(from left) Actors Marina Papais, Skylar Dubois, Jillian Fredreickson, and Colin Mastin listen to director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan during a rehearsal. Photo: Barbara Roden.

Theatre Diary 3: It’s hard to say no

Once theatre gets into your blood, it’s a hard thing to shake

I tried not to be involved in Shrek the Musical Jr.; really I did. I’d just co-directed Blithe Spirit, seen a major change in my life work-wise, and spent several weeks in the grip of a pretty nasty illness. By the time acting rehearsals for Shrek were about to start in January 2019, I’d heard loud and clear from my husband, my son, and my parents: “You have to say no to co-directing, and step back.” The rational part of my brain knew this to be true.

So there I was, at a rehearsal in early January, explaining why I couldn’t be involved with Shrek. Everyone was very understanding. But there would, I knew, be rehearsals at which co-director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan and stage manager Jessica Clement couldn’t be present. I said I’d be available to cover those; it would only be a handful of rehearsals. I wouldn’t be fully involved.

READ MORE: Theatre Diary 1: Dancing rats and walking trees

So why is it that I’ve been at almost every rehearsal since I announced I would have to step back? Perhaps because WRAPS has been in my blood since I saw an audition notice for a play called Swamp Pirate Zombies in 2012. I answered the call, and have been hooked ever since. Give up being part of a WRAPS theatre production? It’s simply not going to happen.

After all, if I gave this up, I’d miss the delight of hearing “Release the pigs!” when we realize that the Three Pigs are not needed for a particular rehearsal, or Dave Dubois explain a lighting cue by saying “I want to light the top of the arch when Fiona is doing her Fiona thing.” I know what he means.

I’d miss Jillian Fredrickson as Gingy (aka the Gingerbread Man) looking far too cheerful as she is brought in to be “tortured”. “Gingy, you’re having too much fun; stop smiling,” I call out, only to hear another cast member reply “She’s such a happy child.” I’d miss Skylar Dubois, subbing in as the Dragon at one rehearsal, really getting into the spirit of the moment and putting some serious moves on Donkey (Sarah Onstine).

I’d miss it all, even standing with Mavourneen and Jessica in the new, much larger, but freezing cold WRAPS storeroom at the HUB in early February. It’s the former boys’ change and shower room, and as I lose all feeling in my feet I reflect that, having spent an hour in there looking through costume options, I’ve probably spent more time in there than my son, who went to the school for eight years.

READ MORE: Theatre Diary 2: Things are coming together

Going through the costumes is a trip down memory lane. “Baby Bear’s bonnet!” cries Jessica, holding up a frilled nightcap that I recognize as part of one of my costumes for Mrs. Pearce in My Fair Lady in 2015. There’s a vest that Jacob Aie wore in Anne of Green Gables: The Musical in 2017, which might do for Gingy, and here’s a red wig—also from Anne—that might be useful for Princess Fiona.

All our finds are taken to Room 104, where the rehearsal is about to start. It’s Saturday, Feb. 9, and the actors have been told that as of today they’re off-book: they can call for lines, but there are to be no scripts on stage. We’re not quite there, but most of the (mostly) young cast have done a wonderful job learning their lines.

They’ve also done a great job with the production’s many songs, and are making great strides (pun intended) with Kelly Mykyte’s choreography. It helps that many of the young participants are, or have been, dance students: they’ve picked the moves up quickly, and those who aren’t so certain about their footwork look to them for guidance, emulating their moves.

At the end of the rehearsal on Feb. 9, cast members are told that only the actors playing Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and Dragon are needed at the rehearsal on Feb. 11. After that, the acting rehearsal schedule—which has been three times a week for 90 minutes each time—will be ramping up to four two-hour sessions a week as we approach opening night. This doesn’t include the many hours that the actors have been spending at music rehearsals with musical director Theresa Takacs, who volunteers to spend more one-on-one time with any performers who need more musical help.

It’s crunch time, and things are getting serious. At the same time, we’re all having fun, which is why so many of the faces involved with Shrek are WRAPS veterans. With luck, some of our new young actors will be with us for many years to come.

Shrek the Musical Jr. will be at the Ashcroft HUB for four performances (Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m.; Saturday, March 2 at 1 and 6 p.m.; and Sunday, March 3 at 1 p.m.). Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students aged five to 18; no charge for children under five. Tickets are available at the HUB during office hours and online at www.eventbrite.ca.


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