Heather Rankin is no stranger to the stage; along with her regular gig as a member of Nova Scotia’s most famous musical family, the young songstress is making a name for herself in the world of theatre. Recently she spoke with Arts East about her role as Bitsy in Daniel MacIvor’s hilarious Bingo!, which runs until November 4 at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
How did you get involved with Bingo?In the spring of 2010 Equity held an open audition for members in Halifax. I believe there were about 15 directors from various Canadian theatre companies in attendance. For some time, I wanted to get back to working in the theatre and this presented an opportunity to introduce myself to all of these directors in one audition. So I worked up a couple of pieces and a song and crashed the audition. Emmy Alcorn, the artistic director for Mulgrave Road Theatre was one of the directors there that day. Later that same week, after seeing a show at Neptune Theatre, on my way out I ran into to Emmy and she casually mentioned that she might have something for me to read, a part in Daniel MacIvor’s play “Bingo”. I was thrilled but honestly didn’t expect to ever hear from her again. Later that year, she invited me to go in and read for her and Daniel for the part of Bitsy, Kathy Cameron. The rest as they say is history.
What has the response been like from audiences/critics?The response could not have been better, very positive all around. Daniel was recently awarded a Merritt award in Halifax for best new play for "Bingo". We were all so thrilled for him and so proud to be part of the unveiling of such a wonderful piece.
Does that matter to you?I aim to please in anything I approach whether it is with music or theatre. Awards and compliments are wonderful but ultimately my job as a performer is to connect with the observer. People come to the theatre to be entertained, to find validation and sometimes for an escape. It takes a lot of courage for a performer to get on stage and give an honest representation of someone’s work. That process can be exciting but when the work clicks and you make that connection with the audience - that is the most gratifying feeling a performer can have.
What has it been like to work with Daniel MacIvor?It’s been an honour working with Daniel. I’ve seen a number of his films and I’ve read many of his plays and I am a big fan. I effortlessly connect with his writing. Having the opportunity to work with him has meant a great deal to me. I still pinch myself. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Daniel. I have been in very good hands from the get go. He has that ability to give very clear direction while still allowing you to explore how you might approach each scene. He’s a very clever man.
What can audiences expect during the Neptune run?Bingo is a funny and warm and touching piece. Each person in the audience will connect differently with the various characters in Bingo and they will laugh and be moved by Daniel’s words. He has this incredible ability to address serious issues while maintaining a sense of humour.
What is the greatest challenge of the role?I think the greatest challenge of the role is the same in any role you play and that is to remain present every moment you are on stage and to keep it honest. That is very important to me. It sounds so simple and the very best actors make it look so simple but it can slip away from you if you are not focused. I love that challenge.
What are the rewards?The reward is being in the company of creative people and being a part of the collective energy that comes with working toward a common goal. But ultimately the biggest reward is connecting with people, the audience. If there was ever a time when it is important to connect with people it is now. We are living in a time of great disconnectedness and theatre is a wonderful way to get that back.
How have your roots influenced the role?“Bingo” is set in Cape Breton and Bitsy was born and bred there - in fact she’s never left. Much like Bitsy I too have a strong link with my roots in Cape Breton. Although not a full time resident I spend a great deal of time there and I always will. And I believe for the most part the people of Cape Breton are a humble people and that has been passed down through the generations. Growing up in Cape Breton there is a strong sense of rootedness in place. Relationships with the people in our community cross the generations and run deep. Oh yes, and I should mention the wonderful sense of humour. We are able to laugh at ourselves and make light of the darkest times.
What’s next on your creative agenda?I am really excited about working in the theatre more and hopefully doors will continue to open for me. I have had the most amazing time working on Bingo and I am looking forward to future opportunities!