By Sheroog Kubur, August 8 2023—
Fringe theatre is exactly what it sounds like — theatre that exists on the outskirts of conventional performance. Each year, the Fringe Festival takes on this challenge by bringing to light performances that aren’t your typical plays. As part of the festival, the U of C continues to support upcoming playwrights and directors by sponsoring a position and this year’s slot is dedicated to asking “What does it mean to be loveable?”
Date Night, created by Eden Middleton and Lizzie Rajchel, was initially created as a submission to Downstage as part of their annual submission process. After being shelved for a couple of weeks, it was brought back to make its official premiere at the Fringe Festival instead.
The concept was born as the two were exploring their own mental illness diagnoses and how they factored into their dating lives. The idea was further developed through interviews with their immediate community and a series of workshops to test different drafts of the script.
“We were discussing what are some things that are important that we want to talk about — we both agreed mental illness played a very prominent role in our lives,” Middleton said about the play’s development. “When we see mental illness portrayed on stage it’s very serious, which makes sense. There’s a gravity and a weight to it. We were talking about how it would be significant to us to see it portrayed in a way that also has that comedic and lightness to it.”
Part of the development process involved the participation of the audience, with the careful creation of a story that would hit all of the comedic and emotional notes without being overwhelming. The pair were able to work with the same two actors, Kat Armstrong and Keith Boniol, from the beginning of its development, allowing for a more intimate understanding of the play and its themes.
“It’s a very funny show until it’s not. And the moment that it’s not is very vulnerable and you have to build a relationship with the audience to get there,” said Middleton about ensuring the play was evoking enough emotions. “The relationships we’ve been able to build with each other as a cast and creative team has allowed that work to happen in a good way.”
Date Night is a play that revels in its relatability. By taking the audience on the journey with the performers, it asks them to confront questions about themselves that they may not be ready to answer yet. Despite this potentially frightening position, there’s an openness that can’t be replicated with conventional theatre.
“We want audiences to take away the feelings we’re trying to provoke, that they feel cared for because it deals with such intense matters,” Middleton said about what they hope audiences feel while watching the play.
Date Night opens as part of the Calgary Fringe Festival at the Festival Hall on August 5 with a pay-what-you-can performance and will run until August 11 with an additional pay-what-you-can night on August 7. Tickets are available through the Fringe Festival website.