Zuppa Theatre turns to father-son vaudeville

Ben Stone’s Slowly I Turn: a Parlour Vaudeville in One Act highlights the relationship between a father and his son – both onstage and off.

Zuppa Theatre Co.’s newest production, which officially premiered last Friday, features Zuppa co-artistic director Stone and his father, John Stone.

By Philippa Wolff

Ben Stone’s Slowly I Turn: a Parlour Vaudeville in One Act highlights the relationship between a father and his son – both onstage and off.

Zuppa Theatre Co.’s newest production, which premiered Friday, March 10, features Zuppa co-artistic director Stone and his father, John Stone.

It’s a vaudeville show, complete with backstage antics, and set in the actual living room of a Halifax home. Stone says it closely reflects the reality of his relationship with his father.

“There are … scenes that we wrote together that come directly from our experiences,” said Stone. “We tell old family stories that are true. We have patterned banter that’s a bit like real life. We have an argument that’s kind of like real life.”

The show’s premise, he says, has a man and his father performing a vaudeville-style show for their friends and family, played by the audience, and “the successes and failures that come along with attempting to do that kind of project.”

Stone says the experience of working with his father has been “exactly what (he) wanted it to be.”

“It’s hilarious at times, really funny at times,” he said. “We’ve both been learning a lot and it’s been very easy and friendly and heart warming and fun.”

Though humorous, the play is largely based on his own thoughts about his parents’ fates, Stone adds. In Slowly I Turn, the mother has died and the father is ill and forgetful.

He notes that vaudeville, with its varied elements, is a good venue to combine comedy with such solemn contemplation.

Related audio
20120312benstone

Ben Stone talks about working and acting with his dad, John Stone, and his dad’s influence on Slowly I Turn.

“I wanted to make this show with my parents and to have, you know, the sadder edge of contemplating my parents getting older and eventually dying, but then needed a vehicle for it to ride on that would sort of buoy it,” Stone said, speaking of his initial idea in September 2011. “The vaudeville lent itself to the more sombre material.”

Local actor and playwright Graham Percy, who joined the show in January, directs.

Zuppa is fresh off the success of Five Easy Steps (to the end of the world) and The Debacle, the latter of which will be performed in Montreal this June. Stone says, however, that their success doesn’t put any pressure on Slowly I Turn. He says he doesn’t associate the success of separate shows.

“I’m not too concerned about critical success necessarily. I just want to feel like I’ve created what I want to create. With this show, I feel like it’s exactly what I set out to create.”

Related Resources
Slowly I Turn trailer (Video)The popular “Slowly I Turn” vaudeville sketch that inspired the play’s title, here starring Lucille Ball (Video)

“Whether or not the audience laughs will determine whether or not it is successful. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Previews for Slowly I Turn begin Tues, March 13. The show runs until March 31.