(Eric Branget playing Len uses a clothes rack as a stand in for his brother Ted in the Life of Len, one of three plays presented during Tall Tale Theatre’s Building Blocks Reception and Performance Fundraiser at Shō Studio’s Roth Center for the Performing Arts on March 9, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
In one evening, Windsor’s Tall Tale Theatre Company packs the punch of three plays in as many hours. Although each one is uniquely singular, all three share the same theme, best described as that was then, this is now. The individuality of how the three stories are brought to life, if nothing else, illustrates the diversity of modern-day theatre and the performance depth of local actors.
It is, Company Administrative Director and exemplary actor Averey Meloche tells Eyes on Windsor, a sampler of local talent and also a fundraiser for the Company. Its goal may seem lofty, to build a modern and productive base of theatre in the city if only to give local actors options instead of being forced to head down the 401 to Toronto. But while it may be lofty, it appears with the energy of Tall Tale, it is also doable. Judging by the organization of the evening’s event, the team knows more than it is saying about how to build its franchise for the betterment of the community.
First on the agenda is Kyle Kimmerly’s Ted/Grace. So contemporary, it could be front page news and certainly is in the life of main character Andrew, played with a freshness and frankness by Kyle himself.
For 16 years Andrew and Ted, played appropriately stoically by Averey Meloche, have been an item. In the seventeenth year, they marry. But their wedding bliss is marred when Teddy figuratively starts wearing Teddies. Andrew waxes eloquent at first about his beau’s transition to womanhood. All the while old Ted is standing by, adding points and trying to explain but having little success. Andrew tacitly admonishes his once sweetheart, telling him he is not real. Indeed, he is more of an apparition. The now is a much different reality, a woman once Andrew’s husband, is inside a medical clinic getting hormone shots. Andrew may never become accustomed to this twist of life.
Icarus is a story as old as the hills of Greece. Back in the day a young boy thinks he can fly, and he does, but flies too close to the sun. The play enacted by the five-member cast of the Arrowhead Theatre tells the story of the lad and then brings it into current times but not losing the point. In this case, getting too close to the burning end of a marijuana joint can be just as dangerous.
Only half of the play is completed. Finalization is now taking place with the plan to perform at Toronto’s fringe festival this summer. With coordinated moves like Jagger, there is much to watch and an abundance of awe as the actors fly about the stage. In a post-performance discussion with the audience, the players talk of their goal to explain what happens after the fall, as in Icarus’ fall to earth. Instead of leaving it as it stands, they want to show another side, one in which hope can beat the odds.
Next up the wonderful and definitive acting of Eric Branget is featured in the Life of Len. It too is about the past and how it plays on Len and his interaction with brother Jim, starting with the boyhood pleasure of listening to Flash Gordon on the radio.
Branget, as is his celebrated want, demonstrates his own diversity and ability – he is the only character – to carry a one act play, innovatively using props as the other characters. His world is a modern conundrum of a life lived best resolved when he philosophically reads the message on a rolled up rim of a Tim Horton’s cup: “Please Play Again.” and concludes, “If only we could.”
In an evening of scriptwriter messages, some subtle, some openly apparent, the most important is the raison d’être of the night’s being. Cleverly, it is named The Building Blocks Reception and Performance Fundraiser. It is held at the city’s newest stage inside the Roth Center for the Performing Arts at Shō Studios which itself is ample evidence of the growing theatrical infrastructure in Windsor.
All three plays are original works of both University of Windsor fine arts students or the school’s alumni. Tall Tales certainly put the fun in fundraising with a silent auction of practical and whimsical items donated by local artists and Windsor and Essex county companies.
Building a theatre company takes money and Tall Tales is doing exactly what is needed to build its piggy bank to accomplish much. Principals in the venture are Branget, Meloche and Samantha Lillian who immediately built an admirable rapport with the audience as emcee. One of the highlights of the gathering, explains Branget, is to premiere the Company’s play trailers. Similar to movie trailers, Tall Tales has put together videos of some of its projects in a novel way to sell its capabilities.
There was also a welcome announcement. The company plans to bring back one of its successes from last year, For the Love of Late Night. Details of that will be arriving shortly and will be posted at talltaletheatre.com and on its Instagram and Facebook pages.
This was the theatre group’s first major fundraising event and was declared a success both for the quality of plays and the ability it gave the audience to interact with the actors.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.