They are an insanely busy pair but they’re every producer’s dream to work with. I ask questions. They answer them.
Liz Clark: You two have worked together on projects before as director and cast member. It’s obvious that you have a pretty great give and take. How are you making it work – the co-directing thing?
Joel Varty: Right from day one Bea has been a great mentor to me. From casting, to planning things out scene by scene, to watching each other work, we’ve been able to connect creatively and meet in the middle. The word “collaborate” is one that get’s bandied about too lazily, in my opinion. Collaboration is much harder than just doing something yourself, however, with Bea it’s what has made this experience so fulfilling creatively. The things we’ve tossed about in conversation have worked their way into the work that folks are doing onstage in a really natural way. I want to thank her for her patience and all that she’s done for VOS and for me personally. It’s a gift to have someone with so much talent and experience who’s willing to give of themselves.
Bea Quarrie: Directing is experiential. You can read all the books, but you have make the daily decisions on the go all the time. It is in being respectful of what every member has to offer that is important. Joel knows that his actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and do more. Marshaling the collective’s forces in a cohesive vision is a tricky thing to manage and directors must learn by making mistakes. Humility is an essential attribute for a good director, and because we trust each other to make informed choices, we move forward in concert by empowering everyone on and backstage to contribute and innovate.
Liz: Joel, you’re tacking the role of artistic director for the first time but you’ve been a part of a lot of community theatre productions. What has come as the greatest surprise?
Joel: I didn’t know I’d like it this much. I didn’t know how much satisfaction I’d get from seeing an actor making the progression from a first cold reading to creating a character out of thin air. I also didn’t know what it would mean to be so consumed by the job, mentally and emotionally. I spend hours drawing scene layouts, or pictures of set pieces, or talking to the folks building costumes, or considering how to make something work technically. The amount of time spent collectively by a production team in putting on a show of this magnitude is staggering, and it can’t be done alone. We all have to give our time and our care to each other.
All that being said, though, the sheer amount of talent that has gathered for this project is really huge. I can’t wait for folks to see Stacy and Angela Main onstage together – they are spectacular – but it goes right down to every member of the cast, right through the band, assembled by Jill Baker, and through our production team. There are more great moments to look forward to than I could have ever hoped for.
Liz: What has been the greatest challenge with this production?
Bea: Chitty is a huge undertaking. Aside from the number of characters in the show, there are choreographic challenges, which means training singers/actors to move as dancers- thankfully we have a fabulous choreographer in MacKenzie Russell ! Actors have to share the space with a huge car, flying loos, life sized dolls- it is a logistical challenge too. This show is a spectacle that challenges every team member to find creative solutions, from those inventing the set pieces, to stage management who have to organize the backstage shenanigans. It’s all hands on deck while singing and dancing effortlessly.
Joel: The inventions. The car. Scheduling. The amount of technical expertise needed to simply make a decision on something and the sheer number of hours needed in the planning phases before work can even start. Trying to sleep after rehearsals. Trying to get this great music out of my head.
Liz: Bea, you’re directing VIMY in Peterborough at the same time you’re co-directing Chitty. Two so very different productions. How do they both have a place in Community Theatre?
Bea: Vimy is a dark, brooding piece that can bore into the soul for those who have an open heart. Chitty is a child’s escape fantasy. Both need a delicate yet firm directorial touch, both have different rewards that need to be earned with hard work. Both challenge amateur companies to their maximum capacity in different ways. As directors, the trick is to find the balance, always.
Liz: Joel, tell us two important things you’ve learned during the process of getting Chitty on the stage in six words or less.
Joel: Do you job, trust your team.
Tickets for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are going fast. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get a seat. Call the Box Office at 905-372-2210 or purchase them online at vostheatre.com.
VIMY runs at the Peterborough Theatre Guild from Oct 30-November 14. For tickets call: 705-745-4211