Overture, Curtain, Lights!

Overture, Curtain, Lights!

It was a dark and stormy night when I drove downtown to audition for the Quebec Art Company’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace. I meandered through the twisting streets inside the walls of Old Québec until I found my way to Carter Hall, beside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. As I was heading for the front door, I met up with Scott Emery, the star of the show. Emery is a drama teacher whose class I had been substitute teaching in that same week. I took it as a sign that I was where I was supposed to be.

The Quebec Art Company is not to be confused with The Art Company, a Dutch pop group from Tilburg that started in 1983. (Thanks for nothing Google search!) According to the QAC’s website, “The Quebec Art Company was founded in 1981, and has produced over 40 shows.  It is the longest running English amateur theatre company in Quebec City.  For almost three decades, the community has come together and offered their talent, time and love of theatre to make our productions possible.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1939 play written by American playwright Joseph Kesselring. The film adaptation is directed by Frank Capra and stars Cary Grant, with Lieutenant Rooney (my small but integral role) being played by Victor Sutherland.

Hugh Corston (left) as Mortimer Brewster, Jason Enlow (centre) as Lieutenant Rooney and Alec Roberts (right) as Teddy Brewster

I was nervous reading my lines for the first time. We sat around a long table while stern faced portraits of past church officials stared down at us from the walls. I shouldn’t have worried because the other members of the cast were easy going and friendly. Some of them had known each other a long time and others, like me, were QAC novices.

After months of rehearsals, it was time to be fitted for our costumes and throw aside our scripts. The sets were ready, the lights were tested and the old carpet from the ballroom at the Chateau Frontenac was rolled out. This was it, the night of nights! I was genuinely surprised to feel as comfortable as I did getting my makeup done and heading from the green room to wait in the wings behind the heavy faded curtains. The well-worn stage glowed warmly from the blue, yellow and white floodlights above. The show began and we were performing live, without a safety net. Fellow performers whispered and nodded to each other as the audience laughed out loud in appreciation. It was gratifying to be entertaining people.

I guess that’s why some Hollywood actors sometimes say that they prefer stage acting; there’s an excitement to live performance that isn’t there in television or film. Anything can happen when you’re in front of live audience and believe me, it usually does. I used to work as a TV extra (background actor) and while the buffet was good, the waiting time between scenes was long. Theatre is instant; it’s fun to perform and entertaining to watch.

The Quebec Art Company offers the community at least two English theatre productions a year and these vary from popular musicals to original plays. Speaking of which, you’re just in time to catch the QAC’s latest Production, Murder on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Performances run from Thursday, December 2 until Sunday, December 5. Tickets can be reserved by calling (418) 254-6552 or purchased at the door on the night of the performances at Holland Elementary School, 940 Ernest-Gagnon. If you’re interested, the Quebec Art Company might be for you, they are “always on the lookout for volunteers and new talent: actors, singers, directors, producers, stage crew, costumes, set design, or anyone simply interested in participating in a production.”

Categories: Arts & Culture

About Author

Jason Enlow

Jason Enlow is a Special Education Technician at an English elementary school. He was born in Montreal, Quebec and grew up in Burlington, Ontario. Jason studied Radio and Television at Ryerson University in Toronto. His previous employers include CityTV, CBC, The Weather Network, and Global Television. He’s worked as a DJ, camera operator, musician, teacher, translator and video game content designer. Jason moved to Quebec City in 1997 where he still lives today with his wife and three sons.