“Così”: the little rituals

Tonight (April 20) will be the 7th performance of Così, including the preview.  It’s been a wild ride!  Last Sunday evening, I was in a weird state when I went home after the matinee.  Feeling empty, lonely and restless.  What the heck was wrong with me?  Figured it out eventually:  it was separation anxiety from my stage “family”!

It’s such a strange process, making theatre.  You can become very close with the people you work with – it’s a brief but very intense relationship that sometimes carries on and develops long after the show closes.

Before the audience comes in, stage manager/lighting operator Margot Devlin and sound operator Emily Macnaughton run the cues to ensure everything is working smoothly, then let the actors have the stage for about 20 minutes to practice fights and the dance number.

Asylum inmate Henry (Christopher Kelk) is almost mute. But for "Cosi" he suddenly begins to sing - in Italian!

And what goes on in the dressing room during the run of a show, you wonder?  Well, in Così, there are a fair number of smokers in the cast, so the back door of the dressing room in the theatre basement is often propped open (there’s a below-ground stairwell outside) so the nicotine-addicted actors can grab a quick butt pre-show and during intermission.  On a typical night, Chris Kelk (stuttering former lawyer Henry) and James Warner (pill-popping musician Zac) entertain us with some really rude British limericks.  Get them to tell you the one about the bishop – it’s FILTHY!  PJ Hammond (sociopath Cherry) might step out into the hallway to practice her knife tricks.  Joanne Sarazen (Lewis’ girlfriend Lucy) powers up her laptop and works on a play she’s writing.  Jamieson Child (anxious director Lewis) plugs in his leaky iPod earbuds for some inspirational tunes.  We check out which of his collection of funny T-shirts Sean Speake (social worker Justin) is wearing.  There’s a cool Shaun of the Dead T-shirt, and my fave – especially for ‘80s music fans – five commas plus an image of a chameleon.  Get it?  While we’re getting dressed or putting on makeup, we will often run lines for certain complicated scenes where there are strategic interruptions.  Yes, we work hard to make it look effortless for the audience!

After Margot gives us the 5-minute warning, we do a brief, energizing warmup proposed by Laura Vincent (heroin addict Julie) – it involves shaking arms and legs alternately while counting down from 7, and yelling “Game Time!” in answer to Mike Vitorovich’s question, “What time is it?”.  Very appropriate for my counting-obsessed character Ruth!

As an opening night gift, Margot installed a huge basket in the dressing room, filled with various bags of treats: pretzels, chocolate bars, chips, etc.  The accompanying card promised refills, and boy does she deliver!  The treats are stored overnight in the fridge (to foil the theatre’s sneaky rodent population), replaced in the basket for the next night, and magically replenished when hungry actors demolish them.  Margot, we love you!  See what I mean about family?

After the matinee this coming Sunday (April 22), stick around for a Talkback.  The cast, director, and designers will come onstage, and audience members are encouraged to ask questions or make comments.  There will also be a special guest expert:  Jennifer Chambers from the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH)’s Empowerment Council.  This organization represents current and former clients of CAMH, so you can ask her opinion on the portrayals of people with mental health and/or addictions issues.

Così runs to April 28.  Check http://alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html  for performance times and ticket prices.

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3 Comments

Filed under 2011/12 season, Cosi

3 responses to ““Così”: the little rituals

  1. PJ

    Tina, that is a lovely article. Captures the magic we share, without giving away our secrets!

    And, as I said before, you are not alone in the seperation anxiety. I felt it in March, still in rehearsals, when I stayed at the theatre to work for New Ideas, and thought “I don’t want to be here without my stage family!”

  2. Sean aka Justin

    Nice article Tina.
    It’s 5 commas though… =)

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