Mikaela Dyke

Cool People Doing Cool Things

Meet Jayson McDonald. I've mentioned him within these pages before, mostly as the producer of one of my very favorite little festivals - London's Big Comedy Go-To (coming up in an April near you!) But Jayson is also the creator of some of the most awesome Fringe shows I have ever seen (including one that I was so very proud to be a part of The Last Goddamned Performance Piece). The first McDonald show I saw was in Ottawa in 2008. It was called Boat Load and it just blew me away. In a previous post I said of it that "I never realized until then that one person could do so much on stage with so little and still tell a beautiful and compelling story."

I remember talking to everyone I knew at the Fringe Tent about Boat Load and how amazed I was by it, so much so that I think I saw it twice. The general response from people in the know was along the lines of "well of course it is, haven't you seen him in Robot?" Oh Giant Invisible Robot, how you have haunted me since then.

Giant Invisible Robot was Jayson McDonald's first solo Fringe show and it has always been an incredible success.  It had played at the Ottawa Fringe Festival the year prior and, somehow, I had missed it (if you can believe it, there was actually a time when I didn't see everything).  In 2009, I started my own touring adventures on the Fringe Circuit and Jayson became a good friend. He's produced Giant Invisible Robot multiple times to unbelievable success everywhere he's gone, but somehow I always missed it. I would never be in the same city at the same time. Robot became my Polkaroo. This went on for FOUR goddamn years. It got to the point where I was asking Jayson if I could just give him some money RIGHT NOW would he just do the show for me.

One person shows work that way, right? Unless they take place on roller skates, in which case I will tell you I am wearing the wrong pants and can't give you a personal performance of Roller Derby Saved My Soul.

I thought this trend was going to continue even after hearing that Giant Invisible Robot would be clearing a path of destruction all the way to the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, because, BLAST, I was going to be in Toronto. But then Fate intervened. It just so happened that I would have an audition in Ottawa on the very same day that Robot would be opening. Now, my plan was to attend the audition and then boogie back to TO in time to catch my roommate's opening night of Dying Hard because, I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I love my uber talented roommate very much. When she caught wind of my plan and realized that I hadn't seen Robot yet ("What do you mean you still haven't seen it? How is that even possible?" - see my response above), she convinced me to stay in town to watch it. I'd be able to catch her show later on in the week anyway, but this could be my only chance to see Giant Invisible Robot. And, in her words, I just HAD to see this beautiful show.

And you know what? She was right. So right that I sent her flowers. The show is as worth it as everyone has told me it was.

Well, what are you waiting for Ottawa? I waited FOUR years to see Giant Invisible Robot, you shouldn't wait another minute. It's at the Gladstone Theatre until Saturday. And if you're feeling extra keen, stick around on Friday or Saturday night and catch another personal favorite of mine, Paul Hutcheson, in Third Time Lucky, right after Robot. That is one awesome night of theatre right there!

Cool People Doing Cool Things

Meet Mikaela Dyke. She is currently one of my absolutely favorite people in the whole wide world. And I just so happen to be lucky enough to get to live with her too.

She is funny, entertaining and quirky in all the right places. She's an independent artist who inspires me everyday because she is able to live fully doing what she loves best. She's really smart, a hard-worker and incredibly multi-talented. Not a single day goes by that I do not learn something new about her; whether it be the fact that she speaks Russian (among many other languages), used to do gymnastics for years, or can reprogram a computer just by looking at it.  She always knows the right thing to say when a boy breaks my heart ("Fuck that guy!") and makes sure I don't do things like burn down the apartment, which she tells me would be inconvenient.

And did I mention she's funny? If you live in the Greater GTA and you happened to laugh at something today, chances are Mikaela Dyke made it happen with her magic laughter creating powers.

But, if you live anywhere else in Canada. You also know that Mikaela Dyke is an incredibly gifted dramatic actress.

In 2009, in one of my annual "must-see" Fringe lists, I wrote the following about a play called Reflections on Giving Birth to a Squid:

I saw this show in Winnipeg on a whim without knowing anything about it or anyone in the cast and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This was a very original show with an interesting concept that never got too hockey or sentimental. I believe this was due to some very strong acting from the lead actress whose name I have unfortunately forgotten. In the spirit of Fringe, take a chance on this show.

That actress who's name I unfortunately forgot? Yup. Mikaela Dyke. I'm not going to forget that name again (mostly because it would make things awkward at home), but you won't either Toronto, after you see what all the fuss is about in Dying Hard, next week at the Tarragon Extra Space.

I had the privilege of seeing this show in Ottawa, before the two of us had even entertained the notion of being roommates, and I was simply blown away. And I'm not the only one. Dying Hard has toured coast-to-coast, picking up awards and accolades in every. single. city. Seriously.  You can check it out below, along with all the proper show details.

