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  • Dramas

    Dramas 'Pressure' by David Haig Click Here 'Red Velvet' by Lolita Click Here 'Doubt: A Parable' by John Patrick Shanley Click Here 'The Good Thief' by Conor McPherson Click Here 'Mary of Shanty Bay' by Leah Holder Click Here 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams Click Here 'Lobby Hero' by Kenneth Lonergan Click Here 'Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes' by Hannah Moscovitch Click Here 'Indecent' by Paula Vogel Click Here 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo' by Rajiv Joseph Click Here 'Cockroach' by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) Click Here Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka Click Here

  • Home | Our Theatre Voice

    W elcome to Our Theatre Voice Welcome to Our Theatre Voice. It is important to be visible and remain visible in sharing with all of you what’s coming up in the world of theatre. If you have questions, comments or concerns, please email us: ourtheatrevoice@gmail.com ABOUT US Here at ‘Our Theatre Voice’ , we discuss all things in live theatre sincerely. We welcome disagreements with thoughts and ideas, but will never tolerate, acknowledge or publish anything hurtful, malicious or spiteful. Read More Follow us on our Socials Don't miss a thing Join our mailing list Subscribe Now

  • This Month's Reviews

    Welcome to Monthly Reviews Thank you to the readers who offered this suggestion to find recent reviews: All monthly reviews will be placed under this tab. At the end of the month, each review will then be placed into its separate thematic category. January Reviews 'Fall on Your Knees' produced by National Arts Centre, Vita Brevis Arts, Canadian Stage, Neptune Theatre and Grand Theatre Click Here 'Pressure' by David Haig Click Here 'Girls & Boys' by Dennis Kelly Click Here Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat Click Here

  • Dramas 'Pressure' by David Haig

    Back 'Pressure' by David Haig Royal Alexandra Theatre Cylla Von Tiedemann Kevin Doyle as Dr. James Stagg The rising, palpable tension of ‘Pressure’ becomes increasingly intensified thanks to the strong ensemble work. David Haig’s script centres around Dr. James Stagg and the weather forecasts that will determine the date of the D-Day landings as part of Operation Overlord. The play is set in 1944 in Southwick House, the headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, during seventy-two intensively fraught hours with moments of humour to help ease the tension. General Dwight D. ‘Ike’ Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) leads the Allied Forces that are looking to invade the European continent from Britain. Eisenhower recognizes the weather conditions over the English Channel could pose problems, so he hires two individuals to monitor the weather conditions: Stagg (Kevin Doyle of ‘Downton Abbey’), the Scottish chief meteorologist who has studied the weather patterns of the North Atlantic. Colonel Irving P. Krick’s (Philip Cairns) basic meteorological skills are at odds with Stagg’s as they analyze weather patterns to make future predictions about the date of the D-Day invasion. Stagg believes the weather conditions will deteriorate fast on June 5, the current date for the D-Day landing, and that the invasion should be postponed. Since there has been a heatwave for quite some time, Krick believes the forecast will be sunny and pleasant and therefore the invasion should continue as planned. Obviously, the tension rises as Eisenhower tries to decide which is the correct path to follow. At this opening Sunday matinee performance, I couldn’t hear the actors at the top of the show for several minutes. Whether the actors could sense it or not, this momentary glitch appeared to get fixed. The rising, palpable tension of ‘Pressure’ becomes increasingly intensified thanks to the strong ensemble work. Don’t let the conversation surrounding the weather data input confuse you. Stay focused and pay close attention because directors John Dove and Josh Roche have uniquely woven the principal storyline and personal backstories seamlessly to produce a modern suspense tale of the theatre. Kevin Doyle delivers a natural and believable nuanced performance of a torn man underneath a tough exterior. He questions whether the forecast he predicts will be the correct one. His wife is about to give birth to their second child in hospital and Stagg can’t be there because he would be deserting his post during wartime. Philip Cairns’ Krick is cocky and sometimes smarmy which makes his comeuppance at the end satisfying. One of the highlights of ‘Pressure’ is Malcolm Sinclair’s terrific portrayal of General ‘Ike’ Eisenhower from his gruff, surly voice right down to his aviator sunglasses. Sinclair regally commands the stage each time he enters. The silent standoff between him and Stagg is rife with complete uneasiness. The power of silence at that moment said so much about what the two were feeling at that moment. Laura Rogers’ Kay Summersby bravely stands her ground as the conversation grows heated moment by moment concerning the invasion. She is proud to be working with Eisenhower but the final conversation between the two of them in the second act again says so much in the silence when Kay realizes Ike cannot deliver what he has promised to her. What made Rogers’ performance as Kay so memorable for me was seeing that it wasn’t only just the men who kept things going during this time. Women also held a valued place. Supporting actors Matthew Darcy, Robert Heard, David Killick, James Sheldon, Stuart Milligan, Molly Roberts, and David Sibley solidly contribute to the development of the possibility that the landings could go horribly wrong. History tells us that many lives were lost here and that is one of the tragic sad realities of this story. The physical look and sound of the production have been greatly enhanced thanks to Tim Mitchell’s lighting design, Philip Pinsky’s sound and Andrzej Goulding’s video designs. Mitchell’s lighting design is striking to view as we watch the colours change from day to dusk to twilight. Pinsky’s sound nicely enveloped the theatre, especially with the sound of the plane flying overhead. I felt completely transported back to that time. Goulding’s video designs soundly reflect the date and time of the action within the play. Josie Thomas’s costume perfectly evoked the World War 2 era. Colin Richmond’s set design showcases how messy this room was in wartime. A much-needed laugh was at the top of the show when Kevin Doyle uses his arm to sweep all the unnecessary clutter from the desk to the floor. Perfect timing in execution which again says so much in its delivery. Final Comments: Listening to conversations from audience members around me upon exiting the theatre was enlightening, to say the least. One individual commented on how refreshing it was that it’s not the rah, rah story of Americans coming in to save the day. Yes, the Americans were part of the liberation but there were other countries also involved in the operation. ‘Pressure’ seems the most appropriate title. It refers to the barometric pressure of the weather as Stagg makes reference to the barometer on the wall a few times. Not only does it refer to the principal storyline of the D-Day Landings, but barometric pressure can also influence and affect those life moments of ordinary individuals where we are also put to the test to see how much mettle we are made from. ‘Pressure’ becomes a modern suspense tale of intrigue in the theatre. Go see it. Running time: approximately two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. ‘Pressure’ runs until March 5 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West. For tickets, visit mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333. JONATHAN CHURCH THEATRE PRODUCTIONS, JENNY KING, OLIVER MACKWOOD PRODUCTIONS and CAMBRIDGE ARTS THEATRE present THE ROYAL LYCEUM THEATRE EDINBURGH and CHICHESTER FESTIVAL THEATRE PRODUCTION OF: ‘Pressure’ by David Haig Directed by John Dove and Josh Roche Consultant Producer Canada: Paul Elliott Designer: Colin Richmond Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell Composer & Sound Designer: Philip Pinsky Video Designer: Andrzej Goulding Costume Supervisor: Josie Thomas Production Manager: Mark Carey Performers: Philip Cairns, Matthew Darcy, Kevin Doyle, Robert Heard, David Killick, James Sheldon, Stuart Milligan, Molly Roberts, Laura Rogers, David Sibley, Malcolm Sinclair Previous Next

  • 'Pressure' by David Haig

    Back 'Pressure' by David Haig Now onstage at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre Cylla Von Tiedemann. Kevin Doyle as Dr. James Stagg Joe Szekeres The rising, palpable tension of ‘Pressure’ becomes increasingly intensified thanks to the strong ensemble work. David Haig’s script centres around Dr. James Stagg and the weather forecasts that will determine the date of the D-Day landings as part of Operation Overlord. The play is set in 1944 in Southwick House, the headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, during seventy-two intensively fraught hours with moments of humour to help ease the tension. General Dwight D. ‘Ike’ Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) leads the Allied Forces that are looking to invade the European continent from Britain. Eisenhower recognizes the weather conditions over the English Channel could pose problems, so he hires two individuals to monitor the weather conditions: Stagg (Kevin Doyle of ‘Downton Abbey’), the Scottish chief meteorologist who has studied the weather patterns of the North Atlantic. Colonel Irving P. Krick’s (Philip Cairns) basic meteorological skills are at odds with Stagg’s as they analyze weather patterns to make future predictions about the date of the D-Day invasion. Stagg believes the weather conditions will deteriorate fast on June 5, the current date for the D-Day landing, and that the invasion should be postponed. Since there has been a heatwave for quite some time, Krick believes the forecast will be sunny and pleasant and therefore the invasion should continue as planned. Obviously, the tension rises as Eisenhower tries to decide which is the correct path to follow. At this opening Sunday matinee performance, I couldn’t hear the actors at the top of the show for several minutes. Whether the actors could sense it or not, this momentary glitch appeared to get fixed. The rising, palpable tension of ‘Pressure’ becomes increasingly intensified thanks to the strong ensemble work. Don’t let the conversation surrounding the weather data input confuse you. Stay focused and pay close attention because directors John Dove and Josh Roche have uniquely woven the principal storyline and personal backstories seamlessly to produce a modern suspense tale of the theatre. Kevin Doyle delivers a natural and believable nuanced performance of a torn man underneath a tough exterior. He questions whether the forecast he predicts will be the correct one. His wife is about to give birth to their second child in hospital and Stagg can’t be there because he would be deserting his post during wartime. Philip Cairns’ Krick is cocky and sometimes smarmy which makes his comeuppance at the end satisfying. One of the highlights of ‘Pressure’ is Malcolm Sinclair’s terrific portrayal of General ‘Ike’ Eisenhower from his gruff, surly voice right down to his aviator sunglasses. Sinclair regally commands the stage each time he enters. The silent standoff between him and Stagg is rife with complete uneasiness. The power of silence at that moment said so much about what the two were feeling at that moment. Laura Rogers’ Kay Summersby bravely stands her ground as the conversation grows heated moment by moment concerning the invasion. She is proud to be working with Eisenhower but the final conversation between the two of them in the second act again says so much in the silence when Kay realizes Ike cannot deliver what he has promised to her. What made Rogers’ performance as Kay so memorable for me was seeing that it wasn’t only just the men who kept things going during this time. Women also held a valued place. Supporting actors Matthew Darcy, Robert Heard, David Killick, James Sheldon, Stuart Milligan, Molly Roberts, and David Sibley solidly contribute to the development of the possibility that the landings could go horribly wrong. History tells us that many lives were lost here and that is one of the tragic sad realities of this story. The physical look and sound of the production have been greatly enhanced thanks to Tim Mitchell’s lighting design, Philip Pinsky’s sound and Andrzej Goulding’s video designs. Mitchell’s lighting design is striking to view as we watch the colours change from day to dusk to twilight. Pinsky’s sound nicely enveloped the theatre, especially with the sound of the plane flying overhead. I felt completely transported back to that time. Goulding’s video designs soundly reflect the date and time of the action within the play. Josie Thomas’s costume perfectly evoked the World War 2 era. Colin Richmond’s set design showcases how messy this room was in wartime. A much-needed laugh was at the top of the show when Kevin Doyle uses his arm to sweep all the unnecessary clutter from the desk to the floor. Perfect timing in execution which again says so much in its delivery. Final Comments: Listening to conversations from audience members around me upon exiting the theatre was enlightening, to say the least. One individual commented on how refreshing it was that it’s not the rah, rah story of Americans coming in to save the day. Yes, the Americans were part of the liberation but there were other countries also involved in the operation. ‘Pressure’ seems the most appropriate title. It refers to the barometric pressure of the weather as Stagg makes reference to the barometer on the wall a few times. Not only does it refer to the principal storyline of the D-Day Landings, but barometric pressure can also influence and affect those life moments of ordinary individuals where we are also put to the test to see how much mettle we are made from. ‘Pressure’ becomes a modern suspense tale of intrigue in the theatre. Go see it. Running time: approximately two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. ‘Pressure’ runs until March 5 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West. For tickets, visit mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333. JONATHAN CHURCH THEATRE PRODUCTIONS, JENNY KING, OLIVER MACKWOOD PRODUCTIONS and CAMBRIDGE ARTS THEATRE present THE ROYAL LYCEUM THEATRE EDINBURGH and CHICHESTER FESTIVAL THEATRE PRODUCTION OF: ‘Pressure’ by David Haig Directed by John Dove and Josh Roche Consultant Producer Canada: Paul Elliott Designer: Colin Richmond Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell Composer & Sound Designer: Philip Pinsky Video Designer: Andrzej Goulding Costume Supervisor: Josie Thomas Production Manager: Mark Carey Performers: Philip Cairns, Matthew Darcy, Kevin Doyle, Robert Heard, David Killick, James Sheldon, Stuart Milligan, Molly Roberts, Laura Rogers, David Sibley, Malcolm Sinclair Previous Next

  • Solos 'Girls & Boys' by Dennis Kelly

    Back 'Girls & Boys' by Dennis Kelly Here for Now Theatre in association with Crow's Theatre Crow's Theatre website Joe Szekeres Fiona Mongillo delivers a bravura performance of subdued emotional intensity in the face of tremendous loss and grief. I can still picture clearly in my mind Fiona Mongillo three days later delivering a bravely intense performance in the intimate Studio Theatre at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre. ‘Girls & Boys’ by Dennis Kelly is a one-woman show. Bonnie Deakin’s simple set design of two white risers and a wicker chair with a glass of water on a circular end table allowed me to pay complete attention to the performer. Dressed in a smart emerald, green outfit, a woman (Mongillo) begins to tell us about her past life where she enjoyed all that it had to offer. She dabbled in many things, sometimes illicit, but it was all part and parcel of her trying to find her place and who she was in the world she knows. At the airport where she patiently waits in a long line to board a plane, she unexpectedly watches how a man handles two gorgeous models who only wanted to butt in front of him so as not to wait at the back of the line. The woman hilariously narrates how this man knows the score and knows exactly what these women are trying to pull on him. His response to these ladies was perfect and had all of us in the audience laughing because it was the perfect zinger for these two bimbo models. The man and woman strike up a conversation. An intensely passionate and head-over-heels relationship between them leads to their marriage, buying a house, juggling two busy careers, and raising a family. One would think this is an ordinary family. Far from it as this world begins unravelling and takes a very disturbing, dark turn. In the end, when everything is finally pieced together, I felt myself gasp from the horror of realizing what has happened. Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson with tender care and compassion, ‘Girls & Boys’ is marvellous to watch. Usually, I bring a notebook with me to write notes during the performance, but I closed my book and just allowed a theatre artist to take me on a journey with her. And what a journey it becomes. There are moments of humour that thankfully break the tension. As Mongillo speaks to her two children, I could just picture these two adorable tykes who behave how little tykes do. Mongillo responds in such a credible, believable way as any parent would do when kids behave like kids. As the truth of this ordinary family begins unravelling, I was on the edge of my seat listening intently to everything Mongillo said because I wanted to go and find out what was happening. Some solid yet simple stagecraft in Stephen Degenstein’s lighting and sound design especially when Mongillo transitions from one moment to the next. What makes this performance ring incredibly true for its 85-minute sans intermission running time is Fiona Mongillo’s naturalistic, calm manner in telling the story. She allowed the words to speak for themselves without resorting to any kind of emotional histrionic wailing or weeping. I also found this performance very mysterious. It initially appears the script calls for the breaking of the fourth wall for the woman to speak to the audience. About halfway through, it also became clear to me the woman might also be speaking to someone about what has happened to her. I like when that happens. A riveting performance through and through because Mongillo allowed me to feel as deeply as she felt. And I did. That is why we attend live theatre to be moved on such an emotional level. ‘Girls & Boys’ completely bowled and won me over. Please see it. Running time: approximately 85 minutes with no intermission. ‘Girls & Boys’ runs until February 12 in the Studio Theatre at Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, call the Box Office at (647) 341-7390 or visit crowstheatre.com HERE FOR NOW THEATRE COMPANY IN ASSOCIATION WITH CROW’S THEATRE presents ‘GIRLS & BOYS’ by Dennis Kelly Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson Lighting and Sound Designer: Stephen Degenstein Costume and Set Designer: Bonnie Deakin Performer: Fiona Mongillo Previous Next BACK TO TOP

  • Solos

    Solos 'Chase the Ace' Click Here 'Girls & Boys' by Dennis Kelly Click Here 'On the Rocks...stirred not shaken' Click Here 'The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale' by Haley McGee Click Here Mixtape Click Here Other People, written and performed by Daniel Brooks Click Here 'Every Brilliant Thing' by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe Click Here 'Little Dickens' created and performed by Ronnie Burkett Click Here 'Take the Moment' Starring Cynthia Dale Click Here BOOM Click Here Montreal 2019 Review 'Little Dickens' performed by Ronnie Burkett Click Here Review: BOY FALLS FROM THE SKY Click Here

  • News

    Welcome to News Here in the News section of ‘OUR THEATRE VOICE’, we will let our readers know of what’s going on in other professional companies – seasons, upcoming seasons, announcements etc. News Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA comes to London Ontario's Grand Theatre Click Here Toronto's Young People's Theatre Presents World Premiere of THE DARKEST DARK Click Here 'Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949' Premiere staged by the Borelians Click Here SHAKESPEARE BASH'd returns with a Canadian Theatre Icon in THE TRAGEDY OF KING LEAR Click Here

  • 'Girls & Boys' by Dennis Kelly

    Back 'Girls & Boys' by Dennis Kelly Here for Now Theatre Company in Association with Crow's Theatre. Production now onstage at the Studio Theatre at Crow's. Crow's Theatre website Joe Szekeres Fiona Mongillo delivers a bravura performance of subdued emotional intensity in the face of tremendous loss and grief. I can still picture clearly in my mind Fiona Mongillo three days later delivering a bravely intense performance in the intimate Studio Theatre at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre. ‘Girls & Boys’ by Dennis Kelly is a one-woman show. Bonnie Deakin’s simple set design of two white risers and a wicker chair with a glass of water on a circular end table allowed me to pay complete attention to the performer. Dressed in a smart emerald, green outfit, a woman (Mongillo) begins to tell us about her past life where she enjoyed all that it had to offer. She dabbled in many things, sometimes illicit, but it was all part and parcel of her trying to find her place and who she was in the world she knows. At the airport where she patiently waits in a long line to board a plane, she unexpectedly watches how a man handles two gorgeous models who only wanted to butt in front of him so as not to wait at the back of the line. The woman hilariously narrates how this man knows the score and knows exactly what these women are trying to pull on him. His response to these ladies was perfect and had all of us in the audience laughing because it was the perfect zinger for these two bimbo models. The man and woman strike up a conversation. An intensely passionate and head-over-heels relationship between them leads to their marriage, buying a house, juggling two busy careers, and raising a family. One would think this is an ordinary family. Far from it as this world begins unravelling and takes a very disturbing, dark turn. In the end, when everything is finally pieced together, I felt myself gasp from the horror of realizing what has happened. Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson with tender care and compassion, ‘Girls & Boys’ is marvellous to watch. Usually, I bring a notebook with me to write notes during the performance, but I closed my book and just allowed a theatre artist to take me on a journey with her. And what a journey it becomes. There are moments of humour that thankfully break the tension. As Mongillo speaks to her two children, I could just picture these two adorable tykes who behave how little tykes do. Mongillo responds in such a credible, believable way as any parent would do when kids behave like kids. As the truth of this ordinary family begins unravelling, I was on the edge of my seat listening intently to everything Mongillo said because I wanted to go and find out what was happening. Some solid yet simple stagecraft in Stephen Degenstein’s lighting and sound design especially when Mongillo transitions from one moment to the next. What makes this performance ring incredibly true for its 85-minute sans intermission running time is Fiona Mongillo’s naturalistic, calm manner in telling the story. She allowed the words to speak for themselves without resorting to any kind of emotional histrionic wailing or weeping. I also found this performance very mysterious. It initially appears the script calls for the breaking of the fourth wall for the woman to speak to the audience. About halfway through, it also became clear to me the woman might also be speaking to someone about what has happened to her. I like when that happens. A riveting performance through and through because Mongillo allowed me to feel as deeply as she felt. And I did. That is why we attend live theatre to be moved on such an emotional level. ‘Girls & Boys’ completely bowled and won me over. Please see it. Running time: approximately 85 minutes with no intermission. ‘Girls & Boys’ runs until February 12 in the Studio Theatre at Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, call the Box Office at (647) 341-7390 or visit crowstheatre.com HERE FOR NOW THEATRE COMPANY IN ASSOCIATION WITH CROW’S THEATRE presents ‘GIRLS & BOYS’ by Dennis Kelly Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson Lighting and Sound Designer: Stephen Degenstein Costume and Set Designer: Bonnie Deakin Performer: Fiona Mongillo Previous Next

  • Unique Pieces Article 'Year of the Rat'

