandered a bit, doing everything from acting to roofing to working with at-risk populations. Right after graduating I spent a year at the Chemainus Theatre Festival out on Vancouver Island. I also got the chance to take part in a couple of tours in Canada and the U.S. with Wycliffe Bible Translators – they used to have a travelling dinner theatre, of all things. Through that I was able to visit 31 States and a bunch of Southern Ontario. Throw in a couple different communal living experiments and a short volunteer stint overseas… as well as my involvement with the Passion Play, performing or understudying in 6 of the last 11 years.

What made you move back to the ‘Bud?
I’ve always felt like Rosebud has been a second home to me – it was that feeling of family or finding ‘my tribe’ that made me decide to come here in the first place (After having spent a couple of years in the BFA program at the University of Calgary). After graduating I often came back to visit, so when I was cast in Chickens (2014), I decided to stick around. And here it is a couple years later and I’m still here.

Wanderers often get a reputation for being aimless, when they are following a variety of impulses that only seem disconnected to the outside eye. It turns out they were geniuses on adventures! In your travels, have you identified a particular passion, be it philosophical or practical?
Oh geez. This one will take some thought.

Don’t overthink it.
I’ve probably identified more things I’m not passionate about, but I hope you’re right about the genius thing. I suppose a couple of things would include: swimming pools, bumper cars, playing in the snow and trampolines, photography, reading books about theology, performing, (although I needed to take a break from this for a little while a few years ago), getting to make people laugh, and Scripture.

Would you umbrella that under “Living in the Moment?” Celebrating everyday joys?
No. I just love trampolines and pools. Maybe it’s the feeling of freedom and childlike-ness.
I think things I get excited about boil down to well-told stories, pictures, or songs… the element of play and working on a team.

Why’d you take a break from performing?
It was a few years ago while I was working at the Mustard Seed. [a non-profit organization that helps shelter, feed, & cloth people facing poverty.] I just needed some more life experience.

What did you do there and what did you experience?
They have an overnight shelter where I worked as one of the floor staff. It was pretty eye opening in terms of the myriad reasons a person could end up on the streets or lose their housing. Everything from what you might expect, like addiction and mental health issues to work place injuries, the unemployable elderly, physical health issues, or divorce. And people from all walks of life. One night I met a guy who had been kicked out of his house by his wife – he was a lawyer – but had nowhere else to go.
It gave me a deeper appreciation for my upbringing, the stability of it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the support network of family and friends that I do, which is one of the things I saw lacking in the lives of some of our guests.

Nathan Schmidt and Andrew Cooper
Nathan Schmidt and Andrew Cooper face off in An Inspector Calls. Photo by Morris Ertman.
‘An Inspector Calls’, coincidentally, draws attention to social responsibility as J.B. Priestley writes,
“There are millions… all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I will tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. We don’t live alone.”
Interestingly, I was involved in another production of this play and every time I heard that line I assumed the playwright was making reference to the Day of Judgment – burning lakes of fire and all that. Now I hear it differently. The play is set just before the start of World War I and was written in the midst of WWII… and in rehearsals we talked about those connections. Now when I hear it, it’s more along those lines – how our actions and interactions have consequences in the here and now.
As for the idea of interconnectedness –it’s perhaps more apt now than ever. At one of the Friday night talk backs an audience member asked if anything has changed for us being involved in this show. I had to admit that I have become almost hyperconscious of the words coming out of my mouth and the way that I treat people since the start of rehearsals. 

Sometimes those lines [above] might come across a bit heavy handed, but they are a reminder to me that even now, in an age of social media and cameras and microphones where nothing is hidden and everything we say and do is more visible than ever before, the repercussions can reverberate further and faster than ever. It’s also a reminder that the human condition hasn’t really changed: we are still jealous, greedy, spiteful, grasping creatures who need to constantly allow ourselves to go under the light of inspection – whether that is through self-examination or by an outside source. (Personally, I believe we need both).

You’re now headed into the last week of performances. Is there anything you’ll particularly miss about this process or your character?
Working with this great group of talented artists and hearing the audience’s reactions to some of the secrets that get revealed over the course of the play. It’s been fun being part of a show that illicits real gasps and “Ah-ha’s!”

And what’s next for Andrew Cooper?
Back to my day job – and looking for the next acting gig!

