New pro­duc­tion com­pany formed just for show that looks at life of fe­male wrestling leg­end

Calgary Herald - - YOU - LOUIS B. HOB­SON

Some­times in theatre there’s al­most as much drama be­hind the scenes as there is on­stage.

This is very much the case with Queen of the Ring, Cal­gar­ian Wendy Froberg ’s play about John­nie Mae Young, one of the pi­o­neers of fe­male wrestling. Queen of the Ring is run­ning in the Arts Com­mons Mo­tel Theatre un­til Satur­day, with Shaylea Pan­gle play­ing the wrestling leg­end.

Froberg looks at the way these pi­o­neer fe­male wrestlers were co­erced into us­ing their sex­u­al­ity to make the sport more sen­sa­tional for male au­di­ences.

The play was orig­i­nally sched­uled to open in Fe­bru­ary, but the run was can­celled just weeks prior to open­ing.

Brett War­ing, who had been cast as one of the wrestlers, re­fused to let the project die, so she took it upon her­self to form a new theatre com­pany and pro­duce the play for this Novem­ber run.

“I felt re­ally bad for ev­ery­one in­volved be­cause they’d put so much time and ef­fort into bring­ing Wendy’s char­ac­ters to life, and es­pe­cially to Chelsea Friesen, who was our di­rec­tor and fight chore­og­ra­pher.

“I talked it over with Chelsea and we both agreed the show de­served a sec­ond chance, so we formed At­tollo Pro­duc­tions and set about mount­ing it again with ba­si­cally the same cast,” War­ing says.

The play sprung out of Women’s His­tory Month in 2017, when World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment hon­oured Young and a dozen of her con­tem­po­raries for their con­tri­bu­tion to the sport. Ac­cord­ing to War­ing, “Wendy saw some­thing on Face­book and she thought there was a play some­where in John­nie Mae’s story and be­gan work­ing on this script.

“One of the amaz­ing things about John­nie Mae was that she was still wrestling when she was 80. She died in 2014 at age 90.”

To tell Young ’s story, War­ing and her cre­ative team have turned the Mo­tel Theatre into the back end of a wrestling ring.

“For the au­di­ence, it will be as if they are right there in the ring. They can shout and holler just as they would at a real wrestling match.”

One of the amaz­ing things about John­nie Mae­was that she was still wrestling when she was 80. She died in 2014 at age 90.

Join­ing Pan­gle in the ring as other wrestling stars are Jade Benoit, Hai­ley Carr, Kathryn Ko­zody, Jes­selle Lau­ren and Jace Nickel.

Chris Gib­son plays the wrestling an­nouncer who dou­bles as the play’s nar­ra­tor to help guide the au­di­ence through John­nie Mae’s life and ca­reer from the 1930s to the 2000s. Fred Krysko will play Billy Wolfe, the pro­moter of women’s wrestling.

“He’s the play’s an­tag­o­nist be­cause he es­sen­tially ex­ploited these women,” War­ing said. “The play of­fers an hon­est ex­am­i­na­tion of what that meant, which is why we are sug­gest­ing it’s a play for adult au­di­ences.”

Queen of the Ring cel­e­brates John­nie Mae Young, who slammed, punched and clawed her way to the top of the women’s pro­fes­sional wrestling world.

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