Taran Waterous and Krystine Lucas talk about what it’s like to be an actor on the set of TRU Actors Workshop Theatre’s production of “The Mail Order Bride,” written by Robert Clinton and directed by Heidi Verwey.
Annie Slizak: What can you tell me about the play itself?
Taran Waterous: “The Mail Order Bride” is an examination of a Canadian multi-generational, multicultural family in the early half of the 20th century. It explores themes of love and loss, but also redemption. The text is already very self aware, but this production features an added layer of theatricality: an “assistant stage manager” character who reads the beautifully poetic stage directions and functions as a guide for both the audience and the actors.
Krystine Lucas: “The Mail Order Bride” by Robert Clinton is a beautiful play that will make you laugh and cry all at the same time. It takes you on a journey through time and tells a story of a family in the prairies and the hardships and struggles that people are faced with in life. This play shows you three generations of family and proves that cause and effect has a huge significance; certain decisions one person makes affect the people around them including those that aren’t even born yet. This play teaches us that we are all flowers that haven’t budded yet, and we need our family and friends by our sides to support us and help us in order to be able to fully bloom.
AS: What is Heidi Verwey like as a director?
TW: Heidi is amazing to work with. Her rehearsal process is one that allows constant growth for her actors and her production. We are literally always learning something from her and I personally wouldn’t be where I am today as an artist if it wasn’t for her mentorship.
KL: Heidi Verwey is a unique and creative director who has her own style and flare. Nothing seems to scare her, and she is always open minded to ideas that are out of the norm. Heidi is very open to everyone’s individual creative process and loves to learn with everyone as each cast member creates their own individual characters and relationships. Heidi is also extremely positive and supportive. Even if you begin to have concerns about certain things, she is quick to reassure you that everything is going to be okay. Heidi is fun-loving, and feels passionately about theatre; she is a pleasure to work with.
AS: What is the most challenging part about playing your character?
TW: My character, Russell, is the farthest removed person from myself I’ve ever had the pleasure to put onstage. He’s a seasoned air force pilot who saw combat in WWII and the Korean War, so his actions and his objectives are tempered by years of fighting. It’s difficult to inhabit a mindset like his because of the terrible things he’s witnessed and been a part of. He may seem like a strong person on the outside but Russell is always second guessing himself.
KL: I was cast as the character of the assistant stage manager, not to be mistaken with the actual stage manager backstage. I am onstage 98 per cent of the time and in a way I control what is happening onstage, from season changes, to when the characters enter and exit, to when the characters fight with each other, or when they smooch each other. This role has been particularly challenging for me as I am used to being very physical and expressive onstage, where now I have to contain myself, and control my face, and not take away from the action happening onstage, but still remain an interesting presence onstage. To find that middle ground was quite challenging and I had to play around a lot with what options I had to help find that happy, middle place.
AS: How did you go about developing your character?
TW: I watched a lot of interviews with air force pilots who saw combat in both wars, especially Canadian pilots. I did a lot of research into the things Russell would have experienced during and after his service and spent a lot of time developing mannerisms and physicality that would express his experiences.
KL: I had lots of freedom when it came to the development of my character, and I was able to play around a lot with different ideas and different personas. There was no specific way that this character had to be played and I was able to essentially create my own character. Of course it couldn’t be too wild of a character, and it had to be believable that I was an assistant stage manager. Through trial and error I managed to find an appropriate persona for my character. I also created a relationship with the family and the characters onstage. Yes, none of these characters can see me with the exception of one, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t know the family personally. I created relationships and opinions about each of the other characters and this helped with how I feel about the action and conflicts happening onstage.
AS: What should the audience come prepared for before the show?
TW: Audiences should be prepared for a nuanced piece of art. There are moments that will make you laugh and moments that may cause you to shed a tear. Don’t expect everyone to get a happy ending.
KL: The audience should come prepared to see something different. This play breaks rules and has creative aspects that don’t occur often in theatre, yet they are helpful and entertaining in the telling of this family’s story. They should also be prepared to go on a rollercoaster of emotions as this play has the ability of making you laugh and cry at the same time. Finally, they should be prepared to be wowed by the talent that has come out of AWT’s theatre department.
AS: How do you hope audience members will feel on the drive home from the show?
TW: I hope everybody takes something different away from “Bride.” From some people, like my character, I expect they will learn a lesson about acceptance, forgiveness and absolution.
KL: I hope that audience members will go home with a smile on their face after watching the beautiful story of this family from the prairies being told in front of them. I hope that they maybe think of their own family and feel a sense of appreciation for them, and understand that times do get tough and to appreciate the loved ones they have in their life, and support each other, and to be there for one another, and together, they can help each other grow.
“The Mail Order Bride” runs Dec. 3–5. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased online at kamloopslive.ca or from the box office next to Starbucks in Old Main.