Dufflebag Theatre mixes literary classic with a show full of audience participation

by Stephen Dafoe

Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 story of d’Artagnan, a poor young nobleman joining the Musketeers of the Guard will appear on the stage Apr. 10 in the last of the family shows at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre this season.

The hour-long show is the work of Dufflebag Theatre, who will bring the story of the Three Musketeers alive with plenty of audience participation.

Dufflebag Theatre’s Artistic Director Marcus Lundgren said the theatrical group began in London, Ontario in 1992 when he was asked to perform at a children’s festival.

“They said come up with something that will be fun for young audiences,” Lundgren said of the company’s initial five-day run. “We thought it would be great to put props and costumes in a big duffle bag, carry it out in the park, set it down under a tree and we would tell fairy tales. But we would use members of the audience as the main parts. We pulled them up, gave them costumes and improvised the fairy tale around them.”

The concept was so successful; the initial five-day commitment has turned into a 24-year run as Dufflebag Theatre has performed more than 650 shows per year in Canada, the United States and overseas. The group is off to Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia in May.

“We call ourselves the Nearly World Famous Dufflebag Theatre because we’ve still got a couple of places to go before we’re world famous,” Lundgren said.

One of those places the group has yet to visit before heading to Asia is their upcoming Morinville stop. Like all of their improvised shows, Dufflebag Theatre will put a twist on Dumas’ tale of the Three Musketeers.

“It’s the traditional Alexandre Dumas story, but as you can imagine when we pull people from the audience to play the main parts, and they haven’t had a rehearsal, there’s a lot of improv that goes into it,” Lundgren said. “It’s a lot of fun, and the whole audience gets to participate as well. We make absolutely sure there is something for everybody.”

Lundgren said he found repeat visits to a community result in more adults attending the show than on their first visit. “The dads want to get in on this because they’ve had the kids replaying it at dinner time,” he said. “They want to see what it is too, so we really try to make sure it’s for all ages. It’s one of those things that really still hits the whole family as an experience they can share.”

Dufflebag Theatre will present that magic in Morinville this weekend, and hope their audience will be ready for something different.

“They can expect the unexpected,” Lundgren said. “They can expect to see familiar characters but in strange new ways. They can have an introduction to the classic because some of the young members may not have seen or know much about the story. It’s a great introduction, and it’s just a lot of fun. They should all be prepared to laugh and have an experience that will live on.”

Tickets for the Apr. 10 show are no charge. They may be picked up in advance at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.

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