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Redheaded Stepchild

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Johnnie Walker
September 19, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Writer/Performer.

Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in Toronto, and I studied Drama at the University of Toronto, so I'm pretty Torontonian! We have a great theatre scene here with a lot of wonderful independent theatres and festivals, but there is something very exciting about coming to do a show in New York City. It definitely gives you some kind of bragging rights.

If you are performing in the piece you wrote, do you think another actor could also play this role?
When I've toured this show before, the best part about doing interviews or handing out flyers is that I am basically a walking billboard for the show. I've heard "Hey! You're the Redheaded Stepchild!" so many times, which is great, because it makes that part of my job a lot easier. It's not an autobiographical show, but so much of it comes from my experience of growing up with red hair, so it's hard for me to imagine someone else doing the show. I have a lot of ownership of the material. That said, I'd love to see someone else's take. They'd have to be a legit ginger, but I'd love to see it.

Has this show been presented in other cities before New York? Was there a place where the response to this piece surprised you, and why?
We've done the show in Toronto a few times, Victoria twice, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton. Doing the Fringe Festivals in Winnipeg and Edmonton was a really great experience, because they're both such large, well-run festivals with just the best, most appreciative audiences. And the response in both cities was fantastic--we got to do an extra show in Winnipeg, and our Edmonton run completely sold out almost right away. And it's great to get the big laughs or the standing ovations, but the most memorable reactions I've had are from the people who stick around after the show and wait for me. I remember this one guy in Winnipeg who approached me tearfully after the show, introduced me to his parents and told me how he experienced an awful lot of bullying while growing up in Holland and how much he had connected to my show. His dad took our picture together and then thanked me for what my show had meant to his son.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
Well, for much of the show, I am playing a precocious 12-year-old boy, so that's hopefully not so sexy for people. And he's way too awkward to be very smooth. Smart is maybe a bit braggy for describing your own solo show, but surprising is something I consistently hear people say about Redheaded Stepchild. I think solo shows have a reputation for being funny and irreverent, and that's definitely there in our show, but I think there's a level of emotional poignancy that people aren't necessarily expecting.

Who are your heroes?
There are some wonderful Canadian artists who've created one-person plays who inspire me, like Daniel MacIvor, Kristen Thomson, and Karen Hines. But I have a lot of playwrights on my bookshelf, and if I were to make any generalizations about them, they tend to be people who tell really good stories, often in an old-fashioned, well-made-play-ish kind of way, like Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. I think August: Osage County by Tracy Letts is one of the greatest is one of the best things I've ever seen. But I'm also partial to writers like Caryl Churchill and Roland Schimmelpfennig who break every rule about conventional playwriting and still manage to be wonderful storytellers.