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In Conversation with Sex T-Rex – Presenting their Double Bill at the Storefront until March 27

by Bailey Green

I had the pleasure of speaking with Sex T-Rex performers Seann Murray, Kaitlin Morrow, Conor Bradbury and director Alec Toller about their double bill, on now at the Storefront Theatre (Danny Pagett and Julian Frid were unable to stay for the interview but are also performing.)

It began with a quote from the movie Predator, “this stuff [chewing tobacco] will make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus.” And then one night, before an improv set, the announcer shortened the improv troupe’s name from Sexual Tyrannosaurus to Sex T-Rex, and it stuck. Performer Conor Bradbury laughs at the memory, “Hey, when someone’s right they’re right! There’s no need to be precious about your comedy.”

The group came together during their time at George Brown back in 2007-2008. Many elements of theatre school didn’t resonate with the actors but when they got together in stage combat class, then things really came alive. “It’s a triumvirate of violence really,” director Alec Toller jokes about the history of Sex T-Rex shows. “All of our action shows are centred around violence,” performer and producer Kaitlin Morrow adds. “Callaghan! was a lot of punching, Watch Out Wildkat is shooting and then Swordplay, which was loosely inspired by Princess Bride, has to do with, well, swords!”

Photo Credit: Cindy Lopez

Photo Credit: Cindy Lopez

This double bill features Watch Out Wildkat! and Swordplay: a play of swords. “Even though we have done Wildkat in 4 cities and Swordplay in 2, we’re still riffing, especially in rehearsals,” Morrow says. “You can always feel when it happens,” Bradbury adds. “There’s this unspoken ‘keep it’ feeling when someone makes a good joke.” Toller says that the group strives for clarity above all else, “We do so much mime, and fake action movie stuff that we’re always fighting to be so precise.”

Toller directs the group’s scripted shows (they also do improv shows) which are written plays with a sketch origin. “It’s very collaborative,” Toller says. “It functions more like a collective, so basically I’m the person not on stage… where I belong… but my job is to manage what everyone wants to get out of it. This show is a remount, so we’re trying to improve as we go, punch things up, and that can be challenging because we have an existing structure but we don’t have an audience.”

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Writer, producer and performer Seann Murray speaks to the group dynamic saying, “It’s very rare that we have camp A and camp B disagreements. Instead, we usually have eight ideas with each person having three and a half small ideas each.” Bradbury adds, “It’s almost like we’ll have one person who is camp A and one who is camp B, and everyone else just isn’t helping. But it always works out for the best. To have a bit of argument in the room means people care about the product.” Morrow adds, deadpanned, “So we just punch each other in the face until someone gives in.”

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Murray writes the scripts for the group and describes the process:

“The first step is we identify the genre we want to work in. Then we watch movies and chat about the tropes we want to hit, what we want to see [in the show] from the genre. So it’s not just regurgitation, we want to honour the genre. Once we’ve consumed a bunch of media and batted ideas around, I write the script and we workshop it throughout the process. We often wind up with a small chunk of the script left, we stay true to the character and story more or less, but as Alec [Toller] said, there’s lots of really funny improvisers on the team so we’ll take a scene, work through it and put it back into the script.”

The group considers audience feedback invaluable. They often take their shows to Montreal Fringe before performing at Toronto Fringe. Montreal Fringe offers them the opportunity to try out new material and improve their work. “We change something after basically every show, we find something else we’ve never done before,” Bradbury says.

Photo Credit: Sharon Murray

Photo Credit: Sharon Murray

Morrow, the only female performer of the troupe, tells me how that for years she dealt with crippling nightmares centred around improv. Subconsciously, she wanted to get up and perform but she was terrified. Now, with 19 shows under her belt, she has realized that a bad set isn’t the end of the world and that the joy she feels from performing far outweighs the fear. “The first time I went up to improvise was for Shane Adamczak’s secret show Captain Spaceship in Montreal Fringe,” Morrow remembers. “He just assumed I was in the show because I was a part of Sex T-Rex, and when I tried to back out, he told me I couldn’t because there were no other women in the show. So I didn’t sleep for about a week, and then somehow I was backstage and then I was onstage and I did it. The relief was amazing, and you know, it wasn’t even bad!”

Watch Out Wildkat! & Swordplay: A Play of Swords

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Presented by Sex T-Rex
When: March 11th -­ March 27th, Wed­-Sun
Watch Out Wildkat! @ 7:30 PM & Swordplay @ 9:00 PM
Sundays @ 2:00 PM
Where: The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West
Tickets: $20 for single show, $30 for both shows
Available at http://thestorefronttheatre.com/events/swordplaywatchout-wildcat/
Connect: sextrexcomedy.com

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