Theatre Review: Vigil (A Missing Link Theatre Company)

vigil From the first terse words of Kemp – a lonely and long ignored malcontent – to the final wordless and touching tableau, Vigil by Canadian playwright, director and actor, Morris Panych, is a deliciously dark and witty comedy with a deep soul and unexpected ending.

Vigil is an odd couple grudge match that pits the scrupulous and scathing Kemp (Colin Legge) against the elderly and brittle mute, Grace (Carol Robinson-Todd). Kemp has been summoned by his dying aunt whom he hasn’t seen in 30 years (and partially blames for his maladjusted childhood) to attend to her and her affairs in her last days. As a result of his Aunt’s letter, he sweeps into Grace’s world and her decrepit little bedroom where she lies on her (supposed) deathbed.

Days turn into weeks and months, and suddenly a year has gone by. Kemp’s attentiveness to Grace increasingly turns to humourous if not macabre impatience as he waits for her to die. Over the passing days, Grace listens with wary curiosity to the tales he recounts of his wretched and lonely upbringing.

Carol Robinson-Todd’s physical acting brings the largely silent Grace to life exceptionally as you read the apprehension in her glazed but haunted reactions. Her brilliantly readable facial expressions and gestures are hard to miss and impossible to misread. Legge is perfectly deadpan and inscrutable in his depiction of Kemp, a jaded and cynical man who has hobbled through life, clearly broken and lonely.

“We’re all hobbling around, aren’t we? Missing bits and pieces of ourselves.”

An odd bond forms between the two as time passes – and Grace doesn’t. Kemp brings the elderly woman food, dusts her furniture, tends to the laundry and recounts neighbourhood tales to her as he watches from the window day in and day out. His mockery and scorn of the elderly woman sitting in the window across the street leads to a hilarious yet sad revelation, and turns the second act on its head with an unexpected twist. And on that, I will say no more.

Vigil is beautifully twisted and dark in its humour, and incredibly well presented in its acting and production. It is a refreshing change from the typical one-liner comedies that we often see presented on stage. The audience is in for an intoxicating roller-coaster ride of emotions ranging between horror, hilarity and heartbreak, and will exit the theatre with one touching and poignant question in mind:

Why can’t we all go at the same time? That way we don’t have to watch each other die.”

Vigil is currently playing at the McManus Studio Theatre beneath the Grand Theatre, and continues through November 23rd. For tickets and more information, visit the Grand website here.

3/4 stars.

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Theatre Review: Little Shop of Horrors (Iglesia Productions)

littleshopposter

“Feed me. FEED ME!!!” These are the cries of Audrey 2 – a man eating plant at the centre of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors”, currently being presented by Iglesia Productions and continuing tonight through October 26th at McManus Studios.

Little Shop of Horrors has long been one of my favourite movies to watch around the Halloween season (or any time of year, really) so I was a little hesitant at the prospect of a local production of the show. I mean, how good could it really be?  How easy could it be to recreate Audrey 2, a giant, horrifying (yet hilarious) piece of horticulture, who feeds off the blood of humans? It probably wasn’t easy but I’ll tell you, they sure did it! And they did it very well.

I’m going to go on record right now saying that this is possibly the best local production I have had the privilege of seeing in London, Ontario. From the set design to the direction, props, costumes, actors and Audrey 2 herself – this show is brilliant and very well produced. I might have had a few complaints about volume during the show, and I’m not sure if they were the fault of the actors or the venue (I always seem to have complaints about acoustics after seeing a show at McManus, which leads me to believe it’s more a problem of the venue), but any such complaints become completely washed away by the thrill and joy you get at watching this show.

Wait? Joy? At a show called “Little Shop of HORRORS“? You read me right. Smiles and laughs and joy. I took my 11 year old daughter with me and the two of us walked out of the theatre smiling and giggling. We enjoyed ourselves immensely from the opening scene to the final ‘curtain’. That isn’t to say the show is without a certain element of dark macabre, but the darkness of the story is easily overshadowed by the upbeat presentation and incredibly witty writing.

