‘And I just cannot wait until October’: Jumping Back and Forth With Devon More

Devon More in Hits Like a Girl. Photo Credit: Cameron Thomson.

July 17, 2020 — Virtually Yours, #WpgFringe (Facebook Live)
Devon More or Less 

We certainly now know that being a human on this planet is to play a team sport, whether you want to or not. Remember earlier this year in lockdown when we all stuck together by staying apart? Kind of like that. It was a pretty ripe time, if you’re a solo show creator, to wander through some potential framing devices. I’m certainly not the only one. I just can’t help myself. I wrote a song about it. Maybe this was my attempt to write the future back in April.

You won’t believe what I see
Venus, it’s so brightly chasing the sun over yonder
Put down the phone and just get on the road
You’ve got to come over to catch the last of the sunset on the deck

Absence won’t make my heart any fonder
Don’t make me beg you when you know what you want to do
You want to come over
When will you be over?

Maybe in the month of May
May should be okay

Can’t you wait until May?

January 16, 2020 — Phone Interview

“I actually measured myself recently, and I am exactly 6-foot and a half inch,” Devon More says, speaking by phone from Kamloops, British Columbia. “You can post that loud and proud. Maybe less so the age.”

I ask the 36-year-old singer-songwriter if she is sensitive about her age.

“I am not really sensitive about it. But I have been warned by other women about the invisibility cloak that falls on you once you’re over 40, particularly as a female on stage. Maybe I’m sensitive about that? But, also, no. Fuck it. I’m trying to be an alternate representation of femininity, and proudly aging is a statement I could happily make.”

More and I met five years ago at the Calgary Fringe Festival, where she presented her one-woman show, Berlin Waltz. Following the show’s final performance, she kindly agreed to an impromptu interview. In our interview, More talked about the inspiration behind Berlin Waltz, planting new ideas through live performance, and working the Canadian fringe festival circuit.

In the years since we last spoke, More has developed two new solo works. Flute Loops premiered in 2018, with Hits Like a Girl premiering the following year.

I ask More to (re)introduce herself and her work.

“The most succinct description I have come up with is sonic storytelling,” she says. “The shows that I put together are not a play, but they are more than a concert. I like to combine live music and lyrical musings on a given topic to create a live music experience that also has a storyline, and that is also tactical. Musically, I think I’ve started calling it protest pop. There are catchy melodies, but there is some lyrical depth in there that is hoping to open your mind and plant some food for thought.”

The last line brings me back to something More said in our first interview:

“It’s amazing if people give you an hour of their time in a world where seven seconds into a YouTube video clip if it’s not entertaining, then you’re onto the next page, right? So, a full hour of time seems like a wasted opportunity to bring people into a room without trying to give them something [that they] can marinate on later.”

The quote remains “absolutely” true for More, whose research for Hits Like a Girl shed light on the relationship between the brain and live performance.

“I did a lot of reading for it. If a person is sharing a story, particularly one that is emotional, the areas of the brain that light up in the storyteller, those exact same areas are engaged in the listener as well. To bring people in a room and put them through a live experience together, you are all syncing up your brain waves. I think I have gotten better at making it an experience that when you leave, you have something to talk about together or to relate to from your own experience as a human.”

May 7, 2020 — Facebook Post
Devon More Music

“Day 50: the finish line for my music marathon!”

April 17, 2020 — Phone Interview

Let’s talk about your daily livestreams. On the 27th, it’ll be a month that you’ve been livestreaming. What made you decide you wanted to perform on Facebook Live? 

There’s so much media out there right now. It’s overwhelming. The numbers. The stats. The gloom and doom. And people are spending a lot of time on their screens because of lockdown. I wanted to put something out there that is not gloom and doom, and that is not a perfectly polished Netflix series. It’s real. It’s live. It’s genuine. It’s a different form of live connection.

And to be honest, I tend towards hyperproductivity. It’s a little bit of a coping mechanism for me, too, because this is what I love to do, play music. It has given me more structure than I have had in the last several years of my life. This month, I am practicing my craft every day. I am noticing an improvement. I have a routine because of it. Just the sheer luxury of leaving my stuff set up in my parents’ living room, which I have completely taken over. I’m not packing my gear in and out of my car or driving from place to place. I’m trying to view things through as positive of a lens as possible. I can also hope that it is helpful to the people who tune in.

It’s important to have those commitments, so the days don’t blend together. It’s too easy to say: I guess I’ll melt into the couch or stay in bed today.

Or scroll through until you read all the terrible articles about COVID-19 from around the world. 

It’s cool that I have heard back from people who I am now part of their routine. During yesterday’s live feed, someone said: “It’s Devon o’clock.” 

