By Ed Morgan, Assistant Director for Battle Space Wars
Let me start by saying this: Kevin Gillese is a madman.
Or rather, Kevin and his partner Arlen Konopaki are madmen. They’ve been performing together for coming up on a decade now as the Canadian improv powerhouse SCRATCH, and Battle Space Wars is the third production written by the pair to be performed at Dad’s Garage. Now that I’ve gotten the exposition out of the way, let me tell you why this show is, as we say in the fine arts, “shit-ass bonkers.”
When Kevin asked me to come on as assistant director for this show, I was absolutely thrilled. Not only was it my first job in a directing role at Dad’s, but it was also an opportunity to work on a SCRATCH show, which is a mixture of super-tight character work and intense physicality sprinkled with pop culture references and the requisite smattering of dick jokes. Put simply, it’s a perfect fit for the Dad’s Garage stage.
When we started production, Kevin appeared with a 92-page script bursting at the seams with material he and Arlen had developed during their run at the Edmonton Fringe festival the previous summer. The table read had us all laughing so hard we were sweating in a 50-degree room. With the cast assembled, we knew we had a monster of a show on our hands. And like any monster, it took a lot to get it under our puny human control.
Andy Diamonds and Mark Kendall
This is where I get back to the whole “madman” thing. Kevin and Arlen built this show to be HUGE, and Battle Space Wars pulls zero punches when it comes to big sci-fi craziness. There’s a giant video board, a fleet of puppet spaceships, a pair of 10-foot long alien tentacles, and one super-sweet surprise I won’t ruin for you. Suffice to say, it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen Jamie Warde and Kevin Huey put together. We’ve also got a live band, a moveable set, and 4 full-on modern dance montages (Kev’s got a weird thing for Sia) choreographed to the second and accompanied by sultry piano renditions of Taylor Swift songs. Oh, and this all has to be pulled off by only 6 actors. It’s not easy.
When you’re rehearsing a show this big, you have to divide and conquer a little bit. Rehearsals would often take on a fractured form, with some actors running lines in a corner while others worked choreography or tried to nail the timing on their jump-spins (the super-physical scene-shifting device in any SCRATCH show that tends to take a few pounds off of everyone during the run). Some days we’d be dancing for 6 hours. Some days we’d spend 45 minutes trying to perfectly re-word a dick joke to cover a transition. Sometimes this job is pretty cool.
Practicing the infamous “jump spins.”
Now, there’s one thing you need to know about Dad’s scripted productions. Generally, if any actor comes up with a better joke than the one in the script during rehearsals, it can get replaced. The director has final say, of course, but collaboration is a big part of our workflow as a company. For myself and the actors, this presented a challenge: how do you apply your artistic voice and your comic sensibilities to a show specifically built around a long-standing and critically acclaimed comedy duo? Luckily, it turned out not to be a problem, as Kevin has rather deftly been able to let this become a Dad’s show while still keeping the SCRATCH backbone intact upon its hallowed pillars. The words may have shifted around a little, but Dean is still a browbeating weirdo and Bertram Schneider is still a blue-blooded douchebag with a heart of aluminum. It’s a foundation that works no matter what you put on top of it.
It’s been a very long road to getting this show up. It’s been hard. We’ve had technical glitches, long nights and script change after script change. In Battlestar Galactica, Admiral William Adama speaks to his crew before embarking upon a mission:
“Look around you. Take a good look at the men and women that stand next to you. Remember their faces, for one day you will tell your children and your grandchildren that you served with such men and women that the universe has never seen. “
I have to say that the cast and crew of Battle Space Wars deserve a mention in this context. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty in this process to create a show that I can’t wait to share with audiences, and I can’t think of any better people to have shared the experience with. I hope that you enjoy the show, and look forward to seeing you all there. So Say We All.
With love, from all of the cast.