Coming soon to several theatre spaces around Toronto: Tracey Erin Smith and SoulOTheatre present the Mini-Soulo Festival (Nov 27-30), with workshops at Red Sandcastle Theatre, and performances at Factory Theatre, Panasonic Theatre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Featuring in the Mini-Soulo Festival on Nov 29 at Buddies in Bad Times is a staged reading of the play Bits and Pieces, written and performed by Diane Flacks and Katie Ford, with dramaturgical support from Smith.
Emmy, Gemini and Dora-nominated writer/performer Diane Flacks is no stranger to writing and performing in solo shows (her own shows Myth Me, By a Thread, Random Acts, and Bear With Me, as well as writing Luba, Simply, Luba for Luba Goy) or intimate two-handers (her work with Richard Greenblatt on Sibs and Care). Flacks is also a featured parenting columnist in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, as well as on CBC radio, and her book Bear With Me, What They Don’t Tell You About Pregnancy and New Motherhood was adapted into a solo show, which she toured across Canada and performed at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest. Most recently, she’s been working as a writer/producer on the critically acclaimed NBC/Global sitcom Working the Engels. Flacks is Nightwood Theatre’s 2014 playwright in residence, developing Unholy, a play about women and religion; and her new two-act drama Waiting Room will have its world premiere at Tarragon Theatre January-February, 2015.
Best known for her work on hits like the film Miss Congeniality and TV sitcom Family Ties, writer/producer Katie Ford more recently wrote the Emmy-nominated TV movie Prayers for Bobby. Starting out as a stand-up comic at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto, Ford went on to become a playwright – and her play Out in America was produced in New York and Los Angeles, where it was voted as one of the best plays of the year by the L.A. Times. Ford is currently the executive producer of Working the Engels.
I had the opportunity to interview Flacks and Ford about Bits and Pieces – here’s what they had to say:
LWMC: Hi, Diane and Katie. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me about Bits and Pieces, and its upcoming reading at the Mini-Soulo Festival.
KF: My pleasure.
DF: Me too!
LWMC: Bits and Pieces is described as a “two-person, one-person show.” What is the show about?
DF: We’re calling it a theatrical conversation. Two stories that echo and reflect each other, and end up pushing each other to reveal something unexpected. Just like one of those great, surprising conversations with a good friend.
LWMC: And what can you tell us about the genesis of Bits and Pieces, and how the two of you came to work together on it?
KF: Diane and I are good friends and when I moved back to Toronto a couple of years ago, I wanted to write a show for her to do – a one-person show. At the same time, I started performing again (I had been a stand-up at the beginning of my career at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto). Diane and I both performed onstage for a benefit and each did a monologue about ‘fighting;’ it was so fun to be onstage with her – there was such an ease and camaraderie there, I for sure wanted more of that. So we just started developing pieces – writing separate pieces for ourselves that we would read the other and then the other one of us would develop a piece that would be compatible.
DF: And I adore Katie’s writing and performing voice, and wanted to see more of that! We have a unique chemistry and we both are interested in similar themes. We are both provocateurs, but funny. And nerds. It’s such a joy to share a stage with someone you admire and who has your back.
LWMC: Diane, you’ve written and/or performed in several solo shows over the years, as well as some lovely two-handers and intimate smaller cast shows, including a very successful run of Lois Fine’s Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week at Buddies recently. How has that experience informed the storytelling for Bits and Pieces?
DF: A friend of mine says that he always ends up writing to his obsessions. After all these years, I still write and act about the things that obsess, outrage or tickle me. When normal people are disturbed by something, they go to therapy or directly try and resolve it. People like me try and make art out of it. Or at least make people laugh.
LWMC: Katie, you’re more known for your work behind the scenes, creating, writing and producing for some notable hits in film, television and theatre. What’s it been like for you as you prepare to act in this piece?
KF: I know – it has been a lot of years writing/producing and not stepping on stage. But it has been great – having spent many years doing stand-up, when I got back on stage it felt like home. I also took an improv class with Kate Ashby, which was amazing – worked with great women in that class. Bold, funny and they have your back – what more could you want? So it’s been nice. It’s not really acting, as I don’t consider myself an actor, it’s more stand-up pieces with a literary bent.
LWMC: Writing and performing a piece can be a challenge in terms of division of labour, time and energy. Have the two of you been continuing to write and re-write as you rehearse – or are you focusing more on performance at this point? How has the process unfolded as you create this piece?
DF: We’re constantly re-writing! It’s really fun to approach this both as writers and performers at the same time. And of course, it’s much easier to have perspective on someone else’s work than your own. And since these two pieces are echoes or reflections of each other, in a way, when we help re-write each other, we help ourselves, if that makes a weird kind of sense. We really don’t have to worry about division of labour. It’s a labour of love.
KF: True dat.
LWMC: And how did you come to join forces with Tracey Erin Smith and SoulOTheatre?
KF: Tracey came to see us do the first performance of this piece. And she was so amazing and so receptive, and really saw what we were trying to do.
DF: She’s also fascinated by solo performance and stretching the boundaries – this is a pretty good example of that. She’s got great vision and is so generous.
LWMC: Is there anything else you’d like to share about Bits and Pieces?
KF: Really just that I can’t wait to share it. And share the stage with Diane. And that it is a work in progress…but fun, hopefully.
DF: I have a feeling there might be snacks…
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to shout out?
KF: I love the name of your blog/mission statement of “Life with more cowbell.” Nice.
LWMC: Thanks! And thanks again for chatting with me. All the best with your final prep for this performance of Bits and Pieces – and break legs at the reading!
You can register for the Mini-Soulo Festival workshops online and follow SoulOTheatre on Twitter.