I first met Norah Paton when she and the fine folk of Hopegrown Productions shared a venue with me at TAN Coffee with their terrific show AROUND MISS JULIE, which Norah directed. Since then she’s been keeping busy with things like FORSAKEN DAUGHTERS OF WINTER, her one-woman performance from the Fresh Meat Festival, and stage managing Hopegrown’s latest LOTUS at the Montreal Fringe. She’s back in the Ottawa Fringe this year acting in a cool new show, ROYAL JELLY.
– How long have you been working with your show co-creators Noa Nussbaum and Kara Crabb?
I met both Kara and Noa at different times while in school at Concordia. Kara and I had always talked about collaborating on something, but that didn’t happen until FORSAKEN DAUGHTERS OF WINTER for the Fresh Meat Festival. We really enjoyed working together and found our styles meshed well. We were unlucky with the Fringe draw, but Noa was actually the first company pulled, so we decided to all work together.
– How important is the creation of original work to you?
Really important! From a broad perspective, it’s important because it means that theatre doesn’t stagnate and die. From a purely financial perspective, it means you don’t have to pay for rights. The Fringe Festival is also the perfect platform for new works to be created. The bare-bones technical possibilities, shorter time slots and lower ticket prices make it the perfect place to premiere new works and try something out.
– ROYAL JELLY looks to be one of the darker pieces at Ottawa Fringe this year, which is terrific. Is that a nice break from lighter recent fare like Julie, or FORSAKEN DAUGHTERS OF WINTER?
People keep telling us it sounds dark. I didn’t expect that.
It’s a heart breaking story, absolutely, but I hope people can also see the humour. Fringe can be a tough place to market a more serious show, so we’re hoping people don’t get too put off by the dark subject matter.
– Are you bringing back any Fringe wisdom after tackling the beast that is Edinburgh last year (or Fringe cynicism)?
Yes to both, I would say. Edinburgh was (as anyone will tell you) completely insane and overwhelming and exhausting.
The biggest lesson I learned over there was about working smart, not just hard. With every Fringe, but even more so with Edinburgh, there is always more to do. More promotion, more flyer-ing, more shows to see, more networking to do, more posters to put up and more promo performances you can do. But with a three week run like we had, you can’t be constantly doing everything. And while flyer-ing may seem like good promotional time, when you’re the 50th person handing someone a flyer in 5 minutes, that’s probably not the most efficient way to promote your show. And it’s tiring! It’s a delicate balance to strike, but if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.
Sidebar: really excited to see that the Ottawa Fringe has introduced a half price hut this year! I loved this in Edinburgh and am really hoping for it’s success here as well!
– What are the themes and issues explored in this play that you think (or hope) will resonate with Fringe audiences? Or that resonate with YOU?
We’ve been talking a lot about motherhood and fertility. Drawing inspiration from Medea, there’s a lot about women and power and politics and how they all fit together. But there’s also this sci-fi element and the world of the play is definitely not realistic. A lot of the pieces I have been working on recently have dealt with themes relating to women or gender, so it’s fun to look at these things through an absurd lens.
ROYAL JELLY plays at the Ottawa Fringe festival (June 19th to 29th)at Arts Court Theatre. Full showtime and ticket information available HERE.