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

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Guest Artist "Snapshot" - Elinor Holt

'The Spitfire Grill' marks Elinor Holt’s debut on the Rosebud Theatre stage, but she's a certified star of the Calgary Theatre scene. A founding member of Evergreen Theatre and an award winning actress, select credits include: ‘Drinking Habits’ (Stage West), ‘Pig Girl’ (Theatre Network), ‘The Soul Collector’ (Catalyst), ‘The Ecstatics’ (Northern Light), ‘Sweeney Todd’ (Vertigo), ‘Slipper’ (ATP), ‘Mom’s the Word’ (Theatre Calgary), ‘Boy Gets Girl’ (Theatre Junction), ‘Lest We Forget’ (Lunchbox), ‘Shakespeare’s Will’ (Sage), ‘Urine Town’ (Ground Zero), ‘Helen’s Necklace’ (Urban Curvz), ‘The Piper’ (Downstage), ‘Bingo Ladies’ (Hudson Village), ‘Becky’s New Car’ (Theatre NW), ‘Our Town’ (Caravan Theatre), ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (The Globe). Up next for Elinor: ‘To the Light’ (ATP) and ‘The Humans’ (Theatre Calgary). Elinor and her husband, Spider, form the duo, SPIDERELLI. They live in Calgary with their three children and two pups.

Cassia Schmidt, Elinor Holt, and Alixandra Cowman in Rosebud Theatre's The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Morris Ertman.
Where do you call home?
I call Calgary home now but I actually grew up on a farm near New Norway, Alberta and went to a farm school called Rosebrier School. I was in grades one, two and three with Garfield Sproule, just a year or two behind Royale Sproule, of Rosebud fame. Small world, theatre and farming.

What’s inspiring you right now?
Virginia Woolf's novella, To the Lighthouse. This fall I will be performing in a French adaptation entitled, To the Light at Alberta Theatre Projects. It was inspired by Virginia Woolf's writing and has been translated by John Murrell, who wrote the play Waiting for the Parade, among others. John's writing is ever an inspiration. 

What’s your go-to summer treat?
Ice cream and (thanks to Nathan & Cassia Schmidt) Meadjito for a beverage.

In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Hannah Ferguson, arguably the most ‘spitfire’ woman at the Grill. But she also has complex wounds and an abundantly generous spirit. Do you identify with her, or were there unexpected challenges in the role?
I identify with Hannah a great deal. Hard not to for those of us who have reached a certain age, methinks. The greatest challenge in approaching the role for me was her age. She is 70. I am…not quite there yet…

What makes great musical theatre? Do you have a favorite style, or show?
Nothing beats a good story which is what makes The Spitfire Grill my kind of musical. It is a story and actor driven piece. Years ago I had the chance to play Mercy in Morwyn Brebner’s musical, Little Mercy’s First Murder for Ground Zero Theatre in Calgary. It was the same kind of show, an actor’s musical, a great story with great heart. Usually my favorite show is the one I am currently doing and that certainly applies to The Spitfire Grill.

Elinor Holt warms up her pre-show pipes on the set of The Spitfire Grill. Photo by Nathan Schmidt.
Any roles on your bucket list?
What is on my bucket list is what I am doing at the moment and in the moment. So, right now that is Hannah in The Spitfire Grill. If I had a bucket list role and got too old to play it or lost the part to someone else… well, let’s just say, that way madness lies. Concentrate on the show you are doing, head down, keep working, and as Doris Day sang, “What will be, will be…

You’re also an accomplished voice actor. Do you approach “voice” work the same as “stage” work, or do you use different creative tools?
In voice work I do as I am told and trust the experts because I am not one!

What can you tell us about SPIDERELLI? 
(listen to the music here!)
We have an album of original songs called 12 Farm Fresh Hits. We get some air play on CKUA and University Radio. My husband wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. I am always carrying some CDs with me. Perhaps I should approach some of the Rosebud shops to see if they could put some out? We would donate half the proceeds to the theatre!

(Editor's note: to get your hands on a CD, contact or

What’s a great piece of acting advice that’s guided you over the years?
Go there, don’t show there.

In the fictional menu of ‘The Spitfire Grill’, what’s the ‘Elinor Holt’ Special?
We once overheard our youngest daughter, RubyJune, playing house with a little neighbourhood friend, loudly exclaim, “No, Daddies cook! Mommies order pizza!” So, my special would be a George’s Special from Inglewood Pizza in Calgary. I have them on speed dial. In real life, I cook less like Hannah and more like Percy who arrives at The Spitfire Grill. You have to see the show to know who taught Percy how to cook!

'The Spitfire Grill' plays now through September 2. Don’t miss your chance to catch Elinor Holt’s touching and firecracking performance as resident spitfire Hannah Ferguson. For tickets and more information, visit

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Director's Chair - Ron Reed on 'An Almost Holy Picture'

Currently playing on our BMO Studio Stage is 'An Almost Holy Picture', by Heather MacDonald. The play follows the spiritual journey of Samuel Gentle: a gardener wrestling with faith and divine mystery as he navigates his calling of care-taking. We caught up with director Ron Reed for some of his thoughts on the production.

