Monday, 6 April 2020

Come From Away to Stay Home

Following is an International Theatre Trip blog by Jeany Snider - Resident Rosebud Theatre Artist and Rosebud School of the Arts recruitment officer. She was supposed to be in rehearsals for Glorious, where she was to play Florence Foster Jenkins. Instead, she’s written a blog about her experience in New York, where she traveled along with a gaggle of RSA students to attend plays, participate in workshops and drink in what New York’s theatrical world had to offer by way of inspiration and education. It’s a fantastic part of RSA’s training curriculum - trips to Canada’s West Coast in their first year, and then consecutive trips to the West End of London, New York and Toronto.   
These are the students that under the mentorship of Resident Company Members like Jeany, hope to appear in future Rosebud Theatre seasons. 
Over to you, Jeany!

Thanks Morris.  These excursions into theatre in other parts of the world have been an instrumental catalyst for inspiration, challenge, and eye-opening possibilities for our students, not to mention the confidence built in navigating a busy city.   --As you will see, I started my blog before COVID reached my daily life, and finished it after a couple weeks of new perspective.  
Time Square Feb 21, 2020
    On March 5, I returned home from a 15 day excursion into cityness and theatre.  Yes, you read that right: "city-ness".  I did not realize how much I needed to get out of Rosebud in order to appreciate what I have here.  You know, things like - a car, quiet, fresh air, work within walking distance, my own bathroom, bed, and kitchen.  But there are also things that I don't easily encounter in Rosebud that were all around me in New York City and Toronto.  Things like public transit, people without homes, super tall buildings, large bodies of water, noise, all flavours of smoke, pavement, and pizza by the slice.
Radio City Music Hall with Rosebud students
     One of the things I was struck with was the smallness of some of the theatres.  They aren't all slick and state of the art.  Okay, some of them are, like Radio City Music Hall and the new Mirvish CAA mega black box with a balcony on Yonge St., but others are quirky and awkward; tiny, found spaces repurposed to tell stories in the midst of clanking pipes and heating issues, ancient lighting and old velvet stained chairs.  Walking through The Factory Theatre in Toronto reminded me so much of Rosebud.  They make do with what they have and expand into their theatre space after they rehearse in a much smaller space with old Victorian windows.  In Rosebud, we're allowed to rehearse in a beautiful church, also with lots of windows, and when we move into the Opera House we make adjustments for the levels, the doors, the lights and the raked stage. This experience opened my eyes to how every space has a history and can become a home for gathering to share story.
     But regardless of how glorious or inglorious the space, the simple truth is that sometimes theatre works and sometimes it doesn't.  Even well-intended theatre can flop; and this can happen anywhere... Similarly, any small theatre can have a production that soars and inspires and totally works.  It inevitably starts with a story that resonates, then somehow in the generous telling of it, the  hearts and minds of those receiving are captivated so that everyone is focused on the same moment of truth at the same time.  When this happens, you can sense it, and you come away inspired, challenged, grateful, and changed.