    Back 'Year of the Rat' Streamed through Toronto's Factory Theatre (courtesy of Factory Theatre website) Joe Szekeres Outstanding ensemble monologue work with a dash of something caught on camera that might not have been able to be captured live in the theatre Factory Theatre bills this extraordinary outstanding ensemble work as four stories of individuals behind closed doors and “their relationships with their homes, and with themselves, forever changed by an ongoing global confinement.” And that it is, no hesitation from me with this statement. However, I did a quick bit of online research to learn more about the Year of the Rat as I’ve always found the Chinese Zodiac cycle interesting. What I discovered: “The rat is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac and, as such, represents new beginnings. That means this year should be a good year for fresh starts.” Well, we all know what occurred between 2020 and 2022 as this pandemic has been extremely hard on all of us. But it was the ‘new beginnings’ and ‘fresh starts’ that piqued my curiosity because several of the artists whom I’ve interviewed for the OnStage Blog Profile series commented on how this pandemic allowed them to re-start certain things in their lives once again, sometimes good while at other times not what was possibly expected. These four commissioned digital works by Augusto Bitter IV, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Rosa Laborde and Anita Majumdar spoke passionately, refreshingly, and poignantly from their hearts about their losses and gains through their new beginnings and fresh starts throughout this ongoing global confinement. The presence of the rat, whether in a picture in the bottom right-hand corner of my screen (or behind the shower curtain in ‘Candice’s bathroom), was a constant reminder of its presence. I loved how each of the artists wittingly acknowledged director Nina-Lee Aquino in saying they had no hesitation to develop a script based on the parameters for this online production. But the consternation, the concern, the panic emanating from their very faces told me otherwise. What resonated so deeply within me as a viewer and listener of their stories streamed live from their homes? It was their eyes. Whether Director Nina Lee Aquino intended this or not, it was a marvellous choice. I found myself just staring into the artists’ eyes as they told their stories. For me, it became a synchronous connection with them in experiencing their joy, their pain, their anguish, their hurt. The camera work and editing captured this magnificently that I’m not sure if I would have had this same interrelation sitting live in a theatre unless I might have been in the first or second row. Rosa Laborde opens the evening as she sits on her bed in the apartment she shares with her husband and young child. She is folding the toddler’s clothes fresh out of the laundry. Rosa was to have spoken from her kitchen but ultimately heard a rat in one of the cupboards, so a quick decision was made to film from the bedroom. What ensued then was a tremendously moving story of the influence of ‘abuelita’ (grandmother in Spanish) on Rosa’s life growing up and how she missed seeing her at so many crucial developmental moments during the pandemic – specifically the birth of her child. We then are connected from Rosa’s story to actor Augusto Bitter’s monologue. And what was the connection? Augusto provided the voice of Rosa’s abuelita. Augusto’s monologue took place in the front hallway of their home they share with a lesbian couple. They were on their way out for the evening to meet their boyfriend and other friends to sing karaoke. For me, their monologue was ironically entitled ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Yes, the whiteness of the hallway might/could represent the purity and goodness of heaven. (I know, that’s a stretch in connection) Normally, I picture a stairway to heaven going up, but this stairway was going down and out of the building. Just listening to Augusto’s stirring monologue kept my attention focused because there were rare moments where Augusto was in heaven except a few times where he spoke proudly about the other ancestors who were also named Augusto in the family. But it was in Bitter’s monologue where I recognized how they used their eyes so bravely and so courageously to share what was in their heart. Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman’s ‘Want Now’ will speak to new parents. Her monologue took place in the attic of the house she shares with her husband and young son who will say ‘Want Now’ when he doesn’t want to sleep. Although I am not a parent, I remember discussions and watching family and friends who were new parents for the first time, and the many roles new parents play from cook to maid, to doctor, (the list is endless). What initially hooked my attention was Corbeil-Coleman calling herself a bad actor in her own life. And again, I remember these new parents sometimes concluding if they were still able to be ‘good enough friends’, ‘good enough siblings’ or ‘good enough adult children’ when a new life is their sole responsibility. Corbeil-Coleman also recalls the influence and staunch support of two very important female figures in her life: her late mother and the late actor Linda Griffith who both, I am assuming, passed away from cancer. And again, it is the look in Ms. Corbeil-Coleman’s eyes that sometimes teared up as she spoke of these two ladies that made her monologue even more powerful. Finally, we meet wannabe social media influencer Candice the Comic Snitch grandly played by Anita Majumdar. In looking at her picture above, I thought perhaps she might have been playing herself as she is getting ready to go out for the evening. But that wasn’t the case. Majumdar’s carefully controlled and emotionally hellbent over the top Candice who thinks she is a strong social media Instagram influencer, but far from it, is a true to life and ‘in your face’ study of those who turn to social media to become something in life they truly are not. The blond wig Ms. Majumdar sports becomes the first tell-tale sign of this fact. As her monologue progresses and we see some of ‘Candice’s’ followers begin to unravel and unnerve her online, Ms. Majumdar’s eyes say so much through tears and through the removal of her wig at the end and the sporting of PPE that we’ve all had to wear at one point during these last two years. FINAL COMMENTS: Actors must use their bodies and their very being to convey so much of who they are to become in front of an audience. Bitter, Corbeil-Coleman, Laborda and Majumdar definitively accomplish this task, and when their eyes and faces enhance even further what their bodies are showing, then there is the making of great theatre. “Year of the Rat’ is funny, sensitive, provoking, cathartic, and theatrical’ “A definite must see”. Production runs approximately 90 minutes. ‘Year of the Rat’ runs to March 5. For tickets and other information, please visit www.factorytheatre.ca . YEAR OF THE RAT A Factory Theatre World Premiere Production Four commissioned digital works written and performed by Augusto Bitter IV, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Rosa Laborde and Anita Majumdar. Directed by Nina-Lee Aquino. Lighting Designer and Production Manager: Michelle Ramsay Sound Designer and Composer: Mikael Bensimon Set Designer: Camillia Koo Costume Designer: Joyce Padua Stage Manager: Kai-Yueh Chen Broadcast Designer and Operator: Miquelon Rodriquez Head of Props: Elizabeth Kenny Head of Wardrobe: Ellie Koffman Dramaturg: Matt McGeachy … Previous Next

  • Profiles Rick Roberts

    Back Rick Roberts Theatre Conversation in a Covid World ... Joe Szekeres Rick and I had a good laugh during our Zoom conversation when he said he’s always on the verge of quitting. He said since this pandemic has started that he has been threating to quit the whole time. But I was glad to hear that, as a creative person, he’s in it for the long haul. He loves being an actor and he loves writing. As actors, you have to wait until someone asks you to do it. Both a stage and screen actor for over three decades, Rick Roberts is arguably one of Canada’s most versatile actors. He recently starred in the CBC series Fortunate Son for which he has been nominated for an ACTRA Award. Recent appearances include Nurses (Corus/Global), Coroner (CBC), Frankie Drake (CBC), and Sensitive Skin (TMN/Movie Central), Between (Netflix). He starred in the series This Life for the CBC. Recent features include North of Albany (Slykid and Skykid), All My Puny Sorrows (Mulmur Feed Co.). He will appear in the upcoming video game Far Cry 6. In 2013, Roberts starred in the CBC movie Jack where he played the role of the late Jack Layton. His performance garnered him the Canadian Screen Award and the ACTRA Award for Best Actor. Other work includes guest starring roles on Saving Hope (CTV/NBC), Copper (BBC America), Cracked (CBC), Republic of Doyle (CBC), Murdoch Mysteries (CBC), Crash & Burn (Showcase), Haven (SyFy), Zos (Whizbang Films), Three Days to Jonestown (Next Films), and was featured regularly in the hit CBC series, This is Wonderland. Rick has headlined the series An American in Canada (CBC), L.A. Doctors (CBS) and Traders (CBC). A popular fixture on Canadian stages, Roberts recently toured with Why Not Theatre’s hit production of Prince Hamlet. Other recent favourites include Animal Farm, Waiting for Godot, The Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Soulpepper), Within the Glass, Enemy of the People, (Tarragon), Proud (Belfry), Julius Caesar (Citadel Theatre) and the title role of Zastrozzi (Stratford Festival). He was in the middle of rehearsing Copenhagen at the NAC when the pandemic hit. As a writer, Rick’s work, Mimi (which he co-wrote with Allan Cole and Melody Johnson) premiered at The Tarragon Theatre and was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Musical. His play Kite premiered to critical acclaim earning numerous Dora Award nominations for writing and production. Other writing credits include Nod (Theatre Gargantua), Fish/Wife (Tarragon Theatre) The Entertainers (Offstage Theatre Company) and short film The Birthday Cake. His newest play will premiere at a major Toronto theatre in 2020. Additionally, he has several television scripts in development. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. Thanks for the informative conversation, Rick: Many professional theatre artists I’ve profiled and interviewed have shared so much of themselves and how the pandemic has affected them from social implications from the Black Lives Matter and BIPOC movements to the staggering numbers of illnesses and deaths. Could you share and describe one element, either positive or negative, from this time that you believe will remain with you forever? I was lucky just to have the experience of ‘Orestes’. To salvage an aspect of theatre from this…I was doing a play at the NAC which was interrupted and then cancelled on account of the pandemic. It was kind of like a slap in the face and it took a while to come to terms with the reality of that. Even though ‘Orestes’ was a gathering in a Zoom room, there are things I will carry forward from this experience. For example, what works theatrically that you can imagine in a live space. Some of it is the appreciation of gathering in rooms with people. There are lots of similarities to having rehearsals in Zoom rooms and there is a real sense of community and connection around all these people, for the most part, never left their homes to do it. There was a real camaraderie and that mixture of having the experience made me long for the other experience [of being back in a theatre] again. The other thing I will carry forward is a real ‘talking to myself’ in a kinder fashion around downtimes, around when you’re laid low. In this case, I think the constant stress of the pandemic eats away at you, and early on I felt certain I would not work at all this year and that whole community seemed to be exploded. I will go through manic periods of creation and then down periods of just not being able to get out of bed. It was because I knew the cause, the constant tension of this pandemic and what it meant. I was able to go, “Today is okay to be down today.” And I’m hoping I can take that frame of mind to other things when there’s not a pandemic. It really has helped my creative process in terms of going “It’s not happening today” rather than muscling something through. The good thing once again of the ‘Orestes’ experience – it was never a done deal. Even when the last lockdown came, we were in the middle of rehearsals and we had people isolated in two different theatre spaces but wildly separated for practical reasons. In the middle of rehearsals, we had to move three mini theatres back into people’s homes. I was expecting a phone call saying, “It’s over. This is too much” from ‘Orestes’ being the season opener to not happening to happening in January and then changing it to a streamed play. Is that technologically possible? Do we have the time? So, at every point there was this feeling it could not possibly happen, and you would be heartbroken, but you knew why. Have you learned anything about human nature from this time? Oh, man. What I learned about myself and I guess it is about human nature too is the mask wearing and people not wearing masks. As the pandemic evolved and the realities of it, it’s such a stressful thing and it has to do with people’s relationship to authority a lot of times and what we are as a society. If I see someone not wearing a mask or not wearing it properly, I’ll have a reaction, but I’ll also have to be generous and go that I don’t know that person’s story. I don’t know what brought them to this place. Are they going to barrel through and not respect social and physical distancing or wear a mask? It’s a stressful time, and stress brings out different behaviours in people. I guess the human nature part is that everyone has a story which brings them to the place we are now in. The other thing and it may have to do more with human nature is that we ‘ve been steered into this hyper individuality through the neo-liberal project from the 80s. That we accept that, as human nature, we are all in it for ourselves and it’s every person for themselves. It’s not a reasonable way to address a pandemic in that we are social beings. And now we have to navigate that reality with this other reality that we also see ourselves as individuals. So, ourselves as social beings is being pushed into the fore, and we have to re-learn them. With neo-liberalism, it’s like we got hit by a car and now we have to learn to walk again. How has your immediate family been faring during this time? As a family, can you share with us how your lives have been changed and impacted by this time? My kids live in Toronto and I live in Hamilton. So, we’ve had great moments of togetherness and then the challenge of navigating the rules that are often not clear. So, my kids are also hyperconscious of social distancing and mask wearing are up to speed on that. We hang out in a park, we’re very conscious of all this, and yet we’re also aware if we’re allowed to sit on a bench or not. That becomes hard to manage and make a plan. We’ve managed to make plans. My siblings and my parents, we’re more in contact than we’ve ever been through weekly Zoom meetings which is not how we operate. We are now way more aware of each other, for better or for worse, mostly for the better. All the nieces and nephews get on that call and many more family reunions than ever. Generally speaking, the stressful part of employment and separation is there. The positive parts of recalibrating and reflecting which has been the opportunity for a lot of people is also there. We’re lucky we can do both. I know none of us can even begin to guess when professional theatre artists will be back to work. I’ve spoken with some who have said it might not be until 2022. Would you agree on this account? Have you ever thought that you might have had to pivot and switch careers during this time? That seems likely. There might be little pockets and forays but there may be the positive be such as the experiment with ‘Orestes’ and how does online participate in the comeback, and also smaller events. But in terms of theatres and large buildings with groups of people together? I feel right now 2022 seems pretty likely with even the logistics of opening a building and planning a season. I think a lot of artistic directors are going to have cold feet after this. Just to even open a building instigates a big flow of cash when things are tight with the likelihood you could close down. It’s not good for theatre if you’re not even able to predict for theatre how things are going to look in a few months. I think film and television can pivot a little more, even though it’s more expensive. If you asked me a few weeks ago, I probably would have said, “Oh, we’ll be back in September”, but 2022 seems more responsible. I don’t like to think in terms of a trajectory because I don’t know what the rest of the year is going to look like. I’m going to assume it’s going to be sparse, but that’s what I thought about last year and a bunch of interesting things came up in the middle of the pandemic, so I don’t know but I’m ready to crash again. The pandemic has put us all in the same basket. I’ve talked to people who’ve said, “I’ve been thinking about the future so I’m going to study this.” We see people whose side hustles are blossoming into something, whether or not we continue, it’s a bit of palate cleanser on the positive side. Negative side – it’s an opportunity cleanser. If another theatre company said, “Okay, it’s safe now. Bring ‘Orestes’ here. Would you consider it? Do you feel confident that you can and will return safely? Tarragon is staging ‘Orestes’ but if the NAC said, “You know what?” I don’t know what I would do. There are so many elements of the story now, I guess it would have to be a conversation about that. The original conversation was a theatre production with online elements, and the online elements were too tricky to consider. And then it reversed, and now “Can there be any live elements?” I added a lot of stuff to ‘Orestes’ that I really love right now that I’m not sure could live on stage. It would be like cutting out some things now. My knee jerk reaction right now is No. My knee jerk reaction is ‘This is what it is.” There are lots of smart talented people who would go, ‘What about this?’ and I might go, “Ooooo…hmmmm” The experience of doing it online with the experience and the involvement of the creative team and how it’s shifted to the screen and online as its own space – even now, thinking about it, it’s a unique space because the actual performing happens remotely but the actual stage is the screen which is unlike theatre, film and television so it’s its own thing. This has now been crafted over the last few months to be that. At some point, yes, I do feel safely that we will be able to return. I remember reading early in the pandemic about the plagues that shut down the theatres in Shakespeare’s time. The Spanish flu had similar conversations around. It became clear with the waves of opening and re-opening that we may not feel that definitive moment of the end of this plague, and it might just be a gradual shift into another normal, and how much that will feel like the old normal? It was the timing of the BLM movement in the plague that still has to be reckoned in live theatres, and that conversation is ongoing. Cleansing things are happening. Taking time to come back in a new way? For example, what does theatre look like? Do we need official big buildings for it to occur now? What about crowds? I know Ravi Jain at Why Not is asking those same questions in a really serious way. These all have yet to be worked out. The return to live anything is going to be gradual where we will just start to feel like, “Hey! We’re doing it again.” I do feel that in local theatre history that this time is going to be a big historical marker for lots of reasons and Covid might just be the emblem of that Tectonic shift that has been a long time coming in Toronto and Canadian theatre. This time of the worldwide pandemic has shaken all of us to our very core and being. According to author Margaret Atwood, she believes that Canadians are survivors no matter what is thrown in their path. Could you share what has helped you survive this time of uncertainty? What has helped me survive? I feel like I’m talking about ‘Orestes’ since I was smack dab in the middle of it. (and Rick laughs) I do think that theatre people do have that trait, not necessarily Canadians. Passionate people who are always inventing things and solving problems was really on display in putting ‘Orestes’ online as everyone was inventing new things as we were on the fly with the production concerning deadlines. Everybody was adapting their skills to something new that we didn’t know the rules of it. The sad part is with theatre and any live performance, often when you hit a rough patch as an actor you can talk to your parents and it’s “Hey, that’s the life you chose” which is true. I know people who had work lined up for over a year and all of it was wiped out in a space of weeks, and there is no life decision you could have made differently. Musicians and theatre people have been laid low by this pandemic but what I have seen the things we bring to any rehearsal or into our lives is resourcefulness, generosity, community mindedness and also you take the responsibility for the role you’ve taken on – whether as an actor, director, designer, and you carry that forward into a community. I’ve made lots of connections with theatre people on porches. You see the sadness of the loss and we also see the resilience and the resourcefulness musicians and theatre people have in moving forward. I attribute the term ‘theatrepeopleness’ to these individuals. It’s just spoken here for the first time. The good thing about Zoom is to mute yourself and to watch technical achievements and the conversations and people navigating. It’s like putting on a play while building a theatre in a landslide. You get to be a witness to all of this in an online environment that you might not get the opportunity to see if you’re in a physical building. I know when I’m back in a rehearsal room, and I know I will be, I will be hugging people and crying a lot. Imagine in a perfect world that the professional theatre artist has been called back as it has been deemed safe for actors and audience members to return. The first show is complete and now you’re waiting backstage for your curtain call: a) Describe how you believe you’re probably going to react at that curtain call. I’ll be weeping. Funny you should say, we were in the middle of rehearsing ‘Copenhagen’ at the NAC with Jillian when the pandemic hit and we had our first stumble through. We said, let’s just do this stumble through. Some of the theatre people would be there and we thought let’s just do it even though it wasn’t going to be performed. We were working out stuff like it was a performance. Part of your brain is going why should we worry about this? We were just on the verge of being off book. We would rehearse all day, grab a quick bite, meet in someone’s hotel room to run lines so we couldn’t do it anymore. Go to sleep and then all day next day. It was a real accomplishment. ‘Copenhagen’ messes with your mind. My dream is to go back and perform that play will Jillian, Jesse LaVercombe and Allegra Fulton and to complete that. My emotional reaction to that run through is weeping and enormous sense of gratitude for the people who sat and who were involved knowing the play was going away, I would like to put a bookend on that and have an opening night for ‘Copenhagen’ and to stand in front of an audience with that, however that may manifest itself. b) There is a crowd of people waiting to see you and your castmates at the stage door to greet all of you. Tell me what’s the first thing you will probably say to the first audience member: The weird part for me is I love talkbacks and Talkback Theatre. I get really shy in lobbies after shows, and I always try to skirt around them. I don’t think I’ll do that anymore. I’ll walk into lobbies. It’s so hard now to even think about embracing somebody of meeting an audience again, but I don’t think I’ll ever take an audience for granted ever again. That people coming and showing up to see something, I’ll never take that for granted again. I feel more a sense of camaraderie and sense of purpose with the broader theatre community which includes the audience. Previous Next

  • Profiles | Our Theatre Voice

    Welcome to Profiles “The Pandemic Profile series stemmed from a friendly check-in in on professional and equity-based theatre artists. The profiles continue...” Profiles Gallery Fiona Mongillo and Lucy Jane Atkinson and Atkinson Charlotte Dennis and Deborah Drakeford Paolo Santalucia Brett Christopher Jeannette-Lajeunesse-Zingg (2) (1)[9371] Dianne Montgomery Jordan Laffrenier Samantha-Sutherland-e1650501814672-600x600 Gabi Epstein Gaetz Photography _Justin Stadnyk - Corner of the Sky 1-min Bahia Watson Eric Peterson Andrew Seok _edited alan_lucien_Oyen..__square Michelle Bouey PHIL_NERO_HS_1N David Walker Michael Torontow Carol Libman Steven Jackson Uju Umenyi KeithBarker_edited_edited Barbara Diabo Ma-Anne Dionisio Lisa Horner Petrina Bromley Charlotte Moore Mark McGrinder Mikaela Davies Kaylee Harwood Eliza-Jane Scott Kristen Peace Susan Ferley Ted Sperling Cory O'Brien Rebecca Perry Rick Roberts Evan Buliung Allen Macinnis Jillian Keiley Patrick Galligan Brenda Robins Norm Foster Andrew Kushnir Nathan Carroll Jennifer Walls Rebecca Northan Cyrus Lane Jim Millan Michael Therriault Colton Curtis Show More

