All the world’s a stage
For her first professional gig directing a play, Melissa Thomas has some unique challenges.
She has to make a giant peach roll.
She needs to make sure the ants get squished and the earthworm’s tail moves.
She’s got to stage an underwater scene and have seagulls flying by.
All this in Prince Charles Park.
“Things are coming together,” the longtime member of Project X Theatre of rehearsals for James and the Giant Peach, one of two plays being performed this year during X Fest.
The other is Romeo and Juliet.
“It’s been interesting,” Thomas said of coming up with creative ways of ensuring some of the more fanciful scenes occur without destroying the illusion of theatre for the audience — but she’s confident the magic will be there when the play opens o Wednesday, July 18.
The two plays alternate nights to Saturday, Aug. 11. There’s also a matinee performance of James at 1 p.m. that day.
The production reflects Project X’s decision to offer family theatre at its annual event, in addition to the traditional Shakespeare.
And, it’s worked, said costume designer Marian Truscott.
Last year, Munsch Ado About Nothing, based on the stories of Robert Munsch, saw a younger demographic heading to the park at the corner of Columbia Street and 11th Avenue.
Adding the Roald Dahl classic this year will likely see more young teens coming out, Truscott said — but their parents, who have likely read the book, will want to be there, too.
Thomas praised set designer Mark Anderson for coming up with innovative ways to ensure the more difficult scenes happen.
“He sees me coming and he just gets this look on his face,” she said, “but he makes it happen.”
One of Anderson’s innovations this year is building part of the set to revolve.
Thomas said the costumes alone are worth the price of admission to James.
It’s kept her busy, Truscott said, creating costumes for a grasshopper, a spider, a centipede, a ladybug, an earthworm, as well as James, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.
Some puppetry is involved as well — after all, the centipede has 38 legs and most of them have to move independently.
And, those seagulls are going to need a bit of help, too.
The same set of actors performs both plays — which sees Curtis Tweedie going from young James to the evil Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet.
“One night, I’m an innocent young boy with high hopes and dreams and a huge imagination,” Tweedie said “and then, I’m this knife-wielding guy.”
This is Tweedie’s first time with X Fest — he discovered producer Derek Rein was in Vancouver doing auditions and headed over.
He’s never acted outdoors in a setting like the tents and bleachers at the park, “but I love it. It’s back to the roots of theatre, like the Globe.”
The Globe Theatre was home to many of Shakespeare’s plays and was also an open-air, amphitheatre-style venue.
The repertory theatre has grown since its beginnings nine years ago, Truscott said, but this year is unique because it’s “the first time Project X has done two really big shows.”
It’s a natural growth, Rein said, just as expanding the target market to include families simply made sense.
In addition to increasing the demographics, it helps expose young people to theatre, something Rein believes is a key goal for Project X.
Tweedie is excited to see his first open-air audience when James kicks off the festival.
“You know, with video games and cellphones and all that stuff, it’s good to get out and have our imaginations challenged once in a while,” he said.
“And, this play hugely lends itself to the imagine of the audience.”
X Fest runs to Aug. 11. There are no Sunday shows.
The curtain — if it existed — would rise at 7:30 p.m. nightly.
Tickets are $23 for adults, $20 for students and seniors and $12 for 12 and under.
There’s a family pass (two adults, two children) available for James and the Giant Peach for $55.
For Monday performances, buy one ticket and get one free.
Tickets are at the Kamloops Live Box Office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483, kamloopslive.ca.