One of our favourite aspects of the shows we do here at DuffleBag Theatre is the fact they’re part scripted and part improvised. That means we’re all rehearsed for a scripted show that tells the story from beginning to end but there’s room to “improvise”, meaning, make things up on the spot, throughout. So if we do happen to forget a line, we’re trained and used to going with the flow and thinking of another line to fill its place in the moment. Some of the funniest moments and lines can come out of those times and can actually end up added to the actual script for future shows! So if you ever forget a line in a show or in life, don’t panic. Just do what you can to stay in the moment and come up with something to say. You never know, it might be even better than what was there before!
At DuffleBag Theatre we love to shake things up and keep it interesting! So we’re big fans of switching up the roles we play in each show. Every actor in DuffleBag gets trained to play just about every DuffleBag role so you could see the same show a dozen times and it would be different every time as different combinations of DuffleBag actors would swap in and out. Everyone has their own slightly different take on each role so it keeps things interesting and keeps us all on our toes!
We got this very smart question in a couple of schools recently so today we’re answering it!
In DuffleBag we’re always playing characters completely different than our everyday selves. In any given show we could end up playing an old lady, a little boy, a ghost, a villain, or even a tree. And yes, sometimes we end up playing male roles as women or female roles as men. But we don’t find doing so weird at all. In fact, it’s a ton of fun! That’s the cool thing about theatre — you get to take on all kinds of roles you might not get to play in real life. We use our creativity to create characters totally different than ourselves, and count on our audiences to use their imaginations to see us as those characters. So thanks to you we get to play all kinds of fun roles that are completely different than ourselves — and that’s pretty awesome!
Today we’re answering the question:
The cool thing about acting and being in theatre is you can do it at any age. The youngest member of DuffleBag Theatre is 24 and the oldest is 44! Most of us started putting on performances and acting in school plays back in elementary school — and we hope to keep doing so until we’re old and grey. Acting is fun and worth doing no matter what your age!
P.S. If there is a question you would like answered, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comment section below. Likely there are many others who would like to hear the answer too so you’ll be doing everyone a favour!
We are very fortunate to have fabulous costume designers that create the majority of the costumes we use in the shows. When creating a new costume we look for every opportunity to make a piece as easy as possible to put on and take off. That means no complicated buttons, clasps or zippers. Instead, many of our costumes can simply be slipped over our heads and held in place with some velcro or a belt. Then, to top it off, wigs, glasses and other accessories that are easy to throw on are added to complete the look. We then try to make the costume changes while the Narrator is talking about something else on stage. That way the audience is concentrating on that while we change quickly behind the backdrop. Most importantly, we practice! Rehearsing and doing so many shows helps keep us familiar with our quick changes so we can continue to do them quickly and efficiently.
Luckily for us, we have incredible costume designers that create most of our wardrobe. They are brilliant at creating colourful, creative pieces that are easy to put on and take off — which is crucial with the amount of costume changes we often have in our shows. We also have a lot of fun shopping at used clothing stores like Value Village and Goodwill to find fun pieces to add to the mix. But most importantly, we have something other than the actual costumes on our sides… your imaginations! An actor onstage might simply be wearing a silly wig and a cloak — but it’s your imagination that recognizes the character he’s playing and goes along with it. So thanks for making our jobs easier!
Here’s a fun question we get quite often…
At DuffleBag we do a lot of physical comedy — and physical comedy is made extra funny with noticeable, amplified sounds. And with the minimal technology we use — that means we have to get pretty creative. Sometimes we rely on the narrator who has the microphone to make sound effects such as a “boom” sound when somebody falls down. Other times the individual actors make the sounds for themselves — for example, the “cling-clang” sounds in a sword fight. And other times we use props such as the trunk for a galloping horse, or a container in the back to make big booming footsteps. A whole lot of creativity and experimentation goes into creating the basic sounds — and then of course our audiences’ imaginations help by taking what the narrator describes and enhancing those minimal effects we create. So it’s a team effort!
Today we’re answering the question…
Creating a new show is a very exciting part of what we do at DuffleBag. So we put a lot of thought and time into getting it just right. To get the ball rolling we spend about two weeks in a rehearsal space from morning to evening playing around with different parts of the story and characters until we shape it into a performance. During this time we figure out which roles we want our audience actors to play and which we want DuffleBag performers to play. We also get to do lots of improvising as we play around with different jokes to find the ones that are the funniest and help tell the story the best. Once we have shaped it into a 50-ish minute show we think you will love we start performing it. But even then we aren’t done! We keep playing around and improvising with each performance we do. If one joke isn’t working we might take it out and replace it with another. Or if something really funny happens out of the blue and it works, then we might throw it in permanently. So our DuffleBag shows are constantly evolving — and our fabulous audiences are a major part of that!
