On Tuesday evening I discovered a uniquely theatrical event called Blowhard Presents, which has been going on once every two months at FRED curated by Jackie Torrens, Tara Doyle, Stephanie Domet and Andrea Dorfman. It is an evening of storytelling under a pre-determined theme, whereby four predetermined people come forward to present stories from their lives in a variety of different styles. The theme of Tuesday’s evening was “Encounters with Wildlife” and it is the last Blowhard Presents before the ladies take a hiatus over the summer.
Torrens, Doyle, Domet and Dorfman each introduced one of the evening’s four storytellers and also often shared their own anecdotes about interacting with the wild. Andrea Dorfman, an exuberant and wildly talented Halifax-based filmmaker, shared a lovely tale about a cab ride she once shared with a female driver that ended up with them collaborating on an intense rescue of twelve ducklings who had been following their mother across the highway, but too small to join her over the guardrail.
Becca King’s story was the inspiration for the wildlife theme, a hilarious one about her attempt to rescue a baby raccoon, who ended up crawling into the dashboard of her car. The story had fantastic pacing, just enough self deprecating humour, a surprise twist at the end and a moral.
Dr. Sara Iverson, a professor of Biology at Dalhousie University told her stories about conducting research on the lactating process, and milk produced, in a variety of different mammals including bats, Californian sea lions and seals, in more of a lecture style. She brought along a PowerPoint with photos and videos, all of which was extremely fascinating and provided us with the opportunity to delve into a scientific world that I don’t think many in the audience had acute firsthand experience with. Iverson is a captivating speaker and she had the entire room laughing as she explained the Monty Pythonesque contraption that they use to divide the female seals and pups from the aggressive males so that the researchers can do their work. I would have never guessed that lactating marine life could be so entertaining!
Stephanie Domet shared a horror tale of slugs in her introduction to the next storyteller Mackenzie Grisdale whose story of being nine years old and nearly being fatally wounded (by two different wild animals) with 48 hours in Costa Rica was so dramatic, heart rending, and still emotional for Grisdale to relate, that I feel like an entire play could be constructed around her monologue. Her telling of the story was so beautifully earnest, as well as sheepish with its dark humour, but capturing perfectly the naive innocence and curiosity of herself as a child.
Jackie Torrens read some carnal fan letters to Bert Reynolds to remind us of our own connections to the Animal Kingdom and Mary-Colin Chisholm rounded off the evening with a poignant tale of abject poverty that she encountered while hitchhiking through Scotland and Ireland in the mid 1970s with a Trotskyite. This was also a beautiful story that felt like it belonged in a play, and Chisholm at one point said that she was “shattered” by the goodness of this one particular family she met, the poorest she has ever seen in her life, and even all these years later, you could still feel the weight and the resonance of that feeling in her storytelling. The room was so enthralled not even the air seemed to move.
There was also an audience participation component where Kate Watson, theatre critic of The Coast, and I both shared our own close encounters with wildlife and it was great fun to be given the opportunity to get in on some of the action by the seat of my pants.
Blowhard Presents is on hiatus for the summer months, but I strongly urge you to keep your eyes out for its triumphant return in the fall. It is a really terrific and unique evening in a relaxed and intimate environment that brings you into the intriguing close quarters of other people’s lives.
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