So for those of you just joining in, this post follows hot on the heels of the last one, which featured my interview with the gang from Evolution Theatre’s upcoming [boxhead], part of their April Double bill. And as soon as I was done popping my interview cherry with them, it was off down the hall in Arts Court for interview the second, with the cast and crew of the other half of the bill.
That other show, which will actually be kicking off the double-bill each evening during the run (something noted in their rehearsal hall with just a hint of cheeky one-upmanship) is MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY by Newfoundlandical playwright Berni Stapleton, who performed the solo show herself at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in St.John’s, 2006. This time around, it’s actor, playwright and blogger Nancy Kenny who will be filling the potentially blasphemous role, in her first time back on the Ottawa stage since officially relocating to Toronto (Booo!). It will also be her first major stage role since her one-woman Fringe hit ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL, currently up for a mess of Rideau Awards, because sometimes good things happen to the right people.
Along for the ride with her are Director Andy Massingham (himself up for a jaw-droppingly impressive three Rideau Awards for acting this year), and Stage Manager Hilary Nichol. Hilary has been there and done that as far as the Rideaus are concerned, having taken home the prize for Emerging Artist LAST year. And she sounded pretty impressed with the star of their show.
“Watching her in rehearsal, you can see the love she has for the role and why she chose it,” Hilary explained, tracking the path that brought them all this far. “It really did start with Nancy…she’s the reason we’re all here.”
Nancy, a co-founder of Evolution Theatre (she stepped down from the company board last year), explains that a friend of hers handed her Stapleton’s script last year, and “…fell in love with Mary Magdalene. Instantly.” Needing a director, she thought of Andy Massingham, and, in her words, ‘dragged him along’, although Andy immediately disputes the notion that any coercion was required.
Andy, who most recently helmed the beautiful Ottawa Theatre School production WE WANT LIFE (and handles the reins this summer on Odyssey Theatre’s THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE), recalls first seeing Nancy Kenny onstage at the 2009 Ottawa Fringe in her play NO EXIT UPSTAGE with Natasha Jette (also, FYI, my own intro into the Kennyverse), and deciding then that they needed to find something to work on together. “You get drawn to people’s talents and unique voices,” he said, going on to tell how Nancy read some of the script for him on his front porch last summer, and he was instantly sold on the project.
“Her entry level is HIGH,” Andy says of the energy Nancy brings to rehearsals. Comparing this show to her Fringe experience, she knows she’ll be needing that energy.
“This is harder,” she admits, smiling at the challenge of a decidedly more intense rehearsal schedule than with her solo show. And as she learned during her Fringe tour, a one-woman show is more plural than you imagine. “In the theatre…you’re never alone. NEVER alone. And that’s a great feeling.” She’s clearly stoked for the show, and her enthusiasm is matched by that of director Andy. “Very smart writing…It will get people talking. You cannot be unmoved by this play.”
So far, 2012 has been a great year for theatre in Ottawa…but as is often the case, so far Women have been getting the short end of the onstage stick. Great work abounds, but not many great roles. MARY MAGDALENE is one of very few girl-centric professional works so far this year…how does Nancy feel about that?
“I think that’s why I started doing my own work,” she explained, citing perhaps not only her Fringe shows but her co-founding of Evolution Theater itself,” …to create those standout female roles. If something’s not working for you, then fix it for yourself.”
As for this ‘standout female role’ in particular, Nancy’s enthusiasm is pretty infectuous. “This show’s a great show because it has a lot of fun, it has a lot of heart, but it still deals with themes that can be considered very dark,” she says, but later adds with a delightfully goofy smile, “…but it’s still fun!”
Goofy, smart, blasphemous AND fun? Okay, fine. I know I’LL be there. And you should too. Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,
The Visitor (and Winston)
– MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY and [boxhead] play from April 18th-28th at 7:30 pm Arts Court Theatre (Pay What You Can matinee on the 22nd at 2 pm) Tickets $25, $20 for Students/Seniors, no shows Monday