Tickets are still available for this weekend's performances of 'An Inspector Calls'. It's your last chance to experience this revelatory piece of theatre that keeps audiences on their toes til the curtain falls. For ticket availability and more information, visit rosebudtheatre.com.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Setting the Stage II: Continuing conversations with Carolyn Rapanos

This week we continue our talks on the behind-the-scenes process with Carolyn Rapanos, Set Designer for ‘An Inspector Calls’. Carolyn is best known in Rosebud for her design work on ‘The Sunset Limited’ and ‘Mass Appeal’. Other designs include ‘Common Grace’, ‘Freud’s Last Session' (Pacific Theatre), and her Jessie Award winning ‘Jack and the Bean’ (Presentation House).

Photo and Set Design, Carolyn Rapanos
Nathan Schmidt, Glenda Warkentin, Meghan Hanet, and Troy O'Donnell on set of 'An Inspector Calls'. Photo and Set Design by Carolyn Rapanos.

Where do you call home?
Vancouver, B.C., where I grew up.

What’s something you love about the city?
It’s not quite time yet, but I’m really looking forward to cross-country skiing and snowboarding!

‘An Inspector Calls’ is billed as a classic ‘who-dun-it’. What’s important to you, as a designer, about the genre? What factors into the design?
There is a certain overall aesthetic appeal of the classic mystery that’s fun to capture! I tried to bring out the heavy, dark feel, exaggerated shadows, and an overall sleekness. In a mystery, you know the audience will be looking for the set of clues, so there’s a lot of attention to detail. And it’s exciting to try to feed into the idea that the answer is there in front of you but you can’t see it.

The set beautifully evokes structural elements of the early 20th century (the sturdy English details of the home) while still bringing in a sense of threat… almost ominous with exposure and the surrounding industrialization. In an era when World War I is on the horizon, what feelings/inspirations were important to you?
Thank you! I started looking at images of industrial factories of the time, which are alluded to in the play, and ways to bring the architecture I was seeing into the set. This ended up being our way of representing a dark future and the threat of the present. I wanted to contrast this imagery with the rich, warm, comfortable world of the characters, so found a lot of inspiration in the luxurious woodwork and textiles of the time / place. The fireplace went a long way towards enhancing their living space while also connecting it to the more ominous surroundings through the imagery of smoke. I was inspired by just how deluded and oblivious many of the characters are, so we gave them an overwhelming backdrop that’s largely invisible to them.

Rosebud Theatre, An Inspector Calls
The maquette (or set model) for An Inspector Calls. Photo and Design by Carolyn Rapanos.

How much does your initial design change (if at all) when you enter into rehearsals?
The set if often built and painted by the time rehearsals start so, on the one hand, there isn’t a lot of room for change. However, a lot can change with how you’ve imagined set pieces will be used. Places for further detail in props and set dec[oration] also crop up when the set becomes a real, full scale thing. There can also be a sort of domino effect when something has to change for a logistical or artistic reason because this makes us rethink other related aspects. This can be challenging but also rewarding because it hones the design.

Rosebud Theatre, Carolyn Rapanos
Nathan Schmidt, Justin Lanouette, Meghan Hanet, Glenda Warkentin, and Troy O'Donnell in An Inspector Calls. Photo and Set Design by Carolyn Rapanos. 

What do you do to fill your time when you’re not working on the show?
I love working/relaxing outside in beautiful Rosebud and the last few times, I’ve also made small trips into Drumheller and Calgary.

What’s next for you?
I’m really looking forward to working on a play called 'šxʷʔamət' (the Musqueam word for home), which will explore issues of reconciliation through workshops with people directly engaged with these issues. The play is presented as a piece of Forum Theatre in which the story is performed twice, and the second time, audience members can stop the action and offer solutions or commentary. The story itself is ever evolving so the design process will be challenging.

You studied English in university before becoming a designer. What are you reading? Any books you’d recommend?
I recently finished my first PD James novel (which I found upstairs in the Thorny Rose café in Rosebud actually!) Now, I have the latest Ian McEwan novel, Nutshell, on hold at the library. He’s a favourite author of mine, so I’ll recommend another one of his: Saturday. And if you’re looking for more mystery, I’d recommend Laurie R. King’s entire Mary Russell series (mysteries from the perspective of Sherlock Holmes’s imagined wife and detective partner, Mary Russell).