  • Profiles Richard Lee

    Back Richard Lee Theatre Conversation in a Covid World Neil Silcox Joe Szekeres Richard Lee is an Award-winning actor, fight director, sound designer and theatre educator, and theatre producer. Always grateful for challenges, Richard embraced his love of all things based in movement, sound and being bossy, which have led him on many interesting journeys. Richard graduated with a BFA from York University’s Theatre Program and has worked extensively in both film and theatre. In his career he’s had the joy of playing many interesting roles. Some highlights include Bruce Lee (Little Dragon – K’now/Theatre Passe Muraille); Rick Wong (Banana Boys – fu-GEN Theatre Company); Sun WuKong (The Forbidden Phoenix – Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People/Citadel Theatre); Falkor (The Neverending Story – Roseneath Theatre) all for which he has received Dora nominations. He has received three Dora Mavor Moore Awards. One for his work in Sound Design in paper series (Cahoots Theatre Company), and the other for performance in Cinderella: A Radical Retelling and Sultans of the Street (Young People’s Theatre). In 2013 he received the infamous Harold Award (In the House of Sarah Stanley), a theatre award bestowed upon one individual to another in to recognize the outstanding and often under-recognized dedication on or off the stage. Beyond the performing arts Richard has spent many years living and training as a Martial Artist. Over this time, he has trained in many varying styles. Richard is a Professor at Humber College and teaches a course in Collective Creation using the Belshaw Method. This method teaches performing and production students to better understand the collective creation process and the skills it requires. He is also a founding member and former General Manager of fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company. A company dedicated to the development of professional Asian Canadian theatre artists. He also serves on the boards of The Toronto Arts Council and princess productions, a small independent dance company. Richard is quite passionate about issues of Cultural Diversity as it relates to the Canadian Performing Arts Industry and seeks to actively address and raise awareness of this issue. It was a pleasure to chat with him via Zoom today as he is personable, witty, and passionate. Thank you so much for adding your voice to the conversation, Richard: Richard, next week we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of shuttered doors to live theatres. How have you, Nina and Eponine been faring during this time? I chatted with Nina in summer of 2020 and am curious to hear how things have gone for all three of you: Thanks for asking. They’re doing very well since you last chatted with Nina. I’m sure Nina told you when you spoke with her that it was a big adjustment in a crazy household experience in terms of everyone all being under the same roof, and things all happening. I’m speaking to you from Eponine’s room right now. The living room becomes my studio, and our bedroom becomes Nina’s office. It’s pretty crazy, but good. It’s been a very interesting year with a lot of different things happening. For the most part, I think for me personally, it’s been a really big time of reflection. But Nina’s busy. She’s still running the Factory Theatre. She’s still making art. I’ve primarily been the House-band as she likes to call it to hold down the fort ensuring meals are made for everybody because everybody is so differently busy. I’m teaching at Humber College. I taught in the fall and teaching and an Introduction to Theatre Course. I was fortunate because this particular class is very easy to convey online in learning about the etiquette of theatre. The class I teach specifically I like to call it “All the things they never teach you in theatre school that you had to learn for yourself.” Funny enough you say it’s coming up to a year. One year ago, I was teaching a separate course for the Production students. It’s a devised piece where they were to construct a piece of theatre and we were right in the middle of doing it when Covid hit, and all the restrictions hit. As tragic as that was, I embraced that challenge so wholeheartedly with all the students that it was a really good precursor how to work online and diving into a platform like Zoom to use breakout rooms, and how do we talk and doing research on ways to engage students to help them learn and make it fun and interesting. Along with your teaching, how have you been spending your time since the theatre industry has been locked up tight as a drum? The short and long of it: I’ve been doing some different workshops in between with various companies and different projects that have been happening. I was assisting Humber College and running their program for a while as the Academic Program Manager. They had a bit of some transition happening and that was worthwhile and interesting in the long-term trajectory of wanting to run a program. Potentially it’s something I could actually do. The first part of the pandemic was hard. As a person who works primarily in theatre, having no live theatre to do was beyond devastating I will honestly say. The first 3 or 4 months in I kept thinking, “Oh my God! Did I make the right life choice?” Not only is it a difficult profession to succeed in because of the excellence required and the hard work and rigour, I’m stuck in this pandemic where the very nature of what I do really limits what I’m able to actually accomplish. On top of that, George Floyd’s death kicked in a very different conversation that, of course, we in the BIPOC community have been having but having everyone else be more aware and have it come to the forefront. I will confess that it really highlighted for me, as a theatre artist that really wants to see diversity and inclusion on our stages and in our theatres, how far we still need to go in some ways. The late Hal Prince described the theatre as an escape for him. Would you say that Covid has been an escape for you, or would you describe this year long absence from the theatre as something else? Oh, Joe, that’s a great question. I’ll answer it in three phases: a) Early Covid, I would call it ‘The Curse of Doubt’. Up until the end of summertime when it was clear that this would be much longer than a few months, I really got down on myself and questioned the very nature of what I was doing, not only as a profession but as a person engaging in the world. Fast forward to the end of December and having changed tack, seeing the broader picture and running a program and making challenges and changes, it was a realization that b) ‘Covid has been a blessing.” It has allowed me to really deeply think about myself and what I engage in, the switch in opportunity made me really appreciate being an artist and how wholly, how fortunate I am in my life to follow my instincts and my impulses and have the option to make a choice in what I want to do. Covid gave me the time and space to pick apart the various aspects of my life. I know this sounds like a philosophical discussion (and Richard and I share a good laugh). That was a blessing I didn’t expect. I’ve taken care of the family. That’s part of my job and who I am right now as Nina is building a community through Factory and her work at PACT. She’s trying to bridge people in the art of theatre making, not only administratively but through her work. It’s incredible the amount of work she does. I’ve learned to really appreciate the work I do not only as an artist but also as the House-band and provide the support to Nina. I have the time to do that. My relationship with my daughter is so meaningful to me and I’m so grateful Covid has allowed me the time to do this because I have the flexibility and the space to do all this. And I have the ability – I can cook, drive etc. c) The third phase is ‘Rebirth’. A year later I’m armed with new knowledge about where I sit in my own place and ‘nerv-xcited’ to try new things and challenge myself to be satisfied. I want to enjoy all the accomplishments I’ve made both large and small. Now what’s the next challenge that excites me. I’ve always wanted to do a video blog about things that I really love. What’s stopping me? I feel like I’m in an age of Renaissance myself. I’ve interviewed a few artists who have said they can’t see theatre as we currently know it not running at full tilt until 2022 with the occasional pockets of it where safety protocols are in place. What are you comments about this? That’s another good question. I’ll answer it very simply. Theatre as we know it/have known it in the live form that we have will not return in probably until 2022. That is a very true thing to say. Even if it comes back earlier, my question: will people (audiences and actors) feel comfortable actually being able to attend and perform? The other side of that coin – yes, I think theatre has pushed through the next stage of its evolution. This is not based on any historical fact whatsoever. As I look at the different art forms that have evolved over the last 100 years: cinema, television, radio, even internet art forms, it has all evolved out of some sense of storytelling, some sense of creative drive and the need to communicate. The next step: a virtual theatre? A virtual internet theatre? Whatever the name, it’s exciting to me. I keep telling my students that I’m excited to see what you will make as theatre. I can teach you about theatre, I have made theatre, but I want to see what you’re going to do whether it’s a virtual form of theatre if that’s what you want to call it, some other word signaling a digital look at theatre. I want to see Zoom theatre; I want to see Twitter theatre. I want to see you take all these different ways we have to communicate and creative whatever form of theatre and twist it on its head and show me your stories and your entertainment in the way you want to tell them. I’ve always struggled with what it means to perform live versus performing in movies. From my perspective, the preparation is still the same as a performer. The difference for me is recognizing the medium that you’re in. When I perform on stage, my conduit is to the audience and the people there and understanding the space and shape I’m in. When I’m performing for film, the conduit is literally this tube that is in front of me and all my performance needs to go there but I can still continue to be engaging elsewhere, but the frame is so different. The same with virtual theatre exists – I’ve had to be selective of Zoom readings and Zoom theatre just because we are reading plays that have not been created for this medium. We’re not using the medium as part of the creation of that tool. When I see a piece of theatre that has been created for that media – ‘Acts of Faith’ or ‘House’ or ‘Ministry of Mundane Mysteries’ (via telephone), all of that has been created specifically with care using the tools of communication they have. It’s very purposeful, very recognizing made for those mediums, those tools, and that’s what makes them so exciting because the story telling is so much clearer there. It’s not pretending to be something substituting for something else. What makes it great is the fact we are on the cusp of engaging something really new and exciting and the world is finally ready to hear it. That’s always exciting. Am I looking forward to getting back to performing in front of people? Hell, yes!!! But I’m also excited to see new things pop up. I had a discussion recently with an Equity actor who said that theatre should not only entertain but, more importantly, it must transform both the actor and the artist. How has Covid transformed you in your understanding of theatre and where it is headed in a post Covid world? I feel like Covid has transformed my tolerance for people who don’t even bother trying to be inclusive. It has less to do with my art than what my personal outlook is. It has made me appreciate my art much more deeply than before and has made me think about the totality of me as a theatre artist. Covid has really me made me impatient for when I see people who I think are unwilling to make the effort to try to open the way they view the world. By that it can be gender issues, being inclusive of Indigenous, Black, Asian folk. It could be inclusive about the way we make theatre or the types of theatre or how we define it. I get really impatient about these issues and go, “Why?” Opera was a new form over 400 years ago that was exciting for people. Television was a new form for people. Every golden age in the way we invent and tell new stories is an exciting innovation. Why would be so indifferent to embrace something that is different? That has the potential to be exciting in a different way. That doesn’t make sense to me. The late Zoe Caldwell spoke how actors should feel danger in the work. It’s a solid and swell thing to have if the actor/artist and the audience feel it. Would you agree with Ms. Caldwell? Have you ever felt danger during this time of Covid and how will this influence your work when you return to the theatre? I agree with the definition in principle. I really do. To me, the sense of danger Zoe Caldwell implies is the sense of risk, right? The sense of being able to put yourself out there or the sense of challenging a notion, or a thought. I absolutely agree with that on principle. As a fight director, I’m like No! If it’s dangerous, the audience is going to be pulled out of it. I think therein lies the art we make. That’s the place I think where we feel most alive and most alert and most present is when there is a sense of danger when we are threatened or challenged in a really bold way. We’re living in a pandemic and time where we had a president of the US who was very ignorant of the simplicity of his actions of his own words. The ignorance, to me, the historical significance of that kind of thinking and rhetoric and leadership was dangerous. As a child, I was very oblivious to the world around me. Although I know contentious things did happen (The Cold War, all kinds of internal strife), I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much unrest as I do now between Trumpism and China’s increased boldness at lying to the world. The whole thing all feels very dangerous. That’s the big macro. On a micro level, yes, it’s been challenging to try and understand how we decide theatre and art in the most considerate way with all the things we want to accomplish – by that I mean we’ve made in a particular way up to now. 100% it’s been tried and true as it gets the job done; it’s been a way that we work. But the journey I’ve been on and what I’ve come to appreciate and have been verified on during Covid is that it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to be in a place where we can’t find ways to see how we can communicate with each other, or make art, or rehearsal practice. Who made these rules on how and why we rehearse theatre? They work for someone but don’t work for all. Why is it so hard to consider a change? Let’s just try it. Working a five-hour day might be terrible, but it might be great as it’s equally productive for me as an eight-hour day. A five-hour day allows me a better chance to absorb things I’ve done that day and to live life. The danger I’ve often felt on a micro level – we’re living in a dangerous time where we’re rubbing up against so many ideals on how we engage each other, open to issues of transgenderism, BIPOC issues, to new ways to rehearse, engage, make art and be mindful of it. It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about story telling in the most considerate way because we’re being asked to make that change. I think we can do it. I think we can make that change. New and exciting material that is capable of being broad as it can be and welcoming as it can be, and still be interesting as can be. Great pieces of work do that. They just do and they challenge our sense of reality. The late scenic designer Ming Cho Lee spoke about great art opening doors and making us feel more sensitive. You’ve made reference during our conversation to how this time of Covid has made you feel sensitive to our Covid world and post pandemic society. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Covid has given us the time and space to realize some of these important issues we’ve been discussing here. Just thinking back to the death of George Floyd – would this momentous time have got the traction it would have were it not for the facet we were sitting around in the midst of a pandemic? Maybe not? I like to talk about things in this idea of a swinging pendulum from complete racism to now where we swing to a pendulum of amazing awareness. At some point, we will swing back to a middle ground where everyone will be aware without having to push into this idea of being ‘too much ignorant’ anymore. Ultimately, it’s opened us all up to possibilities, even people who are resistant to these ideas cannot deny that it’s there now. They just can’t. The sad part to me is for those people who are unable or not ready to embrace inclusion, that they are having to live in a place of fear, as I don’t think that helps. My hope is that people who are resistant or ignorant just take a moment to consider the possibility for themselves to be inclusive. What harm would it do you to say ‘they/them’ in conversation as opposed to ‘he/she’? Simple actions like that, that’s my wish for the world, just to turn it a bit on its head. I just want people to take small steps. It makes us uncomfortable; I get it. It makes it difficult for us to re-learn the way we work and the language we use, and the way we like to deal with people in life but it’s so worth it. I’m not a perfect human being as I’m not going to be as inclusive as I want to be. We’ve come full circle in concluding with Hal Prince’s comment about curiosity and the fact theatre should trigger curiosity in the artist and the audience. Again, you’ve talked about your curiosity earlier but is there anything else you’d like to add? I think I’ve spoken earlier about my curiosity and I don’t want to re-hash too much. One of the biggest blessings has been the re-ignition of ‘what is it that I am actually curious about’? Why am I doing this if not for the insatiable drive to have something itched, to discover something, or to just get it out. I tell this to my students all the time: “We are too poor, too over worked, too tired in this industry for you to be here for anything less than a love of theatre, and a love of making theatre.” Covid has really reminded me of that, and in a certain way it’s reminded me that it’s okay to take my theatre pocket and put it aside and go and play in the podcast world, go and play in the YouTube world and do something different. Because I’m a theatre major, I’m not going to restrict myself to a box. You never have been, even in theatre, so why would you go and do that now? Go and do things you’re interested in. You can connect with Richard at INSTA: @aranthor/ Twitter: @Aranthor/ or at Facebook: /Aranthor Previous Next

  • Musicals 'Jersey Boys' The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

    Back 'Jersey Boys' The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons Now onstage at Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque Randy deKleine-Stimpson Joe Szekeres This ‘Jersey Boys’ refreshingly looks at the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons with less New York glitz and glitter. Don’t need all that to tell a hell of a good story. This is the third time I’ve seen ‘Jersey Boys’. What’s that old saying – three times a charm? Well, Thousand Islands Playhouse Director & Choreographer Julie Tomaino and Music Director David Terriault have staged a terrific show that is not only charming but also downright entertaining. Plus, they’ve added a personal touch which I’ll speak about shortly. ‘Jersey Boys’ is the story of how blue-collar workers from the wrong side of town became one of the pop music sensations in America of all time. These guys wrote their own songs, invented their own sound, and sold gazillions of records pretty much before they were thirty. What made me appreciate seeing ‘Jersey Boys’ this time round was the comment made by Tommy DeVito at the top of the show: “You ask four guys how it all happened, you get four different versions.” And with these four different versions (like the four seasons we experience in our lives each year), we never know fully what to expect. But that’s the anticipatory excitement of re-visiting a story we think we know because there might just be something different. Tomaino and Terriault gave me a wonderful surprise with their unique staging that is different from the other two productions I saw directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Don’t need to spend big bucks to do something different. The first time I saw the show was the sit-down Toronto DANCAP production over ten years ago and was blown away by its scope and breadth. It had the New York glittery feel to it in the musical numbers and ‘twas marvellous to watch and to hear as the spark was ignited immediately to set the plot in motion. The Canadian tour at the Ed Mirvish Theatre a few years later lacked that spark. What I remember about that production was the cavernous stage and the set which was so far upstage that I was unable to feel that spark in connection to the story. I really had to work at it. This 1000 Islands Playhouse production beautifully strips away that glitz. It’s not needed here as the immediacy of the Springer stage drew me right into the heart of the action. Instead under Tomaino’s subtle nuanced direction and terrific choreography, and Terriault’s superfine musical direction, the focus shifts to the four ardently told stories of what happened to these guys. And I wanted to hear and to see what they had to say to each other and to us in the breaking of the fourth wall (or the Rashomon Effect as discussed in the programme). Brian Dudkiewicz’s split-level set design amply fills the Springer stage without ever appearing or feeling cramped. The awesome-sounding band members play just off-centre stages to right and left of the centre stage entrance and exit. Brandon Kleiman’s costume designs are a fitting re-creation of the era. Kudos to Sound Designer Steve Marsh as the sound balance between the band and the actors worked beautifully from where I sat. Jareth Li’s sharply focused lighting design helped to underscore those heightened dramatic moments. A highlight of this occurred in the second act where Tommy DeVito is forced to come clean about his financial woes and what they have done to the group. The cast remains uniformly real in their individual characterizations and delivers primo performances. Niko Combitsis is a boyishly charming and angelic Frankie Valli who dutifully and believably matures throughout the story when he must deal with so much heartache in his divorce from wife Mary Delgado (a tough-as-nails Kaleigh Gorka) and the fallout from there. My heart broke for Frankie and Mary in two places – first when they sang ‘My Eyes Adored You’ to each other after another fight when he returns home from a tour. He’s on the stage looking up at her while she is on the second level looking down at him. The second occurs in seeing the deterioration of the relationship between Frankie and his daughter, Francine (nice work from Zoe O’Connor), and I could just sense something horrible is going to occur. If you’ve seen the musical or know the story, the worst does occur. To open the story, Kale Penny’s rough-around-the-edges Tommy DeVito wants only what’s best for the group. Penny, however, goes just that one step further that makes his DeVito memorable. Underneath that gruff exterior lies a truly sad man who really didn’t know how to appreciate the gift that was given to them all. Trevor Patt is a strapping Bob Gaudio who truly understood the value of the contract handshake, and the symbiotic connection between him and Combitsis remained indelibly strong. Tyler Check’s Nick Massi is the relatively quiet one of the group who sometimes just sits back and observes what’s playing out in front of him. But there’s that adage: ‘Still waters run deep’. When Check’s Massi finally does reveal his internal narration, his acute anger and palpable frustration were also felt deep within my very being. When Nick says he’s had enough and wants to go home, Check heartfully convinced me and I didn’t blame him at all for his decision to leave. There are some standout supporting performances too. Stewart Adam McKensy is a slick and savvy ‘of a different nature’ Bob Crewe. As Frankie’s reporter girlfriend Lorraine, Maya Lacey nicely reinforces how Franki must continually deal with the separation of the performer versus the private man. Another of the highlights of this production is the ‘mini-concert’ at the end. The audience has witnessed that life as a performing artist is not all sunshine and autographs as I was once told. However, when this entire sensational company returns for this ‘mini-concert’, the roof is blown off the Springer auditorium. That sheer enjoyment of song and dance emanated from the stage right into my heart. Looking around at everyone else, it appeared the same happened to them. Final Comments: Great storytelling told by a likeable and knockout ensemble of players who deliver dynamite performances. Get to see this ‘Jersey Boys’ before it closes. Running time: approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes with one intermission. ‘Jersey Boys’ runs to October 30 in the Springer Theatre of the 1000 Islands Playhouse, 185 South Street, Gananoque. For tickets, call 613-382-7020 or visit www.1000islandsplayhouse.com . JERSEY BOYS The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons Produced by Thousand Islands Playhouse Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice Music by Bob Gaudio and Lyrics by Bob Crewe Director and Choreographer: Julie Tomaino Music Director: David Terriault Set Designer: Brian Dudkiewicz Costume Designer: Brandon Kleiman Lighting Designer: Jareth Li Sound Designer: Steve Marsh Stage Manager: Rebecca Eamon Campbell Performers: Tyler Check, Niko Combitsis, Caleb Di Pomponio, Kaleigh Gorka, Maya Lacey, Stewart Adam McKensy, Zoe O’Connor, Trevor Patt, Kale Penny, Robbie Towns, Daniel Williston. Previous Next

  • Profiles Gregory Prest

    Back Gregory Prest Moving Forward Nathan Kelly Joe Szekeres I’ve seen Gregory Prest’s fine work on stage at Toronto’s Distillery District Young Centre for the Performing Arts for Soulpepper - two which come to my mind were the extraordinary ‘Of Human Bondage’ and a quizzically intriguing: ‘Little Menace: Pinter Plays’. Gregory grew up in Pictou, Nova Scotia. He completed his undergrad at Acadia University, then attended the National Theatre School (graduated in 2004). He started the Soulpepper Academy in 2009 (he was in the second cohort) and has worked primarily there since then and up to the present teaching, acting, directing, and creating. We chatted via email. Thank you for participating, Gregory, and I look forward to chatting with you in person very soon when it is safe to do so: It has been an exceptionally long five months since we’ve all been in isolation, and now it appears we are slowly emerging to some new way of living. How have you been faring? How has your immediate family been doing during this time? All things considered, I’ve been doing just fine. My family is healthy and safe. My uncle passed in April back home in Nova Scotia and that was very difficult – not being able to gather, share grief, do all the things we do to help family in the difficult moments. There are ups and downs of course; fear, uncertainty, comfort, curiosity. It is impossible for me to separate this isolation experience from the major conversations that have been and are happening in our communities large and small. This is not a small-time even though so many day-to-day activities have shrunk to what feels like a very small life. As a performer, what has been the most difficult and challenging for you professionally and personally? Professionally I think one of the most difficult challenges has been trying to eradicate “meaning” and the need to find it during the heavier more uncertain times, specifically around work, cancelled work, and the uncertainty of future work. But that’s what we do for a living – find meaning – in a moment, a line, a relationship, an exchange, a silence, an exit, an imagined past, a feared failed future – I’m hard-wired that way. I’ve been attempting to sidestep this potential existential crisis by reframing the question of “what does this mean?” to “what’s the opportunity here?” My success rate is questionable. There’s some radical acceptance involved. Personally, I really miss my family. Even though we have figured out ways to communicate differently and share in experiences together, I miss them, wish I could be with them and be of more use to them. In some ways, we have been forced to grow more intimate and vulnerable with our words but I’d give anything to be back home playing cards around the dining room table and laughing. Years ago, my mother made a gathered green velvet table cover that sits permanently under the tablecloth, like a casino. The cards are an arm’s length away in the buffet drawer where I imagine serving spoons are supposed to go and the rum is in the cupboard below that. After dinner, we clear the dishes to the counter, off comes the table cloth and we play cards for hours. It will happen. Were you in preparation, rehearsals, or any planning stages of productions before everything was shut down? What has become of those projects? Will they see the light of day anytime soon? Yes, I was just about to start rehearsals for Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Winter Solstice which was/is a co-pro between Soulpepper and Necessary Angel, and then in June I was scheduled to do a week long workshop of a play I am writing which needs a new title but at present is called Bremerhaven. In an alternative universe right now, I would be a little over a month into rehearsals for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child playing Ron Weasley. I also help run the Soulpepper Training Room and we had a very exciting series of classes and workshops planned throughout the summer and into the fall that we had to postpone. We were able to pivot some of the Training Room activity online to a series of masterclasses/conversations with Daniel Brooks, Philip Akin, Nina Lee Aquino, Esie Mensah, and Weyni Mengesha airing throughout the summer. We’re trying to figure out how best to rethink this specific phase of development for Bremerhaven, and as for Winter Solstice and Cursed Child, I am waiting for further instruction. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time? There was a long stretch in the summer where Paolo, my partner, would be in the living room crunching and planking along to an online Barry’s Bootcamp (sometimes twice a day) and I’d be sitting in bed drinking my 6th cup of coffee, staring out the window, reliving a long list of embarrassing snafus and faux pas, whittling new holes in my belt, and wondering if I should be taking myself a bit more seriously. I’ve been doing lots of walking, writing, reading, connecting with old friends, exploring different Toronto neighborhoods and biking paths, thinking, and spending time investigating particular areas of interest (also known as “hobbies”). Sarah Wilson, Mike Ross, and I are writing a new musical so I’ve spent lots of time putting off that. There are a couple of other Soulpepper development projects on the go that are keeping me engaged and creative. One of my favorite things in early isolation was walking through different neighborhoods every couple of days to check on the status of the magnolia trees. Any words of wisdom or advice you might /could give to fellow performers and colleagues? What message would you deliver to recent theatre school graduates who have now been set free into this unknown and uncertainty given the fact live theaters and studios might be closed for 1 ½ - 2 years? I don’t think I’d feel comfortable giving advice to fellow performers and colleagues (everyone’s situation is different) but I guess I can share what I wish someone would tell me: keep your sense of humor, allow yourself to be in the moment, do all the work you need to be doing, engage in the difficult conversations and the difficult thinking, and also cultivate and insist on softness. To recent theatre school graduates, I would say hang on and hold on. We need you. We need your brains and your hearts and your talent and your ambition. We’ll be together in a theatre again. Also, this is a great time to meet people in other ways – reach out to members of the community, people you may look up to, ask questions, build relationships. I can’t imagine what it might feel like to take that big step from school in a moment like this. Shift any dread around “what does this mean?” to “what’s the opportunity here?” I’m trying to do it. Let’s do it together! Do you see anything positive stemming from COVID 19? This is an incredible opportunity to look at how we do things in the theatre and hold them to the light to see if we’re interested in doing them the same way again in the future. Positivity for me would include more patience in some areas, less patience in others, more kindness, more support, and more understanding of the precarity of what we do in the systems that we have been doing them. Personally, I know I have taken many things for granted both in work and in life. I tried not to, but I did. Never before has it been so clear to me that the cultural institutions in this city and across the country are not “givens”. Was it naïve of me to think they were? Perhaps. But we all come to the theatre community in our own way and when I arrived here in my twenties with nothing in my bank account and a terrifying student loan, I wasn’t concerned with the vulnerability of the Tarragon Theatre as a business. Now I see, if I believe in what they’re doing/what they want to do if I want there to be a hub like Tarragon for Canadian playwrights if I ever want to work there again, or my friends and colleagues to work there again, if I want that institution to continue, it is my responsibility to support that theatre, see their shows whether I can afford a full price or a pay-what-you-can ticket, explore their online offerings, and invest into the eco-system of Toronto theatre. Of course, I participate this way, but I know I need to do this with more understanding and commitment. I know it can be hard and it doesn’t always pay you back, but it is essential. I use Tarragon as an example, but it goes for any company. Early in my career, I thought of these places as rock steady institutions of power that either hired me or not. This experience has asked me to see them differently and I think of that as a positive. Side note shout out: Love, support, and admiration to the leaders of our theatres and other cultural institutions, big and small, who are shouldering difficult decisions daily and working to plan, program, forecast, and budget in this uncertainty. Do you think COVID 19 will have some lasting impact on the Canadian/North American performing arts scene? I am very curious about this. I don’t know. I can’t imagine it won’t. I do hope that when more of us are back, when decisions are being made, and rooms are filling up again, that we can somehow maintain and work with a sense of abundance. I would love to not create in fear and uncertainty – even some delusional abundance could work. I understand resources may be limited, but creatively, let’s be big and messy and give it all away. Some artists have turned to YouTube and online streaming to showcase their work. What are your comments and thoughts about streaming? Is this something that the actor/theatre may have to utilize going forward into the unknown? If you want to and can, do it. It’s a time that is inviting us to think about what we do in different ways. I have some personal reservations but I’m a difficult person. Despite all this fraught tension and confusion, what is it about performing that COVID will never destroy for you? Wow. This is a big question. I hope/trust that I will never be tired of watching, playing in, and exploring relationship. It’s what I love – watching relationship and how it changes (or doesn’t). All you need are at least three people: two people in relationship to each other open and vulnerable enough to being seen by the third. I guess you don’t have to be open and vulnerable - if you’re not, I’ll make my own story out of that. I like being any one of those three. What makes it satisfyingly is that all three are experiencing it at the same time in their own different ways but in the same room. You only get that in theatre. I miss it. To learn more about Gregory, visit his personal website: www.gregoryprest.com . Previous Next

