DIGGING DEEP - Jason Steele

Red Deer Players presents acclaimed play Mass Appeal

After last year’s tremendous theatrical interpretation of Twelve Angry Men, the Red Deer Players are gearing up for their highly-anticipated production of Mass Appeal at the Scott Block.

The show, which was written by Bill C. Davis, is being directed by Lori Lane, who also directed Twelve Angry Men.

She’s also managed to sign up two of Red Deer’s finest actors in Paul Boultbee and Jason Steele to play the mature priest and young deacon.

Opening Feb. 5th, shows run through to Feb. 20th with curtain at 8 p.m. There are also matinee performances on Sundays, including one on Valentine’s Day at 2 p.m. For more details and ticket information, check out www.reddeerplayers.com.

Tickets can also be purchased at Sunworks or at the door.

Mass Appeal deals with the relationship between Father Tim Farley, an experienced parish priest and a young seminarian by the name of Mark Dolson who insists on, “Upsetting Father Tim’s apple cart by challenging the status quo.

“The play carries some profound messages that are relevant to the church, but that can also apply equally to virtually any workplace or family; yet it does so with a healthy dose of humour,” reads a synopsis.

Mass Appeal has been performed for audiences around the world and was made into a movie starring Jack Lemmon back in the 1980s. For Lane, it’s been something of a dream project to be sure.

“I’ve got boxes and boxes of scripts. So when I’m doing some research and trying to figure out what would be a good show to do and what’s coming next and all of that, I go through the process of what have I heard of lately?”

So she started digging through her own collection and happened on Mass Appeal. “I remembered mom saying this was a really good play – and I also thought this is a fantastic script.

“I was raised Catholic so as I’m reading it I’m also thinking, do I think this is really good and really funny because I can relate to this? That’s something you need to bear in mind in terms of widespread appeal. So I gave it to my husband – who is not Catholic – and I said I need you to read this to make sure it’s something that doesn’t have too narrow of a focus.”

He loved it, and Lane knew she had found her project. “The thing that’s cool about it is that the two characters in it are such rich characters.

“You also come to realize when you read it that it really doesn’t matter if they’re priests or if they were, for example, a school teacher who is a year away from retirement and a student teacher who is coming right out of college.

“It’s really about any sort of ‘mentorship’ relationship – it has so much to say about the person who has ‘lived’ it and remembers back to the days when they were the young, enthusiastic one. But they’ve made their mistakes, they’ve seen what works and they get comfortable. And there’s a certain sense of wisdom that comes with that.

“And then you’ve got the young person fresh out of school or who is still in school, who is going to change the world and is full of fresh ideas and knows everything that is wrong with the workplace or the establishment or the church.

“They come in with guns blazing expecting to change everything and quite can’t figure out why their technique isn’t working.”

Lane said the play has a clever wit coursing through it but there’s real poignancy woven in as well. “I was thinking this show is a bit of a roller coaster in terms of the emotions that you live through.”

She also couldn’t be more pleased with her cast.

“Paul is so right for this role it’s unbelievable,” she said. “He brings huge depth to the part.

“For me, it all starts with knowing who these people are and doing that research you need to do. What’s it like to be a priest? What’s it like to go into the seminary?”

To that end, they visited a parish priest to talk about what goes on in the seminary as compared to the parish and what are the relationships like when a parish priest gets a deacon.

“That’s the way I work – let’s really dig into who these people are and find out what makes them tick so that when they are faced with these situations, we can figure out how Father Tim would respond. That’s the way Paul works, and Jason, too.” Steele also brings much to his role, she said, adding that besides his experience in acting, he injects that perfect balance of maturity and idealism. “In a lot of respects you’ve got the ‘calm and the storm’,” she added with a laugh, referring to the nature of Boultbee’s and Steele’s characters respectively.

“A lot of the play has to do with their relationship and the mentorship, but to me, this play also speaks to Father Tim’s journey. As the older, more complacent, settled, not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ kind of person – that’s the easy way out in many respects. And he’s pretty happy with the status quo.

“When he gets assigned a seminarian who rocks the boat quite a bit and upsets the status quo, he resists to some extent. But in doing so, there’s a lot of opportunity for some personal reflection and learning,” she explained.

”It’s so interesting because the lines between who is actually teaching become a bit blurred.”

editor@reddeerexpress.com