Published on September 10th, 2015 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Fringe Spotlight – “Eurydice”
The 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival launches today, so we’re continuing our spotlight on a few of the productions happening as part of this year’s festival!
Eurydice is Sarah Ruhl’s retelling of the Greek myth, “Orpheus and the Underworld”. Featuring seven Vancouver actors, led by Ovation award nominee for “Outstanding Female Newcomer” Julie Casselman, Eurydice is directed by Eleanor Felton and runs on selected dates at Pacific Theatre.
We spoke with Julie Casselman and co-stars Brandon Bate and Joel R. Butler to find out more about Eurydice.
What is your involvement with Eurydice and how did that get started?
Julie Casselman: I am playing the role of impulsive and curious Eurydice. I was asked to be a part of the show by Eleanor Felton and Brandon Bate, who I did my theatre training with at Trinity Western University and who I’ve had the pleasure of working with before!
Brandon Bate: I’m co-producing with Eleanor Felton, and I’m playing Orpheus. Eleanor Felton and I have been working together for the last 5 years onstage and off. We decided to set our sights on the Vancouver Fringe Festival while we were working as apprentices at Pacific Theatre last year. That was the birthplace of our company, Plan Z Theatre.
Joel R. Butler: I play the role of The Nasty Interesting Man/ Child!
Can you share some of your creative process in preparing for the role – from the initial planning of the production all the way through to opening night?
Julie Casselman: Sometimes I’ll read a bunch of material related to the production before I get into the rehearsal hall, but I actually kind of distanced myself from any of that this time. I even had the chance to see another production of Eurydice while I was out at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, but decided I kind of wanted to come to rehearsal on day one with a fresh perspective and nothing “decided” ahead of time. Making discoveries in the moment and having to find more of my own impulsive side actually aligns with Eurydice’s nature, which I think has been helpful for me. And scary.
Brandon Bate: I knew I wanted to play Orpheus from the moment I read his line “My music sounds better in my head than it does in the world”.
I am constantly immersed in music and the worlds it can create just on a day-to-day basis. So getting to play Orpheus seemed perfect. I have enjoyed finding his passion and intensity, as well as the lightness and humanity in this myth of a character.
Joel R. Butler: Given the nature of the character(s) it has been quite different from my usual process. Getting to play these different roles has been a ton of fun, being able to explore the different nuances I can bring to each one, so my character homework has basically been me messing around with playing a seemingly sophisticated gentleman and then flipping it around and playing a child. It’s been a trip!
What should audiences expect from this show?
Julie Casselman: Expect to laugh at some pretty unexpected things, and to have random lines floating through your head late at night. The script has a strange way of saying beautiful things in jarring ways. And jarring things in beautiful ways.
Brandon Bate: Expect the unexpected in Eurydice. Sarah Ruhl has written some very quirky characters and bizarre turns in this play. The mythical story of “Orpheus and the Underworld” isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem. Especially when it’s told from the perspective of Orpheus’ beloved wife. Also expect to ask yourself questions about what is worth holding onto. Especially once you are dead.
Joel R. Butler: This show has a lot of beautiful language and imagery and is so fun, but it carries with it this deep overtone of sadness that will definitely have you feeling bittersweet at the end!
What are three most important ingredients for a successful stage production?
Julie Casselman: Coffee. Levity. Not quite enough time.
Brandon Bate: Commitment. Passion. Laughs and high fives.
Joel R. Butler: Full on commitment first and foremost. Especially with a show where the director and star are moonlighting as producers! It takes a lot of guts to take on those roles in the first place so as an actor in this type of situation, it is very important to accommodate them by doing the work and showing up to rehearsal with nothing but the play on your mind.
Secondly, having an open mind to fresh ideas and weird things that get you out of your comfort zone so you are able to explore and grow.
The third thing is to keep having fun and loving the wonderful opportunity to put on a wonderful piece of art!
How did you get started in acting?
Julie Casselman: I started as a dancer, and then did the whole musical theatre dealio in junior high. My first real role was Santa’s understudy in grade four, though.
Brandon Bate: I started acting when I was 12 years old. My first role was Mayor Shinn in The Music Man. From then on, the question of “Will I audition for the next play?” was never really a question at all. Since then, I’ve never gone more than 3 or 4 months without having a new theatre project to hack away at. And what a gift those projects are.
Joel R. Butler: I have been acting since I was 11 years old, having done my first show in grade 6 back in my hometown of Coquitlam! And it’s been a wild ride for the last 13 years since!
What books and authors have been influential to you?
Julie Casselman: Anne of Green Gables. Nancy Drew. Diary of Anne Frank. Mindy Kaling’s book. The Inner Voice by Renee Fleming. Basically, strong, bold female characters.
Joel R. Butler: I love Patrick Rothfuss, author of the King Killer Chronicles. His work is outstanding. My biggest play writers would probably be Sam Shepard, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee! I am also a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and Irvine Welsh!
What’s the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Julie Casselman: The learning doesn’t stop. Allow levity into the room.
Brandon Bate: The most important lesson I’ve learned is that failure is par for the course. Every time I fail or fall short of a goal or expectation, I take time to congratulate myself. Because I know that my failure brings me closer to finding a solution. Fail boldly.
The next most important thing is definitely that one should never stop playing. I find that hard work can only take you so far. Learn to have fun and “play” your way through a challenge.
Joel R. Butler: Keep on doing it. Doesn’t matter if the role is small, the risk is high or the people around you are telling you its a pipe dream. If its what you love, You have to find a way to keep doing it.
What other projects are you involved with at the moment?
Julie Casselman: I’m currently writing original music for Tender Napalm, being produced by Twenty Something Theatre.
Brandon Bate: I will be in Wit at Pacific Theatre in May. There might be one or two other project percolating between now and then, but it’s a little too soon to say for sure.
Joel R. Butler: I am currently working on a Hip Hop/ Jazz album and a couple of short films! So stay tuned!!
Where can people find out more about you?
Julie Casselman: juliecasselman.wix.com/juliecasselman is where I have my sound design and acting portfolio. I love collaborating and coffee.
Brandon Bate: Find me on LinkedIn, or view some of my work on the Pacific Theatre blog: soulfoodvancouver.blogspot.com
Joel R. Butler: As long as the fine people of Vancouver are supporting their local arts, I’ll be around in some fashion making sure they are finding a new story to take them away from their day to day.
Our thanks to Julie Casselman, Brandon Bate, and Joel R. Butler: for speaking with us!
You can find out more about Eurydice and everything else at the 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival at VancouverFringe.com.