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Pantomime bringing fairy-tale characters to the Okotoks stage

Goodger Pink Family Theatre continues its Christmas tradition with British theatre the next two weekends.
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Goodger Pink Fellowship 4696
(L-R) Daniel Rose (playing Pinocchio), Safia Comtois-Mohamed (Red Riding Hood), Jay Newman (Rumpelstiltskin), Natalie Buckley (Hansel), and Samantha Bell (Gretel) rehearse for Goodger-Pink Family Theatre's latest production, The Fellowship of the Swing. (BRENT CALVER/Western Wheel)

A regular in local theatre is tapping into his inner child for a new experience on stage.

Dewdney Players Group Theatre actor Daniel Rose is reconnecting with his beloved childhood fairy tales by playing Pinocchio in Goodger-Pink Family Theatre’s British pantomime The Fellowship of the Swing the next two weekends at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre in Okotoks.

Rose was encouraged to audition by sister-in-law Katie Fournell, who is directing the play. Fournell also directed Dewdney’s production of MacBeth.

“It sounded really fun,” said Rose. “I haven’t seen any of Goodger-Pink’s stuff before. It’s a very different experience.”

Rose landed the role of the innocent and naive wooden puppet Pinocchio.

“He’s this complete innocent,” said Rose of his character. “He takes everything at face value. Sometimes he’ll come out with these comments and everyone looks at him like, what? It’s so much fun to portray that wide-eyed innocence.”

To get into character, Rose said he embraced the mindset of a child.

“I tend to be pretty good at imagining things and making things up,” he said. “It’s hilarious thinking of a bunch of full-grown adults playing hide and seek and shooting spitballs. The kids will absolutely love the show – it’s so silly and so much fun.”

Rose has performed in pantomimes during his five years with Dewdney, including playing the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

“It’s always really exciting how the kids really get into the show,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t even continue the show because they won’t stop shouting at you. We feed on that and we get more excited and have more fun and they have more fun. It’s definitely one of the most exhilarating forms of theatre that I’ve been doing.”

Goodger-Pink founder Samantha Bell commissioned Calgary friend Jay Newman to write the play after envisioning a fairy-tale pantomime that brings different fairy-tale characters into one adventure.

“I’m really excited about this one because it’s a fairy-tale mash up and it's something I’ve wanted to do for years now,” she said. “I always wanted to take characters from different fairy tales and put them together in some sort of an adventure or story.”

Bell said she also decided to include more local people for this year’s performance.

“I wanted to make sure that our community was represented as much as possible,” she said, adding the poster was designed by Okotoks artist Alyssa Koski. “We’re trying to see how local we can keep all different aspects of it. It’s been really nice to have these characters coming to life with actors we’ve never got to work with before.”

The Fellowship of the Swing brings Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel, Gretel and Pinocchio together in a quest to find a swing that fits everyone in Goodger-Pink’s traditional Christmas pantomime style.

“It’s absolutely hilarious with these larger-than-life characters and sound effects and lights,” Bell said. “We built in a ton of audience interaction. It keeps children of all ages engaged.”

For instance, a woman plays Hansel while Rumpelstiltskin is a villain who dresses up as Little Bo Peep to try to trick the audience.

“We break that fourth wall so they feel really involved in the story,” she said. “We have lots of going up and down the aisles and through the audience so they can really feel like they’re part of the story. Audience members really connect with that.”

Children won’t be the only ones engaged throughout the performance.

“There is humour for every age, truly,” said Bell. “We have lots of puns, which are often found in that panto-style. I think people get a kick out of that tongue-and-cheek humour. There’s lots of physical humour, which is really great for kids, and we also have jokes thrown in there that only parents will get.”

In addition to humour, the play also offers important messages for youngsters, said Bell.

“It has a couple of really great underlying messages for kids like the important of teamwork, acceptance and friendship,” she said.

In Goodger-Pink’s seventh season of Christmas pantomimes, Bell said it’s become a tradition for many families.

“It’s really cool to know that that’s something these families set aside to do every Christmas as something special to do together,” she said. “It’s so much different than other traditional forms of theatre.”

The Fellowship of the Swing previews Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. for a special price of $5.

Consecutive performances take place Nov. 30 at 11 .a.m. and 2 p.m., Dec. 1 at 2 p.m., Dec. 6 at 7 p.m., Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.. and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.

Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for children or $40 for families of four and can be purchased at the Okotoks Art Gallery, by calling 403-938-3204 or at gptheatre.com




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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at OkotoksToday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact trollie@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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