Skipping Stones Theatre’s “Life of Len” at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe Festival

The Windsor-Walkerville Fringe provided another afternoon of exceptional theatre with Life of Len produced by Skipping Stones Theatre. This one man show starring Eric Branget follows Len through several of the highlights in his life. Most of these memories focus on his relationship with his brother, Jimmy, and how things change with each life event.

Branget plays Len from childhood to old age, and watching the transformations happen instantaneously was impressive in its seamlessness. From a young Len, obsessed with space travel and Flash Gordon, to an elderly man who can’t find anything (it may be lost in the 90’s) Branget adeptly navigates all of these situations and everything in between. We get to fully understand Len, and where some of his trouble-maker nature comes from (he didn’t mean to break the radio the second time, he swears), but also the great deal of hero worship he has for his brother, and how that translates to the choices he makes throughout his life.

One of the most ingenious elements to the play was how the other characters were represented on stage. Instead of talking to blank spaces and imaginary people, Branget uses household items to bring the other characters to life: Jimmy is a coatrack, Peter (Len’s son) an umbrella, and Pearl (Len’s wife) a lamp. Not only did these objects become something for Branget to play off of, they also provided opportunity for a great deal of comedy and were an unexpected but entertaining accent to the performance.

A personal favourite, and one of the more poignant memories, of the play was when Len decided to go and fight in World War Two. What’s normally depicted in such serious manner is made light as Len complains about his chores with his battalion and has shreds of maps all over his barracks. Yet in this levity we hear some of his most touching remarks about his brother; his presence in Len’s mind all too fresh and frequent despite the distance and trying circumstances. It was a beautiful moment, and really struck a chord for me.

The play ends with this beautiful playing with the phrase Please Play Again, the roll-up-the-rim result no one wants, but is a moving reminder of just how short life is and how the ones we love will always be there for us, one way or another.

There are only a few more chances to catch this awesome piece at the Olde Walkerville Theatre! July 28 at 1:15, and July 30 at 1. Don’t miss it!!

Drawing Board Production’s “Bedwetter” at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe

Drawing Board Production’s latest creation, Bedwetter, depicts the real life trials and victories of Tamlynn Bryson, the co-creator and story-teller. Directed and co-created by Kyle Kimmerly, Bryson reflects on her childhood from ages seven to fifteen and what it feels like to have “accidents” even when entering into young womanhood.

What I loved the most about the piece was its breathtaking honesty. I can’t imagine what it must be like to talk about a difficult part of your past so openly with groups full of strangers every day. But Bryson fearlessly shares her story, and knowing that every element and emotion expressed in the play is true gives a gravity to the levity she’s able to make of the situation now. 

Part of that levity comes from the ability with which Bryson is able to switch from one character to another in her story. Her changes in physicality and voice that accompany each new personality create her world for us while showcasing the immense talent of the actress. Even Kimmerly gets in on the action, doing Goofy-cartoon style voiceover instructions for some of Bryson’s more trying sleepovers.


The pop culture references which were included in the show were very powerful; they showcase not only what is put out in the media about bedwetters, but also how inundated we are with those references and therefore what we’re supposed to think about them. The majority of them came from comedy shows, where the bedwetter was always the butt of the joke. It was especially impactful to hear them drown out Bryson’s own positive voice: a perfect example of how negative media affects us, no matter how loud we think that positive voice is. 

 And these perceptions changed so drastically over time for Bryson as well, going from being open and honest about her situation to hiding it from virtually everyone in her life. It was difficult to watch as her self-esteem is broken down little by little by characters she’s playing herself. But it so accurately depicted what it’s like being a teen who’s maybe a little outside of “normal” that everyone is able to connect to her story. 

You need to check out this hysterically self-referencial, moving, and engaging show at the Olde Walkerville Theatre July 26th at 1:15pm, July 27th at 7pm, July 28th at 5pm and July 29 at 3:45.

Photography: Corey Palmer

Photo Editing: Larissa Nodwell 

The Cog and Sprocket Theatre Collective’s “The Dumb Waitor”

I had the pleasure of seeing The Cog and Sprocket’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waitor at Shō, a fantastic piece of absurdist theatre which had me hooked from beginning to end.

Samuel Beckett’s influence on Pinter is clearly evident in The Dumb Waitor, but Pinter makes some very calculated deviations from the conventions set down by Beckett, making The Dumb Waitor a piece of “practical absurdism” for director Miriam Goldstein-Cedroni. While the situation itself, two men waiting seemingly endlessly for someone to come along, is recognizably an homage to Waiting for Godot, what makes The Dumb Waitor unique are the ways in which Pinter artfully manipulates that situation to create a far more linear but no less thoughtful piece. 

