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Overture, curtains, lights... local celebs deal with frights

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Manitoba champion curler Jeff Stoughton will have to hurry hard to learn his lines in time for his appearance next Wednesday in the So You Think You Can Act fundraiser at the Gas Station Theatre.

Stoughton, fresh off winning his 10th provincial curling crown last weekend, is one of the celebrities testing out their acting chops in the second annual fun competition hosted by the local theatre company Sarasvti Productions. The 2011 world champion is used to the largest curling stages but the theatre has him sweating like he was needing a raise double take-out in the 10th end of the Brier final.

"No doubt I'm going to be nervous about it," the 49-year-old Stoughton says. "I'm comfortable out on the ice, making last shots, but to be out in front of a theatre crowd is different. I will make sure I have the correct shirt on so no one can see how badly I will be sweating."

The list of local celebrities also includes Olympic bronze medal-winning soccer star Desiree Scott, big band leader Ron Paley, comedian Jon Ljungberg, Jenna Khan from Breakfast Television, CBC Radio host Marcy Markusa and Kerri Salki from 102 Clear FM. The inaugural So You Think You Can Act, won by radio DJ Ace Burpee, raised almost $5,000, and Sarasvti artistic director Hope McIntyre has a goal of even more money to underwrite the company's May premiere of Jail Baby, a drama about incarcerated women.

Last year's participants learned that acting isn't as easy as it looks, says McIntyre. "Several of them said how difficult it was, the multi-tasking that acting takes," says McIntyre, who co-wrote Jail Baby with Cairn Moore. "Some of them struggled with being in the moment, learning lines and focusing on their scene partner."

This year's theme is family ties, a subject that offers great theatrical scenes, many penned by Winnipeggers. Paley will do a bit from Rick Chafe's The Secret Mask while Ljungberg will play an Elvis impersonator in Sharon Bajer's Burnin' Love.

While Stoughton was recently preoccupied with skipping his foursome to the provincial championship, he kind of forgot about So You Think You Can Act. He even had to check that he will be portraying Danny in a scene from The Norbals, a family drama by former Winnipegger Brian Drader.

"I don't think I'll have time to memorize all my lines," he says. "I think I will have some cheat sheets hanging somewhere."

Stoughton is not a complete novice as an actor; he appeared in the 2002 Canadian curling movie Men With Brooms, in which he pulled off a spinarama shot in one take.

"It wasn't a speaking role, I was spinning but not speaking," says Stoughton, who tried, but failed to keep the rest of his foursome from discovering that he would be trying to act in public. "This time you can expect that I will forget my lines and embarrass myself, which is fine."

Scott, the former University of Manitoba soccer star, was keen to be a part of So You Think You Can Act. The stage was a main focus for her while attending West Kildonan Collegiate.

"Back in my high school days it was about the drama classes and the plays, so this is right up my alley," says the 25-year-old midfielder. "I wanted to get involved."

She was cast in lead roles in many student productions, including Annie, and this time will appear in Norm Foster's Maggie's Getting Married, in which she plays the bride-to-be's older sister who discovers she has been intimately acquainted with the prospective groom. Being in the spotlight by herself is not something Scott is used to any more.

"Soccer is a team sport, so there is more pressure on you individually in theatre," says Scott, who is finishing up her degree at U of M. "That's why I love team sports. You have 10 other people behind you to pick up the slack."

She will admit to being nervous about her stage performance Wednesday, but she's not concerned about the crowd; the Gas Station Theatre has only 232 seats.

"The largest audience was 28,000 for the Canada-Great Britain game at the Olympics," she says. "It will be a little smaller at the Gas Station. I should be able to handle it."

Theatre preview

So You Think You Can Act

Sarasvti Productions

7 p.m. Wednesday at Gas Station Theatre

Tickets: $25 at 204-586-2236

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 G5

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