I don’t want to give away anything about the plot. If you have seen the movie or another stage production, you know what “Little Shop of Horrors” is all about. If you haven’t seen it, you should. But don’t just sit down in front of the television and pop the movie in. Instead, get down to the McManus Studio Theatre (below the Grand) this week and support a local production company. It is every bit just as good as the movie or any Broadway production (in my opinion), but you’ll get an extra wonderful feeling knowing you are supporting actors and theatre in your community.

Four very deserved stars to this cast and crew, and another standing ovation from my daughter and I. Bravo to every last one of you, and I look forward to seeing what Iglesia Productions does next. They continually raise the bar on local theatre productions. Take notice, London, Ontario!

Review: An Evening With Pearl Jam – Budweiser Gardens, July 16, 2013

On January 23, 2013, Pearl Jam announced two North American shows – and two shows only – for July 2013: Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois on Friday July 19th, and July 16th at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario.

Screeeeeeeeeeaaach.” 

Pearl Jam, circa 1991

Pearl Jam, the early years.

Yep. I’m positive I heard a needle scratch across a vinyl Pearl Jam album as a collective, “Wait, WHAT?” went through the shocked minds of Pearl Jam fans everywhere. Two shows at two very different venues; Wrigley Field with a capacity of approximately 40,000 people and the more intimate Budweiser Gardens with a  capacity of just under 10,000. Not only was it a mild shock for many, it was also a huge honour that they selected our city and our venue to be a stop on a very brief tour. Shortly after the shock wore off, a collective “WHOOP!” rose from Pearl Jam fans around the city, echoed to surrounding areas and into the great beyond. This was incredible and we knew it. London, Ontario was to be one of two stops for the much loved band, and our beloved venue was to be one of them. This was a very big deal.

As the public sale date approached, every person anxious to purchase tickets knew they would be tough to acquire. Although it was in our city, sales wouldn’t be limited to Pearl Jam fans in London of course, and it was a given that loyal fans would travel from far and wide to experience this once in a lifetime show. Tickets would sell out and they would sell out fast, and nobody knew how fast the show would sell out better than I did. It was the story of my life for 19 years; the last time I was able to get tickets to see my rock demigod was 1994 at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan. It wasn’t a lack of trying that had prevented me from seeing Pearl Jam since that time, oh no. It was the love their fans have for them, the number of fans they had amassed in that time, and just plain horrible luck when it came to ticket sale dates.

Pearl Jam, Detroit, MI, 1994

Pearl Jam, Detroit, MI, 1994

It was an excruciating 19 years, I can tell you that. In the meantime, I bought every album; ate up every television appearance; pined as I listened to the stories of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers as they told me their tales of each Pearl Jam concert that passed without me in attendance; and cried every time a show was discussed that I knew I wouldn’t be at. When Pearl Jam announced they would make a stop at the John Labatt Centre (which is now the

Budweiser Gardens) on September 12th, 2005, I was determined to take my husband who was also a huge fan but had never seen them live. I waited, poised and ready. Tickets would be mine, oh yes! They would! But once again, oh no, they wouldn’t. Well, not tickets – plural – anyway. In fine Pearl Jam form, the concert sold out almost immediately. All was not completely lost however, and I was able to score one ticket.

One.single.ticket.

I’m not going to lie, the next action I took was a bit painful, but it had to be done. I gave that ticket to my husband for his birthday which was the next day on September 13th. I was big and pregnant with our son and I had already seen them 3 times – 1991 at St Andrew’s Hall in Detroit while on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers; 1992 at Lollapalooza in Toronto; and 1994 at Masonic Temple in Detroit – and he hadn’t seen them once. Yes, the decision was painful, but it was a no brainer. He would see them instead of me and I would catch them next time around. I hoped. Toronto 2006 came and went. Hamilton 2011 saw me eluded by tickets again. London 2013 was not going to do this to me again I swore.

But it did.

