Ditch the Disney, Keep the Grandfather. The Epic Creation of Little Orange Man

Montreal Fringe Festival prizewinner Little Orange Man, now playing at the Wildside Festival, is no ordinary play. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not “experimental” theatre in the sense that it has character, plot, and all the things one expects on stage. But something feels very revolutionary and very epic about 12-year-old Kitt’s attempt to understand her recurring dreams and their relationship to her grandfather. The play simultaneously seems of our time (craigslist ads) and timeless (Danish fairy tales), signs that this  theatre experience taps into something universal.

Did I mention it’s funny too? And there’s a tinfoil hat (or… um… a sparkly dream helmet)?

Ingrid Hansen, artistic co-director of Snafu Dance Theatre Company, writer and star of the show explains how Little Orange Man evolved.

The play is partially inspired by her grandfather. “He came over from Denmark and moved to Kelowna in strawberry season,” Hansen says. “He was a very soft-spoken, gentle man and strong. He was a blacksmith. My father said he had muscles on top of his muscles on top of his muscles. But I knew him as an older, frail man, and as a man of few words. But when he did tell you something, it was quite magical.”

Little Orange Man began in a totally different format than its end product. “Initially, it was about a girl being raised by her grandfather who had no contact with outside world except for Disney movies,” Hansen says.

“It ended up with her trying to assassinate a Disney princess,” she continues. “But then we ditched the Disney and kept the grandfather and started exploring from there. “

The character Kitt developed as part of a theatre initiative called Bridge Mix. Hansen and her co-artistic-director Kathleen Greenfield , created a ten minute piece featuring Kitt. “She is who I wish I was when I was 11,” says Hansen. In the short piece, Kitt arrived on her bicycle and interpreted the audience’s dreams. “She had an earlier version of the dream helmet, before it got all sparkly,” says Hansen.

From there, Little Orange Man came together through sweat, creativity, and happy accidents. “We had some loose ideas and spent time jamming together in a room with objects,” says Hansen. “A lot of the food puppets who made it in to the show did so because I was snacking during rehearsal. I have to be eating all the time or else I fall down from lack of food.”

Little Orange Man — How do You Do from Michael Millard on Vimeo.

The success of Little Orange Man continues. In fact, Hansen created a sequel that is already touring called Kitt and Jane, an Interactive Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future. The show brings Kitt back at age 14, with her friend Lukas, played by Rod Peter Jr. “Lukas is another social reject boy who kids call Jane, as a mean nickname,” says Hansen. “He and Kitt become best friends. They create an interactive survival guide to the near-post-apocalyptic future.”

Hansen of course is happy to tour the show and the Wildside Festival is one way to do that. “It is a gift from the Centaur Theatre to perform there,” she says.

Little Orange Man plays during the Wildside Festival at the Centaur Theatre (453 St. Francois Xavier) on January 3, 7 p.m; Jan 5, 9 p.m.; Jan 7, 7 p.m.; Jan 11, 9 p.m.; Jan 12, 1 p.m.. Tickets $15.

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