This talented local company…wheels wildly between irreverent humour and reverence for the source material of Irish myths in this draining, exhilarating 75-minute dramedy… – Winnipeg Free Press
Performed with boundless enthusiasm… A heady mix of blood, sweat, tears and laughter, Ulster isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you’re open to its folklore-nerd charms, it’s darn good fun. – CBC
The Hound of Ulster was based on the legend of Cúchulainn, a figure in Celtic mythology. Cúchulainn is the greatest warrior in all of Ireland, because when he fights, he undergoes a “warp-spasm” – a terrifying berserker rage that transforms him into a mad, unstoppable beast. He has the love of a good woman and a steady military career, but can he keep his two selves separate forever?
This was by far the darkest piece we’ve ever done. We wanted to explore the cult of celebrity surrounding Cúchulainn, and the isolation he felt as a result. We also explored the glorification of war. Because these themes are still very timely, and we wanted to confront the audience with that fact, we cultivated a more modern aesthetic style than ever before. Our costumes were inspired by military fatigues, and we performed in a basement, surrounded by concrete. The only aesthetic nod to the story’s mythological origins were swirling blue Celtic warrior-style tattoos that we applied to our faces and arms.
The Hound of Ulster will be our last show for the foreseeable future, as our founding members have all moved to different cities to further their education. But we were very glad to be able to put on one last show before that happened, and we think we went out with a bang.
L-R: Connla (Dan Augusta), Medb (Jessy Ardern), Cúchulainn (Ariel Levine), and Emer (Michelle Arentsen)
We are pleased to announce that this summer we will finally be taking our show on the road! After premiering Cupid and Psyche at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, we’ll be coming to Saskatoon’s PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival as well!
The Winnipeg Fringe runs July 18-29, and we will be performing at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre, located at 91 Albert St.
The Saskatoon Fringe runs August 2-11, and we will be performing at Oskayak High School Gym, located at 919 Broadway Ave.
Full show info and advance tickets: Winnipeg / Saskatoon
Links to the Facebook events: Winnipeg / Saskatoon
We hope to see you there!
The Struts and Frets Players will return this July for our fifth Winnipeg Fringe Festival production, Cupid and Psyche! In this Roman story (yes yes, I know, the Romans just stole it all from the Greeks. But this story is specifically Roman), the course of true love never did run smooth for the beautiful mortal woman Psyche, who falls head over heels for…the son of Venus, goddess of love. Oh jeez. No good can come of this.
This year will be the Players’ first foray into the world of “Bring Your Own Venue”: Cupid and Psyche will be presented at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre, 3rd floor of 91 Albert St. (above Mondragon). We are also pleased to introduce our friend and colleague Michelle Arentsen, who will be joining the cast this summer!
As always, more details will be forthcoming as the Festival approaches. We hope to see you there!
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.
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.
“Sigurd the Dragonslayer” is drawn from “The Volsunga Saga”, an old Norse epic about the adventures of several generations of heroes from the clan Volsung. This adaptation follows one of these heroes, Sigurd, in his quest to find honour, glory, and his place in the world.
With dragons and dwarves and valkyries, oh my, this show has something for everyone – including bad puns aplenty, as only Struts and Frets can do ’em.
VENUE 3 – The Playhouse Studio
180 Market Ave. (Entrance on Main St.)
Thursday, July 14 – 10:15 PM
Friday, July 15 – Noon
Saturday, July 16 – 8:45 PM
Wednesday, July 20 – 8:45 PM
Thursday, July 21 – 1:45 PM
Saturday, July 23 – 10:15 PM
Sunday, July 24 – 4:30 PM