Tickets went on sale for the Gardens Pearl Jam show on February 9th and despite my best efforts, once again the cards were not in my favour. I can’t tell you the crushing disappointment I felt. Any die hard Pearl Jam fan that hasn’t been able to secure tickets has felt this blow and knows exactly what I mean. Your face drops, your heart sinks and you wonder which of your friends you can roll for the tickets they were able to get. From February to July, I felt these emotions and more. As the July 16th show approached, I tried to ignore excited comments from friends who were attending and avoided all reminders of the show I wouldn’t be seeing. When you love a band as much as I love Pearl Jam, it truly is a tough blow when you can’t see and support them live.

Then the Budweiser Gardens did it: they put out the call for a fan to review the concert. Kind of like Princess Leia with Obi-Wan Kanobi, I knew this was my only hope. I began my campaign to be the #BGReviewer. I campaigned hard, recruiting the help of friends and family who knew my undying love for the band and asking them to tell the Bud that there was nobody more in love with this band and worthy of the gig than I.  And I am so very thankful they listened.

A shot of the entire crowd. Photo Credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens

A shot of the entire crowd.
Photo Credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens

On July 16th, my 19 year Pearl Jam concert drought ended in the most spectacular, incredible fashion at the Budweiser Gardens. I have seen a lot of concerts and events at the ‘Bud’ and I can say unequivocally, without a doubt, this was the best show the venue has held to date. That is in thanks largely to the band that played, but credit also has to be given to the venue they played at. There is a reason Pearl Jam chose our city and our venue for this intimate tour, and it can only be this: they recognize the Gardens for the world class facility it is, know it has a tremendous staff who will bend over backwards for their clients and patrons, and know that London, Ontario, Canada always hosts THE greatest music fans in the world. If you were in the arena on Tuesday night, you know that’s not a lie.

The energy in the building was palpable and when the big screens above the stage showed a close up of lead singer Eddie Vedder’s face, you could see he was feeling the love and appreciation being sent his way (and boy, we were sending it!) and responded with a big smile revealing those gorgeous Eddie dimples. (Ahem. Sorry – Eddie Vedder fan girl moment.)

eddievedder2013

The glorious, Eddie Vedder.
Photo credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens

Never have I heard so many voices singing collectively at a concert. Never has a sound enveloped me so completely at a venue and felt like a big hug of sound. As they panned across the faces of the rest of the band members – Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Matt Cameron – you could tell they were feeling that sound hug too. What a vibe, and what an incredible Evening with Pearl Jam.

I’m still reeling from the show, two days later. My mind regularly goes back to little things Eddie said on stage when bantering with the crowd: telling stories of his arrival into London and how memories from his previous visit came flooding back; a tale about Stone Gossard going for a run and seeing an angry man at a payphone; and his search for an open WiFi connection that brought up the name, “Dundas Hookers on Crack”. Oh yes, London gave them memories to take on the road with them again this week and I hope the next time they return, a) I will be there, and b) he will share his memories with us once again. And I know they will be back. They like our city, love our venue, and adore us fans just as much as we adore them.

It would be hard to pinpoint an outstanding moment for me. I can’t lie, from the minute I walked in and found my seats to the very last closing note I was my 20 year old self again, excited and emotional. I danced my heart out and sang at the top of my lungs with everyone else in the crowd. The greatest and loudest singing came along with songs such as Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (probably the longest song title in the Pearl Jam repertoire), Even Flow, Black (which turned out the most beautiful sea of “doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo’s I have ever heard), Better Man, Alive, Rockin’ in the Free World and Indifference, all of which closed out the evening. Even more amazingly – and a first for me at any concert, proving once again that Pearl Jam plays by their rules and their rules alone – the house lights stayed on during the last few closing songs showing the receptive, energetic and adoring crowd singing and dancing along with the band.

Photo credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens

The crowd sings along with Pearl Jam.
Photo credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens

It amazed me that in the 19 years since I last saw them the band hasn’t lost the energy and vitality that made me fall head over heels in love with them in the first place. While Eddie of 1991-1994 was known to jump off the stage to crowd surf, or climb the scaffolding that surrounded the stage, Eddie of 2013 swung from lanterns that hung above the set, and bounced around with the same energy and je ne sais quoi only Eddie could display.

