Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Guest Artist “Snapshot” - Jordan Cutbill

Jordan Cutbill last appeared on Rosebud's mainstage in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, but audiences may also remember him from ‘Last Train to Nibroc’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. A 2004 graduate of Rosebud School of the Arts, he’s been teaching videography and sharing his passion of filmmaking for the last four years as an instructor with RSA and more recently Prairie College. He is the co-founder of Smoke Signal Media, a production power house based in Rosebud, and the co-owner of Rosebud Valley Honey.

Jordan Cutbill and David Snider in Rosebud Theatre's The Christians. Photo by Morris Ertman.

What made you come to Rosebud, and what have you been up to since graduating?
I first came in response to three separate individuals approaching me on three separate locations and telling me about the school. I took a brief hiatus from acting and Rosebud after graduation and went fishing and adventuring on the West Coast of British Columbia where I’m originally from. I spent [another] eight months cruising the Caribbean on a 30 foot sailboat with a buddy of mine, was a waiter at Fine Dining restaurants in Tofino and Victoria, and three years fishing guiding in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwai).

You’ve got a bit of a reputation as an Outdoorsy Renaissance Man. What’s next on your list?
At present I’m learning more about permaculture gardening with the hopes of starting up a market garden here in Rosebud. I’m learning more about canning and food preservation since our garden produced an excess of tomatoes this year.

What do you do in your spare time?
When I have free time I like to garden, hunt, keep bees, fish, cook, and spend quality time with my loving wife and our friends in this beautiful hamlet of Rosebud.

What’s your favorite cold weather drink to warm up?
I have to admit I’m a coffee addict. It’s really the best thing that God ever created.

Jordan Cutbill as Pastor Joshua with Cassandra Garbutt, Caitlyn O'Connor, and Stephanie Lanting in Lucas Hnath's The Christians. Photo by Morris Ertman.
In ‘The Christians’, you’re playing Associate Pastor Joshua, a man of convictions who’s integral to the church. He’s also the character who unflinchingly addresses the central conflict, almost immediately. Do you identify with him?
I identify with addressing the central conflict immediately. I didn’t find that part of the character difficult to connect with. He lives in an entirely different world then I choose to be a part of, but I think at the heart people are people and everyone believes what they believe for a reason. So finding Josh wasn’t that difficult.

What surprised you about the play?
The response has been the most surprising thing for me. I initially thought it would be much more controversial and that the audience would really struggle with the content. I have been so encouraged by our audience giving us the benefit of the doubt and trusting us to go on an uncomfortable ride together. The talk-backs after the show have been the most rewarding talk-backs I’ve ever been a part of.

Has anything in particular challenged you about the process?
You definitely feel naked when you’re emotionally vulnerable on stage in front of a group of people, and that takes some getting used to - and some trust that doesn’t come easy to me.

Why do you think so many people have baggage / hang-ups about church?
I think people have baggage or hangups about the church and Christianity because it has led such a controversial role throughout history. I think anything that matters polarizes people... so of course religion/politics/money will fit right into that.

If this play weren’t called ‘The Christians’, what would you call it?
I would call it The People. I don’t think it only applies to Christians, I think it speaks a universal truth that everyone can connect with.

What’s inspiring you lately?
Generally for inspiration I listen to a lot of music. At present I’m enjoying the work of Bears Den, Max Richter, Ryan Adams, and a host of others.

Jordan and co-owner of Rosebud Valley Honey, Kelsey Krogman. Photo courtesy Rosebud Valley Honey.

How did you get into Rosebud Valley Honey?
I’ve always been fascinated by beekeeping and curious as to the natural fear that most people have of these wonderful little creatures. Their level of sophistication and community is showcased through the hive mentality: greater care for the whole (rather than the individual) is an astounding example of community and care. Rosebud Valley Honey was started four years ago with Kelsey Krogman and myself. We practice chemical-free beekeeping in an effort to care for the bees first and collect honey as humanely and decently as possible. We believe that caring for the bees is primary and if they produce an excess of honey beyond what they need, then we get to offer that to the people in Rosebud and beyond.

