Tag Archives: sonder

Parade, mosquitoes, camels, and opening night!

It’s the Fringe!  The site gradually filled up all day until there was a crowd of high-energy  costumed performers gathered outside Strathcona Market for the opening parade around the site, and more people watching along the short parade route and waiting in front of the outdoor stage.  Shows started after that.

Our show Sonder opened at 10pm in King Edward School, venue 5.  It’s so fun to start sharing our work with audiences, after working on it in quiet studios.  It’s a great venue and the technicians and front-of-house volunteers were great.  In the warm humid weather the mosquitoes descended with dusk, so waiting outside the venues was a frustration of swiping and slapping, and walking across the ballfield was an attempt to outrun them.  It looks like the weather will be a little cooler on the weekend so I hope that will discourage the bugs.

After a quick drink with the company, I then started my week of watching plays with Camel Camel, a wonderful piece of physical theatre from Meghan Frank and Janessa Johnsrude, both graduates and staff members of the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California (I think the Wonderheads trained there too).  They were very funny and there were no slow spots.  I had actually missed some of the plot tying the scenes together until I read more about it on their website this morning, but I enjoyed it a lot even without.

Cast of Sonder, postcard style

Sonder and the Fringe

The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is my favourite festival.   And counting down to the Fringe is like counting down to Christmas.  When I was a child, I used to ask my parents, Don’t you wish Christmas was tomorrow? Mum would sigh and Dad would grumble in their grownup ways saying that they didn’t wish Christmas was tomorrow because they weren’t ready.  I would explain that if Christmas was tomorrow they would be ready!  They didn’t buy it.

Anyway, every year as soon as Folkfest is over I start getting excited about the Fringe.  I already have my program and some show tickets, and my volunteering schedule for the beer tent.  I drove by the grounds last night and saw the barricades on some of the roads.  I’m clicking Maybe on all the Facebook events and trying to figure out how many I can see.  I’m looking forward to the parade, the food stands (especially Rustixx pizza), the out-of-town visitors, the excitement … but at the same time I’m feeling like one of those grown-ups who has a to-do list that has to happen first.

One of the things on my personal to-do list is to get caught up writing about other performances I’ve seen, so I can start the season fresh.  That will appear here in the next few days.

The other things are about getting everything ready for the new show that I’m producing, Sonder, with our company The ? Collective (you can pronounce that however you want, but we usually say “the question mark collective” – our twitter handle is @theqmcollective).  A friend and I put together a lottery entry last fall and were lucky enough to get selected to perform in a Fringe lottery venue, King Edward School.  That’s Venue 5, the elementary school, the low white building closer to the Fringe grounds, as opposed to the Academy which is the older brick building across the street.  My friend, Jake Tkaczyk, took on the roles of director and creation facilitator, gathering a small group of Red Deer College students to explore themes of interconnectedness and meaningful moments in a collaborative creation process.  The title Sonder came from the tumblr blog Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in which the writer, John Koenig, coins many words for interesting concepts – in this case the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as one’s own.  As the work slowly took shape, Collette Radau contributed as dramaturg, Alex Boldt responded with original music and soundscapes, and all of us told and listened to many stories.

What we’ve come up with uses the techniques of performance art, movement, recitation, and narrative scenes real and surreal to show a series of moments in different people’s lives, from the everyday to the magical, funny and poignant and sometimes disturbing.   We’re excited about showing our creation to the Fringe community, and we’re also excited about experiencing the Fringe from the inside.   I’m the only one who’s been involved with a show in the past (as stage manager for WaMo Productions’ God on God 2013, 3 stars in the VUE and the Journal).  Some of the company members will be attending their first Edmonton Fringe, and I’m almost as excited about showing them the festival that made me fall in love with theatre in the first place.

But as I said at the beginning, I’ve got a to-do list between me and opening night (Thursday Aug 14th at 10 pm by the way).  The rest of our company arrives in town today, and our tech rehearsal is this afternoon.  We have posters to hang, handbills to hand out, programs to print, buttons to sell, and a parade to entertain you in (Thursday Aug 14th, 7:30 pm, Fringe grounds). We have a blog, a website, a Facebook event and page, a twitter account, and an indiegogo campaign (running til the 21st).

And we have tickets at the box offices for all our performances, $11 adult, $9 student/senior.  We’d love to see you there!

