Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rookie fringers experience debut jitters

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FIRST TIME: There's a first time for everything. Ellen Reesor and Elsa Reesor-Taylor are performing their own play for the first time -- at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this year. The cousins are performing their two-woman piece, Of the Stars and the Apples, a coming-of-age story, which they wrote together.

They're competing for seats with world-class performers, which they admit makes them a bit nervous. But there are other first experiences they're learning about, like hand-billing.

"It does feel like you're selling a product, which is not really what you want to be doing," Reesor-Taylor says.

No matter what happens, Reesor says writing and working on the play has been an important personal experience.

"It's given me a lot of purpose. Actually, a month ago I remembered, 'Oh shoot, we're actually performing this for people... this isn't just for myself,'" she says.

SELF IMPROV-MENT: As the producer of a fringe performance touring around Canada, Wayne Jones seems like he's got his life on the right track.

But it wasn't always this way. Jones, who grew up in Edmonton, says he was once headed down the wrong road.

With little direction in his life, Jones says he turned to selling drugs.

"(I was) really going down a path in my life that I thought was right at the time, because I made a lot of money, but completely was against who I am as a person, completely was against how my mother raised me," he says.

It reached a critical point in 2005 when Jones says his family found out, and he realized he needed to change. He decided he wanted to become a lawyer, which he says proved cathartic.

"During that time, I had a crazy year of trying to become a moral person again, and I'd have nights where I'd be up crying all night, wondering what the hell I did," he says.

But law wasn't his calling, so he got into improv. And now he is producing an improv show called White Rhino Comedy at the fringe. He says he's never looked back.

"My mom instilled in me the sense of loving people and helping people, and I feel like this is my way of doing it: making people laugh," he says.

DOUBLE THREAT: Brooke Palsson should have no problem standing up to the festival's acting heavyweights. After all, her face has already been seen in thousands of Canadian homes as Miriam Goldstein in the Winnipeg-based TV show Less Than Kind.

But Palsson was not at the fringe festival to act. Instead, she strapped on her ukulele and sang to the festival-goers at Old Market Square.

Palsson says she was singing when she was 10, before she ever acted. After filming Less Than Kind, she bought a ukulele.

"You think of a ukulele, you don't think of a band being led by a ukulele, so it's an interesting dream I had," she says of her affection for the four-stringed instrument.

Rather than feeling like she's torn between two worlds, she says she enjoys the mix of acting and music.

"It's nice to see the two worlds collide. I'm very much an artsy person... I think it goes together quite well," she says.

NUMBERS: Thursday was a record day, with 7,690 attendees, up from 7,565 in 2012. The number of sold-out shows was five, down from nine last year.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 A25

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