by William Saroyan
and introducing Samuel Udma
Directed by Braydon Dowler-Coltman
Sound Design by Jesse Werkman & Kristian Stec
Lighting & Projection Design by Jordan Dowler-Coltman
Movement by Richelle Thoreson & Jake Hastey
Dramaturgy by Angela Ferreira
Stage Managed by Lore Green
Photographs by Mat Simpson Photography http://matsimpson.co/
Produced by Wayne Paquette
* * * * *
Presented at the PCL Theatre – Fringe Theatre Adventures
10330 84 Avenue NW
THE REVIEWS ARE IN!!
SUBWAY CIRCUS IS A HIT!!
The Edmonton Journal – Liz Nicholls
Edmonton’s Blarney Productions rides the Subway Circus
In a public world where people’s most profound connections are to their cellphones and eye contact is retractable, it can’t be surprising to realize just how unknowable our fellow travellers really are.
A journey — on public transport — through the secret lives of strangers: that’s the seductive idea, and the fun, of Subway Circus. For this Blarney production, Braydon Dowler-Coltman, in his directing debut, spins a fantasia from William Saroyan’s free-form 1940 play, which follows a young boy in and out of the dreams of the anonymous people in the subway car.
They’re all wearing trenchcoats; they’re all named Smith; they’re all studying their phones. And, in the dreamy image, ingeniously simple, that’s the keynote visual of Dowler-Coltman’s production, they’re holding on to subway poles that are the weighted strings from translucent white helium balloons.
Are balloons the lighted planets around which people orbit? Possibly. Sometimes it’s the balloons, buffeted in the wind from passing trains, that conjure a sense of life as missed human connections rushing by in the dark. At times the characters press down on the balloons, as if to retain their dreams; other times it seems that the balloons are the only thing holding people to the earth and preventing them from just floating away.
The other feature of Jordan Dowler-Coltman’s lovely design is two angled awnings of projections, on either side of the subway car. Close-ups of eyes or a sea of celebs, or a vast undulating plane of lights like some sort of intergalactic landing strip: the projections are a beautiful contributor to the play’s sense that we’ve touched down somewhere, fleetingly, in lives that pelt by at top speed. Images of Jon Stewart, Mr. Bean, and the Trumpster fly by as the subway train approaches a station.
The grave, watchful boy (12-year-old Samuel Udma, a real find) gets glimpses of thwarted lives and dreams — in enigmatic, unresolvable exchanges, and, more significantly, in the inventively choreographed movement-scape (collaborators: Jake Hastey and Richelle Thoreson of Toy Guns Dance Theatre).
A woman who’s fallen in the subway (Zoe Glassman) gets up and dances, rather spectacularly. An office worker (Merran Carr-Wiggin) reads a love letter from a co-worker, and he’s there to make his case in person. “We’re here, and outside is the whole big blooming world.”
A busker (Evan Terlesky) plays a sad song. The boy watches him and claps, in empathy, as people stick their earphones in to avoid listening. There’s a satirical sequence, with a sense of absurdity all its own, about human greed and the separation of rich and poor: “Buy every inch of Texas!” cries the rich woman, who keeps asking what her balance will be. And speaking of balances, a subway preacher (Andrew Gummer) with an apocalyptic warning about the destruction of the sinful, gets his bluff called by a nihilist drunk (Laura Raboud), and God.
The tension between human connectness and aloneness is, I guess, the thread that runs through the weave of vignettes that makes up the fabric of the boy’s subway vision. The boy himself feels it. “Can you tell me why I’m alone when I have a mother, a father, brothers, sisters, and the whole world full of people?”
Dowler-Coltman’s supple ensemble is up for the challenges of making theatrical sense of the free-floating inconclusive snatches of a piece that, like the subway, relies for its “drama” on the overheard, the half-understood, the intriguing glimpse. Life is not, as the famous musical has it, a cabaret; it’s a collage. And like the subway riders, you grab connections where you can.
For more Liz theatre stories, see edmontonjournal.com/tag/Stagestruck
VUE WEEKLY – Bruce Cinnamon
Subway Circus a loose but clever ride
Subway Circus opens with an arithmetic lesson that feels more like a riddle: if a farmer has seven apples and gives three apples away, how many apples does he have left?
This riddle serves to introduce our protagonist, a young boy who’s more interested in the colour of the apples and the life of the farmer than the simple answer he’s supposed to give. We follow him onto a subway car, where the lives of seven passengers intersect. Over the next hour, we get to see a range of stories about their lives—from a failed romance to a violent attack to a critique of consumerism—told through a series of movement pieces and short scenes.
These mini-episodes are reminiscent of the TV show Sense8, where a collection of rather generic stories are more interesting because of the central framing device connecting them. It’s ambiguous as to whether the little boy is the ringmaster of this circus, imagining these stories and projecting them onto the passengers, or whether we’re getting genuine glimpses into their lives. In general, the show leaves it up to the audience to draw our own conclusions about what’s happening and to make connections between these slices of life.
