Monday, 11 September 2017

The Christians: Not what you might be thinking

"The Christians is a play about the pastor of a very very big church. And what happens when he... reveals to the congregation something that he has found out... that the Bible doesn't quite say something that we think it says. And then the reaction of the congregation - which is not exactly what you'd expect. And then what happens after that is also not exactly what you'd expect. And then what happens as a result of that is also not exactly what you'd expect... and the whole play just sort of tumbles forward." 
- Lucas Hnath, playwright
At a tight 80 minutes with not a word wasted, The Christians is an emotional and intellectual ride through politics, faith, and dissension in a contemporary charismatic mega-church. Though the plot hinges on a doctrinal deal-breaker, the church is simply the setting for a snowballing series of interactions stunning in their simplicity, complexity, and astounding ability to keep audiences guessing what happens next. 

Raised near Disneyworld, with no neighbors but a gun range across the street, playwright Lucas Hnath says his 'surreal' childhood prepared him for the stage. "Disneyworld was my first theatrical experience. It sort of informs everything that I write. I like it when plays feel like a ride." But through the twists and turns Hnath never quite lets on where his sympathies lie, not even in interviews. Instead, he confounds with competing arguments. "As long as your brain is searching for the answer, you're awake. Once you have the answer, you go to sleep," he argues.

The Christians premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2014 and its 2015 New York production at Playwrights Horizons launched the play (and playwright) into the national spotlight. Critically appraised and widely produced across the United States, it has been embraced by secular and faith-based organizations alike. With a polarizing title, the play itself is anything but. The Christians concerns not only matters of faith, but questions of leadership, integrity, and unspoken rules for reconciliation. What happens when a man speaks what he believes, and shakes up not only his congregation, but the intricate framework of relationships his organization was built upon? Are beliefs a thing we hold on to in spite of the havoc they wreak, or is there room to hold other perspectives without losing our own?
"Church splits are Hell. This play about one isn't."
- Christianity Today

'The Christians' runs Sept 22 - Oct 28, and if you have any doubts about whether the show is right for you, it is. This play is a must-see and elegant portrayal of a fractured body of believers who keep searching for resolution. For tickets and more information, visit

Monday, 21 August 2017

Spitfire Super Quiz

The actors in The Spitfire Grill have had a grand time playing together this summer, so we asked a few insider questions (and edited out the spoilers). Read how their responses stack up, and see who's possibly gotten a little too close for comfort...

Who's Playing Who? (A short guide to names mentioned below)
  • Alixandra Cowman - Percy
  • Elinor Holt - Hannah
  • Cassia Schmidt - Shelby
  • Nathan Schmidt - Eli
  • Marie Russell - Effy
  • Travis Friesen - Sheriff Joe  
  • Paul Muir - Caleb

Who’s the Spitfire in The Spitfire Grill?
ALIX: Elinor Holt, OF COURSE!
NATE: I’d have to say Hannah is the Spitfire, she named it after all.
CASSIA: Hannah – for sure!
TRAVIS: Hannah
ELINOR: Shelby! And in the band, Julie!
MARIE: The fierce spirit of compassion that is brave enough to start and continue the journey of forgiveness and acceptance.
PAUL: Percy! No question, it’s Percy! She’s the catalyst for the whole story!

Alixandra Cowman whips up her speciality. Photo by Morris Ertman.

What’s the secret in the sauce?
ALIX: It ain’t called SPITfire for no good reason.
ELINOR: Wild Turkey
TRAVIS: Ketchup/mayo/lemon juice
CASSIA: Rosebud water
MARIE: Understanding how little we have to lose when we leap and make the choice to love...
NATE: You know, I think it’s pickles and chipotle peppers.
PAUL: You add a dash of love and a pinch of forgiveness, and YUM!

What’s the worst thing on the menu?
ALIX: Anything that Percy has made. Don’t let her in the kitchen.
ELINOR: The coffee. But it’s the only grill in town, so put up and shut up!
TRAVIS: Jellied Hotdog Salad
CASSIA: The corn beef hash. Even when Hannah makes it.
MARIE: Percy’s sunny-side-up eggs. They have instantly grown a velvety mould on their surface, thanks to the genius of props people! Ewwww.
PAUL: Caleb!
NATE: The spelling

Cassia Schmidt and Alixandra Cowman cook up magic and... mystery meat. Photo by Morris Ertman

What song got cut from the play?
ALIX: The one that ends with a kissing scene.
CASSIA: All of Eli’s solos.
TRAVIS: “I can’t quit you” – Caleb sings to Joe.
MARIE: Effy’s Revenge – a little dream sequence piece about catching everyone in a fraud ring and being awarded The Spitfire Grill as an annex to the post office (secretly a CIA outpost).
NATE: Shelby had a bluesy song about how she wishes she was single again.
PAUL: A song got cut from the play? Crap! Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’m still doing them all! 

