Theatre Orangeville regular Debbie Collins talks up the stage

July 24, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

If your life’s focus is suspended, you still plan to bring it back. This is certainly so for so many performers – actors, musicians, entertainers that have been, like the rest of the world, put out of work by the Coronavirus pandemic.

 In a recent telephone interview with Debbie Collins, the Citizen had the chance to hear her take on the present day and her hopes for the days to come. 

“I had all of these items in my garage, which I was determined to clear out, but I don’t want them to go to a landfill. There was a trunk that we used for the whole Mixed Doubles. Everything came out of it, including us. ”

She elucidated, “That was a show with all the famous duos of the old music and television and theatre. It is a very vaudevillian show and I love vaudeville. 

“Next version will be coming out of wardrobe, I think,” she added humorously. “I’ve always been interested in those duos. My parent talked about all those famous duos – Burns and Allen, Lucy and Desi and all the others. So, we put them all in the show. Dean Hollin and I – we wrote it, produced it, acted in it and promoted it to theatres. We performed at Stirling Festival Theatre, Orillia Opera House, the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood; we did a couple of fund raisers. The last time was about four or five years ago.”

Talking about the shift from lock down to a hopeful time of re-opening, Ms. Collins remarked, “I was talking to the Artistic Director at Stirling Festival Theatre,” where she has often appeared,” and he just said ‘we’re trying to plan for everything.’ I’m so grateful that I’m being supported by government funding, for the first time. Before this, I always found some way to take care of things myself.

“My partner, Sarah [Jane O’Donnell], she has a children’s theatre company, Crazy Pants Theatre Company. That’s closed for the moment. It’s been going for seven years and this put a stop to it, until we can go back.”

Naturally, Ms. Collins has thrilled and entertained audiences at Theatre Orangeville with her one woman Judy Garland Show, which she wrote and performs herself. 

Artistic Director, David Nairn has said, “She positively channels Judy Garland in that show.”

Menopositive and Sexy Laundry are only two more of her several other hilarious and delightful performances here. Having said that, perhaps, her participation in Theatre Orangeville’s triumphant production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream was one her most memorable theatre experiences. 

In this marvellous theatrical event, which took place on the Amphitheatre stage on Island Lake in August 2019, directed by Colin Simmons, Ms. Collins played the role of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and betrothed to Duke Theseus, played by David Nairn himself.

“My first Shakespeare,” she said, admitting, “I was terrified – fortunately Hippolyta doesn’t say very much. If I had had to do one of those long monologues, I might have been done. But it was magical.”

We mentioned Mr. Nairn’s assertion that he had not done any Shakespeare for many years and she just said, “David can do anything. His talent is so flexible and he’s so intelligent.”

She went on to talk about rehearsals here at Theatre Orangeville under Mr. Nairn’s direction: “I just love his energy – being in the rehearsal hall, discussing, what’s the best way to tell the story – the best to work this character and there’s no one that does this better than he does.” 

The rescued trunk, “That has now become a vegetable garden,” she said. Reflecting, “I’m thinking about where I’m going from here. I’ve always been so lucky that the next step is has been apparent and I’m at a bit of loss at the moment and I’m honouring that.

“I’m giving my old house some love; working on a list but it’s not getting shorter. Also, my family is important.

“There are ways to do it and we are all entertaining those thoughts: how do we do it; how do we make it work?”

The conversation was interrupted by an exclamation – “There are pine cones flying at me – squirrels are chucking pine cones…”

She went indoors.

“We’re always thinking how to make something because this what we love to do. So, how do we proceed? We’re not giving it up. I have participated in a bit part, recording my role in a murder mysterty; in it, I was responding to someone I wasn’t seeing.”

The way it worked: “I filmed myself doing my role at home; emailed it to the director and he put all the pieces together [like music performances]. People are all working in their homes. Even watching the news, they’re in their own offices, – talking to whoever they are – it’s all remote.”

Ms. Collins and Ms. O’Donnell have a small dog, a rescue from Mexico City, Ms. Collins explaining, “She’s imported. Sarah brought her in – she did a lot of research, bringing her to not too far from us- she’s a little, very timid, little soul. We’re not sure what breed, she’s a mix.”

Marking time, as artists largely are, her ambition is clear: “I intend to go back to the stage until I can’t do that any more. I want to stand beside a grand piano and beside people that like it as much as I do.”

She said, “You can’t compare it to anything else. I miss the audiences; I miss the people I get to work with at Theatre Orangeville and others. I really miss the energy.”

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