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Markham Little Theatre Ropes In Outlaw of Norm Foster

article and rehearsal photos by Grant Weaver

photo by Lyn Jones

Guns are drawn but no shots are fired in this climactic scene rehearsed by
(from left) John Sellens, Ryan Browne, Terry Browne and David Borwick.

(Nov. 17/07)

            Markham Little Theatre is bringing to the stage Norm Foster’s Outlaw, November 21 to 24 at Markham Theatre For Performing Arts. 

            Newmarket born playwright Norm Foster is one of Canada’s most prolific and successful playwrights and is a favourite of MLT.  His social comedies have delighted Markham audiences for many years.

Director Kathryn Delory
            After the success of their September season openerPaul Simon’s The Odd Couple (Female Version), set in New York and centred around women — Markham Little Theatre now offers a fosteresque Western with an all male cast of four.

            Director Kathryn Delory, who also directed MLT's April production of Norm Foster's The Long Weekend, spoke to GuidingStar.ca and described Outlaw as Foster's “best written play”. 

            “It has more depth than anything else he has written,” she said.  “He writes comedies that appeal to the masses.  Everybody enjoys them, you know, the ‘everyman syndrome’. 

            This play, she told us, is a bit of a departure for Foster.

            “He’s kind of gone out of his comfort zone in this because it is set in Kansas, and it’s set in 1871,” Kathryn explained.  “He doesn’t do a lot of anything that is historical.  So this, I think, is really a jump for him and I just love what he has done with it.”       

            It was written in 2003, and first produced in 2004.  Unlike his many social comedies, this play is a little harder to peg as to genre.   

            “It’s sort of a comedy and drama together,” she told us.  “It doesn’t rely on the comic situations with the family or the couples.  It’s really an interesting story and it’s got a great twist at the end.”             

Stage Manager Peggy Wyatt
Assistant Stage Manager Angela Stewart

            Foster uses a historic context to explore some of the cultural differences between the United States and Canada but this playwright with a comic genius tempers his critiques with a humour that is directed at both sides. 

            His characters offer a sharp contrast between the innocent and naive Canadian cowboy, Bob Hicks, and the cynical American sheriff, Dupuis Tarwater.  In between, are two other American characters, the haughty ranch owner Rolland Keats, and the beaten down cowpoke Will Van Horn, who both manage, in the end, to do the right thing.

            MLT has brought together a great cast, with three familiar faces.

            New to the company, however, is David Borwick.  David, who is from Kleinburg, began his acting career only in 2004 but he has already appeared in musical productions with Music Theatre Etobicoke and last year played, appropriately, cowboy Dead Rock Pete in the Crazy For You of Etobicoke Music Productions. He has also been on stage with Village Playhouse in Bloor West Village and Alumni Theatre.

            David describes Will Van Horn as “a bit of a beaten dog, he has seen too much of the world, too much of the wars, as a confederate scout.”

            Balancing the comic and the dramatic is a challenge.

            “You get to a part and you think ‘do I play this for laughs or play it straight’” he said.  “And then, all of a sudden I go from cracking jokes to remembering my fallen comrades.”

David Borwick

Ryan Browne

            Ryan Browne, the youngest member of the cast, plays the cowboy from Manitoba, Bob Hicks.  He appeared in his first production with MLT in 1996, at the age of sixteen.  He has done three shows with the company, in all of which he played alongside his uncle, Terry Browne.

            As with many young actors in Markham, Ryan first cut his teeth on stage with Markham Youth Theatre and Unionville Theatre Company.  With MYT he played in a production of Company, a Stephen Sondheim musical, at the age of fifteen.   Ryan is also a product of Unionville High School’s Arts York program. 

            Music has always been big in Ryan’s life and he is part of a very musical family.  He plays the guitar and also studied Jazz at Humber College.

            Markham Little Theatre fans last enjoyed John Sellens on stage in April when he appeared in another Norm Foster play, the social comedy The Long Weekend.  Now, as the cynical and opportunistic Sheriff Dupuis Tarwater, he’s having a great time playing a very character.

            John also appeared in MLT’s The Foursome.  Before joining the Markham company, he was active for many years with Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre.

            A man with many interests (he modestly forbid me to say “with many talents”) John also plays in the Markham Concert Band and as soon as Outlaw’s run is over will be rejoining the band for rehearsals in preparation for their December 2 Christmas concert.

John Sellens
Terry Browne

            Terry Browne needs no introduction to Markham Little Theatre fans.  He has been a stalwart of the company for almost three decades, both on stage, behind the scenes, and in the management of the company.

            Cast as Rolland Keats, the haughty rancher who pulls the strings in the local community, Terry enjoys his character’s many literary digressions and pontifications.  Keats looms at times downright sinister but is softened in the end.

           Co-producing Outlaw are Amanda Davison and MLT's award-winning veteran Liz Wyatt.  Stage manager is Peggy Wyatt who is assisted by Angela Stewart.

           The set design team, headed by Ross Liversage and assistant set designer Michèle Browne, have taken on a new challenge.  Past MLT productions have featured some luxuriously gorgeous interior sets.  Outlaw, however, takes place completely out of doors.  This time, the set will feature a huge rock over which will tower a twenty-one foot hanging tree with a dangling noose!
Set designer Ross Liversage Assistant Set Designer Michèle Browne
Co-producers Amanda Davison and Liz Wyatt

            Add four characters from the Wild West in full costume, including three packing six shooters on their belts, a great script, and you’ve got another lively and entertaining evening from Markham Little Theatre.

             “I am especially proud of this cast,” director Kathryn Delory told us.  “They are all excellent actors and really well suited to their roles.”

            The curtain goes up on Wednesday, November 21 at Markham Theatre for a four day run.  Tickets can be purchased through the box office at 905-305-7469.

            For complete show details click here.

            If you would like to know more about Markham Little Theatre visit www.markhamlittletheatre.com.


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