EPig cast perfect Anne in new Maple Ridge production

Finding a girl to play the red-headed protagonist in Paul Ledoux’s play was seemingly easy

Rachel Renaud as Anne Shirley

Rachel Renaud as Anne Shirley



As a young girl, Kathleen Hatley found a kindred spirit in Anne of Green Gables.

“I had red-hair and freckles and pig-tails,” she says. And she was teased, called “ginger”, “carrot” and  “bad-tempered.”

Choosing  Anne, a play by Paul Ledoux, as the first performance to direct was therefore a no-brainer.

“I loved Anne’s spirit. I didn’t have Anne’s imagination as a kid, but I certainly had her spunk and liked how she just won the hearts of everyone around her, but stuck to her values and beliefs,” says Hatley. “Despite the hardships, she kept that sparkling personality.”

Set in the early 1900s, the play follows Anne’s journey from misunderstood waif to a confident young woman who changes the lives of everyone around her.

Hatley, who has worn the hat of producer for many Emerald Pig Theatrical Society productions, knows it’s a popular tale that connects with many women, her age and younger.

“It’s Canadian. It’s a timeless classic. She is trying to find a home, a place to belong and I think a lot of us a looking for a place to belong.”

Initially nervous about finding a young Anne Shirley, Hatley was comfortable settling for a lead who was in her late teens or early 20s.

She had no idea she’d land the “perfect” Anne in Rachel Renaud, red-hair and all, during open auditions.

“When this little girl arrived, I didn’t think I could cast her because she didn’t have the strength I needed,” recalls Hatley.

Armed with the part after the first audition, Renaud, 12, spent hours rehearsing at home and even videotaped herself.

When Renaud returned for a call-back two weeks later, Hatley knew she had found “Anne.”

“She just arrived totally out of the blue,” she says. “She is just amazing.”

Playing Anne is the first time Renaud will act semi-professionally. She hasn’t faced an audience since Grade 4, when she was cast as Annie in a school production.

She’s always loved acting and was looking for a role when her dad stumbled on an audition notice for Anne. Just like Hatley, she too relates to Anne Shirley.

“I have never really been made fun of for my hair. It’s is not really red enough, I don’t think,” says Renaud, who attends Eric Langton elementary in Maple Ridge.

“I do have a temper like Anne does, just speak your mind when you want to. I have a fairly big imagination and sometimes I do use big words like Anne does.”

And it’s just Anne’s wild imagination that’s drawn Renaud to her character and, as well as her “pureness of heart.”

“She is so adorable and grand in the way she talks. That makes me really like her.”

Gilbert Blythe, the rival, friend, love interest, and eventual husband of Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s series of novels, is played by Renaud’s 14-year-old brother Nicholas.

She admits it was a little awkward at first.

“But once you are in your character, it is all good,” says Renaud. “It’s fun because we have good chemistry. It’s easy to act like I hate him because sometimes you do when you are sister and brother.”

• Anne is on stage at the ACT in Maple Ridge, April 20-23. For tickets, call 604-476-2787.

(From left) Marie Brothers as Rachel Lynde, Keisha Gill as Ruby Gillis, Rina Varley as Marila Cuthbert, Eldstrom as Diana Barry and Simon Challenger as Matthew Cuthbert in a scene from Anne.

Cast

• Anne Shirley – Rachel Renaud

• Marilla Cuthbert – Rina Varley

• Matthew Cuthbert – Simon Challenger

• Rachel Lynde – Marie Brothers

• Diana Barry – Carly Eldstrom

• Gilbert Blythe – Nicholas Renaud

• Josie Pye – Elizabeth Drummond

• Ruby Gillis – Keisha Gill

• Director -Kathleen Hatley

• Producer – Sharon Malone

For an interview with director Kathleen Hatley and more behind-the-scene footage, click here.