DISHing with Studio B’s Outlaws

A young Canadian homesteader travelling far from home finds himself accused of murder in the state of Kansas. With only his wits to defend himself, he turns the law of the land – and the men hell bent on enforcing it – upside down. Outlaw is Norm Foster’s authentic western, a unique take on the days when guns were the law.

A relatively new London theatre company Studio B is taking on Foster’s Outlaw at the end of the month starring four Fanshawe Theatre Grads Raymond Moreau as Bob - The Outlaw, Cameron Eckart as Will - The Wrangler, Derek Roberts as Dupuis - The Sheriff and Alexander Johnson as Roland - The cattle baron.

Three of these actors share a studio apartment – all are in pursuit of theatre dreams and goals.

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Howdy boys! Outlaw – Family entertainment?   

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw; photo right): There’s a great sense of humour and fun throughout the play, and the characters have a lot of fun banter, so yes, I’d say it’s pretty family friendly.

Cameron Eckart (Will - The Wrangler): People of all ages can enjoy this story, although it addresses some violent themes, there is no violence – only the possibility of it.

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): It does not contain the usually western elements. While some of us do carry guns, there is a strong message about gun control and messages about compassion that make this a family show.  

Gosh, darn it… Even the Outlaws have gone politically correct!

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): This play will be fun for the entire family for all ages. Be prepared to be in stiches and have the greatest country western adventure of your entire life!

I’ll hold you to that. Is this “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” “hang ’em!” territory of days of yore or a more updated “git-r-done” time period? I am hoping for at least a shoot out!

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): I would say the play takes place somewhere in between the middle of being an uncivilized western and a civilized western – transitioning to a new era of America 2.0. My character Dupuis, however, has very old school methods with dealing with justice.

Well, I’m sure the play is called Outlaw for a reason.

Cameron Eckart (Will - The Wrangler; Photo left): This play takes place amidst great change in the United States. As the nation struggles to adapt after the Civil War, so too do the individuals. What it comes down to is people questioning everything they stand for. This is the foundation of civilization and the building of our beliefs and values today.

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw): It’s definitely somewhere in the middle. The play takes place in 1871, so it’s a time when events like the Civil War and slavery had just happened, and both were still fairly fresh on everyone’s minds. It’s very much an America in transition to something more civilized.

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron; photo below): At this point in history, the United States were going through a great period of change. With the industry revolution within sight the land our characters live in is a mix of the old west and the new ideas that shaped American into what it is today.

Okay, enough history. Did you guys have to learn how to hold a gun?

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): Well, as I play a high profile man in the cattle business, I’ve become accustomed to all sorts of things. But while I do carry a gun my character would much rather have a thoughtful discussion.

[Readers: God, I wish I didn’t have to play nice!]

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw): I don’t believe in guns. Every other day you hear about some poor fella getting shot over a stupid argument. I’m Canadian, so having a gun on you everywhere you go isn’t really the way we do things. I think carrying a gun is inviting a fight.

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff; photo right): My character had his house burned down by Quantrill and his men during the civil war so, of course, I have to know how to hold a gun, and with the open stars as witnesses I get to shoot everything in sight. I must admit that brought smile to my face.

Cameron Eckart (Will - The Wrangler): My character is very much a loner. I made the idea of having or using a gun part of my routine, just like brushing my teeth or eating a meal because it’s just as much part of my character as the way he talks or his sense of humor. As Will Vanhorne says, “We don’t carry guns to start trouble! We carry them to end it. We carry them for protection.”

Is there a blow-hard sheriff in this town?

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): I would have to say there is, although my character will take complete reasonability for that. The sheriff helped him a ways back with some cattle rustlers and Roland felt he owed him one. A few years later, he just figured it’s better to have him on his side at least for the time being.

Cameron Eckart (Will - The Wrangler): Sheriff Dupuis Tarwater is the epitome of “blow-hard.” His main priority is making himself look good, even if it reflects poorly on his “friends”. His second priority would be well……making himself look good.

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw): I don’t think “sheriff” is the word I’d use to describe the man in charge out in Baxter Springs. He knows nothing about due process or investigating a crime. My character’s uncle is a constable, so believe me he knows a good lawman from a bad one, and ‘lemme tell ya, Dupuis Tarwater ain’t no good.’

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): [Readers, in character yelling:] I AM NOT A BLOWHARD SHERRIF! I AM A DULY APPOINTED OFFICIER OF THE LAW AS LONG AS I AM STANDING HERE!  BAD MOUTHING MY WAY OF SHERRIFING IAN”T GOING TO HELP YA ONE Bit! My name is Dupuis  Tarwater Sherriff Baxter Springs Kansans. I have a lawman’s eye son. Nothing gets past me. We’ve had several Canadians come through here as outlaws too and you have been nothing but trouble makers. It would suit me just fine if none of ya Canadians come down this way again because I am starting to see a criminal pattern here. Be careful I might shoot ya before I hang ya.

