When the fine folks at kawarthaNOW.com invited me to be an arts and culture contributor, I wondered if there might ever come a time when I, as a practising theatre artist, would find myself awkwardly having to write about a production in which I had also participated.
Disclaimer: that time is now.
I am writing about LLAADS, a sketch comedy troupe that I am honoured to have performed with for just short of two years. Though writing about this endeavour isn’t nearly as awkward as I had anticipated, I think it’s safe to say that the subject/object dichotomy has flown the coop.
This story is personal. It is a gesture of love, a celebration of life, and a pledge for the future.
If you’ve never heard of LLAADS, I will be so bold as to speak on behalf of the entire troupe when I say that we think you are an inherently flawed human being. Just kidding!
LLAADS is an acronym for the names of the troupe members: Lindsay Unterlander, Luke Foster, Adam Wilkinson, Adam Martignetti, Dan Smith, and Sarah McNeilly. The invisible “E”, which is also silent, represents our tech-goddess and Zen-master of cool, Eryn Lidster.
I will be forever grateful to Luke Foster and Dan Smith for founding LLAADS in 2018. They handpicked each of the talented and multifaceted members of the troupe. Their madcap idea to create and perform monthly sketch comedy shows brought us together as comedians and as friends, and we are better for it.
“We had no idea what was going to happen,” recalls Lindsay of LLAADS’ debut performance. “Without telling one another, three of us had drained our bank accounts before arriving for the show so that we’d have enough money to cover the cost of the venue rental, just in case it was a flop.”
“We ended up selling out that show,” she laughs, “and I guess the rest is history.”
It is only now, in retrospect, that I can truly appreciate the magnitude of our collective accomplishment. It really is quite historical.
In just under two years, LLAADS created and performed 19 original sketch and improv shows. Not impressed? Let me break that down for you: we collectively wrote, memorized, blocked, designed, and performed 225 original scripts!
That’s an average of 12 a month, and that’s only the ones we performed (Dan, if I ever learn how to properly pronounce archaic British currency names, I promise to perform your poker script)!
To say it was a lot of work would be an understatement, my cortisol levels are spiking just thinking about it. Frankly, I don’t know how we did it but we did, and we did it well.
“We weren’t always the most well-oiled machine but the comedy was slick,” laughs Adam Wilkinson.
“We always walked away with something we were proud of,” adds Lindsay.
In a true Hair Club For Men moment, I can honestly say that I’m not just a (former) member of LLAADS; I’m also a fan!
I think we produced some really funny and cutting-edge comedy and, given the fact that we performed for sold-out audiences every month, I’ll wager that there exist some people in Peterborough who would be inclined to agree.
Our greatest strength was the collective itself. Due to the varying comedic styles of the troupe’s members, LLAADS comedy was dynamic. It was zany, cerebral, satirical, feminist, slapstick, political, physical, morbid, sometimes taboo, and always hilarious.
LLAADS was a many-headed hydra.
“The LLAADS were a wondrous rabble, smashing together some of the unique talents of Peterborough,” proclaims Adam Wilkinson.
“Everyone involved had such a unique and individual contribution to the troupe,” adds Luke. “It really was a pleasure to be a part of and to witness.”
“I have fond, fonder AND fondest memories of pacing in the congested dressing room with Sarah,” says Dan. “We’d hear our trusted friends land that first big laugh and we’d stifle ours upon each other whilst silently plotting to top it.”
“Being a part of the LLAADS was one of the great joys in my life,” says Adam Martignetti. “I created and performed with people I love, and pushed myself and others to be greater than we thought ourselves to be.”
“I didn’t realize how much I grew from it,” Lindsay muses. “It helped me find my voice as a woman in comedy. We could explore things that are taboo for women and work through them on the stage.”
The stage where we cut our teeth, The Theatre on King (TTOK), like every other live performance venue in our fair city, is at risk.
Earlier this week, Lindsay suggested LLAADS donate the money we had saved for festival fees, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses — a total of $1,000 — to help our beloved TTOK through this tough time in our year of the virus.
“Hanging onto a jar of money for a troupe that doesn’t really exist anymore while the space that made us possible struggles just feels wrong,” says Lindsay of LLAADS donation.
“When COVID ends and we start something, it will be new,” she continues. “It will have a new name, and perhaps not all of the same people. This donation to TTOK is an attempt to help ensure the theatre will still be there when this is over.”
“I won’t imagine a future without TTOK,” Dan insists. “It welcomes and embraces and baffles and entrances and inspires and bathes a bald pate in gold paint.”
“TTOK itself, like a fountain of rainbow paint, spewed forth art of all forms, some of which were formless,” Adam Wilkinson explains.
“The LLAADS sprang out from that fountain, mixing some old with some new,” he continues. “I hope that our small gesture can keep that rainbow blood flowing ’cause, when this is all over, we will need some of that beautiful rainbow soul to remind us why life is worth living.”
“The LLAADS’ donation to The Theatre on King was, quite literally, the easiest decision the group has ever made,” Adam Martignetti concludes.
Though it was a great run, LLAADS has run its course. It’s only fitting that the last thing we should do together as a collective is to close the circle, in a sense, by giving back to the theatre that gave so much to us. By investing in the future, we are honouring our collective past.
LLAADS hopes this donation will inspire others to donate to The Theatre on King. Realistically if a bunch of broke comedians can donate, anyone can!
To donate to TTOK, visit publicenergy.ca/support/donate/ and choose “The Theatre on King” from the drop-down menu. Or watch Adam Martignetti’s hilarious and moderately helpful video, in his signature VHS aesthetic, below.
VIDEO: Local Theatre? Local Theatre! – Donate to The Theatre on King
Note: Eryn Lidster could not be reached for comments for this article. To be fair, I told you the “E” was silent.