Join us as we journey into the realm of theatre with our guests, Christine and Tara, known for their captivating portrayal of Cinderella’s Stepsisters. Listen as they share the fascinating inception of their theatre piece, from a casual suggestion by Christine’s partner, Ian, to the full-fledged, unique production it is today. Get a sneak peek into the process of creating their otherworldly costumes, described as a “mobile set in and of itself”, and discover the backstory of the Stepsisters that breathes life into their performance.
Immerse yourself in the challenges and triumphs of transitioning from fringe to large-scale theatre productions. Christine and Tara share their experiences of developing their characters and the evolving dynamics of their roles. Discover the crucial role of imagery in theatre, particularly how it captures audience attention, and the differences they’ve experienced working with larger teams and funding.
Lastly, we talk about their mentoring experiences in the French theatre circuit and their exciting new project, the Lost Sock Rescue Society. This innovative project aims to challenge our culture’s bias against unmatched socks by creating an immersive and interactive experience. Plus, get a glimpse of their upcoming play, the Stepsisters, and their aspirations for its future. Tune in for a rollercoaster of emotions, a dash of humour, and a healthy dose of inspiration.
Christine Lesiak is an Edmonton / amiskwacîwâskahikan-based theatre artist, teacher, director, and artistic director of Small Matters Productions. She holds a BSc in Physics, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Drama. She specializes in integrated & collaborative creation, audience experience design, interactive comedy, and physical storytelling. She is co-creator of and performer in Small Matters’ nine full-length shows, including the interactive comedy hit, “For Science!” (2018-23), she premiered her new show “The Space Between Stars”, a radical adaption of “The Little Prince” in February 2023. “The Spinsters” premières November 2023 at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby B.C. She is a frequent collaborator with the Edmonton-based companies Catch the Keys Productions, artistic associate with Toy Guns Dance Theatre, and director of the Play the Fool Festival of clown-theatre and physical comedy.
Tara Travis is an Actor, Voice Actor and Puppeteer known largely for her work on stage, notably solo works Til Death: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Who Killed Gertrude Crump? (with Monster Theatre) The Unfortunate Ruth, and Searching for Dick: A Paranormal Comedy. Voice actor on comedy podcast Phantom Signal, narrator of numerous audiobooks, and voice maker for video games, animation, web series and YouTube-ey things galore. She wiggles dollies, and likes to make art.
The Spinsters dates and tickets: https://smallmatters.ca/shows/the-spinsters/
Transcript auto generated.
00:03 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
I’m Phil Rickaby and I’ve been a writer and performer for almost 30 years, but I’ve realized that I don’t really know as much as I should about the theatre scene outside of my particular Toronto bubble. Now I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can about the theatre scene across Canada. So join me as I talk with mainstream theatre creators you may have heard of and indie artists you really should know, as we find out just what it takes to be Stageworthy. If you value the work that I do on Stageworthy, please consider leaving a donation, either as a one-time thing or on a recurring monthly basis. Stageworthy is created entirely by me and I give it to you free of charge, with no advertising or other sponsored messages. Your continuing support helps me to cover the cost of producing and distributing the show. Just four people donating $5 a month would help me cover the cost of podcast hosting alone. Help me continue to bring you this podcast. You can find a link to donate in the show notes, which you can find in your podcast app or at the website at Stageworthy.ca. Now onto the show.
Tara Travis is an actor, voice actor and a puppeteer known for her physical theatre work. Christine Lesiak is a theatre artist, teacher and director. They joined me to talk about the spinsters, in which they play Cinderella’s step sisters, which you can see November 16th to 18th at the Shadbolt Center in Burnaby, bc, and from January 16th to 27th at Edmonton’s Westbury Theatre. In this conversation we talk about the origin of the play, how the two of them first came together as artists, and much more. One quick note In various points in the conversation there’s some distortion in Christine’s microphone. I’ve done my best to clean it up, but you may still hear it. Here’s our conversation. Christine Tara. Thank you for joining me, just to jump in which one of you would like to tell me about the spinsters.
02:30 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
The spinsters is a dark comedy. Tara and I play Cinderella’s ugly step sisters, and you meet us in their middle age and they are hosting a ball, so this time it’s their rules.
02:47 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
So where did this come from? Where did the idea for this come from?
