Thursday, 28 July 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Seana-Lee Wood

A red-hot performer with a wide-ranging musical and writing career, Seana-Lee Wood has appeared on stages across Canada, including Mirvish Productions' 'Sound of Music', Hal Prince's 'Show Boat', and Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'Phantom of the Opera'. A Jessie Award winning singer with an "earthy, passionate voice"(CBC) Seana-Lee's tackled roles such as Marge in the hit show 'Suds', Dolly in 'Hello Dolly', Mama Rose in 'Gypsy', Kate in 'Kiss Me Kate', and Marion in 'The Music Man'. An author and musical review writer, her one-woman comedy, 'Good Morning Cariboo Country,' has toured across Canada, and '21 Reasons to Come Home to Walsh' was chosen for both Gros Morne Theatre and Stratford SpringWorks festivals.

In 2015, after 6 months of honing her accordion chops in the Mirvish production of 'Once' in Toronto, she was off to the Mediterranean on-board a cruise ship to headline with an 8-piece band and play in the piano bar while seeing the world. Seana-Lee is thrilled to plant herself in Alberta this summer to reprise her role of Dolly in Rosebud Theatre's 'Tent Meeting', after performing in the critically acclaimed Blinding Lights' Production (2000).

Photo by Morris Ertman, Rosebud Theatre
Seana-Lee Wood, Blair Young, Declan O'Reilly, Jonathan Bruce & David Snider in Tent Meeting. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
Home is where my husband Jim Hodgkinson is. He’s a wonderful composer/pianist who wrote the music and shared the lyric writing for Little Women that was performed in Rosebud last fall. We own a house in Stratford Ontario, but we both travel so much it’s often rented out.

What’s your "must-have" morning ritual?
2 cups of coffee. I’m definitely addicted. I also won’t book anything before noon if I can help it beause I often wake up with creative ideas for writing or new song arrangements, so I want to get them down before I have to get going. I have no kids, and no pets so I have a lot of freedom.

Favorite place to sing? And do you have a go-to song?
Interesting question. I love warming up in the big theatres (The Princess of Wales or Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto), walking back and forth in the seats before the audience is let in. In the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver there’s a spot in row 6 near the aisle where the sound bounces off the dome in the ceiling and it fills the entire hall.
Go-to artist for chores is Stevie Wonder.
 As a piano lounge player on cruise ships, I’m always working on new music, and I love finding current gorgeous tunes, so my top two right now are Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran and Love Song – Sara Bareilles.

Favorite Guilty Pleasure?
Naps in the afternoon, when I can.

Looking at your resume, you’ve done some seriously impressive musical theatre! Are there any roles still on your bucket list?
Both in Steven Sondheim musicals – I’d love to perform Desiree in A Little Night Music and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. I’m about the right age for both of those complex, funny roles. But I also LOVE goofy shows – I came very close to the U.S. National Tour of Mamma Mia! in the role of Tanya. Fluff, but so much fun.

You toured Western Canada with ‘Tent Meeting’ in 2000, and are back in Rosebud reprising your role of Dolly. What’s changed for you this time around?
I wanted to find more lightness in Dolly. The play takes place over one day and exciting things happen as well as tough encounters. Our emotions go up and down in life, sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly so I wanted to find moments of Dolly’s joy. Also, Royal Sproule was playing George during the tour as a broken, deeply disillusioned man. Declan O’Reilly plays him more angry. I can fight back more this time around. Dolly is less beaten down – more frustrated. Not better, just different.

Do you have a favourite on-stage moment from a previous production?
I have thousands! I have collected them into several cabarets that I perform for fundraisers. How to pick just one? A friend of mine, Peter Cavell, who has written for Second City in Toronto, wrote a song about a female airport security guard who has to do a full body scan of a man she has fallen in lust with and it’s hilarious. I love making the audience laugh with material they’ve never heard before.
A specific favorite is from Calendar Girls at the Grand Theatre in London. The first act closes with 6 naked women on stage for the final calendar shot. (I was facing upstage at the piano with a naked backside), and there was no black out for our exit one night. The lighting board had frozen, but we had no way of knowing. So when we should have had the black out, the stage management team and all backstage personnel came on stage with blankets and towels to cover us while we exited.

Is there anything currently inspiring you?
Rosebud is full of artistic busy people. That’s inspiring to be part of. It’s a unique place because people aren’t afraid to talk about spirit. I love this little town.

Lastly, ‘Tent Meeting’ centres around a marriage going through drought. How do you revitalize relationships with people you love?
I use the phrase “this too shall pass” and focus on the good and the hope. I’m not sure if Dolly does that because George has been angry for a long time. Fortunately, in Tent Meeting, there is a whole community lifting him out of his drought.

