"Stories where individuals look into the gaping maw of the impossible and then decide to follow a voice in their spirit that says 'Try anyway, you can do this,' ...these courageous thoughts turned into actions help us believe that there is always a new day or another chance to change the world through our courage." Morris Ertman
As the January sun cuts a striking contrast against the blue shadows on the snowy hills and valley, some of you may be wondering what is pulsating in the hearts and minds of Rosebud Theatre makers these days. I posed some questions of Artistic Director Morris Ertman recently, and here are his responses. (You're welcome.) -- Jeany
Jeany: Morris, what are you working on currently? Describe the contents residing on your desk at this very moment.
Morris: My desk is full of scripts. My email is fill of script suggestions. My computer is full of costing records from past productions and potential casting breakdowns as I work on a season for 2021. Then there’s a model of the set for Chariots of Fire. There’s a props costing list waiting for me to review it. And, my Glorious script is waiting on the top of the pile like some paper cat waiting to pounce any moment, reminding me that we’re starting rehearsals in March! So, I feel like I’m living in the past, present and future, like those spirits in A Christmas Carol. Sometimes it’s terrifying. But I know that I’ll wake up one morning to the same exhilaration Scrooge felt after all of those visitations! Life is good!
Jeany: So, was the True Stories theme something you set out to find, or was it something that occurred to you once you started landing on plays you wanted to produce? How did the season come together? Which pieces came first?
Morris: Well, the season title True Stories was quite simply serendipitous. It just so happened that all of the plays were based on real experiences. I’ve been itching to put Glorious! on our stage for years now, because I love the fact that a real person in a real time, dared to be as brave and courageous as Florence Foster Jenkins. So, I guess Glorious! is the play that has waited the longest to get to our stage. So, let’s call it the first. And the other shows? Well the moment I knew there was an adaptation of Chariots of Fire, we simply had to do it. And I’ve waited for several years for the rights to All Is Calm - all those male voices singing a cappella Christmas carols on a pitted battlefield. And, my goodness Laureen Gunderson’s Silent Sky is such an exquisite story for our time - a time where we must celebrate the stories of women who have achieved and inspired long before the culture was aware of the fact that needed to be the norm, not the exception! And, lest we forget - Every Brilliant Thing, which I experienced when Fire Exit Theatre in Calgary presented Burnt Thicket Theatre’s production. It was the most disarming audience participation play that I have ever experienced. I should know. I had to participate! What a wonderful ride!
Jeany: It seems like all the main characters have to overcome seeming insurmountable odds, yet they press on, even when others or circumstances say no. Their love of life and their curiosity keep drawing them forward to expand into their full potential. They have such hope or faith. Can you speak to that?
Morris: Who are we if we haven’t got hope? We shrink and whither and cloister ourselves away. We shutter ourselves for protection. We stop engaging in community. So, stories where individuals look into the gaping maw of the impossible and then decide to follow a voice in their spirit that says “Try anyway,” You can do this,” "We can do this,” “But I’ve always wanted to do this,” or “we’re wrong to be doing this, so let’s climb out of our trenches and celebrate Christmas with those who have proven themselves to be our enemies” - all of those courageous thoughts turned into actions help us believe that there is always a new day or another chance to change the world through our courage.
Jeany: Where do you see evidence of that kind of hope or drive in your life today?
Morris: Well, every season we put onto the stage is an act of hope. Every designer that creates some kind of visual possibility that frames a play is stepping out in hope. Every actor who steps onto the stage is stepping out in faith and hope. And I think every audience member who commits to the possibility that a play will deliver an experience that they won’t forget lives in hope. We want to do our part in affirming that hope.
Jeany: What tickles you about this season? Is there something we’ve never done before?
Morris: Well, we’ve never put Olympic races on our stage before. Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddle were physical manifestations of the human heart pushing its conviction out into the world in sweat, breath and worn running shoes!
Jeany: If you could be any of the characters in this next season for one day, which one would you choose and why?
Morris: Eric Liddle. It’s not so much the running. It’s the knowing he had that his running was what God had created him to do, and he knew the Creator of the Universe was delighted in seeing him fly!
Jeany: What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?
Morris: Jo and I just went to see 1917. Beautiful film - so elegantly made. The visual storytelling is so articulate. It is a wonderful companion in my mind, to Dunkirk, which is one of my all-time favourite films along with The Tree of Life - directed by Terrence Malick. And I have to find where I can see Malick’s latest film A Hidden Life - the story of Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.