Come From Away at the Schoenfeld, NYC
     Theatre totally worked when I saw the Canadian story Come From Away.  The day before, Mentorship students and I had visited Ground Zero and the World Trade Center.   This was a sobering, rainy-day experience that invited somber contemplation.  It was a kind of pilrimage for me to stand in the place that had been the center of such destruction almost 20 years ago.  So when the lights went down in the packed Schoenfeld Theatre and we started tracking the individual journeys of people flying on that fateful day on 9/11, I was already in.  Tears slid down my face throughout the next hour and a half and I was so grateful.  Grateful to witness some of my dearest values ring true for people in hard times.  Grateful to have such rich culturally specific characters, music, awkwardness, humour, fear, angst, loss and love resound in my core.  The stories were so particular, so human, and so full of longing for life and connection.  There is something about a tragedy and being stuck away from home that makes you keenly of aware of your hopes and needs.  And to watch the people of Gander embrace this challenge by coming together and do what they could to keep everyone alive was heroic and inspiring.  I was challenged too, by the journey of those stranded, and the humility they had to embrace to receive the help they so desperately needed.   I was undone how this awful circumstance forged an unlikely but necessary, beautiful community.  I resonated with their pain and thrilled to their courage and grace as boundaries came down.
I love that theatre is a collaborative art that goes one step beyond the creative family to the generous sharing with any who draw near to receive; the audience.
...
     I wrote the above section before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and the humans of planet earth had their lives changed all in the same month.
The Minutes at The Cort (We were allowed to photograph before the show.)
     It is now April 2020.  I still love theatre... but I don't know when I will get to do it again.  I'm stunned that shows I just saw in NYC are not running now.  Even newly opened shows like The Minutes by Tracy Letts... I am one of comparatively few who can say they saw it on Broadway.  I can hardly picture Times Square not being overrun with streams of people... Are the billboards still glowing and fighting for attention?  Are the pigeons starving?  Are the subways still running underground?
     The world has changed, but have I?  Hard to say yet.  What I do know is that now more than ever I long for community.  I don't want people to be afraid to draw near to one another and breathe the same air and witness the same truth.  When and how will we be able to do that again?
     In a way, we are experiencing our own Come From Away; only this time it is "Do Not Stray", or rather "STAY HOME".  I don't want to fret about my family back in the States suddenly needing me, but I do.  I acknowledge there are those on the front lines not able to stay home, but for those of us trying to make sense of the new normal, now I say, there is something about a tragedy and being stuck at home that makes you keenly of aware of your hopes and needs.
     Like many of you, I don't know how our livelihoods will recover, or if our economy and environment will find a new way to dance together, but I hope they will.  Because there is one thing that many of us can no longer ignore: we are all human and we all affect one another and we all need one another to work together to save our countries, our species, and our planet.  Just like in Gander when the bus drivers had to lay down their right to justice and everyone came together to do the right thing at a time when most of the world stood still and watched, we are invited to this new unlikely but necessary and beautiful community.  Now we watch and wonder, but deep down, we long for GOOD.
Wherever we are, and however we share stories in the future, no matter how glorious or inglorious the space, may we all come away come away inspired, challenged, grateful, and changed.
At the World Trade Center, NYC
     God give us eyes to see what you would have us see, wisdom to act upon what you would have us do, and courageous love to be who you would have us be.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