02:52 – Tara Travis (Host)
Christine and I are both tall ladies who specialize in comedy her, more in clown, me more in like multiple character, shape-shifting theatre but with very complementary skill sets. Both very much love each other. Chosen sisters separated by provinces, we’ve always wanted to work together on something, but how? And there was one time I was visiting the Edmonton Fringe in 2017, and Christine and I were walking along just tall and gorgeous as we are and let’s speak with confidence, shall we? And Christine’s partner, ian, was walking behind us and he’s a mechanical engineer who has this wild inventive mind and he loves building stuff for theatre. And he saw us walking together and said I love this image, I want to see this on stage. I want to see the two of you gliding around in epic dresses Also, I could build them for you. And we said, yes, that sounds excellent. We love that. We are deeply on board with that.
04:02 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
But what’s the show what’s the story? What’s the story? I mean, a beautiful image is one thing, but at the end of the day, if we’re going to create a piece of theatre, we need to know what the story is. So, fast forward three years, fall of 2020, that year we were in a cabin together as couples Tara and her husband and Ian and I very safely COVID, safe and doing a whole bunch of nature walks and it came to us after some conversations about our teenage hood and our awkwardness and we’ll say more about that in a second but it came to us that we are the ugly stepsisters that’s who we identified more with than with Cinderella and that raised a whole bunch of interesting questions about, well, who are they? What would they be in as middle-aged ladies?
05:05 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, what happened to them, you know, yeah, what was their real deal.
05:11 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
I mean very few people are actually there’s. No, there are very few like actual evil people. Everybody has a backstory and they’ve gotten assured. They’ve gotten the ugly. Stepsisters have gotten a bad rap.
05:25 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, they’ve been painted through one specific lens, right yeah. And we want to give them a little more opportunity, a little more stage time, if you will.
05:37 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Now, you mentioned the dresses and the gliding and that sort of thing. I have seen video of the two of you walking in these dresses. They do glide, they are epic, but they’re also very striking because do they have, like, wheels on them Just to keep the? Do they have wheels? Is that what’s happening there?
05:57 – Tara Travis (Host)
Because it’s pretty spectacular. That’s an excellent question.
06:06 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
There is some mechanical magic happening underneath there.
06:09 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, proprietary mechanical magic, oh of course Of course.
06:15 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Like smile, smile, but it does create an otherworldly effect in a movement repertoire, unlike anything else that I’ve ever seen, which makes it very interesting. They are very striking, so the video you’ve seen to date those were prototypes. Those are not finished gowns, and we’ve been getting pictures of the gowns as they’re getting closer and closer to being finished, and each one of them is like a mobile set in and of itself. They are phenomenal, wow.
06:49 – Tara Travis (Host)
Wow, as you were saying that, christine, I had full body goosebumps just run over me like they are magnificent. I’m not thick of looking at them yet.
06:59 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
So at some point you go from this idea that Ian had of the gliding dresses to each of the dresses being like a full set of its own. What is the road to those costumes as they are? How did the costumes develop with the characters?
07:15 – Tara Travis (Host)
One of the first people that we brought onto the team creatively aside from the three of us, christine and Ian and I was my dear friend, adam Dixon, who we met in theater school and he went into sort of the high fashion world and so he’s been working in the fashion industry but he, very kindly, has been designing theater pieces for me over the years and it’s kind of it’s very much his passion, and so we brought him into the conversation. He was immediately electrified by the challenge and so we just had all these discussions about what we wanted them to do and how they were going to operate, and we’ve just been these significant jam sessions. We’ve got all of these different drawings throughout the years, all our different pitches. It’s so cool to see the evolution of the idea, and oh golly has it evolved. There are nine sewers on his team right now, oh yeah.
08:12 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
It’s a custom dye person. Yeah, wow, it’s nuts.
08:16 – Tara Travis (Host)
It’s nuts, but I see why. Oh so cool.
08:19 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Now this we talked about the dresses and we talked about the initial idea. How did the story develop over time? You start with the idea over About the, the step sister. Cinderella’s ugly set step sisters and it has to that you have to turn that into a story. So what? What was the writing process like on creating a show like this?
08:40 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
That’s been really challenging for us because we were both physical creators.
We’re used to getting into a studio and writing on our feet and we are in different provinces terrorism, vancouver, I am in Edmonton and Alberta and so we we have traveled to be in studio together and I would say the first thing we did was Test out a prototype of these magical dresses in order to see whether they would actually even work.
