Edinburgh Fringe 2021
Siobhan Bremer invites the viewer into her world of challenges, successes, failures, and family as she takes us through five decades of the actor’s experiences in auditioning and performing.
“Hi diddly dee, an actor’s life for me. It’s great to be a celebrity, an actor’s life for me!”. ‘Honest John Foulfellow’ in the 1940 Disney film ‘Pinocchio’ makes acting sound so simple and glamourous. “Hi-diddle-dee-dum, an actor’s life is fun!”, Foulfellow continues. All of that can be true, but actors will also tell you of the struggles that they face at every turn.
Just ask Siobhan Bremer. She has taken her history in dramatic arts to the virtual theatre in her compelling 38-minute one-woman online show, “A Theatrical Life”. The play is a telling journey through more than five decades of a theatrical life, on and off stage. It is her story of facing challenges, overcoming adversity, managing change with determination and resourcefulness, and, above all, embracing the support of family.
The play is shot primarily in an empty theatre on an expansive stage with only a few props: a chair, a table and a black box. Through effective portrayal of the characters in her life, colourful costuming, and music that beautifully compliments each segment, Bremer engages the viewer, taking us on her journey without requiring any complex sets or digital film techniques. Bremer handily switches through the stages of her life and the people who influenced her. The starkness of the setting pulls the viewer even closer to her as she maneuvers through the decades and travels across the world.
Bremer was a stage kid from very early years. She, her older sister, and her identical twin were cast in their mother’s plays in Minnesota, starting at quite a young age. From high school productions to university dramas to professional work, Bremer was always auditioning. “Audition: the heartbreaking, nerve-wracking exercise that actors must endure in order to secure a gig” (not the Oxford dictionary definition but this reviewer’s definition). And audition she does – for so many roles, so many turn-downs, so many non-sympathetic casting agents. We feel her angst as she is left completely alone on empty stages to pour her heart into lines she has learned for possible acting jobs. “Next”, shouts the director. Bremer is dismissed time after time at auditions, with barely an opportunity to truly demonstrate her talent. Like all actors, she has a standard 8 X 10 photo of herself, and that is often used to judge her suitability for an audition, and even for a role. But, as Bremer points out, the photo doesn’t sufficiently tell the actor’s professional or life story.
Bremer perseveres. She becomes an airline pilot like her mom’s boyfriend, George. She continues to audition and perform. And then – cancer. In her 40s, she endures dramatic, life-saving surgery. But she doesn’t allow cancer to define her. With her single vision, she continues her “theatrical life”.
Daniel Munson’s script beautifully captures Bremer’s spirit and adventures. With descriptive language, Munson brings Bremer’s family to life. We meet the players as Bremer easily moves between sisters. Judy Myers’ directing easily transitions the characters through settings and decades, with Bremer rarely leaving the stage but always helping the viewer imagine the environment of the character Bremer is portraying, even including dancing animals. We are captivated by the story not only because it is so universal for people in the arts but also because Bremer is very relatable. Video editing is by Jason Underferth.
Likely every child of an actor or director can find a connection to Bremer’s story. Whether they were watching their parents on stage or performing in their shows, the children would be influenced by the uncertain yet exciting life that a career in theatre provides. “Actors put their entire lives in the hands of other people,” says Bremer. For her, “theatre is where I fit in”. Clearly she is in her element when telling her story. She is utterly delightful and we are cheering for her all the way. Bremer currently continues to pursue an acting career as well as teaching acting at University of Minnesota Morris. As the American rock band Journey sings, “don’t stop believing”. Ms. Bremer, your audience anxiously awaits your next performance.