Sigurd the Dragonslayer

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.

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[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.

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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.

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As we mentioned before, we will be presenting a short piece at the media launch of the 2012 CBC Winnipeg Comedy Fest. With “Mayan legends” as our theme, we chose the hilariously harrowing story of the heroic (but terrible at horticulture) twins who must defeat the demon that usurped the crown of the Sun. Come for the puns, stay for the bo-staff-versus-obsidian-studded-paddle fight.

The event will take place Wednesday, February 22, 11:00 AM at the Gas Station Arts Centre on River & Osborne.

EDIT: Please note the change of time! The launch will take place at 11, not 10.

Hello everyone! We are delighted to announce that we will be presenting a short piece at the media launch of the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival. The theme is Mayan legend and the 2012 “end of the world”. Or era. However that’s supposed to be translated.

The event will take place Wednesday, February 22, 11:00 AM at the Gas Station Theatre on River & Osborne. More details about our piece will follow.

We are proud to say that Sigurd the Dragonslayer was another success for the Struts and Frets Players. We clinched the Best of Fest honour for the third time in four years, and have been flattered by some great positive feedback by audience members. Some choice accolades include:

“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. – Barb Stewart in her review for the Winnipeg Free Press

“The magic in this exciting production lies in how this story is told. The story comes to life through a combination of puppetry, props, visual projection, live actors and humour. I liked the attitude these young actors add to this old tale…I highly recommend that you go and see this show.” – Justin Olynyk in a review on his blog, Winnipeg Theatre

But we are especially thrilled to announce that our very own Ariel Levine and Jessy Ardern, who wrote the script together, won the Harry Rintoul Memorial Award! This is an award given out every year by the Fringe Festival for the best original script by a Manitoba writer, and we are very proud of the recognition. And to top it off, they are the youngest recipients of the award yet.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support this madcap scheme our latest production. We will be sure to keep you apprised of our next big adventure.

New Facebook Presence

After allowing the old Facebook group to fall into disuse, we have created a fancy new Page for you all to Like instead! This page will be our new presence on that site, and will be kept updated – I promise. Unfortunately, WordPress will not allow me to add the requisite Like button directly to this blog, but the link to the Page is below, and you can now Like individual blog posts as well.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the sidebar on the right, where you can enter your e-mail address and receive an e-mail when this website is updated! This usually only happens a few times a year, plus a couple updates during the Fringe Festival, so don’t worry about being constantly inundated with trivial one-way Struts and Frets-related correspondence. But if you want to know what we’re up to – and we hope you do – the option is there, and it’s a pretty good way to stay in the loop.

The new Page: http://dft.ba/-sfpfb

The Event page for “Sigurd the Dragonslayer”: http://dft.ba/-sdfb