A classic and celebrated play, J.B. Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in the 1940’s, but set the story in 1912 to examine themes relevant to the present. How do you keep designs/stories set in the past feeling fresh and relevant?
A lot of thought is put into choosing plays for a season that have themes that matter to a modern audience, so I often get a good perspective on this early on from the director and/or Artistic Director. Aesthetically, I think seeing the past brought to life is inherently exciting. And a modern audience is very accepting of visual theatricality, so there’s a lot of room for stretching a more traditional representation into something more metaphorical.

View more of Carolyn’s stunning artistry at www.carolynrapanos.ca And for more on 'An Inspector Calls', playing now through October 29, visit rosebudtheatre.com.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Troy O'Donnell

‘An Inspector Calls’ marks Troy's third appearance at Rosebud Theatre, previously appearing as Mr. Van Daan in ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and Father Christmas / Giant Rumblebuffin in ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’. A founding member and Artistic Associate with the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Troy has also performed at the Citadel Theatre (‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Hamlet’), Mayfield Dinner Theatre (‘The 39 Steps’), Concrete Theatre (‘Smokescreen and The Early Bloomer’), Quest Theatre (‘The Umbrella’), Punctuate! Theatre (‘Adult Entertainment’ and ‘The End of Civilization’), Thou Art Here (‘The Falstaff Project’), Workshop West, Shadow Theatre, Theatre Yes, Trunk Theatre, Theatre North West, Northern Light Theatre and Leave It To Jane.
Troy O'Donnell & Glenda Warkentin in An Inspector Calls. Photo by Morris Ertman.
Where do you call home?
Edmonton. Born, raised, studied there.

What’s your “must-have” morning ritual?
A little bit of peace and quiet. No music. No radio chatter. No TV. Nothing.

What’s a particular Rosebud thing you fill your time with when you’re not performing?
I’ve fallen in love with the new giant gazebo. I hang out there at all different times doing all kinds of stuff: reading, eating, listening to music, working.

You’ve worked extensively (and serve on the board) with Edmonton's Freewill Shakespeare Festival. Do you have a favourite play, or a go-to monologue?
Although I’ve been in it eight times and directed it twice, I still find such joy and magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are a couple of monologues from it that I will jokingly use in real life from time to time. I also have a soft spot for the Chorus speeches in Henry V.

Troy O'Donnell as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Freewill Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Epic Photography Inc.

Any dream roles on your bucket list? (Shakespearean or otherwise)
Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet. Richard III.

In ‘An Inspector Calls’, you play the patriarch of the Birling family, a man who has worked himself into a position of power, but has sins to atone for. What aspects of the character resonate with you? How do you find common ground?
While there are a lot of aspects to Birling that are unattractive and even, perhaps, nasty… I believe his motivations are pure. It’s just his execution leaves something to be desired at times. Ultimately, he’s trying to do the best for his family and that extends to his business practices. He is fiercely loyal, even in his criticism of them, and always trying to protect them and what he’s built for them. I can understand and appreciate that loyalty and drive.

What's the best acting advice you’ve ever been given?
An instructor at University had a very 'meat and potatoes' approach to acting that has stuck with me. “What do you want? How badly do you want it? Go get it.”

Coffee or Tea, and how do you take it?
On a daily basis: neither. During rehearsals there’s often a pot of coffee on so I’ll drink it mostly because it’s there. I rarely order coffee out unless I’m having the full-on 'greasy spoon' breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, hashbrowns… a coffee completes it. One cream, one sugar.

What’s currently inspiring you?
Recent theatre school grads not waiting around for the phone to ring but going out and creating their own opportunities.

‘An Inspector Calls’ is a classic mystery with contemporary relevance. Is there a modern mystery you’d like to see resolved?
With the new photos just released, I’d like to know what that really is in Loch Ness. But I also hope no one ever catches anything.
Biggest mystery these days, to me, is how the minds of a great deal of the American electorate are working. I’m at a loss for understanding and words (on a daily basis) as I follow that circus sideshow.

Catch the dynamic Troy O'Donnell evade investigation in 'An Inspector Calls', playing until October 29 at Rosebud Theatre. A masterpiece of 20th century theatre, this drawing room mystery will keep you questioning long after the curtain goes down. For tickets and information, visit rosebudtheatre.com

Friday, 16 September 2016

Director's Chair - Karl Sine on 'An Inspector Calls'

Karl Sine is an Actor, Director, and Certified Fight Director with the Academy of Fight Directors Canada. Selected Directing Credits include 'Soldiers Heart', 'Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol' (Loudly Whispered Theatre); 'Solo Joe' (Burnt Thicket); 'We Won't Pay, We Won't Pay', and 'Jake & the Kid' (Rosebud Theatre). Selected Actor Credits include 'The Crucible', 'Enron', 'A Christmas Carol' (Theatre Calgary); 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (Vertigo Theatre); 'Macbeth', 'Othello', 'Land of the Dead' (The Shakespeare Company); 'Boy's Own Jedi Handbook' (Ground Zero Theatre); 'Queen Milli of Galt', 'Mary's Wedding', 'Oliver!', and 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' (Rosebud Theatre). Karl has been awarded three Betty Mitchell Awards for his work as a Fight Director, as well as the recent Outstanding Actor award for his role in 'The Crucible'. 