Lastly, what’s a great piece of advice that’s connected with you over the years?
Don’t let your life be ruled by fear. I strive to live my life with intentionality and drive and recognize that everything is a choice. I choose not to let fear be the thing that speaks the loudest in my life.

There’s just two more weeks to catch Jordan Cutbill navigating the tumultuous waters of church politics and relationships in Lucas Hnath’s powerhouse-packed ‘The Christians’. Playing now, through October 28, for tickets and showtimes, visit www.rosebudtheatre.com

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Quick Take - Morris talks The Christians

'The Christians', by Lucas Hnath, playing on our MainStage continues to garner international acclaim for its succinct ability to present complex and conflicting takes on a situation, all without sermonizing. Which is ironic, given it’s set in an American Mega-Church. The play moves quickly through the aftermath of a Pastor radically changing theological direction on a hot button issue. In the spirit of the script, we asked director Morris Ertman for some “succinct” thoughts on Rosebud’s production.

You can read this interview in a minute! Take a minute to check out why The Christians will make the most of your time.

Describe the play in one word:

In one sentence, what challenges you about the script?
Describing the challenge(s) in one sentence.

What’s a Bible verse that challenges you?
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

If this play weren’t called ‘The Christians’, what would you call it?
I’m no good at titles, but The Cost of Conviction. [Which] sounds more like a sermon title. There’s a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song with the following lyrics, written about the Kent State shootings in the 60s. It seems somehow appropriate.

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down.

There’s something about the spiritual journey of the people in this play that is contained in that lyric, if you replace “freedom” with “belief.”

If someone doesn’t go to church, why would/should they go to a show set in a church?
Because they can look at church with outside eyes, and not have to participate.

What’s a Bible verse you try and live your life by?
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

What’s your favorite zinger line from the script that isn’t a plot spoiler?
“It says that. It actually says that!”

Which role in the script do you identify with most?
(Pastor / Elder / Associate / Congregant / Spouse)
Pastor Paul

What’s a question that should be in everyone’s post-show discussion? (Either over drinks or on the ride home?)
What does personal conviction cost us, and is it worth it?

He did it! He actually did it! Morris Ertman, man of a multitude of inspiration, kept it to a minimum. It's a teaser taste for how much more’s in store with 'The Christians', playing now through October 28th. For more about the show, check out 'The Christians: not what you might be thinking' . For tickets and showtimes, visit www.rosebudtheatre.com

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Christians: Not what you might be thinking

"The Christians is a play about the pastor of a very very big church. And what happens when he... reveals to the congregation something that he has found out... that the Bible doesn't quite say something that we think it says. And then the reaction of the congregation - which is not exactly what you'd expect. And then what happens after that is also not exactly what you'd expect. And then what happens as a result of that is also not exactly what you'd expect... and the whole play just sort of tumbles forward." 
- Lucas Hnath, playwright
At a tight 80 minutes with not a word wasted, The Christians is an emotional and intellectual ride through politics, faith, and dissension in a contemporary charismatic mega-church. Though the plot hinges on a doctrinal deal-breaker, the church is simply the setting for a snowballing series of interactions stunning in their simplicity, complexity, and astounding ability to keep audiences guessing what happens next. 

Raised near Disneyworld, with no neighbors but a gun range across the street, playwright Lucas Hnath says his 'surreal' childhood prepared him for the stage. "Disneyworld was my first theatrical experience. It sort of informs everything that I write. I like it when plays feel like a ride." But through the twists and turns Hnath never quite lets on where his sympathies lie, not even in interviews. Instead, he confounds with competing arguments. "As long as your brain is searching for the answer, you're awake. Once you have the answer, you go to sleep," he argues.