The decision to frame the show in an alley stage makes a lot of sense, not just because it evokes the rectangularity of a subway car, but also because it involves the audience in the action. We are the people sitting down on the subway’s parallel benches while each of the seven passengers clings to a hand rail, swaying with the motion of the train. As they slip into their stories one by one, we’re pulled along with them.
The action feels too close for comfort during some of the more aggressively choreographed sequences, just like when we’re unwittingly involved in a real-life scene on the LRT. The show could even stand to push the audience closer to each other, reinforcing the claustrophobic feeling of a crowded subway car.
Although it’s a little hard to get on board with its loosely outlined stories and characters, Subway Circus has enough clever ideas to make it worth the ride.
John is 13 years old and he wonders if there is more to life than what he’s been told. Jump aboard the Subway Circus and join John on his personal odyssey as he heads off towards the great unknown. As his adventure unfolds, John meets all kinds of people from all kinds of places. These strangers lives and fantasies will twist and turn John around and around and spin him towards his new destination. But where will John end up? And will it be everything he ever hoped for?
Merran is thrilled to work once more with Blarney Productions on this production of The Subway Circus. Previously for Blarney, Merran played Bonnie in Bonnie & Clyde. Select credits include The Comedy of Errors (Theatre Calgary), Othello (The Shakespeare Company), Blood Wedding, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Bloody Poetry (Studio Theatre), Macbeth, Splendour in the Grass (University of Alberta). For the Edmonton Fringe, Merran has co-produced and performed in Gruesome Playground Injuries (BrainPile), she starred in the hit Sterling nominated production Princess Confidential, and the sold out sequel Princess Confidential: Familiar Melody (Promise Productions), she played Cinderella in Cinderella (Two One-Way Tickets to Broadway) and Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Recent film credits include: Love of my Life, Happily Ever After (Paragraph Pictures), Fantasies of Flying (Tribal Alliance), and the award-winning short film Pumpkin (Be Nothing Productions). Merran is a recent graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program. Merran co-created and performed her children’s show For When She Wakes at last year’s SkirtsAfire festival and the show will appear again at this year’s festival in March.
Patricia is so thrilled to be working on Subway Circus with such an eclectic cast! Her work has taken her across western Canada and she just finished directing ‘Us and Them’ for Victoria School for the Arts. Currently she is on tour for Concrete Theatre with the production ‘The Early Bloomer’. Selected acting credits include: I Am For You, Apples and Oranges (Concrete Theatre), Working It Out, THAT’S DANGER! (Alberta Workers Health Centre), National Elevator Project (Theatre Yes!), An Accident (Northern Light Theatre), Sexual Perversity in Chicago (Quiet Things Creative) Saint Joan (Studio Theatre), as well as participating in other festivals and new play workshops throughout Edmonton. In March she will be performing as a part of the Citadel’s Cabaret Series with Send in the Girls!
Zoe is an Alberta-based actor and dancer. She studied dance at the Edmonton School of Ballet before completing her BFA in acting at the University of Alberta. Select acting credits include Gabriel, Salome, Oedipus (Bleviss Laboratory), Control (Major Matt Mason) Bloody Poetry, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Blood Wedding, Tribes (Studio Theatre). She has created and performed for the Expanse Festival, NextFest, the High Performance Rodeo’s Ten-Minute Play Festival, and the Street Performer’s Festival. Her piece For When She Wakes (co-created with Merran Carr-Wiggin) will have its second run this March at the Skirtsafire theatre festival. Zoe teaches dance at La Girandole in Edmonton and is a collaborator with the Major Matt Mason Collective in Calgary. MMM is currently running a national playwriting competition for writers under 30, and is developing a new devised piece in partnership with Ghost River Theatre called Little Red which will premiere in the Spring of 2017.
Andrew Gummer is based in Edmonton, and has been working as an actor, singer/songwriter and martial artist for the last 17 years. Theatre highlights include appearing in Beauty & the Beast, Oliver and Equus (as a giant horse) at the Citadel Theatre, and in Footloose and The Reluctant Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by David Belke at the Mayfield. Past Fringe performances include The Old Curiosity Shop with Poor-Man’s Classic Co-op (Sterling award winner for Best Fringe Show), and Hamlet with Peregrine Productions. Various Short Film/TV credits include This Wind with Truthful Work, Somnio, and an appearance in Tiny Plastic Men Superchannel. Over the last several years, his focus has been on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in which he has attained a black belt, and opened his own school at methodbjj.com. Over the last couple of years, Andrew’s attentions have turned to hand balancing and joint mobility, and the hopes of getting good enough to run away and join the circus.
