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Soulpepper Family Festival

Gregory Prest offers behind-the-scenes taste of Soulpepper's holiday programming

Presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company

Gregory Prest & Michelle Monteith in Parfumerie. Photo: Nathan Kelly.

This December, Soulpepper invites theatregoers of all ages to enjoy the second annual Family Festival, a special lineup of shows including holiday favourites A Christmas Carol and Parfumerie, as well as updated presentations of celebrated productions Kim's Convenience and Alligator Pie, featuring a cast of past Soulpepper Academy grads. Also on the bill: David Ben's magic show Tricks and A Very Soulpepper Christmasan original concert full of stories and music.

Here, we chat with performer/director Gregory Prest about his experience directing Alligator Pie and playing the lead in Parfumerie.

Theatromania: Tell us about Soulpepper’s Family Festival. How would you describe this year’s event in a few sentences?

GP: The Family Festival is a month of programming devoted to mounting productions that are suitable for people of all ages. It allows us to go back to some of our favourite productions to look at them with fresh eyes and to think ahead about what we want to propose as “new classics” – new traditions. It is a real invitation to our audience to bring their kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, and the young people in their lives to join the grownups and sit in a room and watch theatre together.

Theatromania: You are directing a new cast in Alligator Pie, what have you learned from that experience so far?

GP: When we were creating Alligator Pie, our motto was “follow your bliss.” This was important to us because it freed us up to respond and play with Dennis’ poems with irreverence, joy, idiocy and dead seriousness. This is also part of the message we wanted to put into the universe. What I’ve learned so far from directing a new cast is that “bliss” makes no dramaturgical sense at all. There is no good reason why any of these poems exist or why they are presented the way they are. They just are. It’s stupid and silly and that is enough. Sometimes silly is enough and there’s no need to try to make sense of it.

Theatromania: You are also taking over as George Asztalos in Miklos Laszlo’s Parfumerie. How do you juggle the roles of director and performer on days when you do both – do you ever find it difficult to switch hats?

GP: This is strangely easy – not because I’m “A-M-A-Z-I-N-G” but because luckily at Soulpepper we often, and are encouraged to, wear many hats at the same time. The company was founded by people who seem to be able to “do it all” – perform, teach, direct, workshop, create, develop and run festivals, raise families. On any given day half the company is multitasking. This is embedded into the fabric of the building. Luckily there are five of us directing Alligator Pie (the old cast teaching the new cast), which might be a record. Five directors – yikes! We have strengths and weaknesses and so we can naturally rely on each other to help fill the gaps. As for taking over as George in Parfumerie, it is a lot to learn in a short period of time, but the play is so wonderful and the company of actors who have done it before, the stage management team and director Morris Panych are patient and supportive. It’s really all about the support – being able to rely on others to help you out is what makes wearing all the hats easier and enjoyable.

Theatromania: Parfumerie and Kim’s Convenience will be performed at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts this time around. Will the staging of these plays change much in this larger venue?

GP: We haven’t moved into the St. Lawrence Centre yet, but I imagine small adjustments will have to be made. I know Kim’s Convenience has been touring across the country in theatres of various sizes, so they are naturally flexible at this point. I’m looking forward to performing there. It’s a much bigger space than that Young Centre in terms of its audience size and depth. I’ve never really performed in a space that big and I’m looking forward to the challenges and the learning opportunities.

Theatromania: What excites you most about being involved in a festival of this kind?

GP: What I’m most curious about right now is the handing off of roles in these shows that are, or are becoming, “classic” Soulpepper fare. In all four of the remounts (A Christmas Carol, Kim’s Convenience, Alligator Pie, and Parfumerie) new people are taking on big parts. Oliver Dennis is sharing Scrooge with Joe Ziegler on alternate nights, so Jordan Pettle is then taking over Bob Cratchit from Oliver. Patrick Kwok-Choon it taking over Jung in Kim’s; it’s a brand new cast in Alligator Pie; and in Parfumerie there are six new people including Michelle Monteith who is playing Miss Rosanna Balaz. Of course I love the actors who have done these parts in the past, but I’m excited about what the new people will bring to the roles and how the stories will subtly (or not so subtly) shift. It’s also really nice to be part of an event that allows young and old people, families and friends to come and experience theatre togethermaybe for the first time.

Soulpepper Family Festival performances take place at two separate locations: The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Thu, 2015-12-03 - Sun, 2016-01-03


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