The setting is one of the major elements in Pinter’s play which sets it apart from most of its absurdist counterparts, and not only gave the play context but a solid grounding in reality. The set for The Cog and Sprocket’s production used the intimate space to truly put the audience in the basement with Gus and Ben. The setting creates a sort of claustrophobia for the characters, resulting in dynamic tension between the two. The Cog and Sprocket’s production utilized that closeness and extended it to include the audience by placing everyone in close proximity to the action. The anxiety, agitation and anticipation permeate the space and impresses upon the audience that feeling of inescapability.

 Gus and Ben themselves are fascinating as characters in the realm of the absurd. Far from their Godot counterparts, Gus and Ben go through moments of intense emotion expressed both verbally and physically which gives the play these moments of mounting tension followed by relief, only to boil up again. Megan Milette (Gus) and Taylor Brimner (Ben) both gave powerhouse performances, breathing such life into the assassins that you couldn’t help but get attached to them. With just the two actors on stage, and nothing but the mechanical dumb waitor to break up the monotony of the character’s condition, so much relies on the strength of their performances and they did not disappoint. I became so invested in what was happening to them and wondering who or what was messing with them, and that concern is wholly due to their exceptional performances. 

I was very pleased with the portrayal of Gus and Ben by female actors. I agree that the idea that our suspension of disbelief can’t seem to reach beyond gender is disheartening. What’s even more unbelievable to me is how works like Waiting for Godot come with the stipulation that only men may play those roles. The initial conception behind of Theatre of the Absurd was works showing life for what they truly were, in all of its chaotic glory. Does that mean our world is only populated with men? Or are men’s stories the only way to convey the true nature of the world? By using women to portray these characters, The Cog and Sprocket’s production puts the emphasis on the humanity of the play and thus truly reaches the heart of the Absurd movement and founding ideals.

What really stood out to me about the story of The Dumb Waitor was the fact that it had a definite ending. While that ending is still ambiguous (did he or didn’t he shoot him?), it follows a more linear plot line with subtle hints as to who they’re waiting for dropped throughout the text. Because the audience comes to know and have concern for the characters, it makes the ending all the more startling and impactful. The final moment where Gus and Ben stand there looking at each other made my heart sink. It’s a mesmerizing, breath stealing ending to an engaging, visceral piece of theatre.

Bravo to all of the cast and crew, whose hearts were clearly in the making of this piece and whose dedication and perseverance definitely paid off.

University Player’s “An Experiment with an Air Pump”

I had the absolute pleasure to see the University of Windsor’s latest offering An Experiment with an Air Pump last Saturday night. As usual, it was a thrill for me to walk into a play with no expectations other than the good word I had heard buzzing about the show. With some of my cast members by my side, we were thrown into a world of science, art, love and intrigue which certainly did not disappoint.

The set was immediately striking, and set the tone perfectly for the rest of the play. Swathed in curtains and centring on a large arch/doorway, you immediately felt the sense of grandeur that the piece calls for. The use of projection throughout the play was certainly one of the most interesting aspects to me. When entering the theatre the curtains are scrawled with scientific jargon (my more scientifically minded comrades assured me it was quite legitimate though) about DNA, next there was the painting the play is based off of, then a dove, and then finally the noose that does in poor Isobel. It was not only visually stunning, but also made moments that would have been otherwise difficult to stage powerful and meaningful. The costumes for each period so beautifully complimented each other, allowing for ties to easily be drawn between the two scenarios and yet capturing the strong individualities of each character.

The play itself takes place in two different time periods, 1899 and 1999. “On the threshold” as the play discusses of two centuries, we see the juxtaposition of science, what it means, how it clashes with the arts, and how two families living in the same estate but generations apart are dealing with both similar and vastly different issues. I think this is the element that I have been puzzling over the most in regards to this production: How is it possible for science to have progressed so much in a hundred years, and what on Earth will it look like in another 84 years from now? In 1899 the scientists are obsessed with the human anatomy, and dissections are still practically public entertainment. We see these sorts of fascinations in Frankenstein with its chopped up bodies and creating life. In Air Pump we see Thomas Armstrong (played by Brendan Kinnon) pine for Isobel Bridie (Emerjade Simms), not truly for her love, but for the opportunity to asses her deformity. We see how all life was submitted to science, great or small, in an age where discoveries were abounding. But then when you flash forward to 1999, and we start looking at the Human Genome Project, and all of the ethical questions surrounding that, there is a sense that while the technology has come a long way, our fascinations with “fixing” humanity and understanding all of its facets certainly has not depleted. Armstrong’s character comes off as monstrous for engaging in such machinations in the name of science, yet Ellen (Clarisse Reid) thinks the world will see her as similarly cruel for the work she intends to pursue. It brings about a great moral debate, how far is too far? Or does too far even exist? All of this is contrasted with the spouses of the scientists. Isobel who loves words, Tom who is an out-of-work English Prof, and Susannah Fenwick, wife of Dr. Joseph Fenwick (Ryan Iwanicki) whose experiments on his daughter’s dove we see at the very start of the play. The struggles between the minds and hearts of artists versus their scientific counterparts becomes paramount to the play, as the artists tend to bring the moral issues to the fore for the scientists. And all of this is brought down on the heads of the Fenwick daughters, Harriet (Natalia Bushnik) and Maria (Andrea Meister). Harriet especially possesses the scientific mind of her father but is forced to attempt to apply it to creative activities by her mother. While Maria’s mind is purely romantic and wistful, that is much to the chagrin of her logical minded twin. We watch them bicker and fight, just as their parents do, and just as their descendants will do 100 years later. How much has changed, really? It would seem like everything and nothing, all at once.

