Bridge City beginnings: Student play premiers at the Fringe

By in Culture

The PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival is an exciting time for theatre lovers in Saskatoon. For a week, people will flock to Bridge City for its independent theatre, including one play by two University of Saskatchewan students that will bring Saskatoon itself to the centre stage.

Mitch Cassidy, a fifth-year engineering student, and Jack Fotheringham, a fourth-year political studies student, are two fledgling playwrights who have spent the last year assembling a cast and crew for their production at the 2017 PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival.

Their play, Lake: The Founding of Saskatoon (?), is a fictitious retelling of the founding of Saskatoon. The plot follows a drunken John Lake who decides to leave the temperance colony of Nutana to establish his own settlement — Saskatoon, a community filled to the brim with alcohol. While this representation of the early years of Saskatoon may irk the historically inclined, Cassidy and Fotheringham deliberately made Lake an ahistorical comedy.

“We knew about five facts about the founding of Saskatoon, so we made it a rule that we couldn’t do any research. We just made the rest of it up,” Cassidy said.

In the same way that Lake is not a historical play, the playwrights are adamant that it is not political, although it is certainly satirical.

“It’s a light-hearted satire. We aren’t trying to make any sweeping political statements here. Our main grate in the play is that Saskatoon’s transit system is terrible,” Cassidy said.

The concept for Lake was conceived in April 2016 — quite appropriately — over libations at the Woods Alehouse. However, the drive to actualize the play was more pragmatic.

“We recently had found out that all you had to do to get into the Fringe Festival was sign up on time and pay the fee. We thought we were qualified to do that much,” Cassidy said.

Although the two have worked together in several creative pursuits, such as acting, music and storytelling, Lake has been their first foray into playwriting. Both Cassidy and Fotheringham agree it is a natural fit.

“Mitch and I are both fans of old-timey things, and as we are both from Saskatoon and have grown up with all the ups and downs since then, we thought it would be a good opportunity to poke fun at the city, but also dedicate the play to the city, in a way that we hope people will find relatable and enjoyable,” Fotheringham said.

In addition to writing the script for Lake, Cassidy and Fotheringham are also acting in the play. They are joined by a star-studded roster including Paige Francoeur, Emily Migchels, Emily Klatt, Sarah Cassidy, Mike Farthing and Rowan MacLachlan, all of whom attend the U of S. Cassidy and Fotheringham are proud that no one in the play is a drama major or a theatre professional.

Despite this lack of expertise in staging theatrical productions, Cassidy and Fotheringham have managed to accomplish everything required to put on Lake without external assistance. Cassidy and Fotheringham look at their experience writing and producing the play and hope that it encourages others to pursue their own creative projects.

“Don’t be worried about not knowing how to do something. If you’re a little bit tenacious, then you’ll certainly find a way to do it. Be aware that you have people around you that are willing to help you out. WikiHow was incredibly informative, also,” Fotheringham said.

Cassidy and Fotheringham hope the audience can watch the play and at least have a laugh at Saskatoon’s expense, but ideally, they want to foster the desire in the audience to learn more about the city.

“Writing the play has made me realize how little I know about how Saskatoon was founded. I hope that it can do that for other people as well,” Fotheringham said. “It might prompt them to go learn more about their city.”

Lake: The Founding of Saskatoon (?) is playing at the Fringe Festival in the Victoria School gymnasium from Aug. 4 to 12. The venue is wheelchair accessible. The run time for the play is 70 minutes, and it is open to all ages.

Tanner Bayne / Culture Editor

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor