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Today, we begin a new blog series, introducing you to some of the actors and designers working to bring our Canadian premier production of Swallows and Amazons to the stage. We begin with Andrea Loewen, communications director at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver by day, and choreographer by night. Grab a cup of coffee, pull the screen close and enjoy this entertaining interview...

 

andrea_loewen-2947smG7: Tell us about your theatre background – have you always done design work or have you been involved in other theatre elements like acting or directing?

 

Andrea Loewen (AL): While my work in theatre began as an actor (or, more accurately, a wannabe actor), I really have been dancing since long before I was acting. In fact, as a preschooler when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said a ballerina. Since getting serious about theatre itself, however, I have done a lot of things. These days I have shifted my focus from performing to writing, producing, choreography, and working as the Communications Manager for Pacific Theatre. (Who would've thought I'd be thrilled to work as a theatre administrator? But I am!)

 

G7: How did you get involved with Gallery 7? Is it important to you to be involved with a faith-based theatre?

 

AL: I've known about Gallery 7 for ages since I grew up in Abbotsford, but really got involved through Pacific Theatre connections. Last year Gallery 7, brought their production of Tuesdays with Morrie out to open our season at PT, and somewhere in there it came up with Ken that I dance and do choreography. From there I worked on The Fantasticks and now again on Swallows and Amazons! What I love about working with a faith-based theatre (since my main squeeze, Pacific Theatre, is also faith-based) is the dedication to total integrity in the work - not just artistic excellence, but in how everyone is treated as an artist and as a human being.

 

G7: Tell us about your thought process as you prepare your choreography. What are you hoping to achieve with your design?

 

AL: My main concern with choreography is to further the storytelling. I look at the song, what it's trying to say, and its position within the story as a whole, and make sure that the movement fits in with that. Sometimes that means a big, dancey show-stopper, and sometimes that means an actor who barely moves on stage - either way it's a lot of fun.

 

G7: What were some of the challenges you faced in the design process?

 

AL: Working with the actors to make sure that the movements fit their characters and their bodies as actors while being specific enough to tell the story, while taking into account costumes, the set, everyone's abilities, and the fact that they need to be able to sing and act at the same time as doing whatever crazy movements I'm giving them make for a bit of a challenge.

 

G7: When you think back to your own childhood, do you remember imagination-play? What form did that take for you? Did you have imaginary friends? Did you imagine yourself in certain situations?

 

AL: I was constantly creating elaborate imaginary scenes for myself, sometimes by myself and sometimes with my sister and cousin. We would play royalty and prisoners at the dinner table, practice fainting like nobles in the living room, and make up dances to our favourite Amy Grant songs.

 

G7: How do you think our imaginations as children shape us as adults? When is it appropriate for us to be child-like?

 

AL: When is it not appropriate to be child-like? The answer: when you need to eat vegetables or pay a bill. Otherwise, let loose! A child-like imagination allows us to say "what if" and actually delve into the possibilities of a whole new universe. This is totally vital to any kind of storytelling, but also to having a life that's fun. Letting something surprising capture your attention and exploring every detail of it - that's how we learn, how we progress, and how we embrace this silly little life thing.

 

G7: What do you hope the audience will take away from this play?

 

AL: This play is all about, well, playing. It's a group of kids who go camping, run into some other kids, and annoy some adults, but for them it is an epic and incredible adventure. They take a "what if" and carry it all the way through their experience, and have a life-changing experience as a result. So maybe we could all learn to play a little more too.

 

G7: Anything else you want to share?

 

AL: Just that apparently play and imagination are really important to me, so maybe they should be to you too.

 

G7: What's your favourite way to relax?

 

AL: Depends on the situation. Oftentimes when I'm coming down from a manically busy time I'll need to just zonk out for a while and watch a season of Buffy or Doctor Who, clean my house, and do some baking (yep, that's actually relaxing for me!) I also do a lot of yoga, and try to find some stillness every day. Writing, dancing, crafting, and spending time with my favourite people are other great ways to unwind and recharge.

