A twist on family ties

By on April 29, 2009
Whether they’re pirates, comics, or child orphans, characters from Tokyo International Players (TIP) never fail to unite and put on an entertaining act. In its 112-year run, TIP’s May production of Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver! will prove its biggest show yet.

One cast member says although it takes countless hours of practice, hard work, and dedication, the plays are fun and a great way to bring families together.

Over sixty actors and crew members are behind the project, and their bond is personal.

Set to play Oliver’s kindred guardian, Mr. Sowerberry, is Australia native Dale Haskel. His involvement with TIP goes back four years, and he claims the experience is a great one. Surely so, as he shares the stage with his thirteen-year-old daughter. “This is fun,” he gushes.

The Haskells always had a love for music and performing. Dale has fond memories of taking his daughter out to dance since she was three, and bonded over singing at home for hours at a time. And TIP tightened their knot. “It made us closer because we’re actually working on a production, and there’s the whole rehearsal stage.” With months of practice, imagine all that time together!

The Haskells aren’t the only family unit in Oliver Twist. Patty McManus from Connecticut, USA, joined the play after her daughters Katie and Emily, 12 and 11 respectively, auditioned. Although they aren’t in a lot of scenes together, the proud mother says they have a blast.

“It’s fun for [the girls] to see their mom in a different way,” professed McManus, who also relishes in seeing her kids don other personas. “That has opened up a lot of discussions between the three of us. I’m really glad to have had the experience and be able to share it with my two girls.”

The sisters also enjoy being in the act. Emily adores being on stage with her family and friends. “Me and my mom are in totally different scenes but I love watching her rehearse. We memorize lines together.”

“I like how it’s all a family and friends production, and we all know each other,” Katie beamed. “We all get closer once it comes to the real play.”

Director Lou McLeod also loves practice time. She enjoys bringing out the best in her actors as varied scenes develop. What’s the trick? “It’s about pulling different strings from every department together and looking at the whole thing.”

Seeing the entire cast sing together is also rewarding for her. “I like just standing back and going, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’”

There are six different families in the play, yet the entire cast is like a big one itself. The laughter goes on when they’re not rehearsing, and their collective hard work is sure to show on stage.

Interested in seeing the TIP’s production of Oliver? Check out www.tokyoplayers.org. Shows take place at the Theatre Sun Mall on May 14-17. It’s one show I’m certainly not going to miss!

About Martin Leroux