Giddy up! Now we’re talkin! What is your company name? Is this your debut?

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): The company is Studio B and this is its third production.

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): Studio B Theatre Company is our full name. We were founded just last year in May and I am proud to say this is our third production. It’s crazy – the amount of progress this company has made in only a year. Our first play was Judith Thompson’s The Crackwalker (Fanshawe Theater, ’12), and the second Norm Foster’s The Melville Boys (The ARTS Project).

Who makes up the “company”?

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): The original four founding members with Studio B are the Fanshawe Theatre graduates of 2012. They include Steffanie Salo, who directed The Crackwalker, Stephanie Simonetta, who directed The Melville Boys, the always hilarious Matthew Nortofonzo, who was my co-star in Melville Boys and, of course, myself. I am so grateful for these actors’ contributions and sacrifices for this company, because without them I don’t think we could have gotten this far. Of course there have been many others (too many to list) who have come along the way that have heavily contributed because of their love and passion for the art.

What are your plans, hopes, dreams for Studio B?

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff; photo below): Every show that Studio B puts on we want to get better and better. We are committed to developing talent and providing a platform for actors to work and master their craft as they go out in the world to pursue this passion. We have exciting plans in the works for 2014. But one day the big dream is to be a touring Theatre Company across Canada and I believe that we will get there one day, one production at a time.

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): I actually have been helping studio B since there first production. It has been a great time working with the company. I hope that their company keeps growing and putting on high quality shows.

How do you all know each other? You were all graduates of the Fanshawe Theatre Program, right?

Cameron Eckart (Will - The Wrangler): Yes, we are. I have been friends with these guys for almost two years now, and this project has brought us even closer together.

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw): Well, Cameron and Alan were in my year at Fanshawe and Derek was one of our second year’s graduates. I’ve worked a bit with Cameron and Alan and had ample opportunity to see Derek’s work. They’re all very committed, talented actors, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as we dive into this piece.

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): We formed tight relationships from the start. What makes us all very close is our shared passion. We may not be the best, but no one works harder than the four of us. We would give up and sacrifice anything to help each other reach our goals and dreams.

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): Didn’t realize we would become this close. You never know who you will work with down the road. This is my first time that I am working with them and I am grateful for this opportunity for this committed cast. We have grown as friends but also as actors. I am very excited to debut this show with them.

Who knew Outlaw would turn out to be such a love fest! Hee hee….Few westerns make it to the stage. Why did you choose Outlaw?

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw): Well, I read the play four times and just fell in love with it. I just thought the idea of four very different individuals meeting under these extreme circumstances, and changing those circumstances through the simple act of conversation was something we don’t have enough of today. It’s pretty unique for a western story in that it’s dialogue driven. Back in those days, there was no Twitter or Facebook: if you had something to say, you had to say it right to a person’s face.

Regardless, be prepared for at least one cell phone to go off in 1871!

Cameron Eckart (Will- The Wrangler): Note taken. LOL. This play is a period piece with dialogue that clings to the era. Personally, I fell in love with the story, and of course my character Will Vanhorne.

When something speaks to you, you should do yourself a favor and listen.

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron): Because of the dynamics of the show, allowing us a chance to finally work together as a team, I thought we have to do this. Since I have some director credits on my resume I decided to take charge and make this happen for us. This show is dialog driven and is a lot of fun for both actor and audience.

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): Alan, Raymond, and Cameron’s passion and enthusiasm was contagious. It is such a well written play by one of the greatest Canadian Playwrights in the world and I couldn’t say no it.

This is a Foster play, but I’ll still ask, is this a drama or comedy?

Derek Roberts (Dupuis - The Sheriff): To be honest, you could argue that it’s a drama and you could argue that it’s comedy. I really couldn’t attach a genre to it. There are certainly comedic parts to the story and there are certainly dramatic parts to it as well.

Raymond Moreau (Bob - The outlaw; photo above): There’s some pretty funny moments between the four of us, but there are some pretty real and kind of ugly aspects of humanity explored as well. I think overall, though, it’s comedic.

Alexander Johnson (Roland - The cattle baron; photo left): The great thing about this show is its layers. There are great messages throughout and the humour is only used to tie everything together.

Cameron Eckart (Will - The Wrangler): The best way I can put it: this play is REAL. The comedy comes out in the characters – what makes us laugh is the same thing that makes us cry – the humanity.

All the best with Outlaws boys.

Outlaws, July 25-28, The Playground, 207 King St., London.


Donald D’Haene is Online Theatre Editor for The Beat Magazine.

Rehearsal shots by Brianna McBain

The Arts Project - Theatre