Five Questions with… Aren Chaisson

In the UL Opera Theatre / The Compound co-production of GRAND PRE, company actor Aren Chaisson tackles the role of Colonel John Winslow, the British military official who was sent to Grand Pre to initiate the deportation of the Acadians in 1755.

Aren discusses his role in this major revisal of the locally written musical, the challenges of playing a historical figure and what he hopes local audiences take away from this powerul piece of local history.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… AREN CHAISSON

Q: Tell us about your role in GRAND PRE.
CHAISSON: I play John Winslow who is a historical figure in the play. He’s one of a hand full of non fictional characters. He was partly responsible for carrying out the removal orders at Grand Pre’. Through Winslow’s actual journals you find that he was sympathetic with the Acadians but was torn between his own feelings and his duty.

Q: What’s it like playing another historical figure, after taclking William Shakespeare in WILLIAM AND JUDITH?
CHAISSON: I’m enjoying playing these characters. They are both very interesting people. Winslow is much easier to play for the simple fact that he’s got 1/3 the lines that Shakespeare has in William and Judith.

Q: What’s the experience been like? How is being in a musical different for you than being in a straight play?
CHAISSON: First off, the cast is an incredibly funny group of people. They are always laughing and having a great time at rehearsal.  Second, I’m really starting to understand that, even though I don’t sing in this production, musical theater is very hard. For instance if I go up on a line in a straight play the show may stop a beat or two before someone picks it up. But, in this musical we are often speaking while the music is playing under us…so if we miss a line the music can’t stop and then start over…it just keeps going, with or without you.

Q: What does it mean to you being a part of a show that’s so connected to the local culture?
CHAISSON: I’m very proud to be a part of this show. After being away from my home town for 10 years it’s nice to reconnect with the story that tells where we all came from.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
CHAISSON: I hope audiences see once more that there is some amazing talent in theater here in Lafayette. This is our story and I hope it inspires and motivates people to go out and learn more about their ancestors and family’s.

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The Road to Grand Pre

The Compound and UL Opera Theatre have teamed up to produce an all-new production of GRAND PRE,  a musical about the beginnings of Acadian deportation by local playwright Cody Daigle and local composer Roy Bertucci. The show opens March 8 and runs for only four performances at Ducrest-Gilfry Auditorium at Angelle Hall, and marks the first major musical production undertaken by The Compound.

We asked the show’s librettist, lyricist and co-composer Cody Daigle to chart the show’s journey to the UL/Compound production and give us a taste of what audiences may expect from the show.

Q: How did the show come about?
Daigle: In 2005, I was approached by The Acadian Cultural Center and Cite des Arts about a possible theatre piece to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Deportation. I thought it was a very exciting idea, and I was particularly compelled to do it because of Maureen Brennan, Cite’s executive director, who is such a passionate advocate of original work and telling Louisiana stories. She asked for a play. I pitched a musical.

Roy Bertucci and I had just finished working on a musical adaptation of “The Frogs” for high school kids, and I thought a musical would help make the complicated storytelling required for such a piece easier. We could paint broader pictures, move the story in different ways, affect an audience on deeper levels.

Q: How does the musical undertake the challenge of telling the story of the Deportation? It seems like a tough thing to tackle.
Daigle: I wasn’t interested in writing a show that told the story as a historical pageant, that just laid out the facts and put the Acadians on boats and sent them to sea. That didn’t interest me. I was more interested in investigating what these people, these families, would face in this moment of sweeping change. How would this big historical moment play out in the small, private lives being led by these families? What sort of people would they be?

The musical really looks at two families through the lens of this historical event — the Deportation doesn’t happen until the last fifteen minutes of the show. And the musical investigates the question of loyalty: how we choose where our loyalties lie, what happens when we betray them, what forces drive us to betray them, and what lengths we’ll go to protect those loyal to us.

It’s a universal story set in a very specific historical moment.

Q: The show has undergone some changes since the original production in 2005. Can you talk about what’s new this time around?
Daigle: The biggest changes have been made to the book — it’s been trimmed down, streamlined and focused. It’s tighter storytelling and, I think, more impactful. We’ve also added a new song to the show, a new piece which opens Act Two. We’ve also added a character — a British colonel — to clarify the British side of the story.

The show’s been blessed to have Shawn Roy directing and David Boudreaux musical directing. Shawn and I worked closely in shaping the new book material, and many of the improvements are based on conversations I had with him. And David has crafted new orchestrations which will flesh out the work Roy and I did for the first production, and give us a new perspective on the score. They’ve been so generous with their talent. We’re really lucky.