From the Farm; an Interview with Director Doug Beattie

Photo by Ian Jackson

Rosebud Theatre is showing "Letter From Wingfield Farm" March 6-8
 written by Dan Needles and performed by actor Rod Beattie.
"Letter" is the first in a series of seven plays about stockbroker-turned-farmer Walt Wingfield. Rosebud presented all seven plays in the series, at the rate of one per year, from 2013 to 2019, and is now about to present the first play for a second time.
For more information browse through www.wingfieldfarm.ca
CALL: 1-800-267-7553 for tickets.  Sunday May 8 has the most availability.
I had the privileged to engage in conversation with Wingfield director Doug Beattie.  Here's our interchange: 
Jeany: Doug Beattie -- Nowhere in your bio does it say that you are related to Rod.  I have to ask, what's the connection?  And have you two worked together before?  Tell us a story about the first time and any other details of your working relationship.
DOUG: WE'RE BROTHERS. WE'VE WORKED TOGETHER ON THE WINGFIELD SERIES SINCE 1984, ALONG WITH OUR CHILDHOOD FRIEND, THE PLAYWRIGHT, DAN NEEDLES. ROD WAS ACTUALLY AN EMERGENCY REPLACEMENT WHEN HE FIRST PERFORMED LETTER FROM WINGFIELD FARM - ON ONLY FOUR DAYS REHEARSAL! (WE WERE A LOT YOUNGER THEN.)
Jeany: Did the Wingfield series start as a series or as the first play?  How has the vision changed over the 30+ years and where do you see it going next?
DOUG: AT FIRST WE WERE JUST TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST PLAY WE COULD TO PLEASE OURSELVES AND WHOEVER WANTED TO SHOW UP TO SEE IT. IT WASN'T UNTIL AFTER THE FIRST PLAY BECAME A HIT THAT WE THOUGHT ABOUT DOING A SEQUEL. AFTER THAT, WE ADDED SEQUELS EVERY THREE OR FOUR YEARS AS MORE GOOD STORIES OCCURRED TO DAN AND ROD. IN THE EARLY PLAYS, STOCKBROKER-TURNED-FARMER WALT WINGFIELD (OUR PROTAGONIST) IS A CLASSIC FISH-OUT-OF-WATER CHARACTER. GRADUALLY HE BECOMES MORE ACCLIMATIZED TO THE RURAL ENVIRONMENT, AND THE SERIES TAKES ON LARGER THEMES.
Jeany: Who is your favorite character and why?
DOUG: THAT'S A BIT LIKE ASKING WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILD. I'LL DUCK THE QUESTION BY SAYING THAT WALT'S NEIGHBOURS ON THE SEVENTH LINE, FREDDY, DON AND THE SQUIRE, APPEAR IN EVERY PLAY AND ARE PERENNIAL AUDIENCE FAVOURITES. ANOTHER AUDIENCE FAVOURITE IS FREDDY'S SISTER MAGGIE, WHO EVENTUALLY BECOMES WALT'S WIFE. FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN A WINGFIELD PLAY, I SHOULD MENTION THAT ACTOR ROD BEATTIE PLAYS ALL THE CHARACTERS HIMSELF. IN THE FIRST AND SECOND PLAYS, EXCEPT FOR A FEW NOTABLE FEMALE ECCENTRICS, ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE MEN. IT TOOK US UNTIL THE THIRD PLAY TO FIGURE OUT THAT THE AUDIENCE WOULD BE HAPPY TO ACCEPT ROD AS A (FAIRLY) NORMAL, ATTRACTIVE WOMAN, AS WELL. MAGGIE HAS BEEN A REGULAR IN THE CAST EVER SINCE.
Jeany: Where do you live?
DOUG: STRATFORD ON. 
Jeany: Where would you live if you could?
DOUG: STRATFORD ON.
Jeany: Perfect. --I love this quote: "The third partner, invisible but important, is director Douglas Beattie, who keeps it all seeming simple, but actually being quite complex." (- The Toronto Star).  Can you let us in on some of the complexity?  I'm imagining that much of your impetus for staging was prompted by Rod and his characterizations, but where does your invisible hand move in?
DOUG: IT ISN'T JUST MY HAND. AS YOU IMAGINED, IT'S A TEAM EFFORT. I BELIEVE THE SIMPLICITY REFERRED TO IN THE QUOTATION LIES MAINLY IN THE DESIGN AND THE STAGING WE/ I HAVE CHOSEN, WHICH COULDN'T BE MORE BASIC AND STRAIGHTFORWARD. THE COMPLEXITY LIES IN THE CHARACTERIZATIONS AND IN DAN'S DEPTH OF INSIGHT INTO THE RURAL COMMUNITY. MY JOB AS DIRECTOR IS TO MAKE SURE NOTHING ABOUT THE PRODUCTIONS GETS IN THE WAY OF THE AUDIENCE'S ABILITY TO PERCEIVE AND APPRECIATE THAT COMPLEXITY.
Jeany: Alberta is a land divided between old fashioned values and the pressures of our changing world.  How do you see Walt navigating those same challenges?
DOUG: IN THE FIRST PLAY WALT TAKES UP FARMING IN AN ATTEMPT TO EMBRACE A SIMPLER, MORE MEANINGFUL EXISTENCE THAN HE HAS EXPERIENCED IN THE CORRIDORS OF FINANCE. HE THINKS OF HIS MOVE AS A PERSONAL STAND IN THE TRADITION OF THOREAU. BUT BY THE END OF THAT FIRST PLAY, HE HAS DISCOVERED SOMETHING EVEN BETTER - HE'S BECOME PART OF A BELOVED COMMUNITY. AS THE SERIES CONTINUES, WALT IS SOMETIMES PANICKED ABOUT THE WINDS OF CHANGE WHICH SEEM TO THREATEN HIS RURAL PARADISE. HIS NEIGHBOURS TEND TO BE MORE ACCEPTING OF CHANGE AND MORE RESILIENT IN DEALING WITH IT. WALT TAKES COMFORT IN THAT.
Jeany: What are the contents of your pocket right now?
DOUG: LINT AND A TORONTO SUBWAY TOKEN THAT I'M NOT SURE I CAN STILL USE. IT COST ME ALMOST FOUR BUCKS A YEAR AGO!
Jeany: What's your impression of Rosebud?
DOUG: THE CLOSEST I'VE BEEN TO ROSEBUD MYSELF IS DRUMHELLER. YOU FOLKS AT THE THEATRE HAVE TAKEN GOOD CARE OF ROD ON ALL HIS PREVIOUS VISITS, SO MY PRESENCE HAS NEVER BEEN REQUIRED. ROD HAS BROUGHT HOME SOME GREAT ROSEBUD STORIES, I MUST SAY. MY FAVOURITE IS ABOUT THE EVENING AFTER THE SHOW WHEN IT RAINED SALAMANDERS.  
Jeany: Ha! --What's a great book that you've read recently?
DOUG: PERSUASION BY JANE AUSTEN
Jeany: Lovely.  Tell us about one of the things you are excited to be working on now.
DOUG: I'VE BEEN INVITED TO DIRECT A REVIVAL OF "OUTSIDE MULLINGAR", BY JOHN  PATRICK SHANLEY, IN BADDECK, NOVA SCOTIA, IN JUNE. I DIRECTED IT WITH THE SAME CAST IN KITCHENER, ONTARIO, LAST SPRING. IT'S AN AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT'S LOVE SONG TO IRISH DRAMATURGY, FEATURING INTER-GENERATIONAL STRUGGLES WITHIN TWO FARM FAMILIES.
Jeany: Yes!  We had a beautiful and powerful production of Outside Mullingar here as well.
Photo by Terry Manzo

