Chow, Meow, Pow! Wow! The Cast of 11:11

photo by glen matthews

It’s 1:00pm on August 27th, 2009: one week until the 19th Annual Atlantic Fringe Festival kicks off in Halifax. I enter a magical realm as soon as the doors to the Imperial Studio at Neptune Theatre School open. The room reminds me of the playroom I once had as a child. Little washable paints are lined up along Bristol Boards filled with children’s drawings. A few brightly colored comforters have been thrown around the space with a spattering of vintage children’s literature and a plastic toy xylophone. Here, Jessica Barry, Rebecca Falvey, John Han, Meghan Hubley, and Kristin Slaney create 11:11 a play about the power of wishing.

John and I sit on chairs amid the messy room. He has an immense Dove chocolate bar.

John Han (JH): Let’s have some chocolate from my panel.

Jessica Barry and Meghan Hubley enter chewing mint gum. Meghan sits on a chair to John’s right, and Jessica sits on the floor to my left.

JH: Aww- you have gum, I was going to give you some chocolate from my panel.

Meghan Hubley (MH): We’ll spit it out! We’ll spit it out!

John opens the Dove chocolate bar and we all stare at the silver wrapping as though it were a Willy Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight Bar.

JH: … wow!

Jessica Barry (JB): What a lovely panel! *laughs*

Amanda Campbell (AC): So… let’s start. Who are you, where are you from and how did you get so talented?

JB: I’m Jessica. I’m from the Dirty Dartmouth. And I’ve just always been blessed with this gift.

AC: *laughs* John?

JH: Hello.

AC: Hi. Who are you, where are you from and how did you get so talented?

JH: Hi, my name is John. My real name is Sori. S-O-R-I. John is my fake name.

MH: His “Canadian” name.

JH: I’m from Seoul, Korea. I’m the multicultural one.

MH: That’s how we get our grants.

JB: That’s actually the only reason he is here. We needed some multicultural grants.

JH: I don’t know if you noticed, but actually we three, we have all been just blessed with this gift.

JB: All the other people get their talent directly from us.

AC: *laughs* Meghan?

MH: Aw, you know me. I blogged for you twice. I’m everyone’s favourite guest blogger. You know me already, Amanda Campbell. I’m Meghan Hubley. And I got my talent when I moved to Toronto.

JH: Really?

MH: No.

AC: How did you get involved in the theatre?

JB: Geez, I did the Grease musical theatre camp [at Neptune Theatre School] when I was eight, and that was great. And then I did Les Miz and Sound of Music [musical theatre camps] and then I took a break and then I did the Chicago musical theatre camp and Meagan Simm was very inspiring and that was when I decided that I actually wanted to do theatre.

AC: I just realized that I can’t just write “J” for Jessica in my notes because John… also starts with a “J”…

MH: Jessica is from Korea…

JB: I’m the minority of the group. Everyone else is just so, so white.

JH: I’m also the only male in the group. I just noticed that.

JB: You JUST noticed!?

AC: John?

JH: Um, it’s funny, as a kid my life long dream, I don’t know if you guys know this, but my life long dream was to be a pop star.

MH: I can see that.

JH: I thought it was my destiny and sometimes even now I think I could do it, although I am getting a little old… but, yeah, I wanted to be a pop star. But I didn’t really sing until I was in grade ten and my friend took me along to choir. I had never done choir before because I thought that it was sort of a sissy thing to do. Yeah, I used to be a jerk. But then I went to choir and I fell in love with it, so much that I was in like, seven choirs at the same time after that, which was disgusting. But then I got into singing and I got into musical theatre. And I did a show called Jump

MH: Jump: An 80s musical

JH: Which is where I met these guys, and I met a lot of really great friends and from then I wanted to pursue musical theatre out of province, but that didn’t really work out so I decided to stick around here, and did the PPTP Program.

MH: The PPTPP?

JH: PPTP.

JB: The Program PPT.

JH: Whatever. The PPTP. And I decided to pursue it here. … Yeah. … I’m done.

MH: Ummmmmm. I don’t even know.

JB: It just sort of happened.

MH: After Fringe last year I knew that I wanted to write. I just tried it as something new, and I really liked it… being in charge of the script. *Laughs*. It was one of those, you never know you like it until you try sort of situations, and that’s what happened to me. Trial and error.

JB: I don’t think the acting part of your life was an “error.”

MH: No! No… but that’s how it ended up that we created the Golden Spider Trio because I was like, “but I want to be in the show too” and John was like, “what are you writing for the Fringe?” and I was like, “a story about two sisters” and he was like, “can I be in it?” and I was like, “YES, you CAN!’

