Brian Fidler’s latest one-person show, which he wrote and stars in, has an inclusive quality about it.
Broken, which premiered in Whitehorse in the fall of 2012, deals with Alzheimer’s disease and the way it affects family relationships.
“The story is universal,” says Fidler. “Nearly everyone will have experiences with aging and dementia at some point.”
The play, which is inspired by Fidler’s own childhood memories of an aging grandparent, is about a year in the life of a grandson who progressively loses his grandfather to the disease. Fidler makes use of slides, puppetry and direct monologue to tell his story, which has already received acclaim for productions in Victoria and Toronto.
Now Ramshackle Theatre and Nakai Theatre are taking Broken around the territory. It has already played in Carmacks and Dawson City earlier this month, and will play in Teslin on November 14 and Haines Junction on November 28.
For Fidler, taking Broken on the road is a natural move.
“Part of Ramshackle Theatre’s mandate is to anchor its shows in the territory,” he says. “The Yukon is our home base.”
Fidler has previously traveled around the territory with his puppet show, Cam and Legs, in 2009-10. He found his performance in Beaver Creek to be particularly memorable.
“I was in front of an audience of seven kids, and for a lot of them it was their very first show,” says Fidler.
It’s special connections like this that makes performing in the less populated communities of the Yukon worthwhile, he says.
“Sometimes you get to meet more of your audience,” says Fidler. “In Whitehorse you might go out with some friends for a beer after the show, but in one of the smaller communities you might end up at someone’s house for Shepard’s pie.”
Not that performing outside of Whitehorse doesn’t have its unique challenges. Venues, for one thing, can be an eclectic mix.
“I’ve found myself performing in some unconventional settings — like rec centres, or libraries or gyms.”
But for a veteran theatre artist like Fidler, such challenges are to be embraced rather than shunned.
“It puts me in the right head space,” he says. “It keeps me on my toes and I can’t phone it in.”
And when you are the only performer on stage, like Fidler is in Broken, being on top of your game is important.
“If you forget your lines you’re kind of screwed,” he says.
Sometimes other things go wrong too, and when they do a solo performer has to have his wits about him. Fidler recalls one performance of Broken where a crucial light bulb burnt out.
“I had to stop the show and tell the audience ‘I’ll be right back.'”
It’s the type of situation that plays to the strengths of more confident actors, and Fidler acknowledges there is something egotistical about starring in a one-person show. But he’s also quick to spread the credit around.
“Jordy Walker’s sound design is a huge part of the show, and David Skelton (the artistic director of Nakai) has been supportive all the way through,” he says. “There are so many people who helped to make it all happen.”
Perhaps he saves his biggest thank-you for the director, Maiko Bae Yamamoto.
“She was really tough,” says Fidler. “I have kind of a mushy personality, but she really pushed me hard and forced me to be tough, too. I needed that.”
Will all the hard work pay off on his latest tour?
Given the subject matter, Fidler’s answer is suitably inclusive.
“People are people,” he says. “If they liked it in one place chances are they will like it in another.”
Broken plays in Teslin at the Heritage Centre on November 14 and Haines Junction at the St. Elias Convention Centre on November 28. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m.