In a lather at Big Little Lake: the 27th annual Die-Nasty Soap-A-Thon

Stephanie Wolfe, Kristi Hansen, Delia Barnett, Shannon Blanchet in Big Little Lake: 27th annual Die-Nasty Soap-A-Thon. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls,

Funny how a charming resort village like Big Little Lake, where the  well-toned meet the well-heeled over white wine spritzers, can turn suddenly … well, sinister.

Murder has a way of doing that. It populates the most idyllic village with suspects and suspicions; it pulls at the loose threads of dark family secrets to see what unravels. It even changes the lighting. Yes, my shivery friends, the stakes are high.

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It’s to the affluently benign golden world of soccer moms and gossip that the 27th annual Die-Nasty Soap-A-Thon takes us this weekend in Murder At Big Little Lake. In the course of the venerable 50-hour improv soap marathon that suds up Friday at 7 p.m. and doesn’t rinse off till Sunday at 9 p.m. — a venerable Edmonton comedy institution — the grand traditions of murder mysteries get the best kind of tribute workout, Dame Agatha to Broadchurch to Big Little Lies.

During the suds weekend, the core Die-Nasty company of improvisers will be joined by a steady stream of all-star guests (including former Rapid Fire Theatre artistic director and improv guru Patti Stiles, in from Australia for the occasion, Saturday only). And because murder mysteries require a particular finesse in the plotting — a challenge only deluxe improvisers can meet — the return of playwright Stewart Lemoine to the team of scene directors, after a suds absence of many seasons, is especially welcome.

No one, including the cast or directors, knows what will happen in Murder at Big Little Lake, of course; it’s to be discovered, minute by minute this weekend. But this is the week the cast mulls over the starting possibilities. Who will they play? Here’s a small sampling:  

Jeff Haslam: “Im the village doctor Dr. Cal Shamrock. Sheri (Sheri Somerville) is my wife Diane. We’re on the rocks, but we present a perfect picture….”

Sheri Somerville: “I’m Diane Shamrock, Jeff’s wife. I do a lot of charity events. I have no job, and no interest in one: my husband is a doctor. We have children. They were selfish as they pursue their ‘dreams’. They also feel it necessary to compost table scraps.”

Stephanie Wolfe: “I am Clair Leclair. I’ll be someone’s wife even if he isn’t a character. I think he’s a bond trader and made zillions selling short bonds in 2008 just before the crash (we just watched The Big Short again so it’s on my mind!). I own the Wellness Centre but I’m too perky to be very zen about it. The wellness centre is also where we produce the community play. I’m SO rich.”

Jason Hardwick: “I’m thinking of playing local priest Father Barry Crisp. Very relaxed religious type — more of a friendly therapist than a priest.

Delia Barnett: “I’ll be playing Honey Crisp, Father Crisp’s twin sister who left the nunnery and town mysteriously, and has returned for the weekend….”

As usual in Soap-A-Thons, there are “special shifts.” Saturday, for example, from 5 to 7 p.m., is devoted, in some fashion, to the iconic board game Clue in honour of this year’s setting. The Family Hour, all sweetness and light, is Sunday 1 to 3 p.m.


Murder at Big Little Lake

27th Annual Die-Nasty Soap-A-Thon

Theatre: Die-Nasty

Directed by: Vincent Forcier, Belinda Cornish, Tom Edwards, Stephanie Wolfe, Jeff Haslam, Stewart Lemoine

Starring: Belinda Cornish, Jesse Gervais, Shannon Blanchet, Jason Hardwick, Stephanie Wolfe, Jeff Haslam, Sheri Somerville, Tom Edwards, Vincent Forcier, Delia Barnett, Kristi Hansen, Paul Morgan Donald. Plus many special guests.

Where: Varscona Theatre, 10329 83 Ave.

Running: Friday 7 p.m. non-stop through Sunday 9 p.m.

Tickets: $20 daily ($10 for artists and arts students) and $60 weekend passes available at the door. Passes online at

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