Friday, 28 October 2016

Season Teasin' - Talkin' Shop with Morris Ertman

This week we chat with Artistic Director Morris Ertman about the upcoming Season Announcement, getting a look into his selection process for next year's shows at Rosebud Theatre.

Is the season set for next year?
It sure is.

When are you announcing it?
Well, we’ve shared a special sneak peak with our donors last Saturday… So, it’s out! We’ll announce it publicly very soon.*

If you were going to describe it in one word, what would it be?

How do you decide what goes into a season?
It’s a combination of conviction, audience appeal, opportunity for artists, and availability of rights. There’s all kinds of input from people when it comes to suggestions. In fact, two of the shows in next season’s lineup were recommended by colleagues in the business who know our audience. The shows are vetted by Rosebud staff and our Board of Directors – all of whom inform the viability and potential impact of the show on our audience. And because we fall under the organizational umbrella of Rosebud School of the Arts, the Leadership Team that deals with all of the interfaces and other facets of our organization speak into the short list I compile for each season. So there’s a lot of perspectives garnered. All of that is taken into account, along with the costs of projected ticket sales. Then the Season is approved by our Board of Governors as part of the operational budget for the whole organization.
I also take into account our Resident Company of actors, the mentorship students in RSA’s theatre program and guest artists I’d like to see involved in our productions.

Wow. So.. if next season were a mythical creature, what would it be?
A Centaur.

What does a play need to get on that short list? What’s the magic quality that makes it right for a particular season?
There are shows that just keep hanging around, making their way to the top of the pile of options year after year. They usually migrate upwards during January and February, trying to hold their place with new discoveries at the top of the script piles in my studio. They’re plays and musicals that inevitably render human beings in a spiritual light. That happens to not only be my personal obsession, but a big part of the reason Rosebud Theatre produces plays. And because we collectively believe we are part of a grand story of humanity in the light of God’s grace, there’s a great deal of hope in the plays that make their way into those piles of possibility. That’s what makes them right for Rosebud.
I do read a lot of plays, but it seems I’m always behind in that. That’s why recommendations from colleagues are so important. There’s a synergy that happens when a number of people say that “This would be a great show for Rosebud.” It helps prioritize the reading list. And I do investigate shows of interest when they are produced. I’m always looking at what other theatres are programming. I see as much as I can see. And whenever I can, I get far away to see shows in an atmosphere where I’m just going to the theatre for the love of it, not for the research. I need to be further afield for that to be true. I think it has to do with shedding my responsibilities for awhile and being an audience member. I went into this business because I loved going to the theatre. It’s good to find myself in that place of wonder again.

If next season were a living machine, what would it be?
A rose-bush stereo.

As Artistic Director, you obviously have your own point of view when you approach a play. How do you balance what you want as an artist with what the audience might be looking for? Or do you toss that aside and just go with instinct?
At the end of the day, the audience is everything. A big part of our job as theatre artists is relevancy. And that’s not just some esoteric notion about artistic fulfillment. It’s about how a story is received and whether it has any kind of connection to the people we serve. It’s a presumptuous idea, making choices about what is relevant for others. So, a bit of trepidation and humility is in order. That’s why I’m so grateful for the community of colleagues that help refine the choices. They aren’t just theatre practitioners. Each of them in their respective fields are representative of a swath of audience members.
And then, of course, there is instinct. But it’s instinct informed by reading the news every morning over breakfast, garnering insight about who we are as people from the latest literary best-seller, watching amazing series television on Netflix, or having just witnessed a show at The National Theatre in London and thinking “maybe we could do something like that here, and It’ll give the audience something wonderful they’ve not experienced before.”
And all of it gets wrapped up in the passion coming out of falling in love with a story and wanting to find a way to mine it. I should add that I love all kinds of theatrical genres, so it’s not hard for me to get excited about different kinds of plays.

If next season were a dessert, what would it be?
Something spicy and tangy and sweet

That’s a list of adjectives. The top Google result for that description (and your official answer) is:
Spiced Apple Cinnamon Sumac Cake

What’s a show you’ve always wanted to direct, but isn’t quite right for Rosebud?
Sam Sheperd’s A Lie of the Mind. Years ago I saw a production at Vancouver Playhouse under Larry Lillo’s direction. It was stunning. The play is so dark, but burns with the possible restoration of a profoundly broken marriage. I love that possibility in the middle of dark places. It fits our mandate in that way, but the subject matter [of the play] is so dark and difficult that its translation to our audience would be difficult, regardless of the glimmer of light. There’s a quote by Leonard Cohen that sums up how I feel about grace and story. “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Oh, and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd… and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide which is a bit too esoteric (which we likely could do, if we could find a way to afford to produce it). The last song in the piece is so sublime. I play it very loud in my studio often.

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!

Leonard Bernstein - Candide

If next season were alone on a deserted island, and it could only have one luxury item, what would it be?

Well, that makes a strange amount of sense.

Stay tuned for information on next year’s upcoming shows! And don’t forget to end out the year with the uplifting classic ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ playing November 11 to December 23 on our Opera House stage. For tickets and information, visit

Oh, and if you got this far... *SURPRISE! The 2017 Season is listed in the comments below. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Conversations with Cooper

Andrew Cooper is a guest artist currently onstage in 'An Inspector Calls' as Gerald Croft, an aristocratic entrepreneur and future son-in-law to the well-off Birling family. When Andrew is not perfecting his upper-crust accent or busy working as an actor/theatre creator, he can be found beekeeping, booksmithing, or would-be-pottering. Previous credits include: ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Chickens’, ‘Pith!’ (Rosebud Theatre); ‘Twinkle’ (Burnt Thicket); ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ (Chemainus Theatre Festival); ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (Suspension of Disbelief); ‘The Canadian Badlands Passion Play’; ‘Sunong’ (Wycliffe U.S.A.); ‘Paradigm Shift’ (Summit Theatre). He also very recently devised the original play ‘Kaspar Hauser: The Riddle of Refuge’ with Fireside Theatre to raise money for Syrian refugees.
Andrew Cooper
Justin Lanouette, Andrew Cooper, Meghan Hanet, and Nathan Schmidt in Rosebud Theatre's An Inspector Calls. Photo by Morris Ertman.
So, are you enjoying dressing formally every night to act the part of a wealthy British playboy?
If by playboy you mean tender, caring, mindful and supportive, then yes. It’s a good team (creative and production wise). Rehearsals were great fun, especially working under Karl Sine’s direction for the first time since we graduated - he has really come into his own.

You (and Karl) both graduated from Rosebud School of the Arts in 2004. What have you been doing since then?
I’ve wandered a bit, doing everything from acting to roofing to working with at-risk populations. Right after graduating I spent a year at the Chemainus Theatre Festival out on Vancouver Island. I also got the chance to take part in a couple of tours in Canada and the U.S. with Wycliffe Bible Translators – they used to have a travelling dinner theatre, of all things. Through that I was able to visit 31 States and a bunch of Southern Ontario. Throw in a couple different communal living experiments and a short volunteer stint overseas… as well as my involvement with the Passion Play, performing or understudying in 6 of the last 11 years.

What made you move back to the ‘Bud?
I’ve always felt like Rosebud has been a second home to me – it was that feeling of family or finding ‘my tribe’ that made me decide to come here in the first place (After having spent a couple of years in the BFA program at the University of Calgary). After graduating I often came back to visit, so when I was cast in Chickens (2014), I decided to stick around. And here it is a couple years later and I’m still here.

Wanderers often get a reputation for being aimless, when they are following a variety of impulses that only seem disconnected to the outside eye. It turns out they were geniuses on adventures! In your travels, have you identified a particular passion, be it philosophical or practical?
Oh geez. This one will take some thought.

