Two women who are my colleagues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery were acting in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival production of Quilters. Tiffany and Rhonda pictured here were part of an impressive cast that provided a moving and meaningful performance rich with music and story. A woman is making a legacy quilt for her daughters and as she creates each quilt square a story unfolds. The stories are told in different ways. Some are sad. Some are funny. But they give us a window into what life was like for pioneer women. We get a glimpse of church life, school life, family life, community life and the many hardships faced by women trying to raise children and eke out an existence in hard times. In an era before birth control, equality for women and many of the modern conveniences we enjoy, their lot was not an easy one. It made me think about what life must have been like for my grandmothers. I was in tears at the end of the show as the cast sang a hymn. The CBC only gave this show 2 stars but discriminating Fringe goers ignored that. There wasn’t an empty seat in the Warehouse Theatre at the performance I attended.
Tonya Miller, the sole actor in the play Threads wants us to think about how one event in life can change everything. In the case of the heroine of Tonya’s story, who just happens to be her mother, that event was landing in a course about the history of Asia by default during her first year at college. That leads to a trip to Vietnam where she meets Tonya’s Vietnamese father and becomes involved with a little boy in an orphanage who hides threads from her clothing in his hands. It’s a heart wrenching tale about love and loss and how the war in Vietnam impacted Tonya’s mothers’ family. Staged at Cinematheque Threads is a sell out most performances. I only got in because I went to a 10:45 pm. show.
I attended a show by Hot Thespian Action at last year’s fringe and once again I was impressed by their impeccable timing, amazing mime skills and professional presentation. They do a series of sketches that pass commentary on modern life. I enjoyed three especially. One was a spoof on those home decorating reality shows. It depicted a make-over of a bachelor pad. Another was an ad for an agency that Rents a Son to help older parents handle technology. The agency contends that many parent child relationships are ruined by the parents’ constant demand for help with texting, smart phones and television remote controls. Rent a Son will provide a substitute child to help parents with technical difficulties so they can enjoy a normal relationship with their own offspring. The third sketch that struck a chord with me was about a woman unable to find her phone in a messy purse. She ends up diving into her purse and discovering all kinds of interesting ‘treasures’ inside. The line up was long at the Gas Station Theatre for this show and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
The Stranger Next Door at Alloway Hall was a little strange and over the top when it came to drama. It’s plot has been translated from a French story and perhaps lost something in translation. A lovely elderly couple just starting out retirement in a the country home of their dreams has their life totally transformed, and not for the better, by the doctor who lives next door with his mentally unstable wife. Some of the events were quite implausible and we lacked enough background knowledge to really care or connect with the doctor or his wife. The acting was good, but the play dragged a bit in spots. I thought some of the story instead of being told as a narrative by the elderly gentleman who is the main character, might have been more effectively conveyed through dialogue and action. Still it’s thought-provoking to consider how our interactions with one person can completely change the kind of person we become.
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