Laura Raboud is a jack of all trades theatre artist and mama of two from the Edmonton community. Selected directing/creation credits include: Mrs Kowalchuk’s Mystical Walking Tour (writer/director), Kaleido Festival 2015, Salome(music composition) directed by Chris Bullough, Media Room 2014, Heart Shaped Box (co created with Joanne Pearce)Skirts a Fire and Kaleido festival 2014, Sia (Director)Fringe theatre Adventures 2013, The Earl,(Director) Nextfest 2013, Apocalypse Prairie(music/performer) Azimuth Theatre 2012, Free Man on The Land,(Director) Azimuth Theatre 2011. Recent acting credits include: The Importance of Being Earnest (MFA production, Suzie Martin) Never Let the Crew See you Cry, Fringe 2013/Theatre Alberta tour 2015(Maa and Paa Productions), Bible Bill: A Gospel Musical Fringe 2014 (Maa and Paa productions), Murderers Confess at Christmas time Roxy theatre 2014 (Serial Collective) ,National Elevator project2014(Theatre Yes), In General,2013 (Pyretic Productions) , Here. Like This. 2013, Expanse festival(Created by Amber Borotsik).
Evan Terlesky is a multi-disciplinary artist from Edmonton, Alberta. He is a graduate of Victoria School for the Arts, Canadian College of Performing Arts in (Victoria, BC) and Seacoast Studios (West Vancouver, BC). He has graced the stage at the Edmonton Fringe Festival many times, performing in his own original works. Most recently Evan completed his Fine Art Diploma at MacEwan University, after which he was an intern at this summer’s The Works Art and Design Festival. You may find Evan sketching on the LRT or hear him on CJSR FM radio, where he volunteers his talents providing voice over work. Currently, Evan is thrilled to be chasing his childhood dream of becoming a professional animator.
The Edmonton Journal – by Liz Nicholls
Two of Edmonton’s leading indie theatre companies unveil productions this week. Trunk Theatre’s offering is a playful 2009 comedy, by one of America’s hottest playwrights, which trips gaily into the corseted Victorian age to link the dawn of electricity to treatments of female hysteria. The other, from Blarney Productions, is an open-ended 1940 dream play, a mysterious adventure with strangers by one of the leading American writers of the last century.
At Blarney Productions, Braydon Dowler Coltman makes his professional directing debut with Subway Circus, a rarely produced 1940 play by William Saroyan (The Time Of Your Life). Saroyan himself apparently said the play happened because he read a New York Times post saying he was working on a play. So he spent five days writing Subway Circus so the mighty Times wouldn’t be wrong.
It’s an unconventional, dream-like, unworldly piece, says Dowler-Coltman, who chose it for that very reason when Blarney’s Wayne Paquette offered him the opportunity.”It lends itself to theatre innovation.” Subway Circus follows a young dreamer through the fantasies and daydreams of 10 strangers in a subway car. In Dowler-Coltman’s production, “a young boy follows the dreamers’ stories; he steps in and out of dreams to see who he is and what he knows about the world … It parallels my own story growing up.”
If Dowler-Coltman grew up surrounded by dreams it’s because the 23-year-old University of Alberta acting grad has a blue-chip theatre pedigree. The second of three brothers, theatre and film artists all, he comes from a stagestruck family. His parents are notable theatre directors: his father Greg, known as Mr. D-C to generations of aspiring drama kids, is the head of the theatre department at Vic School of Performing Arts; his mother Tammy Dowler-Coltman is the principal.
Dowler-Coltman’s younger brother Tim, who’s at Montreal’s National Theatre School, is currently playing Hamlet there. His older brother Jordan is a Vancouver-based filmmaker and videographer, an expert in projection mapping who worked creating complex videoscapes for the Citadel’s Make Mine Love. Jordan’s skill set was perfect for designing Subway Circus and stepping up to the fateful question, “what if we just went right outside the box?” It’s the first show the brothers have worked on together since high school.
Most recently seen in the ensemble of Burning Bluebeard, Edmonton Actors Theatre’s post-panto panto, Dowler-Coltman has spent a lifetime in theatre rehearsal rooms, onstage, hanging out in green rooms. By age 10 he was the “ragged caroller” urchin who sings God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in the first scene of the Citadel’s A Christmas Carol, before he graduated to the Cratchit family, and roles in Oliver!, The Pillowman, and Peter Pan.
When his best friend, Benjamin Wheelwright, currently starring in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Broadway, created A Perspective On Something Important — a clever movement-based evocation of a boyhood friendship — Dowler-Coltman co-starred at the 2011 Fringe.
Just as he feels mentored by Paquette’s generosity, Dowler-Coltman has offered a debut opportunity to 12-year-old Victoria School student Samuel Udma as the young boy of Subway Circus through whose eyes we see the dreams of strangers.
“He’s an exciting young talent,” says Dowler-Coltman. “And it feels full circle of how I grew up.”
Dowler-Coltman’s production stars Merran Carr-Wiggin, Patricia Cerra, Zoe Glassman, Andrew Gummer, Laura Raboud, Samuel Udma.
Subway Circus runs at the PCL Studio Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave.) Friday through Feb. 27. Tickets: fringetheatre.ca or the door.