Neptune Theatre in Halifax officially kicks the spirit of the season into high gear tonight with the premier of ELF, the warm and whimsical stage adaptation of the classic Christmas film. AE had the good fortune to catch up with actor Mark Uhre, who plays the lead role of Buddy.

What inspired you to start acting?
My older sister and I were exposed to a great deal of theatre, music, and art at a very young age. I grew up in London Ontario, so when my parents saw that we loved theatre, heading to Stratford, The Grand, and Toronto for theatre became a regular outing. I was definitely inspired by every bit of theatre I saw. I started taking classes at The Theatre School in London where they offered programs in all aspects of theatre...not unlike Neptune Theatre School here. And also went to Lester B Pearson School for the Arts, an elementary school with a huge vocational focus on the arts. The combination of this inspired me to focus on performing. The turning point was when I was cast in a production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Grand Theatre in London, starring William Hutt. It was an incredible experience sharing the stage with Stratford and Shaw festival actors, as I had seen so many of them onstage before. I took a great deal away from that production and I became more focused. Totally caught the theatre "bug". There is something so special about discovering a story and then re- telling it in front of a live audience.

Are they the same reasons that you do it today?
Absolutely. I am always amazed and inspired by passionate artists coming together and creating. Anyone who works inside a theatre or any other arts organization, is a storyteller. You don't have to be on the stage. You can still be a part of it. I find that so interesting. There are so many elements to consider when mounting a production. We need everyone. I always find inspiration in people who are passionate about the arts, weather they work in the theatre or not.

What are the biggest challenges of the profession?
Every job has its ups and downs. You need a strong skill set in place both on and off stage to successfully work in the theatre. Artists are self employed, we run our own business and we are our own boss. Keeping your mind and body in shape and finding balance is incredibly important. Networking with other artists and industry professionals can sometimes be just as important as your craft onstage. There are many talented artists out there, so naturally it's a competitive industry. Keeping your passion in check is essential as well as your skill set. The more skills you have the better, but it's important to keep developing those skills and discover new ones. That never stops. A huge challenge is working consistently. Acting jobs don't always line up and or flow into the next. Artists are constantly looking ahead at the next opportunity. Preparation, versatility and taking risks are key. I think it is important to be as open minded, vulnerable and flexible as you can. That takes time and is a huge commitment. In order to be successful you need to be a risk taker even after you get the job.

What are the rewards?
To be able to make a living doing something that you are truly passionate about is a rare gift. There is nothing better than a group of actors telling a story to a live audience. It can be an amazing experience for both parties. We get to create a new relationship with a different group of people each time we perform. As actors, it's not new for us, but it's a first for the audience every time the curtain rises.

How did you get involved with Elf?
I auditioned for the role of "Buddy" in Toronto this past spring. I love the movie so I was very interested when I heard about the musical on Broadway. After reading the script and listening to the music I knew I wanted to be considered. I thought that marrying Neptune theatre and Halifax for the winter would be a great experience. I fell in love with Nova Scotia in 2005, when I came to work at Festival Antigonish for two seasons. I have wanted to return ever since and have always been very interested in working at Neptune and taking in Halifax. I love it here.

What do you enjoy about the role?
There isn't much I don't enjoy about this role! If you can't have fun running around singing, dancing and screaming that you love Santa...all while dressed up as an Elf, AND in the company of great performers and musicians, something is seriously wrong. Elf is a great challenge physically and vocally. It is a big show for everyone on stage and off. I'm having a great time with everyone involved.

What can audiences expect during the run?
ELF is a high energy show to say the least. An amazing group of actors, musicians and technicians have brought Elf to life. The audience will be swept away this holiday season. The stage is packed with amazing sets, costumes and high energy from everyone. I am a huge fan of the film ELF but the musical is a relatively new show. If you are looking for a great night out with your family to celebrate this holiday season ELF the musical is a great choice.

ELF until January 6 at Neptune Theatre in Halifax

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