The Christians premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2014 and its 2015 New York production at Playwrights Horizons launched the play (and playwright) into the national spotlight. Critically appraised and widely produced across the United States, it has been embraced by secular and faith-based organizations alike. With a polarizing title, the play itself is anything but. The Christians concerns not only matters of faith, but questions of leadership, integrity, and unspoken rules for reconciliation. What happens when a man speaks what he believes, and shakes up not only his congregation, but the intricate framework of relationships his organization was built upon? Are beliefs a thing we hold on to in spite of the havoc they wreak, or is there room to hold other perspectives without losing our own?
"Church splits are Hell. This play about one isn't."
- Christianity Today

'The Christians' runs Sept 22 - Oct 28, and if you have any doubts about whether the show is right for you, it is. This play is a must-see and elegant portrayal of a fractured body of believers who keep searching for resolution. For tickets and more information, visit www.rosebudtheatre.com

Monday, 21 August 2017

Spitfire Super Quiz

The actors in The Spitfire Grill have had a grand time playing together this summer, so we asked a few insider questions (and edited out the spoilers). Read how their responses stack up, and see who's possibly gotten a little too close for comfort...

Who's Playing Who? (A short guide to names mentioned below)
  • Alixandra Cowman - Percy
  • Elinor Holt - Hannah
  • Cassia Schmidt - Shelby
  • Nathan Schmidt - Eli
  • Marie Russell - Effy
  • Travis Friesen - Sheriff Joe  
  • Paul Muir - Caleb

Who’s the Spitfire in The Spitfire Grill?
ALIX: Elinor Holt, OF COURSE!
NATE: I’d have to say Hannah is the Spitfire, she named it after all.
CASSIA: Hannah – for sure!
TRAVIS: Hannah
ELINOR: Shelby! And in the band, Julie!
MARIE: The fierce spirit of compassion that is brave enough to start and continue the journey of forgiveness and acceptance.
PAUL: Percy! No question, it’s Percy! She’s the catalyst for the whole story!

Alixandra Cowman whips up her speciality. Photo by Morris Ertman.

What’s the secret in the sauce?
ALIX: It ain’t called SPITfire for no good reason.
ELINOR: Wild Turkey
TRAVIS: Ketchup/mayo/lemon juice
CASSIA: Rosebud water
MARIE: Understanding how little we have to lose when we leap and make the choice to love...
NATE: You know, I think it’s pickles and chipotle peppers.
PAUL: You add a dash of love and a pinch of forgiveness, and YUM!

What’s the worst thing on the menu?
ALIX: Anything that Percy has made. Don’t let her in the kitchen.
ELINOR: The coffee. But it’s the only grill in town, so put up and shut up!
TRAVIS: Jellied Hotdog Salad
CASSIA: The corn beef hash. Even when Hannah makes it.
MARIE: Percy’s sunny-side-up eggs. They have instantly grown a velvety mould on their surface, thanks to the genius of props people! Ewwww.
PAUL: Caleb!
NATE: The spelling

Cassia Schmidt and Alixandra Cowman cook up magic and... mystery meat. Photo by Morris Ertman

What song got cut from the play?
ALIX: The one that ends with a kissing scene.
CASSIA: All of Eli’s solos.
TRAVIS: “I can’t quit you” – Caleb sings to Joe.
MARIE: Effy’s Revenge – a little dream sequence piece about catching everyone in a fraud ring and being awarded The Spitfire Grill as an annex to the post office (secretly a CIA outpost).
NATE: Shelby had a bluesy song about how she wishes she was single again.
PAUL: A song got cut from the play? Crap! Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’m still doing them all! 

Paul Muir, singing solo. Photo by Morris Ertman. 

What crime would you commit if you could get away with it?
CASSIA: It’s not a hard core crime – but there are a lot of places I would trespass.
ELINOR: Hm. Tough one. Can one ever get away from something? With something?... Maybe… so, I would like to get away with Travis’s old truck… or Cassia’s vocal chords so that I could be an amazing belting soprano with cool wheels! Grand Theft/Throat Auto!
TRAVIS: Jay-walking
ALIX: I would love to rob a casino, Ocean’s Eleven style. I want to be cool like Brad Pitt and George Clooney!
MARIE: What’s the legal term for opening other people’s mail?
NATE: Stowaway – jumping on a boxcar and go where it goes for as long as it goes.
PAUL: Oh Heavens, I think I’ve committed enough crimes in my life already. I’m ready to retire from my life of crime!

