Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Elinor Holt

'The Spitfire Grill' marks Elinor Holt’s debut on the Rosebud Theatre stage, but she's a certified star of the Calgary Theatre scene. A founding member of Evergreen Theatre and an award winning actress, select credits include: ‘Drinking Habits’ (Stage West), ‘Pig Girl’ (Theatre Network), ‘The Soul Collector’ (Catalyst), ‘The Ecstatics’ (Northern Light), ‘Sweeney Todd’ (Vertigo), ‘Slipper’ (ATP), ‘Mom’s the Word’ (Theatre Calgary), ‘Boy Gets Girl’ (Theatre Junction), ‘Lest We Forget’ (Lunchbox), ‘Shakespeare’s Will’ (Sage), ‘Urine Town’ (Ground Zero), ‘Helen’s Necklace’ (Urban Curvz), ‘The Piper’ (Downstage), ‘Bingo Ladies’ (Hudson Village), ‘Becky’s New Car’ (Theatre NW), ‘Our Town’ (Caravan Theatre), ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (The Globe). Up next for Elinor: ‘To the Light’ (ATP) and ‘The Humans’ (Theatre Calgary). Elinor and her husband, Spider, form the duo, SPIDERELLI. They live in Calgary with their three children and two pups.

Cassia Schmidt, Elinor Holt, and Alixandra Cowman in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
Where do you call home?
I call Calgary home now but I actually grew up on a farm near New Norway, Alberta and went to a farm school called Rosebrier School. I was in grades one, two and three with Garfield Sproule, just a year or two behind Royale Sproule, of Rosebud fame. Small world, theatre and farming.

What’s inspiring you right now?
Virginia Woolf's novella, To the Lighthouse. This fall I will be performing in a French adaptation entitled, To the Light at Alberta Theatre Projects. It was inspired by Virginia Woolf's writing and has been translated by John Murrell, who wrote the play Waiting for the Parade, among others. John's writing is ever an inspiration. 

What’s your go-to summer treat?
Ice cream and (thanks to Nathan & Cassia Schmidt) Meadjito for a beverage.

In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Hannah Ferguson, arguably the most ‘spitfire’ woman at the Grill. But she also has complex wounds and an abundantly generous spirit. Do you identify with her, or were there unexpected challenges in the role?
I identify with Hannah a great deal. Hard not to for those of us who have reached a certain age, methinks. The greatest challenge in approaching the role for me was her age. She is 70. I am…not quite there yet…

What makes great musical theatre? Do you have a favorite style, or show?
Nothing beats a good story which is what makes The Spitfire Grill my kind of musical. It is a story and actor driven piece. Years ago I had the chance to play Mercy in Morwyn Brebner’s musical, Little Mercy’s First Murder for Ground Zero Theatre in Calgary. It was the same kind of show, an actor’s musical, a great story with great heart. Usually my favorite show is the one I am currently doing and that certainly applies to The Spitfire Grill.

Elinor Holt warms up her pre-show pipes on the set of The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Nathan Schmidt.
Any roles on your bucket list?
What is on my bucket list is what I am doing at the moment and in the moment. So, right now that is Hannah in The Spitfire Grill. If I had a bucket list role and got too old to play it or lost the part to someone else… well, let’s just say, that way madness lies. Concentrate on the show you are doing, head down, keep working, and as Doris Day sang, “What will be, will be…

You’re also an accomplished voice actor. Do you approach “voice” work the same as “stage” work, or do you use different creative tools?
In voice work I do as I am told and trust the experts because I am not one!

What can you tell us about SPIDERELLI? 
(listen to the music here!)
We have an album of original songs called 12 Farm Fresh Hits. We get some air play on CKUA and University Radio. My husband wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. I am always carrying some CDs with me. Perhaps I should approach some of the Rosebud shops to see if they could put some out? We would donate half the proceeds to the theatre!

(Editor's note: to get your hands on a CD, contact elliholt@hotmail.com or spiderbishop@hotmail.com)

What’s a great piece of acting advice that’s guided you over the years?
Go there, don’t show there.

In the fictional menu of ‘The Spitfire Grill’, what’s the ‘Elinor Holt’ Special?
We once overheard our youngest daughter, RubyJune, playing house with a little neighbourhood friend, loudly exclaim, “No, Daddies cook! Mommies order pizza!” So, my special would be a George’s Special from Inglewood Pizza in Calgary. I have them on speed dial. In real life, I cook less like Hannah and more like Percy who arrives at The Spitfire Grill. You have to see the show to know who taught Percy how to cook!

'The Spitfire Grill' plays now through September 2. Don’t miss your chance to catch Elinor Holt’s touching and firecracking performance as resident spitfire Hannah Ferguson. For tickets and more information, visit www.rosebudtheatre.com

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Director's Chair - Ron Reed on 'An Almost Holy Picture'

Currently playing on our BMO Studio Stage is 'An Almost Holy Picture', by Heather MacDonald. The play follows the spiritual journey of Samuel Gentle: a gardener wrestling with faith and divine mystery as he navigates his calling of care-taking. We caught up with director Ron Reed for some of his thoughts on the production.