We have talked before about people giving you their time. This is like — I am inviting you into my home, and my life, because you’re on my screen.

Yeah. It’s a little unnerving to start because when you are broadcasting your rehearsal every day, it’s not always up to the level of performance standard that I would normally hold myself to, you know. That’s been interesting, too. That’s been interesting to let go of some of my perfectionism. You are learning things as you go. You are going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. That’s part of it, too.

Everyone’s really winging it right now. Do we wear masks in stores? Should I disinfect my groceries? How do I deal with this? 

We are just doing our best. That’s a healthy mindset. We are typically afraid of making mistakes. I don’t know if we talked about this in January, but we don’t have the social framework to own up to our mistakes, to welcome them as opportunities for growth. Right now, we are going to make mistakes as we work our way through this. That’s part of the process. Be kind to each other. If I can model some of the ways we fail as humans on a musical scale, and show people that that’s okay, then wonderful.

July 17, 2020 — Virtually Yours, #WpgFringe
Devon More or Less

I can’t wait to show you the garden’s been growing
Exploding with blossoms and clover
Come have a cup of tea, lay on the grass with me
I would love you to come over
So, come on, just come on right over

Maybe in June
June, it’s coming soon
Can’t you wait till June?

It took awhile to find that album on vinyl
Arriving by special order
And I can’t wait to listen
You won’t be missing out if you come right over

So, won’t you come over?

Maybe in July
July should be just fine

Can’t you wait till July?

April 17, 2020 — Phone Interview

In January, we talked about your online expansion.

I’m still working on it. It’s funny, isn’t it? I’m grateful that I was in that headspace already.  If you are not forced into it, then it’s harder to make those shifts under duress. Now you have to move your job online.

I had gotten to the end of my term house sitting. Rather than feeling like I had built my foundation, I had opened the door to understanding how to build the foundation. I was in this space of — this is a bigger undertaking than I thought. Maybe it’s not going to be fun along the way.

Then, this pandemic happened. Well, no better time to jump in fully. I would not have signed up to livestream daily for a month pre-pandemic. I don’t know if anyone would have cared if I did — a lesson in being open to opportunities as they arise. It’s a dream to work on the creative side of the craft. If I look at it as a rogue residency than a lockdown, great, I have this space where I can do that.

Are you in Kamloops right now?

I came up to spend the ski season here. I had the opportunity to house sit for four and a half months in my hometown, which I haven’t spent much time here since I left in 2008. So, I already had a weird déjà voodoo winter.

In mid-March, the snowbirds came back sooner than expected. Everything changed so quickly. I moved my gear into my parents’ house, and I have been here ever since. I feel like I have manifested an alternate timeline of my teenage years, and I am living it out. It is way better, twenty years later, being a teenager. One, I am an only child this time around. Normally, I am a middle child. Also, my parents are retired now. They have a lot of time and freedom as well, so they are quite creative. My dad has a keyboard. My mom and I sit down in the mornings and do a free write. The snacks have gotten way better since I was an actual teenager. My parents have Brazil nuts and dark chocolate…! I find it amusing: for all the strange places I spent my 20s in, I am right back in my parents’ house for the end of days.

Devon More performing Write the Future as part of Surrey Civic Theatres’ Digital Stage series.

January 16, 2020 — Phone Interview

Our conversation turns to the fringe festival. 

Since premiering Silent Party Interlude at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival, More has become an audience favourite on the fringe circuit. Her one-woman shows have earned critical praise from numerous media outlets, including a nod from the 2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards (Nominee: Berlin Waltz, Best Creative Concept).

Although rewarding, fringe festivals demand a lot from artists, something More explained to me in our first interview:

“The fringe is…I’ve never worked so hard for meager returns, but you know it’s amazing,” said More about the fringe experience. “Professional development pays for itself — so don’t make me seem like I’m money hungry! But you spend so much time on the fringe working, selling, trying to promote, trying to get people excited about your show…I just couldn’t…you really need to care about, at least I do, what you’re trying to sell to be able to maintain that level of involvement with it.”

Curious to know if the seasoned fringe performer feels the same way, I ask More if the years of experience under her belt have made the process any easier.

“It’s such a wonderful moment for us to have this conversation for me,” More says. “I will preface this by saying: I have applied to zero fringe festivals for 2020, and I don’t intend to. I learned so much. What I love about the fringe is you have to do it all. You can’t just do the fun, creative parts. We love it, the first ten percent of the process. We don’t necessarily love writing a press release, or hammering out your elevator pitch, or trying to make a show standout. You have to do it all to make it work on the fringe.”

