Cupid and Psyche will pierce the heart of audiences with its achingly clever and gaspingly funny interpretation of the story of these most famous of lovers. [5 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press
The company both honours the tale and has a tremendous amount of fun at its expense…From start to finish, this superbly directed play is smart, witty, ambitious, thorough and joyfully done — easily one of the best of the fest. [5 stars] – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Last summer, we returned to Classical mythology with Cupid and Psyche, the story of a mortal woman, Psyche, who is so beautiful that people start to worship her instead of the actual goddess of love, Venus. Naturally, Venus doesn’t take too kindly to this, so she hatches a plan with her son, Cupid – he’ll shoot her with one of his famous arrows and make her fall in love with a monster from the underworld. However, upon seeing her for the first time, Cupid falls in love with her instead. Complications ensue.
Stylistically, we blended Classical Roman fashion and architecture with elements of Art Nouveau. Instead of shadow puppets, we incorporated several large, hand-held puppets to depict various the fantastical beasts described in the story: Cerberus, the guard dog of Hades; mad, venomous sun-sheep from which Psyche must pluck golden fleece; some very helpful ants; and of course, Dave, the lovelorn underworld monster.
Cupid and Psyche was a wonderful experience for us in several ways. It was our first time in a “Bring Your Own Venue” at Winnipeg Fringe, which turned out to be a very good fit for the show. It was also our first time touring a Fringe play – we all had a lot of fun at Saskatoon’s PotashCorp Fringe Festival, and we made some great contacts there. All in all, a stirring success!
Pictures below the fold.
Struts and Frets astutely pull together their own special take on Sigurd’s portion of the saga, where pop-culture references abound and a laugh is always around the corner. – Winnipeg Free Press
Sigurd the Dragonslayer was an adaptation of part of the Norse Völsungasaga, the saga of three generations of heroes in the clan Völsung. This is the story that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas, large parts of the Lord of the Rings mythos, and the Looney Tunes sketch What’s Opera, Doc?.
In the section, our hero Sigurd is trained by his foster father Regin to slay Regin’s brother Fafnir, who has gone mad with greed and turned into a terrible dragon. After Sigurd kills Fafnir, Regin betrays him, and Sigurd kills him too. Now completely alone, he sets off to seek his place in the world. He rescues Brynhild the Valkyrie, and finds first hospitality, then betrayal in the royal hall of the Niflung clan.
For this production, we were joined by our very clever and talented friends Michael Ostry and Hailley Rhoda. Stylistically, we continued to mix and match various design and writing elements: full-colour, translucent plastic shadow puppets; story theatre; our house blend of corny jokes and pathos. Script-wise, we really wanted to focus on the relationship between Sigurd and Brynhild, as well as Sigurd’s personal growth over the course of the story, building on our success with writing the character of Gilgamesh the year before.
For our efforts, we were rewarded with the Best of Fest honour for the third time in four years, and Ariel and Jessy jointly won the Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award. This is an award given out every year by the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for the best new original script by a Manitoba author. Huzzah!
Pictures below the fold.
[T]he production never overwhelms and comic relief in the form of visual gags and clever wordplay is always elegantly timed to keep the story moving forward. [4 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press
King Minos has a terrible secret. His stepson, the Minotaur, is a half-man, half-bull monster, born of a curse incurred for trying to cheat the sea god Poseidon. Every year he collects human sacrifices from the nations he has conquered to feed the Minotaur, but this year is different. This year, Theseus, a brave young man from Troezen (“Treason?!”) has taken the place of one of the prisoners, and he intends to put a stop to the blood debt. He’ll have to deal with a diabolical king, a flesh-rending bovine abomination and a girl with an obsessive crush to do it, but by Zeus, do it he will.
Our company’s sophomore production premiered at the 2009 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It incorporated a lot of the same techniques as Perseus had; story theatre, masks and puppets. Doing this allowed us to begin solidifying a distinctive “style” in the minds of our audiences, many of whom had seen us the previous year as well. But we did attempt to stretch ourselves somewhat as well. Perseus was a very comedic, family-friendly show – it was, after all, part of the Kids’ Fringe. Theseus, on the other hand, is a more tragic story, so we had to strike a balance between comedy and drama.
Whereas the designs for Perseus had been drawn from Greek vase paintings (flat and black – perfect for shadow puppets!), Ariel designed flat, wooden puppets for Theseus, to be manipulated live on stage, based on Minoan frescoes, which are far more colourful. (Pictures below the fold.)
Theseus and the Minotaur was well-received by both audiences and critics. It helped us gain a wider audience and demonstrate that we can bring off comedy and tragedy alike. By all accounts, it was another success.
When Al Rae approached us to write a piece to present at the media launch of the 2012 CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival, he gave us two guidelines: 1) do your thing for 5-10 minutes, and 2) the theme is “Mayan legend and the 2012 ‘Apocalypse'”.
Vucub Caquix and the Hero Twins was the result.
It’s based on a Mayan legend about Vucub Caquix (woo-koob kuh-keesh), a demon macaw who steals the crown of the Sun. The Sun hides in shame, and although the crown continues to produce light, Vucub Caquix cannot provide the nourishment that only the rightful Sun can. With everything going to hell in a handbasket on Earth, the Moon asks heroic
brothers who look absolutely nothing like each other identical twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque (hoo-nach-pu and shball-an-kay) to slay the demon and recover the Sun’s crown. Should be easy, right?
Featuring a bo-staff-versus-two-obsidian-studded-paddles fight and the only pun we’ve ever made that was so bad we actually apologized for it live on stage, Vucub Caquix and the Hero Twins was ten minutes of pure excellence, if we do say so ourselves.
Pictures below the fold.
Thanks to clever segues and the actors’ spot-on timing, this complex production never overwhelms. Not a minute is wasted. [4 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press
This year, we decided to depart from Greek mythology and try something a little different. We settled on The Epic of Gilgamesh as the perfect way to challenge ourselves further.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written story in recorded history, originally carved on honest-to-goodness clay tablets. (Which made the adaptation process difficult – the tablets are so old that there are quite literally holes in the story.) It’s an ancient Mesopotamian legend about Gilgamesh, the semi-divine King of Uruk. After Gilgamesh spurns the advances of Ishtar, the goddess of love, she takes revenge by striking ill his companion Enkidu, the newly-civilized wild man of the woods. Gilgamesh watches in horror as Enkidu grows weaker and weaker, and then dies. Having never experienced the death of a loved one, Gilgamesh is horrified, and vows that this will never happen to him. He sets out to find Utnapishtim the Immortal and learn the secret of eternal life.
In rehearsals, we continued to develop our own distinctive style, and brought back techniques we’ve used in the past. We kept the convention of using masks for the non-human characters. We brought back the shadow puppet screen and created a new host of shadow puppets, but with the addition of panels of coloured cellophane to lend them more character and versatility. The major stylistic difference was in the writing; we abandoned story theatre (where characters narrate their own actions and private thoughts) in favour of a single narrator, Utnapishtim.
Gilgamesh was our most mature, dramatic script yet. We took a risk by moving even further away from straight comedy, which comes easier to us, and it paid off. We won Best of Fest for the second time in three years, and we’ve received more recognition for this show than any other so far.
Two pictures below the fold.
Couples’ Therapy: An Evening with Shakespeare’s Dysfunctional Lovers was a fundraiser we put together in preparation for Gilgamesh. It was a collection of Shakespeare scenes all about the most dysfunctional love affairs and unrequited crushes in his oeuvre. We had Hamlet and Ophelia, Beatrice and Benedick, and many more, capping it all off with the infamous play-within-a-play Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We also punctuated the scenes with our own take on some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets. (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Nah.”)
Special musical guests The Flying Romantics (of which webmaster Dan is one-half) provided another between-scenes bonus in the form of their arrangements of three songs from Shakespeare’s works: “Sigh No More” and “Spring (Cuckoo, Cuckoo)” from Love’s Labours Lost; and “Ophelia’s Song” from Hamlet.
With Shakespeare, songs, stage combat, and a heavy garnishing of ketchup, Couples’ Therapy had something for everyone for a mere five dollars.