Community theatre has been an important part of my life for a very long time. I first took to the stage in the late 1970s playing Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol followed by the Empress in a stage play of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Then came many years of raising a family and being too busy to perform.
The stage called my name again in 2002. My children were grown and I was going through a low spot in my own life. I needed to do something that was just for me, so I auditioned for a part in the old Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Returning to the stage after such a long hiatus, I expected a bit part, but instead I was cast in one of the lead roles! I played Mary Bailey, wife of the main character, George.
My love of acting returned full force and I was completely hooked! Over the ensuing years, I’ve played many and varied roles in local theatre productions. In 2003, I was Vera in a female version of The Odd Couple and in 2005, Doris in The Cemetery Club. The story of three Jewish widows in their 50s who meet once a month for tea before going to visit their husbands’ graves, this was definitely one of my favourites. The picture quality is terrible, but that’s me (aka Doris) on the left. The guy with the beard is my husband, Richard. We’ve always had difficulty finding enough men to fill the male roles, so we roped him in and he’s been in several plays with me.
The following year, the role that I was least happy to be cast in probably became my most memorable! I was Vonga, the jungle girl, in Jack Sharkey’s hilarious comedy, One Toe in the Grave. Even though it wasn’t the role I wanted, I decided to have fun with it. I made my own costume and still have it hidden away.
In 2007, I was acting as assistant director for Arsenic and Old Lace, a classic comedy, when at close to the last minute, the actress cast in one of the lead roles wasn’t able to perform. With little time to learn the lines, I stepped in and became Abby Brewster, one of the somewhat eccentric but seemingly genteel elderly sisters who made it their mission to help lonely bachelors die happy by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic! Here I am sharing the stage with two of my former students. Again, that’s me on the left.
In 2009, we brought A Christmas Carol back to the local stage. This time I played a couple of small parts. Then in 2012, just before leaving to spend a semester teaching English in China, I had a bit part in W.O. Mitchell’s The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon. Again, here I am sharing the stage with two of my former students!
Acting with former students, some who I taught drama to when they were in junior high, has definitely been one of the joys of participating in small town theatre!
Over the past few years, I’ve intensely missed performing. Though I’ve helped out behind the scenes on a couple of productions, travel and health restrictions have kept me off the stage. Once again, though, I’m at a point where I feel like I need to do something just for me and this time, the timing is perfect! We’ve just begun to prepare for four performances of Auntie Mame in early April. Life has been stressful lately and it’s been a few years since I’ve had to learn a lot of lines. I’m not sure how well that would go, so I’m delighted with my role as servant, Norah Muldoon. With many entrances and exits, I appear off and on throughout the play, but I don’t have any lengthy scenes or long speeches to memorize. Even so, I’ll be spending lots of time over the coming weeks with my script in hand!
So why am I so passionate about the theatre? We thespians are an interesting breed and it’s always a privilege to work with such a creative, talented and fun group of people! It takes many people working behind the scenes to put a production together and in a small town amateur group like ours, people often fill many different roles. Actors can often be found working on set construction, sewing costumes or setting up tables and chairs for the dinner theatre performances. Putting on a play is a lot of work but it’s worth it all when the lights go up, the play begins and we feel the audience respond. What a rush! I’m essentially a very shy person but when I’m onstage, I get to be someone else and it is so much fun! After all, where else would I dare appear in a teeny tiny jungle girl costume?