Previewing plastic veggies and spicy improv

In Travesty Theatre’s production, Dead Dolls Cabaret, it isn’t unusual to see vegetables flying across the stage. In fact, the audience is given free plastic vegetables to throw at the performers at the beginning of each show.
“I wanted the audience to get involved,” said Alison Rockbrand, director of the Cabaret and creator of Travesty Theatre.
Rockbrand, 23, never did well in high school. She found her calling when her teachers coerced her into directing a play, something she had no interest in doing. A year ago she began Travesty Theatre and produced Dead Dolls Cabaret, an improv-based horror show influenced by a form of entertainment called Vaudeville. The show includes burlesque skits, R-rated puppet shows and open nudity, just to name a few. This material is meant to offend – and the more offensive, the better.
“It’s very controversial but funny,” said Rockbrand. Some of the most controversial issues include jokes made about different races, religions and about people with disabilities. The show, made up of several short skits, includes a sketch where a mentally challenged boy is beaten up by his mother.
Some people got so offended that they got up and left in the middle of this scene.
Rockbrand, however, is not afraid of criticism and continues to perform regardless of the negative feedback that she receives. She believes that dealing with these issues is cleansing for the audience and for the actors. Through performing, the material becomes inoffensive to the actors, and could have the
same effect on the audience.
In such an environment, the audience does not have to be afraid to laugh or express anger at something that is considered to be taboo in our society – hence the throwing of the vegetables. The more disturbing and offensive the material,
the more vegetables are thrown.
“I wanted to produce bad theatre so the audience could throw things,” declared
Rockbrand. The audience is not allowed to throw just anything, only the vegetables provided. At first, the audience was given real vegetables, but vegetables such as lettuce made the floor slippery and dangerous for the actors.
Also, some people complained that it was wrong to waste food when there are people starving on the street. Once, an enraged viewer threw a boot, which one of the actors promptly threw back into the crowd. This did not go over well with the audience.
As a result, Rockbrand resolved to provide fake vegetables for those who wanted them and decided to set rules about what could be thrown. Otherwise, Dead Dolls Cabaret had an excellent turnout, with attendances of over 100 people. Every three weeks a similar show is put on, but with new ideas. Rockbrand gets her
inspiration and ideas from tasteless B-rated horror films, as well as from her solid ensemble cast.
Check out Dead Dolls Cabaret at Jailhouse Rocks, 30 Mont-Royal West, just west of St. Laurent on Thursday April 12 at 9:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door, $3 for people in costume.
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