Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sarah Rodgers in The Province

Our beautiful and energetic director Sarah Rodgers was interviewed for The Province. Read the full article by Glen Schaefer here.

Actor-director Sarah Rodgers looked back nearly 40 years for inspiration to an entirely different flower-power hit before restaging Godspell, the comic musical retelling of the life of Jesus.

The play became a hit on Broadway in the early 1970s, with the Gospel story reimagined as a group of players in clown makeup who fall in love with Jesus and his message, telling comic versions of New Testament parables along the way. It was made into a 1973 movie starring Canadian actor Victor Garber as Jesus.

"In essence, the set-up of a bunch of clowns falling in love with Jesus, that is something that has been done to death," says Rodgers, who was looking for a new way to bring the show to life.

A light went on while doing her research, when she saw the cast list for the show's first Canadian production in Toronto. The relative unknowns starring in that early 1970s production included future sketch-comedy giants Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner and Martin Short.

"The script suddenly made sense to me," Rodgers says. "The original script is the most annotated script I've ever seen. It explains every joke: 'In the original production, the actress mimicked Shirley Temple, but any imitation will do.' Groucho Marx shows up, constantly these little comic bits. I realized it reads like a sketch-comedy script."

Then Rodgers remembered the most popular sketch-comedy TV show of that era, which she watched with her parents as a little girl -- Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

So when her actors take the Pacific Theatre Stage for Godspell, they'll be playing Laugh-In characters, including the snarky telephone operator originated by Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn's ditzy blond bikini dancer and Arte Johnson's goofy German soldier. And set designer Bryan Pollock has created a version of Laugh-In's flower-bedecked set.

"Our audience is a TV studio audience, there to watch Laugh-In, and the special guests are Jesus and John the Baptist."

The theatre's tight space is turned into an asset for this production, with a four-piece band above the audience on a platform, and cast members delivering lines from the aisles.

Rodgers, whose last directing job was a remount earlier this year of Billy Bishop Goes to War, found she didn't have to rewrite much of the text to fit the show into the Laugh-In context. Just a few names were changed.

"I've been watching the Laugh-In episodes as research. I found six episodes," says Rodgers. "I have been blown away by Goldie Hawn. She looked about 20 then and her comedy, she was so in the moment."

Some improv bits have worked their way into the show during rehearsals, but the director had to rein other scenes in.

"I'm controlling that. We don't want a four-hour Godspell, but in rehearsals we're definitely playing."


Where: Pacific Theatre, 1420 W. 12th Ave.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinee Saturdays. Ends July 3.

Tickets: $17 to $34 at 604-731-5518 or

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