  • Profiles Paolo Santalucia, Founding Member of The Howland Company

    Back Paolo Santalucia, Founding Member of The Howland Company Looking Ahead Courtesy of The Howland Company Joe Szekeres Actor, director, writer, and founding member of The Howland Company, Paolo Santalucia, was on his way to rehearsal where he is directing ‘Three Sisters’ which will open at Hart House this month. I’m grateful he was able to take a few moments before his upcoming rehearsal began to speak with me. I’ve admired and respected his work on stage at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre over the years. Recently he appeared in ‘Orphans for the Czar’ at Crow’s Theatre. Most recently, I saw Paolo’s work in Canadian Stage’s whimsically colourful production of William Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ at High Park. Santalucia is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Sheridan College’s joint Theatre and Drama Studies program. Upon his graduation, he was accepted into the Soulpepper Academy where he trained for about a year and a half before joining the acting ensemble at this prestigious company. As a professional artist, how’s he feeling about this gradual return to live performance even though Covid still surrounds all of us? Santalucia believes theatre must reflect our community, including our fears for the future and current moment. He elaborated further: “Art is an essential and beautiful aspect of community building in times of crisis. The Theatre has a real responsibility to engage with the issues of our time while also providing escapism from them and reminding us that there is a path forward.” For Paolo, it’s important this community-building happens at everyone’s own pace. He believes it’s vital that art continues to happen, that theatre continues to push through, and that we work within the complications that Covid is providing in order to ensure that we have art on our stages and don’t end up falling behind as a world-class theatre city. Even after these last two-plus years of changes within the theatre, what is it Paolo still finds fascinating about the craft and art of acting and directing? He laughed and said he still finds everything fascinating about the craft as this pause made him confront the fact that perhaps he might now know how to act, direct, write or even mount a play. Paolo clarified this point: “What I love is that it feels like we’ve come back to an industry asking questions of itself in a way that allows me to probe aspects of my own work that I’ve always felt self-conscious about.” What’s shifted for Paolo is the space he’s been given to question his pre-conceived notions about what a given piece is “supposed to be” – as opposed to undergoing an investigative process whereby one is able to ask what it is the play is trying to do in its own right. Having the confidence, space, and time to feel the industry is pushing past results-based art-making has been an exciting aspect of this pause. That’s something Santalucia feels much braver about now than he did two, three years ago. Before the pandemic, he was entering his work with what he knew what the story was about. That sometimes got in the way, so it’s exciting to engage in a process that trusts the work and trusts the people in the room in a different way. “I don’t have all the answers” he says “but I have a lot of questions.” Paolo adapted and will direct Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus. His cast list is stellar actors who are so in tune with each other to tell the story. He jokingly stated he was waiting for the shoe to drop so that the cast will realize he was a big hack. We both shared a good laugh over that. But why this 13-member cast of ‘Three Sisters’ now as we return to the theatre? One of the things Paolo has always loved about this play is the fact it’s a young person’s play. To see many young people populating the stage will be thrilling. Part of Howland Company’s mandate is to investigate the stories of our time and also re-investigate stories that reflect our time. Over the course of the pandemic, Santalucia went back to ‘Three Sisters’ story because he was part of a production in the midst of a Chekhov play. Tech day for that show was the last day in 2020 before everything shut down. What struck him the most about all of this? ‘The fears that were permeating what was happening in the early moments of the pandemic were being reflected in the work we were doing. During one of those long weeks I thought I should just sit down and re-read Chekhov’s plays. I was languishing around at home not doing too much when things were shut down and it felt like the right time.” In reading ‘Three Sisters’, Santalucia was struck by the plight of this group of young people trying hard to reacclimate their understanding of how their world has changed and question whether returning to the world they knew from their childhood was possible. This is a story of the inheritors of the world asking big questions. These questions have never been more relevant for Paolo. He felt it was really fruitful ground to revisit post-Covid. He always found ‘Three Sisters’ to be one of Chekhov’s more elusive plays. This family who wants to return to their home felt too literal for Paolo but, over the course of the pandemic, he began to understand something more about his own circumstances which lends itself to the central metaphors in ‘Three Sisters’. As we concluded our conversation, I asked Paolo where he hopes to see The Howland Company move in the next five years. First, Howland is a collectively run organization. Covid was a real eye-opener for the fragility of all theatre companies moving forward, and Paolo takes nothing for granted. His dream is for Howland to continue its existence and to move through this time of transition and change – to learn from it, and apply what they’ve learned in meaningful ways to allow movement forward with ambition and understanding. I like his final comments: “I look forward to the learning process during these next five years.” So do I, Paolo, so do I. We all have so much still to learn. The Howland Company and Hart House Theatre presents Anton Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ (adapted and directed by Paolo Santalucia) which opens October 26 and runs to November 12 at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto. For tickets and for more information, visit howlandcompanytheatre.com or call 416-978-2452. Previous Next

  • Musicals 'Annie, The Musical'

    Back 'Annie, The Musical' Saint John Theatre Company, Saint John, New Brunswick Courtesy of Saint John Theatre Company Aaron Kropf Annie Brings the Sun Out Today in our world which is still Covid laden Saint John Theatre Company wrapped up their 2021/22 season with the family favourite Annie. After coming out of a pandemic I cannot think of a show that could have been more fitting. The need for optimism found in Annie is greatly needed as we move forward and put the last two difficult years behind. This performance was made even more special because I brought along my 5-year-old daughter who was buzzing with anticipation for this show all day. Annie is based on the popular comic strip of the day 'Little Orphan Annie'. She is an orphan who continually hopes for the day for her mother and father to come back to get her while she tries to escape the tyranny of orphanage owner Ms. Hannigan. Grace Farrell (a pippy performance by Pippa Wennberg) shows up to take one of the orphans to live with billionaire Oliver Warbucks where many lives are changed resulting a typical happy ending of early musicals. Even if you might not be familiar with the show itself, I’m sure you know a few of the popular songs including ‘Hard Knock Life’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’, and ‘Easy Street’. The cast was wonderful with Bertis Sutton as the stoic Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. His change from businessman focused on maintaining his wealth during the depression to the man who falls for Annie’s charm and ultimately does all he can to ensure her happiness was solid. Ms. Hannigan was wickedly devilish while in the hands of Jen Downey. Finally, Lauriane Pelletier as the titular character couldn’t have been better cast. She embodied all aspects of the plucky Annie and has a beautiful singing voice. My daughter exclaimed that her favourite part of the show was Annie, and really loved her songs. A slight quibble I do have with the text, however. While hit song and dance numbers are jammed into the first half before intermission, the pacing drags slightly in the second half. The quibble I had does not lie with the actors nor the director or musical director. Instead, the book and music don’t hold the same intensity and vitality as the first Act. Despite this minor inconvenience of the text, Director Scott Thomas managed to make the show sparkle and leave audiences full of optimism. What a spectacular way to end a delightful season. Congratulations to all those involved in bringing this production to the stage; it’s unfortunate that this production had such a short run. 'Annie' was a delight and I couldn’t have wanted more from this production. Oh, and by the way, my little girl loved it too. Previous Next

  • Profiles Carolyn Fe

    Back Carolyn Fe Looking Ahead Litratista (www.litratista.com ) Joe Szekeres Carolyn Fe was quite a dynamic and vibrant personality during our Zoom call today. At one point during our conversation, she used the Quebec French term ‘On clique ici’ meaning we’re clicking together, we’re making connections with each other. Listening not only to Carolyn’s voice but to the 150 plus voices I’ve compiled over this last year, I like to think that I’ve also clicked not only with Carolyn but with these other performers who continue to add their voices to the discussion of the live theatre industry in a post Covid world. Born in the Philippines, her family moved to Montreal in the early 1970s. Fluently trilingual in English, French and Tagalog, she started her performing career as a classically trained dancer, quickly moving to contemporary styles. Carolyn Fe eventually became a commissioned choreographer for local & international dance companies, TV and music video productions with her dance company, Phi-X 174 Inc. An entrepreneur at heart, she left the stage to take a 25-year hiatus from performing to join the corporate ranks as an owner/operator of a human resources firm. This was a good decision as the years in corporate life gave her business skills that she utilises in her artistic life. Carolyn came back to the stage in full force in 2005 at Montreal’s Teesri Duniya Theatre’s ensemble production of Miss Orient(ed) by Nina Aquino and Nadine Villasin-Feldman, where she jumped into three very different characters as mother to three different stage-daughters. 2014 brought her to Toronto’s stage as an invited guest singer in Raoul Bhanja’s “Life, Death and The Blues” (Theatre Passe Muraille) but it was in 2018 that confirmed her love of Toronto; when she appeared in Dora Award Winner Audrey Dwyer’s play called “Calpurnia” to sold out shows and thrilling reviews on Carolyn Fe’s performance. She won the 2018 Toronto Theatre Critics’ Award for Best Supporting Actress Award her role as Precy, in ‘Calpurnia’. Other awards and accolades include 2017 Balangay Award Nomination for Best Filipino-Canadian Entertainer and 2015 Filipino-Canadian Artist Award recipient for the North American Filipino Star Newspaper. Carolyn is also an award winning and Juno long-listed nominee as a Blues singer/songwriter with four albums under her belt with many more in the works: collaborating with musicians from around the world with her songs charting top 10 if not, #1 on Blues charts. Her band, Carolyn Fe Blues Collective, had a long-standing 8-year residency at Montreal’s iconic House of Jazz. Sadly it ended when Covid-19 took place. Her self-produced music video, Jerusalem’s Thorns: a song from her 4th album, where she appears as the matriarch won the 2019 Fete du Clip Montreal Award for Best Video and was screened in the Luxembourg edition to compete with other videos from all over the world, while still running the festival circuit and gaining recognition. Thank you for participating in the discussion, Carolyn: It’s a harsh reality that the worldwide pandemic of Covid 19 has changed all of us. Describe how your understanding of the world you know and how your perception and experience have changed on a personal level. Okay, now that I can see you at least on screen, Joe, I can comfortably say that I am of another generation and also of another generational mindset. This pandemic has brought me back to my younger years when I was back in the Philippines. I was born there and I, lack of a better word, ‘woke up’, I became aware when, towards the end of the Vietnam War I was still in primary school. I was going to school with the children of the American GIs who were based in the Philippines and then deployed to wherever. The pandemic brought me back to that timeframe and mind frame where there is a new normal that we have to adapt to. That people, places and things are temporary. It’s always evolving. With the pandemic, I was in Tarragon Theatre’s tech week when they announced the lock down. I was still living in Montreal. I was renting an apartment. During tech week, the nerves were bubbling, we’re going on next week, and then the shut down. One by one, theatres started announcing they were postponing their production to three months ahead until finally we went into the theatre and Tarragon management announced they too were postponing. I come home, my husband says don’t take the VIA train or the plane back. This is bad stuff. He drove from Montreal to pick me up, and the next day we went back home to Montreal and that was it. It’s weird that theatres are shut down, but film sets and tv studios are still working (with strict Covid protocols in place). During the year, I did return to Toronto by train. I was masked, put on gloves and wore a shield for the five-hour ride. I still wasn’t feeling comfortable with all that. Will we ever feel comfortable again? Even when all of this is under control, but that’s a later question to answer. Today, with this first question, it brings me back to the major shifts that I lived back in the Philippines at the tail end of the Vietnam War where things were going to be different from then on and will continue to be different. So, from a very young age, I got used to a bunch of new normals happening again and again and again. Another image that flashed, my brother and I stuck among the American children since we were allowed and privileged to attend the American school, but what I do remember my friends crying. The soldiers would get weekend leaves. But when the parents would leave after, the heartbreak and crying my friends would have that was powerful. With live indoor theatre shut for one year plus, with it appearing it may not re-open any time soon, how has your understanding and perception as a professional artist of the live theatre industry been altered and changed? You know that saying ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’? This is where theatre artists and theatre creatives thrive. I believe, in my humble opinion, all of a sudden, a big chunk of what we are used to seeing and having in the theatre world is taken away. As an artist, what do we do? What are we left to do? We continue to create. In my formative years, I was heavily, heavily influenced by the surrealist movement. It was born around World War 1 and continued on. During these wars, what did they have? Nothing!! And from nothing everything came out. I think someone in the Toronto theatre world coined this phrase ‘This Grand Intermission’ we’re living through. It’s a beautiful time for creatives to flourish. It’s a perfect time to sit back, and it’s okay if you don’t want to do anything. Everyone digests this new reality in their own way. But if the urge is there to create, it’s a perfect time. That big chunk of ‘We have to produce’ is taken off our shoulders, that stress, and we can just sit back and let it flow. This is how I see this moment. There are good, bad and okay moments, yes, but these moments are full of creative opportunities. And rightfully so. Look how Tarragon switched from live to the old-style radio plays. Factory Theatre did this thing with video. It was like television in the 50s, or even earlier as it had a ‘theatre feel’. I enjoyed that. I agree with Kelli Fox’s statement that digital theatre is now a part of the industry along with the live element. Also, the day we can get back into the theatre and see the mish mash of technology and live at the same time, it’s exciting. Yes, it might appear frightening and unnerving, but I like being frightened, I like being unnerved. That means something will come out, so in the moment I get scared or worried, the ‘what ifs’, and then all of sudden we take that step forward, and the ‘what ifs’ dissipate. As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry? The most…. it’s the ‘communion’ of people. Not the gathering, the immediate reaction of the audience while the artist on stage is performing. The communion between the two. The audience witnessing what is unfolding on stage and me, as an artist and still in character but the depths within Carolyn are saying, “Oh, my God, they’re reacting; that’s their reaction to this.” That’s what I miss, that communion. And I’m going to cheat here as well, Joe, as I want to add something else. After the five minute call, there’s that last second of the five minutes where Carolyn disappears and whatever character comes on, that one second for that character is born and says that first line. I miss that. As a professional artist, what is the one thing you will never take for granted again in the live theatre industry when you return to it? It brings me back to my upbringing, to my life experiences of great, great, great losses and great, great, great wins to the extremes of my life. I’ve learned never to take anything for granted. As a professional artist, you get a gig today, and it ends. I’ve learned to live in the moment. I’ve learned that these moments are never to be taken for granted. Joe, thank goodness you sent me these questions earlier for me to think about them before our conversation today. Gosh, you’re bringing me way back. I had a friend in the Philippines. She was Vietnamese. She was from a privileged family. I don’t know how she was able to attend the American school I was in. I remember the day when her family had to take her out of school. We all know now why. I remember the morning. We were bunk mates. She said, “I’m going now. Never forget this moment, okay.” And we were kids, 7 maybe 8 years of age. She held my hand, and put her nose to my nose and said, “Never forget this moment. We will be friends forever even if we never see each other again.” I never saw her again. It never occurred to me what she was talking about. Moments like that as I grew up when I would have great losses – friends, family, things, finances, ups and downs – I would always remember her saying ‘Never forget this.” This pain strengthens. That moment taught me never to take anything for granted. Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry as a result of the pandemic. I’m gonna cheat again, Joe. One is the pushing of limits and boundaries. The pandemic pushed theatre companies and artists already, but there’s more room to push the envelope, more room for growth. Another thing is the normalization of the underrepresented profiles that we have out there. It’s not’s just about the BIPOC/IBPOC and Asians. It’s also about people, and stories about special abilities, about older people, ageism. We too have stories. We too have lives that I believe is interesting. I understand that the theatre community, and a lot of its players and managers and producers are of the younger generation; therefore, a lot of the stories are written by the younger generation. I would love to see the young look at the old. I would love to see the perception of the elders. I think it’s too easy to write about ‘me’, the young ‘me’. I’d be curious to see who they would write about ‘us’. Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry. I’m writing for the first time in my life as I approach my sixties. I’ve learned so much already about it, about the technical stuff, but I’m told also to write from my experience, my selfish point of view. I’m thinking, “What about me? My elders have stories that need to be told.” So, I’m pushing it that way. I would like to do, to be involved, to be part of the normalization of the ‘marginalized’ in all senses of the word, whether it be as an actor taking on the roles of a marginalized character, whether it be writing stories thereof; whether it be joining committees in Equity. There’s a lot of normalization to be done within our industry. Some artists are saying that audiences must be prepared for a tsunami of Covid themed stories in the return to live theatre. Would you elaborate on this statement both as an artist in the theatre, and as an audience member observing the theatre. As an artist and audience observer, I say to both, “Why not have a tsunami of Covid themed plays?” As an artist because it was during Covid times that a lot of people who are not used to radical changes or not used to new normals, they came out. Their social media feeds were full of how painful and how lonely Covid was to them. The human stories of Covid came out even more intense. So, why not write about it and have that ‘communion’ on stage when we will be allowed back or allowed ‘on screen’. That communion and connection are so important. One story of being lonely might ease an audience member’s story because they might be able to connect. As an audience member, I look forward to seeing Covid themed plays. I’m looking forward to this tsunami of Covid themed plays because everyone’s experience is a variation on the theme. We come to a certain point in life, and we look at the ‘young ins’ and say, “I remember when…” But for the young people, they may say it’s the end of the world for them on account of Covid, but for us older folks, we can say, “It’ll be okay.” As an audience member to see all of this unfurl on stage and to see the chaos that is going to be written, and then us sitting there saying, “We’ll be fine. We’ll be okay.” What better way to put communion into action then to participate in, to see and to listen to Covid themed plays and stories. As a professional artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you? That I ‘communed’ with them, and that they ‘communed’ with me. One day when we will meet in person and, hopefully, in the theatre environment, I’m very introverted and shy person before and after the show. I will say hi. I’m open with you right now, Joe, because I’m protected by the fourth wall of the screen. But I’m not performing, I want to clarify that point. I want audiences to remember that I ‘communed’ with them while I was on stage telling whatever story I was offered whether it’s my story I wrote or another one. To learn more about Carolyn Fe, visit the following social media links: Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/carolynfe Albums: https://carolynfe.bandcamp.com/ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @TheCarolynFe Website: http://www.carolyn-fe.com/ Previous Next

  • Profiles Kaylee Harwood

    Back Kaylee Harwood Theatre Conversation in a Covid World Kristine Cofsky Joe Szekeres A big thank you to artist Kaylee Harwood who follows me on Twitter. I saw the National Tour performance of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ in which she appeared. Kaylee performed for two years with the National Tour. Other appearances include ‘The Sound of Music’ (Western Canada Theatre), ‘Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes’, ‘The Jazz Singer’ (Harold Green JTC), ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (Broadway/La Jolla Playhouse/Stratford), ‘Camelot’ (Stratford) and two seasons at Shaw Festival. We conducted our conversation through Zoom. Thanks again, Kaylee: In a couple of months, we will be coming up on one year where the doors of live theatre have been shuttered. How have you been faring during this time? Your immediate family? You know, it’s taken awhile to get to the point of surrender and the waiting and learning to look forward to things not surrounding the theatre, the openings, start of rehearsals, closings, tech days, all those things that have anchored my life for the last decade and have given it structure. I’m doing okay, to answer your answer. Everyone is well in health with my partner and I and our immediate families. I’m really grateful for that. My partner and I have been a bubble of two throughout this whole time. His family and my family are out in BC. I have family in Ottawa. None of us have seen our family in over a year. That’s not entirely unusual as we have chosen to live on this side of the country, and we don’t get back to BC that much. Months can go by where it adds up to over a year before we get back out there. Knowing that we’re not being able to see our families has been hard. How have you been spending your time since the theatre industry has been locked up tight as a drum? As I was saying before about the structure of the eight hour days for the rehearsal period into the twelve hour tech days into the run of a show has been the run of the cycle for me for over twelve years now. I’ve grown really accustomed to this especially when I was on tour on a weekly cycle of moving every Monday. So, this time has been a real 180 for me. At first when things shut down before we knew how extended this would all be, I certainly was in phase of tackling all those projects phase that I said I would always do. Early on, we bought paint and I painted all the things I said I wanted to paint everything in sight. It was becoming a bit of sanitorium in our apartment in Toronto because everything was white. Once I ran out of paint, I moved on to crafting. My partner and I, we were supposed to have a spread out year from each other so we were using the time to enjoy being together, to watching our favourite shows. With the crafting, I was really into making embroidery which I had done as a kid. I used to craft a lot with my hands. I then started making plant hangers, macrame plant hangers. My parents were around the first time the hangers were in vogue. I never got to see them the first time around. We had so many house plants in our Toronto apartment. We were really messy. It was like, ‘We don’t have surface anymore.” So we started elevating the plants. I made so many plant hangers that I had to start giving them away. Then I started trading them in Toronto for many things. I trade them for household items that I needed. It started to pick up steam and then people were giving my name to other people. And then all of a sudden, I was selling my hangers and a couple of months ago I started a business of Retro Décor. (website at the end of the profile) It has been a really fun adventure. I never had an actual product to sell before. I’ve always lived an artistic life, but I’ve never had something that people can purchase from me that I can give them. I’ve been mailing them all over the place. My business is called High Strung Retro Décor. Early on, my partner and I were journaling daily because this is hopefully once in a lifetime experience. We took it seriously. In early March, I’ll never forget the feelings and sights of Toronto at that time and what it looked like to see these bare, empty streets. We lived right in downtown. It’s neat to look back on the journal now. We stopped doing it religiously a few months ago, but we took a page and looked at it and it’s neat. The late Hal Prince described the theatre as an escape for him. Would you say that Covid has been an escape for you or would you describe this near year long absence from the theatre as something else? I wouldn’t say it’s been an escape. I think it’s been a tension in so many ways, a tension of holding on versus surrendering and expecting and disappointment. You know, I also don’t agree that theatre’s an escape with all due respect to Hal Prince. The time of Covid has been a digging deeper rather than an escape. When I think of an escape, I think of a distraction and forgetting what you have at home and leaving it at the door. I don’t think that’s been Covid. There have certainly been moments with the news of tragedy and disappointment has been so much that I’ve felt the need to escape. Whether that’s through the books I’ve read this year or the walks I’ve gone on and just leave the phone at home to experience life. I’ve had a bit of work during this time on Zoom and the practice of theatre, even in this strange medium when I’m in a Zoom room for eight hours a day, feels like an escape from Covid. My practice of theatre is reminding me about community and about engagement in a way that it is not a constant reminder of the tragedy of the world that I feel Covid has just exacerbated. I’ve interviewed a few artists several months ago who said that the theatre industry will probably be shut down and not go full head on until at least 2022. There may be pockets of outdoor theatre where safety protocols are in place. What are your comments about this? Do you think you and your colleagues/fellow artists will not return until 2022? I won’t believe I’m back working in theatre until I’m taking my curtain call and bow closing night. That’ll be a sign. I think I held on for a long time early on with the cancellation notices that were rolling out. With each thing that got cancelled, each heartbreak I had to go, “Okay, the curtain’s down on closing night I’m not going to believe I was in a show.” (and Kaylee and I both break out in laughter) Early on, it was by July (this was last year), by July certainly we’ll be back. And then it was early April cancellation notices were being given. And now we look back and think why would we have thought July or September would have been dates for us to return. When I see any sign that theatre is coming back, I’ll be dancing for joy but as for me, even if a contract is signed, I’ll still be waiting to see. I want everyone to be able to return safely and for audiences to feel welcomed but also taken care of. I don’t want to rush anything. Even though I’ve had to confront the injustice of how certain things can be open while others have to remain shut, I understand the motivations and financial interests, it just feels like artists get the rough go of it again. I had a discussion recently with an Equity actor who said that yes theatre should not only entertain but, more importantly, it should transform both the actor and the audience. How has Covid transformed you in your understanding of the theatre and where it is headed in a post Covid world? As for my understanding of theatre and transforming, my understanding of theatre hasn’t changed too much throughout this time. I still believe in the vitality of the stories that we tell and the reasons we tell them. I feel there’s a refinement in my choices as a result of Covid. Nothing feels arbitrary anymore. I fear that I have been changed in a way regarding relationships in that I want to embrace the old way of things. Just the day before shutdown I was in a workshop in Toronto. It was hugs, long goodbyes, talking closely and singing in each other’s faces and for so many obvious reasons we can’t do these things right now. At the news of all this, we still went out to a restaurant for drinks and food. By that point it just hadn’t hit. I miss so many of these things. I miss even taking transit right now. I miss my gross dirty gym with loud people grunting, but I’m not going to be the first person to go back in and run on a treadmill surrounded by others. I want to believe that I will trust again and be able to be in close proximity to people again. But right now, I haven’t touched another person except my partner for all these months. We’re all going to need a moment when we are able to enter a rehearsal hall again, to hug and touch another person. The late Zoe Caldwell spoke about how actors should feel danger in the work. It’s a solid and swell thing to have if the actor/artist and the audience both feel it. Would you agree with Ms. Caldwell? Have you ever felt danger during this time of Covid and do you believe it will somehow influence your work when you return to the theatre? I agree. I do think that danger is an interesting word to use. I don’t think anyone should ever feel physically in danger. Coming up in this industry, I’ve seen some of my favorite performers and shows teetering on the edge of unpredictability even though watching or working with them, I feel safe in what we’re doing for the environment that has been created already. Danger is a tricky word, and I know what Zoe Caldwell is going for as I’ve felt it as an actor and theatre lover when there is danger in the work. I have absolutely felt danger during this time of Covid. I was supposed to get on a plane a couple of days after the shutdown to go work in Pittsburgh. I was supposed to go, and it didn’t get cancelled until far too late. I didn’t end up going. I had the bag packed already but I was thinking it through, I thought it’ll be fine. And then the NBA shuts down. I still thought it’ll be fine. And then Broadway shut down. Well, I’m still going to go even through Broadway shut down. I can’t even believe I went through these series of thoughts. I remember thinking that if I had to fly the day Broadway shut down, I probably would have got on that plane and gone. Not to say I would have become sick, but just the thought of how timely and lucky I had that cancellation before I got too far away from home. I have so many stories of people who were on the road or sublet their houses and are trying to figure out how to get home. I’ve absolutely felt danger but also grateful that it hasn’t been far more serious than it could have been. I feel like in my work everything I’ve experienced informs what I do so yes Covid has influenced my work and who I am and how I’ll move forward. I don’t know how exactly that will manifest. I don’t think there is a literal way that it will. Certainly, the online work I’ve done this year, the noise of the BLM protests in downtown Toronto (I lived right on Bay Street) and the noise of the protestors moving up was incredible. To be in the midst of working on something with the noise outside, my heart was exploding from everything that was happening in the world. It as so present. It wasn’t as if I could turn off the television or the news and it goes away. It’s everywhere. And it’s the people in the Zoom boxes as well because they’re all dealing with this in their own way too whether it’s someone they know who is ill, or someone fighting for their own rights or wanting to be marching. The pull of all this stuff going on, and while we’re on Zoom we’re making stories and we’re trying things out. We’re making each other laugh, and we’re crying and we’re empathizing and exorcising all these things that are coming up for us. I think it’s inevitable Covid will influence us and our work no matter where we are in the world. The late scenic designer Ming Cho Lee spoke about great art opening doors and making us feel more sensitive. Has this time of Covid made you sensitive to our world and has it made some impact on your life in such a way that you will bring this back with you to the theatre? Hmmm…. I want to continue being sensitive of everyone’s boundaries. That’s been a real learning process for me this year of setting my own boundaries and my own comfort levels. It feels so life or death in every moment, right, that I’ve had to feel and establish my own boundaries and respect others. At the same time, I have to forge and refine my own feelings and thoughts and ways I want to live in the world. There’s been a real refinement for me in the things I care about, the causes I care about, and the things I will tolerate. I think in our business everyone’s voice matters, which it absolutely does, but the toleration of intolerance? I can’t stand intolerance. I do feel like everyone’s voice ought to be heard, yet there are voices that are intolerant that I don’t want to continue listening to and give platforms. Why tiptoe around these things? I don’t claim to know anything about anything but just my own life. And yet, there ‘s been a honing in on the things I really care about in the last year unlike any other time before. I want to bring that into my work, into my practice, my daily life and continue that journey. Again, the late Hal Prince spoke of the fact that theatre should trigger curiosity in the actor/artist and the audience. Has Covid sparked any curiosity in you about something during this time? Has this time away from the theatre sparked further curiosity for you when you return to this art form? Well, here’s where I agree with Hal Prince. I saw the In Memoriam Lincoln Centre tribute to Hal Prince. It was an extraordinary exhibit at the Lincoln Centre. I do think my curiosity about human nature has really been piqued during this time. I’m always, as a performer and actor, curious about motivations and curious about other people’s lives and their journeys or stories. During this time, the curiosity for me has been about why does that seem like it’s okay to you, or why does that seem harmful to you? We the people are making decisions and moving about the world and I don’t think there’s a ‘one size fits all’ solution for debates about issues that have surrounded Covid. This is just a mind exercise and practice, but I try to take both sides in every debate to try it on for size. My curiosity has definitely been piqued to different people’s handlings of issues as a result of Covid. When I return to the theatre, I don’t want to make any grand declarations as I believe I’ll carry this personal curiosity to my work as an artist. Not all of us are going to comfortable with certain boundaries, but that’s our responsibility to understand as we move forward. As artists we will have to ask in our curiosity what another artist is comfortable with, and re-establish those things for ourselves and in our workplaces. So often on stage, in a traditional proscenium setting, we can think of the audience as one entity, as one unit. We also have to remember the unit is made up of so many parts, that every part brings their own experience. They’ve lost people whom they have loved during Covid; they’ve experienced their own sickness or frailty during this time. I want to keep that in mind as an artist as there are so many viewpoints. To connect with Kaylee: @kaylee.harwoodTwitter @kayleeharwood. Her personal website is www.kayleeharwood.com . To learn more about Kaylee’s business ‘High Strung Retro Décor’, visit Instagram: @highstrungretrodecor OR visit SideBiz Studio at https://www.sidebizstudio.ca/store/high-strung-retro-decor/ Previous Next