JB: It’s funny, I remember when I was a kid and I was thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it was like the lawyer and the police officer, and I remember realizing that I actually just wanted to PLAY a lawyer and a police officer…

MH: YEAH!

JB: I was always like, “ooh, I can’t wait to put on that cost—I mean… uniform.”

MH: I remember watching the movie The Client as a kid and thinking, “I want to be what that woman is—“ and then being like “no, wait… Susan Sarandon is the good part of the equation for me…”

AC: So, I know that Meghan was originally writing a play about two sisters, but how exactly did the superhero storyline evolve?

JB: We mostly just decided to take the idea that Meghan had and then make it bigger and different.

JH: And then we were thinking, “should we do a collective creation and then sort of showcase what we came up with?”, remember that? And then we decided to keep the collective creation part of it and then go back to Meghan’s idea.

JB: And we split up, which helped.

MH: My idea was a story about two sisters-

JH: And I approached her saying that I wanted to do something in the Fringe. And she was like, “I’m writing a show for two sisters.” That was really last minute too, the deadline was like a few days away and we were like, “should we do it or shouldn’t we?” I didn’t think it was going to happen *laughs* To be honest…

MH: And Jessica had wanted to direct something for the Fringe and we were looking for a piece to do but there hadn’t been anything that had grabbed us—

JB: Well—

MH: Well, nothing that spoke to both of us. There was one that spoke to you, but not to me. And then I was like “Ah, fuck it! I’ll write it myself!” and then putting John into the mix meant adding beautiful music into the equation.

JB: Yeah, it was the music for me, that really sold me on the project. That was when I was like “Okay, yeah, I like this show.”

JH: When was that?

JB: At my house. At like, the end, or maybe the middle of July.

MH: What song was it?

JB and JH: The Theme Song.

JH: I am so happy with how that song turned out. It really grounds me and makes me feel really content.

JB: It’s so good.

JB: It’s about the feelings of magic that you have as a kid. I mean, as you grow up, like me, I’m a fairly child-like person, but still I am not really the same a actually being a child. And the way that a child wishes and hopes—

MH: Nothing seems impossible, it’s like John wrote, you’re “wishing with no strings attached” and, it’s not like there’s not work involved, but when you’re a kid, it’s different. Now if I wish for something, it’s not like I don’t believe that my wish for the future will come true, it’s just that I know that I have to work for it and that it will take time. For kids, there’s a different trust there. We saw it a lot in the theatre school this summer.

JB: We also are playing with that age of eleven to thirteen, that awful place in between growing up and being a child. You have this sense of reality and you suddenly have to be mature and responsible, but you don’t get any of the benefits of being grown up either. I remember when I was that age just wanting to grow up and to have a job and a house and a dog.

MH: Having your own place was important because you felt like you were a grownup, but you still had to live in your parents’ place.

JH: We also explored the difference between being ten and being thirteen, like views about sex, and levels of knowledge and maturity and responsibility and all the changes that are going on in your body. These are things that everyone who comes to see the show has experienced, or will experience. It makes the two sisters really relateable characters.

JB: And even though Rebecca and Kristin weren’t always there during the writing process and not all of these aspects of growing up are overtly mentioned in the script, they know what it’s like to be in that ‘in-between’ age and all the stuff that comes with it.

JH: Because everyone who sees it will be able to relate to it because it is something we all go through.

JB: That is my hope for the show, that people will be able to relate to us and to what is happening and to remember what it was like to be that age, and what it was like to really wish for something.

JH: I’m feeling a lot better since I ate that chocolate.

JB: Maybe there were Dementors around, and that’s why you were feeling gross. And now you’ve had some chocolate and you feel better.

MH: Yes! And that’s why I fell down!

JB: And now the Dementors have flown away.

AC: Yes. Of course. Dementors. Obviously.

MH: And that’s how we decided to write ourselves into the show! We were like “we’ll be magical super heroes.” What else?

JH: It was hilarious. The way we got the idea for the story line was that we did a one word story. It was Meghan, me and Kristin… Jessica was away that day. But there’s a lot of random stuff that came through that, and a lot of throw-outs to our experiences this summer with the kids [at Neptune Theatre School].

JB: I’m sure you’ll see a lot of the theatre school in the show when you come.

AC: Yeah, [Neptune Theatre School student] Ying Tong is in there.

MH: Ying Tong is mentioned twice. Mikayla Hubley is mentioned twice… The Golden Spider Trio acts as a foil for the two sisters in the play. Their arc is followed very closely—

JB: But differently. Very differently.

