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  • 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

  • Dramas

    Dramas 'Mary of Shanty Bay' by Leah Holder Click Here 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams Click Here 'Spit' by Noelle Brown Click Here 'The Normal Heart' by Larry Kramer Click Here Richard III Click Here Hamlet by William Shakespeare Click Here 'Cockroach' by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) Click Here Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka Click Here 'The Red Priest' (Eight Ways to Say Goodbye) Click Here 'Three Ordinary Men' by Steven Elliott Jackson Click Here Where the Blood Mixes Click Here Lesson in Forgetting, English Language Premiere Click Here

  • Dramas 'Mary of Shanty Bay' by Leah Holder

    Back 'Mary of Shanty Bay' by Leah Holder Presented by Barrie's Theatre by the Bay in Shanty Bay AND in partnership with Theatre Collingwood Photo courtesy of Theatre by the Bay website Joe Szekeres A lovely, inspiring and touching production told with grace and class by a committed cast who always remained believably active and present in the moment. I applaud the theatre companies who like to share stories of local, historical individuals who have influenced the region in some important manner. What I’m especially enjoying is discovering parts of my province to which I would probably have never ventured if I didn’t have a specific purpose in mind. Thank you to Barrie’s Theatre by the Bay for the invitation to see ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’, and what a picturesque spot it was albeit a sporadic and periodic heavy downpour as I drove up and back down the 400. Shanty Bay is just a mere five- seven-minute drive outside of Barrie. As I watched this story unfold, I couldn’t help but keep making reference to Susanna Moodie’s ‘Roughing It in The Bush’ as she too came to this new world of Upper Canada to build a new life for herself. Like Mary Sophia Gapper, Susanna also had to endure back breaking work in the clearing of land to begin settling here in her new home just outside of what is known today as Peterborough, Ontario. Although the title characters of both tales are women, I’m choosing not to call either Moodie or Gapper’s tales simply stories about women. If anything, the story of the building of Upper Canada was on the backs of women like Susanna and Mary who gave it their all to make a life for themselves here. A bit of personal background research first about Mary Sophia Gapper’s story proved enlightening. The production was first presented in 2018 At the performance I attended last weekend, playwright Leah Holder appears as the title character. I like the fact that Theatre by the Bay wanted to revisit the story once again since our world has changed a great deal over the last two years. ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ is based on Gapper’s real-life diary entries when she came to Canada in 1828. For ten years, she kept a detailed recorded account of her life in this area now known as Shanty Bay. Her trip to Canada was long travel via boat. Her day-to-day work on the farm was sometimes exhausting beyond measure but she knew she had the strength to continue moving forward. Her diary entries also recorded her discussions with close family members who also came to this country. What was the piece de resistance for me to enjoy about my day up north? This production took place in the church Mary and her husband, Edward O’Brien, helped to build in the town of Shanty Bay. Mary's undying Christian faith plays a prominent role in this production, and I am pleased it does. We were invited at the intermission to pay our respects at their marked gravesite just outside the church. Most of the audience emerged at the intermission and filed past to pay their respects. It was and is the right thing to do. The intimate playing space of St. Thomas’s Anglican Church believably brought me back to the mid-late 1820s. I still say period piece plays are a challenge to create a look that can whisk an audience back to another time; however, Lesley Coo’s diligent work in finding the props that amply filled the stage is quite extraordinary. Madeline Ius’s costume designs respectfully and finely reflect the time era. Brenda Thompson’s set design amply fills the stage of the church for the distinctive playing eras. I especially liked what the benches and crates represented especially for some of the quick scene changes. Although the stage might or could appear initially cramped, Thompson was smart to fill it amply but I didn’t think it appeared overcrowded. I can only imagine how tight those first log homes must have been for settlers to this part of Upper Canada. Jonathan Killing’s lighting design agreeably captured the lighting effect of candles and either the rising or setting sun of the day. Director Rochelle Reynolds maintains a gentle and compassionate hold on this story of a young woman who wants to make and mark her place within the new world of Canada. To me, it feels as if Reynolds wanted to ensure the presence of Mary’s voice is strongly heard and felt throughout Leah Holder’s charming and engaging script. Mary certainly didn’t fit into the mould of women at this time. She was unmarried when she arrived in the country. She wasn’t in a hurry to get married and she found it her duty to assist her brother, Southby on his farm and his wife, Fanny. What I found to be appropriate and relevant was Mary’s marked reference and acknowledgment of the marginalized individuals upon her arrival in Canada. Another important step forward for Canadian playwrights moving forward in the truth and reconciliation to the First Nations individuals of this country. Leah Holder is solidly terrific as the fiery and feisty Mary Gapper who knows who she is and what she wants. But there is also a very tender and compassionate side to her when she begins to recognize her growing attraction and affection for her future husband, Edward. Daniel Reale is a dashing-looking Edward who reveals a real tenderness for his wife and children one minute while at the same time showcasing his dramatic versatility regarding how slow it is to build the house he promises for his family. Supporting characters Aidan Gouveia and Jessy Arden remain just as powerfully solid as Holder and Reale. Gouveia and Arden play multiple characters throughout and left me with some hauntingly resounding images in my mind as I write this today. As Mary’s brother, Southby, becomes gravely ill, Gouveia heartfully and painfully re-creates a man on his deathbed who becomes delusional. Wonderful work here. Arden plays three women all with varying personality types, and she most definitely captured their hearts and spirit. The one haunting image that remained in my mind was Arden’s gut-wrenching performance as Mrs. Monck whom we are led to believe has been assaulted and abused by her husband. Arden's eyes bravely captured the fear, the pain and the turmoil in which Mrs. Monck found herself with her alcoholic husband. Again, another pivotal moment that deserves to be recognized. ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ remains a definite must-see. It’s another of my picks for this fall season. Running Time: approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ runs to October 1st at St. Thomas Anglican Church, 28 Church Street, Shanty Bay. A 2 pm show has been added on September 28 due to high demand. The production plays in Shanty Bay until October 1 and will then tour to Collingwood, in partnership with Theatre Collingwood with show dates between October 5th and 8th. To purchase tickets and more information, visit theatrebythebay.com . ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ by Leah Holder Directed by Rochelle Reynolds Set Designer: Brenda Thompson Lighting Designer: Jonathan Killing Props: Lesley Coo Costumes: Madeline Ius Composer and Sound Designer: Adrian Shepard-Gannski Performers: Leah Holder, Daniel Reale, Aidan Gouveia, Jessy Arden Previous Next

  • 'Mary of Shanty Bay' by Leah Holder

    Back 'Mary of Shanty Bay' by Leah Holder Presented by Barrie's Theatre by the Bay in Shanty Bay AND in partnership with Theatre Collingwood Courtesy of Theatre by the Bay website Joe Szekeres A lovely, inspiring and touching production told with grace and class by a committed cast who always remained believably active and present in the moment. I applaud the theatre companies who like to share stories of local, historical individuals who have influenced the region in some important manner. What I’m especially enjoying is discovering parts of my province to which I would probably have never ventured if I didn’t have a specific purpose in mind. Thank you to Barrie’s Theatre by the Bay for the invitation to see ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’, and what a picturesque spot it was albeit a sporadic and periodic heavy downpour as I drove up and back down the 400. Shanty Bay is just a mere five- seven-minute drive outside of Barrie. As I watched this story unfold, I couldn’t help but keep making reference to Susanna Moodie’s ‘Roughing It in The Bush’ as she too came to this new world of Upper Canada to build a new life for herself. Like Mary Sophia Gapper, Susanna also had to endure back breaking work in the clearing of land to begin settling here in her new home just outside of what is known today as Peterborough, Ontario. Although the title characters of both tales are women, I’m choosing not to call either Moodie or Gapper’s tales simply stories about women. If anything, the story of the building of Upper Canada was on the backs of women like Susanna and Mary who gave it their all to make a life for themselves here. A bit of personal background research first about Mary Sophia Gapper’s story proved enlightening. The production was first presented in 2018 At the performance I attended last weekend, playwright Leah Holder appears as the title character. I like the fact that Theatre by the Bay wanted to revisit the story once again since our world has changed a great deal over the last two years. ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ is based on Gapper’s real-life diary entries when she came to Canada in 1828. For ten years, she kept a detailed recorded account of her life in this area now known as Shanty Bay. Her trip to Canada was long travel via boat. Her day-to-day work on the farm was sometimes exhausting beyond measure but she knew she had the strength to continue moving forward. Her diary entries also recorded her discussions with close family members who also came to this country. What was the piece de resistance for me to enjoy about my day up north? This production took place in the church Mary and her husband, Edward O’Brien, helped to build in the town of Shanty Bay. Mary's undying belief in her Christian faith plays a prominent role, and I am pleased it does. We were invited at the intermission to pay our respects at their marked gravesite just outside the church. Most of the audience emerged at the intermission and filed past to pay their respects. It was and is the right thing to do. The intimate playing space of St. Thomas’s Anglican Church believably brought me back to the mid-late 1820s. I still say period piece plays are a challenge to create a look that can whisk an audience back to another time; however, Lesley Coo’s diligent work in finding the props that amply filled the stage is quite extraordinary. Madeline Ius’s costume designs respectfully and finely reflect the time era. Brenda Thompson’s set design amply fills the stage of the church for the distinctive playing eras. I especially liked what the benches and crates represented especially for some of the quick scene changes. Although the stage might or could appear initially cramped, Thompson was smart to fill it amply but I didn’t think it appeared overcrowded. I can only imagine how tight those first log homes must have been for settlers to this part of Upper Canada. Jonathan Killing’s lighting design agreeably captured the lighting effect of candles and either the rising or setting sun of the day. Director Rochelle Reynolds maintains a gentle and compassionate hold on this story of a young woman who wants to make and mark her place within the new world of Canada. To me, it feels as if Reynolds wanted to ensure the presence of Mary’s voice is strongly heard and felt throughout Leah Holder’s charming and engaging script. Mary certainly didn’t fit into the mould of women at this time. She was unmarried when she arrived in the country. She wasn’t in a hurry to get married and she found it her duty to assist her brother, Southby on his farm and his wife, Fanny. What I found to be appropriate and relevant was Mary’s marked reference and acknowledgment of the marginalized individuals upon her arrival in Canada. Another important step forward for Canadian playwrights moving forward in the truth and reconciliation to the First Nations individuals of this country. Leah Holder is solidly terrific as the fiery and feisty Mary Gapper who knows who she is and what she wants. But there is also a very tender and compassionate side to her when she begins to recognize her growing attraction and affection for her future husband, Edward. Daniel Reale is a dashing-looking Edward who reveals a real tenderness for his wife and children one minute while at the same time showcasing his dramatic versatility regarding how slow it is to build the house he promises for his family. Supporting characters Aidan Gouveia and Jessy Arden remain just as powerfully solid as Holder and Reale. Gouveia and Arden play multiple characters throughout and left me with some hauntingly resounding images in my mind as I write this today. As Mary’s brother, Southby, who becomes ill, Gouveia heartfully and painfully re-creates a man on his deathbed who becomes delusional. Wonderful work here. Arden plays three women all with varying personality types, and she most definitely captured their hearts and spirit. The one haunting image that remained in my mind was Arden’s gut-wrenching performance as Mrs. Monck whom we are led to believe has been assaulted and abused by her husband. Arden's eyes bravely captured the fear, the pain and the turmoil in which Mrs. Monck found herself with her alcoholic husband. Again, another pivotal moment that deserves to be recognized. ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ remains a definite must-see. It’s another of my picks for this fall season. Running Time: approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ runs to October 1st at St. Thomas Anglican Church, 28 Church Street, Shanty Bay. A 2 pm show has been added on September 28 due to high demand. The production plays in Shanty Bay until October 1 and will then tour to Collingwood, in partnership with Theatre Collingwood with show dates between October 5th and 8th. To purchase tickets and more information, visit theatrebythebay.com . ‘Mary of Shanty Bay’ by Leah Holder Directed by Rochelle Reynolds Set Designer: Brenda Thompson Lighting Designer: Jonathan Killing Props: Lesley Coo Costumes: Madeline Ius Composer and Sound Designer: Adrian Shepard-Gannski Performers: Leah Holder, Daniel Reale, Aidan Gouveia, Jessy Arden Previous Next

