Westbury Award Winners Christine Lesiak and Tara Travis talk about what a gamechanger it is.
“This lets people see what can come out of the Fringe environment and culture when we nurture our Artists there.”
Call it an unscripted Fringe perk: Artists often find future collaborators in their fellow Festival performers. But when Christine Lesiak first met Tara Travis, they found they shared a vantage point all their own.
“We’re both very tall women, so we connected over that,” Christine grins, recalling their first encounters on the 2012 Fringe circuit. “We have a really similar sensibility, and we’ve loved each other as friends for ages.”
They’re also both acclaimed, innovative Fringe circuit vets: Tara is known for puppetry and multi-character solo works like Til Death: The Six Wives of Henry VIII; Christine has invited audiences to influence her shows directly, first as the advice guru of Ask Aggie, and most recently as a silent, experiment-running scientist in For Science.
Together, they’ve been developing The Spinsters: blending comedy, shadow puppetry, and a whirlwind of costume changes, it reimagines the Cinderella story from a new, dark perspective. In most versions of the fairytale, Cinderella’s stepsisters are broad villains to be rooted against, defeated and forgotten in the happily ever after. But rather than accept that script, Christine and Tara found themselves interested in the characters’ post-Cinderella lives.
“Where are they? What are they up to? Who would they be as the middle-aged ladies?” Christine asks. “It raised a lot of very interesting questions that we think are really relevant to contemporary lenses.”
Given Christine and Tara’s history with the Festival, bringing The Spinsters to Fringe seemed the obvious choice for its debut. But as they developed the show, it grew beyond what seemed feasible for a Festival slot.
Thankfully, Fringe has ways of supporting Artists well beyond August: Christine and Tara are the recipients of this year’s Westbury Family Fringe Theatre Award, which offers Artists funding to create new work, as well as a spot in the 2023/24 Fringe Theatre Season.
So, The Spinsters will take to the Fringe stage—after the Festival itself, though totally shaped by it.
“This award is a game changer,” Christine says. “We always knew this show was too big technically to do: too much pre-show and post-show [for the Festival]. This gives us the ability to create this vision of a show that’s too big for Fringe, but still so influenced by every Fringe show we’ve seen. This lets people see what can come out of the Fringe environment and culture when we nurture our Artists there.”