Wednesday, 31 August 2016

J.B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'

by J.B. Priestley

Up next on our mainstage is An Inspector Calls, by English dramatist J.B. Priestley. Written in the winter of 1944-45 (near the end of World War II), this drawing-room thriller is picturesquely set in an upper-middle-class home just before the advent of World War I. Taking place on a single night in 1912, the Birling family is visited by a an Inspector who subjects the family to a relentless series of questions regarding the death of Eva Smith: a young working class woman.

Priestley began writing plays in the early 30’s after a successful career as a novelist and essayist: his book The Good Companions (1920) became a bestseller and largely freed him financially. Writing for the stage offered the opportunity to experiment – particularly with the dramatic possibilities of time. Priestley explored a mystical dimension in his work that led the psychologist Carl Jung to praise his “superhuman faculty of looking at things with a straight and an inverted eye.”

An Inspector Calls received its West End debut in August 1946, but initially opened in Russia in the autumn of 1945. As there were no theatres available in London at the time, Priestley responded to the invitation for an extraordinary seven week tour immediately after the war ended.

Long considered one of the classics of 20th century theatre, An Inspector Calls has been hailed as a scathing critique of Victorian / Edwardian society and an expression of Priestley’s political values. Packaged in a comforting period remoteness, and presented in the manner of an Agatha Christie mystery, the play evolves into a confrontation between capitalism and socialism, embodying principles not typically found in a detective genre. Though every member of the family denies connection with the victim, as the evening wears on, the contrary becomes quickly apparent, and the implications call everyone's conscience into question.

J.B. Priestley

After a remarkably productive lifetime, spanning most of the 20th century, J.B. Priestley died on August 14, 1984. His plays are performed all over the world, spurred on by Stephen Daldrey’s triumphant and imaginative 1992 production of An Inspector Calls, called “Theatrical Perfection” and the “winner of more awards than any other production in history.” (The Daily Telegraph)

So, come and join the inquisition, to see if you can catch the culprit. Directed by Karl Sine, Rosebud Theatre’s An Inspector Calls plays Sept 9 – October 29 and stars Nathan Schmidt, Troy O’Donnell, Glenda Warkentin, Andrew Cooper, Meghan Hanet, Junstin Lanouette, and Cassie Garbutt. For tickets and information, visit

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Sound Bites with Paul Zacharias

Paul Zacharias is a producer, singer, songwriter, engineer and the Sound Designer and Composer for this summer's 'The Sunset Limited', now playing on our BMO Studio Stage. A Rosebud regular behind-the-scenes, selected credits include 'The Last Train to Nibroc', 'The Wizard of Oz', 'Freud's Last Session', 'Jake & the Kid', and 'May & Joe'. Other designs include 'We are the Body' (Burnt Thicket Theatre) and 'Winter's Tale' (Shakespeare Company / MRU). He is one half of the folk duo 'Me & the Mrs.', currently on a Western Canada tour, and the head of doG House Studios.
Paul Zacharias working his magic. Photo by Lauren Hamm Photography.

For ‘The Sunset Limited’, you’re Sound Designer AND Composer? What’s the distinction?
A Composer creates original pieces of music and (in my case) performs and records them to be presented with the production. A Sound Designer puts together sound effects and music to help tell the story. As a composer I did everything from writing music, lyrics, singing, playing guitar, drums, bass and of course engineering and mixing the recording. On the design side I recorded sound effects such as neighbors quarreling in the hall, doors being slammed, and manipulating trains sounds to fit our production (to name a few). A special thanks to my dear friend Jason Bertsch who came into the studio to record many of the lead guitar parts for the show. He’s fabulous!

When you’re given a project like this, where do you begin?
I lay down on the couch and read the script, making notes as I go, about my first impressions of the piece. Often it’s very obvious what genre I will be approaching the show from… in this case, Blue Collar Blues just jumped off the page at me!

