It’s quite out of the ordinary to start a story with a big sneeze, especially when, for once, you don’t have a cold. But then, this is about Axis Theatre’s new production that is directed to kids, so they may get the irony.
The Vancouver-based company is bringing its latest play, The Big Sneeze, literally to life when it stages at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday.
Based on an original script by playwright Tracey Power, the play has a moral centre and addresses issues affecting youth such as self-esteem and peer relationships.
“The play has stimulated great discussion between teachers and students and parents and their children,” said Axis artistic director/Wayne Specht, who also directs The Big Sneeze, adding the show has already toured through the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Kootenays.
Geared towards families with children ages five to 12, The Big Sneeze follows a 10-year-old Grade 4 student named Lizzy (played by Sarah May Redmond), who deals with the complications of being the tallest girl in grade school, which makes her feel like an outsider.
Lizzy does her best to stay under the radar and blend into the crowd, until one day her invisible act becomes impossible when she lets out the most gigantic sneeze ever.
The sneeze is so big that it comes out in human form (played by Tallulah Winkleman) and changes Lizzy’s life forever.
“I’m a part of Lizzy that really wants to be heard and is very instinctual,” said Winkleman about her unusual, tissue-inducing role. “It’s really fun to get to play a magical character for starters because nobody has a preconceived idea of what the sneeze is, so you can really go on your own intuition.”
In her first acting job with Axis, Winkleman gets to stretch her artistic talents even further, playing two male roles in the play: well-fed gym teacher Mr. Fitzpatrick, and Lizzy’s brother, Max.
“I wondered if this was going to be an issue for the kids that they’re going to be like ‘you’re not a boy,’ or whatever, but it totally isn’t. They just roll with it,” said the actress who also plays Lizzy’s sort of best friend, Jenny.
“They have some challenges in their friendship, which is part of the story of the play,” explained Winkleman.
In the end, the journey of self-acceptance that Lizzy discovers through her sneeze is what growing up is all about. You’ll be saying “gesundheit” by the end.
The third show of the Performing Arts Centre’s kids series, The Big Sneeze takes the stage Sunday at 2 and 4 p.m. All seats are $12 and can be purchased at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.