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First up at Theatre Orangeville Online: The Rules of Playing Risk

April 2, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

What a pleasure to interview David Nairn and Liam MacDonald via Facetime this week, to talk about the upcoming Theatre Orangeville Online production of The Rules of Playing Risk, opening online and on your television from April 16 to May 2. 

We learned something of this one act play, written by Kristen Da Silva, from these two gentlemen in the course of our conversation. Young Brandon, a 16-year-old, whose father died before he was born, finds himself in need of a place to stay. He writes to his paternal grandfather to ask to stay with him. He has never met his grandfather and knows almost nothing about him.

That grandfather, Garfield, is surprised and not happy to receive this request, used as he is to his own company and, in the moment, recovering from an accident that took place some weeks ago. His nurse, Maggie, comes in to see him every day and she is determined that Garfield is going to welcome this grandson he, likewise, has never met and knows almost nothing about, into his home.

So, he does.

What follows is the story of a teenager, whose short history is already troubled and an old man, still suffering the long-term effects of the death of his son, Brandon’s father; an old man, stuck in his ways and, maybe, miserable in his days of recovery from his accident. What would it take for them to find their way together? It could be the game of Risk.

Liam MacDonald was six years old when he first appeared on Theatre Orangeville’s Main Stage, 10 years ago.

“It was A Christmas Carol, in 2011,” David Nairn recalled, browsing the posters on his office wall, where he was sitting for the interview with the Citizen.

That was the first of his many appearances with Theatre Orangeville, including Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street and The Last Christmas Turkey.

Liam told the Citizen, “It’s great to be back. The last time I was in a production here was in 2018. Coming back to do this is like coming home.”
As are so many other people his age, Liam is at school; he is doing the school work online balancing school with rehearsals as his did in his younger years here and, this time, filming the play. It is tricky but he managed it then and he has done so again this time.

Of this play, produced in a way so as to have been labelled a “hybrid,” Liam commented, “This still feels like a theatre production.”

Since his days with theatre productions and with Mirvish, Liam has acted in several movies. He brings that experience with him now, as a contrast: “In a film, I would get the script in advance but [with the changes] you get your lines for the next scene the night before shooting or that morning. So, you don’t know your lines until just before going on.”

He said, “Here, we had the time to learn the lines and work on the characters. In, film, a lot of the creative process happens while we’re filming, where, with this, you work before filming.”

As Director of “Risk,” Mr. Nairn contributed, “While filming theatre, I was watching on a monitor. From a personal view, it was really different. I relied on Liam’s experience as well. Even though [he] was there, I warmed [up] to the idea of two worlds colliding: first theatre and then film. It was a cool new experience.”

Every step of these many months of putting Theatre Orangeville online in a meaningful way, there have been “lessons learned with every new show, a little bit scary at times, I will confess. As director in the theatre, I’m standing back in the audience [space]. It is a collaborative art form but now we have a camera director, who calling a lot of the shots in these are hybrid artistic collective decisions.”

He elucidated, “This is because the camera is so specific that we have to hand that over and then, we work together.”

Completely unlike live theatre, filming leaves less to chance.

“We did shoot every scene several times, matching them up to make the integrity of the show. Hours of filming for a 75 minute production,” said Mr. Nairn.

Speaking about the story of The Rules of Playing Risk from his own perspective, Liam MacDonald said, “This is a really honest and beautiful script. There were so many things I could relate to. A young boy’s father died before he was born; the boy is under house arrest and he has to go and live with his grandfather.

“They’re coming from different ends of the pole at first – yes – eventually, when they begin to play Risk, [things change]. There’s a bond of blood and a desire in that they’re both missing something…”

One of them said: “It is a quest story.”

This play is, in part, about a boy who has no knowledge of his father, the grandfather’s son. Perhaps, that will improve by living with his grandfather.

Liam loves this play for its sincerity: “This is the most sincere I’ve ever been able to play on this stage,” he said. “It was the most I could relate and pour emotions in this character. There’s a lot for me to take away from this experience. It’s such a great environment. Neil [Foster, as Garfield], Erin [MacKinnon, as Maggie], David [Nairn] – they taught me so much.”

Answering this praise with his own, David Nairn remarked, “I was somewhat taken aback to hear some of the passion and some of the language [there is adult language in the play]. It was quite a leap from what we’ve done.” Directing himself to Liam, Mr. Nairn said, “It was thrilling to see you as an [another] person.”

“At this age,” Liam attested, “you don’t get to be honest on the stage. I get to feel who Brandon is and take who I am. Some of the scenes that I have are the most honest I’ve ever done. It’s been a great opportunity to stretch.”

Between them, they summed up this must-see play: “It’s such a beautiful, honest show,” said Liam; “There is humour: this is a piece of theatre.”

What else is new about this production is the option to transfer the visual to your television. People have said that, after hours facing their devices’ smaller screens, it is more comfortable to watch entertainment on their larger television screens. 

Says the note from Theatre Orangeville: “You can stream the Theatre Orangeville Presents Online shows onto your TV! We offer instructions and different examples of how patrons can easily cast the plays to their tv’s on our website. When in doubt they can always call us.”

For a last note, David Nairn reminded us, “Risk is a board game that involves world conquest. It’s been known to rend families asunder. The irony is this game of Risk is used to bond.”

For your virtual tickets go to or call the Box Office at 519-942-2423

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