Beyond the Stage: Festival Friday Chats | Late Night with Gilbert and Sullivan

by Madeleine Brown

I’m more early bird than night owl, but when the opportunity arises to have a late-night chat with some of the company members in Stratford’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, I’m willing to push my bedtime back.

Festival Friday Chats are free 30-minute post-show Q&A periods with the cast members of Festival productions. It’s the ideal opportunity to get the insider scoop on the show you just watched – or, in my case, a little late night entertainment. (You don’t have to have been to the performance to attend.)

I arrive in the Chalmers Lounge at the Avon Theatre by 10:00 p.m., suitably dressed in my blue starred pajama bottoms. The production’s finale is traveling through the auditorium into the Lounge. Curling up in one of the white leather armchairs, I think, I’ll just close my eyes for a second…

The theatre doors burst open, and I almost burst out of my seat.

The empty chairs arranged in the Chalmers Lounge fill in. Four cast members are close behind the crowd: Jennifer Stewart, Ayrin Mackie, Geoffrey Tyler and Kyle Blair.

Aside from an Avon Theatre usher keeping time on the sidelines, there’s no barrier between us and the company members. The cast is lively and energetic, and the audience is just as excited. They ask questions till a group conversation forms. My sleepiness is fading – I might just be able to pull off this late-night routine.

Mr. Blair tells us his favourite part of the show is singing “Oh, is there not one maiden breast?” to the female chorus.

“The girls are so present and there is such a feeling of ensemble,” he says.

Ms Mackie laughs, “Well it’s easy when you have someone wonderful like Kyle singing to you.”

An audience member asks the cast to define steampunk, the style on which the production’s design is based. They can tell us now, but admit they didn’t know what it was when they began rehearsing. (FYI Steampunk is inspired by 19th-century design, with added mechanical elements. Props specialist Eric Ball describes it in the video below.)

We also talk about things like the Festival’s audition and rehearsal processes, and the actors’ lives outside the Festival.

The event is truly a ‘chat.’ It’s relaxed, casual and completely open. I’ve had such a good time that by the end of it all at 10:30 p.m., I’ve forgotten that my usual bedtime has come and gone.

However, I head straight to bed when I get home, falling asleep to the sounds of Pirates:

“Hush, hush, not a word!”

Festival Friday Chats are free half-hour Q&A sessions with members of the Festival acting company. They occur following selected evening performances at their respective theatres on Friday nights in July and August. Join us for our upcoming chats with company members of The Matchmaker, The Pirates of Penzance, and Much Ado About Nothing! Dates and theatres are listed on our website.

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