It’s safe to say, I loved every single moment.

Today, I want to send my heartfelt thanks to the Budweiser Gardens. First, thanks for being such an amazing venue that a band as huge as Pearl Jam would want to book such an intimate evening here and grace us all with their presence. I am still amazed that we were one of two venues booked for this tour, and look forward to their return (hint, hint fellas!) in support of their upcoming release in October 2013, Lightning Bolt. Second, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!! for choosing me to be your reviewer for this show. I will never, ever be able to adequately express to you what a dream this was. I am forever in your debt and filled with gratitude.

Finally, a gigantic thank you to Pearl Jam themselves for performing in our city and drawing fans from all across Canada and the United States (and perhaps internationally!) to our city and venue. The fact that you chose gave us our own Sally Field moment. “You like us. You REALLY like us!” Well, Pearl Jam

, we LOVE you back. Thanks for an amazing evening, an amazing show, and an amazing 23 years of rock and roll. We look forward to your return and you can be sure we’ll welcome you back with open arms.

In the end, this show will go down in Budweiser Gardens history as the most energetic, enthusiastic and interactive show the Budweiser Gardens has ever hosted. And we can’t wait to do it all again. I’m going to rate this show a brilliant and well deserved 10 out of 10. This will be a hard act to follow for years to come. Bravo, boys. You’ve still got it!

Setlist for Pearl Jam at Budweiser Gardens, London, Ontario, Canada – July 16, 2013

Present Tense
Nothingman
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Corduroy (with The Clash’s, London Calling intro)
Mind Your Manners (first ever live performance)
Got Some
Given To Fly
Sad
Alone
Even Flow
I Got Shit
In Hiding
Lukin
Not For You
Black (with Sleater-Kinney, Modern Girl intro)
Porch
ENCORE 1
Last Exit
Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover)
Parachutes
Man Of The Hour
Just Breathe
Daughter
Unthought Known
Do The Evolution
ENCORE 2
Smile
Brain of J.
Better Man
Alive
Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young cover)
Indifference

See me. Feel me: Tommy. Stratford Festival, 2013

“See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me.”

A melancholic refrain, music lovers and fans of The Who’s Tommy will recognize those haunting and evocative words. They resonate within the listener’s soul, conjuring up memories of the times we too have desired to be seen, heard and reached out to. In this story, based on the 1969 album of the same name, our hearts reach out to young Tommy; a boy left psychosomatically deaf, blind and unable to speak after witnessing a tragedy.

Tommy’s condition leaves him vulnerable to taunts, probing, a perverted uncle, a boorish cousin and parents who, exhausted with worry, want nothing more than to cure their son and get on with their lives. One day, having being placed in front of a pinball machine, Tommy begins to play and is regarded as a ‘wizard’, prodigy or some sort of mad genius who quickly rises to fame and develops a cult following. Adored by his fans, he is held on an even higher pedestal when he makes a miraculous recovery regaining his speech, hearing and vision, only to face an inevitable plunge back to reality when the adoration fades and the masses turn on him, the realization nearly shattering him once again.

Tommy is a tale of tragedy, lechery, adoration and redemption. It is at times, by its many twists and turns, happy, infuriating, disturbing, comedic and healing. This rock musical, written by Pete Townshend of The Who, and director Des McAnuff, debuted on Broadway in 1993 reportedly selling 1000 tickets per hour. The show played to consistently sold out audiences and was the recipient of several Tony Awards.

Twenty years later, Tommy made it’s Stratford Festival debut last night with writer Pete Townshend in attendance and Des McAnuff directing. I had the distinct privilege of seeing the first preview of the show on May 4th and, despite a glitch which I understand has since been worked out (hooray!), I was utterly blown away. Stratford’s production of Tommy is unequivocally the best, most provocative live musical theatre I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I look forward to seeing it again on June 22nd, because honestly – once was not enough.

From the first, bold guitar stroke to the very last curtain call, this show will leave you breathless, spellbound and wishing for more. Every character is brilliantly acted, the music beautifully played, the set design and props perfect, and the special effects, captivating. But it is undoubtedly the writing and direction that makes this show the brilliant production it is, and my hat is off to Des McAnuff for striking theatre gold twice; first on Broadway twenty years ago, and reproducing that brilliance again in Stratford.