So Ian built us those and we got in a studio together in 2021 I think it was summer of 2021 and we saw what kind of images could we make, what very much digging into a devised image-based Theater process. And once we saw the images we could make and we discovered some really fun shadow play, the story kind of evolved from there. So it’s been a very interesting process where the design and the imagery and the story have been cross-pollinating each other, the entire journey, which has been really fun for us from a design perspective and, frankly, the way I love to work, where it’s an iterative process, where everything evolves With each other as we go. But I would say Tara and I we had some challenges actually writing the text, would you say hey.
10:05 – Tara Travis (Host)
Absolutely, absolutely. Again, because we are such like iterative character based on our feet in the room, creators staring at each other over zoom and smashing keys was just. It was kind of agony at times and and we just found that there was so much benefit in getting in the same room together and just Getting into character, or, you know, getting into the, the mask as much as we could and just letting the characters tell us what it needed to be. That’s. That’s when we had our most fruitful creation times. But you know, we also smashed a lot of keys and and figured out a lot of logic things. That way too. It was just. We definitely prefer being together.
10:48 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Which which came first the smashing of the keys or the in the room? Do you work in the room together and then refine with the keys, or do you smash things out on the keyboard and then, like, take those into the room and fix them?
11:01 – Tara Travis (Host)
It definitely started pre story to a degree. We had sort of a very general idea of where we wanted to start and end with the storyline, but Ultimately it was yeah. But I feel like it was like physical experimentation and then laying things down back and forth and back and forth, with some help along the way.
11:25 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
11:26 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Yeah, I would say that we had a really challenging time nailing our given circumstances, because it’s a bit of a fragile world they’re playing in and we play with different realities I would suggest, with this world that they are living in, and that was the hardest thing. And then I would also say we had to Get brave about being willing to write for each other’s characters, because I think we were both very Precious and cautious at first, but well, I don’t want to put any words in Tara’s character’s mouth, and I think Tara felt the same way. But once we freed ourselves to say I’m just gonna throw some stuff on a page and you’re gonna tweak it, and Then I would say our juices really got cooking and we had a lot more fun, I think, individually and together as writers.
12:13 – Tara Travis (Host)
Mm-hmm, once we stop being so careful and polite and stop being so Canadian. Yeah, so Canadian is there.
12:19 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
How is there a way that you you managed to get past that, that sort of like not wanted to step on each Other’s toes? Or did you just like one day, say we can’t get anything done if we don’t do this? I?
12:30 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Think a looming deadline, the terror of a looming deadline. So, yeah, what you said as well is that it’s like we have a workshop presentation to happen. We need we need words that Are coherent, so we’re just gonna have to slam something out.
12:46 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, and the most or the most recent revision past our or just after our, our workshop performances in April. We came with so many takeaways from that, after talking to the audience and All of that kind of stuff. We knew exactly what we needed to do. But it was Surgery, you know, and it was kind of particular and it required some bold offers and chopping and reshaping. And so I just kind of went okay, christine, I’m just gonna go to it, and I made a copy of it and I called it the Franken draft, I think, and I just like went to town on it, knowing that the original was preserved, and and then we ended up passing that back and forth and that worked really well because we just made our bold, audacious offers. And that’s where a lot of the magic really happened. And then, you know, let’s, we got our Characters in on it. Then they, you know, made the jokes funny or it stuff a.
13:44 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Workshop performance can be a very fraud thing. You, the audience, will tell you one thing in its reactions and Sometimes you’d add the talk back something completely different, which can confuse things. Years ago, when I, when we started, I started working with Keystone theater and we were doing our plays in the style of silent film for a full-length show, we did a workshop of our initial thing and we learned a lot in the in our workshop, both from the performance and we also learned a lot from the Talkback. But we very carefully controlled the questions that we were asking and still got a lot of not a question, just a comment. You know a lot of those sorts of things that aren’t always helpful. Where did you learn the most From your workshop audience, from in performance or from the talk back?
14:38 – Tara Travis (Host)
That’s an excellent question. I know we were very mindful about the questions we wanted to ask as well. We wanted to really contain the conversation. Christine, did you have thoughts on that?
14:49 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Well, I would say that I feel like we learned different things. I feel like we learned about what parts of the show dragged and what was working. Comedically, we can, we could just feel that as performers on stage. But the really valuable information from my perspective I think we got is where the audience was confused and where we there were Holes we need to fulfill in for them, and that, I think, was really valuable afterwards. So both were super valuable as far as I’m concerned. Tara.
