Andrew Cooper is a guest artist currently onstage in 'An Inspector Calls' as Gerald Croft, an aristocratic entrepreneur and future son-in-law to the well-off Birling family. When Andrew is not perfecting his upper-crust accent or busy working as an actor/theatre creator, he can be found beekeeping, booksmithing, or would-be-pottering. Previous credits include: ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Chickens’, ‘Pith!’ (Rosebud Theatre); ‘Twinkle’ (Burnt Thicket); ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ (Chemainus Theatre Festival); ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (Suspension of Disbelief); ‘The Canadian Badlands Passion Play’; ‘Sunong’ (Wycliffe U.S.A.); ‘Paradigm Shift’ (Summit Theatre). He also very recently devised the original play ‘Kaspar Hauser: The Riddle of Refuge’ with Fireside Theatre to raise money for Syrian refugees.
So, are you enjoying dressing formally every night to act the part of a wealthy British playboy?
If by playboy you mean tender, caring, mindful and supportive, then yes. It’s a good team (creative and production wise). Rehearsals were great fun, especially working under Karl Sine’s direction for the first time since we graduated - he has really come into his own.
You (and Karl) both graduated from Rosebud School of the Arts in 2004. What have you been doing since then?
I’ve wandered a bit, doing everything from acting to roofing to working with at-risk populations. Right after graduating I spent a year at the Chemainus Theatre Festival out on Vancouver Island. I also got the chance to take part in a couple of tours in Canada and the U.S. with Wycliffe Bible Translators – they used to have a travelling dinner theatre, of all things. Through that I was able to visit 31 States and a bunch of Southern Ontario. Throw in a couple different communal living experiments and a short volunteer stint overseas… as well as my involvement with the Passion Play, performing or understudying in 6 of the last 11 years.
What made you move back to the ‘Bud?
I’ve always felt like Rosebud has been a second home to me – it was that feeling of family or finding ‘my tribe’ that made me decide to come here in the first place (After having spent a couple of years in the BFA program at the University of Calgary). After graduating I often came back to visit, so when I was cast in Chickens (2014), I decided to stick around. And here it is a couple years later and I’m still here.
Wanderers often get a reputation for being aimless, when they are following a variety of impulses that only seem disconnected to the outside eye. It turns out they were geniuses on adventures! In your travels, have you identified a particular passion, be it philosophical or practical?
Oh geez. This one will take some thought.
Don’t overthink it.
I’ve probably identified more things I’m not passionate about, but I hope you’re right about the genius thing. I suppose a couple of things would include: swimming pools, bumper cars, playing in the snow and trampolines, photography, reading books about theology, performing, (although I needed to take a break from this for a little while a few years ago), getting to make people laugh, and Scripture.
Would you umbrella that under “Living in the Moment?” Celebrating everyday joys?
No. I just love trampolines and pools. Maybe it’s the feeling of freedom and childlike-ness.
I think things I get excited about boil down to well-told stories, pictures, or songs… the element of play and working on a team.
Why’d you take a break from performing?
It was a few years ago while I was working at the Mustard Seed. [a non-profit organization that helps shelter, feed, & cloth people facing poverty.] I just needed some more life experience.
What did you do there and what did you experience?
They have an overnight shelter where I worked as one of the floor staff. It was pretty eye opening in terms of the myriad reasons a person could end up on the streets or lose their housing. Everything from what you might expect, like addiction and mental health issues to work place injuries, the unemployable elderly, physical health issues, or divorce. And people from all walks of life. One night I met a guy who had been kicked out of his house by his wife – he was a lawyer – but had nowhere else to go.
It gave me a deeper appreciation for my upbringing, the stability of it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the support network of family and friends that I do, which is one of the things I saw lacking in the lives of some of our guests.
‘An Inspector Calls’, coincidentally, draws attention to social responsibility as J.B. Priestley writes,
“There are millions… all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I will tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. We don’t live alone.”
Interestingly, I was involved in another production of this play and every time I heard that line I assumed the playwright was making reference to the Day of Judgment – burning lakes of fire and all that. Now I hear it differently. The play is set just before the start of World War I and was written in the midst of WWII… and in rehearsals we talked about those connections. Now when I hear it, it’s more along those lines – how our actions and interactions have consequences in the here and now.
As for the idea of interconnectedness –it’s perhaps more apt now than ever. At one of the Friday night talk backs an audience member asked if anything has changed for us being involved in this show. I had to admit that I have become almost hyperconscious of the words coming out of my mouth and the way that I treat people since the start of rehearsals.
Sometimes those lines [above] might come across a bit heavy handed, but they are a reminder to me that even now, in an age of social media and cameras and microphones where nothing is hidden and everything we say and do is more visible than ever before, the repercussions can reverberate further and faster than ever. It’s also a reminder that the human condition hasn’t really changed: we are still jealous, greedy, spiteful, grasping creatures who need to constantly allow ourselves to go under the light of inspection – whether that is through self-examination or by an outside source. (Personally, I believe we need both).
You’re now headed into the last week of performances. Is there anything you’ll particularly miss about this process or your character?
Working with this great group of talented artists and hearing the audience’s reactions to some of the secrets that get revealed over the course of the play. It’s been fun being part of a show that illicits real gasps and “Ah-ha’s!”
And what’s next for Andrew Cooper?
Back to my day job – and looking for the next acting gig!