Theatre Notes

Untried and true Threshold • PCL Studio (Arts Barns) • Sat, Apr 24
(8pm) • preVUE A lot of plays get produced in Edmonton every year, and
decent-sized audiences show up for most of them. But if anything proves
Edmonton is a truly theatre-crazy city, it’s the fact that so many
people in this town are willing to pay money to see plays that aren’t
even technically finished yet. Staged reading series like Springboards and
the Playwrights’ Garage at Workshop West, Urban Tales at Northern Light
Theatre and the new play readings Theatre Network sponsors as part of
NextFest (as well as provincial events like Playworks Ink in Calgary)
regularly draw packed houses of attentive listeners who apparently need
little more to keep them entertained than two or three actors and some music
stands. Barbara French, of the emerging Edmonton collective Et Cetera
Theatre, hopes to rope in the same crowd of adventurous, ahead-of-the-curve
theatregoers this Saturday with Threshold, a fundraising night of
“drama on the edge” that French says is designed to help a few
smaller Edmonton theatre companies get the word out about their shows (and do
a little workshopping in the process). “We thought that other indie
companies are having the same trouble we’re having in terms of raising
money and getting audiences,” French says breathlessly, “and we
thought it would be great if we could do a fundraiser that would be more of a
showcase for a whole range of people to show their work—plays they were
planning to do next season or at the Fringe—and get the media there and
have a cabaret atmosphere and just have a really fun evening showing off the
indie arts scene. So I put out an e-mail, a whole lot of people responded and
we’re going ahead with it.” Five shows at various stages of
development will be featured at the event. Probably the most well-developed,
in more ways than one, is Panties Productions’ Burlesque, a biography
of pioneering 19th-century burlesque queen Lydia Thompson, which had a full
theatrical run at Azimuth Theatre back in January and which will reappear, in
a rewritten version, at this summer’s Fringe. Also destined for the
Fringe are actor/playwright Ottilie Parfitt’s one-woman show Iron Woman
(in which a woman reflects on her life and her unhappy marriage while ironing
her husband’s shirts) and Swashbucklers, a lesbian pirate saga created
by Alice Nelson and Wes Borg. “Alice has just come up from
Calgary,” French says. “She has some connections with people I
know here, and of course we all know Wes Borg, but I’d never seen her
work—I just learned about this piece from chatting with her on the
phone—but I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and decided this
would be a good way to introduce her to the community.” Also on the
menu are a pair of less linear dance/theatre hybrids: Scythe, featuring Amber
Borotsik, Jesse Gervais and Cory Vanderjagt, dramatizes the dying tradition
of the family farm; while (pause), created by French and Aaron Talbot,
explores themes of guilt, redemption and maleness. Talbot performed an early
version of the piece in January at the Mutton Busting Festival, a sidebar
event at Calgary’s High Performance Rodeo, but French says the piece
has already undergone some dramatic changes. “My company is very, very,
very interested in audience/stage relationships,” she says, “and
this is a great way to find out what people’s strongest connection is
with the piece and take that reaction back into rehearsal and figure out how
we can use that…. There’s something we want to say with the piece,
but I’m very interested to see what the audience gets out of it. The
audience is never wrong.” Bequeath contempt The audience may never be
wrong, but the theatre critic often is. As several attentive readers have
pointed out to me, William Shakespeare left his wife Anne Hathaway his
“second-best bed” in his will, not his “best bed,” as
I claimed last week when I wrote about Vern Thiessen’s upcoming Citadel
show Shakespeare’s Will. That’ll teach me to write this column
using my second-best brain. V

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