People Behind Summer and Smoke: Cheryl and Geri

Actor: Cheryl Vandergraaf

1. What character do you play in Summer + Smoke?

I play Nellie Ewell.

2. What drew you to Summer and Smoke?

Summer and Smoke is emotionally charged in every scene. I first heard about the play in high school, I saw a short scene from it at a theatre company years later, and thus it has always been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to explore more fully.

3. Why do you act? What are you trying to do every time you go on stage, no matter what role you’re playing?

I act because I think it is important for people to be reminded of the human connection through emotion. Every time I step on stage I focus most largely on my connection with the other actors, so much so that the audience feels the energy between us which can evoke a similar emotion within them.

4. I really liked how you described why you act – how it’s important for people to be reminded of human connection through emotion. What have you learned from Summer and Smoke about the human connection, or what do you hope the audience will walk away with?

I suppose I’ve learned that at any stage of a relationship it may require immense amounts of patience (as exemplified in Mr. and Mrs. Winemiller’s marriage), and that standing firm in what you believe in is admirable, yet it is also important to recognize that people are always changing, so one should allow room for growth within one’s self and within relationships with others. What I hope the audience takes away from Summer and Smoke is an appreciation and understanding for those who have missed their chance at being with the one person they’ll always love. A chance they lost simply because their lives run parallel to each other and can never intersect due to the unfortunate inconvenience of time.

5. You’re a volunteer with Walterdale, what is your “day job”? What do you do outside of Walterdale and work?

I am a full time double-major Arts student at U of A and I volunteer in other productions drama students put on at the University. I teach piano once a week at an inner-city school and I go to church. I am currently trying to catch up with the rest of the world by watching the Harry Potter series.

6. In a small paragraph, describe the highlights of the last 5 years or so of your life.

Highlights of my last 5 years… travelling to Europe, Honduras, the Philippines, New Orleans; and working in Vancouver’s East Hastings Street area for a summer. I enjoyed watching all my siblings graduate and leading a youth Christian band, renovating our house from top to bottom, being in an amazing relationship with a funny gentleman, getting the lead role in Scaramouche my grade 12 year and always fighting with my sister about who gets the prettier stocking every Christmas, as well as smuggling turtles across the border with my brothers… These are all things that have contributed in making my life a wonderfully blessed experience.

Costumer and Hair & Make-Up Designer: Geri Dittrich

1. Why (and when) did you decide to become involved with Walterdale?

I joined Walterdale in the early 1990’s when my daughter was cast in a summer Melodrama.  They needed a costumer so I thought it would be fun to get involved.

2. What is your role in the production of Summer and Smoke? In layman’s terms, what do you do?

I am the Costume Designer and Wardrobe Head of this show.  I will design, procure and create costumes for the actors, as well as maintain the throughout the run of the production.  Also, I will design the make-up and hair styles to be compatable with the costumes.

3. What other productions (at Walterdale or elsewhere) have you been a part of? What was your role in those productions?

Most recently I have been involved making costumes for ‘The Misanthrope’,  ‘Nine’,  ‘The Love of the Nightingale’,  ‘Albertine  Five Times’ and ‘The Wyrd Sisters’. . .previous to this, they tell me. . . I have worked on more than 55 shows at Walterdale. . .all in some form of costuming.

4. Most audience members know when an actor has done a good job. What does it mean for the audience when you’ve done well in your portion of the production?

I do hope that the audience will see a ‘character’ come to life on stage . . . not see the actor.  If the audience recognizes  character, age, state of wellness, social status, economic status, occupation, time and/or place before the actor speaks,  then I have done my job well.

5. You’re a volunteer with The Walterdale, what is your “day job”? What else are you involved in?

I am a ‘freelance’ costumer.  I create costumes and accessories for actors, entertainers, schools, special events, festivals, conventions and ‘dress-up’.  I teach wardrobe related topics for community theatre around Alberta as well as in the MacEwan University Theatre Production Program.  I also sew draperies for design and production companies.

6. In a small paragraph, describe the highlights of the last 5 years or so of your life.

The highlights of my past few years. . .having audience members remember my work years after they have seen it. . .and hearing an actor/actress say they “can’t wait” to wear their costume again!

7. If you were stranded on a desert island, what is the one thing you would bring with you and why?

My imagination. . .with that I can make a lot of things to keep me entertained.

8. Anything else you’d like people to know about you…

I really appreciate and love my supportive family.

Read the rest of the Behind Summer and Smoke series.

– Jenna Marynowski

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