Rumor Has It

Paul Butler, a visiting snowbird from Alberta, is taking the plunge. Not off the diving board or hurtling from a ski jump, but something almost as daring. An early retiree from the forest product industry with no previous acting experience, Butler is taking centre stage in his first theatrical production. He joins the cast of Rumors by Neil Simon, a comic farce presented by the South Okanagan Amateur Players (SOAP). The same playwright also penned the comedy classics California Suite and The Odd Couple.

“My wife and I saw all the posters around town advertising the audition, and I thought, why not?” The production runs Thursday April 8 to Saturday April 10 at the OSS Minitheatre (Osoyoos), and Thursday April 15 to Saturday April 17 at the Venables Auditorium (Oliver). The dates suited the Butlers’ holiday in the Okanagan, and so, much to the surprise and amusement of his wife, Paul auditioned and won a role.

At left: Four desperate dinner guests play “Ones and Twos” to determine who will have to impersonate their unconscious host when the police arrive. The actors (left to right) are Garth Robinson, Paul Butler, Paul Everest, and Patrick Turner. Photo: Penelope Johnson

Butler plays “Ernie”, a psychoanalyst who is one of eight dinner guests invited to the tenth anniversary of the deputy mayor of New York. When the first couple comes on the scene, they discover the hostess is missing, the servants have disappeared, and their host is lying unconscious with a bullet hole through his ear. As guests continue to arrive, the attempted cover-up becomes more complicated and rumors run wild. When the police inevitably turn up, the socialites become desperate to maintain the facade, and the evening dissolves into deception and impersonation with hilarious results.

“It ends up like a case of the patients running the asylum,” chuckles Butler, taking his cue from his role as the shrink. At first, his character keeps a professional calm, but as the tension mounts, Ernie’s composure begins to crack and he joins in the frenzied physical comedy.

Butler admits rehearsals are a “big challenge”: learning stage right from stage left, how to stand and move in such a way as to remain visible to the audience, how to memorize lines, how to listen and react naturally to other characters. It’s a lot for a new actor to absorb. But director Ted Osborne gave him kudos at a recent rehearsal. After Butler delivered a particularly emotional speech, Osborne spontaneously jumped up to applaud: “That was fantastic! You absolutely nailed it! Keep it up!”

Judging by the nods and smiles from the rest of the cast, they agree: Butler’s daring plunge into acting has been worth it.

Tickets for Rumors are $15 adults and $12 seniors, and are on sale now at Your Dollar Store with More (Osoyoos) and Sundance Video (Oliver). The curtain rises at 8:00 p.m., all performances. For more information, contact 250-498-3597 or