October 26th, 2015

Behind the Curtain: Amy Blackmore, holly Greco & Patrick Lloyd Brennan (Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show)

Amy Blackmore

Executive and Artistic Director, Mainline Theatre

Director and Co-Choreographer Rocky Horror Show

Patrick Lloyd Brennan

Co-Choreographer

holly Greco

Assistant Director and Co-Choreographer

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QDF: In terms of process, what is your way into a play?

Amy: My favorite way in, is the table read. We all come from a contemporary dance background, which I think I think is unique in theatre, in terms of being a Director.  So I don’t really see things taking shape until that first read through.  That is really the entrance for me to what is really going on. I can have my own idea of what it is going to look and sound like, and what the intentions are going to be, but the beautiful thing about a script is that it is words, and it is through the read, that we get to discover what is under those words, where can we go with it and how much flexibility is there.

Patrick: For me, in this process in particular, it was really the first rehearsal. That first rehearsal was really exploring and testing things out. For the performers, it might have seemed planned, but for me, it was really just about getting to know their bodies, how they moved and how they looked together and starting to envision a vocabulary and relationships that exist physically between them.

holly: For me, especially in the last year, I have been taking on roles that that I am not usually in. I stage managed a formal play, I wrote a show, and now I am Assistant Directing with Amy, which is all new to me. The first thing I do is connect with the team I am working with, and sit down with them and ask; “What do you need from me? What do you think you will be bringing? What are your expectations of me? How can I help you? Before the cast comes in, I need to figure out what my role is, because it all depends on the people you are working with. I try to identify the process of the team I am working with and then help fill the holes where I can.

QDF: Given that all three of you identify the start of rehearsals as your way into the play, how do you handle auditions?

Amy: Auditions are a mixed bag, and I like to see almost everybody I can. I prefer short auditions. It’s like when you are hiring someone for a job; you usually know within the first four minutes if you are going to hire them or not. I find with casting, that often, but not always takes place. I love when someone comes to the audition, and they are not the person I may have had in mind in terms of body type, skin colour, age or tone that I was thinking of, but come in and rock an audition and change those thought for me. That is very exciting moments for me.

QDF: What goes into building the shared vision needed to get a cohesive show?

holly: A lot of conversations between the three of us. We are highly collaborative people, although we have our different roles. Yes, a lot of excited conversations and then business conversations.

Amy: Yes, Dream big!

Patrick: We do a lot of checking in with each other in a positive way. Sharing things we are trying and making sure it works for the others, and we build from that.

Amy: Yes, a lot of communication, trust and honesty. Sometimes when there is something that is not working out, it is important to be able to identify that in a positive way.

QDF: Being an independent production, you don’t have the same supporting infrastructure that some professional productions do. Yet ensemble is a very important part of what we do. Given that you have to carve out rehearsal time where you can, and may not have the entire cast available when you would like, how do you go about building the interconnectedness of ensemble?

Patrick: Something that was new for me this year, was that I was included in rehearsals, for more than just the numbers I was choreographing. There were chunks of rehearsals where the entire team was included, so that, even if I don’t have anything to do with that portion of the show, I get a greater understanding of the whole of it. I get to get a feel for what everybody is bring to the table, and therefore leave those rehearsals re-evaluating what I am bringing to the table. I think that has been very helpful, particularly for some of the phantoms who are in so many of the numbers, as they get to have an understanding of the entirety of the show.

holly: I think also the nature of the production, that we are doing Rocky, which is a beloved, well known show, some people may come in and go, “ I am a total Rocky freak”. They are so excited, that it draws people together in the cast that may not know the show. Then there are the people who don’t know the show, and who bring their honest and authentic self to the character, and they connect with other people on that. Rocky is a cult favorite, and so that is an underling community building experience for those doing the show. For the people who are new to it, fall in love with it.  So, I think the content does some of the work for us.

QDF: What do you think it is about the show that makes it so iconic?

holly: For me, I saw it about 10 years ago, and it did not do it for me. I did not get it, did not care to continue to figure it out, I just sort of wrote it off. That could be just be where I was at, by that time in my life.  Then I saw it here a few years ago, and it was the music. It is timeless, rock and roll, makes you want to get up on your feet and dance, and you get to see it, at least in our production, with a live band with these incredible singers.

Amy: It is not by accident that Mainline does Rocky. I think there is a layer of all-inclusiveness in this show and everyone is welcomed. Which is not dissimilar to our Fringe mandate of diversity, accessibility and artistic freedom. Well, Rocky is about accessibility, diversity and sexual freedom. So there are a lot of parallels there, which for me, is really attracts me to the show. I think what I really love about Rocky, is that every time I see it or am involved in a production, there is something new there.  I first discovered this show when I was thirteen, and as I have grown and changed, so has my connection to the show.

QDF: This story has also been turned into a very popular movie. What would you say to the person who has never seen the live show? What should they expect?

holly: Expect everything! It’s not your stereotypical theatre show. It is not formal, there is no fourth wall, it is more theatre in the round, and people will be yelling things at the actors the entire time, but here the actors can respond back.

Patrick: The music and sound is so much bigger, and there are parts that are extended in the play, that you only get little bits of in the movie. It is a totally different experience for me. I have not watched the movie since I was in the show in 2008, because since then, the movie just does not do it for me anymore.

QDF: How long has Rocky been a staple here?

Amy: This is the fourth time that Mainline is presenting the show, and my first as Director.

QDF: As this is your first time, what is the one thing you wished you had known before starting, that you know now?

Amy: I made the choice not to bring on designers, because of our limited funds and the realities around the production. In hindsight, I would have liked to have designers. I did not know how important that was. In the end, I love how it looks, I love the design, and I believe we are all designers. Yet, I would have loved to have the time to work with a costume designer and set designer.  That for me has been the, ‘Oh, now I get it”.

Holly: Yeah, doing it all is hard – crazy!

QDF: What has been the biggest surprise for you all?

Amy: How amazing Frank is when played by a woman. I felt good about it when we cast Stephanie McKenna, but now I feel over the moon about it. It’s amazing, and it really forces you to peel down some layers. You can’t just go stereotypical with Frank. You can’t just go drag queen. You have to dig down deeper into the intentions and that is really interesting.

holly: I have done the show 3 times. This time we have 15 phantoms, and what surprised me, is how they all blend, not only on stage, but the community they have built of constantly helping each other out. We had one phantom video tape herself do the choreography with explanations for another who was struggling, as she realised we probably would not have the one-on-one time to help. They are taking the time to be there for each other, which is important as they are put to the test on this show. They are not just singing and dancing, that are doing everything. The challenge has brought them together, and they are just getting stronger and stronger. We could not have wish for anything more.

Amy: Doing a Mainline production can be a bit of a production 101 boot camp. Artist report that working here often pushes actors to push past their comfort zones, helping them to grow. That kind of comradery often comes out of such experiences.

QDF: When we first heard about this show, we lamented that it would not be up for Halloween, but rumors have reached us that this is not so.

Amy: Yes. We have six shows already scheduled for this week and have decided to extend by adding shows on October 29th, 30th, and 31st at 8pm, so you can get your Halloween on with Rocky.

QDF: Is there anything else you would like to know about this production?

Patrick: I hope people will read this, and get an idea how special this production is. They will stepping into the theatre, and being invited to share an experience. I hope people will take advantage of that, and give themselves over to having some pleasure. Come in and be a part of it – see the connections and the special moments created and allow yourselves to connect with it.

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show has just extended till October 31st.

October 29th-31st

Tickets are going fast so get your tickets on their website.

MainLine Theatre

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