Karl Sine directs Justin Lanouette on the set of An Inspector Calls. Photo by Nathan Schmidt.

Let’s get this out of the way. You’re a tea fanatic. You own a tea company, Fireside Tea. What tea were you drinking during 'An Inspector Calls'? 
Yes, I am a tea fanatic. Exceptional tea is one of those things in my life that is an essential. Life is too short to drink bad tea. During An Inspector Calls I tended to gravitate towards three different teas.
#1 – Assam Banaspaty: a black tea from India that is brisk and malty, goes perfect with milk.
#2 – Rou Gui: a roasted oolong from China that has a nutty cinnamon flavor.
#3 – Hojicha: a green tea from Japan that is also roasted, woody and nutty in flavor.

Have you considered making one for the show? What would it be?
If I had to make a tea for An Inspector Calls I would probably create a blend of black teas, maybe a blend of assam, qimen and Ceylon. Something that would feel English and go well with milk.

You drink tea, this show is set in England. It’s a mystery, you recently played Dr. Watson… Seems like the world of the play is right up your alley. Do you feel an affinity for the time period and place?
I do have an affinity to the place, always have. Some of my ancestry is from England so I think that plays into it a bit… but truthfully, I’ve always loved the culture and the history. I’ve been to England a couple times and loved every second of it. My wife and I are huge fans of Downton Abbey, so getting to direct a play during that period is a real treat.

In ‘An Inspector Calls’, a pre WWI wealthy family is put under question for the seemingly unrelated death of a young woman. Were there modern references you used as touchpoints in directing this show?
I think what J.B. Priestly has created is something that has resonance no matter the year in which it’s being produced. Like any great playwright the themes explored in the play are relatable because they centre around the human condition and therefore are timeless. One quote that I kept coming back to as I was researching was from Mother Teresa:

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

Do you, as a professional actor, approach scripts differently as a director?
I guess to some degree I do, because I’m having to look at the bigger picture and overall arc of the story. That said, my sensibilities as an actor shine through. I have always believed to my core that the theatre is the actors’ medium and film is the directors’ medium. Therefore it’s impossible for me not to think like an actor when approaching directing a theatre show. At its most basic level, theatre is actors telling stories, whereas in film, so much can change once the director gets to the editing room. Neither medium is “less-than”, just different. As a director, my biggest job is to help clarify the story that the actors are telling.

What surprised you in the process?
Just how personal and relevant this story can be. It’s not a history play, it’s a play for now and for each one of us.

This last year you garnered MULTIPLE Betty Mitchell Awards (and Calgary Critics' wins) for Acting and Fight Direction. What was the most challenging artistic endeavor of the last year?
Without question playing the role of John Proctor in Theatre Calgary’s production of The Crucible. The role required so much of me and it truly was an exhausting experience, incredibly rewarding, but exhausting.

Karl Sine in Theatre Calgary's The Crucible. Calgary Herald "Shaking Off the Demons in Old Salem" (full article)

What’s currently inspiring you?
I am always inspired by my wife, Lindsey, and my kids Olivia and Charlie! Having a family in the arts is a challenge and a dance. I am so thankful for my family.

What’s a moment in rehearsal that has stuck with you?
Our first real tech/dress was an exciting moment. I loved seeing it all come together!

What’s next for you, artistically?
Fight Directing Richard III for The Shakespeare Company.
Acting in Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol in the role of Bob Cratchit.

And lastly, what tea are you drinking NOW?
Right this moment, I’m drinking a beautiful Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty).

Don’t miss your opportunity to catch Karl Sine’s singular direction in the riveting ‘An Inspector Calls’, now playing at Rosebud Theatre until October 29. For tickets and information, visit rosebudtheatre.com

And if you’d like to drink what Karl’s been drinking, visit Fireside Tea and taste the wonders of his beautifully handcrafted teas!