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- Collected Mistakes II in the Stage Write Series at Theatre Aquarius
VIEW Magazine - January 1999
by Kerry Corrigan
Yes, there was a Collected Mistakes I which preceded the installment of this one man show which Lorne Elliott brings to the Theatre Aquarius Studio Theatre this weekend. As he describes it, I blurred into II, and became a catchall phrase for “whatever is working on stage for me at the moment!”
Elliott opens the Stage Write Series season at the du Maurier Centre, conceived as a showcase for up and coming Canadian writers.
He describes the mix of scripted material and improv as “a bit of jazz, a bit of classical”.
“It’s a one-man show. I do write plays but this sort of thing gives me the opportunity to do what one person alone on stage can do, to go with the time, go with the place.”
Originally from Montreal, where he is based now, Elliott started his comedy career in Newfoundland.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be in the business I’m in if I hadn’t lived in Newfoundland for ten years and started doing what I do there in bars.”
Arriving there a musician, he soon learned that traditional music and humour went hand in hand in this province that has such a rich heritage of both.
“Every band in Newfoundland, if they wanted to stay alive, always told jokes while the bass player tuned up!” It’s that great tradition that Elliott came out of, that he still feels indebted to and is “hopefully contributing back towards” now.
“It blew my mind, the whole thing that was going on there was wild.”
Lorne says he wasn’t exactly a folk musician when he arrived on the island, but “it behooves you to know about twenty Newfoundland songs which are folk songs, although the people there don’t think of them that way, they just think of them as songs.”
Elliott feels that the culture of traditional music, like the humour, is just something people know, that helps everybody get through the day.
Eventually he moved on, though. “Bars are a good place to learn, but there’s a time to get out of it.”
These days his career has covered some loftier mediums, include stage, radio and television. An award winning playwright, he also produced and performed The Nights The Raccoons Went Berserk, Culture Shock, and his latest play The Pelley Papers.
When contacted at his home in Montreal, Elliott had just returned from PEI where he was taping his radio show “Madly Off In All Directions”. Now in its fourth season, the show, which he calls “great fun”, airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on CBC Radio 99.1 FM.
And on his way in from Montreal, where he lives now with his wife, he’ll stop off in Toronto to tape a segment of the CBC TV Newsworld show Not Just the News.
Asked if his humour is political, Elliott says that he doesn’t stay away from politics, but he doesn’t scan the dailies for the latest items either. If something is topical and on people’s minds, though, he’ll use it. “I guess the news this week in Hamilton is the weather, so I’ll probably start with something about that.”
His only props are “my guitar and my hair! Minimalist theatre show!”
Lorne will use his run in Hamilton and subsequent shows in Windsor to test material that may then be used in upcoming episodes of his radio show; “the canary down the mine shaft” approach, as he calls it.
“Don’t worry,” he offers quickly, “I’m not going to do an hour and a half of rehearsal for the audience!” At the same time, he feels a need to include improv in order to keep growing, something he has mixed emotions about. The big challenge is finding the line between spontaneous and planned. He doesn’t want the performance to be over-rehearsed and static, but he’s also aware that improv can get pretty unpredictable without structure.
When I offered that the audience likes to see the gears clicking in the comedian’s mind, he countered, “But when you get too many gears clicking, it’s just a noisy car.”
Other than the Newfoundland tradition of humour, pioneered by Codco and others, Elliott says his main inspiration comes from real life.
“I always say this, but the best comedians I know are the ones who will never get on stage. You go to any town or village in Canada and there is always somebody who is the village wag, the town clown. These guys are never going to get on stage, it’s not their turf, but get them in a kitchen and they’ll nail ya!
“God love them, they’re the geniuses. … I pick up stuff all the time, not just material but attitudes, and ways into a situation.
“Keep your ear to the ground, and your nose out of the air, and its amazing what you dig up!”
Elliott thinks he’s a lucky person to be making his living this way, although he admits that it’s a lot of work. His motto for success? “Keep listening to your audience and you’ll have a good time.”
// tie dye