Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.
September 1, 2010, by

Leacock Live: The inside story

Alison and Mom

Alison learned about life in the theatre from her Mom

By Alison Broverman

Last month my mother, Sue Foster, made her Toronto Fringe debut in Act Two Studio’s Leacock Live in the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. She’s 59. I’m allowed to tell you that, because you probably won’t believe me anyway (especially if you happened to see her at the beer tent that one night when she was buying us all drinks).

A few weeks ago I trapped her in the car on our way back from a cottage and made her tell me all about her first Fringe experience. I have adapted that car ride into a short play for your reading pleasure. Please contact me regarding performance rights. Thank you.

Act 1: Inside a Toyota Highlander driving down the 400 on a hot August day. The air conditioner is on. Alison and Sue are eating Twizzlers. Sue is driving. Alison subtly – she hopes – pulls her digital audio recorder out of her purse. She feels awkward about what she is about to ask, but it is for the greater good of the Praxis theatre blog.

Alison:             So remember that night at the beer tent when you bought us all beer?

Sue:                 Yes…

Alison:             People want to hear about your first Fringe experience.

Sue:                 Who?

Alison:             Readers of the Praxis theatre blog.

Sue:                 Ok…

Alison:             So can I interview you?

Sue:                 Really? I guess so…

Alison:             So can we do it now that I’ve trapped you in the car?

Sue:                 Ok, sure.

Alison:             Ok, so…how was your first Fringe? As a performer? [My mother was instrumental my 2007 Fringe production of Expiry Dating, building and transporting the set, hosting the opening night party, and tap dancing at the fundraiser.]

Sue:                 It was fun! It made me feel like I was part of a special kind of club, even though I was a performer in a show with 15 other people. Which is kind of a big cast for a Fringe show.

Alison:             Not the biggest cast. I bet it wasn’t even the biggest cast this year.

Sue:                 I bet it was the cast with the most number of years, if you added up all our ages.

Alison:             I bet that is definitely true. [The entire cast of Act 2 Studio’s Leacock Live was over fifty, several were over 70, and at least two were over 80.] So what was your favourite thing about being in the Fringe festival this year?

Sue:                 Hm. My favourite thing about the Fringe festival. This is gonna sound strange, but…handing out the little flyers. [She laughs.]

Alison:             Why?

Sue:                 Because I got to say “come and see this show, I’m in it!” But without having the pressure of being the star or anything. And I thought our little bookmark/flyers were kind of cute.

Alison:             They were. [They really were.] Were you nervous at all before the festival, or worried about anything?

Sue:                 I was worried that it was going to be lame. That we were going to be lame. But I think we…weren’t. I hope we weren’t.

Alison:             I don’t think you were lame. [I’m a good daughter, obviously, but they really are not lame. Adorable, yes. Not lame.]

Sue:                 I was a little bit worried that we would be lame, but then once we got a bit of feedback from people who attended rehearsals, and from some of the members of Act 2 who were going out to help us publicize, I figured we wouldn’t be lame.

Alison:             You sold pretty well.

Sue:                 Yeah, we did. [Modestly] Best of the venue. So that’s pretty good.

Alison:             And what was the worst part? Was there anything that sucked?

Sue:                 Ummm…hm. Not really. Because the thing I don’t like sometimes about a big group of people is that somebody gets nitpicky and grumpy about things. But I was able to avoid them.

Alison:             Who were the nitpicky grumps?

Sue:                 Oh, just various people from time to time. Because they’re old, some of them, and some of them get tired easily.

Alison:             Did you read any of the reviews?

Sue:                 I did…but I tried hard not to take them personally.

Alison:             But some of them were very good.

Sue:                 Some of them were very good, yes. J. Kelly Nestruck was very sweet. One of our cast members responded to his first article about the Fringe, where he called us as “old actors”, and he called her back within an hour of her e-mailing him and apologized and said he was in a hurry when he wrote it, and then he gave us a really nice review once we were up and running. So that was pretty nice. The guy from…I can’t remember if it was Eye or Now, he was not very complimentary about some things, but whatever…I think I’d better take this exit and get some gas. The light just came on.

