Blind date is a particularly unique type of theatre. It is a world premier every evening in that the circumstances and the cast change. An improvisational adventure that involves a somewhat randomly selected cast member for each individual performance insures that no one knows exactly how the play is going to unfold.
Originally created by director Rebecca Northam in 2010 the story is about a soulful clown named Mimi who has been stood up on a blind date and is forced to seek someone out from the audience. What makes clowning so beautiful is that we see ourselves in the efforts and the mishaps that befall someone just trying to get by in the world. The struggles that life creates for us in the ordinary day to day is what attracts us to the clown. Northam’s play exploits that fear and anticipation beautifully by creating the tension and excitement of the first date.
When you walk into the GCTC it is alive with activity. People are bustling about. The doors to the theatre are still closed so the lobby is throbbing with people. Maitre D’s pass through the lobby holding silver trays that carry blind date fortunes (“follow your heart”, “you are the stunning” etc.).
The doors finally open to the theatre and you file in to find your place.
The lights dim to darkness. Then the lights come up on a lovely young lady in a bright red dress with a bright red nose… sitting alone… at a table for two in a french cafe. Quel dommage! Tess Degenstein is Mimi… as cute and playful as any clown you would like to meet. She introduces herself to us and after a few questions, she realizes she can wait no longer. Having been stood up she is forced to look for love in the most peculiar place: the audience.
Tess Degenstein as Mimi has that vulnerability that the great clowns like Charlie Chaplin, Lou Costello or John Candy have at their core. What makes her performance all the more impressive is that she doesn’t get to rehearse with her partner. She plucks a date out of the dark every evening. It is a little like working on a high wire without a net.
It was not entirely random that she selected Thomas as her date this evening. She had to do some initial vetting by scouring the lobby for theatre patrons that she believed might be interesting. It is provocative and risky theatre, but it is risk and reward that drives improvisation. That element of discovery and surprise is at the heart of the clown as well.
Mimi’s date Thomas quite wowed the crowd. She made him feel at home and soon he was sharing details of his past and current history. There were the same awkward moments that any first date has, but that created the exhilarating magic that followed. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Mimi is completely adorable. I don’t find it difficult to believe that even some of the timid in the audience felt a little bit envious that they weren’t the ones on the date.
The play is also greatly aided by the talents of scenographers David Benjamin Tomlinson and Kristian Reimer as cafe employees and in another hilarious scene as police officers. Stage manager Emma Brager is kept on her toes as the sound improviser watching the stage action and adding the appropriate sound effect at just the right time.
This is a show that you may want to see more than once, and get an entirely different experience. December 9 and December 16 by the way are Queer Blind Date performances so mark that on your calendar if you specifically want in on the fun on those days.
Blind date runs until December 17th
Saturday, December 9 at 8:30pm: Queer Blind Date will feature Mimi who will select a female presenting audience member.
Saturday, December 16 at 8:30pm: Queer Blind Date will feature Mathieu who will select a male presenting audience member.
Queer Blind Date was developed with Evalyn Parry at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, in collaboration with Julie Orton and David Tomlinson.
scenographer Kristian Reimer
scenographer David Benjamin Tomlinson
Sound improviser/Stage manager Emma Brager
Creator/Director/Producer Rebecca Northan
Associate Producer/ Production Manager Marcie Januska
Associate Producer Christopher Oldfield
Technical Director and Sound Operator Jon Carter
Assistant Technical Director/ Lighting Operator Sean Lamothe
Head of Props and Head Scenic Painter Stephanie Dahmer Brett
Head of Wardrobe Vanessa Imeson
Assistant technical Director (Studio) Jonah Lerner