In her second year back at the U of T Drama Festival, fourth-year student Laura McCallum has teamed up with fellow fourth-year Jaime Lujan to enter their play Fanny, Fluff, and Dandruff.
McCallum returns as director (having directed Some Counterspace by Madeleine Brown last year) with Lujan as playwright. Lujan is also returning to the festival, having directed a piece two years ago.
“I’ve had the character of Fanny in my head for a while: someone who has a laser-like obsession—whether good or bad—that manifests into something tangible,” Lujan says. “Fanny actually exists in another play of mine and this one is sort of his creation story.”
He explained that every character in this play is forcibly changed through the circumstances they face.
“The characters in the play all suffer from cosmic irony—from situations so specifically tragic to each of them that they (and we) can’t help but laugh,” Lujan says on why he chose the comedy genre. “Usually I fill my plays with subtle selfish jokes that are just for me, but I guess I became a little more generous with this one so that everybody could appreciate how bleak the universe’s sense of humour is.”
Laughter is no work on the part of the audience, but it’s not always easy for the one who has to come up with material that’s both funny and pertinent. “It’s very easy to fall into the trap of caricature and playing for laughs,” McCallum says. “A lot of my direction is based on what I think is humour and entertaining, but if that contradicts the message of the play or the context of the scene, then it’s just surface-level humour and doesn’t really address the irony of the situation.
“It’s been hard to direct lines that are initially funny but actually have a lot of heart to them,” he adds.
The pressures of a high-stakes competition like this don’t just end at directing and writing. “In previous years, UTMDC has submitted three plays to the Drama Festival but due to a number of factors, the execs opted to only submit one play this year,” McCallum says. “UTMDC definitely shines at this event with so many students from the TDS program taking part, so there’s a reputation to live up to and an expectation that the show will take creative risks yet ultimately be an audience hit.”
McCallum believes one of the biggest things that will resonate with a student audience in this play is the fear of change. “Each of the characters is dealing with the threat that their biggest fear will become a reality, and I think that’s something a lot of students can identify with,” says McCallum. “We’re at a time in life where we have to confront realities about growing up, being an adult, changing bodies, changing mentalities, etc., so I think a younger audience would connect to that.”
With curtain call being so close, both students are definitely feeling butterflies. “We still have props and costumes to sort out, the lights haven’t been programmed…” McCallum says. “In terms of the show’s success, I’m just excited, though. It’s such a fun show to be a part of and I can’t to share the characters’ stories with the audience.”
The U of T Drama Festival takes place from February 12 to 14, with three plays shown each night. Fancy, Fluff and Dandruff is being shown on Saturday, February 14.