  • Unique Pieces Article 'Public Enemy' by Olivier Choinière. Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore

    Back 'Public Enemy' by Olivier Choinière. Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Canadian Stage, 26 Berkeley Street The company of 'Public Enemy'. Credit: Dahlia Katz Joe Szekeres A stunning, jaw-dropping and jolting slice-of-life production that blows the roof off the Baillie Theatre. Flawless in performance delivery coupled with marvellous storytelling. Get to Canadian Stage to see this exceptional ‘Public Enemy’. It is around 8 pm and a family dinner is just finishing up. We are in the apartment of the matriarch, Elizabeth (a subtly stirring performance by Rosemary Dunsmore). At the table are her three adult children: James (powerful, gut-punching work by Jonathan Goad), Daniel (a seething, bubbling performance by Matthew Edison) and their sister, Melissa (firmly grounded and centred work by Michelle Monteith). Additionally, two youths are also present - Melissa’s daughter, Olivia (a carefully controlled shy, ‘Mama’s girl’ performance by Maja Vujicic). James’s son, Tyler (again, carefully controlled seething work by Finley Burke) is off stage in the living room watching television. Later we meet Daniel’s street-smart but dippy and controlling girlfriend, Suzie (a knock-out-of-the-park monologue delivery by Amy Rutherford). This family may appear to be ‘ordinary’ at first glance as we hear snippets of conversations on a sea of topics ranging from recent Canadian political events. For some reason, dinners always seem to encourage discussion of this nature. But as the story unfolds, this family is far from ordinary. They are on the brink of disastrous and fractured relationships with each other. Although I dislike this word, the first thing that came to my mind - what a bunch of f_ups. I’m still leaning towards that. It appears James may have split from his wife/partner and his sullen son, Tyler, shows the impending results. Olivia’s mental health is bone china fragile and her mother, Melissa, does not want to publicly recognize her daughter’s state of mind. Elizabeth fell in the apartment a few weeks ago and her children wonder if she needs to move into a retirement home. For some reason, Daniel (who studied as a lawyer) cannot seem to hold a job and has moved in with his mother to help her out. His brother and sister then accuse Daniel of unjustly taking money from their mother. Through the midst of all this fighting and bickering between the adults, playwright Olivier Choinière and director Brendan Healy strongly made me pay attention to the highly impressionable Tyler and Olivia. They are battling and coping with their demons as so relevantly showcased in the second scene where the two fight over the television remote and their true teenage angst-filled frustrations run rampant. What became so bizarrely comic and then turn momentarily frightening was the furor in Burke’s eyes as he patiently waits to pounce and then kill the squirrel on the balcony railing. A powerful moment to see. I felt myself hold my breath as I’m sure a few people around me also did as well. Watching and hearing trusted individuals bicker and argue does not create a calm and trusting atmosphere. One of the highlights of this production was watching that second scene between Finley Burke and Maja Vujicic. These two emerging and engaging professional artists are ones whom I will watch for in future. They never upstaged the action played out in front of them but resolutely and believably showed they listened and responded accordingly. And the title of the play itself - ‘Pubic Enemy’. According to playwright Olivier Choinière, who is this public enemy? When that information is finally revealed, that topic needs to be discussed later. Might there be a talkback sometime after the performance focusing on this question? It has been a long time since I entered a theatre and saw a completely dark stage with no hint of visiting the set before the story began. My thought - we must be about to see something remarkable. It certainly was for me. And what a wise choice director Brendan Healy and set designer Julie Fox made not to show us the set. Why? Because I honestly felt I was taken away from my seat and had that proverbial fly-on-the-wall vantage point from which I could see the intensely unfolding action. The stage floor turntable was a wonderful surprise. We are shown Elizabeth’s dining room, living room and apartment/condo balcony. Kimberly Purtell’s lighting design nicely illuminated the critical playing areas. I thought Richard Feren’s selection of the pre-show musical selections underscored the tension that was about to play out before me. Brendan Healy’s mighty fine direction remains firm but never overpowering as he allows his five-star cast to tell the story with gut-wrenching aplomb many times. This highly engaging ensemble performance work on opening night was another golden opportunity for which all actors must avail themselves to see before the play closes. Jonathan Goad sharply and confidently exudes that rough blue-collar Bowmanville (I laughed out loud since I’m from Durham Region) resident who may or may not have roughly mishandled his temperamentally morose son. Michelle Monteith’s Melissa cut right to the heart of me. Here is a woman who, like her mother, has had to be that impartial referee and umpire between her brothers over their battles for years. Monteith’s voice perfectly nails just how exhausted she has become in having to mediate and she’s had enough, especially when Melissa learns of her mother’s fall in the apartment. Matthew Edison’s Daniel remains unsettling and perturbing but I loved how I was feeling that sense of dread and fear. For some reason, I’m picturing how this Daniel could just lose it one day and do God knows what especially if his dippy girlfriend doesn’t lay off him to succumb to her ‘demands’. Rosemary Dunsmore exudes a quiet strength and fortitude within as a mother who has had to endure so much. But there is more to Elizabeth and Dunsmore bravely shows this in the final moments on the balcony where she quietly smokes a cigarette and stares off into the distance. The look on her face and in her eyes reveals a woman on the brink of many bottled issues. That last moment in this play became magnetically haunting for me two days after seeing it. Another one of my picks for this fall season. Do not miss this. Running time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission ‘Public Enemy’ runs to October 8 at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Canadian Stage, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto. For tickets, visit canadianstage.com or call 1-416-368-3110 ‘Public Enemy’ by Olivier Choinière Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore Directed by Brendan Healy Set Designer: Julie Fox Lighting Designer: Kimberly Purtell Video Coordinator: Laura Warren Sound Designer: Richard Feren Performers: Finley Burke, Rosemary Dunsmore, Matthew Edison, Jonathan Goad, Michelle Monteith, Amy Rutherford, Maja Vujicic Previous Next

  • Unique Pieces

    Unique Pieces 'Ale Wives' by Mark Weatherley Click Here 'Blindness' at the Princess of Wales Theatre Click Here 'Hamlet-911' by Ann-Marie MacDonald Click Here 'Queen Goneril' by Erin Shields and 'King Lear' by William Shakespeare Click Here 'Something from Nothing Beyond Words' created by Andy Massingham and the Summer 2022 Company of Theatre on the Ridge Click Here 'The Great Shadow' by Alex Poch-Goldin Click Here 'Anthropic Traces' by Balancing on the Edge Click Here 'Cyrano' Adapted by Liam Lynch from the original by Edmond Rostand Click Here 'Public Enemy' by Olivier Choinière. Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore Click Here 'She Mami Wata and the Pxssywitch Hunt' Click Here 'TOKA' written, choreographed and performed by Indrit Kasapi Click Here 'Trojan Girls & The Outhouse of Atreus' by Gillian Clark Click Here

  • 'Public Enemy' by Olivier Choinière. Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore

    Back 'Public Enemy' by Olivier Choinière. Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Canadian Stage, 26 Berkeley Street The company of 'Public Enemy'. Photo credit: Dahlia Katz Joe Szekeres A stunning, jaw-dropping and jolting slice-of-life production that blows the roof off the Baillie Theatre. Flawless in performance delivery coupled with marvellous storytelling. Get to Canadian Stage to see this exceptional ‘Public Enemy’. It is around 8 pm and a family dinner is just finishing up. We are in the apartment of the matriarch, Elizabeth (a subtly stirring performance by Rosemary Dunsmore). At the table are her three adult children: James (powerful, gut-punching work by Jonathan Goad), Daniel (a seething, bubbling performance by Matthew Edison) and their sister, Melissa (firmly grounded and centred work by Michelle Monteith). Additionally, two youths are also present - Melissa’s daughter, Olivia (a carefully controlled shy, ‘Mama’s girl’ performance by Maja Vujicic). James’s son, Tyler (again, carefully controlled seething work by Finley Burke) is off stage in the living room watching television. Later we meet Daniel’s street-smart but dippy and controlling girlfriend, Suzie (a knock-out-of-the-park monologue delivery by Amy Rutherford). This family may appear to be ‘ordinary’ at first glance as we hear snippets of conversations on a sea of topics ranging from recent Canadian political events. For some reason, dinners always seem to encourage discussion of this nature. But as the story unfolds, this family is far from ordinary. They are on the brink of disastrous and fractured relationships with each other. Although I dislike this word, the first thing that came to my mind - what a bunch of f_ups. I’m still leaning towards that. It appears James may have split from his wife/partner and his sullen son, Tyler, shows the impending results. Olivia’s mental health is bone china fragile and her mother, Melissa, does not want to publicly recognize her daughter’s state of mind. Elizabeth fell in the apartment a few weeks ago and her children wonder if she needs to move into a retirement home. For some reason, Daniel (who studied as a lawyer) cannot seem to hold a job and has moved in with his mother to help her out. His brother and sister then accuse Daniel of unjustly taking money from their mother. Through the midst of all this fighting and bickering between the adults, playwright Olivier Choinière and director Brendan Healy strongly made me pay attention to the highly impressionable Tyler and Olivia. They are battling and coping with their demons as so relevantly showcased in the second scene where the two fight over the television remote and their true teenage angst-filled frustrations run rampant. What became so bizarrely comic and then turn momentarily frightening was the furor in Burke’s eyes as he patiently waits to pounce and then kill the squirrel on the balcony railing. A powerful moment to see. I felt myself hold my breath as I’m sure a few people around me also did as well. Watching and hearing trusted individuals bicker and argue does not create a calm and trusting atmosphere. One of the highlights of this production was watching that second scene between Finley Burke and Maja Vujicic. These two emerging and engaging professional artists are ones whom I will watch for in future. They never upstaged the action played out in front of them but resolutely and believably showed they listened and responded accordingly. And the title of the play itself - ‘Pubic Enemy’. According to playwright Olivier Choinière, who is this public enemy? When that information is finally revealed, that topic needs to be discussed later. Might there be a talkback sometime after the performance focusing on this question? It has been a long time since I entered a theatre and saw a completely dark stage with no hint of visiting the set before the story began. My thought - we must be about to see something remarkable. It certainly was for me. And what a wise choice director Brendan Healy and set designer Julie Fox made not to show us the set. Why? Because I honestly felt I was taken away from my seat and had that proverbial fly-on-the-wall vantage point from which I could see the intensely unfolding action. The stage floor turntable was a wonderful surprise. We are shown Elizabeth’s dining room, living room and apartment/condo balcony. Kimberly Purtell’s lighting design nicely illuminated the critical playing areas. I thought Richard Feren’s selection of the pre-show musical selections underscored the tension that was about to play out before me. Brendan Healy’s mighty fine direction remains firm but never overpowering as he allows his five-star cast to tell the story with gut-wrenching aplomb many times. This highly engaging ensemble performance work on opening night was another golden opportunity for which all actors must avail themselves to see before the play closes. Jonathan Goad sharply and confidently exudes that rough blue-collar Bowmanville (I laughed out loud since I’m from Durham Region) resident who may or may not have roughly mishandled his temperamentally morose son. Michelle Monteith’s Melissa cut right to the heart of me. Here is a woman who, like her mother, has had to be that impartial referee and umpire between her brothers over their battles for years. Monteith’s voice perfectly nails just how exhausted she has become in having to mediate and she’s had enough, especially when Melissa learns of her mother’s fall in the apartment. Matthew Edison’s Daniel remains unsettling and perturbing but I loved how I was feeling that sense of dread and fear. For some reason, I’m picturing how this Daniel could just lose it one day and do God knows what especially if his dippy girlfriend doesn’t lay off him to succumb to her ‘demands’. Rosemary Dunsmore exudes a quiet strength and fortitude within as a mother who has had to endure so much. But there is more to Elizabeth and Dunsmore bravely shows this in the final moments on the balcony where she quietly smokes a cigarette and stares off into the distance. The look on her face and in her eyes reveals a woman on the brink of many bottled issues. That last moment in this play became magnetically haunting for me two days after seeing it. Another one of my picks for this fall season. Do not miss this. Running time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission ‘Public Enemy’ runs to October 8 at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Canadian Stage, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto. For tickets, visit canadianstage.com or call 1-416-368-3110 ‘Public Enemy’ by Olivier Choinière Translated and Adapted by Bobby Theodore Directed by Brendan Healy Set Designer: Julie Fox Lighting Designer: Kimberly Purtell Video Coordinator: Laura Warren Sound Designer: Richard Feren Performers: Finley Burke, Rosemary Dunsmore, Matthew Edison, Jonathan Goad, Michelle Monteith, Amy Rutherford, Maja Vujicic Previous Next

  • Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho)'s 'Cockroach'

    Back Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho)'s 'Cockroach' Now onstage at Tarragon Theatre Anton Ling and Karl Ang. Photo by Joy von Tiedemann Joe Szekeres ‘Cockroach’ becomes a tightly compact emotional script of tremendous sensory highs and lows that rarely allows time to breathe. At times it became intensely riveting while at other moments I went into overload and couldn’t process it as quickly as I could. You’ll have to pay close attention because Ho Ka Kei’s script is jam-packed with layers upon layers of xenophobia, prejudice, and racism. We meet three resolutely focused individuals: Cockroach (Steven Hao), Bard (Karl Ang) and Boy (Anton Ling). That intentional reference to Bard is William Shakespeare. We follow Boy’s story and what happens to him during a traumatic evening. Director Mike Payette never allows the emotional intensity to unravel out of control. Instead, he and Hanna Kiel maintain a clear focus on Ho Ka Kei’s sharp dialogue and reactive, yet carefully choreographed, movement and allow their visceral intensity to speak for themselves. And it spoke to me most certainly as a theatre admirer. However, there were times when I lost focus because so much back story and plot was delivered to me through these (what director Payette calls in his programme note) ‘extreme’ sensory highs and lows that I got tired of watching the production periodically. I really had to study Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart’s set for a few moments during the pre-show and tried to make sense of the playing space. There is an entryway centre stage with two towers the actors will climb on throughout the show. Bard and Boy make their initial entrance through two transparent-looking moving platforms. During the production, Arun Srinivasan’s sharply confined lighting design gorgeously adds to the darkness of Ho Ka Kei’s story. I walked out of the Mainspace theatre opening night strongly affected by two stagecraft elements woven meticulously together that became engrossingly hypnotic for me. The incorporation of silence while intimately linked to dance and movement conveyed a rather grandiose meaning. What might have appeared to look initially as a movement that men may not perform is handled with such grace and ease. There was complete silence in the house as we watched this dance and movement. After a complete blackout, approximately the first ten minutes involve tremendous physical movement where I felt myself holding my breath in awe of what I was witnessing. We are then introduced to Cockroach’s world of how he arrived in North America and what his place is within this society. Steven Hao’s grounded-in-the-moment performance as Cockroach made me fearful of him in the beginning. There are specific times when Hao speaks so quickly that I’m sure I lost a few elements of the plot. Why would a playwright want to call a character ‘Cockroach’? When we, as North Americans, hear this word, all these horrific pictures come to our minds about these insects. Make sure you read the Audience Advisory Guide for background about the word ‘cockroach’ in Asian BIPOC culture and where this term was used derogatorily by the police in Hong Kong. Enlightening indeed, and I do hope this information is also shared in any talkbacks following performances. Karl Ang’s Bard becomes a masterful storyteller of forceful precision who, like Steven Hao’s Cockroach, also commands the stage when required. We do know the Bard is a renowned storyteller who instinctively just writes extremely well. But the caveat –Bard’s stories for some reason are not truly universal. Anton Ling’s Boy and their experiences during this traumatic male sexual assault are heartbreaking to witness. They uses their eyes in conveying a poignant depth of anger, hurt, fear and shame. Their resulting tears I believe have stemmed from Ling digging deep into his very being to convey such power. Final Comments: In his Director’s Note in the programme, Mike Payette writes the following that made me wonder if I should return to see ‘Cockroach’ again: “The extremes [of survival in the world] exist synchronously within us…it is a complex negotiated journey…Sometimes we simply need to be reminded of what we have in order to redeem what was lost.” Perhaps it’s time to return to see ‘Cockroach’ again and attend when there is an Audience talkback to learn more. Running time: approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. ‘Cockroach’ runs to October 9 at Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto. To purchase tickets and other information call the Box Office (416) 531-1827 or visit tarragontheatre.com. ‘Cockroach’ by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) Directed by Mike Payette Choreographed by Hanna Kiel Set and Costume Design: Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart Lighting Design: Arun Srinivasan Sound Design and Original Score: Deanna H. Choi Stage Manager: Emilie Aubin Performers: Karl Ang, Steven Hao, Anton Ling Previous Next

  • Dramas 'Cockroach' by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho)

    Back 'Cockroach' by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) Now onstage at Tarragon Theatre Anton Ling and Karl Ang. Photo by Joy von Tiedemann Joe Szekeres ‘Cockroach’ becomes a tightly compact emotional script of tremendous sensory highs and lows that rarely allows time to breathe. At times it became intensely riveting while at other moments I went into overload and couldn’t process it as quickly as I could. You’ll have to pay close attention because Ho Ka Kei’s script is jam-packed with layers upon layers of xenophobia, prejudice, and racism. We meet three resolutely focused individuals: Cockroach (Steven Hao), Bard (Karl Ang) and Boy (Anton Ling). That intentional reference to Bard is William Shakespeare. We follow Boy’s story and what happens to him during a traumatic evening. Director Mike Payette never allows the emotional intensity to unravel out of control. Instead, he and Hanna Kiel maintain a clear focus on Ho Ka Kei’s sharp dialogue and reactive, yet carefully choreographed, movement and allow their visceral intensity to speak for themselves. And it spoke to me most certainly as a theatre admirer. However, there were times when I lost focus because so much back story and plot was delivered to me through these (what director Payette calls in his programme note) ‘extreme’ sensory highs and lows that I got tired of watching the production periodically. I really had to study Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart’s set for a few moments during the pre-show and tried to make sense of the playing space. There is an entryway centre stage with two towers the actors will climb on throughout the show. Bard and Boy make their initial entrance through two transparent-looking moving platforms. During the production, Arun Srinivasan’s sharply confined lighting design gorgeously adds to the darkness of Ho Ka Kei’s story. I walked out of the Mainspace theatre opening night strongly affected by two stagecraft elements woven meticulously together that became engrossingly hypnotic for me. The incorporation of silence while intimately linked to dance and movement conveyed a rather grandiose meaning. What might have appeared to look initially as a movement that men may not perform is handled with such grace and ease. There was complete silence in the house as we watched the movement. After a complete blackout, approximately the first ten minutes involve tremendous physical movement where I felt myself holding my breath in awe of what I was witnessing. We are then introduced to Cockroach’s world of how he arrived in North America and what his place is within this society. Steven Hao’s grounded-in-the-moment performance as Cockroach made me fearful of him in the beginning. There are specific times when Hao speaks so quickly that I’m sure I lost a few elements of the plot. Why would a playwright want to call a character ‘Cockroach’? When we, as North Americans, hear this word, all these horrific pictures come to our minds about these insects. Make sure you read the Audience Advisory Guide for background about the word ‘cockroach’ in Asian BIPOC culture and where this term was used derogatorily by the police in Hong Kong. Enlightening indeed, and I do hope this information is also shared in any talkbacks following performances. Karl Ang’s Bard becomes a masterful storyteller of forceful precision who, like Steven Hao’s Cockroach, also commands the stage when required. We do know the Bard is a renowned storyteller who instinctively just writes extremely well. But the caveat –Bard’s stories for some reason are not truly universal. Anton Ling’s Boy and their experiences during this traumatic male sexual assault are heartbreaking to witness. They uses their eyes in conveying a poignant depth of anger, hurt, fear and shame. Their resulting tears I believe have stemmed from Ling digging deep into his very being to convey such power. Final Comments: In his Director’s Note in the programme, Mike Payette writes the following that made me wonder if I should return to see ‘Cockroach’ again: “The extremes [of survival in the world] exist synchronously within us…it is a complex negotiated journey…Sometimes we simply need to be reminded of what we have in order to redeem what was lost.” Perhaps it’s time to return to see ‘Cockroach’ again and attend when there is an Audience talkback to learn more. Running time: approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. ‘Cockroach’ runs to October 9 at Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto. To purchase tickets and other information call the Box Office (416) 531-1827 or visit tarragontheatre.com. ‘Cockroach’ by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) Directed by Mike Payette Choreographed by Hanna Kiel Set and Costume Design: Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart Lighting Design: Arun Srinivasan Sound Design and Original Score: Deanna H. Choi Stage Manager: Emilie Aubin Performers: Karl Ang, Steven Hao, Anton Ling Previous Next