With a gracious and generous spirit, Seana-Lee Wood is an elegant entertainer with a heaven-sent voice. Don't miss the opportunity to catch this world-class artist perform in our  summer Mainstage production of 'Tent Meeting', now playing through August 28. For tickets and additional information, visit

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Setting the Stage... In Process with Designer Carolyn Rapanos

This week we go behind-the-scenes with Carolyn Rapanos, Set & Costume designer of 'The Sunset Limited', now playing on our BMO Studio Stage. Set in a modern-day New York tenement, 'The Sunset Limited' is Cormac McCarthy's intense exploration of the aftermath of an attempted suicide. Configured with the audience on both sides of the stage, Carolyn's spacious and gritty architecture grounds the story in all its darkness, while simultaneously leaving room for the possibility of light. 

Carl Kennedy & Nathan Schmidt on stage in The Sunset Limited. Design & photo by Carolyn Rapanos.

Tell us a little about yourself as a designer. How’d you get started in theatre design?
I completely stumbled into theatre when I took a set design elective in my 3rd year studying English literature. I immediately fell in love with it.

What’s your favourite thing to look for as you go about creating?
There’s a real creative high in balancing what needs to be in a set. Designers do a lot of prep work figuring out what this is – the practical, functional needs, how the theatre space works best, what the themes of the play are, and what will look effective in style and composition. I love laying out all of these needs in front of me and exploring potential ways to balance them.

Rosebud Theatre
The Sunset Limited set in miniature. Design, model, and photo by Carolyn Rapanos.

Can you tell us a little about your process? Do you have certain rituals… is there a best part/ hardest part?
It starts with reading the play, researching it (especially its locations), and discussing it with the director. Early on, I work with lots of sketches but I also like to explore the basic shapes of my concepts in a 3D digital model. When the director and I have settled on a concept, I move on to building a scale model and drafting. I like to work on these simultaneously because they inform each other. As rehearsals start, we often discover more details to work out, especially in regards to props.

I love that early part but it’s also often the most challenging. I also really appreciate collaborating with the director and production team as many parts of designing can be quite solitary.

What’s the first thing that struck you about The Sunset Limited?
I was excited to read a play by Cormac McCarthy as I was only familiar with his novels! I think what left an immediate, strong impression with me is the painful contrast between the need for connection with others and the inability to make those connections.

Rosebud Theatre. Set and Costume design by Carolyn Rapanos
Nathan Schmidt & Carl Kennedy on stage for The Sunset Limited. Design & photo by Carolyn Rapanos.

The play is full of huge ideas, set in a realistically cramped apartment. How do you merge realism with the big ideas, and is the setting, for you, a realistic place?
I feel that big, abstract ideas can be evoked by or grounded in very familiar, realistic imagery. In designing, I often want to emphasize this. The set for The Sunset Limited has very real elements but is not naturalistic in layout or in many details. It was important to connect the metaphors of the subway to the apartment setting as well as to create a sense of confinement. This was done with recognizable features such as the pipes, tiled columns, and metal framing/mesh.

In presenting the set design, I wanted to explain those real elements and how they are exaggerated or altered to emphasize what the subway represents. I also wanted to show how the set reflects the realities of Black’s life (functioning appliances, tight space, etc.) and explain how it would function in the play (the door being the only entrance/exit, the audience sitting on both sides to emphasize the intimacy of the play, etc.).

Black's apartment in The Sunset Limited. Design & photo by Carolyn Rapanos.

In the costume design, I wanted to show the characters in contrasting dark and light colours to emphasize McCarthy’s choice to label [the characters] Black and White. I also wanted to point out specific details... For example, we strengthened the connection to the subway by suggesting Black is a subway employee (Metropolitan Transport Authority logo on his sleeve)’s not actually mentioned what Black does for a living.

RosebudTheatre, Carolyn Rapanos
Costume rendering for Black, by Carolyn Rapanos.
Rosebud Theatre Carolyn Rapanos
Costume rendering for White, by Carolyn Rapanos.

Do you have a dream project on your bucket list?
I just want to continue designing for well-written, relevant plays with inspiring directors and teams!

'The Sunset Limited' plays on our BMO Studio Stage now through August 27. Come experience the gritty, textured framework Carolyn Rapanos has created to ground a soaring clash of convictions. For tickets and information, visit 

Carolyn Rapanos is a set designer, based in Vancouver, BC. Recent designs include 'Common Grace' (Pacific Theatre), 'Mass Appeal' (Rosebud Theatre) and 'Freud's Last Session' (Pacific Theatre). She received a design ensemble TYA Jessie Award for her design work in 'Jack and the Bean' (Presentation House). She is also a Jessie award and Ovation award nominee. You can see her work at

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Carl Kennedy

This summer, guest artist Carl Kennedy makes his Rosebud Theatre debut in 'The Sunset Limited', playing on our BMO Studio Stage. Best known for his work in the Vancouver theatre scene, Carl earned Best Actor nominations (Jessie Richardson Awards) for his performances as Lucius Jenkins in 'Jesus Hopped the A Train' and John in 'The Whipping Man'.  An associated artist with Pacific Theatre, he recently originated the role of Pastor Dan in 'Common Grace'. Carl holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington and has been seen on regional stages from Halifax to Vancouver. Recently, Carl has thrown his hat into the Los Angeles arena, where he has booked multiple commercials and celebrated his TV debut on TLC.