More tells me that yes, in some ways, working the fringe became easier as she built an “incredible toolkit” over the years. Name recognition, in addition to effective marketing, helped when returning to familiar territory. It is a big compliment as an artist, More says, when audiences come back years after the initial performance. “Let’s see what you want to talk about this time.”

Nonetheless, More feels it necessary to remove herself from the fringe circuit so she can focus more time and energy on building her career. Would she ever perform at the fringe again? Yes, but only if she felt a “burning” desire to tell a story through that platform. For now, More would like to grow her online presence. 

“There’s an interesting equilibrium to maintain as a live performer. The live show needs to be good. You also need a strong online presence. It’s like your resume. It reached a point where my online presence was so out-of-date with what I was doing live that I wasn’t getting the live bookings I should have been getting. That’s what I’m in the process of doing now, entering this different arena, taking what I learned fringing and independently producing, and applying those skills to catch up with the content that needs to be online.”

Although there is something beautiful about live art “disappearing into the ether” (aside from a few reviews and distinctions), it is simply not practical from the standpoint of a creative professional who only has so much time and energy to invest in projects. “Even though it’s just this digital universe, there is something more lasting about the work you can distribute there.”

Looking ahead, More says there is “a lot of foundational work that needs to be done.” Her priorities are expanding her email list and setting up methods that allow the performer to better connect with fans. One way More plans on connecting with fans is through Patreon, an online subscription platform where fans can support creators and receive exclusive content.

April 27, 2020 — Facebook Live
Lockdown Living Room Show

Now, if you have been tuning in at all, I have been on a livestream marathon. I have been livestreaming twice a day for, it’ll be six weeks on Thursday. And maybe some of you are wondering why? Why do I livestream compulsively? That’s fair. It’s a good question. I ask myself this daily. It’s a three-part answer. Number one, it’s cheap therapy for me. Playing music makes me feel better, even if no one is watching my Instagram feed. I start my day by singing three songs, that’s reason enough. Number two, routine. I have more structure in my life right now than I have had in a few years. That’s kinda cool. And the third reason is, it prevents me from going completely feral during quarantine. Probably better for my roommates and I if I continue livestreaming. When I say roommates, I mean my parents.

But why I do this, this art thing? It’s out of a desire to communicate, I think.

July 17, 2020 — Virtually Yours, #WpgFringe
Devon More or Less

I would never overlook

That I borrowed your book
I read it from cover to cover
As quick as a flash, I’ll deliver it back as soon as I can come over
So, can’t I come over?

Maybe in August
In August, we trust
In August, in August
You promised, you promised

August, in August
In August, we trust, in August
You promised
You promised
You promised August


January 16, 2020 — Phone Interview

“I want to make commentary in my work,” More says. “I don’t really consider myself to be an entertainer. What I do is entertaining, but what motivates me is not just being under stage lights but communicating something I think is of value. It appeals to me to spend more time working online so I can make more topical commentary.”

Developing her online presence is not just for the benefit of distributing music and commentary more efficiently. There is also the social element of fans coming along for the ride. 

“It’s lonely a lot of what I do. There’s not the same kind of checklists in independent art that there are in other career trajectories that tell you how you’re doing. I have so much appreciation for the people who continue to follow what I do, and particularly for the people who tell me what they like or don’t about my work. Those conversations are so valuable to me that I am motivated to create a way to have them more regularly with people. Here’s what I’m working on that you won’t be able to see for a year or so, but you can still know the stage of the process that I am in.”

April 27, 2020 — Facebook Live
Lockdown Living Room Show

I’m learning a thing or two about what it means to livestream. What is the difference between this and a real show? I mean, I’m so glad you’re here. This is a real show. I have had these 4:30 showtimes on the fringe. I will just say: there is no way I would have gotten this many people in a house. Thanks for being here.

April 17, 2020 — Phone Interview

But what a time to be a mythmaker, a storyteller, a creator. I have been trying to have these conversations with my fellow creators. We are staying in touch. We have a few accountability partnerships going on. We are trying to be productive during this time as well. It’s okay to want to pull the covers over your head some days, but I think everyone, as we move through this and towards whatever our new reality is going to be, should be considering the stories we choose to tell — our power as storytellers. Draw peoples’ attention to some bigger philosophical questions or deeper values, the sort of things that we can use as catalysts for positive change, rather than the beginning of a terrible end.

That is something we talked about back in January. You said: “We need boredom on a global scale to creatively think about how we can better look after each other and the planet.” 

Did I? That’s quite prophetic. 

July 17, 2020 — Virtually Yours, #WpgFringe
Devon More or Less

You’d never guess but
I’m getting my rest
And I bet you don’t look a day older
Don’t forget when we last met, more or less,
You said that I should come over
So, can’t I come over?

