Actor Jesse Cooper is no stranger to challenging roles, but when he got the lead role in Echo Players next production about four weeks after everyone else, he knew he had some work to do.
Cooper is set to play the role of Nick Cristano, in Over the River and Through the Woods, where he’ll play an Italian-American man from New Jersey who is faced with moving away from his close-knit family, made up of two sets of Italian grandparents.
The role was initially given to another actor, who had to leave the production for personal reasons. Cooper just recently graduated from the drama program at the University of Victoria and made the move to Nanaimo. He has performed with Parksville’s Bard to Broadway theatre group in the past, produced the Rotary Club of Parksville’s Mosaic Youth Talent show for three years, taught at the Qualicum Beach School of Dance and taught a couple acting workshops at Kwalikum Secondary School. A member of Echo Players learned Cooper was back in the area and contacted him about the new production.
Cooper is a fan of the playwright, Joe DiPietro, especially for his play I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, he said. He read the script for Over the River and Through the Woods and also really liked it, as it was different from other roles he has played in the past, he said.
“It’s not a male-female romance, it’s a love story between a young man and his grandparents, so that was different,” he said.
Cooper has had a close relationship with his own grandparents over the years he said, particularly when his parents moved to the United Kingdom for a couple of years.
“So there I was every Sunday, over there, having dinner, getting all that sage wisdom, a guiding hand and a shoulder to cry on,” he said. “So it’s a personal story that I relate to.”
After employing all sorts of techniques to learn his lines quickly, like recording the whole play on CD so he could practice at home, he has a firm handle on the role, he said.
“We’re ready to go.”
Over the River and Through the Woods is a play about family and relationships, with a healthy dose of humor. It plays from May 26 to June 12 at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students, available at the box office or by phone.
Visit www.echoplayers.ca or call 250-752-3522 for tickets and more information.