Jeremy Mason returns to the stage with Marooned with Munsch


Marooned with Munsch provides a welcome return to the stage for New West Theatre General Manager Jeremy Mason.Willy Banfield, Cari Russell and Jeremy Mason rehearse a scene from ‘Stephanie’s Ponytail. Photo by Richard Amery
New West Theatre’s popular Christmas season production of author Robert Munsch’s  popular children’s stories kicks off on Boxing Day and runs until Jan. 8.

“Theatre for Young Audiences is  one of my passions. And it made sense to do this one because Glitz and Munsch have staggered openings, so there was more time to do this,” said Mason who was last on stage with  a TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) show in 2008. They have been rehearsing since Dec. 12.

“I definitely love being on stage,” Mason continued, adding he and artistic director Nicholas Hanson wrote this story about a group of children who get separated from their parents and  become marooned on an island.

“They  are trying to find things to make an SOS with and find a treasure chest with five Robert Munsch books and some costume pieces,”  described director Andy Jenkins, who is enjoying directing his third Munsch production with New West.

“They imagine the audience for their show,” he continued.
“We wanted to choose some of the more popular Munsch stories and ones we haven’t done before,” Mason said adding the stories include ‘I Have To Go,’ about a little boy who has to pee; ‘Show and Tell,’ about a boy who brings his baby sister to school for show and tell; and  Stephanie’s Ponytail, about a girl who keeps changing her hairstyle, and is alternately mocked, then copied, though she gets the last laugh in the end.

“It’s great to run around and be a kid again while being surrounded by a group of professional actors,” Mason continued.
That is a sentiment shared by New West newcomer Cari Russell.

“Well it’s great being on stage for a Theatre for Young Audiences production with actors who are very experienced. Lots of Theatre for Young Audiences actors are just of of college and university,” Russell said adding  the process comes together quickly with experienced actors.
 She is also enjoying the physicality of the production.

“Willie (Banfield) and I are quite physical, and it’s like we can read each others’ minds so if I want to do a flip, I just look at him and he’s ready because he knows what I’m going to do,” she enthused.

“I used to take gymnastics as a kid and there isn’t much use for it usually. So if I feel like doing a cartwheel or somersault, I can,” she continued adding she is also enjoying exploring a variety of accents as well as interacting with the audiences.
“It’s a very physical production. And young audiences really like that. I’m looking forward to interacting with the crowd. Cari Russell and Geneviève Paré rehearse a scene from ‘Stephanie’s Ponytail. Photo by Richard AmeryThere’s lots of times we get right in the middle of them and do some improv with them,” she continued.

The production stars Mason, Willy Banfield and Geneviève Paré .
“It’s coming together great,” Jenkins said adding the interpretation of all five of the stories will be new to New West fans.

“It’s a wonderful adaptation of these stories  written by Jeremy Mason and Nicholas Hanson,” Jenkins said adding an unusual challenge this time around was creating props like grass skirts and coconuts, just like the children in the play must do.

“Munsch has always been prop heavy because he always likes writing about odd, everyday things. It’s not like you can just go to the store and find these things,” Jenkins continued.

“One of my favourite parts is we always have a great cast. It’s great to have Jeremy Mason back. The last time I worked with him was Rumpelstiltskin (around 2005) .

And it’s always exciting to see Munsch come to life,” Jenkins said adding they cast will rehearse right up to Dec. 23, take a couple days off for Christmas and jump into the production for two afternoon shows almost every day. Check for show times and prices.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
A version of this story appeared in the Dec. 22 Lethbridge Sun Times
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