Thoughts on Success and Failure

Insomnia II - explored Julian Schüngel via Compfight

It's almost 2 a.m. and I can't sleep. Chalk it up to still being on Fringe time, or the post-show crash I feel urging me down into a pseudo-depression. Or perhaps it's the stress from producing the upcoming Roller Derby Saved My Soul at Zoofest in Montreal that's got my guts tied up in knots. Heck, it's probably a combination of all of the above.

I was going to write this post tomorrow once I had finalized my numbers for Dolores at the Ottawa Fringe, but the insomnia has me itching to write down all my thoughts now or never hold my peace.

Listen folks, for all intents and purposes, the premiere of Dolores at the Ottawa Fringe Festival was an incredible success. Things I have to be proud/happy about:

  • This was my first theatrical translation and all feedback indicates that it was a really good one.
  • This was my partner Martine's first professional theatrical performance and, night after night, she was absolutely phenomenal.
  • This play gave me the opportunity to work in French, something I have been dying to do for years now, and gather a few more UdA credits for both myself and Martine.
  • By staging the show in a real kitchen, I created a site-specific theatre experience that people aren't soon to forget.
  • Everyone who saw the show loved it. Including an anonymous patron who bought 11 tickets to one single performance. I cried when I heard that.
  • I got to work with Tania Levy again, helping her solidify her crown as a Fringe Festival directing queen. Tania is definitely an actor's director and I'm going to work with her every chance I get. You should too. And pay her lots of money to do so because she's worth it.
  • I have a new stage manager that I can call on now whenever I have a project on the go. Jess Clark is definitely the unsung hero of this show... I didn't mean to make that rhyme.
  • We got some great preview coverage in various media outlets.
  • We got some great reviews, including my first 5 stars ever.
  • Dolores won the award for Outstanding Drama at the end of the festival.
  • We raised $520 for two local women's shelters, L'autre chez-soi in Aylmer and the Interval House in Nepean.

Dolores director, Tania Levy & I with our Outstanding Drama Award

These are the things that I am desperately trying to hold onto at this late hour when the doubts come creeping in. Because here's the thing, even though Dolores was awesome and the buzz surrounding it was even better, I lost a lot of money on this production and my insecurities about myself as an actor reared their ugly head with a vengeance. I played to mostly empty houses (and in a venue that seats only 17 people, that's saying something), had to cancel one show because no one showed up, and closed the production with our strongest performance yet to an audience of three (three very appreciative people, but three nonetheless). And on days we did have a bit of an audience, most people didn't pay for a ticket since they were either media, volunteers, artists or VIPs. Definitely not complaining about having these wonderful souls in the audience, because as an actor this was, insecurities aside, the most creatively fulfilling thing I've done in a long time and I was thrilled to have anyone there, but as a producer I was tearing my hair out.

And yes, I understand that the odds were stacked against me: French play at an English festival, drama when folks prefer summer comedies, BYOV instead of mainstage, ect. It was an experiment that I undertook, perhaps naively thinking that my name and/or the site-specific nature of the piece would be enough of a draw for the English audiences and that the French audiences in Ottawa would be like the ones in Toronto who come out in droves to every improv show and community theatre production.

Could I have done more? Possibly. I could have flyered more, I'm sure. Many of the anglophones who came to see the show told me that they understood what was going on, even with the language barrier, so maybe I could have tried harder to convince more people of that. Maybe I could have called more people, asked for more help? Maybe. Hindsight meet 20/20.

Part of me likes to think that had I known my audiences would have been so small, I would have scheduled less performances, but I know that's not true. As hard as it was playing to 3-4 people at a time, it was such a joy to work with Martine and I grew so much as an actor in those 10 short days that, if anything, I'd want to do more. And we will. I don't know when or how yet, but Dolores will happen again. Maybe in Ottawa, but definitely in Montreal and Toronto.

