Adrianna Prosser won Best Actress the very first year we gave out awards. Thirteen years later, she’s nominated again, this time for Outstanding Performance (Supporting) for her memorable work in The Drowning Girls with Wren Theatre.
Since we last interviewed you, you’ve become the General Manager of the Red Sandcastle Theatre. It’s been thriving in the last couple years. Tell us about that work and what’s coming up.
Sandcastle has been such a wonderful playground! Being able to provide space to indie theatre artists is so fulfilling. And dreams coming true – I recently rented to my personal storyteller inspiration/aspiration Sandra Shamas and to be able to chat with her and help her have the space to incubate new work just makes my creative heart happy. I run the space with Eric Woolfe, and we are always making improvements and additions to what our renters are looking for in a not-so-black-box space; we want all sorts of creatives to come and share their work! From comedians to musicals, workshops and film crews. We’ve hosted them all and we want to keep welcoming the abundant talent here in Toronto.
You’re also the Artistic Producer of Eldritch Theatre. Tell us about that company and the unique work you produce with them.
Eric Woolfe, Artistic Director, is not only my partner in running the Sandcastle, we also work together at Eldritch Theatre. It was the company’s long standing rental contracts with Red Sandcastle Theatre’s previous manager and owner Rosemary Doyle, that made the move from sometimes renter to Resident Theatre Company such a fantastic move. The management shift allowed us to expand to a whole season of theatre and try new things on top of producing shows like: Dungeons and Dragons online and in person camp for teens, horror-centric vendor markets, and staged readings. We are always trying to build more events and keep our space welcoming to help our patrons feel like they have a corner in this city where it’s not only allowed but applauded to be weird.
How did you get involved with Wren Theatre?
My friend Melanie Kastner was working with Andy Lyberopoulos who had written a monologue that wasn’t fitting into any other work, so he brought it to a showcase night back in 2009 and needed someone to act it out so Melanie suggested me to him (if you want to see it, it’s on YouTube). So when years later Andy and Tatum Lee were looking for some actors to be in their new works called State of Women, I got a call. That might have been one of the last times I had been onstage… life and death happened, pandemic happened, changing roles to run the Sandcastle happened, and I didn’t have the energy to do auditioning as much. Fast forward to one day Tatum calls me up with The Drowning Girls saying “read this and tell me which one you want.” and how can you say no to such a trusting director and a script like that?! I was wondering if I would ever return to the stage since being behind it for so long, but here was a perfect role and supportive team that it was an automatic yes.
What drew you to the role in The Drowning Girls?
Honestly, death and Edwardians. Since leaving the grind of cattle calls and burning out trying to get to every commercial audition, I went through a huge metamorphosis that started with my brother Andrew’s death by suicide that haulted my life and changed everything. My grief journey led to a new way of life by honouring the dead and dying. I became a Death Doula without even knowing it; recently companioning my friend Roberta in her final days with cancer. So when Tatum sent me the script I immediately fell for the framework she wanted around the script: untimely death, ghosts, vengeful spirits looking for justice. Being a long time horror fan (it helps with my work at Eldritch Theatre too…) I wanted to tune in more to the serial killer aspect and not shy away from how messed up this wed them/drown them modus operandis was! Plus, I have 13 years interpreting Victorian and Edwardian culture as I used to be a Historical Interpreter for the City of Toronto Museums so I felt right at home in a corset (I brought one of my own to play Margaret) and bloomers. It just felt like if any role was going to bring me out of hiatus it would be Margaret Elizabeth Lofty’s story.
The Drowning Girls is a true ensemble piece. Tell us about working with the rest of the cast.
Every rehearsal was a full cast call – how could it not be when the script is literally us finishing each other’s sentences. I may have signed on because the script and the content was up my alley, but I quickly realized I may have signed up for the Stage Olympics! White-out contacts, corsets, bare feet, bathtubs full of (cold) water, and THEN a script that left no margin for error as we NEVER LEAVE THE STAGE. *phew. I am so glad I had a team of amazing women with me up there: Vikki Velenosi and Amanda D’Souza gave it their all and it was such an amazing feeling to know they had my back and I had theirs. It was a sisterly energy of give and take; we complemented each other’s energy in rehearsal and onstage..
What were some of the most interesting conversations you remember having with director Tatum Lee in developing your interpretation of the role?
Right from the beginning it was apparent that Tatum wanted to explore the darker side of the script and I was here for it. What Tatum allows for is collaboration in the rehearsal room. I remember having this idea that the tea scene, which is the first real dialogue of the show, was never meant to be a memory for these characters – they never knew each other in real life! So we could do something otherworldly, I went big and did the scene like a Stepford Wife robot and it was never shot down or ridiculed by her. It didn’t stick but the evolution and time we had to play things out was a gift to get where we were going and I just love that about her style of directing. No idea was a bad idea, it was always a collaborative discussion of “oh that’s neat!” and seeing how we could either integrate it or grow off of it. Plus I was coming at this as a theatre manager (the show was presented at Sandcastle) and knew that we couldn’t afford water damage to the building from the three bathtubs full of water! But Tatum was always about finding ways to take challenges and make them into artistic choices, like how we went with so many towels as set pieces and costumes as it helped keep the water levels under control! That’s a great director: one that sees opportunities instead of setbacks.
Did you have a favourite moment in the production?
My death! Ha! I love stage combat and the imagery of the tub was so evocative plus the water splashing… I pushed for it to be as violent as we could get it, safely of course. My scene partner playing my killer husband, Vikki Velenosi, was really supportive, and Tatum and I were same-paging about it from the beginning. Tatum’s vision for the production was to lean into the horror of these murders, and I wanted this moment to be the climax of the show. As a bunch of vengeful spirits I really wanted to show WHY we were so mad. We trusted our husband, and not just that, but in such a vulnerable place too, the bathroom – I wanted the husband to be irredeemable. And right after when Margaret “wakes up” on the other side taking her first breath now with her drowned sisters always felt cathartic. I hope that all translated well for the audience.
Do you have anything you’d like to plug?
I want to shout out the amazing work that Wren Theatre is up to, I’m curious to see their next production!
And always what we are doing at Eldritch Theatre as we have so many new nightmares on the way.
And if you want to lean into talking about death maybe come to one of my upcoming death cafes, or just to see when my mental health kids show called Novembears is coming out check me out at adrianna-prosser.com
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
I have identified as a Storyteller for so long but I also love being a Story Collector, so I really hope if you have a story to tell on stage you will bring it to our theatre in the east end: redsandcastletheatre.com. I want to see what you are creating.