More from the history of Wingfield:
On August 4, 2013, Walt Wingfield passed another milestone in his remarkable career. That day's matinee performance of Letter From Wingfield Farm at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia, was Rod Beattie's 4,500th performance of a Wingfield play in a little under thirty years.

From the Orange Hall in Rosemont, Ontario (August, 1984) to Victoria (August, 2013) with opening nights in 1985 (Letter From Wingfield Farm) in 1987 (Wingfield's Progress) in 1990 (Wingfield's Folly) in 1997 (Wingfield Unbound) in 2001 (Wingfield On Ice) in 2005 (Wingfield's Inferno) and in 2009 (Wingfield Lost and Found) Walt and Rod have delighted capacity audiences across Canada in most regional theatres, including Victoria's Belfry, the Vancouver Playhouse, Edmonton's Citadel, Theatre Calgary, the Globe in Regina, the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, the Grand Theatre in London, the Stratford Festival, Theatre Orangeville, Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Canadian Stage Company in Toronto, Theatre New Brunswick and the Neptune in Halifax, as well as hundreds of smaller venues.

They've also taken part in seasons at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park and the Asolo Theater in Sarasota, Florida. The first three Wingfield plays were broadcast on CBC's Morningside, a TV version of Letter From Wingfield Farm (produced by Primedia Productions) won the 1991 Gemini Award for best performing arts program, and in November, 1998, a series of thirty half-hour TV episodes, entitled Wingfield, produced by Norflicks Productions, made its CBC debut. The series has aired more recently on Bravo! Canada and WNED TV, the PBS station in Buffalo NY.

Rod Beattie has won three best actor awards for his stage performances in the Wingfield plays: The "Sterling" in 1988 (Edmonton, Alberta) the "Dora" in 1992 (Toronto) and the "Critics Award" in 1995 (Sarasota).
Rod Beattie as Walt Wingfield
Photos: Terry Manzo
Rod Beattie as Freddy, Don & Third Witch
Photos: Terry Manzo & Ian Jackson
Photo by Ian Jackson
© Copyright 2019 Douglas Beattie Theatrical Productions Ltd. All rights reserved.

