Artistic Director Q&A on Beau Jest: "Audiences are in for a fun ride"

1. Tell us a little bit about Beau Jest. Why did you pick this show for this season?

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Ken Hildebrandt

 

Beau Jest is a comedy about family.

It explores some pretty universal themes that I think we can all relate to: loving our children, pleasing our parents, becoming our own person, what happens when our desires and ambitions are in opposition to those of our parents, wanting what’s best for our kids.

The story focuses on Sarah and her desperate plight to please her mom and dad but to also have the kind of life she wants. All her mom wants is for her to marry a nice Jewish boy, but she’s been dating anyone but!

So, in order to get her mom off her back, she hires an actor to play her fake, Jewish doctor boyfriend at a family dinner. Of course, hilarity ensues as she tries to keep the charade up for as long as possible.

What’s fun about this play is that regardless of our faith or cultural background, we can all relate to the characters.

I choose this play for a number of reasons: we presented it about 10 or 12 years ago in our final season at the Eben-Ezer Church, and audiences responded really well to it. It was time to re-produce the play for a larger audience.

I also chose it because it’s a comedy and for a change, I wanted to schedule a comedy in the January/February timeslot, the darkest and dreariest time of the year, in order to provide audiences with a fun, pick-me up.

The play is not a classic in the traditional sense, though it’s been around for a long time, and it explores the classic themes of family, romance and love.

 

2. Gallery 7 has done this show before. What was that first production like?

 

We first presented this play in the basement of the Eben-Ezer Church in our little 140 seat arena stage. That production had an entirely different cast and design team so anyone who saw it back then will have an entirely new experience this time around.

Alayne Cheny directed that show and I had the privilege of playing Chris Kringle, the guy Sarah is actually dating. I’d like to say more about that experience but expounding on that right now may spoil the plot for audiences of our current production. All I can say is that I’m definitely Team Chris.

I can say that if the technology used by the characters in the show seemed a bit dated and precious when we first did the show, I’m sure audiences are going to get a good chuckle out of it a decade later now that we’re in the age of smart phones and voice mail. Audiences had a great time with the show.

As it caught on, we began to sell out performances towards the end of the run. I’m trusting the same will be true with our current version of the show – it’s just so funny and still so relevant.

 

3. This show is being performed in the Abby Arts Centre Community Addition, where Gallery 7 has to create a theatre space. Tell us a little bit about that process.

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The team setting up last year's production of Doubt

 

It’s a bit of a process to create a theatre space from scratch. Thankfully, we have an amazing team of designers and technicians who know theatre tech like the back of their hand and are able to take the challenges posed by an empty space and turn it in to a fun theatre experience for audiences.

The biggest pressure, I think, is on the set designer – not only is he designing the set, he also needs to take seating configuration in to consideration so that we have enough room not only for seating, but also for concessions and a bit of a lobby.

We also need to know where to place the tech booth so that our tech operators and the stage manager can see the show without being a distraction to the audience. There’s also a real shortage of storage and backstage space, and there are only set of bathrooms in the building!

The lighting designer also has a bit of a challenge because the space we’re using has a limited lighting system and we have to be very judicious in how we apply a lighting design. Of course, we couldn’t do all of this without Charlene Crawford’s excellent coordination as production manager and the support of the team at Abbotsford Arts Centre.

The play we present may seem fairly straight forward technically, but in reality, we’re maxing out the capabilities of the space.

 

4. What are you looking forward to about the show? What can we expect when the lights go down?

 

I’m really looking forward to seeing audiences have a good time – to share some good laughs and maybe do a little reflection on their own family relationships.

Audiences are in for a fun ride – a high paced comedy with a lot of heart and soul. Our cast, director, crew, and design team have worked very hard to create an exciting theatre experience and I know audiences are in for a real treat.

A perfect tonic to the long, rainy winter nights. Can’t wait!

 


 

 Beau Jest is coming Jan 25 to Abbotsford—get your tickets now!