Hot Thespian Action began in 2006 when the three female members of the group (Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen and Jane Testar) took a special studies class in Advanced Mime and Improv at the University of Winnipeg under the tutelage of Rick Skene. Over time, the class changed to fit the interests and aptitudes of the learners, and broadened from just mime to comedy writing.
By the end, the ladies had an in-depth knowledge of physicality and comedy, as well as a catalog of hilarious sketches. With the addition of fellow U of W students Garth Merkeley and Ryan Miller, the group rounded itself out and began to work on its 2006 Fringe show Hands On. The show featured a stripped down minimalist esthetic, inspired by the group’s mime roots, along with a penchant for the physical and witty.
The critically celebrated sold out show gave way to 2008’s massive hit Hands Off which garnered Hot Thespian Action five stars from the Winnipeg Free Press and an interest from many parties, including the CBC, who subsequently asked HTA to appear in the 2009 CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
HTA has performed yearly at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival since, garnering 5 star reviews, packed houses and "Best of Fest" designations every time.
HTA's relationship with CBC radio has grown over the years, resulting in HTA writing and performing in an hour long radio play Pitching the Turkey, which aired nationally on Thanksgiving, as well as writing and performing several sketches that aired on the national radio show Laugh Out Loud.
The CBC Winnipeg Comedy Fest has invited HTA back to their festival every year since 2009, upping the stakes each time, starting in 2009 as a 20 minute set as part of a larger show, growing to a full hour long headlining show in 2010 (which, incidentally, was the first act of the festival to sell out) and in 2011, a headlining show AND a set in one of the nationally televised gala performances alongside a cast of Canadian comedy icons like Andrea Martin and Cathy Jones. Finally, in 2012 they reached comedy nirvana, when they starred alongside host Alan Thicke as his singing and dancing sidekicks in the televised "Save The World Telethon" gala.
On top of their yearly commitments at the Winnipeg Fringe and Comedy Festivals, HTA performs continuously for fundraisers and social events and in 2009 and 2013 was asked to travel to Toronto to participate in the Toronto Sketch Fest, performing with North America's best sketch groups.
In 2011 and 2012, HTA was nominated for the Canadian Comedy Awards in the Category of "Best Sketch Comedy Troupe" back to back years.
Now HTA has their sights set on making the leap to TV and has spent the last year writing a TV pilot script for a half hour comedy series. Working with production company "Original Pictures" HTA travelled to Toronto in December of 2012 to pitch the concept and pilot script to broadcasters. (Click here for details)
Actor, writer, comedian, stunt performer and mime artist, Shannon Guile is a woman of action… or maybe just has ADD. Shannon fell in love with comedy while studying Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg. She was inspired and sought to produce a mime comedy troupe, which later morphed into the two-time Canadian Comedy Award Nominated troupe, Hot Thespian Action. Not confining her talents only to HTA, Shannon has also performed on independent and professional stages around Manitoba, including Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s Death of A Salesman, Manitoba Theatre Centre’s The History of Manitoba and this coming fall, she will appear in the premiere of local playwright Carolyn Gray’s The Miser of Middlegate with Theatre Projects Manitoba. Always physical, Shannon spends a chunk of her time toppling over things, tumbling down other people’s stairs, and getting punched in the face, as you may have seen in Space Network’s Todd and the Book Of Pure Evil and Fox’s Home Alone 5. When not performing on stage or screen, Shannon has devoted herself to producing a mime program for members for the Deaf community and is helping them develop a troupe that will one day take over the World… or at least perform for it.
Jacqueline could not be happier to be spending her days writing and performing physical sketch comedy, with Hot Thespian Action. But on those days when she is not, she’s also very happy to spend time working in other aspects of the performing arts. Like Fight Directing. She has choreographed violence for multiple shows at Manitoba Theatre Centre (including Romeo and Juliet and Gone With The Wind), Prairie Theatre Exchange, Shakespeare in the Ruins, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and Manitoba Opera. Fight directing is also giving way to Theatrical Directing, at U of M’s Contemporary Opera Lab, Little Opera Company’s The Velveteen Rabbit, 2011 Fringe’s The Fisherman and His Soul, most recently assistant directing Canadian Stage’s Macbeth for Dream in High Park in Toronto, and this fall, assisting at Vancouver Opera. Some day, she hopes to learn to direct her own life.
With a baby face like that, it may be hard to believe that Garth has been acting for over 20 years, but it's true. Apart from his involvement with Hot Thespian Action, Garth's work has included such diverse endeavours as TV acting (Taken in Broad Daylight, Lifetime Network, Don Cherry 2, CBC), film acting (Strings, Full Of It, New Line), stunt work (The Haunting in Connecticut, Lionsgate, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, Space Network) and professional theatre. If you're looking for a REAL laugh, track down a movie called The Plague and watch James Vanderbeek shoot Garth in the face. Garth is also a founding member of Foolish Wit Productions which for the last four years has been creating bilingual children's plays and DVDs to teach children about our French heritage in Canada. In his spare time Garth works as a graphic designer, designing things like... Well.... Everything you're looking at right now.
Ryan is very excited to be spending this summer acting like a buffoon on a stage in front of Fringe audiences. Having performed with Hot Thespian Action for the last 6 years, it is clear Ryan has the ability to make people laugh, but Ryan’s solo career has taken a more dramatic turn. Ryan’s credits this year include Gone with the Wind (RMTC), Julius Caesar (SIR), and the critically acclaimed production of Angels in America: Perestroika (WJT). Coming up, watch for Ryan and his fellow Hot Thespian Shannon, in Carolyn Gray’s comedy The Miser of Middlegate for Theatre Projects Manitoba. This summer has been a busy one for Ryan as he is currently building a house. He is also selling his current house... Anyone want a house??
Jane is a multidisciplinary comedian, regularly performing both improv (with Outside Joke) and sketch comedy with Hot Thespian Action. Jane is also a member of the theatre ensemble Foolish Wit, who perform Commedia Dell’arte and have created and toured two original, bilingual children’s shows for Canadian Parents for French. She has appeared in productions with Prairie Theatre Exchange (Little Munsch on the Prairie) and Théâtre du Grand Cercle (De Bouche à Oreille) and Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday In the Park With George as part of the MTC Master Playwright Festival. Jane can also be heard every week on CBC Radio One with her etiquette advice column, Miss Conduct, in radio sketches for CBC’s Comedy Factory, and as the host for the CBC Comedy Factory Podcast.