Ron Reed in Pacific Theatre's production of Outside Mullingar. Photo by Jalen Saip.
What's the first thing that resonated with you in the story?
I found Samuel’s experiences in New Mexico so vivid. They stick with me. I also loved “that wild child, Angel Martinez” who is a complete outsider, and the fact that he is such a gifted photographer. 

You’re Artistic Director of Pacific Theatre (Vancouver), a playwright, AND a professional actor. Is it difficult to let go of those roles when you direct? Do different tools come into play?
In one way, yes, very much. In another way they are very similar, especially on a one-man show. What’s different? When I’m an actor, almost my entire job is to lose myself in the story, imagining myself in the middle of all the things that are happening. As a director I am the outside pair of eyes that provides shape, tempo, imagery to make the story clear and potent for the audience - so that the actor is free to lose himself in the story. What’s similar, though, is that I am very much working to help the actor bring his very best work, so I am constantly imagining myself in the middle of his process so I can build his confidence, figure out how to overcome obsacles, etc - thinking very much as an actor.

In ‘An Almost Holy Picture', Samuel Gentle is a father who’s walked away from an official role in the church to become a kind of recluse in care of a Church’s grounds and a daughter with an extraordinary condition. As an artist and father of two daughters, do you identify with his path? 
What we have in common is that the fact of being a father is probably the central thing in our lives. We also have in common an unshakeable preoccupation with God - though, while I’ve had all kinds of difficulties that have challenged my faith, I’ve never become alienated from God, or felt the need to walk away from the church or my own faith as a result. (Well, maybe for a week or two here or there, but that’s mostly just when we’re not on speaking terms - nothing permanent.)

David Snider (Samuel Gentle) and Ron Reed (Director) at first read for An Almost Holy Picture.

In a one-person show, is it difficult to establish a sense of conflict?  How do you engage the audience in a deeply complex and internal struggle?
I don’t think of the through-line or story of a play in terms of conflict, though I know that’s one way to approach it. I see it as a journey, a series of events, the consequences and choices that follow those events, and then the events that are caused by those choices - which then lead to other consequences and choices. And since Samuel talks with us so openly about that train of events and consequences, I find it just as interesting as I would to sit down and listen to anybody tell me their story. Especially someone as honest, observant and complex as Samuel.

Any surprises in the rehearsal process?
That the play had to be under two hours, including intermission. 

What’s currently inspiring you?
The baseball writing of W.P. Kinsella, especially his novel Shoeless Joe - such language! Spending time with my nine month old grand-daughter. The New Yorker Radio Hour podcast. Listening to music late at night: ska and early reggae, a jazz singer named Carolyn Credico, vintage rock and pop - The Flamingos, The Crows, The Chords, Del Vikings, Doris Troy, Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs, The Tams. Endless listens to Donald Fagen’s Nightfly album. 

Ron Reed as the doctor himself in Pacific Theatre's production of Freud's Last Session. Photo by Damon Calderwood.
This production of ‘An Almost Holy Picture' is also a part of Pacific Theatre’s upcoming season, which includes a new play, by you, about the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Can you give a sneak peek into your process?
I’ve set aside couple weeks this summer to dig in on revising the play, and I hope to do another draft some time this fall. In this last draft the very important third character of Charles Williams finally clicked into place, especially his scenes with a young woman named Lois Lang-Sims. Now I can really focus on the over-arching story of the rise and fall of the friendship, really making sure one thing leads to another. And to centre it in J.R.R. Tolkien - what things does he do, and why, and are there moments where he realizes things? I think his wife Edith will be really important in that. (for more on the production, click here)

Is there a directing project on your bucket list?
I’m not thinking much further than Tolkien, which has been on my mind since I started work on it in 2012, which we’re premiering next May. But okay, two others come to mind, Will Eno’s Middletown and a stage adaptation of the bizarre John Patrick Shanley movie Joe Versus The Volcano.

What’s your favourite summer indulgence?
Spending long days and evenings in my back yard – board games, hammock, barbecue, baseball on the radio.

If you were going to create an almost holy picture, what would you put into the frame?
These days, it would be a very crowded picture.

What's next for you?
I’ll be playing Paul in The Christians at Pacific Theatre this September - the same role Dave Snider is playing here at Rosebud! Such a powerful play - and I’ve never worked with any of the rest of the cast before, which is a rare treat for me.  Already working on the lines...

Ron Reed is Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre. He founded the company in 1984 after receiving an M.F.A. in Acting from California Institute of the Arts. His critically acclaimed performances in 'Shadowlands', 'A Man for All Seasons', 'Mourning Dove', 'God's Man in Texas', and 'Cotton Patch Gospel' garnered Jessie Richardson Award nominations. As a widely produced playwright, (with over fifty productions of his plays to date), he won the Chalmers Canadian Play Award for 'Book of the Dragon' and was nominated for both Dora Mavor Moore and Sterling Awards for 'Tent Meeting' (a collaboration with Morris Ertman). His other works include 'Refuge of Lies', 'A Bright Particular Star', and 'You Still Can't'.  

'An Almost Holy Picture' plays now until September 2.  For tickets and information, visit