Actors prepare to be first at roles 0
Mark Huisman (far left) is Mike, Melissa Jane Shaw is Beth, and Mark McGrinder is the ‘agent’, in Theatre Collingwood’s next production of its summer season, Do Not Disturb. The play has its world premiere in Collingwood on Aug. 20.
COLLINGWOOD — A trio of thespians are about to go where no actor has trod before.
On Monday, two Marks — McGrinder and Huisman — along with Melissa Jane Shaw began rehearsals for Theatre Collingwood’s next production, the Vern Thiessen-penned Do Not Disturb.
The production is the play’s world premiere, a fact not lost on two of the three actors — though the idea she will be the first to be performing the role of Beth suddenly dawns on Shaw.
“Now I’m going to be expected to be really good,” Shaw says with a laugh.
No pressure, though.
However, noted Shaw, she never watches previous productions of plays in which she’s acting anyway.
“We were doing a North American premiere of a play, and we had the chance to watch a video of the UK production; I had zero desire to watch,” she said. “I just want to create the character from base zero.”
Thiessen was approached by Theatre Collingwood’s artistic director Steven Thomas last year to write a piece for the local theatre company; the result is Do Not Disturb, a farce about two upwardly mobile professionals criss-crossing the globe, trying to get away from technology in order to spend some romantic time together.
Thiessen was in Collingwood earlier this year to workshop the play.
“I’ve seen two different versions, and out of the latter, (Thiessen) has developed this rehearsal script,” said Thomas.
Huismann, who took part in the workshopping of the play, says the final product is excellent.
“It’s such a great script to work with, and (Thiessen) has quite the reputation,” said the actor during a break in Monday’s rehearsal. “But it does put the onus on us to be up to the challenge.”
“It is exciting to come back and see how the script has changed and improved, and it’s given me some insight into the craft (of writing a play),” added McGrinder, who also took part in workshopping the production at different stages of the play’s development.
“The final step for us is realizing (Thiessen’s) vision, and we have to do service to that,” said Thomas. “We’re free of the baggage of previous productions, and there is a sense of liberty in the approach we take to creating the roles.”
All three actors note playing comedy — especially a farcical comedy, which also employs action as well as language — is probably the most difficult kind of theatre.
“It’s hard to write a good farce, and Vern has taken a really good stab at it,” said Shaw.
“If you can do comedy, you can handle anything else… especially with farce, when timing is so crucial,” added Thomas. “The actors (in farce) really have to be born with a sense of timing, and a slightly off-centre view of life.”
In this case, Huisman, in the role of Mike, and Shaw, in the role of ‘Beth’, are driven by the ever-increasing speed of technology and demands of business success. Constantly ringing cell phones, beeping text messages and avalanching emails have consumed their lives.
The characters are written to be recognizable, full-blown, and reacting to every moment. The comedic counterpoint is the ‘Agent’, played by McGrinder, an ‘industrial spy’ on a mission. Mistaken identities, over-the-top situations and plot twists are designed to keep the audience laughing to the end.
“With farce, it tends to go crazy, but you still have to be rooted in the characters and the story,” said McGrinder. “You’re always a moment from going into tragedy… but you have to go as silly as you can go, and find the balance.”
Added Huismann, “The real challenge of writing a farce is that everyone is on this trajectory, and the audience sees where it’s going, but you have to surprise the audience moment by moment.”
Do Not Disturb runs for one week only at the Historic Gayety Theatre from Aug. 20 through 25 at 8 p.m., with matinees Tuesday, Aug. 21, and Thursday, Aug. 23, at 2 p.m.
For tickets, visit the Theatre Collingwood box office at 65 Simcoe Street (Mon-Fri between 11a.m. – 3 p.m.). Tickets may be purchased one hour prior to performance at the Gayety Theatre. Single tickets may be booked online via the website. For special packages or to reserve by phone, call 705-445-2200 or check out www.theatrecollingwood.com.