No countries for old men by Tina Hassannia

by Ottawa Fringe

June 19, 2009

¡Mi Casa! invites you to experience local theatre with international influences

It was quite the disappointment to hear about the on-hiatus status of Theatrophy, the company behind Moribund, one of the most impressive original theatre productions of 2008. There’s good news for fans of European physical theatre, though: Theatrophy member Nick Di Gaetano will be performing two different shows at the Fringe this year with a new company called ¡Mi Casa!, co-founded with Emily Pearlman. Di Gaetano’s one-person clown show, Inclement Weather, makes its debut at Ottawa Fringe, as well as the musically oriented Countries Shaped Like Stars.

Di Gaetano and Pearlman started their theatre training in Ottawa before diversifying their creative skill-sets outside of the nation’s capital. Pearlman finished an MFA at Simon Fraser University while Di Gaetano went overseas to Europe to study under world-renowned physical-theatre teachers like Philippe Gaulier.

It’s always exciting to hear about local theatre groups like ¡Mi Casa!, whose members have studied or worked abroad, because their shows incorporate elements outside of typical Canadian theatre conventions. Di Gaetano believes his training overseas not only helped him to shape his performance skills, but also to explore the kinds of theatre he was most interested in. “It was really important to get out of Canada to get a more international view of what’s going on in theatre, and living in France for a year really helped with that,” he says.

“Philippe is the teacher I’ve been looking for my entire life … I

always felt really coddled [with other teachers] but he’s renowned all over the world for being a hard-ass. He doesn’t deal with anything. He’ll just say you’re absolutely horrible… There was a three- to four-month period where I couldn’t do anything in class,” describes Di Gaetano. “It’s not like he’s doing it to be nasty – he wants people to improve. He does it with love.”

Tough love can be conducive to creating well-rounded performers – take Gaulier’s previous students, for example: Sasha Baron Cohen and Roberto Benigni. Their comedic timing, improvisational abilities and stage presence is a natural byproduct of intensive physical theatre training. Di Gaetano has taken what he’s learned and incorporated another kind of live performance that he enjoys in Countries: music.

“I used to play in punk/hardcore bands. I’ve always loved to play music and write music,” he says. “Emily and I like to sing, so when we formed this company we said we want to make theatre that we want to see. We didn’t want to make theatre that has a right answer, or that is going to fit into the traditional Canadian pantheon. What we want to see is fun, and kind of silly, and touchy and has music.”

Countries, a love story performed with words, vocals and unusual instruments like spoons and whirlywinds, incorporates the company’s interdisciplinary approach to theatre and is intended to be mobile – small enough to be played anywhere, even a living room.

Di Gaetano and Pearlman were ambitious enough to workshop a second show for Fringe. Inclement Weather stars Di Gaetano as a 20th-century European immigrant at a train station. The character, who speaks little to no English, tries to make sense of snippets of conversation he’s heard from the audience.

“You know when you meet someone and you have a connection with them, somehow, and you want to talk to them, but you don’t speak the same language?” Di Gaetano describes. “That’s what we’re going for in this show: these really simple ideas that can forge this wonderful link while we’re waiting in this liminal space between here and there.”

The idea of conversing in Engrish with a clown is as scary as it is exciting and reeks of Fringe greatness. While the festival is a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of international theatre, companies like ¡Mi Casa! make local theatre sound just as exotic.

Countries Shaped Like Stars
By ¡Mi Casa!
@ Ottawa Fringe Fest
(Venue: Café Alternatif)
June 19, 7 p.m.
June 20, 9 p.m.
June 21, 5 p.m.
Further info and show listings:
www.ottawafringe.com” target=”_blank”>www.ottawafringe.com

Inclement Weather
By ¡Mi Casa!
@ Ottawa Fringe Fest
(Venue: Café Alternatif)
June 19, 8 p.m.
June 20, 7 p.m.
June 21, 3 p.m.
Further info and show listings:
www.ottawafringe.com