Nantucket at the Edmonton Fringe Festival


Backstage Theatre (10330 84 avenue) August 13, 15, 18, 20-23

Nantucket by Mark Kenward. Photo by David Allen.

Nantucket by Mark Kenward. Photo by David Allen.

An interview with Mark Kenward.

Describe your show in five words.

I’ll go with 4 words from a review from the Oakland Tribune: “astounding, funny and breathtaking”

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

It happened in an instant. On a gray winter’s day, on an island thirty miles out to sea, when I was 16 years old I witnessed a violent act that would shatter my family and shock the local community. Thirty years later, I have shaped my family’s story of our migration from Normal, Illinois to island “paradise,” into the critically acclaimed drama Nantucket. The Oakland Tribune hailed the show as “astounding, funny and breathtaking” and The Stark Insider marveled that “so powerful was his hold on the audience, the only evidence that anyone was even breathing was an occasional gasp.”

What’s the meaning behind the name for your show, Nantucket?

My show explores the power of place. When my family moved to Nantucket we arrived with all the dreams you would expect of people moving to a famous old island. Nantucket was once the whaling capital of the world (and where The Pequod sets sail in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick). Nowadays, Nantucket is one of North America’s most exclusive resorts. But in the dead of winter the island is a different place. You are stuck out there on this pile of sand, hammered by one nor’easter after another, staring at the same damn faces in the grocery store. The reality is that not everyone is a survivor. “When summer turns into the bleak gray island winter, the story takes a decidedly dark turn; one that you won’t soon forget.” (Joint Forces Journal)

You’re performing this story from your life 30 years after the events in the story, what conditions in your life made you ready to create this play?

I’m really fortunate to be part of a large community of people in the San Francisco Bay Area who are working on solo shows. I could not have possibly created a show about these events from my life without the support of my collaborators, peers, teachers, and clients. Nantucket represents the work, input, inspiration, and support of literally dozens of people.

This is your seventh (eighth?) solo show – what draws you to this format?

There is something so pure about the connection between the solo performer and the audience. Also, writing and performing your own work — when done with a commitment to craft and soul — is a powerful and potentially life-changing practice. I direct and coach a large number of solo performers. Many of them are professionally trained performers (standup comedians, second generation jugglers, storytellers & musicians). And others are nurses, housepainters, cab drivers, retired newspaper editors and airplane mechanics. Solo performance is a democratic form. Each person just needs to find their unique way of shining on stage, and find an audience that resonates with their work.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

It’s really funny! Sure, the dramatic stakes are high, and I’m proud of all the craft & soul I’ve poured into the show. But it is also a fun entertaining ride.

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

I am the director of a number of shows that have been at previous Edmonton Fringe Festivals, including David Caggiano’s Jurassic Ark, which was a big hit at the fringe a couple years ago, as well as solo shows by Howard Petrick and David Jacobson. I’m excited to represent San Francisco’s thriving solo performance scene at the Edmonton Fringe!

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at starting August 4.

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