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August 5, 2010

Always Read the Script First – Brenda Robins

Brenda Robins

Brenda Robins in Faith Healer. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.

Brenda Robins stars in What the Butler Saw, on stage August 19. She has performed in over ten Soulpepper productions in the past, and co-adapted (with Adam Pettle) our Dora Award-winning production of Parfumerie in 2009.

A few months ago I got a call from my agent.

My agent: Soulpepper wants you to play Mrs. Prentice in a production of What the Butler Saw.

Me: That’s great.

My agent: You know the play?

Me: No, but last year Loot was a big hit; it was also by Joe Orton and it was also directed by Jim Warren. The cast talked about what fun it was to perform and summer is a good time for farce. Please ask them to send me a script, I’ll read it and call you back.

Script arrives.

Page 1: The play takes place in a psychiatric clinic. Talk about potential – a tantalizing encounter between Dr. Prentice and Geraldine. (Mrs. Prentice doesn’t arrive until the next scene. This is good. Starting a play off is always nerve wracking and a huge responsibility. This way I get more time to pace backstage.)

Page 6: Mrs Prentice enters from the hall. She is wearing a costly fur coat. She has a quick and bitchy exchange with her husband and heads for the whiskey bottle. I like her, she’s ballsy. More banter. It’s got some bite. A young man arrives. Evidently he and Mrs. Prentice have shared some kind of erotic interlude. Intriguing. (Margin note – find out who is playing the young man.)

Page 7: Mrs. Prentice pours herself a drink.

Page 8: Mrs. Prentice pours herself a drink.

Pages 9 and 10: She pours herself a drink. The young man leaves. Another acid dialogue with her husband.

Page 12: She slips off her fur coat. Under it she is wearing only a slip. What?!? Wait. One thing I already know about this woman, there is nothing demure about her underwear. (Margin note – find out who is designing this show.) Thank goodness for Spanx, i.e. heavily elasticized foundation garments – the underwear equivalent of sausage casings.

Off stage for a little while. Returns Page 26: Pours herself a drink.

Page 29: Pours herself a drink.

Page 31, 33, 39: Pours a drink, drinks! I count 12 drinks in all! Don’t they know I have a bladder problem?

Page 55: Screams loudly, page 60: shrieks, page 65: cries out in alarm, page 69: gets smacked in the face and has her dress torn away, page 74: fires a gun, page 74: fires again, page 75: screams, page 77: has her face slapped, shrieks hysterically, crashes to the floor, gets tied into a straight jacket…!!!! And that’s just my character. I call my agent.

My agent: So what do you think?

Me: I don’t know what to think.

My agent: Do you want to do it?

Me: Oh yeah!

P.S. We are three weeks into rehearsals. Jim is a smart and rigorous director, the cast is absolutely wonderful as is the stage management team and our designers and our builders. And we are already having fun and my underpants are dry.