“Get Yourself Home Skyler James” – In Conversation with Director Ali Joy Richardson & Performer Natasha Ramondino
by Bailey Green
“I trusted the library, like Hermione Granger, and I got to thinking—is there a solo play for a young female voice?” In the Fall of 2015, director Ali Joy Richardson asked herself this question as she searched for a script to submit for the 2016 site-specific Fringe category. Richardson knew she wanted to collaborate with actor and friend Natasha Ramondino. Then, in Jordan Tannahill’s award winning collection of short plays Age of Minority, Richardson discovered Get Yourself Home Skyler James. The play tells the funny, honest, searing account of 19-year-old ex-soldier Skyler James. Though the play diverges slightly from true events, the core story remains largely intact.
The audience finds Skyler in back of the KFC where she works. After police officers show up to talk to Skyler, her girlfriend locks herself in the bathroom. Over the course of 40 minutes, Skyler tells the woman she loves the truth about her past and reveals everything she has fought for and against. As a director, Richardson found one of the challenges of this piece was to keep her direction simple and focused. “It’s a 40 minute show of a young woman talking through a door to another young woman, [and I had to trust] that fight, that act of endurance is compelling, and not succumb to the temptation to embellish with tech or unmotivated blocking. We focused on her actions and the sustained goal of proving herself and justifying her actions.”
Actor Natasha Ramondino was drawn to the character of Skyler instantly. “I was immediately on board,” remembers Ramondino. “Skyler is so funny while she tells what is such a serious, and at times awful, story. When things get really heavy, she’ll thrown in a joke. She describes herself as the most normal girl in the world, and she really is so relatable.”
Ramondino and Richardson bounce ideas back and forth, punctuating each other’s sentences with affirmatives and nods. “There’s a good sense in the room where I know when we can stop and chat about a moment,” Ramondino says. Richardson adds, “It’s so nice to just get to work with an actor I know well. And it feels a bit spoiled to work on a show where there’s no huge cast or complicated transitions or furniture to move. We’re just stripping it down to cracking a performance.” The pair laugh about a moment in rehearsal where they were using verbs to action sections of the text. They had chosen the verb ‘embrace’, and as Ali encouraged Natasha to embrace harder, Natasha’s line got softer and softer. They stopped the rehearsal only to discover that ‘embrace” for Ali meant a hug that sweeps you off your feet but for Natasha it meant to hold someone softly in your arms.
For both women, this play is incredibly relevant. “For me, one of the most important aspects, is that the burden of proof is always placed on the survivor of abuse or violence,” Richardson says. “The play leads to a point where Skyler discusses a conversation she has with her lawyer and the account is chilling, yet so familiar.” Richardson mentions the Canadian military probe in 2014 which found that an alarming amount of women in service had been sexually assaulted or harassed. “Women are being harassed for just being women, not to mention the [harassment for] being a gay woman,” Ramondino says.
For Ramondino, telling this story is a privilege and an honour. “It shouldn’t be so rare to have a young, queer, female voice on stage, so thank you to Jordan Tannahill. I’m very excited to bring this story to people who may not be part of the theatre community or may not feel comfortable calling themselves an ally. It will be interesting to see their expectations flipped by such a real, raw character.”
Get Yourself Home Skyler James
Presented by Binocular Theatre as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival
Written By: Jordan Tannahill
Company: Binocular Theatre
Company origin: Toronto, Ontario
Director: Ali Joy Richardson
Cast: Natasha Ramondino
Neil Silcox – Production Manager
When Private Skyler James was outed as a lesbian after joining the US Army, she packed a truck, fled her base in Kentucky, and started driving north…
Based on a true story, this gripping play reveals the true damage of prejudice and the strength of a young woman’s spirit in a society that teaches, “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
(2014 Governor General’s Award)
918 Bathurst Basement, Bathurst Street
July 8th at 8:00 PM
July 9th at 2:00 PM
July 9th at 8:00 PM
July 10th at 8:00 PM