Thursday, 30 June 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Jonathan Bruce

Jonathan Bruce is happy to be back in Rosebud reprising the role of Sam in 'Tent Meeting'. Graduating with a BFA in Theatre from the University of Mississippi, JB moved to Canada in 1987 and has spent the last 30 years working in theatre, film, and television. Favorite roles include Sam in 'Tent Meeting' (Pacific Theatre, Blinding Light Productions, Brookstone Theatre, Rosebud Theatre), Nicely Nicely in 'Guys and Dolls' (Chemainus Theatre), and Lazar Wolfe in 'Fiddler on the Roof' (Royal City Musical Theatre). TV and Film credits include Supernatural, Miranda Sings, Smallville, Two for the Money, The Hole, and the Christmas classic, Elf. As a tenor, JB performs in groups ranging from duets to mass choirs. A featured soloist for the Universal Gospel Choir, he also lends his voice to fundraise for the Cancer Society in Saskatchewan. 

David Snider, Blair Young, Declan O'Reilly
Jonathan Bruce, David Snider, Blair Young, and Declan O'Reilly in Tent Meeting. Photo by Morris Ertman.
Where do you call home?
I’m originally from Mississippi, but I’ve been living in Vancouver since ’87 (minus a jaunt to Los Angeles).

What’s your “must-have” morning ritual?
Toast and peanut butter… and a shower.

Favorite gospel song?
The first solo I remember hearing in church is His Eye is on the Sparrow. It has always been my favorite, possibly because [the lyric] “I sing because I’m happy”.

What’s your “go-to” shower song?
Really varies based on the last thing I listen to. Usually some Top 40’s fluff, or classic rock.

This is your 5th production as Sam in ‘Tent Meeting’. Can you tell us how it started and why you stay involved?
This is all Doug MacArthur’s fault (head of drama - Lethbridge University). In the 80’s I was quite busy with television work, and wasn’t really planning on doing any theatre. Doug had auditioned for Morris on another project and heard about Tent Meeting. He knew I had experience with quartet singing. (In my high-school it was an everyday extracurricular class). Doug talked me into going in-between a couple of other auditions that day.
I met with Morris, without accompanist, sang a few old tunes and walked out thinking I was done. Morris called later, and I met Ron Reed later that afternoon. It was just like every other audition [except] with a 20 year pay off.
I stay with the production because it honors the music [as well as] the characters that helped form the man I’ve become.
Sam is a composite of men I knew when growing up in Mississippi. In a time when you spoke your mind, and did what you said. My father talked loud, knew his worth, and never had a problem he couldn’t wrestle to its knees with hard work and persistence. My father’s friend, Frank Black, [is a man] who has never yet met a stranger: a merchant who could put anyone at ease with a quick joke or honest advice. Mr. Frank always had a cigar in his mouth, although I don’t ever remember him lighting it.
The camaraderie between the guys in the [Tent Meeting] quartet, is straight out of the streets of Ackerman, Mississippi. Born of a culture where you’ve known everyone forever. These men have been through so much together as a group, that every street corner becomes a locker room… there are no secrets.

In every production there must be something new that speaks to you. What’s striking this time around?
It has always amazed me that the four part harmony has been so proficient. It takes quartets months to get the sound that we have only a week to accomplish. This particular quartet, with input from Bill Hamm, has an impressive sound. It is a pleasure to sing this music, especially with this cast.

Do you have a favorite “on-stage” moment from a previous production?
We were doing the show at Brookstone Theatre in Toronto… [during one particular song] the audience likes to clap along. And while they always start on tempo, quite often they get behind as they listen to the song. All of a sudden there was a loud clap from the back, precisely on tempo, which picked up the audience and held them till the end. It was Tenor Ben Heppner, who was a patron of Brookstone.

What’s currently inspiring you?
I recently left a 15 year office job in order to be free to chase the performance dream. So I guess what is inspiring me is possibility… and second chances.