"Broke My Heart Over You" - 'The Sunset Limited', Paul Zacharias

Is there a best part to your process? Hardest part?
The best part of the process on this show was the tiny window between writing and recording. I wrote all of the songs in the studio. Often I’ll have to wrestle a song to the ground to get it right… on this show they mostly happened quite naturally and easily. As soon as the last word was written and in place I’d set up all the microphones and gear to start tracking. Having the songs fully realized before I even knew what I had written was a thrill. Having Jason come in and add his guitar magic was a very special experience. He’s an amazing blues player and I loved collaborating with him.
Coming in each day and seeing the way that Nathan and Carl poured themselves into the work, into their characters and the story they are telling was amazing. I have SO MUCH admiration and respect for both of them. They make the story so true, so heartbreakingly human and emotionally three dimensional!
The hardest part: wanting more time with the show before letting go. Putting it down and being done.

What resonates with you about the world of ‘The Sunset Limited’?
The way that these two men who are so very different are able to share moments of communion just grabs me every time I see the show. The importance of loving your brother and making the criteria of who is your brother broader.

"Brother, Father" - 'The Sunset Limited', Paul Zacharias

As a singer/songwriter, how’s the process different than creating for a show?
It’s different in a number of ways but perhaps most significantly when writing for the band the only creative parameters I have are self imposed. I don’t have to align what I’m writing with anything or anyone else… I can if I want… but I don’t have to: the SONG is the show. When writing for the theatre, the song is a small cog in a big machine. I see it as very much a supporting role. It involves tuning in to what everyone else is doing: the director, other designers, the script-writing, the actors and trying to get caught up in that same wave that everyone else is riding.

Read anything fantastic this summer? (or binge watch any Netflix)?
Yes! Frederick Buechner’s The Hungering Dark is a beautiful book full of good things for the soul. Stranger Things on Netflix was good fun. And, Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café Podcast Episode: Dave Buys a Casket.

What are you listening to right now that’s inspiring you?
Into The Mystic by Van Morrison. Man, that song has EVERYTHING!

Coffee or Tea, and how do you take it?
Earl Grey, little bit of sugar, little bit of milk, little bit of love.

'Sunset Limited' is set in a gritty New York tenement. Do you think sound has stereotypes, or does any style of music have the potential to be universal?
Yeah, I think sound has stereotypes and often for good reasons… but I think things can always be flipped on their head, truth transcends.

"Black & White" - 'The Sunset Limited', Paul Zacharias

Lastly, you do it all! What's next for you? Any shows coming down the pipe? Projects we can look forward to?
Me & the Mrs. Are about halfway through our BC, SK, AB tour and now getting to spend some time playing around our home province(AB). We’re really looking forward to a very special concert we’ll be doing in Rosebud September 3rd with our good friends The Dearhearts and The Fig and the Flame. I’ve [also] been working with my dear friend, film maker Michael Janke as a sound engineer on his Web Series, Youth in Decline. (Watch it!) The work involves live off the floor recording sessions with the fabulous Calgary band, Young Neighbours. I’ll [also!] be sound designing/composing for Rosebud Theatre’s Miracle on 34th Street this Christmas. The script is lovely and I can’t wait to see what director Paul Muir will do with it. I’m going to be writing SO much music for the show and can’t wait to jump into the wonder of Christmas with our team!
Also, I haven’t played a lick of tennis all summer long… that’s gonna change soon!

You’ve got one weekend left to catch the intensely thought provoking 'The Sunset Limited', playing on our BMO Studio Stage until Saturday, August 27th. For tickets and information visit

And for more information on 'Me & The Mrs.' and their upcoming concerts, click here. Better yet, listen to one of their latest songs!

"The Bend in the Road" - Me & The Mrs.

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Theatre and Spiritual Offence

Theatre at its best isn’t a one-way presentation: it’s a meeting place for artists and audiences to experience the places they easily come together and discover distances they still seem miles apart.

Rosebud Theatre. Photo by Morris Ertman.
Declan O'Reilly as George in Tent Meeting. Photo by Morris Ertman.

On our stage right now is Tent Meeting, a play that celebrates how music can release the Spirit while simultaneously offering characters antagonistic to a church’s well meaning, but often off-putting invitations to relationship. 
On the surface, it’s a church oriented play. After all, it’s called Tent Meeting. We’ve had a wide range of responses, through, which means it isn’t so easily categorized. It's an opportunity for discussion. So as a starting place, we’d like to share where we’re coming from, particularly with this piece.