Marie Russell, Paul Muir, and Travis Friesen keep the town under control. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Who has a secret they aren’t sharing? What is it?
ALIX: Definitely Joe and Effy. Have you SEEN their relationship on stage? Seems fishy to me.
CASSIA: Shelby. Ha! Sneaky! Still not telling. But there's a reason her dress is so baggy.
NATE: The cellist, Julie. She'd rather be dancing.
PAUL: Ummm, who doesn’t have a secret they aren’t sharing?

Everyone has a mystery. Elinor Holt and Alixandra Cowman. Photo by Morris Ertman

Favorite moment in the show that the audience doesn’t see?
ALIX: The choreography of ‘Diggin’ Stone’ that happens behind the flat. Elinor and I are the best back-up dancers to Paul Muir’s rocking song.
ELINOR: The backstage choreography for ‘Diggin’ Stone'. It is a sight to behold, even if I do say so myself.
CASSIA: Choreography for 'Diggin’ Stone'.
TRAVIS: Behind the flat choreo for 'Diggin’ Stone'.
NATE: I get to make eyes, across the stage, with my beautiful wife, during the woo-ing between Sheriff Joe and Percy.
MARIE: One of my favorite moments happens at the top of Act 1 before my first entrance. We’re like a team… coming out of the shoot – first Travis, then, a bar later, Paul, then at my time, me. I love love love being a small player in a great story alongside others. I’m not sure why that moment always heartens me.
PAUL: Oh gosh. At some point we [gotta] make a video of all the action that happens with the musicians. The 4-person guitar playing dance, Kait going back and forth between piano and accordion, it’s really active!

Some movement madness at the Grill! Photo by Morris Ertman.

What’s the password to get into the after-hours Spitfire?
ALIX: “I brought applejack.”
ELINOR: Scrabble
NATE: B@c0N&3gg5
CASSIA: You can just open the door. It’s never locked.
TRAVIS: New England Clam Chowder
MARIE: The secret password passes by word of mouth and also continuously changes. Effy knows that the tactic is called “permanent transitionalism” and was a favorite method used by Sadam Hussein.

Nathan Schmidt and Alixandra Cowman share a secret... or two... photo by Morris Ertman

What’s the town of Gilead’s tourism motto?
ALIX: Gilead: Do our balms make you whole? See for yourself!
ELINOR: Gilead: A little piece of heaven right here on earth.
NATE: Gilead: What’s yours is Mine!
PAUL: Gilead: Home of the Colours of Paradise! (But they probably spell it the American way.)
CASSIA: Gilead: Your forgotten holiday
MARIE: Gilead: Miserable but Safe!
TRAVIS: Gilead: If you don’t have time to stop, smile as you drive by.

Friendship and Forgiveness in The Spitfire Grill. Cassia Schmidt, Elinor Holt, & Alixandra Cowman. Photo by Morris Ertman

There's just two more weeks to catch the antics and genuine affection amidst the cast and characters of The Spitfire Grill. Playing until September 2, visit www.rosebudtheatre.com for tickets and more information.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Travis Friesen

Travis Friesen is a resident Rosebuddy finally returning to the mainstage after graduating from Rosebud School of the Arts in 2008. Select Rosebud Theatre credits include ‘Tent Meeting’, ‘On Golden Pond’, ‘Man of La Mancha’, ‘Christmas in Wales’, and ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'. Recent projects for film include: CBC’s 'Heartland', 'Painkillers', 'Hell on Wheels', 'The Valley Below', 'Breakdown Lane', and 'Carl’s Way'. Travis is a member of The Wheatland Band and the proprietor of Kith & Kin Artisan Wares who has made his home in Rosebud for the past 13 years.

Travis Friesen and Alixandra Cowman in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
 Where are you from originally?
Gimli, Manitoba, home of the Gimli Glider (1983) and the annual Icelandic festival Islendingadagurinn.

What drew you to Rosebud?
I was living in Montreal taking evening acting classes, and I asked my coach, “When should I say ‘no’ to a role?” He told me that I should accept everything or I’m not hire-able, and that didn’t sit well with me. I decided to pursue a school where I could be surrounded by the craft every day and [with people] who wrestled with the questions of what it means to be a performer with a Christian faith.

