Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Company "Snapshot" - Alixandra Cowman

We're ecstatic to have Alix return to Rosebud this summer! She received her FRSA with Rosebud School of the Arts in 2014 and has been seen on our stage in ‘Wildwood Fire’, ‘Chickens’, and ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’. Other theatre credits include ‘Hana’s Suitcase’ (Storybook Theatre), ‘Songs for a New World’ (Cappuccino), ‘Rocks’ (IGNITE!), and ‘The Darling Family’ (Three Eyes). Alixandra is also a member of acclaimed folk trio “The Dearhearts” with whom she has released an album and toured across North America -

Rosebud Theatre
Alixandra Cowman and Cassia Schmidt in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.

Where do you call home?
My current place of residence is Calgary. I've got a few places I like to call home, and that includes Rosebud, Calgary, and Regina (which is where I grew up).

What have you been up to since you graduated?
I've moved to Calgary, started a band called The Dearhearts, and done as much acting as I can. I've been lucky enough with Calgary theatre companies like Storybook Theatre, Birnton Theatricals, and Sage Theatre.

Tell us a little about your band and how it came to be?
The Dearhearts was born out of my fear of doing things on my own, really. ;) I had received Paul Zacharias's recording scholarship during my time as a student at RSA, but held off on recording anything for about two years. Lauren de Graaf, Lauren Hamm, and I had made the decision to perform dinner music for the fall show at Rosebud Theatre in 2014. We decided to use my scholarship to record a CD that we could sell in conjunction with dinner music. And just took off! We've continued to book gigs and write songs, and 3 years later, we're still going strong.

Lauren Hamm, Lauren DeGraaf, Alix Cowman
The Dearhearts: Lauren Hamm, Lauren DeGraaf, and Alix Cowman. Photo courtesy Lauren Hamm Photography.

 How is singing in The Dearhearts different from doing Musical Theatre? Do you use different skills to sing your own music?
I can't get away with being lazy with diction in Musical Theatre the way I can with The Dearhearts...don't get me wrong, writing and singing music with The Dearhearts is just as labour-intensive, but with Musical Theatre, the story is the thing. It's really important that the story is told as clearly as can be.

What’s your favourite indulgence?
Me and one of my good friends have started having nights where we drink wine and watch The Bachelorette. I look forward to it every week! I won't say who I watch it with for fear of her being embarrassed that everyone knows she watches the Bachelorette, but let's just say she's very DEAR to my HEART.

Which fictional character do you identify with most and why?
I grew up with Disney movies, and Belle was always my favourite. We share a lot in common (we both are avid readers, both love to sing, and both have brown hair), but her open spirit is a big inspiration for me. She looks through the surface and sees the heart underneath. That's who I strive to be, too.

In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Percy… a convict starting over in a new place looking for a second chance at happiness. Was it easy to get into her skin, or were there challenges to the role you weren’t expecting?
There's definitely some things about Percy that made it easy to connect with her. She's a city girl that's never lived in a small town before...that was me when I first moved to Rosebud! The difficulty came in her guardedness. As an actor, my job is to be completely open and play the truth whatever I'm feeling in the moment. But Percy is completely shut off to her emotions and to other people at the top of this story. It's a bit of a puzzle to sort through sometimes.

Rosebud Theatre
Nathan Schmidt and Alixandra Cowman build trust in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
If you were gonna move somewhere to start over, where would you go?
I'd go somewhere far and remote. Preferably somewhere warm. Hawaii perhaps!

What’s a great piece of acting advice that’s stuck with you over the years?
I have the pleasure of working with Calgary actor Elinor Holt in Spitfire, and I distinctly remember being in a talkback of a show she was in. All I remember is her saying to us that if we wanted to be actors, we had to work hard. She teases me for this being the only thing I remember from that day but hey, it's stuck! And she's right!

In the fictional menu of The Spitfire Grill, what makes up the "Alix Cowman" special?
Anything with avocados: Avocado toast, salad with Avocados, plain old guacamole. I love Avocados and I ain't ashamed about it!

