Feb. 13, 2013 - Issue #904: The Sugar Trade
'The world is full of really nice men who really want to treat women well. They might be nervous about what the best way to do that is, but there's a genuine desire to do it well," claims Rebecca Northan, creator of the hit improv show Blind Date.
Now ladies, don't scoff just yet. Northan may know what she's talking about. After all, her show has featured approximately 300 different men—from all walks of life and pulled from audiences from Calgary to New York City.
"We see examples of bumbling idiot men in sitcoms who just don't get it, and that's certainly not been my experience at all. There's a lot of sweet, interesting men on the planet," she insists.
Mimi the clown, her character in Blind Date—a role that has been taken on by three other women as the show continues to expand, and will also feature Renée Amber during its Citadel run—is left waiting for hours for her date to show up, when she decides to find a new one amongst the audience. Prior to the show's start, Mimi mingles amongst the crowd during a cocktail party in the lobby, scoping out potential candidates for her blind date. The show plays out differently each time as the newly aquainted pair navigate nerves, tension and potential romance.
Of course, asking someone on a date—even a staged one—is no easy feat. Northan admits she still gets nervous when she asks a fellow to join her onstage, but she quickly focuses on making sure her date is comfortable, helping them overcome their nervousness—a feeling that she says can quickly change the person she initially met in the lobby, and it's up to her to get them to open up again. Over the course of the 90-minute show, the men begin to loosen up and have fun, which Northan says is assisted by both the audience rooting for them and the clown nose she wears—a constant reminder that the scenario is just for fun.
"One of the things I like the most is hearing the audience fall in love with the guy," Northan says. "I have a ton of empathy for [men] because there's a real pressure on them to have their shit together all the time and seem like they should know exactly what to do next ... I think there's more pressure on them to present that 'masculine' facade of 'It's all good, I can take care of this.' There seems to be less space for them to be really upfront about 'I'm really nervous right now.'"
What about a version involving the ladies? As an experiment, Northan enlisted her brother Jamie, also an improv performer, to do a reverse version of Blind Date, which proved much more challenging than expected. Northan explains that in a dating scenario, the woman leads. If a man tries to, the woman feels threatened or feels he's doing the wrong thing. While there's no immediate plans to continue this version, Northan says it was an interesting and eye-opening experiment for the group.
However, Northan does plan to premiére a new show in 2014 called Legend Has It, which throws an audience member into a fantasy, Lord of the Rings-style scenario in which they get to play the hero, and battle Edmonton's own Mark Meer as the evil villain.
Until Sun, Feb 24 (7:30 pm)
Produced by Kevin McCollum
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