I know how this game is played. Sometimes absolutely fucking brilliant shows don't get the audiences they deserve for a variety of reasons that are completely out of your control. As much as the Ottawa Fringe likes to toot the horn of "record-breaking year", I know plenty of people who had an experience very similar to mine. It happens. It sucks. And it can make you want to crawl into a hole with a pint of Haagen-Dazs, never to return to the light of day until you've burnt through six seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If that's how you're feeling right now, I just want to say don't. Don't do it. Don't give up. Don't let it happen to you. I've been here before. For every Roller Derby Saved My Soul, there's a No Exit Upstage. That flop scared me from writing/producing for well over a year. And the silly thing is, that show wasn't even that bad, but I'd convinced myself that it was. Because if I created the worst play ever, then I can understand why it flopped, but if it was actually ok to pretty good, well then the world just doesn't make sense to me and that thought can be too scary to accept right now.

I'm not worried about the content of my shows. Dolores was amazing and Roller Derby is always a hit. But like I said, it's late and I'm alone in a damp basement apartment, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, wondering if I go into the bathroom, will it be the spider or the centipede today? That's when the doubts come in to get me and I start wondering why I quit my day job (again, some more), left my beautiful bed in Toronto, uprooted my entire life (again, some more) for one on the road...

I can't pinpoint exactly what it is that keeps me going like this. Good friends like the ones I find in my travelling circus of a Fringe family is one. Rethinking success is another. Perspective is everything. Every scar makes me stronger, every attempt makes me better, and I have a lot to be proud of. I'm doing this for me, but I'm also doing this for you who might be reading this right now.

Like I said to my mother once Dolores was all over, some people go on vacations, I put on plays.

Moving Along

The Ottawa Fringe Festival has come and gone, and I will have a full recap of Dolores in the next few days once I get my final numbers, but all in all, it was a very positive experience. I saw only 6 shows this year, way down from my usual 20 to 35, but I found myself with a very busy performance schedule and a slew of computer issues that kept me preoccupied during most of the run. With this year's Canada Day a thing of the past, I throw myself back into work. So much to be done. Along with the Dolores wrap-up, I'm prepping to take Roller Derby Saved My Soul on the road. Upcoming cities include Montreal, Edmonton and Halifax, but I may very well be doing a few performances for the fine folks in Ottawa. Details are falling into place as I type this, so please stay tuned. Or you can always sign up for my new MailChimp newsletter here:

Subscribe to our newsletter

Halfway Through Ottawa Fringe

Well, here it is, Thursday. I don't know about you, but I am feeling a bit Fringe-burnt right now. So after another wonderful 2 show day, I've decided last night to forgo my usual Beer Tent activities and go home for some much needed rest. Back at it again tonight though. Still plenty of performances of Dolores left for your to see. Don't let the greyed out times on the Fringe website scare you. They only sell 50% of tickets in advance and cut off ticket sales at 5 p.m. the day before, so trust me when I say you can still get tickets at the door.

The reviews and feedback for Dolores has been incredible. Very positive comments all around for the venue, performances, and my translation. See below for more in English and in French.

Oh and just in case you didn't know, we are collecting donations after each show for local women's shelters and I am thrilled that we will be hitting my goal of $300 by the end of the day today. Let's try and make it $500 now for the end of the run!


En français:

5 étoiles ***** - Originalement écrite en anglais par Edward Allan Baker, la traduction de Nancy Kenny ne déçoit pas. Les performances sont fortes. Martine Roquebrune est très sympathique dans le rôle de Sandra, qui a toujours été un peu déçue par sa sœur Dolores. Nancy Kenny est tout aussi bonne dans le rôle de Dolores; une fille qui pensait que la vie avait plus à lui offrir qu’une succession de maris niaiseux.

J’ai été complètement absorbé pendant ces courtes 45 minutes. Dolores est fort sur les émotions, joué avec passion et mis en scène parfaitement par Tania Levy. - Valérie Cardinal, Production Ottawa


Kenny et Martine Roqueburne offrent toutes deux d’excellentes performances – des performances nuancées – dans une atmosphère tout à fait intime. Les deux comédiennes nous font passer à travers plusieurs émotions – pitié, colère, doute, et même quelques bonnes bouffées de rire.

