With two weeks ‘til show time, our hearty and fearless gaggle of thespians are shivering and shaking their way to the Astor.
It’s winter. It’s cold. We’re rehearsing in an echoing vacant warehouse without heat, because theatre is pain! Art is suffering! Beauty hurts! Or something like that. That’s what we tell ourselves when we realize we can’t drink hot coffee and wear a puppet at the same time.
Cameron Dexter has spent untold hours designing our set… with the creative genius of Sue Higgens, Sue Beaumont-Rudderham, Lynn Sponagle and Bruce Harrington… in what we lovingly call The Space (when we aren’t bitterly calling it The Freezer) located above the new Exit Realty office. We have a massive heater that roars like the Volcanic Portal of Doom, but we can only turn it on when we aren’t talking. We have mitten warmers. We wear scarves. We dig deep for theatrical inspiration arising from the chilly fog of our own breath. (Stay tuned for a post next week about the set and the incredible efforts of Cameron Dexter to create something from nothing… including rocks, sound, heat and music!)
And it’s starting to come together.
After several bumps and grinds, we’ve gotten our mojo back and with two weeks to go we’re starting to feel like we’re making progress. As I mentioned in my last post, grade 12 student Kate Dexter has stepped in as the mermaid puppeteer. That character has undergone a dramatic transformation from being a human player, to a puppet, to a puppet AND a puppet tail operated by Hayley Zwicker. Kate is both buoyant and agile as she braves the waves and ocean currents to deliver her performance.
We welcomed Jennifer MacDonald just last week, who has bravely stepped in to play Morna, the young girl puppet of the story. Jennifer walked in to the Freezer, smiled and said “I have a sore shoulder and I can’t lift my arm, but I’d love to do this thing” and she’s caught onto the nuances of a challenging character like she was born wearing an awkward paper maché puppet!
We also have three high school students who are working the shadow puppets behind the scenes. Grade 11 student Lukas Monte and grade 12 students Olivia Olsen and Hayley Zwicker round out the cast. In the throes of exams and a new semester, these kids show up and smile and shake their heads at these ridiculous adults and their strange hobbies.
And we are lead by our intrepid director, Susan Lane. She is a champion! She arrives from feeding a herd of yogis breakfast at the Inn, plugs in six hours of rehearsal, then back to Lane’s for a wine tasting and a million other chores unique to being an Inn manager. She is never cranky, she is never short with anyone when we forget where we’re supposed to go and what we’re supposed to say, and she ends every rehearsal telling us all how awesome we are, even when we aren’t. She hasn’t staggered once in front of the cast, even in the face of accidents and delays and cast changes and set issues and scheduling problems and how do you make an ocean out of fabric, anyway?
And Jackie Leonard is my hero.
There are always people involved in these theatrical production whom no one sees. Back stage, behind the scenes, waiting in the wings with a clip board and a list of props and a better sense of the entire play that each player who only really focuses on their own particular moment on stage… Jackie sits beside the director, taking notes, making suggestions, reminding everyone what they need to know. She knows EXACTLY when the shadow puppets should begin and EXACTLY when the boat should move and EXACTLY when the music should start… and then we change it EVERY rehearsal and she just giggles and erases her notes and starts all over again. We would be LOST without her steady hand keeping us all on track.
Lynn Sponagle… the Sponze… and Sue Beaumont are the costume QUEENS. Give them fabric. Give them thread. Tell them you need the most ridiculous and bizarre creation, and you need it tomorrow, and it has to have shiny beads on it and … voilá. Done. I am in awe of their creativity and genius and incredibly inappropriate conversations.
Our producer is another unsung hero… Beth Woodford-Collins books the theatre, then we change our minds, she makes the schedule, then we change our minds, she gets the poster organized, then we change our minds… without Beth’s efforts, no one would even KNOW we were farting around with this little play. All the ads you see, all the posters (which are the creative genius of Greg Tutty and the artwork of Marilyn Kellough), all the media coverage are thanks to Beth tirelessly promoting our wee production near and far.
I could go on. It takes so many people to make a show come together.
Here is the complete cast and crew list:
Morna: Jennifer MacDonald
Grandfather: Grant Webber
Esme: Jordyn Duffney
Mermaid: Kate Dexter
Son: Leslie Miller
Mother: Libby Broadbent
Father: Sarah Webber
Puppeteers: Lukas Monte Oliva Olsen Hayley Zwicker
Director: Susan Lane
Technical and Set Design: Cameron Dexter
Producer: Beth Woodford Collins Music: Neil Dobson, Thom Monte
Vocals: Jordyn Duffney, Ashley-Rose Goodwin
Set dressing: Cameron Dexter, Bruce Harrington, Sue Higgins, Lynn Sponagle
Costumes: Sue Beaumont, Lynn Sponagle
Stage management: Jackie Leonard Props: Sue Higgins
Poster: Greg Tutty
Poster Art: Marilyn Kellough
We also are delighted to announce that the Queens County Community Choir, directed by Kim Umphery, will be singing at every performance! How lucky are we? This talented group will be adding music and delight to the show… AND… after the Friday and Saturday performances there will be an opportunity for audience members to meet the cast, see the puppets up close and ask questions of the people involved in bringing our little play to life. The Sunday matinee is a “pay-what-you-can” event, which also includes the choir.
Do you have your tickets yet? Astor Theatre online ticket sales
Are we excited? Yes!
Are we ready? NO!
Are we terrified? Yes!
WILL we be ready… damn straight!