Blog | Tickle Your Brain & Heart with The Unfortunate Ruth

Tickle Your Brain & Heart with The Unfortunate Ruth

By admin | February 4, 2016
Unfortunate Ruth 3 web Tara Travis

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 2014 Playwrights 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.

Unfortunate-Ruth Program-image

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.

phantom signal 01

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.)

Comments are closed.