Fishbowl isn’t about the way the characters connect; it’s about the way they don’t

Originally developed for individual monologues, Mark Shyzer unites four of his characters in his one-man show Fishbowl, set to play at this year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival.

Mark Shyzer's Fishbowl plays as part of the 2012 Vancouver International Fringe FestivalThere’s Esther, a gawky schoolgirl trying to complete her science project; Francis (aka Ravyn), an angsty teenager who just wants to get away from his parents; Janice, a gin-soaked divorcee downing dirty martinis; and Walter, an acerbic octogenarian trying to prepare his last words.

“These characters have been under development for a number of years now, and I can’t even remember where they all germinated from,” says Shyzer by email from the Edmonton Fringe.

Because the four characters never actually meet each other in the play, Shzyer says Fishbowl isn’t about the way they connect; it’s about the way they don’t.

“They’re like stars, millions of billions of kilometers away from each other,” says Shyzer.  “They seem to have nothing to do with one another but if you look up into the sky, you see a few at once, and you can make out a shape. You think, hey, that looks like a spoon.”

But while the quartet may have been conjured from Shyzer’s obviously fertile mind, he does admit that Esther is only a slight exaggeration of himself during high school.

“In fact, her costume is made from my old high school uniform, but with a kilt instead of pants,” says Shyzer.

With Janice the queer connection in the show, and Shyzer being careful not to give away too much so as not to spoil the fun, his inclusion of a queer storyline into the show comes from his real-life observation that people try to insert themselves into relationships that they don’t belong in all the time.

“I think gay men and their straight female friends are particularly prone to this, and it’s interesting to explore those feelings from the woman’s side,” explains Shyzer.

Originally getting its start at Toronto’s Buddies in Badtimes, which is dedicated to the development and presentation of queer theatre, Shyzer says that Fishbowl owes its success to the encouragement he received there.

“The show couldn’t have started anywhere else,” says Shyzer.  “Buddies has a pretty fantastic, multifaceted youth program where I started developing the show before I even knew it.  Evalyn Parry, who ran the program, encouraged me to take those characters and put them into an application for the Young Creator’s Unit, where I then developed and performed the first 30 minute draft of the show. That was over three years ago, and Evalyn has been on board as director for every iteration of the show since then.”

Now seven cities into his Canadian Fringe tour, with Vancouver the final leg, Shyzer is convinced he made the right decision to take the show on the road.

“Being a one man show with a minimal set Fishbowl just seemed perfectly suited to a Fringe tour,” says Shyzer.  “We’ve been selling out everywhere, and the audiences love it. The best place for a show to be is in front of an enthusiastic audience, and that’s what the Fringe circuit offers.”


Part of the 2012 Vancouver International Fringe Festival
Performance Works, Granville Island
8 – 16 September 2012

Shockingly funny and equally moving, Fishbowl slyly reveals the connections between four wildly different “and outrageously hilarious” characters, all played by Mark Shyzer.  Visit for tickets and information.

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