Ron Reed in Pacific Theatre's production of Outside Mullingar. Photo by Jalen Saip.
What's the first thing that resonated with you in the story?
I found Samuel’s experiences in New Mexico so vivid. They stick with me. I also loved “that wild child, Angel Martinez” who is a complete outsider, and the fact that he is such a gifted photographer. 

You’re Artistic Director of Pacific Theatre (Vancouver), a playwright, AND a professional actor. Is it difficult to let go of those roles when you direct? Do different tools come into play?
In one way, yes, very much. In another way they are very similar, especially on a one-man show. What’s different? When I’m an actor, almost my entire job is to lose myself in the story, imagining myself in the middle of all the things that are happening. As a director I am the outside pair of eyes that provides shape, tempo, imagery to make the story clear and potent for the audience - so that the actor is free to lose himself in the story. What’s similar, though, is that I am very much working to help the actor bring his very best work, so I am constantly imagining myself in the middle of his process so I can build his confidence, figure out how to overcome obsacles, etc - thinking very much as an actor.

In ‘An Almost Holy Picture', Samuel Gentle is a father who’s walked away from an official role in the church to become a kind of recluse in care of a Church’s grounds and a daughter with an extraordinary condition. As an artist and father of two daughters, do you identify with his path? 
What we have in common is that the fact of being a father is probably the central thing in our lives. We also have in common an unshakeable preoccupation with God - though, while I’ve had all kinds of difficulties that have challenged my faith, I’ve never become alienated from God, or felt the need to walk away from the church or my own faith as a result. (Well, maybe for a week or two here or there, but that’s mostly just when we’re not on speaking terms - nothing permanent.)

David Snider (Samuel Gentle) and Ron Reed (Director) at first read for An Almost Holy Picture.

In a one-person show, is it difficult to establish a sense of conflict?  How do you engage the audience in a deeply complex and internal struggle?
I don’t think of the through-line or story of a play in terms of conflict, though I know that’s one way to approach it. I see it as a journey, a series of events, the consequences and choices that follow those events, and then the events that are caused by those choices - which then lead to other consequences and choices. And since Samuel talks with us so openly about that train of events and consequences, I find it just as interesting as I would to sit down and listen to anybody tell me their story. Especially someone as honest, observant and complex as Samuel.

Any surprises in the rehearsal process?
That the play had to be under two hours, including intermission. 

What’s currently inspiring you?
The baseball writing of W.P. Kinsella, especially his novel Shoeless Joe - such language! Spending time with my nine month old grand-daughter. The New Yorker Radio Hour podcast. Listening to music late at night: ska and early reggae, a jazz singer named Carolyn Credico, vintage rock and pop - The Flamingos, The Crows, The Chords, Del Vikings, Doris Troy, Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs, The Tams. Endless listens to Donald Fagen’s Nightfly album. 

Ron Reed as the doctor himself in Pacific Theatre's production of Freud's Last Session. Photo by Damon Calderwood.
This production of ‘An Almost Holy Picture' is also a part of Pacific Theatre’s upcoming season, which includes a new play, by you, about the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Can you give a sneak peek into your process?
I’ve set aside couple weeks this summer to dig in on revising the play, and I hope to do another draft some time this fall. In this last draft the very important third character of Charles Williams finally clicked into place, especially his scenes with a young woman named Lois Lang-Sims. Now I can really focus on the over-arching story of the rise and fall of the friendship, really making sure one thing leads to another. And to centre it in J.R.R. Tolkien - what things does he do, and why, and are there moments where he realizes things? I think his wife Edith will be really important in that. (for more on the production, click here)

Is there a directing project on your bucket list?
I’m not thinking much further than Tolkien, which has been on my mind since I started work on it in 2012, which we’re premiering next May. But okay, two others come to mind, Will Eno’s Middletown and a stage adaptation of the bizarre John Patrick Shanley movie Joe Versus The Volcano.

What’s your favourite summer indulgence?
Spending long days and evenings in my back yard – board games, hammock, barbecue, baseball on the radio.

If you were going to create an almost holy picture, what would you put into the frame?
These days, it would be a very crowded picture.

What's next for you?
I’ll be playing Paul in The Christians at Pacific Theatre this September - the same role Dave Snider is playing here at Rosebud! Such a powerful play - and I’ve never worked with any of the rest of the cast before, which is a rare treat for me.  Already working on the lines...

