Posted 2014/08/20 by jeremy in On The Street

Breaking in to the Fringe

Interviewing mimes is a strange game. You never know what you’re going to get. My entire conversation with And More Shenanigans Theatre had been about five DMs on Twitter, initiated by a phishing tweet (a phweet? a twish?), “Any journalists out there want to do a young artist profile?”

Now I was en route to the festival grounds on my bike, wondering if this was going to be a very odd, one-sided conversation. You hear stories—showing up to an interview and having to communicate entirely through gesture, with a mime who’s not willing to break character. @MoShenanigansTheatre had promised, “we’ll have our mime on.”

Fortunately, the two white-faced stars of Murder Mime the Musical—Andrew Depres and Eric Smith—arrived with co-directors to escort them. We met just outside the first aid station—an ominous location, perhaps? Some folks think mimes can be scary, but this friendly group was all smiles and Pokemon.

L - R: Eric Smith, Erin Hutchison, Emily Siobhan McCourt, Andrew Depres

L – R: Eric Smith, Erin Hutchison, Emily Siobhan McCourt, Andrew Depres

Pokemon? Apparently there is a Pokemon character, Mr. Mime, who commits the ultimate mime faux-pas: he says his name. And there you have the seed that inspired Murder Mime the Musical.

“It’s about as psychedelic as it sounds,” says Erin Hutchison, one of the two first-time directors.

The play is a play of firsts for everybody. “This was my first time writing a play, Emily’s first time directing, my first time directing, Shayla’s first time composing a musical, it was everyone’s first time,” says Hutchison. “The only person who was experienced was our choreographer.”

The two mimes nod, professionally silent as befits the creed of mummery. This is a first for them as well, so how did they polish their miming?

“A few of us had done a neutral mask course… [but] a lot of it was looking stuff up on YouTube,” admits Emily Siobhan McCourt, Hutchison’s co-director. The mimes smile and nod some more.

So for a young troupe of first-time playwrights, directors and actors, what was it like to break in to the theatre scene in Edmonton? The Fringe?

“Fringe is so open-armed, everyone is just super happy to have other people around and watch their shows … but it’s definitely been a learning experience,” Emily says. “It’s our first time venue contracting, doing our own bookings, figuring out financing, budgeting, scheduling.

“All being emerging artists, all of us are struggling with having other jobs. For most artists you come out of school and you spend the first few years doing free work to get out there and get someone to hire you.”

Fortunately, the crew had the support of a nurturing theatre community, and the advice of one MacEwan instructor who told them, as Emily quotes, “you have to jump off the edge with both feet; it sucks but you gotta do it.”

In hindsight, she agrees. “It’s going to be incredibly stressful but it’s worth it at the end of it,” she says.

Jump—but at least in this case, don’t talk. Twitter, perhaps—you never know who might be listening.