The 2017 Fringe Festival (Sept 7 -17) starts this week and LINK has been busy checking out previews of select shows and meeting with the people who create them. In their own words, “The Fringe strives to break down traditional boundaries and encourage open dialogue between audiences and artists by presenting live un-juried, uncensored theatre in an accessible and informal environment.” Follow along with us and be sure to check out this year’s festival. It’s a great way to blow off steam between classes and your chance to check out some truly original performances you might never forget.


A darkly humored tale about love, fear, and friendship, Gruesome Playground Injuries questions the human tendency to run away from vulnerability –even when it’s what we crave. Leading actress Gina Leon (Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) and director Mel Tuck opens up about why this play is so intimidating yet rewarding for them.

Gruesome Playground Injuries is just one of many plays coming up at this year’s Fringe Festival. The play was written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, starring Gina Leon and Michael Germant (Shocase’s Continuum) will run from September 8th to September 17th.

For more information about Gruesome Playground Injuries, and to purchase show tickets, see their website here.


What attracted you to the play “Gruesome Playground Injuries”?

Gina Leon: We were looking for a play that would fit the criteria for the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival’s Dramatic Works Series. This particular category of the festival calls for works by published playwrights and this year it celebrates playwrights of Asian descent. Rajiv Joseph, Pulitzer Prize finalist for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, a playwright of mixed racial descent – was an exciting possibility. When lead actor and producer, Michael Germant, began weighing choices with director Mel Tuck, Gruesome Playground Injuries came to our attention as a piece that would fit and challenge our collaborative team (Island Productions).

It was amusing and horrifying. It was a bizarre but universal love story, raising not just one but many relevant questions like: why do we hurt ourselves to gain someone else’s love or affection? What is pain? How do we heal? Does love heal? Can we heal each other?  It was clearly a piece that would stretch the actor’s process – as the lives of characters, Kayleen and Doug, intersect at the most bizarre intervals, leading the two childhood friends to compare scars and the physical calamities that keep drawing them together over the course of 30 years.  

 I think audiences will relate to the humorous and horrifyingly painful things we do to ourselves in the face of love.

How did reading the play for the first time make you feel?

Gina Leon: I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I was both drawn to and repelled by the painful cycle of two characters terrified to commit to love, to each other, to the greater possibility of helping each other heal.

Mel Tuck: When this very unique play was brought to me and I read it I wasn’t too sure if I wanted be involved with it. Upon further examination I became very intrigued. The surface aspects of the play seem extreme; but as it went along patterns of behaviour began to make sense and to resonate. Two very damaged people both inside and outside love each other. However, this very love brings up many fears about love and commitment. That which they need the most is the thing they fear the most.

Image courtesy Vancouver Fringe Festival/ Island Productions

How is this play relatable to you?

Geon Leon: Rajiv Joseph presents Kayleen through various episodes in her life where her “sensitive stomach” illustrates the torment, violence and vulnerability of feeling things deeply. I went through a period in my life where I was simply vulnerable to everything I felt deeply. I had an unhealthy way of processing my emotional life, like Kayleen. It was a real struggle to know my worth and to trust that I was lovable. The character of Doug is on a path of self-destruction. Something is missing for him and he is endlessly looking to fill this emptiness. I found myself relating to this too.

Mel Tuck: Kayleen and Doug potentially could have a positive and healing relationship if they could just get past their fears of being capable of committing to that love and doing so in harmony and not at opposing times. We see that the opposite of love is not hate but fear. We often punish ourselves without knowing why. I found myself rooting and hoping for these two. I also began to see many of my own injuries in these two which led me to a deep desire to understand why. We have dug deep inside this play and ourselves to comprehend the why.


How can this play be relatable to the audience?

Geon Leon: I think audiences will relate to the humorous and horrifyingly painful things we do to ourselves in the face of love. We see Doug and Kayleen at different ages being drawn together. I think audiences will see themselves in these two characters – who wrestle with the fear of love – the very thing they need the most in order to heal.  


What is your favourite scene of the play? Why?

Geon Leon: My intuitive response is to the say the first scene – Doug and Kayleen are 8 years of age. It’s the beginning of a long cycle of injuries and internal struggles that these characters undergo to get to love, but at 8 years of age – they are free, vulnerable, spirited and joyful. It’s a treat to play.


What is your LEAST favourite scene of the play? Why?

Geon Leon: Scene FOUR is challenging. Doug is in a coma and I talk to him, willing him back to life. My niece was in a coma just two years ago after a horrific injury and I find that this scene drudges up lots of terrifying memories of not so long ago. That being said, I try to not to think of scenes in this way – if I can be totally open and loving – even when it hurts – then I am doing my job – bringing the words to life with the aspiration that the audience will feel themselves in this story or be able to relate in some context.


I hope this will inspire audience members to LOVE, no matter how fearful or terrifying it may be at times.


What do you hope audience members draw away from the play?

Geon Leon: I hope that audiences will feel deeply for these characters, as we do. I hope audiences will brave asking the question: why do we hurt ourselves in the face of love? I hope that audiences will ask the question: how do we heal? But mostly, I hope this will inspire audience members to LOVE, no matter how fearful or terrifying it may be at times. I hope that this play will ignite for viewers a love of stories and a respect for how vital and wonderful theatre can be.


Why are the themes of love, pain and friendship so important for you?

Geon Leon: Love is all we need. The Beatles, right? Well, there’s a lot of truth to this. Love covers a lot of territory, but ultimately when we do love – despite a painful or fractured past, despite our resistance to it, despite our history – we heal. Friendship in the context of this play spans over the course of thirty years, where we examine how life unfolds in a very painful way – the ups and downs. I believe that deep and abiding love in a romantic relationship is rooted in a unique friendship. Doug and Kayleen have this. They are terrified for good reason. History has taught them to fear intimacy, but on the other side of this fear is something rather wonderful and universally profound – a friendship, a love, and the ability to heal in union.


For more information about Gruesome Playground Injuries, and to purchase show tickets, see their website here.

Image courtesy Vancouver Fringe Festival/ Island Productions