It’s been almost 20 years of your collaboration with Morris Ertman and this show. You’ve been instrumental in its development. What’s the essential ingredient(s) to maintaining that kind of relationship, personally and professionally?
Morris and I have in a lot of ways lived a parallel creative journey. He had “Tent Meeting”, I had “Camp Meeting”. He loved the Blackwood Brothers, and I come from Blackwood Brothers territory. We have the same spiritual questions… and largely come up with the same answers. We were obviously meant to be working together…and I don’t think we’re done with Tent Meeting yet!

Lastly, ‘Tent Meeting’ uncovers relational harmony while celebrating a diversity of voices. How do you keep in tune with people you love?
Like any musical group: listen to each other, breathe together, and try try to blend in!

Don’t miss this opportunity to let Jonathan Bruce transport you with his sweet sounds as the backslidden (but beloved) Pool-Hall proprietor, Sam. ‘Tent Meeting’ runs June 24 – August 28. For tickets and more information, visit

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Tent Meeting: A Brief History

'Tent Meeting' returns to Rosebud Theatre for the third time, a play with as rich a history as the music it celebrates. Repeatedly nominated for notable awards in major theatre centres, ‘Tent Meeting’ has travelled across Canada and been produced across North America; striking a chord with its recollection of times when tents were raised in small towns and revivals of the heart were inspired by spirit-filled songs.  Here’s a brief history of the events that shaped this remarkable show.

Travis Friesen, Jonathan Bruce, Deborah Buck, Stephen Waldschmidt, David Snider
Travis Friesen, Jonathan Bruce, Deborah Buck, Stephen Waldschmidt, & David Snider in Rosebud Theatre's Tent Meeting, 2007.  Photo by Morris Ertman

1984: Vineyard Theatre, Edmonton. A newly formed theatre company, with Morris Ertman as playwright(!) writes a story with selected songs from his mother’s extensive and well-worn collection of gospel music. Premiering in the church hall of Knox Evangelical Free Church (near the Edmonton Fringe Festival), it later moved to Calgary, playing at the Pumphouse.

CAST: Janet Hogarth, Kevin Smith, Colin Murdock, Bob Rose, Tim Dixon. 
DIRECTOR: Morris Ertman

1997 Poster Design Pacific Theatre
Poster Design for Pacific Theatre's Tent Meeting, 1997

1996: Long-time enthusiast of the show, friend of Morris, and Artistic Director/Playwright Ron Reed jumps on-board. Morris & Ron co-write the next stage of the script, developing & refining the story for a Pacific Theatre production.

1997 Morris Ertman
Ron Reed in Pacific Theatre's Tent Meeting, 1997. Photo by Morris Ertman.
1997: Pacific Theate, Vancouver.  Tent Meeting (as we now know it) premieres.  

CAST: Karen Parent, Ron Reed, Don Noble, Jonathan Bruce, Francis Boyle. 
DIRECTOR: Morris Ertman. 

Jonathan Bruce in Pacific Theatre's Tent Meeting, 1997. Photo by Morris Ertman.

1998: Brookstone Performing Arts, Toronto. Tent Meeting receives 4 Dora Nominations for Outstanding New Play/Musical, Outstanding Musical Direction, Outstanding Actor, and Outstanding Production.

CAST: Karen Parent, Kent Staines, Dean Holland, Jonathan Bruce, Allan Moon. 
DIRECTOR: Morris Ertman

1999: Production by AD Players, Houston TX

1999: Production by Persephone Theatre, Saskatoon SK

1999: Production by Station Arts Centre, Rosthern SK

2000: Production by Primestock Theatre, Red Deer AB

Neil Minor, Jonathan Bruce, Tom PIckett, Seana Lee Wood
Blinding Light Productions' Tent Meeting. Royal Sproule, Seana Lee Wood, Neil Minor, Jonathan Bruce, Tom Pickett.  Photo by Morris Ertman
2000: Blinding Light Productions. The show begins a Western Canada tour, launching from Pacific Theatre (Vancouver) to Chemainus Theatre (Vancouver Island), Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnepeg), The Kaasa Theatre (Edmonton), The Pumphouse Theatre (Calgary), and Rosebud Theatre(!) for a limited 2 week run. It receives both Jesse Award (Vancouver) and Sterling Award (Edmonton) nominations for Best Musical.

CAST: Seana Lee Wood, Royal Sproule, Tom Pickett, Jonathan Bruce, Neil Minor.
DIRECTOR: Morris Ertman.

Pacific Theatre 'Tent Meeting' Poster Design
Poster design for Blinding Light Productions Tent Meeting, Pacific Theatre

2001: Production by Bluewater Summer Playhouse, ON

David Snider & Deborah Buck in Rosebud Theatre's Tent Meeting, 2007.  Photo by Morris Ertman.
2007: Rosebud Theatre produces its first full-run production of the show.  

CAST: Deborah Buck, David Snider, Travis Friesen, Jonathan Bruce, Stephen Waldschmidt.
DIRECTOR: Morris Ertman

2009: Production by Theatrical Outfit, Atlanta GA

2009: Production by Lyric Music Theatre of Regina, SK

2016: Rosebud Theatre. By popular demand,Tent Meeting returns!
CAST: Jonathan Bruce, David Snider, Seana Lee Wood, Declan O’Reilly, Blair Young.
DIRECTOR: Morris Ertman.

2016: Morris completes the final draft of a screenplay funded in part by the Alberta Motion Picture Development Fund.  Mighty Motion Pictures coordinates, seeking investment and distribution for the film with plans to shoot in the summer of 2017

Don’t miss the opportunity to catch another milestone moment for this inspired show, playing June 24 – August 28. For tickets and more information, visit

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Director's Chair - David Snider on 'Valley Song'

Currently on our Studio Stage is 'Valley Song', by Athol Fugard. The play originally premiered in Johannesburg, South Africa after the election of Nelson Mandela (’94) and the dismantling of apartheid (’92). Fugard has long been celebrated for writing intense, meaningful dramas about the lives and injustices of ordinary South Africans, and ‘Valley Song’ is considered one of the loveliest, most joyous works he’s ever written.  Buks Jonkers, an aging farmer, and his granddaughter Veronica wrestle with timeless truths as one clings to the past and the other pulls for the future. 

Rosebud Theatre Athol Fugard
David LeReaney and Lennette Randall in Rosebud Theatre's Valley Song. Photo by Randall Wiebe.

We took some time with director David Snider, (who most recently appeared on the Rosebud stage as the Magnificent Toad in 'Wind in the Willows') to talk about his experience. 

Directors, apparently, have a ‘process’. Whats yours?
Listen closely to the play; trusting [that] all that is needed to tell the story clearly, is in the text.

And in addition to the play text, I discovered the play was dedicated to Barney Simon, an iconic South African director and close colleague of Fugard, who was lauded for multi-racial casting during the violent period of apartheid. I’ve been reading a book about Simon called The World in an Orange, a collection of interviews with artists who describe his deep commitment to theatre as a sacred expression of being human, regardless of differences in background. That reading set the tone for my approach to the rehearsal process.

Do you, as a professional actor, approach scripts differently as a director?
The approach is quite similar, in that I put a lot of focus on identifying actions of consequence as direction to the actors. Playing the action, rather than aiming for effect, is the best way I know to help actors surprise themselves with honest discoveries and unexpected impulses. Surprising myself is one of my favourite parts of exploring a role.

What jumped out when you read ‘Valley Song’ for the first time?
The similarities to life in Rosebud, both as a farming-based rural village, and as a place where young artists cultivate their voices.

Is there a particular image or metaphor you associate with the story?
The play has many monologues, and whether addressed to another person or the Almighty, they all feel like psalms. Author Walter Bruggemann writes that the book of Psalms are songs that reflect three seasons of life that are universal: times of clarity and order where life makes sense and our purpose clear; times where we are displaced, even lost in the valley of the shadow of death; and times of re-orientation, where we experience the wonder of new green pastures. The play contains all three seasons of life, lived out over the course of a year.

Theres quite a bit of music in this play. How does music function differently in a dramatic play WITH musicvs. a musical? What does music accomplish that dialogue doesn’t?
The songs in this play are Veronica’s heart. Some move action forward like in a musical, but mostly you hear her gift, and her longing to be heard through music. The play has set lyrics for the songs, but we had the option to either rent the melodies from a publisher, or create them ourselves. One of my greatest joys in this process is that Lennette composed the melodies and styles of the songs herself. She created such entertaining and heartfelt songs, that her connection to her character is seamless.

