Vagabond Players kicks off 77th season
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
The Vagabond Players have performed at the Bernie Legge Theatre for more than 75 years and are still going strong with both lifetime members and fresh new talent.
“I had come here when I was a young girl to see a play,” actress Donna Thompson recalled. “I remember sitting there with my mom thinking, ‘Oh, they’re so lucky! How I’d love to be on that stage!’”
Thompson has been in the group since 1999 and is performing in their latest production, Let’s Murder Marsha, the 77th season opener.
“I’ve worked in bigger theatres, state of the art theatres… this one’s a true theatre,” she said. “The people that are here, they’ve been here forever. They’re so dedicated and put in a ton of time.”
Claire Temple, a Douglas College theatre student, stumbled upon the group last year when she searched online for community theatres and saw an open audition ad for the Christmas show, Dear Santa.
“It’s the best thing in the world if you like theatre,” she said. “It’s such good experience and you meet people and you never leave.”
Dwayne Campbell, one of the few living lifetime members, has been with the Vagabond Players since 1977 and at one point became the group’s youngest president at age 25.
With a background in theatre from high school and various community theatre productions, Campbell auditioned for the Vagabond Players’ Babes in Arms and has been working with them ever since.
“It’s just a wonderful experience to know that you’re responsible for making people happy and giving them an opportunity to enjoy themselves,” he said. “I guess that’s why over the years, I’ve always considered myself more of an entertainer than an artist.”
Nowadays, Campbell is director for the group, including their latest play, Let’s Murder Marsha, which runs until October 26.
The comedy-thriller is about an eccentric housewife who is obsessed with murder mystery novels and thinks her husband is going to murder her after she overhears him discussing her “birthday surprise.”
Lead actress, Julia Chayko, said the role is fun to play but also difficult because her character is so over the top.
“I’m one of those people who likes to find the logic in what I’m doing. With this one, I tried to do that for the first couple weeks and then I went, ‘Oh, this isn’t working,’” she said. “Once I let go of trying to find the logic then it was a little easier to sort of become her.”
This play was Campbell’s second choice after his first choice, The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, fell through because there weren’t enough men who auditioned.
Instead, he quickly had to cast a new play and had a few people in mind.
“I got on the phone and called up a lot of people that I knew that were very quick and really good,” he said. “I knew exactly who I needed to put in the show.”
Even Let’s Murder Marsha required a few rewrites. Temple’s character, Bianca the maid, was originally supposed to have a police officer boyfriend, but when actor George Kopf was cast, the character was changed to being her father because of the age difference.
Since most of the cast had met before at other Vagabond Players’ productions, they were at ease trying out different styles of comedy among friends.
“We had a lot of fun at the rehearsals,” Campbell said. “Some stuff worked, some stuff didn’t, but it was fun that everybody was willing to really put themselves out there to do it. I think it has really made a difference in this one.”
Tickets for Let’s Murder Marsha and four-show season passes are available online at www.vagabondplayers.ca/tickets.htm