Bright Lights: Kat Sandler and all-star comedians abducted by aliens!
by Drew Rowsome
Bright Lights runs Wed, June 29 to Sat, July 9 at Tarragon Theatre, 90 Bridgman Ave as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. fringetoronto.com
A new Kat Sandler play is an event, the Fringe Festival is an event, and being abducted by aliens is an event. Put them all together and Bright Lights promises to be an Event. Five members of an alien abduction support group suspect that their leader is actually an alien. Hilarity ensues. Sandler generously took time out of the hectic rehearsal schedule to answer a few questions.
Drew Rowsome:Bright Lights features some heavyweight comic talents - Morro and Jasp, Peter n' Chris, Shakey-Shake and Friends, Colin Munch - and is billed as a "dark comedy." With their backgrounds in improv was it hard to keep them in line?
Kat Sandler: Oh man, you take five of the funniest people you know and put them in a room and let them riff and try cutting them off mid-joke! Yes, it was difficult but it was epically fun, and that’s what we all signed up for. There have never been more jokes flying in a rehearsal process of mine. And a lot of very serious discussion.
Are they delivering the laughs their pedigrees promise?
Sure, and they’re generating very funny stuff, but it’s really more about them creating compelling characters who don’t know they’re saying funny things, who have real thoughts and feels and hearts. And they’re all doing that.
Why did you choose artists known primarily as comedians for Bright Lights?
I didn’t, I chose artists who I’ve wanted to work with for a long time because I knew they were great performers, period. All of these individuals are incredibly storytellers and creators in their own right, and we built Bright Lights around them, and ideas that excite all of us. I chose them because I wanted to tell a story with them.
How do belief and genre factor into Bright Lights?
The people in Bright Lights believe in aliens because of their experiences or their pasts. And because of how or why they believe in them, they’re more or less likely to believe that someone they know is an alien. Everyone has their own idea of what the aliens are like, or want, and those ideas come into conflict.
I wanted to create a world where peoples beliefs get in the way of the truth. In a fragile environment where everyone is supposed to believe each other all the time because it validates their own experiences, how do you convincingly prove that anyone is lying? How do you find the truth in a world where everyone is supposed to believe everything? And how far will these people go to prove what they believe?
What will, given your reputation, "shock" in Bright Lights?
I don’t find Bright Lights particularly shocking, but I’m pretty used to multiple weapon plays by now. I think the most surprising thing about the play is how close the ridiculous logic the characters use in the mock trial in the play, is to some of the absurdity of our own justice systems, and how parallels can be drawn between the treatment of victims.
I think everything’s fair if it serves the characters, story and the audience. But I also think timing is everything. As artist we need to try to be sensitive to issues, but also realize which ones we can tackle with tact, intelligence, and sensitivity. Usually if something scares me, I’ll try to head towards, but I won’t put something in just for the sake of violating a taboo, I think that’s lazy.
Have you or any of the cast and crew members actually been abducted by aliens?
We’re keeping it under wraps until after the show. Wrong kind of publicity.
How many want to be?
Depends on the experience. if Prince and Bowie are up there in space with Elvis and Tupac, we definitely all want to go.