If you’ve been missing a night out at the theatre, here’s one to check out now. Stupidhead! is a hilarious and heartfelt musical about growing up with dyslexia, reimagined by creators and performers Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson. The show will be presented as a multi-platform experience — including the opportunity to have them come to your own outdoor space, by the acclaimed theatre company, Outside the March.
Stupidhead! is a show about learning that no matter who you are, you’re not alone. The musical charts the real-life “growing pains” of Outside the March Founding Member Katherine Cullen, from award-winning immersive productions like Vitals, Mr. Burns and TomorrowLove. In creating Stupidhead!, she collaborated with her real-life best friend of ten years, award-winning composer Britta Johnson (Dr. Silver, Life After), one of Canada’s leading musical theatre talents, whose work most recently garnered acclaim at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre.
Falling in love with the theatre world was pretty cliché Cullen tells us. “I was 8 and my mum took me to see Phantom of the Opera. I loved every second of going to the theatre including the over-priced candy in small bags,” said Cullen. But it was during high school where things started to solidify for her and inspired her to pursue a career in performance arts professionally.
In this production, we flash back to her childhood. Cullen was interested in sharing her personal experience navigating the school system with learning differences and hope that some of it resonates with people. “Whether you have dyslexia or not, I’ve really just wanted this show to make people feel less alone and hopefully make them laugh.”
The title was inspired by all the different insults that little kids typically use. because the show centres around Cullen’s childhood she wanted to invoke that feeling in the title. “Also, feeling like I was ‘stupid’ was fairly persistent during that time and I wanted to take that feeling and invert it…sort of re-claim it for myself,” she tells us.
Within the performance there are songs presented and not meant to be perfect in polished does that present different pressures? Cullen mentioned in some ways there is less pressure. “I don’t feel like I have to measure up to any kind of real standard when it comes to being able to sing,” said Cullen. “I make it pretty clear in the show right off the bat that this is not going to be a normal musical and that I have no actual training or real musical ability. There is some pressure though because I do want people to enjoy themselves and I never want my lack of musical training to get in the way of the experience. I just want it to be integrated into the show in a way that is charming and not painful to listen to. I have taken some singing lessons to mitigate this!!”
This show is also about how we stay connected during these social distancing times — even the production has been adapted for audiences to enjoy safely in their own space.
What can we expect? Cullen says she’s really excited that they get to do a live version of this show. “It’s going to feel really emotional being able to perform for people again after all this time. I think the show will feel a bit magical and intimate. We will be adapting to all kinds of different spaces and we have a travelling set (designed by Anahita Dehbonehie and Jennifer Lennon) that will help transform each backyard space and front porch we visit. I mostly hope that people laugh a lot and feel some emotions. Over-all I hope audiences will feel they’ve been transported into the zany world of the show and have a really fun time.”
It has been difficult for a lot of people to stay connected with friends and family during this time. How has she managed? Even though she has Zoom/Facetime burnout like many of us, she mentioned she’s found a good old phone call can be really helpful. “I had these lofty ideas of getting into letter-writing at the beginning of the pandemic but I never wrote a single one so clearly that was just a romantic notion I had no intention on actually following through on. I really truly love being in nature and I have found this to be the single most effective way of helping me feel grounded and connected.”
Like many of us Cullen misses all the small dinner parties with friends and of course the theatre! Now that the city is well-underway to getting as many people fully vaccinated she’s looking forward to seeing her friends in doors and “not constantly having to meet up in parks and wonder where we will go to the bathroom. Live art coming back, and just generally feeling less anxious about being in the world.”
Live digital radio performances run from July 7 to 16, 2021 – limited capacity for each live broadcast (Tickets are $15 per person).
“We’re modelling this version on your favourite radio variety shows from the times of yore,” explains Cullen. “It’ll be like we’re performing in your living rooms… but we won’t be, because we respect your health and wellbeing and also we would get fined by the Ontario Government.”
“At Your Place” performances (yes, they can come to your backyard, porch and any other private outdoor space within the GTA) are now booking from July 20 to August 1, 2021.
“Yeah, when was the last time you got to have strangers in your home?” says co-creator Britta Johnson. “The best part is that you’ll kind of get to feel like you are hanging out with Katherine – she shares intimate stories, she sings, and we share lots of laughs.”
The live and in-person performances run 55 minutes and can be set up onsite in under half an hour. A fun way to gather your friends and family in a meaningful and creative way! The private performance is $400 and all funds will go to the artists working on the show.
More details can be found at www.outsidethemarch.ca.