MH: Yes. Differently. But the themes are similar. It’s still about believing in things. And relationships. And one person needing something different than everyone else. Should I go into more detail?

JB: Yes.

MH: Well, there are two people and their cat, one is an artist, and one is a musician. The other is a cat.

JB: And then a Golden Spider visits them and offers them each a wish.

MH: Pow wishes that she could stretch to the ceiling.

JB: To the sky.

MH: Right, the sky.

JH: Chow wants to be able to control sounds and music.

JB: And Meow wants to be able to join them, so she wants to be almost entirely human.

MH: So, all of them learned the power of a wish and became the Golden Spider Trio, and together they’re on a superhero TV show and the premise is that they are artists and they create art on the show, so they sing, dance and fight villains—people who hate art or who hate children… or whatever…

JB: To give you a loose example….I think we’ve said too much.

MH: I think that the theatre community will appreciate what they [The Golden Spider Trio] stand for and what they fight for.

JB: And what we stand against.

JH: Also, if for some reason, you aren’t already planning to come see 11:11, there are four beautiful ladies in this show and one of them is single. So, come see the show. Oh, and um, I’m single too… so, come see the show.

MH: This is not a theatre brothel!

JB: But how I wish it was!

AC: Of course. So, you mentioned the theatre community, and the theatre community does generally come out to give support during the Fringe Festival, but I know that sometimes the general public is wary of taking the risk with Fringe because they think Fringe theatre means that it’s amateur or extremely off-the-wall and strange–

JB: I think it’s important for artists to reach out to the general public because artists generally have similar values and ways of thinking and they often agree with the same things, and so to target shows toward a group of people who believe in the same things and think the same things that your show is communicating seems sort of wasteful to me. I think for us, working at the theatre school gave us the opportunity to reach out to some different people.

JH: As teachers we have to appeal to the general public and to all sorts of different kids, and I can’t think of a better show to appeal to the public than 11:11

JB: There may be superheroes, but the morals of the show should appeal to everyone.

MH: Sometimes companies in the Fringe set out to do something really weird or artsy—

JB: And they think because it’s Fringe that it’s okay if the show doesn’t make sense.

MH: But I think we have really captured the heart of the transition between believing and not believing and that our show is made from love. And it is from a place where we all want to create and to do something different but not something that is off-the-wall and wacky just for the sake of it.

JB: It is wacky, but not for the sake of it.

MH: I think that the general public should take a chance on the Fringe Festival because it is a platform where people in Halifax get started in the theatre. We may not be professional actors but we’re not “amateur”.

JB: Also, it’s hard, if not impossible to get funding for shows in this city, so you have artists, a lot of professional artists who work on an idea for a show all year and then it’s impossible for them to put up the show anywhere but the Fringe Festival. So, I think for that reason, here in Halifax, maybe even more so than in larger cities, there are more professional shows- or ones that are close to professional- being produced.

MH: You never know until you try.

AC: Have you all been involved in the Fringe Festival before?

JH: No, I haven’t.

JB: And we were all in the same Fringe show two years ago.

MH: And I wrote [my play] Honey & Jupiter last year.

JH: And I have only really seen your show [to Meghan] and your show [to Jessica] and Gay White Trash. So, I’ m excited!

JB: I’m excited, but I’m also a bit nervous because the Fringe Festival is so late this year and people who were just home from University over the summer won’t get to see the shows at all, and then so many people are starting school and so they’re so busy.

JH: I think the show really appeals to people in University too because it reaffirms that they can still wish. They can still wish. They can still wish. Because there’s that part of you that wants to believe, and then that part, that realistic strain, that tries to ruin it.

MH: It’s even a good show for people who are between High School and University because they’re trying to hold on to their hopes and dreams for the future, but now they have to pay rent and get groceries and all that stuff on top of it.

JB: It’s one of those shows that has been labeled as being “appropriate for all ages,” but I also think that it is an IMPORTANT show for all ages.

AC: What other Fringe shows are you really excited about seeing?

JB: I’m excited to see Shakespeare on Trial, because I didn’t see it during its other two runs, and Boo.

MH: Me too!!

JB: By Charlie [Rhindress].

MH: And Sherry [Smith] is in a show I think and Lee [J. Campbell] is directing one. Is that the same show?

AC: Yes.

MH: And there’s two DaPoPo shows.

JH: Yeah, one is a musical and one is the one that Allison [MacDougall] is in. I’m also excited to see Jack and Jill.

JB: Isn’t it Jill and Jack?

