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The Atlantic Fringe Festival & “Roller Derby Saved My Soul”!

Known as the largest theatre festival in Atlantic Canada, the 23rd Atlantic Fringe Festival opens tomorrow night and runs until September 8th. Over 11 days, more than 50 plays and productions (hailing from the region, across the country and even Germany and Argentina) will treat audiences at 11 different venues in Halifax.

In this year’s published program, the festival’s Chair, Kevin Kindred, explains the “magic” of fringe festivals. “Because the principles of Fringe theatre require that there be very few barriers to artists, and a low-cost ticket for the audience…you’ll see touring performers alongside local favorites, seasoned veterans alongside brand new faces, and traditional theatre venues alongside spaces that aren’t usually used for live performance…

Over the next few days, Arts East will be sharing musings from some of the creative minds behind this year’s plays. We start with actor, producer, marketing professional and writer/performer of Roller Derby Saved My Soul Nancy Kenny. Originally from Bathurst, NB, Kenny now has a permanent address in Toronto, although she spends most of her time “on the road.” Her next stop is Halifax to perform Roller Derby, which opens tomorrow night at the Museum of Natural History Theatre. The play has already enjoyed great success on the Fringe circuit, having picked up such accolades as Outstanding Fringe Production (Les Prix Rideau Awards, Ottawa 2012), Best in Fest (Ottawa Fringe Festival, 2011) and Best in Venue (Hamilton Fringe Festival, 2011).

Tell us a little bit about your background and the inspiration behind Roller Derby Saved My Soul.
NK: I've been performing since I was in high school. I studied theatre at the University of Ottawa and in the past few years I've been making a serious go at a career in the arts. Although I've been writing a blog for ages, writing for the stage is a more recent passion of mine. 

I've been participating in Fringe Festivals across the country since 2002 and that's where I fell in love with one-person shows. I was really inspired by the amazing performer/creators that I'd meet who'd be able to create a whole world, often with multiple characters, right there on stage. In 2009, I decided I wanted to do something like that, but had no idea what it would be about. I was sitting in a coffee shop in Ottawa and picked up the newspaper next to me. On the cover was an article about roller derby. The rest, as they say, is history.

I started contacting teams, reading books, doing research online. I got a pair of skates and realized I was not bad on them. That's how I fell into the world of roller derby and now I am absolutely hooked. I skate with a team in Toronto called The Rollergettes under the derby name "Drama Mean".

In a nutshell, what is Roller Derby Saved My Soul about?
NK: It's about a young woman who loves comic books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars and doesn't understand why life isn't more exciting like a superhero movie. Then she discovers roller derby and everything changes. It's also about sisterhood and family, the one you're born into and the one you create for yourself. It's a charming comedy that's received incredible recognition across the country. 

What do you envision audience members will take away from the performances?
NK: I hope people walk away feeling good about themselves and inspired to try something new.  A lot of folks leave the show wanting to know more about roller derby, how to join a league or where they can see a game, but I think the show is great encouragement for anyone thinking of starting any new project or activity.

Will you compete in any roller derby competitions?
Nope! I practice in Toronto and will often skate with teams in the cities I visit, but I don't actively compete. My first love is the stage and if I hurt myself playing roller derby, I wouldn't be able to do the show anymore. You wouldn't want that! ;)

What are you looking forward to at this year's Fringe Fest—besides a successful run of Roller Derby Saved My Soul of course!
Since my character in the show is obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I definitely want to check out Once More With Feeling, which is the stage production of the Buffy musical episode. I also have some friends appearing in Love in the Time of Time Machines so I'm very excited to see that. But I'm an avid Fringer so I'm probably going to just take a chance on things that I know nothing about. It's the best way to find those hidden gems.

Roller Derby Saved My Soul
August 29 - 8:00 pm          September 5 - 8:15 pm
August 30 - 8:15 pm          September 6 - 7:00 pm
August 31 - 7:10 pm          September 7 - 3:00 pm
September 1 - 9:30 pm      September 8 - 3:00 pm
September 2 - 7:00 pm
Museum of Natural History Theatre - 1747 Summer St.

To find out what else is on tap for this year’s Atlantic Fringe Fest, visit:

And remember, the Island Fringe Festival in Charlottetown also kicks off tomorrow night (August 29-31).

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