After 10 years and nearly 510 performances, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings has a funny answer to how she keeps playing the same character and keeping it fresh.
“Baking soda,” says the Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL) actor, who plays the lead role of nurse Myra Bennett in “Tempting Providence.”
Written by Robert Chafe, “Tempting Providence” tells the story of British-trained nurse and midwife Myra (Grimsley) Bennett.
Gillard-Rowlings is the only actor to play nurse Myra during the play’s 10-year run — a run that has taken the cast and crew from Cow Head, all over Canada and as far away as Australia.
On a serious note when asked how she keeps doing it after all this time, “it’s your job, you have to,” she said.
And like any other job, some days are more difficult than others.
“But ultimately it’s a really good play and I believe in it, so my heart keeps it fresh,” Gillard-Rowlings said.
She recently spoke to The Western Star from London, England, where the play was wrapping up before heading home to start its first rural tour of Newfoundland and Labrador.
She said playing Bennett is both rewarding and challenging because she is a real person.
To prepare for the role, Gillard-Rowlings said she did a lot of research trying to nail down who Myra Bennett was, and how she presented herself to the world.
After so long in the role, Gillard-Rowlings said she feels such a connection to her character that every now and then a little bit of Bennett comes out offstage.
“She has influenced me in a way, and I think she’s made me a little bit more driven,” she said. “She was just such an amazing woman who did so much.”
Gillard-Rowlings said 10 years is a long time in the same role, but she can’t imagine giving it up.
TNL’s rural tour of “Tempting Providence” started in Pasadena at St. David’s Anglican Church April 3.
TNL will share a portion of the box office with organizers at each location, and the Pasadena organizers have decided to donate their share to the Primate’s World Relief Development Fund to support the training for midwives in an indigenous community in Mexico.
At the end of the tour, “Tempting Providence” will head to Ontario for a short time, but after that, Gillard-Rowlings said, she has no idea what’s next.
“TNL sort of seems to keep finding little places for us to go,” she said.
Starring with Gillard-Rowlings in “Tempting Providence” is Darryl Hopkins as Angus Bennett, with Robert Wyatt Thorne playing a variety of male characters and Willow Kean playing numerous female characters. The play is directed by Jillian Keiley.
Tonight the troupe will perform at the Orange Lodge, Burnt Islands.
From there it’s off to Isle aux Morts, Upper Ferry and St. George’s, wapping up May 9 at St. James All Grade in Lark Harbour.
The Western Star