Ron Reed is Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre. He founded the company in 1984 after receiving an M.F.A. in Acting from California Institute of the Arts. His critically acclaimed performances in 'Shadowlands', 'A Man for All Seasons', 'Mourning Dove', 'God's Man in Texas', and 'Cotton Patch Gospel' garnered Jessie Richardson Award nominations. As a widely produced playwright, (with over fifty productions of his plays to date), he won the Chalmers Canadian Play Award for 'Book of the Dragon' and was nominated for both Dora Mavor Moore and Sterling Awards for 'Tent Meeting' (a collaboration with Morris Ertman). His other works include 'Refuge of Lies', 'A Bright Particular Star', and 'You Still Can't'.  

'An Almost Holy Picture' plays now until September 2.  For tickets and information, visit www.rosebudtheatre.com

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Company "Snapshot" - Alixandra Cowman

We're ecstatic to have Alix return to Rosebud this summer! She received her FRSA with Rosebud School of the Arts in 2014 and has been seen on our stage in ‘Wildwood Fire’, ‘Chickens’, and ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’. Other theatre credits include ‘Hana’s Suitcase’ (Storybook Theatre), ‘Songs for a New World’ (Cappuccino), ‘Rocks’ (IGNITE!), and ‘The Darling Family’ (Three Eyes). Alixandra is also a member of acclaimed folk trio “The Dearhearts” with whom she has released an album and toured across North America - www.thedearhearts.net

Rosebud Theatre
Alixandra Cowman and Cassia Schmidt in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
My current place of residence is Calgary. I've got a few places I like to call home, and that includes Rosebud, Calgary, and Regina (which is where I grew up).

What have you been up to since you graduated?
I've moved to Calgary, started a band called The Dearhearts, and done as much acting as I can. I've been lucky enough with Calgary theatre companies like Storybook Theatre, Birnton Theatricals, and Sage Theatre.

Tell us a little about your band and how it came to be?
The Dearhearts was born out of my fear of doing things on my own, really. ;) I had received Paul Zacharias's recording scholarship during my time as a student at RSA, but held off on recording anything for about two years. Lauren de Graaf, Lauren Hamm, and I had made the decision to perform dinner music for the fall show at Rosebud Theatre in 2014. We decided to use my scholarship to record a CD that we could sell in conjunction with dinner music. And then...it just took off! We've continued to book gigs and write songs, and 3 years later, we're still going strong.

Lauren Hamm, Lauren DeGraaf, Alix Cowman
The Dearhearts: Lauren Hamm, Lauren DeGraaf, and Alix Cowman. Photo courtesy Lauren Hamm Photography.

 How is singing in The Dearhearts different from doing Musical Theatre? Do you use different skills to sing your own music?
I can't get away with being lazy with diction in Musical Theatre the way I can with The Dearhearts...don't get me wrong, writing and singing music with The Dearhearts is just as labour-intensive, but with Musical Theatre, the story is the thing. It's really important that the story is told as clearly as can be.

What’s your favourite indulgence?
Me and one of my good friends have started having nights where we drink wine and watch The Bachelorette. I look forward to it every week! I won't say who I watch it with for fear of her being embarrassed that everyone knows she watches the Bachelorette, but let's just say she's very DEAR to my HEART.

Which fictional character do you identify with most and why?
I grew up with Disney movies, and Belle was always my favourite. We share a lot in common (we both are avid readers, both love to sing, and both have brown hair), but her open spirit is a big inspiration for me. She looks through the surface and sees the heart underneath. That's who I strive to be, too.

In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Percy… a convict starting over in a new place looking for a second chance at happiness. Was it easy to get into her skin, or were there challenges to the role you weren’t expecting?
There's definitely some things about Percy that made it easy to connect with her. She's a city girl that's never lived in a small town before...that was me when I first moved to Rosebud! The difficulty came in her guardedness. As an actor, my job is to be completely open and play the truth whatever I'm feeling in the moment. But Percy is completely shut off to her emotions and to other people at the top of this story. It's a bit of a puzzle to sort through sometimes.

Rosebud Theatre
Nathan Schmidt and Alixandra Cowman build trust in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
If you were gonna move somewhere to start over, where would you go?
I'd go somewhere far and remote. Preferably somewhere warm. Hawaii perhaps!

What’s a great piece of acting advice that’s stuck with you over the years?
I have the pleasure of working with Calgary actor Elinor Holt in Spitfire, and I distinctly remember being in a talkback of a show she was in. All I remember is her saying to us that if we wanted to be actors, we had to work hard. She teases me for this being the only thing I remember from that day but hey, it's stuck! And she's right!

In the fictional menu of The Spitfire Grill, what makes up the "Alix Cowman" special?
Anything with avocados: Avocado toast, salad with Avocados, plain old guacamole. I love Avocados and I ain't ashamed about it!

Lastly, what's Alix Cowman’s motto?
I don't know if I have a motto but I definitely use the flamenco dancer emoji quite often. It's kind of my trademark.

‘The Spitfire Grill’ is cooking and Alixandra is serving up soul-stirring songs so strong and sweet you might just come back for seconds. This is one musical you don’t want to miss. For tickets and more information visit www.rosebudtheatre.com