15:22 – Tara Travis (Host)
Mm-hmm, absolutely. I mean there’s. There’s so much that your audience teaches you just by how they’re receiving it in the moment. Right, it was just. You know, there were moments that hit with that. Oh, I didn’t know that would be perceived as funny here, or or this, this part piece really drags. We need some music here. Or I realized we’re kind of saying that twice. You know, all those kinds of things were once. Once you’ve got witness, suddenly you see it in a whole new way a lot of the time that you’ve did that you.
15:51 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
You know, the work that I’m aware of that you’ve done is largely on a fringe Festival-sized stage. This is something bigger like. This is now like I don’t even want to say theater scale because fringe is still theater, but like Large scale that you couldn’t do it a fringe festival. So this is like like I don’t know big-time stuff. This is, this is that kind of thing. Specs it more, a little more spectacular than you can fit into a friend. What is it like for you to, to go into that space, to, to, to leave that that fringe space and go into this, this larger, this larger space?
16:29 – Tara Travis (Host)
Great question, do you?
16:31 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
want to go Tara.
16:33 – Tara Travis (Host)
Sure, I mean for the majority of my creation career I have largely started with my work on the French Circuit, workshopping it and taking it to a professional level, and then you know, showcasing it and going for presentations and that kind of thing. I’ve had some experience with getting funding and hiring a team to build our kids’ shows with Monster Theater, as well as a professional remount of who Killed Gertrude Crump, which was a Murder Mystery puppet show I did with Monster many years ago, and so I’ve had some experience with like a larger stage, larger team, bigger goal. But this is by far and large the most epic and involved and spectacular work of theater I’ve ever been a part of creating and it’s equal parts terrifying and thrilling.
17:38 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Christine, yeah, I would say the big difference is you can think about scale differently. All of a sudden we’re not limited to the 15-minute load-in and strike, so we can have bigger effects, we can have hangs that stay there, we can have more than four hours of tech time. The ability to create spectacle is just a totally different scale and as well. We’ve been really fortunate in that we’ve had partners along the way and therefore been able to get funding knowing that we have partners who are willing to present us. I think that that is really critical. I suspect the Shadowbolt Center for the Arts in Burnaby to the city of Burnaby, and then Fringe Theater have offered us both guarantees and full and runs, and that has enabled us to go after funding and be able to hire the team of professionals that we really need to hire. As if we were a season show with our own space. But we’re not. It’s like a scrappy little indie situation that just happens to have an idea that people have gotten really excited about.
18:55 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
It is incredible when something catches on and people can sort of feel excitement. And also you’ve got some really strong images on the website for this show. Just looking at the images you have, you just immediately say I want to see what these people have to say, so it’s a great place to start Now. You started with these incredible dresses as an idea. The characters themselves evolve in some way. What was the process of finding who each of these sisters was and what made them different from each other?
19:38 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
We did a mask process. We did a full on Pachinko-esque character mask creation process. So we did this over Zoom during the pandemic. It was one of the first things we did it actually because both of us right from the character voice. That’s just how we always have been and through that we learned a lot about the backstory and the relationship. Because I think, as you may know, when you start working with another person for the first time, you kind of don’t know who’s going to be the high status and who’s going to be the low status, and a mask very quickly tells you who that’s going to be.
20:18 – Tara Travis (Host)
You have been assigned, yeah.
20:25 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
In terms of figuring out who that was. Did you start and it immediately became apparent who was high status, who was low status? Or did you have to go back and forth on that? Or sometimes these things just sort of fall into place immediately.
20:38 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
I’d say it fell into place pretty quickly.
20:40 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, it was pretty quick. I think we already had a feeling of where it was going to go, but I think that mask process absolutely informed it in a much greater nuance and sort of it really informed their emotional world, both shared and individual. It was really something to build on, even though it was something so early in the process.
21:06 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
And has the relationship stayed much the same through the early stages into now, or have there been new negotiations between the two?
21:15 – Tara Travis (Host)
It’s definitely expanded and contracted a little bit. For a while my character was very sort of disempowered or playing dumb or dumbing down and I wouldn’t say matching. But they’re definitely sort of a sharing command of the evening a little more than in early iterations. What do you think, christine?
21:44 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I would say that’s definitely true. Yeah, it’s definitely a big sister, little sister dynamic that they have going and I think that where it evolved to is very much more, I think, reflects a little more accurately. I don’t actually have a sister, but I know a lot of big sister, little sister combos in my life. Tara has several sisters and it feels very truthful that way.
