UVic alumnus Sam Mullins returns to tell his own story in Weaksauce

ON STAGE

What: Weaksauce and Other Stories
Where: Phoenix Theatre at the University of Victoria
When: Through Oct. 19
Tickets: $28 from the Phoenix Theatre box office (250-721-8000)

When he was a fine arts student at the University of Victoria, Sam Mullins would approach onstage time at the school’s Phoenix Theatre with his stomach in knots. Though that was a decade ago, Mullins was surprised to find the uneasiness associated with his short career as a student actor was still there when he stepped back onto the Phoenix Theatre stage this week.

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“You could fill a volcano with the amount of anxiety I felt walking into that building again,” Mullins said after a recent rehearsal. “I was only in one mainstage production on that stage when I was in school, but that was the most nervous I’ve ever been. In retrospect, it’s funny to think how nervous I was because I was a non-factor in the play. But I couldn’t sleep at night, because I was so scared.”

The Toronto-based comedy writer is expected to be in fine form over the next 10 days, even though he’ll be alone on stage for 11 performances of Weaksauce and Other Stories at the Phoenix Theatre through Oct. 19.

Mullins wrote the monologues, jokes and asides about everything from fatherhood to first romances, and is performing the piece as part of the university’s Spotlight on Alumni series. “With solo performances, there is no team to let down, and that gives me more confidence,” Mullins, who graduated from UVic in 2008, said with a laugh.

“If I do a terrible job, I’m just ruining it for me, and I’m OK with that.”

Mullins once called Weaksauce a comedy about “first times, second chances and third wheels.”

The one-man show, which premièred at the Vancouver Fringe in 2012, has been re-imagined four times in the years since, and is now a staple of his bustling career as a storyteller.

Stories he has told during appearances on The Moth, This American Life and CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera have roots in storytelling festivals across North America, which is where he goes to debut the material that will eventually populate his one-man shows. For his performances at UVic, however, he will pair Weaksauce with new material about fatherhood he wrote specifically for the occasion.

“After doing all of this tried-and-tested material I’ve done everywhere, it’s kind of fun to throw something in that makes me utterly terrified,” he said.

One new story involves a rat infestation at his Toronto home, and inspired his wife to invoke comparisons with Canada’s most revered storyteller.

“She said it sounds like Stuart McLean, but in a good way,” Mullins said. “It’s totally a Dave and Morley story. If Dave and Morley got rats, that’s what this would be — only with swear words.”

Storytelling is somewhat of a lost art, in part because of the limited opportunities, Mullins said. Of late, he has balanced work as a staff writer on CBC’s Air Farce and collaborations with two of his former UVic classmates, Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson of Peter N’ Chris, with his duties as a stay-at-home dad.

He is preparing to re-enter the workforce, and will do so with all of his skills at the ready. “I’m the friend that everybody sends the sketch premise to for an extra two jokes. I’m definitely a joke writer. My main talent is as a turn-of-phraser, a capital-J joke writer. Storyteller, comedian, comedy writer — whatever. I’m happy to do it all.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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