  • Unique Pieces

    Unique Pieces "Da Kink in My Hair' by Trey Anthony Click Here 'Anthropic Traces' by Balancing on the Edge Click Here 'Controlled Damage' by Andrea Scott Click Here 'Fall on Your Knees' produced by National Arts Centre, Vita Brevis Arts, Canadian Stage, Neptune Theatre and Grand Theatre Click Here 'Moby Dick' Click Here 'Peter's Final Flight' written by Matt Murray. 'The PAN-tastical Family Musical' Click Here 'Ale Wives' by Mark Weatherley Click Here 'Choir Boy' Click Here 'Cyrano' Adapted by Liam Lynch from the original by Edmond Rostand Click Here 'Hamlet-911' by Ann-Marie MacDonald Click Here 'My Sister's Rage' by Yolanda Bonnell Click Here 'Post Democracy' by Hannah Moscovitch Click Here

  • Unique Pieces Article 'Something from Nothing Beyond Words' created by Andy Massingham and the Summer 2022 Company of Theatre on the Ridge

    Back 'Something from Nothing Beyond Words' created by Andy Massingham and the Summer 2022 Company of Theatre on the Ridge Scugog Shores Museum, Port Perry Courtesy of Theatre on the Ridge Port Perry Dave Rabjohn A striking new production opened this week at Theatre on the Ridge’s new outdoor space at the Scugog Shores Museum. ‘Something from Nothing Beyond Words’ is a carousel of music, dance, vignettes and comedy loosely based on the theme of the history of Scugog Island. Artistic director Carey Nicholson boldly leads the theatre out of the pandemic with long-time dramaturge Andy Massingham pulling together a youthful, energetic cast with an improvisational process where both actors and said leadership consolidate as creators. A little pestering rain was no match for this celebratory cast and their dynamic skills. This performance was announced as “modified” due to wet grass which restricted some of the routines, but one could see that the restricted items would simply have augmented an already solid performance. This might be called a reverse theatre in the round in that the audience was in the “round” while the players worked encircling the wide circumference. Some audience jostling and seat adjustments were necessary, but it’s always good to stretch mid-performance. The natural setting was ideal with one side a garden and fields, another a 19th-century house and another with full barn and outbuildings. A focus was the ever-present magnificent blue heron personified with some brilliant dance and movement. It was as if the bird were narrating the legacy of Scugog. Working quickly through centuries, the audience beheld geography and geology, indigenous peoples and colonization, farming and the ills of weekend cottaging. It seems a flurry, but the solid pace and unique comedy kept the audience engaged in the flow. Wearing sports jackets and an eclectic array of hats (the tricorn was my favourite,) the actors gained an aura of compelling presenters. A lovely balletic scene in the distance offered a dreamy far away sense. A beautiful acapella duet followed. There was a range of comedy styles from Moe and Curly to Monty Python and Buster Keaton (I suspect some of this cast may have to google my medieval references – but it would be fun!) Some comic highlights include a framed picture carried along with the picture stopping but the frame innocently continuing along. The frame again was used as a frantic photographer twisted the company into pretzels until he got the right shot. More great physical humour (I think Mr. Massingham’s forte) produced a riotous scene of mating birds. The comedy, at times, melted into the vagaries of human interaction. Touching scenes of relationships grew with joy or ended obliquely. The ever-present concerns about indigenous peoples and colonization were skillfully woven into the raucous agenda. Human interaction, good and bad, with the Scugog environment, offered a balanced touch. As a youngster, I recall my first experience waterskiing on Lake Scugog. Upon a wipeout, I sputtered to the surface to find my ski. It was easy to locate as I observed it sticking straight up out of a mud flat. So I understand one character’s fear of the lake that “the bottom might soon meet the top.” What a joy to see this sparkling cast reviewing this beloved Scugog area with all its warts and wonders. ‘Something from Nothing Beyond Words’ by Andy Massingham and company. Performers / Creators – Manon Ens-Lapointe, Karly Friesen, Reid Martin, Landon Nesbitt, Henry Oswald Peirson, Daniella Reid, Adriano Reis, Nathan Simpson, Michael Williamson Director – Andy Massingham Stage Manager- Sarah Jewell Production runs through July 17,2022. Tickets at boxoffice@theatre3X60.ca Previous Next

  • Dramas 'Lobby Hero' by Kenneth Lonergan

    Back 'Lobby Hero' by Kenneth Lonergan Produced by Icarus Theatre now onstage at Alumnae Theatre Alexandra Bolton Joe Szekeres I’m keeping my eye out for Icarus Theatre in the future if this performance of ‘Lobby Hero’ is any indication of where the company is headed. Icarus Theatre challenged itself in tackling Kenneth Lonergan’s gripping ‘Lobby Hero’ at Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre. The script reflects modern twenty-first-century daily life in Manhattan. It was an apt choice made by Icarus to stage it, but not an easy one, as the play addresses issues that have been heightened throughout the pandemic. Lonergan’s story is set in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building where we meet the on-duty night security guard Jeff (Anthony Goncharov) and three others who strongly influence his life at this moment. There is Jeff’s strict and perhaps a tad overbearing boss, William (Matthew G. Brown) and two cops on the beat who end up in the lobby – senior officer Bill (Connor Briggs) and new police officer Dawn (Emily Anne Corcoran). A tad insecure about his life, Jeff has big plans for himself. He’s not that interested in this job but it’s security for him to stay there to put the first month’s rent down on a nice apartment and move out from his brother and sister-in-law’s home. Jeff is on the computer, reads a book and will sometimes place his feet on the desk and close his eyes for a nap. His supervisor William has a lot on his plate right now and is rightfully testy with Jeff. William has learned his wayward brother might be involved in a murder investigation. Jeff and William’s professional relationship is on tenterhooks now as well. On-duty and unpredictably mannered police officer Bill and his intensely focused on-the-job rookie partner Dawn end up in the lobby a few times. For some questionable reason, Bill periodically ends up here with Dawn and tells her to stay down in the lobby while he goes up to a specific apartment. Dawn doesn’t question Bill’s authority but later we learn something is going down in that apartment which puts their professional relationship in jeopardy regarding police ethics, honour, and duty. Additionally, Jeff’s building personal interest in officer Dawn also places her in an awkward personal situation when we learn about her past. Racial issues also influence the story deeply and strongly. There are some challenges with Naomi Daryn Boyd’s set design on the Alumnae stage. I liked how the angled corners of the sides of the building give the sense we are peering in on the story’s action. The back wall housing the mailboxes is in dire need of a paint job which shows this apartment is not an upscale Manhattan building. The security desk is located centre stage with a computer. There is a sitting area downstage far left that looked comfortable enough for those who are waiting for something or someone. I was puzzled by the door entrance to the lobby stage right. It does not convey the sense this is an apartment building. Most apartment buildings in Manhattan would have larger entranceways. Additionally, when the said door was opened and closed, sometimes quickly, the braces shook and at one point looked as if the door would crash down. Doesn’t convey we’ve entered a building. The other design choice made that puzzled me was the elevator upstage left on the wall. Most apartment elevators would be a tad larger to accommodate furniture. Instead, this one appeared rather tightly compact. As well, when officer Bill pushed the button, and got into and out of the elevator, he had to pull the door open and closed instead of it opening and closing automatically. That brought me out of the moment when this occurs. Carley Melvin’s lighting design subtly and effectively underscores the intensity of the scene when needed. However, there were a couple of times when some actors were in shadows, and I had difficulty deciding how I was to pay attention to this scene. Bjorn Kriel’s sound design of the outside noise of midtown Manhattan evoked a real sense of being in New York City. Where this production does shine is the character performance and their various emotional levels. Directed with a solidly believable understanding of each moment by Liam Eric Dawson, I saw some very real characters on the Alumnae stage. Anthony Goncharov intently listens and responds naturally as the insecure Jeff. At one point he tells rookie officer Dawn something about her partner, Bill, who is upstairs with one of the building’s residents. When Bill returns to confront Jeff, Connor Briggs smartly plays with Goncharov at first to set him at ease before the imposing threat of intimidation not to talk about whatever Jeff sees ever again with Dawn. This moment is terrific to watch the cat and mouse game between the two, and the look on Goncharov’s face indicated to me he was going to follow through with Briggs’ suggestion. Connor Briggs brings just that right amount of cocky smarm both in his police-swaggering gait and on his face that just made me bristle inside. Emily Anne Corcoran builds a credible emotionally conflicting intensity as rookie cop, Dawn. She wants to be the best officer she can be. However, Corcoran offers quite an interesting take on how she deals with her possibly developing interest in Jeff juxtaposed with how she deals with her smugly and ingratiating cop partner, Bill. I remained completely and fully engaged with Matthew G. Brown’s performance as building security supervisor, William. There remains a bubbling intenseness in Brown’s work that I kept wondering if, and or when there would be a complete explosive gush of anger as William has many responsibilities to which he must tend. There is a fixation on ensuring Jeff writes down when police enter the building to visit residents. William is also faced with an ethical dilemma regarding his brother and the possible murder investigation. Final Comments: On the theatre scene, it’s exciting to see how change and growth can strongly influence a new professional theatre company on the ground floor and where it is headed if the right decisions have been made in the process. As Icarus is a new theatre company, I’m sure there was a limited budget. I want to keep an eye on Icarus in the future. I spoke with Artistic Director Anthony Goncharov after the show for a few minutes and I could sense he is set to move forward in meeting growth and change and confronting artistic challenges on all levels. I look forward to Icarus’s next production. But go and see ‘Lobby Hero’ by all means to support a new professional theatre company. Running time: approximately two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission. ‘Lobby Hero’ runs until December 17 at Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street, Toronto. For tickets: onstagedirect.com/lobbyhero or at the door on performance night. Evening performances begin at 7 pm while matinees begin at 2 pm. ‘Lobby Hero’ by Kenneth Lonergan An Icarus Theatre Production Co-Producers: Anthony Goncharov and Liam Eric Dawson Executive Producer: Anthony Sweeney Directed by Liam Eric Dawson Stage Manager: Lauren Fahey Set Designer: Naomi Daryn Boyd Lighting Designer: Carley Melvin Sound Designer: Bjorn Kriel Performers: Connor Briggs, Matthew G. Brown, Emily Anne Corcoran, Anthony Goncharov Previous Next

  • Dramas The War Being Waged

    Back The War Being Waged Streamed by Winnipeg Manitoba's Prairie Theatre Exchange Joey Senft David Rabjohn This month, Prairie Theatre Exchange is offering an online production of Darla Contois’ potent drama ‘The War Being Waged.’ It is a searing portrait of indigenous issues that have become even more highlighted in recent months. Sovereignty, suicide, missing women, intergenerational conflict and connections are major themes told through the lives of two women connected by blood and tragedy. The force of this production comes from the brilliant combination of colour, sound, narration, music and dance. Structured in three parts, we hear the narrative of the grandmother and the over-riding tragedy, the link with her grand-daughter, and the grand-daughter’s own voyage through pain. The grandmother, played with cool understatement by Tracey Nepinak, traces for us her family roots and relationships. Some of the voice over is supplied by Tantoo Cardinal. Her brothers are, interestingly, never named and the older is a severe bully while her other brother is supportive but to a limited degree. She speaks calmly with a neutral expression, allowing the words and her eyes to express the pain of a lonely childhood and then the events leading to tragedy. Camera angles are tight close-ups or regal medium shots giving her a sense of dignity – only limited shots of her nervous hands belie her shame. She speaks of much injustice in her family and her country – moving to Toronto and getting a liberal education further divides her from a family of limited motivation. The irony of the tragedy is that her brother joins the Canadian forces – an institution that supports only “Canadian” interests. This sets up the family crisis and the grandmother is incarcerated and divided from her family. The pain is echoed as she sheds a beautiful traditional shawl which is enclosed in a transparent box and she is left in her prison garb. The grand-daughter, Lillian (the only named character) is played by multi-talented Emily Solstice Tait. As a dancer, we leave the written narrative and movement becomes the emotional force. Lillian moves through a series of glass walls, manipulating them trying to connect with her grandmother. The connections come close, but are agonizingly difficult. The third section is all Solstice Tait. Her brilliant dance at times is balletic fluidity as she is calmed and then transitions into staccato rhythm that climaxes with grand mal-like seizures as the emotion becomes severe. Her startling eyes communicate as her hands then seamlessly follow her eyes. Like the walls and the box, the stage is transparent plexiglass giving us the image of Lillian dancing above the earth, seeing all, but still separated. This set design, and the lighting and costumes were developed by Andy Moro, and, as mentioned earlier, were a large part of the force of the play, along with MJ Dandeneau’s composition and sound design. Flashes of red in the make-up, costumes and lighting suggest her reflection that “my blood is yours.” Soft and harsh strobes of light constantly reflect snow, water and fire. Strong greens and yellows offer the basic indigenous connections with nature. Dandeneau’s music can be raucously percussive and then transition into some elegant piano and violin while Lillian calms herself toward some reconciliation with her past. The technical brilliance is almost poetic and it enhances the tragic issues expressed by playwright and actor. As the grandmother is engaged at university, she tells us that “the truth broke my heart.” The audience (one would hope) is left with the understanding that awareness and action are both necessary. The War Being Waged’ by Darla Contois Performers: Tracey Nepinak, Emily Solstice Tait, Tantoo Cardinal Direction: Thomas Morgan Jones Set, Lights, Costume design: Andy Moro Composer, Sound design: MJ Dandeneau Choreography: Jera Wolfe Prairie Theatre Exchange: Runs through December 12, 2021 online. Tickets: PTE.mb.ca Previous Next

  • Young People 'Russell's World' written and directed by Herbie Barnes, Artistic Director

    Back 'Russell's World' written and directed by Herbie Barnes, Artistic Director Young People's Theatre Young People's Theatre website Joe Szekeres ‘Imagination helps us get through any problem or challenge. Einstein once said imagination is more important than intelligence’ – Herbie Barnes In the talkback immediately following the on-demand presentation of ‘Russell’s World’, writer, director and Young People’s Theatre’s Artistic Director, Herbie Barnes’s above statement captured succinctly the inherent and magical essence of childhood that, for me, is always endearing to experience time and time again from an adult perspective. Imagination! Yes, childhood is full of times when we were victims of bullies and other times when we may have been the bullies, and that’s not a pleasant part of any person’s childhood he/she/they want(s) to remember at all. Some of us coped through all this using our imagination. For me, what makes childhood so magical is its essence of that necessary creative spark. As a retired 33-year schoolteacher, I was witness to many, many moments of seeing creative imagination in action both in the classroom and outside. Over the years, I’ve seen many adults who have lost that sense of childlike wonder especially in experiencing when something new was introduced to us. And that’s sad when some adults sometimes lose or forget what it’s like to see things from a child’s perspective. Thank you, Herbie Barnes, for allowing us to see imagination at play in your script and production. The story - Russell has moved to the city with his Mom from a home they didn’t want to leave. They had friends at the house and their life just felt right. Unfortunately for Russell, their new circumstances aren’t quite what they had hoped for as they feel they have no friends at the new school, and no one to whom they can turn as an older lad is bullying them. The only escape for Russell is to retreat into their room after school is done where their imagination (and belongings!) come to life. Can their friends Bear, Jacket and Book help Russell figure out how to deal with the problems outside their bedroom as well as those hidden inside? I want to applaud and thank writer and director Herbie Barnes for allowing me to enter that safe space of wide-eyed wonderment in a jim-dandy and terrific on demand video presentation through Young People’s Theatre. I had my pen and paper ready to make notes; however, when I saw protagonist Russell (a charmingly unpretentious performance by Ziska Louis) enter their bedroom, bolt the chair under the door handle and call “Safe’, I put my pen and paper to the side and instead just revelled in being with Russell in their enchantingly exciting world of pretend and make believe for the next fifty some minutes. Anna Treusch has magically created a delightfully colourful and fantastical bedroom for Russell with bright colours of orange, green, blue and red. Certain set pieces appear to be enlarged which helped me to believe that Ziska Louis convincingly plays a young boy. Various props are strewn about the room which is also indicative of a child/young person’s messy bedroom. Treusch’s selection of oversized clothing from his hooded pullover jacket to large trousers and blue striped t shirt once again reinforce that we have entered the world of a child, and I completely bought right into it. Very nice touches. Kelisha Daley and Mike Petersen’s puppetry work in making Book, Jacket, Bear, Bedspread (and a few more objects which come to life that I don’t want to spoil here) was most certainly appealing to watch. Along with these various objects, there are also appearances of spectral looking beings, and I won’t state when they appear as that is all part of the fun of Russell’s world. Again, I bought into every inch of the recreation of a child’s world because it is such a danged good phantasmagorical world of make believe. As an adult, if I really liked it, I certainly do hope young children will also enjoy it. Cathy Nosaty’s sound design and composition effectively enhances the childlike world in which the audience finds itself. I especially liked the sounds used when Russell becomes a pirate. So much fun. Shawn Henry's lighting design firmly accentuates the present mood of a particular moment. It heightens some of the tension as the inanimate objects come to life in the bedroom. The swashbuckling pirate moments are in silhouette which in turn on the wall shows how larger than life Russell feels as he is battling. Again, great fun. Herbie Barnes winningly captures that youthful, wanton spirit both within his script and direction. I’m sure we’ve all experienced when we were younger those the true child like feelings of thinking you’re the only person who is feeling what you’re feeling, and that nobody else can understand at all what you’re going through. For example, at one point, Russell tears his jacket and then panics because he knows his mother will be cross with them. How many of us remember tearing our clothes when we were kids for whatever reason and then panicking thinking our mothers would be so annoyed with us because money is so tight or that it doesn’t grow on trees? So true to life. Finely tuned cinematography and precise editing by Joshua Hinds maintained my focus on where the specific plot action was occurring. In turn, this allowed for unnoticeable camera optical effects to be in place and offer surprises for the viewer. Ziska Louis is delightfully precocious as the free-spoken Russell. I have no idea of Louis’ age, but their performance work as a ten/eleven-year-old lad was dead on exact. Louis naturally assumed the idiosyncratic movements of a young person with arms periodically flailing around or the temper tantrum stand when things weren’t going the way they wanted them to transpire. Final Comments: As in all good things from Young People’s Theatre, their productions also contain important life lessons for their audiences, and the same holds true here for ‘Russell’s World’. I don’t believe for one second that Barnes’ just wanted his story to be merely entertaining. From listening to his Q & A at the conclusion, it appeared to me Barnes also believes in treating his youthful audiences respectfully while letting them know of the harshness of the world. In this case, for ‘Russell’s World’, young audiences will see that there will be times where children must learn to face challenges and obstacles head on to deal with them. “Herbie Barnes’s ‘Russell’s World’ waxes genuine for children and youth in learning to cope bravely and deal honestly with those little things that may appear monumental as a child but, in reality, are not the end of the world. This retired schoolteacher gives a thumbs up for schools and families to watch it.” Approximate running time: 55 minutes Recommended for ages 5-10. Teacher Guides and other resources are available. ‘Russell’s World’ streams until June 30 on the Young People’s Theatre website. Visit www.youngpeoplestheatre.org . RUSSELL’S WORLD written and directed by Herbie Barnes Young People’s Theatre Written & Directed by Herbie Barnes Featuring Kelisha Daley, Ziska Louis & Mike Petersen Set & Costume Design: Anna Treusch; Lighting Design: Shawn Henry; Composer & Sound Design: Cathy Nosaty; Cinematographer and Editor: Joshua Hind; Stage Manager: Kai-Yueh Chen; Apprentice Stage Manager: Sophi Murias. Previous Next

