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by Eric Lam

They’ve been waiting a long, long time. But after years of intense studying, preparation and anxiety, fourth-year Ryerson theatre students finally took to the stage.

This past week, the Ryerson Theatre School opened its well-established doors for yet another season.

The cast of the school’s new play, Walking on Water, which opened last week, have been busy preparing for its debut since Labour Day.

Set in 1949, the play chronicles the lives and loves of the neurotic residents of Ashburnham, a sort of Anytown, Canada. The ghosts of the town’s inhabitants also happen to find time to solve the murder of one of their own.

“I had to get into it pretty quick. I found out I was working (on the play) in mid-August,” said fourth-year technical production student Marianna Rosato, stage manager of Walking on Water. “The first day of school was the first day of rehearsals.”

From auditions to rehearsals through to final technical-effects preparations, the entire production took less than a month to complete.

“Three weeks solid,” revealed Eric Morin, who plays Neil Griffin — the lead in an otherwise ensemble cast. Whereas in their third year the students would work on a 10-minute scene for two months, “now, (preparation time) is short. It really prepares us for Stratford,” Griffin added.

The play, written by playwright Dave Carley and directed by Michael Waller, marks the first of four full productions for the 2005-06 graduating class of the bachelor of fine arts in performance program.

Nils Hognestad, who plays Wilkie the mortician, thinks that the play has much to offer. “It’s a comedic murder-mystery, but with many tender moments in it, too.”

Actor Daniel McPherson agrees that it’s an unusual production. “I’m the dead guy,” he said with a chuckle, referring to his character, murder victim Lee Kwan. He began bouncing a rubber ball while we talked.

“It takes a lot more concentration than you think. I fell asleep during one of the rehearsals.”

The two actors also bounced one-liners off each other as they lounged comfortably under a window looking out on a rainy Ryerson campus.

Both are already in auditions for the next production, The Hostage. Among other things, the audition calls for them to do an Irish jig and several riotous drinking songs.

“No four-part harmonies, though,” said Hognestad as McPherson got up for his audition.

The beginning of their fourth year did bring some bittersweet feelings for both Morin and co-star Janick Hebert, who likened the year to stepping on a different stage.

“I know it’s gonna be hard,” Morin said. “But I’m also excited to leave. It’s time, you know? Time to work with new people.”

Third-year theatre student Masayuki Hashimoto will certainly miss the graduating class. “They’re all such great actors. It’s sad to see them go. You finally get to know them then next year, they’re gone.”

Rosato agreed. “They have a lot of enthusiasm. Their energy is inspiring.

“It’s kind of sad never to be working here again, but it’s a two-week run so you can be nostalgic for two weeks.”

Be sure to check out our website for Eric Lam’s review of Walking on Water.

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