MacEwan University students hit the spotlight with satire

By Christina Zoernig

EDMONTON — The Canadian premiere of Vernon God Little, a satirical play about a teenager falsely accused of taking part in a school shooting, will be at Grant MacEwan University from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10.

Based on DBC Pierre’s 2003 Booker Prize-winning novel, the play follows the story of 15-year-old Vernon Gregory as a scapegoat who works to set things right in his small hometown of Martirio.

“It’s a satire,” said Jim Guedo, the director and chair of the university’s theatre department, based at the Centre for the Arts and Communications. “So the point is it’s taking a look at society and poking fun at some of the vices and ills with a humorous slant. It’s looking at our current society’s infatuation with the need and the desires for success now, fame now, and rich now.”

Guedo, who joined the theatre program this year, has had the script for about a year. This is the second Canadian premiere he has directed at MacEwan, the first being Xanadu, which finished its run at the John L. Haar Theatre on Oct. 29.

Vernon 7

Actors Antony Hall (left) and Stewart Bartlett (right) work with a set of handcuffs for a scene in Grant MacEwan University's Vernon God Little on Nov. 30, 2011. Photograph by Christina Zoernig.

Guedo thought Vernon God Little would be a great opportunity for his students to show the city what they are capable of.

“[The production] is like a three-ring circus — it’s amazing in and out,” said Guedo. “In the intimacy of the space, the audience is going to be basically pinballing from moment to moment. It’s an all-encompassing sort of environment with the set.”

For lead actor Stewart Bartlett, it’s a chance to play a difficult role.

“As Vernon, I don’t leave the stage,” said Bartlett. “So staying in the moment, in every moment, at all times, has been quite the task. This is definitely the most challenging character I’ve ever had to play.”

With 26 cast members playing multiple roles and a full crew working behind the scenes, the production has been in the making for about a month.

The show includes detailed props such as signs, whose satirical edge was informed by Googling real signs and recreating them. Each is unique and pokes fun at the ridiculousness of being propped in public.

“I think that anyone who comes and sees this show will get a lot of enjoyment out of the fun this show pokes at [Americans and society],” said Bartlett.  “They will get a good rousing laugh.”

The shows open their curtains at 7:30 p.m. from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 at 10045 156 St. in the Theatre Lab (Room 189).  Vernon God Little will also be doing a matinee on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m., but will not be performing on Dec. 5.  Advance tickets are available through Tix on the Square for $11 per adult or $9 for students and seniors.

Do you want to see Vernon God Little for free on Dec. 7? Enter our contest.