  • Profiles Charlotte Dennis and Deborah Drakeford

    Back Charlotte Dennis and Deborah Drakeford ARC's premiere production of MARTYR Courtesy of ARC Joe Szekeres In early December, I had the chance to profile mother and daughter Deborah Drakeford and Charlotte Dennis who are part of quite an impressive ensemble of cast and crew of ARC’s first production of 2023: MARTYR by Marius von Mayenburg (translated by Maja Zade) which is the North American premiere of the play to be directed by Rob Kempson, his first production with ARC. I first learned of ARC in early 2020 just before March of that year when the world changed as we know it and wanted to learn more about this company. On its website, ARC bills itself as: “an ensemble-based company that produces contemporary international theatre in a multinational city. We take a rigorous, bold, socially active, and highly collaborative approach to producing thought-provoking international works in their Canadian premiere. By collaborating with community stakeholders, non-governmental organizations, and our audience, we create this work to engage with relevant global conversations. Community engagement and social justice are at the core of who we are as theatre-makers.” Deborah and Charlotte’s evident enthusiasm for MARTYR certainly led me to engage with what they were telling me about the production. Both Deborah and Charlotte are still feeling somewhat nervous about returning to the theatre but are grateful for the implementation of ARC’s solid Covid policy. Everyone has been wearing masks during the entire rehearsal process and they won’t be without their masks until the tech/dress, and Deborah smiled saying that’s when they will all get a chance to see everyone’s faces again. Charlotte echoed Deborah’s sentiments by telling me: “It feels safer as this is my first show back after Covid.” I found it interesting that Deborah has performed in two faith-based plays back-to-back. In November, I saw her wonderful performance as Sister Aloysius in BNE’s riveting production of John Patrick Shanley’s ‘Doubt: A Parable’. Drakeford jokingly stated she has performed in one-word titles in the last few shows: GLORIA (another terrific production), DOUBT and now MARTYR. Although MARTYR might be considered a tale of religious extremism, Deborah states it’s “much more than that”: “It’s about loneliness. It’s about seeking community. It’s about a young man trying to find his identity and his way in the world. He latches on to religion which in turn affects his schooling, his friendships, and his family relationships. In his desire to seek community, he actually further isolates himself.” MARTYR is an exciting piece for Drakeford as it goes to crazy places and she’s looking forward to seeing how that sense of ‘craziness’ is going to be achieved on stage. For Dennis, in terms of the plot, she states: “We are at a very volatile time globally and MARTYR comes at the perfect moment because we know what isolation does to the human person since we’ve engaged in these many times these last two-plus years. We know what these feelings can do in the depths of depression and sometimes that kind of pain can lead to very hard-shelled anger. We’ve seen it around us…engines are hotter…tempers flare easily…there’s been a rise in violence [of all kinds] and religious extremism, and I believe this stems partly from the way we’ve been isolated from each other and our communities.” Charlotte then made a comment which made me think further: “MARTYR is very topical right now and it’s an important discussion to talk about the difference between religion and extremism because often in liberal media we place these two terms together. She was also keen to speak about Rob as director. At an October workshop regarding the play, Charlotte was excited and a tad nervous because this was her first time back in the theatre with Covid’s embrace still felt. Because MARTYR is such a volatile play and being in the room with Kempson, Dennis ran the gamut of emotions, wondering how rehearsals might proceed under Rob’s direction. According to Charlotte, Rob led: “a beautifully collaborative very curious deeply kind room that I felt completely safe throughout all of our discussions. It is a room I’m very excited to return to, and I thank Deborah for leading ARC and Rob in leading the room so generously and collaboratively.” What intrigues me the most about seeing MARTYR? It’s an important conversation starter about the difference between religion and extremism that Charlotte alluded to earlier. The play is neither Christian nor Catholic bashing. Charlotte says throughout the play the young male protagonist of the story cherry-picks and pieces portions of Biblical text together to back up his arguments and his own agenda. For Charlotte, that’s not talking about religion anymore. Because the play deals with issues that hit home to people of faith, those who may question elements of faith, will there be an opportunity for audiences to discuss, hear and listen to what other audience members are thinking? Deborah says the production team has planned for a couple of discussions with the audience after a performance, and she is really looking forward to that. She elaborated further: “We are all coming from such specific experiences and MARTYR just like DOUBT is going to hit people very particularly. So, to offer up a space where people can discuss and keep the conversation going is going to be really important. Plans have been put into place to allow for that feedback between actors and audience.” Audiences who want to discuss the show more in-depth should consider attending a Thursday performance with a Post Show Talkback where the cast will be joined by Jad El Tal of the Canadian Arab Institute on January 19 and Stephen Drakeford, an Anglican minister, on January 26th. This is a continuation of ARC’s signature Open Room initiative, a process of investigation featuring company members alongside Community Collaborators who help place unique and challenging plays in Canadian context before rehearsals begin. As our conversation concluded, I asked Deborah and Charlotte why audiences should see such a thought-provoking piece like MARTYR coming off the Christmas/holiday season. Deborah pointed out how ARC has a good track record for producing and delivering excellent and interesting performance pieces so that is one prime reason to see the production. I heartily concur on this account. Drakeford went one step further about why we must go to see the play: “That sense of isolation that we’ve all been feeling for so long. Now we are given an opportunity to be together in some kind of communion, to share an experience together and breathe together the vitality of theatre. But also to have this time and space to examine these potentially very tricky questions, and to have an opportunity to look around, to be curious and feel each other’s understanding and take on these questions and see things from another point of view. That’s vital, theatre is vital and that’s why I’m so glad she survived these last two plus years.” What’s next for Deborah and Charlotte once MARTYR concludes its run? Deborah considers herself to be a very fortunate actor. As soon as MARTYR opens, she will be in rehearsals for Amy-Lee Lavoie and Omari Newton’s ‘Redbone Coonhound’ which opens February 7 at Tarragon Theatre. In March 2023, Charlotte will appear in WHAT ROUGH BEAST with Théâtre Ouest End and Tantalus Theatre in Montréal. She considers this production an opportunity to visit ‘home’ as she studied in the city. The production is being staged by Theatre Ouest. Just like her mother, Charlotte is quite excited about this chance to go from one show to the next. The MARTYR cast features ARC Co-Artistic Producer and Resident Artist Deborah Drakeford and ARC Resident Artists Aviva Armour-Ostroff, Ryan Hollyman, and Nabil Traboulsi, with Ryan Allen, Richard Lee, and Adriano Reis in their ARC debuts. ARC Resident Artists Jackie Chau and Tamara Vuckovic will lead Set and Costume Design and Stage Management, respectively. The rest of the creative team includes Michelle Ramsay (Lighting Design), James Dallas Smith (Sound Design), Taija Shonée Chung (Assistant Director), Hannah MacMillan (Assistant Stage Manager), Za Hughes (Assistant Lighting Design), B.C. Batty (Technical Director), and Jack Rennie (Fight Director). Julia Dickson will be the Producer, with Patrick Lynn as Production Manager. LISTING INFORMATION The Canadian Premiere of MARTYR, an ARC Production Dates & Times: January 13 to 29, 2023. Opening night is January 14. 8:00 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday) & 2:00 p.m. (Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday) Venue: Aki Studio Theatre, 585 Dundas St E, Toronto, ON M5A 2B7 Ticket Prices: Tickets from $20 (early bird) to $35; discounted tickets are available for seniors, students, groups, arts workers, and on Tuesdays. Ticket Link: https://www.nativeearth.ca/shows/martyr/ Website: Arcstage.com Twitter: @arcstage | Instagram: @arcstage | Facebook: ARC Previous Next

  • Dramas 'The Good Thief' by Conor McPherson

    Back 'The Good Thief' by Conor McPherson Produced by Fly on the Wall Theatre Allison Bjerkseth Joe Szekeres A gutsy and visceral in-your-face dramatic monologue presentation. The name ‘Fly on the Wall Theatre’ piqued my curiosity. How often have we all wished we could be a fly on the wall in a conversation that we had no right to hear? That proverbial fly on the wall also indicates we are unseen and unheard witnesses to an immediate connection between two or more people. Now add that to Fly on the Wall’s mandate which specializes in plays that: “grab our attention or rarely produced or fallen off the map or seldom seen” and I believe that is the start of an artist establishing an intimate connection and contact with an audience. This is what I call edgy theatre. And placing Conor McPherson’s attention-grabbing ‘The Good Thief’ at Noonan’s on the Danforth, nonetheless, amped the impact as the pub was an intimate hall where I could see what was going on in all corners of the room. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to set this gutsy and visceral in-your-face dramatic monologue presentation. The press release stated ‘The Good Thief’ is a return production from 2019 named one of Toronto’s Top 10 productions by Christopher Hoile of Stage Door. I didn’t see it then. I can understand though why Hoile named it one of his Top 10. Under Rod Ceballos’ carefully nuanced direction, David Mackett’s Narrator remains astoundingly engrossing throughout Conor McPherson’s tightly packed scripted story of someone who according to the Director’s Note is “haunted by an unforgiving past that lets in the rays of light, of hope, of peace to a lonely and troubled soul.” There’s an internal fiery intensity about Mackett. His demeanour and posture make it appear as if he is ready to bolt out the door of Noonan’s if given the opportunity. Absolutely engaging to watch him move about the room with continued precision and controlled purpose. The play opens with the Narrator (read thug or hit man in here if you like) standing in the middle of the pub with a beer in his hand. He recounts to the audience about his job. He has been hired by an Irish mobster to frighten people and make them pay up if they are late or delinquent or might be on the lam. Sometimes he might have to kill them if they haven’t paid up at all. We also learn about Greta who was the Narrator’s girlfriend at one point and who is now the girlfriend of his boss. The boss does not treat Greta right and this does not sit well with the Narrator. An incident that should have been routine was botched and the Narrator finds himself on the run across Ireland accompanied by the wife of one of the men who died in the incident plus her daughter. It appears as if perhaps the tables have been turned on the Narrator as he’s on the lam. The plot turns quickly at the end. I’ve thought about it for a couple of days and it does make sense, but to share it here would be a disservice to the fine work Mackett delivers. One must experience it live at Noonan’s. The title ‘The Good Thief’ puzzles and intrigues me simultaneously. First, the Irish Catholic background tells us the Good Thief is the one who was crucified along with Christ on Calvary. Jesus states that on his death, the Good Thief will be in Paradise. This is a core belief of Catholicism where we believe death is not the end and we will see loved ones again. Just who is ‘The Good Thief’ in this play? Is it the Narrator? There are moments where the Narrator’s ‘goodness’ shines through, but I don’t know if he can be considered good especially in knowing what he does for a living. This is the moment where I wished there might or could have been a talkback after the performance OR that I had attended the production with someone where we could have talked about the meaning after. Even though I’m still stumped by the title, the reason to see this return of ‘The Good Thief’ is David Mackett. He becomes a riveting raconteur of passion, poignancy, regret and, somehow, hope. He moves around telling the story and stands at the bar or sits on the makeshift stage with reliable credibility. Listening to and watching Mackett narrate the tale becomes another master class in acting I’ve had the privilege to experience this fall. ‘The Good Thief’ is a definite must-see this fall. Running time: approximately 70 minutes with no intermission. ‘The Good Thief’ runs October 19 at 7 pm, October 22 and 23 at 2 pm and October 25 at 7 pm at Noonan’s Pub, 141 Danforth Avenue. Tickets may be purchased at the door (cash only) or https://www.flyonthewalltheatre.ca/upcoming---the-good-thief-2022.html THE GOOD THIEF by Conor McPherson Production staged by Fly on the Wall Theatre Directed by Rod Ceballos Production Assistant: Valerie Molloy Performer: David Mackett Previous Next

  • Profiles Jake Epstein Will Soon Be The 'Boy Falls From the Sky' at The Royal Alexandra Theatre

    Back Jake Epstein Will Soon Be The 'Boy Falls From the Sky' at The Royal Alexandra Theatre Looking Ahead Luke Fontana Joe Szekeres On his day off from final week of technical rehearsals for his upcoming one-man solo show ‘Boy Falls From the Sky’ (which had been postponed twice on account of Covid), Jake Epstein told me during our conversation that, once we were finished the Zoom call, he had stuff to do like laundry and clean his place. I laughed because once I had finished speaking to him, I had the exact same tasks to do. Performing artists also have the daily routines we all have. What an enjoyable conversation I had with Jake this afternoon. He’s excitedly thrilled and feeling good for the opening of ‘Boy Falls From the Sky’. He says that working on the show has been one of the joys of his life in getting to turn this period he buried and didn’t talk with anyone into a show that is joyful and fun. ‘Boy’ is a show on Jake’s own terms as it celebrates the good and bad, and the absurdity of show business. and on his own terms He had a normal life growing up in Toronto. One of the highlights he remembers were the yearly treks to New York City he took with his mother, father, and older sister (artist Gabi) to see Broadway shows. Epstein appeared for six seasons on ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ before he pursued further studies at Montréal’s National Theatre School. He had applied to Ryerson (X) University and was accepted but wanted to attend school in Québec because there is a prestige as only twelve students are accepted. It was also a chance to move away from the comfort of home and try something new. Epstein also knew several of the Montréal faculty at that time who were and are remarkable artists: Marti Maraden, Alisa Palmer, Ted Dykstra, Kate Hennig, so that sealed the deal for him. Jake’s dream was to perform on Broadway. When I asked him what advice he might give to the young people in theatre school now or who are considering a career in the performing arts? “Life isn’t a fairy-tale. It’s not linear. Some of the best moments and career successes in my life have been complicated. A career in performing and show business is wonderful to get to entertain others and I count my lucky stars everyday I get to do what I love. But after doing it for a long time, I hit a wall and had a hard time talking about the reality of the business. It is complicated. That quote you mentioned, Joe, from Lucie Arnaz: “It’s not all sunshine and autographs…I would put that on my wall. I’m not out to scare young performers because it’s one of the greatest jobs in the world plus it’s also one of the hardest jobs too. You have to be a hustler and have to be ready to take the good with the bad.” Personally, how have he and his immediate family been faring: “Knock on wood, everyone is doing okay right now. My sister had a mild case, but she is recovering so very thankful. My parents are doing okay. My wife, (actress) Vanessa Smythe, and I have had each other’s backs.” Like all the artists whom I’ve interviewed for this Profile series, Jake has experienced his share of ups and downs when everything vanished and there was that initial state of panic and wondering if theatre was ever going to be a thing again. Jake and Vanessa were in the stages of purchasing a house so he wasn’t sure if he would be able to make mortgage payments when his work for a year simply vanished. He got a part time job as a transcriptionist. How did the part time job fare? “I was pretty bad at it. I was horrible at it, actually. I was transcribing people from all over the world in different dialects. I was very lucky when I got a film job getting to film a season of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ which is coming out on Netflix, so this work allowed me to quit the transcriptionist job thankfully.” Epstein notes the preciousness and vitality of live theatre. It’s not a given in the world and it’s very special when it’s allowed to happen, and it becomes a big deal for all of us to see it in our third year of Covid waves. He appreciates very much the opportunity to perform ‘Boy Falls from the Sky’ even more. The Mirvish website states the following about Jake’s upcoming solo show directed by Robert McQueen: “[dreams]… don’t always go as planned. Through a series of entertaining and soul-baring stories and songs, ranging from touring the US, to surviving ‘Spider-Man’, to withstanding steroid shots and Broadway boos, Epstein shares the rejection, stage fright and heartbreak behind a seemingly successful career in this showbiz tell-all.” ‘Boy Falls From the Sky’ began as a cabaret where it was a series of songs interwoven with some stories. Jake says he is a huge fan of Robert McQueen’s (director of the Toronto run of FUN HOME through Mirvish). Jake also recalled going to see ‘Life After’ a show McQueen developed at the Fringe which then went into further development with Toronto’s Musical Stage Company. Epstein credits McQueen in taking what was very much a cabaret with ‘Boy Falls From the Sky’ and transformed it into a solo show with some various characters, some scenes and stories. For Jake, yes, it’s still a cabaret. But he also calls ‘Boy’ a stand-up comedy show, a solo show and a musical show. Without spoiling the show, all I’m going to say is there are at least two big Broadway names whom Jake mentions - and what they said to him made me laugh out loud. Plus, there is also someone with whom Jake worked who is now making world headlines. You’ll have to see the show to personally experience the comedy of the moment. Epstein also mentions a few other individuals in ‘Boy’ whom he calls inspirational. When I asked him who are some of those who now inspire Jake in his work and personal life, he paused and considered first before he mentioned Tom Hanks (who saw Epstein’s work in the touring company of ‘Green Day’) and Mark Ruffalo. Jake also mentioned Canadian singer/song writer Hawksley Workman, his favourite performer to see. Jake also looks to his older sister and artist Gabi Epstein (who appeared in the Stratford Festival production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) for inspiration in his life. Jake finally got the opportunity to originate a Broadway role – he played Gerry Goffin, singer/songwriter husband to Carole King in BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL. Epstein recalls the first time Carole came to watch and to speak with the original Broadway cast in rehearsals. The first thing she said: “Who’s playing Gerry?” At this point, the look on Jake’s face on camera said it all to me. Part of ‘Boy’ also recalls his time in ‘Beautiful’ and how he responded to Carole’s wish, so you’ll have to come see the show to find out what happened. Epstein recalls how amazing and wonderful it was to be part of ‘Beautiful’, to tell Carole’s story, and to play Gerry Goffin, an iconic singer and songwriter himself. Jake called himself a weird kid because he grew up listening to folk music and not listening to the music he ‘should’ have been listening to in his room. The Beatles, James Taylor, Paul Simon – that was Jake’s music. What are some specific themes or messages he hopes audiences will walk away with at the conclusion of ‘Boy Falls from the Sky’? First and foremost, for Jake, the show has to be fun and a piece of entertainment especially right now given the state of our world with the sixth wave of Covid and the horrible events going on in Ukraine. People want to come to the theatre to be entertained and to be moved. Performing ‘Boy’ has taught him how to let go of the expectations of how life goes. Jake built up this whole narrative that he was going to make it on Broadway, and he will have the world by the tail. That’s not how the reality of how life goes. Jake has learned when you let go of the expectations, all of a sudden there’s space to see beyond a disappointment and to appreciate life more, to appreciate both the good and the not so good. That, for Epstein, is the heart of ‘Boy Falls from the Sky’. ‘Boy Falls From the Sky’ runs April 19 – May 29 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West, Toronto. For tickets, visit www.mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333. Previous Next

  • News 'Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949' Premiere staged by the Borelians

    Back 'Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949' Premiere staged by the Borelians Interview with Carolyn Goff (Producer) and Bill Baker (Director) Joe Szekeres Joe Szekeres (Revised January 21) Carolyn Goff and Bill Baker have been busy individuals these last few weeks. As the producer and director respectively, they have poured their very heart and soul into the next Borelians of Port Perry production: “Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949”. What’s unique about this upcoming production? It’s an original piece written by Baker incorporating three 1949 radio shows including ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’, ‘The Great Gildersleeve’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes’. A period nostalgic theatre piece revolving around the Golden Age of Radio. So much fun but so much work is involved in creating a verisimilitude look and feel of the era with appropriate costumes and props. Baker calls the production light entertainment as there is a mixture of comic and dramatic moments throughout. With all the bad stuff we’ve heard over the last two-plus Covid years, we need a chance to laugh, to be silly and to hear corny jokes. Bill says these corny jokes are funny now. Goff drew a parallel to the time frame. In 1949, the world was emerging from the Second World War when things seemed untenable and insurmountable, and people then needed to feel a sense of community just as we continue the need to feel a sense of community amid the prevalent Covid variants. Carolyn also added: “Why not poke fun at the fact a community theatre production is trying to scramble and pull something together for an audience when in reality that is what is happening with most community theatres now?” Limited budget, very little costuming, will audiences show up given the fact it’s February and the weather can be unpredictable. Such heights to scale but Goff and Baker are up for the challenge. For the two of them, the definition of community has changed. This show is a reminder not too long ago really when neighbours and communities got together to help each other out during some rather tough times. We need to get back out there together – why not start by coming to the Port Perry Town Hall and watching a play in community spirit? Goff further added people are making that conscientious choice to come back out to support the community moving forward. Recently I held an interview with them over coffee to find out how rehearsals are going in preparation for the opening night in the first week of February. Both concurred everything is starting to come together nicely during the rehearsal period. Two weeks to go and Carolyn and Bill reported the cast is getting excited to bring this story to an audience. And the cast – some of Durham Region’s finest community theatre actors are set to take us back to 1949: Chris Cole, Phil Cook, Matthew Imray, Neill Kernohan, Paul Kit, Lee Laycoe, Howard Linscott, Deborah Lobban, Shari Pereira, Graeme Powell, Gerri Sefi, Ari Todd, Vannetta Tustian and Mike Wood. Why should Durham/Scugog and GTA residents get to see this particularly unique play? It was to have been presented last year and be developed around Covid. There would have been social distancing during rehearsals; if any cast members were sick, they could be replaced. Bill wanted to write more material than just have the cast members sit and read the radio plays. In this original production, the community in 1949 comes together as the actors want to raise the spirits of the Port Perry residents who have been cooped up in their homes and do not have any entertainment at all. A very appropriate play indeed given what we’ve all experienced these last two-plus years. How are Carolyn and Bill feeling about the influence of Covid’s embrace in a world that is trying to get back to some sense of normal life? Just recently two Scarborough community theatre groups have had to contend with that reality and had to make some decisions. Goff laughed and said Bill is hoping that might happen as he is itching to go on one night because the material is a riot. She made a choice not to be an actor in the show because she may very well have to entertain the option of going on as an alternate in case one of the actors does become ill. Even though Bill had a good laugh with Carolyn’s comment, he is prepared to do just that in case someone does become ill. But Baker added something else that intrigued me: “There are also a couple of actors who couldn’t be in the production but expressed an interest if someone was needed during the run as a fill-in for whatever reason, I’d be more than glad to do that because they don’t need to memorize the dialogue. They just read it. They’re competent actors that I could give them a few notes beforehand and away they go.” For those actors involved in the ‘play within a play’ within the show, if someone had to go on in this cast, everyone is highly competent so there could be improvisation that will work. This production has certainly been a passion project for over a year now. Bill has done a lot of writing over the years. One was for Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas in 1997 and his script was accepted. Most of his writing, however, has just been for him. But ‘Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949’ has been a joy. He had been writing, re-writing, and adding to it. While it has been a labour of love, Baker considers the script an homage to his father who is 95 and taught him to appreciate all about the golden age of radio and all those beautiful comedies and dramas that were aired. That generation used to gather around the radio to listen rather than gather and sit around looking at the television screen. Bill wanted to name the characters in the script so he turned to the cast and asked them for the names of those in their families who would have listened to the radio. The cast loved that idea and was very willing to share. So, when you see the actor listed by a particular name, that actor is doing an homage to his or her ancestor. Hopefully, audience members will remember their relatives who may have also listened to the radio. What an incredible honour to involve the cast in this manner. Carolyn met Bill when they were part of a terrific cast of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ the Borelians had produced a couple of years ago. She reiterated how they just clicked with each other. Since then, they have developed tremendous respect for each other as artists. When Bill approached Carolyn with this idea and said he would like to do it, Carolyn said it made complete sense to her to become involved in the project together because they are very much like-minded actors. She says the two of them approach and create art in a similar manner – from the heart – and they like spending time together in doing so. Goff says it’s a joy to be able to ensure Bill’s passion for this play is brought to life in the way he intended it to be. “Yes, there have been growing pains and things we don’t expect during this process,” Bill continues, “but you just bear down and go with it and bounce ideas and thoughts off each other.” The number two connects Goff and Baker. This is the second play she has produced (the first was the Borelians’ first show of this season ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’). This is Bill’s second play he has directed. He clearly states he’s learning through this process, and he wants to do more. He wants to direct more. He wants to write more. What do the two of them hope audiences will come away with after seeing ‘Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949’? Bill hopes the audience will come away from the show smiling. As Judy Garland once sang, "Forget your troubles, come on get happy", Baker hopes the audience will do the same for a couple of hours since the Golden Age of Radio entertained people and made them feel positive about themselves. Carolyn agrees while also adding she hopes audiences will feel connected to each other and say: “Wow, was that ever different” or “That reminds me of…”: “It has been a rough two-plus years for all of us. Let’s start to reconnect with each other again.” ‘Live from Port Perry Town Hall, 1949’ opens February 3 at 8 pm at Port Perry’s Town Hall. Show dates: Saturday, Feb 4, 2023 at 2:00pm Saturday, Feb 4, 2023 at 8:00pm Sunday, Feb 5, 2023 at 2:00pm Friday, Feb 10, 2023 at 8:00pm Saturday, Feb 11, 2023 at 2:00pm Saturday, Feb 11, 2023 at 8:00pm Address: 302 Queen Street, Port Perry, Ontario. For further information, visit borelians.ca. To purchase online tickets visit the website, call (905) 985-8181 or at the box office before showtime. Previous Next

