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Markham Little Theatre,
looking forward to
The Long Weekend


The cast of The Long Weekend, Penney Donevan,
 Robert Calvert, Julia Guthrie and John Sellens
 

Apr.14.07       GuidingStar.ca recently dropped in on a rehearsal of Markham Little Theatre as they put the finishing touches on their Spring production of The Long Weekend, a lively comedy by prolific Canadian playwright Norm Foster.  The show opens at Markham Theatre For Performing Arts on April 25 for a four night run.  The Long Weekend captures the unexpected twists and turns that arise when Roger and Abby visit the summer home of Max and Wynn for what was to be a relaxing and uneventful weekend.

 Markham Little Theatre is coming off the success of its February presentation of Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife, a production that earned it several awards at the recent gala of ACTCO (Association of Community Theatres Central Ontario).  Co-directors Michèle Browne and Elizabeth Wyatt won best director awards and Mary Delaney received the award for Best Performance as a Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mrs. Culver.  The play was also nominated for best costume design. 

From that 1920’s comedy of manners, MLT brings us back to contemporary times and features a play by one of the company’s favourites.  Norm Foster was born in Newmarket and, with over forty plays written and produced, is one of Canada’s most popular playwrights. 

            Kathryn DeLory, who we saw as Barbara Fawcett in The Constant Wife, is back, this time as director.  Kathryn works full time in theatre production for the city of Brampton and still manages to find time to be a mainstay in the Markham Little Theatre family.  Over the last five years she has directed, or acted in, many of the company’s shows.

            Kathryn has brought together a cast that has achieved great chemistry together and is sure to tickle the funny bone and touch the hearts of audiences.

           Penney Donevan, who played Constance’s sister Martha in The Constant Wife, is cast in the role of Wynn, a psychologist who has her own neuroses.   Penney has been a member of Markham Little Theatre for eighteen years and, in addition to her many acting roles, has also served on the board for four different terms, and is currently the Treasurer.  Two years ago, she was honoured with the President’s Award, given by ACTCO on the recommendation of the MLT membership, in recognition of her contribution to Markham Little Theatre.

Kathryn DeLory directs Penney Donevan
in the fine art of holding a riding crop.
            Max is interpreted with great flair by Robert Calvert, a veteran of twenty-five years in community theatre in Ontario.  He describes Max as “pompous, outspoken, sarcastic” and is enjoying playing his first role with MLT.  The pinnacle of Robert’s acting career came last year when he played George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf with the Oshawa Little Theatre.  His co-star, as Martha, was none other than Shari Thorne-Kowalski who we enjoyed in February in the role of Constance in The Constant Wife.  Robert, who hails from Whitby, has also directed, and has a Norm Foster play, Small Time, among his directing credits.

            Abby is played by Julia Guthrie who, in three years with Markham Little Theatre, already has an impressive lists of roles in her acting resumé, having appeared in the Norm Foster musical The Last Resort, as well as in Sylvia, I Hate Hamlet, Moon Over Buffalo, Time of My Life and The Art of Dying.   Before joining MLT, Julia was involved with productions of the Georgetown Little Theatre and Milton Little Theatre. 

Robert Calvert and John Sellens
            John Sellens, in the role of  Roger, is in his second MLT production, having appeared three years ago in The Foursome, also under the direction of Kathryn DeLory.  For John, theatre is a great counterweight to his professional life in which he works as a computer systems administrator.  Until the mid 90’s, John was active, as both actor and director, with the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre and in other theatres in the K-W area.

            The combination of an excellent cast and a wonderful script for them to work with has produced the great chemistry that was in evidence throughout the rehearsal.  Kathryn has already done all the blockings—decisions about movements on stage—and watched closely as the actors worked their way through the play, perfecting the timings so important to stage comedy.    

Julia Guthrie and Penney Donevan
           The stage manager is Amy Pialagitis who is in her second show with MLT, having been assistant stage manager for Inspector Hound.  Amy worked full time as an Equity stage manager for ten years, in such shows as Godspell, My Favourite Year and Little Shop of Horrors

            Assistant stage managers are Peggy Wyatt who performed the same duties for The Constant Wife and Sheila McHugh who we met on our January visit while she worked away in the costume room, wearing a different hat, so to speak.

            For The Long Weekend, Priscilla Marr has taken on the responsibility of costume designer and showed us some of her creations for this show.

Stage manager Amy Pialagitis

            The volunteers who are constructing the set had their work night the previous evening but Peggy took us into the workshop to see how the set is coming along and we also got a tour of the props room from props manager Wil Pialagitis

             And to illustrate the collective spirit of MLT and the fact that every task is important, Michèle Browne, fresh from her best director award for The Constant Wife, is looking after set dressing this time and is bringing her usual enthusiasm and humour to the task. 

            After the rehearsal we spoke with director Kathryn DeLory.

            We asked her how the choice of The Long Weekend was made?

            “What we have is a play-reading committee.  We choose a season based on what we think our audience might like.  So it is a combination of things, some comedy, some drama, something that has a bit of costume in it, like The Constant Wife.  We try to highlight some things because we have some very strong female actors.  We try to do a show that has a really good strong female presence in it."

"The reason we do a Norm Foster every season is that he happens to be a personal favourite of ours.  He does comedies that are, really, very specifically Canadian comedies.  The audience absolutely loves him.  He comes to quite a few of the shows.  We like to put a Norm Foster comedy in every season, we have for the past six or seven seasons and I think this is the fourth or fifth one of his shows that I have directed for Markham." 

Costume designer Priscilla Marr

"He actually wrote the role of Max for himself and he performs it quite often.  He has performed it with his wife.  It’s a wonderful role.  It’s particularly nasty, and everything, but when you see the role of Max it really is Norm on stage.  He has done a couple of shows like that, that he puts himself in.  But it’s funny and the audiences love him.”

How did she think the audience would connect with this play?

            “The wonderful thing about Norm Foster is that he writes about Everyman, every Canadian.  So there is always something in his plays that every single person can relate to and it doesn’t matter about the gender of the character that he is writing.  It is the whole idea that pain is comedy and comedy hurts.  So anything that he puts in, anything that is particularly realistic, is drawn from personal pain and is funnier that way and the audiences absolutely adore that.”

We enjoyed Kathryn in the role of Barbara in The Constant Wife.  Did she prefer acting or directing?

“I was trained as an actor.  That is what I went to university for.  But I soon found there is not enough control in acting. I prefer to have my finger in every little piece of the pie of the play and this way I get to control it a whole lot more, right from the casting, approving the set design, my ideas for the costumes, everything like that.  Having an overview of the entire play is what I prefer.  So this is much more natural for me now.”

The company cannot rehearse in the final venue, Markham Theatre For Performing Arts, until three days before opening day.  Is this difficult?

“It’s very difficult but we are very lucky to have this space (MLT's rehearsal facility on the grounds of the Markham Museum) because everything is under one roof .  So, when they are doing the construction, we can see what is happening.  We’ve got all the amenities here, costumes are here, props are here.  We get to actually map out a set that is exactly the size that we will be putting on stage at the Markham Theatre.  We get to use all the props.  We get to use all the costumes that we want.  They can bring in set pieces, as they build them, for us to try out and to use and that is absolutely wonderful.”

Kathryn lives in Erin, has an already busy work schedule, and a long commute to the MLT.  How does she manage?

Assistant stage manager Peggy Wyatt
in the set workshop

“Once the show actually gets up and on its feet and blocked, I am here one night a week and usually on Sundays for rehearsal, just because of my schedule with the city of Brampton.  It’s tough to be here more than that but I have a really excellent stage management team who take the other rehearsals for me.  Once the show is blocked the actors really just need to do it again and again and again. They get the movements, the choreography down and the timing beautifully precise and then I come in and I break it down and polish it again and then we keep tightening it up.” 

Everything is coming together---a great choice of play, an excellent cast, gorgeous set and costumes---for a highly entertaining evening. 

Michele Browne and Sheila McHugh
painting a chair. (It's supposed to be loud.)
Props manager Wil Pialagitis

The Long Weekend is produced by Terry Browne and Angela Stewart.  Don’t miss it, April 25-28, at Markham Theatre For Performing Arts.

If you would like more information about the Markham Little Theatre, you can visit their website, www.markhamlittletheatre.com.

            Click here for show details of  The Long Weekend.

Grant Weaver 

 


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