Paul Muir, singing solo. Photo by Morris Ertman. 

What crime would you commit if you could get away with it?
CASSIA: It’s not a hard core crime – but there are a lot of places I would trespass.
ELINOR: Hm. Tough one. Can one ever get away from something? With something?... Maybe… so, I would like to get away with Travis’s old truck… or Cassia’s vocal chords so that I could be an amazing belting soprano with cool wheels! Grand Theft/Throat Auto!
TRAVIS: Jay-walking
ALIX: I would love to rob a casino, Ocean’s Eleven style. I want to be cool like Brad Pitt and George Clooney!
MARIE: What’s the legal term for opening other people’s mail?
NATE: Stowaway – jumping on a boxcar and go where it goes for as long as it goes.
PAUL: Oh Heavens, I think I’ve committed enough crimes in my life already. I’m ready to retire from my life of crime!

Marie Russell, Paul Muir, and Travis Friesen keep the town under control. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Who has a secret they aren’t sharing? What is it?
ALIX: Definitely Joe and Effy. Have you SEEN their relationship on stage? Seems fishy to me.
CASSIA: Shelby. Ha! Sneaky! Still not telling. But there's a reason her dress is so baggy.
NATE: The cellist, Julie. She'd rather be dancing.
PAUL: Ummm, who doesn’t have a secret they aren’t sharing?

Everyone has a mystery. Elinor Holt and Alixandra Cowman. Photo by Morris Ertman

Favorite moment in the show that the audience doesn’t see?
ALIX: The choreography of ‘Diggin’ Stone’ that happens behind the flat. Elinor and I are the best back-up dancers to Paul Muir’s rocking song.
ELINOR: The backstage choreography for ‘Diggin’ Stone'. It is a sight to behold, even if I do say so myself.
CASSIA: Choreography for 'Diggin’ Stone'.
TRAVIS: Behind the flat choreo for 'Diggin’ Stone'.
NATE: I get to make eyes, across the stage, with my beautiful wife, during the woo-ing between Sheriff Joe and Percy.
MARIE: One of my favorite moments happens at the top of Act 1 before my first entrance. We’re like a team… coming out of the shoot – first Travis, then, a bar later, Paul, then at my time, me. I love love love being a small player in a great story alongside others. I’m not sure why that moment always heartens me.
PAUL: Oh gosh. At some point we [gotta] make a video of all the action that happens with the musicians. The 4-person guitar playing dance, Kait going back and forth between piano and accordion, it’s really active!

Some movement madness at the Grill! Photo by Morris Ertman.

What’s the password to get into the after-hours Spitfire?
ALIX: “I brought applejack.”
ELINOR: Scrabble
NATE: B@c0N&3gg5
CASSIA: You can just open the door. It’s never locked.
TRAVIS: New England Clam Chowder
MARIE: The secret password passes by word of mouth and also continuously changes. Effy knows that the tactic is called “permanent transitionalism” and was a favorite method used by Sadam Hussein.

Nathan Schmidt and Alixandra Cowman share a secret... or two... photo by Morris Ertman

What’s the town of Gilead’s tourism motto?
ALIX: Gilead: Do our balms make you whole? See for yourself!
ELINOR: Gilead: A little piece of heaven right here on earth.
NATE: Gilead: What’s yours is Mine!
PAUL: Gilead: Home of the Colours of Paradise! (But they probably spell it the American way.)
CASSIA: Gilead: Your forgotten holiday
MARIE: Gilead: Miserable but Safe!
TRAVIS: Gilead: If you don’t have time to stop, smile as you drive by.

Friendship and Forgiveness in The Spitfire Grill. Cassia Schmidt, Elinor Holt, & Alixandra Cowman. Photo by Morris Ertman

There's just two more weeks to catch the antics and genuine affection amidst the cast and characters of The Spitfire Grill. Playing until September 2, visit for tickets and more information.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Travis Friesen

Travis Friesen is a resident Rosebuddy finally returning to the mainstage after graduating from Rosebud School of the Arts in 2008. Select Rosebud Theatre credits include ‘Tent Meeting’, ‘On Golden Pond’, ‘Man of La Mancha’, ‘Christmas in Wales’, and ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'. Recent projects for film include: CBC’s 'Heartland', 'Painkillers', 'Hell on Wheels', 'The Valley Below', 'Breakdown Lane', and 'Carl’s Way'. Travis is a member of The Wheatland Band and the proprietor of Kith & Kin Artisan Wares who has made his home in Rosebud for the past 13 years.

