DC’s ‘tech guy’ has a theatrical side

Jim Ferr helps students and staff every day at his office at Durham College. Photo credit: Kathryn Fraser

He spends his day in a dark office, working on computers, fixing electronics and helping students and faculty at Durham College. All week he deals with codes and characters. But in the evenings, he is out in the light, performing on the stage, as a character himself.

Jim Ferr, a technical coordinator and server specialist at DC, escapes from his work – and from himself – by devoting his free time to theatre.

Ferr will perform on the Ajax Community Theatre stage when Noel Coward’s comedic play ‘Blithe Spirit’ opens in February.

‘Blithe Spirit’ takes place in 1941 and follows the story of novelist Charles Condomine whose next book is about a psychic. Condomine invites a medium, Madame Arcati, to his home to hold a seance and she later conjures up his ex-wife. The group assumes Condomine has gone mad because only he can see his dead wife in the form of a ghost.

“I play Dr. Bradman, one of the guests for the seance,” Ferr said. “He’s straightforward, he helps tell the story. It’s kind of amusing because [the guests at the seance] think Condomine is nuts. The doctor thinks he is under stress and that this is over work. Nobody realizes [the ghost is] real.”

Ferr said Dr. Bradman is a supporting role and he’s embraced the character. He thinks the character adds a logical perspective to the show.

“[When] you’re older, you can see the value in those supporting roles,” he said. “And you can, I don’t know if the phrase is ‘milk them,’ but you can get more out a role like that than appears on the page.”

Jim Ferr on stage at Whitby Courthouse Theatre in 1995 playing Monsieur De La Tremouille in The Lark. Photo credit: Provided by Jim Ferr

Ferr has acted in ten shows and designed sound for more productions than he can remember.

He studied Film and Television Production at Humber College and graduated in 1987. Before coming to DC, he worked with Apple from 1988 to 2001 and “I still support Apple” to this day.

Ferr applies tech to his life in theatre and has been designing sound since 1993 because “it helps to create a mood.”

He rehearses Blithe Spirit on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. But he is not alone. For the first time, he and his wife are appearing in the same show.

“My wife and I have been doing theatre since the early 90’s,” Ferr said. “Usually, she would go out for a show and I would stay home to take care of the kids and then we would flip. The kids are grown up now.”

Alexandra Savage-Ferr said her character has “difficulty keeping her thoughts controlled.”

Savage-Ferr said it’s beneficial and fun to act with her husband.

“We can rehearse at home,” she said. “We can talk about the characters at home.”

Savage-Ferr said doing theatre is like meeting and facing your fear. She said the experience is “rewarding” and she feels a “rush of adrenaline” when she steps out from backstage into the light.

“You feel this great sense of accomplishment, that ‘Look at me, here I am up in front of all these people, trying to remember my lines and I’m out in the light and WOW! There they all are – watching me!'”

Ferr said the relationship between Dr. Bradman and Violet Bradman is playful.

“Dr. Bradman and his wife snipe at each other a little bit but its all in good fun,” he said. “It’s not nasty kind of sniping. I think that’s important for farce and comedy. You don’t let your character drop into the negative side too much.”

Ferr said he loves his job at Durham College because he immediately sees results from the help he gives to students and staff.

“It’s kind of like vacuuming,” he said. “You got that dirt off the floor and you got instant feedback. Whereas, some jobs you don’t really see the results of your work until much later.”

In a way, Ferr’s creative outlet gives him the same feedback.

“You get the feedback from the audience on the stage. You can feel it and you can sense it.”

‘Blithe Spirit’ opens on Valentine’s Day at Ajax Community Theatre.