Nancy Ebert won honourable mention for her role as Sarah Bernhardt in Ladies of the Camellias.

Nancy Ebert won honourable mention for her role as Sarah Bernhardt in Ladies of the Camellias.

Award-winning production returns to stage

Two-night reprise to raise money for trip to provincial competition

Theatregoers who missed the run of White Rock Players Club’s award-winning production Ladies of the Camellias in April have a second opportunity next week – while fans of the show have their chance for a second helping.

The Lillian Groag farce – which imagines a duelling diva confrontation in 1897 Paris between two of the finest actresses of the age, Sarah Bernhardt and Eleanora Duse – returns for two nights only (Tuesday and Wednesday, June 28-29, 8 p.m.) at the Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.

The shows are a fundraiser to help offset costs of taking the play, which won best production in the Theatre B.C. Vancouver Zone festival in New Westminster, to the Mainstage finals in Kamloops this July.

The original cast is back, with two exceptions due to conflicting schedules – Darien Edgeler takes over the role of the anarchist Ivan from Stephen Benjamin Fowler, while the play’s director, Paul Kloegman steps into the role of playwright Alexandre Dumas fils, previously played by Gerard Ponsford.

Returning are Brent Cross (Coquelin), Alexandra Wilson (Girl), Ken Fynn (Benoit), Jason Dedrick (Worms), Ryan S. Johnson (who won best supporting actor in the zone festival as Flavio Ando), and last but certainly not least Lori Tych (best actress as Duse) and Nancy Ebert (who won honourable mention as ‘The Divine Sarah’ herself).

Ebert, a highly regarded community theatre actress who has done most of her work on the North Shore and latterly with the Vagabond Players in New Westminster, said she’s enjoying renewing her acquaintance with White Rock – Ladies of the Camellias was her first production here, not counting a single performance of Evelyn Strange for the Vagabond Players (for which she won a CTC best actress award).

“When I came down here to audition, I was thinking I’d really like to do a show in White Rock,” she said. “I was honoured to be chosen to be in this one.”

Ebert, a retired school teacher, who first caught the acting bug in Prince Rupert in 1973, said she enjoyed researching the real Bernhardt for the show – even though Ladies of the Camellias is a comedic fantasy, replete with in-jokes geared to lovers of theatre and theatre lore.

“Most of the rumours about Bernhardt seem to have been true – about sleeping in a coffin and losing a leg late in life,” Ebert said.

“But she seems to have been enormously talented.”

Ebert said she even listened to a rare recording of the actress’s voice – although she quickly realized the flowery “singing the lines” style of 19th century theatre wouldn’t play well today.

“In the play she’s very grand, very theatrical, and very much the diva,” she said, adding she’s enjoying working with the other actors again and the re-match with Tych.

“Lori’s just so good and she does an Italian accent that’s brilliant,” she said.

Ebert said she’s also enjoying sharing the stage with Kloegman, who won best director honours at the zone festival.

“He’s such a good director because he wants it to be perfect. We’d work through every scene and go through the beats, and he’d find every way to bring it up a notch.

“And he’s such a funny man – he gets all the jokes, which means he can bring out every bit of the humour.”

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