New BFA student makes directorial debut at the Fringe – curious arts

Three closeups of human faces. Two women and a Man.

Incoming BFA student Melanie Bahniuk has a few tips and a lot of insights into what it’s been like to get ready for her first behind-the-scenes Fringe adventure.

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Tip Number One: Definitely plan ahead

Honestly I had no idea what to expect. This was my first theatre festival I entered a piece into, so I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t expect the amount of forms and paperwork you had to fill out because I`ve never been on the production side end of things. Like I said before though, the amount of tools and resources the Fringe gave us as participating artists really helped, and made the whole process smooth and very stress-free. I definitely didn’t expect the huge amount of support the community, and my family and friends had when we told them we were doing Fringe. I always forget how important this festival is, and how so many people really appreciate the courage, and strength it takes to put up a show like we are doing. So I think that was a big realization that there are so many people out there rooting for you, and supporting you.

The Key take away: You don’t want to start off this crazy journey and then realize you are not prepared at all! Know your show, know what you need for your show before you even sign up.

Tip Number Two: Apply for grants and look for sponsors!

I can’t stress this enough. There are so many people rooting for the theatre community that a little goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst they can say is no. It helps not only you, but their businesses also.

Tip Number Three: Trust yourself

I think the hardest thing is making decisions. Whether it be casting someone, or blocking a scene you have to be sure you’re making the right decision. I never knew how much trust an entire cast can put into one person, and how they`re always watching you to see what you decide next. They are pretty big shoes to fill. The main thing I`ve learned in my theatre training that has really resonated with me is that I 110% have to trust myself. Being a director is exactly that. You have to know and reassure yourself that what you’re doing is right and what you’re doing helps to justify the story, motivates your cast to tell it, and is coming across to the audience and influencing them as well.

The Key Take Away: There will be times you’re going crazy and wondering why the hell you signed up to do this, but remember you’re putting your show up for a reason, and you committed to this for a reason. Trust is your number one ally.

Tip Number Four: Have fun!

Yes super lame, but it is true! I have had the pleasure to work with a cast of seven amazingly talented people who are not only some of the best up and coming talent in Edmonton, but some of the most genuine people I have met.

I have an amazing crew who have stood by Sydney [the show’s writer] and myself on this roller coaster of a ride and who haven’t given up on us. I have even had the huge pleasure of working with my sister Stephanie Bahniuk who has given us a world to play in – and I mean it’s not every day you get to work with your sister!

But honestly surround yourself with people who you like being around and who are passionate about art just as much as you are. It will make every rehearsal seem like you’re hanging out on a Friday night with friends. Embrace the laughter, tears, everything!

So with all that in mind, how are things going for our first-time Fringe director?

Oh there are so many things to think about! Right now the main things I am thinking about is getting posters posted around Edmonton, start promoting the show, and making sure everything is ready to go for our tech on Thursday!

I got involved in this production last September, when my good friend Sydney Parcey started writing this show, Seven Lost Minutes. I became a part of the process as she wrote the story, edited it, and had draft after draft. It’s a story that is very near and dear to her heart and has definitely impacted my life as well while working on it over the [last number of] months.

I’m very grateful that she has trusted me enough to put this remarkable story in my hands. We decided to put it up at [the] Fringe as a “starter” project to do it as a smaller scale show- [we’ll] see how it runs, and then hopefully bring it back as a piece for a theatre company’s season in the future. I totally feel that the Fringe is a great place to show off new works as there are SO many in the festival. It allows total freedom of your pieces, and as well has that support that an up and coming theatre company needs when starting out. It gave us the tools and resources to be able to put up this show, and definitely guided us every step of the way.

And how would her company describe her directing style?

Oh geeze I have no idea. Hopefully they would say I`m a pretty relaxed director in the sense that I want the actors themselves to find out who their character is, and what their story is. I can set blocking as much as I want, but at the end of the day the rawness, and realness they bring to their character is what matters. I want them to find it inside themselves first before I say anything because then I know than that it`s coming from a true and vulnerable place. I find sitting down with an actor and having real-life conversations that relate to their characters help also because it is a way to get into their characters brain and start to solve the puzzle of who they are. All in all I consider myself more of a collaborator rather than a director. I want the cast to bring ideas and choices to the table and work together with them to create this piece of art.

Last but not least – here are the deets on her show, Seven Lost Minutes

It is based on a true story of one family’s struggles. It traces the steps, and decisions they have to make for their wife, daughter, and sister who has an unknown illness, and how that may impact her, and them as a family. It is a show everyone at one point in their lives can relate to, and understand the situation they’re stuck in. Seven Lost Minutes shows how families never give up on each other and never stop fighting even in the most stressful circumstances.

Like I said before, it is based off a true story. Whenever I watch a scary movie, or a drama, and the final credits say “Based on a true story” those are the ones that freak me out, and stick with me – because they are real people who have gone through these life events, and it hits so much closer to home… I want the audience asking themselves “What would I have done if I was in that position?” “Would I have done anything differently?” “If I was Dianna [a character in the show] how would I want my family to go about this situation?” Everyone has gone though some sort of family crisis in their lives, and this is just the way one family has dealt with it. I want [the audience] to go away and talk to people and to compare stories [about] how their lives, and the lives around them were affected, and how they were able to get through tough times.

The Rutherford Room in the Varscona Hotel (8208 106 Street Northwest, Edmonton, Alberta)

Show Times:
6:00 p.m. – Friday, August 12
11:30 a.m. – Saturday, August 13
1:30 p.m. – Sunday, August 14
3:00 p.m. – Monday, August 15
6:00 p.m. – Wednesday, August 17
1:30 p.m. – Friday, August 19
3:00 p.m. – Saturday, August 20
6:00 p.m. – Sunday, August 21

Melanie BahniukMelanie Bahniuk – Guest YouAlberta Contributor

Melanie is ecstatic to be having her director debut with Seven Lost Minutes at the Edmonton Fringe this summer! She is a Theatre Arts Graduate from MacEwan University and will be starting her first year in the BFA Acting program at the U of A this September. This has been a crazy ride being behind the scenes of a production, instead of onstage. She hopes you have a chance to check out her show at the Fringe this summer!

More information on the full Edmonton International Fringe Festival lineup.

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