Some of the cast of Blithe Spirit as pictured in the publicity shot. Photo: Kelly Tuohey.

Theatre Diaries 6: Getting down to the wire

Opening night of Blithe Spirit is less than two weeks away; will the cast be ready?

It’s getting down to crunch time for the cast and crew of Blithe Spirit; as of the time of writing, there are fewer than 10 days until opening night. It’s been a jam-packed time, as rehearsals ramp up, costumes come together, props proliferate, and we wonder if we’ll ever find a table that is light enough to tip over two times each performance and not hurt anyone, sturdy enough not to break, and period-appropriate for the 1940s British setting of Noël Coward’s sparkling comedy.

The cast has been off-book (no scripts!) for some time, but they’re still able to call for lines. And there are So Many Lines for most of the characters; far more than many of the cast members are accustomed to. In addition to the regular rehearsals, several of the actors have taken to having impromptu rehearsals where they run lines with each other, to try to get the words down.

Photographer extraordinaire Kelly Tuohey is back in town briefly, and we hustle several cast members into costumes in order to get a photo taken for the poster. The shot involves looking down at a séance table where four of the five people involved have their heads bowed over the table, fingers touching, while Madame Arcati, the medium, looks upward. Kelly perches precariously on a stepladder above the assembled cast members and snaps away. The resulting image—which shows up on a poster a few days later—is absolutely perfect.

Cast members report that people are already asking where and when they can purchase tickets. Ever since the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society kicked their theatre productions up a notch with My Fair Lady in 2015, we’ve noticed more and more interest for each play we do. It’s a testament to the quality of the productions, and the local appetite for theatre, that people want to make sure they don’t miss out.

In amongst the rehearsals for Blithe Spirit, the production team has been holding auditions for the spring 2019 WRAPS theatre production: Shrek the Musical Jr. Close to two dozen youth aged five to 17 come in to audition for a role. Some are keen to sing, dance, and act; some want to do a bit of one or two; others would rather not have to say anything, but would like to take part. We assure everyone that there is a role (or roles) for them. Who knows? Someone who plays a tree in Shrek the Musical Jr. when they’re five might be taking a leading role in a WRAPS play a decade or so from now.

Back to Blithe Spirit, where we soldier on through three rehearsals without one of our main characters, who can’t be there due to a medical emergency. I get to fill his shoes on stage for a time, which is great fun. I’m enjoying co-directing the play, and am learning a lot from Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan, but I do miss acting, so it’s a treat to get up on stage, if only for a short time.

On Nov. 4 we have the first complete run-through of the play since our table read more than eight weeks ago. There are costume fittings beforehand, and David Dubois is there to start working on the light and sound cues. “I’m just going to shout random things at you,” Mavourneen tells him, adding—after a mix-up over a lighting cue—“Ignore everything I just told you.”

A few trouble spots have been identified, and they’ll be worked on at the rehearsal on Nov. 6. Then there will be seven rehearsals of the full play in eight days, as we get ready for opening night. Here we go again!

Blithe Spirit is at the Ashcroft HUB for six performances starting on Friday, Nov. 16. Tickets are $15 each, and can be purchased at the HUB office or online at

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