As an official media partner of the 12th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we feature ERIC ELLIOT LEE, one of the composer-lyricists of HOW THE FABLES HAVE TURNED, a digital song cycle presented by Home Theatre Productions from June 1-20 on the FringeTV platform.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is “How the Fables Have Turned“?
ERIC: “How the Fables Have Turned” is a fun-filled song cycle that aims to recontextualize classic fairy tales and stories with a queer lens. Our prompt as songwriters was to take an existing fairy tale or fable and play around with the theme of gender and sexuality.
MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it?
ERIC: Audiences can expect four professionally written and produced original songs with four exceptional performances. Come see some of Montreal’s most energetic and promising up-and-coming theatre creators work together in perfect harmony, in this exciting new take on some classic stories you all know and love.
MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece?
ERIC: My song, “Marina” was based on two classic fairy tales that I personally really love: “The Little Mermaid,” and “Peter Pan”. Steve [Greenwood] approached me about a song cycle about queer fairy tales and I was 100% sold immediately. The brief was kept intentionally vague to allow the most creative freedom, and so after a few moments of contemplation, I thought it would really be interesting to hear a song about two gay mermaids. As cheesy as this may sound, my first foray into song writing was (as is usually the case) with writing dumb love songs for girls that I was trying to woo at the time. Spoiler alert, it usually didn’t work. However, when I came upon this idea I thought it would be a fun way to revisit some of my old instincts and write something straight from the heart. The titular character Marina is a mermaid from Peter Pan’s “Neverland“, eternal and ageless, who has fallen in love with Ariel from “The Little Mermaid“. The song is sung from Marina’s perspective entirely as she pines for how much she misses Ariel, and how she can’t wait until they can be together forever (even if it means giving up her immortality).
Julia Kennific performs Eric Elliot Lee’s song, “Marina“, in How The Fables Have Turned (Image courtesy of Home Theatre Productions)
MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?
ERIC: I’ve worked with Home Theatre Productions a couple times, and they are some of my closest friends. I was more than happy to add my voice to their show because I know that they are some of the most dedicated and genuine theatre creators in Montreal right now. Fringe seems like a perfect place for a song cycle of this kind, and it allowed me to take complete creative freedom without being too worried about audience expectations (anything can happen at Fringe!).
MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?
ERIC: Creating during the pandemic has been interesting in so many ways. On the one hand, it has turned my entire professional life upside down, but in others it has allowed me to hone elements of my craft that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. For this particular project, I wrote, arranged and produced everything for my song myself, which I would have been unable to do in previous years. I believe that in order to successfully create during these times one has to trust their own process and anyone they are collaborating with. More than ever, things will slip away from you, and the work requires flexibility in order to survive against these odds. To me, it feels like everyone on this team has adapted exceptionally well, which was why I truly felt no stress at all from this project. Hopefully that translated to the finished product.
MTH: What’s kept you driven to keep creating during this past year?
ERIC: For me, creating has been what has kept me going during this pandemic. Perhaps it’s because I have so little control of so many aspects of my life right now, and projects like this make me feel at least a little in control of something. It also doesn’t take much for me to get excited about creating, as it is by far my favourite part of the process. I have to give it up to some incredible writing circles that I have joined with like-minded members of the community that have helped keep me accountable and forced me to regularly write every day, which has been an enormous help to my spirit and process.
MTH: How does this show/story speak to our present times?
ERIC: We are living in a time when, more than ever, we are questioning the foundations of our existence. One aspect that this has become particularly relevant for is our culture, which has come under intense scrutiny in order to make sure it appropriately reflects the values of our society. One amazing by-product of this, as far as I can tell, has been the reimagining of stories we grew up with in entirely new and exciting contexts. Shows like “Wicked” or “Into the Woods” have done similar things, and I believe this style of storytelling is extremely ripe for creativity and intrigue. I applaud Home Theatre Productions’ initiative to add less heteronormative voices to the cannon of fairy tales, and I hope more are inspired to revisit these stories in the future.
Eric Elliot Lee (centre) performs in Home Theatre Productions’ [Title of Show] at the MainLine Theatre (Photo Credit: Cheyenne Cranston)
RAPID FIRE ROUND
What have you missed most about the Fringe?
Picking a show at random and walking into a theatre, not knowing what you were seeing until you sat down.
Favourite Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
Geeze, I can’t remember what it was called, but it was this fantastic One Man show that I saw over at the Montreal Improv. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, but it really made me laugh.
#Fringebuzz: which show(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?
“The Space Between”! Julia (one of the actors on the show) sang the title character on my song!
Eric Elliot Lee is a Biracial up-and-coming theatre practitioner currently based in Montreal, Canada. His primary area of focus is music composition for the theatre, but he has experience with almost every part of a musical theatre production. He is an avid member of the Canadian Musical Theatre Writers’ Collective, and is always looking for new and exciting projects to add his voice to. Eric just completed a BFA at Concordia University with a specialization in Music Composition, and is beyond excited to continue his career as a composer, music director, actor, and various theatre hat-wearer.
HOW THE FABLES HAVE TURNED presented by Home Theatre Productions plays from June 1-20 on FringeTV. Tickets ($10.50) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca.
Listen and purchase the cast album at Bandcamp:
Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series: