Theatre Diaries 2: Getting started

Theatre Diaries 2: Getting started

It’s down to business as WRAPS begins rehearsals for Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

A full-cast read-through of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical—the next theatre production from the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society (WRAPS)—took place in June, and the plan at that time was for those with singing parts to rehearse the songs with musical director Theresa Takacs over the course of the summer.

Well, summer 2017 was challenging, for many people and in many ways. Some cast members were unable to attend, or were only able to attend sporadically; so at the end of August we found ourselves playing a bit of catch-up as things got back to something like normal. When many of us are finally able to get together as a group, we realize there are rough patches; but the calibre of the singing is remarkable, considering the circumstances. At one rehearsal, a difficult trio featuring Vivian McLean (Anne Shirley), Takacs (Marilla Cuthbert), and Jim Mertel (Matthew Cuthbert) prompts a spontaneous round of rousing applause from the cast when it ends; at another, Mattias Samson (Gilbert Blythe) nails a tricky solo, prompting more applause.

Looking over the script, I appreciate that this show will be a challenging one to produce in terms of sets, costumes, and props. There are many different settings, including Green Gables house, a railroad station, a general store, a schoolhouse, a schoolyard, and more; the costumes need to be appropriate to the approximately 1890s setting; and as for props—does anyone have an old-fashioned buggy we can use? Still, WRAPS managed to surmount many of these same production challenges in 2015’s My Fair Lady; and everyone involved is confident that we can once again rise to the occasion.

Our first rehearsal that is not strictly musical is on September 3, when director Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan begins the laborious process of “blocking”; that is, going through a scene and indicating to all the actors involved where she wants them to move to, and be, on stage at any given time. WRAPS has what I like to think of as a repertory company of actors—seasoned veterans of several plays—but we’re welcoming several new faces on board for this production, so before the blocking starts Varcoe-Ryan explains what she means by stage left and stage right (the actor’s left and right as he or she faces the audience), upstage, downstage, and more.

Some scripts feature incredibly detailed and elaborate stage directions, including precisely when actors enter and depart each scene they are in. The Anne of Green Gables script is not one of these. On the one hand, this makes it easier for Varcoe-Ryan, who is not constantly having to tell actors “I know it says in the script that you do this, but I want you to do that instead,” which necessitates much scribbling out of printed directions and pencilling in of new ones. On the other hand, there are scenes where it is not indicated when a particular character enters; they just suddenly have a line, or are taking part in a song. One of these scenes, set in the Avonlea general store, features my character, Rachel Lynde, so Varcoe-Ryan makes a directorial decision about when I enter, and I make a note in my script.

At a rehearsal on September 10, what seems on the surface to be a simple scene proves tricky to block. By the time the scene is nearing its end there are 10 actors on stage, all of whom have to enter at very specific moments and hit several marks according to music cues, before ending up in a semi-circle.

A box standing in for what will be a sack of potatoes proves problematic, until someone points out that it doesn’t need to be there until a later scene. Just like that, the potatoes are gone.

The rehearsal schedule has been set through the end of October, with a note that additional rehearsals might be added as needed. The next seven weeks will be busy ones for the WRAPS team; but we all know that the end result will be worth the hard work.

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical will be at the Ashcroft HUB for five performances (three evenings and two matinees) from November 2 to 5.

Barbara Roden