Despina in Banff

Despina in Banff

Caitlin Wood
This is a post by guest contributor Caitlin Wood. Cait is here at The Banff Centre with Against the Grain Theatre, singing Despina in A Little Too Cozy. I asked her how she was liking Banff, and she outdid herself with her response.

As the half way point of my time at The Banff Centre is coming up quickly, it seems like a great time to reflect on what it has been like staying in Banff and working on A Little Too Cozy.

The pre-show routine

When I first received the score I read through it and laughed so hard that there was no need to work out my core for a couple of days. After that the challenge of learning the role was in full swing and a few questions needed answering. With such a hilarious libretto I wanted to make sure that audiences wouldn’t miss a word of it, but how to achieve this?

Luckily, I had some killer coaches and mentors helping me to make every word crystal clear. One such mentor is Judith Forst. Although it was a little awkward having to explain to her what a “Fugglie” was (thanks Joel), she was very helpful by telling me: “Just put tons of FFFFFFF on it and you’ll be fine”.

Another question that came up was who was this new updated Despina character? In the original she is the conniving maid, always ready to get in a disguise to trick the girls (my personal favourite interpretation is to add a Sean Connery accent when she is the doctor). In this version she is quite different. I was lucky that Joel had flushed out a very colourful character in his libretto. To quote some of her aria: “I like chocolate fudge, I like creme brulée. Sometimes I just want them all.”. You will have to come to the show to see what that is all about and who this updated Despina truly is!

Caitlin Wood (Despina), Cairan Ryan (Don Alfonso), Aaron Sheppard (Fernando) and Brent Calis (Elmo) in rehearsal for A Little Too Cozy.

In the rehearsal trenches

Now that all the learning was done, it was time to come to The Banff Centre, and, holy smokes, it is a beautiful place to be. We are incredibly lucky to have a rehearsal space with wall to wall windows looking down into the valley. It is a good thing that we rehearse with our backs to the view though, if that was not the case I am sure we wouldn’t get anything done. Lucky for us we also have two awesome colleagues at the helm of the rehearsals to keep everything trucking along: Joel Ivany and Topher Mokrzewski.

So far rehearsals have been an absolute blast to be a part of. Although there are a lot of laughs, we are also very serious about creating the best music and the most well-rounded characters possible. To ensure this happens, we have implemented the Mistake Tally. When someone makes an error, it is noted and they must have a drink for every error they make. The jury is still out if this process produces less mistakes or creates more of them the day after the drinking occurs.

Daily life in Banff

I have fallen into a routine here at The Banff Centre but each day is no less exciting because of it. Generally I get up early so that I can hike Tunnel Mountain or head to the gym with some of the other singers. With such natural beauty everywhere, it’s a great way to start the day. Once I’ve worked up an appetite, it is off to breakfast, where if I am very lucky I can spot the always entertaining #operababy.

Rehearsals, coachings, and practicing are next, and it is incredibly inspiring to be surround with such talented colleagues and mentors. Besides A Little Too Cozy, I am working on a chamber piece: La mort du nombre by Messiaen with tenor Aaron Shephard, pianist Michael McMahon, and we will soon be adding a violinist from the instrumental department. It is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard, and it is real treat to be working on it with such fine musicians.

After the rehearsals we gather for dinner and talk about our days (at least half of the party will be eating the Cobb salad). For the evening you can find me either playing a game of soccer in the gym, or on the top floor balcony watching the sun set and rehearsing lines or ensembles with my Cozy counterparts.

The Open Space opera folks, perhaps cashing in their Mistake Tallies.

Extra-opera activities

We also have free time on our days off to go on adventures or watch performances from different departments. Sunday’s day off included lunch down in Banff, a small hike to the Banff Springs hotel which ended in a large pint of cider, and finally watching a Blue Rodeo concert with tutti. This day is a perfect example of just how much activity and creativity is going on here at The Banff Centre.

On our first day, someone pointed out that we were surrounded by these beautiful mountains that were created long before we were born, and will continue to be here long after we’re gone. With this perspective in mind I am trying to seize each day, make great art, and create great memories. I know that this can be achieved during the coming weeks thanks to the great people that are here: Shantelle, Pascale, Cairan, Aaron, Brent, Ellen, Sam, Simone, Bruno, Pasquale, Clarence, Jack, Michael, Jenna, Topher, Joel, Amiel, Theresa, Michelle, Chloe, Rachel, Crystal, Noah and everyone at The Banff Centre.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have many a drink to knock off of the Mistake Tally.

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