Playing the waiting game
Song and dance, laughter and tears — not to mention a whole host of volunteer efforts on the home front — are at the heart of Langley Players’ upcoming production of a distinctly Canadian drama.
Set during the Second World War, John Murrell’s Waiting for the Parade, tells the stories of five Calgary women whose lives are profoundly affected as they survive the “waiting” with intelligence, strength and a joyful approach to life.
The play unfolds through a series of vignettes, as the women come together to sing songs and make care packages for soldiers.
“They’re finding ways of not sitting at home and waiting,” explains Amber Inglis, who plays Catherine, a young woman whose husband Billy enlists in the army and is overseas for the duration of the war.
The characteristics that best define Catherine are her strong will and passion for life, said Inglis, a drama teacher at D.W. Poppy Secondary.
Left to care for her one-year-old child alone while her husband is away, Catherine is determined to carrying on living life to the fullest.
“She’s a fighter, she’s fearless.”
One of the characters — Eve— is a teacher, but Inglis decided she didn’t want to play a woman whose life is too much like her own, preferring instead to connect on an emotional level, which she did with Catherine.
“She’s different enough from me that I thought it would be a challenge,” Inglis said of her character.
Waiting for the Parade is not a musical, per se, but the performers sing many of the songs that were popular during the war. It’s another first for Inglis, even though she teaches musical theatre.
“That was one of the main things that drew me,” she said.
“It’s exciting for me, because I do expect that out of my students. It opened my eyes to what they go through.”
Over the past five years, Inglis has tried to perform in one play a year, working it around her students’ schedule. Waiting for the Parade marks her first time on stage with the Langley Players, after treading the boards with Bard on the Bandstand and Emerald Pig Theatre Company in her former hometown of Maple Ridge.
Angela Bell, meanwhile, is something of a fixture at the Langley Players’ little theatre in Brookswood. Having been involved — both on stage and behind the scenes— with no fewer than 18 previous productions, Bell now takes on the role of Marta, a young German woman, whose heritage and experience mirror that of Bell’s mother, to whom the actress dedicates her performance.
During the course of the play, Marta is harassed and abused for her German heritage, which she has gone to great lengths to disguise.
“She’s tried to Canadianize herself, she has no accent,” explained Bell.
However, Marta can’t let go of her homeland entirely, often listening and singing along to German music.
For some, however, her background is unforgivable, and despite the fact she has lived in Calgary for 25 years, Marta is tormented — sauerkraut is deposited in her mailbox and swastikas are scrawled on her windows.
It wasn’t until she’d earned the role that Bell learned about her own mother’s similar ill treatment.
“I was telling my dad I’d been cast in the role and how she was alienated because she was German,” she said.
Although Bell’s mother came to Canada in the late 1950s, emotion was still running high from the war in Europe and the stigma of her German heritage followed her.
One of her teachers “treated her like garbage” because members of the teacher’s family had died (in the war), Bell’s father told her.
“I just burst into tears when he told me that. I thought, ‘I’ll use that in my performance.’
“I’m getting in touch with certain emotions and hoping the performance rings true.”
One of the main challenges she faces in her performance is mastering a foreign language — in song at least.
“I sing in German (in the play) and I don’t speak German,” said Bell.
“I’m learning to pronounce German words properly because I want to pay respect to (the language) and not crucify it.”
The show also features some great songs in English that were popular during the war years — including White Cliffs of Dover and Lili Marlene — which Bell expects will be especially touching for older members of the audience.
Director Helen Embury is confident that audiences will be moved by the women who strove daily to make the best of bad situation.
“You will leave the theatre celebrating all the wonderful women who went before us and faced an unknown future with courage and humour,” she said.
Producer Leslie Gaudette, meanwhile, is quick to give credit to the team of volunteers who have worked together for months to bring the play life, including stage manager Gordon Mantle of White Rock and music director Diane Gendron of Langley.
“A huge range of creative talent and historical research goes into mounting a production like this one,” said Gaudette.
“Team members have spent hours online, reading reference books and even visiting the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa to research costumes, windows, sound effects, leg paint and Canada’s effort in the war.”
• Waiting for the Parade runs Thursdays to Sundays from Oct. 20 to Nov. 19 at the Langley Playhouse, 4307 200 St. in Brookswood. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. All tickets are $15. Reserve at 604-534-7469 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.langleyplayers.com for more information.
Just as the Langley Players’ 2011-12 season opens with a Second World War-era drama on stage of the Langley Playhouse, the club is preparing to step even further back in time.
On Oct. 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the theatre company will hold auditions for the role of William Scott, for the winter production, Victoria’s House.
Set on the British coast in the early 1900s, Victoria’s House is a supernatural tale of murder and madness, which begins when Neil Bannister kills his young wife and thinks he has committed the perfect crime. Soon, however, he is haunted by supernatural phenomena that are beyond his understanding.
Auditions for the role of Scott, which requires a male between the ages of 35 and 40 who can speak the “Queen’s English,” will take place at the playhouse, 4307 200 St.
Because the role is being recast the day before rehearsals are scheduled to begin, director Angela Bell said whoever gets the role “has to be prepared to jump right in.”
It is an open call and auditioners will be seen in the order of arrival. Auditions will consist of reading sides from the script. Actors are asked to bring resume and headshot to the audition.
Production dates will be Thursday to Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 18, with a possible holdover Feb. 23-25.
A rehearsal calendar and script will be available at the audition or as requested. Come prepared with a list of any and all dates that you are not available.
For information, contact Bell (email@example.com).