  • Dramas 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams

    Back 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams Now onstage at Atlantic Repertory Company Drew Murdock Aaron Kropf Atlantic Repertory Company’s second show of the season is Tennessee Williams's semi-autobiographical The Glass Menagerie. This production hits so many of the right notes but misses out on one key aspect that makes any show soar - the heart. With that said it should be noted that I did see a special performance the night before opening. Upon entering the BMO Studio Theatre the pre-show scene is set in an ally way filled with piles of garbage bags and a considerable dumpster. Key pieces of furniture are scattered throughout the stage: a Victrola, a kitchen table and chairs drawn to centre stage during the opening monologue, and a couch turned upright by Tom as he introduces the play. Brenda Chicas-Duran created a wonderful world for the Wingfields to reside for the two hours of the play’s run time. The stage is sometimes enhanced by some creative use of projection, while other times it distracts from the action on the stage. The projections center stage sometimes display key phrases, moments before they are spoken, and other times short clips of images that might be running through the minds of some of the characters. These too often pulled focus from beautiful work performed on stage. ‘The Glass Menagerie’ opens with Rachel Kidd strolling across the stage playing her violin. She’s just as present on the stage as the Wingfield family in enhancing the story with live music throughout the production. We meet Patrick Jeffrey as the ever-present Tom Wingfield. Jeffrey seamlessly moves from being the drunk narrator Tom to Tom who does what he can to keep his mother and sister happy and in a home. Martha Irving masterfully takes control of all situations in the Wingfield house as the dutiful matriarch Amanda Wingfield. The Wingfield family is rounded out with Kennedy McGeachy's stunning portrayal of Laura. I’ve seen some productions where Laura’s physical characteristics are dealt with heavy-handedly, but not with McGeachy who incorporates them with subtlety and care. Finally, this wonderful cast is rounded out with Tallas Munro as Jim O’Connor, the Gentleman Caller. Even though most of this production is wonderful and well worth seeing, this ‘Glass Menagerie’ is missing the heart needed to bring the whole show together. Unfortunately, the sum of the parts didn’t come together to provide the soul Williams gives us in the script. I hope this will come together before the end of the run on October 1. For further information, please visit atlanticrep.ca. Previous Next

  • 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams

    Back 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams Now onstage at Atlantic Repertory Company Drew Murdock Aaron Kropf Atlantic Repertory Company’s second show of the season is Tennessee Williams's semi-autobiographical The Glass Menagerie. This production hits so many of the right notes but misses out on one key aspect that makes any show soar - the heart. With that said it should be noted that I did see a special performance the night before opening. Upon entering the BMO Studio Theatre the pre-show scene is set in an ally way filled with piles of garbage bags and a considerable dumpster. Key pieces of furniture are scattered throughout the stage: a Victrola, a kitchen table and chairs drawn to centre stage during the opening monologue, and a couch turned upright by Tom as he introduces the play. Brenda Chicas-Duran created a wonderful world for the Wingfields to reside for the two hours of the play’s run time. The stage is sometimes enhanced by some creative use of projection, while other times it distracts from the action on the stage. The projections center stage sometimes display key phrases, moments before they are spoken, and other times short clips of images that might be running through the minds of some of the characters. These too often pulled focus from beautiful work performed on stage. ‘The Glass Menagerie’ opens with Rachel Kidd strolling across the stage playing her violin. She’s just as present on the stage as the Wingfield family in enhancing the story with live music throughout the production. We meet Patrick Jeffrey as the ever-present Tom Wingfield. Jeffrey seamlessly moves from being the drunk narrator Tom to Tom who does what he can to keep his mother and sister happy and in a home. Martha Irving masterfully takes control of all situations in the Wingfield house as the dutiful matriarch Amanda Wingfield. The Wingfield family is rounded out with Kennedy McGeachy's stunning portrayal of Laura. I’ve seen some productions where Laura’s physical characteristics are dealt with heavy-handedly, but not with McGeachy who incorporates them with subtlety and care. Finally, this wonderful cast is rounded out with Tallas Munro as Jim O’Connor, the Gentleman Caller. Even though most of this production is wonderful and well worth seeing, this ‘Glass Menagerie’ is missing the heart needed to bring the whole show together. Unfortunately, the sum of the parts didn’t come together to provide the soul Williams gives us in the script. I hope this will come together before the end of the run on October 1. For further information, please visit atlanticrep.ca. Previous Next

  • Comedies

    Home About Us Acknowledgements Endorsements News Topical Points of Interest Profiles This Month's Reviews Reviews 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 'Stag & Doe' by Mark Crawford Click Here 'The Miser' by Moliere in a new version by Ranjit Bolt Click Here 'Wildfire' translated by Leanna Brodie. From the play 'Le Brasier' by David Paquet Click Here 'As You Like It' by William Shakespeare Click Here 'Chekhov's Shorts- adapted by Helen Juvonen and Tyler J. Seguin Click Here 'Punch Up' by Kat Sandler Click Here 'The Importance of Being Earnest' by Oscar Wilde Click Here 'Two Minutes to Midnight' by Michael Ross Albert Click Here An IMM-Permanent Resident' Click Here Comedies

  • 'Bad Parent' by Ins Choi

    Back 'Bad Parent' by Ins Choi Soulpepper Theatre Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu Credit: Dahlia Katz Dave Rabjohn Virtually all parents experience self-doubt during any phase of parenthood. Ins Choi (Kim’s Convenience) zeroes in on this ordeal with his world premiere of ‘Bad Parent’ at Soulpepper Theatre. Covid postponed, this was a creation from partners Prairie Theatre Exchange and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre which then landed in Toronto. The strength of this production comes from the extraordinary talents of performers Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu along with the dynamically comic writing of Ins Choi. Even before curtain, it is clear that the ‘fourth wall’ has disappeared – banter between performers and audience begins pre-show. We become our own Greek chorus. The two parents reach for microphone stands and perform as in a nightclub which seemed incongruous on a child’s nursery set. The pace was slow and awkward, but it picked up during the play and the audience became more and more engaged. On an Ikea-charged set, parents Norah and Charles struggle with self-doubt and zero confidence in their parental roles. As they relate these struggles, we begin to see some cracks in the adult relationship and some blame towards each other. Is their self-doubt internal or external? Each actor plays two roles and we meet Nora (without an h) who enters Charles’ world as a nanny with all the confidence that the parents lack. We also meet Dale who enters Norah’s world as a charming colleague in her professional world of work. Both Ms. Jorge and Mr. Yu are spectacular in the interaction and changeover from character to character. Director Meg Roe would have a hand in this clever duality of roles. The switch from character to character is exceedingly subtle – the buttoning of a jacket, a slight change in voice, a small variation in gait. No Katy Perry costume bombs needed. Are the pair of characters different versions of themselves – perhaps a Jungian self-analysis? They pull back from the brink of affairs, but Norah and Charles continue to claw at one another until full-bore explosions seemingly tear them apart. But we are always reminded that a two-year-old is not far away as his crying announces. The parents react with frustration, but are they frustrated with the crying or with their own lack of self-control? As mentioned, the performers drive this production. Ms. Jorge’s pouty lips and big rolling eyes punctuate her wilting sarcasm. Her subtle pronunciation changes as Nora are perfect. Fine comic timing is displayed as she submits a ‘list’ for her divorce lobby. Her riotous tantrum is more effective because of her usual measured anger. Mr. Yu’s explosions of frustration are also more striking in their rarity. A wonderful comic piece comes from his lying on the bed trying to cover himself with the fitted sheet. The pair work beautifully together as they slowly build to moments reminiscent of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Towards the end, we learn of intergenerational conflict, childhood bullying and career frustration. Again, is this about the child or the parents? It is notable that the title is ‘Bad Parent’ and not ‘Parents.’ Are they blaming themselves individually or are they blaming each other? The audience is subjected to some very effective pregnant pauses where we have a chance to ponder these questions. With festive confetti clinging sadly to the bottom of Norah’s feet, director Meg Row leaves us with a tableau of still-terrified parents. They might have learned to cling to each other, but the fear is still there. Two-year-olds become ten year olds, then teenagers, then young adults, and then, oh my, grandchildren! ‘Bad Parent’ – Ins Choi Performers – Josette Jorge, Raugi Yu Director – Meg Roe Sound Design – Deanna H. Choi Lighting Design – Gerald King Production runs through October 9, 2022. Tickets – www.soulpepper.ca Previous Next

