Meet the Cast of CHESS – Mark Finlay is Molokov

sHeadshot7BandWWhat is your role in Chess?
I play Molokov – first name Alexander or Ivan, depending on who you ask or what you read. My character is a ‘chess second’ for the Russian World Champion Chess master, which means I act to help my Champion play his best game of chess by giving advice, looking after non-game things, etc. I may have some other duties or responsibilities in this world, but you will have to watch the play to know for sure.

What is your background in theatre? At Walterdale? I make very infrequent appearances in theatrical productions. I can count the number of plays I have been part of over my lifetime on both hands, minus a finger or two. I often am called upon when a director needs a large person with a loud voice that doesn’t mind shaving their head, and can carry a tune.

In the past 15 years, I have played 3 parts before this one: Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar (Keyano Theatre Company – Fort McMurray), Lectro in The Other Side of the Pole (Interplay Dinner Theatre – Fort McMurray) and Daddy Warbucks in Annie (Sherard Theatre – Sherwood Park).

My experience at Walterdale has to this point been primarily as an audience member, however I have been called upon to tear down sets after a show is complete, and have even once worked the box office! Those experiences are usually in conjunction with the far more extensive theatre participation of my wife.

CHESS will be my first appearance on Walterdale’s stage as a performer.

What brought you out for this show? Truth be told, my wife made me audition! I was only cursorily familiar with CHESS, being in high school when “One Night in Bangkok” was on the radio. Having seen various vocal showcases by professional performers over the years, I have heard more selections from the show than I had realized!

Growing up in the middle of the Cold War, the rivalry between the Superpower nations was very much evident. This play showcases that tension, underneath the primary story of the chess competition, and the relationships that develop in spite of the adversarial context. It is a complex play with many facets…much like the game it is named after! There are apparently many different versions of this play and its music, and two productions are rarely the same…that adds a level of complexity that I haven’t seen before in other plays I have done.

As a kid I received a book called Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess, which I still have to this day. This play is inspired by Fischer and other chess grandmasters, and I was curious to find out more about the play and explore the music as well.

Why do you think audiences should come see this show? I think audiences should come to see this show for a number of reasons…

  • There are many people who are familiar with the music, but not the story…come get familiar with both!
  • There are some spectacularly talented people in this show, and they deserve to be seen and heard!
  • For those curious people that know me from my work, the novelty of seeing me do something so markedly different might be all the incentive they need!

What do you think they will take away from it? I think people will take away that there is often more going on in any given situation than what immediately meets the eye…that there is game strategy in many aspects of life besides on the tabletop…that sacrifice can be a key component of winning and losing…how one plays a game can indicate their personality away from the game table…

Chess is a Board Game… What’s your favorite Board Game? Why? Got any funny game-playing stories? I play many boardgames, but some of my favourites are the oldies...Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk, etc. They are relatively easy to learn, can be adapted for players of lower experience and skill, allow for conversation between turns, and can accommodate more than two players easily.

In the days prior to our modern technological era (“when I was a young boy…”), I can remember spending hours playing Life and Risk with a good friend that lived a block away. My Great-Grandmother taught me to play Scrabble and Dominos, another cherished childhood memory. Another of my best friends and I used to play “speed Monopoly”, where we were changing cash and properties so quickly (but accurately) that his girlfriend could not keep track of what we were doing. I can remember playing Risk all evening until the sun came up the next morning. He and I still get together to play Scrabble from time to time, he loves to boast about his victories, but he gets very sour when he doesn’t do well!

You can learn a great deal about people by observing them over a gaming table. I have known gracious winners and gracious losers, and folks that are neither.

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