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Posts tagged ‘Kaitlin Morrow’

“Puppets, The Service Industry & The Fringe” – In Conversation with Sex T-Rex on their new show BENDY SIGN TAVERN at the 2017 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Bailey Green

We spoke with Kaitlin Morrow, Seann Murray and Elliot Loran about Sex T-Rex’s site-specific Fringe show, Bendy Sign Tavern (located at Venue 26: The Paddock Tavern). We spoke about puppets, the service industry and supporting each other at the Fringe.

(Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Kaitlin Morrow: So… because it’s a puppet show, I think a lot of people are wondering if kids are allowed, and they are, even though it’s a bar, but they have to be accompanied by someone who is… not a kid. I think it’s important to distinguish that it isn’t a ‘kids show’, but if your kid can put up with swearing, they can see the show.

Seann Murray: It’s about as racy as most of our shows. There’s certainly less murder in this one. I wouldn’t say no murder… but less.

Bailey Green: When did Bendy Sign Tavern start to take shape? I know a lot of your shows have a somewhat quick turnaround time, so when did this one start to grow?

KM: This one had a sort of longer process. I used to work at this cafe in the east end for years, and my friend worked there before I did, so I had this long-standing relationship with this place. And like most cafes, it was full of characters and we were always joking about different characters you see coming in. And then, [in 2012] Comedy Bar and Insight Productions teamed up and had this pilot week competition where you pitch a TV show and if you get accepted you perform your pilot live for TV producers. The prize was $5000 and you get to go to these pitch meetings and then… we won.

BG: You won! That’s the best ending to the story

KM: We built about 20 puppets in a month and wrote the show and put it on its feet. We didn’t get into the Fringe this year with the lottery, which was good to know, but then site-specific came up… I said, “Look I have this puppet show in my closet. Let’s pull it out and do it in a cafe.” We couldn’t find a cafe but then a bar became available so we were like, “It’ll work in a bar!” It didn’t work in a bar. The story was about characters coming in and grabbing a coffee and going and that relationship doesn’t really exist in a bar. You don’t walk up to a bar and leave.

SM: So we started the process thinking that we had this show in the bag and then on second consideration, not really. A 20 minute TV pilot set in a coffee shop does not translate to an hour-long play set in a tavern. But there are still a lot of the same elements. At its core, it’s about the service industry

KM: [The puppets] were sitting in my closet for years so it was good to get them out and make use of them.

Photo of Kaitlin Morrow by Connor Low

BG: How many puppets did you already have and how many did you need to build? What’s the creation process like?

KM: I wish I had a photo of my apartment – it’s a mess. I believe we had to make 14 new puppets for this show. Some are really simple, some are more complex.

SM: There were a few big ones, for sure, something that is worth noting is that when it comes to creation there are a lot of different styles of puppets in this show, so there are very different processes in terms of how long it takes to make them.

[this part of the interview has been removed as it was mostly the author freaking out over several awesome Sex T-Rex puppets. See the show, and you too will be amazed by puppets. Also Elliott Loran, who plays the Human Piano Player in Bendy Sign Tavern and composed original music for the show, joins the interview.]

KM: So we made two dozen of our closest friends and family suffer through a 2 hour super secret preview of the show last Sunday.

Elliott Loran: It was great to have a run before opening. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an indie company that’s done that. Usually it’s like, “Okay we might get a run in before we open.”

BG: And usually Sex T-Rex brings the show to Montreal Fringe before?

KM: It’s our first time premiering a show in Toronto… It’s a little baby show. Usually we do make changes every single show. We’re always working on it. Sometimes the change is big, sometimes it’s small, but it never stays the same. So this is just going to be a raw, fresh creation!

SM: Montreal is also an especially good community in terms of giving feedback because they are used to being the first stop on the Fringe circuit. The audiences there are so generous with trying to improve your show.

Photo by Connor Low

BG: And this show is a really different style and genre from what you’ve done before. Music is now a part of the show, as well! What has that been like?

KM: It has been wonderful working with Elliott. None of us are musicians… I’m a hobbyist musician at best.

SM: Any amount of canned music we could get for this would be repetitive and so distracting. And Elliott is someone for us to play off of, as well.

EL: We’ve written some original music for the show too, so it’s not all improvised. It’s been a fun collaborative process! How has that been for you guys having not done it before?

KM: Super fun and terrifying. I wouldn’t say it’s a musical, but there’s music!

EL: I would call it a play with music. It’s a delightful surprise that there are songs. The music that is written is a bit jazz-inspired.

KM: Also a bit of bar atmosphere, drinking music… We’ve also never straight up written a love story before. Some of our shows may have romantic elements in them but often it is like a surprise ending.

SM: All of Sex T-Rex’s other shows are an action-based show, where the principal action revolves around combat, specifically, which is not the case in the play. And as a genre parody, I guess you could say it’s a romantic comedy but it’s not even a rom com because it is very situational. It’s about a workplace and it’s about this team.

EL: The characters are so surprising and it’s so different. It’s such a mash-up of all these fantastic ideas.

SM: This story is more anecdotal – many of us in Sex T-Rex are working in the service industry. It’s probably a story that will connect to a lot of Fringe artists.

KM: Speaking of that, we’re going to be featuring a different Fringe show every show! So the Fringe artists happen to be there in the bar and we are so excited that they’re there because they are celebrities in our world and so the puppets interview them.

BG: That’s a great way to really bring in the community and give back.

KM: We’ve been doing the Fringe for so long that I feel like at this point, in a way, we sort of need to. I remember when we were starting out with Callaghan! and we had like 40 people in our audience for most shows (if we were lucky), and then the very slow growth arc where we could finally sell out a 200 seat theatre. It wasn’t like 0 to sold-out for us. We had a slow growth so we had to work for a while to build a reputation. Now that we’ve been around for a while, it’s been 5 years, there are now people who will tweet about us and help to prop us up and spread the word. That’s amazing and we want to do that for other shows.

EL: You want to share that kind of support and share the work that inspires you. There’s so much. Like, I think to the Mind of a Snail team, that did Curious Contagiousthey have a new show called Multiple Organism and it has gotten so little Fringe pre-buzz, and their work is incredible! So I’m going to be promoting the shit out of that.

Bendy Sign Tavern

Who:
Creators: Sex T-Rex
Cast: Conor Bradbury, Julian Frid, Elliott Loran, Kaitlin Morrow, Seann Murray

What:
Award winning comedy company Sex T-Rex (Second City, Just For Laughs and Atlantic Fringe Best Comedy Award winners) return to the Toronto Fringe for the fifth year in a row with a Full Service puppet Rom-Com! “Life is hard when you’re a young puppet trying to make your way in the big city. But with a song in her heart and a crew of loveable co-workers by her side, Joan will overcome rude customers, packs of Bachelorette Wolves and literally battle her deepest fears to achieve her dreams.” Note: July 9th show is 8:30pm, which is updated from printed program.

Where:
THE PADDOCK
178 Bathurst Street, Toronto

When:
6th July – 7:30pm
7th July – 7:30pm
8th July – 7:30pm
9th July – 8:30pm
10th July – 7:30pm
11th July – 7:30pm
12th July – 7:30pm
13th July – 7:30pm
14th July – 7:30pm
15th July – 7:30pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

Connect:
t: @sextrex
f: /sextrexcomedy
i: @sextrexcomedy

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