A publicity shot for Leacock Live

A publicity shot for Leacock Live

Alison:             Ok.

Sue:                 I didn’t just miss an exit, did I?

Alison:             I don’t think so…no, look, there’s a rest stop up there.

Sue:                 Oh yeah, perfect.

Alison:             How did you come to be in Leacock Live in the first place?

Sue:                 Well, the director asked me to be in it. I think she did that because I’d done the part before…[they arrive at the gas station and fill up the car and eat more Twizzlers.]

Act 2: Back on the road

Alison:             You were in the middle of saying something about…something.

Sue:                 Yeah, something about how the director picked me…

Alison:             Oh yeah. And do you know why Act 2 chose Leacock Live for their Fringe show?

Sue:                 Yeah. One of the Act 2 members entered the Fringe lottery on our behalf, and she really wanted us to do Leacock Live. So we figured, since it was her entry that got us in, we did what she wanted us to do. She wasn’t able to be in it because of her work schedule, but she loved it, so that’s nice.

Alison:             And what were some of the follow ups to the Fringe afterwards?

Sue:                 One of the people in the cast decided to contact Orillia and invited their council to come. And they invited us to kick off their Leacock Festival at the Stephen Leacock Museum. So we did the show there on late July, and they loved it, and said “Bring this back every year!”

Alison:             And what else?

Sue:                 What else? [Sue looks at Alison quizzically.] Got any hints?

Alison:             Weren’t you invited to a high school in Aurora?

Sue:                 Oh yeah! We were invited to a high school in Aurora. It’s a dramatic arts high school and we’re going to show them some Readers’ Theatre, I guess…And expose them, maybe, to Leacock. I was astounded to discover that Leacock is no longer taught in public schools. And it’s very sad, because he’s a historic figure in Canada. So there were many people under 30 who came to our show who actually had never heard of Stephen Leacock. You’ve read Leacock, right?

Alison:             Of course! I read Leacock in grade 7. [At the nerd high school you sent me to, Mom.] So did you spend a lot of time at the Fringe tent during the festival?

Sue:                 I spent a few hours there…I at least passed through at least six days, and a couple of those days I stayed for a couple of hours. So yes, I guess I spent a good amount of time at the Fringe tent.

Alison:             And did you see anything else good?

Sue:                 Yeah, I think I saw about 12 shows. [They babble for awhile about how Craplicker was such a great show with such an unfortunate title.]

Alison:             Any other thoughts you’d like to add about making your Fringe debut at the age of 59? It is ok if I put your age in there, right?

Sue:                 Sure, I don’t care if you tell people I’m 59. They won’t believe you anyway. I just think it might be fun to do another Fringe show sometime, something different. It made me think anything’s possible.

Alison:             Do you feel differently about the Fringe now, having been in a show yourself?

Sue:                 Not really…I think I’m going to take Black Creek. We should go to the Danier outlet.

Alison:             Ok!

[Alison and Sue drive to the Danier outlet, where Sue buys Alison a blue leather jacket as a belated birthday present. You see what happens when you try to interview your mom?]

Act 2 Studios offers theatre training for people over the age of 50.

*  To see Alison’s new jacket, try to run into her sometime in the fall. It’s too hot to wear it yet.

Alison Broverman is a Toronto-based arts reporter and playwright whose mother taught her to drink at an early age

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  1. Michael says:

    Thanks for interviewing your Mom for Praxis Alison. I think anyone reading along can see why after meeting Sue at The Fringe tent I started writing you bi-weekly messages hoping that you would come up with something just like this.

    Also, thanks Sue for the interview. It’s true, “anything is possible.”

  2. Alison says:

    Apparently I’m not such a great daughter: my mother is 58. Not 59. I hope this doesn’t ruin everything.

    Also, I’ve been wearing the jacket since Sunday, as it is apparently November now.

  3. So Sue is in the 2012 Fringe – will there be another review?
    Love the “learned about life” photo.