Jesus is very dear to us, and we present what we present out of love for Him and for our audience. I’ve been a Christian since I was 6 years old, brought up in the faith in a rural Alberta Baptist church. Tent Meeting is a tribute to the saints of that church, and to the power of community to heal relationally.
It was also in that church that I saw my very first play. It was a play about a missionary in Russia, who was martyred because of his faith. In the play, there was a moment where soldiers took the missionary off stage and a gun-shot was fired. I don’t know how they did it, but it was jarring and scary and “real” to my young ears. They then dragged the man on stage, blood pouring from a wound in his chest - dead. The altar of our church was the place where arguably the worst possible sin - murder - was depicted in all its gore and cruelty. I’ll never forget that moment. And, I’ll never forget the power of a story portrayed by amateur-acting, Bible-believing farmers that dared to illustrate the horrific along with the good.  

One could ask why such a grotesque portrayal? Not only the sin, but the detailed depiction on the altar of the church. Was it necessary? How can such a thing be justified?

I’ve spent the better part of my life wrestling with how to express the grace of Christ in the theatre. I’ve looked through scriptures to find a model for using it as a divine expression. The Bible says nothing about theatre. It says much about music, but nothing about the theatre. There are, however, many instances of people using theatricality to communicate.

The Lord told the Prophet Isaiah to strip naked to illustrate to Israel that putting their trust in the might of Egypt would lead to unspeakable shame. God asked His prophet to embody the unspeakable so people would understand the gravity of the situation. I’d surmise that many who saw Isaiah would have found his illustration distasteful - even sinful. They would have herded their children down another street to protect them from such a vile sight. But Isaiah did what the Lord commanded so people could not ignore the message he was called to deliver.

The writer of the Psalms did not edit out David’s sexual relations with Bathsheba and consequent assassination of her husband. The Bible does not soften the slaughter of innocents or the destruction of entire cities like Jericho, saving only a prostitute most likely looking out for her best interests. The Bible, as arguably one of the most important story-telling book ever written, shares stories of the desperately sinful, often with grotesque accuracy, so we can see the work of God and the sometimes repentant, sometimes not, response of humanity.

In Tent Meeting, George is so angry at God and at the church that he uses God’s name in vain. Why? Because he is deeply angry and held captive by wounds of betrayal. If we dare to express the miraculous love of God, we must also dare to honestly illustrate the darkness of people who are embittered towards Him. In the crucifixion, Jesus was senselessly beaten, stripped naked, and executed. Modern depictions insist on covering Jesus with a loin cloth. But God wasn’t concerned with modesty in that moment. Nor are our quaint depictions of Mary holding baby Jesus a true representation of that bloody exhausting exuberant birth. Could it be that the profane is the human part of the stories we know to be sacred? Are the depths of grace illuminated by the horrifying nature of humanity?

When we smell something wretched, we instinctively turn our face away. It’s our instinctive defense to distance ourselves from that which offends. When faced with people and actions we find distasteful, isn’t it easier to turn away than ask ourselves if we are culpable and capable of the same crimes?

The mandate that governs our choice of plays is as follows: "to produce professional live theatre that illustrates the beauty and complexity of life through an inclusive and grace-filled perspective...” Every show we do is accompanied by both accolades and criticisms depending on the perspective of a given patron. But who draws the lines? When it comes to content and convictions, how do we know what will provoke, what will inspire, or push someone away? When we stick to pleasant stories easily categorized we wander away from the example Scripture itself provides. As Artistic Director of this company, I promise you we enter into all our presentations with prayer, extensive discussion, and the hope that God multiplies our offerings in works of His grace.

I’d love the chance to dialogue further about this, if anyone so desires. There’s a place below to leave comments and continue the discussion. As long as there’s respect and care for each other, there’s room at the table for all perspectives. 

And Blessings and gratitude for all the audiences engaged ... let’s keep telling all our stories.

