Travis Friesen is a resident Rosebuddy finally returning to the mainstage after graduating from Rosebud School of the Arts in 2008. Select Rosebud Theatre credits include ‘Tent Meeting’, ‘On Golden Pond’, ‘Man of La Mancha’, ‘Christmas in Wales’, and ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'. Recent projects for film include: CBC’s 'Heartland', 'Painkillers', 'Hell on Wheels', 'The Valley Below', 'Breakdown Lane', and 'Carl’s Way'. Travis is a member of The Wheatland Band and the proprietor of Kith & Kin Artisan Wares who has made his home in Rosebud for the past 13 years.
Where are you from originally?
Gimli, Manitoba, home of the Gimli Glider (1983) and the annual Icelandic festival Islendingadagurinn.
What drew you to Rosebud?
I was living in Montreal taking evening acting classes, and I asked my coach, “When should I say ‘no’ to a role?” He told me that I should accept everything or I’m not hire-able, and that didn’t sit well with me. I decided to pursue a school where I could be surrounded by the craft every day and [with people] who wrestled with the questions of what it means to be a performer with a Christian faith.
What have you been up to since graduating?
I graduated RSA in 2008. After graduating, I spent a stretch of time in both Toronto and Vancouver investigating the film scene. Most of my days since, have been spent in Rosebud building a home and business, and pursuing film work in Calgary and Edmonton. I’ve also released two solo albums, and an EP with The Wheatland Band.
What’s your favorite part about performing, and do you have a preference for music, film, or theatre?
I appreciate them all for different reasons.
With music, I enjoy the navigation of a performance – building a set list that takes the audience on a journey, and interacting with them. And I love to sing. It's the thing that brings the most joy to my life.
I enjoy the high stakes that comes with doing film. You show up as a day player on set and have to prove yourself every time. And the honesty that film demands of you – the camera is right in your face and (thanks to reality TV) the average viewer sitting at home is trained to know exactly what’s going on behind the actor’s eyes. There’s no getting away with disconnected acting. I also love the camaraderie of everyone working together, each in their own unique role, towards a common goal.
With the theatre, I enjoy the exploration that is found in the rehearsal hall. In Rosebud we get 4 weeks of rehearsal time and once the show is open, performing for a live audience is such a thrill. There’s an instant gratification that happens as the energy from the audience hits you like a wave. As well, in theatre, you get to do the whole story – top to bottom – and explore the entire journey of your character everyday.
In ‘The Spitfire Grill’, you’re playing Sheriff Joe Suttor: a small town guy with aspirations for bigger things than Gilead seems to offer. Do you identify with him, or were there unexpected challenges about getting into the headspace of the local lawman?
I think we all have to deal with life not working out the way we hoped it would at some point on our journey. We all have different ways of facing disappointment. I believe the local lawman thought he’d find his piece of happiness in Gilead, with a wife and a home, but as life would have it, try as he might, that hasn’t worked out. Hopping the train out of town is a mere smokescreen for him dealing with his disappointment. Joe has a heart for the people of Gilead and is an advocate for the town. These are all facets that I identify well with.
You also recently played lawman Constable Jones for two episodes of the CBC show ‘Heartland’. What’s the difference for you between film and musical theatre?
Both mediums require hard work and preparation. If something doesn’t go right in film, you can do it again. If you start singing the wrong line in musical theatre, there is no going back, you just have to ride the wave of horror. I’ve learned this the hard way.
In addition to creative abilities, you’re a Renovation King! What draws you to projects (you're bringing a windmill to town and you built a store)? Is there something that appeals to you about working with your hands?
When I first purchased the property of Kith & Kin (the old Rosebud Fire Hall), I wanted to build an extravagant post and beam building with lots of glass and a living roof. But the reality of my budget made this impossible. Operating on a budget draws out the creativity in people. The imagination muscle is the same on we use in theatre. You’re confined to the world within the stage and have limitations there as well, but that’s often where the magic happens. Renos are another avenue for creative expression.
What are you listening to these days? Any recommendations?
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston, Field Behind the Plow – Stan Rogers
What’s Rosebud’s best kept secret?
Travis Friesen. I’m still single. Or, Kith & Kin. Or perhaps… the best is yet to come… in the form of a windmill…
What’s an important piece of advice that’s resonated with you lately?
Elinor Holt said at a talkback the other day that there is no expiration date on actors. Everything we do in our lives contributes to our craft of storytelling. That takes a certain amount of pressure off me.
On the fictional menu of ‘The Spitfire Grill’, what makes up the “Travis Friesen Special”?
I do love duck… maybe include an 8” x 8” chunk of lasagna with peppercorns on top that were hand milled by a hipster.