Brother act makes Victoria Fringe Festival a family affair

The brothers are doin’ it for themselves. Victoria’s Wrigley/Green brothers, that is.

Last January, 17-year-old Corin Wrigley and his brother John Green, 23, lined up at Intrepid Theatre’s Blanshard Street offices to secure one of 10 first-come, first-served slots at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival.

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“We were there 24 hours early,” Green said.

This meant bundling overnight in sleeping bags and dozing in camp chairs. The two were second and third in line. The brothers insist it was worth it. Each got his show into the fringe festival.

Corin Wrigley stars as Ty Cobb in his self-penned drama Something Like a War, premièring tonight at the Metro Studio. The show is directed by his 25-year-old brother, Brian Wrigley, who also has a role in the six-actor show.

Meanwhile, Green has directed and written his own show, The Occupied Mind of Mr. K, opening at the Metro Theatre on Friday. Starring Graham Roebuck, the satirical comedy is about a new-age guru who hijacks a dead billionaire’s mind.

(Kelly Green and Bruce Wrigley are the parents of John Green and Corin and Brian Wrigley. Kelly Green explains they gave their sons different surnames in the name of patriarchal/matriarchal equality. Their other son, 12-year-old Julian Green, has a cameo role in Something Like a War.)

The Wrigley/Green brothers were home-schooled. Corin is finishing Grade 12, while Brian and John have UVic theatre degrees. Corin, who’s acted since he was five, is already a stage veteran, having performed in local productions of The Three Musketeers, The Government Inspector and Henry IV.

“I’d definitely like to be an actor,” said Corin, who plans to study at either the National Theatre School, Langara College’s Studio 58 or the University of Alberta.

He first became interested in Ty Cobb when his father, a New York Yankees devotee, told his son his batting grip was reminiscent of Cobb’s. Later, Corin read three Ty Cobb biographies. These included an infamous book by Al Stump, Cobb: A Biography, which portrays Cobb as unsportsmanlike, an alcoholic and a bigot. Other biographies paint Cobb more sympathetically.

“He’s often called the black mark on baseball history,” Corin said. “In reality, I think he was much, much nicer than he was portrayed [by Stump].”

Determined to rectify his hero’s image, Corin created Something like a War. The 60-minute show depicts key incidents in Cobb’s life. One is about the time Cobb beat up a heckler in the stands in 1912.

The teenage actor faces the challenge of portraying Cobb from age 17 to 74. Victoria Fringe organizers say they cannot remember anyone so young creating their own show in the festival’s 27-year history.

Corin sent his script to Norm Coleman, a San Francisco actor who does a one-man Ty Cobb show. An impressed Coleman, in turn, put the Victoria actor/writer in touch with Cobb’s grandson, Herschel R. Cobb, who wrote a memoir about Ty Cobb. Corin was thrilled to talk with Herschel, noting: “It was pretty cool.”

Meanwhile, his friendship with Coleman has led to the American actor bringing Tyrus (the Georgia Peach) Cobb to Victoria for a one-night performance at John’s Place restaurant on Saturday, at 8 p.m.

 

Also at the Victoria Fringe, Gabriola Island’s Sheila Norgate stars in her comedy Lesbian Etiquette: World’s Greatest Living Oxymoron.

The former Victorian says her solo 60-minute performance is a comic look at lesbian life. Playing a “pseudo-scientist” from the Ladies’ Institute for Endless Rectification, 63-year-old Norgate investigates such topics as “lesbian bed-death” and the phenomenon of pubic hair becoming sparser with age.

Lesbian bed-death, a term originally coined by Pepper Schwartz, refers to the American sociologist’s observation that lesbian couples in long-term relationships have less sex than other types of couples. Norgate believes this may be because men are typically the initiators of sex: “We don’t have as much testosterone, let’s put it that way.”

While Lesbian Etiquette intends to amuse, Norgate says it has serious underpinnings. She hopes she can defuse the discomfort some have discussing lesbianism.

Once a Victoria credit union employee who wrote banking manuals, Norgate entered into her first lesbian relationship in 1968. Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau had yet to introduce a bill decriminalizing homosexuality. “Being [gay] was very, very underground then because it was illegal,” Norgate said, noting she and her then-partner never “even acknowledged the fact we were lesbian.”

Norgate says writing and performing Lesbian Etiquette helped her accept who she is even more fully. “It is political for me. I wanted to be out.”

Toronto’s Alison Wearing has scored five-star reviews for her autobiographical show Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter.

The 46-year-old’s solo performance is unusual in that it’s also a bestselling book, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing up With a Gay Dad, published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada.

