Poiema Productions presents 'Middleton: A Folk Musical' at the Fringe Aspen Gainer 08.15.12
Poiema Productions is a theatre company made of four young women who graduated from the MacEwan Theatre Arts program in 2008: Brianne Jang, Sara Vickruck, Candice Fiorentino and Melissa Heagy.
"After we graduated we wanted to write a show so in 2009 we began writing and we produced Happily Ever After," says Jang.
They took the play on the Fringe circuit and then decided that they wanted to keep going. Since then, they've written three plays, including a larger production this year.
Jang and her co-writer describe Middleton: A Folk Musical as "[a]n original folk musical from the heart of the East Coast." It's a story of small town life in Nova Scotia-intrigue, gossip and the desire for both less and more than life in Middleton.
According to Jang, the storyline is loosely based on events from the life of one of Vickruck's family members who lived in small-town Nova Scotia. Jang and her co-writer found the storyline, complete with a love affair and an angry ex, so interesting they decided to base the play on it.
The show features all-original music written and performed by Danielle Knibbe and her band Marilla.
"[Knibbe] gave us a demo of a sound we kind of wanted to see if that was okay and it just blew our minds," says Jang. "That was so much more than we could have ever imagined. It was so perfect."
"We really like working with new local emerging artists and giving them the opportunity to come on a brand new project with a lot of exciting creative opportunities," says Jang.
Knibbe is also a MacEwan grad, and completely by chance, most of the actors are as well. The company's list of bios reads like a MacEwan reunion, but the MacEwan connection was completely unintentional.
"It's easy to put all [MacEwan grads] in a hat and just randomly pick one out and you know that they're hard workers and you know that you can work well with them," says Jang. " But we have no stigma with working with anyone from anywhere."
Casting was done by director Louise Large. She chose the four male cast members: Trent Wilkie, Brennan Campbell, Corben Kushneryk and Erik Reuter, three of whom are MacEwan grads.
"It's just funny it happened that way. When we weren't even responsible for casting, they happen to come from Macewan anyway," says Jang.
Jang and Vickruck wrote the play and will join the four boys as well as Fiorentino and Heagy to make up the eight-member cast of Middleton. Jang says this is the biggest production Poiema has put out yet.
"It just makes the show so much better, having more minds on the project," says Jang. "More opinions and more creative juices flowing is good."
Jang says that producing the next Fringe play begins pretty much right after you finish the performing. They signed up in the fall of 2011 to get a spot for this year's festival.
"We signed up in September and I think we stared writing in December. And we definitely approached it different than the past few years as far as bringing in other artists."
It's a lot of work but she really enjoys the creative freedom that comes with an independent production company.
"We just get to create the whole world of the play and take on any role we want,"says Jang. "We have total control and we love that."
In spite of the amount of hard work, each year the little production company grows and the process gets easier.
"It's only getting better the more years we do this," says Jang. "We're learning so much."
Jang hopes that soon they will continue to grow and Poiema will run plays through out the year.
So if you are trying to decide what to watch this year at the Fringe, you won't want to miss out on up-and-comer Poiema's Middleton: A Folk Musical.
The show is 90 minutes in length and is recommended for people 13 years and older due to mature subjects and language.
Middleton: A Folk Musical runs from Aug 17 to 24. Watch it at Venue 5, King Edward School (8530 101 street). Adult tickets are $12.50 and students and seniors pay $11. Get tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca/Schedule.aspx. or call 780-409-1910.
Sherwood Park News
Park Resident Debuts Play at Fringe Calli Forbes 08.16.12
It has all the makings of a good soap opera - gossip, affairs, secrets and lost loves.
However, Sherwood Park resident and co-writer Brianne Jang said she still hopes audiences will see a little bit of themselves in the characters of her musical Middleton when it makes its debut run at the Edmonton Fringe Festival this week.
"(The musical) is set in a specific town, but it also has that feeling that it could be any town, anywhere," Jang said.
The 24-year-old Park actor co-wrote the folk musical with Edmonton's Sara Vickruck. Upon graduating from MacEwan University in 2008, Jang and Vickruck, along with fellow graduates Melissa Heagy and Candice Fiorentino, founded Poiema
The musical is based on a true story of one of Vickruck's relatives who lived in a rural community in Nova Scotia.
"Sara told us about a member of her family and this kind of tragic incident that happened quite a while ago in Nova Scotia," she said.
"It was really suspenseful and thrilling, and surprising to hear that it was a true story."
The duo took this story and combined it with their love of folk music by having Danielle Knibbe and her band Marilla compose the score for the musical.
"We thought those two things would really go well together, like a small-town thrilling story along with some driving, interesting folk, East Coast kind-of-sound music," she said.
"The music is above anything that you could have ever imagined."
The final product is a story about the disruptions to a small town in Nova Scotia after a stranger comes into the
"The routine changes and tragedy strikes and people have to look at their lives a bit differently," she said.
Jang plays Laura Lee, a waitress at the small-town diner, who is often the one to lend a helping ear to listen to patrons' troubles.
"She's just the kind of seasoned waitress that works at the diner and gossips along with the rest of the customers," she described.
Middleton will be the third play that Poiema Productions will have showcased in the Fringe Festival, a repertoire that also includes The Seminar in 2011 and Happily Ever After? in 2010. This is the first play where the company has decided to bring on outside help, including Edmonton director Louise Large.
As Jang has written, produced and acted in all three productions, she said she has grown stronger in these three roles with each performance.
"It's just such a treat that we all get to create this stuff and also be in it," she said.
Although she is grateful for the experience the Edmonton Fringe Festival has given her production company, she said she hopes to see her plays move beyond the event in the future.
"We decided that this company has no boundaries," she said.
"The Fringe is so easily accessible in order to put up your own work, but we really want to branch out and go further in any direction of the arts."
However, she noted that the Fringe Festival is a great way to work with people who have no other intentions besides putting on the best performance possible.
"You get people who have the heart, who want to create something awesome together with new people," she said.
With the cast and crew being comprised of mostly Edmonton and area talent, Jang said attending Middleton is a great opportunity to support the local arts scene.
"I can guarantee that you'll enjoy it at any age," she said.
"It's our baby and it's become such an amazing show."
Middleton makes its debut at the Edmonton Fringe Festival on Friday, Aug. 17 at 11 p.m. The musical will also run on Aug, 18 at 6:15 p.m.; Aug. 20 at 12:15 p.m.; Aug. 21 at 2:45 p.m.,; Aug. 22 at 9:15 p.m.; and Aug. 24 at 4:30 p.m. All shows will take place at King Edward School at 8530-101 St.
Tickets cost $12.50 for adults and $11 for students and seniors, and can be purchased by calling 780-409-1910 or visiting www.fringetheatre.ca.