What have you been up to since graduating?
I graduated RSA in 2008. After graduating, I spent a stretch of time in both Toronto and Vancouver investigating the film scene. Most of my days since, have been spent in Rosebud building a home and business, and pursuing film work in Calgary and Edmonton. I’ve also released two solo albums, and an EP with The Wheatland Band. 

Elinor Holt, Travis Friesen, Cassia Schmidt, & Alixandra Cowman get more than they bargained for in The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman. 
What’s your favorite part about performing, and do you have a preference for music, film, or theatre?
I appreciate them all for different reasons.

With music, I enjoy the navigation of a performance – building a set list that takes the audience on a journey, and interacting with them. And I love to sing. I’ts the thing that brings the most joy to my life.

I enjoy the high stakes that comes with doing film. You show up as a day player on set and have to prove yourself every time. And the honesty that film demands of you – the camera is right in your face and (thanks to reality TV) the average viewer sitting at home is trained to know exactly what’s going on behind the actor’s eyes. There’s no getting away with disconnected acting. I also love the camaraderie of everyone working together, each in their own unique role, towards a common goal.

With the theatre, I enjoy the exploration that is found in the rehearsal hall. In Rosebud we get 4 weeks of rehearsal time and once the show is open, performing for a live audience is such a thrill. There’s an instant gratification that happens as the energy from the audience hits you like a wave. As well, in theatre, you get to do the whole story – top to bottom – and explore the entire journey of your character everyday.

Sheriff Joe meets Percy (Travis Friesen & Alixandra Cowman) in The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Sheriff Joe Suttor: a small town guy with aspirations for bigger things than Gilead seems to offer. Do you identify with him, or were there unexpected challenges about getting into the headspace of the local lawman?
I think we all have to deal with life not working out the way we hoped it would at some point on our journey. We all have different ways of facing disappointment. I believe the local lawman thought he’d find his piece of happiness in Gilead, with a wife and a home, but as life would have it, try as he might, that hasn’t worked out. Hopping the train out of town is a mere smokescreen for him dealing with his disappointment. Joe has a heart for the people of Gilead and is an advocate for the town. These are all facets that I identify well with.

You also recently played lawman Constable Jones for two episodes of the CBC show ‘Heartland’. What’s the difference for you between film and musical theatre?
Both mediums require hard work and preparation. If something doesn’t go right in film, you can do it again. If you start singing the wrong line in musical theatre, there is no going back, you just have to ride the wave of horror. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Travis Friesen (centre) in Rosebud Theatre's Christmas in Wales (2009). Photo by Morris Ertman.
In addition to creative abilities, you’re a Renovation King! What draws you to projects (you're bringing a windmill to town and you built a store)? Is there something that appeals to you about working with your hands?
When I first purchased the property of Kith & Kin (the old Rosebud Fire Hall), I wanted to build an extravagant post and beam building with lots of glass and a living roof. But the reality of my budget made this impossible. Operating on a budget draws out the creativity in people. The imagination muscle is the same on we use in theatre. You’re confined to the world within the stage and have limitations there as well, but that’s often where the magic happens. Renos are another avenue for creative expression.

What are you listening to these days? Any recommendations?
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston, Field Behind the Plow – Stan Rogers

What’s Rosebud’s best kept secret?
Travis Friesen. I’m still single. Or, Kith & Kin. Or perhaps… the best is yet to come… in the form of a windmill…

Travis Friesen & Jesse Lynn Anderson in The Triumph of Love. Photo courtesy Rosebud School of the Arts.
What’s an important piece of advice that’s resonated with you lately?
Elinor Holt said at a talkback the other day that there is no expiration date on actors. Everything we do in our lives contributes to our craft of storytelling. That takes a certain amount of pressure off me.

On the fictional menu of ‘The Spitfire Grill’, what makes up the “Travis Friesen Special”?
I do love duck… maybe include an 8” x 8” chunk of lasagna with peppercorns on top that were hand milled by a hipster.

Resident heartthrob Travis Friesen will warm up your summer with his deep and rich performance in 'The Spitfire Grill'. Smooth your relationship with the Sheriff and get your ticket before September 2. And catch The Wheatland Band, one night only, Friday, September 8. For tickets and information visit www.rosebudtheatre.com