Morris Ertman
Artistic Director

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Blair Young

‘Tent Meeting’ is Blair Young's first show in Rosebud, and he “couldn’t be happier!” Recent theatre credits include: ‘The Selkie Wife’ (Wayward Artists), ‘Of Mice and Men’ (Spirit Fire Theatre) and ‘War of the Worlds’ (Workshop Theatre). Television credits include ‘Fargo’, ‘Bluff!’, and the wonderfully named Otis Spong in ‘Hell on Wheels’. You can also hear Blair in the occasional radio commercial or see him acting sick for U of C Medical students as a standardized patient. He’s also president of ACTRA Alberta (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists) representing 22,000 professional performers across Canada, with over 740 of them living right here in Alberta.

Rosebud Theatre. Photo by Morris Ertman
Blair Young, Declan O'Reilly, & Jonathan Bruce in Tent Meeting. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
I was born in Montreal, moved to Toronto while still in diapers, and then my wife’s job brought us to Calgary 11 years ago, so I’m definitely a big city boy! This summer I’ve been living in Rosebud from Wednesday through Sunday, then back home to my girls for the early part of the week. Loving the peaceful, scenic surroundings of Rosebud!

What’s your must-have morning ritual?
I have been resistant to coffee drinking for years. But then I was working on the TV show, Fargo, in the coldest Calgary winter in decades and had brews of a tiny amount of coffee, then the rest of the cup was hot chocolate. But I don’t really like hot drinks. So now every morning starts with a travel mug consisting of a third of cold coffee mixed with chocolate milk. My wife likes it because coffee is never wasted in our house. Any extras go in the fridge for me!

Done any good summer reading? Netflix series?
I have discovered a fantastic American writer named Jonathan Evison. Check out The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (it has become a great little film with Paul Rudd) and This is Your Life Harriet Chance. A sobering novel about aging and what’s really important in life. As for Netflix… Stranger Things. That’s all need be said.

What do you listen to driving from Calgary to Rosebud?
I have been taking out CD’s from the library to check out either music I missed, or other albums from bands I already know. Rediscovering Alan Parsons Project (honestly, every album by them is fantastic) and unearthing the immensely talent classical music boy band 2Cellos. They do rock hits on electric cello, as well as several amazing feats of dexterity of their own creation. In2ition is a great album. Really cool!

In ‘Tent Meeting’, you play Pastor Ernest Douglas, a man with an earnest heart who’s also the focus of some good-natured teasing. Does he feel a bit like the youngest brother? What’s his secret to being so good-natured?
I wouldn’t say little brother, but he’s definitely the outsider. He’s trying so hard to be the ecumenical go-to guy for everyone, and his experience is, the more flowery the language, the better. I’m not sure he’s so good-natured either! He’s just trying to be accepted and liked, so he’s hesitant to make any waves and goes along with whatever the boys say. When he finally does something right... the worm starts to turn, and then he finally accepts that speaking from the heart and not the head is the right way to go.

Are there any roles (for TV or the stage) you’d love to take a crack at?
I would love to do a musical called City of Angels, and pretty much anything with a Sondheim score! [For television] along the West Wing/Scrubs/How I Met Your Mother vein. Fast paced, highly sarcastic, and hopefully intelligent scripts. (I’m a sucker for a fast-paced dramedy.) Any writers reading this?

What’s the difference between the television and theatre audition room?
Theatre auditions are more grueling, but more friendly and forgiving. In the television audition, it often feels as though your appearance is the most important factor. You get used to that, and just wait for the role they can’t imagine anyone else doing.

Any pre-show / post-show rituals?
The only pre-show ritual (which I brought to Tent Meeting where it was very enthusiastically received and is now done before every performance) is a pinkie-swear kind of thing, accompanied by “Good show.” I know. We actors are wacky.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
It’s one I try to think of every time I’m about to go on stage. "Have fun!"

Lastly, you’ve spent the summer harmonizing with a crew of talented musicians and singers. What’s been the best part?
Singing great songs to an incredibly receptive audience that has given us a standing-O almost every show. Exhilarating!

