Dating for Dumb Heads at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Dating for Dumb Heads (Dating für Dumm Köpfe)

Yardbird Suite (11 Tommy Banks Way) August 14 – 16, 18, 21, 22

More information: jim-sands.ca


Dating for Dumb Heads. Photo credit: Tom Quirk

Dating for Dumb Heads. Photo credit: Tom Quirk

An interview with Jim Sands.

Describe your show in five words.

Funny, honest, weird, somewhat deranged.

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

It’s a clown show about finding relationships in times of turmoil. In a world gone crazy, the path to relationship twists and turns and involves many ups and downs. Obstacles include computers, information overload, Internet dating sites, Stephen Harper, Facebook, dying bees, loud mouthed senators, Stuart McLean, Twitter and David Suzuki. In the end, we find that it is love that will help us move toward tomorrow … which is always a day away!

Why did you want to perform Dating For Dum Heads as a clown show?

I’ve done two shows on the Fringe circuit that involved storytelling about real-life events. This time around I wanted to try something different by exploring a different kind of theatre, expanding my clown repertoire, and revisiting a clown character I developed several years ago.

Your character, Hansel, speaks to issues of isolation – did you set out to create a character that did that, or did it happen organically? How did he come about?

It came about very organically.

In 2007, I was very fortunate to be picked to be part of an ensemble of artists living in the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona neighbourhoods of Vancouver for a project sponsored by Vancouver Moving Theatre. Over the course of six months we developed a full-fledged production entitled A Downtown Eastside Romeo and Juliet.  Readers familiar with Shakespeare’s play may not remember a clown named Hansel from Hamburg, Germany in the original Romeo and Juliet.  All I can say is that it was a very loose adaptation.

In fact, we used the tale of Romeo and Juliet as a starting point to develop content that explored the themes in Shakespeare’s play and how they related to present-day life in our neighbourhoods — themes such as division, anger, love and reconciliation.

Along the way we received training from an amazing array of artists in the areas of clowning, mask and performance. It was out of this workshop process that the character of Hansel emerged as a young boy lost, lonely and abandoned in the Downtown Eastside. As it turned out, Hansel was able to speak to issues of isolation and disconnection in a way that was not threatening or preachy.

In the new play, Dating for Dumb Heads, Hansel is a grown up man/boy who is living on his own, but still very much dealing with issues of isolation and loneliness in a world full of turmoil.

You mention that the world Hansel is living in involves dying bees, global warming, and pipelines – why did you choose to highlight these issues in your show’s description?

Clowns are needed most where they are wanted least. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from the Gina Bastone, the play’s director and co-creator.

Many would think that these are serious issues that need serious discussion (and they are!) but there’s also a need for a clown’s perspective to shake things up so that we can find new ways to look at the world and its problems.

Hansel is very much attuned to the trouble of the world and, of course, the issues mentioned are among many that are causing unease in Hansel and lots of other people living in these times. In longing for a girlfriend Hansel is hoping to find someone to hold onto during these perilous times and perhaps for something to give him a reason to believe in the future.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

The play is co-created and directed by the fabulous Gina Bastone who has been an inspiration to a generation of aspiring clowns in Vancouver. Even though she’s had extensive training and experience in clowning, Gina has a down to earth style that’s honest and direct, but also encouraging and supportive. In addition, she met Michael Jackson (yes, THAT Michael Jackson) while she was clown in a Cirque Du Soliel show in Las Vegas. He shook her hand and told her he thought she was funny.

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

I guess I jumped the gun in my answer to the previous question. I’ve been inspired by many Edmonton luminaries such as Jon Paterson (now an ex-Pat Edmontonian) and Christine Lasiak. Edmonton playwright and director Ken Brown once fell asleep during one of my shows (to be fair, it was the last day of the Winnipeg Fringe). And I’m excited to be at the Yardbird Suite again like I was in 2012 with my show CHARLIE: A Hockey Story. The Yardbird is one of my favorite venues of all time … you can feel the history vibrating in the walls.

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

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