Female performers play ‘hyper-masculine dudes’ in Calgary show about famous wrestler Andre the Giant
Calgary performer Jamie Tognazzini might seem like an unusual choice to play the role of Andre the Giant, the champion wrestler also known for his role in the classic movie The Princess Bride.
“I’m like 100 pounds and five feet tall — to play the biggest guy in the world, it’s a huge opportunity,” Tognazzini said.
The production features not only Tognazzini as Andre, but also three other women playing famous male wrestlers.
“Portraying the most macho, burliest, hyper-masculine dudes,” Tognazzini said. “All of us are really excited about getting to break out of the conventional roles that female actors are cast in.”
Giant is part of Calgary’s annual Festival of Animated Objects, with the production using several large puppet pieces to help tell the story of Andre’s life.
“I might be using puppets that make me bigger,” Tognazzini said.
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Veteran Calgary fight director Brianna Johnston is at every rehearsal, guiding the performers as they bounce off the ropes and slam each other onto the mat in a real wrestling ring.
“There’s a long history in Calgary of wrestling and a lot of love in Calgary of wrestling,” Johnston said. “Wrestling lives in a world that’s a little bit outside of stage combat. It’s closer to stunts.”
“It can hurt,” performer Genevieve Pare said. “But eventually you build some strength in your neck and your core, and it hurts less.”
Giant runs March 12 to 24 at the Grand Theatre in downtown Calgary.
“It’s so exciting!” Tognazzini said of the hard physical training. “It’s exhausting, but also really invigorating.”
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