Whats a moment in rehearsal / production that has stuck with you?
First thing one morning we were prepping to shoot a short segment of a scene for promotion. As a warm-up, I invited Lennette [Randall] and David [LeReaney] to include the whole stage as they went through the scene. Right out of the gate, they found deep freedom, passion and clarity. It was a moment of discovering both the power of permission, and of just how connected these actors could be to living in the moment.

Why does a play set in South Africa still speak to audiences in Rosebud, Alberta?
The feedback I have received from patrons so far is how moving they find the relationship between the grandfather and granddaughter, witnessing them work through accepting change, both in loss and growth in their relationship and in their world.
The story is fitting for the Rosebud river valley, both with its legacy of the land, and in a growing legacy of cultivating new artists and their dreams. Both farming and art-making are uncertain but purposeful life paths that are central to both places.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful insight, Dave. There’s two more weeks to catch the compelling and life-affirming ‘Valley Song’, featuring the irrepressible Lennette Randall and the incomparable David LeReaney.  For tickets or more information visit

Friday, 3 June 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - David LeReaney

David LeReaney’s career as a professional actor spans 37 years and over 300 stage and media productions. He recently appeared in King Kirby at Sage Theatre, Of Mice and Men for Spirit Fire Theatre, played Nanki Poo in Calgary Opera’s The Mikado, and directed Hess for the BraggArts Society. David is a recipient of the 1993 Best Actor and 2007 Best Narrator AMPIAS, the 2000 Cohen Award, and the 2010 Supporting Actor Betty Mitchell Award. He is a dialect coach (most notably on Fargo season 2). For more, visit David LeReaney on IMDB and 

Lennette Randall and David LeReaney in Valley Song. Photo by Morris Ertman

Where do you call home? Any best kept local secrets?
Calgary has been home since 1983. I don’t know if there are ANY local secrets… but I don’t think many people in Canada or even in Calgary are aware that Calgary probably has the most vibrant and active theatre community in the whole country.

Is this your first time in Rosebud? What do you do with your free time?
It is my first time performing here and I haven’t had a lot of free time because I have been working so much on learning the lines but I have golfed a few times here and in Drumheller. I am also trying to catch up on a few unwatched DVDs because I don’t have television here and the internet is a tad sketchy!

What’s your must-have morning ritual?
Big tall glass of water with herbal supplements followed by a couple cups of coffee while catching up on the news. (I’m a news junkie). Reading and answering e-mail…and if I have the time a bit of Scrabble and Facebook.

In ‘Valley Song’, you play a character who’s wrestling with a family member following their dreams. As a professional artist, are there dreams you’re chasing?  Any roles still on your bucket list?
I don’t have big professional dreams, just to keep working on good roles and plays till I’m too old and sick and stupid to do it anymore. I’ve just been so fortunate to have [already] had a rich and varied career as an actor and now a dialect coach. 
I’d love to land a regular role on a TV series or a good part in a classic movie that would be remembered for ages. Roles I’ve always wanted to play are Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and Fagin in Oliver! I’d also love a shot at some of the great character roles in Shakespeare like Polonius in Hamlet or the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet.

You’re a master of dialects… Do you have a personal favorite? How difficult is South African?
Scots dialect is my favourite – it’s so rich and musical. A delicious dialect. I’ve always said the Afrikaans South African is the most difficult dialect to emulate and now having taken it on as an actor in a play I can verify that. I’m still wrestling with it, trying to perfect it.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?
“Find something you love to do, figure out a way to get paid for it, and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.”

What song always picks up your spirits?
Anything from Paul Simon’s GRACELAND.

Lastly, what keeps you grounded?
Perspective. Remembering not to sweat the small stuff. As Buks says in Valley Song, “Don’t you sometimes stop and stand still and look around at all of them [the mountains] and think how small you are?  I do.”

You have until June 25th to catch David’s heartwarming and soul-capturing performance as Buks in our intimate Studio Stage performance of ‘Valley Song’. For tickets and information visit