BWW Interviews: Louise Pitre gets Naked with ON THE ROCKS
Louise Pitre has been dubbed the 'grand lady of Canadian musical theatre' and is certainly one of our National Treasures when it comes to stage actors. With an extensive and accomplished career behind her (including a Tony Award nomination for her role in Mamma Mia!, Fantine in Les Miserables and Edith Piaf), Pitre is ending 2013 with a trifecta of exciting theatre news. She will be portraying Miss Hannigan in YPT's production of 'ANNIE', and will be crossing off a bucket list item when she tackles the role of Mama Rose in the Gary Griffin directed 'GYPSY' early next year.
But before she can do those things, she's tackling the scariest and bravest project she has ever done. Pitre has conceived and written a one-woman show titled 'On the Rocks' in which she will expose herself like never before. The show will open Theatre Passe Muraille's 2013-2014 season, and promises to be a 'mixed cocktail of raw emotion: get a tall glass, throw in a huge heart, drown it in joy, abandon and childish optimism; pierce it with heartbreak and frustration; add a dash of vulnerability; throw in the wackiest stir stick you can find and voilà! Sit on a rock and enjoy!'
When Pitre approached me to see if I would like to do a feature interview with her about her 'crazy idea' I was honoured and jumped at the opportunity - knowing full well that what I was about to get myself into would be something special. As we chatted for over an hour, she opened up about her childhood, her extensive career, her fears and the emotional rollercoaster that this show has become:
Congratulations on your new original show at Passe Muraille! How much can you tell us about it? What's it all about?
It's my story. I start from when I was a kid and it's extremely personal. It's based on things about my childhood which caused me to think and reflect on my life. Once I started thinking I became inspired to write the show.
How did the project come about?
It started when I was working on CBC's Over the Rainbow. Theatre Passe Muraille and Andy McKim approached me and asked if we could have a meeting. They told me they wanted to have some music in their 2013-2014 season and that I was the one person they dreamed of having do it. They gave me one week in September - and originally I thought I would use it to do concerts. Then I decided that I wanted to write something myself.
Thankfully they thought that was really cool and got on board, and now we've created a one-act, autobiographical, intermission-less show that's personal, musical and emotional.
Where did the idea for original music come from?
As I started writing this thing it became obvious that since I was telling my personal story, it would be weird to break into singing someone else's songs. So this is my music to go along with my words.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the lack of NEW Canadian musicals on stage in Toronto. Since you've written original music for your show, could we stretch the definition and call it a musical?
I think it's a hybrid really. A one woman show isn't technically a musical, but it's not a cabaret! That's not what I'm doing here at all. I'm talking more about my life, obstacles I've had to overcome, fucked up relationships I've survived, my work that's come and gone. And then there's original music. So sure - a musical!
Has there been a lot of support from Passe Muraille?
They're thrilled that it will be original, and they're presenting it which is great. I'm the producer though - and it's my first time doing that. So not only am I diving into writing a script for the first time, but I'm also producing a show for the first time. They've been amazing and assigned someone as my helper so I'm feeling very grateful.
And you have an all female creative team?
I do! I've got Jen Shuber, Diane Leah, Robin Fisher, Lesley Wilkinson, Emily Porter, Dianne Woodrow, Jacquie Lazar and Katie Pounder. They're incredible, and most of them are doing this for peanuts just because they want to which is incredibly touching. We all hope the show will have legs after this and maybe we can make it into something more.