If you are hiking up Giants Head Mountain and come across a fellow orating to the natural world around him, don’t be alarmed. In all probability it will be James Fofonoff practising his lines for an upcoming play.
Born in 1963, Fofonoff took most of his schooling in Victoria. It wasn’t until the age of 26 after meeting his wife Leigh that he decided to become a registered massage therapist.
The couple moved to Summerland in 1993, where they bought their first home and started a business.
Even though he had never been exposed to theatre while growing up, Fofonoff enjoyed attending live plays. He thought it looked like fun and was sure that he wanted to try it someday.
That day came in 2008. Fofonoff responded to an ad in the paper, asking for young children and families to be in the Summerland Singers and Players production of Jack in the Beanstalk.
He, along with his son and daughter, were accepted as villagers.
“We were the ensemble so we were singing songs,” explained Fofonoff. “I remember feeling fairly nervous about that because I had never really been on stage before.”
During a rehearsal, Fofonoff was offered a few lines in the play and he accepted.
At the dress rehearsal, Ed Schneider offered Fofonoff a role in a new play he was directing. Fofonoff objected, saying he was not really an actor, but agreed to take the script anyhow.
Later, while having dinner at a Chinese restaurant he discussed the proposition with his family. Still feeling very unsure of himself, he opened his fortune cookie. It read, “Your audience is waiting and the stage is before you.”
Less than two months later, Fofonoff starred in the first play the Many Hats Theatre Co. ever did, called Maggie’s Getting Married.
It sold out each night and was so successful they decided to do three additional shows.
“I took on this role and it was a totally life changing experience,” said Fofonoff. “What I did for learning my lines is I would take my script with me and go up Giant’s Head Mountain and I would belt out my lines. You have to repeat them and you have to feel the vibration in your body. You have to feel the words coming out of your mouth.”
Fofonoff learned that acting was about listening, about being in the moment and about actually trying to become the character he was portraying.
“We create an illusion,” he explained. “We are making the audience believe. The trick for the actors as well as all the technicians…is to hold the illusion as much as we can.”
This illusion is lost in theatre if someone forgets their lines or “blanks.” Actors are taught to keep talking and in so doing look to the other actors for help, known in the industry as a “save.”
“We are a team, a group of people that participate as equally as we can,” said Fofonoff. “I am very devoted and dedicated, because I see how important it is.”
Fofonoff explained that it is the actors who receive the applause, yet the creative process involves the directors, producers, stage managers, set design, costumes, props, lighting and sound.
Although Fofonoff finds the “fun factor” of theatre to be huge, he also said it involves sacrifice. He credited his wife for her understanding in this regard when he often came home, gulped his supper and was off to rehearsal.
Fofonoff is now busy rehearsing for a play that he feels will have brought him full circle. In order to commemorate their 10th season, Many Hats Theatre Co. is once again presenting Maggie’s Getting Married. This time Fofonoff, one of only two of the original cast members, will be playing the role of the father instead of the groom.
The play runs from Feb. 2 to 25, 2017 at the Cannery Stage in Penticton. For ticket information call 250-493-7275.