Results worth the risk

Staging Evelyn Strange been a challenge for Maple Ridge's Maryanne Renzetti but she says there’s always payoff in the end

Maryanne Renzetti as Nina Ferrer in Staircase XI’s production of Stewart Lemoine’s Evelyn Strange. The play opens March 23.

Maryanne Renzetti as Nina Ferrer in Staircase XI’s production of Stewart Lemoine’s Evelyn Strange. The play opens March 23.

As an actor, Maryanne Renzetti is accustomed to taking risks.

There have been roles that test her emotions and challenge her physically. This time, though, she’s risking a hit to her wallet.

With a meagre budget of $5,000, Renzetti’s latest venture – Stewart Lemoine’s Evelyn Strange – has yet to reach its goal.

On Tuesday, with just 13 hours left to fundraise $1,500 online, Renzetti and her co-producer, Becky Shrimpton, were still $843 short.

The pair are doing our best to pay for as much of the show as possible, by selling ad space in the program and covering the rest out-of-pocket. The actors and crew, however, are working for a profit-share promise at the end – which means that any profit the show makes will be equally distributed. With venue costs eating half the show’s budget, no one is guaranteed any money at this point.

“The money that’s not fundraised comes from our pockets,” Renzetti says with a slight tinge of panic.

“But we really want to be able to give our actors and our crew something in return.”

Despite the struggle, Renzetti, who grew up in Maple Ridge, knows there’s a payoff in the end, albeit it won’t be bags of money.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of challenges, but when you see the end result and see audiences enjoying it and appreciating it, it’s worth it,” she says.

Those appreciative claps from satisfied audiences are exactly why Renzetti and Shrimpton founded Staircase XI in July 2009.

Based on the idea that theatre should stimulate the mind and the soul, the independent company is committed to providing quality, intelligent theatre in the mainstream.

The company was also a way for the UBC theatre grads to create opportunities for themselves, a platform not only for artistic expression, but a living, breathing curriculum vitae

“Unfortunately, the theatre scene in Vancouver is small and there’s a big pool of actors,” says Renzetti. “We started the company to do pieces that we felt strongly about and also because we could invite artistic directors of bigger companies to come see us.”

Evelyn Strange is the second show from Staircase XI Theatre Productions. The company’s most recent production at the 2010 Vancouver Fringe Festival, Will Eno’s Oh, The Humanity, and Other Good Intentions, was nominated for the Georgia Straight’s Critics Choice award.

Set in 1950s New York, Evelyn Strange is a dark comedy inspired by film noir and which explores themes of identity, greed, and passion through word play and personal revelation. The play opens in a luxury opera box, where Nina Ferrer and Perry Spangler are settling down for a showing of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried. In wanders Evelyn Strange – or, at least, she thinks she’s Evelyn Strange. Possessing only a case of amnesia and a mysterious notebook, it’s up to Strange and Spangler to find out just who she is and how she ended up watching The Ring Cycle in the first place.

Renzetti plays Nina, an upper class New Yorker.

“It’s a different style than some of the things I’ve done,” says Renzetti, whose favorite roles include Kate and Petruchio in two different versions of Taming of the Shrew and Medea in Lois Anderson’s Medea.

A movement coach trained the cast of Evelyn Strange on the way people might have moved in the 1950s, their gestures often influenced by tight girdles and other tummy-tucking underwear.

“I love the movement aspect of being an actor. It’s awesome to take on another body entirely,” says Renzetti.

Her advice to other thespians:

“Don’t give up. If one avenue, isn’t working don’t be afraid to try other. Don’t be afraid to take risks.”

Show time

Evelyn Strange, by Stewart Lemoine, plays March 23 to April 2 at  Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Drive, Vancouver.  There is a “pay-what-you-can” preview on Wednesday, March 23. The play opens nightly at 8 p.m. with a matinee on Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets for $15 or $18 are available at the door. Cash only. For reservations, call 778-834-3624 or email <a href=”mailto:tickets@staircasexi.com”>tickets@staircasexi.com</a>.