The actors handled this dense, deep text with an ease and grace well beyond their years. Simms’ physicality especially was impressive, as she convincingly played her hunchbacked deformity. Also, the amount of quick changes that occurred in the second act were astounding, and both the cast and crew deserve huge kudos for pulling off such seamless changes. I’ve watched these actors bloom from their first year into these impressive young adults who are ready to take on the world. For some of these actors this was their last time on the University stage, and they have every reason to be VERY proud of themselves.

I was enthralled with this play, and I feel like it has changed the way I see the world, which to me is the hallmark of a great piece of theatre.

University Player’s “Anna in the Tropics”

The Univeristy of Windsor is starting off their 2015/16 season with a bang! Nilo Cruz’s beautifully crafted story was an inspiring way to get the season going.

On a cold October day, there is nothing better than to be transported to the hot Tampa, Florida of Cruz’s play. The sets and costumes exude the heat of the setting, while also providing a functional and beautiful backdrop upon which the story can unfold.

One of my favourite aspects of Cruz’s script was its use of literature and its awareness of itself as a piece of literature, and also theatre. As an English Major who loves the theatre, it’s lovely to see a piece that revolves around a well-known and much beloved novel. 

The story itself is downright captivating. I was totally swept up in the romance, turmoil and lush language of the play. Conchita, a cigar roller in a Tampa factory, falls in love with her Lectore (Juan Julian) as he reads her and the other workers Tolstoy’s Anna Kerenina. However, it is more than their affair that stirs up the emotions of the other workers, creating a climax that happens so quickly you barely have time to register the event before it’s over. It is a truly gripping story expertly told.

The cast of Anna in the Tropics provided engaging, real and beautiful characters. The ensemble was spearheaded by Emerjade Simms and Callum Gunn as the aforementioned Conchita and Juan Julian. They were joined by the wonderful talents of Marina Gomes, Dani Zimmer, Ilya Ilyashyk, David Hudyma, Brian Haight, and Isaiah Kolundzic. The whole cast told their story with an excellence and talent beyond their years; they should be highly commended for such an awesome performance.

There are only 2 chances left to see this amazing show! Today at 8pm and tomorrow at 2pm! 

Drawing Board Production’s “Working Title: Undecided”

There are few things more exhilarating than getting to see a world première of a play. What can only make the experience better is when you have the absolute honour of knowing the artists involved in such a marvellous creation. Working Title: Undecided was presented at the University of Windsor at the inaugural UWillDiscover Research Conference (they won 2nd place in the performance category), as well as in the Jackman Centre for the Dramatic Arts on March 29th. Never fear! There are still a few more chances to catch this fantastic show!

One person shows should be a category of theatre unto themselves given their extraordinary nature. It is no easy feat to control a room on your own for over an hour, yet Working Title: Undecided’s star Tamlynn Bryson did just that. She was enchanting and amusing, letting us all into the mind of Tess, a woman with a very big decision on her hands. The way she was able to involve the audience in so many ways was wonderful, fun, and impressive, and will continue to work well for their future performances. Tamlynn was able to take the audience on a trip through all of the varying emotions facing Tess in a way that made the audience invested in the outcome of her decision while also having their own hopes for what her answer will be. Tess became very charming, and as an audience member I started to care about the conclusion of the play and what she was going to do because you really felt like you got to know her personally over the course of the play. This, of course, is also not easy to do, but by the reactions of the other audience members at the end of the play, they were similarly affected. Having the ability to not only connect to one’s audience but also to keep them fully engaged for such a long time is, to me, the sign of a well-seasoned actress, and I’m sure that Tamlynn is going to have a bright future in the theatre.