Q: What can audiences expect from this production of “Grand Pre?”
Daigle: Fans of The Compound will see a continuation of the dedication to new work, which is central to the company’s vision. And thanks to UL Opera Theatre, we’ve been given the opportunity to do this on a bigger scale than our previous shows. UL Opera Theatre fans will get another terrific production with incredible singers and really smart direction (as they’ve come to expect).

But I think what’s most exciting about this show is that it’s a Louisiana story being told from all angles by Louisiana artists. This is the story of our culture, of our community, and it’s being lovingly told by people with the same last names as some of those original Acadians deported. And it’ll be an evening of good theatre, to boot. I’m proud to be a part of it.

Grand Pre opens March 8 at Ducrest-Gilfry Auditorium at Angelle Hall. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 482-6012.

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Five Questions with… Alicia Chaisson

She’s our fearless director — and was for William and Judith. Now, Alicia Chaisson is wearing two hats in this A Christmas Carol: director and actor.

Now, don’t expect her to eschew the director’s chair too much to strut the stage as an actor. But Alicia delivers a memorable turn as ” the boy who gets the turkey” — the one as big as her head.

We asked Alicia about acting in A Christmas Carol and why the Muppets sealed her love of the story.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… ALICIA CHAISSON

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: I play a caroler, Mrs. Fezziwig, Belinda Crachit, a party guest, and the boy who gets the turkey at the end.

Q:  Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: My favorite scene to play is definitely when Scrooge asks the boy to go buy the prize turkey.  My favorite line is “Today?  Why Christmas day!”

Q:What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: The most exciting challenge has been to find ways to keep everything moving.

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.
A: I absolutely love the Muppets.  I watch The Muppet Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve.  In my favorite song, Kermit sings “After all, there’s only one more sleep til Christmas!”

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: I hope audiences leave the show feeling like they were part of the story and saw something new is this old favorite tale.

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: I enjoy Aren’s many accents.  I particularly enjoy when, as Marley’s ghost, he says “vibarate”  instead of “vibrate”.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions with… Gina Baronne

She’s better known for working behind the scenes — and for making sure actors are lit and clothed — but for  A Christmas Carol, we’ve got Gina Baronne in front of the footlights (although she’s still pretty hidden as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.)

We asked Gina a few questions about her acting turn in Carol. 

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… GINA BARONNE

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come

Q: Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: The graveyard scene when Scrooge realizes it’s his grave.  Favorite line: “(points)”

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: The multiple roles, the way that it affects the timing & feel of the play.  Then having the actors come up with completely different characters from one scene to the next.  And the “compounded” effort with everyone in the room bringing their strengths & suggestions to produce this show.

Q:  Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.
A: My favorite memory of this production has been, the suggestion of how the Ghost of Christmas Future could turn into a bedpost,  “just have the bedpost inside her…& then she can just come out the back ”

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: I hope they get the enjoyment of a classic story with a new “Compound” twist.  I hope audiences will get to share in the fun & most of all the touching moments that help us know what Christmas should be about.

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: My favorite moment is at the end when Scrooge has had his change of heart, & we see him trying to hold it together to fool Crachit!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions with… Steven Cooper

Audiences last saw Steven Cooper as the frenetic John Fletcher in William and Judith. This time, audiences will get an opportunity to see him play a softer side, as both the young Ebenezer Scrooge and as Bob Crachit.

Steven’s proving that he’s more than just a ball of ambitious energy. And no doubt audiences will respond to his sentimental streak.

We asked Steven about  his roles in A Christmas Carol and why the staging gets his creative energy going.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… STEVEN COOPER

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?

A: I play Bob Crachit, young Scrooge, and Old Joe.

Q:  Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?

A: My favorite scene to play is Old Joe.  It is a very broad swipe at a character role that is very different than myself and he amuses me. My favorite line is “Who would be worse for the loss of a few things like this?  Not a dead man.”

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?

A: The most exciting challenge of this play has been the use of pantomime in the staging of the play.  With the simplicity we have implemented in the staging of the play we have been asked as actors to create a world through the use of our imagination.  The clearer we are with the world we are interacting in, then the clearer the world will be for our audience.

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.

A: Gathering together over the Thanksgiving break and working with the set pieces with a small group of collaborators was great fun.  It’s always a joy to be surrounded by creative people when everyone gets excited about the ideas that are surfacing.

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?

A: I hope the audience discovers something new in this adaptation of the production.  This comes straight from Dickens’ book, and I know that I’ve been reminded of parts of the story that I had forgotten. So many adaptations of the play take it to a new place and time and invent new things as a way of telling the story.  More of those adaptations stuck in my head than the world of Dickens’ book.  It’s been a pleasure returning to the source with this production, and I hope the audience discovers that joy too.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions with… Cody Daigle

He was the man behind the words in William and Judith. Now, playwright Cody Daigle is stepping in front of the footlights as the Narrator (and a few other surprise characters) in a Christmas Carol. 