22:16 – Tara Travis (Host)
It really does. It’s something I would think of.
22:18 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
And Tara are you the oldest sister, or where do you fall in the scale of sisterhood?
22:24 – Tara Travis (Host)
In my real life situation, I’m the male child. I’ll make people pay attention to me for a living. It’s really shocking.
22:35 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Now, tara, I have not had the opportunity to speak to you on the show before Christine was on just a couple months ago but one of the questions that I’m always curious about with people is how they got into this thing called theater. So for you, what was your gateway? What’s your origin story? How did you get into the theater?
22:58 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, well, from a very young age actually, I was a performer Before I had even seen a theater show. I was pushing my sisters around, we were putting on plays in the backyard and it was very much one of those kinds of stories. We were in love with the Shelley Duvall fairy tale theater series, if you’re familiar. We would rent those on beta and those were highly theatrical. They were often on these cheap sets but with these remarkable, world-class performers just having the time of their life, and so we would do our version of that.
But I still didn’t quite understand what theater was, you know, and so I tried to go into ballet. So I knew, oh yeah, ballerina, that’s the thing on stage. And I was the awkward kid in her bathing suit because she forgot her leotard. It just it wasn’t a good scene. And then, after a few years of flapping through that I had taller than all the other kids with my messy, crooked hair. My mom said, oh, I think what you want is theater. And I said, oh, okay, and I can’t thank her enough for hunting down the Maple Ridge community players and getting me into one of their classes, because it just kind of opened up from there. I started doing shows and haven’t looked there.
24:20 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
And how did you find your way to the fringe circuit?
24:24 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yeah, the fringe. Well, I started volunteering for the fringe when I was in high school, so in the 90s, and I remember thinking, oh, that looks like fun I’m not afraid to let you know my age, everyone so I and I thought that looks like fun, that looks like a cool thing to do. And so once I sort of finished my theater training later on, you know, I’d done a couple of shows here and there, but just, you know that early career, you know trying to find your feet thing, I was working in puppetry because that’s just sort of a thing that caught on and there ended up being a collective of us that wanted to create shows and I said, oh, I know, I know where we can do it. So I’m starting again.
That early 2000s had a couple of different collectives did the Vancouver fringe for many, many years. And then one year, 2007, the lovely Mr Ryan Gladstone of Monster Theater approached me after a solo puppet show of mine and said hey, I just moved to town and I’m looking for someone to make weird theater with. You want to hang out? And we wrote a kids show in three days and I became part of Monster Theater and then immediately started touring the fringe circuit with Monster as well. So I think my first like significant tour beyond doing my own home fringe was in 2008. And yeah, fringe has been a huge part of my development as an artist.
25:49 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, yeah. And Christine, you have been a fringe performer all across Canada for quite some time. When did you I mean, I think we’ve talked about it before, but like your first entry into the fringe world, what was that?
26:04 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
2008 was my first entry into the fringe at the Edmonton Fringe with my very first clown show with my performing partner at the time, adam Keith, and we went on and Adam and I created three more clown shows together. I believe that’s where we met, actually, because you were doing touring as well. You were. Yeah, I think we had a mutual appreciation society happening there for a while.
26:27 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Maybe we did indeed. So from there you’ve created other shows with other, like you’ve done the science show that you’ve been touring around. What does fringe mean to you as a performer, as a touring artist?
26:45 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Fringe is a place where I can take a real risk. I can take a weird idea, put it on its feet and if it flops it’s not going to break the bank, and also, audiences are there for the weird idea. You’re going to find out pretty quickly whether or not the thing works or whether or not you’re going to shelve it or whether it’s. Oh, this thing has legs. I have. It’s been integral to me and my development as a performer. I would say and I think Tara and I have had this discussion as well that as women who do not necessarily fit the ingenue type, it difficult to get cast in things by other people sometimes, especially as you get older. So it literally is why I was able to create work and be on stage and cut my teeth at all.
27:35 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Really, Now, tara, I would be remiss if I did not have to bring up the six of it all because you on the, I became aware of you in 2012. When I was on the Fridge Circuit and I’ve seen, saw your show, and when you came to Toronto with it, of your show Tale of Death, where you played all of the wives of Henry VIII, which sort of is a story that has become sort of even bigger now because there’s a big musical that sort of started going there. It is as somebody who initially you were touring this show and and and sort of like, doing the, the, the wives of Henry the eighth. How has, how has the existence of that musical sort of affected your relationship to that material?
