The telling of stories
Left to right: Yoo Ra Kang (Asaka, Mother of the Earth), Ricardo Pequenino (Agwe, God of Water), Alexandra Quispe (Erzulie, Goddess of Love) and Sari Rosofsky (Papa Ge, Sly Demon of Death) in Fabulist Theatre’s production of Once On This Island, which opens April 6. (photo by Tina Clelland)
None of us mere mortals is a god. But some of us get to play one on the stage.
Sari Rosofsky takes on the role of Papa Ge in Fabulist Theatre’s upcoming production of Once On This Island. Papa Ge is one of four gods who affect – for better and for worse – the life of the main character, Ti Moune, a peasant girl living on an island in the French Antilles.
“What I love about Papa Ge is she’s the evil one!” said Rosofsky. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve always loved the bad guys more than the good because I felt they had more depth and dimension to them, and they always had the cooler songs. I think what is the most challenging part of this character is how to be a villain without being crazy – while I still want to portray the darkness and depth Papa Ge has to offer, I want audience members to be drawn to her despite her being the bad guy. It’s a delicate balance for sure, but I’m certainly up for the challenge.”
Based on the novel My Love, My Love; or the Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy, the one-act musical (with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty) “includes elements of Romeo and Juliet and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid,” explains the press material. Ti Moune “uses the power of love to bring together the different social classes living on her island.”
“Right now, I’m auditioning for a wide variety of shows, as I want to do as much theatre as possible to gain experience,” Rosofsky told the Independent about how she landed her role. “I saw the call [for Once On This Island] and saw that the production team had some familiar names, and knew I wanted to work with them – the music director, Amy Gartner, was actually in a show with me at the time I saw this call. I approached her and asked about the auditions and she strongly encouraged me to submit. So, I did, but, sadly, the auditions were during a time when my show had some important rehearsals. Thankfully, the production team decided to have me audition during the callbacks when I was available, and had me sing for multiple roles, Papa Ge included. And the rest, you can say, is history!”
Traditionally, director Damon Jang told the Independent in an email, the role of Papa Ge is played “by a man, but portrayed by a woman in the Broadway revival version.” Rosofsky, he said, “was the best person for the part, so we cast her.”
According to her bio, Rosofsky has “a passion for the arts, whether that be in singing, acting or modeling.” In addition to starting voice lessons at age 12, she started auditioning for school plays. She won her first role in Grade 8 – as a sailor in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Her first musical came the next year, when she was part of the ensemble of Kiss Me Kate. She continued singing and acting through university, but did her degree in earth and ocean sciences.
Starting her sciences degree at the University of Waterloo, she finished it at the University of British Columbia. “While at UBC,” notes her bio, “she rediscovered her passion for musical theatre with the show Guys and Dolls, where she played Big Julie.”
Rosofsky has released two songs – “Save Me” and “Turn Around” – under the name Sari Rose. In her everyday life, she goes by the name Sari Chava Rosove. Rosofsky is her stage name, she said.
“My name alone is very difficult to pronounce for most people so I wanted to change it to something that rolls off the tongue slightly easier, but still maintain the uniqueness,” she explained. “It turns out my family already had this one taken care of for me – while Rosove is my legal last name, Rosofsky was the original family last name before they immigrated from Russia in 1901. They changed it to Rosove, as they were Jewish refugees and wanted to avoid antisemitism when they came to Canada. And so that’s where my stage name comes from, by paying homage to my roots.”
Rosofsky grew up in Seattle, where, she said, she spent most of her Jewish childhood at Herzl-Ner Tamid. “I went to Sunday school, along with additional after-school classes to prepare for my bat mitzvah, and, after that, I just kept going!” she said. “One of the most memorable things I did growing up at this synagogue was a program my mother actually ran, where a group of us would get together and make sandwiches that would be donated to a group that would hand out paper bag lunches to the homeless in Seattle. Of course, I also attended summer camp for a few summers at Camp Solomon Schechter.”
Rosofsky graduated from UBC in 2013, and then studied musical theatre at Capilano University.
“It’s a three-year, full-time program – and they truly keep you very busy,” she said. She attended Capilano from September 2014 to April 2017. “The entire program was so much fun. I learned a lot not only about the industry but about myself as a performer from some truly inspiring instructors.”
Recently, Rosofsky was in the ensemble for Merrily We Roll Along, put on by United Players, and played the wife in Draining the Swamp, by Curious Creations Theatre. “In between all of my endeavours in theatre,” she said, “I also dabble in competitive pole dancing which, in actuality, can be quite a performance! I competed and placed in my division back in October and will be training at Tantra Fitness for the upcoming competition in September, in between my other projects.”
Once On This Island is at the Red Gate Revue Stage on Granville Island April 6-14, 8 p.m. The show is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
The production is Vancouver’s first semi-professional cast of Once On This Island, according to the press release. Added Jang, “We wanted to cast based on the culturally diverse community of performers who make up Greater Vancouver and might otherwise be underrepresented in the city. We fully acknowledge that the story is a largely set in Haiti, but we wanted to use the story as a platform to address the more universal themes of love, death, and fighting against the class system. At the end of the day, these are storytellers telling a story.”
For tickets to the show, visit ootivan.brownpapertickets.com.