Justin Shaw takes his play to 'the Fringe'


Published on April 20, 2017

Justin Shaw appears in a scene from "While We’re Young" in this 2014 Guardian file photo. The Don Hannah play, produced by UPEI’S Vagabond Players, was staged at The Guild in Charlottetown.

©SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

BY ROBERT CROSSLEY

THE GUARDIAN

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The Island Fringe Festival is several months away, but some plays have already been accepted.  

One is the first attempt at playwriting by Island born actor, Justin Shaw.

Shaw has been attending the National Theatre School in Montreal for the past two years, where he has been taking part in a playwright’s workshop.

“It’s really cool of the school to provide a way for students to work on passion projects like this,” says Shaw.

His new piece is a one-character show called “The Wrestling Play”. It’s about an English teacher who decides to quit his job and move to Mexico to become a professional wrestler.

Shaw says that the play “challenges ideas, such as, what does it mean to take your life into your own hands,” a metaphor he says is thoroughly explored in the piece.

Shaw, who grew up watching professional wrestling, was struck by the similarities to his chosen career of acting.  He says he wants to “draw connections to both the obvious and the subtle similarities between wrestling and theatre.”

“There are some overt similarities,” Shaw says, referencing the amount of performance in professional wrestling, “but there’s some more subtle similarities I would like to point out, which is why I make a point of calling it ‘The Wrestling Play’.”

After working on the play for two years, Shaw recently got his first chance to present a part of his work publicly. “It was a good chance to see what works with an audience,” Shaw says. “It’s similar to standup comedy, except laughter isn’t always the goal with the play.”

Shaw himself is planning to portray the main character, but has gotten help with directing from one of his classmates. He will be rehearsing in Fort McMurray, Alta.

“The play was written in Quebec, rehearsed in Alberta, and performed in P.E.I.,” he says, “It’s very cross-country in that way.”

Shaw hopes that audiences will leave his play reflecting on the very nature of storytelling. He says he want people to wonder about what stories are, as well as why people tell stories. He says his play is “not just about what the story is being told, but how it’s being told, and how the journey of this one character impacts an audience.”

“The Wrestling Play” will be performed in a wrestling ring, says Shaw, although he does not know the exact location. It will be shown as part of the Island Fringe Festival in August.