28:30 – Tara Travis (Host)
Oh, that’s a really great question. Well, actually I had not seen it until just recently. I was in Edmonton in in August visiting with Christine and doing some In person key smashing and she treated me to a performance of six. So your question is very timely and we saw it at the Citadel and it was great and I like, I feel like it’s. I’m just grateful that there’s Even even more amplification of their stories in the world in an accessible way. You know they do it. They do it very differently and sort of with a different spin on the characters and you know I have my own relationship to them and I think I think the more the merrier, you know, I think that’s. I think it’s really excellent to see, to see their stories being told and to see them being empowered and, you know, singing some really kick ass songs along the way. It’s yeah, it’s a, it’s a different approach and it’s like a lot of fun.
29:35 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I just wanted to say that the year that I saw your performance in that show is one of my favorite things I’d seen that year at the Toronto Fringe.
29:47 – Tara Travis (Host)
So Thank you, that means a lot.
29:50 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
I hope the show is not gone for good. I hope that I’m sure that you’ve performed enough, that maybe you’re tired of it, but I personally hope that you do it again sometime.
29:59 – Tara Travis (Host)
I’m still physically capable, so I will remount it from time to time, as long as the old body can can hack it.
30:08 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, for sure, christine. You have a project that you’re currently working on which is called the Lost Sock Rescue Society. Tell me a little bit about that project.
30:21 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
So this is very different from anything else I’ve ever done. I also have a real interest in immersive and interactive experiences and in well, last year, in 2022, I did an experience design certificate program through Odyssey Works, which is an outfit out of New York and Baltimore area, and for this was my final project. So if you go to sock rescue dot ca, you too can adopt a lost and recovered sock. I was really inspired by. It sort of follows the animal adoption model, I would say roughly, but it really interrogates Our culture of waste and our culture bias against wearing unmatched socks, weirdly. So there’s a lot of depth to the whimsy of it all, I would say, and it is going to be happening this March in and the tent is a part of the Skirts of Fire Festival we’re going to have the society is going to have a booth up and available for people to come and find meets for their their single socks or just adopt, maybe, a bonded pair.
31:39 – Tara Travis (Host)
I highly recommend the process chart. Like Carl has changed our lives.
31:44 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Yes, yes, tara adopted Carl last year.
31:47 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, that sounds amazing, that stands amazing.
31:52 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
It’s very silly but also very profound. I would interview everybody who adopts to make sure it would be the sock. Is it going to be a good fit for their home, because some socks are very fragile and need certain care. You know we also do education around proper care of socks and laundering, because you know the laundromat is really the most dangerous place for a sock.
32:12 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
That is a fact. I mean, just just laundry in general is a dangerous place for a sock. Exactly, yeah.
32:19 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
It’s so true. It’s so true, but it’s really brilliant.
32:22 – Tara Travis (Host)
Do check out that work if you can. It’s mind blowing. Yeah, looking at that, well, looking at anything you do, christine, I’m just like well, I can’t believe I get to work with you. Well, she’s a freaking.
32:33 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Well, well, likewise Minster at Travis Nice absolutely.
32:42 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Now, one of the things that I mean you are both. I would. You’ve done enough French festivals and you could be called French veterans and there’s always, you know, new people who come onto the French circuit. Sometimes they’re in their home cities and sometimes they are launching into their first tour. Do you have opportunity, or have you taken the opportunity in the past to see somebody who’s kind of obviously on their first tour and struggling? That maybe needs some advice. Because mentorship I don’t think that enough. There’s enough mentorship in French. There’s not often a structure for it. So do you have you taken younger artists under your wings in the past and what was that process like?
33:25 – Tara Travis (Host)
That’s a great question, I know. I know Christine certainly has an answer for it. And when I was touring regularly, yeah, I kind of ended up feeling like like mother of hen in a way. That was sort of my, my role within the community, because it is very much a community, especially with the, with the touring book, because you, you bond, you know, moving from town to town together, and so, yeah, it’s pretty, it’s pretty easy to to find the folks who are struggling to find their feet. And you know, often I think it just sort of became a thing where it’s like oh go, talk to Tara, you’re going.