Lastly, what's Alix Cowman’s motto?
I don't know if I have a motto but I definitely use the flamenco dancer emoji quite often. It's kind of my trademark.

‘The Spitfire Grill’ is cooking and Alixandra is serving up soul-stirring songs so strong and sweet you might just come back for seconds. This is one musical you don’t want to miss. For tickets and more information visit

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Music Man: Bill Hamm

Bill Hamm grew up in Southern Ontario and studied music at the University of Winnipeg (B.A.), attended Canadian Mennonite University (B.R.S.), followed by the University of Illinois (M.A.) where he majored in Choral Conducting. Bill has been Rosebud School of the Arts’ and Rosebud Theatre’s Music Director since 1989. He conducts choirs, teaches voice and speech classes, and has directed the music for many shows including 'The Spitfire Grill', 'Cotton Patch Gospel', 'Quilters', 'Amahl and the Night Visitors', 'Godspell', and 'Fiddler on the Roof'. Bill is the composer and music director of The Canadian Badlands Passion Play and sings with the Canadian Chamber Choir (2016 Juno nomination). Bill and his wife Renita have four children and two grandchildren. Bill enjoys running, mountain biking, hockey, and home renovations.

Bill Hamm, Music Director Rosebud Theatre and Rosebud School of the Arts.

What first drew you to Rosebud and what made you stay?
I came because I had seen a show in the summer of 1987, and liked the vibe and world-view of the place. After getting my Masters degree in the spring of ’89, I asked if they might be looking for a Music Director. They were, and the rest is history. I had chances to leave for other jobs, but felt in my gut that I should stay. I was curious to see what this would become.

Bill Hamm surrounded by cast in Rosebud Theatre's Cotton Patch Gospel (2013). Photo by Morris Ertman.
Describe what your job entails?
As Music Director, I oversee music activities in the school and theatre. I’ve played on my strengths and interests as a choral director; we have five choirs based out of Rosebud! I’ve also been interested in in Folk, Bluegrass, etc… When another Music Director comes, they will shape the program to their strengths and interests. I train singers for the stage and for musical performance by working breath, resonance, and articulation in order to execute the craft of tempo, dynamics, and articulation, and a wide expressive range.

What’s the first thing you do when approaching a musical production?
I scan the script and make up a matrix to see which singers/characters are in which song. As I do this, I learn the songs for myself, and imagine what kind of singer we need for each character and each song.

A secret shot of Bill doing his thing. Photo by Lauren Hamm Photography
What do you find most challenging about the process?
Adapting the instrumentation to suit our limited resources. For example: we can’t hire the full orchestra that the piece is scored for, so we adapt to whom we can hire.

What’s the most rewarding?
Releasing the show into the hands/voices of the performers.

Is there an opportunity you haven't had (in the theatre) that’s on your bucket list?
A major kick-ass fight! (Can we say “kick-ass”?) Kick-butt.

Bill was drafted for the 2016 Juno Cup, a charity hockey game between nominated musicians and former NHL players. Amazing photo by Lauren Hamm Photography.
Your last name seems to invite puns… If you had to pick a favorite nickname…?
Hammer. Billy.

(Editor’s note: very James Bond. “My name is Hammer. Billy Hammer”)

In three words, how would you describe the music for ‘The Spitfire Grill?’
Storytelling. Ensemble. Expressive.

What advice would you give your 20 year-old self?
Spend more time preparing. Don’t trust your ability, education, experience. It’s in the mundane preparation that the magic happens.

Go-to shower song?
Lobet Den Herrn by J.S. Bach. The Tenor Part.

If you could give everyone advice about music and/or their voice, what would your distilled lesson be?
If you really want to sing with confidence and a wide expressive range, join a choir.

It's the whole Hamm family! Their genuine love and diverse giftings make Rosebud the loveliest Hamm-let around. Photo by Lauren Hamm Photography.

