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‘Tornado Magnet’ swirls onto the Empress stage

Erin Bourke-Henderson plays Dotty Parsons in ‘Tornado Magnet: A Salute to Trailer Court Women.' The play runs Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through July and August at the Empress Theatre.

Don’t let the title fool you.
There is considerable depth to “Tornado Magnet: A Salute to Trailer Court Women.”
“It’s all about a woman, kind of a Super Mom, giving a lecture about what it’s like to live an an Alberta trailer court,” said Jeremy Mason, who is directing the one-act play at the Empress Theatre.
“Tornado Magnet,” which stars Erin Bourke-Henderson as Dotty Parsons, explores important themes such as community, being a young parent and making ends meet.
“Tornado Magnet” runs Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. throughout July and August.
Although loaded with laughs, “Tornado Magnet” is more than a tale of life in a stereotypical trailer court.
“We end up realizing she (Dotty) is just like everyone else,” Mason said. “You can easily relate to your own neighbourhood the sense of community.”
Mason first saw “Tornado Magnet” performed in Calgary and thought then it would be a good fit as a summer offering at the Empress Theatre.
Then in 2010 as summer program director at the Empress, Mason discovered a copy of the “Tornado Magnet” script in the office.
“Part of it is that at the Empress we’re always looking for plays that tell Alberta stories,” Mason said of the appeal of “Tornado Magnet.”
Empress summer program director Andy Jenkins also likes the choice of “Tornado Magnet” as a show that will appeal to both local residents and tourists.
“It’s the perfect show to give back to the community, and to show a side of humour that is very southern Alberta,” Jenkins said. “Don‘t be dismayed by the words ‘trailer court.’ This is a different kind of show. It’s really about a rural community mother.”
The play tackles head-on the reality that stereotypes — in this case ones about people who live in trailer parks — always hurt.
“There are some real touching moments,” Mason said.
“Tornado Magnet” also has a sense of humour. At one point Dotty offers a tip for stretching the budget at the end of the month: find the dented cans because you often get them for free.
“It’s about getting by with very little but still liking your life,” Mason said.
“Tornado Magnet” deals with adult themes, and there is an advisory the content is most appropriate for people aged 13 years and over.
Mason predicts audiences will come away from “Tornado Magnet” with a feeling of delight, and a renewed sense of community.
“I think the people who are really going to connect with this are young, start-out families,” Mason said. “I think it’s also going to connect with people who are past that stage of life, but who will recognize themselves in the play.”
Bourke-Henderson starred last summer at the Empress in “The Worry Wart.”
A graduate of the Rosebud School of the Arts, Bourke-Henderson has had roles in “The Foreigner” and “Godspell” at Rosebud Theatre, “Aunt Gladys” in Saskatchewan Native Theatre, and “Perilous Pirates Daughter” at the Station Arts Centre.
Mason said Bourke-Henderson is the right actor for “Tornado Magnet” because she can handle the weight of carrying a one-woman show.
“You’ve got to find ways to keep the audience engaged, this show specifically,” said Mason, whose directing credits include “Alberta Rose,” “Ghost Light” and “Blame it on Bigfoot.” “It’s her talking to the audience.”
“Erin is such a great performer. Her energy connects with audiences.”
Meg Cahill is stage manager and Ryland Moranz is theatre technician for “Tornado Magnet.”

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