I will be seeing this beautiful show next week. Of course, since I live with the lead actor and principal creator of this piece, I was offered a complimentary ticket, but I turned it down. Why? Because this one is worth paying for.

See you at the theatre!


The Theatre Elusive in co-production with A Vagrant presents:


"There's whole families here wiped out. It's time for someone to make a noise." ... One of the Calgary Herald's most memorable theatre moments of 2011.

Six true stories from a community struggling to survive the ravages of industrial carnage. Taken from archived interviews, Dying Hard reveals the strength and grace of Newfoundland fluorspar miners in spite of the extraordinary hardships they faced.

Based on interviews taken by Elliott Leyton in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland. Adapted for the stage by and featuring Mikaela Dyke Directed by Dahlia Katz

Dates: March 13th - March 17th, 2012 - 8pm March 17th - March 18th, 2012 - 2:30pm

Tickets $25, $20 for students/arts workers.

Box office: 416.531.1827 Online: https://tickets.tarragontheatre.com/TheatreManager/1/tmEvent/tmEvent324.html

***Winner - Best in Fest - Halifax Fringe Festival 2010*** ***Winner - Best Performance - London Fringe Festival 2010*** ***Winner - Best Female Performance - The Beat Magazine 2010*** ***Winner - Outstanding Solo Performance - Ottawa Fringe Festival 2011*** ***Winner - Best Female Performance - CBC Winnipeg 2011***

"★★★★★ - Pure Storytelling Magic" - Calgary Herald "Larger than life... Strikes a chord of classical tragedy." - CBC Ottawa "Her performance is a wonder" - CBC Manitoba "Riveting." - Ottawa Citizen "Intense, if not stilling." - The Telegram, St. John's "I challenge you to see this show" - The Coast, Halifax

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2011 Ottawa Fringe

Every year, I put out a list of shows that I really want to see at various Fringes across Canada and every year it always becomes my most popular blog post of the year. So, without further ado, back by popular demand (I think), here's Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2011 Ottawa Fringe.

Well, first up, hands down, you need to see my show: Roller Derby Saved My Soul. Once you've done that, you may then come back to this post and find out what else I'll be checking out.


Did you go see my show yet? Ok. You may now read on.

STUFF I'VE SEEN Being the theatre traveller that I am, there are many things coming to town that I may have already caught at another festival. The following shows are a guaranteed good-time:

Fruitcake This is Rob Gee's first time at the Ottawa Fringe, but I've seen this show twice already. Yes, twice. Once in Winnipeg and once in Toronto. It's sold out every time. And since he's in the small space that is the Arts Court Library, you can expect more of the same here too.

Canuck Cabaret Ottawa audiences will remember Paul Hutcheson from On Second Thought and Sharon Nowlan from Burlesque Unzipped. They've pooled their considerable talents together for one of the best variety shows I've ever seen. I caught a version at London's Big Comedy Go-To that only included the two of them. This time around, expect a few Fringe favorites (including yours truly!) to pop by and showcase some additional mad skillz.

Fucking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Saved Democracy I wonder if Rob Salerno would still be presenting this show if the Conservative Government hadn't won the election? I saw one of the very first workshop performances of this piece back when it was just called Fucking Stephen Harper at the, once again, Big Comedy Go-To (where all funny things are born). It was a great little story then and I can't wait to see how it's changed in the past three years. Ottawa audiences will remember Rob from the Best in Venue winning Balls, a funny and touching story about two friends coping with testicular cancer.

Peter n Chris Save the World Since they are two of the funniest guys in the world, it makes sense that they should be the ones to save it. Caught this one at the Toronto Sketch Fest last November. If you saw the Peter N Chris Show at last year's Fringe, you will be pleased to know that the satin jackets once again make an appearance.

PEOPLE I KNOW WHO DO COOL SHIT The following shows I have not seen, but they involve really incredible and talented people I know so I really want to check them out!

Live from the Belly of a Whale Countries Shaped Like Stars broke my fucking heart and then put it back together with glitter and cookie dough. There's no way in hell I'm missing this show.

Complex Numbers I love all things adorkable and Nadine Thornhill. Now I hear she's forgone pants for the duration of the festival. Icky icky pants. If you do not see this show SHE WILL PUT THEM BACK ON! I am pretty sure none of you want that. However, if that's not enough for you, she's the plywright behind past Ottawa Fringe hits Oreo and The Wedding Night. I once called her Norm Foster meets Gilmore Girls. Directed by the wonderful Ken Godmere, good times are pretty much guaranteed.

Curriculum Vitae Oh Jimmy Hogg! The guy is so fucking charming and falls into the category of "People I would watch read the phone book." Fortunately, I'm pretty sure he's bringing a real show to town, because where the heck do you find a phone book in this day and age? Ottawa Fringe audiences will remember him from his Best Comedy Award for Like A Virgin.