  • Comedies 'Bad Parent' by Ins Choi

    Back 'Bad Parent' by Ins Choi Soulpepper Theatre Soulpepper Theatre Dave Rabjohn Virtually all parents experience self-doubt during any phase of parenthood. Ins Choi (Kim’s Convenience) zeroes in on this ordeal with his world premiere of ‘Bad Parent’ at Soulpepper Theatre. Covid postponed, this was a creation from partners Prairie Theatre Exchange and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre which then landed in Toronto. The strength of this production comes from the extraordinary talents of performers Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu along with the dynamically comic writing of Ins Choi. Even before curtain, it is clear that the ‘fourth wall’ has disappeared – banter between performers and audience begins pre-show. We become our own Greek chorus. The two parents reach for microphone stands and perform as in a nightclub which seemed incongruous on a child’s nursery set. The pace was slow and awkward, but it picked up during the play and the audience became more and more engaged. On an Ikea-charged set, parents Norah and Charles struggle with self-doubt and zero confidence in their parental roles. As they relate these struggles, we begin to see some cracks in the adult relationship and some blame towards each other. Is their self-doubt internal or external? Each actor plays two roles and we meet Nora (without an h) who enters Charles’ world as a nanny with all the confidence that the parents lack. We also meet Dale who enters Norah’s world as a charming colleague in her professional world of work. Both Ms. Jorge and Mr. Yu are spectacular in the interaction and changeover from character to character. Director Meg Roe would have a hand in this clever duality of roles. The switch from character to character is exceedingly subtle – the buttoning of a jacket, a slight change in voice, a small variation in gait. No Katy Perry costume bombs needed. Are the pair of characters different versions of themselves – perhaps a Jungian self-analysis? They pull back from the brink of affairs, but Norah and Charles continue to claw at one another until full-bore explosions seemingly tear them apart. But we are always reminded that a two-year-old is not far away as his crying announces. The parents react with frustration, but are they frustrated with the crying or with their own lack of self-control? As mentioned, the performers drive this production. Ms. Jorge’s pouty lips and big rolling eyes punctuate her wilting sarcasm. Her subtle pronunciation changes as Nora are perfect. Fine comic timing is displayed as she submits a ‘list’ for her divorce lobby. Her riotous tantrum is more effective because of her usual measured anger. Mr. Yu’s explosions of frustration are also more striking in their rarity. A wonderful comic piece comes from his lying on the bed trying to cover himself with the fitted sheet. The pair work beautifully together as they slowly build to moments reminiscent of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Towards the end, we learn of intergenerational conflict, childhood bullying and career frustration. Again, is this about the child or the parents? It is notable that the title is ‘Bad Parent’ and not ‘Parents.’ Are they blaming themselves individually or are they blaming each other? The audience is subjected to some very effective pregnant pauses where we have a chance to ponder these questions. With festive confetti clinging sadly to the bottom of Norah’s feet, director Meg Row leaves us with a tableau of still-terrified parents. They might have learned to cling to each other, but the fear is still there. Two-year-olds become ten year olds, then teenagers, then young adults, and then, oh my, grandchildren! ‘Bad Parent’ – Ins Choi Performers – Josette Jorge, Raugi Yu Director – Meg Roe Sound Design – Deanna H. Choi Lighting Design – Gerald King Production runs through October 9, 2022. Tickets – www.soulpepper.ca Previous Next

  • Profiles Dianne Montgomery

    Back Dianne Montgomery Looking Ahead MPMG Arts Joe Szekeres Dianne Montgomery is a Toronto-based tap dancer, choreographer, and composer who will present the world premiere of her commissioned work 'Softly Losing, Softly Gaining' which she has choreographed and composed. Her work will be performed at Meridian Hall, on October 6-8 as part of Fall for Dance North Festival. The show was to have first premiered in 2020 and then in 2021. She considers performing her work on these evenings an honour and joy to be supported amid such powerful offerings. Given so much change over the last two-plus pandemic years, Dianne is appreciative of feeling respected and included by the Fall for Dance North team as she senses they want the best for and from the performers. What struck me the most about our conversation was Dianne’s frankness in sharing her vulnerability as an artist. She feels quite an emotional attachment to the premiere of ‘Softly Losing, Softly Gaining’ as she sensitively compares it to the intimate act of giving birth to her work. Finding that vulnerability requires and encourages her sense of self and soul, particularly in the experiences of the last two years. Montgomery feels a deeply renewed sense of responsibility to bring heightened senses and awareness of her work to audiences, especially to those who may have felt a sense of isolation during this time. When I inquired where Dianne completed her studies in tap dance, I learned something that I hadn’t realized about the art form. It is not just a three-to-six-week lesson twice a week with a recital at the end. Tap isn’t structurally built in a way where there is a particular school where to study tap for three or four years. For Dianne: “Tap takes years and years and years of concentrated study and training, and it never really stops. A tap dancer doesn’t have a start and end date as there is always exploring and finding. Becoming technically proficient is a forever job. The beginning students study intermediate steps; the intermediate students study advanced steps, advanced students work to be professional and professionals study beginning steps. It’s cyclical in nature.” She has performed, taught, and presented her choreography across North America and Europe. She toured the world for two years with Canadian singer-songwriter FEIST as a tap dancer and shadow puppeteer, also performing on Saturday Night Live, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. As a professional artist, Dianne finds the world of dance intriguing. For her, there’s still so much to explore, learn and find in the expression and the connection to the history of the art. There’s a connection to each other in the world of dance, which is always exciting to discover. There’s a passion for dance, and there’s also the sheer joy of kinetic movement. Words sometimes cannot do justice to the art of dance like sauteed mushrooms and butter. (Writer’s note: I like that analogy) One of the elements Dianne most appreciates is that of community with artists connecting with each other. There’s something profoundly healing in moving bodies together. In her case, there’s something profoundly healing about keeping time together as a tap dancer. Bonding and pro-social behaviour are captured in the world of tap dance, and Dianne considers it motivating to continue doing tap dance because it has a net positive effect socially: “Tap dancing is profoundly powerful in its self-study ability to connect and heal. It requires a level of focus…discipline and commitment…it has lessons in it no matter what people may think…if you don’t tap dance or have had lessons then you don’t understand the richness of the form that you carry wherever. Tap teaches you how to fall and how to get back up. It teaches you perseverance and humility and boy does that lesson come back again and again.” When it comes to the art of dance and performance, I think specifically of those husbands, boyfriends, and partners who might not hold any interest in dance and who may have been dragged to the theatre by their significant other. How can tap win over an audience when they walk into a theatre? Dianne recognizes that dance will not be to everyone’s taste within an audience, but it is her genuine hope that as dancers, and people who place work on the stage in front of audiences, it is their job to be as authentic and to be as present in the moment. The artists are generous as they are trying to make a connection to the very generous folks who have shown up: “We as artists don’t take that very lightly, not at all.” Montgomery firmly avows. “People who take their time, their money, their precious resources and come and spend an evening with us. As someone who creates for stage work, I take that responsibility super, super seriously.” Dianne invites ALL audience members to see a dance show with open authenticity, which can be very disarming. Hopefully, if the dancers and artists are lifting the moment on the stage then the audience should be feeling that lift. If we’re on the stage feeling constricted, then the audience should be feeling constricted. This is the goal for all live shows, and yes, it can go astray if egos are involved as that builds barriers and creates a kind of different performative rather than experiential. And how is Dianne feeling about this gradual return to live performance with Covid still hovering and hanging in the air? Even before she began to address the question, Dianne acknowledges the incredible very real loss that so many have experienced whether it be loved ones, lost livelihoods, homes, partners, friends, family, or senses of self-regarding mental health. The picture has not been good for many. Coming out of Covid, Montgomery likens it to a two-year hiatus, but within this hiatus there was a huge opportunity to deepen the practice of dance if you could or were able to spend time on it. Throughout the pandemic, a lot of artists had to move into other kinds of work to survive during this time. A lot of dance classes and work shifted to Zoom and other online platforms, and there were challenges regarding the time lagging in Zoom which was difficult to manage. Dianne stated that dance artists got on the best they could with what they had. There were little silver linings, however. Virtual classes had the advantage of being global in connection, so Dianne was teaching classes that had folks from Germany, the UK, all parts of the US and all over Canada. These students began to know each other, and they may not have been able to make these connections had they not been in the Zoom room together. For tap classes, yes, Dianne once again said the artists did the best they could given what they had, but the beautiful quality of the art of tap dance needs to be heard live through the ear and not through a computer or television screen. So much was learned about online classes and all the artists involved learned so much about humility. And what’s next for Dianne once ‘Softly Losing, Softly Gaining’ is complete at Fall for Dance? Dianne calls herself in process all the time. This is something she believes will be forever. She plans to continue working and to continue evolving as an artist and bring kindness into the equation of her work as she continues to learn while encouraging those around her to discover who they are and how they relate to what’s bigger than us. A final statement she told me about artists made me laugh: “Every night I quit and every morning I get back up and put my shoes on again.” How often I’m sure all of us have felt about doing this and yet we get back up and go again? To learn more about Fall for Dance North, visit www.ffdn.com . 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 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 Sarah Orenstein Scott Wentworth Allegra Fulton Philip Riccio James Kall Show More

  • Profiles Samantha Sutherland

    Back Samantha Sutherland Looking Ahead Jeremy Mimnagh Joe Szekeres Samantha is an Indigenous contemporary dance artist, choreographer, and teacher based in Tkaronto. She is from the Ktunaxa Nation in British Columbia. Her ancestry is Ktunaxa and Scottish/British Settler. She completed the Arts Umbrella Dance Diploma Program in 2018, the pre-professional program. She has worked as a guest artist with Ballet BC and an associate artist with Red Sky Performance. Samantha explored what aspects of her Ktunaxa culture, history, and traditional knowledge can be pulled into her choreography. She has presented works at Matriarchs Uprising by O.Dela Arts, and the Paprika Festival. However, I have more to learn and appreciate about the art of dance and I’m appreciative of those artists who are taking the time to share with me and others what is it about the art of dance that continues to fascinate and intrigue them. Samantha laughed as I asked her to start with the big question – what about the world and study of dance still intrigues her as a performing artist? “Overall, it is a universal language. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re at in your life. You can watch movement and watch a body move, and that will trigger some kind of reaction within us. It doesn’t matter what language we speak as dance is understandable. As an expression, [dance] reads as it’s a way to express the human experience using this human vessel we all have, and we all share that similarity.” From Samantha’s perspective, movement is an extremely satisfying experience for her. Dance and movement keep her happy and when she tends to dance her day gets a little happier personally. How is Samantha feeling about this gradual return to the performing arts even though Covid still envelopes us for the foreseeable future? She’s excited about the return and remarks how it appears that the city of Toronto seems to be excited about its return. Even though Covid is still present, Samantha says these last two years have given all of us an awareness of our own health in how to engage with people. Yet Samantha is not turning Pollyanna because artists are aware there are some fears, but if we follow regulations in what’s happening around us, then that’s all any of us can do going forward. There is a safe ambition as we return because we have to trust that those who aren’t feeling well don’t come around those who are feeling fine. Let’s embrace the changes that we’ve seen over the last two-plus years. The arts need to be experienced because if artists are afraid of getting back into the studio, then there is the possibility the work, the experience, and the artistic connection could die out. Samantha is most excited about presenting a premiere dance work kaqwiⱡȼi as part of the late-night dance series NIGHT SHIFT co-presented by Citadel + Compagnie and Fall for Dance North (FFDN). The piece she will present works in her native Ktunaxa language. Samantha has been learning her traditional Ktunaxa language over the past two years via Zoom. “Learning my language is something I need to do,” Samantha states, “but I wasn’t always sure how or when I was going to be able to do it, so I’m very happy I am learning the language now with my teacher, Alfred Joseph.” About a year and a half ago, Samantha recalls in one of her classes they were given the body parts vocabulary list, and this triggered an idea in her brain. As a dancer herself, Samantha says she thinks about the body parts and how could she translate Ktunaxa words to movement. She shared next what she would do. All of this language learning begins with the study of the body parts and then meshed into a solo dance piece built from a practice of translating words into movement. Samantha works with an audio recording of her grandmother, Sophie Pierre, and another Elder, Marie Nicholas, of them having a conversation in the traditional Ktunaxa language. Sutherland then translates the story and the full sentences of the ladies into movement, and this is what is being presented. Samantha also uses her own voice in speaking the traditional language and dances along with her own movement as well. What are some of the ways Sutherland approaches translation into her traditional language? She looks at the shape of the letters and then uses her body to form that shape. How many syllables does the word have? If three, then the movement would have three parts. If she had the word ‘river’ in front of her and she heard her grandmother say river, then Samantha uses her hands to show a free-flowing fluid movement of the river. Other vocabulary words she said with me during our conversation: ʔa·kⱡam - head (sounds like ahk-thlam) ʔa·kiy - hands (sounds like ah-kee) ʔa·kⱡik - feet (sounds like ahk-thlick) Samantha likes working with text because there are so many ways to approach a word either how it sounds or looks on paper, or whatever it means and then using movement to define the meaning. She describes the process as fun. She is excited that she gets the opportunity to continue to present it. Earlier this spring, she had made this production for the Paprika Festival and got presented at ‘Sharing the Stage’ at the National Ballet and she gets to continue it for Fall for Dance North and the Citadel. Within the five-year trajectory plan of where artists see themselves, Samantha hopes that she continues to collaborate with other Canadian artists and get to create whether solo or with others. She loves the Indigenous dance community not only here in Toronto but Canada abroad. As a new choreographer herself, Samantha hopes to meet and to create within the next five years. Sutherland hopes one day that her story presented by Citadel and FFDN can also be presented live in her home nation so that her relatives and other Ktunaxa folk can see her work. She is excited to share the work with her classmates and teacher and relatives. What’s next for Samantha Sutherland once this show is complete? She has a couple of other shows coming up in Toronto and the area for the fall. She teaches full-time as well so she’s excited to be getting back to seeing her kids. Mostly, however, Samantha will be performing her works at a few upcoming festivals. To learn more about Samantha Sutherland’s production visit www.ffdn.com or citadelcie.com. Previous Next

  • 'Hamlet - 911' by Ann-Marie MacDonald

    Back 'Hamlet - 911' by Ann-Marie MacDonald World Premiere at the Stratford Festival Cylla von Tiedemann Joe Szekeres Updated and revised September 20, 2022. (Please note: The production I reviewed was a preview performance. There may be changes in the show after the opening.) ‘Hamlet-911’ might appear initially a tad quixotic as it looks as if it’s trying to appeal to many elements as possible. Stick with it, though, as Ann-Marie MacDonald’s highly original script cleverly mirrors the state of our ‘woke’ culture and the world right now. ‘Hamlet-911’ begs to be discussed over coffee or drinks after seeing it. A few times in my articles I’ve quoted a favourite satirical question my late brother used to pose when something confused him: “What da hell was ‘dat?” This exactly was my initial sentiment upon leaving the Studio Theatre the other night. But not anymore. Although it may appeal to the theatre aficionado (from ‘Slings and Arrows’ to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’), there are some appropriate jabs at our woke culture where I’m sure many have shaken their heads in puzzlement. Although I’m not certain, I wondered if some of the characters are also perhaps loosely based on stalwart Stratford Festival artists from long ago who have passed on. Out of respect for their memory, I will not name these individuals. For the non-theatre person, at one point, the character Rex according to the Program Notes: “rails against the United Nations feel-goodery; where everything is unicorns and rainbows, and hyphens and pronouns.” (Confession: I laughed out loud at this statement because it hits the mark of point-blank truth in our world right now.) We meet actor Guinness Menzies (Mike Shara) best known for his appearance as a modern-day vampire in a TV series. (Side note – I’m wondering if this ‘beer’ name is also a play on words as there is an assumption, whether right or wrong, that actors love their beer? Or is this perhaps too much of a stretch?) Guinness has landed the role of Hamlet at the Stratford Festival. This news is something of a family affair as we also learn Guinness’ father, Rex (Scott Wentworth), an old-school actor and founding member of the Stratford Festival, has been cast as the Ghost of Hamlet’s father in the same production. Guinness asks his mother, Jessica (Sarah Dodd) to play Gertrude and she says no to his disappointment. It is his wife Sue, (Amelia Sargisson) who is cast as Gertrude which Guinness finds ridiculous as he thinks she is too young for the role. Running parallel to this storyline is that of a young shy, impressionable student, Jeremy, (Andrew Illes) who will attend a Wednesday matinee performance of ‘Hamlet’. The young people at the matinee are excited to hear their idol will speak at the talkback following the performance but Guinness does not do student talkbacks. Jeremy has also emailed Guinness and asked to speak to him about an upcoming project on ‘Hamlet’ for school either via email or at the talkback. Guinness just avoids responding to Jeremy’s request. On the morning of the Wednesday matinee, Guinness experiences a series of surreal and extremely odd circumstances of disorientation that he wonders if he is dreaming all this or in a coma after falling off his bicycle, or even if he might be dead. Then there is the appearance of the ‘usher’ and court jester Yorick (Gordon Patrick White) who adds even more possible confusion to the situation. And what about adding 911 to one of the most famous tragic Shakespearean plays? 911 signifies someone needing help and we are to come directly to the aid of that individual. It took me 24 hours later to realize just how timely and appropriate ‘Hamlet-911’ remains in our ‘wobbly’ woke culture with credit to Director Alisa Palmer for deftly weaving how ‘Hamlet-911’ “lives in a world where to quote Shakespeare, “the truth will out” ’ I’m reminded how Hamlet will use the play as a “thing to catch the conscience of the King.” MacDonald’s script with Palmer’s clear-sighted direction builds on the characters and the outing of their consciences to capture many truths of the moment. Mike Shara as the central character Guinness Menzies is a believable new father regarding his child. When suspicions arise from his actress wife, Sue (a heartfelt performance moment by Amelia Sargisson after Guinness does the unthinkable to his wife) about a possible affair with another actress playing Ophelia (Eva Foote), we are then introduced to the marvelous work by Gordon Patrick White as Yorick. A garishly whacky looking usher cum court jester cum truth teller for Guinness, Yorick utilizes a pseudo ‘Groundhog Day’/’It’s a Wonderful Life’ approach to bring Guinness to his own self-truth. Scott Wentworth and Sarah Dodd are relishing their moments with their own weird idiosyncrasies as Guinness’s parents Rex and Jessica. The choral work of the young artists remained beguiling and haunting. Ming Wong’s decision to incorporate a lot of blacks and greys just reinforced the weirdness of this underbelly of the world that we think we know. Where this production clicked and made sense for me was in connecting Andrew Illes’ precisely definitive performance as the impressionable teenager Jeremy who reaches out to Guinness via email to ask questions about an upcoming school project based on ‘Hamlet’. Guinness’s initial aloofness in ignoring Jeremy’s request sets a frightening course of events into what I call the ‘computer underworld’ of questionable places where I dare not go for fear of unlocking and seeing how horrific and sickening some websites can do to lonely youth. Guinness also ventures into his own underworld of questionable places which sets him off on his own discovery just like Jeremy’s and even like Hamlet’s. Chris Ross-Ewart’s Composer/Sound Design and HAUI’s projection and video design sensationally take the audience down into the underworld/rabbit hole of Guinness and Jeremy. Hearing the eerily synthesized music at the top of the show took me to a creepy world where I did not want to stay. The timing of sound cues and HAUI’s projections involving the actors was mesmerizing as I heard many audience members around me ooing and aaahhing at the surprises. Final Comments: Surprisingly relevant and hauntingly humourous, ‘Hamlet-911’ was an extremely wise choice to premiere this season especially since the Bard’s work is part of this Season’s work. It might be rather fun for future audiences to see ‘Hamlet’ one night and MacDonald’s soon following if other connections can be gleaned. Running Time: approximately one hour and 50 minutes with no intermission. ‘Hamlet-911’ runs to October 2 at the Studio Theatre, 34 George Street, Stratford. For tickets, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1-800-567-1600. HAMLET-911 by Ann-Marie MacDonald World Premiere Directed by Alisa Palmer Set Designer: Jung-Hye Kim Costume Designer: Ming Wong Lighting Designer: Leigh Ann Vardy Composer and Sound Designer: Chris Ross-Ewart Projection and Video Designer: HAUI Performers: Tat Austrie, Richard Comeau, Wahsonti:io Kirby, Gordon Patrick White, Dhanish Kumar Chinniah, Caitlin Kelly, Qianna MacGilchrist, Antonette Rudder, Jacklyn Francis, Andrew Illes, Mike Shara, Eva Foote, Micah Woods, Amelia Sargisson, Sarah Dodd, Scott Wentworth, Chris Mejaki, Emily Birrell, Quinlan Bolton, Brooke Browne, Samantha Guzzo, Micah Kalap, Beatrice McBoyle, Abby Renner, Lucas Way Previous Next

