Sarah Jane Hicks says acting in a two-hander (a play with only two characters) can be tricky, because “you depend on the other person so much and you have to enjoy being with them. So it’s lucky that Gabriel [Macdonald] and I know each other really well. We have been doing plays together since we were nine. So it has been really easy for us to work together. We just jumped right into it.”
Macdonald and Hicks both grew up in Nelson, first acted and sang on the Capitol stage when they were eight, and have been a constant presence on Nelson stages as actors and singers ever since. Two years ago they both went away to theatre school, Macdonald to the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, and Hicks to UBC.
The two 19-year-olds star in Saltwater Moon by David French, set in 1920s Newfoundland, directed by Richard Rowberry with set and costumes by Adriana Bogaard, opening at the TNT Playhouse on Friday as part of the TNT Summer Theatre Festival.
‘It’s a dance’
The play is about two old flames, Jacob and Mary, who separated when Jacob left town, giving Mary no notice or explanation. She becomes engaged to another man, and then Jacob returns and tries to win her back.
“He shows up out of the blue and he’s trying to break down the walls I have built up over the year he has been away, to win me back,” says Hicks.
All photos by Adrian Wagner
“It’s a dance,” says Macdonald, “where one person takes a step forward and the other takes one back and then the magic starts to happen on those times when the glass shatters and we both take a step forward — those are the most beautiful moments of the play. And then Mary catches herself and takes a step back again.
“That is what makes this play so special — we play two of the most stubborn people in the world. I am so persistent saying ‘I love you and you love me,’ and she is so persistent saying ‘Forget about it,’ which is a lie.”
The two actors say the play is family entertainment with depth, both playful and serious. Director Richard Rowberry agrees.
“It is a sweet play that you can just enjoy because they are really nice people and they have got a problem,” he says. “And you can see what it is. Mary loves Jacob even though she pretends not do, and I think there is no secret how it is going to end. But that’s okay because it is the ride, and it is a very sweet ride.”
Paying youth actors
Rowberry’s role in Nelson’s theatre scene is defined partly by his practice, every year since 1999, of finding grant money to pay young actors in his summer productions.
That’s why Hicks can say she has already been in several professional theatre productions — she’s worked as a paid actor in several of Rowberry’s summer shows, starting when was a high school student, and most recently in A Beautiful View, a two-hander with Nelson actor Elizabeth Barrett (also recently gone away to theatre school) last summer.
In addition to being veterans of the Capitol youth summer productions, Rowberry’s summer productions, and the Christmas pantomime, Macdonald and Hicks are both talented singers and alumnae of Allison Girvan’s Corazón youth choir.
‘Give theatre more of a chance’
Macdonald says including his current work at college he has been in 24 productions in his young life, 20 of which were musicals. Locals might remember his lead role in the musical Sweeney Todd three years ago at the Capitol Theatre.
But he thinks audiences in Nelson are too stuck on musicals.
“I think people in Nelson need to give theatre more of a chance,” he says.
“This community has such an opportunity to blossom into an extremely theatre-based community. There needs to be a theatre company that can run all year round, this [summer theatre festival] would be a perfect bridge into that.”
In the meantime, he says, go to Saltwater Moon.
“This is such an emotional play, and you can connect to both of the characters and see a bit of yourself in both of them, so come to it if you want to feel a human experience and have a great night out.”
Saltwater Moon runs Friday through Sunday, at 8 p.m. and Aug. 21-23 at 7 p.m. at the TNT Playhouse at the corner of Ward and Carbonate. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance at Booksmyth, 338 Baker St.