“If people go and see good stuff at the theatre, they’ll want to keep going back to the theatre.”
A new Canadian musical premiere is busily in preparation.
Theatre Myth Collective, a collective of professional theatre artists led by Evan Tsitsias, is in rehearsal with his cast and crew for the world premiere production of ‘Inge(new) – In search of a musical’. The musical is written and directed by Tsitsias.
More about the plot shortly.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Tracy Michailidis via Zoom. She appears in the show along with Cory O’Brien, Astrid Van Wieren, and Elora Joy Sarmiento.
(Addendum: I've just received word Tracy has had to depart the production for family reasons. Mairi Babb will now step into the role of Bridget. Plot and show information about 'Inge(new) can be found in this profile).
When I asked Tracy where she completed her training as an artist, she smiled, laughed, and then said: “Is training ever really finished when you’re an artist?”
I couldn’t agree with her more.
Tracy attended a High School for the Performing Arts with a focus on theatre and acting. She loved it but she was also academically minded in Social Sciences and Humanities. Upon high school graduation, she attended Queen’s University but did not take theatre in her first year there but was an English major thinking she might go into law.
Within those four years, she realized by doing some extracurricular theatre at Queen’s and then joining the theatre department, she said: “Whom am I kidding? This is my passion!’
Her love of language and social science remains a positive training program for her as an actor. These specific subject disciplines help complement acting and figuring out a character’s behaviour. Tracy loves looking at new scripts and parsing through the language trying to understand why these characters use these words in what context.
How is she feeling about the gradual return to the theatre even though Covid still lingers?
Tracy paused momentarily and then was very honest.
In March 2020, she was feeling burned out. As a mid-career professional actor, Tracy is always grateful for the opportunity to work, but she needed a break to restore both her physical and mental body because theatre takes the full attention of everyone involved. Something bigger was happening to everyone in 2020. She felt she had the time to be with her family, read, listen, and just be still in the moment.
The time away allowed her to ask that question many of the actors I interviewed also asked themselves:
“Why am I doing what I’m doing in light of the bigger picture of society regarding essential and non-essential services?
She explained further:
“Theatre has been an integral part of my life and it is good. It is transformative and can change people’s minds.” but she is fine with the reality theatre is gradually and slowly returning.
From a contextual frame at that time in 2020, the quiet fed her body and soul even more. She felt it was equalizing and leveling that happened, so she started teaching on Zoom during Covid. Michailidis recalled how there was good work happening for her and the students while she was teaching singing. During her teaching, she felt she was receiving from her students as well and that’s what she needed.
When it appeared the theatre seemed to return albeit slowly, Tracy was involved in some outdoor productions. There were a few works she started rehearsing that were then cancelled if Covid went through the cast. Out of all this growth and struggle, she continued to be amazed at watching artists be creative with the restrictions placed on them.
In this gradual return in the last three years, Tracy has been seeing a lot of ‘pop-up’ shops including smaller companies like Storefront. From a producing standpoint, these smaller pop-up theatre shops have been cost-effective and easier to produce. She compared them to midsize theatres and believes Toronto needs more of them. She was reminded of this in attending a production at the Harold Green Theatre recently in North York in the space formerly known as the North York Performing Arts Centre. Now the space has been cut up into smaller theatres. (Who remembers ‘Showboat’ from the 1990s? I do.)
Tracy loves supporting the Toronto Blue Jays. When she attends ballgames, she looks around and sees so many people around her. Her statement to me which made me laugh:
“Why aren’t these same people out to the theatre? If we’re united together in community here in the ballpark for the love of the game and the sport, find or make theatre that does the same.”
And to the heart of our interview today.
What is ‘Inge(new) – In search of a musical’ all about?
Part of understanding the musical is in the title, according to Tracy. An ingenue is a young soprano often in musicals. Tracy plays the ingenue in a transitional period. Chronologically, she’s not an ingenue anymore but this is how the character identifies herself for the roles she has played and the opportunities she has had.
The character finds herself in midlife not knowing how to move forward or into what box she should place herself. She’s troubled. She thinks she has it all together, but she doesn’t. By seeing herself as she is, the character can begin to accept who she is.
Tracy did a workshop/reading of ‘Inge(new)’ at least five years ago. Without giving too much away about the plot, all she will say is it deals with an understanding of authenticity. Even now post-Covid, the social movements that have stemmed from the pandemic led to how many boxes we are to check off in our lives. Some of these boxes don’t deal necessarily with age, but with how we look, how we are inside, how others see us, and how we see ourselves.
One of the things Tracy loves about musical theatre is the inherent collaboration by its very nature. Evan (Tsitsias) has assembled many wonderful artists from actors to creative individuals behind the scenes. Everyone is building ‘Inge(new) together and, for Tracy, that’s exciting.
How would she describe Evan as director:
“He’s rigorous in the way he approaches the work. He listens to the actors, and he trusts all of us which means a great deal to me. As an actor, I’m a big fan of rigor and that makes me feel really safe, especially with a new piece. I feel braver for it. As we’re going through the rehearsal, we know the story isn’t really finished at this time. As actors, we keep digging away and asking questions all the time so while this new script is fun untested, each of us in the production is also vulnerable.”
With Tracy’s comment, I was also reminded of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ and ‘Come from Away’ both homegrown but were always in constant revision from the various audience and critical reaction to both works. All good works of art take time to grow.
Why should audiences come to see ‘Inge(new)’?
For Tracy, first and foremost, come to see the play because it is a new Canadian work. She also stresses she finds the play really funny. Audiences and artists need to support each other in new work. Yes, there’s a lot of theatre going on right now, but there is good stuff going on out there and she adds:
“If people go and see good stuff, they’ll want to keep going back to the theatre.”
‘Inge(new) – in search of a musical’ is about the theatre. What about those who are not involved in the industry? What can these audience members learn?
‘Inge(new)’ is a story about getting older. It’s also about intelligence versus wisdom.
Tracy concluded our conversation with this statement:
“We all have blind spots. When we attend the theatre, there’s that wonderful mirror that allows us to see ourselves when we can’t see ourselves clearly. I’m hoping audiences will come away from ‘(Inge)new’ seeing parts of themselves in the four characters.”
‘Ingenew-in search of a musical’ premieres May 25 and runs to June 4 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East, Toronto. Showtimes are 8 pm and 2:30 pm on some weekend performances. Tickets are available: https://www.ticketscene.ca/events/43966/
To learn more about the upcoming production of ‘Ingenew-in search of a musical’ visit the Facebook page.