Educating Rita 'a delicious treat' for director
Forgive Sarah Rodgers for the ear-to-ear grin on her face.
But, she’s very happy.
And the Vancouver-based theatre veteran who is in Kamloops to direct the Western Canada Theatre’s production of Educating Rita — beginning today (Feb. 21) at the Sagebrush Theatre — has no problem explaining why.
Educating Rita, you see, is a two-person play.
“I direct a lot of musicals in Vancouver, and often I’m moving 40 people around the stage,” Rodgers told KTW.
“So, this is a gift — two actors in one room and it doesn’t move.
“It is a delicious treat for me.”
Rodgers said the unique directorial characteristics of Educating Rita have allowed her to spend more time on details that might otherwise become afterthoughts.
“As a director, it means I get to focus more on things,” she said.
“I can spend more time on the relationships, the work of the characters and their journey.”
And, of course, it means more time can be devoted to the actors — Scott Bellis playing Frank and Holly Lewis in the role of Rita.
Both actors are making their WCT debut.
Lewis, who is returning to acting after giving birth to her second son a year ago, is thrilled to be back to work.
“It’s so great,” she said.
“I sent a message to my friend last night. She asked me how it’s going.
“It’s busy, but I said it’s like working your butt off eating candy.”
To prepare for the role of Rita, Lewis was required to learn an accent she’d never done before — Liverpool English.
She began working on the accent with a dialogue coach in November, spending hours on the phone essentially trying to sound like a member of The Beatles.
“My son didn’t like it,” Lewis joked.
“He kept telling me, ‘Mommy, stop talking like that.’”
Lewis said the accent would have made it tough to understand what she was saying on stage.
“It’s like talking with a mouth full of marbles,” she said.
“We decided to go with a Manchester dialect and sprinkle in a bit of Liverpool.”
The result sounds almost Scottish.
But, the blue-collar effect definitely shines through in Rita’s voice.
“She’s a working class hairdresser who’s hungry for something more, and she’s trying to find it in literature,” Lewis said.
“It’s really fun.”
Rita enrolls in a university English class, where she meets Frank — a professor and her tutor.
The two come from very different backgrounds, but teach each other a lot throughout the course of the play.
Written by British playwright Willy Russell, Educating Rita made its debut in London in 1980.
Three years later, it was adapted to the big screen in an award-winning film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters.
Lewis said Rita was a fun character to get into.
“For her to take this step and come in here and risk looking stupid is terrifying and so brave,” she said.
“The core of this is change.
“It’s so much easier to continue your life the way you’re going than to do something different.
“And it’s a comedy, so it’s very fun.
“If I could spend my entire life doing spit-takes, I would.”
Rita is Lewis’ first role “out West.” She is originally from Toronto but now lives in the Tournament Capital with husband Daryl Cloran, WCT’s artistic director.
“This is my first time actually working here at all,” she said.
“In Toronto, every time I go into a room, I know all the actors and I know all the directors.
“When I found out I got this part, I was so excited because it’s new people.”
Educating Rita runs through March 2 at the Sagebrush Theatre. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with a pay-what-you-can matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2.