If you are only able to see one show at the Stratford Festival this season, I highly recommend you make it this one. See it, feel it, hear it and be touched by Tommy.  If history is destined to repeat itself, you might want to get your tickets fast. Soon, there may not be any left.

Tommy runs at the Avon Theatre until October 19th, 2013. My best wishes to the cast, crew and director, Des McAnuff, for a very successful run.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

One entertaining ensemble.

This one-scene, two act 1993 comedy-drama written by Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under, True Blood), is a character driven piece about bridesmaids behaving badly. Set in the mid-1980’s in the upper bedroom of a Knoxville, Tennessee estate, five widely different bridesmaids are hiding out from a lavish wedding reception taking place on the lawn below.

A motley crew of women who have very little in common, the bridesmaids discuss their indifference towards the bride, their disdain for the hideous dress they are all wearing, and lament their encounters with the same womanizing man, Tommy Valentine, who is a guest at the reception. From the sweet Christian cousin, to the rebellious and angry sister of the bride, the lesbian sister of the groom, and two friends of the bride who question just how good of friends they are, all have had an encounter with Tommy at some point and lament their experiences over bottles of champagne and a joint or two. F-bombs, drunkenness and a little bit of herbal help provide plenty of laughs in the bedroom above.

The success of a script like this depends heavily on the cast performing it, and producer/director John Pacheco (Pacheco Theatre) was absolutely successful in casting a fantastic ensemble. Stand-out performances come from Alyson Nichols who is a scene stealer as the very drunk and equally unhappy romantic, Georgeanne, while Kalina Hada-Lemon charms the audience as the adorably naive and devoutly Christian southern good girl, Frances. With that being said, there was not a bad performance among them, each portraying their character quite believably.

The costumes and set design are period perfect and the stage is well laid out. The Robin’s Egg Blue paint on the walls, the cheesy brass bed-rails and peach puff-sleeved dresses with hideous bows and matching ridiculous hats transport the audience straight back to a time when bad music, heavy makeup and big hair was king. The set is detailed without being too busy, and the music choices are familiar and fun.

While I enjoyed Ball’s writing and the play overall, at times his script left me confused or feeling I had missed something and needed to catch up. The addition of the lone male character near the end, Tripp, left me momentarily bored and wondering what Tripp’s purpose was in the play, and if his character was truly necessary at all. But he, like the rest of the characters, was well acted and entertaining nonetheless.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is entertaining and well performed, and runs at the Grand Theatre’s ‘McManus Studio Theatre’ from May 9-18.  Congratulations to the cast and crew, and best wishes for a successful run.

STARRING CREATIVE TEAM
Laura Di Trolio as Trisha John Pacheco (Producer/Director/Sound Design)
Sarah C.E. Stanton as Mindy Stephen Mitchell (Set Designer)
Aleen Kelledjian as Meredith Becky Lenko (Costume Build and Design)
Kalina Hada-Lemon as Frances Kim McCuaig (Costume Build and Design)
Alyson Nichols as Georgeanne Rob Coles (Lighting Designer)
Kyle Mayer as Tripp Melody Hudson (Stage Manager)
Irene Nicholls (Props/Set Decoration)

 

 

 

Five Women; Six Ladies; One Mom (Yours!)

It’s less than a week to Mother’s Day which means sons and daughters everywhere are scrambling and asking themselves, “What do I get my mom??” Flowers wilt and die, chocolate will go straight to her hips, and she doesn’t need any more nicknacks or “World’s Best Mom” mugs. I, therefore, have a fabulous solution for you: give her the gift of theatre. As luck would have it, there are a couple of fantastic and totally appropriate shows starting very soon – both revolving around women – that I guarantee any mom would be delighted to see.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress – McManus Theatre

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, presented by Pacheco Theatre from May 9-18th, is a dramatic comedy  that revolves around five identically dressed bridesmaids with one thing in common: their shared hatred for the dress they are forced to wear, as well as the bride forcing them to wear it. While hiding out to avoid the wedding reception, the bond between the women deepens in hilarious and touching ways.

