The most endearing show I have seen so far at the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival is certainly not the most professional, but it filled my heart with joy even though I was essentially watching a stage full of people reading their lines from black binders. Leacock Live! Is a dramatization of two short stories “The Hostelry of Mr. Smith” and “The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias” from Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) by the Act II Studio, a drama school for adults over fifty years old at Ryerson University.
Stephen Leacock was a humorist and essayist whose stories paint an idyllic picture of one fictional Ontarian lakeshore town called Mariposa in the early twentieth century. The ensemble cast take turns narrating, in captivating and dramatic voices, from Leacock’s descriptions and the dialogue is spoken with each actor playing a respective character. Some of these ladies and gentlemen are especially proficient at using their voices and their physicality to create distinctive characters such as an incredibly funny undertaker, a spirited young boy, a Scottish doctor, a stern reverend and a gaggle of gossipy and headstrong ladies who could have walked straight out of a Ladies Aid meeting in Avonlea.
The most fascinating thing about this production for me was how reminiscent it was of the Little Theatre movement, from whence our country’s indigenous theatre came right around the same time that Stephen Leacock was writing. Initially, play readings in the drawing rooms of the affluent were far more prominent than staged productions and the parts would have been read by amateur elocutionists who were passionate about drama and about literature. It was that passion, the level of commitment that every single performer on the stage had to every movement, regardless of how corny or clichéd it was, and every word regardless of how hokey it may be, that made Leacock Live! such a refreshing experience to see.
I love the idea that it is never too late to learn a new skill, to follow your dreams, and embrace your passions, and giving older individuals the opportunity not only to perform, but to take classes in acting, improvisation, clown, Shakespeare, directing and playwriting (among others), is such a wonderful thing. Leacock Live! filled my heart with joy yesterday morning and reminded me how vital dedication and passion are to the creation of really engaging theatre.
Leacock Live! (adapted and directed by Vrenia Ivonoffski) plays at Tarragon Theatre (Mainspace) at the following times:
Mon, July 5 10:15 PM
Wed, July 7 5:45 PM
Sat, July 10 12:30 PM
Sun, July 11 7:30 PM
all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com/.