Geri Cummings will play Frances, a heavily pregnant 39-year old helpline call-centre operator in You Stupid Darkness!, the new play by Sam Steiner, whose Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Daniel entered in a past Drama Festival.
“No matter how different from you the character you are cast to play seems to begin with, you always connect with it, and they become a part of you and you a part of them,” Geri says. “There always is a part of you in the characters you portray. You never lose yourself completely in them, and you pour a bit of yourself in them, that’s why in my opinion each actor plays the same character differently, well beyond their obvious differences in physicality.” She adds: “The bond you develop with your character during any production is real, and you grieve them when they’re gone.”
Geri also points out how the bond with characters and other actors on stage becomes an addiction: a good addiction to the escapism that theatre provides, for both cast and audience, because theatre transports both into a different world where the rules are separate from everyday reality, and once the play is over and you leave the theatre premises, part of that world still stays with you.
“They become a part of you and you a part of them.”
“You Stupid Darkness is a challenging play, but I believe it is the right one to break the ice after lockdown and attract spectators,” Geri says. She read reviews which claim that there are several emotional layers in this play, so the cast will have to convey this in ways that respect and fulfil the director’s vision.
As customary for Daniel, the play features a minimalistic cast and set, so that the audience is not distracted by stage changes for an opulent background, and can concentrate on the journey of the four Brightline volunteers who juggle their personal and professional life with distress calls from strangers.
“It’s not only about the characters on stage, but also those at the other end of the telephone line. The audience doesn’t hear their voices, but can glean their conversations from the way the characters on stage respond to calls.”
Geri has been involved in amateur dramatics for as long as she can remember, from an Alice in Wonderland musical production in her native Canada when she was in sixth grade, although she admits that singing is not really her thing. And when she first landed in Gibraltar while touring southern Spain in her early twenties, she fast became one of the oldest members of students’ group Dramatis Personae.
She would like to see more impromptu theatre in Gibraltar, perhaps short plays or excerpts performed in the open air, perhaps in Casemates or Piazza, a dramatic permutation on flashmobbing as well as a novel way to promote forthcoming productions.
Geri introduced The Mouse Trap to Gibraltar, directing the famous play locally, after having starred in it back in Canada, and having enjoyed it so much that she felt she should give it a go from the darker side of the proscenium, so to speak. “Despite being the longest-running play ever, I hadn’t seen it in theatres prior to being cast in it, or directing it, but I did so afterwards. Each production is different and it is always a new experience.”
“A good addiction to the escapism that theatre provides.”
After six years in Gibraltar, Geri went back to Canada, where she stayed for ten years before realising that she wanted to raise her children in a small, sunny community. “I acknowledged how metropolitan Canadians tend to live to work and not work to live, and that wasn’t the kind of message I wanted my children to grow up with.”
Her day-job is sales manager for recently formed environmentally-friendly cleaning products’ distributors Green Rock, but her curriculum includes a stint at Rock Radio, drama teacher at Stagecoach locally and at an Ontario summer camp with 3,000 kids to entertain and four plays to stage!
In Canada, she flew high on the amateur dramatics radar, cruising the festivals scene, so her ‘hiatus’ is really referring to her Gibraltar activity. And here, she picked up where she left it, rejoining the drama community with this script that tickled her fancy and prompted her to give Daniel’s auditions a go.
Geri is ganging up with Sam Vatvani, Carmen Anderson, and Kaigan Garcia, all of whom she had never worked before, to bring to life a production that she pitches like so: “If you want a place to escape yourself and your troubles for two hours, we are here for you. We are a helpline after all. We can help you.”
Finally, is Frances giving birth on stage, in a theatrical crescendo? “Ha! You’ll have to buy a ticket!” Geri cunningly teases.