What: The You Show
When: Festival runs Saturday to May 18
Where: Intrepid Theatre Club, 1609 Blanshard St.
Tickets: $8 to $12
For a playwright trying to develop a new show, finding an audience can be difficult.
It’s only before a living, breathing crowd that the playwright truly realizes what’s working. Yet the labour-intensive process of staging plays can be costly and time-consuming.
Enter Intrepid Theatre’s annual theatre series, the You Show, now in its fourth season. For no charge, the program allows playwrights and actors to mount their plays for a day.
And it’s a good deal for audiences, who get the chance to see developing work (and sometimes provide feedback) for the cost of a movie or less.
The You Show has a good track record, says Janet Munsil, artistic producer of Intrepid Theatre. Popular fringe-theatre shows such as Ingrid Hansen’s Little Orange Man and Justin Carter’s Son of Africville both started as You Show projects.
The You Show series runs monthly through May at Intrepid Theatre Club. The shows are: The Runaway by Mika Laulainen (today, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.), The Occupied Mind of Mr. K by John Green (Feb. 23, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.), An Improvised Dungeons & Dragons by Scott Thompson (March 16, 8 p.m.), Hidden Things by Jessica Hickman and Joel Bernbaum (April 20, 8 p.m.) and Mamahood: Turn and Face the Strange by Nicolle Nattrass (May 18, 2 p.m.)
Laulainen, Thompson and Nattrass talked recently about their fledgling shows.
Laulainen, 22, says The Runaway is about a 16-year-old girl whose sister died in a car crash a decade ago. The devastating experience caused the surviving sister to believe the world will be invaded by space aliens on the 10th anniversary of her death. The play, for two performers, includes ukulele songs.
The Runaway started as a 10-minute piece for Theatre Skam’s annual Bike Ride, an outdoor summer performance in which short shows are presented along the Galloping Goose Trail. The expanded piece — a combination of the comedic and dramatic — looks at how people deal with trauma, said Laulainen, a University of Victoria theatre graduate.
Laulainen is an emerging playwright and director. She works days in the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s box office. In Vancouver, she’s a member of a group called the Wolf Mountain Writing Collective.
She hopes one day to write plays for young audiences. Her dream is to collaborate with youth theatre companies such as Green Thumb and Carousel Theatre.
Intrepid’s program is helping her achieve this goal. “The You Show is a really cool thing,” Laulainen said.
Lantzville’s Nattrass is also a UVic theatre grad. But unlike Laulainen, the playwright/actress is a mid-career theatre professional in her 40s who has performed across Canada in film, TV and on stage. Her first play, Brownie Points, received several nominations at Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. She has also taught theatre, including solo show courses for Intrepid Theatre.
Nattrass’s You Show project is Mamahood: Turn and Face the Strange. It’s a solo piece based on her experience of having become a mother at age 40.
The show began as a five-minute monologue for Intrepid Theatre’s Monobrow solo performance series. The comedy is about an over-achieving, sleep-deprived woman who finds new motherhood a strange and disorienting experience.
“It’s another world filled with toy sounds, with nursery rhymes, with all kinds of things which for the past 40 years I hadn’t been privy to,” Nattrass said.
Nattrass said she likes that the You Show is a one-day event, thus requiring a limited commitment. And it’s much cheaper than the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival, which costs $600 to enter.
One of the most unusual You Show offerings is An Improvised Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a live version of the popular fantasy role-playing game. Thompson, a 27-year-old Victoria performance poet, says he’ll play the dungeon master, while four other performers will play the game.
Thompson saw a popular, critically acclaimed live version of Dungeons & Dragons at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. He decided to follow suit.
“I thought it was really neat,” he said.
While they’re not Dungeons & Dragons aficionados, Thompson and his fellow actors enjoy playing “what some people would consider nerdier board games” such as Agricola, in which the goal is create a successful farm.
Some folks consider Dungeons & Dragons as the king of nerd games, Thompson acknowledges. But he believes it’s getting a bad rap. It is essentially about telling fantasy stories — something everyone enjoys.
“We want to celebrate the game. And we want to celebrate those who play it. At its core, Dungeons & Dragons is collective storytelling,” he said.
“We want to honour the game. We want people to feel like we’re taking this sacred thing and doing a good job of it.”
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