Fringe-terview #5 – LITTLE ORANGE MAN

Last year at the Victoria Fringe Festival I saw a show called LITTLE ORANGE MAN.  In fact, I saw it twice, and when it comes to the Ottawa Fringe in just a few days, you better believe I’m gonna see it again.  The story of an excitable little girl named Kitt who tries to communicate with her Grandfather via dreams, it was a perfectly wonderful, mind-blowing  piece of theatre, and I was lucky enough to get some Q&A in this past week with performer Ingrid Hansen, and director Kathleen Greenfield, about this amazing show that I guarantee will be on everyone’s top 5 lists by June 25th.

LITTLE ORANGE MAN star and co-creator Ingrid Hansen

Visitorium – Tell us a little about Snafu Dance Theatre.

Ingrid Hansen – I co-founded SNAFU with Sarah Jane Pelzer and Victor Dolhai in Victoria in 2006, while were in the thick of University.  Victor and I went to Vancouver for Kokoro Dance’s Wreck Beach Butoh Intensive, which culminated with 25 people performing nude in the sand and waves of Wreck Beach.  We came back to the island wanting to create a show, and, so, we did.

V – Is this your first solo show?

IH – Yes, although we created a 10 minute ‘nugget’ version of Little Orange Man, called “Noggin”, for a site-specific theatre event / party in a downtown Vancouver Parkade in 2010, so I guess that was my first EVER solo show.   It was very cold, but tons of fun.  I started the show by riding up the parkade ramps on a bicycle covered in streamers.

One of our main goals in creating a solo show was to not end up talking to myself the entire time.  We wanted to create a live experience with our audience.

V – LITTLE ORANGE MAN has a lot of fantastical elements, but there’s a very human story at its heart.  How personal is this show, and Kitt’s story, for you?

Ingrid Hansen (and friend) in LITTLE ORANGE MAN

IH – Like Kitt, I have a very strong imagination, and often move, act, and talk quite quickly, and often have been asked to ‘tone it down.’  Which is nonsense.  TONE IT UP!

And the connection with dreams was made all more real last year when, after not talking to or really thinking about my grandma for about a month, I had a vivid dream that I was holding her in my arms, and that she was in trouble – her body was limp and deflated and she couldn’t move her arms or her legs.  It turns out the very night I had that dream was the night she had a stroke, which ultimately ended her life.  She was, I think, 96.  So, I mean it when Kitt says, “Sometimes our dreams are sent to us from other animals.”   But then again sometimes you just dream about trying to find a bathroom and you wake up and you really have to pee.

Kathleen Greenfield – Ingi has told you about the dream truth. For me, I feel very personally connected because the character is the heart of so many artists, including myself. Trying so hard to reach out and be understood without becoming something that is easily understood.
V – How big a challenge was it to incorporate all the different storytelling elements (dance, song, projected imagery, puppetry, etc.) used in LOM?

IH – For Kathleen and I,  the challenge was not in incorporating the different mediums, but just navigating the logical plot and how it unfolds.  At one point we created a bunch of elaborate puppets that never made the cut- including a really cool, hideous angler fish with glowing eyes.

KG – It was a challenge to find a time to stop playing and start trying to figure out how it all pieces together. Both Ingrid and I are connected to an idea that there is more to a plot than what we commonly see on stage so we did not want to restrain the character of Kitt but we had to find a way to make sure that she could be understood. It took a lot of test audiences to find a balance between the images, the story, the music and the character. It took a lot of learning and discipline to be able to toss good ideas aside if they did not fit the whole play instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

LITTLE ORANGE MAN director and co-creator Kathleen Greenfield

V – What has the initial reaction been to the show?

IH – Love – hate.  Mostly love.

KG – It was pretty amazing to see all of the faces in the audience as Ingrid performed the piece in both Victoria and Vancouver last summer. There are always one or two people who are so mesmerized by the show that their faces are like children. The show seems to let people remember what it was like to be a child…odd, lonely, scared but also adventurous and determined.

V – What geeky-tourist thing are you going to do first in Ottawa?

IH – Definitely not going to visit the PM’s house.  I hope he chokes on a bagel.

LITTLE ORANGE MAN plays at St.Paul’s Eastern Untied in the Ottawa Fringe Festival from June 14th to the 24th.  Check the Festival Website for showtimes, map and prices.  And tune in tomorrow for, yes, yet another Fringe Interview!

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