Tamlynn’s partner in crime for this piece was Kyle Kimmerly, who helped to not only direct the play, but also wrote it with her. The topic for the play (which I shan’t reveal, it would give too much away) is a fun one, and one that any audience member can relate to in some way. But then to hear about what a collaborative process it was and continues to be, and the amount of improvisation that is involved (because of the audience involvement) makes it all the more of an amazing feat. Kyle’s direction allowed for that collaborative process to have this beautiful outcome, and really tell Tess’ story in this fun, original way. For two young actors, who are just on the cusp of their careers to create something this impressive and this entertaining is truly awesome. When the play finished, I was blown away to think that I know the two brilliant minds behind this work. The creativity and style of both of these fine artists permeated the work and made it a true pleasure to watch.

I honestly cannot urge you enough to get out and see this wonderful new Canadian play for yourself! They will be showing the play at the Old Walkerville Theatre in May and in June at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Please get out and see this award winning show and support some wonderful local actors!

“Elektra by Sophocles”

I have always been interested in seeing Elektra by Sophocles. Having helped to teach other Greek tragedies but not this one in particular, I was excited to have the opportunity to finally see it. I was certainly not disappointed. I cannot imagine a better experience seeing this play.

The first thing one noticed entering the theatre is that the play is to be performed in the round. The bright light that shone down from the ceiling created the playing space, with our seats in two rows around it. It was a brilliant set up because it forced us to be a part of the play, and be aware of not only all of the characters, but the rest of the audience as well. The next thing I noticed were these draped figures around the very outside of the circle. I said to my friend sitting next to me “Don’t those look like people?” and he said to me “They probably are people!” and of course, they were! I couldn’t believe how long they had been sitting there in waiting, finally taking off the cloth and coming into the light with their respective entrances. The whole atmosphere was amazing, and really put me in the right mindset for the rest of the play.

The performances were downright impressive. The cast told the story in a skilful and impressive manner. To me, I saw in this a culmination of everything that they have studied over the past four (and for some of them three) years of their schooling. There was such beautiful movement, voice, and text work, not to mention their costuming, hair and makeup; you can see the expertise that is taught at the University of Windsor and how it will stay with these actors long into their careers.

Alice Lundy played the title role of Elektra and there was not a moment that I did not believe her pain and suffering. Watching her go through such highs and lows was impressive and entrancing. Likewise, her sister Chrysothemis, played by Kathleen Welch goes through those same highs and lows, but with the respect and reverence that was expected of a proper Greek woman. She provides a stark contrast to her seemingly crazed counterpart, and Kathleen played Chrysothemis with a grace beyond her years. Daniela Piccinin portrayed their mother, Clytemnestra, with a stately presence that embodied matriarchy. Her delivery was beautiful, and her passionate pleas were impossible to ignore. Erik Helle played Orestes, brother to Elektra and Chrysothemis, and the vehicle for their revenge. Erik fully embodied this strong, compassionate and perhaps headstrong young man. Mauro Meo’s portrayal of Aegisthus and Ryan Iwanicki’s portrayal of the Old Man were splendid. While the Old Man acts as a sort of Deus Ex Machina for the play, Aegisthus’ return is feared and loathed, both Mauro and Ryan used these roles to their advantage and played them completely. However for me, one of the highlights of the piece was the Chorus. Portrayed by Brendan Kinnon, Emerjade Simms and Ilya Marvin Ilyashyk, they epitomized a traditional Greek chorus, and yet used the amazing movement techniques of a modern play. Their haunting chants and sound advice paired with the way they moved around the stage and interacted with the other characters made them a play unto themselves. I was so impressed with their costumes and mask work as well, they fit the bill perfectly.

The play itself was rather easy to follow, and I definitely saw how the Elektra complex can be thought of as a parallel to the Oedipus complex. The only thing that I found odd (and it is no fault of the actors, but purely the author) was how determined Elektra and Orestes were, and then they seemed to repent almost immediately after the deed was done! While this is rather true to life (how many times do we do or say something that we automatically regret) it just seemed so out of character, especially for Elektra whose struggles and pains we come to empathize with. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like a really quick 180 for characters who felt so justified in what they had done. Otherwise, it was a fascinating play, totally engaging and fascinating, with many mythological allusions and alluring language.

The whole experience was so powerful, beautiful and moving, that my only wish is that more people could have the opportunity to see this amazing production. I must admit, this production inspired me so much, it made me realize that this is the kind of work I’d love to be doing, something fulfilling and artful and gorgeous. I was blown away by the talents of these wonderful actors, and as always am so proud to have been even a small part of their journey to this point in their careers.