STARRING ROLE - Local acclaimed author Leslie Greentree is making her stage debut in Ignition Theatre’s production of The Year of Magical Thinking, which opens April 5th in the Nickle Studio. Stephanie Grue photo

City author takes on dramatic role as next creative challenge

The Year of Magical Thinking opens April 5th at the Nickle Studio

One of Red Deer’s most gifted and acclaimed authors is about to extend her immense creativity in a bold new direction – the stage.

Leslie Greentree will soon be featured in the award-winning one-woman play The Year of Magical Thinking, which opens April 5th at the Nickle Studio, located in the Memorial Centre.

The production, penned by Joan Didion and directed by Ignition Theatre’s Matt Grue, runs through to April 14th with curtain at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20/$25 and are available at www.ignitontheatre.ca and at the box office 30 minutes prior to curtain.

In this adaptation of her memoir, Didion transforms the story of the sudden loss of her husband and their only daughter into a stunning one-­woman play.

Grue had been considering staging the play for some time, and the only woman who came to mind for the role was Greentree.

“I’ve known Matt Grue for years, and I’ve always been a big fan of Ignition Theatre and have seen as many of their shows as possible,” explained Greentree during a recent chat. “I’ve always really admired their aesthetic and I’ve admired his talent.”

Ultimately, it was her foundational confidence in Grue as an artist and director that made her feel like accepting the role was the right step to take.

“When he first brought it up with me, I did laugh,” she recalls. “And then he said he was serious.”

Greentree isn’t completely new to the stage, having appeared in past local shows such as The Vagina Monologues and Blue Suede Shoes. And as a writer, she’s been featured in public forums, too. But this is, of course, something different.

This time, the weight of a single role rests on Greentree’s shoulders – there are no other actors to bounce things off of, to rely on. It’s ultimately her show. Grue has even described it as a relatively ‘still’ production with hardly any movement.

So she had to take those factors into consideration in deciding to tackle the role. But with Grue at the helm, her concerns were pretty much vanquished.

“When Matt Grue tells me that I’m the person he thinks should do it, I believe him,” she added.

And as opening night approaches, she’s excited and grateful she took the part, and she has really enjoyed this exhilarating step in her own creative journey.

“I thoroughly loved and appreciated being directed by him. It was such an incredible experience because I developed such tremendous admiration for his skills as a director and such a strong trust. He was so good at creating that trust.”

She also loves the material as well.

“It’s really an incredible play. Obviously I have certain things in common with (Didion) because I’m a writer and my life partner is also a writer.

“Her voice is strong, it’s flawed, it’s funny. And she’s got a lot of self-awareness about her flaws that I find really endearing,” she explained, adding that she’s also experienced some deep losses in her life as well. Those painful experiences have also helped her shape her interpretation of capturing Didion’s voice as the play unfolds.

“It’s been the process of looking at the commonalities I have with this character, and finding ways to connect which does include looking at things in my own life that have those similarities,” she said. “As to the play, there is certainly a lot of heavy material but she’s very dry and she’s very funny. She’s got a sharp sense of humour. I really look at this more like a character play.

“She’s telling a story, but the telling reveals so much about her as a human and the humanity of trying to process grief in a world that doesn’t really want to allow or acknowledge that processing.

“There are a lot of really fascinating moments in the show which all just create this picture of this complex and fascinating woman at a really terrible time in her life.”

Again, as Greentree points out, it’s fundamentally been about the trust she has in Grue as, “A director and as a human being’.

“A good director helps to chart and guide the process to get you to places; and to challenge you in a way that feels safe but that is also nudging and pushing you. That’s been a really interesting process, and again I have such respect for his skill in guiding me through this and nudging me further every single time.”

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