Written in 1993 by Alan Ball, writer of American Beauty and creator of the series Six Feet Under, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress touches on current topics, old stereotypes and challenges society’s preconceived notions of what it really means to be a woman. One of the five women could be you, your mother or someone you know. Who might you recognize in the characters? You’ll have to see the play to find out.

Six Funny Ladies – The Arts Project

Six Funny Ladies is being presented at the Arts Project by Maybles’ Productions from May 15-18th. This show features six actors (the funny ladies) performing 14 roles in 3 different one-act comedies which were written and set in the 1940’s.

Girls Must Talk – Storefront dummies are being prepped for the day, but it remains to be seen who the real “dummies” are.

Lady Rosa – A young woman and her roommates are busily preparing to meet her future mother-in-law, the mysterious “Lady Rosa” who they assume is close to royalty. But what happens when their assumptions about the mystery woman are wrong?

Gander Sauce – One mystery woman + two young, attractive women + one man = hilarity.

This unique production is one mom is sure not to have seen, and also one not to be missed. Who knows when these funny ladies will come around again?

So there you have it: my 2013 Mother’s Day shopping advice. Treat your mom to live theatre tickets (without breaking the bank!), and better yet, share the experience with her. ‘Things’ get dusty or broken, food is eaten and regurgitated, and flowers just wilt and die. But experiences will last a lifetime in her heart and memories. Show mom how much you really love her this year with a trip to the theatre. You’ll be her #1 kid, I promise.

Stepping Out

One of my good friends likes to remind me now and then of the response I gave in our grade two year book when asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My reply:  “An actress, a teacher, or to own my own restaurant.”

The teacher thing didn’t happen after Univerlaughterpostersity. Well, not in a formal setting, anyway. I teach my own children every day, and I hope I “teach” people a little something through the blogs I write. I don’t own a restaurant, yet, though it is still a dream. Once I find the investment, I hope to make it reality. But the actress goal I figured was something I could make happen a little more easily, and something I had denied myself from doing for too many years. Why? Esteem, or rather, a serious lack of it. Years of teasing and criticism from various sources (kids, teachers, and a snarky – to be polite – grandmother) left me feeling vulnerable and not very well liked, so I pushed the dream aside and ignored its constant nagging. And believe me; it stayed there, nagging, every day.

In September of 2012, I decided to answer the nag. Hearing there was to be a production of To Kill a Mockingbird – one of my all-time favourite novels – at our local community theatre, I swallowed my doubts and fears and let my dream take over, pushing me into the Palace Theatre for a script. I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to audition for the role of “Miss Maudie Atkinson”. Not an overly significant character (though significant enough) in the book and play, but one I related to and admired. I appreciated Miss Maudie’s optimism, how she used her sharp tongue for good, and the way she respected those around her. She was the type of person who I, in my life, aspired to be.

Having my mind set on Mockingbird, I originally didn’t have any interest in auditioning for the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor, but on encouragement I took a script to read anyway. I figured if nothing else, the audition would be a good warm up for Mockingbird. When I began reading the script, I realized just how much like the character “Carol” I was. A politically minded writer who enjoyed a good laugh, and a strong woman in a “man’s world”, Carol suddenly spoke to me. I began to think, “What if I got the part? Maybe I should go for it.”, and put my all into knowing the lines for the audition. The more I studied the lines, the more I wanted to be “Carol” and a part of this production.

On September 18, 2012, I walked into Procunier Hall at the Palace Theatre, dressed in a black and white polka dot dress which looked somewhat period to the setting of the play. My hair was curled, makeup applied in a 1950’s fashion, and I gathered up every ounce of confidence I could muster. Nervous and feeling completely out of my league, I put on a big smile and gave it my all. Never in a million years did I expect to get either role – Carol in Laughter, or Miss Maudie from Mockingbird – but with my 40th birthday fast approaching, I was determined to live out a dream. So onward and inward I went, and walked out of that hall a completely different person with a new found confidence. I auditioned for a play, and no harm came from it. I left the rest up to fate from there.

