The Inside Scoop on Alligator Pie

Soulpepper Academy Grad & Alligator Pie Ensemble Member Qasim Khan gives us the inside scoop on Alligator Pie at the Family Festival:

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This remount has an entirely new cast, and the cast and the directors are all Soulpepper Academy graduates. Tell us what rehearsals have been like, and what it’s like working with other Academy peers.

You know that feeling of going to a family dinner after not seeing the entire clan for a while? For me it’s a combination of excitement, nerves, and a bit of giddiness, and that’s what returning to Soulpepper to work on Alligator Pie feels like. This is my first show back with the company since graduating from the Academy in 2012, and I am having a blast.

This version of the show is the ultimate Academy experience because it was created and performed originally by five Academy graduates, and now those same five are teaching it to another group of Academy graduates. Working with four generations of Academy peers feels like I am working with the coolest, most talented members of a kind of family, even if most of us have never actually worked together. There’s a creative language, sense of humor, and an ability to play that ties all of us together, even though we are all so different. We all learned the same kind of storytelling skills at the Academy, so it’s way easier to trust each other in rehearsal right off the bat.

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Tell us about your character, and the things you have to do, or have had to learn for this production. 

Alligator Pie is centered on five people who arrive at the ultimate playroom – a theatre – and who happen to all love playing with each other, almost like kids with their best friends. I play the role of *drumroll please* Qasim Khan…. In past productions, that character was called Gregory Prest, and I would argue that this is the most challenging, complicated, and intelligent character in the piece – think Hamlet crossed with a Muppet.

Each character in the show was tailor-made by, and for, the original creators. Gregory is not only an amazing actor, but he’s a really gifted musician, which came in handy for pieces like “Penny In My Purse,” a number where he plays an accordion, or “The Cat and the Wizard,” where he accompanied the story on clarinet. I played the clarinet in high school, but never in my life have I touched an accordion. That is until two weeks ago! So far I’ve learned the accordion, and played more clarinet than I have since I was 14.

There are some similarities between each original creator and each new actor, but there’s a new energy that the five of us are bringing to this year’s show, and that has been fun to explore.

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What is your favourite piece in the show and why? 

Every time we rehearse the piece I get excited and fall in love with different parts. Today, my favorite piece in the show is called “I Remember” and I love it because it encompasses everything I felt about the show when I first saw it. It’s a beautiful song that recalls the simplicity of friendship, and it’s staged in the simplest way: using a few umbrellas. Children are mesmerized because of the staging and the action that they are seeing, and adults are moved because of the message of the song. The piece is powerful and resonates on some level with everyone in the audience, and it reflects the core of Alligator Pie.

Why should families come down to experience this show at the Young Centre? 

Alligator Pie strikes a chord with everyone that watches it. Our younger audience members will sit in wonder at some of the magic that we create on stage, and adults will fall in love with the touching poems of Dennis Lee. It’s a celebration of friendship, play, and childhood, and that’s what makes it the perfect piece to bring your family to.

Alligator Pie runs until January 3 as part of the Soulpepper Family Festival. Hear a preview of the show here.

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Images: Alligator Pie ensemble. Qasim Khan. Alligator Pie ensemble. Qasim Khan. Photos: Cylla von Tiedemann.

About Soulpepper Theatre Company

Soulpepper, one of Canada's largest urban theatres, is an artist-centred company that celebrates the stories that move us and the artists who tell them. Soulpepper presents vital Canadian interpretations of the classics, and commissions, translates, and develops new work, creating a home for a diverse array of artistic expression across disciplines.

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