Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Constructing Characters: Costume Design with Victoria Krawchuk

Victoria Krawchuk is a Calgary based designer returning to Rosebud Theatre after her stunning set and costume design for 2013's 'Our Town'. Currently she's responsible for the irrepressible and energetic costume design of 'Miracle on 34th Street'. Select costume design credits include The Transalta Grandstand Show (Calgary Stampede); Richard III (The Shakespeare Company); Shadowlands (Fire Exit Theatre); and set and costume design for Fight or Flight Response (Verb Theatre). Victoria received a BFA in Theatre Design in from the University of Alberta in 2013 and co-owns Little Lion Workshop. 

Rosebud Theatre
The cast of Rosebud Theatre's Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

First off, tell us a little about yourself as a designer. How’d you get started in theatre design?
I got started in theatre when I was 15, volunteering in the wardrobe at Storybook Theatre in Calgary. At that time, I had seen Lord of the Rings, and felt so inspired to be creative or do something in film. I loved to sew, and I learned a lot from the Storybook costume designer, which landed me various volunteer costume design positions from then on. At 19, I went to University of Alberta, and took their BFA theatre design program, learning about sets, lights, and costume.

What’s your favorite thing to look for as you go about creating?
In any project, we are all drawn to things that others wouldn’t be drawn to (as Morris reminded me) - that’s the thing that gives each show its specific flavor. I look for things that I like, whether on Pinterest, researching, finding something from the period I adore, or when I’m out and notice how people dress on the street, in a mall, out for dinner. Sometimes I find inspiration by other types of artists, sometimes it’s the color or texture that inspire my costume palette. Those sparks of insight are my favorite thing to discover, and inspire my creation.

Design by Victoria Krawchuk
Costume Rendering: Kris Kringle. Design by Victoria Krawchuk.
Can you tell us a little about your process?
It starts with reading the script a few times, noting elements that ‘must’ be in the show, and then doing a lot of costume research… in this case, 1948. I look at a lot of vintage catalogs (Sears) and sewing patterns because those tend to not be so ‘high-fashion’. Then, talking to the director, I use our first chat making sure we’re on the same page in terms of the characters (who they are as people), and  our second meeting focuses on what they’re actually wearing. From there, I work on rough and final designs, thinking about color, who needs to ‘pop’ on stage, who needs to blend in, and what color says about the character (hopefully subconsciously) to the audience. Sometimes though, performers discover new things about their character in rehearsal, which puts a different spin on the design. I think that’s what keeps it fresh. Designs for this show were due in April-May, but there were discoveries in October that changed some of the looks. Specifically, a Stenographer’s belief in Santa changed her from being in black & white to a soft orange dress she now wears in the show.

How do you make your design more than just 'era-appropriate' clothes?

Design by Victoria Krawchuk
Costume Rendering: Doris Walker. Design by Victoria Krawchuk
For me, it’s about going inside the characters’ heads and thinking… Where would they go shopping? What would be most important in their wardrobe? What are they dressing up for? Do they care what others think? What does their job require them to do? As I search, I’m drawn to certain things to reflect that character. Sometimes color, or the cut, or pattern.
Some of the characters I have very specific feelings about, while others I truly went with my gut. I wanted Doris to look icy cold, hence the navy blue and cool grey tones she wears for much of the play. I wanted Fred to be warm and inviting, with lightness about him. Kris Kringle, of course, in red as a civilian and as Santa - but I wanted it pretty subtle, hence the cranberry jacket he wears. The transformation Paul Muir (the director), wanted to create, was that belief in Santa caused a noticeable change to a character’s costume. Throughout the play, when Susan, Doris, even Macy and Gimbel believe - they don brighter scarves and hats suggestive of the transformation inside.

Design by Victoria Krawchuk
Costume Renderings: Susan Walker & Fred Gailey. Design by Victoria Krawchuk.

You’re also one half of Little Lion Workshop – Tell us about what you do, what you make?
Little Lion Workshop is the company I own alongside my husband, Curtis. We create custom commissions of costumes, props, and scenic elements. Our focus as been cosplay commissions - you know, those people who dress up in stunning handmade costumes and go to Comic Expos like the ones in Calgary and Edmonton? We essentially take a drawing from a video game, movie, or anime, and try to bring it to life as accurately (and to scale) as possible. It’s a really nice break from costume design, because I’m still creating, which is what I love, but don’t have to be the design force behind it. I get to just build something I see.

What’s one of your favorite pieces?
In September, I built prosthetic silicone special effects makeup pieces to go on a cosplayer’s face (Mileena, Mortal Kombat). It was so satisfying doing something I had never done before - making a mold, creating silicone prosthetics. I was pretty happy with the end result!

Do you have a dream project on your bucket list?
In University we got to do a non-realized project in a 'found space', where you take an unconventional space, and use its elements to make it a place to do theatre. I would really love to use some sort of old, abandoned space to tell a story.

What’s currently inspiring you, artistically?
I’m most inspired by art that is intentional about driving emotion through beauty (and sometimes juxtaposition). My Instagram feed is filled with all sorts of different ‘makers’ other than theatre designers. [People] who create their living as painters, illustrators, cosplayers, tattoo artists, jewelry makers, makeup artists, etc… The way they see the world so differently than me, but still manage to tell story, is what continually inspires and challenges me to continue to create my art.

Rosebud Theatre
Cassia Schmidt, Mike Thiessen, and Peter Church play the Macy's executives in Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Favorite Christmas movie?
Growing up it was a tradition for my mom and I to watch Alastair Sim’s Christmas Carol, on Christmas Eve. Now, as an adult, I still convince my husband to watch it with me Christmas Eve.

Favorite Christmas cookie?
Chai Shortbread!

What’s up next for you, and where?
In February, I’m set and costume designing two shows in Calgary (Macbeth at CYPT, and Bridge to Terabithia at Storybook). After that I’ll be in full swing designing costumes for the Calgary Stampede Grandstand show. (We start working on it in December, but it opens in July.) This will be my third year designing it, for over 120 young Canadians and guest talent.

See more photos of Victoria’s work at but experience 'in-person' the detail of her transporting costume design in 'Miracle on 34th Street', playing now until December 23rd at Rosebud Theatre. For tickets and show availability information, visit

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Peter Church

Although this is Peter Church’s first time on the Rosebud stage, he’s no stranger to the area. He can often be seen performing next door in Drumheller’s Canadian Badlands Passion Play. An actor, playwright, and theatre instructor, Peter spent 8 years as an ensemble member with The Classical Theatre Project ('Romeo & Juliet', 'Othello', 'MacBeth', 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', 'Hamlet', & 'Oedipus Rex'). Performance highlights include the Dora Award nominated production of ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ (Brookstone Performing Arts), ‘The Rainmaker’ (Pacific Theatre), Shadow Government (Cloud Ten Pictures), and A Camelot Christmas Tale (CTS Television). Recent projects also include his staged radio play adaptations of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Pacific Theatre) and playing the role of Education Manager for Carousel Theatre for Young People. 

Photo by Morris Ertman
Cassia Schmidt and Peter Church talk shop in Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
That’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately! My wife and I have been residents of Vancouver for 3 years, but have actually just decided that we’re going to relocate to Drumheller in order to continue our work with the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. Once Miracle on 34th Street closes, we’ll go pack up our things and make the move! It feels a bit like “coming home” since I grew up in Airdrie before moving to Toronto in 1999.

What’s the best kept secret about your current neighborhood, Rosebud?
The Brie Bites at Wild Horse Jack’s!

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? Least favorite?
One of my favorite traditions is listening to Christmas Carols. Traditional songs like 'What Child Is This?', 'O, Holy Night', 'O, Come All Ye Faithful', and 'Joy to the World' can always jumpstart my Christmas Spirit.
My least favorite tradition is probably the forthcoming “Black Friday”. At its worst, it encapsulates the ugliness of human greed and commercialism. At its best, it’s just too much for me to bother with.

You’re a playwright with a number of radio play adaptations. What is it about radio that inspires / challenges you? Do you have a penchant for a time period or particular genre?
Radio drama, to my mind, is one of the purest kinds of Theatre. It hearkens back to the early storytellers around the fire, and demands active “co-creation” from the audience. As a performer, radio plays are challenging because your performance, of course, has to be distilled down to just your voice. It’s heightened, exciting, subtle, and rewarding – and certainly very challenging. Many of my stories are often set somewhere between 1935 and 1950, because it’s a period of history I find particularly interesting.

You’re ALSO an instructor for theatre. What’s the essential lesson you instill in your students?
Be honest. And be you.

What’s inspiring you right now, artistically?
Film Noir. I love the style, the dialogue and the dirt.

Any particular projects in the works?
In September, I was commissioned to direct my radio adaptation of a short story for Jason Hildebrand Creative Arts. We’re just editing the final touches on it this week, and it should be up and available for download [here] before this interview is released. It’s a poignant Christmas story called The Wooden Angel, and it tells the story of Emiline, a young girl eagerly awaiting the return of her father from the Mission Field in Ecuador, and the final piece of the nativity set he’s carved for her.

Coffee or tea and how do you take it?
Whiskey. For some reason, I’ve never enjoyed hot beverages.

In ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, you play Shellhammer, the head of the Macy’s toy department. What’s a toy you always wanted for Christmas? Did you get it?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget opening up my Nintendo on Christmas morning. It was the original NES (for which I’m pretty sure everyone my age remembers desperately pleading.) My parents had hidden it in an old suitcase in our basement so I couldn’t even find it when I tried peeking!

Lastly, since your name begs an ecclesiastical question… If you were a character in the nativity, which one would you be?
I’d probably be one of the Shepherds – standing in poops when the heavenly host appears.
Like them, I’m not the kind of person we imagine that a Holy God would invite to participate in His Story. And yet, I stand breathless in my little field – slack jawed, small, and irreligious. None of it makes much sense, but I walk towards Bethlehem anyway… to see this thing that has happened.

It may not be radio drama, but 'Miracle on 34th Street' is your chance to catch the dulcet tones of Peter Church's delightful depictions of Julian (Shellhammer) and the Judge. Playing now until December 23rd, visit for ticket availability. Saturday matinees are largely sold out, but there's a variety of afternoon and evening shows open on the calendar (but filling fast).

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Tim Dixon

Audiences may remember Tim Dixon from Rosebud Theatre’s ‘Our Town’ (2013), but his relationship with Artistic Director Morris Ertman goes back to Vineyard Theatre’s production of ‘Damien’ in 1983. Since then, Tim’s done theatre across western Canada, including ‘The Music Man’ (Centre Stage); ‘The Seafarer’, ‘Mass Appeal’, ‘Talley’s Folly’, ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’ (Pacific Theatre); ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (Chemainus Theatre Festival); and ‘Faith Healer’ (Onion Theatre). Film and TV credits include X-Files, The Age of Adaline, Lake Placid, Cold Squad and Supernatural. Alberta born and raised, Tim married his college sweetheart, Debbie, in 2013 and lives with her on Vancouver Island.

Rosebud Theatre
Tim Dixon and Hannah Andersen in Rosebud Theatre's Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home? How long have you lived there?
I’ve been calling Nanaimo, B.C. home now for almost four years. I moved there when I married my college sweetheart (I know, right? Great story, too long for here.) For those not familiar with Nanaimo (pronounced like the bar, which is where it comes from, of course), it’s about the size of Red Deer. In fact, I like to call it Red-Deer-By-The-Sea.

What’s your ‘must-have’ morning ritual?
Coffee. Made with fresh ground beans and fresh cold spring water. Hmmm. Excuse me, I need to make a cup right now in fact…
…okay, I’m back.

Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? Least favorite?
I never miss watching It’s a Wonderful Life and Scrooge starring Alastair Sim. In fact, Sim’s laugh after he’s “converted” influenced the laugh I developed for Kris Kringle.

In ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, your character (Kris Kringle) claims to be the real Santa Claus, living in a 1940’s retirement home in New York City. As an actor, do you make a decision whether or not you believe him?
You know, early on in my character work, I thought I would have to, but in fact I realized that, regardless of whether Kris is deluded or is actually Santa Claus, the situation for him is the same: he believes - in fact he knows, that he is Santa Claus. He testifies as such, under oath, in a courtroom. So all I have to do is start from there. I leave it up to the audience to decide the truth for themselves, and in fact the story leaves room for both conclusions, in my opinion. But as the actor portraying Kris, the choice has already been made.

How do you step into Santa… make him a more complicated human?
It’s certainly possible to play Kris as a caricature, so to avoid that I’ve drawn on a few sources to add some richness and character to him: my German grandfather-in-law, David Suchet’s portrayal of Hercule Poirot, my wife (who truly loves children, and whom I’ve observed taking great delight in watching and interacting with them), and I think folks may see a bit of Edmund Gwenn’s performance from the 1947 film. As for voice, I didn’t want to give Kris a straight British upper-class accent; I wanted to add some elements that suggest he’s lived in many places over the years, so I’ve brought in some German and Dutch flavoring. I know that’s at the risk of having people think I can’t do a straight British accent, but I hope most are thinking, “Now where is he from? I can’t quite place it.” It would certainly please me if they did.

Are there other roles on your bucket list? Any particular play or character you’d love to sink your teeth into?
I don’t know about specific roles, but there are plays I’d like to do – more Shakespeare, especially Lear. Waiting for Godot, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the list is too long to include here. I’ve been fortunate to have done a number of plum roles over the years, for which I’m grateful – Father Damien, Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, and now Kris.

You have an established resume for both film and theatre. Do you have a preference? As an actor, is there a difference in how you approach them?
Certainly. As Michael Caine once said, the camera is the best lover you’ll ever have; it watches you very closely, and picks up every little detail, so a performance can be small, intricate, and realistic. Often, all you have to do is undergo the thinking process of the character, and your body will do the work for you. Unfortunately, that can also lead to a lot of half-whispered dialogue, which with my aging ears gets increasingly difficult to hear as an audience member. I’m fortunate that I started in theatre, where the performance needs to be big enough to be read by everyone in the audience, yet still feel natural and even intimate. Some film actors can struggle with that apparent paradox initially when they try their hand at stage work. As for my preference, I love them both, because both forms affect an audience in very different ways.

What’s currently inspiring you?
Music. I have pretty small “c” catholic tastes, all the way from classical to metal. [Also] I love foreign film, because it gives me a window into another way of looking at the world, and shakes up my conventional thinking. Animation, oddly, is a great source of inspiration, not only conventional cartoons but experimental work from the NFB and artists just coming out of the schools.

What’s been the most surprising part of the process for ‘Miracle on 34th’ Street’?
For the longest time, I had trouble reconciling Kris’s insistence that he never lies, and yet he appears to lie to Susie at the end about getting the present she wants. (I tried to find a way Kris might “discover” he does have the present after all, but the script didn’t seem to indicate where that happens.) Then I realized Kris may in fact not be lying but “pretending”, as he taught Susie how to do. He pretends not to have the gift, in order to see if Susie will believe in him even without it. It’s a risky move, but as someone once said, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Lastly, what does Tim Dixon want for Christmas?
To spend time with family and friends, especially my wonderful wife who gave me permission to be here.
To enjoy the Christmas displays, the lights in the night, the songs.
Maybe a nifty little gadget or two. I’m a sucker for them.
Oh, and world peace would be nice. Or at least, whirled peas.

Discover the magic of Tim Dixon's whimsical and devoted performance as Kris Kringle (the beard is real!) in Rosebud Theatre's 'Miracle on 34th Street' playing now through December 23rd. For tickets and information, visit

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Resident Company "Snapshot" - Cassia Schmidt

Cassia Schmidt is a graduate of Rosebud School of the Arts (Acting - 2011) and currently serves as Education Assistant and Recruitment Officer. Selected credits at Rosebud Theatre include ‘Oliver!’, ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘Barefoot in the Park’, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, and ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Also an Alberta based Singer / Songwriter with Folk, Gospel and East Coast influences, Cassia has two recordings, ‘Let the Music In’ and ‘in memory of…’ both available on Bandcamp.

Photo by Morris Ertman
Mike Thiessen, Cassia Schmidt, and company in Rosebud Theatre's Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

What’s your 'must-have' morning ritual?
My favorite thing in the morning is to sit with a cup of coffee. The ritual around the coffee changes: sometimes it’s a yoga morning, sometimes it’s quick-out-the-door to get at the day. If I have a reflection time with my cup of coffee, it’s a good launching point for my day.

How do you take it?
Coffee and cream! We’ve recently discovered the Aeropress, and it’s glorious!

You’re on staff with Rosebud School of the Arts. What does your job entail?  
I’m currently Education Assistant and Recruitment Officer. I am the point of connection for all potential students, and I guide them through their application process. As part of this job, I’m involved in some marketing and I organize workshops for school groups joining us in Rosebud. As Education Assistant, I organize Calgary theatre trips for our students, participate in Ed Team meetings, post on the Rosebud School of the Arts Facebook page, and do various jobs pertaining to our records and operations.

In ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, you’re playing Doris Walker, the no-nonsense single-mom who runs the Macy’s Christmas department but refuses to teach her own daughter anything fantastical. What did you grow up believing about Santa?
As a kid, I thought of Santa as a Christmas game. It was an opportunity to name a specific hope for Christmas and I knew that I had to make sure I told Santa what I wanted loud enough for my mom to hear. My brother is quite a bit younger than me, so as I got older I got to join in the game of Santa with him too!