Maybe in September
Things will all be better in September
Till then remember that you’re first on my list of faces to kiss
As soon as all of this is finally over

January 16, 2020 — Phone Interview

“I think where the world is right now, it would be helpful if everyone took a hard look at their personal values,” More says. “What is it that is actually fulfilling to me? If you are honest with yourself, it’s not the stuff. It’s not materialism. People want meaningful human connection. If we could simplify our personal values to what really brings us joy as human beings, then we could let go of some of our materialism, slow down the pace of this insane consumption-based economy we live in, and just take a breather.”

“We need boredom on a global scale to creatively think about how we can better look after each other and the planet. Sooner rather than later, let’s start having those tough discussions.”

August 7, 2020 — Surrey Civic Theatres‘ Digital Stage (YouTube)
Write the Future

Hello, welcome to the show. I’m Devon More, and I make music. I am the show. It’s just me and you at a safe distance. Our show starts with a question: how do you feel about the status quo?

April 17, 2020 — Phone Interview

Let’s go back to your live show, the living room show on April 27th. You set it as your goal. You are playing every day, but this is the show. 

This is the show!

I think that’s so cool. That’s something we talked about in January. You were working on new material. You wanted to get back into the writing and share things that had been in your back catalogue.

I did one show on March 30th, which I had selected because there were the fewest possible conflicts with other livestream events. There are a lot of grants floating around, in theory, for people who are livestreaming concerts. Like most grant funding, it seems easier than it is to actually get the dollars in your hand. I had been working on a setlist for some house concerts that I had coming up.

In the meantime, I have been exploring the livestreaming. I think it’s important to set that goal to have something ready. And also for people who want to tune in only once. If you are interested in the process, tune in every day, and you will get to catch the livelooped musical car wrecks and mistakes and really unexpected good surprises that happen. Sometimes things just go off the rails when you are mixing on the fly with all these different instruments and effects. But I also want to maintain my professional standards in terms of what I consider performance ready, and so I think I will try to do once every two weeks. We’ll see how long it goes on, right?

July 17, 2020 — Virtually Yours, #WpgFringe
Devon More or Less

I’m sorry to bug you, but I need a hug
And I just cannot wait until October
Don’t make me wait until October
Can I just come over?

January 16, 2020 — Phone Interview

“I talked so much. I have been feeling very philosophical lately, so when you reached out, I was like: oh, do I have some thoughts to share.”

April 27, 2020 — Facebook Live
Lockdown Living Room Show

Alright, friends. Thank you for joining me on this Monday afternoon. If you ever need a break from the headlines, this is where I’ll be. 4:30 on Facebook. 10 a.m. on Instagram. Take care of yourselves. Try not to worry about the future. Wonder about the future. And look after yourselves. 

See you soon.

Devon More

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Spotify / YouTube

A Waltz With History: Devon More on What She Learned From Berlin

Devon More's Berlin Waltz ran July 31 - August 8 as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival. Photo Credit: Petrocker Photography.

Devon More’s Berlin Waltz ran July 31 – August 8 as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival. Photo Credit: Petrocker Photography.

For singer-songwriter Devon More, live performance offers an invaluable opportunity to plant new ideas.

“I have a very active brain. I love to research, and I love to learn,” said the Vancouver-based artist. “I find that a lot of media and entertainment that we are exposed to is quite hollow, and I think what a shame…because entertainment value is the perfect way to educate or teach someone.”

And with endless information at our fingertips, live performance is more important than ever in this age of Web 2.0, says More.

“It’s amazing if people give you an hour of their time in a world where seven seconds into a Youtube video clip if it’s not entertaining, then you’re onto the next page, right? So, a full hour of time seems like a wasted opportunity to bring people into a room without trying to give them something… [that they] can marinate on later.”

Last month, More premiered her one-woman musical comedy Berlin Waltz at the Calgary Fringe Festival. Through original music and puppetry, More staged Berlin’s history during the Cold War, from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

More felt inspired to develop Berlin Waltz after living in Germany’s capital city for four years.

“Everyone wants to know why I went to Berlin, but it was completely haphazard,” said More. “I had finished my first undergrad in Kamloops at Thompson Rivers University where I did a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Anthropology. So, naturally, I was still working a restaurant managerial job after I finished. And I thought, well I could do this somewhere cooler.”

“I had done a study exchange to the Netherlands years previous, so I already spoke Dutch. My slightly flawed logic was that German would be the next easiest language to pick up after that, and I could get a working holiday visa for Germany.”

With her best friend joining her, More set off for Germany. Upon arriving in Berlin, More and her friend attended an orientation session on how to navigate through German bureaucracy e.g. work permits, tax numbers.

