Having already delighted audiences in Orillia this past May, ‘Sadie Flynn’ is headed north to nearby Gravenhurst (with a population eerily similar to that of Big Oak) to close out that town’s summer theatre season. It’s never easy moving a show from one venue to another, particularly when the first one has been produced ‘in the round’ whereas the second one will be on a presidium stage. And then to switch the actor playing the title role, well…that’s what makes theatre interesting!
While Orillia actor Janet Lynne Durnford joins a proven show in the title role, being back on stage with Rob Reid, Tom Ruschel and their production team is like a trip home, having several Garage Door Players productions in her resume. “Yes, I was challenged by jumping into a show that was pretty much ready to go. But I love working with Rob and Tom. Rob is of course a writer, an actor and a director. When he directs he thinks like actor. He gives his actors free reign to develop characters but he gives enough direction that you know what he wants too.”
Janet Lynne brings a unique charm to her stage characterisations, one that which could be described as a wide-eyed naiveté or innocence, combined with a ‘Who? Me?’ manner. This is a description that surprises Janet Lynne. “That’s never occurred to me. As an actor you have no idea of how you’re coming across onstage. You plan for it, you prepare for it and do research, but the reality is you can’t see yourself; and if you watch recordings you can only judge yourself from your own perspective.”
Perfect for the Role
Janet Lynne’s ability to deal with dark subjects with dead-pan innocence makes ‘Sadie’ a perfect role for her. ‘Sadie Flynn’ is, after all, a recently-released murder convict seeking a new life in a new town, and it fits Janet Lynne to a ‘T’; classic Norm Foster comedy with a femme fatale overtone.
“I’ve been looking at ‘Sadie’ as four people in one. She almost has multiple personalities. She’s a woman in her 40’s who is a temptress, an ex-con, a gal-pal, and an avenging angel. She’s not entirely mentally healthy, let’s put it that way. Figuring out where one trait ends and the other takes over is my challenge. I hope to bring out each element in a unique way.”
Director Rob Reid agrees entirely with Durnford. “I knew from the previous I have done with Janet Lynne that she can pull this off. ‘Sadie’ spins on a dime, and those little characterisations are something that Janet Lynne can do so well. She’s bringing things out that I didn’t see as a director see before.”
Oh, The Irony!
What is ‘Sadie’s’ mission in travelling to Big Oak? The fun for the audience, in addition to the bountiful assortment of Foster one-liners, is the irony between the audience’s understanding of what ‘Sadie’ is up to versus the complete innocence of the other characters in the play. “That’s why this play works so well, I think. The audience is ‘in on the joke’ very early, but the characters are not.” Durnford comments.
And as is so often is the case in life, one often cannot always see what is right before one’s eyes. The male characters are, at mid-life, desperately seeking companionship and romance. Durnford laughs. “One of my favourite bits is when ‘Tom’ looks at the romantic prospects in the small town of Big Oak, and through systematic analysis narrows it down to about 5 women, which statistically is the lesbian population! But that’s so true about towns where people don’t leave. And of course nothing can happen without everyone learning about it.” This bitter truth is packaged with humour; Norm Foster’s proven charm captures much of the essence in small town living.
Reid sees the poignancy within the humour. “Foster has a talent for capturing small town life, which is one reason why his plays do so well outside metropolitan areas. You might see yourself or at least someone you know amongst the characters. You can imagine trying to find someone in a small town that someone hasn’t already gone out with. For example, my character ‘Orson’ has had a crush on ‘Bev Dupuis’ for 16 years, and he’s just getting to it now because ‘Bev’s’ husband has only just left her. There are universal themes as well. No one wants to be alone.”
Adapting to new cast members & a new setting
It’s not only Janet Lynne Durnford who joins the production. In addition to Durnford, joining the Gravenhurst production will be Pru Donaldson and Andrea Lee-Burnet. The original cast members from the Orillia production were all asked early on if they might be available for Gravenhurst in late August. Reid comments; “Three cast members could not, so we re-cast as soon as we could so they could attend the Orillia rehearsals so they could get a feel for the show. This keeps Jim and me on our toes. It’s the same characters we’re talking to but of course, those characters are played a bit differently by the new cast members. And these are very quirky characters. So while there are blocking issues that have to stay the same between the two productions, there is also a unique aspect that the new actors will bring to their roles.”
Rob Reid’s challenges as producer, director and actor is to not only to adapt to a new title actor but also to modify a show that worked well in an intimate ‘in the round’ setting to a new traditional setting in the 300 Gravenhurst Opera House. Reid is familiar with the ‘OP’ as it is called, having worked with his co-star Jim Dwyer two seasons ago taking another Orillia-based production north for the summer. That was the Norm Foster show called ‘Looking’.
The gathering together of different productions by a number of local and imported companies has resulted in the first full summer theatre programme for Gravenhurst in a number of years. Reid is very pleased to be a part of it and to close the season out. In fact, Reid is invigorated by the challenge of a re-mount. “It’s one of the good things about doing the show again. We can look at the DVD we shot of the Orillia show and say ‘Oh, I would have done that differently, and be able to say ‘Hey, I can!’ ”
The benefits of a known quantity
At least some of the pressure typical to previous Reid/Ruschel productions has been relieved. Using a proven play from a popular Canadian playwright may mean one less programme credit for Reid, but it also means the adaptation of cast and location does not include re-writes. “It’s a lot less work for me. When it’s your own baby, you have to look at changes and take input from others, whereas with Foster we have the words all set out for us.” It’s potentially the way Reid will proceed into the future. “The Norm Foster name is known; in fact we moved his name to the top of the billing, above the play title itself. It helps a lot with recognition and marketing.”
Norm Foster’s ‘Sadie Flynn Comes to Big Oak’ opens August 27th for 5 performances to August 31st
Each show starts at 7:30pm
Every show has the option of a 6pm dinner beforehand.
Show only tickets are $25.50 and Dinner/Show tickets are $ 47.50
CLICK HERE for ticket purchase and information