QAC’s "Self-Help" – How actors see characters

Self Help Cast on couch.jpg
Photo: Photo courtesy of the QAC

The cast of the Quebec Art Company’s production of Norm Foster’s farce Self-Help are: (back) Ladd Johnson, Doug Werden, Stephen Desjardins; (front) Natalie Keller, Patricia Grimaud and Johanne Morin. Much of the manic action in the play revolves around the couch.

One of the wonders of community theatre is how it brings together people from very different backgrounds, compels them to put their talents and vulnerabilities on display and become another person on stage.

The current Quebec Art Company (QAC) production, Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s farce Self-Help, is no exception. The love of theatre has drawn the six players together, to spend countless hours memorizing lines and weeks of learning the complicated movements of scenes on the well-worn stage of Holland School.

Let’s meet the cast of Self-Help – and the characters they play.
Johanne Morin
discovered her inner thespian four years ago when she was asked to play a role in Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-Soeurs put on by a theatre company in Stoneham. The CEGEP English teacher landed the role of Ruby Delvecchio, the brash agent for Hal and Cindy Savage, the jaded actors who transform themselves into self-help gurus.

“Ruby really has a [Frosted] Mini-Wheat personality; she can be cold and yet she has a very sensitive side,” says Morin. “She has a wide range of emotions throughout the play and I hope I will succeed in making the public see all of them.”

Stephen Desjardins portrays Detective Duncan Snow, who, let’s just say, is investigating a crime – we don’t want to give too much of the clever comic plot away. Desjardins, a dentist in Charlesbourg who hails from Montreal, was going through some personal changes a few years ago and was looking for an outlet. He landed a supporting role with the QAC in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and then La Cage Aux Folles. “It’s a different perspective,” says Desjardins. “You get to play the role of someone who may be somewhat like you but different as well. And of course interacting with the people here is a fantastic thing because it’s a really, really good troupe.”Doug Werden plays “muckraking” investigative journalist Jeremy “Cold Hard” Cash. Though he’s from southern Ontario originally, he lived in the United States for 20 years. He’s been in several QAC productions to date, including a lead role in Witness for the Prosecution.

“I just love it. You become a different person, the adrenalin rush, the passion. It’s wonderful.” About his character Werden says, “He’d be hilarious to go for a beer with but I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”For Natalie Keller, a native of Winnipeg, where she was involved in theatre, her portrayal of Bernice, the Savages’ beleaguered maid, is a QAC break-out role. She says the part is a real departure from her day job with an insurance company. “She’s a very quirky character, she’s very ditzy so it’s fun to explore that side that I don’t normally live day-to-day – she’s really a colourful card.”Patricia Grimaud, a recently retired flight attendant, originally from Montreal, made her QAC debut in 2010 in Nude With Violin. Cindy Savage is her biggest and most demanding role to date.

“It’s been a bit awkward because I share a lot of things with Cindy, she’s very excitable with a lot of energy,” says Grimaud. “The hard part for me was to try to marry the serious aspects of her with the comedic part, and you know it’s not always easy.”Rounding out the cast is Ladd Johnson, who has played a wide variety of characters with the QAC. Though he says he’s “generally typecast in more authoritarian roles” like a U.S. Navy captain in South Pacific, he did play a scheming maid in La Cage aux Folles. In Self-Help he reverts to his bossy form with Hal Savage. When he’s not treading the boards, the California native “spends his time with students, seaweeds and snails” as a professor in marine biology at Université Laval.
, directed by QAC veteran Mark Lepitre, opens Thursday, May 4 at Holland School (940 Ernest Gagnon), at 8 p.m., with performances Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6, with a matinée at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 7.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for students and seniors and $40 for a family of four. For more information and to reserve tickets: