Friday, 09 November 2012 08:17

Christmas comes to Rosebud with original play

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Lauren de Graaf and Aaron Krogman star as May and Joe in the Rosebud’s Christmas production now appearing on the Opera House Stage until Dec. 22. Nathan Schmidt is the angel. Lauren de Graaf and Aaron Krogman star as May and Joe in the Rosebud’s Christmas production now appearing on the Opera House Stage until Dec. 22. Nathan Schmidt is the angel. Photo by Morris Ertman

The Christmas story is retold for modern times in Rosebud’s latest offering, its Christmas musical May and Joe.


Running on the Opera House stage from now until Dec. 22, the original production was written by Morris Ertman, Heather Pattengale and Paul Zacharias.
“We got the seed of the idea for the story a couple of years ago,” Ertman, artistic director, told the Prairie Post, prior to the start of the 2012 season. He adds it’s the story of Mary and Joseph planted in Winnipeg.
“May (Lauren de Graaf) and Joe (Aaron Krogman) are flush with young and innocent love,” says Ertman, Rosebud’s artistic director. “When May’s suddenly expecting — and the baby isn’t Joe’s — it triggers a crisis of faith. May says it’s a ‘miracle baby,’ but how is a person expected to believe something like that these days?” 
Joe believes in anything but angels and wise men and shepherds.
“As Angel leads May and Joe on their journey — including a ‘blizzardy’ drive from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay on Christmas Eve — he waits for Joe’s eyes to open to dreams and miracles. When they do, Angel will be there with a hallelujah chorus of music,” says Ertman.
The folk band helps immerse the audience in the original music.
It’s been a while since an original production has graced the Rosebud stage.
“It feels like this one comes out of your bones,” added Ertman. “There’s a little more risk with it, but all of that creates a marvelous energy.”
Aaron Krogman, who plays the role of Joe, agrees about the energy of the show. He says this is the most unique Christmas production he has been involved with at Rosebud — and he knows his Christmas productions. Krogman has had a role in the past six of them.
“I do like them. Rosebud is a great place at Christmas time,” he says.
Ertman jokes about Krogman’s affinity to playing roles in the Christmas plays.
“I now refer to him as our Christmas leading man. We should have an ‘Aaron’ Christmas ornament for sale in our gift shop.”
Krogman says playing the role of Joe has been interesting. The character has some “redneck” tendencies and can get riled up easily.
“He’s got some quirky characteristics,” adds Krogman. “He’s an interesting person to put into the circumstances of an immaculate conception.”
Ertman believes Krogman shines as Joe.
“I think this role may be his finest hour on stage. He’s wonderfully compelling, impulsive and utterly romantic.”
Krogman attended Rosebud School of the Arts from 2004-2008 and has been involved with productions every season since. In high school, he wasn’t involved in theatre, but did love stories and movies. Three years after high-school graduation, his father suggested he check out the theatre school in Rosebud and the rest is history.
After three weeks of intense rehearsals, Krogman was looking forward to opening night on Nov. 2.
“Opening night is awesome because Christmas comes early,” he says. “Everybody who comes (to the production) brings that energy with them. There’s snow out already and it really feels amazing.”
Veteran actor Nathan Schmidt plays the 2,000-year-old Angel Gabriel. He appeared in $38,000 For a Friendly Face in the spring as well as My Name Is Asher Lev on the Studio Stage in the summer.
“This play drew me,” he says about May and Joe. “I like the different perspective on an old story.”
The play begs the question: What if a 2,000 year old Christmas story was happening again today?
Schmidt also likes the fact the play takes a look at the darker aspects of the Christmas story and rejuvenates the way the audience may see the story so it becomes fresh and new again rather than commonplace.
During the play, Schmidt’s character often questions why the bad always accompanies the good.
“That idea really swallows the angel up for a lot of years,” he adds. Seeing the young couple May and Joe and their love for each other, the angel’s heart starts to come alive again and he begins to see the good in the world.
Schmidt believes there are some good lessons in the play for audience goers including that people aren’t alone in this world.
“When you get stuck in a dark place you do get pretty solitary and feel alone. The angel isn’t alone in it, and we’re not alone in it.”
Having no reference in which to play an angel, Schmidt says playing Gabriel is a challenge. He had to learn to portray the dark and cynical side of the character in the beginning, but loves how piece by piece that exterior softens.
“Nathan is poised to bring both a wonderful comedic, yet poignant understanding of an ancient being who is haunted by a dark part of the traditional Bethlehem story that we seldom talk about,” said Ertman, about Schmidt’s performance.
Schmidt also enjoys the Christmas productions in the small hamlet.
“There’s a certain magic that happens here at Christmas,” he adds.
May, Joe’s girlfriend, is played by Rosebud School of the Arts apprentice de Graaf.
“Lauren is a breath of fresh air, a wonderful, bright presence on our stage,” says Ertman. "She’s funny, delightful, and ultimately soulful. Who wouldn’t believe she’d been visited by the unseen messenger of the Divine?”
Band members include Sarah Penner, on piano; Joel Stephenson, an actor and talented upright bass player performing as Eli, a biker/musician; and Paul Zacharias, the composer of the songs in the show and guitarist.
Highlights in the community of Rosebud itself for the Christmas season include shopping at local gift shops, a Nativity Scene contest, buildings and streets decked out in Christmas theme, horse and buggy rides, outdoor caroling and a warm crackling fire pit for select performances. There will also be hot chocolate, Christmas baking and apple cider for sale, Fridays with Morris on Friday Nights (prior to evening performance), and a Find the Angels in Rosebud contest. Check out www.rosebudtheatre.com for details of these and other events.
May and Joe runs until Dec. 22. Purchase tickets at Rosebud Theatre by phoning 1-800-267-7553, or online www.rosebudtheatre.com.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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