Actor Megan Leitch could talk at length about her role in the forthcoming Netflix property Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and also her time on old shows such as The X-Files and Stargate SG-1, but this week she’s very much attuned to The Piano Teacher and its tour of theatres in Metro Vancouver.
The Arts Club Theatre Company production opens Wednesday (Oct. 10) at Surrey Arts Centre for a week-plus run, which has Leitch returning to the stage as a key character in Dorothy Dittrich’s award-winning drama.
Leitch plays Erin, a concert pianist who hasn’t touched a piano since her husband died. With the help of a piano teacher (Elaine, played by Caitriona Murphy), she rediscovers the instrument and, along the way, gets to know a contractor (Tom, played by Kamyar Pazandeh) who arrives to fix her house.
The three-hander, first among three Arts Club plays road-showed in Surrey this season, starred Leitch during its premiere run in Vancouver last year. Reviewers called The Piano Teacher “a beautiful meditation on grief, loss, and the healing power of music” (Georgia Straight), and an “incredibly moving piece of theatre, filled with maturity and thoughtfulness” (Vancouver Presents). The play later won a Jessie Richardson Award for outstanding original script, a nod Leitch says was well-deserved.
“I think (Dittrich) really tried to tap into something that she wanted to talk about now, which is that she says people don’t talk about grief,” Leitch told the Now-Leader in a phone interview prior to tour launch. “She wanted to have a conversation about grief, but she’s also a music teacher, herself, a piano teacher, and she wanted to use the metaphor of playing the piano and learning music and her love for music and the miraculous-ness of music, to take somebody on a journey out of grief.”
Asked if she plays piano in real life, Leitch balked – but only a bit.
“I’m not going to tell you that, I’m going to let people decide for themselves,” she said with a laugh.
“I will tell you that Dorothy Dittrich, who wrote the play, was my piano teacher for this show. How’s that?”
Leitch’s connection to The Piano Teacher began a half-decade ago when Dittrich first crafted the script, commissioned by the Arts Club.
“I’ve been with the script, in the same character, from the development of when Dorothy had a first draft she worked on with a dramaturg, so I was lucky,” Leitch recalled. “And yes, I did jump at the chance to do it again (on tour this fall). I thought, what a neat thing to get to go back to something like this. And it’s different – it’s a year later, we have different directors, so it’s not just recreating it, you have to live in it again and make it alive again, and it’s very different spaces, too.
“We have a grand piano on stage,” she added, “and each place we go to will have a different size of piano, and there will be different entrances and exits, things like that, so you have to be kind of be prepared to go with the flow and figure it out when we’re there.”
Years ago on The X-Files, Leitch played Samantha Ann Mulder, younger sister of FBI agent Fox Mulder, and also spent time shooting Stargate SG-1. This year she attended fan conventions for both shows – one, for The X-Files, in Chicago and the other at a Richmond-area hotel, in September.
“The fans at those events are just incredible,” said Leitch, who lives in the West End of Vancouver with her partner and daughter.
Over the past few months Leitch has also played the character Batibat (“demon of nightmares”) in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the witch-y new Netflix show shot in Cloverdale and other places around Metro Vancouver.
“We filmed a lot in Langley, out that way,” Leitch noted.
“I’m guest-starring on a couple episodes of that, as a completely unrecognizable character, so that’s very fun,” she added.
Leitch says that for her, it’s been a good year for acting gigs, which included time in another Arts Club play, Jitters, on the Stanley stage in Vancouver last February.
“It’s been a pleasure to have such a variety of roles,” she said. “When I went for the Sabrina show they asked if I’d be OK with special-effects makeup and I said sure, I’ve done some before, and I actually had to have a face cast done, at this incredible studio out by the border, near Point Roberts.
“So they built this look for me,” she continued, “and the day before filming I had to go for a screen test, and I realized that I had the special-effects makeup team from the Ryan Reynolds movie (Deadpool) – I had his makeup team, to apply the prosthetics to my face, neck and back, and then paint it. The very first time we did it, it took four hours, and on some days I was in it for 15 hours, and they did my legs, my feet, my hands, so it was a very cool experience. So I didn’t know any of that would be happening when I auditioned – who knew? They asked, I said yeah, you go and then you have this incredible experience.”
In Surrey, The Piano Teacher plays Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage from Oct. 10 to 20, at 13750 88th Ave. A number of special events are planned during the run, including an opening-night reception, a “Paint and Play” gathering for kids on Oct. 13 and a pre-show chat with playwright Dittrich on Oct. 16. For tickets, show times and other details, call 604-501-5566 or visit tickets.surrey.ca.