Calgary’s Rebecca Northan has become an excellent judge of character. It’s a job requirement when you cast the lead of your play moments before you go on stage.
Every night the cast of Legend Has It plucks one audience member from the crowd to become the lead of their improvised play about a hero in a fantasy universe trying to save the world.
“In this one we’re getting to know you and then saying, ‘So, what’s heroic about you, because the whole world that you just ventured into is in trouble, and do you think you can handle a sword?’” she said.
Like a live-action Choose Your Own Adventure novel, the willing participant works with the cast of five actors and makes decisions about how the story on stage should progress.
Before the show, the cast spends time milling about in the crowd to find their ideal hero.
“We have a very, very simple company rule,” Northan says. “Who did you meet in the lobby that if you were at a party you’d want to hang out with them?”
The cast will be picking heros from a Whitehorse crowd when they put on five shows from June 9 to 12 at the Yukon Arts Centre. They’re coming north as part of this year’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival.
The show’s been around since 2014. Using some of their 40 to 60 masks, the actors are able to transform into just about any fantasy character at the whim of the hero on stage.
Over time they’ve developed quite the following among people who are already involved in costume design and live-action role playing, Northan said.
They encourage people to come to the show in full costume.
“We’re kind of tapping into this geek theatre vein, or nerd theatre,” she said.
“That’s really exciting for us because that community responds really well and they’re also coming willing to play.”
During one New Year’s show, an audience member arrived up with a four-foot latex dragon perched on his shoulder.
“The dragon’s wings became his cape so it looked like this dragon was, like, enveloping him.”
Alongside the conventional coat check, this show offers an “armoury” so all guests can watch the show in comfort.
“For anyone that comes with swords, or staffs, or dragons, or whatever, there will be a locked room where you can check your weaponry,” she said.
This won’t be Northan’s first visit to Whitehorse. Last year she was here with her show Blind Date. That time, the audience member went on an improvised blind date with a French clown.
She said that kind of theatre allows audiences to really connect with the hero on stage, “which is exactly how you want your audience to feel about the hero of any story.”
After all, but for a twist of fate, that could have easily been them.
“As a theatre person you cross your fingers and you really hope that everyone leaving the theatre after Hamlet says, ‘What if that was me, what would I do?’ But really, usually they leave and go, ‘Hmm, the last Hamet I saw was better,’” she said.
“But, when the hero is a member of the public, they really walk out going, ‘Oh, I would have done this differently,’ or ‘Holy cow, I couldn’t believe the person was so brave.’”
Unlike some comedy clubs where an audience members gets pulled up on stage and ridiculed, Northan said this style of theatre is designed to be more like the “theatre spa” for the hero.
“I want you to feel pampered and taken care of and that there’s a whole team of people conspiring for you to have a really good time.”
Legend Has It is playing June 9 to 12 and the Yukon Arts Centre at 7:30 p.m. The show has mature content and is recommend for people 16 and older. A family-friendly matinee for a younger audience is happening on the 12 at 2 p.m.
For more information and to buy tickets visit the Magnetic North Theatre Festival website
Contact Ashley Joannou at