  • Profiles Qasim Khan

    Back Qasim Khan Looking Ahead Mark Short Joe Szekeres I had the opportunity to see Qasim Khan perform at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre in ‘Paradise Lost’ and wondered who this intense looking artist was on stage because he drew my focus to him immediately. When I had emailed Qasim I was very pleased he agreed to an interview, and the fact he answered the questions via email and returned them to me meant I could post his profile sooner. According to his website (https://qasimk.com/biography/), Qasim is a 2008 graduate of the joint Acting Program from Sheridan College and the University of Toronto. In 2011, he was one of eight artists from across Canada to join The Soulpepper Academy, a performance residency with The Soulpepper Theatre Company. Qasim’s resume includes some work with outstanding theatre companies across Canada. I encourage you to visit his website for more information. His two social media handles are found at the end of his profile. We conducted our interview via email. Thank you again, Qasim, for participating. It’s a harsh reality that the worldwide pandemic of Covid 19 has changed all of us. Describe how your understanding of the world you know and how your perception and experience have changed on a personal level. Wow. That’s a real big question. On a personal level, there’s not a single aspect of my life that hasn’t changed in the last year. The day-to-day basics are different: I would normally be in Stratford at this time of year, and I have decided to stay in Toronto for the time being. It’s been nice being close to my (small, contact-traced) circle of friends in the city. Last summer in Toronto was actually really lovely; I haven’t spent this amount of time in Toronto in years, and someone close to me sort of toured me to all these beautiful outdoor spots that I never knew existed – for someone who doesn’t normally spend tons of time outdoors, it was really magical. There’s still a few more places for me to explore this summer, so that’s a nice thing to look forward to. The other day-to-day changes are easy: I was a bit of a homebody pre-pandemic, so staying at home isn’t the end of the world (I’ve absolutely hit a wall though – we’ve been on a lockdown since last October here in Toronto – so right now all I want to do is go to a club and kiss strangers). Wearing a mask is a no-brainer, and I don’t even mind my hands being dry from hand sanitizer. Pre-pandemic, especially while working, my only hobby was going to the gym, and I haven’t set foot inside one since the day the NBA locked down in 2020. So, where I was lifting heavy things every morning at 6am, I’m now doing what I can at home, when I can, led by an app on my phone that makes me feel sufficiently guilty if I skip a workout. There’s a level of communication and transparency in my current relationships that is new to me because of COVID. Last November I worked on a movie and was COVID tested every 48 hours gearing up to being on set. My bubble and I had to keep extra safe so that I maintain a negative test result (otherwise I couldn’t go on set, or work). So that was a conversation with friends that I never thought I’d have: “Can you please only see me, and maybe not even go to a grocery store?” Pre-pandemic I had been with my partner for about five years, and we parted ways a few months into the pandemic, after building a really solid friendship. So, setting up my own home has been part of the adventure of 2020 as well – it helps having an ex who’s a very good realtor! I knew that I would be spending a big portion of 2021 locked in this new place, so I let myself deck it out with stuff that I feel good being surrounded by, including a very comfy couch, and a little army of plants (that are thriving). I guess the overall personal shift is that there’s far more calculation and mindfulness in what I’m doing, who I’m surrounding myself with, and how I’m spending my time. The need for routine comes in waves, and the routines themselves need fine-tuning as more time passes. This is probably a good lesson for the post-pandemic world: everything needs to evolve and reflect where you’re at, and I’m valuing the freedom I have right now to roll with things as they come. With live indoor theatre shut for one year plus, with it appearing it may not re-open any time soon, how has your understanding and perception as a professional artist of the live theatre industry been altered and changed? It’s a humbling thought that the very thing that has been so pivotal to my life, which has been essential to me as a human and professional, is so utterly non-essential in times like these. Of course, when we can have audiences again, theatre will be more essential than ever. But it has been a challenge having the largest part of my identity stripped away for over a year. Something that has been inspiring and speaks to how hungry all of us are to get back to work is how quickly theatres and artists adapted to the situation. Within a few weeks of the pandemic, a friend had put together a small, weekly, online reading group where we read through a bunch of plays together – for no purpose but to stay connected. And within the first couple of months, I was busy being part of online readings and workshops of new plays. I don’t think you’ll find an actor in this country that isn’t now a Zoom expert. I’ve been lucky to stay busy with Film/TV work, and some writing projects that I have on the go as well. I suppose my perception of the industry hasn’t changed, so much as the pandemic has highlighted many areas of the business that could be functioning better. We have all inherited a system of working in the theatre that no one has really challenged or questioned in a big way, partly because there is never time to reflect. It’s a beautiful way to earn a living but working in theatre has a lot of personal costs to it. We have told ourselves that it’s worth the trade-off, but what’s good about this break is that we can reevaluate how we have been working. It’s all stuff that allows artists to have a bit more agency – which will only create better work for our audiences to see. Because of COVID, there’s now conversations happening around sick days; for example, if you came backstage at a show during cold/flu season in the past, you would see a group of over worked actors sucking back lozenges, teas, covered in tissues, and doing whatever they needed to not miss a show. I have shattered a finger, had a concussion, and gashed my head open in the middle of performances, and have prided myself on trudging forward - these all made for good stories at the bar after the show – and everyone is celebrated for being die-hard. But COVID safety protocols are forcing us to get realistic about the boundaries an artist needs to have. So, having a break from the routine of everything is necessary to get some perspective. The murder of George Floyd and the protests of the last year have also been central to my perception of the theatre industry. What has been illuminated for many people is how unjust our current social-political setup is, and that translates to how every sector and organization has functioned in the past. It is heartening to see how keen most organizations are to return in a way that is healthier and supportive for Black and Indigenous artists, and artists of color. Part of my professional life in the pandemic has been sitting on the Stratford Festival’s Anti-Racism Committee, and we have been working hard to identify barriers for company members that are Indigenous, Black, or of color, and strategizing a way to shift the culture of the organization to allow these company members to have a fulfilling, meaningful, and equitable experience while working there. It’s wonderful to finally have the prospect of a 2021 season of shows and artists to gear this work towards. It’s all very exciting. I also became a member of the Howland Company in Toronto, and there’s lots of cool things in the works for us, and it’s another group of really inspiring theatre makers. So, where I would spend eight hours a day in a rehearsal hall, I now spend my day sitting on Zoom having stimulating conversations and dreaming about the theatre that audiences will see SOON! As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry? I miss the people, the joy of creating something on my feet, the excitement I feel when a stage manager announces: “Five minutes to the top of part one, please; five minutes.” I think, most of all though, I miss the adrenaline rush of being on stage in front of a room of strangers. That is a feeling that, in 12 months of being at home, I have not been able to recreate, and it’s a feeling that is so central to who I am. The New York Times put out an article last week that talks about the feeling of “blah” we all have at this point in the pandemic – the “languishing” we all feel – I think my “languishing” will be remedied by that specific adrenaline kick. I miss that and can’t wait to feel it again. Oh, and I really miss making people laugh. As a professional artist, what is the one thing you will never take for granted again in the live theatre industry when you return to it? I will never take interacting with people for granted again. I’m a bit of homebody, a loner and a hermit when I work; it’s rare for me to socialize with folks I’m working with, especially once shows are running. I will never take for granted the opportunity to build relationships with these special humans ever again. Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry. Well, to be frank, a lot of organizations have made lots of promises to the community about their focus on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and I certainly hope these promises are followed through. It would be a shame to spring right back to the kind of system we had before – it would feel bizarre at this point for both artists and audiences because the world as we know it is significantly different than where we were a year ago. Cultural shifts take time, so companies that funneled resources into this work last year are in way better footing to re-open in a better way this year *fingers crossed*. The ability to work online has presented opportunities for artists and organizations to collaborate on a national level, and that is a new thing that I hope we figure out how to bring into the off-line world. Theatres are speaking to each other, artists are speaking to each other, everyone is sharing resources and ideas, and a lot of the new works that have been developed in the last year have been influenced by folks Zooming in from around the country, and sometimes around the world. How cool is that!? I wouldn’t want to lose that connectivity. Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry. I was on a bit of a good, lucky streak of theatre work before the pandemic, and what was exciting about that was that it felt like I was getting to the point of playing the kinds of roles I wanted. So, there are roles I dream of playing, plays I dream of working on, directors I would love to collaborate with, and theatres I want to work at. I’d list them all but that’s more interesting to me than your readers. The only ‘agenda’ I’ve ever brought to my work is wanting young folks of color to see someone that looks like them be central to the stories they see on stage, and with the kinds of shifts I think we will see in the industry, that might be more possible than ever. That’s exciting. Some artists are saying that audiences must be prepared for a tsunami of Covid themed stories in the return to live theatre. Would you elaborate on this statement both as an artist in the theatre, and as an audience member observing the theatre. OH FUCK NO! I’d rather see theatres stay shut (that’s mainly a joke) than see or work on anyone’s socially distanced, one-person, masked, plexi-glassed, piece about their pandemic sourdough starter and plant collection. Or anything about isolation for that matter. Absolutely not. No one that lived through this time will ever forget what it was like, and I don’t think we need it amplified in the theatre right out the gate. I think the superpower that theatre will have post-pandemic is to provide an escape and balm for what we all just went through, and to speak to the social and political shifts we have seen in the last year, in an artful way. I’m hungry to perform in something that will either make people belly laugh, cry a lot, be stunning to look at, or to be candy for my brain (or, ideally, all the above… with many people on stage…. not six feet apart). As an artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you? (This feels like I’m writing my own eulogy, but here goes!) Ummm… I mean, I guess I want people to remember that the guy they saw in ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘The Neverending Story’ was kinda weird, but kinda funny, and it turns out he’s capable of a lot. And that his name rhymes with ‘awesome,’ but he’d rather people do the rhyming in their heads than out loud and in front of him. Follow Qasim on Twitter and Instagram: @theqasimkhan Previous Next

  • Review Archives | Our Theatre Voice

    Welcome to Reviews ​ A theatre review is meant for the audience. Therefore, OUR THEATRE VOICE reviews strive to look at the show from an audience’s perspective. Hopefully our reviews OR any theatre review will allow you to look at a live production and appreciate more than just the outer look. Reviews by Genres Dramas Musicals Comedies Solos Opera Young People Dance Unique Pieces French Pieces ---- ---- ---- ---- ----- ----- ----- Important Messages “Our goal is to provide to the best of our ability reviews and commentaries that are fair, unbiased and impartial. If your community group wishes to get in touch with us and discuss the possibility of a review, please email us: ourtheatrevoice@gmail.com . We continue to build our site in moving forward. If you are aware of a previous review we have written that is not posted here, and you would like to read it, please email us the title of the review to ourtheatrevoice@gmail.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

  • Musicals 'The Music Man'

    Back 'The Music Man' Springer Stage at Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque, Ontario Randy deKleine-Stimpson Joe Szekeres There’s no trouble here in River City. Thousand Island Playhouse’s ‘Music Man’ remains a lovely telling of this American musical classic punctuated with delightful choreography and full-bodied singing. What a lovely way to spend a few hours if you are in Gananoque. Better yet, consider making a trip and spending the night as I did. There is so much to appreciate about this production of Meredith Willson’s ‘The Music Man’. Presented by Thousand Islands Playhouse (my first visit here with hopefully more to come), the story is told with dignity and grace under director/choreographer Stephanie Graham’s capable hands and Rachel Cameron’s tremendously fine work as Music Director. I especially liked Brandon Kleiman’s suggestive set design of less is more with those moments that took place on the street. The dollhouse-looking appearance of various buildings on the Main Street allowed me to envision in my mind the breadth and depth of the setting. Co-costume designers Robin Fisher and Joshua Quinlan are to be congratulated for what I thought were highly impressive visual clothing creations from the turn of the twentieth century. I scanned my eyes as quickly as I could in both acts to see what the twenty-eight cast members wore, and what struck me was the formidable task Fisher and Quinlan set for themselves to be as accurate as possible to the era. They succeeded on all accounts for me. It’s a hot summer in River City, Iowa in 1912 and Renee Brode’s effective lighting design indicates that strongly. We meet conman Harold Hill (David Leyshon). Hill has gone from town to town defrauding others before his arrival in River City, He poses as a Professor of Music claiming, through gentle forms of flattery, that the boys have hidden artistic talent. Nearly everyone in town becomes swept up in Hill’s deceit save for a few including town librarian Marian Paroo (Kate Blackburn). After an initial impressing upon most of the townsfolk, there is talk of a need to give young people the sort of interests, such as forming a Town Band, to keep kids off the streets. Things are beginning to catch up with Hill. He finds himself falling in love with Marian and refuses to escape via train to avoid confrontation with the town officials who have been tipped off by a rival salesman. To prove what Hill said is true, a demonstration is given where the youth of the town are gathered to play Beethoven’s ‘Minuet in G’. It’s not what one might expect but all works out well in the end. Headed by a vocally strong David Leyshon and Kate Blackburn, there was so much to enjoy about the opening night production. Leyshon and Blackburn are confident performers who remained confirmed to the reality of the moment. The budding synergy of attraction becomes palpably true that I found myself rooting quietly for the two of them in the second act. Within these classic Americana tales, there is always that theme of the young independent woman who turns around the heart of a wayward man. Trite and sappy? Perhaps, but that did not come across in this production for me at all. There are some decent supporting performances that put a smile on my mask-concealed face. David Talbot’s blustery, windbag Mayor Shinn is terrific to watch. As his zany wife Eulalie, Seana-Lee Wood perfectly juxtaposes the correct amount of comedic humour to counterbalance her husband’s blowhard nature. As their daughter Zanetta, Meghan Caine’s blossoming youthful romance with Daniel Yeh’s rebellious Tommy Dijilas remains sweet. Rennie Wilkinson is delightful as Marian’s Irish Mother, Mrs. Paroo. Matthew Fournier is an adorable Winthrop Paroo. Other notable moments were Michael Cox’s Charlie Cowell, an anvil salesman determined to bring Harold down and expose the truth about his nature. Michael MacEachern’s frantic Marcellus Washburn (Hill’s pal who tries to get him out of River City before the jig is up) amplifies the emotional intensity of the moment between Marian and Harold. The gossipy ladies of the town are so much fun to watch. What a delightful treat to see so many young people on the stage as well. Before the show began and I was waiting outside, I heard someone talk about the fact a decision was made to cast young people instead of adults dressed as young people. A correct decision was made here as well. There are some fine vocal moments throughout the production that are never overpowered by the six-piece band so kudos to Deanna Choi’s solid execution of the sound design. At the top of the show, ‘Rock Island’ introduces a new level of the creation of musical sounds through the stomping of feet in time to the music. ‘(Ya Got) Trouble’ remains one of the staples of the show and it’s not disappointingly sung here at all. Another staple ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ sounded wonderful to my ears. The gossipy ladies in ‘Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little)’ made me laugh out loud, especially when I saw how their hats moved in time as hens move. The comic timing was so good. I must also mention the primo barbershop blend of Spencer Laing, Hal Wesley Rogers, Rob Torr and Robert Yeretch in ‘Sincere’, ‘Goodnight Ladies’ and ‘Lida Rose’. I haven’t heard this truly unique barbershop sound in such a long time, and it was heavenly to hear these four actors deftly handle the music so effortlessly. Can’t forget Stephanie Graham’s choreography either. The stage became electrically charged during ‘Shipoopi’ ‘(Ya Got) Trouble’ and ‘Rock Island’. Every inch of space was filled with movement so kudos to Graham for keeping her eyes peeled to ensure the moment came alive not only for the actors but also for the audience. Final Comments: In her Director’s Programme Note, Stephanie Graham spoke about how ‘The Music Man’ reminded her the story is one of transformation and change. My views on ‘The Music Man’ have also changed too. I used to think it was a tired story that some groups may pull out from time to time. However, when the story is treated with the utmost care and compassion as it has been here at 1000 Islands Playhouse, it’s worth a trip to see it. I encourage you all to do so. Running Time: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. ‘The Music Man’ runs to August 20 at the Springer Theatre, 690 Charles Street, Gananoque. For tickets call 613-382-7020 or visit 1000islandsplayhouse.com. Masks are required in the theatre as of the publication of this article. ‘THE MUSIC MAN’ Presented by Thousand Islands Playhouse Book, Music & Lyrics by Meredith Willson Directed and choreographed by Stephanie Graham Music Director: Rachel Cameron Set Designer: Brandon Kleiman Co-Costume Designers: Robin Fisher and Joshua Quinn Lighting Designer: Renee Brode Sound Designer: Deanna Choi Stage Manager: Jordan Guetter Cast: Kate Blackburn, Meghan Caine, Naomi Costain, Michael Cox, Jasmine Huang, Spencer Laing, David Leyshon, Michael MacEachern, Alison J Palmer, Hal Wesley Rogers, David Talbot, Rob Torr, Rennie Wilkinson, Seana-Lee Wood, Daniel Yeh, Robert Yeretch Young Ensemble: Scarlett Belanger, Sophie Christopher, Ethan Davidson-Harden, Matthew Fournier, Micah Gavin, Malcolm (Gramps) Jager, Tristan Moore, Pandora Mulligan, Isla Oatway, Adyson Purdy, Charlotte Stroud, Makayla Vanderhost Band: Rachel Cameron, Joseph Dashney, Roger Finlay, Mike Verner, Anne Palmer, Greg Runions Previous Next

  • Unique Pieces Article 'Cyrano' Adapted by Liam Lynch from the original by Edmond Rostand

    Back 'Cyrano' Adapted by Liam Lynch from the original by Edmond Rostand Presented by Theatre on the Ridge at Scugog Shores Museum Village, Port Perry Duncan Gibson-Lockhart as Cyrano by Barry McCluskey Joe Szekeres This ‘Cyrano’ is a proudly gallant love story adaptation directed with care and sensitivity (Due to weather conditions postponing two final technical rehearsals, the performance I saw was classified as a final technical/opening night. Some alterations may have probably been made going forward.) Watching a love story played outside under the evening stars might be considered a romantic evening. Having said story rained out not once but twice just might put a damper on it. I’m pleased Theatre on the Ridge ventured on and would not allow two nights of unsettled weather conditions to deter the company at all from presenting a proudly gallant love story of which I knew very little. Hearty acknowledgement both to the company for staging a challenging play and to director Liam Lynch for his careful and sensitive vision that works beautifully outdoors. What I found extremely clever that piqued my attention was connecting a 21st-century wedding celebration where the Best Man clearly had unresolved feelings for the bride to the classic French tale of Cyrano de Bergerac involving the same theme. Lynch adapted the story from the original by Edmond Rostand. Here is the release I received from Theatre on the Ridge: “When friends and family gather to celebrate a summer nuptial, love is in the air – but for one guest, the secret of unannounced affection pangs within his heart. The rhythm and resolution of these feelings bring forward a classic tale of unrequited love: the story of Roxane, Christian, and Cyrano…Cyrano (Duncan Gibson-Lockhart) is a larger-than-life personality – with a nose to match. Despite being in love with Roxane (Manon Ens-Lapointe), he is paralyzed by his feelings of inadequacy. When the handsome but ineloquent new cadet Christian (Nathan Simpson) also falls in love with Roxane, Cyrano vows to help unite the beautiful couple through his poetry-by-proxy. Beyond hope, war, and tragedy, this story of unrequited love resounds past the confines of the 17th century and into the hearts of any who have dared to find beauty in another’s soul.” It is a ¾ theatre in the round playing space that works rather nicely as the area is used to its fullest extent. The stage is set for a fancy wedding celebration. The purple and gold colour motif throughout the set decoration in this opening scene suggested a sense of grand pomp and magic about to take place so kudos to Liam Lynch and Carey Nicholson. Gorgeous selection of costumes throughout the production, but I’d like to note especially Cyrano’s and Adriano Reis’s as the Comte de Guiche so again kudos to Nicholson. Michael Williamson’s original music and song lyrics emotionally underscore the dreamy and haunting reminders of the pangs of unrequited love. This eleven-member cast functions as a true ensemble of players. Duncan Gibson-Lockhart remains a tremendous force throughout. His Cyrano remains always focused and committed to the moment and in the moment whether he is arrogant, self-pitying, bombastic or in those tender scenes he shares with Manon Ens-Lapointe’s Roxane. The final scene of the play between he and Roxane becomes emotionally moving. Gibson-Lockhart inherently incorporates the use of his entire physical presence plus perfected listening skills to react realistically. At one point, Christian maliciously makes fun of Cyrano’s nose. At the performance I saw, it was the way in which the light captured Gibson-Lockhart’s intense facial reaction along with his physical response to the hurtful joke that made me feel sad for something that is out of Cyrano’s control. Manon Ens-Lapointe accordingly never allows her Roxane to veer into histrionics. Like Gibson-Lockhart, she too responds realistically in those heartfelt moments especially at the end when Roxane realizes it has been Cyrano who has written these love letters all along. At one point, Ens-Lapointe moves down and just off to the right side where I was sitting, and I could see tears in her eyes as she delivered her message upstage. Nice work indeed. This ‘Cyrano’ adaptation is not without its welcome moments of humour most noteworthy in the scene where he feeds the words of love from Nathan Simpson’s egotistical Christian to Roxane. When Cyrano pushes Christian to the side and then speaks these words of love to Roxane, there remains a hope the truth will come out, but it takes years for that to occur. Simpson thankfully never overplays the braggart Christian because there is a believable being inside who truly does love Roxane but doesn’t have that ability to express how he feels. Adriano Reis’s authoritative Comte de Guiche underlines the emotional impact of the toll love can also take when we are faced with difficult choices in life. Supporting players Karly Friesen, Reid Martin, Landon Nesbitt, Henry Oswald Pierson, and Daniella Reid highlight once again both the humour and the sadness that occurs when we allow the feelings of love to play into our lives. Final Comments: I really hope the weather co-operates for remaining shows because this adaptation of ‘Cyrano’ begs to be experienced outdoors. In his Director’s Note, Liam Lynch writes: “Despite our performance location, I have never wanted this play to feel like a piece of history.” It doesn’t, Liam. This ‘Cyrano’ becomes a modern reminder for us to tell those whom we love that we continue to do just that no matter what. You’ve succeeded in what you’ve set out to do with this play. ‘Cyrano’ runs approximately two hours with one intermission. The production runs to August 27 at Scugog Shores Museum Village, 16210 Island Road, Port Perry. For tickets, go to theatreontheridge.ca or call (905) 431-0977. Cyrano adapted by Liam Lynch from the original by Edmond Rostand Directed by Liam Lynch Music & Song Lyrics by Michael Williamson Stage Manager: Sarah Jewell Set Design: Liam Lynch Set Decoration: Carey Nicholson Sound Design: Lyle Corrigan Lighting Design: Colin Hughes Costume and Props: Carey Nicholson Assistant Stage Manager and Sound Technician: Christina Naumovski Lighting Technicians: Ryan King and Andy Williamson Actors: Manon Ens-Lapointe, Karly Friesen, Duncan Gibson-Lockhart, Reid Martin, Landon Nesbitt, Henry Oswald Pierson, Adriano Reis, Nathan Simpson, Max Hoehn, Michael Williamson Previous Next

