Not enough people are going to see This Is Not She , a site-specific offering of the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival, and that is a shame. It’s great nerd-fun, well conceived and acted, understated and affecting. But between “Shakespeare” and “audience participation” in the program, I think people will imagine themselves forced to do terrible humiliating English-class things and stay home. They should not. This is good.
Haist plays Mrs. Humbert, a high school English teacher attempting to teach Troilus and Cressida while dealing with uproar (slowly revealed to the audience) in her personal life. She does well for a while, and then one of the passages (Troilus and Cressida has recurring themes of unfaithfulness and people failing to live up to their agreements) will spark a memory and we see into her head for a minute. It’s a well-made piece and Haist has a non-fragile vulnerability about her that I found appealing. You don’t get the sense that she’d be blown away in a little gust.
In many ways it’s a great juxtaposition, and I am such a tremendous nerd that listening to Haist discuss iambic pentameter (a rigorous form) while periodically watching her life slip out from under her was just gold. But she explains the play clearly and with verve, dealing with the interruptions and indignities of public school service – the loudspeaker interrupts on an irregular and exhausting schedule – in stride. The sure hand of director and dramaturg Taylor Marie Graham is evident in the best possible way as this builds but doesn’t crest.
As far as audience participation, there’s nothing to worry about. She leads the class in a little light read-aloud and asks a few questions, but Haist is obviously sensitive to who simply cannot and who probably will participate, so if you’d rather die than Prologue you should be safe enough. There are a few other very optional opportunities to share, but no shaming of abstainers.
At the end, she collects the single line of iambic pentameter each of us were asked to write on a particular theme and strings them together into a short poem. The night I saw This Is Not She only three people handed in lines, and plus Haist’s we somehow ended up with a fairly remarkable little poem. Kind of a theme, really. The pieces seem like they might be not that great and maybe even a little off-putting, but then they’re combined and…magic. Maybe you weren’t going to go to this, but you should.
- This is Not She plays at Artscape Youngplace Gold Studio. (180 Shaw St.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Sexual Content, Audience Participation, Mature Language.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Thursday July 6th, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 7th, 08:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 03:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 08:00 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 08:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 08:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 08:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 08:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 08:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 03:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 08:00 pm
photo of Julia Haist by Ger Gilmore