Blog | Newsletter: Birthdays and Unborn Babies

Newsletter: Birthdays and Unborn Babies

By admin | February 4, 2016

Tickle Your Brain & Heart with
The Unfortunate Ruth

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Tara Travis as identical twins Ruth and Ruthie. Photo credit: Tyler Rive

Tara Travis has been a Fringe favourite for years, and it’s no secret why. She writes funny, interesting shows and performs them with a comedic flair that is as unique as she is. In The Unfortunate Ruth Tara has created two relatable characters. She’ll take you on a journey that will have you laughing out loud and then stifling back tears.

“With The Unfortunate Ruth, Tara has created a story with classic tools of theatre—memorable characters, comedy and pathos, music and spectacle—that will move an audience to laughter and tears,” says Kathleen Flaherty, Playwrights Theatre Centre’s dramaturg, explaining why the piece was chosen as the recipient of the 2014Playwrights Theatre Centre‘s Fringe New Play Prize. “That’s what theatre at its best can do.”

In this Theatre Wire Q&A Tara Travis takes us deeper into The Unfortunate Ruth, her journey as a playwright and performer, and her thoughts on the city and our theatre scene.

What inspired you to do this play?
My character, Ruth, had been needing a play since her creation in 1999. The poor thing ended up getting wrangled into this bizarre creation inspired by my obsession with identical twins and parallel universes. The clown of Ruth works in a drycleaners and is obsessed with the Society for Creative Anachronism, neither of which came into this show. Weirdly, it’s like I hired Ruth to be in a play and wrote her into an entirely different context. Her essence remains, however.

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Mind of a Snail worked with Tara to create Ruth and Ruthie’s world, before they were born.

What can audiences expect from a performance?
Much tickling of the brain and heart. Honest but elevated performance. Magical in-utero shadow puppetry. It also seems to appeal to people all over the gender and age spectrum. I’ve had everyone from teenage girls to male senior citizens approaching me to say how much they enjoyed it/were affected by it.

What things do you want your performances to prompt people to think about?
How our bodies are but vehicles. We concern ourselves so much with the presentation of our outer selves, but if we’re miserable and undeveloped at the core, it doesn’t matter how shiny the outside is. The most beautiful humans lead with the heart.

What does Vancouver’s theatre scene need?
Audiences. We’re competing with a lot of sexy fun stuff in this city. If I could wave a magical wand and remind the masses that theatre is exciting and a brilliant entertainment option, I would. It’s just not generally considered as a thing to do anymore, unless a show has crazy hype. We need to put something in the water to reprogram Vancouver’s brains. Or something. There’s so much great theatre here.

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Tara, Andrew Bailey, and Jayson McDonald telling tales too terrifying to take seriously….

What is your next project and why are you excited about it?
Phantom Signal!! It’s a monthly show at Fox Cabaret helmed by Jayson McDonald, and performed by him, me, and Andrew Bailey with special guests and original live music by Erin Hope-Goldsmith and/or musical guests Red Hot Icicles Burning on Fire.
It’s old-timey radio show format horror-comedy. The writing is so smart and dark and hilarious. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. As much as I love my work as a solo artist, playing with others sets me on fire. January 18 is our next one, THIS MONDAY! Our next show on February 22 is part of Just for Laughs NorthWest and we’re super stoked to share it with new audiences. The show will be available to go in your ears radio-style as well, very soon.

What is something that people don’t know about your show that they should?

Ruthie’s character is on a significant weight loss journey that parallels my own. I lost almost 100 pounds in my early twenties and thought it would make me happy. Turns out I had a lot more to figure out.

Why does Vancouver need this play now?

In the land of yoga and organic produce, this show, in a playful way, is a meditation on who you’re really feeding all that stuff to, and a reminder to make sure he/she is okay in there.

Were there any moments in the creation or rehearsal of this piece when you thought you might not make it through?

