I understand you had to fill a tall order for Vertigo’s current production Sweeney Todd?
I did. We had to get 448 pies for very little money on short order — our budget was one dollar per pie. The actual retail of the pies we got was $1.99 each so we needed them for half price.
How did you swing that?
Perseverance and charm. I called everyone in the city I could think of who might be able to provide us with pies and finally the Richmond Co-op through the good offices of their bakery manager and their GM were able to come through for us. Which was amazing because a lot of people said no and that it was impossible.
Did you learn new things about pie?
What I learned in the phone-around was that most places don’t fully create their pies on site. Pies are usually made far away and shipped frozen and then “baked on site.” So they’re warm when you get them and baked there but not fully created in the bakeries mostly.
And these pies in the play are supposed to be made of human remains?
Yeah they’re totally supposed to be cannibal pies.
So what did you use — rhubarb?
No we ended up with cherry — a gloriously bright red and gooey cherry. Ask me about the blood.
Tell me about the blood.
Forty litres a week! Forty litres of homemade blood. Grandma’s secret recipe. It’s all stuff you can buy off of the shelf but you have to buy it in quantities that frighten the average storekeeper — red food colouring soap corn syrup and chocolate sauce.
So it’s edible?
Do you really consider dish soap edible? I don’t.
Fair enough. How many of the pies do the cast members actually consume per show?
Well plays develop and change as they run. Initially they were going through 14 pies per show. Now they’re still using 14 but they’re only entirely consuming 12 of those.
Any danger of the cast putting on unwanted weight?
No. They work really hard. Actors are always climbing ladders and dancing and doing yoga and lifting weights and stuff. No matter what crazy physical thing they have to do over and over again they’re able to do it without injuring themselves or looking silly. Actors burn a lot of calories.
What else does a production associate do?
Anything that needs to be done that falls under production: I clean stuff; I deal with toilet backups; I schedule technicians; I look at renters’ tech riders and make sure all their stuff is going to work; I talk to people who’ve maybe never done a show in a venue quite like ours and sort of help them integrate what they’re seeing in their mind’s eye with what we can provide them; I focus lights sometimes; I run cable and run lighting boards; I paint stuff; I sew stuff; I fix stuff. I do a lot.
Totally. Especially on the days the toilets back up.