Cue to Cue Series – Ryan Beil & Main Street Theatre

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Laurence Olivier once said that “in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, great theatre is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture“. There is no better proof of this than in the umbilical connection between Vancouver’s thriving culture and bourgeoning theatre scene.

Here on Cue to Cue we’ll regularly feature in-depth previews and reviews of the shows that create the face of Vancouver theatre, as well as interviews with the local artists behind it all…

We are well in to a great season for theatre, and there is no better example of it than some of the projects on the horizon.  Described as “theatre at its most startling”,  Ronnie Burkett is one of this week’s highlights as he returns with his new marionette piece Penny Plain at the Cultch.   Hannah Moscovitch’s conceptually complex Russian Play & Mexico City opens at Presentation House.  Arts Club’s latest musical Blood Brothers (featuring Spirit of the West’s John Mann) begins previews at The Stanley.  From puppets, to war plays…a little something for everyone.
Also gearing up is one of the year’s hottest tickets, True West, Main Street Theatre’s latest offering.  For the last three years, the men and women of MST have transformed the intimate Little Mountain Gallery in to one of the most saught after performance spaces.  A series of independant theatre producers have followed their suit, inspired by the explosive staging and filmic intimacy that the city’s theatre community had rarely experienced before hand.   Their first production, Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, is still one of the best I’ve ever seen and though Arts Club tried their hand at the same script shortly after I would have been quite content to let it live unchallenged in my memory for a few more years.  Their two subsequent productions, American Buffalo and Lie of the Mind, solidified their place as tastemakers in the city.
Like all of the people behind Main Street Theatre,  Ryan Beil has a full plate of work these days.  When he is not performing on some of the largest stages in the city, and filming national commerical campaigns, Ryan is also a fixture in Vancouver’s thriving comedy scene.  In fact, this week marks the 5th Anniversay of his Improv super group The Sunday Service, which has been a favourite of audiences and comedians alike (they have two specials to mark the occasion tonight and of course Sunday).   This week I had a chance to sit down with the Jessie Award winner (and all around really nice guy), to hear a bit more about True West and the work behind the success:
(L) Darryl King (R) Ryan Beil (photo by Stephen Malloy)
Who are you?

Ryan Beil. Actor, Comedian, Producer, and occasioanl writer. Born and raised in Vancouver.

Who is Main Street Theatre?

A bunch of jerks dedicated to producing contemporary classic plays in an intimate environment with a focus on storytelling. Specifically we are made up of four Co-artistic Producers: Myself, Stephen Malloy, Josh Drebit and Daryl King. One Artistic Associate: Patrick Keating. And our resident stage manager: Steph Meine.

One word to decribe each of your counterparts:

Since there’s a lot of them, I will use one common word for all. Partially because I am lazy and partially because I have a hard time not sounding insulting with these kinds of questions. Therefore, the word I will use is: dedicated. I know that is a little anti-climactic, obvious and kind of makes me sound like a wanker, but…if you have ever produced independent theatre in this town, you’d know that’s kind of the only word you can go with.

How Did Main Street Theatre start?

Over beers and on a whim. We came together as a group out of the desire to put on a play we always wanted to be in or work on. We’ve been plugging away in that vein ever since.

What’s the process for choosing the shows? Do you have a mandate?

We don’t really have a mandate, but there are two driving forces when it comes to choosing plays. 1) we find scripts that we are all passionate to stage and 2) we think about what would be good shows to bring to our audience and 3) We make sure there are good parts for myself Josh and Daryl.

11 Jessie Award nominations for MST alone, not including your own individual successes. Does that sort of early recognition affect any of your choices?

Not at all. We are humbled by that recognition and certainly never predicted it, but, what we want to work on as artists has not wavered.

What can we expect from True West?

You can expect dark comedy, a compelling story, thrilling twists and a beautiful exploration of the blood connections within the family dynamic.

You could easily fill bigger houses, what is it about Little Mountain Gallery that keeps it your home base?

In Little Mountain we have the ability to stage our productions right up in an audience’s face. Being so close to the action makes the emotional journeys of the characters infinitely more accessible than if you were watching from 50 feet away at a safe distance in a traditional theatre. I have always preferred theatre in small venues. In some ways it bridges the gap between film and theatre.

Since graduating from UBC in 2005, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned about the industry?

That you have to hustle everyday. All day everyday. You can’t just sit around and watch the phone. You’ve got to make shit happen for yourself. If you want to call yourself an actor then you should spend a majority of your time working on that craft in someway.

How do you balance your many projects?

Sometimes poorly. But for the most part, I make sure they don’t overlap too bad, then put my head down and work.

What inspires you theatrically?

Good Stories.

What makes you laugh?

Lots of things. I’m a pretty laughey guy. But for the sake of the interview I’ll choose one thing that I find particularly funny. And that thing is: Adult Tantrums.

What’s next for you?

The Importance of Being Earnest at the Stanley. As well as our fifth year of The Sunday Service improv sets every Sunday at the Kozmik Zoo (formerly the Hennessey).

Thanks Ryan!

True West opens November 29th and runs through December 10th nightly at 7:30pm.  As always, shows are Pay What You Can (recommended 20$).  Shows are already beginning to sell out, and reservations can be made at 604 992 2313. 

 

As always you can ontact me at cuetocue@vancouverisawesome.com or @viaplays