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. 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 aesthetic, 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, culminating in the past two year with sets in the nationally televised gala performances alongside Canadian icons Alan Thicke, Cathy Jones, Seàn Cullen and Andrea Martin.
On top of their yearly commitments at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and Winnipeg Comedy Festival, HTA performs continuously throughout the year around Canada and beyond. They have sold out shows in every province from Ontario Westward. This last year they were invited to be headlining acts at not only the Vancouver Sketch Comedy Festival and the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, but also SketchFest Seattle.
This year, Hot Thespian Action was nominated for their third Canadian Comedy Award for Best Sketch Comedy Troupe in Canada.
HTA is also in the midst of developing 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.Talks are still ongoing. Read more about it here: (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 three-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 Theatre Projects Manitoba’s The Miser of Middlegate. 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, assistant directing Canadian Stage’s Macbeth for Dream in High Park in Toronto, and assisting at Vancouver Opera. This fall she directed Cosi Fan Tutte for Manitoba Underground Opera which performed on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building. 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, The Christmas Hope Lifetime Network, Don Cherry 2, (CBC)), film acting (Borealis, 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.
It is clear Ryan has the ability to make people laugh, having appeared in comedies Beethoven Saves Christmas (Universal) and My Awkward Sexual Adventure, alongside his work with Hot Thespian Action. But Ryan’s solo stage career has taken a more dramatic turn. Ryan’s stage credits include The Glass Menagerie, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, and Gone with the Wind (RMTC), Julius Caesar (SIR), and the critically acclaimed production of Angels in America: Parts 1 and 2 (WJT) in the role of Prior.
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 has also served as a CBC Radio One personality 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.