Eliza-Jane Scott made her Lighthouse debut in this past season’s production of Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River, but she’s no stranger to the stage! She starred as Captain Beverley Bass in Come From Away (Mirvish Productions/Junkyard Dog), Mamma Mia! (Charlottetown Festival), Maria in The Sound of Music (NAC), The Music Man (Stratford Festival), and The Producers: Canadian Company and 1st American National Tour (Mirvish) to name just a few productions. We asked Eliza-Jane why she wanted to be in our very first Panto, what will surprise people about this show, and what makes a good scene partner.
Lighthouse Festival (LF): Why did you want to be in this pantomime production?
Eliza-Jane Scott (EJS): I grew up on SNL, Monty Python and Zucker Brothers and Mel Brooks films. I could literally quote you lines from History of the World Part II, Life of Brian or Airplane. I had the good fortune of meeting Mel Brooks when I was cast in the musical The Producers. What a dream come true! In some way or other, all of these films and sketch shows had elements based in British panto. I love farce, slapstick, physical comedy and music: panto is my unicorn! And to top it all off, it will mean a reunion with director Jonathan Ellul, who I went to school with and who is a comedy unicorn of his own.
(LF): What’s the last thing you do before stepping out on stage?
(EJS): Usually the last thing I do before I step out on stage is to perform a little focussing ritual: life doesn’t stop when you step on stage so it’s important to take time and ground yourself in the space, the story and with fellow actors and stage management. This allows you to sort of “ leave your baggage at the door” in order to allow the best mindset to serve the play and the audience. For me this might look like a little focussed deep breathing, shaking out the body or a little prayer or mantra. This also allows you to keep your heart and mind open for what might be coming in the show that night, because as you know, no two performances are alike.
(LF): What’s going to surprise people about this show?
(EJS): I think the most surprising thing will be how much people will laugh. Panto’s are riotous fun. Not only that but the audience actually participates in the jokes and is encouraged to engage, which can be really enlivening and joyous.
(LF): Besides this one, what’s your favourite stage show?
(EJS): One of my all time favourite stage shows was a farce that was produced back in the 80’s called B Movie: The Play by Tom Wood. He wrote and performed in this incredible farce about a besotted movie star. It is one of the biggest hits in Canadian history and won a Chalmers Award as well as Five Dora Awards. The thing that made the show so magical was the comedy and Tom Wood’s portrayal of this manic and intense movie icon: he ripped up the stage in a way I have not seen any actor do since. It brought me such joy and delight. I have never forgotten it.
(LF): What do you think makes a good scene partner, especially in a pantomime?
(EJS): The qualities of being a good listener and being generous make the best scene partners: you doubly feel safe and heard inside of the scene work. Sometimes in comedy it is easy to make scenes all about your own ability to connect with the audience to get laughs, but a true comic actor will use offers and take other cast members with her on that journey, so everyone is in on the joke.