Like the rest of For The Love of Cynthia’s cast, Ron Pederson didn’t see a script until the first day of rehearsal. All 10 actors knew Stewart Lemoine was writing parts for them, of course, but they didn’t get so much as a glance at a page. Not until the day when, usually speaking, actors should already be versed in the material. Which, it turns out, is a bit of a Teatro La Quindicina tradition with its new works.
“Even if he’s completed the play a month before, he won’t give it to us,” Pederson chuckles. “I think that adds to the certain energy that you get when you come to an opening at Teatro.”
That energy, of course, is part of the company’s MO: Lemoine’s penchant for heightened eloquence is usually delivered with almost-madcap aplomb. Routinely large casts defy modern theatre’s typical offerings, making the vibe as much “onstage party” as anything else.
Cynthia, which opens Teatro’s 2016 season—and gets the distinction of being first full show-run in the long-awaited, much-upgraded Varscona Theatre—finds itself surveying 1950s Alberta, wherein a census taker discovers a tiny hamlet close to Drayton Valley that fancies itself an independent kingdom, complete with a royal court.
While there’s a lot to absorb in just three weeks of rehearsal—”When people ask me what the play’s about at this juncture, ‘I’m like, gosh, it’s about everything,” Pederson says—not being able to peruse the material beforehand also lets the cast approach the work with open eyes.
“It’s a gift, because nothing’s over-thought,” he says. “It forces you to come in empty, and discover it along the way. Great discoveries are made every day [in rehearsal]; every day, I’m like, ‘Ahh, OK, I see what’s happening here. I see what this needs.'”
Pederson points out that there’s an almost improvisational energy at play, as there often is with the company: the cast learns just where many of the punchlines and deeper sentiments lie the first time an audience is in the house.
“[Stewart]’s just always been around improvisation,” Pederson says. “And some of the themes of his plays are about improvisation, making it up, and the power of the imagination. It’s no wonder that there’s a matching energy between improv and the spontaneity of Teatro.
“That said, we’re rehearsing the hell out of it,” he adds. “I have to fence and sing a Schubert song. It’s not like we’re waiting for the audience—we’re preparing ourselves to meet them.”
Until Sat, Jun 18 (7:30 pm; 2 pm Saturday matinees)
Directed by Stewart Lemoine
Varscona Theatre, $20 – $34