JH: Jill and Jack. Because they take such weird pictures of their shows!

JB: There are so many people who I have looked up to so much doing shows in the Fringe this year. There is so much that I’m excited to see.

JH: Also, Large Sums of Money, the one that Adam Reid is doing. That looks good.

JB: I feel like there’s a ton I don’t know about. I’m going to try and see as much as possible.

AC: If your next 11:11 wish was guaranteed to come true, what would you wish for?

JB: I would wish—it’s awful– all I can think of is a dragon right now. …. Aw, fuck it, if they were real, I would wish for a dragon.

JH: What kind? Like a nice one?

JB: A nice one to ME. Tame-able.

MH: I would wish to be paid by the hour to write. Not to be rich, or anything, just, so that I didn’t have to work a joe-job and write when I could. Because no one just pays you to sit in your underpants and write.

JB: Oh… yours is better than mine.

MH: Is it?

JB: No… I take it back… I have a dragon. Mine’s better. Because then if we were writing a musical, like, about India, we could just hop on my dragon and go there.

MH: And it wouldn’t matter if I was in Toronto because that would be close on a dragon.

JB: Oh, yeah. So close.

JH: I would wish to be Jessica’s dragon.

MH: Can you still be John?

JH: Nope, I’m a dragon.

JB: But can you still talk to us and stuff?

JH: Oh, yeah. But I’m still a dragon.

Enter Kristin Slaney and Rebecca Falvey.

AC: Who are you, where are you from and how did you get so talented?

Kristin Slaney (KS): Um, I’m Kristin Slaney and I’m from Halifax, well, actually, I say I’m from Halifax when really I’m from Cole Harbour, which is a smaller area outside of Halifax which is more difficult to explain, so I usually just say I’m from Halifax. I did most of my training at Neptune [Theatre School], I was in their Pre-Professional Training Program in 2006-2007, and I did a Fringe show awhile ago too, and I am still involved in the theatre community today, doing short films and stuff like that which keeps me involved even though I am doing a Bachelor of Journalism right now at Kings, but I’m still really involved in the arts scene here…

Rebecca Falvey (RF): I’m Rebecca Falvey, I’m from Halifax-

KS: See, it’s just so much more succinct when you’re actually from Halifax…

RF: And I’ve been doing stuff at Neptune for a long time.

AC: What sort of Neptune stuff?

RF: Well, just sort of the different theatre companies there, throughout Junior High and I also worked there for about four years.

AC: How did you guys get involved in 11:11?

KS: I guess, it was in June or something, when Meghan was still in Toronto, and she messaged us and was like, “hey! I’ve got this idea for a play” and at first we thought that she would actually sit and write it and then we would perform it, but then as we started talking, it sort of became a collaboration. Especially because it was such a huge thing to put just on Meghan’s shoulders and she was already working on [her show for FemFest in Winnipeg] Honey and Jupiter. And it has been an interesting experience. I guess it just sort of happened. We saw the possibility that Meghan’s idea had to have sort of a life of its own. (To Rebecca} Agreed?

*Rebecca nods*

KS: Also, we were all playing to our strengths, John and I were doing the songs, and I had been writing lyrics all last year and so then I started writing specifically for this show and I would give them to John and he would go away and turn it into this great song. And Jessica has this great directorial ability… she’s a great director, even though it’s hard to have a specific director in an ensemble we’re all in, she is able to help in that capacity. And Meghan is still the playwright. Even though we thought things up together, she takes our ideas away and shapes them and she’s the one who turns the script into what it is going to be. And Flavey brought in all sorts of books, which you can see all over the floor, and we’re gonna put them in our fort [in the show]. She has the whole Captain Underpants series!

AC: Can you talk a little bit about your arc in the play? Without giving too much away, of course?

KS: Well there’s two sisters growing up; one of them is thirteen… well just about to turn thirteen, and the play examines the gap between the sister who is almost thirteen and the sister who is ten. And it looks at how these two girls could be together for their whole lives but now there’s this weird distance between them. And in the play, you see the girls where they begin and then how they grow up a little bit.

AC: Do either of you have sisters?

RF: No.

KS: I have a little brother…

AC: How did you explore the relationship of sisters to prepare for your parts? Did you get input from people in cast, or others you knew with sisters, or did you think about experiences you had seen on TV or in movies?

RF: Well, there are a lot of relationships that I have with friends, friends that I’ve known since I was very little that I would say are comparable to the relationship between sisters. And other people in the show have given us examples and shared their experiences with their siblings growing up.

