People Behind Summer and Smoke: Tonya and Rhiannon

One thing I’ve learned is that mounting a production like Summer and Smoke takes a large number of people making a huge time commitment. While ordinarily the process would be impressive, the fact that everyone involved in any of Walterdale Playhouse’s productions are volunteers, makes it especially impressive. Through the Behind Summer and Smoke series, I have been profiling the people who are involved in Summer and Smoke – on stage and off!

Tonya Chrystian

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

Rosa Gonzales

2. What commonalities, if any, do you have with your character?

Rosa is the kind of woman I wish I could be: exotic, gorgeous, sexually free and doesn’t give a damn what people think. I wish I had the same sexual prowess that she possesses. I do share her philosophy that sometimes we need to sacrifice our sense of morality in favour of survival.

3. What drew you to Summer and Smoke?

First and foremost it was the author: Tennessee Williams, that sparked my desire to do this show. I find Williams’ work very engaging and powerful, and this was my first chance to do a full-length production of his. I also love that Summer and Smoke isn’t one of the “common” plays by Tennessee Williams that we often see produced, such as Streetcar, Menagerie, or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – it’s nice to expand the public’s experience of such a strong author.

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

I did my MFA in acting at the Ecole internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France, during which I formed a partnership with two production companies – Mindhive Collective based in Edmonton, Ab, and On Your Feet Theatre Collective based in London, UK. I performed at the Edinburgh fringe festival in 2012, and before that at the Edmonton fringe in 2011. My next production will be s/kin for Punctuate! Theatre in March 2013.

Assistant Director: Rhiannon Perley-Waugh

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

My role in Summer and Smoke is Assistant Director. I am basically another set of eyes to help the director with the site lines/blocking and with whom she can discuss any aspect of the show, design or script. I also act as a go-between of notes between the Director and Production team when needed.

2. What drew you to Summer and Smoke?

I was drawn to it because of my experience of it several summers ago at the Shaw Festival. When I found out that it had been accepted into Walterdale’s season, I knew immediately I wanted to be involved. It is such a beautifully written play, and really spoke to me. I suppose I could say I had a personal investment in it, for I feel a personal connection with the story and characters.

3. Why do you choose to be involved in the production side of the show? How did you get started doing this?

When the Director asked me if I would like to come on as Assistant Director I was thrilled – for not only did I love this play, but it would give me an incredible learning experience in the realm of directing. Up until this show, I hadn’t had directing experience and was itching for an opportunity to try out the ‘directing goggles’- as it were. And who better than my Mother, who not only is a talented theatre artist herself, but with whom I’ve been seeing plays since I could walk and talk, and with whom I had shared the incredible experience of seeing this play for the first time those many years ago. I knew – right from the start, working with Mary-Ellen was going to be a great learning opportunity.

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

Black Hearts in the Green Room – I played Luna, a fictious ‘Walterdale’ ghost with a vendetta

Perfect Pie – Light Operator

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean –  Light Operator

Albertine In Five Times – Assistant Stage Manager

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

The last five years have involved predominately my education in Drama at the University. Though it may sounds cheesy, they’ve been some the most rewarding, exhilarating and fulfilling years of my life thus far  I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person and an artist. I’ve made new friends and kept my dear friends from my High school days- all of whom have been extremely influential in supporting my passion for the theatre. I have had some truly inspirational classes and have both my ‘Class of 2014’ chums and my excellent teachers to thank for that.

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

I have danced since I could walk and for the last 10 years have be trained in Highland Dancing.

Summer and Smoke will run February 6 – 16 at Walterdale Playhouse. Read more of the Behind Summer and Smoke series

– Jenna Marynowski

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