After the House Lights

Polly Polly at Edmonton Fringe Festival


Polly Polly
Fringe Cabaret Lounge (10330 84 avenue) August 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22

An interview with Jessica Moss.

Jessica Moss in Polly Polly. Photo credit: Mike Ford

Describe your show in five words.

Cinematic adventure into existential crisis.

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

Polly Eschfeld stares at the movies and hates her life. Then, a voice starts to narrate for her, describing her mundane activities and surprising her with her own bleak thoughts: as if these were worthy of an audience. A mysterious stranger with a beautiful voice and an uncanny knowledge of Polly’s soul calls: ‘I’m Polly Eschfeld’, she says. ‘I’m you. Find me’. Polly is thrown on a whirlwind journey to find her true self, vanquish the voices in her head, and become who she really is.

It’s a comedy. It’s a screwball romp. It’s a mystery with one suspect, one victim, and one performer. And it’s a farce of an identity crisis, performed at break-neck speed.

“Screwball theatre” shows are a lot of fun. What are your favourite screwball films? Were there any you took inspiration from for this show?

I love old movies and fast-talking dames, so some of my favourites are ‘His Girl Friday’, ‘It Happened One Night’, ‘Bringing Up Baby’ and ‘The Philadelphia Story’, and then I am a huge fan of the comedies that came in later years kind of borne out of that tradition’: ‘The Apartment’, ‘Some Like It Hot’. I was also really inspired by noir movies and Alfred Hitchcock, who has been an inspiration to me for a really long time. In grade 6, I did a project on the psychology of Alfred Hitchcock, where I analyzed some of his characters.

I started making the show trying to make a black and white movie onstage, but I became ultimately more interested in how to do cinematic techniques in a theatrical way: how to reference movie images and tropes but live, and never ignoring that it’s theatre. While I’m very inspired by movie language and style, I’m deeply in love with theatre, and this is very much a live show: one actor, a limited set, trying to make magic, even if you see all the strings.

Obviously a big theme of this show is self-discovery and personal growth, but can you tell us about some of the other ideas Polly Polly explores?

It’s really about the idea of ‘self’. I’m pretty fascinated by the strange notion that I can think about my ‘self’ as something separate than me: something that I could find, something that I can talk to. That I can do or say something and in my head I can recognize that I am not acting like myself, even though I just did or said that thing. That I have a sense of who I really am, and it’s not who I am at the moment, as if a realer version of me exists in my head than the one I am in the physical world. Like, what is up with that? Isn’t that so weird? These thoughts about identity and perception plagued me for a long time, and I thought that I was a total lunatic for having them. So the show is really an investigation into how complicated and confusing and overwhelming the idea of ‘self’ is.

It’s also a love letter to imagination and the idea of escapism. Polly’s happiest moments are ones where she either watches movies, or fantasizes about a movie version of her life. I spend a lot of time in dreamworld: it’s nicer there, and, as Lily Tomlin says, ‘Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it’. I have a deep belief that the internal world in our own minds is as real and rich as the world around us, and a way of dealing with or even leaving that external world. The theatre has been that kind of escape for me throughout my life, so it’s kind of a celebration of that.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

Come if you’ve ever played out a movie montage in your mind, starring you as the beautiful and glamourous ingenue you know you could be. Come if you don’t feel like yourself. Come if you’ve ever been on a spiritual journey to meet ‘the real you’, and come if ‘the real you’ still just wanted to sit on the couch and eat chips. Come if you talk to yourself. Come if the voice in your head tells you to, and even if it doesn’t, because you can’t trust that guy sometimes. And also come if you like wild, theatrical romps, and comedic angst, written by and starring chubby, nearsighted weirdos.

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

My brother, Michael Moss, did the sound design, and Joe Pagnan did the lighting design in the original show. I’m really excited to meet new artists at the Fringe and see some shows from people I’ve never heard of, but I’m a huge fan of these artists and looking forward to their shows: Peter ‘N Chris, Sam Mullins, Bronwyn Steinberg, Cat Walsh, Ingrid Hansen, You Rung? Productions. So many wicked awesome shows….so much beer….oh fringe!

The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. Get your tickets at