The Premiere of BADGER BITES BEAR – a thing by Jason Rip, held at The Root Cellar on Monday, August 24th, was a smashing success!
By Joe Belanger
If you’ve known London playwright Jason Rip for any length of time, it’s possible you’ve never seen him smile.
Laugh? Even less likely,
It’s mostly the same sardonic expression that belies the humanistic, compassionate and creative man whose brain always seems to be working, finding mirth where others find frustration, fault where others find truth.
Well, London, here’s your chance to see Rip smile.
Smiling is part of the character Uncle Burly he performs in his newest creation,Badger Bites Bear — a one-man show he’s determined to perform 100 times at 100 different venues over the next year as a fundraiser for the Unity Project.
“This is a very cheerful play for me,” said Rip without a hint of a smile.
“It’s meant to be family- friendly and is supposed to be funny. I’m going to try to smile. The problem is, I don’t drink any more. I’m just not a natural smiler.”
Rip’s motivation for the fundraiser is simple: Using his creativity costs only his time, the props a collection of handmade faces and odds and ends you’d find in any junk drawer or workshop.
“It’s really a chance for me to give something back to the community,” said Rip.
“I once ran a program for at-risk youth and some of those kids stayed at the Unity Project.
“It’s in my neighbourhood (Old East Village). But what really struck me about this place when I toured it is when they told me the door has never been locked in 12 years. That was powerful. It’s the place of last resort for many people, open 24/7.”
At another level, Rip can relate to many Unity Project clients.
“I’ve been impoverished at times,” said Rip. “I work exclusively as an artist. But that’s a choice I’ve made. I’m employable. I’ve been a teacher and a journalist. I’ve had lots of regular jobs. But I think it’s much more important to be doing what I love, which is writing.”
After penning 68 plays over the last two decades, Rip says he makes a living freelance writing, role-playing for doctors and police officers in training and the commissions paid by clients, such as Fanshawe Pioneer Village, to write historic plays, not to mention theatre companies performing his works.
“This is a an egoist business where self-promotion and aggrandizing is very important and I just wanted to do something to give back to my community, that’s supported me for so long.”
The first performance is at the Root Cellar on Dundas St. near Adelaide St. Monday, where seating is limited to 40. Tickets must be reserved online at Everbrite.ca or by calling 519-433-8700 ext. 2, paid for by donation at the door. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.
All revenue goes directly to the Unity Project.
Another seven shows are in the works and the only stipulation is that the venue can’t be a traditional theatre space.
Rip is hoping people invite him into their homes, backyards, workplaces, churches, cafes, community centres or even a gym.
Unity Project development manager Sylvia Langer is elated about Rip’s project.
“It’s really exciting and really cool,” said Langer. “It’s just so impressive that he’d put together his creativity and his courage with his compassion for the Unity Project and that he’s vowed not to cut his hair or shave his beard until he’s performed it 100 times.”
Langer gave the script a quick read and found it “multi-faceted,” exposing “the layers of the human condition” so audiences leave the show “with an enlightened view.”
“Jason is such a smart guy, he could probably do whatever he wanted to do,” said Langer.
“But this is what he loves, so this is what he does. He’s a sympathetic character himself, as sympathetic as his Uncle Burly.”
Rip said he’s looking forward to the first show.
“I like the purity of being a storyteller with a live audience,” said Rip.
“There used to be no higher form of entertainment than gathering around the fire and telling a story. Now we get our entertainment from Hollywood and television.”
Source: The London Free Press