Alexa Gilker doesn’t like to waste time.
The 25-year-old playwright debuts her first stageplay tomorrow (Aug. 23) at the Victoria Fringe Festival, a milestone she’s achieved only three months out of the University of Victoria’s creative writing program.
“It’s terrifying,” she said. “But I love this play.”
Beautiful Obedient Wife tells the story of a Ukrainian woman who is unknowingly sold as a mail-order bride to a Canadian suitor. It’s a complex reality with examples all over Canada, Gilker said.
“Ukraine is where a huge majority of these women are coming from,” she said. “They’re usually struggling in poverty and looking for a way out.”
Despite the heavy subject matter, Gilker believes entertainment should be the primary objective of theatre and has rewritten her play as a comedy. She’s also enlisted the help of local folk band, Carousels, to create a genuine feel to the Eastern European backdrop.
“I just realized it’s not a black and white issue, and comedy is a good way to deal with that,” she said.
Under the guidance of seasoned fringe director Sandi Barrett, the play undergoes ongoing workshop revisions with input from Gilker and her ensemble of actors.
“We rewrite the script almost every rehearsal,” Gilker said. “There are a lot of times I realize I’m not actually as funny as I think I am, and there are some things that really work and we amp up even further.”
Fringe festivals operate on the principles of being unjuried and giving all of the proceeds to the performers, said Janet Munsil, festival producer.
“I think the Fringe has launched a lot of artists,” she said, adding many performers go on to tour at fringe festivals across North America and Europe, usually with successful solo shows.
Munsil and her team host 55 local, North American and overseas performers for 11 days of bargain-price entertainment.
Five-show passes are available for $55 and single show tickets go for $9 or $11.
“We have a curious and educated audience in Victoria that just loves to see new stuff and support local and touring artists,” Munsil said.
The fringe offers a variety of performances ranging from comedy and drama to spoken word and musicals.
For the first time, the festival is also incorporating a kid-friendly event on Aug. 25 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Market Square.
“Because the performers are chosen by lottery, there was no way for us to guarantee a kids’ show,” Munsil said. “So we wanted to provide an opportunity for kids to sit down and see a play.”
Gilker hopes her play, which has six performance dates, will be the first of many in Victoria. She sees a niche market for stageplay writers in the city, as many of her fellow graduates leave to Vancouver and beyond.
“I decided to give myself the year in Victoria to see what happens and give it what I can,” she said.
Beautiful Obedient Wife debuts Aug. 23 at 9:45 p.m. at St. Andrews School gym.
For a complete festival guide, visit the Intrepid Theatres office at 1609 Blashard St. or victoriafringe.com.