It's easy to understand why. On the phone, she's open, and easy to speak with. Warm, affable, charming, a little flirtatious: in life, Northan's a perfect date, which has worked out rather well for her.
When she opens this week at the Tarragon, she'll be on her 400th blind date in seven years. She played six weeks in the West End of London. Kevin McCollum, producer of RENT and AVENUE Q, produced both her US tour, and her off-Broadway debut in 2010. Both her previous runs at Harbourfront (the last, five years ago) sold out.
How did this mad, wonderfully successful show start? At the invitation of Tina Rasmussen, the artistic director of World Stage at Harbourfront, who asked Rebecca to come up with ten minutes for the SpiegelTent.
"I saw what they were doing in there, and it was, well, hot! Sexy, risque...I was in nose ( that's clown-speak for the familiar red nose) and I thought, "How do you do a hot, sexy, clown show?
Well, for starters, by being a French clown in nose. "Yeah, you know, French girls... and by going on a date with a different guy every night."
"The first time, was in the Spiegeltent, and then, it grew from there."
So how do men react to being asked on a date by a clown?
"I think the nose gives me a certain freedom, and lets me get away with more. It also gives the guy's actual date, if he has one, some security, you know, that we are playing, and that I'm not actually going to run off with him! We, my team and I, go to great lengths to make sure, if the guy has come with a date, that the woman feels safe, and is taken care of."
"Well, for instance, when we we were in Winnipeg, I had a date called Warren, who was there was his wife. It was opening night. I usually wear a red dress for the date, but she was really freaked out by the dress. Apparently, Warren really has a thing for women in red dresses. She asked me if I could change dresses for my "date" with her husband. Fortunately, it being opening night, I had another dress- not red - backstage for the party afterward. I changed, and the show went ahead!"
Does she have any clue what is going to happen, or is she, more or less, in control?
"No, it's a collaboration, something we call spontaneous theatre. I create the evening with my collaborators, my date, and my team. We do the show with an outline, but I'll throw it out if something comes up." Like?
"Well I work with scenographers Christy Bruce and Kristian Reimer,and Jamie Northan, my brother, who creates the sound. Christy and Kristian come up with the props, create the scenes, and play the other characters; if we need a waiter at a restaurant, for example. We just did a show where the guy wanted us to go on boat ride for our date. It was my first request for a boat ride date in seven years! My scenographers had to come up with a boat for us, or at least something like a boat!"
Has she ever been on a blind date in life? "No! The whole time I've been doing this show, I've been in the same relationship, with the same man. I think it would have been too hard: to be that vulnerable both in my work and in my life, at the same time." A pause. "At it's heart, BLIND DATE is a love story. A perfect execution of the show is fun, surprising, moving, titillating and sexy - in a frame of consideration, openness, and respect. Single guys who have been my blind date onstage have had single women from the audience give them their numbers after the show. The audience really gets to see who both people are - at their best."
There used to be a lot of stigma attached to blind dating. Now, with the proliferation of on-line dating sites and apps, many, probably most single ( and a few not so single) people have gone on a blind date, at least once. Still, any, and all dating remains scary: vulnerable, intimate, hopeful.
What, I wonder, has Northan learned from her seven years of blind dates? "I can't get used to be stared at! That's just something innate in primates!" A laugh. A pause. "I'm a much better listener - and I've learned to take responsibility for my partner. We say, my crew and I, that as a team, during the show, we are on our best house-guest behavior: thoughtful, attentive, considerate and fun!"
Sounds like a perfect date!
BLIND DATE opens at the TARRAGON THEATRE, 30 BRIDGMAN STREET, on September 8 and runs until Sunday, October 4th, with performances from Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 PM and matinees at 2:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets start at $15 for rush seats. To book seats or for further information call Patron Services: (416) 531 1827.