Vancouver Sun

Reed revisits first love with season opener

Director smitten by The Rainmaker while in school

- MARK LEIREN- YOUNG

The Rainmaker

Oct. 10 to Nov. 1 | Pacific Theatre Tickets & Info: From $ 19.99 at pacificthe­atre. org

Most theatre people remember their first true love. Maybe they can’t recall their first date, or the first person they kissed, but they know which play or performanc­e they saw that made them realize they weren’t just in a theatre, they were home.

Ron Reed was in high school in Calgary when he was smitten by The Rainmaker. And the artistic director of Pacific Theatre is kicking off his season with a production of the American classic.

As Reed tells The Sun about directing the show he fell for in Grade 12 it’s clear that the passion is still there as he talks about “the thrill” of directing the play and how he was relieved and delighted to discover he still finds it as “potent” as he had as a kid.

“I’m really familiar with the play. I’ve taught some of these scenes many, many times,” says Reed. “It takes me back to my high school days and all that was going on in my life then and it’s kind of sparked again some of that youthful take on life and what the play meant to me at that time.”

The show’s Broadway debut in 1954 featured Geraldine Page as a 27- yearold “spinster” and Darren McGavin as the con man, Starbuck, promising to bring rain to her draught- stricken Depression- era, Prairie farm. A 1956 screen version starred Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. Since then Richard Nash’s script has become a community theatre classic and a high school staple. It was also the basis for the Broadway musical, 110 in the Shade. A 1999 Broadway revival starred Woody Harrelson in the title role.

Reed’s honouring his inner high school kid by casting his company’s apprentice­s from last year in leading roles — Pippa Johnstone, Kenton Klassen, and Ryan Scramstad.

Asked about Johnstone — a rising star on the local scene who’s playing the role made famous by Hepburn — Reed explains, “sometimes they use the phrase that somebody’s acting without any skin on. There’s no barrier between what they think, what they feel and what comes out for us. She’s got that transparen­cy. You just see inside her. Combined with that there’s a confidence and a strength.”

Robert Salvador ( who starred in last year’s Pacific Theatre production Espresso) plays the rainmaker.

“Rob’s pure charisma,” says Reed. “He does that effortless­ly and that means we don’t have to focus on him as the shaman- used car salesman- con man at all because people are drawn to him, so he can play the human side of this guy. He comes into this family and they’re really fine people and he can’t sell rain to them, he can’t make his deal if he comes across as a shyster.

“Pippa and Rob as Lizzie and Starbuck are just such ideal casting for what I see in the play. Just so truthful, so transparen­t. The risk of this play is that you play it like a high school play. I just feel like the story is so grounded in very real people, not far from us at all and when you’ve got two actors who are that truthful and that simple, it’s very moving, very moving.”

Asked if he was feeling any additional pressure about opening his season after beating out the Arts Club and Bard on the Beach for many of the top awards at last year’s Jessies — including best production for The Seafarer — Reed says “naah.” Then he laughs.

“We did this theatre for a full decade where we weren’t even invited to the party,” says Reed, recalling his early years where his shows were ignored by reviewers and, for the most part, audiences. “You really learn to do theatre for your own reasons. You do it because you love doing your own work. … I know this play works for audiences. They do love this. it touches them deeply and entertains them and I love doing it.”

 ?? EMILY COOPER ?? Robert Salvador, Pippa Johnstone and John Voth star in The Rainmaker, which runs until Nov. 1 at the Pacific Theatre.
EMILY COOPER Robert Salvador, Pippa Johnstone and John Voth star in The Rainmaker, which runs until Nov. 1 at the Pacific Theatre.
 ?? EMILY COOPER ?? Ron Reed directs The Rainmaker, which he first encountere­d as a high school student in Calgary.
EMILY COOPER Ron Reed directs The Rainmaker, which he first encountere­d as a high school student in Calgary.

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