I know very little about Bedtime Stories, the final production in Keyano Theatre Company's 2012-2013 season, except that it was written by one of Canada's most prolific and celebrated playwrights - Norm Foster. But I managed to get additional insight from four separate interviews I did last night at the media call.
A fun experience
Hearing that "it's been a freakin' fantastic ride," really says everything about the past six weeks for the cast and crew of this production. Director Misha Albert was equally exhausted as ebullient about the journey as we sat down in the Keyano Theatre lobby.
While seeing an official audience for the first time tonight during preview, several guests were brought in to see the technical rehearsals and the response bodes well for the run. "They've just loved it. They've left it with smiles on their faces," said Albert. "What more can you ask for?"
For publicist and actress Misty Oakes, the experience has not only given her a chance to do what she loves, but it has also indoctrinated a few new faces into the KTC family.
"We have two new people in our cast who have never done this before," she said, on the eve of getting in front of a Keyano Theatre audience in her fifth production. "It's so awesome to share the stage with them. It's a lot of fun."
One of those newcomers is Csilla Gresku, a learning strategist/adaptive technologist in the Counselling department at Keyano College. She came to Fort McMurray from Hamilton, Ontario. While she had some stage experience n high school, this is the first time performing as an adult in a community context.
"I joined because I wanted to meet new people and expand my network," she shared.
She found the rehearsal schedule very manageable and was impressed by the support structure that has been the foundation of Keyano Theatre Company for 33 years.
"There's a lot of care taken for the details," said Csilla (pronouned CHILL la). "The costumes, the set design, it's amazing!"
Norm Foster is a genius
People who do Norm Foster plays seem to become instant and lifelong fans. According to Misty, the situations and characters offered up in Bedtime Stories, are strikingly familiar. "This is the most relatable play of the season (outside of Hometown, which of course was the story of ourselves)," she said. "Norm Foster writes real stories for real people. It's heartfelt. It's funny. And it's very light-hearted."
He writes about "situations that we've all experienced," said Misha. "It's beautifully written sketch comedy, hearkening back to Carol Burnett, having these wonderful characters that they developed and these situations that were just a little bit on the cusp - being able to look at them and laugh at them and really play with them and have fun."
Not just a night of laughs, Csilla suggests that Bedtime Stories will also make you think and feel.
"It's really heart-warming," she said. "There are very poignant moments in it. So, it has a really nice underlying message."
Misty agrees. "It gonna make people laugh. It might make a few people cry."
Getting involved is everything
This season we've spent a lot of time celebrating the growth in participation at Keyano Theatre Company. Both Calendar Girls and Hometown...The Musical! were runaway sensations at attracting a healthy mix of veterans and newcomers to the process. And while Bedtime Stories has a much smaller ensemble - you will see 7 performers on the stage - the importance of getting involved continues to reverberate.
For Csilla Gresku, auditioning was about meeting new people and connecting with a new community.
For Misty Oakes, it was another opportunity to explore her passion. "I've found what I love to do, and that's the best part."
For Ben McCully, going into this process hot on the heels of a long rehearsal and production schedule with Hometown, proved to be worth it on multiple levels.
"I look at it as one experience," he reflected, "as they were so close together. But I couldn't have done one without the other."
He's a big fan and a vocal champion of the community theatre experience offered by Keyano Theatre Company.
"It gives you a chance to not only do something different and really get involved in the community, but flex muscles that are in yourself that you don't realize."
"There is a system of people behind the scenes that really make this happen," he continued. "It's community theatre, but it's the closest thing to professional theatre, through the community, that you're going to find anywhere."
"In coming to a show like Bedtime Stories "you're getting to see your community do something dynamic. You're getting to see people that you pass on the street do something larger than life, and you can too!"
"If I can do this; you can do this," encourages Ben. "Get involved in Keyano Theatre's upcoming auditions."
There are great threads flowing through the narrative of Bedtime Stories, but the one that really jumps out for me was Misha's fishing trip for one final male performer. He started walking around the college looking for a man in a particular age range. In the end, he landed the big one, and successfully upgraded a longtime fan from the seats into the spotlight.
"Kim Nolan has been a season subscriber to this theatre for 29 years," said Misha. "And this is his first time stepping on this side of the lights, acting in it. It's been a wonderful experience for him."
Bedtime Stories previews tonight and opens tomorrow night. Additional performances are on April 27, May 1, 2, 3 & 4. For tickets click here.
EDDIE/NICK/CHARLIE: Ben McCully
LOU/DAVEY/JERRY: Kim Nolan
BETSY: Jane Leavitt
DEREK/STEVE/TOMMY: Eric Dunham
SUSAN/LAURA: Csilla Gresku
MELODY: Jennifer Townsend
SANDY/YOLANDA: Misty Oakes
DIRECTOR: Misha Albert
SET/COSTUME DESIGNER: Stacey Beach
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Shawn Watson
STAGE MANAGER: Stepanie Link (appears courtesy of Canadian Actor's Equity Association)
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER: Patrick Hampton
Auditions for Boeing Boeing, the first play of the 2013-2014 season, are taking place May 11 & 12. For more information click here.