Photo by David Morris
You probably know Risa Morris as the house manager who does the best spiels for Tip The Fringe, the pre-show call for audience donations. In them, she talks about the importance of theatre and how her daughter Jennie loves it.
In her other life, Morris is a drama teacher and a performer who swears, "I have to go onstage once in a while or go bug-eyed."
She steps up to the plate big time in this year's Fringe with Wallace Shawn's The Fever, an engrossing monologue in which a woman journeys to a Third World country and finds herself questioning her privileged life in a nation of have-nots.
"I first did the show last November at the University of Winnipeg for a philosophy of existentialism class, and then here at TheatreBooks a few weeks later," says Morris, whose energy never wanes. "It was the first acting I'd done in five years; I knew I didn't want to return to the stage as the second spear-carrier on the right."
She donates the proceeds of her performances to charitable causes including Casey House and Parents Against Drugs. Funds raised for The Fever go to Doctors Without Borders.
"Its members not only go to various problem spots and help without a political agenda, but they also come back to bear witness about what they've seen and demand that others do something about the situation.
"The Fever shares that attitude. It asks what we know, what we can do in a bleak world. You need a mass of people to make a difference, but only one person to begin the process."
Morris also performs for her students, though she admits it's one of the most nerve-racking things she's done.
"I worry that if my students don't think I can act, they'll never listen to me in the classroom," she laughs. "A piece like The Fever demonstrates what I say to my classes: if you want to keep my attention for 90 minutes, you have to say something, not just entertain me. That's the role of good theatre: to make people think and feel."
To July 12 at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse.