Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Roller Derby Saved My Soul

Nancy Kenny’s play about lesbian love and roller derby races onto summer fringe circuit

Writer/performer Nancy Kenny is taking her one-woman play Roller Derby Saved My Soul on the Fringe circuit. Credit: Richard Gilmore

A geeky office worker finds her inner amazon and falls in love, all thanks to roller derby.

Roller Derby Saved My Soul, a one-woman play written and performed by Nancy Kenny, follows the adventures of Amy, although when the play opens her life is anything but adventurous. She’s shy, spends a lot of time reading comics and feels unfulfilled as a customer-support assistant and in life.

“She has a lot of jealousy towards her sister, who is self-employed and successful and does all these incredible, adventurous things that she’s never dared try — until now,” Kenny tells Xtra.

June, the bold, brash sister, introduces Amy to roller derby. Against all odds, she’s hooked from the start — and not just with the game.

“Amy falls in love with the sport, and there she meets a player named Diana who she also falls in love with,” Kenny says. “Then, of course, there’s the ups and downs of everything that happens that I won’t spoil.”

She doesn’t want to give too many details, but Kenny says a same-sex relationship is new to Amy, and she finds the experience overwhelming at times. Amy admires Diana’s strength and sensuality, but, feeling unsure of herself, has a tendency to sabotage the relationship.

Loving someone yet not being great at being in a relationship is something many people can relate to. Amy’s role as underdog also resonates with audiences, which is probably why Roller Derby Saved My Soul has been a hit with critics and theatregoers alike since its debut at the Ottawa Fringe Festival in 2011.

“The show has a lot of heart,” Kenny says. “The show is also about someone who feels like they just don’t measure up, who has maybe an idea of where their life should be right now, and their life doesn’t match the image they have in their head.”

Directed by Tania Levy, Kenny’s play launched with a one-night performance in Ottawa on May 30 before touring the Fringe circuit this summer. With stops in London, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver, Kenny is looking forward to spending the coming months performing her updated play. “I’m thrilled to be coming back to it, especially now because I’ve done these rewrites. It feels like a more cohesive play to me now, so I’m excited to go out and do it,” she says. “What’s beautiful about the Fringe is you can really test things out. So when you start a show out, say, at the London Fringe, it will definitely evolve by the time you get to Vancouver in September.”

In addition to performing, Kenny is also filming a documentary about life on the Fringe, which will give us “a behind-the-scenes look at what the Fringe festival is and who are these kooky people who go on the road, who spend their entire summers on the road and leave everything behind to go perform for 10 bucks a pop,” she says.