Friday, 31 January 2020

From the Heart of Morris...January 2020


"Stories where individuals look into the gaping maw of the impossible and then decide to follow a voice in their spirit that says 'Try anyway, you can do this,' ...these courageous thoughts turned into actions help us believe that there is always a new day or another chance to change the world through our courage."  Morris Ertman


As the January sun cuts a striking contrast against the blue shadows on the snowy hills and valley, some of you may be wondering what is pulsating in the hearts and minds of Rosebud Theatre makers these days.  I posed some questions of Artistic Director Morris Ertman recently, and here are his responses.  (You're welcome.) -- Jeany

Jeany: Morris, what are you working on currently?  Describe the contents residing on your desk at this very moment.


Morris: My desk is full of scripts. My email is fill of script suggestions. My computer is full of costing records from past productions and potential casting breakdowns as I work on a season for 2021. Then there’s a model of the set for Chariots of Fire. There’s a props costing list waiting for me to review it.  And, my Glorious script is waiting on the top of the pile like some paper cat waiting to pounce any moment, reminding me that we’re starting rehearsals in March! So, I feel like I’m living in the past, present and future, like those spirits in A Christmas Carol. Sometimes it’s terrifying. But I know that I’ll wake up one morning to the same exhilaration Scrooge felt after all of those visitations! Life is good!

Jeany: So, was the True Stories theme something you set out to find, or was it something that occurred to you once you started landing on plays you wanted to produce?  How did the season come together?  Which pieces came first?

Well, the season title True Stories was quite simply serendipitous. It just so happened that all of the plays were based on real experiences. I’ve been itching to put Glorious! on our stage for years now, because I love the fact that a real person in a real time, dared to be as brave and courageous as Florence Foster Jenkins. So, I guess Glorious! is the play that has waited the longest to get to our stage. So, let’s call it the first.   And the other shows? Well the moment I knew there was an adaptation of Chariots of Fire, we simply had to do it.  And I’ve waited for several years for the rights to All Is Calm - all those male voices singing a cappella Christmas carols on a pitted battlefield.  And, my goodness Laureen Gunderson’s Silent Sky is such an exquisite story for our time - a time where we must celebrate the stories of women who have achieved and inspired long before the culture was aware of the fact that needed to be the norm, not the exception!  And, lest we forget - Every Brilliant Thing, which I experienced when Fire Exit Theatre in Calgary presented Burnt Thicket Theatre’s production. It was the most disarming audience participation play that I have ever experienced. I should know. I had to participate! What a wonderful ride!


Jeany: It seems like all the main characters have to overcome seeming insurmountable odds, yet they press on, even when others or circumstances say no.  Their love of life and their curiosity keep drawing them forward to expand into their full potential. They have such hope or faith.  Can you speak to that? 

Morris: Who are we if we haven’t got hope? We shrink and whither and cloister ourselves away. We shutter ourselves for protection. We stop engaging in community. So, stories where individuals look into the gaping maw of the impossible and then decide to follow a voice in their spirit that says “Try anyway,” You can do this,” "We can do this,” “But I’ve always wanted to do this,” or “we’re wrong to be doing this, so let’s climb out of our trenches and celebrate Christmas with those who have proven themselves to be our enemies” - all of those courageous thoughts turned into actions help us believe that there is always a new day or another chance to change the world through our courage. 

Jeany:  Where do you see evidence of that kind of hope or drive in your life today?

Morris: Well, every season we put onto the stage is an act of hope. Every designer that creates some kind of visual possibility that frames a play is stepping out in hope. Every actor who steps onto the stage is stepping out in faith and hope. And I think every audience member who commits to the possibility that a play will deliver an experience that they won’t forget lives in hope. We want to do our part in affirming that hope.
Chariots of Fire set design: Morris Ertman

Jeany:  What tickles you about this season?  Is there something we’ve never done before?


Well, we’ve never put Olympic races on our stage before. Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddle were physical manifestations of the human heart pushing its conviction out into the world in sweat, breath and worn running shoes! 

Jeany: If you could be any of the characters in this next season for one day, which one would you choose and why?

