Following the Women in Comedy panel at Theatre Sainte-Catherine, I had the opportunity to sit with organizer, Katie Leggitt, in the green room to discuss her upcoming Fringe show, The Shiner. Clad in a Montreal Sketchfest t-shirt and holding a beer, she opens up about the inspirations and intentions of her show, directed by Al Lafrance.
This one woman show takes us through several characters and discusses what it means to be a spiritual animator in Quebec.
Question 1, then, what is a spiritual animator? “In the year 2000, school boards became deconfessional, so they went from Catholic and Protestant to French and English. In the Catholic sector, they had pastoral animators,” Leggitt explains. “So, basically, when schools became secular, they created the spiritual community animator to still address the inner life of the child, but in a secular way. They created this wacky job title and a wacky job. Where I work, we have a team of 13 animators, which is a really strong service. Most school boards have two to four. I’m split up between four schools.”
Paul Aflalo (No More Radio) walks through and congratulates Leggitt on an excellent panel.
Moments later, director, Al Lafrance comes down the steps. The space continues buzzing around us with all things Montreal Sketchfest.
One of Leggitt’s concerns, even as a clean performer, is that one of her kids or kids’ parents, see her perform. “So that’s why the joke is, just be super gross and really inappropriate,” Leggitt says. “But it’s not an inappropriate show. It’s totally child friendly. And in fact, kids should come and see it because we talk about death. And it’s hard for people to talk about death, but it’s important for people to think about.”
“The little girl character, Rebecca Reubens, is definitely based on three students that I know. And it comes down to mannerisms that I’ve observed in the children. They’re just so natural to the child, yet so quirky to a character. The other characters are grown ups,” Leggitt explains. “But just observing children and the things they say, and the things they do, and the things that make them happy, it’s just using that to influence the character. It’ll make you think about the purity of the child, and what a privilege it is to work with little ones.”
Leggitt references a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in which Zen Buddhists believe that an acorn that is about to grow has two forces working at once. There is the acorn full of potential and the future tree that so desperately wants to exist. “I say that to the kids and then we watch a timelapse video of an acorn growing into a little oak tree. I get them to think about what kind of grown up they want to be. For some of them it’s clear, for some of them it’s not. I give them a handout with a huge acorn that you can colour, so it’s blank on the inside, with a fully grown oak tree drawing at the top. I ask them to think about themselves in the future, and what they would need to plant to get there. Without even thinking, the arms are thrown up. The kid wants to be a doctor; they need a stethoscope, medical supply, needles, patients, an education. And it’s so obvious to them. It’s just so satisfying. They get crazy about it.”
Leggitt by day and Leggitt by night are two very passionate Katie Leggitts. Unlike many comics, Katie loves her day job as a spiritual community animator and speaks passionately about this opportunity to marry the two in this show. “I’ve been lucky, I think, but I haven’t been as proactive about performance, and producing shows, as I have this year. The last two years, a little bit, but this August, I was like this is the year to make it or break it.” She continues to explain that a first time trip to New York City inspired her to create a Women in Comedy Montreal Facebook page and got her started on producing shows with all female line-ups (LAFF, Hey Gorgeous!), primarily at Theatre Sainte-Catherine.
When asked what would have been in little Katie’s acorn, she simply says, “Acting.” She says when one of the kids at school asked her the same question, she responded with actor, and then was asked if she did it. Although she keeps her performance side private from her students, they do know she improvises. “You can’t work with kids and be full of shit. They see right through that. Whose acorn did you draw? That’s not your acorn,” she reasons. Sounds like her acorn is getting more and more full.
“I’m going to be really interested to hear feedback about this particular topic that I address in the show because it’s sad, but it’s also kind of beautiful.” Although the show is a comedy, the story does deal with some real tragedy Leggitt warns, “I’m worried I’m going to cry. The story happened a few years ago, but it’s still just the worst story in the world. But, there’s a lot of beauty that came of it. We’ll see!”
You can check out The Shiner at the Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St Laurent) on June 12 (8 p.m.), 13 (1:30 p.m.), 17 (9:45 p.m.), 18 (10:15 p.m.), 20 (11:59 p.m.), and 21 (7 p.m.). $10/8. For more Fringe Festival schedules and info, click HERE.