Opening night, my Ruth teeth snapped in half 10 minutes before the house opened. Our venue tech sprinted to the head office and found crazy glue. They miraculously held together, but my stomach was in knots that whole opening show. I can improvise through almost anything, but Ruth’s aesthetic is key to the parallel universes in the show. I honestly don’t know what I would have done.

Who do you want to see this show the most?

My 18 year old self.

Other thoughts…

When this show was in development, I was having the craziest summer of my adult life. I was touring two original plays in seven cities, (one of which was a troubled and stressful solo puppet show), the last of which included the premiere of The Unfortunate Ruth, my third original work of the year. The script was completed when I left on tour, of course, but I came home and rehearsed madly for 10 days, gathering the final production elements and such. With the help of Jon Paterson (SM and Sound Designer) and my fabulous husband/director, and the guidance of Kathleen Flaherty and PTC, we managed to pull it off. There were still elements I felt were unrealized, so I’m incredibly grateful for this chance to revisit the show and take it to where I know it can be.)

The Unfortunate Ruth opens on Friday, February 5. Tickets are selling fast and there are just three performances, so get yours today!

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Transform the world! Kiss Around Pass Around from the 2015 Festival.

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Click to watch A Day in the Life of Studio 58

Happy 50th Anniversary Studio 58!

By Hannah Bellamy

Independent does not mean unprofessional when it comes to theatre in Vancouver—and that’s due in part to the many significant contributors to Vancouver’s theatre firmament who are Studio 58 alumni. The famed professional theatre program at Langara College is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season!

Studio 58 began in 1965 as a theatre course at Vancouver Community College’s King Edward Campus. It moved to Langara in 1970 where it picked up the name Studio 58, referring to the theatre space’s room number. The program now operates its own theatre and presents four full-length and two indie-style productions annually.

The Georgia Straight’s Colin Thomas wrote about the anniversary season’s opening productionRomeo + Juliet, saying “there’s a fresh interpretation here, and it will break your heart, which is what’s supposed to do.” He gave each lead performer a sentence-length review and concluded: “Most importantly, at the heart of the show, there are a bunch of young performers who make sense of the text.” To have critics seriously reviewing the training program’s productions shows just how respected it has become.


Raes Calvert in his Studio 58 days as “Clown” in Shakespeare’s A Winters Tale.

Known to its students simply as “Studio,” it offers a three-year program for acting students and a two-year program for production students. A Bachelor of Fine Arts is offered with an additional year of study through a partnership with Capilano University. It is distinguished as one of the top theatre schools in Canada and the only conservatory-style theatre training program in Western Canada.

“Going through the program gave me a sense of what works and what doesn’t,” Raes Calvert, a recent Studio 58 graduate said, explaining that the program prepared him for the independent theatre scene. Raes is now the Co-Artistic Director of Hardline Productions, along with fellow graduates, Sean Oliver Harris and Genevieve Fleming. Raes says Studio 58 has been a supportive resource. “When I produce theatre, if I cast a Studio grad, I know what to expect from them. We speak the same language and I can assume they are a certain caliber based on the fact that the program graduated them.”

Many alumni have found success in independent theatre and Fringe Festivals, including Studio 58’s Artistic Director Kathryn Shaw. She co-wrote and performed Famous Dead Stories We Just Made Up for the 1997 Vancouver Fringe and was a member of the infamous Vancouver-based Angry Actors Co-op who reunited for the 2014 Fringe show Poor—among her other theatre credits as creator and actor. Meanwhile Studio 58 has turned out notable alumni working in organizations such as Bard on the Beach, the Arts Club, the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, The Belfy, andBritain’s National Theatre. With the Studio’s continued success, Vancouver can expect many more of the program’s alumni to add to the city’s vibrant independent theatre scene for years to come.

Studio 58’s anniversary season continues on February 3 with FourPlay, dramaturged by Aaron Bushkowsky and directed by Jane Heyman, Kathryn Shaw, and others.


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