The Part Chooses You

About two years ago, an incredibly talented director friend (or ITDF) told me over drinks that he had a script that would be perfect for me. I was floored. This is a critically acclaimed, award-winning director whose work I admire very much saying that he wants to work with me. ME! That script? Mary Magdalene and Adventures in Sobriety.

Being one of the key members of Evolution Theatre at the time, I immediately approached the company to program it into our next season. It was eventually scheduled for April 2012.  Unfortunately, about a year and a half ago, things changed for ITDF and he had to bail on directing the show. He however insisted that I continue with the project and that I had his blessing to find someone else to direct.  Names were tossed around. Having really enjoyed Twelfth Night at the Ottawa Theatre School, I mentioned Andy Massingham. We had wanted to work together on a project for a while now and, to me, this seemed like a perfect fit.

Andy had wanted to do more directing, but he wasn't sure he would have the time to work on this project. After all, you don't end up with Rideau Award nominations for four separate shows by being "available".  Plus, he wasn't sure he liked the script all that much. So one beautiful summer morning last year, we sat on his porch, script in hand and had a chat. His first question for me: "Why do you want to do this show?"

You mean other than the fact I am dying to perform and the only way I seem able to do so is by producing it myself?

Well, I think it's a great script with a lot of humour and a lot of heart.  If I said to you "homeless alcoholic woman who believes she is the bride of Christ" - hahaha probably wouldn't be the first thing that comes to mind, but Mary M makes me laugh. A lot. (Side note - on the way to NYC I read a few sections of the play out-loud in the car. In less than one paragraph, my friends were hooked.)

But it's more than that. There's a lot of myself I see in this character: East Coast way of speaking (playwright Berni Stapleton is from Newfoundland) - check; troubles with alcohol - check; not having a home and being ok with that - #hobokenny check; filling her bag with free food when it's offered - check; seen as promiscuous even when you're not - check; being so in love with someone you can't be with and spending your whole life waiting for him to come back - check to the check to the double check check.

If you are an actor, have you ever realized that whenever you have a new character to play, no matter how different they are from you, there is always something in there that makes you go "man, I am totally going through that shit in my own life right now." It's almost spooky how that works out.  An acting teacher once told me that you only get the parts that you are meant to play. In essence, you don't choose the parts, the parts choose you.

Mary M is lonely, which is why she overcompensates so much. I get that. Boy, do I ever get that.

He nodded thoughtfully and finally asked me to read. The sun was bright and warm as I read and he stared out at the neighbourhood movie playing in front of us.  The trees frame his street like a perfect natural TV screen and the effect is stunning. By the time I was done, he was quiet for a moment. Finally, he looked at me and nodded some more.  He tells me he's changed his mind. He really does love this script after all.

"We'll make it work."


Mary Magdalene and Adventures in Sobriety by Berni Stapleton Directed by Andy Massingham Featuring Nancy Kenny

Arts Court Theatre 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa, ON

April 18th to 28th, 2012 – 7:30 p.m. Pay What You Can Matinee: Sunday April 22nd – 2 p.m. (no show on Monday) Tickets $25, $20 for Students/Seniors Available by phone by calling Arts Court at 613-564-7240