Entertainment and Sports

Nothing, Everything, And Fringing

The Fringe is great, fun, and inexpensive. There's something for everyone. If you want to feel better, get out and see a show. Fast.

By Kevin Somers
Published July 28, 2018

Dr. Jason Fung is a diabetes and obesity expert from Toronto and a leading advocate of intermittent fasting. Likening it to Seinfeld, Dr. Fung says the key to better health is nothing. In this presentation, he synthesises his research and explains the benefits of fasting.

Dr. Fung is not selling anything. There are no tricks or gimmicks. There's nothing up his sleeve. Fasting is simple, it's free, and it works. Temporary caloric abstinence has been great for me. Nothing changed everything. My appetite has diminished and going 16 - 24 hours without calories has become easy - something I wouldn't have believed, not long ago.

There's been a mind shift as well. It's not just food consumption being re-evaluated. Fasting leads to contentment and when you want nothing, you feel like you have everything. I spend less time and money on food and drink. I spend less money. My brain has slowed down. Sleep has improved and there's more productive time. I feel calmer, lighter and healthier.

Of course, there are cravings, pangs, hankerings... but wondrous water cures everything. There is a small sense of accomplishment at the end of each fast. Body, mind, soul: everything is better. As the mighty Shakespeare said, there's much ado about nothing.

The Bard would also tell you there's much ado about theatre this week, as The Fringe Festival rocks Hamilton with hundreds of performances. Being invited to The Playwrights Unit at Theatre Aquarius six years ago changed my perspectives on theatre and life.

The world's a stage, undoubtedly, and I see performances, reality, characters, people, actors, writing, staging, dialogue, conversation, repartee, stereotypes and plots differently since entering the theatre world. I think I've learned a lot about it, until I'm around theatre people and realize I know next to nothing.

If nothing else, however, I've learned to love writing for the stage, which is a theatrical leap from the page. It's remarkable how a talented, fearless performer can use words to soar. It was beyond my imagination, certainly.

One of my guides on the Theatre Adventure has been Peter Gruner, a terrific writer and person. Peter has had a fascination with clowns since childhood. He's enjoyed clown performances and studied clowning from legendary clowns.

For decades, he did everything clownish except put on a clown costume, take the stage, and clown it up. A closeted clown no longer, Peter's unleashed Zingo, the zany, funny clown who'd been trapped in a quiet empty-nester for too long. I've seen The Zingo Factor twice. I'm not clowning, it's great.

After a Zingo performance, David Brace, the owner of the gallery hosting Peter's show, told us the building had been sold, rent is going up, and the gallery has to move. He's going to Barton Street. Except math, everything is always changing. Nothing stays the same, except math.

Luke Brown has been instrumental in helping navigate the waters of live entertainment. Luke and Vicktoria Adams wrote Princess Penelope's End-Of-The-World Magical Musical Super Happy Fun Time Show, which is playing at The Staircase Theatre.

Luke directs and Vicktoria stars, with great support from Ryan Sim, whose understated performance is hilarious. Understated might seem incongruous with Sim threatening an audience member in a Care Bear onesie, but he pulls it off. Everything he does is funny.

Consistently compelling, Vicktoria is a terrific performer. Playing a maniacal, post-apocalypse princess, she holds nothing back. The fast paced, 45 minute show has music, comedy, tragedy, audience participation, snacks... a little bit of everything.

However, with extreme prejudice, my favourite show at The Fringe is Eli The Musical Guy And Pearl The Shakespearean Girl.

It's a musical comedy I wrote with Rebekah Jackson, musician extraordinaire. Working with Rebekah is like working with Mozart. A musical Midas, everything she writes is gold. Becky is on stage during the performance, playing the piano and driving the show bus with smiling, subtle incomparable genius.

The story is of Eli, who's been raised to believe life is a musical theatre production and Pearl, who thinks she's a Shakespearean actor. There are several characters in the play, but only four actors, so everyone play multiple roles.

Carlos Jiminez is Eli. Carlos says, unabashedly, Eli is his alter ego and watching Carlos sing, dance, and act is pure delight. On stage and off, Carlos makes everyone smile. My daughter described him as joyful.

Annalee Flint is Pearl. Annalee is a professional actor and hardcore Shakespeare fan. Her portrayal of Pearl is remarkably better than I envisioned. Even if don't know Shakespeare, you can't look away from Annalee when she's in the Bard zone. Like a naked flame and rocket fuel, her and Carlos light it up.

Sean Emberly is Levi, Eli's dad. He is also Dr. Pill and Dapper Dan The Rapper Man. Sean is great. Great. There nothing else to say. Everything you need to know about Sean: he's great.

Patti Cannon is Pearl's mom, Shirl and other characters. Patti is everything one could want in an actor; prompt, professional, prepared, polite, pleasant, fearless, and funny. A well loved grandmother, Patti's kind nature shines through her performance.

A few years ago, another play I wrote, Jack And Jill Beiber Fever, was at The Fringe. Ryan Sero, a friend from the unit, put it on. Ryan directed and starred in the show. Except for a brief visit to one rehearsal, I had little to do with the preparation and opening night was full of surprises and revelations about the potential of theatre. Ryan and crew did things I hadn't thought of and it was a great experience.

Ryan, another Hamilton theatre veteran, has a show of his own at The Fringe. Back by popular demand: Romeo and Juliette an Escapist Comedy is at Artword Artbar.

For Eli And Pearl, I went to most of the rehearsals, which has been another incredible learning experience, I'm grateful for. Tyler Brent directs our show and his talent for it was something to behold.

Tyler's attention to detail, the direction he's taken each scene, and the performances he's pulled from the cast, are inspiring. Every word and gesture is vetted, sweated, and fretted. To his hard work I am indebted.

Seeing firsthand the amount of effort, time, collaboration, trial, error, and dedication that goes into a show has left me with a new appreciation and respect for those involved. All the artists in our show are experienced, talented theatre veterans. It's been humbling to see their devotion to the show.

Each has spent hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades... a lifetime training and honing skills. Then, they put everything into learning script and movement for Eli And Pearl, rehearsing and practising over and over until exhausted.

On opening night, there were seven people in the audience. Annalee, Becky, Carlos, Patti, and Sean took the stage like it was a sell-out on Broadway and gave it everything. In the booth, Tyler hit the cues with razor precision. Sitting beside my daughter, who loved the show, I couldn't have been more grateful and proud. Eli The Musical Guy And Pearl The Shakespearean Girl was everything I'd dreamed of. Everything. Nothing could have made the evening better. Nothing.

Theatre's great. The Fringe is great, fun, and inexpensive. There's something for everyone. If you want to feel better, get out and see a show. Fast.

Happy Fringing.

You can also read Raise the Hammer's reviews of Fringe shows.

Kevin Somers is a Hamilton writer.

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