L.V. Rogers student Michael Marsland was careening down the hallways of his high school with a ragtag group of buddies, bellowing loudly at the top of his lungs just before Christmas, when teacher Robyn Sheppard stopped him.
“We were singing Christmas carols in the halls, as the cool kids do, and Robyn came up and said ‘you have a voice of someone who does drama’. I’d never known her, but she asked me to come audition after school, randomly. She pulled me in and said ‘you’re amazing’. I’d done pantomime before but never anything like this, and yeah, I’m glad to be here.”
Sheppard was aggressively recruiting stars for her ambitious nine-part production of Almost, Maine, which will play at the Capitol Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on February 19, 20 and 21. The play, written by John Cariani, originally debuted off-Broadway in 2006. And now, with 9 pairs of Nelson students enacting multiple interconnected storylines on stage, her quest is almost complete.
In the show, Marsland plays a pajama-clad man who discovers a lost woman in his yard.
“I’m just about to go to bed, and then there’s this woman and I fall in love with her. We’re in this town, it’s almost a town but not quite a real town, but it’s where everyone can find the person they’re looking for in the place that’s least expected.”
Marsland isn’t the only one grateful to be involved in the show. Indeed the entire cast and crew seem inordinately enamoured with their director, who was hobbling around the set on a broken toe Wednesday evening when the Star swung by for photos.
“I tried to get into drama in high school and never really got into it. But then Robyn came up and said ‘Keegan, you want to act?’ I was like okay, all right. I auditioned and it must have gone well because here I am. I’m nervous, but it’s a good nervous because I’m pushing my limits,” said Keegan Schuh.
Schuh plays Dave, another lovestruck character.
“I think people are going to get a kick out of it. It’s almost a love story, but not quite,” he said, laughing at his own allusion to the show’s title. (His classmates joshed him for his lack of originality.)
Victoria Hayes said the thing she appreciates most about the script is the magic realism.
“It’s in small things, like things falling from the sky or literal broken hearts,” she said. She noted that all the storylines are connected in subtle ways, and that all of the events are occurring simultaneously.
“Certain characters influence other situations in small ways. All of this is happening at the same time, and they’re not connected in their settings but they all know each other.”
And Erica Tolles, who plays the distressed hiker who shows up in Marsland’s yard, said they all share a theme.
“They all fall under that theme of relationships and love and personal interactions,” she said.
Hayden Wasylyk said audiences won’t be disappointed, launching into an impromptu comedy routine.
“I want to talk about the audience. I think they’re going to leave different people, okay? Everyone who leaves the theatre is going to come out altered a bit. Some strings may be pulled, some people may be told, there may be mold on their teeth, but thats just an aside. What I really want to get to is there’s not always an end…”
At this point in the conversation, Wasylyk stared vacantly into the distance while his buddy Alex Mcmahon jumped in.
“I’d like to say a few words about the cast. Everyone in the cast has worked so hard, so tirelessly. They haven’t gotten tired, they haven’t slept and they haven’t breathed since they were casted. This is some of the greatest talent this school has to offer, some of the greatest eyes coming out of the chest of everyone here. Because the heart, the heart sees hatred.”
Judging by their giggling classmates, Mcmahon and Wasylyk should be a riot onstage.
Hayes said the experience has brought them all together.
“With this cast I kind of knew a few people before, but there were lots of people I didn’t know, especially the crew. We’ve got poor Robyn with her broken toe, running around here. But we’ve all gotten so close, and I’m excited to see how it turns out.”
The show features a rotating set designed by Doug Scott, with multiple faces to the building.
“The set is brilliant,” said Zorn Rose. “Usually in drama or most plays most of the sets are pretty minimalist, but this one definitely is not. Doug brought in a model of the set beforehand, shoebox-size, and it was already incredible.”
Tickets are available at capitoltheatre.bc.ca or by phone at 250-352-6363.