Travis Friesen and Alixandra Cowman in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
 Where are you from originally?
Gimli, Manitoba, home of the Gimli Glider (1983) and the annual Icelandic festival Islendingadagurinn.

What drew you to Rosebud?
I was living in Montreal taking evening acting classes, and I asked my coach, “When should I say ‘no’ to a role?” He told me that I should accept everything or I’m not hire-able, and that didn’t sit well with me. I decided to pursue a school where I could be surrounded by the craft every day and [with people] who wrestled with the questions of what it means to be a performer with a Christian faith.

What have you been up to since graduating?
I graduated RSA in 2008. After graduating, I spent a stretch of time in both Toronto and Vancouver investigating the film scene. Most of my days since, have been spent in Rosebud building a home and business, and pursuing film work in Calgary and Edmonton. I’ve also released two solo albums, and an EP with The Wheatland Band. 

Elinor Holt, Travis Friesen, Cassia Schmidt, & Alixandra Cowman get more than they bargained for in The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman. 
What’s your favorite part about performing, and do you have a preference for music, film, or theatre?
I appreciate them all for different reasons.

With music, I enjoy the navigation of a performance – building a set list that takes the audience on a journey, and interacting with them. And I love to sing. I’ts the thing that brings the most joy to my life.

I enjoy the high stakes that comes with doing film. You show up as a day player on set and have to prove yourself every time. And the honesty that film demands of you – the camera is right in your face and (thanks to reality TV) the average viewer sitting at home is trained to know exactly what’s going on behind the actor’s eyes. There’s no getting away with disconnected acting. I also love the camaraderie of everyone working together, each in their own unique role, towards a common goal.

With the theatre, I enjoy the exploration that is found in the rehearsal hall. In Rosebud we get 4 weeks of rehearsal time and once the show is open, performing for a live audience is such a thrill. There’s an instant gratification that happens as the energy from the audience hits you like a wave. As well, in theatre, you get to do the whole story – top to bottom – and explore the entire journey of your character everyday.

Sheriff Joe meets Percy (Travis Friesen & Alixandra Cowman) in The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Sheriff Joe Suttor: a small town guy with aspirations for bigger things than Gilead seems to offer. Do you identify with him, or were there unexpected challenges about getting into the headspace of the local lawman?
I think we all have to deal with life not working out the way we hoped it would at some point on our journey. We all have different ways of facing disappointment. I believe the local lawman thought he’d find his piece of happiness in Gilead, with a wife and a home, but as life would have it, try as he might, that hasn’t worked out. Hopping the train out of town is a mere smokescreen for him dealing with his disappointment. Joe has a heart for the people of Gilead and is an advocate for the town. These are all facets that I identify well with.

You also recently played lawman Constable Jones for two episodes of the CBC show ‘Heartland’. What’s the difference for you between film and musical theatre?
Both mediums require hard work and preparation. If something doesn’t go right in film, you can do it again. If you start singing the wrong line in musical theatre, there is no going back, you just have to ride the wave of horror. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Travis Friesen (centre) in Rosebud Theatre's Christmas in Wales (2009). Photo by Morris Ertman.
In addition to creative abilities, you’re a Renovation King! What draws you to projects (you're bringing a windmill to town and you built a store)? Is there something that appeals to you about working with your hands?
When I first purchased the property of Kith & Kin (the old Rosebud Fire Hall), I wanted to build an extravagant post and beam building with lots of glass and a living roof. But the reality of my budget made this impossible. Operating on a budget draws out the creativity in people. The imagination muscle is the same on we use in theatre. You’re confined to the world within the stage and have limitations there as well, but that’s often where the magic happens. Renos are another avenue for creative expression.

What are you listening to these days? Any recommendations?
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston, Field Behind the Plow – Stan Rogers

What’s Rosebud’s best kept secret?
Travis Friesen. I’m still single. Or, Kith & Kin. Or perhaps… the best is yet to come… in the form of a windmill…

Travis Friesen & Jesse Lynn Anderson in The Triumph of Love. Photo courtesy Rosebud School of the Arts.
What’s an important piece of advice that’s resonated with you lately?
Elinor Holt said at a talkback the other day that there is no expiration date on actors. Everything we do in our lives contributes to our craft of storytelling. That takes a certain amount of pressure off me.

On the fictional menu of ‘The Spitfire Grill’, what makes up the “Travis Friesen Special”?
I do love duck… maybe include an 8” x 8” chunk of lasagna with peppercorns on top that were hand milled by a hipster.

Resident heartthrob Travis Friesen will warm up your summer with his deep and rich performance in 'The Spitfire Grill'. Smooth your relationship with the Sheriff and get your ticket before September 2. And catch The Wheatland Band, one night only, Friday, September 8. For tickets and information visit

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 or

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