Music and comedy at Ryerson Theatre School

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By Emma Cosgrove

The Ryerson Theatre School is gearing up for the world premiere of a new comedy play, Cerulean Blue.

Written by Drew Hayden Taylor, the play debuted on Feb. 5 and will run to Feb. 12 at Abrams Studio Theatre. The play centres around an “avant-garde progressive blues band” that holds auditions for a few new members and scores a gig at a native protest concert.

“It’s sort of a road trip play,” said Owen Stahn, a fourth-year Ryerson theatre student who plays the lead role of Billy Burroughs. “The band finds themselves on a native reserve and meet a lot of strange and crazy characters along the way.”

Drew O’Hara, also a fourth-year theatre student, plays the role of Russel Aymes, the lead singer of the band.

“It’s a rollicking comedy about first nations land rights and blues music,” he said. “It’s fast-paced and funny, with all kinds of one-liners, music references, and jokes about being a musician.”

Though the play nestles snugly under the genre of comedy, it offers some serious social commentary regarding native land rights. The Ojibway playwright, Taylor, has given lectures in the Ryerson community about native writing in literature, film, theatre and other forms of storytelling.

He wrote the play while acting as writer-in-residence in the Ryerson English department during the winter of 2013.

O’Hara said that since the play is newly written, Taylor often sits in on rehearsals to offer his opinion and make adjustments to the script.

“It’s a fun process because anything can change,” O’Hara said.

The play features three full songs, performed by the co-stars, who both sing and play guitar. While Stahn is an experienced guitarist, O’Hara says he was able to successfully learn the instrument over the course of rehearsals.

The 20 cast members received their scripts before Christmas, and have been rehearsing eight hours a day, six days a week in the months before the premiere.

Stahn said that after going over the same lines so many times, the actors have nearly forgotten which parts are the funniest, so it will be interesting to see what the audience laughs at.

“When you’re doing a comedy it’s fun and it’s scary. People either laugh or they don’t,” said Stahn. “The biggest challenge is trying not to laugh on stage.”

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