“[We] figured we would probably end up getting seasonal work somewhere else in Germany, like at a ski resort. But when we got to Berlin, it was just…you could feel the energy of the city,” said More. “People are out and contributing to the city, taking part in the city. I just couldn’t think of a good enough reason to leave, even though unemployment at the time was at almost 20%. This was during the 2008/2009 Recession.”

Despite her limited German, More found work at a pub. Working and living in Berlin, More started to recognize something amazing about the city. Even after “witnessing all the extremes, all the worst possible outcomes” just decades before, Berlin still held the arts in high esteem.

“It’s the only place I’ve ever been where if someone asks you what you do, and you say I am an artist, their next question is not “What’s your real job?” It’s a very creative city,” said More. “And it’s a very beautiful thing as a creative person to be in a city that’s been basically slapped in the face by everything that happened in the 20th century and to see the priorities of the city be art and culture.”

More returned to Canada in 2012. Development on Berlin Waltz would begin after More’s 2014 fringe tour.

“The fringe is…I’ve never worked so hard for meager returns, but you know it’s amazing,” said More about the fringe experience. “Professional development pays for itself — so don’t make me seem like I’m money hungry! But you spend so much time on the fringe working, selling, trying to promote, trying to get people excited about your show…I just couldn’t…you really need to care about, at least I do, what you’re trying to sell to be able to maintain that level of involvement with it.”

With this in mind, More searched for a subject that she felt ready to invest all her time and energy into.

“In Berlin, I learned so much just by living there about what the sort of broad political, ideological ideas, terms, and decisions mean when they actually get down to the human level, to one person, to an individual. And it was a really important lesson for me to know that. And so, I thought, well that’s something i could spend a lot of time and energy on and feel good about.”

Although much of the show’s content comes from what she learned while in Berlin, More says research was necessary in order to accurately and properly contextualize the events that shaped Berlin and its people.

“Berlin is a very strange city. It’s contradictory, it’s not like most first-world capital cities,” said More. “If you don’t know why, if you don’t know what happened in history to create that, it’s kind of hard to understand, so I didn’t feel I could give people the broad strokes of Berlin without planting it in its history.”

More’s Berlin Waltz stands as a love letter to a city, an intimate encounter between biography and history, and also, a call for action. In her show, the artist encourages her audience to question actions taken by the Canadian government, specifically the introduction of invasive bills like the controversial Bill C-51.

“I learned a lot about the Cold War living in Berlin,” said More. “And then, I came back to Canada three years ago, and I was kind of astonished by what I felt like were some political mistakes we were making here. What happened in East Germany proved bad for the greater good. So, I was concerned. I thought, we already know this, we learned these lessons from history. We learned about intense surveillance of the population with the Stasi, and now that beast has morphed with online surveillance and all the beautiful implications of technology.”

More fears that the Cold War has become distant in the minds of Canadians, that the high-tension era which saw so much propaganda has “become history, rather than contemporary history.”

“At this vantage point of 25 years down the road after the victory of capitalism…of this quest for unlimited economic growth and what that entails for the environment and resources, it’s only really now that we know what that meant. I think rather than just blazing forward on the same path we’ve been on for 25 years since the wall fell, maybe it’s time to take inventory and say “could it be better?”…I think the answer is absolutely yes. We’re at a point where we don’t have enemies like the Soviets versus the US anymore.”

Looking ahead, More says she will perform Berlin Waltz again. She intends on using all the feedback she received to fine tune and polish the show. Ultimately, More says, she hopes to continue inspiring people to consider the parallels between what happened in East Germany and what is happening here at home.

Devon More’s Berlin Waltz ran July 31 – August 8 as part of the Calgary Fringe Festival.

Visit CBC Music’s profile on Devon More to learn more about the artist: http://music.cbc.ca/#!/artists/Devon-More

Devon More’s Bandcamp Page: http://devonmore.bandcamp.com/ 

A Pure Delight: Smee’s Secret Wins Over Audience at Calgary Fringe Festival


Smee’s Secret won Outstanding Production at the 32nd Annual Calgary One Act Play Festival. (Pictured: Olive (Emma Sinclair) and Pistachio (Kelly Malcolm) with Smee, their cardboard box friend) Photo Credit: Kathryn Smith.

What a task to describe The Tighty Whities’ latest show Smee’s Secret. For sure, the clown duo’s award-winning show is nothing short of wonderful.

The genius of Smee’s Secret lies in its deceptively simple premise: two clowns help their cardboard box friend complete his bucket list. One moment, Olive (Emma Sinclair) and Pistachio (Kelly Malcolm) are caught up in their child-like sense of wonder and imagination; the next their friend Smee feels very ill. Massage, medication, nothing the clowns try appear to help Smee. The total suddenness of it all drives the clowns to figure out something, anything. Uncertainty, desperation, anger, Olive and Pistachio’s emotional journey might ring familiar for any who have experienced loss in their own lives.

