valley song at rosebud theatreRosebud Theatre presents South African lyrical drama Valley Song

David LeReaney is used to tongue twisters, or at least to twisting his tongue around complicated dialects.

Not only is LeReaney one of Caglary’s premier character actors for film, television and stage but also a highly sought after dialect coach.

He has been a  coach for such Hollywood stars as Billy Bob Thornton, Demi Moore, Liam Hemsworth, Aidan Quinn, Matthew Modine, Cynthia Nixon, Claire Folani and Skeet Ulrich when they filmed in Alberta.

LeReaney has always maintained one of the most difficult dialects for actors to master is South Africa’s Afrikaan which is what he must contend with in his dual roles in Rosebud Theatre’s production of Athol Fugard’s Valley Song.

This lyrical drama by South Africa’s preeminent playwright runs in the BMO Studio Theatre at Rosebud Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 5 p.m. at until June 25.

It is the story of a young girl from a simple rural village who wants to go to Johannesburg to become a singer.

Her grandfather fears she will be swallowed up by the big city and that she would be happier and safer if she stayed home.

The third character is a renowned white playwright who is the narrator of the story.

“Fugard insists the two male roles must be played by the same actor as he did whenever he starred in Valley Song.,” says LeReaney.

“This means I am playing a 76-year-old tenant farmer who can’t read or write and a renowned playwright whose life is his words and I have to keep switching back and forth between them.”

As tricky as this may initially sound, LeReaney points out that when he starred in a touring production of Billy Bishop Goes to War 30 years ago, he played 17 characters, but it is the complexity of the dialects that LeReaney had to master for Valley Song that was such a challenge.

“I love challenges.  I think most actors do and this dialect challenge was one of the major reasons I jumped at the opportunity to go out to Rosebud to do the show.

“Because of the two distinct characters I play, I end up dealing with all different kinds of sounds.”

Another big reason was the opportunity to work with Rosebud alumnus Lennette Randall.

“I attend Alberta’s yearly Emerge Auditions and I remember the year Lennette participated. The moment she walked on that stage I knew she was something special. I’ve since recruited her to work for me at the University Medical School’s standardized patient program.”

Though this is LeReaney’s first experience with a Fugard play, he has been in awe of the playwright for years.

“He brings such humanity to his characters and he has the remarkable ability to capture the simple poetic dialogue of ordinary people.

“I have always thought of Fugard as one of those compulsive storytellers who must write and for whom the words and stories just burst out of their heads.

“It all reads and plays so rich and natural.”

LeReaney says Valley Song is “a beautiful love story of a grandfather desperately trying to hold on to the last member of his family.

“His wife is gone already and now his granddaughter insists she must go to Johannesburg if she is to realize her dream of becoming a singer.”

LeReaney says he would return to Rosebud to do another play “in a heart beat.

“There are no distractions out here so you can concentrate solely on the play you are doing. You can’t even buy a pint of milk anywhere in town. We go out to Drumheller to buy our groceries.  It’s a 20 minute drive. The Internet only works in certain parts of the town so you really can get that wonderful feeling of being isolated.”

LeReaney says it is easy to be inspired in Rosebud because “it is a community of artists who are all kind, generous, loving people.”

It was Rosebud Theatre’s artistic director Morris Ertman who asked LeReaney to star in Valley Song and their relationship goes back 30 years to that Edmonton production of Billy Bishop Goes to War.

“It was Morris who designed the set for that show.

“He is such an inspiration out in Rosebud.”

Many of the remaining performances of Valley Song are sold out so be certain to call ahead and reserve seats at 1-800-267-7553.


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