From April 19th to May 5th, Bedford Players presents “It’s Murder in the Wings,” a homicidal mystery filled with comedic relief. Arts East spoke with the play’s director Kim Shaw and actor Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons.
AE: How long have you been a member of Bedford Players, and what roles have you played?
KS: I began volunteering in theatre when my daughter joined Unicorn Theatre at age 7, in 1995. Over the years I learned many aspects of theatrical production including costumes, props, stage management, directing, technical, set design, programs and publicity. I also served as chair on the board of directors. After a short break when my daughter went off to university, I found I needed to return to the theatre. I produced and directed the musical “Willy Wonka” at an elementary school. I was ASM and Props Mistress with
TAG before joining Bedford Players as a Front of House volunteer for “Busybody” in the fall of 2010. Fortunately for me, Bedford Players has allowed me to jump in with both feet. In the spring of 2011, I was SM for “Marplot” and following that I was Producer for “Private Lives”. Directing is my passion and I was very pleased to be selected as director for the spring production, “It’s Murder in the Wings”. Bedford Players has provided me with such a learning experience! Although I had some experience with the roles I took on at BP, I learned so much more from the experienced and very supportive people at Bedford Players. I felt right from the beginning that my part as Front of House volunteer was important to the whole production. I take pride in my contribution, whatever it is.
AE: What attracted you to the role of directing “It’s Murder in the Wings”?
KS: What attracted me to Pat Cook’s “It’s Murder in the Wings” was mainly the wide range of character roles. From the southern belle to the ‘peculiar’ janitor, the moonlighting actress to the doughnut loving office girl, the bored-to-tears camera operator to the twittering banker’s wife. Thirteen lovely, quirky characters! And so many laugh-out-loud moments! Along with the laugh-filled script and the 13 great roles, “Wings” is played on a single set. With no scene changes come challenges though, as timing is very important. Entering, exiting and lighting are also key elements in keeping the focal point for the audience. I am especially grateful to the very gifted cast and crew on both sides of the stage who have devoted their time and talents to this production. I am so proud and excited about how these actors have honed their characters into these laugh-a-minute personalities.
AE: What can audience members expect and look forward to when they go see “It’s Murder in the Wings”?
KS: Our audiences are in for a treat with “It’s Murder in the Wings”! They will laugh out loud as they come to love or at least suspect each character as they begin to act ‘suspicious’…..I mean ‘suspiciously’.
Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons
AE: How have you been involved with Bedford Players and other theatre organizations in the past?
FP: When I first moved to Halifax from Calgary in the summer of 1999, I quickly became aware of the rich community theatre history here. And, with my in-laws (Dave and Alleen Parsons) so involved with Bedford Players since its inception, I was encouraged to get involved behind the scenes, pretty much as soon as my bags were unpacked. I was a stagehand at Bedford Players and then I did some publicity work for Theatre Arts Guild (TAG) for a year or so. I also appeared in a brief, 8-minute unscripted skit during TAG's variety show in early 2000--it was shortly after that I was invited to join the about-to-be formed IMPROVateers, a troupe I performed with until 2003 (my last show was when I was several months pregnant). The IMPROVateers made many appearances at Dartmouth Players, along with other venues around the city and province, including Neptune's Studio Theatre, in the Atlantic Fringe Festival a couple of times and even one show at Bedford Players Theatre.
AE: Describe the character you are playing in “It’s Murder in the Wings”.
FP: My character is Sara Liles Hampton, an actress who -- according to her -- is the "greatest working actress of this, or any other, city." She's definitely a legend in her own mind and loves to be the centre of attention. She also has a second job, which is revealed about halfway through the first act. I'm having so much fun finding Sara and am being directed to play her to the hilt; so, yes, I'm anticipating my interpretation of her will be deliciously over the top!
AE: What inspired you to perform on stage again since your last scripted play 30 years ago?
FP: At the lovingly persistent encouragement of my in-laws, I decided to audition in January. I was, quite honestly, terrified and had already decided if I didn't make the cut, it was good practice to simply audition. I have always wanted to see if I could be in a play and I also wanted to see if I'd actually like it. I mean, high school (1978) was a long time ago. Turns out, I LOVE it. And I'm grateful to Kim Shaw for casting me in this particular role--it's just the right size for me as I stretch these rarely-used acting muscles. Another thing that inspired me was the fact I was about to turn 50 at the end of March. I've been busy celebrating that milestone by making other wonderful changes in my life, including a career shift. I figured it was time to scare myself a bit, raising the bar in the process. Being on stage in a scripted production with very experienced and excellent cast members is definitely one of the most frightening, yet thrilling, things I've ever done.
AE: Have you performed in other capacities the last 30 years?
FP: I did take some acting (for stage and camera) classes back in the '90s and did a TV commercial in Calgary. I'd say my time with the IMPROVateers was my main performance outlet, but that was nearly ten years ago.
AE: What will audiences enjoy about “It’s Murder in the Wings”?
FP: It's a wonderfully funny, madcap romp of a play, with a sizable cast of thirteen. It's just under two hours with a lot going on at all times. I think audiences will enjoy the chance to get out, have a laugh and appreciate the efforts of the dedicated and talented volunteers that put this show together.
AE: In your view, why is community theatre a vital component of the local and overall arts scene?
FP: For so many reasons. First, it's affordable and offers a quality experience for audiences. It also provides a creative outlet for people like me who want to practise their craft. It can be a great training ground for not only actors, but for theatre production and other crew positions. But it's not only a training ground, it's also an end in itself--we have such a rich local community theatre scene in the Halifax area, filled with immensely talented people who bring their 'A' game, whether on the stage, making props and costumes, designing sets, doing publicity; the list goes on.
AE: Is there anything you’d like to add?
FP: I'm beyond grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful theatre company and I'm also grateful to part of a larger community that values and supports its local performing arts scene. Of course, as someone who has done lots of publicity as part of her career path, I'd be horribly remiss if I failed to encourage everyone to come enjoy this production. So, please everyone, do come (and don't wait until the last minute -- Bedford Players' shows often do sell out and, from what I understand, several shows are approaching that point already).