We asked Cody about his roles in Carol and what frightens the Dickens out of him about the show.

 

 

 

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… CODY DAIGLE 

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: My main role is the Narrator (basically, I’m a stand-in for Charles Dickens), but I also get to play Peter Crachit, one of the Merchants and the “portly gentleman.” Typecasting.

Q: Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: I love playing the Portly Gentleman scene with Duncan, and I love playing the Merchant Scene with Aren. Both are much fun, and a break from the tricky passages of Dickens. Don’t have a favorite line, but I love the opening paragraphs of the novel (which I get to perform).

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: The most exciting thing for me is really discovering this story. Our adaptation comes almost whole-cloth from the book, so it’s been a lot of fun discovering the beauty and the fun of the original. Biggest challenge: getting used to the mutton chops.

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.
A: I remember seeing a TV film version (I think) of the musical CAROL that plays Madison Square Garden every year, or used to play it every year. Loved it.

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: I hope audiences leave the show with smiles on their faces and an appreciation for Dickens’ story. We’ve had a great time discovering it in a new way in rehearsal. We hope that comes across to our audiences.

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: This may just seem like the diplomatic answer, but I’m loving things from everyone. Duncan and Steven in the final scene are great. Aren is a joy to act with in the Merchant scene. Sarah is lovely as Mrs. Crachit. Martha is breaks your heart as Belle. Alicia slays me as the Boy. Gina is definitely ghostin’ it up as Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. I’m lucky. I get to watch everyone bring their A-game.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions With… Martha Diaz

In William and Judith, she played Jude, the innocent, wide-eyed daughter of William Shakespeare, breaking hearts along the way. Now, Martha Diaz is breaking our hearts again in  A Christmas Carol, in a trio of roles.

One of the most talented young actors on the local theatre scene, Diaz is setting her sights on college next year. So we’re glad to get another chance to work with this rising young talent before the rest of the theatre world finds her.

We asked Martha about her roles in A Christmas Carol and about the benefits of being imperious.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… MARTHA DIAZ

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: I play Fan (Scrooge’s little sister), Belle (Scrooge’s girlfriend slightly later in his life), and Christmas Present.

Q: Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: My favorite scene to play is definitely the third — where I get to portray Christmas Present. He’s a special treat for me as an actor. And as for my favorite line? It sounds odd out of context, but probably “touch my robe!” I get to be imperious in such a good-natured way.

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: Playing three people! My characters all have their moments pretty close together in the play, so I have to be sure that every one is distinct. Playing around with different energies and physical styles is an especially fun exploration for me.

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.
A: On my first day of rehearsal, I run onstage to do my scene as Fan, and everything’s going great, high energy, all that. And then as I’m finishing the scene, I take Steven (who plays younger Scrooge) by the hand and run offstage with him — and run flat into a wall! So much for bold choices!

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: It’s a new adaptation on a very old theme: goodwill towards all mankind. It’s a story told most often at Christmastime, but it’s a great lesson to remember all year ’round. I hope audiences laugh, cry and leave the theatre with warmed hearts, a little more likely to do something kind for someone else.

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: That’s a hard one! I loved seeing the first scene for the first time — and Cody’s “portly gentleman” leaves me in in stitches every time. And of course, I could never disregard our wonderful rehearsal cat Dobbs’ antics!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions with… Aren Chaisson

Audiences last saw Aren Chaisson as the conflicted playwright and father, William Shakespeare, in The Compound’s workshop production of William and Judith. Now, they’ll see him take on a host of roles in A Christmas Carol, roles which will show Chaisson to be a big, bright, comic stage presence.

We asked Aren about his roles in the show and why getting to “Hilli-ho!” is putting him in the Christmas spirit.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… AREN CHAISSON

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: I play Seven different roles: Fred the Nephew, Jacob Marley, Merchant, Fezziwig (Scrooge’s Old Boss), Scrooge’s Father, the Husband and one other character that I want to keep secret….you’ll have to see the show to find out who it is!

Q: Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: Right now my favorite scene is the Merchant Scene with Cody Daigle. I haven’t acted with Cody in a long time and I find we have a great rapport off the stage that translates ON the stage. My favorite line is from Fezziwig, “Hilli-ho, Ebenezer!” Fezziwig is trying to get Scrooge to stop working and help him with throwing a great Christmas Eve party, it makes me so happy to say that line. It’s so full of joy and excitement and that’s how I feel about Christmas.

