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L to R: The author with actor Tess Degenstein. Photo courtesy of Livia Belcea.

Theatre Review: I was invited on stage for Blind Date at GCTC

By Livia Belcea on December 12, 2017

This past weekend, I went from theatre-goer to co-star of Blind Date, the newest show playing at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

The concept of Blind Date is simple: Mimi (played by Tess Degenstein) mingles with the guests before the show and drafts a “maybe” list of potential candidates to join her on stage for a blind date. Then, at the beginning of the show, she reaches into the audience for her date and they share the stage for 90 minutes.

A friend of mine who had already seen Blind Date twice suggested that we go see the show together. In the email thread in which we worked out logistics with our group of friends, my friend casually but firmly suggested (and I quote): “We will all need to wing man for Livia, because she would be the perfect candidate for this!!”

Photo: BankoMedia

As she walked up into the audience where I was seated, I understood that I would take the stage that night and accepted her invitation for a blind date.

Naturally, I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, but I also saw this potential experience as a unique and unlikely opportunity to do something that would catapult me out of my comfort zone and perhaps give me a new perspective. And so, I went for it and talked to Mimi while she was mingling with guests before the show. We had a quick chat and she seemed to enjoy our conversation. I was informed by her stage manager that I would be added to her list of maybes.

Once the show started and Mimi announced that she would be asking a member of the audience to join her on a date, jitters took over me. As she walked up into the audience where I was seated, I understood that I would take the stage that night and accepted her invitation for a blind date.

Mimi was charming and welcoming, which made performing in front of hundreds of people for the first time, with no script, no preparation and no knowledge of where the play was going, a little bit less overwhelming.

After some ground rules were laid, Mimi and I started to get to know each other over a drink with the basic dating Q&A: where are you from, where do you work, where did you go to school, what do you do on your spare time, etc. I was instructed to be myself and answer the questions truthfully, which is what I did, but I aware that I wasn’t sharing this information exclusively with Mimi, but also with the hundreds of people in the audience. This added an element of anxiety to my performance, but I quickly settled into my role and kept my nerves at bay.

Photo: BankoMedia

Mimi was charming and welcoming, which made performing in front of hundreds of people for the first time, with no script, no preparation and no knowledge of where the play was going, a little bit less overwhelming.

It was easy to talk to Mimi and I tested the waters slightly by making a few jokes and asking my own questions. Although I did not know what it entailed, I was aware that Mimi had a plan for the show and that she was steering the plot. It was unclear to me how much freedom I had in leading part of the conversation or challenging Mimi with a fresh idea, but she kept the play flowing and I happily obliged to take her lead. Going with what has been handed to you, after all, is the rule of improv, and Blind Date is very much an exercise of improvisation and being quick on your feet while providing sincere but amusing dialogue.

The 90 minutes during which I was on stage went by relatively fast, but not knowing what was next between scenes and how I was being received by the audience added some pressure and vulnerability. As the play took a more intimate direction near the end, I became increasingly nervous. I suppose that if I didn’t have someone already to share some specific moments with, it would have been easier for me. Nonetheless, I knew that I had to help Mimi keep the story going, no matter where it took me. I was in good hands after all.

Blind Date was an exciting, quirky and funny show, and I look forward to seeing it again, this time from the comfort of the audience seating.


Blind Date is playing at Great Canadian Theatre Company (1233 Wellington W) until Sunday December 17. Tickets cost $42–58 online and at the GCTC box office. The show is for adults only.


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