The Kids in the Hall's Mark McKinney has a second claim to fame, in addition to co-founding the hilarious sketch comedy troupe (which plays at the Cobb Energy Centre on Saturday, May 24). McKinney also co-created and co-starred in "Slings and Arrows," a Canadian comedy series set at the fictional New Burbage Shakespeare Festival.
"Slings & Arrows" stars Paul Gross of "Due South" as a passionate but mentally unbalanced theater director who takes over as New Burbage's artistic director following the untimely death of his mentor (Stephen Ouimette). The first of the show's three six-episode seasons surrounds a New Burbage production of Hamlet, and the Shakespearean play provides a parallel to the backstage goings on (which include the director being haunted by his mentor's ghost). McKinney plays the frantic, money-scrounging general manager, and the cast also includes Martha Burns and recurring appearances from Colm Feore, Don McKellar, Rachel McAdams and Sarah Polley. The dark humor echoes "Six Feet Under," while the live-theater adrenalin and slapstick suggest what Aaron Sorkin may have been going for with "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."
It's hard to understate just how much theater people love "Slings and Arrows." Given that Atlanta has two Shakespeare-based playhouses, Georgia Shakespeare and The New American Shakespeare Tavern, "Slings & Arrows" probably hits even closer to home here than in other communities. A few weeks ago, I emailed some friends and acquaintances whom I suspected could loan me a copy of the show, and heard back from Lee Nowell, an actress/playwright/director married to Phillip DePoy. Her unsolicited remarks about the show are worth quoting in full:
Slings and Arrows was a much-needed gift from the universe for us. [Essential Theatre Artistic Director] Peter Hardy handed it to me one day and said, "Hey, I think youll like this." So Phillip and I watched the first show of the first season, little knowing what we were getting into. We saw it at exactly the moment that we were both saying, This theatre stuff just sucks the life right out of you and makes you broke and disillusioned to boot. Screw it all to hell, Ill be an accountant. Then we saw Slings and Arrows and went, "Well okay yeah, thats why we do theatre. To try and produce something as brilliant as this." Slings and Arrows is the perfect mirror of what its like to work in nonprofit theatre.
We were so taken with it in fact that we stayed up most of the first night we saw it because we couldnt stop watching it. It was four in the morning on a Tuesday when we finally turned it off, and we both had to go to work in a few hours. When we started Season Two the very next night, we metered out the episodes like pieces of candy. We disciplined ourselves to only watch one a night, to try and make it last. When we got to the last episode of Season Three, we fell into a sort of funk. I surfed the web constantly, looking for more info about the rumor that they might do a Season Four.
So please tell Mark McKinney thanks to him Im still a struggling playwright/director/whatever I am. Thanks to him I still have a day job. Thanks to him I hope to produce something that amazing someday. And thanks to him I believe that might just happen."