  • Unique Pieces Article 'Hamlet-911' by Ann-Marie MacDonald

    Back 'Hamlet-911' by Ann-Marie MacDonald World Premiere at The Stratford Festival Cylla von Tiedemann Joe Szekeres Updated and revised September 20, 2022. (Please note: The production I reviewed was a preview performance. There may be changes in the show after the opening.) ‘Hamlet-911’ might appear initially a tad quixotic as it looks as if it’s trying to appeal to many elements as possible. Stick with it, though, as Ann-Marie MacDonald’s highly original script cleverly mirrors the state of our ‘woke’ culture and the world right now. ‘Hamlet-911’ begs to be discussed over coffee or drinks after seeing it. A few times in my articles I’ve quoted a favourite satirical question my late brother used to pose when something confused him: “What da hell was ‘dat?” This exactly was my initial sentiment upon leaving the Studio Theatre the other night. But not anymore. Although it may appeal to the theatre aficionado (from ‘Slings and Arrows’ to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’), there are some appropriate jabs at our woke culture where I’m sure many have shaken their heads in puzzlement. Although I’m not certain, I wondered if some of the characters are also perhaps loosely based on stalwart Stratford Festival artists from long ago who have passed on. Out of respect for their memory, I will not name these individuals. For the non-theatre person, at one point, the character Rex according to the Program Notes: “rails against the United Nations feel-goodery; where everything is unicorns and rainbows, and hyphens and pronouns.” (Confession: I laughed out loud at this statement because it hits the mark of point-blank truth in our world right now.) We meet actor Guinness Menzies (Mike Shara) best known for his appearance as a modern-day vampire in a TV series. (Side note – I’m wondering if this ‘beer’ name is also a play on words as there is an assumption, whether right or wrong, that actors love their beer? Or is this perhaps too much of a stretch?) Guinness has landed the role of Hamlet at the Stratford Festival. This news is something of a family affair as we also learn Guinness’ father, Rex (Scott Wentworth), an old-school actor and founding member of the Stratford Festival, has been cast as the Ghost of Hamlet’s father in the same production. Guinness asks his mother, Jessica (Sarah Dodd) to play Gertrude and she says no to his disappointment. It is Guinness's wife Sue (Amelia Sargisson) who is cast as Gertrude which he finds ridiculous as he thinks she is too young for the role. Running parallel to this storyline is that of a young shy, impressionable student, Jeremy, (Andrew Illes) who will attend a Wednesday matinee performance of ‘Hamlet’. The young people at the matinee are excited to hear their idol will speak at the talkback following the performance but Guinness does not do student talkbacks. Jeremy has also emailed Guinness and asked to speak to him about an upcoming project on ‘Hamlet’ for school either via email or at the talkback. Guinness just avoids responding to Jeremy’s request. On the morning of the Wednesday matinee, Guinness experiences a series of surreal and extremely odd circumstances of disorientation that he wonders if he is dreaming all this or in a coma after falling off his bicycle, or even if he might be dead. Then there is the appearance of the ‘usher’ and court jester Yorick (Gordon Patrick White) who adds even more possible confusion to the situation. And what about adding 911 to one of the most famous tragic Shakespearean plays? 911 signifies someone needing help and we are to come directly to the aid of that individual. It took me 24 hours later to realize just how timely and appropriate ‘Hamlet-911’ remains in our ‘wobbly’ woke culture with credit to Director Alisa Palmer for deftly weaving how ‘Hamlet-911’ “lives in a world where to quote Shakespeare, “the truth will out” ’ I’m reminded how Hamlet will use the play as a “thing to catch the conscience of the King.” MacDonald’s script with Palmer’s clear-sighted direction builds on the characters and the outing of their consciences to capture many truths of the moment. Mike Shara as the central character Guinness Menzies is a believable new father regarding his child. When suspicions arise from his actress wife, Sue (a heartfelt performance moment by Amelia Sargisson after Guinness does the unthinkable to his wife) about a possible affair with another actress playing Ophelia (Eva Foote), we are then introduced to the marvelous work by Gordon Patrick White as Yorick. A garishly whacky looking usher cum court jester cum truth teller for Guinness, Yorick utilizes a pseudo ‘Groundhog Day’/’It’s a Wonderful Life’ approach to bring Guinness to his own self-truth. Scott Wentworth and Sarah Dodd are relishing their moments with their own weird idiosyncrasies as Guinness’s parents Rex and Jessica. The choral work of the young artists remained beguiling and haunting. Ming Wong’s decision to incorporate a lot of blacks and greys just reinforced the weirdness of this underbelly of the world that we think we know. Where this production clicked and made sense for me was in connecting Andrew Illes’ precisely definitive performance as the impressionable teenager Jeremy who reaches out to Guinness via email to ask questions about an upcoming school project based on ‘Hamlet’. Guinness’s initial aloofness in ignoring Jeremy’s request sets a frightening course of events into what I call the ‘computer underworld’ of questionable places where I dare not go for fear of unlocking and seeing how horrific and sickening some websites can do to lonely youth. Guinness also ventures into his own underworld of questionable places which sets him off on his own discovery just like Jeremy’s and even like Hamlet’s. Chris Ross-Ewart’s Composer/Sound Design and HAUI’s projection and video design sensationally take the audience down into the underworld/rabbit hole of Guinness and Jeremy. Hearing the eerily synthesized music at the top of the show took me to a creepy world where I did not want to stay. The timing of sound cues and HAUI’s projections involving the actors was mesmerizing as I heard many audience members around me ooing and aaahhing at the surprises. Final Comments: Surprisingly relevant and hauntingly humourous, ‘Hamlet-911’ was an extremely wise choice to premiere this season especially since the Bard’s work is part of this Season’s work. It might be rather fun for future audiences to see ‘Hamlet’ one night and MacDonald’s soon following if other connections can be gleaned. Running Time: approximately one hour and 50 minutes with no intermission. ‘Hamlet-911’ runs to October 2 at the Studio Theatre, 34 George Street, Stratford. For tickets, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1-800-567-1600. HAMLET-911 by Ann-Marie MacDonald World Premiere Directed by Alisa Palmer Set Designer: Jung-Hye Kim Costume Designer: Ming Wong Lighting Designer: Leigh Ann Vardy Composer and Sound Designer: Chris Ross-Ewart Projection and Video Designer: HAUI Performers: Tat Austrie, Richard Comeau, Wahsonti:io Kirby, Gordon Patrick White, Dhanish Kumar Chinniah, Caitlin Kelly, Qianna MacGilchrist, Antonette Rudder, Jacklyn Francis, Andrew Illes, Mike Shara, Eva Foote, Micah Woods, Amelia Sargisson, Sarah Dodd, Scott Wentworth, Chris Mejaki, Emily Birrell, Quinlan Bolton, Brooke Browne, Samantha Guzzo, Micah Kalap, Beatrice McBoyle, Abby Renner, Lucas Way Previous Next

  • Profiles Monique Lund

    Back Monique Lund Moving Forward Colton Curtis Joe Szekeres Toronto, Ontario, in the late 80s and early 90s saw a slew of first run, first-rate productions with some featuring an all Canadian cast. I liked to get to the theatre early so I could read the artist biographies in the programme to learn more about these talented individuals. One of those names I remember is Monique Lund. She appeared in an amazing production of ‘The Who’s Tommy’ and ‘Cats’ during these years. Again, since I began reviewing, I’ve seen her name in many Stratford Festival productions. She is indeed a talented lady. Monique received her early training on Prince Edward Island and started as a dancer there and moved to Montreal after high school to train with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal on a full scholarship. She also studied voice at McGill University and acting in Montreal and Toronto before getting hired as a company member in ‘Cats’. The rest is history as they say! She has performed in eleven seasons at Stratford and hit the 90s jackpot doing musicals in Toronto during these golden years while appearing in ‘Cats’, ‘Crazy For You’, ‘Tommy’, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ (with Donny Osmond), ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. Monique has played the role of Donna Sheridan in ‘Mamma Mia’ in the US for two years as well as having played many leads from Vancouver to Halifax. Thank you, Monique, for participating: It appears that after five exceptionally long months, we are slowly, very slowly, emerging to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. Has your daily life and routine along with your immediate family’s life and routine been changed in any manner? Yes, I suppose EVERYTHING has changed in terms of our daily lives. My daughter is 15 and when March Break came and it was announced that the kids would be off for three weeks, that seemed implausible... impossible. And then when someone speculated that the kids wouldn’t be going back at all I couldn’t fathom it. But that’s what happened. And we adapted. I think we actually are a very adaptable species. I try to remember that. In terms of our lives now, I actually feel very lucky to be living in a small town. There aren’t reems of people around and it’s easy to see friends in the park or on a walk around the river. It’s easy to social distance when you have vast space around you. Sometimes I forget that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and then I go to the grocery store and see everyone in masks and it’s sort of sci fi- esque. But like I said earlier, we adapt. People seem accustomed to it now. I know that masks will continue to be a part of our lives for a very long time and that’s as it should be. Were you involved or being considered for any projects before the pandemic was declared and everything was shut down? I did have several contracts that I was supposed to do in 2020 that were cancelled. It really is very sobering to watch your entire year go up in smoke. I feel there was a real tsunami effect..... spring contracts were cancelled which we all expected, then the summer ones evaporated, and the final blow was Christmas contracts being cancelled. I think our community went into mourning. It was shocking. Our employment is precarious at the best of times so to have this happen was incredibly difficult. And I do musicals, so the two things that are banned (and will be for the foreseeable future) are mass indoor gatherings and singing. PERFECT!!! Describe the most challenging element or moment of the isolation period for you. Did this element or moment significantly impact how you and your immediate family are living your lives today? I would say the most difficult moment was not being able to see my family. We’re quite spread out across the country and we always get together on PEI every summer for a reunion. Just knowing that was off the table really made me sad. I miss my parents and my sisters But having said that I feel so lucky that I live with people. My husband and daughter have literally saved my bacon throughout this. I have thought repeatedly of my single friends who have had to socially isolate AND lose their livelihood at the same time. Devastating. We really tried to make the best of it and look at the positives. Being home together, cooking, watching movies and living simply. What were you doing to keep yourself busy during this time of lockdown and isolation from the world of theatre? Since theatres will most likely be shuttered until the spring of 2021, where do you see your interests moving at this time? I have been extremely busy during lockdown. The first month or so I would say I was a bit aimless. I tried not to judge myself for it. Everyone reacted in their own way. But then I had a bit of a reckoning with myself. I had always had these other ventures that were of interest to me. But I’d never had the time to explore them. The upside of being employed pretty regularly in the theatre is that I never really had to do anything else. But suddenly I was faced with a blank page. So I started working toward launching my own jewelry line. I launched about six weeks ago and it’s been successful beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a creative outlet just like theatre is and I realized that that’s a vital and essential component to my innate happiness. I am also studying to become a personal trainer and nutrition coach. My dream is to have my own fitness company in Stratford, Ontario, that caters to women in the prime of their lives (45 +) It’s an incredibly detailed course of study and I’m finding it challenging and wonderful. I want to inspire women to feel great about themselves. At a certain age, haven’t we earned that?? I’m also involved with an incredible theatre company in town called Here for Now Theatre. The artistic producer, Fiona Mongillo, really has made an incredible thing happen. As the situation was unfolding with the pandemic and it became apparent that all contracts would be cancelled, she set to work to find a creative solution in taking advantage of what we COULD do. And that was to do outdoor theatre. She wanted a troubadour experience in which we’re light on our feet and can adapt to the ever-changing situation. So, we’re in the middle of an outdoor theatre festival at the Bruce Hotel in Stratford. We’re doing live theatre! It’s been an incredible experience. My husband Mark Weatherley wrote two of the plays (“Whack! “and “Infinite Possibilities”) and I came on board as a director. It’s been an incredible experience. The audiences are so appreciative. They’re starving for that live experience. We’re doing everything by the book including physically distancing the chairs, sterilizing them between seatings and limiting the numbers. Again, we adapt! The Festival has been so successful that we’ve been extended. So, for me, the pandemic has given me a bit of a kick in the pants to venture into new territory. I think it’s interesting how things have unfolded for me. I guess without the safety net of relying on doing musicals (and I use the term “safety net” very loosely!!) I sort of allowed myself to dream a little and act upon those dreams. I feel extraordinarily lucky. Any words of wisdom or sage advice you would give to other performing artists who are concerned about the impact of COVID-19? What about to the new theatre graduates who are just out of school and may have been hit hard? Why is it important for them not to lose sight of their dreams? In terms of advice for other performing artists right now, I would say be bold and just leap into that unknown. I mean we’re already living in an incredibly uncertain time so maybe now is the time to develop that new skill, to take that course, to try something new. I think as artists we all need that side hustle more than ever. As my husband wrote in his play “When nothing is certain, anything is possible!” I actually really believe that. And for the young’ uns coming up, I would say try to be as well rounded as possible. Develop those skills and passions and hobbies outside of theatre. Hopefully, it will translate into some income so you’re not solely reliant on theatre to pay the bills. I think it can only help you as an artist too! But also we now have the gift of time! So read those books, learn those new songs, have play readings in the park with your friends, phone up an older artist that you’ve always admired, and ask if you can pick their brain. Get creative! There are opportunities to be had if you so choose. But I also feel that to be too focused on our careers can limit and inhibit the scope and breadth we’re capable of as humans. I really feel that it’s important to look at this as an opportunity for growth. The alternative is to view it solely as a negative phenomenon which I think is not terribly helpful. But let’s face it, it’s HARD. I think it’s absolutely ok to go under the covers and cry it out. Just don’t stay there too long! Do you see anything positive stemming from this pandemic? The positives I see are families connecting more, people having more time to just be, people getting back to baking and cooking, people helping each other. If only the financial repercussions for artists were not so dire, I think we’d be happier. It’s really hard to be blissed out when you’re worried about money. It’s a very real quandary. But as I said before, it’s really interesting to see the creative ways people are forging new paths for themselves. But also a lot of brilliant artists are working jobs that they’re not particularly enjoying. It’s tough. But we’re a tough bunch! In your informed opinion, will the Canadian, Broadway, and Californian performing arts scene somehow be changed or impacted on account of the coronavirus? Man, if only I had a crystal ball! I have no idea. I try not to speculate too much because the information keeps changing and none of us have a clue what’s going to happen. All I know is that when I think about assembling together with a big cast for the first day of rehearsal it literally brings tears to my eyes. The joy I have felt over the years working with people in the theatre will stay with me forever. And I am by nature an optimist, so I have to believe we’ll get back there. What are your thoughts about streaming live productions? As we continue to emerge and find our way back to a new perspective of daily life, will live streaming become part of the performing arts scene in your estimation? Have you been participating, or will you participate in any online streaming productions soon? In terms of live streaming, I think it absolutely will be a huge part of our industry moving forward. For me personally, I haven’t done anything, but I’ve certainly watched some content. But you know, I have come to a personal conclusion with it. I would rather watch the opening number of Ragtime at the Tony Awards for example with that huge cast brilliantly staged than something on Zoom. I find I’m looking to the past to get that fix. Watching throngs of performers interacting with each other with joy and abandon and physical proximity thrills me more than anything right now. But I certainly don’t judge those who are pursuing the online avenue!! It actually drives me crazy when we become divisive as artists. We must support each other right now more than ever! To each his own! Live and let live! And of course, if anyone did ask me to do a Zoom performance thing I’d be all over it. What is it about performing you still love given all the change, the confusion, and the drama surrounding our world now? Wow. So, this question has brought me to my knees. I have been a professional stage artist for over 35 years. I have had so many incredible opportunities and have met the most brilliant, funny, kind, compassionate, and exceptional people. I have sung exquisite songs, I have tap-danced on pianos, worn exquisite costumes, witnessed the most vulnerable moments, laughed, cried, bled, despaired, rejoiced, and felt everything in between. My life has been incredibly rich and varied and interesting for having done it. I can’t fathom myself ever giving it up and so, I never will. It’s given me too much joy and happiness and laughter. With a respectful nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the 10 questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews: a. What is your favourite word? Tolerance b. What is your least favourite word? Closed c. What turns you on? Creativity d. What turns you off? Materialism e. What sound or noise do you love? Cardinals f. What sound or noise bothers you? Dentist drill g. What is your favourite curse word? Zounds h. What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt? Pilot i. What profession would you not like to do? Mortician j. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates? “Red or white? Thanks.” To learn more about Monique's jewelry line, visit https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/minniebymoniquelund Previous Next

