INNISFAIL — Shortly before the start of the final performance of Noises Off on May 14, Patrick Gleason was upstairs in the balcony of the Ol’ Moose Hall ready to do his part as co-producer of the production, which could only be described as madcap dysfunction, and one of the most challenging shows Innisfail Town Theatre (ITT) has ever put on.
“Yes, fasten your seatbelt,” said Gleason, who is also president of ITT, noting the show featured nine “extremely dysfunctional” characters who somehow worked towards a resolution to end the mayhem.
“That’s the hope. It becomes an increasing road of dysfunction,” he added. “There’s some resolution that happens. I think there’s a joy of working together and a resolution that they’ve tried under extremely difficult circumstances and had some success.”
And does that speak to life in general?
“That’s life in general. This is not Hollywood,” he said laughing, acknowledging the characters do find some sort of peace. “I think that’s exactly it. People find some sort of peace, some sort of solution to the whole thing. It’s about the hard life of an actor that you celebrate what you can celebrate.
“And life goes on.”
Alanna Lindl, who was in the last fall’s ITT production And Then There Were None, has been in theatre for more than 40 years, admitted she was challenged with Noises Off’s frenetic pace.
“It was really difficult. We probably worked on Act II more than any other, and there were often times we weren’t sure if it was going to come together,” said Lindl, adding the challenges existed for each of the run’s nine shows.
“Each show is different. Tonight, is different again but it was great. As we went along it polished itself up too. We found more things to do with the time that we had once we became comfortable with the actions we were already doing.
“As long as the audiences are loving it, so are we.”
Local actress Jackie Moorhouse, who has the same level of theatre experience as Lindl, echoed her stage colleague about the challenges of Noises Off, noting everything in ACT II, which had front and back stage performances running simultaneously, just had to “click” at all the right times.
“I think you would know if it didn’t because there would be real big gaps in the speech of the people who are supposed to be on stage, or there would be nothing happening back stage,” said Moorhouse. “There would just be lags in the performance if we didn’t get the timing right.”
Gleason had his challenges too. It was his first time he sat in the producer’s chair, a role he shared in Noises Off with Sheila Mielke, an ITT producer for many years.
“This is the first time I have done that. I just follow the orders of Sheila Mielke as best as I can. She has been a producer for ITT for many years and does a marvelous job,” said Gleason.
“I think this is a really top-notch theatre production,” he added. “Everybody is really proud of what we have done here, and we are looking forward to doing more of the same, and better.”
Noises Off, which ran from the last weekend of April to the second weekend of May, was one of ITT’s more ambitious projects. It was suggested by a committee whose job is to propose future productions, and choices are made by general consensus.
“We are looking at plays into the beginning of 2024,” said Gleason, adding he can’t release the name of ITT’s next production as the rights have not yet been secured.
As for the ongoing impacts of COVID to Noises Off?
“We hoped for higher numbers but I think people are starting to go out to these things, so we’re generally pleased with our attendance,” said Gleason. He estimated just under 600 tickets were sold for Noises Off’s nine shows, which works out to about 60 per cent of full capacity at Ol’ Moose Hall.
“I anticipate that we’ll make a very modest profit,” said Gleason. “We hoped for more but of course in theatre you just try to be optimistic for the next play, the next performances.”
And now ITT is seeking additional public support. The theatre group loves the current group of volunteers who repeatedly step up but fresh blood is always welcomed.
“We have a nice mix of seasoned performers and performers who are new to ITT and that is another thing that we keep looking at,” said Gleason. “We just want to encourage our community and surrounding community to get involved, whether you want to be behind the scenes, whether you want to do technical stuff, whether you want to work on our communications, or you want to be on stage.
“New people mean new ideas, and that’s what we want to see.”