The fifth question we’ll be answering is one of the ones we get surprisingly often…
Oh, you noticed him did you? We’re glad! That flying chicken goes by the name of Reginald (a.k.a. Reggie) and he actually appears in every single DuffleBag show. Interestingly enough, there’s no flying chicken in any one of the original stories on which DuffleBag shows are based but we manage to find a place for Reggie in every adaptation we do. And why, you might ask? Well, because we think he’s hilarious. We hope you do too!
Question 4 in our ongoing Q&A series is…
This is by far our favourite question! Every one of our shows is adapted from a pre-existing story — whether it be a fairytale, a novel or a play. And although we love the original versions, we like to make our adaptations as wacky, silly and hilarious as humanly possible. So we of course read up on the original versions before launching into creating our own. But then we look for every opportunity to find new ways to make ourselves and you all laugh. And once we have that base, we introduce our audience actors into it, and they, of course, bring their own humour and we play around with that too. In addition, a lot of a DuffleBag performance requires improvisation — which means we go with our instincts and make stuff up as we go when we need to. When you open yourself up to those surprise moments, and improvise with them you can discover totally unexpected funny moments you had no idea were there. And that means we get more chances to laugh — which is the best part of our jobs!
For the third part in our ongoing Q&A series we have another great question that we get asked pretty often…
The answer to this question is practically soap opera worthy in terms of its length and complexity. But we’ll try to give you the Reader’s Digest version as best we can. Marcus and Rod met way back in 1991 when they were both actors in a production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the University of Western Ontario. A year later, in 1992, DuffleBag Theatre was formed and what was thought at the time to be a 5-day commitment has now turned into one of 21 years and counting! Over the years they brought on a few more people, and then a few more – until DuffleBag became a sizeable family of close to 20 actors. Throughout the years, as actors have gone off to start new adventures, new folks have come in to replace them.
So when you see a DuffleBag show, the actors up there might have known each other for over 21 years, or they might have just met a few months ago. It might even be their first time working together! Luckily, DuffleBag attracts funny, energetic, lovable people – so it’s easy for us to get along and have fun on and offstage no matter how long we’ve known each other for. Long story short: how did we all meet? Through auditioning for DuffleBag! And we’re very happy we did!
In the second part of our ongoing online Q&A sessions we will be answering the question…
This is a great question – but a tricky one because it has a few answers. DuffleBag Theatre itself started in 1992 for the London International Children’s Festival in London, Ontario, Canada. So it’s been around for over 21 years! Marcus and Rod have been part of DuffleBag since the beginning. The other members of the company auditioned and joined at various times later on. (An audition is like a try out for the theatre.) So when you see a DuffleBag show you might be seeing someone perform who has been working with the company for six years, or three years, or it might be one of their very first shows!
The other part of this question is how long we’ve each been acting for individually. And that too changes from person to person. Most of us got bit by the acting bug pretty early and started off putting on little performances for our families or auditioning for shows at school, church, camp, children’s theatre, etc. And our love for acting and performing has kept us working at it ever since!
As many of you probably already know, if there’s time at the end of our school shows we like to take questions from the audience. And this is honestly one of our favourite parts of the job! It’s our chance to hear what you liked, what intrigued you and what you want to know more about. Unfortunately, there’s never enough time to get to all the hands that are raised when it comes time for the Q&A. And we hate that we aren’t able to answer each and every one. So to make sure you get all the answers you want, we’re going to start answering some of the most frequently asked questions here on the DuffleBag website. So if you have any burning questions, leave us a note in the comment section and maybe your question will be the next one we answer! For today, we’re answering one of the questions we get asked at a huge number of schools. And that is…
We love getting that question because we are incredibly lucky to get to perform a wide variety of fun shows.
First off, we have some traditional stories/fairy tales:
- Peter Pan
- Beauty and the Beast
- Sleeping Beauty
- The Three Musketeers
- Robin Hood
And then we throw some bilingual shows into the mix for some French fun:
- Le Petit Chaperon Rouge
- Les Trois Mousquetaires
- La Belle et la Bête
Then, to ensure our holidays are a little bit special, we keep things interesting with:
- A Christmas Carol
And finally, to add a little nod to some traditional works, we perform our own silly variations of some of Shakespeare’s classics:
- Romeo and Juliet
Yes siree, we do perform a whole lot of different shows… and we love it! It definitely keeps things interesting.