  • Young People rihannoboi95

    Back rihannoboi95 Streamed through Toronto's Young People's Theatre Courtesy of Toronto's Young People's Theatre David Rabjohn A unique video performance from Young People’s Theatre, ‘rihannaboi95’, is now available this December. Originating in 2013, this Governor General’s award- winning production is a one person show with Davinder Malhi cast as the perplexed teenager writhing through the dreams and terrors of identity, sexual orientation and relationships. Set in a young woman’s crowded bedroom, Sunny – aka rihannaboi95, speaks directly to both his supporters and detractors as he tries to make sense of his life. The evils of social media bullying simmer salaciously barely under the surface. Sunny is obsessed with Rihanna – mainly for her talent and beauty, but one cannot help but consider her own struggles with race and abuse issues that may attract the victimized teenager. He privately takes comfort in mirroring her dance moves, video taping himself and editing his work under cover of blankets. He is fearful of his parents and his brother who question his manliness – sometimes Sunny “just slips their mind.” He moves towards the edge of an inappropriate relationship with a gay teacher who supports his creative video work – the teacher maintains professional guardrails which only further confuses Sunny. Mr. Malhi’s strong performance is highlighted by facial expression that covers the entire spectrum of emotion. He enters the bedroom anxiously – eyes furtive – his head on a swivel. He is clearly terrified but tries to control it. Eventually we learn that a broken lip and a compromised ankle are a result of abuse both real and imagined. He cleverly manipulates his teenage language (lots of “like” and “you know”) sometimes halting and often speeding up as his excitement for Rihanna grows. He offers glimpses of smooth dance moves – hands spinning or arms waving seductively. One “Brittany” move is especially precise. A particularly powerful moment is his denial of homosexuality in front of his teacher. The teacher’s offer of support is rejected, and Sunny’s confusion inflates. His body language changes as we see him pull at his sleeves nervously. Some of the narration becomes a little too lengthy which slows the otherwise strong pace. The “Shopper’s” story could have used some editing. As Sunny continues to fidget nervously over sirens from the street or noises at the door, he must wrestle with his identity and make decisions about his love of documenting his dancing. Up to this point, Rihanna is barely heard in the background. As the bedroom door opens dramatically, Sunny makes his decision and launches full flight into a dance number with Rihanna at full volume. It is clear that Sunny is not an accomplished dancer – full credit to author Tannahill and director Tawiah M’Carthy for revealing a genuinely awkward teenager passionately subsumed in creativity. Digital bullying, especially in the context of sexual orientation, is a formidable force. YPT, along with Mr. Malhi’s robust performance bravely faces the issue with both subtlety and power. It is suggested that “they will hate you.” Hopefully, this strong production will help young people to learn how to face or change this inevitability. ‘rihannaboi95’ by Jordan Tannahill streamed through Young People’s Theatre Director – Tawiah M’Carthy Performer – Davinder Malhi Set and costume – Camellia Koo Lighting – Michelle Ramsey Sound – River Oliveira Runs through – December 18, 2021. Tickets: youngpeoplestheatre.org Previous Next

  • Profiles Sarah Garton Stanley

    Back Sarah Garton Stanley Looking Ahead Alejandro Santiago Joe Szekeres Sarah Garton Stanley is highly respected among the theatre community as the links found at the conclusion of her profile reveal her prolific status. We conducted our conversation via email as she is one extremely busy lady right now. I knew Sarah was the Associate Artistic Director for Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, English Theatre, but that’s all I knew of her work. Her bio from the NAC told me far more about her work in the theatre: “[She is a] Director, dramaturg and conversationalist, originally from Montreal, now lives in Kingston and works from Ottawa. Sarah is the Curator for The Collaborations and leader for The Cycle(s). Sarah co-founded and is creative catalyst for SpiderWebShow, (where Canada, the Internet and live performance connect). She is also a former Artistic Director of Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. As well, Sarah is also Executive Producer of FOLDA (Festival of Live Digital Art) whose mission it is to support artists creating theatre in a digital age. In the course of her award-winning career, Sarah has worked across Canada and overseas. Most recent directing credits include Unsafe (Canadian Stage); Out the Window (Luminato/Theatre Centre); Kill Me Now (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production in collaboration with NAC English Theatre); Bunny (Stratford Festival); Helen Lawrence (Canadian Stage, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Munich Kammerspiele and elsewhere) and We Keep Coming Back (Jewish Culture Fest, Krakow, Poland and Ashkenaz Festival, Toronto). Sarah received the 2016 Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas’ Elliot Hayes Award, the 2017 Manitoba Theatre Award for best direction for Kill Me Now and the 2018 Honorary Member Award for Canadian Association for Theatre Research.” Thank you again for adding your voice to the discussion, Sarah: It’s a harsh reality that the worldwide pandemic of Covid 19 has changed all of us. Describe how your understanding of the world you know and how your perception and experience have changed on a personal level. Between March 13 and 20, 2020 I watched a future disappear. What I was doing, was to be doing, and in the planning stages for what might come after that, all of it changed. The one constant was my relationship with my partner. But even that went through enormous change. We started off in Vancouver, I was there directing David Yee’s brilliant ‘carried away on the crest of a wave’ at the Arts Club. The set was on the stage, tech rehearsals had begun. This was March 13. March 20 we were on a flight to Toronto. At the airport the cancellation of my upcoming production of Erin Shields’ ‘Paradise Lost’ at the National Arts Centre became clear. By March 25th we had moved to Kingston and the FOLDA festival that I co-curate along with the Green Rooms pivoted to entirely online offerings. On April 13th we brought home our pandemic puppy, Matzo. And on June 17 we arrived in Nova Scotia to live off grid at Birchdale. We stayed there until November 30th. We still have an apartment in Toronto, but now live in Yarmouth Nova Scotia. All of my work in the theatre has happened online since March 17th, 2020 With live indoor theatre shut for one year plus, with it appearing it may not re-open any time soon, how has your understanding and perception as a professional artist of the live theatre industry been altered and changed? My career was characterized by travel and meeting new people and seeing old friends and family. I have been incredibly lucky to work in many parts of this amazing land called Canada. Those experiences of change and return were a huge part of my joy in what I get to do as a director and dramaturg. Shifting to online has flattened a lot of my personal connection to the theatre. I liken it to a heart monitor. It still beats but without much drama. That said, I have truly loved seeing and participating in the creative shifts we have been making to face this moment. FOLDA is a great example of this excitement but so too are the wide-ranging outpourings of social justice creations that have more capacity when working in the digital realm. (or at least this is how it appears to me). As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry? I miss the dust on the floor in the rehearsal hall. I miss having to wear pants. I miss awkward conversation with incredible people. I miss trying to avoid opening nights. I miss eating weird snacks in tech. I miss watching actors work. I miss going into the room at the beginning of a process and coming out into a lobby just before an audience is about to come in and asking myself, “How exactly did we get here?” I miss feeling shitty at opening night cards and gifts and I miss feeling sad and oddly relieved when a show closes. I have always believed that theatre gave me life, offered me a sense of family. I have missed my family. As a professional artist, what is the one thing you will never take for granted again in the live theatre industry when you return to it? What it takes for every single person to participate. What the pandemic has shown us is the facts of our lives. Our kids, our pets, our homes, our personal demands. We have, through the transition to online, seen so much more of what each of us goes through to live a life. So, when I think about the theatre, I think more deeply about what an artist has to organize to get to an agreed upon meeting time with countless others. And I think the same about the audience. What did they have to do to make it possible to get to the show? I think the future will see a split experience; some who will make it to the theatre and some who will want or need to see it on demand from home. But what I will never again take for granted is what is required for a group of people to gather at an agreed upon time. Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry. I hope how the industry has responded historically to social inequities has been forever changed. I hope that the industry will continue to be populated and led by more and more IBPOC artists. I hope the industry can be the changemaker it wants to be. AND I hope it can offer up MORE and MORE joy. Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry. Oh god. Joe! what a question! When the pandemic hit, I felt like I had both hit an incredible streak of work AND like I was not going to be able to sustain the pace for too much longer. And like so many of us, the pandemic forced a lot of things to happen. I was a non-stop mover who has now stopped moving. I am currently working on my PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. I am working on a creation project called: ‘Massey and Me: Conversations about the end of theatre in Canada.’ It is a work that I hope will illuminate some of the issues we continue to contend with and hopefully it will offer some insights about possible ways forward. It is a “show” and “research event” that I truly do hope I will be able to pull off. And, if it goes really well, I aim to publish the work. Some artists are saying that audiences must be prepared for a tsunami of Covid themed stories in the return to live theatre. Would you elaborate on this statement both as an artist in the theatre, and as an audience member observing the theatre. Hmmmm...I really have not thought much about that. I hope and trust that there will be a lot of work on our stages that reflects a breadth of experience and while Covid is bound to make its way into most creation and interpretation for the foreseeable future, I think this pandemic period has highlighted for me the enormity of social change that we are experiencing in this country and the world over. I expect that a lot of work in the next set of years will be a reflection of the dynamic power shifts that we are witnessing and experiencing in many corners of our day to day lives. Perhaps that is aspirational, but I really hope that is what floods the stages upon our return. As an artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you? I want people to remember the conversations I ignited through my work. I want people to remember how I played with form. I want people to remember how much I loved making work with other people and, if I am really lucky, I hope people will remember some brilliant moments of stagecraft and a few good quotes. To follow Sarah: Twitter: @saragstanley / FB: @Sarah Garton Stanley / Insta: @sarahgstanley / LinkedIn Sarah Garton Stanley web site saragartonstanley.com web site spiderwebshow.ca web site folda.ca web site birchdalelake.com web site green rooms Previous Next

  • Profiles Brad Fraser

    Back Brad Fraser Moving Forward David Hawe Joe Szekeres From his personal website, Canadian Brad Fraser is “a writer, director, producer, host and generally creative guy.” (www.bradfraser.net ). I’ve read many articles, reviews and reports about Brad’s work in the theatre over the years and have seen that some of his stories have been deemed controversial, but isn’t that what makes for good theatrical drama when we can discuss calmly something we have seen that has moved us to the point where we need to examine and talk about it? Brad studied Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto according to his personal Facebook page. We conducted our conversation via email. Thank you so much for your time, Brad: It has been an exceptionally long seven months since we’ve all been in isolation, and now it appears the numbers are edging upward again. How are you feeling about this? Will we ever emerge to some new way of living in your opinion? I suspect we might. Certainly, the idea of work and workplace are changing, as are certain jobs. I suspect we’ll discover we don’t need all the space we insist on occupying, as well as most of the stuff we feel we have to buy. How have you been faring? How has your immediate family been doing during these last six months? My immediate family is in Alberta and seems to be fine. My chosen family is in Toronto and it’s a mixed bag. I care for a senior neighbour with dementia, who also has asthma, and has to be monitored almost constantly. Oddly, I suspect she’d doing better than other members of that family, since we’re in the same city and still can’t see one another. At least my neighbour starts each day with no real memory of how long we’ve been in lock down. As an artist within the performing arts community, what has been the most difficult and challenging for you professionally and personally? Not being able to interface with my other artist friends and share ideas and opinions over a meal and a few drinks. Not being able to attend the theatre, or any of the other live venues we generally work and party in. Were you in preparation, rehearsals, or any planning stages of productions before everything was shut down? What has become of those projects? Will they see the light of day anytime soon? The only live gig I lost was an amateur production of “5@50” in Edmonton. Luckily, I had just found work in publishing and film just before all of this broke so I’ve actually been quite busy. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time? Working, talking to friends, painting, watching movies, generally staying as creative as I can. Any words of wisdom or advice you might /could give to fellow performers and colleagues? What message would you deliver to recent theatre school graduates who have now been set free into this unknown and uncertainty given the fact live theaters and studios might be closed for 1 ½ - 2 years? Everything changes. This will pass. Be patient. Find a way to parlay your skills into another profession for the time being. Do you see anything positive stemming from Covid 19? If we’re lucky it will force people to re-evaluate our current political system which got us into this spot and seems mostly uninterested in getting us out of it. Do you think Covid 19 will have some lasting impact on the Canadian/North American performing arts scene? Yes. Many people will be insecure about attending for a very long time. For concerts etc. I think the bounce back will be quicker. Theatre is a marginal industry during the best of these situations, and I suspect people will use this as an excuse not to return. We’ll need to be wildly imaginative to lure them back and I think the entire structure as it exists across the country now will be changed. Some artists have turned to You Tube and online streaming to showcase their work. What are your comments and thoughts about streaming? Is this something that the actor/theatre may have to utilize going forward into the unknown? Perhaps. I’m skeptical. Theatre needs to be live to work. YouTube is not live, it is merely a platform that is open to amateurs. It is not theatre. Despite all this fraught tension and confusion, what is it about performing that Covid will never destroy for you? The power of the medium and its ability to change the way people see the world. Previous Next

  • Profiles Tracey Hoyt

    Back Tracey Hoyt The Self Isolated Artist Anna Keenan Joe Szekeres After I had written a profile on Sergio Di Zio, he sent me an email speaking glowingly about his friend, Tracey Hoyt, who is one of the most respected and long time voice actors in Toronto who has deep roots in Improv and Second City. According to Sergio, Tracey’s recent play is personal and lovely. He thought she would be ideal to be profiled in this series of the self isolated artist. I couldn’t agree more with him and was very pleased when Tracey got in touch with me. I perused her website and am in tremendous respect of her professional experience in all areas of the business from theatre to film and TV, improvisation and voice over work. Tracey also comes highly recommended by some of Canada’s finest talents when it comes to voice over work. You’ll see them on her website. We conducted our interview via email: 1. How have you and your family been keeping during this two-month isolation? We’re all healthy and well, thanks. My three step kids are young adults and they’re all isolating in their own bubbles. My husband and I share a small space. We’ve discovered that being in nature and walking our dog several times a day has energized and motivated us more than anything else. 2. What has been most challenging and difficult for you during this time personally? What have you been doing to keep yourself busy? Other than being away from our loved ones, it’s been not being able to experience live theatre with family, friends and strangers. I miss that so much. This has freed up a lot of time to watch films and TV series I’ve been meaning to check out. That’s been a constant most evenings. I’ve also enjoyed Soulpepper Theatre’s weekly Fresh Ink writing series online, some of the NAC/Facebook #CanadaPerforms readings and the occasional Zoom or Face Time visit with close friends and family. In the early days, I was commissioned by Convergence Theatre to write something based on an anonymous COVID Confession, which was very enjoyable. It was a character monologue that I recorded on my phone. I also shared a bunch of my own confessions, which inspired other artists to create songs, prose and even an animated short film. It was a fascinating and connecting experience. I also took Haley McGee’s wonderful 14-day Creative Quarantine Challenge, which was the perfect creative re-set between writing the last two drafts of my play. 3. From your website, I can see you are one very busy lady indeed with all of the coaching you give professional actors and all who might be interested in voice work. Plus, you will be in a CBC Gem series in July and you’ve just completed your play ‘The Shivers’. Professionally, how has COVID changed your life regarding all the work you have completed? Some actors whom I’ve interviewed have stated they can’t see anyone venturing back into a theatre or studio for a least 1 ½ to 2 years. Do you foresee this reality to be factual? I actually spent the first few months of self-isolation working on my play, three or four times a week. I feel grateful to have had so much time with it, as well as time to let things marinate, as a dear writer friend of mine says. It’s very hard to imagine the play being produced any time soon, but one of my life mottos is: “There’s always a way.” I trust the process and the timing of things, always. It’s tough to predict when we’ll be able to go back. As an eternal optimist, I’m going to wish for the Spring of 2021. The web series, which was shot in November 2019, now feels like two years ago. Although I can’t share the specifics at this point, I’ll be fascinated to see it. In one of my favourite scenes in the series, I was sitting with about one hundred background performers. That seems preposterous now, as it does whenever I see intimacy, crowd scenes, face-touching or food sharing as I watch anything created before the Pandemic. 4. In your estimation and opinion, do you foresee COVID 19 and its results leaving a lasting impact on the Canadian performing arts scene? Hopefully not for too long. Seeing images of safely distant seats at a theatre in Berlin recently almost made me gasp. At this point, it’s hard to imagine how theatre will be sustainable in Canada with so little available space for the audience, let alone how things will be rehearsed and staged safely for the artists. That said, I’m a big believer in limitation being the perfect opportunity for more creative risks - sort of like having limited menu items in the fridge and coming up with something simple yet perfect. I sense there may be more solo and intimate performances with much smaller casts as a more realistic short-term possibility for live theatre, and that projects with larger numbers will have to get creative using digital tools. I’m curious to see how it all unfolds and hope to be part of making that happen. 5. Do you have any words of wisdom to build hope and faith in those performing artists and employees of The Festivals who have been hit hard as a result of COVID 19? Any words of sage advice to the new graduates from Canada’s theatre schools regarding this fraught time of confusion? I’m hopeful that all levels of government, funding bodies and Canadians in isolation are starting to appreciate how much richer their lives are because of what performing artists do - as well as an awareness of just how many other creative and service jobs and businesses go hand in hand with that, behind the scenes and within the community. Historically, theatre has survived many challenges. It will survive this, too. My advice for recent theatre grads is that this is the perfect time to implement the vocal and physical practises you learned in school. Let them become part of this strange new normal. You’ll need these skills at every stage of your career. Keep reading scripts and working on monologues that you wish you had been assigned at school - or the ones you have never dared to try. You know which ones. Research playwrights and actors that fascinate you. Read reviews or find their other work online. Dare to start writing down your own stories, characters and monologues. As my treasured mentor Terry O’Reilly once taught me, remember that no one can do what you do. Let that be your strength and be ready to shine when it’s safe for you to join us. We can’t wait to see what you’ve been cooking up. 6. Do you foresee anything positive stemming from COVID 19 and its influence on the Canadian performing arts scene? I think it’s going to feel even more special to attend anything live - whether it’s dance, music, literary events or theatre. That we’ll be more selective about how we spend our energy and our time - as performers and as audience members. My hope is that we’ll all be more vocal about celebrating what we’ve seen and prouder than ever to share what we’re working on creatively. 7. I’ve spoken with some individuals who believe that online streaming and You Tube presentations destroy the theatrical impact of those who have gathered with anticipation to watch a performance. What are your thoughts and comments about the advantages and/or values of online streaming? Do you foresee this as part of the ‘new normal’ for Canadian theatre as we move forward from COVID 19? From what I’ve watched live so far, I’ve appreciated that it’s been “appointment” driven - that you have to show up at a certain time, as we do when we attend a performance. The immediacy of the performance (and often the audience comments, in real time) is thrilling. When it’s pre-recorded, I have enjoyed going back and re-watching moments that stood out. For me, the biggest value is that more people can see it, across the borderless internet. For someone who has regularly done independent shows for 30, 55 or several hundred people, this excites me. I can only envision this as a new normal if all artists involved are properly compensated for it. I’m sure our theatre and media performance unions are scrambling to navigate that right now. 8. What is it about the performing arts that still energizes you even through this tumultuous and confusing time? I suppose it’s that, within days of lockdown, so many artists found new ways to share their work. Others chose to gain inspiration by watching other people create, or to take a break from it, which is healthy and necessary. This is actually the longest I’ve been away from auditioning and performing in over 30 years. During these last few months, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation not only for the frontline workers holding everything together for us, but for other performing artists - especially singers, dancers and musicians. We’re all feeling very big feelings right now. Performing artists help us process them with everything they put out there. With a respectful acknowledgement to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the ten questions he used to ask his guests: 1. What is your favourite word? Rustle, which is my dog’s name. 2. What is your least favourite word? I dare not say his name. 3. What turns you on? Synchronicity. 4. What turns you off? Assumptions. 5. What sound or noise do you love? My husband’s laugh. 6. What sound or noise bothers you? Vocal fry. 7. What is your favourite curse word? F--kyouyouf----ngf---! 8. Other than your current profession now, what other profession would you have liked to attempt? A hairdresser in film/TV/theatre. 9. What profession could you not see yourself doing? Tax auditor. 10. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates? “Your mother is inside. She says she’d love a coffee.” Tracey Hoyt’s headshot was taken just before she won the Cayle Chernin Theatre Development Award in May, 2019, for her play The Shivers, formerly titled Hospital Hotel. To learn more about Tracey, visit her website www.traceyhoyt.com . You may also access her Twitter handle: @traceyhoytactor. Previous Next

  • Comedies

    Home About Us Acknowledgements Endorsements News Profiles This Month's Reviews Review Archives Search More 'A Scandal for All Seasons' by Burke Campbell Click Here 'Bad Parent' by Ins Choi Click Here 'Detroit' by Lisa D'Amour Click Here 'Punch Up' by Kat Sandler Click Here 'The Importance of Being Earnest' by Oscar Wilde Click Here 'The Shark Is Broken' by Ian Shaw & Joseph Nixon Click Here 'As You Like It' by William Shakespeare Click Here 'Chekhov's Shorts- adapted by Helen Juvonen and Tyler J. Seguin Click Here 'Gay for Pay with Blake and Clay' Click Here 'Stag & Doe' by Mark Crawford Click Here 'The Miser' by Moliere in a new version by Ranjit Bolt Click Here 'The Waltz' by Marie Beath Badian Click Here Comedies