You know that there, I mean, there are a number of us who have certainly shared anything that we, that we have to offer that might be helpful. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about the French community is that there isn’t that competition, there isn’t that. But if I give you all my trade secrets, then no one will come see my show, it’s no. The more we all succeed, the more fringe there is for everyone. The, you know, the greater it is. So let’s, let’s help each other out. So, specifically, I feel like it’s been it’s been a little more casual, like through conversations and that kind of thing, not necessarily one like ongoing mentorship, but it definitely. It’s really exciting to see artists, especially on their first tour and then and then, you know, just just to see their, their growth and elevation from, yeah, from there, from their first go to their next. How about you, christine?
34:53 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Yeah, I, I love talking to new fringe artists and answering questions. I’d say mostly it’s been more informal. I started to direct French shows a little bit more and I would say as part of that often is a bit of a mentorship process, like what is a good fringe poster, which is different from a normal season poster? You know all of these sorts of things like should I do? I need to get out there and meet people on the ground like, yes, yes, you do. You know all of these sorts of questions Very recently and very exciting.
Exciting for me is I am also the director of the play the fool festival, which is a festival of clown and physical theater and Edmonton, and as part of that I have been mentoring. I have a mentorship program called the rookie cabaret, so a handful of artists will work with me over a series of weeks to create. Often it’s their first turn, or maybe they’re experimenting with a new form or you know whatever. But there is somebody who needs a little bit more support to create a piece and the show is always killer. Honestly, it always slays at the festival and this year they’ve decided to get together in the festival and actually apply and try to do the that show as a friend show for next year in Edmonton and I’m very excited.
I’m really hoping they get in, and which case I will continue to mentor them through that, because the directorial piece of it’s fallen back a little bit because the show’s been built. But you know there’s all the intricacies of again, what does a good poster look like? What should my tech form look like? Do I need a stage manager? Is this too complicated for sound like a? Lots of these little things that it’s really helpful to have a veteran, as you say, weigh in on and help with.
36:38 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, absolutely, terry. You mentioned the competition aspect and I think I’ve noticed just generally that that I tend to see people think see fringe and audience and that sort of thing as a competition when they are younger, when it’s sort of like they’re early in their, their career. That sort of goes by the wayside really quickly if you do a fringe tour because suddenly you see You’re up now, I’m down, I’m up, you’re down, like it’s all, like it’s the community sort of like needs it. You need each other to survive, which is a is an amazing thing to see somebody have that click for somebody and they realize, oh wait, no, it is true, there is audience enough for everyone.
37:19 – Tara Travis (Host)
Absolutely there is, and yeah, and lifting each other up, only I don’t know, it only makes things. Yeah, it makes things better for everyone, you know.
37:29 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
37:31 – Tara Travis (Host)
37:32 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
I have it on Good Authority that you were in a film with Priyanka.
37:37 – Tara Travis (Host)
the draft oh, yes, yes, I was, tell me about that. What’s that film? Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s so fun. It actually just came out, finally, on out TV specifically. I know they were looking at possibly other distributors for the future, but at the moment it’s on out TV and it’s very much sort of a script, is very much a love letter to the Hallmark or Lifetime movie format, but the lead just happens to be played by a drag artist, you know, and the world very much reflects that. But it like being in Vancouver where a lot of Hallmark is shot I’ve auditioned for the generic version of this, you know, if you will, and so it’s just like amped up, it’s just ridiculous and a good time.
And so, yeah, I had the pleasure of sharing the screen with her. I played her stepmother, barbara, and it was a very, very fun role. It was one of those that just she just came off the page, she was just this drunken narcissist and I just really enjoy playing like harsh, judgmental, self involved people, because it’s a very different exploration, you know, compared to my usual way of navigating the world, at least I hope.
39:13 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Why is it that the worst people are the most fun to play?
39:16 – Tara Travis (Host)
Oh, yeah, I know I love playing jerks. I think it’s really fun. Yeah, I like. I think that’s something that we’re having fun with in this show too, like we, when we can get a little nasty, it’s like whoa, that’s kind of fun.
39:30 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Now, christine, from a clown background, do the, do the. How does clown inform the spinsters?
39:40 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Oh, I mean I would say they’re kind of pure cloud. They’re more in the world of Neo Poufol, I would say, which is they have more experience, they’re more knowing, they’re more arched, they’re very arched, they’re very actually drag inspired. Actually, these characters is what we put out on our grant application forms and the aesthetic is very much drag inspired as well. It’s all extremely heightened. So it comes from there. But I would say, more than anything, it’s in the spirit of play, as Tara and I have been running lines already. Even though we’re just in the process of getting off book, we’re still, we’re having to reel ourselves back in. It’s like, okay, don’t know no improv yet, no improv yet. We need to know the lines we wrote first with one week of the off track. But it’s really hard because we both have these really strong impulses to play constantly and I think that’s what’s going to be extremely magical for us, especially as a duo, because we have so much fun playing with each other.