Wearing was just 12 when her mother revealed that her father, a political-science professor, had just come out as a homosexual.

The youngster coped by making up stories about her father’s subsequent departure from the family home. When her father started showing up at school events with his male partner, Wearing told classmates it was his brother. “I think that’s when I became a writer, actually. Because that’s when I started to fabricate stories about my life that would be acceptable.”

Wearing finally came to terms with her dad’s sexuality in her 20s. He has seen and enjoyed Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter.

The writer/theatre-artist initially wondered whether Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter would have broad appeal. To her surprise, it has attracted a wide audience.

“It’s about standing up and being fully who you are, no matter what the world says,” she said.

What: Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival
Where: Eleven downtown locations (see victoriafringe.com for full schedule)
When: Starts tonight and continues through Sept.1
Tickets: $9/$11. Family Fest Fringe tickets are $7/$11. One-time $6 charge for Fringe button.
Where to buy: Available via TicketRocket (250-590-6291) or online: victoriafringe.com. Also at TicketRocket booth, 2-1609 Blanshard St. (at Fisgard) noon to 7 p.m. daily
 

Victoria's festival is modest compared with Edmonton's, but that's just fine with organizers

Now in its 27th season, the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival knows exactly how big it wants to be.
This year’s model is perfect for this city, says artistic producer Janet Munsil. The 2013 Victoria Fringe offers 300-plus performances of 56 shows over 11⊇days.
It sounds like a lot. Yet it’s a modest proposal compared to the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, the largest in North America, which stages a whopping 210 productions.
“Some people would like [Victoria’s] to be bigger, but the artists are happy to have it small,” Munsil said.
Produced by Intrepid Theatre, the Victoria Fringe hosts shows from as far away as England, Australia and Japan, as well as a strong contingent from Victoria and other Canadian cities. This season marks the return of such fringe favourites as The Birdmann (comic murder mystery), Rob Gee (a whodunit on an Alzheimer’s ward), Paper Street Theatre Co. (an improvised Tarantino-style show), Andrew Bailey (his acclaimed comic monologue The Adversary) and the Ryuzanji Company (Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night done kabuki style).
Munsil says this year’s festival boasts a bumper crop of Victoria performers staging short plays.
“I’m impressed with how many local companies are actually writing plays and producing them, rather than going, ‘Let’s get together and do a sketch comedy show,’ ” she said.
The local contingent includes Ocean Bloom Productions premièring Something Like a War about controversial baseball legend Ty Cobb (see story at left), Dandelion Theatre’s production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson and a site-specific show by The Blind Folded Theatre Company, Can We Fly?, to be staged on the West Bay Walkway near the Johnson Street Bridge.
This year’s festival, powered by 200-plus volunteers and a $300,000 budget, is expected to once again draw up to 28,000 people (22,000 of those will attend ticketed events). As usual, artists receive 100 per cent of the box-office proceeds. The festival is unjuried — shows are randomly selected via a lottery system. The exception is Victoria performers who queued up for 10 slots at Intrepid Theatre’s offices on a first-come, first-served basis.
New wrinkles include the introduction of a free Victoria Fringe app, allowing tech-loving theatre-goers to access show information by genre and buy tickets and read (and write) reviews without breaking stride. The app was designed by Victoria-based Hipwood Digital specifically for the festival. “People can get the buzz on shows that way instead of just on the street,” said festival publicist Sean Guist.
The perennially popular Fringekids Fest — which is free — offers face-painting and a cardboard castle on Saturday at Market Square from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Those who want to exchange recommendations over a post-show beer can check out the Fringe Club’s new location at 1501 Douglas St. (at Pandora Avenue). This venue is also the headquarters for Victoria’s upcoming Rifflandia music festival. “They’ve renovated it all. It’s beautiful,” Munsil said.
achamberlain@timescolonist.com

Wondering how to fringe? Here are the basics:


1. Buy a $6 Fringe Visa button. This is a one-time surcharge, with proceeds supporting the festival infrastructure  (100 per cent  of the ticket price goes to the artists).
2. Buy tickets. And take a chance — the best shows are often staged by unknown, emerging artists.The full schedule and information for the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival can be found at www.victoriafringe.com.
3. As well as advance tickets which are available online, over the phone, or at the TicketRocket booth (see info at top of story), tickets can be purchased at the venue starting one hour before the show. Half of all tickets are held for at-door sales. Money-saving festival passes are also available.
3. Vote for your favourite shows. Then attend the Pick of Fringe Awards party on closing night at the Victoria Event Centre, where the most popular shows are honoured.
4. Take note: no late comers are permitted. And before the show starts, turn off those electronic devices — or run the risk of being heckled in a most public manner.

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