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By Ciara Byrne

In many Ryerson programs, classmates are competitors, fighting for that winning role.

But for theatre grads Glen Sheppard and Maria Beath Badian, it’s their alliance that has kept curtains open and audiences clapping. “The best thing about my Ryerson experience was the friendships I made. I eventually collaborated with many people, including (Sheppard). It was a big deal,” Badian said.

The energetic pair, who finish each other’s sentences and banter like they’re already performing on stage, are part of an ensemble cast in an End of the Road production of Down the Main Drag. Part of the play was performed at the Summerworks Theatre Festival.

This time around, the cast will put on the full-length version of the play as part of Hatch. Hatch is a program that supports emerging performance projects by providing a venue and a mentorship program to young companies. The “sad comedy” is a new play by Quebec playwright Steve Laplante, and is directed by Brendan Healy. It tells the story of Him, Miss Deal, Old Fart, The-Family and a host of other quirky characters that deal with the disappearance of Him’s father.

“My character is called Loverboy,” Sheppard deadpanned. “It’s appropriate because I’m sleeping with The- Whole-Town.” “And that’s me,” Badian said in a perfectly cued punch line — she plays the character The-Whole-Town. “I love the name of the characters because my first instinct is to play it as an archetype, as a generality.

But you need to play it as a unique character,” Badian said. “The-Whole-Town is everybody’s town gossip. Everyone can identify with that character in their life and in their community.” Both Badian and Sheppard have relied on former Ryerson grads to team up on productions, share opportunities, and survive in what is a very difficult industry.

“(Sheppard) and I collaborated together with other (Ryerson) graduates of my year and from (Sheppard’s) year, and did a collective in the Toronto Fringe festival. And that was a formative endeavour for all of us. It was a really exciting time,” Badian said, her voice punchy and animated.

There is an undeniable chemistry between the actors. With perfect timing, Sheppard opened Badian’s water bottle in preparation for her lengthy speech. And Badian picked up Sheppard’s dangling sentences, finishing his thoughts. The two depend on each other. Badian and Sheppard have high expectations for Down the Main Drag, which ends on Feb. 26. “I want love, acclaim,” Badian mocked theatrically. Sheppard is a little more subdued.

He said it’s difficult to get people to go outside on cold winter nights, but he wants people to see the play. “It’s the kind of play that deserves an audience. It’s a beautiful show,” he said. And if that’s not enough to support the independent theatre artists, Badian has one more way to entice an audience.

“It’s a fun time and people can go skating afterwards on the Natrel skating rink,” she said, referring to the ice rink near the theatre. Sheppard sighed. “I never learned how to skate. I was too busy acting and singing.”

Down the Main Drag runs from Feb. 23-26 at the Harbourfront Centre.

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