Dirt transformed from playlist to playbill.

Three years ago, Stefannie Flannigan was given the third random song from a Tinkerspace Theatre friend’s iTunes playlist and told to write a play based on that song.

That song was Nightcall by indie pop band London Grammar. Flannigan had never heard of it before. “It was gifted unto me,” she recalled. “The spark for the show couldn’t have been more random.” Three years later and that spark has turned into Dirt, a Tinkerspace Theatre production that opens this Wednesday at the TAP Centre for Creativity.

Dirt follows estranged sisters Lucy and Sara as a cryptic phone call forces them to reconnect and reflect on their childhood. Flannigan is keeping a tight lid on any more spoilers because there are a few revelations in the first five minutes of the show. “There are less than five, but more than two reveals overall,” noted Flannigan.

Dirt's playwright Stefannie Flannigan, producer Erin J. Walker, and performers Sofia Eidsath and Ashley Fage stand in a row in front of a grafitti-covered wall.
Dirt’s playwright Stefannie Flannigan, producer Erin J. Walker, and performers Sofia Eidsath and Ashley Fage helped mount this third performance at TAP. Photo by Thomas Sayers.

Fleshing out the plot…

Tinkerspace Theatre newcomer Sofia Eidsath sheds a bit of light on her character Lucy. “Lucy is a tough, sarcastic girl who hasn’t had a lot of great things happen to her,” said Eidsath. Eidsath explained that she has to do a lot of things she doesn’t want to do because she’s the big sister.

Lucy’s diligence inspired Eidsath so much that she tried to emulate her in her day-to-day life. “I’d say it’s about 25 per-cent working so far.”

Ashley Fage is also making her Tinkerspace debut as Lucy’s younger sister Sara. “Sara does the best with the hand she has been dealt,” Fage explained. “She struggles with her mental health in the past and throughout the show.”

Fage believes she’ll be able to sincerely portray Sara because they shared the same diagnosis. “It’s therapeutic and cathartic to play this role,” explained Fage. “I enjoy being able to express these feelings that people experience and struggle with. It’s pretty relatable.”

Dirt is grounded in experience and community.

Dirt has been mounted twice before through Tinkerspace Playlabs, a testing ground for new plays that gives audiences the power to critique and comment on what they’ve just seen. This writing process helped Dirt dig deeper into an honest portrayal of family dynamics and mental health experiences.

“The earlier drafts were so much more from my perspective,” said Flannigan. “All the characters had my voice with how they were dealing with toxic situations.”

Opening the show up to direct audience comment made Dirt’s script more collaborative. “I would get lots of feedback from audience members who would share their own stories,” said Flannigan. “It seemed important to leave that in as much as possible.” These staged readings offered the opportunity to grow something together in Dirt.

Flannigan kept the shared wiring experience alive through the two mountings as she adapted the script for each cast. She would add a line here or there to fit what an actor brought to the performance. “In this draft we have some Spanish because Andrea (Avila) plays the girl’s mother and is fluent in Spanish,” explained Flannigan. “It ended up in the script and it made a lot of sense, but other drafts didn’t have that at all.”

Producer Erin J. Walker echoes this production of Dirt’s dedication to putting authenticity on stage. “Vicki Nicholls, our director, was focused on presenting an authentic representation of the mental health issues that are represented in the play,” said Walker. “That’s been part of the process from the beginning.”

And this Dirt feels the best.

Flannigan thinks that this cast feels the most right so far out of the three productions. “I never really considered the show to be finished until this cast arrived,” she said. “Things just started falling into place for some of the characters that didn’t really have an ending. It’s been great to finish the show.”

But will she pick up the red pen again after this production closes? “It’s hard to say,” Flannigan said. “After three years and being in a better spot now, I want to close the door on the toxic existence that I lived in, but it always feels that it can be improved.”

The nitty-gritty details.

When?  Dirt opens on Wednesday May 8 at 8:00pm with 8:00pm shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with one 2:00pm matinee on Saturday. The show runs two hours long and includes a 15 minute intermission.

Where? The TAP Centre for Creativity. Don’t let Dundas street construction dissuade you from showing up!

How? Tickets for Dirt are available through TAP’s website for $25.

Dirt's poster features a woman's face in half shadow. Yellow balls of light are sprinkled across her face and the rest of the black background.
Dirt’s show poster. Sumbitted by Dirt’s producer Erin J. Walker.

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