Newly posted military find home at musical theatre

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WO Stephen Martinelli; Terry Rowsell, President of the Board of Directors for Four Seasons Musical Theatre; Helen Edley, Producer of Shrek: The Musical (Front, from left) Ordinary Seaman Nancy Blais, and Jaymes D. Goodman, Stage Director, pose in front of stage props designed for Shrek: The Musical, slated to run at the Isabelle Reader Theatre from May 22 to 31.

Shannon Delaney, a military spouse; Stephen Marinelli, a Warrant Officer; and Nancy Blais, an Ordinary Seaman, all understand the challenges experienced when facing a new posting.

But all have found solace in the same organization not traditionally associated with the military – musical theatre.

Delaney, WO Marinelli, and OS Blais are newcomers to Victoria who have been volunteering with the Four Seasons Musical Theatre Society’s latest production: Shrek: The Musical, slated to run from May 22 to 31 at the Isabelle Reader Theatre in Langford.

Delaney, wife of Warrant Officer Scott Miller, says Victoria is her husband’s fifth posting, having recently been transferred from Cairo, Egypt, in July 2014, where he worked at the Canadian Embassy.

As a dance teacher, Delaney’s work is portable, and she says it led her to explore the theatre community once the couple arrived in Victoria.

But in searching for work, she was also looking to join a community.

“With the military, there’s always that built-in community; so whenever we’re posted, my husband has no problem finding his groove right away. He’s with a familiar group of people, even if they are new to him. Theatre is similar to that. Even if you’ve never met a group of theatre volunteers before, you instantly have something in common with them. You find that sense of home and common passion.”

She works as the show’s choreographer, where she teaches over 30 cast members, from children to adults, different dance routines, investing upwards of 10 hours a week of her time.

Her 11 dances featured throughout the show range from large patterns and formations of characters to smaller dances with just two or three characters involved.

She says her time spent teaching dance to the cast has made her feel as though she has a family to fall back on.

“You might be having a bad day, but when you show up at rehearsal, everyone is just so welcoming, and they care about you. There are a lot of huggers,” she says.

“It’s instant happy.”

OS Blais, a clerk in HMCS Regina, also sought out a community organization to help ease the posting transition process, having just moved to Victoria from Ottawa in January.

“I come from a very artistic family,” says OS Blais, who has been involved in musical theatre for 34 years.

“So I figured it was a good way to meet like-minded people who have similar interests to me.”

As a jack-of-all-trades for the production, she has been helping with the costume department, and will be assisting backstage and ushering during the show.

Like Delaney, OS Blais joined the production in hopes of joining a supportive community with a family-style feeling.

“Even though you’re not actually blood family, you become family with everyone else who is volunteering, and the energy of it all is pretty amazing.”

WO Marinelli, who is currently employed at the Regional Cadets Support Unit, was posted to Victoria in December 2014, and began volunteering with Four Seasons shortly after, designing and constructing the set.

Though his background is in engineering and aircraft mechanics, WO Marinelli was prompted to join the theatre by friend Helen Edley, the show’s producer.

“It’s the team building aspect that I like,” he says.

“Bringing together an assembly of people where most people don’t know each other and watching and helping a show rise up into its full production, it’s really satisfying to see that come into fruition, and I like to feel like I’m actually contributing something to the community.”

Terry Rowsell, President of the Board of Directors for Four Seasons, says the group has always had military members involved in the shows.

Rowsell worked for 15 years in professional theatre before joining the military, working as an officer in the navy for five years.

When he became part of Four Seasons in 2007, he used his connection to CFB Esquimalt to draw in military members. But he says many military members haven’t had extensive experience in the theatre.

“That’s the great thing about Four Seasons,” explains Edley.

“It’s a good place to start if you think you might want to get involved with the theatre, but don’t know if it would be a good fit for you. You can come try here, learn the ropes. We do welcome all volunteer involvement.”

Edley and Rowsell acknowledge that their organization runs with people of all different backgrounds and skill sets.

“Everybody knows that to set a ship to sail requires a huge team in the background,” says Rowsell.

“It’s the same thing with putting a jet overseas, or anything else like that. The reality is there’s a large group of people here building sets, doing marketing, helping with costumes – you name it. All of us work together as a team to get that show done and out there.”

To purchase tickets for the show, visit www.fsmtheatre.ca.

Rachel Lallouz
Staff Writer

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