We chatted with Ralph about his biggest challenge with the role of Shaver in Come Down From Up River, what will surprise people about this show, and how he spends free time during rehearsals.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
A: The personal challenge is to find the essence of the man, the soul of the character – in order to play him truthfully, not stereotypically. So I’m always looking for the parts of myself that best align with the part I’m playing. And then to creatively imagine the rest. The other challenge of course is to find the balance between the playwright’s intentions, the director’s vision and your own personal creativity. And to make sure that we’re having some serious fun, especially during rehearsals.
Q: What’s going to surprise people about this show?
A: What’s NOT going to surprise people is how genuinely funny this play is, because Norm is always striving to find new ways to make his audience laugh. Norm’s humour is built in. It comes from the circumstances and the characters, so it always feels truthful. There are certainly one or two significant surprises, by way of plot twists and delicate subject matter, but the real surprise comes from how deft Norm is in exploring serious topics in a humourous way. This play, for me, harkens back to one of his first plays, The Melville Boys. Yes, his prime motivation is to entertain, but he doesn’t shy away from offering up a few life lessons while he’s at it.
- Q: When you have a five minute break during rehearsals, what do you spend your time doing?
A: You mean besides going to the bathroom? It depends really. Sometimes I just need to release some ‘actor’ tension with a few choice relaxation exercises or I’ll do a quick review of the preceding’s which usually has me sitting in a corner rehashing stuff. Other times I’ll just be contemplating the existential dread I feel for the world right now, which usually takes a lot longer than 5 minutes. I’ve also been known to leave the rehearsal hall and go for a short walk, especially if it’s a nice day.
Q: Besides this one, what’s your favourite stage show?
A: Not Cats!
Q: What sort of person is going to love this show?
A: Well, who doesn’t love Norm Foster? But this is a play for people who are not afraid to laugh and to laugh at themselves.