Actors Lauren Spring and Thomas Gallezot, co-founders and creative directors of the Extant Jesters and Young Jesters Theatre Companies, return to the ROM with the latest presentation of Water: The Play. Its March Break debut was a hit with audiences of all ages and we are thrilled about their upcoming performances on August 20 and 21 for this summer’s final Family Fun Water Weekend! Before their return, Lauren and Thomas answered a few of our burning questions about their work.
When did you get into acting? Has it been a lifelong passion?
Lauren: Yes it has. I started acting when I was 8 years old- mostly doing musical theatre when I was young and went on to focus my studies and career on physical theatre, TV and film acting. But I also knew acting would be part of my life- not the entire thing (I am also involved in workshop facilitation, education and International Development and find this work very meaningful too) but for me, all of these things I am passionate about feed into one another and keep me grounded in both the real and imaginary worlds.
Thomas: I only started acting when I came to university in Montreal. I grew up in France in a very scientific family and so first became an engineer and patent attorney. But when I was studying at L’ecole Polytechnique in Montreal I joined the improv team- then there was no turning back! When I returned to France, I studied theatre and acting and continued to play improv and create various companies in both Strasbourg and Paris. Now, I am most interested in using the tools of the actor and what is valuable in theatre outside of the traditional theatre space- bringing these things to places like the ROM!
Can you tell us the history of Water: The Play and what inspired its creation?
Lauren: A different version of Water: The Play was initially created for a children’s festival in Evian France (a Water city if there ever was one!) This version was highly physical, bilingual and based on the history of the city.
When we saw that Water: The Exhibition was coming to the ROM we were very excited and pitched a slightly different version of the show. Once the ROM was interested, we set ourselves the task of adapting the script and bringing other local actors who work with our company on board.
The first incarnation of Water: the Play was a huge success in March 2011 and we were then asked to bring the show back for the summer – this time with live music, some acrobatics and a few extra characters. The show itself is a ton of fun – it is also highly interactive which is important to us (we both have strong improvisation backgrounds as do the rest of the cast – including Kimberly Persona, Amelia Sargisson and Jessica Moss) and so audience involvement, and even direct suggestions from our young audience members always influence the story being told.
Kids and adults alike seem to laugh and learn a lot from this show. It has been such a great experience to workshop and restage this show! It just keeps getting better!
What role do you play and how are you similar to this character?
Lauren: I am the narrator in this show and so am mostly working with the audience, playing flute and holding everything together – I can relate this role to my everyday life because I often feel that I am juggling a lot of different things on a daily basis. If I do only one thing for too long, I feel restless – I always seek out new challenges, new people, new ideas… I also have a wild imagination and so I love working directly with the audience members as they make suggestions that feed our story – these suggestions are always creative and unexpected and it keeps me on my toes!
Thomas: I play a few different characters in Water: The Play. I play Olive’s father, the fish, the snake and a tree! I can relate very well to these characters because I am really a water person in real life. Olive’s father and the fish love to swim in the sea and so do I… I grew up in France and spent all of my summers by the sea in the south and so I have a real appreciation for water and how essential it is. The snake is also a very smart creature in the play and knows a lot of great facts. I really like to learn facts too. Ever since moving to Canada 4 years ago, I have also been fascinated by all of the trees in this country. I love to play trees on stage because they are strong and seem wise to me… I think it’s also very fun to play living things other than humans and animals- it’s fun to imagine what a tree’s voice might sound like, how it can move…
What do you hope families will take home with them after seeing the play?
Lauren: We hope that families will have a lot of fun while watching the play and leave the ROM with the realization that it is so easy for us, living in Canada, to take water for granted. When Olive first wishes that all of the water in all of the world would disappear (because she is afraid of swimming in the sea), she never anticipates what that actually means and how much all living things rely on water to survive. She learns profound lessons travelling all around the world, and we hope that kids and families will walk away and think twice next time they turn on the tap to wash their hands or pour themselves a glass of water.
What is your favourite object or memory of the Royal Ontario Museum?
Lauren: I remember coming to the ROM as a little girl and being mesmerized by both the Bat Cave and the Gallery of Birds with all of the bird and bird eggs in it. I still am mesmerized by these things – I can spend hours in that room!!
Thomas: I had a great time visiting the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. My grandfather had always told me about them and so it was really incredible to see them up close. I was impressed by all of the details of the clothing and facial expressions.