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MTYP ready to send parents to penalty box

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Hockey's back... even at Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

In time for the end of the National Hockey League lockout, the kids' theatre has revived one of its top-scoring shows, The Big League by Winnipeg actor/playwright James Durham, for a mainstage run through Jan. 26 followed by a Manitoba tour set to play to more than 27,000 students before the end of April.

Its premiere production in 2005 lasted a then-record 86 performances at MTYP and drew a lot of attention to the scourge of minor-league hockey: parental rink rage. The topical subject matter has drawn interest from theatres throughout the country, especially in Vancouver, where the play has been staged four times, as well as across the Prairies to London and Toronto

The Big League invites youngsters into arena stands to watch 12-year-old Tommy try out for a triple-A hockey team while stickhandling around his dad's increasing pressure to succeed at all costs. It looks at a continuing social problem of parents who forget hockey is just as game and lose track about what's important when they heckle referees, berate coaches or scold the players.

"Everyone knows or remembers a parent who would come to the rink and just scream," says Ron Jenkins, back to direct The Big League again.

Jenkins, a frequent MTYP helmsman, was hardly a teen when his hockey games were marred by a teammate's dad showing up drunk and belligerent, loudly chastising his son. It continued until the coach had the parent banned from the rink.

"As a kid, you really don't know what to say," says Jenkins, who directed another hockey drama called Playing with Fire: The Theo Fleury Story for Calgary's Alberta Theatre Projects last May. "I know it was humiliating for the kid."

If some children see their painful reality captured on stage, so did moms and dads who have recognized themselves and were grateful for having their eyes opened about their rinkside behaviour, says Jenkins, a former Winnipegger who lives in Edmonton.

The Big League's audience sits in stands flanking Leanne Foley's representation of a neighbourhood rink on which the cast of Tiffany Ayalik, Raes Calvert, Brent Gill and Corey Wojcik whirl around on in-line skates. It is presented like an hour-long hockey game, with three periods that reflect the emotional state Tommy and his father are experiencing, before they go into sudden-death overtime.

Get in the game at MTYP today and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. as well as Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and again at 1 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 26 Tickets are $15.50 plus GST and are available by calling 204-942-8898 or

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One show that shouldn't be overlooked during one of the busiest times of the Winnipeg stage season is the long overdue debut of Martin McDonagh's savagely dark comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan.

Anyone who remembers the bleakly funny The Beauty Queen of Leenane or The Lonesome West knows that McDonagh always shocks and entertains. The violence and profane dialogue of his scripts has earned him a well-deserved reputation as the Irish Quentin Tarantino of the stage.

The University of Manitoba students in the Black Hole Theatre are presenting Cripple, the story about the monotony on the isolated island of Inishmaan that is broken when a film crew arrives nearby. Everyone including "Cripple" Billy Claven, want into the movie to escape the boredom.

"McDonagh has said he wants people to leave his plays feeling like they just came out of a rock concert," says director Mike Long, a fourth-year theatre student. "He writes with no regard for the production, about how anyone can stage his plays."

In The Lieutenant of Inishmore, that meant scattering the stage with blood and body parts. Every performance of The Lonesome West features the frenzied destruction of about 100 religious statues and figurines.

"In The Cripple of Inishmaan someone gets four eggs smashed on them in two minutes," says Long, 25. "It's a dream when you are reading it but then you have to figure out how to do it."

The 1997 Irish yarn has been in the news recently because Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will play the title character in London's West End next June.

Cripple will be presented tonight at 8 p.m. at the Black Hole Theatre, lower level of University College, and also Jan. 23-26. Showtime is 7 p.m. next Tuesday. Tickets are $15, $12 for students and seniors and can be reserved by calling 204-474-6880 or purchased at the door.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 G3

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