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: One of the exciting challenges has been finding different voices all the characters I play. I love this sort of character work, so it’s been an absolute joy to discover them. I’ve had some hits and misses, but it’s always fun to try them on and see what sticks

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.
A: I remember the Disney “Christmas Carol” the most. I remember being really scared of the ghost of Christmas Future and loving and laughing at Goofy playing the ghost of Marley. You will hear me homage to Scrooge McDuck in the voice of Fezziwig. It makes me smile and I hope it does the same for the audience.

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: I hope the audience is overwhelmed with the joy of Christmas and giving. I hope they laugh,cry and the kids have just as much fun as the adults.

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: Cody is having a ball playing the Narrator and we all can tell. My favorite moments are those when Cody interacts with the audience, it’s very natural and they are going to eat it up.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions with… Duncan Thistlethwaite

Audiences last saw Duncan Thistlethwaite as the larger than life actor-producer Richard Burbage in William and Judith. Now, he’s stepping into even more iconic shoes — the grumpy, growling and altogether unpleasant Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge’s journey is a wild one — from miser to merry-maker in just under an hour — but the role is well cared for in Thistlethwaite’s hands.

We asked Duncan about his role in A Christmas Carol and what it’s like playing one of the world’s most famous grumps.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… DUNCAN THISTLETHWAITE

Q:Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: I am playing Ebenezer Scrooge, the world’s most notorious curmudgeon!

Q: Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: I’m enjoying the last scene with Bob Crachit, a sort of bait-and-switch surprise for the poor man.

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: We’ve chosen a fast and light approach to the classic tale, with six actors playing all the parts and no real set. Having the show pay off emotionally and narratively in a stripped-down approach is challenging!

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.
A: I remember watching the movie version with Allistair Sims as Scrooge and being frightened and moved by the ghosts and poor little Tiny Tim.

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: I hope audiences, especially those that saw The Compound’s first show, to take away the fact that here is a versatile troupe of actors that can tell a story! Also, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a classic for a reason: it’s a great story, and hopefully we told it well!

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: I love Sarah and Steven haggling and laughing over Scrooge’s bed curtains and shirt!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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Five Questions with… Sarah Gauthier

In her last Compound role, Sarah Gauthier was breaking audiences’ hearts as Judith Shakespeare in William and Judith. In A Christmas Carol, audiences will see a whole new side of the talented Ms. Gauthier — a grab bag of multiple roles ranging from the sympathetic Mrs. Crachit to the sinister Mrs. Dilber to a ghostly guide for Ebenezer Scrooge.

We asked Sarah about her roles in A Christmas Carol and what it means to bring this Dickens classic to life on stage.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH… SARAH GAUTHIER

Q: Who do you play in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?
A: I play 5 different characters in our busy adaptation. First, the Ghost of Christmas Past, followed by the beloved Mrs. Crachit, then the neice (Fred’s wife), Caroline (the wife in Christmas Future), and Mrs. Dilber (the bum in Christmas Future).

Q: Favorite scene to play? Favorite line?
A: Well I must say Mrs. Dilber is turning into a wonderfully rough and wild character. She is seen in the time of Christmas Future selling Scrooge’s things. Her best line: “He frightened everyone away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead! Ha, Ha, Ha (cough) Ha!!”

Q: What’s been the most exciting challenge of this adaptation of CAROL?
A: Definitely choreographing the scene changes. Scrooge and the Ghost’s move through so many worlds, thanks to the vivid imagination of Mr. Dickens. To reimagine that onstage in a way that is clear to the audience, yet doesn’t take away from the poignent/heartflet moment, has been a challenge. And super fun!

Q: Share with us a CHRISTMAS CAROL memory.

Sarah Gauther really did carve our giant turkey.

A: It was when I carved a giant block of styrofoam into the Crachit’s Christmas turkey. I should have been a taxidermist.

Q: What are you hoping audiences take away from this production?
A: Firstly, I hope audiences remember the simplicity of do-gooding. It should be carried in our hearts year round, and even a classic tale remains timeless because of that. Secondly, that The Compound is here, doing great theatre, and building community and traditions in our little town.

Bonus Question: Since it’s the Christmas season, What’s a favorite moment from one of your castmates’ performances?
A: My favorite castmate moments have been watching Cody Daigle and Aren Chaisson go through many wildly funny characters to find the right ones. Every night we discvoer many, many more. They are hilarious!!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 10-23 at Theatre 810 (801 Jefferson Street, next to Carpe Diem Gelato). Buy tickets HERE, and for more information, call 337-247-7082.

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