Meet the GeriActors: Liz Allchin

Editor’s note: Liz Allchin is acting in her second production at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival this August. Here is an entry by LIz about the GeriActors and Friends, her Fringe experience, and her newest role in the upcoming production “Band Age”.

Tell us about your experience with GeriActors & Friends. What drew you to joining?

I had always been interested in acting since childhood – but when I wanted to go to drama school after I had finished my education at 18 – my parents were told that this was not a suitable career by my grammar school headmistress in England – so I became a teacher – my main study was drama. Then life took over. Eventually I came to Canada, Edmonton with my family….. After I had attended a rock choir program, I met David Barnet and he asked me if I might like to try GeriActors & Friends. It was like a dream come true. I feel very privileged to be part of the group. It is great to act but also it is wonderful to be among so many creative people. Having young people is the icing on the cake –it enriches the program. I have learnt so much – it is so exciting!

Liz performing in Felixstowe at FEST 2013
Liz performing in Felixstowe at FEST 2013

Tell us about your experiences outside of GeriActors & Friends. This is your second Fringe show correct?

Last year I challenged myself to audition for a Fringe play for the first time and I got a part! This is a whole different dimension. I found the work that I had done with GeriActors was a blessing. I was able to be part of a different group of people and I was the oldest person. I had to keep up with people dancing and singing. We had a lot of fun!

Could you share a bit about the process of working on a Fringe show?

First you have to be prepared to give up at least 6 hours a week to rehearsals for a couple of months. Then you must learn the script. I find as you get older memorization takes a little longer. It’s great if you can twist someone’s arm to help you practice .At rehearsals you block out the moves with the script. You work as a team. At a Fringe show there are time constraints – you have to be done in a certain time and this means everyone has to be organized!

Tell us a bit more about your show Band Age.

It is set in small town Alberta – there are a group of seniors who have formed a band and they play for seniors, hospitals etc. This story is a comedy – it’s about the characters and their interactions. It is fun. The lady who wrote the play Vivian Mayne is a senior – she is 91 years old. The story revolves around this cast of characters that are based on people she met while playing piano in a number of seniors’ bands.

Liz telling a story at a Performance Storytelling workshop in 2012
Liz telling a story at a Performance Storytelling workshop in 2012

How has being involved in GeriActors & Friends helped prepare you for the Fringe (and vice versa)?

First you know that if you put your mind to this challenge – you can do this – G&F builds your confidence. It helps with the team building between your cast members and the director. You do not feel overwhelmed and can give feedback and make suggestions. The nuts and bolts of acting – stage directions etc. learnt at G&F are a great help. I have also learnt that if you make an error – not to panic – just carry on – the audience does not know what has happened!

How is the Fringe and GeriActors & Friends similar? Different?

Obviously we present both G&F shows and Fringe shows to an audience – but the Fringe audience is bigger and we do six shows in the space of two weeks, which can be energy draining! The Fringe location is always the same – when we present G&F shows we are often in different locations so we must be very flexible. Also you have to contend with the critics (press etc.) at the Fringe! Generally this does not happen at GeriActors.

Both of the Fringe plays I have been involved with are from stories based on someone’s life experiences, the first one was autobiographical. The G&F plays are similar in this way but we help with scripts – we are more involved with the dialogue. At G&F we are much more interactive with the audience, we encourage participation. At a Fringe play you hope to catch the imagination of the audience, evoke feelings and responses, maybe provide a little catharsis but direct engagement with the audience does not generally happen.

Look for Band Age at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival this August. Band Age Poster

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