FRINGE NEW PLAY CON­TEST WIN­NER: HELP YOUR­SELF

NOW Magazine - Fringe - - Fringe Preview - JOR­DAN BIMM

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

Ge­orge Ig­nati­eff.

Kat San­dler is all smiles about Help Your­self’s Fringe New Play Con­test win.

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