BWW Interview: 'Oh What A Lovely War's' Ins Choi
Oh What A Lovely War first hit the Broadway stage in 1963, and then went on to become a feature film directed by Richard Attenborough in 1969. The title is based on the music hall song "Oh It's a Lovely War" and the story is a commentary on the history of World War I. The show uses popular songs that have been re-worded and re-worked in an almost sarcastic manner to tell the tale of the "war to end all wars" from the perspective of those on the front lines.This will be the first production of the 2010 Soulpepper Season, and also introduces audiences to the new Soulpepper Academy members. BWW was on hand to interview two of the Academy members about their experience being selected to be a part of the very prestigious Soulpepper Academy, and of course, about what it has been like working on Oh What A Lovely War.
Karen Rae was featured over the weekend, and next up is Ins Choi:
This is your debut mainstage performance after being selected to be part of the Soulpepper Academy, are you excited?
Could you tell us a bit about what the audition process for the Soulpepper Academy was like?
The first phase involved an application, an essay on why we're in theatre, and an audition/interview. The second phase was over a weekend where the final thirty people were brought together from across Canada. We were put in varying groups to and collaborated to create theatre pieces. Then they chose ten people from that thirty to form the Academy.
Could you describe a typical day of rehearsals and preparation for Oh What A Lovely War?
In the mornings we focus on singing, dancing and rehearsing with our instruments. After lunch we work on the scenes and staging. We usually begin the afternoon with a "show and tell." Basically we share what different groups did in the mornings. We also share some bits of our World War I research that might be of particular interest to us. For example, the other day the last Canadian World War I veteran John Babcock passed away. His passing permeated the rehearsal room, gave us a sense of needing to continue the legacy of remembering the war and honouring those who died.
Everyone plays several different parts in this particular piece, do you have one specific role or number that is your favourite? Or one that resonates the most with you?
Yes, for me it's the scene at the end of the first act which is based on a true story of when German and English soldiers met in the middle of no man's land at Christmas and sang Silent Night and enjoyed a friendly drink and smoke. At that moment, it no longer became about countries at war but about people who just happened to be born in different areas of the world - enjoying the camaraderie of a shared front-line soldier experience. That is my favourite part of the show.
This play has long been admired for the unique way it looks at the "War to end all wars". It examines not the heros but rather the simple soldiers or "Tommies" of the war, do you think this is an important message?
As far as you can tell, are there a lot of changes between the Broadway production and 1969 Film Version and the new version by Soulpepper?
Well, I haven't seen the Broadway production but compared to the film, this production is more playful and visually stunning.
What has it been like getting to work directly with Soulpepper veterans on this production?
Oliver (Dennis) and Michael (Hanrahan) have been great role models. Although they're veterans, they're not above any kind of seemingly menial work. They're great fun. They're very funny and lead with great humility and strength. Albert (Schultz) has been incredible to work with. He manages to create a very fun and positive group dynamic from which to create. Honestly, I've never been in such an open, fun, artistic working atmosphere. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the Academy members bring our collective ensemble energy to the cast but... yeah.
If you could give one piece of advice to young Canadians aspiring to break into theatre, what would it be?
"Oh What a Lovely War" is an intricate and multi-layered ensemble piece featuring several signature company artists, including Michael Hanrahan and Oliver Dennis, as well as introducing the members of the 2009-2010 Soulpepper Academy to our audiences," said Schultz. "These eight remarkable young artists bring tremendous energy, originality and a diverse musicality to their work." Albert Schultz directs Oh What a Lovely War with musical direction by Marek Norman, and an ensemble cast
featuring Oliver Dennis, Ryan Field, and Founding Member Michael Hanrahan. Making their Soulpepper debut are Alison Jutzi, George Masswohl, Doug Price, and Soulpepper Academy members Ins Choi, Tatjana Cornij, Raquel Duffy, Gregory Prest, Karen Rae, Jason Patrick Rothery and Brendan Wall. Set design is by Academy member Ken MacKenzie, with costume and lighting design by Academy graduate Lorenzo Savoini, choreography by Candace Jennings and sound design by John Lott
When and Where?
Oh What a Lovely War
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill Street, Building 49, Distillery Historic District, Toronto
March 11th - April 10th, 2010
Monday - Saturday at 7:30PM (no shows on Sunday)
Matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1:30PM
Tickets range from $29-$70 and can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-866-8666 or online at www.soulpepper.ca
Please note: There are a special number of $20 tickets available for persons aged 21-30 through StagePlay. StagePlay is sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group. For more information please visit www.stageplay.ca