You’ve got two more weeks to catch the delightful Blair Young as Pastor Ernest Douglas in the soul satisfying ‘Tent Meeting’, playing at Rosebud Theatre until Sunday, August 28th. For tickets and more information, visit

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Declan O'Reilly

Declan makes his Rosebud Theatre debut in this summer’s ‘Tent Meeting’. He was recently seen on the Theatre Calgary stage in ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘King Lear’, ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Other credits include ‘Shakespeare’s Rebel’ and ‘King Lear’ (Bard on the Beach - Vancouver), ‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ (Sage/Shadow Theatre Co-Production), ‘The Secret Garden’ (Theatre New Brunswick), and ‘Emily… a Musical’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’ (Charlottetown Festival). He’s also appeared at YPT, Persephone Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Lunchbox Theatre & Leave It to Jane Theatre. Declan is a graduate of the University of Alberta BFA Acting program and a founding member of Edmonton’s Free Will Players Shakespeare company.
Photo by Morris Ertman Rosebud Theatre
Declan O'Reilly and Seana-Lee Wood in Tent Meeting. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
Home is currently Calgary. I guess it always will be the place I feel closest too as my family is there but I’ve made my home all over the place. Born in Northern Ireland, raised in Malawi (central Africa), and came to Canada in the late 1970's. I also lived in Edmonton for 8 years and Toronto for 17 years before returning to Calgary in 2012.

What’s your must-have morning ritual?
Coffee and a shower but not always in that order. I also usually check out the BBC World News as I find their coverage of news events second to none.

What song always puts a smile on your face? 
Happy Birthday!

What’s currently inspiring you?
I get my inspiration from all over the place. People, nature, great art and good books, and the love of my family. I’m currently inspired by the beauty of Rosebud and the wonderful people there I get to work with and see everyday. It’s a glorious place and I know it will remain very close to my heart for many years to come.

You’ve been a regular in the professional Calgary theatre scene, as well as a founder of Free Will Shakespeare in Edmonton. Any roles still on your bucket list?
There are many roles I wish I had had the opportunity to play but many of them are beyond me now due to that thing called age. I always have been more of a character actor than a leading man and there is a certain freedom in that. As I start into my 50’s there are still a few roles that I’d love to play: Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, and Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. I would also love the chance to revisit the role of Malvolio in Twelfth Night as I think I was too young when I played him the first time.

Do you have a go-to Shakespeare monologue?
Well, yes, but I try to keep looking for new stuff to keep me inspired and fresh. The one I have used many times is Antipholus of Ephesus “My liege, I am advised what I say!  That woman locked me out this day from dinner…” (Comedy of Errors, Act V, Scene 1)

In ‘Tent Meeting’, you’re playing George… a man with deep questions that the church has yet to answer.  What in the character do you identify with most?
Honestly? Everything. I’m more like George than not.

Have you had a favorite on-stage moment this summer?
I’m always privileged to be in a position to do what I do. I love every opportunity to be on stage and I never take it for granted, so every performance is a special on-stage moment. That being said, I did love getting a chance to share the stage with Morris Ertman and Bill Hamm recently when one of our cast members (the exquisite Jonathan Bruce) went down with an illness and needed to be replaced for a few shows. Morris and Bill stepped in to cover those shows and it was an amazing experience to see those two men bring their talent and commitment to the stage. The first night they stepped in was a pretty wonderful feeling. I’ll remember that for years to come.

Best acting advice you’ve been given?
Early in my studies I was a student of Keith Johnstone (the Godfather of Improvisational Theatre). His advice was, and I believe it to be the best advice to give to any actor starting out… “If you can do anything else in life then do that instead.” Acting is a tough career and you need to NEED to do it.

Lastly, ‘Tent Meeting’ is full of lovely four part harmonies: music steeped in traditions from a time that seems to have passed. What can modern audiences relate to in these melodies?
Well, the great thing about music is that it transcends time and place. Coming into this show I was really not very familiar with gospel or quartet singing. I like my music a bit more modern and loud but I came to appreciate these songs and the work that goes into weaving such intricate harmonies. The music in this show really serves the story, the period in history and the hopefulness of the characters. It’s beautiful stuff and I challenge anyone who watches this play to not be moved by the music.

There’s three weeks left to catch the profound performance of Declan O’Reilly as George in 'Tent Meeting', playing on the Rosebud Theatre mainstage until August 27th. For tickets and further information, visit