Morris: Eric Liddle. It’s not so much the running. It’s the knowing he had that his running was what God had created him to do, and he knew the Creator of the Universe was delighted in seeing him fly!

Jeany: What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?


1917
Jo and I just went to see 1917.  Beautiful film - so elegantly made. The visual storytelling is so articulate. It is a wonderful companion in my mind, to Dunkirk, which is one of my all-time favourite films along with The Tree of Life - directed by Terrence Malick. And I have to find where I can see Malick’s latest film A Hidden Life - the story of Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
Tree of Life
Dunkirk
A Hidden Life


Thanks so much Morris!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Learning from the Audience by Aaron Krogman


Aaron with Rebbekah Ogden-Braun as Ralphie
Two weeks ago was the opening of A Christmas Story, the final show on Rosebud Theatre’s Opera House stage for the 2019 season. It always seems a bit early to start thinking of Christmas on November 1st, no matter how many times I’ve done it, but that doesn’t stop audiences from heading our way, using their visit as a traditional kickstart to their holiday mindset. A Christmas Story marks my eighth Christmas show with Rosebud Theatre, but my last time was in 2012, and it’s been long enough that I wasn’t quite ready for the familiarity that washed over me as our first three audiences joined us this last Friday and Saturday. 

This fall, I started with great excitement as a new faculty member with RSA. With all the business of teaching around rehearsals and the show, and with 2 daughters under 3 living in a house in mid-renovation, I was hoping to get through rehearsal and opening somewhat intact. I wasn’t anticipating the amount of memorizing this play required of me, but I didn’t realize until week two of four that I was in for it, and I put in some long days with the script. Fast forward to opening week; the lines were mostly sticking (although there still seems to be one or two that mutate suddenly each performance—I don’t know where the next leak in the dam will appear), and we were needing—needing an audience. And they showed up!

Play after play, I’ve learned so much about the story I’ve been trying to tell from the audience. The director tries to help the actor with objectivity, the playwright tries to set up the actor with words and intention, the designers try to give context for the actor and their action, but the audience is the most important part. The most obvious thing that happens is laughter, but it’s so much more than just laughter, it’s attention. Young and old, tired and wired, anxious and relaxed, from so many different contexts and backgrounds, the members of the audience all pay attention in their own way. There is a palpable sense of what it is that they experience as they watch us on stage, and this is so helpful, I daresay one of the biggest contributing factors in my ongoing education as an actor.

I had no idea what acting was when I started as a student, but I was allowed to spend time alongside others actors who were more experienced in the shared life between audiences and storytellers. I have found audiences to be generous educators, and they continue to be. As we perform A Christmas Story, I often watch from the wings as student actors try things on stage and discover show by show what works through the feedback audiences give to them, and it is clear that the audience desires their success. The students take these affirmations as nudges in the direction of bold, clear, direct and generous storytelling. I believe the Rosebud Theatre audience is unique because they are somehow in on the training we offer here.

Aaron connects with visiting students students during a talkback.
After opening A Christmas Story this November, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to our audience with a new clarity for the education they offer me and all those who’ve studied and worked at Rosebud Theatre. It is truly a collaboration: when people come to see theatre here, it’s for much more than a show to watch or a bit of entertainment to consume; whether they know it or not, they participate powerfully in the work of training young storytellers. I’ve found nothing like it. 

Aaron has done several shows for Rosebud Theatre as well as played Jesus for the Canadian Badlands Passion Play.  We're thrilled to have him back in Rosebud this year serving both on the stage and in the classroom.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Announcing our 2020 Season!



Announcing our upcoming season of True Stories! From the ridiculously uplifting to the scientifically soul searching - the 2020 Season covers ground from battlefields to sports arenas to the infinite depths of outer space. We've got magic up our sleeves you won't want to miss.

For tickets and more information, visit rosebudtheatre.com

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Announcing our 35th Anniversary Season


Introducing our 35th Anniversary Season with a party of plays that will tickle your funny-bone, cause you to sing at the top of your lungs, celebrate your great big life, and intrigue, inspire and bless you!

For tickets and more information visit rosebudtheatre.com