Central Alberta Theatre is presenting two acclaimed one-act plays as the company re-launches dinner theatre productions this month.
Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s My Narrator and The Death of Me are both being staged, with shows running Nov. 6th-29th at the North Hill Quality Inn.
Performances run Thursday through Saturday with dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. and curtain at 7:30 p.m. There are Sunday brunches as well, with the meal starting at noon and curtain at 2 p.m.
Deb O’Brien is directing both plays, and enjoying the intrinsic challenges and joys of taking up the task.
“One of the things that intrigued me right away was that four years ago, I directed The Death of Me in one of our one-act festivals in June,” she explains. “When I saw it presented on the list of plays to do for this season, I did a double take and thought that’s my play! I want to do that play again, because we didn’t get to run it for very long during the festival. We always felt it could have had another run.
“And now, it’s like I get another chance.”
The Death of Me was first produced in 2007, and follows a fellow by the name of John who, when he bargains with the Angel of Death for a second chance at life, discovers that fixing the mistakes of your past is difficult. Especially when there are all sorts of new mistakes to be made.
“John is a young man who unfortunately dies and in the opening scene he’s in heaven meeting the Angel of Death. He barters with the angel for a chance to return to earth and complete some unfinished business. She says, all right but you are coming back. She also sends him a task that is so foreign to his nature. He tries to do it but he can’t do it because he’s such a nice person. There’s a twist at the end, and I can’t divulge that,” she adds with a smile.
Directing the play for a second time brings a fresh new perspective. “It’s a totally different thing – it’s hysterical.
“Along with it also came My Narrator. They were willing to have two directors, but I thought about it and felt that because of the set constraints it would be so much nicer if I could have control of the whole project, work with the various set pieces and create my vision of the entire production,” she said.
Described as a romantic comedy, My Narrator (2006) focuses on Lacy and Miles who each discover that little voice inside their heads finding a life of its own. “Love is what happens, and with hilarious results.
“It’s about two young people – neither of whom have been very successful in life or in love – they haven’t found their vocations or their mates.” Audiences get to see the thoughts of the characters literally take shape as characters. “For Lacy and Miles, these thoughts become entities all their own. The audience sees them, but the main characters don’t see their ‘narrators’.” The fun and romance of the story takes off from there.
Both plays combine a mix of CAT veterans such as Erna Soderberg, O’Brien’s husband Dennis O’Brien, Cynthia Edwards and Michael Sutherland, along with some newcomers including Josh Earl, Kira O’Brien, Jessica Summers and Ian Sheppard.
Deb said working with all levels of experience has been great, as the veterans bring their experience and the newcomers learn from them as the production process unfolds.
Val Clossen is producing the production, and enjoys the aspects of pulling everything together from that vantage point. “What I really like about producing is that you really get to see the whole show come together.”
She’s also thrilled that the troupe is starting up the dinner theatres again, which used to run a few years ago at the Black Knight Inn but had not been a part of several seasons since.
“We’re really excited to bring it back because we know we have a lot of patrons who really enjoy it.”
For Deb, who is also a solid, gifted actor in her own right, guiding both casts along has been a delight. “Directing is a process entirely different from acting – you don’t sleep much when you are a director,” she laughs. Essentially, collaboration is the key to the best productions, she adds. “You know what you want, but it’s fun to work with other people, bringing everyone on board and trying to create what I see in my head. You take what everyone can offer and work with it. And eventually, you can be quite surprised by the gifts that people can give you.”
Meanwhile, being involved with CAT, and with theatre in general, has always brought a sense of fulfillment.
“I love to create a character, I love to create a production. It’s almost a need that I have.”
Tickets are available through the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by visiting www.blackknightinn.ca or calling 403-755-6626.