BWW Interviews: BAD MEDICINE's Adrian Collinson, The Villain, Speaks
BWW: Could you give a snapshot of BAD MEDICINE, or GOOD TO THE LAST DROP?
Adrian Collinson: In a small Colorado town named Bagwell, local Sheriff Gene Ranger finds a young woman unconscious, and brings her to the town doctor for help. Doc Goodall and his nurse, Becky Trueheart (the Sheriff's childhood sweetie), are unable to rouse the mysterious beauty. Smooth talking snake oil peddler Bodkin Shamley, however, seems to have a miraculous remedy for the poor young woman, and quickly gets her on her feet. In quick succession, the Sheriff falls hopelessly in love with Sally, the young stranger, and then Becky seems to be smitten with Bodkin, who just may happen to have his evil little eye on the ranch that Becky inherited from her recently deceased father. There are a few complicating factors as well, but Doc Goodall and bar owner Lacy eventually unwind the twists and set things back on the right track.
BWW: I got to interview the playwright, Kris Thompson, before the show opened. She mentioned that the production encourages audience reaction quite a bit. How is the run going? How are audiences reacting so far?
Adrian Collinson: Up to this point, the run has just been fantastic (knocking on wood). The audiences have been very receptive, and I think most of them have more experience of this form of show than I. They seem to know how to relate to "The Villain", and react to the character with gusto.
BWW: How is it playing a villain in a production that encourages the audience to boo and hiss in addition to tossing popcorn? I imagine the hissing is no fun.
Adrian Collinson: Playing the villain in this production has proven to be as much fun as I've ever had doing anything printable. Honestly, the only issue I have with the vocal responses from the audience is that they make being heard a bit of a challenge at times. That being said, the hissing and booing are instant feedback on how I'm presenting the character. If the audience is being quiet and well-behaved, then they probably like Bodkin too much.
BWW: What does "meller drammer" mean to you?
Adrian Collinson: For me the term evokes the idea of an old west travelling show, with the audience participation aspect, particularly the sing-along portion of the show. I think it really represents an old-fashioned form of entertainment, but a good deal less stuffy than the old Victorian (and even older) theatrical formats that it is a salute to. With the fairly simple plot, stereotyped characters, and basic good versus evil conflict, it's a kind of theatre that is easy to understand. It is certainly family friendly, and hopefully can help get young kids interested in other kinds of plays.
BWW: How did you prepare for the role?
Adrian Collinson: Would you believe I waxed my mustache and went for it? [Laughs] Well, there was a bit more to it than that. I talked with a friend (Glen Dodson) who has done the role of The Villain before to get a feel for what to expect from both the role and the audience. Also, the director, Elvin Moriarty, and the author of the piece, Kris Thompson, have been invaluable sources of help and encouragement. I have drawn, as well, on a rich store of memories from childhood of all sorts of villains, like Snidely Whiplash from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons.
BWW: What was the most challenging part of preparing for this production?
Adrian Collinson: I'm normally a fairly laid back, reticent kind of person. Becoming the outsized, sort of bombastic individual that Bodkin Shamley is took a few tries. To put that genie back in the bottle after each performance takes some time and energy as well.
BWW: How did the director help you with that? Did you work with the playwright, Kris Thompson, on the character?
Adrian Collinson: The directing team of Elvin Moriarty and Akia Lorain McPhaul helped me first to grasp that this production is a "meller drammer", not grand opera. Then they had to kind of pull my characterization up to the size that an audience expects of a guy like Bodkin Shamley. A common phrase heard during rehearsal notes was "make that BIGGER!" Kris has also been amazingly supportive all through the production process, always with positive feedback, but letting the talented directing team do what they do so well without interfering in the process. That must be difficult for a writer, to let go of their work so fully and trust the directors as much as Kris has done.
BWW: You've worked in other Theatre Suburbia productions? How is it working with many of these guys again? Does the familiarity help you or hinder you?
Adrian Collinson: This is my second production with Theatre Suburbia, after Under a Cowboy Moon, this past January. Both Jeff Henninger (Doc Goodall) and Amanda Garcia (Sally West) were also part of that cast. Several of the production staff were in on that one as well. Working with the folks at T.S. is a real treat for me. Everyone at the theatre has a professional attitude, and treats us as actors with a welcoming respect that makes me feel comfortable enough to take on a role like The Villain, so I have to say the familiarity is a big help, not a hindrance.
BWW: Do you have any advice for actors just starting out?
Adrian Collinson: To someone getting started in acting, I would say the best thing they can do is to read as much as they can. Both in the sense of devouring literature of all kinds, to develop their internal reference library to draw on as needed, and the sense of reading at auditions, for as many different productions and as many directors as possible.
BWW: Do you have any words of encouragement?
Adrian Collinson: I have a couple of them. First, believe in yourself, which can be tough in the face of criticism. Second, persevere, and you can make your own mark.
BWW: What's the best part of shark week for you?
Adrian Collinson: That little shark icon you can make in Facebook comments by holding the [shift] key and typing 96660.
BWW: What is the most important event you have ever cancelled for it?
Adrian Collinson: Surfing Facebook to look for little shark icons.
BWW: [Laughs] What is your favorite type of shark?
Adrian Collinson: The ones in the aquarium, behind lots of thick glass. The wild ones are not my favorites of all God's critters.
Forget Shark Week. Go see some theatre! BAD MEDICINE produced by Theatre Suburbia will run July 18 - Aug 23 on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30 pm, and Sundays, July 27, August 3, 10, 17 at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, and $12 on Sundays. Group rates available for parties of 15 or more payable 48 hours in advance. Reservations can be made by calling 713.682.3525.