Nathan Schmidt, Carl Kennedy
Nathan Schmidt and Carl Kennedy in Rosebud Theatre's The Sunset Limited. Photo by Morris Ertman.
You’ve lived all over, but where would you call home?
Before my acting career sprouted wings, I considered Eastern North Carolina “Home Sweet Home”. I still have friends and family in the area, and love to visit as often as possible.

How are you using your free time in Rosebud?
Free time? What’s that? LOL.
The rehearsal process was very involved. I opted not to participate in any recreational activities until I felt like we were in a good place with the production. Since the show has opened, I’ve treated myself to dinner and dessert in the city with friends.

What’s your “must-have” morning ritual?
Aside from hitting the snooze button, thanking God for another day, another opportunity. A wise person counts his/her blessings.

Is there a dream role you’re ready to tackle?
My “dream role” was always to play myself on TV (either as a night show host or my own series). “The Carl Kennedy Show”… got a nice ring to it, don’t it?

The Sunset Limited is a face-off between two opposing belief systems, in a single conversation full of dark humor, mystery and philosophy. Who would you like to sit down with for a clash of mental titans?
An old grad school classmate of mine. He is a very intelligent, very gifted individual with a particular outlook on life. He is well versed in the Word of God, and would be a formidable opponent.

What’s been a favorite on-stage moment for you as an actor?
I would say having the opportunity to tackle my current role in The Sunset Limited. It’s been by far the most challenging/rewarding. I love the opportunity to show the love of God through action, whether it be a satisfying meal or a hot cup of coffee.

Best advice you’ve been given?
My mother would say, “It’s not what you see, it’s what He said.” TRUST IN THE WORD OF GOD.

What’s something you didn’t anticipate about stepping into the skin of your character, Black, in The Sunset Limited?
The universality of it all. How the story of a convicted felon is not that much different from my own. God is the common denominator. We have all sinned and fell short of the glory. We are all recipients of grace and mercy.

Anything currently inspiring you?
The light at the end of the tunnel. Forward progress. I am witnessing my own growth as a person, a performer, and a believer in God. I used to despise the concept of a hundred pennies. I wanted the dollar bill. Now, I’m accepting the notion that they are one and the same.

Lastly, what saves you from your darkest moments? (Is there a person or something that catches you from jumping down in the tracks?)
I’m grounded in what God has done for me… what man cannot take credit for. Those instances where I’ve asked and He answered, knocked and He’s opened doors, where a way was made out of no way. The world cannot take that away from me.

Don't miss Carl's extraordinary and thought-provoking performance opposite Nathan Schmidt in Cormac McCarthy's 'The Sunset Limited', playing now through Aug 27th on our BMO Studio Stage. For tickets and information, visit 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Cormac McCarthy's 'The Sunset Limited'

In 2006, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre premiered The Sunset Limited, a stage play by novelist Cormac McCarthy. Widely reputed to be one of the greatest living American writers, McCarthy's work includes All the Pretty Horses (National Book Award), No Country for Old Men, and The Road (2007 Pulitzer Prize). A cult figure with a reputation as a writer's writer*, McCarthy captivates readers with rich, dark, and visceral narratives: storytelling that dares to articulate humanity's deepest struggles. 

In The Sunset Limited, two men from opposite sides of the tracks face off as an unwelcome Saviour with his unrepentant Redeemed. Confined to an apartment, they contend over life and death, art and science, and faith vs. cynicism. What's the point of life when your hope has been exhausted?

In the American western, riding off into the sunset signified the victorious completion of a story: the hero journeyed alone in search of the next.** The historical "Sunset Limited" was a transcontinental train that crossed the American south from Atlantic to Pacific. In McCarthy's play, The Sunset Limited is a New York subway: its station the site of an attempted suicide. Fate (or possibly misfortune) intervenes for a man retreating to the ultimate West. Only in the solitude of death does he expect to escape the hell of existence.

McCarthy has never shied away from the shadow side, placing beauty in a context of brutality. Rarely is faith a comfort food, or spirituality a necessary solution for the condition.

Cormac McCarthy The Sunset Limited

Rosebud Theatre, by stark contrast, has made a name for itself celebrating hope. Our summer main-stage, Tent Meeting, is about lost faith restored by the power of relationship and the spiritual release of song. But Rosebud also places itself at a crossroads where both religious and secular congregate. We welcome the challenge to program work that finds common ground between opposing world-views. In The Sunset Limited the deck isn't stacked, and two men from drastically different perspectives duke it out intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

Does faith really make a difference? How can we lose those we love? And how do we hold out hope, when there is so often seemingly none, within or regardless of religious belief?

The BMO Studio Stage has increasingly become our venue to explore more challenging, thought-provoking theatre. Our mandate to "illustrate the beauty and complexity of life through an inclusive and grace-filled perspective" isn't a prescription for happy endings or tidy moralizing. It often means taking a hard look at unanswered questions, believing in beauty without turning a blind eye to an often disconcerting mess.

This summer, we invite you to our hamlet to enter the restorative Tent Meeting and ride the compelling Sunset Limited. Experience a journey many discover themselves on... whatever the destination.

For tickets and information visit