Mending Fences

Starting this week, Neptune Theatre in Halifax presents Norm Foster’s touching and witty drama about the reconciliation between a father and son.  Recently we spoke with one of the production’s principle actors Jack Nicholsen about his role and what audiences can expect during he run.

What are your own roots?
I guess my roots as an actor can be traced back to afternoons as a kid playing house with my sister and her friends in the back yard, or battling enemies with my friends in the backwoods of Surrey British Columbia. Imagining and re-enacting the struggles of my parents trying to make ends meet and raise us kids or the courage and strife of soldiers dragging their injured comrades to safety under heavy enemy bombardment.

When and why did you first become interested in theatre?
In school I was always an active participant in drama and in my oral class presentations I would almost always take on a persona and make a performance of it. Anyone, a character from a book we were studying in English class or a fictitious scientist explaining the properties and processes covered in the last science lab. After performing in many plays and festivals in high school I went on to take 2 years post secondary theatre training at Mount Royal College, in Calgary and 1 year of training at the University of Calgary. After that I put my last $100 in my pocket and drove to Toronto to see what I could do with what I had learned. I've been living in Ontario for going on 30 years. A few years after arriving in Toronto I landed a job with our director Miles Potter called the Games of Winter. It played across Canada following the Olympic torch on its journey to the '88 games in Calgary.

How did you get involved with this production?
Mending fences marks my third project working with Miles since then, the last of which was back in 2011 in Neptune Theatre's production of Norm Foster's  "Mrs. Parliament's Night Out". Miles is a fantastic director. He helps you get underneath every word in the script to discover its purpose, Nothing in the script is superfluous or there for colour, each word being a clue to what each character is thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Every word has its intention. For an actor he's the kind of director who challenges you to shed old habits and revisit everything you've learned about your craft. He reminds you of things forgotten and offers new tools to improve upon what's already in your tool belt. He gives audiences and actors a very detailed, nuanced experience in the theatre. When he offered this role to me last spring, I couldn't refuse the chance to work with him again.

What can audiences expect to experience during the run?
Mending fences is a wonderful play. It is about family, relationships and overcoming the obstacles to achieving deep and meaningful connections. It is a play about love. And of course, because its Norm Foster, its  chock full of humour and great characters. The challenge of this play is that it is a comedy about people struggling with broken hearts. We have to stay rooted in the reality of their world and avoid playing broad strokes simply to get the laugh. 
What are your thoughts on the current state of theatre in Atlantic Canada?
I haven't had the opportunity to catch a lot of theatre in Halifax but from what I've heard audiences are starting to come out more than ever. Certainly Neptune is a great place to work as an artist. The theatre is gorgeous, the crew and staff are friendly and professional, it's located to so many great restaurants and attractions and they put out great shows utilizing some of Canada's best talents.

What's next on your creative agenda?
Currently, I am working on a play I have in development that should see its first reading/presentation in Toronto next summer. In the spring 2015 I will be performing at Theatre Calgary in their production of Ken Cameron's "Dear Johnny Deere".

Mending Fences
October 21-November 9, 2014
Neptune Theatre, Halifax