FRINGE NEW PLAY CONTEST WINNER: HELP YOURSELF
Just as in Kim’s Convenience, the winner of last year’s Fringe New Play Contest, the character at the centre of this year’s winner, Help Yourself, is selling something. But that’s where the similarities end. Up-and-coming writer/director Kat
Sandler’s protagonist, Donny ( Daniel Pagett), is a slick, self-styled “therapist” who, for a fee, will personify that devil on your shoulder. Thinking about cheating on your partner? Itching to off your neighbour’s noisy dog? On the fence about embezzling millions from the company’s pension plan? Ethics and morality be damned, Donny’s the guy you pay to persuade you it’s okay.
“We’d been talking a lot about what a modern-day demon would be like,” says Sandler, artistic director of The
atre Brouhaha and runner-up in last year’s New Play Contest, about what inspired Donny.
“We love TV shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, where there’s no absolute good or evil. Donny lets us explore all these clever grey areas in the choices we make.”
Sandler hopes that by drawing on themes and acts similar to those explored in those cable TV hits, she can engage younger audiences and make theatre “cool” again.
“Our goal is to make accessible, entertaining, relatable theatre for what we call ‘the HBO generation.’ There’s a huge young audience out there that’s spending millions of dollars a year on movie and concert tickets, but they’re not going to Shaw or Stratford plays because they can’t connect with them and feel alienated by that older form of theatre. My generation wants everything fast. We want our information fast, and we want our stories told in a fast, slick way.”
If the idea of outsourcing your conscience to an amoral, unscrupulous advocate sounds pretty pessimistic (while, sadly, not all that far removed from reality), Sandler offers a ray of hope.
“The people who meet with Donny are always free to disagree with him, and at the end of the day they’re still their own person. A lot of my writing is dark, but I hope it’s also funny. It’s only meant to be as serious as you want it to be.” Starts Wednesday (July 4) at the
Kat Sandler is all smiles about Help Yourself’s Fringe New Play Contest win.