Victoria Fringe Festival 2016 Preview – Old Lady’s Guide to Survival
August 24, 2016
How’s a Lady to cope with the twilight of her life? Bema Productions, back at the fringe after the success of last year’s, The Best Meal You Ever Ate, just might have a solution. Bema artistic director Zelda Dean shares advice on how to stay young with Showbill.ca’s Matt McLaren
Matt McLaren: I would love to know more about Bema Productions. There’s a lot of love for this group, to the point where they could be the cult favorites for the fringe.
Zelda Dean: Bema Productions came about three years ago when I mentioned to a friend that I was finally ready to start yet another theatre group but was lacking the funds to get it going. She was our first sponsor and thanks to her I was able to commission my former Playwright in Residence, Caroline Russell-King, to write a play dealing with universal loss because everyone I knew was struggling with some kind of loss.
We developed and presented 17 Stories which in fact came out of seventeen interviews she did here in Victoria where 17 courageous people shared their own personal journeys of loss. It was an amazing and challenging process and a very well received production thanks to so many who bought into my vision. The mandate of Bema Productions was defined.
We do plays that are entertaining and have something important to say. We also offer every main stage show free to local charitable organizations to help them with their own fundraising. Last year $11,000 was raised using The Grandkid by not-for-profits like Help Fill a Dream Foundation and the Victoria Youth Health Clinic. Using theatre so people can help people. What could be better?
MM: So how does an Old Lady survive? And why was this Bema’s pick for Fringe 2016?
ZD: An Old Lady with no friends survives by hooking up with another old lady with no friends even though under normal circumstances they would never be friends. One is losing her vision and one is losing her mind and watching them try and help each other is both funny and poignant. I bought this script in 1994 and have waited patiently for an opportunity to direct it.
I am now a lady of a certain age so I really get what the playwright was trying to say about what we and those we love face as we get older. I am so grateful to have found the perfect two actors to take on these challenging roles. I decided that everyone knew someone older and that this play had a lot to say.
MM: I’m curious about the demographic. What’s there for the non-aged ladies population of Victoria?
ZD: Every lady has a mom or grandmother or aunt or older friend who they may be struggling with. There is something in this piece for everyone. I guess I am leaning toward pieces that offer incredible roles for older actresses because we have a great pool of them in Victoria who never get enough work and because many theatre patrons including me are older.
MM: Congregation Emanu-El is a hidden architectural gem of Victoria. But I can’t say that the layout ever seemed like it could support a play. How does the staging play out and who’s on the creative team that made it possible?
ZD: We are so proud of being a Heritage Building and I initially wasn’t sure how we would make it work. We did use the Sanctuary for our first production. The ambience and acoustics were great, but the intimacy needed for these small cast shows with so many words was difficult. Strange but true that I put it out there and other sponsors appeared that made it possible for us to develop a Black Box Theatre in the synagogue’s social hall. It comfortably seats 10o.
We rent a stage and lights and sound and away we go. All the wonderful creative people who make Bema possible do it because of their love of the arts and their desire to help others. No one gets paid except in hugs, much love and a great feeling of accomplishment.
MM: What’s the biggest success you want to walk away from this fringe with?
ZD: A feeling that we made a difference; that someone might be able to look at things a little differently and maybe a little easier.
MM: Why should audience see Old Lady’s Guide to Survival?
ZD: They should see it because it is a fine piece of theatre where they will be entertained and moved and have something to talk about later over a glass of wine and some appies.