Festival offers something for everyone
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
As both a spectator and a performer, I know that the Vancouver International Fringe Festival can be a mixed bag of treats, full of inexpensive and accessible theatre of all sorts. Boasting over 700 performances, the festival runs from September 4 to 14 on Granville Island and at surrounding Vancouver venues. Here we will highlight and preview just three of the many fabulous shows to choose from.
Julia Mauro, a Douglas College Theatre Program graduate, has directed, adapted, and co-written (with Kelsey Savage) the script of Seaside Stories of Terrible Things. The show is part of the Fringe Onsite Program, which allows companies to create site-specific theatre pieces while being mentored by professionals.
“The show is an ode to oceanic literature and features four distinct stories,” Mauro said. “I sourced the tales from a variety of places and adapted them to fit into an original over-story. The original writing works in tandem with the source material, so each story could become linked to the others to create a cohesive narrative.”
In these stories, there is “a retelling of the real life wreck of the SS Valencia, a ship that crashed and sunk off the coast of Vancouver Island in 1906” and an “adaptation of the Noh play, Matsukaze, which recounts the struggle of two dead sisters trying to navigate through perdition.”
“The third is an original work by myself,” Mauro said, “and tells the tale of a starving sea monster. The final story is an adaptation of an English folk tale that I found in a children’s book, The Mermaid’s Revenge.”
The seeds of Seaside Stories of Terrible Things can be traced back to when Mauro was in her first year of the Douglas College Theatre Program, when she studied Matsukaze in Christine Dewar’s Theatre History class.
“I wanted to focus on the feeling of longing and hopelessness, and felt that the ocean embodied a lot of these qualities,” Mauro said. “This outdoor production is set against the backdrop of the ocean itself and uses the natural environment in tandem with the constructed architecture of Granville Island to inform details of the piece.”
Andrea Yu, producer, director, and playwright of Versus, has a different focus with her production. After viewing the Korean film Oldboy, she was inspired to create a female character with ambitious and cunning traits that typically appear in male characters.
Versus tells the story of a female playwright who comes up with a concept: a deceased woman returning to life to track down her killer, which then becomes a part of the lead actress’ real life. The playwright is caught between her desire to continue the story and her fear for the actress’ safety. Putting a neat “meta” twist to the story is the addition of the playwright and actress’s real names, so the characters of Andrea Yu and Pandora Morgan exist on and off the stage.
“Andrea Yu in the play is being played by a Chinese actress because, well, I’m Chinese,” Yu said in a press release. “There are some indications about her ethnic background in the script, but only so much as there are cultural signifiers in my own life. But it’s important to note that Andrea is not defined by her ethnicity, which isn’t always the case with Asian female roles.”
The Masks of Oscar Wilde, written by Shaul Ezer with C.E. Gatchalian and directed by Amanda Lockitch, features Jessie-Award-nominated actors Tamara McCarthy and Sean Harris Oliver. The production takes a look at the various masks that Oscar Wilde wore during his life and explores his work in literature. The premise reminds me of a show I saw at the Fringe in 2010 called Teaching Shakespeare. Perhaps this is why I’m so excited about this part-lecture, part-dramatization production.
“The life of Oscar Wilde was just such a story. Many have heard that his life was intriguing but know little about it, even as they go to many of his plays year after year,” Ezer said. “So I thought that a theatrical adaptation of Wilde’s life would be a good story, which would tell his life’s story as well as give the audience a taste of some of his work.”
Just one of the many Fringe plays that I am planning to see, The Masks of Oscar Wilde is one of this year’s mainstage productions at the festival.
For more information on the Fringe Festival, visit www.vancouverfringe.com or pick up a program at any Blenz Coffee location.