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A Day in the Performance of Marion Bridge

14 Feb

*Originally written for the Vancouver Observer*

Jeanie, Rebecca and I bump fists quietly in the blue-light shrouded darkness of the closet sized dressing/green room back stage at the Havana Theatre.  Susan M (our magnificent Stage Manager) has just given us our fifteen-minute call and we can hear the audience as they settle into their seats.  It sounds like a small house tonight, which is something we remark upon to each other for technical reasons only.  A full audience means we need to up our vocal energy a bit more – more people means more sound is being absorbed and there may be more rustling about.  We need to ensure that our voices are heard above it all.   Less people means a more intimate performance so we pull back on our vocal strength just enough so the audience isn’t lambasted with our performance.

The Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive is a small, intimate 60-seat theatre with the front row sitting almost on the stage itself.  This is only our third performance since our Preview on Feb 4th and our smallest audience.  We’ve been fortunate to have almost full houses for our Opening show on the Feb 5th and for last night’s show.  While we would like to have a sold-out house every night, we’re looking forward to experiencing a smaller audience.  Each night is a different mix of people, a different mix of energies, which in turn, prompts new discoveries about our characters.

Our fist bump ends as we whisper our ritual words, “To infinity and beyond!”  We look at each other and then take turns to quietly say “Honour the story.” And “Trust the work.” Then we finish by vowing to each other “I got your back!” – meaning we’re all in this together as a team and no one will be left hanging after a mistake made on stage – which WILL happen in live theatre!

Susan M knocks on the door and peeks in to tell us it’s time for places.  I follow her out and walk quietly behind the curtain to stand just before the far right opening.  A few minutes later the house lights go down and Michael Rinaldi’s incredible mix of music over the sound of waves rises up to bring Marion Bridge to life.  I look for the small strips of glow tape that mark my way to the stool on stage where I sit down and prepare to open the show with my monologue.  I give a quick glance up into the audience before the lights come up and note where the people are sitting and where the empty seats are so I know where to direct my words.  Before I know it I am bathed in light and I begin “In my dream I’m drowning….”

Two acts, one intermission and almost two hours later we take our final bow and leave the stage for the last time.  We smile at each other and take a bit of time to shake off the characters we’ve inhabited for the last two and a half hours.  It’s been a roller-coaster ride of emotions and while we’re physically exhausted we’re also still pumped with adrenaline and won’t be able to drop off to sleep until well after midnight.  It was a good show and the audience was completely engaged throughout the entire performance; lots of laughter as well as tears.  As John Jane Review Vancouver wrote “Marion Bridge is a tender story of small victories and personal heartaches that is at times sentimental, but never maudlin.”

Watching theatre is an active entertainment unlike film and TV where watching is passive.  The theatre audience is a member of the cast without scripted dialogue and action and because of this, each performance is slightly different.

We finish hanging up our many costume changes and organize the props for tomorrow night’s show then gather our bags and head to the door.  Just as we’re about to leave we’re stopped by a group of four people who were in the audience. They tell us how great the show was and how much they enjoyed it.  We stop and chat with them a while and then open the door into the cold night air.  As we’re walking along Commercial Drive a young woman stops us as she steps out from under an awning saying, “I just saw you.  I was just at your show.   It was wonderful, so moving.”  She touches her heart and looks at us and says again “You moved me.”  We stay and talk with her for a bit before saying good-bye.

Jeanie, Rebecca and I stop and hug as we reach our cars before we go our separate ways.  This is a long held dream come true for all of us and it’s hard to believe that the dream is being realized so completely.  Theatre of Infinity was born of our passion and need to tell stories; to honour the truth inside of us in such a way as to affect other people.

Jeanie Cloutier, Rebecca Husain and I met five years ago at a master scene study intensive workshop held by esteemed acting teacher Larry Moss and we’ve studied and worked together ever since.  Several years ago we started looking for a play to mount together and found Daniel McIvor’s award winning play Marion Bridge.  Just over a year ago we asked Susan Hogan if she was interested in directing.  I had met Susan at the 2008 National Voice Intensive and knew instinctively that she would make a great director and would be a good fit.  Through Susan came the wonderful Susan Miyagashima as our Stage Manager and Set Designer, Michael Rinaldi as Sound Designer and Conor Moore as Lighting Designer.  We are so incredibly fortunate to have been given such warm, supporting, creative, caring and fun people to help launch Theatre of Infinity’s inaugural production!




Saturday Matinees Added!

27 Jan

We’re getting so close to crossing Marion Bridge! We’ve had such a positive response with our initial media and public launch, it’s a little unbelievable! Tickets are selling and requests are coming in for afternoon performances, so we’ve added two 2pm Saturday matinees to our performance schedule – Feb 12th and 19th. Matinee tickets are only $15 each 🙂
Tickets can be bought either through Biz Books or reservations can be made by emailing

Shows Wed – Sat Feb 4th – 19th

22 Jan

Only one more rehearsal tomorrow at the wonderful PAL Theatre before we move into the Havana on Monday evening!
We’re very excited to see the set that the incredible Susan Miyagishima has designed and built and to be able to move around in the performing space.

These past couple of weeks have been intense, exhausting and exhilarating – a roller coaster journey as we dove into the story of Marion Bridge.

Such an intimate experience with just the three cast members and the “Two Susans” (Hogan and Miyigishima) it will seem strange to open our little group up to include others. Tomorrow will be the first run-through for our technical team of Michael Rinaldi, Sound Design and Conor Moore, Lighting Design.

Stuart Derdeyn from The Province newspaper came by our rehearsal on Thursday afternoon to interview us and film a bit for a preview article. Advance ticket sales are looking good!

The count down is on to opening night!

The Setting Comes to Life!

14 Dec

Marion Bridge takes place in Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, a long way from the rainforest of Vancouver, a location to which none of us had ever been.  We had done a fair amount of armchair travelling while researching the setting but pictures and stories can never replace actually experiencing a place.

Then, lo and behold, my daughter made the decision to go to school in New Brunswick and I finally had the perfect opportunity and excuse to make a trip to the Maritimes!  After getting Kate settled in her new abode, we left on a week-long car trip from Moncton NB to Halifax and then across to Cape Breton.

We made Baddeck our home base and explored the rest of the Island through several day trips.  One afternoon we took off in the driving rain and strong wind and drove up the coast as far as Ingonish.  I had wanted to go all the way to Cape North but the weather made the road conditions quite scary, so we stopped at Ingonish for a lovely dinner before heading back to Baddeck.

Another day we drove up and over through Sydney and then down to Marion Bridge itself.  I was beside myself I was so excited!  The countryside around the bridge is beautiful, but the actual bridge is…pretty much nothing but a concrete overpass over the Mira river.  A wee bit disappointing, but completely in keeping with what is said about it in the play.

I was struck at how remote Cape Breton felt from the rest of the world.  Absolutely, wondrously beautiful and full of the nicest people in all of Canada (true of the whole Maritimes) but I can see how Agnes might have felt the need to escape when she was younger.

Being able to see and travel through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton was fantastic.  To breath in the setting of Marion Bridge was such a gift.

Love at First Read

7 Dec

This production of Marion Bridge began with the seed of the opening monologue. Terri needed a monologue for one of Warren Robertson’s acting classes. After reading and discarding dozens of plays looking for one that resonated, she used the time-honoured acting tool to expand her search – Google.  One monologue immediately spoke to her and seeped into her bones.  When she discovered it was taken from an actual play and not a stand alone, she was thrilled!  It was Agnes’ opening monologue from Daniel MacIvor’s Marion Bridge.

She made a trip to her favourite bookstore in Vancouver, Biz Books and bought the last remaining copy of Marion Bridge by Daniel McIvor. She went across the street and ordered a bowl of soup, a chai latte and began to read and she fell in love.

Then Terri did what every actress in love does; she texted her friends.   Rebecca and Jeanie came to Terri’s little studio work apartment and gathered on the floor around her stylish red coffee table.  As usual, Jeanie provided the snacks, Terri provided the tea and Rebecca provided the pencils.  Our first unofficial table-read of Marion Bridge began.

Terri asked, “Will you? Do you want to? Should we?” Jeanie and Rebecca said, “Yes. Yes. Yes!” Then Rebecca added a codicil of her own, “Only if we can find a director we all trust and like.” And so Terri sent an email to Susan Hogan, who said, “Let us meet for a table-read and talk about it.” They met, read and talked around a table in the reading room at PAL.   This time Susan provided the tea.  One more read-through and several discussions later, the decision was made – we were going forward!

Almost a year later Theatre of Infinity was formed to give birth to Vancouver’s newest production of Marion Bridge. We are thrilled, excited, daunted, sometimes overwhelmed, but always supremely happy to be gestating this story of three sisters from Cape Breton. We look forward to seeing you at the Havana in February, 2011!