Sometimes actors choose a script out of love, sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes they write a script that is deeply personal.
REDPATCH is a stunning new play that makes its Canadian premier on the anniversary of Vimy Ridge and features the work of Raes Calvert, a local actor, producer, and writer. REDPATCH tells the story of a Métis soldier who fought for Canada in the First World War. This is a personal story and role for Raes, whose grandfather fought in WWII and in part inspired the work, as well as Raes’ portrayal of the lead character.
In this Q&A, Raes gives insight into his process and the unique challenges of taking on the role, as well as being the co-writer and producer of the play.
Theatre Wire: How did you prepare to play your character?
Raes Calvert: I did many hours of research in the creation of this piece. Reading books about WWI such as All Quiet on the Western Front and Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road, and reading history books and journals from soldiers who fought in this war. I also traveled to Nootka Sound to the land of my own ancestors and where we have set the home of my main character. We met with local elders and learned some of their language and stories. All of this lends itself to a more diverse and authentic character that is rooted in truth. Which I think is what all actors should strive for.
TW: Did you come to the first rehearsal with your character fully developed, or is character development part of the rehearsal process?
RC: Things change all the time. As an actor you have to be willing to go where a director’s vision is going. Even though I co-created this piece with Sean [Harris Oliver], my character’s intentions and goals tend to change based on the staging and what is happening before and after every scene.
TW: How do the other actors and their characters influence your work?
RC: I feel very honoured to be able to act with the other actors in this cast. They come from all across Canada and from a diverse range of communities. I believe that actors and their characters should always be influencing my work, making offers and taking risks. It has been interesting seeing the different takes that actors who are new to the show bring to their character to make them their own.
TW: How much does the director influence your work and interpretation?
RC: A tremendous amount. It is my job as an actor to fulfill the director’s vision. This is a unique experience in that I wrote this show with the director. We have worked together many times before and consistently for the past 10 years. We constantly confer with each other about script elements and how we want things to work.
TW: What are some of your most memorable past roles and productions? (Why?)
RC: I think my most memorable and longest running role is playing Max in Where the Wild Things Are with the touring production by The Presentation House Theatre. I have been lucky enough to tour this show across Canada and the United States and perform in some of the most amazing theatres that North America has to offer.
TW: What’s the most misunderstood aspect of an actor’s job, in your opinion?
RC: That for every one hour of paid work, I have put in 50 hours unpaid during my career. I think that a lot of people don’t consider being an actor a legitimate form of work or that we are lazy or living in some sort of dream world. I feel passionate about what I do and take it very seriously.
TW: Is there anything in particular you’d like to add about this show or yourself?
RC: Sean Harris Oliver and I began the creation of REDPATCH five years ago in the hopes of telling a story that we had never seen told on stage. It is important to recognize this part of our history and specifically the contribution Aboriginal soldiers made for Canada during WWI. This play has taken years to get to where it is now and I hope that anyone interested takes the chance and comes to see this piece of theatre which is very close to my heart.
TW: Can you give us a sneak peak of what audiences will expect?
RC: A thrilling historical drama highlighting the contribution Aboriginal soldiers made for the Canadian Armed Forces during WWI. Movement to sound and music will elevate this particular production.
Raes is a Métis theatre artist from Richmond BC. He is a founder and Co-Artistic Director of Hardline Productions. He has toured nationally and internationally with such companies as Neworld Theatre, GreenTumb Theatre, Axis Theatre, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and Presentation House Theatre. He is a two time nominee of the Jesse Richardson Theatre awards and one time recipient. Raes is a graduate of Studio 58.