You may want to call it a homecoming of sorts. Melanie Janzen has graced the Lighthouse stage numerous times, including productions of Old Love, LUNENBURG, and The Ladies Foursome, to name a few. She spent seven seasons with the Stratford Festival Theatre, five seasons with The Shaw Festival Theatre and the North American Tour of Show Boat, directed by Hal Prince. Fun Fact: Her husband, Jamie Williams, is directing the world premiere of Norm Foster’s A Pack Of Thieves, our last production of 2023’s main season. We chatted with Melanie about what will surprise people about this show, what will they be talking about on the way home and what she does just before going out on stage.
Lighthouse Festival (LF): What will people be talking about in the car on the way home after seeing this show?
Melanie Janzen (MJ): On the car ride car ride home from attending Where You Are, audience members will be talking about how these characters and their relationships with each other ring true. Our cast have just begun to rehearse this beautiful play, and I am noticing right away that there are many moments in the rehearsal hall where this script elicits thoughts of my own mother and of my own daughter and of my sisters as well: these characters and their relationship struggles and triumphs will be highly recognizable to many in the Lighthouse Festival audience.
(LF): Who is most like their character in this play? Who is the least like their character?
(MJ): It’s hard for me at this early stage in the rehearsal process to know which actor might be most like their character in the play – I worked with the wonderful Susan Henley many moons ago at The Stratford Festival and am over the moon to be playing with her once again, but the other two cast members I am meeting for the very first time. I will say that I feel a particular affinity for my character, Suzanne. As I get to know her, I am seeing much of myself in her – the good qualities, and perhaps the not-so-good qualities! I’m enjoying discovering everything about her and feel close to her already.
(LF): What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
(MJ): Before stepping out from behind the curtain before each performance, I thank my lucky stars. I am filled with gratitude every time I am able to work as an actor and I never take the privilege for granted.
There’s a magical, limbo-like quality to that moment before you go onstage – you can feel yourself about to step out of one world and enter a completely different one in the space of an instant and hovering there between them can produce a heady feeling.
I may also do some deep breathing because as exciting as it is to perform, I am sometimes a tad nervous and so the heart does get to racing.
Oh! I guess there’s a third thing I might do as well; when the pre-show music gets playing, I may do some backstage freestyle dance moves for the benefit of our assistant stage manager, Ben Tuck! This accomplishes a number of things: it’s an outward expression of that feeling of gratitude I referred to, it’s a physical release of those aforementioned nerves, and if I do it just right, it makes Ben roll his eyes, shake his head and maybe give him a chuckle. All good things!
(LF): What’s going to surprise people about this show?
(MJ): What will surprise the audience about this show? I can only really think of what they won’t be surprised about: they won’t be surprised to find how much they enjoy themselves – these are lovely, funny, interesting characters that the audience will meet and get to know and their journeys will be ones that will be sure to resonate with Lighthouse viewers.
(LF): Besides this one, what’s your favorite stage show?
(MJ): I wouldn’t know where to start if I had to choose a favourite performance or production that I have seen in the past, but in terms of picking a preferred play to act in…? Truly, I think I would have to say that it’s almost always the one I am currently involved in. And that’s because each new play and new character provides me with an opportunity to learn, and become better at the job of acting. This certainly is one occupation where you never reach that ‘ceiling’…where there’s nothing more to learn or achieve. How great is that? So yes, the stage production I am most of fond of is invariably the one I am I’m the process of discovering in the present.