By dealing with the topic of loss under the guise of a silly clown show, Sinclair and Malcolm catch the audience by surprise, but it is not the sort of surprise that clunks the audience over the head. The reason is that Smee’s Secret is, at its core, a story about friendship. What does it mean to be a friend, especially during hard times? Olive and Pistachio learn that while everything else may fail, the strength of friendship always remains. Sometimes the most important thing we can do for our friends is simply be there for them. So, this is not a show about loss per se; it is a show about how we love and say goodbye to the ones we care the most about.

There is plenty of fun, too, in the mix. Through the power of montage (set to the tune of Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams Come True), Olive and Pistachio clear the items off Smee’s list in no time. Outside help from the audience is required at one point as the clowns invite an audience member to sit down for a romantic date with Smee. Olive and Pistachio act as chaperones, giving the two pointers along the way in what is a charming little scene.

Olive and Pistachio are so easy to fall in love with because of the sincerity Sinclair and Malcolm bring to the stage. And so, it is no surprise that the audience send Olive and Pistachio off to their next adventure with enthusiastic applause.

Imaginative, magical, Smee’s Secret delights with its special blend of humour and heart.

The Tighty Whities’ Smee’s Secret ran July 31st – August 8th as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

For more information about The Tighty Whities, visit: http://www.thetightywhities.com/

Trillo and Arnista’s Perpetual Wednesday Entertains


From left to right: Walter (Jacob Trillo) and Bruce (Anthony Arnista) are in big trouble after their magic act turns deadly in White Collar Crimes’ Perpetual Wednesday.

When two-bit magicians Walter (Jacob Trillo) and Bruce (Anthony Arnista) mess up, boy do they really mess.

White Collar Crimes’ Perpetual Wednesday, created by Arnista and Trillo, follows Walter and Bruce after a disastrous magic act where they may or may not have shot a man in the face. Walter insists it was all part of the act, that the audience volunteer is perfectly fine. Bruce isn’t so sure, after all the blood and the body he chopped up seemed pretty real to him.

Trillo and Arnista’s hyper-energetic act makes for a very sweaty performance inside the hot Lantern Church Sanctuary. Shadow theatre, dance, and off-colour humour, the actors’ amusing variety show has it all. Trillo and Arnistra’s showmanship is impeccable. The show, unfortunately, loses momentum once it dives straight into the rabbit hole.

One moment Walter and Bruce are the sort of sleazy magicians you might find at a Las Vegas lounge, the next it turns out they’re actually immortals who struck a deal with the ancient Egyptian god Anubis. The joke that Walter and Bruce were actually some of history’s iconic figures, while fun at first, becomes tired. The two in time come around to settle the matter of the dead man, but by then the whole ordeal has collapsed under its own weight. The audience is left with an abrupt, less than satisfying ending.

Ultimately, Trillo and Arnista’s Perpetual Wednesday entertains, despite some script issues that hold back its full comedic potential.

White Collar Crimes’ Perpetual Wednesday runs July 31st – August 8th as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://see.calgaryfringe.ca/events/476-perpetual-wednesday

A Woman of a Certain Age’s Honest Commentary Troubled by Script Issues

Wendy Froberg's A Woman of a Certain Age runs as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

Wendy Froberg’s A Woman of a Certain Age runs as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

For playwright/actor Wendy Froberg, age is just not a number, especially not for women. The more a woman ages, Froberg argues, the more she becomes flawed in the eyes of society. Seldom are women allowed to grow old without their self-worth being diminished in the process.

Presented by Archetype Productions, Froberg’s one-woman show A Woman of a Certain Age chronicles the lives of six mature women as they deal with their families, marriages, and careers.

The play’s central character is Gwen Randall, a mother of two who is caught shoplifting at the local mall. The criminal act has seemingly come out of nowhere considering Gwen is an upstanding member of the community with a good career. All eventually comes to light as we learn more about Gwen’s hidden troubles at home and with her widowed mother who has dementia.

Around Gwen there are other women, too, trying to cope with aging, specifically the loss of status. Gwen’s mother, who lives in a nursing home, feels a loss of self now that her children are grown up with lives of their own, and her husband has passed on. No longer a mother, no longer a wife, what defines Gwen’s mother in her old age?

Froberg proposes that older women are defined by their appearance. Like Gwen’s mother, once women reach a certain age, they are largely ignored, that is unless they have aged well. But what does that mean, to age well? Here, Froberg defines aging well as not just being (normatively) capable both physically and mentally, but also being free of any signs that mark old age. Although, as she points out, women and men are not held to the same standards. Men grow old without worry, while women are pressured to be wrinkle-free.