Don’t overthink it.
I’ve probably identified more things I’m not passionate about, but I hope you’re right about the genius thing. I suppose a couple of things would include: swimming pools, bumper cars, playing in the snow and trampolines, photography, reading books about theology, performing, (although I needed to take a break from this for a little while a few years ago), getting to make people laugh, and Scripture.

Would you umbrella that under “Living in the Moment?” Celebrating everyday joys?
No. I just love trampolines and pools. Maybe it’s the feeling of freedom and childlike-ness.
I think things I get excited about boil down to well-told stories, pictures, or songs… the element of play and working on a team.

Why’d you take a break from performing?
It was a few years ago while I was working at the Mustard Seed. [a non-profit organization that helps shelter, feed, & cloth people facing poverty.] I just needed some more life experience.

What did you do there and what did you experience?
They have an overnight shelter where I worked as one of the floor staff. It was pretty eye opening in terms of the myriad reasons a person could end up on the streets or lose their housing. Everything from what you might expect, like addiction and mental health issues to work place injuries, the unemployable elderly, physical health issues, or divorce. And people from all walks of life. One night I met a guy who had been kicked out of his house by his wife – he was a lawyer – but had nowhere else to go.
It gave me a deeper appreciation for my upbringing, the stability of it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the support network of family and friends that I do, which is one of the things I saw lacking in the lives of some of our guests.

Nathan Schmidt and Andrew Cooper
Nathan Schmidt and Andrew Cooper face off in An Inspector Calls. Photo by Morris Ertman.
‘An Inspector Calls’, coincidentally, draws attention to social responsibility as J.B. Priestley writes,
“There are millions… all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I will tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. We don’t live alone.”
Interestingly, I was involved in another production of this play and every time I heard that line I assumed the playwright was making reference to the Day of Judgment – burning lakes of fire and all that. Now I hear it differently. The play is set just before the start of World War I and was written in the midst of WWII… and in rehearsals we talked about those connections. Now when I hear it, it’s more along those lines – how our actions and interactions have consequences in the here and now.
As for the idea of interconnectedness –it’s perhaps more apt now than ever. At one of the Friday night talk backs an audience member asked if anything has changed for us being involved in this show. I had to admit that I have become almost hyperconscious of the words coming out of my mouth and the way that I treat people since the start of rehearsals. 

Sometimes those lines [above] might come across a bit heavy handed, but they are a reminder to me that even now, in an age of social media and cameras and microphones where nothing is hidden and everything we say and do is more visible than ever before, the repercussions can reverberate further and faster than ever. It’s also a reminder that the human condition hasn’t really changed: we are still jealous, greedy, spiteful, grasping creatures who need to constantly allow ourselves to go under the light of inspection – whether that is through self-examination or by an outside source. (Personally, I believe we need both).

You’re now headed into the last week of performances. Is there anything you’ll particularly miss about this process or your character?
Working with this great group of talented artists and hearing the audience’s reactions to some of the secrets that get revealed over the course of the play. It’s been fun being part of a show that illicits real gasps and “Ah-ha’s!”

And what’s next for Andrew Cooper?
Back to my day job – and looking for the next acting gig!

Tickets are still available for this weekend's performances of 'An Inspector Calls'. It's your last chance to experience this revelatory piece of theatre that keeps audiences on their toes til the curtain falls. For ticket availability and more information, visit

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Setting the Stage II: Continuing conversations with Carolyn Rapanos

This week we continue our talks on the behind-the-scenes process with Carolyn Rapanos, Set Designer for ‘An Inspector Calls’. Carolyn is best known in Rosebud for her design work on ‘The Sunset Limited’ and ‘Mass Appeal’. Other designs include ‘Common Grace’, ‘Freud’s Last Session' (Pacific Theatre), and her Jessie Award winning ‘Jack and the Bean’ (Presentation House).

Photo and Set Design, Carolyn Rapanos
Nathan Schmidt, Glenda Warkentin, Meghan Hanet, and Troy O'Donnell on set of 'An Inspector Calls'. Photo and Set Design by Carolyn Rapanos.

Where do you call home?
Vancouver, B.C., where I grew up.

What’s something you love about the city?
It’s not quite time yet, but I’m really looking forward to cross-country skiing and snowboarding!

‘An Inspector Calls’ is billed as a classic ‘who-dun-it’. What’s important to you, as a designer, about the genre? What factors into the design?
There is a certain overall aesthetic appeal of the classic mystery that’s fun to capture! I tried to bring out the heavy, dark feel, exaggerated shadows, and an overall sleekness. In a mystery, you know the audience will be looking for the set of clues, so there’s a lot of attention to detail. And it’s exciting to try to feed into the idea that the answer is there in front of you but you can’t see it.

The set beautifully evokes structural elements of the early 20th century (the sturdy English details of the home) while still bringing in a sense of threat… almost ominous with exposure and the surrounding industrialization. In an era when World War I is on the horizon, what feelings/inspirations were important to you?
Thank you! I started looking at images of industrial factories of the time, which are alluded to in the play, and ways to bring the architecture I was seeing into the set. This ended up being our way of representing a dark future and the threat of the present. I wanted to contrast this imagery with the rich, warm, comfortable world of the characters, so found a lot of inspiration in the luxurious woodwork and textiles of the time / place. The fireplace went a long way towards enhancing their living space while also connecting it to the more ominous surroundings through the imagery of smoke. I was inspired by just how deluded and oblivious many of the characters are, so we gave them an overwhelming backdrop that’s largely invisible to them.

Rosebud Theatre, An Inspector Calls
The maquette (or set model) for An Inspector Calls. Photo and Design by Carolyn Rapanos.

How much does your initial design change (if at all) when you enter into rehearsals?
The set if often built and painted by the time rehearsals start so, on the one hand, there isn’t a lot of room for change. However, a lot can change with how you’ve imagined set pieces will be used. Places for further detail in props and set dec[oration] also crop up when the set becomes a real, full scale thing. There can also be a sort of domino effect when something has to change for a logistical or artistic reason because this makes us rethink other related aspects. This can be challenging but also rewarding because it hones the design.

Rosebud Theatre, Carolyn Rapanos
Nathan Schmidt, Justin Lanouette, Meghan Hanet, Glenda Warkentin, and Troy O'Donnell in An Inspector Calls. Photo and Set Design by Carolyn Rapanos. 

What do you do to fill your time when you’re not working on the show?
I love working/relaxing outside in beautiful Rosebud and the last few times, I’ve also made small trips into Drumheller and Calgary.

What’s next for you?
I’m really looking forward to working on a play called 'šxʷʔamət' (the Musqueam word for home), which will explore issues of reconciliation through workshops with people directly engaged with these issues. The play is presented as a piece of Forum Theatre in which the story is performed twice, and the second time, audience members can stop the action and offer solutions or commentary. The story itself is ever evolving so the design process will be challenging.

You studied English in university before becoming a designer. What are you reading? Any books you’d recommend?
I recently finished my first PD James novel (which I found upstairs in the Thorny Rose café in Rosebud actually!) Now, I have the latest Ian McEwan novel, Nutshell, on hold at the library. He’s a favourite author of mine, so I’ll recommend another one of his: Saturday. And if you’re looking for more mystery, I’d recommend Laurie R. King’s entire Mary Russell series (mysteries from the perspective of Sherlock Holmes’s imagined wife and detective partner, Mary Russell).

A classic and celebrated play, J.B. Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in the 1940’s, but set the story in 1912 to examine themes relevant to the present. How do you keep designs/stories set in the past feeling fresh and relevant?
A lot of thought is put into choosing plays for a season that have themes that matter to a modern audience, so I often get a good perspective on this early on from the director and/or Artistic Director. Aesthetically, I think seeing the past brought to life is inherently exciting. And a modern audience is very accepting of visual theatricality, so there’s a lot of room for stretching a more traditional representation into something more metaphorical.

View more of Carolyn’s stunning artistry at And for more on 'An Inspector Calls', playing now through October 29, visit