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This article was published 19/7/2018 (394 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While many shows at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival are emphatically not for children, the festival can still be a family affair.
It is literally so for returning fringe performers Stéphanie Morin-Robert (Blindside) and Alastair Knowles (of the comedy duo James and Jamesy), who came to the festival with their five-month-old daughter, Olive.
You might say Olive is already a veteran of the Winnipeg fringe stage since Morin-Robert was pregnant with her last summer, when mom starred with Ingrid Hansen in the fringiest of 2017 fringe shows, The Merkin Sisters, an uproarious, surreal physical comedy which makes its return this year at the Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Colin Jackson Studio (Venue 17).
With baby in tow, Morin-Robert and Knowles come to Winnipeg in another show, Bushel and Peck, which plays the John Hirsch Mainstage (Venue 1).
"I’m doing two shows and Alastair is doing two shows, one of which we’re doing together," Morin-Roberts says. "So between the two parents, we have a total of three shows, which makes for over 50 hours of stage time.
"I’m still breastfeeding full time, so it’s quite the task," she says. "Alastair is from Winnipeg, so we have family there and we’re fortunate to have that support."
You might call Bushel and Peck a prequel to baby Olive, as it delineates how her parents got together.
"Bushel and Peck is a show we created while we were figuring out our relationship, while we were deciding: ‘OK, are we doing this? Are we interested in building a family?’" Morin-Robert says. "We made a show questioning what we were as a partnership and during that creative process, in the earlier years of touring the show, we then decided we wanted to have a baby.
"So the show is a peek behind the scenes, in a very abstract way, of our relationship and our very different creative processes and our very different artistic practices, and how we found a way to collide the two and leave room for both to co-exist."
"It’s been like relationship therapy. Once we decided we could make a show together, we decided, ‘OK, I think we’re ready to have a baby.’"
When Morin-Robert was touring with The Merkin Sisters, baby Olive became more and more of a presence, as she continued to perform it until she was eight months pregnant. Fortunately, the comedy dovetailed nicely with Morin-Roberts’ condition.
"The themes in the show are all about motherhood and birth and all those things, and the timing was almost perfect," she says. "The Merkin Sisters is about celebrating what it is to be a woman, celebrating our bodies, celebrating body fluid and hair and to do that show now with my ‘new’ body, it’s quite empowering.
"Having a kid really puts you through quite a bit, and I really embraced that and embraced my new curves," she says. "So I’m so excited to be doing this show again."
Last year, it was Macbeth.
That is, Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy got refracted through different lenses in three separate productions encompassing cornball comedy, puppetry and experimental lighting (flashlights only).
This year, the Melancholy Dane is the star of three different productions:
— Hamlet at the Prairie Theatre Exchange Mainstage (Venue 16), by local troupe the Knavish Hedgehogs, features the title character played by Miranda Baran (who played Lady Macbeth in last year’s Knavish Macbeth show).
— Hamlet Chapter 2: Back in Black is a satire of Hollywood’s sequelistic tendencies from local troupe Dark Horse Theatre at Onstage at Pantages (Venue 4).
— Hamlet (the rest is silence) is a one-man show devised by and starring local stage veteran Kevin Klassen, the sole show at the Dalnavert Museum (Venue 19).
The latter is the most stripped-down version of the show possible. This is not one actor playing all the roles.
"I am just playing Hamlet," Klassen says. "I’ve reduced the play to only Hamlet’s lines."
The 45-minute show will be the most intimate of all the fringe shows, since the historic Dalnavert’s dining-room venue only accommodates an audience of 20.
"It’s very, very cosy," Klassen says, describing his take on the material as likewise unusual.
"The conceit of the show is that it starts at the very beginning just as Hamlet is about to die," Klassen says. "Then he goes into a limbo and he is forced to re-experience the events that led up to his death, with the audience there as a witness, and to learn something that will get him out of limbo by the time he’s reached the end of it."
"I discovered a lot in the process of cutting out all the other lines and reshaping it," Klassen says. "Reading his lines without the context of the plot, it’s all linked so strongly."
Ultimately, the show affords Klassen the opportunity to assume the challenge of the role.
"I’m in my late 40s and the likelihood of getting cast in the role was getting less and less likely," he says. "I knew it was time to poop or get off the pot. And the only way I could afford to do it was to do it as a one-person show."
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In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.