The Chilliwack Players Guild will be presenting a play within a play for its next production.
Jitters is a comic masterpiece by Canadian playwright David French. It’s all about the nerves, panics, arguments, and disasters that go on backstage before a theatre performance.
“It’s very close to exactly what you would see if we were rehearsing our own show,” says producer Debra Archer.
“This show is almost a gift to the audience… because they’re getting to see what we as actors do in preparation for a show,” says director Ken Fynn. “For them, they walk in at 7:30 and the show begins. Out here, you’re seeing everything that’s led up to the show — the show is almost secondary in (Jitters).”
In this warm-hearted, lively and truly hilarious look at the backstage machinations of a theatre group, we join the cast and crew of a new drama, The Care and Treatment of Roses, in the late stages of rehearsals, with everything falling apart.
Set in the ’70s, the cast features an actress and leading man who can’t stand each other, a character actor who can’t remember his lines, and a young actor who shows up soused. Throw in a tyrannical stage manager, an eager young director and a novice playwright and whatever can go wrong does.
But the show, despite all, goes on.
Described as “a love letter to Canadian theatre,” Jitters pokes fun at the insecurities and competitiveness of actors, while also showcasing their talent and dedication.
The audience never really sees what The Care and Treatment of Roses (the play within Jitters) is all about. Act One is the dress rehearsal for The Care and Treatment of Roses. The first half of Act Two takes place in the greenroom right before opening night, and in the second half we end with a review of the show.
Jitters is comprised of nine actors ranging in age from early 20s to 50s, and features a crew of about 25.
Larry Hamm takes the role of Patrick Flanagan, leading man and drinker, who resents his leading lady Jessica Logan, a former Broadway star who is attempting to jump-start her career. Jessica is played by Katy Lowe, winner of a best actress award in the 2015 Theatre BC Zone Finals.
Ralph Jones, who has appeared in numerous Guild productions, is Nick, the tyrannical stage manager.
Other performers include: Andy Rolleman as George the director, Jeff Hanson as Phil the character actor, Jeffrey Nordstrom as Robert the playwright, Brady Moore as Tom the young actor, Jo Melnechenko as Susi the front of house person, and Elizabeth Castillo as Peggy, a flirtatious member of the stage crew.
Hamm explains that when you have a director like Ken Fynn who allows you the freedom to joke and have fun and express your ideas, some great creative work comes from the process.
“Ken allows them that opportunity to develop their character,” adds Archer.
Jitters is a popular show for university and community theatres. It is one of the 1,000 essential plays in the English language by the Oxford dictionary of theatre.
“A lot of people say that amateur theatre is amateur. No, it’s not. I have seen stuff on the stage that’s as good as anything you’ll see at The Playhouse or anywhere,” says Fynn.
Set design for Jitters is by Graham Archer, costume design by Mari Spani, and stage manager is Sam Busswood.
“Jitters is fears and anxieties — every actor has fears and anxieties,” says Archer.
Jitters runs April 20 to 29 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. April 20 is two-for-one preview night. Evening shows are at 7:30 p.m. and run: April 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29. There is also a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on April 23.
Tickets $25 (general), $20 (seniors). They are also offering a ‘student rush ticket’ for $10 where students can come any night and purchase a ticket. ‘Student rush’ means you can only buy your ticket that night.
Tickets available at the Cultural Centre box office, by phone at 604-391-7469, or online at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.