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Once Upon A Theatre Collective presents On The Verge 

Eric Overmeyer’s play explores feminism and travel. Shannon Webb-Campbell maps it out.

Three bold19th-century ladies explore the globe in On the Verge.
  • Three bold19th-century ladies explore the globe in On the Verge.
Travel is both internal and external. Once Upon A Theatre Collective presents On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning), a play of imagination, wit and time travel written by Eric Overmeyer, at the Bus Stop Theatre June 7 to 11.

"The play begins in 1888 with three lady travellers who normally travel alone, but choose to take this journey together," says director Sarah McCarthy. "It explores some feminist themes through the use of time travel and how feminism has changed throughout time. Many interesting questions are posed about what it means to be a woman and how a woman should behave in polite society. The argument about whether it is right for a woman to wear trousers is a bone of contention with the women."

As a first time full-length director, McCarthy was drawn to the script three years ago for its bold narrative, creative use of language and strong sense of character.

"This play is such a success because of the fully formed characters; the comedic relief of the various secondary characters; and the full use of the English language," she says. "Each of the female characters are well-rounded, and perhaps based on real women travellers from the late 19th century. It's very interesting to dive into their background and learn why they may say the things they do, and learn why they are travelling.

"The secondary characters"---all played by Zach Faye---"are over-the-top and add so much fun to the play," McCarthy says. "They can be quite zany at times, but it's a great juxtaposition to the ladies who are sometime serious and often use really big words."

Writer and producer Overmeyer is most noted for working on television shows The Wire, Law and Order and Homicide: Life on the Street. On the Verge follows three strong voyagers into the depths of themselves. Mary (Jessica Barry), Fanny (Gina Thornhill) and Alexandra (Lesley Smith) are profoundly influenced by geography and travel.

The women embark upon worldly forays pushing beyond the boundaries of gender. While Mary travelled throughout Africa studying tribes and their mating rituals, she combatted masculine stereotypes. Alexandra was awestruck exploring the Himalayas. Leaving her husband, Fanny found herself in various caverns of the world. It's the journey they take together that changes everything.

"These women are exploring what they think is the last bit of unexplored globe and what they end up finding is perhaps another dimension," says McCarthy. "The characters would not be quick to call themselves feminists, although the nature of their occupation at the time is certainly going against the norm. Sexuality is often subtly discussed through Mary's work with the tribes she meets and her own sexuality moves from quite conservative to slightly more liberal as they approach 1955."

As the youngest, Alexandra has plenty to say about women wearing trousers and is first to uncover various clues and premonitions. She becomes a radio tower for flashes of the future, discovering her true calling.

"Travel is at once both about where you are going and where you are coming from," says Lesley Smith. "Alex has left home and is travelling with an open heart to find territory that is unmapped and unnamed. As the ladies confront the topography they advance through time and discover new worlds within themselves."

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