Scumday Mondays

Park Theatre moonlights as bomb shelter for local improv troupe

  • Actors take the stage during the first performance of Soap Scum’s new season. – Jessica Bothelo-Urbanksi

There’s a new place to find scum in town on a Monday night, and it’s not where you might expect.

Starting its run on Jan. 16, the Park Theatre plays host to the sixth series of Soap Scum Presents, a weekly soap opera parody that is entirely improvised.

For 2012, producers Peter Nadolny and Scott Cranwill have chosen an aptly apocalyptic theme: Meltdown Atomic Wasteland.

The eight-person cast portrays a diverse range of recurring characters. The misfits from various walks of life have all sought refuge in an underground shelter, after having survived the Russians’ dropping of the atomic bomb.

From jilted bride-to-be Amelda Hyde (Yanin Gillespie) to decorated Boy Scout Dale Dimple (Kevin Pownall), who insists he “met a shark once,” the ensemble runs the gamut from subdued to slapstick comedy.

There’s a little something for everyone at Soap Scum.

“Since it’s a soap opera, you don’t have to be funny for it to be funny,” says two-time Scum member Miguel Gauthier.

“It’s different than a lot of stuff I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I went to a show three years ago, got hooked, and came back for every episode.”

Gauthier plays a Voyageur-type womanizer in this series. Rick Oun’s antics somehow led him to safety in the bomb shelter, as he had been chasing an attractive woman during the doomsday panic.

“We got together a few months beforehand and discussed our characters, but we don’t know the scenarios until the narrator tells us them when we get on stage,” he explains.

This improvised format is carried on over a number of weeks (the shows will run until mid-June), which allows the plot line to thicken with each episode. Whether you catch every show or only a few, you’re sure to be entertained.

Soap Scum has had a loyal fan following for years, and Gauthier says it is thanks mostly to word of mouth.

The burgeoning improv community marks another cultural accomplishment for the city’s expansive arts scene. Two other examples of Winnipeg wit are Crumbs Improv and La ligue d’improvisation du Manitoba (LIM).

Freestyle comedy duo Crumbs have performed all over the world, and made a recent appearance at the University of Winnipeg for Snoweek.

LIM is very popular in St. Boniface. An improv league for French speakers, teams take the stage at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain every Friday night to compete for laughs.

“There’s always been a lot of comedy in the city, it just depends how open you are to it,” Gauthier says.

Soap Scum’s growth over the past six years can be attributed to the creative commitment of the cast and crew, including director/producer/actor Peter Nadolny.

Nadolny just wants everyone on stage and in the crowd to have a great time.

“Drink as much as you can, shout as much as you want,” Nadolny encourages. “Audience participation is welcome.”

Soap Scum Presents: Meltdown Atomic Wasteland at the Park Theatre (698 Osborne St) runs every Monday until mid-June. Admission is $8 per show, or $30 for season tickets. Visit www.soapscum.ca.

Published in Volume 66, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 25, 2012)

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