Sonja Mills is the funniest woman alive. Except maybe for Diane Flacks. Oh, and that Jane Ford is an absolute scream as well. By some miraculous confluence of comedic fortune, all three of these groovy gals will be sharing the Buddies in Bad Times stage for 3-2-1, a night of high-risk hilarity just in time for Christmas.
The evening is Ford’s brainchild: an evening of three one-act plays written by each of the women and performed as an ensemble. Just to keep things interesting, a common starting point was established with an opening line submitted by Canadian indie film darling (and Road to Avonlea alumnae) Sarah Polley. The trio then had a mere two weeks to create something fabulous. The tension is palpable, but these women trust each other so implicitly, so powerfully, that their faith in soulful sisterhood has settled upon them like a warm, encouraging glow.
“Diane has a team of monkeys already working on this fucking thing,” says Mills. “I just know she’s cheating.”
Ahem. Okay, so maybe the glow is tinged with just the teensiest bit of acerbic affection, but Mills is nonetheless pleased to be returning to a Toronto stage after a fairly long hiatus. For her, performing is as natural, as essential, as breathing.
“I have a fear of dying onstage,” she says. “I just have no idea how people memorize lines and live through auditions and things. I think acting is one of the hardest jobs, like radio personalities or school bus drivers. Horrible.”
Of course, the chance to work with her friends again was a big part of the draw. Mills confesses feeling deeply honoured by the opportunity to create and celebrate their art together and offers a heartfelt endorsement of the other women’s innate gifts.
“Well Diana, she’s a cheater, I’ve already mentioned that. I know because I’ve known her for so long. I used to go to her gigs and sit in the front row drinking and scream, ‘Show us your tits!’
“Jane, well, I’m kind of in awe of Jane. She’s this big-time producer and an amazing musician. She’s got, like, 5,000 fingers when she plays the piano. But do not tell her that. I don’t know why I’m looking at this as some sort of competition. I just hope they’re not. Because I’ll get them.”
For Flacks, the collaboration has taken on a deeply spiritual tone. She’s spending her two weeks of preparation in quiet contemplation of what kind of life-affirming scenarios she can come up with to bring this group of friends even closer.
“For all three of us to be acting in each other’s pieces makes me very happy,” she says. “Just imagining what I can force Sonja to say. Of course, you’d definitely want her to femme it up. I feel like I want her to be this vacuous femme top.”
Basically, it’s going to be a bloodbath onstage. A hugely entertaining, wickedly funny night of friends showcasing their intimate knowledge of each other in potentially humiliating scenarios. Definitely a must-see. And as an added bonus, it’s also for a good cause.
“I knew from the start that I wanted this to be a benefit for Sick Kids Hospital, because of Diane’s experience” Ford says. She’s referring to Flacks’s young son, who spent the first year of his life as a patient at the world-renowned institution. Fortunately, little Jonathon is fine now, but the gratitude the three women share for each other’s support and the efforts of the Sick Kids’ staff is still strong.
“They were just amazing,” Flacks says. “And Jane, well, she came by every day that my son was in the cardiac ward, just to sort of be there. That’s a real mensch!”
Ford is modest about her contribution and expresses her belief that beautiful things can come out of horrible situations.
“To me, it’s the art that is so healing,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the only thing that offers comfort. You go through stuff, you change, you lose stuff, you lose people. But struggle can be overcome through art. Each of us found a way to transform whatever we were going through into art.”
Even Mills’s famously dry wit steps aside for a moment when reflecting on sharing her Toronto return with her friends. “For me, this is actually awesome because my last creative venture kind of damaged me,” she says. “So I’m super in need of something fun, that feels like playing. When they asked me, I was thrilled.
“They’re amazing. Don’t tell them.”