After every Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society (WRAPS) theatre production, there’s a debriefing, where the inevitable question “What do we do next?” comes up.
Following the November 2017 production of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical—which sold out before opening night—a lot of thought went into what the next play would be.
Various possibilities were thrown into the ring. What about Calendar Girls? There was a lot of support for the idea, but timing proved difficult. An Agatha Christie murder mystery—A Murder is Announced, featuring Miss Marple, or And Then There Were None—was considered. The side-splitting farce Noises Off got some traction.
The problem was that none of these plays had any roles for younger actors, and WRAPS has always tried to include youth in our theatre productions. Things were therefore at something of an impasse, until teacher David Dumont approached WRAPS in spring 2018 to ask if we could assist with a production of Shrek: The Musical that had been decided on. The rights had been purchased and casting had been started, in hopes of a June 2018 production, but that was not to be. Could WRAPS help out?
We could, and said we would produce the musical in the spring of 2019. Since the production would feature nothing but young actors, it freed us up to look at an all-adult production for the fall of 2018, and after much discussion Noel Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit was decided on as our 2018 theatrical presentation.
The play details the plight of celebrated author Charles Condomine, who is researching his next book, titled The Unseen. He needs to study the work of mediums, so arranges a séance with Madame Arcati, hoping that she proves to be a charlatan. To the consternation of Charles, and his very-much-alive second wife, Ruth, the ghost of Charles’s first wife, Elvira, is conjured up. She can only be seen and heard by the increasingly frustrated Charles, leading to comic misunderstandings as Charles tries to send Elvira back to the other world, Ruth tries to figure out if her husband is going mad (or if he’s already there), and Madame Arcati does her best to assist.
Auditions were held at the end of June 2018, and over two weekends several WRAPS regulars tried out for different roles. When the dust settles, Jim Mertel, Nancy Duchaine, Marina Papais, Jan Schmitz (who swears he only came to the audition to see how things were going), Pamela Ainge, Skylar Dubois, and Andrea Bona all have parts.
The role of Elvira has gone to Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan, the director of so many WRAPS productions over the last few years. Her first love, however, is acting, and anyone who saw her in the WRAPS production of the one-woman show Shirley Valentine in 2016 will know how good an actress she is. Mavourneen will be directing Blithe Spirit, but she’s able to take on the role in part because this time around she has an assistant director: yours truly.
This isn’t my first time as a director—I directed the aforementioned production of Shirley Valentine—but it’s the first time I’ll be (co-)directing a show featuring multiple actors. The idea is that I’ll eventually be able to take on the sole directorship of plays if necessary, and I’m looking forward to the challenge, and to the learning experience it will undoubtedly be (thank goodness I’ll have Mavourneen beside me).
It’s somewhat bittersweet, however, to realize that for the first time since the production of Swamp Pirate Zombies in spring 2012 I won’t be appearing on-stage in a WRAPS play. On the other hand, playing Aunt Abby Brewster in the 2016 WRAPS production of Arsenic and Old Lace was a dream come true; I’d wanted to play the part since I was a 16-year-old high school theatre student. WRAPS gave me the chance to realize that long-held dream; now I have a chance to learn something new.
The table read—when all the actors get together and read the script aloud—is scheduled for the week of August 20, with rehearsals starting the first week of September. I have a sneaking suspicion that both dates will creep up much sooner than expected. On with the show!
Blithe Spirit will be at the Ashcroft HUB for six performances from November 16–18 and November 23–25.