Monday, March 3, 2014

The Question... Jeff Gandell on The Balding and As The Bagel Turns

Vulnerable (and Funny)
by Estelle Rosen

Jeff Gandell is a Montreal writer, storyteller, improviser, and teacher. His one-man comedy, The Balding, was nominated for the Just for Laughs - Best Comedy at the 2013 Montreal Fringe Fest. His second one-man comedy of 2013, Danger Unit, debuted to great acclaim at the 2013 Solos Festival. He runs Yarn, a monthly comedic storytelling event at Le Cagibi, in Montreal. 

CHARPO: Your response - in the June 17 edition of CharPo when The Balding was performed as part of Montreal Fringe - focused on balding and life lessons among other things. Any additional insights from this production since then? 

GANDELL: Many! I suppose the biggest (and nicest) surprise since then was the reaction that The Balding received from audiences and critics during the run at the Fringe Fest. I’m happy to report that the show was a great success, both in terms of attendance and feedback I got from people. In telling the story of a 20-year-old virgin starting to lose his hair, I really aimed to write something that would resonate emotionally with people, and I think I did that. I had a feeling before the Fringe Fest that it was a story of vulnerability. I don’t think I really understood to what degree it was, or how much people would latch on to that. 

It’s interesting in rehearsing for it now, I think I’m learning more about myself now than when I wrote it or when I originally performed it. The first time I did it, it was basically me looking back on my life at 20, and the dynamics came largely from the perspective I’ve gained since then. But now I have not only perspective of that, but perspective of the original performance. So it’s like me looking back on last year looking back on my life at 20, which adds a whole new level of dynamics. The first time I did the show I was very aware of how different I was from Jeff at 20. I certainly am, but this time around I’m more aware of the similarities between me now and me at 20. Which will hopefully translate into a richer performance. 

Another big difference this time around is my skill and maturity as an actor. I wrote The Balding basically as a short story, and the process of rehearsing it the first time involved translating it into something that belonged in a theatre. Now that I have that experience (and the experience of writing and performing a second one-man show last year), I have a much better grasp of what theatre is, and how it works. Plus I’ve been taking acting classes and I kind of understand what acting is supposed to be, at least. So part of the process involved going through the script and re-imagining it for the stage. I took out a bunch of the talking and am replacing it with action, with emotional choices. I’m thinking about things like lighting and music, which I only really scratched the surface of before. My imagination is more open to the possibilities of character, attitude, and how to make the audience feel things.  

All this to say that the biggest difference this time is that I’m heading into this performance with much more confidence than the first time. And this should translate into presenting a more nuanced version of the very unconfident character that will lead you through the story of the first few terrible years of his hair loss. It should be a hell of a ride. 

The Balding is at Mainline Theatre from March 19-23 


CHARPO: I happened to notice in The Improv series on your Yarn Productions website that you'll be in As The Bagel Turns at Montreal Improv. Tell us a little about it.

GANDELL: As The Bagel Turns is an improvised soap opera comedy about two rival bagel-family empires: The Fairmounts, and the St-Viateurs. It features an ensemble cast of ten amazing improvisers. We’ve really been digging deep into soap opera conventions, and we’re going to do our best to create a real live soap opera on the spot. I think it’s a genre that will translate really well to the improv stage. Improv is all about character and attitude, and this series will give us a chance to really delve into that, and play with it in a unique way. It should be a really funny show. There will be love affairs, betrayal, and, of course, family strife. There will be deadly glares and taboo liaisons. There will be bagels.

As The Bagel Turns is performed at Montreal Improv Theatre 
Montreal Improv Theatre website

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited to have The Balding as a part of our season! I missed it at the FRINGE, this is my chance to finally see it :)


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