Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jul 21 2015, Page 25

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - July 21, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D3 A DEFINING moment — a humiliating Grade 5 talent show performance — in the development of actress Claire Patton still reverberates through her stage work decades later. “ The first thing I thought was, ‘ I am never going onstage again,’” says Patton, who grew up in Irving, Texas. “ The second thing was, ‘ Wow I really have to keep track of my underwear in the future.’” She managed to keep one of those promises. After her unforgettable stage debut as a 11- year- old wannabe dance star, Patton, 37, not only went onstage again but has made it her professional career, which brings her to the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival for the first time this year. What was once a painful memory is now a bracing inspiration for her solo comedy A Girl’s Guide to War , about a middle schooler whose talent- show partner abandons her just before curtain time. “ As an artist, you go to where the juice is, where there is emotional resonance,” Patton says in a telephone interview. “ These painful and awkward moments are really interesting to me, particularly for this piece, because at that age you have a lot of moments like that, where you think you failed, blew it and you will never be a success. “ Thematically, it’s informed my work a lot.” What still burns in her is the memory of joining three other friends in performing a dance for her elementary school talent show. They painted faces on pillowcases, which they wore over their heads as costumes. Being able to see what they were doing didn’t seem important at the time. Arms were attached to the pillowcases that hung down at the dancers’ sides. “ I remember thinking this was going to be the most brilliant thing that anyone had ever seen, that this was going to kill,” recalls Patton, the daughter of an actress, who is now based in Boulder, Colo. Before leaving for her debut, she had to fill out the arms of her costume with some material — all she could think of was jamming a pile of her underwear in the sleeves, which were pinned shut with a glove at the end. “ This little alarm bell went off in my head, saying that maybe this is not a good idea because you are in fifth grade and underwear is the most intimate thing I own,” she says, with a laugh. “ But in Texas we are taught to ignore our instincts.” The foursome started dancing, or at least bobbing up and down in random directions. The laughter from the audience of students, parents and teachers grew louder, but the young hoofers had no idea what was happening. When they removed their costumes to take a bow, Patton noticed a clump of cotton that looked vaguely familiar and realized, to her horror, that it was her panties. They had fallen out of her sleeves and were all over the stage. And everyone in the school knew who they belonged to. “ Parents said we did a great job, but you know they were lying,” she says. “ You know it’s a total nightmare and you’ll never recover, you’ll never be OK again.” Such a devastating event can either defeat the victim or become a building block of personal redemption. A Girl’s Guide to War , which debuted in Boulder in February, borrows that bad time and puts it to good use. Like Patton, Millicent Gulch is a Grade 5 student whose best friend stands her up at a talent show. Her response is to hijack the event and declare war on her former pal, while recruiting the audience as her army. “ It wasn’t intentional, but I think somewhere that talent show was speaking to me,” she says. “ Yes, Millicent is an exaggerated version of parts of me.” Millicent has studied world domination, says Patton, but she is waging emotional warfare. Her objective is to reclaim her power and stand up for herself. A positive benefit of her early stage debacle is that she has become devoted to over- preparing. Of course, she has also become a stickler for keeping track of her undies onstage. “ The only underwear in the show are the ones on my butt. There are no underwear moments in the show. I don’t think there is any way my underwear can end up on the stage floor.” kevin. prokosh@ freepress. mb. ca RODRIGO Beilfuss had such a bizarre opening night to his run of Sea Wall last Thursday that he had to share the story with the drama’s English playwright, Simon Stevens. As the Winnipeg actor tells it, a clueless dad took his four daughters — two who seemed to be preschoolers and the other pair who were 10 years old — to the 30- minute monologue ( described in the program as being about young love, fatherhood and family) at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre. They sat on opposite sides in the front of the theatre, but dad didn’t sit with them or bother to monitor them while Beilfuss was speaking a few feet away. “ Thank God, Mel Marginet ( Theatre by the River artistic director) and Kendra Jones ( my co- director) sat behind the girls and essentially babysat them, as the two younger ones kept sliding up and down their seats or licking the chairs or playing with the Velcro in their sandals,” says Beilfuss, who performed the title role of Hamlet a few months ago. The report got a chuckle out of Stevens. “ That is one beautiful story,” Stevens wrote Beilfuss via email. “ What was he thinking?! Poor bored kids and poor you, man. Glad the rest of the show sang. Enjoy yourself in there, my friend. Wish I could see it.” The presence of the girls would have been distressing to patrons of Sea Wall, as the story takes a shocking turn involving a girl in their age range. “ It was definitely not kids theatre, on so many levels,” Beilfuss says. — Kevin Prokosh A GIRL’S GUIDE TO WAR Quake Theater The Playhouse Studio ( Venue 3), to Sunday MILLICENT Gulch ( Claire Patton) is about to wow the junior high talent show with an interpretive dance depicting “ the military and political significance of Napoleon,” when she discovers she’s been deserted by her dance partner and best friend. In true Bonaparte style, she declares war. Patton possesses an endlessly expressive face and voice, and the Colorado- based performer is a gifted physical comedian. She effortlessly