Phoenix at the Fringe

Victoria’s annual Fringe Festival is on now through to September 2, and as usual, Phoenix students and alumni are well-represented among the 56 shows on view.

With a comprehensive, hands-on theatre program like the one we have here at UVic, it’s no wonder the the Fringe once again features scores of productions with so many of our students and alumni involved. Whether acting, writing, directing, designing, managing backstage or running the festival, our students seem to be everywhere. Pick up a program guide and your $5 Fringe button, and don’t miss your chance to see what our talented alumni and students are doing!

Beautiful Obedient Wife, by Alexa Gilker and directed by Sandi Barrett. Featuring Randi Edmundson, Mik Byskov, Erin Sterling, Trevor Hinton and Kieran Wilson, with design and production work by Kendra Terpenning, Carly Mackay, Breanna Wise, Simon Farrow and Sarah Watson.

Bookworm, dramaturged by TJ Dawe.

• Story Theatre’s Aladdin’s Secret Voyage and The Great Beanstalk Conspiracy, by James Leard, with design by Patricia Reilly and featuring David McPherson.

Akward Hangouts of History, with Graham Roebuck.

• Impulse Theatre’s The Damned Girl, directed and designed by Andrew Barrett with set and lighting design by Paphavee Limkul. Including Hayley Feigs, Chelsea Graham, Hayley McCurdy, Kathleen O’Reilly, Keshia Palm, Sarah Sabo, Levi Schneider, Staci Sten, Ali Trainer and Nicola Whitney-Griffiths, with production work by Imogen Wilson, Kimberly Black and Kaeden Derksen.

• Theatre SKAM’s Hello, My Name is Matthew Payne, by Matthew Payne, including designs and production work by Max Johnson.

• Keep It Simple’s Henry V, adapted by David Chrtistopher, featuring Andrew Wade.

My Aim Is True, by Meghan Bell. Directed by Mika Laulainen, designed by Jessica Wong, with music composition by Chris Ho and featuring Alysson Hall. My Aim is True was first performed at the Phoenix FIND Festival back in 2010.

• SNAFU Dance Theatre’s Little Orange Man, by Ingrid Hansen.

Wind in the Pines, featuring Ayumi Hamada. This one comes all the way from Tokyo!

Alone, featuring Alex Frankson and David McPherson.

The Night the Knight Learned Wrong from Right, by Andrew Gillott, including Melissa Taylor, Keshia Palm, Ali Trainer, Sharmila Miller and Joey Baumgartel.

And Victoria’s Fringe Festival is produced by stellar Phoenix alumna Janet Munsil, noted playwright and the artistic director of Fringe hosts Intrepid Theatre. In other news about the marvelous Ms. Munsil, she has adapted Jane Austen’s famed novel Pride and Prejudice for acclaimed company Theatre Calgary. This adaptation, directed by fellow Phoenix alum Dennis Garnhum, will hit Theatre Calgary’s boards in October this year.

Sketch Ed is absolutely a laughing matter

Looking for university students who are definitely in a class of their own? Check out Sketch Ed’s “Cram Session”—the live comedy performance that’s emerged from the Writing 410 summer course, “Lights, Camera, Sketch!”

The class of Sketch Ed

The one-night only “Cram Session” offers a series of short comedy skits put on by the student performers, writers and technicians of Sketch Ed—who come from a range of disciplines, including Writing, Theatre, English and History. The one thing they apparently have in common is their fondness for sex.

“We’re all class clowns,” chuckle students Sarah Sabo and Max D’Ambrosio, noting that the sketches range from a scene with three teenage girls buying condoms for the first time to one about a baby sitter minding a child raised with no boundaries . . . and what’s that about Harry Potter and dildos?

While some are sketch comedy virgins, other Sketch Ed members have put in time at the Canadian Improv Games, Just For Laughs, various commercials and local theatrical companies like the Belfry Theatre, Langham Court Theatre, KeepItSimple Theatre, UVic’s own Phoenix Theatre and the Victoria Fringe Festival. They’ve also written for the likes of the Edmonton Journal, Boulevard magazine, Metchosin Muse, The Tyee, The Georgia Straight, Outside online, Monday Magazine, Martlet and many more.

“The show is geared toward mature audiences with plenty of explicit material, which isn’t too surprising seeing as most of the class is made up of young 20-something university students,” says instructor and Canadian sketch comedy veteran Ryan Harper-Brown.

“The public performance was an important goal for the class,” he continues. “It gives them a chance to show how far they’ve come in six weeks. This was also an opportunity for students to use the skills they’ve acquired throughout their time in university to create a collaborative project. They were responsible not only for writing and performing the final show, but also publicizing and documenting the creation process . . . . The lessons and skills they’ve learned in WRIT 410 will definitely help them in whatever projects they work on later.”

In a recent Saanich News article about Sketch Ed, Harper-Brown points out the important but neglected history of Canadian sketch comedy—which actually dates back to World War One. “It’s one of those things that has such a powerful influence on popular culture, especially American popular culture, but it’s never been documented very well and never been offered before at university,” he told reporter (and Fine Arts alumna) Natalie North. “Anything that comes from Saturday Night Live is from Canadian sketch comedy because [creator] Lorne Michaels is Canadian and was active in Canadian sketch beforehand and about half of the [original] cast came from Canada.”

One important aspect of “Cram Session”—especially given the mature subject matter—was the decision to make the show a charity benefit for AIDS Vancouver Island. AVI serves the needs of people infected and affected by HIV and Hepatitis C by taking evidence-based action to prevent infection, provide support, and reduce stigma; 100% of the night’s ticket sales will go to AVI.

“They wanted to find a group that would be a good fit with the content and ‘get’ a lot of the humour,” says Harper-Brown. “From what I hear, AVI is pretty excited to work with the students and will have a table set up at the venue.”

Writing 410 student and Sketch Ed member Sharmila Miller echoes that thought. “Personally, I’m getting a lot more from this than just credits,” says Miller in this article by UVic’s Martlet. “Knowing that all of our efforts are going toward such a hands-on education and having the chance to work with a charitable organization is great. And the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, have just been awesome throughout the course.”

So if you’re hanky-pankering for a good time, don’t miss “Cram Session.”

“Sketch Ed is coming,” says writer Kimberley Veness. “Lubricate your mind.”

Cram Session runs 8pm Monday, August 20 at the Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street. Suggested donation $5, with all proceeds going to AIDS Vancouver Island. Door and bar open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm. Note: due to mature subject matter, this is an 18+ event.