During pantomime performances, like the upcoming Snow White on the Mae Wilson Theatre stage at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, the audience is not voiceless.
“Every audience will bring its own vibe and energy that the actors will feed off of,” said Patrick French, an actor in Snow White. “It’s one of those chemistry things between actors and audiences that actors love, because it makes every live performance special and unique.”
Pantomime, or panto, is a form of musical comedy designed for families.
It means the exact opposite of “mime.”
Panto is unique because it embraces breaking the fourth wall. Characters engage with the audience and the audience is encouraged to respond back.
“Even in the way the script is set up, there’s some wonderful opportunities for interaction,” French said.
He plays the role of Chambers, who he described as the “chief administrator of the castle.”
The opportunity for crowd interaction comes quickly, French said, at the expense of the villainous queen.
“Right off the bat, (the queen) stops a conversation between myself, the Chambers, and her and says, ‘Oh, what’s that terrible smell?’ And refers to the audience and the kids in the audience and insults them and gets the banter going right away,” French said. “It’s all part of the show.”
This is the third consecutive year the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre will present a panto production. Several of Snow White’s cast members are returning from the previous year’s panto productions.
However, this will be French’s first time as a panto cast member.
Since retiring as an English teacher in 2010, he’s made an effort to regularly get on stage with the Moose Jaw Community Players.
With Snow White, directed by Trudy Moffatt, French is looking forward to getting onstage at the Mae Wilson.
“It’s one of the best facilities in the province. It’s going to be a tremendous place to put on this show and it’s going to be a fun show to watch,” French said.
It’s rare to hear an actor express so much excitement about a production without having a single rehearsal.
“It’s going to be an all-out blitz starting next week when the director arrives. Some full days will be put in between the time when she arrives and the first performance,” French said.
As he spoke to the Times-Herald, French said he was still looking at his lines.
Six of cast members are all theatre performers currently or originally from Saskatchewan. One is from Manitoba.
“All of the preparation and homework is definitely done. These are all professional actors. They’ve been through this kind of thing dozens and dozens of times,” French said.
Dancers from the Doris Sitter School of Dance in Moose Jaw join the panto again as the seven loyal courtiers and dancers.
The Times-Herald is a major sponsor of Snow White.
Performances will be on Dec. 23, 27, 28 and 29 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors and $15 for children 12 and under.