  • Thurs Aug 14th, 10 pm (opening)
  • Sun Aug 17th, 9 pm
  • Mon Aug 18th, 12:15 pm
  • Wed Aug 20th, 11:30 pm
  • Thurs Aug 21st, 4:00 pm
  • Sat Aug 23rd, 6:45 pm (closing)
Sonder cast rehearses family scene.  Erin Pettifor as the mother comforts her children (Julia Van Dam, Evan Macleod).

Sonder cast rehearses family scene. Erin Pettifor as the mother comforts her children (Julia Van Dam, Evan Macleod).

Sonder cast creates funeral vignette.  Evan Macleod as Doug the deceased.  Mourners left to right: Julia Van Dam, Emily Cupples, Tyler Johnson, Brittany Martyshuk.

Sonder cast creates funeral vignette. Evan Macleod as Doug the deceased. Mourners left to right: Julia Van Dam, Emily Cupples, Tyler Johnson, Brittany Martyshuk.

Hilda’s Yard in Rosthern, Saskatchewan

I’m aiming to be caught up on reviews or at least quick mentions by the start of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (August 14-24, 2014), because that’s the start of my personal theatregoing year, and the anniversary of my move to Edmonton.  This year at the Fringe, besides volunteering at the beer tent, volunteering front of house for a Rapid Fire production or two, and seeing as many shows as I can fit into my schedule, I’m also going to be producing a new work.  Sonder, created and performed by The ? Collective under the direction of Jake Tkaczyk (a U of A BFA Acting student), will be playing at the King Edward Elementary School.

The most recent play I’ve attended was Norm Foster’s charming slice of 1950s family life, Hilda’s Yard, as directed by Stephen Heatley (formerly of Edmonton and now faculty at UBC) at the Station Arts Centre in Rosthern, Saskatchewan.  As a professional production by a summer company, it reminded me of the plays I used to go to at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque when I lived in Kingston.   I hear that doing the dinner/show package at the Tea Room in the arts centre is an even better experience, but by the time I decided to attend the dinner was sold out.  So I had a tasty club sandwich at a local restaurant called Chewie’s (after the Star Wars character I think), and then enjoyed strolling through the art gallery before the show started.

Hilda’s Yard opens with the title character (Cheryl Jack) hanging laundry in her backyard, while talking to a neighbour we can’t see.  We learn that she’s relieved that her two grown children have recently moved out, and that she’s a little apprehensive about her husband planning to buy their first television set.   I thought Hilda’s character was the most interesting part of the play.  Cheryl Jack portrayed her as confident, competent, wistful, and mostly in control, and her portrayal was enhanced by some very amusing gestures and hip wiggles.  I was pleased to see that she and her husband Sam (Bruce McKay) were both looking forward to the increased opportunities for intimacy afforded by having an empty nest, rather than playing that situation for the cheap laughs of imbalance.   The complication, of course, is that both adult children soon return home, for the same kinds of reasons that are common in 21st-century boomerang kids.  Gary (Jaron Francis) has lost his pizza-delivery job in the city and is on the run from a bookie he owes money to.  Sam’s prolonged pauses as he tries to figure out what to say to his son are priceless.  Daughter Janey (Angela Kemp) shows up back home due to marital troubles.  I’d seen both Jaron Francis and Bruce McKay in last season’s Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan productions of Macbeth and Comedy of Errors.

When I read the show notes ahead of time, I assumed that the plot would focus on Gary and Janey now insisting on staying with their parents in order to watch the television.  But Norm Foster’s stories are not quite that predictable.  Although the (off-stage) television figures in the plot, it doesn’t quite work out like that.  Additional characters who show up and get invited for supper include Gary’s new girlfriend Bobbi, a jazz trombonist (Shannon Harasen) and Gary’s bookie Beverly (Matt Josdal).  Bobbi’s idiolect is noticeably different from the language used by the rest of the characters, with jazz lingo like “cat” but also in careful details like her pronunciation of “Mom” contrasting with Janey’s old-Ontario pronunciation of “Mum”. Present-day audiences are amused by any mention of the 1956 prices and wages, but also by Gary’s unrealistic schemes to make money with such unlikely products as a “baby-on-board” sign or a hula hoop.  I appreciated the light touch by director and actors throughout the play, because the story is funny enough without hitting the audience over the head.

The set (design by David Granger) portrayed a backyard like the ones of my childhood with simple clean lines – an artificial-turf lawn, a wooden-siding wall, a white picket fence with bits of weed growing between the pickets, a perfectly-recreated pulley clothesline and a wicker laundry basket, vintage lawn chairs and a credibly-dented metal garbage can.

Hilda’s Yard continues until July 27th, and is definitely worth the short drive from Saskatoon.