After spending three years as a leading lady at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Amanda Lisman is coming home — and she’s excited for a new experience in classical theatre.
“This is my first Shaw,” says Lisman gleefully about playing Raina in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, opening at the McPherson Playhouse Thursday, June 5.
“Shaw writes so well for women,” she adds. “They’re intelligent, witty and there’s growth in the character. He starts them off in one place and he challenges who they are and they end up in another place. And that’s a fantastic journey to go on.
“Same with Shakespeare, but usually the outcome is marriage, or some form of victimization or death, but the thoughts they have and the rhetoric they engage in is so intelligent, so that’s really satisfying. And who doesn’t like a fancy costume?”
Costume designer Nathan Brown is busy building the period pieces that Raina and her military suitors will wear.
“That’s one of the pleasures of seeing period pieces, the great, great costumes and a bunch of men in uniform,” says Lisman.
Set during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885, Arms and the Man tells the story of a soldier who goes to battle armed with chocolate — not bullets — and the young, engaged lady (Raina) who he falls in love with.
“Raina is an extremely romantic young woman who’s led a sheltered existence and whose notions of the world are based on poetry and romantic literature,” Lisman explains. “Over the course of the play, when she encounters the character called Bluntschli, those ideals are shattered and she becomes herself.
“She loses those illusions, they’re stripped away and she realizes that it’s far more useful to be yourself and not try to please other people or try to make people what they aren’t. It’s a pretty universal message, you don’t have to be from the 1800s to relate to that.”
The popular comedy is being directed by Glynis Leyshon, who recently directed Belfry Theatre’s production of contemporary dramedy God of Carnage.
“(Leyshon) is incredibly smart and hilarious,” says Lisman. “It’s a great mix to have someone that intellectually understands the piece and the language and the way the thoughts have to come together, and then she’s really pulling out the farcical elements of the play. It’s a great exchange of ideas and there’s a lot of intellectual arguments, ultimately we’re going towards farce with it, so there’s lots of physical comedy that I think audiences will really enjoy.”
This is Lisman’s first role in a fully-staged Blue Bridge production. For the last two years, she’s been involved in the company’s staged radio plays, Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life.
“You don’t get a lot of time to practice classical theatre as an actor,” she says. “With the economy, theatres can’t afford to put on large plays anymore. . . . Luckily, Brian Richmond brought classical theatre to Victoria.”
This production will also mark the return of actor Dylan Smith who played Jacques in Blue Bridge’s inaugural production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Joining him in the role of Louka is Vanessa Holmes, Jay Hindle as Sergius, Brian Linds as Major Petkoff and Christine Willes as Catherine Petkoff. Set and costumes will be designed by Brown, lights by Giles Hogya and sound by Brian Linds. M
Arms and The Man
June 7 – 17
Previews June 5 & 6 Opens June 7 at 8pm
tickets at rmts.bc.ca or 250-386-6121