Meet the two actors who play Rita and Frank in Educating Rita. Shannon Currie and Brad Rudy, both coming together for their first two-hander. Find out what makes them most excited about this poignant production.
What gets you most excited about performing together?
Shannon: Derek [Ritschel, Director] proposed the idea of working on this play and when we talked about who might play Frank, it was immediately Brad! Brad and I had worked together on It’s A Wonderful Life at Theatre Aquarius — he was someone I could not only picture in the role, but someone I wanted to spend eight inseparable weeks with!
Brad: I wrote to Derek to express my desire to work on this play, not realizing that Shannon had already suggested me. I welcomed the opportunity because although Shannon and I had worked in a play before, we hadn’t truly shared scenes together.
What makes a good stage partner?
B: Trust. It’s a dance, so it’s knowing that you want to be in the room with that person and can count on them. That’s electric on its own but knowing you can trust and save each other is vital.
S: Someone who is generous, playful, and forgiving.
Is a two-hander more challenging than a show with more actors?
S: One hundred percent. We never stop talking! Having only two people on stage means that the play is constantly unfolding between us, so it’s a real
responsibility to the play and my scene partner.
B: It’s challenging because you have just the two of you. You don’t have any moments to step back and see the bigger picture because you are always in the scene. Fortunately, the director is like a third actor; an outside eye.
Can you relate to these characters?
S: Sometimes there are characters and you think to yourself, “I know this person.” In Rita’s case, there are some major cultural differences, but I feel I’ve grown to know the marrow of this woman, what she’s about, what frustrates her, so I do try to hold onto that talisman of “I do know her,” even though the circumstances are different between us.
B: I immediately felt that I knew this character. I have taught drama in colleges and universities and understand that teacher-student dynamic. In fact, I learned a lot from working with the students and that made me excited to apply that to my own acting. I also really connect to Frank’s dry sense of humour – and our mutual love of Scotch.
What do you love about your character?
B: I love how he gets inspired by a student after almost giving up. It’s so easy to get locked into one’s own world and rhythms until another person comes along and inspires you.
S: Rita is always getting back up; she’s a fighter. She envisions her potential and doesn’t let herself become deterred. I admire that greatly.
What will be the biggest challenge in playing your character?
B: Playing the dark, defeated side of Frank; keeping the theatrical energy while playing someone who has given up.
S: I think the challenge is always being true to your character’s point of view, life experience, background, without commenting on it in performance. It is always the challenge to live in the eyes of the character your playing.
Educating Rita tackles some pretty heavy issues, so where does the comedy come in?
B: It’s opposites attract, fish out of water…all those clichés. The comedy comes out of that friction, those differences. And some pretty clever wordplay.
S: Rita’s a bit of a circus — she’s a real force of nature. She and Frank have very different ways of seeing the world yet they try to find a way to connect. So that provides a lot of comic fodder. And then there’s that monkey in the third act!…
Why should people come to see Educating Rita?
S: Everyone will be able to see parts of themselves in these characters because they are very well-written humans. I think we’ll all be able to relate to Rita and Frank, their desires, their motivations, their relationship to each other.
B: It sounds so simplistic, but it’s a really, really good story and that’s what I strive for as an actor – telling a good story.
What would you say is the overall message of Educating Rita?
B: It’s never too late to be inspired by someone or something. Education is a good, a great thing, but as the playwright says through Frank: art and literature shouldn’t take the place of life itself.
S: Derek had offered to us that the play was about the pursuit of happiness. I really relate to that pursuit through the value of education. Through education one is able to change their stars — find the freedom to make their happiness.