As a beloved member of the Rosebud community, Bill Hamm's creative talent, musical capabilities, and consummate professionalism make every show he works on a “must see”. But 'The Spitfire Grill' is particularly exceptional… the soaring melodies and folk flavors are right in his (and our) wheelhouse. It’s a musical you may have never seen but you don’t want to miss. For tickets and more information, visit

Special thanks to Lauren Hamm Photography for spectacular Bill photos. Check out her website and witness her extraordinary ability to capture the light in and around others.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Spitfire Grill: Movie to Musical

In 1995, an unassuming independent film took the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival. The Spitfire Grill was written and directed by Lee David Zlotoff (creator of MacGyver!), but the original idea for making the movie was the brain/heart child of Malcolm Roger Courts, long-time director and CEO of the Sacred Heart League. The non-profit organization was looking to finance a film and read  more than 200 screenplays before connecting with Zlotoff. By the end of 1994 the story was written, and The Spitfire Grill was born. At Sundance it was offered $10 Million on the spot by Castle Rock Entertainment, the largest sum ever paid outright for the rights to an independent feature film. Profits were used to construct a school for 450 children in Southhaven, Mississippi.

The story follows Percy, a young woman released from prison who literally takes a page from a travel book to make her way to the beautiful but dwindling town of Gilead. Hired as a waitress at the Spitfire Grill, (which has been on the market for years), she convinces the feisty owner to raffle off the restaurant for $100 per entry. As the raffle gains traction, both Percy's past and mysteries of the town are unearthed to ultimately bind the broken and revitalize a long-lost place with new purpose.

In 1999, Fred Valley and James Valcq (a writing team who had been friends since high-school music camp) were looking for a project. When they saw The Spitfire Grill, they were moved to adapt it for the stage with an all new original blue-grass and folk inspired score. The project was mentored by Arthur Laurents (West Side Story, Gypsy, The Way We Were, among others) who encouraged the team to find their own emotional truth in the material, which ultimately led to a different ending from the film. After a workshop at George Street Playhouse, the musical was commissioned for the 2000/2001 season at Playwright Horizons in New York and subsequently won the prestigious Richard Rodgers Production Award. Since then the musical has over 350 productions, not only in every major American city but across Canada, Germany, South Korea, Australia, and Japan.

The Spitfire Grill was created before the current craze of turning movies into musicals. Nowadays, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Lego Batman on Broadway. But The Spitfire Grill is a thing of itself: wholly adapted from the movie but astounding in its own right. You don't have to have seen the movie to be enraptured by this story. Likewise, if you have seen the film, there's something new in store: not only an alternate ending but a transcendent musical experience that takes the Spitfire from the screen and somehow expands the story.

The Spitfire Grill hits the spot. But you don’t have to take our word for it...

“A complete work of theatrical resourcefulness. A compelling story that flows with grace and carries the rush of anticipation. The warm, indigenous American Fold sound of Mr. Valcq’s score is, harmonically and melodically, as theatrical as it is grass roots… The musical is freeing. It is penetrated by honesty and it glows!”
- Alvin Klein, The New York Times
“The longing for a place like Gilead, well removed from the big, troublesome world, is real enough – perhaps now more than ever. The show’s creators tap into that longing with unembarrassed directness… Sophisticates may find themselves powerless to resist. Well before the show reaches its conclusion, many of the New York City Slickers in the audience may be ready to enter Percy’s raffle themselves.”
- Amy Gamerman, The Wall Street Journal
“An abundance of Warmth, Spirit and Goodwill!”
- USA Today
“Rich and Satisfying! Tender and Touching!” The country-tinged score fits like a favorite flannel shirt. Like the coffee cake served at the diner, The Spitfire Grill actually leaves you wanting a second helping.”
- Mark Sullivan, Billboard
“A soulful musical. The amiable country flavored tunes and lyrics are transcendant. It is not often that material moves me to tears, but this was one of those occasions… What even in normal times would be a joy is, in these troubled ones, sheer nourishment.”
- John Simon, New York Magazine

'The Spitfire Grill' opens this week and plays on the Rosebud Opera House Stage from June 16 - September 2. Grab your dad for a Father's Day date that celebrates food, family, and bright futures. For tickets and further information visit