2012 Toronto Fringe Festival: Q&A With The Judy Monologues Creator Darren Stewart-Jones

Darren Strewart-Jones on giving voice to Judy Garland in his play The Judy Monologues at the Toronto Fringe Festival

Kimberly Roberts as Judy Garland. Photo by Maylynn Quan.

Who do you think of when you hear “Over the Rainbow?" Chances are, it's a young girl in a gingham pinafore and glittering red shoes. More specifically, it's Judy Garland herself, a woman who defined the word “star” more than any other performer of the 20th century, and whose name has become synonymous with the famous tune from The Wizard of Oz. A powerhouse at just 4'11, with a vulnerability in her voice that connected instantaneously with her audience, Judy led a life that was not always glamorous.

In Darren Stewart-Jones' The Judy Monologues, on stage at this year's Toronto Fringe Festival, Judy's final years of financial and personal struggle are presented in monologues based on real voice tapes.

We were lucky enough to interview Jones about his fascination with Garland, and discovered how her humor and wit come through in this production.

Theatromania: Forty-three years after her death, the world is still fascinated by the life of Judy Garland. What is it about Judy that holds their fascination?

DSJ: Well, the most obvious thing is her talent. People like Garland don't come along very often. Many have called her the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. The other thing for me was Garland's ability to connect with people. When you hear her voice, you feel like she's singing not just to you but rather for you and about you.

Theatromania: This production is based on voice tapes recorded by Judy in the final years of her life. What themes are most prominent in her dialogue?

DSJ: This wasn't the happiest period of her life. She was broke, her career was fading and another marriage had ended. But she never loses her sense of humour. There are some very witty lines in this show. She also raves about her children. She's extremely proud of them. Sadly, subjects such as the price of fame and her denial about her addictions also come into play.

Theatromania: What attracted you, personally, to Judy's life and her overall story?

DSJ: I've been a fan of Judy Garland since I was a kid. As a youngster, I discovered her in old MGM films like The Wizard of Oz and Easter Parade. Later, as a teenager, I began to buy her music and read biographies about her. I think I connected to the vulnerability she projected, whether it was real or imagined on my part. It always seemed to be Judy against the world. It sounds cliche, but she was a survivor. Life dealt her some blows but she kept on singing.

Theatromania: Upon leaving this performance, what do you hope the viewer will take with them?

DSJ: We've been performing this show on and off around Ontario for over a year now. People that are Garland fans have been so appreciative, which is lovely. I wanted this show to be an homage to Garland, not an exploitation. What's really fun is introducing her to new fans. At first, I couldn't believe that there were actually people out there who had never heard of Judy Garland!

Theatromania: What are you most looking forward to at this year's Toronto Fringe Festival?

DSJ: This is my first Fringe ever! It looks like there are some great shows to see this year! Personally, I'm looking forward to sharing this piece of theatre that is so close to my heart with as many people as possible during the Toronto Fringe. And I hear the beer tent is fun, too!

The Judy Monologues run from July 6 to 15 at the Annex Theatre. Visit fringetoronto.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Times:

July 06 07:00 PM
July 07 12:00 PM
July 09 06:45 PM
July 11 11:00 PM
July 12 01:45 PM
July 14 02:15 PM
July 15 01:45 PM


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