November 14th, 2015
Behind the Curtain: Jane Gilchrist (An Agnes of God)
QDF: First, tell us about the play?
Jane: An extraordinary play. The story of two women who are differently connected to a younger woman who has killed her baby. Mother Superior likes to think of the young woman as an unconscious innocent not responsible for anything that happened or for the fact that the baby was killed. There is the possibility that Agnes could be insane. Therefore a psychiatrist comes in to rule on her sanity. It’s a struggle between Mother Superior and the doctor; each of whom wants to save this young woman and do what is best for her.
QDF: Why did you choose to do this play, what specifically attracted you?
Jane: Went to the audition, loved the part. It was intriguing and interesting. It’s a play about something. The action is the characters and the characters are the action. The story coming closer and closer to an ending, but still leaves us in a state of intrigue
QDF: Using hindsight, if any, what do you wish you had known before going into this production?
Jane: There really isn’t anything I wish I had known. The entire experience was wonderful.
QDF: How long was the process?
Jane: Here in Montreal, the process usually takes a couple of weeks, but with this
play the process was two years. One of our cast members became pregnant and wanted to wait until she was ready to take on both being a new mom and acting. It worked out for me not only to be able to process the material but also to have knee surgery and recover from it. It worked out perfectly for all of us.
QDF: For an aspiring actress, what tips do you wish you had when you first started?
Jane: I’ve been acting since I was five years old; there weren’t any tips back then.
What is exciting about drama are the directors you get or other cast members who often have a different take on things, which makes things very interesting. Too many tips in your head, you’ll tip over (Jane laughs), I think what you need is to do it and have it under your belt. You develop your own way of doing things as you come along and meet different people who ask you to do it in a different way. Tips are fun but typically don’t relate to the next project you work on.
QDF: How was it working with your cast members?
Jane: They are lovely women, wonderful people. They are very creative; their imagination inspires me. Both very talented and interesting, great actresses!
QDF: Looking forward is there a dream project you have in mind?
Jane: Do as many plays as I can, until I have to stop, as you know; I am getting older and older. However I still see plenty of people my age on stage so I am still very comfortable there. I write as well, I’d like to write another play soon, as I truly enjoy that. I did a play at the Freestanding Room; solo one woman show and had a lovely time doing that. Vicki Barkoff and I did another play for the Fringe, and I have had plays done in other places. I love to perform in my own plays but absolutely don’t mind if other actors play roles in my play as well. I’m also trying to write some short stories.
What artistic legacy do you hope you are building?
Jane: Well I don’t think as myself as leaving any artistic legacy (Jane laughs), I think legacies are left behind by Shakespeare and Pinter, those are the ones who leave artistic legacies. What I want to leave behind is to plant a seed such as my granddaughter, who is thinking of going into theatre.
That’s the sort of thing I want to leave behind. I would love it if someone in the future came across one of my plays I wrote and said ‘hmmm, I’ll do it’ (Jane laughs), that would be fun to think someone in the future would like to do one of my plays. That would be my dream
What are you taking away from this experience?
Jane: A sense of fun and excitement, an opportunity to work with a director I have not worked with before. Who has a very interesting, very challenging process to put people through. I’m taking away from this a different way of working, which to me is always wonderful. You don’t want to get into a rut, and working with Jock McDonald you do not get into a rut.
How has theatre changed since you started at 5 years old?
Jane: At age five I was in Too Many Cooks. I played a very naughty child. I was bitten by the bug.
Theatre is more sophisticated now, As a teenager, I went to see My Fair Lady in Chicago, I saw a lot of plays like that– very lovely and conventional–and then all of a sudden came along Tom Stoppard where people were taking off their clothes (Jane laughs) and there were themes that were a lot more exciting and exotic, Now you have more of an explosion of kinds of theatre (ideas), you can see more remarkable things now, wildly different ways of doing Shakespeare. Or like Hair for example, where everyone in the cast took off their clothes. (Jane laughs). The F word started to be everywhere, until it became static, and now it’s waned a bit.
They are learning how to use it as poetry—not as “God am I ever shocking!” It’s mellowing out. But not to worry; writers will find something else that is shocking to the audience. Theatre is just such an exciting world. I must say, though, that political theatre is my favourite.
QDF: What themes in this play spoke to you personally as you became intimate with the play?
Jane: Because I’m a mother, when I talk about Agnes I feel a motherly desire to save her from her dangerous situation. My character feels this is her last chance to be a mother–to do right by this child; to protect this child.
QDF: Why do you think folks should get out and see this play?
Jane: I think they will enjoy it. It is site-specific in a very special way that knocks me out. We have Mark Bye who’s lighting it and Isabel Farias Lehoux designing it. You have to see it because it is so beautiful. And because of the depth of the story it tells.
Playing from November 12th-29th
At Grove Hall
EXTENSION IN MONTREAL
Playing from December 3rd-13th