Opening Chester Playhouse Tonight

Great preview story in Chronicle Herald today in the Arts section about Stripes!

Circus comes to Chester

Performer-playwright juggles seven characters in one-woman show

By ANDREA NEMETZ Entertainment Reporter

Tue, Aug 23 – 4:54 AM

Sarah Hayward performs in Stripes: The Mystery Circus, a one-woman show opening 8 p.m. tonight at Chester Playhouse.

Sarah Hayward draws on the spirit of her grandfather, John McCurdy, as she prepares to enter the ring for her one-woman show Stripes: The Mystery Circus.

“My grandfather was a writer and a friend of Bill Lynch and he was asked to be a circus barker for Bill Lynch’s fair,” Halifax-raised Hayward said by phone from Vancouver, where she has lived and worked as an actor for the past quarter century.

“He did it for fun. My grandfather died before I was born, but I can feel that energy of a ringmaster come into me.”

For Stripes, opening tonight at 8 p.m. at Chester Playhouse, Hayward creates seven different characters.

There is a bearded lady, a two-headed lady, a juggler, an escape artist, a ringmaster, a tight-rope walker and Pollyhymnia, whose name means many songs and who is “delightfully determined to be part of the circus and prepares all the parts for her circus audition.”

“The circus is a metaphor for life,” said Hayward, who began creating the show in collaboration with her vocal coach, Marguerite Witvoet, in 2004.

The show blurs the boundaries between physical theatre, cabaret and traditional theatre.

Hayward began touring the 50-minute metaphysical musical in 2006, visiting the Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg fringe festivals. As well, she has performed Mystery Circus in New York at Cherry Lane Theatre, which she describes as “the thrill of a lifetime,” and went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she busked with excerpts from the show and did a 10-minute opening for a 78-year-old American actress’s cabaret show.

The Chester performances will be Hayward’s first shows in her native province in more than 25 years. An Acadia University graduate who has been working in film and TV, she last appeared in Nova Scotia at Neptune Theatre as Lucy, sharing the stage with comedian Ron James, who was the title character in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Hayward grew up in Halifax, where she fell in love with the stage at Gorsebrook Junior High School, touring the province with Modesty Clean Meets the Devil and heading off to the Dominion Drama Festival in Ottawa.

“I was an usher at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium when I was in high school at Queen Elizabeth,” said Hayward. “I was determined to create my own show. But I was always more drawn to the theatre, which encompasses emotion as well as the physical. I saw Circus as more of a show.”

Stripes, which contains eight original songs, is Hayward’s first one-person show, and she said it is immensely satisfying to speak words she has written.

Among the characters are an escape artist who is eluding romantic capture and a two-headed lady who is a nun and a party girl.

“It’s symbolic of the two sides of myself, the dogmatic side and the party side, the good angel and the bad devil on everybody’s shoulders.”

All the stories are drawn from her own life, except the High Wired Act, said Hayward.

“I interviewed a drug-addicted prostitute from East Vancouver and set one of her poems to music.”

The show, choreographed by Vancouver’s Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, who brought her dance-theatre show Nick & Juanita to Halifax in 2006 in a Live Art Dance presentation, is very physical and very vocal, said Hayward.

“I use my life experiences to pay tribute to my family. I wanted it to be about love.”

Stripes runs nightly till Friday at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Friday. Tickets range from $15 to $25. Call 275-3933, 1-800-363-7529 or visit for information and reservations.



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