DA KOODENS.

Eileen King joins pop­u­lar com­edy troupe Da Koodens for its 10th year

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front page - BY ROS­ALYN ROY

The Isle aux Morts The­atre Festival is once again un­der­way for the sum­mer sea­son.

This year’s lineup in­cludes Rhonda Payne’s clas­sic New­found­land story Stars in the Sky Morn­ing and A Fish Tale: A Pup­pet Lantern Play. The chil­dren’s show Cods Love also re­turns for this sea­son’s lineup.

Braver souls can en­joy Tour de Morts, which a scary walk around the tiny, his­toric town com­plete with lo­cal ghost sto­ries.

The­atre festival sta­ple and com­edy skit din­ner show Da Koodens is cel­e­brat­ing its 10th year. The show de­buted on Thurs­day, July 12 for the sea­son fea­tur­ing new cast mem­ber Eileen King.

King cred­its her friend, Doreen Bil­lard, for re­cruit­ing her to the com­edy troupe.

“She just started to en­cour­age me. She said, ‘Oh you’ll do good,’” said King, who ini­tially brushed off the sug­ges­tion that she’d be a good fit. “She started to tell me more of what was in­volved and why they had Da Koodens and what the money was go­ing for that they were rais­ing.”

The main goal of Da Koodens is to es­tab­lish a New­found­land Dog Mu­seum and Har­vey Sea Res­cue In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre by con­vert­ing the town’s com­mu­nity cen­tre.

“I’ve been in­volved in the com­mu­nity cen­tre and Ann Har­vey Days and stuff over the years,” said King.

Even­tu­ally Bil­lard got her way and King signed on.

“I like to keep our com­mu­nity spirit go­ing and give some­body a good laugh, so I said, ‘Yeah, I think maybe I’ll try it.’”

King con­fessed she had a bit of stage fright dur­ing her de­but.

“Very ner­vous that first night,” said King. “Didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off, but af­ter I got down there and got into a cou­ple of skits, you know it felt more com­fort­able.”

Once she got past that ini­tial hur­dle King found out she en­joyed per­form­ing.

“If you can put a smile on some­body’s face I think it’s worth it.”

King says the cast have been very wel­com­ing, en­cour­ag­ing and help­ful, of­fer­ing lots of tips and guid­ance.

Bland­ford Bil­lard has been with Da Koodens since its in­cep­tion and is a founder of the Isle aux Morts The­atre Festival. He also serves as direc­tor and pro­ducer for the show, and says King is do­ing well.

“As peo­ple move away we try to re­place them and, of course, we had a per­son pass away on us,” he said. “Our old­est mem­ber, Bert Skin­ner, passed away a cou­ple of years ago, so we’ve been sort of look­ing for some­one to fill a spot.”

Bil­lard was pleased to see so many new faces in the crowd for this year’s de­but show and hopes the festival will con­tinue to grow.

“I’d like to see it grow faster,” he ad­mits. “This year was big. That first show we had, we had a lot of peo­ple from out­side.”

Bil­lard says he rec­og­nized peo­ple in at­ten­dance from Co­droy Val­ley to Rose Blanche and ev­ery­where in be­tween. He even spot­ted folks who came in from Cor­ner Brook to catch the show. Nat­u­rally he was de­lighted to see the reg­u­lars come back this sea­son too.

But while the show may be grow­ing in rep­u­ta­tion and pop­u­lar­ity, there are no plans to take it on the road. The vol­un­teer cast, largely made up of Bil­lard’s friends and for­mer co­work­ers, de­cided from the start not to travel.

“One of the first things they said was we’re only do­ing this at the café. We don’t want to be go­ing on the road,” re­mem­bers Bil­lard.

Even in­vi­ta­tions to per­form at nearby com­mu­ni­ties like Port aux Basques have been re­jected, but Bil­lard points out that the skits are not al­ways suit­able for or aimed at younger au­di­ences.

“We do put a lot of time into it,” he said. “We’ve been prac­tic­ing for it for this show now since May.”

Given the lim­ited num­ber of shows and the time re­quired to re­hearse, all three have the same lineup of skits.

“We don’t al­ways get it straight the first time,” laughs Bil­lard. “It’s meant to be a lark and a bit of fun. That’s all.”

While the skits may not change each show, they do change ev­ery year. Bil­lard spends a lot of time com­ing up with timely, rel­e­vant ideas and adapt­ing them into the com­edy skit for­mat. For ex­am­ple, this year’s of­fer­ing fea­tures a lo­cal res­i­dent call­ing United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to threaten war.

Bil­lard likes to keep the skits not only orig­i­nal, but dif­fer­ent from each other. This year the troupe also per­forms a silent phys­i­cal com­edy skit, and then there are the dancing nuns.

“(It’s) a lit­tle bit of some­thing that breaks up the night, rather than just hav­ing all the straight­for­ward skits is good too,” said Bil­lard.

Bil­lard tends to avoid in­spi­ra­tion from ob­vi­ous sources like Mrs. Brown’s Boys or the Carol Bur­nett Show. The Mrs. Brown at­tempt just didn’t work well ac­cord­ing to Bil­lard, but there’s a dif­fer­ent rea­son al­to­gether for not adapt­ing a Carol Bur­nett skit.

“You re­ally got to be good to try to re­place them,” said Bil­lard. “They’re one of a kind.”

Da Koodens has two more din­ner the­atre shows sched­uled, one on Wed­nes­day, July 25 and one on Tues­day, July 31.

The Isle aux Morts The­atre Festival show sched­ule and ticket in­for­ma­tion are avail­able on­line at http:// www. iamtf. ca/2018-sea­son/.

THELMA DOMINEY/THE GULF NEWS

This silent phys­i­cal com­edy skit about a cou­ple seated apart in a movie the­atre earned a lot of laughs at the Da Koodens din­ner show de­but on Thurs­day night, July 12. Pic­tured from left: Michelle Keep­ing, Me­lanie Do­minix, Roy Bagg, Rev. Duncan Gran­ter, Pam Gran­ter and Blan­ford Bil­lard.

THELMA DOMINEY/THE GULF NEWS

The cast and crew of Da Koodens. Front row, from left: Doreen Bil­lard, Roy Bagg, Blan­ford Bil­lard, Dy­lan Far­rell. Mid­dle row: Eileen King, Michelle Keep­ing, Me­lanie Do­minix, Mrs. Pam Gran­ter, Ly­dia Fran­cis. Back row: Colleen Hatcher, Linda Le­frense, Rev. Duncan Gran­ter.

THELMA DOMINEY/THE GULF NEWS

Eileen King is a new ad­di­tion to the Da Koodens fam­ily.

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