Anthony Trombetta’s first act as new artistic director at the Guild Theatre was to throw out the rule book.
Instead of a conventional play, the black box theatre in Porter Creek has been playing host this month to standup comics, a hypnotist and even a magician.
Strange But True, which runs until Saturday, April 26, is the sequel to a successful series of fundraising events to help send a quartet of local standup comics to Australia for last year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival.
“We played, like, 35 shows in 20 days and got good reviews,” says comic George Maratos. “Then we came back and things kind of… I won’t say they fizzled, but as an ensemble we didn’t have a show.”
Besides himself, the “we” Maratos refers to includes fellow comedians Jenny Hamilton, Stephen McGovern and Claire Ness. Together, they formed Yukon Gold Comics.
“While we were fundraising for our Adelaide show, we put on shows at the Guild, and they were very popular, to the point that a lot of people were turned away,” Maratos explains.
“So Anthony decided that, hey, it’s time to get the band back together and put on a show. So that’s kind of how the Yukon Gold Comics 2 came about.”
The current outing, however, involves only three of the original ensemble members.
“Claire Ness isn’t part of this show,” Maratos says. “She’s actually in Antigua, I think, teaching a circus camp. I can’t keep up with Claire’s adventures. Clowning, playing music, telling comedy, she’s a chameleon for sure.”
What Trombetta decided to offer Guild audiences was a revolving platter of acts, challenging the local performers stretch their wings and write all-new material that is both strange and true.
“A big part of standup that I like is when comics get personal. That’s when my ears really perk up, when you hear them saying honest, weird things about themselves,” Trombetta says.
“And I know these guys have tons and tons of stories. I mean, Steve is a weirdness magnet on his own. Jenny has had such an interesting life, being born and raised here. And George’s life as a former fat kid, that he talks about, is always hilarious.”
Maratos sounds a similar note about truth in comedy.
“I like to say to say the best comedy is honest comedy, but you obviously skew it a little bit in the story,” he admits. “But in this case we’re all telling pretty true stories about some areas we haven’t visited in a long time. Let me tell you, it’s been quite daunting, but fun.”
Each night of the run, two of the local performers do short warm-up sets, with the third doing a 25-25 minutes feature set, on a rotating basis.
But rather than presenting nine nights of standup comedy, which he admits is not to everyone’s taste, Trombetta decided to open things by offering a kind of mini-festival that included headline acts from outside the territory that go beyond the standup genre.
The first week’s headliner was Victoria comedian Ryan Bangma, followed the second week by Edmonton comic hypnotist Norm Shaw (pictured with McGovern on this week’s cover).
This week’s guest is Camilo the Magician, a young performer originally from Colombia, who now lives in Vancouver.
“He’s developed quite a few different shows that he tours,” Trombetta explains.
“This one he’s bringing up is really fun. He does a lot of close-up magic that he projects onto a screen, so you get to see his hands do their magic, and try to see if you can follow along.”
Trombetta says the novelty of having a magician is generating considerable buzz in the community.
“We don’t get magicians in the Yukon, or not for an actual show,” he says. “Maybe for grads or things like that, but not for adults, who are also suckers for magic and things like that.”
For the final week of Strange But True, McGovern will be the featured local comic on Thursday, April 24, followed by Hamilton on Friday and Maratos on Saturday. Tickets are $25, and curtain is at 8 p.m.
Ken Bolton is a freelance writer and former co-editor of What’s Up Yukon