In his first autobiographical show, Keir Cutler took a comic look at the menace of rogue audience members. Wacky,
hilarious encounters on the Fringe with the "fringe" element, including being reported to the authorities
for one of his plays.
"How good an actor is Keir Cutler? The hate mail tells the story"Pat Donnelly, The Montreal Gazette read full article
Here's the backstory.
In 1999 Keir wrote and performed his first solo show Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody. He played a confused Shakespeare professor incapable of getting more than a line or two into a given scene before racing off on endless bard-worshiping tangents, and equally unable to make even the slightest bit of sense. His wife leaves him. He's denied tenure and forced off the faculty of the university.
The play premiered at the 1999 Montreal Fringe, and Keir has toured it across Canada and to New York City, receiving rave reviews. It's been broadcast on Bravo Canada. TJ Dawe was the venue manager for Keir's inaugural run of the show. The show began Keir's career as a writer and performer of solo plays, and of touring the fringe circuit.
In 2001 Keir wrote and performed a sequel: Teaching Detroit, also known as Teaching Shakespeare 2. His same professor character now teaches in a community college, and has placed his unpublished novel on the syllabus of his world literature survey course. On the day he's covering it in class, he discovers not a single student has read it, or purchased a copy. He summarizes the novel for the class, acting out parts as he goes. He reveals to the class he has a drinking problem. He's forced off the faculty of the college.
The play ends with the professor lowering the price of his manuscript from thirty dollars to five, desperate to sell a single copy. Often Keir had a guest actor come on as a student at the end of the play and buy the script for five dollars. The shocked and delighted professor asks if he can please sign it. In the show's run at the 2001 Toronto Fringe, TJ did the cameo.
In 2006 Keir wrote and performed Teaching As You Like It, also known as Teaching Shakespeare 3. TJ directed. The character has now sunk to substitute teaching English in a high school. On the day he's to teach Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It, he instead spends the class denying the rumour that he's involved with one of the students in the class, who's conspicuously absent that day. As he endlessly justifies himself he digs a bigger and bigger hole and inadvertently admits he's done exactly what he's been accused of. The show ends with him swamped in the guilt of his actions and admissions, waiting for the police to show up and arrest him.
Teaching As You Like It toured fringes across Canada and received rave reviews from critics, from the mayor of Edmonton, and from a Toronto psychologist who treats abusive priests, who asked Keir for a video of the piece to show his patients how they justify and rationalize their criminal behavior.
After his last fringe performance of the show at the 2007 Winnipeg Fringe, Keir was forwarded a three-page letter an audience member wrote to the head of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and most disturbingly, a child protection agency. The handwritten letter complains that the show promotes the idea that sexual predation of underaged girls is acceptable, and that it could be used as a textbook for anyone who wanted to take advantage of a student. Accusations not made by a single critic in any of the seven cities the play has been performed in.
Teaching the Fringe tells the story of Keir receiving this letter, his reaction to it, and his response to it. Along with other stories of encounters with strange audience members, and incidents of censorship in general. TJ directs again. The play is packed with hilarious comic insights, and is told with a biting sarcastic edge.