 

G7: If you were on death row, what would you request as your last meal?

 

AL: A peanut butter and honey sandwich. My homemade all-natural peanut butter, honey from my uncle's bee farm and fresh-baked multigrain bread, with butter. SO GOOD.

 

G7: What's the best 5 bucks you ever spent?

 

AL: Oh goodness, that's tough. This sounds ridiculous, but I got an amazing purse at a thrift store for 5 dollars. It was massive, had lots of pockets, and must have sold for over $50 in stores. That purse took me through some busy times and was big enough that once, while cleaning it out, I discovered I'd been carrying a can of soup, a serving plate, a spoon, and a book I'd long finished reading.

 

G7: Best advice your mom or dad ever gave you?

 

AL: My Mom tells me to question things that don't make sense. My Dad tells me that guys aren't complicated. Both have been super valuable!

 

 


 

Swallows_and_AmazonsGallery 7 Theatre's production of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, adapted by Helen Edmundson with music by Neil Hannon, runs March 8 & 9, 14 - 16, 21 - 23 @ 7:30 PM with discount matinees on March 9, 16 & 23 at 2:00 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets can be purchased by phone or in person at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford or 604-852-3701. Tickets can also be purchased online here.

Swallows_and_Amazons

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN TICKETS TO SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS!

 

Swallows and Amazons is a show about fun, adventure and the imagination. In that spirit, Gallery 7 Theatre is holding a contest for a chance to win two tickets to the show!

 

Here's how it works: Share your favourite childhood adventure either on our Facebook page, our Blog (use the comment feature on this post) or by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and you'll be entered in a draw to win two tickets to any performance of Swallows and Amazons, running March 8 – 23.

 

When writing your story, tell us briefly about the adventure, how old you were and why it's such a special memory. All submissions received will be posted on our blog and our Facebook page.

 

A couple of guidelines:

 

• Stories should be 50 words or less.

• Only one entry per person.

• Keep it appropriate! Inappropriate submissions will be deleted and disqualified.

• Not open to cast & crew members, staff or members of the G7 Board of Directors. (Sorry!)

 

Share in the adventure and the fun ... and be sure to check our Facebook page and our blog for all the great stories! Contest closes March 1, 2013 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time so get posting!

We're very grateful for the awesome comments people have made about our current production of Mary's Wedding thus far. By sharing them below, we hope you'll be convinced to experience this powerful production for yourself. :) Show runs January 24 - February 2. Click here for details.

 

MW_-_rehearsal-4497sm"This is a must see...what a great show." – Audience Member

 

"Thanks for the great show...a profound script, good acting, and the sound was excellent. (We) think it is the best Gallery 7 we have seen. Well done. Two thumbs up!" – Audience Member

 

"Still thinking about Gallery 7 Theatre's production of Mary's Wedding. Brilliantly acted by Annette Reilly & Matt Veenbaas and beautifully directed by Katherine Hill. Congrats to the cast and crew on a stellar opening night!!!!!" – Audience Member

 

"Everyone needs to go see the play Mary's Wedding being put on by Gallery 7 here in Abbotsford. If you only see one play, make it this one! Beautifully acted ... and directed. The show was amazing!! You will laugh and cry! A must see!" – Audience Member

 

"Looking for a way to bust out of those January blues?! Here's some great theatre to check out! Mary's Wedding (Gallery 7) and Ernestine Shushwap Gets Her Trout (UFV). Both shows are really well done and a refreshing change from your typical theatre experience." – Audience Member

 

"Just saw Mary's Wedding at Gallery 7 theatre this evening!!! Fabulous show and brilliantly acted!" – Audience Member

 

