By Shanti Zachariah
The Ms. Mennonite pageant is in a bit of an uproar. It seems one contestant, Ms. Los Angeles, has given into sinful vanity and pinched her cheeks to make them look more rosy — natural paleness is a moral requirement in this contest. Caught in the act, she throws off her bonnet and growls loudly, “Oh shit!” In the end, it is Ms. Kitchener who takes the prize and is serenaded on-stage with a song about walking with her father while clutching a pile of corn.
Inside the Eaton Lecture Theatre at the Rogers Communications Building, the six cast members of RIOT are running through ten of 40 skits that make up their program.
RIOT stands for Ryerson Institute of Technology. “It started out as a major cabaret,” explains producer Mark Lysakowski about the 46-year old show. “It stopped in the ‘70s and then was started up again by RTA students, where it remained as an RTA production. But this year, we’ve involved other departments.”
The cast was assembled in October and they have been working together with director Matt Hornburg ever since. The actors wrote the material and participated in improvisational workshops.
“You can spend three hours on a skit, bring it to the workshops and realize no one finds it funny,” says cast ember Carlie Baxter about the difficulty of writing comedy.
The major theme for this year’s show is a Canadian take on old American TV shows. The opening skit involves CBC executives lamenting the ratings decline for their station. They decide to rename and Canadianize popular US shows of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Some of the gems include “The Cod Squad,” “Farley’s Angels” and “Nanaimo Vice.” The latter is all about “putting Nanaimo crimes behind Nanaimo bars,” says director Hornburg.
Hornburg and his cast have only been working with a written script for one month. Up to that point it was mostly about brainstorming and becoming comfortable with each other. “You’re always having to think creatively, and having to nurture other’s creativity. The cast do all their own writing, and what each one is working on can become their little babies,” he says.
There is a definite chemistry between the cast members, who have come to see each other as friends. They energize each other, feed jokes and deliver the punchlines, making things up as they go along.
“Basically, if I ever find myself feeling down, I know that I can go to any girl in the cast and she’ll bring me back up,” says funny man Danny DiTata, pokerfaced.
“Danny means erect,” pipes up RIOTer Paul Glashen, with wide-eyed seriousness. The two of them guffaw with each other.
“We’re all like brothers and sisters — except when we’re having sex.” Pinched cheeks on Ms. LA was nothing — it looks like RIOT ‘97 might have Ms. Kitchener permanently jaded.