What has surprised you about your character?
I don’t always build an elaborate back-story for my characters. Most often, I’ve had roles where most of the story is developed through the writing of the play. Doris is different. I found I needed to build a very detailed pre-story for her. I needed to specify the deep hurt of her failed marriage, and her broken faith in Christmas. In building her timeline, the most surprising realization for me was that she could be my age. There are many 29 year old women who have already lived through big stories, and have to really fight for survival. I’m pretty excited to go on the journey of faith with Doris! The play says that if we believe, miracles will happen. It is a pretty risky thing to do, to believe that a miracle will happen, and I feel convicted by it. I want the story to inspire hope in people, and encourage us to be bold in our faith. Who knows? Maybe we even get some miracles along the way!

Jordan Cutbill, Hannah Andersen, and Cassia Schmidt in Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Has there been an unexpected moment in rehearsal?
I had a moment when I put on my costume for our first run. I put my hat on and I felt like my Grandma Hazel. I’ve never been told I look like her, but the hat and scarf and clip-on earrings makes me feel like her. It’s a good feeling to carry her with me in this show. She loved Rosebud Theatre, and though she passed away before I came here, I know she’d be so pleased to be a part of it!

What’s the best acting advice you’ve ever received?
Throughout my training I was given the Nelson Mandela quote over and over again. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Again and again I’ve been reminded not to be afraid to be my full size and not to hold back.

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?
Our family always decorated our tree together. I loved pulling out all the decorations, full of memories of the people who made or gave them. After we were finished, we’d have hot chocolate in our Christmas mugs and watch the Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

As I’m newly married, I look forward to new traditions! One of my new favorite Christmas rituals is Nathan and my drive home on Christmas Eve. There are Christmas carols on the radio, and our car is packed full of presents for family and nieces and nephews, and we get to just be together for a couple hours on Christmas Eve.

Least favorite tradition?
I don’t really like writing Christmas cards.

Lastly, what’s Cassia Schmidt’s guilty pleasure?
Probably chocolate. Or coffee.

‘Miracle on 34th Street’ opens this weekend and runs through December 23rd. Don’t wait for Christmas to get in on the magic! (After all, the movie originally opened in May!) For tickets and information visit

Thursday, 3 November 2016

From 1947 to Now: Rosebud's 'Miracle on 34th Street'

Opening next week on our Opera House stage is Miracle on 34th Street, a holiday classic adapted from the 1947 film. Based on an original story by Valentine Davies, the film was written and directed by George Seaton and starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and an 8 year old Natalie Wood. The movie ranks #9 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.
Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox.

The story takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in New York City and focuses on the impact of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real deal, and who eventually requires a lawyer and a little girl to prove it.

Legend has it the idea for the script came while Valentine Davies was struggling through Christmas shopping crowds, disillusioned by the commercialism, and wondering what would happen if the real Santa Claus walked into a department store in the middle of December.

A notable Hollywood screenwriter of the 1940’s and 50’s, Valentine Davies penned scripts with a marked fondness for nostalgia, fantasy and unabashed sentiment. Some of his most significant work was in partnership with producer William Perlberg and writer-director George Seaton. Miracle on 34th Street was their first collaboration and ultimately most enduring achievement. Davies also published a novella of the story in conjunction with the film’s release. Miracle on 34th Street earned him the Academy Award for Best Writing: Original Story, (the category was later eliminated in 1957) and George Seaton the Academy Award for Best Writing: Screenplay. 

The film also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle), and was nominated for Best Picture, which puts Miracle on 34th Street into the elite category of only 3 Christmas films ever considered for the Academy's top prize. The other films being The Bishop’s Wife and It’s a Wonderful Life.

The story has resonated significantly with audiences over the years, being remade for film and television four times, most notably in 1994 with John Hughes taking the helm as co-writer and director. Rosebud Theatre’s production is adapted from the original Valentine Davies’ story by New Brunswick native, Caleb Marshall, Artistic and Executive Director for the Sudbury Theatre Centre, with additional writing by Erin Keating.

photo by Morris Ertman, Rosebud Theatre
Jordan Cutbill, Hannah Andersen, and Cassia Schmidt in Rosebud Theatre's Miracle on 34th Street. Photo by Morris Ertman.

The timelessness of the tale relies on its generosity of spirit and disarming ability to fill audiences with hope. It’s a lovely and familiar reminder of the triumph of faith and human connection. Or as Newsweek notably cited, “An enduring Christmas vision that never fails to fill the most jaded child with wonder.”

Miracle on 34th Street runs November 11 to December 23. For tickets and information on special "Engage Events", visit