The Local Actors Having Fun (LAHF) troupe outdid themselves for this year’s circus-themed dinner theatre production “The Amazing Circus-Stancial Evidence,” which included some actual comedic aerial acrobatics to go along with its cast of suspicious circus performers and pun-slinging clowns. As usual, the play also included lots of local references, from the fictional circus troupe having started off performing at the Girouxville curling rink, to the strong man yearning for a steady job on the Maisonneuve farm.
“Everything went smooth, there was no hiccups” says director of the play Lise Poirier, who also played Cocoa the clown. “It was lots of hard work, and it worked out great.”
Performances were held on March 9 and March 16 in Jean Côté, with over 200 people attending each show. The hall was once again decorated top to bottom by the troupe to match the theme of the show. Debbie Burton of Spin & Spun provided cotton candy for the tables, and this year the art class from G.P. Vanier School created some circus-themed silhouettes for the walls. In future, Poirier hopes the always impressive decorations can be handled by a volunteer committee.
There were some small changes to the overall format of this year’s show.
“We tried to do it a little differently this year,” Poirier says. “We used to have someone sing in between each act, and it was great, but this time we didn’t have any singers so we decided to do little skits and the clown acts and it was great. Lots of good feedback from the crowd because they thought it was funny. It just allowed more performance from the performers this way. So we are definitely going to continue doing that format.”
Although one person writes the play, all of the actors in the troupe give feedback and help edit the final play.
“It’s never just this is it, set in stone. The whole cast creates it basically,” Poirier says. “We really allow the creativity from everybody. It’s never one person does one thing only. It’s all together. I love that part. I love that everybody can always get in there.”
Brenda Moore wrote the main draft of the play this year before the actors worked together to finish it.
“It’s the fifth time I’ve written the play,” Brenda Moore says, although she also stresses it was really a group effort. “We are an unusual troupe in that everyone involved had creative input. It’s not like a regular play where the director has a lot of power. We all flesh out our own characters, add lines and work together.”
As her character Ifeera Falling, Moore performed a daring comedic circus act in the play involving hanging from a harness and flipping upside down.
“It’s not scary at all,” Moore laughs when asked if she was ever nervous about performing her aerial act. “I love that stuff. Two years ago I was a dragon in the play and I jumped out of that little window in the back wall, in harness. I loved it!”
“For this year’s act I was surprised at how much strength is needed to do that. The first few times I practiced my stomach muscles were sore the next day. There isn’t any way I could do anything really skillful, so the whole thing is slapstick!”
The show also featured Doris Drouin as ringmaster Ima Hitnmiss; Paul Benoit as Coocoo the clown; Hilda Grenier as aging strongman Phil Mabicepts; Jason Talbot as near-sighted knife thrower Dirk Hurlitt; Monique (Rochon) Cloutier as bearded lady Anna Bolic; JaquieMelnyk as fortune teller Claire Voyante; and Helene Hausler as lion (and farm animal) tamer Kitty S’nacks.
Jacob Hodgson provided intermission entertainment with his imitation of the acts of America’s Got Talent champion performer Tapeface, and behind the scenes Charlotte Kealy took care of lights and curtains while Diane Boucher provided sound.
“I’m very proud of them,” concludes Poirier. “It’s a good group.”
Poirier says the feedback on both performances has been excellent.
“We have people from Peace River that drive up and High Prairie that drive up for performances because they hear every year that it’s amazing and it’s sold out every year,” Poirier says. “Some farmers approached me and they said, you guys were always sold out so I never was able to get tickets, I finally got tickets, and you guys exceeded my expectations.”
Volunteers from the audience were brought on stage to participate at certain points, much to the rest of the audience’s delight, and prizes were given out for the best audience costumes as voted on by each table. For the first performance, best couple costume was won by Darcy and Heather Servant, the best female costume winner was Amanda Notenbaumer, and the best male costume winner was Bradley Drouin for his bear on a bicycle. Second performance costume winners were Jordon Drouin as a juggler on stilts, Carla Owens as a popcorn lady, and Amanda Hausler and Rochelle Dufour as conjoined twins.
The annual show also relies on many local businesses to help sponsor the show, such as by providing door prize and silent auction donations. The extensive list of local sponsors was thanked in the program.
“We’re not done,” Poirer concludes. “We have many many more years and more ideas, so we’re really looking forward to next year.”