KS: Also, working at Neptune [Theatre School] this summer, especially watching the ten to thirteens as an age group, and seeing how they act, and how siblings within that group would act, was really helpful.

RF: Plus, it’s not hard for us to play siblings because it is not hard to believe that we are sisters. We have the same awkward mannerisms.

KS: Yeah, exactly!

RF: That’s why Meghan wanted to make us siblings.

KS: Because we get along in a sort of sisters kind of way.

AC: Did you notice anything interesting when you were watching the ten to thirteens at the theatre school? Any surprising or interesting observations?

KS: What was most interesting, I found, was that it had me thinking about how I was at their age. And it also made me wonder why they do certain things that they do. And looking at the siblings, at any age, really, and seeing how there is that closeness of being siblings there, but also this sort of animosity too. They are always looking out for each other, though, and they always have that special sibling relationship which is different from just being a regular friend.

AC: When did you two meet?

KS: [Neptune’s Youth Performance Company’s production of ] Charlotte’s Webb

RF: So, in 2004. So, we met in the Summer of 2004. I was twelve? Wait. No. Yeah. Yeah, I would have turned thirteen during that show.

KS: And I was fifteen. Fifteen and a half. No, no. I was sixteen. Yeah. We both worked on the YPCo stuff and then the next year we were in Bugsy (Malone). But she [Rebecca] was always super mature for her age. So, it wasn’t like I was sixteen being like, “I’m hanging out with a twelve year old!” It was something that I kind of forgot.

RF: I pushed hay!

AC: You pushed hay?

RF: Yeah. I pushed hay with giant pigtails.

KS: Yes! I remember that! You with your big giant face and the pigtails and those overalls. I had forgotten about that. *laughs*

AC: Have you both been involved in the Fringe Festival before?

RF: Nope. Well, I volunteered a couple years ago. In 2004, I painted sets for the Fringe, but I haven’t been involved since then.

KS: I was in a show in 2007. Wow, that was two years ago. I can’t believe that. I was in a show called Tough by George F. Walker, which Jessica was also in and Meghan stage managed.

AC: Why do you think it’s so important for artists and for the general public to have a Festival like the Fringe in Halifax?

RF: The Fringe Festival is really important because there are a lot of people in Nova Scotia who are really creative and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for these people to show off the things that they have written.

KS: It is probably the only inexpensive way for artists to get access to a venue to put on their own show, but also it is one of the only ways for the public to see a bunch of shows for cheaper than spending thirty dollars to go to a show at Neptune.

RF: It is easy to perform in the Fringe Festival too, rather than in the rest of the theatre season when you have a lot of the parts in shows being played by actors from Toronto.

KS: The Fringe Festival really makes the theatre a community here, because it can get very Neptune-centered sometimes, but the Fringe gives everyone an opportunity to come together and to see each other’s work. I am so excited. I am going to spend the whole week going to shows

AC: What Fringe shows are you excited about seeing?

KS: Ooh. What have I heard about? I am really excited to see the one-man show that Charlie Rhindress is doing that Daniel MacIvor directed. I’m excited to see Shakespeare on Trial.

RF: Yeah, that one!

KS: And Feathers and Loam, the show Allison [MacDougall] is in. There are so many people who are not usually involved with the Fringe who have done past Fringes, who are doing stuff this year.

*The wind rustles and howls very loudly outside the window*

AC: Was that the wind?

KS: Yeah!! It feels like fall today.

RF: It was so cold this morning.

KS: It was so nice though! I had my sweater on while I was biking. When you’re biking everything is better.

AC: If you could make a wish on the next 11:11 that professionally your dreams would come true, what would the future look like for you in five years time?

RF: I don’t really make wishes. I get so anxious about them and worry about them not coming true, or them getting twisted in some horrific way.

KS: Really?

RF: Yeah. But, like Kristin, I’m also in journalism, so I just want something nice to happen—I don’t really know what I want to do yet, I just want it to be something nice.

KS: I usually only wish for small things… well, not like, small things, but for short term things, I don’t usually wish for things to happen down the line. But, I just want to be happy in whatever I’m doing and to not be in too much debt. Yes. That is what I wish.

Do you believe in magic? At 11:11 you just might.

In the words of John Han, “come see the show and find out.”

The Bus Stop Theatre:

Thursday 3rd 8:50 PM. Saturday 5th 6:50 PM. Sunday 6th 3:10 PM AND 7:30 PM. Monday 7th 2:20 PM. Tuesday 8th 7:20 PM. Thursday 10th 7:20 PM. Saturday 12th 8:00 PM. Sunday 13th 3:40 PM.

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