The unreliable narrator of Heavenly Bodies

Gislina Patterson’s redesigned Fringe hit showing at PTE

After a well-received run at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this summer, the experimental one-woman show Heavenly Bodies is being revived. Happy/Accidents, a new-to-Winnipeg theatre company, is staging the show from Nov. 16 to 19 at Prairie Theatre Exchange.

The central story of Heavenly Bodies - a 17-year-old woman crushing on an older contractor working on her family home - flips the script on an otherwise tired trope.

“It's a comment on how … young women's stories are seen as unreliable,” Gislina Patterson, writer of and actor in Heavenly Bodies, says.

“I find that often people will respond really negatively to stories that present an unlikeable young woman ... if she's not totally completely likeable, people dismiss it,” Patterson says.

“(N)one of us are totally reliable, and none of us remember everything perfectly, and we all still deserve to be listened to. And so I wanted to write something that would help to plant that seed in people's brains a little bit.

“I like to think of plays almost like magic spells. Because they're sort of repeatable, ritualized series of movements and words that are performed in a specific space, and then they create energy and thought in that space, but then people leave with that energy and those thoughts inside of them. And they go out into the world and disseminate those energies and thoughts into the places that they exist,” she says.

The initial inspiration for the play was a workshop assignment to produce a monologue from the view of a man who gets fired after sleeping with his boss’ 16-year-old daughter.

“I really didn't want to write it,” Patterson says. “I was mad about the whole thing, and I hated it, and I avoided it ... then the day that it was due, I just sat down and wrote it. And then I ended up really liking it, and I thought it was funny and sad.”

For this iteration of Heavenly Bodies, Patterson is re-working some elements of the script with the aid of Zorya Arrow, who is directing the Happy/Accidents production.

“In talking about (the handyman), we were talking about how he probably would volunteer as little information as possible ... So we're cutting him down to the bare minimum and also bringing his presence in the story down a little bit,” Patterson says.

Joining Patterson for this production are Ksenia Broda-Milian on set design and Angelica Schwartz and Erin Meagan Schwartz as co-producers. Angelica Schwartz also doubles as stage manager for the show.

Along with her other roles, Angelica Schwartz is the creator of Happy/Accidents, which she founded after returning to Winnipeg from Vancouver in December.

“I've always wanted to have my own theatre company,” she says. “(C)oming back to Winnipeg, there's a hunger for the experimental and weird theatre, but not a lot of people are doing it.”

For this production, physical and financial accessibility were key considerations for Happy/Accidents.

“(W)e're doing this new thing that I don't know if a lot of theatre companies in Winnipeg have done, called pay-what-you-can,” Angelica Schwartz says.

Advance tickets range from $5-50, but no one will be turned away at the door for lack of funds.

Heavenly Bodies runs from Nov. 16 to 19 at the Colin Jackson Studio at Prairie Theatre Exchange. Tickets are available at heavenly-bodies.brownpapertickets.com.

Published in Volume 72, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 9, 2017)

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