Every Story Ever Told Anything Monster Theatre touches is pure genius. They have not been back to Ottawa since 2002 with THE CANADA SHOW: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF CANADA IN ONE HOUR. It was incredible. This time, Ryan Gladstone is flying solo and tries to tell every story ever told... By jove, I think he'll do it!

Dying Hard Don't let the fact that it's a drama pull you away. Mikaela Dyke is one of the brightest and most talented women I know working in Canadian theatre today. She wowed me in Winnipeg with her dramatic performance in Reflections on Giving Birth to a Squid and then turned everything upside down with her incredible comedic chops at the Big Comedy Go-To. My bet? This is going to be the sleeper hit of the Ottawa Fringe.

Pick Your Path Matt Domville wrote my very favorite show ever at the Ottawa Fringe. It was so good I can't remember the name right now, but it basically brought in the funny when Hercules, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes walk into a bar... I saw it twice. This show includes Amanda Klaman, who is funny as tits, and is a choose your own adventure type show. Like the books I used to read as a kid, there better be a way for me to cheat and see the ending before I pick it...

The Search for a Reason for Murder Remember last year's Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy? I do! That's these guys! And they're funny!

Vagabond One of my biggest surprises at the Ottawa Fringe was Tribulations of a Failed Vigilante. I think I caught it because it was short and ended up laughing more than I had in a long time. Well, Dunk a Sok is back and it's in a funky site specific place.

Ok, Ok, I really wanted to make this 10, but I got 12 not counting my own... And there's a bunch more stuff I still want to check out!

There's French stuff, like Le rire de la mer. I'm not normally a fan of Improv, but you've got the Set T-Rex guys (more gems I've discovered at the Big Comedy Go-To) with Callaghan!, Crush Improv with Spotlight On... (and man, I would pay good money to see Cari Leslie make shit up) and the gang from Insensitivity Training who kind of sold me with this trailer for Something with Virgin and Chainsaws.


And and and I've heard interesting things about When Harry Met Harry and The Walk has strong local pedigree and and and...


This list is no where near complete. Just get out there will ya? And let me know what you see!

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2010 Toronto Fringe

I'm currently in between shows in Morrisburg.  With two performances left, I'm fighting the blues by focusing on the trip I'm going on tomorrow to the Toronto Fringe Festival.  I'm itching to get my hands on a program, but until I do, here's a list of shows I would like to catch while I'm down there. In the spirit of my past Must-See lists, I probably have not seen these shows already and can't comment on them directly, but each one comes with it's own pedigree as to why I want to catch them.  I've seen enough Fringe now in the past 8 years that you can probably count on what I'm putting down here, but if that's not enough, fellow performer Alex Eddington's list has a lot of overlap with mine.

I won't be linking to each individual show description, but the whole list can be found here.

First up: The Ones I Missed in Ottawa!

Although I was able to see 15 shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, there wasn't enough time to see everything I wanted.  Here are some of the shows with great buzz that I'm planning to catch in Toronto.  We had two Best of Venue winners in the Duck Wife and Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy.  There was also the absolutely stunning Lindsay Sutherland Boal's Purely Cabaret and Jonno Katz's Cactus: The Seduction.  I also heard really great things about Phone Whore, but I plan to catch her in Calgary.  If you're not going to be in any other Fringe cities, then I highly suggest you see her now.  I really want to see MAL.  Rachelle Elie's concept really interests me.  Oh and although it's not the same show, I really think it's about time I saw something by Barry Smith.  This time he's got Me, My Stuff, and I: a Multimedia Comedy.

The Ones I've Already Seen

Having been a fringe patron for so long, there's bound to be stuff that I've already seen at various other festivals.  Here's what I know is bound to be good.  Rob Gee's Fruitcake is a hit wherever he goes and I remember enjoying Raven for a Lark (though be warned it's not exactly a comedy) when I saw it in Ottawa last year.

The Ones from my Favourite Non-Fringe Festival

I met them at the Big Comedy Go-To in London (ON) last year and so I'm looking forward to Jimmy Hogg and Christel Bartelse's Wisdom: Part One & ONEymoon.  Same goes for Rob Salerno with Big in Germany (who's got the very awesome Mikeala Dyke working behind the scenes).  Morro was flying solo at the time in what I had dubbed "the bravest and funniest piece of theatre I'd seen in a long time" so I'm excited to see her again with her partner in Morro and Jasp GONE WILD.  Oh and the Go-To also first introduced me to the amazing work of the Cody Rivers duo (gosh, the Go-To is quite the festival now, isn't it?) and one of it's members wrote Poison the Well, which stars the fantastic Elison Zasko (who was one of my Fringe Crushes in Ottawa this year.  That talent! That style! That accent!)