A few days after my Laughter audition I received a call from the director, Tim Condon, offering me the role of Carol. My face went hot, my breath caught in my chest and my heart raced. I didn’t know what to say. “Yes! I’d love to!” I said, “But you know, I haven’t done this before, right?”  Tim said he understood, and they didn’t mind helping me along the way. I was their choice, and it was a chance they were willing to take. I had no clue what was in store for me, but it was exciting nonetheless. I also realized at that point that the dream of playing Miss Maudie Atkinson was going to be put on hold indefinitely, and I was taking on a very different role from the one I had originally intended to chase, but I took the part anyway.

A few weeks later, we had our first reading together as a cast. I looked around the table at the actors I would be sharing the stage with, and felt completely out of my league. All but one had previous acting experience and here I was, completely green, reading a part I wasn’t sure I was entirely cut out for.  I mean, for a first role, it was pretty big! Perhaps they should have picked someone more seasoned, I thought, nearly backing out after the first night. But I wouldn’t let my fears take over again. No way, no how. This was the opportunity I had dreamed of since I was a little girl in grade two, and I was going to give it my all.

We began rehearsals in October, picking away at the lines and blocking bit by bit. There was so much to learn in what I felt was a relatively short time, and I wasn’t sure I would ever get it down. But I worked hard and kept at it, pouring my heart and soul into the character and everything that entailed. I recited my lines in my head day and night, committing them to memory and developed an idea of who I felt “Carol” was; how she would speak, act, move and react to situations. I followed the advice of the director, stage manager and my fellow actors trying to improve my performance day by day, week by week, month by month.

As rehearsals wound down and became previews, my nerves began to jump. I looked towards the exits thinking, “Maybe if I run now, they won’t find me and I can back out of this.” I was terrified. What had I gotten myself into? How were people going to react to my performance and interpretation of Carol? Would I shake so badly on stage I couldn’t get my lines out? Or worse! Would I pass out cold on the stage as soon as I entered, or vomit on the opening night? I kept telling myself, “Just get through the first audiences with the preview shows and the rest will be smooth sailing.” So that’s what I did. I focused on perfecting my lines, calming my nerves, getting through those previews upright and stomach intact, and when I accomplished that – I knew I could accomplish anything.

Last Friday night, January 18th, 2013, my long awaited dream came true. Suddenly, I was an actress performing on stage for my first opening night audience, ever. And I didn’t fall down, vomit or screw up. The audience laughed, smiled, groaned and applauded. And afterwards, they congratulated me on a job well done and told me I should do it again.

All the doubts and fears that I had carried around for nearly 40 years disappeared in those few hours. Everything I was told I couldn’t do and figured I wouldn’t do, I did. And I did it well. The dream of a little girl became the reality of a grown woman, and now neither the dream nor reality will ever die. I vow to continue to live this dream and push myself on to the next role, and the next, and the next, and the next… Because fairy tales are real, and they almost always have happy endings. Mine has.

Just four more shows remain for Laughter on the 23rdFloor, and then it’s all over. It’s hard to believe that this final week has creeped up so fast. I can still picture that first table read. That first rehearsal in the room of the box office, dreaming and impatient for the day we would be rehearsing on stage. Returning from Christmas break to see the stage ready to be set and used for the rest of our rehearsals and eventual run. I will never forget this experience, the people I have met, friends I have made, and the absolutely wonderful time I have had. At the end of all of this I believe more than ever before, that laughter is the key to happiness.

So, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood (or nowhere near the neighbourhood, wink wink – nudge nudge), why not join us for the final shows of my stage debut in Laughter on the 23rd Floor?  Come see what a lucky girl I am to live out a dream, acting beside some of the funniest, talented and most interesting people I have met in a very long time. Their friendship, advice and example made this fun and easy. (And I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m going to miss them after the final show!)

Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and encouraged me in this little personal journey. I dedicate this experience to all of you, with love. You know who you are.

Live, love, LAUGH! xo