La pièce se déroule dans la cuisine de l’église St Paul, où il y a de la place pour environ 15 spectateurs, qui sont littéralement à quelques pieds des comédiennes. La cuisine, située au sous-sol de l’église n’a probablement pas été rénovée depuis bien des années et est le cadre idéal pour cette pièce. Chapeau à Kenny pour une pièce qui ne semble pas traduite, tant elle est fluide. - François Levesque, Apt613


Presque du Michel Tremblay... Une pièce très bien faite, un dénouement profondément émouvant sans trop de sensiblerie, tout y était pour en faire un spectacle parfait. Martine Roquebrune est très convaincante en tant que Sandra, la sœur dépassée par les événements, une femme minée par le secret qui la ronge. - Alvina Ruprecht, Capital Critics Circle

In English:

5 stars ***** - Somewhere in the middle of Dolores, I forgot I was watching a play. I forgot I was sitting in the kitchen of a weird-smelling church on Cumberland Street. I was just living it.

Nancy Kenny and Martine Roquebrune give powerful performances. Roquebrune is sympathetic as the weary woman who has always been disappointed by her sister. Nancy Kenny disappears into the role of Dolores, a stylish woman stuck in a pattern of marrying abusive men. It’s staged wonderfully by Tania Levy, who allows you to see the emotions on Roquebrune and Kenny’s faces no matter where you’re sitting. Nancy Kenny’s translation from the original English to dialect-heavy French is note perfect. - Valerie Cardinal, Production Ottawa


I’d have to say this one was my fav’rit.  And I didn’t even understand all the words. Dramas aren’t always a big draw at the Fringe, but DOLORES proves why that’s a dumb thing indeed.  At a short-ish runtime of just over half an hour…this show packs the emotional wallop of shows three times its length.  Martine Roquebrune is an absolute revelation as Sandra, and if she and Nancy Kenny don’t have you fighting off tears at the end then you may very well lack the capacity to cry. - Kevin Reid, The Visitorium


...impeccably constructed and very moving two-hander. A taught drama that Kenny has translated into Acadian French and that takes a few minutes to plug into but the text and the translation work very well. Martine Roquebrune was convincing as the distraught sister who seemed to be living something real in this gut-wrenching naturalism. - Alvina Ruprecht, Capital Critics Circle

Nancy Get Your Gun

BrickArms Lewis gun and Brodie helmet prototypes Andrew Becraft via Compfight

I've never been a fan of guns. They've just never been my thing. I've never had any interest in hunting and, if video games are any indication, I suck at shooting moving objects. And frankly, at the end of the day, I've just always found guns to be a bit scary. But in the wacky and wonderful world of film and TV, guns make some fairly regular appearances and if I want to portray the characters using them truthfully...

My upcoming production of Dolores at the Ottawa Fringe does include the use of a firearm. It doesn't go off, but it's there and the Fringe had some pretty strict regulations in the Performer's Handbook with regards to using firearms on stage. So, after a lot of research and negotiations, I spent the past weekend taking the Canadian Firearms Safety Certification and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Certification. I will probably upgrade the certification to a Possession and Acquisitions Licence (PAL) a little later in the year too, even though I have no intention of ever purchasing a gun. It turns out many unionizes theatres require it if your show includes a firearm and, since I want to tour Dolores after Fringe, I don't want to go through a situation where I may have to compromise my show because I just don't have the right coverage.

Nancy Kenny: Armed, but not really Dangerous

Dolores au Festival Fringe d'Ottawa

Well folks, the Ottawa Fringe Festival launched last week, tickets are on sale and I am finally ready (ie. I've finally updated my own website) to talk to you all about it. Poster design by Mikaela Dyke

Dolores is my first theatrical translation from English into French. The play, by Edward Allan Baker, is written in a slang-y, blue collar type of English that I found transposed itself very well into my native Acadian French.

The show itself is being done in a site-specific BYOV (or Bring Your Own Venue) at the Fringe. The play takes place in a kitchen so I rented the kitchen at St Paul's Eastern United Church. Why? Because I don't want to put on a show just to put on a show. I want to create an intimate experience for you, the audience member. You really can't get more intimate than this.

This means that seating for the play is limited to 16 per performance. The Fringe sells up to 50% of tickets in advance on their website so only 8 tickets are available for pre-purchase with the rest available at the door one-hour prior to show time. I definitely recommend you buy in advance in order to guarantee your spot. There is a $2 surcharge for tickets purchased online that goes back to the Fringe. The other $10 comes back to the production.

You may have noticed the large number of performances currently available - 19 in total. This is mostly due to the limited seating. Even if everyone paid the full $10 for the performance (and with complimentary media & VIP passes, as well as discounted Fringe vouchers that's highly unlikely), it would be impossible for me to break even with a typical 6 to 8 performance schedule. Fortunately, the play is also fairly short, which allows for additional scheduling.

Though I don't have the final run time (since we don't get into the space until the week prior to Fringe), it does look like it will be approximately 35 minutes as opposed to the 45 written in the Fringe program.

Already, we're getting a lot of good press and buzz in the mainstream media. You can check them out now:

Fringe Festival opens the stage for many uOttawa artists this summer - uottawa Gazette

Ottawa’s Fringe Festival whoops it up inside and out - Ottawa Citizen

Surprises in Store @ Fringe-O-Ween - Ottawa Tonite (where I talk about BYOVs)

I'll be updating the Dolores page on this site fairly regularly with new information, photos, and such as it comes up, so be sure to bookmark or follow along with this blog. Also expect more French posts in the upcoming days. If you have trouble following along, I recommend using the Google Translate bar in Chrome to make it a little easier on you.

I won't lie, I would be thrilled to sell out of advance tickets before the festival even starts on June 20th, so why not head on over to the Fringe site and buy your tickets now?


En route vers le Festival Fringe d'Ottawa

Ottawa Fringe Logo The fun thing about having a blog means that I can go back an search for things I may have talked about before that I want to bring up again. The annoying thing about having a blog means remembering that you said you were going to do something almost 3 years ago and are only getting around to it now.

Well, better late than never, non?

You did click on the link above right? I'm not going to have to repeat myself, am I?


Ok. Fine.

In 2010, I took an acting class in English, but my teacher had me speak most of the dialogue for my scene in French. It was an exercise. Go with it. My teacher thought that the play I was working sounded great in French and, by the end of class, suggested I translate it for myself. Time kept marching on, but by December 2011 I had completed a first draft of the translation.

Working at the Ontario Arts Council in 2012 meant that I couldn't participate in the Ottawa Fringe Festival, but I am under no such restrictions now. That said, the 2013 lottery came and went and Ididn't applied. Why? Because I didn't want to produce this show in a stereotypical venue. Yes, I actually wanted to do a Bring Your Own Venue (BYOV).

What first attracted me to the show was the realism I found in the text. As an artist, these days my interests lie in creating a real sense of intimacy between the audience and the performer. My favorite kind of theatre is the kind that makes me feel like a fly on the wall which is why, since this play takes place in a kitchen, I always envisioned doing it in a REAL kitchen.

The past few months have just gone by in a blur of finding a venue, paying fees, getting rights, scheduling, union negotiations, getting a director and a fellow actor...

Which all brings me to today. Today I handed in my program information for the Ottawa Fringe Festival and I am ecstatic to finally let you in on what I am doing after all this time.

Ladies and gentlemen, coming to the 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival:

Dolores by Edward Allan Baker Original translation by Nancy Kenny Directed by Tania Levy Featuring Nancy Kenny and Martine Roquebrune

Dolores by Edward Allan Baker Featuring Nancy Kenny & Martine Roquebrune Photo credit: Tania Levy

Venue: St Paul's Eastern United Church - Kitchen - 473 Cumberland St, Ottawa, ON Tickets: $10 - seating extremely limited

***************************************************** Ou bien en français:

Théâtre in situ de l’équipe acclamée de Roller Derby Saved My Soul.

Ayant finalement mérité une journée de répit, Sandra voit sa quiétude troublée par l’arrivée de sa sœur Dolores. Traduction originale de Nancy Kenny Mettant en vedette Nancy Kenny & Martine Roquebrune Mise en scène de Tania Levy


I have so much more that I want to say about this show, including options for all my anglo friends, so stay tuned to this blog for all the updates.

Are you excited yet? I know I am.