Froberg’s commentary is derailed drastically by the analogy Gwen’s European Esthetician draws between North America’s “War on the Face” and World War II. The second World War, the Esthetician believes, instilled (all?) Europeans with socially progressive attitudes towards aging and beauty. Having never experienced any such trauma, North Americans are, therefore, incapable of recognizing inner beauty. (REAL blemishes are caused by artillery explosions). The whole scene is perplexing, and Froberg’s poor attempt at a “European” accent does little to help.

What else might confuse audiences are Froberg’s messy character transitions. Froberg is not up to task on presenting six, distinct characters. In fact, she may simply be working with more characters than necessary. Some of the other character storylines, like Gwen’s sister who has a son with special needs, wander aimlessly until the end where Froberg rushes to close them with a nice feel-good ribbon. The result is a play that know what it wants to say, but then tries to fit in as much else as it can, making for a very obvious one-hour run time.

Overall, Froberg’s A Woman of a Certain Age speaks hard truths about women, aging, and beauty, but not without some major bumps along the way.

Presented by Archetype Productions, Wendy Froberg’s A Woman of a Certain Age runs July 31 – August 8th as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://see.calgaryfringe.ca/events/468-a-woman-of-a-certain-age

Mercutio & Tybalt Impresses at Calgary Fringe Festival


From left to right: Tybalt (Celene Harder) and Mercutio (Val Duncan) bring their side of the story to life in Valour & Tea’s Mercutio & Tybalt. Photo Credit: Chris Tait.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has seen its fair share of adaptations and retellings, but none, Mercutio (Val Duncan) says, have come even close to the truth. For how many know that Mercutio and Tybalt (Celene Harder) were actually close friends? That is the premise of Valour & Tea’s newest work Mercutio & Tybalt, a hilarious reimagining of Shakespeare’s most popular play.

Written and directed by Duncan and Harder, Mercutio & Tybalt catches up with the titular characters in the afterlife. Still bitter about the fact that the story of two dumb, hormone-crazed teenagers has endured the last 400 years, Mercutio and Tybalt decide it’s time that they share their story with the world. What follows is an epic tale of bromance, full of puppetry and swordplay, that weaves in and out of familiar scenes from Romeo and Juliet.

Duncan and Harder stay true to the Bard’s style by performing the show entirely in iambic pentameter, with modern slang included in the mix. In doing so, Mercutio and Tybalt’s vaudeville-inspired antics are given a natural, if not musical, rhythm for the actors to follow.

Duncan and Harder have crafted a wildly fun show that works for both friends and acquaintances of the Bard. Harder’s bad-tempered Tybalt is the perfect foil to Duncan’s immature, yet sharp tongued Mercutio. The pair work brilliantly together, delivering a charming performance abundant in wit and attitude.

Mercutio & Tybalt captures the spirit of its source material, while delivering something fresh and vibrant at the same time. Audiences will find much to enjoy here, guaranteed.

Val Duncan and Celene Harder’s Mercutio Tybalt runs July 31st – August 8th as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://see.calgaryfringe.ca/events/464-mercutio-tybalt

Gomes and Haight’s Now What? Shows Weight of Relationship Dynamics

Brian and Marina

Now What? stages the key moments of Jared and Isabel’s (Brian Haight and Marina Gomes) relationship out of chronological order. Photo credit: Helen Tansey

How much does pain weigh? How light does love make us feel? These are the questions that Marina Gomes and Brian Haight’s play Now What? explores through a physical form of theatre known as Contact. Through contact acting, Gomes and Haight give weight to both the emotional and physical impact of relationships, delivering something unique in the process.

During their morning routine, Jared and Isabel, played by Haight and Gomes respectively, lean on and share each other’s weight as they brush their teeth. The couple perform the sort of acrobatics that only two people who love and trust each other would ever dare execute together.

When a car accident leaves Jared unable to walk, Jared and Isabel’s relationship becomes strained as they try to deal with the new dynamic between them. Isabel carries Jared on her back as she tries to complete their morning routine, but the weight of her unhappiness and Jared’s anger is too much. She and Jared fall to the ground.

Gomes and Haight stir a deep, emotional response with the simplicity and honesty of their movement. They successfully capture the sort of intimate connection that makes two lovers at a loss for words when they try explaining to friends what they share or how the other makes them feel.

