After the House Lights

Grace in Exile at Edmonton Fringe Festival


Grace in Exile
Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre (8426 Gateway Blvd.) August 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22
More information:

An interview with Nicole Grainger

dale Wilson, Maria Colonescu, Nicole Grainger, and Justin Deveau in Grace in Exile. Photo credit Tristin Deveau

Describe your show in five words. 

Noire – Clowns – Magic – Innocence – Circus

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

Grace has run away from home to join the circus. She’s faced with a mysterious Fortune-teller, a manipulative Ringmaster and Menacing clowns. Can you have a relationship in a world of pretend? Can wearing a green wig erase your past?

Grace in Exile is a multidisciplinary play that uses elements of Japanese Butoh and contemporary dance to enhance traditional dialogue-based story telling. This play is an exploration of our perceptions of fantasy vs. reality and childhood’s journey into adulthood.

Your media release says you’re bringing the “dirty 30s circus” to town… did you take any inspiration (costumes or otherwise) from the TV show Carnivale? What else inspired you as part of creating Grace in Exile?

Carnivale is a show about a person who has supernatural powers, whereas our show is about how the magic is all false. Carnivale, however, certainly reminded us how important the right type of music is for setting the mood.

Where we actually drew a ton of inspiration, was when Justin and I took a trip to the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida.  We were able to see a 3,800 sq/ft miniature replica of the circus grounds as they were set up in the past. They had everything from costumes, props, wagons, train cars and old newspaper articles. We learned exactly how many eggs the cook shack had to fry per day to feed the crew and how the day-to-day existence flowed for the circus family. It was fascinating in the extreme. We must have brought a million pictures back for Maria.

One of the shows themes is about reality vs. fantasy. What methods do you use to explore this theme?

We began the creation of this show by exploring Japanese Butoh. It’s a dance form that arose in response to the tragedies of World War II. It is a very difficult dance form to describe, but Wikipedia sums it up nicely by saying, “Common features of the art form include playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments. “ This combined with contemporary dance allows us to glimpse into the minds of the characters and what they imagine their world to be.

We also used Clown to depict some of the horrific situations that were occurring in the “real life” of the characters. As clowns, they can perform for the amusement of the circus’ audience that has no idea that what they are laughing at has actually happened to someone in reality.

And naturally we have a magic in there too.  What is more definitive of reality vs. fantasy than trying to figure out how the magician made the rabbit appear out of the hat?

What have you personally learnt about fantasy vs. reality as you created Grace in Exile?

Personally, I have learned that the line between the two is a lot thinner and a lot fuzzier than I ever suspected.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

This is a show that has a little bit of something for everyone.  It’s creative, it’s interesting, and it’s very very entertaining.

We ask the audience, “Do you believe in magic? Are you brave enough to believe in magic?”

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

We have been so very fortunate with our support from the music industry.  Peter Hoyland, Vermillion Lies, Gypsophilia, and Squirrel Nut Zippers have all given us permission to use their music in our show, and for that, we are extremely grateful. I also have to give a big shout-out to the Vanishing Rabbit in Calgary who has kept us supplied with balloons, juggling balls and magic advice.

The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. I’ll be previewing shows up until the Fringe starts. Want your show to appear on After the House Lights? Email