Fringe Festival Preview: Eraser

Site-specific show performed at Montessori school examines bullying, immigration, racism and queer families

ERASER by the company, directed by Sadie Epstein-Fine and Elise LaCroix, with Moe Baloch, Christol Bryan, Deanna Galati, Victoria Gubiani, Michael Pintucci and Nathan Redburn. Presented by Homeland Collective and the Fringe at Westside Montessori School (95 Bellevue). See showtimes.

The Homeland Collective wants to give a voice to children.

The company’s premiere show, Eraser, looks at a group of kids as they progress from kindergarten to Grade 6, dealing with such topics as bullying, moving to a new country, first crushes, racism, puberty and queer families.

“Society so rarely gives youngsters a chance to speak for themselves,” says co-director Sadie Epstein-Fine. “In our production, the six cast members draw on their own experiences in grade school, the good and the bad the audience has a chance to reflect on how elementary school shapes us all.”

To give the production a richer context, it’s being staged in a Montessori school in Kensington Market, where viewers follow the characters inside and outside the building.

The show was born two years ago as a 15-minute creation in York University’s devised theatre program. Directors Epstein-Fine and Elise LaCroix suggested, in addition to the actors’ own histories, topics they thought worth exploring.

“We initially started with improvs, getting the performers back into their childhood bodies: what did it feel like when you lack a good sense of balance, for instance, or how do you recreate having a low centre of gravity when you’re currently six feet tall?”

Scenes about holiday concerts, giving a class presentation and playing Truth Or Dare let the six actors present a spectrum of what it was like to grow up in the Toronto school system. Looking at the characters in a school setting, notes the director, is very different from seeing them in a more controlled home environment.

“I was originally one of the performers,” says Epstein-Fine, who appeared in Freda And Jem’s Best Of The Week and was an assistant director on Brantwood. “When I moved to directing, I didn’t want to lose my stories, which dealt with being Jewish and having two moms. We asked a dancer, Victoria Gubiani, to tell that narrative, mixed with her own memories.”

The piece relies as much on movement as on text Epstein-Fine has a dance background.

“We wanted to explore the hidden undertones of relationships, not only the surface words. Physicality can take a piece out of realism and move it into the realm of feeling and metaphor.”

The company has a queer focus, says the director, which leads to various explorations of sexuality, including “that first moment of ‘Oh my god, what does this attraction to another guy mean?’ when you’re 11.

“Presenting this show in the Fringe is a really good chance to experiment with form and content. People expect outside-the-box works in a festival like this, and the audience will see a brave group of performers sharing a piece of their hearts.”     

Get more Fringe 2016 here.

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