"I just got in from watching Gallery 7 Theatre's latest production, Mary's Wedding. All I can say is, Wow. I was drawn in and lost for the entire 90 min production. Time flew by due to the fantastic acting, not a dry eye in the house at the end, and the actors got a well-deserved standing ovation...this is a MUST SEE. I highly recommend you see this production by the great Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte. Support local live theater..." – Audience Member

 

"An outstanding play." – Audience MemberMW_-_rehearsal-5564sm

 

"Outstanding...enjoyed it from start to finish! ...The show did not receive the accolades it deserved. (I) attended the matinee and felt (the audience) did not clap enough for the phenomenal production." – Audience Member

 

"Mary's Wedding at Gallery 7 is a fabulous show. Endearing, sad, happy. The actors do such an incredible job of portraying this time period and the upheavals people experienced due to the First World War. I don't want to give anything away. Go see it!" – Audience Member

 

"Listen up people: Cancel any plans you may have next weekend or the weekend after and GO SEE Mary's Wedding at Gallery 7 Theatre. OH MY GOSH! It is so, so good. Brilliant script, superb acting, gorgeous set/sound/lighting. Bring your Kleenex, bring your friends, DON'T MISS THIS PLAY!!" - Audience Member

 

"Went to Gallery 7's play Mary's Wedding this afternoon....this is the most amazing production. Make sure you get to see it." – Audience Member

 

"Saw the show tonight. WOW!" – Audience Member

 

MW_-_rehearsal-5569sm"My husband and I loved the play!!! We could not believe the talent of your actor & actress. Their memory recall for all their lines was amazing and how they breathed their characters. It really drew you into the story. WE were very impressed and have shared this with others and will continue to do so." – Audience Member

 

"We enjoyed the play very much, well done! Thank-you...I've been encouraging people to go and see...a must see!" – Audience Member

 

"My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the play. We have already recommended this production to several of our friends, and will do so again to our Bible Study group. I especially related to the theme of healing, it is very poignant at this time in my life." – Audience Member

 

"Thank you for a wonderful production. My wife and I enjoyed it very much. The set was perfect for the play, the lights, sound...worked very well together. We found it hard to believe that we sat for 90 minutes and did not notice the time passing. The actors did a fantastic job. They helped me think of the deaths of members of my family and how I see them everywhere, but the pain gets less. It was moving to see that portrayed on stage. Thank you. We would highly recommend the play to friends and colleagues." - Audience Member

Welcome to a new week! Each production, we publish a Discussion Guide that includes some interesting info on how the design elements come together, plus background info and some intriguing questions about the play's themes to spark some discussion. Because of timeing, we didn't get a chance to include anything about the set design, but do not fret. In today's blog post, designer Brian Ball shares some insights on how the set design came together for our production of Stephen Massicotte's award-winning masterpiece. Of course, you'll have to come to the show to see the real thing...oh, and the discussion guide, if you're interested, can be found here... Enjoy!

 

MaryProp2Gallery 7 (G7): Tell us about your thought process as you prepared the set design for Mary's Wedding. What kind of research did you have to do? What kind of mood did you want to create?

 

Brian Ball (BB): Most of the research apart from reading the script and looking at past productions of the play, was to compile images of both wartime trenches and farms/barns etc. I knew that the set needed to sit somewhere between these two images yet encompass some of the reality of both, referring to them when needed for a scene but not being obvious when not needed. The main image was the circular shape of the back wall, which in a subtle but strong way refers to the cyclical nature of life/death, love/loss, peace/war and the fractured textural nature of the material(wood) refers to the nature of time and decay.

 

G7: What were some of the challenges you faced in the design process?

 

BB: The horse was an example of how to have something that exists on stage through the entire play but must not refer to its nature for that one specific scene until it is utilized for that one scene. It should not be obvious to the audience what it is until 'revealed' by the action...and hopefully return to its neutral state after the scene has ended.

 

G7: What do you hope the audience will take away from this play because of your part in it?

 

BB: My hopes with this set as with any set is that it supports the play, allowing the actors to exist in the world they create without distracting in any way from the storyline and emotions presented.The set should help the audience to lose themselves in the story and action without upstaging at any point.

 

 


About Brian Ball...

BRIAN_BALL

 

Brian is a Vancouver-based artist dealing mostly in landscapes of the east and west coast of Canada. Originally from Newfoundland, he received his BFA in Visual Arts from Memorial University in Corner Brook, NF and his MFA in Theatre Arts from University of Victoria, B.C. He has recently returned to painting for himself after many years of film and theatre work, and continues to do contract work in theatre and residential/decorative painting.

 

Mary's Wedding continues January 31 through February 2 at 7:30 PM with a matinee on February 2 @ 2:00PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets can be purchased at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford or 604-852-3701/1-800-665-8828 or online here.

MW_-_publicity_-4326_smWelcome to a new week! We thought you'd enjoy reading director Katherine Hill's thoughts on Mary's Wedding, which opened just this last weekend here at Gallery 7 Theatre. We've been receiving awesome reviews on the show so hope you're able to take time out of your busy schedule to join us for this Canadian masterpiece by Stephen Massicotte. Here's Katherine:

 

I read Mary's Wedding for the first time when I accepted the wonderful invitation to direct it. I simply could not not direct this stunning play. Much of it resonated with me on both personal and artistic levels. As an English immigrant myself, I loved the character of Mary and could relate to her. What attracted me most to the play, however, was how simple a story it is. This simplicity is seen in the context of a dream about love lost that takes place around the time of WWI. The story explores that world and what relationships at that time often had to face. Many people lost loved ones, be it a family member, a neighbour or a relationship that was just beginning to blossom.

 

As I began to work on the concepts, themes and character development, I wanted to remain faithful to that simplicity. There is so very much in the play's text that to over-complicate it with a lot of movement and a busy set, would take away the heart of Stephen Massicotte's wonderfully written piece.

 

Mary's Wedding is about hope, love, death, courage, adventure, peace and being set free. Mary has struggled to move forward after the war and this final dream about her relationship with Charlie, how they met and what they each experienced at that time, is a goodbye to that pain and an attempt to embrace peace.

 

With our production, I wanted to create the sense that the dream is being controlled by Mary and her desires, but in the end, is given permission to move on by Charlie's 'spirit'. It was also important for me to keep the essence of how the character's met, fell in love and courted as being very real while still experiencing the story in the context of a dream. The moments where Charlie is at war were to also have that real quality about them so that we could remember what so many brave men experienced before us.

 

It has been such a joy working with the cast, crew and designers. This project has certainly been created out of love and one where everyone has quite literally been on the same creative page. We've even shed a tear or two in the process.

 

This play is a chance for us to remember. To remember the war: the bravery, the passion, the ability to look beyond ourselves. To remember loved ones and what they mean to us. I hope it gives you the chance to remember too. And in the old 'Keep Calm and Carry On' adage I shall add this:  Keep Calm and Love On

 

Enjoy the show!

 

 


 

katherine_hill-3570_smThis is Katherine first directing role with Gallery 7 Theatre. She had the pleasure of acting in their last show, Sense & Sensibility. Katherine has a BA Honors in Film & Theatre at The University of Reading, England and a Diploma in acting from VFS. She has worked as an actor, director and producer for both Theatre and Film and co-founded a film production company, EVE Entertainment Inc in 2009. Working as an actor for many years has been invaluable to Katherine in how to direct actors. She has also loved working as an acting coach for a number of years in teaching youth and adults. Directing such a talented cast and working with such creative and wonderful designers in Mary's Wedding has been a pleasure as Katherine looks forward to many more directing endeavors.

 

Mary's Wedding runs January 24 - 26, and January 31 through February 2 @ 7:30 PM with matinees on January 26 & February 2 at 2:00 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Cleabrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets can be purchased at in person or by phone at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford, 604-852-3701 or 1-800-665-8828, or online at www.gallery7theatre.com.