ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and this year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
And here’s an interesting concept: how about 20 characters in one show …. and one actress.
This year, award-winner Gemma Wilconx flies from London to Orlando for her show “The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over,” which she wrote and will be performing at Fringe in the Brown Venue at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. It is, as Gemma notes, one woman creating 20 characters, one where she takes audiences on a journey of Sandra and her world and complex relationships.
As her production company noted in a news release about the show, “Transforming seamlessly from male to female, from feline to mysterious fowl, this humorous and poignant tale of love and letting-go is a must see!”
Freeline Media caught up with Gemma to learn more about why Honeymoon is over.
FM: One woman playing 20 characters — whew! That’s a lot. Why so many?
Gemma: I studied theatre in the UK and began my interest in multi-character acting there, particularly studying with theatre practitioner and Fool, Jonathan Kay, and stage managing The Weird Sisters theatre company in the late ’90s. I have always been fascinated with the gestalt of the human being; the many different “selves” we have within us, and how we can identify with, inhabit and embody many aspects of the universe we exist in, including the animal, elemental and inanimate world. I may be limited to one physical body, but through theatrical performance I get to explore an infinite range of characteristics and emotions that I observe within and without, that intrigue, excite, frighten, and challenge me. I love the challenge of shape-shifting between many characters on stage, and it is my job to do this skillfully, fluidly, authentically, and with great clarity for an audience so they leave the theatre having experienced the magic of a whole world appear out of one person, without any costume changes, props or set.
“The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over” is the first of five one-woman shows that total 80 characters.
FM: How did you create and develop this show?
Gemma: I wrote this comedy-drama in two acts between 2002-2004 and have performed it well over 150 times over the past 13 years in over 20 cities. It is the 1st of five of my one-woman shows, has won 15 “Best Show” and “Best Performer” awards, and I performed it to sold-out crowds at Orlando Fringe in 2007. I am elated to be bringing it back to Orlando fringe this year!
I develop my shows very much based on what is most potent and juicy to explore in my life at the time of writing. Over the course of writing this show I got married and then went through a separation with my husband at the time, and I was interested in exploring many of the joys and challenges of that period of my life. I started writing lists of themes and things in people that I felt attracted to, jealous of, admired, and had a hard time with, and created characters out of those things. I paid attention to animals and elements in my life that kept reappearing or that fascinated me, and lots of those things made it into my play. I worked with some artistic colleagues whom were wonderful assistant directors. And, I have continued to refine and develop this show over the years and the many times of performing it, so it is a pretty well-oiled show at this point, although I am always discovering new things every show.
FM: Is “Honeymoon,” then, an autobiographical piece?
Gemma: To a large extent it is autobiographical, although names and places have been changed to protect people’s true identity. I often conflate various things in my life and craft it into one scene or one character, so the final results become more of a poetic rendition of something or someone that is in my life. I refer to this show as “semi-autobiographical”. People who know me well may recognize that my work have autobiographical aspects, that I draw on from my childhood, my family and most certainly my relationship at the time, though most people do not.
FM: What are the rewards and challenges of doing a one-person show?
Gemma: There are so many solo performers on the Fringe, mostly because it is so expensive to tour the Fringe circuit with more than one performer. The pros to this are that you have lower expenses and make all of the profit, but the con is that it can be lonely to always be on stage alone and not have someone to talk to about the experience on stage. It can be very exhausting and tiring at times to be wearing the multiple hats of producer, actor, playwright, director, designer, tour manager and so on … but it is also a hell of a lot easier to manage with just one person.
Also, there are so many of us solo performers on tour, that we often support each other and it is a beautiful big family.
FM: After Fringe, where do you go from here with the show?
Gemma: I am touring to Regina Fringe with my second show ‘Shadows in Bloom” and to Saskatoon Fringe with my third show “Magical Mystery Detour” — both of which I have performed at Orlando Fringe. I then head back to Boulder, Colorado where I will premiere my new one-woman show, “The Wallaby Way,” at the Boulder Fringe, which I am deeply excited about.
The show times for “The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over” are:
* Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m.
* Saturday, May 21 at noon.
* Sunday, May 22 at 3:15 p.m.
* Saturday, May 28 at 7 p.m.
* Sunday, May 29 at 1:15 p.m.
Purchase tickets at orlandofringe.ticketleap.com or at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center’s box office.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..