Sunday, May 5th was the first Story Theatre rehearsal. Not my first rehearsal, though. I’ve been a member of the Driftwood Players Story Theatre troupe since late April 2010.
Before I joined Story Theatre, I hated the Sunshine Coast. I thought this place was devoid of culture, warmth, creativity and personality. But Story Theatre re-introduced my home community to me. That summer I discovered the Coast was full of creativity, a haven for artists, writers and performers.
Art is the glue that binds this community together, and Story Theatre is no exception. Theatre director, Bob Hunt envisioned a medieval-style, traveling theatre troupe that journeyed up and down the Coast, performing short stories at outdoor festivals, using rostrum blocks and simple costume pieces as their only props. Bob made his dream a reality in 2008 when he teamed up with former actress, Janet Hodgkinson and introduced Story Theatre to the Sunshine Coast.
Since then, Story Theatre has grown in popularity — we have about 18 bookings for performances this summer. While visiting Bob at his condo in West Sechelt one afternoon, he looked at me, his face brightened into a smile, and said; “Story Theatre is what’s keeping Driftwood Players afloat financially. Last year, we brought in more money than all the other productions did.”
Bob was the reason why Story Theatre has become a success: he stressed the importance of community. He welcomed anyone who had the time and interest to join the troupe, regardless of experience in acting. Bob also treated everyone equally and promoted the value of ‘teamwork’.
In the fall of 2011, Bob handed over the responsibility of production and directing to Radhika Samwald, a good friend of mine. This year, story theatre veterans, Joanne Bennison and Mike Barcroft are also directing. Though, Bob has not stepped down completely. He was at rehearsal two Sundays ago, offering guidance to aspiring actors.
Our rehearsal was held at the Music Makers Hall, a small, blue building located on the corner of Whitaker Park in Davis Bay. Since it was sunny and unusually warm, we were outside.
One of the stories we practiced was Robin Hood and his Merry Men, a story adapted by Joanne ( she will also be directing it this summer). Joanne, though, created a new twist in her version of Robin Hood: singing. The Merrymen or — in our case, since there are more women involved in Story Theatre than there are men — Merrymaams were required to sing a short song that went like this:
Robin Hood. Robin Hood, riding through the Glen.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men.
Feared by the bad.
Loved by the good.
Robin Hood. Robin Hood. Robin Hood.
Joanne had blocked it where the singer would cut into Robin Hood and Friar Tuck’s dialogue, belting out lines from this tune. She organized all twelve actors into groups of three and allotted each actor to a character. I was the Merrymaam in my group.
No sooner had I started singing my lines while prancing back and forth across our imaginary stage, Bob help up his hand and said; “Deanna, I want you to do this differently. I want you to sing in the background.” He then turned his attention to Angela and Barbara — the two women I was working with — and said; “I want you two to talk while Deanna sings.”
Angela looked from Bob to me and then back to Bob, her face contorted into an expression of confusion. “So, we just keep talking?” She asked.
“Yes. Just keep talking while Deanna sings. Don’t stop,” Bob said with a firm nod of his head.
My gaze shifted from Bob to Joanne to Angela, my mouth formed into a thin line. Bob isn’t a lackadaisical director at all. He’s not the kind of expert to tear apart a person’s acting, but he won’t hesitate to stop you while you’re saying your lines and suggest you act out your character another way. Typical in theatre. Yet, I know when Bob doesn’t like something and my singing voice is one thing he doesn’t particularly care for. He told me, during a rehearsal for A Christmas Carol in November of 2011, that I sung off tune. So, for that reason, I couldn’t help but feel the slightest bit offended. I wanted to confront Bob right then and there, but I just kept my mouth shut.
After mulling over Bob’s new idea for a few minutes, though, I began to think his idea wasn’t so bad.
At the end of rehearsal, all four groups were required to perform the same scene from Robin Hood. Bob had suggested my group perform last since he had required us to block it differently.
When our turn was up, Bob was silent like everyone else. But the few times my gaze connected with his, I could see that he wasn’t just watching us. His hands were set firmly on his lap, his mouth formed into a taught grin. His grey eyes were ablaze with a mixture of passion and curiosity. I couldn’t read Bob’s mind, but I knew that he was picking apart our overall performance. If it were up to him, would he go with this new blocking idea and keep me cast as a Merrymaam, or replace me with another person? The only way I’d find out if is Bob were directing this play.