embodies a goofy eighth- grade history geek and aspiring evil genius. Unfortunately, the material in this ( mostly) one- woman comedy — Millicent gets some help from reluctant stagehand Tim Rearick — doesn’t live up to Patton’s talent. Millicent discourses on the importance of history, the nature of war and the “ bad- assness” of Napoleon. She touches on the trickiness of adolescent female friendships. But despite the high- energy delivery, none of these themes really goes anywhere. š š š — Alison Gillmor THE NURDABLES Smartyesque Productions Planetarium Auditorium ( Venue 10), to Sunday IT appears last- minute cast changes afflicted this two- woman sketch show, but even that can’t account for its many failures. It’s unfortunate, because the duo’s Blues Brothers- y opener made me momentarily hopeful the fringe might finally have a couple more much- needed female sketch comedians. Instead, stiff delivery, meandering, pointless sketches, amateurish writing and virtually no punchlines make this an awkward 45 minutes to endure. Only two scenes by these Winnipeg women come within a mile of funny — one about a pilot trying to break up with an air- traffic controller and one about ridiculous airline fees. The long, dark scene changes were a welcome reprieve. š — Mary Agnes Welch CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION Half Empty Productions Tom Hendry Warehouse ( Venue 6), to Saturday A CREATIVE- ACTING class for adults is fertile ground for comedy and calamity in this absorbing 90- minute local production of Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize- winning dramedy. Led by 55- year- old free spirit Martha ( Susanna Portnoy), four amateur thespians — Martha’s husband James ( John Bluethner), lonely carpenter Shultz ( Daniel Chen), teen Lauren ( Caitlin Belton) and exuberant beauty Theresa ( Heather Roberts) — reveal telling details of their personal lives as they perform a series of dramatic exercises. As the course progresses over six weeks, they take turns reflecting one another’s stories back at the class, exposing their own feelings in the process until their most intimate secrets come to light. Directed by fringe fave George Toles, the story doesn’t hold many surprises on the plot front, but the characters and their connections are increasingly captivating. š š š š ½ — Pat St. Germain AT YOUR OWN RISK Alexandra Elliott Dance Dragon Arts Collective ( Venue 28), to Sunday WINNIPEG dance artist Alexandra Elliott’s show title may be considered a warning shot. Her latest 60- minute performance offers two hard- hitting, visceral contemporary works choreographed and danced by herself, local guest artists Warren McClelland and Ian Mozdzen, and are not for the faint of heart. ... To be alone… deals with human isolation, with a crouching, at first nude Elliott gasping out a children’s song her father once taught her. The solo is permeated by a sense of existential angst, with a suspended ring of white netting evoking a cocoon of safety. As with her fringe show last year, Elliott’s movement vocabulary is strong and unrelenting, including body slams and angular, jagged isolations. The intensely physical duet Man sees a bare- chested McClelland and Mozdzen hurling their bodies at each other like rutting bucks. They grunt and groan, shriek and shudder, and while it’s never clear whether they are fierce adversaries or simpatico brothers, the sight of two powerful male dancers in this city is rare. The lengthy piece should be whittled, and more fleshing out of the duo’s relationship would add greater depth. Still, while it is certain Elliott’s esthetic isn’t for everyone, her dancers are clearly committed to embodying her creative voice, whispering not quietly, but bellowing thunderously in the night. Consider yourself warned. š š š š — Holly Harris 5- STEP GUIDE TO BEING GERMAN Paco Erhard West End Cultural Centre ACU Hall ( Venue 25), to Saturday FORGET the “ five steps.” They are manifest only in the title of this hourlong standup- comedy piece by Berlin’s own Paco Erhard, who makes it his mission to prove that, yes, Germans do have a sense of humour. Mission accomplished. Erhard, who celebrated his 40th birthday at Thursday night’s performance, explains that he chose his own first name because, “ I wanted to take the edge off being German.” He proves up to the challenge of negotiating 20th- century history with humour that is irreverent but not overtly offensive. He’s not above poking fun at other nationalities. ( A young Englishwoman in the audience was the butt of a few good- natured jokes; he also snuck in a choice Wolseley jibe.) But most of the comedy is aimed at the German character, with some inspired illustrations of how the German obsession for order and following rules is based in reality. Come to think of it, the show’s promised running time of one hour was exact to the minute. š š š ½ –– Randall King Preview A Girl’s Guide to War . Playhouse Theatre ( Venue 3) . Next show: 3: 30 p. m. Wednesday . Tickets: $ 10 Check out winnipegfreepress. com/ fringe for more reviews Crazy In Love — š š š š š Crazy ’ Bout You, Baby — š š š š My Kinda Crazy — š š š A Little Bit Crazy — š š Crazy Train — š Fringe Ratings SUPPLIED PHOTO Circle Mirror Transformation winnipegfreepress. com THE FRINGE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2015 D3 By Kevin Prokosh Stage plight Who knew dancing out of your pants in front of a crowd could be so inspiring? SHAWN CUPOLO PHOTO Claire Patton: ‘ I really have to keep track of my underwear.’ ANOTHER strong weekend at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival has resulted in a third daily attendance record. On Sunday, 9,741 tickets were sold, with 15 sellouts registered at the 32 fringe venues, says executive producer Chuck McEwen. Combined with Saturday’s ticketed attendance of 10,542, the Fringe has sold 41,811 tickets in the first five days of the festival, McEwen says. The festival continues all week in and around Old Market Square, and wraps up Sunday night. Fifteen sold- out shows at festival on Sunday Sea Wall star is part actor, part babysitter Rodrigo Beilfuss D_ 03_ Jul- 21- 15_ FP_ 01. indd D3 7/ 20/ 15 6: 29: 17 PM

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