This Summer The Orillia Opera House Welcomes Director Jesse Collins
We met with Jesse to chat about the plays, his ideas and thoughts on the theatre, the people who attend, having a good laugh and, well, life in general.
How does a young boy from Cannington, Ontario, who aspired to be a singer become a successful Canadian theatre director? Via the University of Toronto of course, and a not so popular refusal to attend law school … a very memorable family dinner table discussion!
My good friend Tim Finley (Tiff), was instrumental in giving me my start in theatre. An agent asked me to put off my education for a year and give theatre a try thinking I could make a whopping $6,000 my first year! Six thousand or a million dollars, when you have no experience seemed a pretty lofty goal!
My mentor, Alan Scarfe, director extraordinaire, guided me in my various decisions in my budding career, particularly when I wanted to go to the London Actors and Directors Academy in London Ontario. A quick, why bother, from Alan took me on a tremendously rewarding journey that I still live with passion today … a very cool four to five years in stage directing and many years in the film and television industry.
A good buddy of mine and one of my favourite people, Donny Bowes and I opened a small theatre in my native Port Credit, Ontario. After four years we realized we were losing money at breakneck speed, unable to compete with the country’s most successful live theatre in Morrisburg, Ontario, which, even today, has a 96 per cent box office…phenominal for a 275 seat venue!
What do you enjoy about each production?
Seeing stories about everyday people in extraordinary situations. Whether its a comedy, a social issue piece or heavy drama and watching the audience take away the delightful entertainment feeling!
My favourite plays are comedies, which sounds simple. Funny enough a comedy only can work from a good base of humour and acknowledge it is funny and “mine” the humour through the production.
It has been said comedy is like a frog in science class, you can dissect it, but it usually dies in the process.
My favourite all time play Norm Foster’s Melville Boys. I have seen it many, many times and always enjoy the full experience of the show.
Two Norm Foster plays I will be directing. One, a western called Outlaw, written about ten years ago, an unusual western about a Canadian farmer travelling thru the American midwest falsely accused of a crime. It’s a “take” on the then American/Canadian frontier justice system.
The other, The Ladies Foursome a delightful show about a group of ladies all reuniting after the fourth in their golf foursome has recently passed away. A new fourth, who ran the lodge where the former friend, now deceased, had spent two weeks every summer is welcomed into the group. All have different memories to share.
Favourite Person to work with?
Donny Bowes. He completely understands how democratic theatre can be!
What would your Dream Play look like?
Small theatre, great actors, good script and a short run! This may seem surprising but some great actors are only available to you for a short period of time due to their own work demands, so you snap them up for the best run possible!
Explain “Sense of Connection” with the Audience?
The moment we all share the same breath. After someone has jumped out of a closet. We are all in the exact same moment at the exact same time. Very cool. Never gets old!
Be careful how much room you give them in your theatre experience. Go for yourself and enjoy!
Some people are afraid of the theatre, why?
Various reasons, I suppose whether a play is about a current socially sensitive issue or racial, or political, society has sort of positioned it as a “high brow” activity when truthfully it is, in fact, everyday people on a stage telling extraordinary stories!
What’s next for Jesse Collins?
Maybe a Christmas Production.
At the Muskoka cottage with my wife and son! Have had it for 25 years and initially really didn’t enjoy it, as a country boy from Cannington.
I loved the city life, then married a city girl who, you guessed it, loved the country and cottage life. Now you can’t keep me away!
We also love to travel, with our favourite place to visit being Botswana, Africa. My wife and I have been four times and love being totally off the grid.
Unfinished Business for Jesse?
Funny you asked that. Writing a great comedy! Don’t laugh, I really, really want to!Shelley Weir, Associate Publisher