People Behind Summer and Smoke: Chris and Pat

Actor: Chris Allen

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

Dr.  John Buchanan Sr.

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

Other than age, a certain irascibility, perhaps warmth and sociability, along with a sense of duty, responsibility and commitment.

3. What drew you to Summer and Smoke?

The urge to return to the stage after over a decade, and a request/suggestion that I audition for the play, along with the challenge of acting in a Tennessee Williams play in an unfamiliar locale using an accent.

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

AS ACTOR:  The Crucible, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Mumberley Inheritence, The Mound Builders, An Enemy of the People etc.(WALTERDALE), Ulysses, Spoon River Anthology, The Housekeeper (various), Film and Television roles, Being a Witness :The Real Thing”, Crimestoppers re-enactment, & other featured and background roles

AS DIRECTOR AND/OR PRODUCER: Adrift In New York or: Her First False Step, and An Evening of Poetry Prose and Music – CKUA Radio Comedy: Wundergrowth, CKUA Radio Drama: Guy Faulkrand: Gentleman Adventurer monthly play series (and editor).

AS WRITER: Lady in a Barrel one-act, contributing writer to This Wooden “O” (WDALE), CKUA Radio Comedy: Wundergrowth, various other projects.

5. Wow! You’ve developed an impressive resumé over the years – what is it about Walterdale that keeps you coming back?

Walterdale keeps drawing me back because as Anne Shirley (of Green Gables) used to say, it is a community of “kindred spirits”, people whose interests are varied but have a mutual love of theatre and of the creative arts.

I can, when I feel the urge, indulge in my own creative impulses of various forms through this nurturing and supportive organization and have the confidence that I will be respected for my efforts by my peers, no matter what the level of my achievement in this or other walks of life. Walterdale is truly, cliché as it may sound, a family.

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

To keep my mind active; to challenge my limits and expand my capabilities as well as to entertain and inform audiences. To feel a sense of accomplishment, feel a part of the theatre family, and of course to enjoy the warmth and applause generated by a successful performance.

I try to be real – to become the character I embody on stage and to move, speak and respond “in the moment” in as natural a fashion as possible in a heartfelt way. Within the limits of the script and direction, I try to perceive the situation as the character would and respond as he might. I’m not always successful but when I am it’s a sublime feeling.

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

The more important events of my life have included a small heart attack while travelling n Southern Alberta, a triple bypass operation to correct the problem and a recovery period that enabled me to return to work and to life in general in energetic fashion.  Being able to appreciate the gift of life and to return to work again, along with the recreation I enjoy, has revitalized my existence. Travel to England, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Jordan and most recently Japan with my partner Jan has gratified my adventurous spirit. My recent retirement has meant new opportunities to learn to cook international foods, and most importantly return to the theatre that I love.

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

A large dictionary, for love of words and their meaning, along with the possibilities that exist when you learn new ones and refresh your knowledge of those you might think you already know, and for the chance to create new sentences and stories from them.

9. Anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I have a great love of the sea and the mountains and their limitless power to awe and seduce us. I am enormously grateful to Jan Streader and Walterdale Theatre for giving me a window into hundreds of new worlds and the pleasure of exploring them for the entertainment and knowledge of others, as well as providing the foundation for paid work as an artist. I also relish the opportunity to fulfill my creative urges through the arts.

Stage Manager: Pat Eyford

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

I’m the Stage Manager for the show. I’m at every rehearsal setting up, taking notes, giving reminders and closing down at the end of the night, with help if I’m lucky enough to have a good cast. Stage Managers are the glue that holds things together along with the Production Manager. We help the Director to bring the show together. Basically Stage Managers control the stage business (actors, blocking notes, etc), Production Managers control the production end of things (designers, scheduling meetings, etc) so the Director doesn’t have to worry about anything more than directing the show and conveying his/her vision for the show to designers and the actors. Mary-Ellen is a very hands-on director.

2. What drew you to Summer and Smoke?

I did “A Streetcar Named Desire” quite a few years ago and acquired an appreciation for Tennessee Williams. Plus the production people involved in this show are all quite amazing in their own rights. It’s great to be able to work a show that has a great team.

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

I’m not a front-and-centre kind of person. I prefer to be behind the scenes encouraging the director and actors with calm energy to help them do what they do best. It all goes back to that first show so long ago when I discovered the wonderful world of backstage theatre for myself.

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

I’ve been at Walterdale for the greater part of my life and I’ve worked a considerable number of shows. I think it averages at least one a year, sometimes more. I’ve always been backstage in some capacity or other. I’ve helped build sets, I’ve walked the stage for lighting, I’ve been Assistant Stage Manager or running crew and, of course, I’ve been Stage Manager.

I have done a few Fringe shows and worked with other theatre companies but most of my resume would be made up of Walterdale productions.

5. 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?

Mistakes in calling cues for lights and sound can be jarring for an audience member so if I’ve done my job well, they will just be carried into the next scene by what happens onstage without even really realizing it. That also depends on good design but as much as anything, it’s timing in calling a cue.

Read more articles in the Behind Summer and Smoke series.

– Jenna Marynowski

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