An empty nester with a lifelong love of music and theatre is mustering her passion and new-found spare time on the stage of Gallery 7 Theatre this weekend, for the debut of a digital production of The Little Prince.
Dianna Fast, 52, started in music and theatre at a young age – as part of her school choir and drama programs, and similarly engaged in musical productions with her church.
Jump forward a few years, and as a wife and mother of two boys (who just so happened to share her love of musicals and theatrics), Fast taught voice and piano and found herself back stage for 13 years as director of the Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary School musicals.
With both her sons now graduating and married, Fast sought to find some new but related outlets for her creativity. That served as her motivation for auditioning for the Gallery 7’s spring 2019 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
She was cast as Mrs. Potiphar and in the ensemble.
“I was thrilled… It was an incredible experience,” she recounted.
Soon after came the role as Donna Sheridan in the Fraser Valley Stage production of Mamma Mia, which premiered just prior to COVID-19.
“As an empty nester, you have to find something you love to do to now fill your time,” Fast said.
She insists she’s found that – both on and off stage with various community theatre groups.
“I think it’s important as we age to keep our minds active,” so that’s probably reason number one that Fast ventured out of her comfort zone and auditioned for this most recent show.
But there was more motivation.
“Gallery 7 was doing a filmed play, and I thought it would be a neat experience to try doing this sort of thing. COVID isn’t fully going away anytime soon, so this may be the new way of live theatre for a bit.”
While this is her second production as an actor with Gallery 7, in fall 2019 she also ventured down a new road when she wrote – alongside children’s author Heather Tekavec, a 25-minute comedy called “Don’t Forget to Dress the Dummies.”
Fast went on to produce and direct that play at Gallery 7’s annual Abby Art Festival, and when learning of the audition call for The Little Prince, she “jumped” at another opportunity to test herself a little further.
In The Little Prince, she’s taking on multiple roles as Flower, the Geographer, and the Rose in a new adaptation (by Vancouver playwright Gabe Kirkley) of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novella.
She began memorizing her lines for The Little Prince in early February and is grateful for Zoom helping hide the fact that she didn’t have them all down during the earlier rehearsals.
“I could cheat a little if I didn’t have all my lines memorized by the due date, so that was cool,” she said, recounting one of the funniest moments occurring during the lead up to the show going live.
“We were running scenes on Zoom, and it was the Little Prince and the fox scene – one that I wasn’t in. So, when it wasn’t my scene, I would mute my mic and practise my lines. So there I was practising my lines in a very animated way and the producer yelled out, ‘Dianna, your mic is on,’ completely interrupting the scene. So funny. Still makes me laugh!”
Preparing now for the proverbial curtain to go up on the show this weekend, Fast assured everyone she now has her lines memorized. But she admitted she is filled with a blend of nervousness and excitement, anxious to help bring the show to life.
“I probably have had more experience directing at this point, but am starting to gather more experience in acting now. The Little Prince is the first play I’ve been in. I prefer musicals because I love the singing and dancing, and I am probably more experienced in those two areas, so my confidence is greater,” she said.
Through her years of directing, Fast learned to dance and do choreography.
“I’ve sang and played the piano since I was quite young, and I think I’m funny but my family begs to differ… Whatever. My mom thinks I’m funny and that’s all that matters, right?” she shared.
But acting and running lines – not as easy as one might think.
The virtual production of The Little Prince will be available on-demand starting Friday, March 26 with online livestream screening events – complete with audience interaction and post-show artist chats – scheduled for Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27, respectively, at 7:30 p.m.
With in-person theatre performances on-hold temporarily, Gallery 7 decided to double-down on its digital productions and focus on the development of new and original scripts, explained artistic director Ken Hildebrandt.
The Little Prince tells the story of an aviator who crash lands in the desert and meets a strange little man known as the Little Prince. He shares about a thrilling cosmic adventure, visiting planets across the universe and meeting oddly familiar characters. Along the way, he learns important lessons about loneliness, friendship, love, and loss.
Tickets and full details are available at www.gallery7theatre.com.
“It’s just super neat that a live show is performed and recorded,” Fast said.
“If you like live theatre, I think this is the next best thing. It is live! We performed in front of green screens and we each had our own camera, so I think it will be really interesting to see how Gallery 7 pulls this off,” she shared. “I personally can’t wait to see it.”
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