However, while the play’s Contact elements are interesting,  the writing leaves something to be desired in terms of delivering a tight, cohesive narrative. Jared and Isabel are a means for Gomes and Haight to showcase what contact acting can achieve in terms of expressing the indescribable. Everything else exists only to help Gomes and Haight reach the brilliant concepts they have written the script around. The result is a weak script that tries in earnest to pull all its elements together.

Gomes and Haight’s Now What? displays exciting thought and perspective on the nature of relationships. Script issues aside, Gomes and Haight’s experiment with Contact is a serious effort that ultimately delivers its audience a powerful experience.

Presented by Girl Meets Boy Theatre Company, Marina Gomes and Brian Haight’s Now What? runs July 31 – August 8th as part of the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://see.calgaryfringe.ca/events/466-now-what

Helmut’s Big Day Charges Forward, Stumbles


James Wade’s Helmut’s Big Day is one of 27 shows running at the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival.

The Empire is good, God is great, and the uncivilized, Cat-Demon worshipping Barbarians call the Barren Plain home. Sabir (Alan Johnson) knows these three things for sure, except…well, the Barren Plain is the one with the small bush, right?

Presented by Red Phone Theatre, James Wade’s Helmut’s Big Day is a satirical comedy that pokes fun at notions of empire and conformity. The play blends hijinks and philosophy for a breezy, though sometimes sluggish, critique of political ideologies.

Atop the wall separating the Empire from the Barren Plain, Sabir keeps a vigilant eye over the Great Plain which he is sworn to protect. While marching back and forth may not be glamorous, Sabir is compelled to serve the Empire because, according to the army’s manuals, God is watching – always watching. Lonely at his post, Sabir finds a friend in Helmut, a soldier’s helmet he converses with.

Sabir’s troubles begins when Helmut “asks” him to identify what the difference is between the two Plains. (After all, they’re both plain!) The question, at first taken with confidence, makes Sabir uneasy as what he actually sees, which is no discernible difference at all, stands at odds with the narratives fed to him by the Empire. As the contradiction disturbs Sabir, he suddenly spots riders approaching from both sides. Which is the enemy, which is the ally, the problem of the Plains worsens with every passing second.

The nature of Sabir’s blind loyalty to the Empire reveals itself further when Katar (Emma Sinclair) comes to check on her comrade. Also confused by the Plains, Katar proposes the idea that morality is subjective, that maybe the Barbarians see themselves as good and the Empire as evil. Either that, Katar says, or life is random and all action, like guarding the wall, is meaningless. (God, Cat-Demon, makes no difference in the end). Sabir dismisses Katar’s foolish ideas, despite being confronted by the falseness of the Empire head on.

What emerges from the total confusion of these two lowly soldiers is sheer buffoonery. Sabir and Katar’s ‘best’ judgement leads to disastrous results.

While fun, Wade’s expression of these philosophical ideas is largely cumbersome. The script has difficulty weaving the play’s big ideas and physical humour together without resorting to mouthfuls. The ideas land heavy and, as a result, interrupt Johnson and Sinclair’s comedic antics.

Director/Designer Kathryn Smith’s clean, simple set helps the action flow neatly. Smith’s remedies the sometimes stagnant pace of the script by employing the two wall borders to create and thrust the audience into the panicked frenzy shared between Sabir and Katar. The use of the wall borders to show different dimensions of both the wall and the action is smart.

The snappy chemistry between Johnson and Sinclair is enjoyable, though not so much until later in the show when the script gives the actors more room to play. Sinclair’s performance as the oblivious ‘wise fool’ plays well against Johnson’s condescending, but utterly foolish character.

Ultimately, Helmut’s Big Day satirical bite is bogged down by clumsy dialogue. The play delivers fun, physical humour, but its commentary struggles to have a sharp presence in the mix.

Presented by Red Phone Theatre, James Wade’s Helmut’s Big Day runs July 31st – August 8th at the 2015 Calgary Fringe Festival. 

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://see.calgaryfringe.ca/events/473-helmuts-big-day

Scared Stiff: Bare Bones Production’s Wilma-May and Her Tight White Socks Fails to Impress

Presented at the Alexandra Centre Society as part of Calgary’s Fringe Festival, Bare Bones Production’s Wilma-May and Her Tight White Socks suffers from an uninspired script that lacks direction, resulting in an exhausting, disjointed performance.

Written and performed by Jennifer Roberts, Wilma-May and Her Tight White Socks is a one-woman show that tells the story of Wilma-May, a woman who is afraid of everything. At the request of her therapist, Wilma-May joins an online support group to help overcome her recent emotional trauma which has made her a shut-in. The situation is dire, however, for Wilma-May as her supply of light bulbs has run out (and as you guessed it, she is terrified of the dark). In the next 12 weeks, Wilma-May must either overcome her fears or live the rest of her life in total darkness. Continue reading