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Bonnie on Stage - Bonnie Gratz

Up, Up and Away!

I recently had the pleasure of directing four talented younger actors in the superhero musical The Astonishing Adventures of Awesome Girl and Radical Boy and the tremendously positive nature of the experience has compelled me, much as The Batmobile beckons Batman, to relate the experience in this column.

My own career started at a young age. I was 12 years old, in grade 7 and plucked out of my drama class along with a couple of other like minded, very expressive friends, to be in the school bus safety film that the province was making. Students from our school in Okotoks, Alberta, were then placed in a thrill ride of dangerous, often too realistic bus calamity scenarios including being put on railway tracks and having the bus almost roll over into a ditch. Let’s say our bus “driver” was looking to get into the stunt business and there were more than one or two near misses. After that though I was hooked and the good fortune of other projects being made in Calgary (Talia Shire of “Rocky” fame cut me my first professional cheque at age 14 - I still have it!) made it relatively easy to learn a lot at a young age. From there I continued to work in both film and theatre throughout high school, but it was in university that theatre really grasped me in its fascinating clutches and the rest is my own humble history.

Now I am able to see the opportunities presented to young actors in our community from the perspective of many years as an actor, but also as a director. The things I recognize most about the young actors I want to work with is their graciousness and kindness to me and to each other and their ability to have fun. I also notice their professionalism - that they are prepared, ready to work and don’t complain about their day; the ins and outs of their own personal troubles. They are ready to escape into the world of the play and when they do this and they succeed in taking the audience with them.

Such are the actors in The Astonishing Adventures of Awesome Girl and Radical Boy - Graham Daley (Radical Boy), Bailey Strand (Awesome Girl), Ashley Plomp (Maxine) and Joe Welton (Gordon). All play individuals working as animators in the comic book industry, dreaming of bigger things and worlds to explore, but sometimes they are held back by the monotony of the job at hand. The monotony of the theatre would include things like cleaning up props and sets knocked over by other groups who use the same space, as was the case on Sunday, or making sure that they take care of themselves and warm up their voices. The WOW! factor comes in when these four skillful performers take the stage and you see the chemistry and true love of performing each one has. Bailey is still a grade 12 student at Rutland Senior Secondary but she shines as if she were “the awesomest girl in the whole wide world” and the stunts she and Graham Daley (who by the way has been in every play we have done this season except Super 8) maneuver are incredibly exciting and real. Joe Welton has a gift for the stage that is evident from the moment he sets foot on it and Ashley Plomp is a beautiful, sensitive actress who is as lovely inside as she is out.

As their director, I am definitely bias. I am also thrilled to have them here. Kelowna loses too many young up and comers to larger centres where they provide opportunities to perform professionally. That may someday be the case with these four thrilling talents, but for now, I am so pleased to be able to see them shine here.

Catch The Astonishing Adventures of Awesome Girl and Radical Boy in its closing week, running March 19-22 at The Black Box Theatre.  Shows are at 7:30 PM. Tickets available at www.selectyourtickets.com or at the door (cash only). Sat. March 22 from 12-5 PM we are also hosting the first Kelowna Anime & Comic Fest at The Black Box. Get in free with a ticket stub from our show.



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