40:46 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, I think, I think that’s obvious. Just just watching the way that you interact and just hear, In terms of the improv aspect, how far do you feel like you can go with this? Like, how do you first off I mean you could go, you can start into into, into improv? How do you bring yourself back to the script as it’s supposed to be Once you start to deviate? How do you do just like, use each other as a lifeline? How does that work?
41:15 – Tara Travis (Host)
That’s a really good question. I feel like the way that we’ve set it up, hopefully, we’ve got sort of areas where there’s forgiveness, with a bit of play and looseness, and then there are times where it is it’s a tight ship that must sail. So I think we’ve we’ve built it in knowing that it was going to happen, knowing it was going to expand, knowing it was going to get a little loose and off the rails once in a while, but with clear reentry points.
41:45 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Mm, hmm, yeah, I think that’s the thing is knowing the script well enough that you’ve got the clear reentry point. And in any clown show I’ve ever done, if something happens you have to deal with the thing. So you just need to know the script well enough so that when it’s time to get back on the ship, you can, you can write it, you can find that that point. But, as Tara said, we tried to predict where those spots are most likely to be and give ourselves a couple of strategies to get back on track.
42:12 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
Yeah, and the other advantage to fringe is that you’re not like if you go over by a couple of minutes, nobody’s going to turn the lights on on you.
42:19 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Oh yeah, this is so great to not have to be worried about running one minute long. Oh yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s a gift, because we don’t actually really know how long the show is going to run. We think it’s going to be seven, maybe 75, or really. We’ll find. We’re going to find out in about three weeks.
42:41 – Tara Travis (Host)
Yes, we will. Oh golly, she keeps expanding. She keeps expanding. There’s just so much fun to be found.
42:49 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Well, as it is with any clown show, right Like you start off with a 50 minute show, I will tell people who are building their first clown show, build it for like 45 to 48. And by the end of the run you’ll probably be at 55 if you’re really clowning. So you know, we don’t. We honestly don’t know, but a lot of it is extremely tight and choreographed. It’s actually extremely technical show with the puppetry elements and some of the movement elements as well. So it’s I would say it’s also probably the most technically challenging show I’ve ever been co creator of as well, or maybe even done at all.
43:26 – Tara Travis (Host)
Frankly, oh, absolutely, physically and actually, with our design team and all of the different elements that all they all, all departments must speak to each other, because everything in every piece informs every other piece like it. Just, it has to be a collective creation. It’s just, yeah, it’s pretty epic visually and experientially.
43:52 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
I can’t wait to hear how it goes. To be honest with you, I can’t wait to and I hope it. I hope it meant you managed to tour with it so that I could see it out here in Toronto.
44:00 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Well, we’ve applied to summer work, so call your summer works friends.
44:06 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
I don’t have any influence on those things, but I’ll sort of like send something off into the the summer works, gods, so that they can. They can do something so we can see this. Christine Tara, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. I’m really excited about this show.
44:24 – Christine Lesiak (Guest)
Thank you so much for having us. It’s been a pleasure.
44:26 – Tara Travis (Host)
Been an absolute pleasure, and I think I forgot to say that that movie is called. It’s all sunshine and rainbows. The movie with Priyanka yes, thank you. And also she was a tree to work with. She’s a rough girl.
44:41 – Phil Rickaby (Host)
This has been an episode of stageworthy. Stageworthy is produced, hosted and edited by Phil Rickaby that’s me. If you enjoyed this podcast and you listen on Apple podcasts or Spotify, you can leave a five star rating, and if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review. Those reviews and ratings help new people find the show. If you want to keep up with what’s going on with stage worthy and my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to Philrickaby.com/subscribe and remember. If you want to leave a tip, you’ll find a link to the virtual tip jar in the show notes or on the website. You can find stage worthy on Twitter and Instagram at stage worthy pod, and you can find the website with the complete archive of all episodes at stage worthy dot CA. If you want to find me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at Phil Rickaby and, as I mentioned, my website is Philrickaby.com. See you next week for another episode of stage worthy.