Bizarre love triangle lends itself to DIY theatre-making
Performance marked Lee Tomaschefski’s Vancouver stage debut (albeit without a live audience).
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When: June 14-19
Tickets: Free, tips encouraged
Nearly a year later, Lee Tomaschefski still can’t believe what she and her team pulled off last summer. In August 2020, she, along with three other actors, two directors and a technical crew livestreamed a performance of a play, Mike Bartlett’s Cock.
The feat is notable for a number of reasons, one of which is that the performance marked Tomaschefski’s Vancouver stage debut (albeit without a live audience).
The Saskatchewan native is no stranger to show business, though. She got her start in 2001, in a reality TV show, Popstars: Canada, and has played parts in movies and on TV. She also sings and performs with her own band, Falling for Scarlet. Then there’s her side-hustle — demonstrating woodworking projects in videos that she posts to her YouTube channel.
But, after studying in London, England, and then in Vancouver with local actor/teacher Ben Ratner, she was eager to do a stage play. One problem: COVID-19.
“This all started because of a dare Ben had given me,” Tomaschefski said. “He said, ‘You keep on talking about wanting to do a play, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?’ I would remind him that I was going to make good on my promise, that I was going to do this play when I finally had the time to do it. All of a sudden we went into lockdown and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is not what I planned.’ ”
The play she had decided on was Cock, an acclaimed 2009 British comedy/drama about a love triangle between two men and a woman. The men have been in a long-term relationship when one of them, John, cheats with Tomaschefski’s character, known simply as ‘W’.
“First of all, with a title like that, who doesn’t want to do some investigating on what the heck this is about?” she said.
She fell in love with the play, and Bartlett’s writing, after performing a scene in class: “It’s heartbreaking, it’s familiar. I loved it so much. It’s very cheeky, it’s funny but not in your face.”
She roped a classmate, Vancouver actor Troy Mundle, into helping her stage the piece. He agreed to play John, the character who has an affair with ‘W’. When he and Tomaschefski couldn’t find a producer, they decided to do it themselves. To direct, they approached Caitlyn Stryker, who works mostly in TV. Stryker brought in actor Carmel Amit to co-direct. The play also stars Nathan Witte and John Prowse.
Fortunately, Tomaschefski had picked a play that lent itself to some guerrilla-style theatre-making in the time of COVID.
“The stage directions say that there should be no props and no miming. There are no surfaces. Even in the sex scene, there’s no touching, there’s no nudity. It really allows for the viewer to focus on the relationships.”
After 11 weeks of rehearsal, cast and crew gathered at a small sound stage in East Van. They performed the show three times, streaming two of them live on ShowTix4U. Beginning June 14, Broadway on Demand will stream the filmed, unedited second of the two performances.
“Up until the last days we didn’t even know if we had a full crew,” Tomaschefski said. “It’s a DIY project. It’s a how-to in the era of COVID. I believe we were the first ones to do an online play with this format during the pandemic.”
Asked about playing ‘W’, Tomaschefski says that the character has “a particular resiliency” that she relates to.
“We were told ‘No’ so many times in trying to do this play,” she said. “I’ve never been told ‘No’ so many times in such a short period of time. But if we didn’t know how to do something, we just made it happen.”