Everything Else that Is Probably Going to Rock my World

Speaking of rocking my world, Die Roten Punke is back with Die Roten Punkte: KUNST ROCK (ART ROCK). I don't know what it's about, but I want more of this:


Monster Theatre has a soft spot in my heart for the Canada Show from many moons ago and I think they win the prize for longest Fringe play title ever with The Shakespeare Show: Or, how an illiterate son of a Glover became the Greatest Playwright in the World.

Can you believe with all my years doing Fringe, I have yet to see something by the "undisputed" Gods of Fringe like TJ Dawe and Keir Cutler?  It might be time for me to correct that with Lucky 9 and Teaching Shakespeare respectively.

Some of the guys from Uncalled For are involved with Dance Animal & You & Me and Me & You (this last one includes Kirsten Rasmussen who is one of the funniest improvisers I have ever seen).

Oh and remember BASH'd? Well the guy who created that, Chris Craddock, has got a new show called PUBLIC SPEAKING.  It's been getting A LOT of advance buzz in every article about the Fringe I read and I just hope it isn't sold out before I get a chance to see it.

So that's abou 20 shows in one week and doesn't include everything else I will hear about once I'm on location.  I can't guarantee I'll get to see it all - Toronto Fringe has yet to consider me a VIP like it's Ottawa counterpart has and money is tight now that my contracts are ending - but I will try my best.

What are you going to see?

Still Think You're Funny?

It seems like ages now that I was at the Big Comedy Go-To in London (ON). I've been wanting to write a wrap up of the event but I dove right into a school tour with A Company of Fools (which just ended today and is the topic of another blog post) and simply did not have the time. If you want to catch up, you can read all about my first day at the festival here.

That Saturday I slept in for the first time in what felt like ages (even more so now that I've been getting up at 5:30-6 am because of the school shows). Something like 10 or 11. It was bliss. The friend I was staying with had left to go teach an improv class, so I went through my morning routine, grabbed some coffee he was kind enough to have made before heading out, wrote my blog post, and went out for some food.

At 4 pm, I was the first one in line for a panel discussion with many of the performers on what it's like to do what they do. I was so ahead of the pack that I actually helped with the chair set up.

I really enjoyed the panel and I'm glad it's become a regular occurrence at the festival. I don't know how non-artistic people find it, but for me, it makes me feel like I'm not alone. It makes me realize that even the amazing, wonderful, talented people out there who do all this super cool and funny stuff have the same doubts and fears and small bank accounts I do. I had taken some really great notes of this discussion, but unfortunately since my phone was stolen (I've now had it returned, minus the SIM card and everything saved on it), I've lost everything I had jotted down.


Just know that I found it all very inspiring. And I still adore Paul Hutcheson.

I then had dinner with Uncalled For and friends before attending their production of This Is All Your Birthdays. As I said in my last Go-To blog post, I had seen this show previously at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, where it had (justifiably so) won the award for Best Ensemble. When I saw it, there were four guys performing it. This time there were three. And some scenes had changed. It was well worth seeing again. These guys can do no wrong.

That was followed up by some cool sketch comedy from many people I had never met before and then some Improv with Sex T-Rex, Fully Insured, and more Uncalled For.

And then, the big one: The Improv Cage Match hosted by Mikaela Dyke (who I only realized later was in Reflections on Giving Birth to a Squid, which I saw in Winnipeg at the Fringe and is the one who I reviewed with "very strong acting from the lead actress whose name I have unfortunately forgotten" - Glad to know I've now corrected that oversight). The Cage Match (which unfortunately was falsely advertised as I never saw a cage) took almost every performer from the evening, threw them into groups that had never worked together before, and had them compete improv style for the publics affection or elimination. The winning team would walk away with 2 pounds of gummy bears. Oh and honour or something, but really we just all wanted the gummy bears. Yes, I did say "we". Mikeala asked me earlier in the day if I would participate. Since I am crazy, I said yes.

How it all worked: 4 teams all do some short form. At the end, the public votes for the best teams. Top 1 & 2 move ahead. Teams 3 and 4 then compete and the audience decides who stays. I got put into a great group, but our improvs definitely weren't the strongest. We'd always end up in an elimination round, but somehow, thanks to some strong people, we'd end up on top.

We got second place! And gummy bears were shared all around.

I had to leave super early the next day (or more accurately, later that morning) since I had rehearsal in Ottawa in the afternoon. That said, the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, the new friends I've made (including a performer I will be potentially billeting throughout the Ottawa Fringe), the new skills I've discovered I have as a performer, and, of course, the great shows and the passion that goes into creating this festival makes it something that I will probably be supporting for the years to come. You should too.

Oh and if the festival organizer is reading this: next year, more Elvis please!