  • Profiles Paul Bates Copy

    Back Paul Bates Copy Canadian Chat Megan Vincent Joe Szekeres From the Sonar Network website: A veteran of Toronto comedy stages, Paul got his start at The Second City, where he wrote and performed in six revues. Other stage credits include SlapShot Live, It’s A Wonderful Toronto, The Soaps: The Live Improvised Soap Opera! An Inconvenient Musical; and SARSical, for which he received a Dora Award nomination. On television Paul played Jeff on Dan For Mayor (CTV), and has also appeared in The Stanley Dynamic, The Ron James Show, Odd Squad, Against The Wall, and Puppets Who Kill. Film credits include The Tuxedo, Welcome to Mooseport, and Camille. He’s won numerous Canadian Comedy Awards and received NOW Magazine’s 2013 Reader’s Choice Award for Best Male Improvisor. Paul and I conducted our interview via email. His credits listed here make me want to see his work live sometime soon. I’ve included his most recent promotion at the conclusion of his profile. Thank you for your time, Paul: Since we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, tell me about some of the teachers and mentors in your life for whom you are thankful and who brought you to this point in your life as a performing artist. I had some very good early teachers who introduced me to acting and who supported my enthusiasm for the performing arts: Greg Hertel and Chris Brower. I also tend to think of my directors at Second City as mentors who taught me a lot about acting, improv, writing and directing: Paul O’Sullivan, Bob Martin, Chris Earle, Mick Napier, and Sandra Balcovske. I’m grateful to them all. I’m trying to think positively that we have, fingers crossed, moved forward in our dealing with Covid. How have you been able to move forward from these last 18 eighteen months on a personal level? How have you been changed or transformed on a personal level? Like so many of us I spent a lot of the last 18 months at home and saw a lot fewer people. So personally, my growth came in the form of strengthening bonds with a very small handful of friends. I’ve come through the pandemic with the strongest friendships I’ve ever had, and with a much stronger family life too. How have these last eighteen months of the pandemic changed or transformed you as an artist professionally? These months in lockdown - especially when nothing was going on professionally - were a great opportunity to ask myself what I wanted from my career, what I expected of the industry, and what I love about performing. I feel much more focussed now in terms of artistic and career goals. In your opinion, do you see the global landscape of the professional Canadian live theatre scene changing at all as a result of these last 18 months? I think initially there will be a struggle to bring audiences back safely. But once they feel safe and ready to return, they’ll be so hungry for a live experience. I’m hopeful that theatres will be able to capitalize on that energy. What excites/intrigues/fascinates/interests Paul Bates post Covid? Honestly? The possibility of auditioning for something in person again. What disappoints/unnerves/upsets Paul Bates post Covid? Any premature lifting of safety restrictions that ends up dragging out this nightmare in the long run. Where does Paul Bates, the artist, see himself going next? A return to collaboration both for the stage and in digital media, particularly podcasts, which I enjoy more than I thought I would. Where does Paul Bates, the person, see himself going next? A secluded cabin to play board games with my friends. RAPID ROUND Try to answer these in a single sentence. If you need more than one sentence, that’s not a problem. I credit the late James Lipton and ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ for this format. If you could say one thing to one of your mentors or favourite teachers who encouraged you to get to this point as an artist, what would it be? Thanks for the encouragement! If you could say something to any of the naysayers in your career who didn’t think you would make it as an artist, what would that be? I’m sorry, I can’t get you comps! What’s your favourite swear word? Horsedicks. What is a word you love to hear yourself say? Laborious. What is a word you don’t like to hear yourself say? No. What would you tell your younger personal self with the knowledge and wisdom life experience has now given you? Don’t waste a single second worrying if you’re good enough. With the professional life experience you’ve gained over the years, what would you now tell the upcoming you from years ago who was just in the throes of beginning a career as a performing artist? Try new things. Get a weird, bad job - just for the experience. What is one thing you still wish to accomplish both personally and professionally? Oh, just to silence the internal critic once and for all, you know the one. Name one moment in your professional career as an artist that you wish you could re-visit again for a short while. I’d go back and do live sketch comedy 6-nights a week. Maybe for 2 weeks. Would you do it all again if given the same opportunities? Of course. Any other answer will keep me up at night. To connect with Paul on his social media Twitter and Instagram: @batesbot9000. Previous Next

  • Profiles Quincy Armourer

    Back Quincy Armourer Self Isolated Artist La Presse, Montréal Joe Szekeres When I was in Montreal the last couple of years to review shows, I remember seeing Black Theatre Workshop’s (BTW) name on several posters around the city announcing upcoming productions. I had reviewed ‘Angelique’ at Toronto’s Factory Theatre, presented by Factory and Obsidian Theatre Company (in co-production with BTW and Tableau D’Hote Theatre), and I wanted to learn more about these two Montreal based theatre companies. I was so pleased that, when I reached out to both companies, they have responded back in kind and have welcomed the opportunity to share their story of ‘The Self-Isolated Artist’ in their company. Tableau D’Hote Theatre Company’s profile will appear shortly. Artistic Director of BTW, Quincy Armorer, and I conducted our interview via email. Quincy was to have appeared in August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ at The Centaur before the lock down. The On Stage Blog reviewers were really looking forward to the production as all of us wanted to attend, but only one of us would be able to review. That’s a nice feeling when you have reviewers who really want to see something. Thank you, Quincy, for this interview. I certainly hope that Our Theatre Voice can be of service to BTW in future: 1. How have you been doing during this period of isolation and quarantine? Is your family doing well? My family is doing well, thanks. It’s been difficult to spend so much time away from them, but luckily everyone is healthy and doing fine. It’s been hills and valleys for me, I think. When the quarantine began and we didn’t quite realize how long it would last, I tried to give myself a bit of down time. And at first, I didn’t mind the shift to working from home. Now that we’re at three months with no clear end in sight, it feels very different. Also, the recent incidents of anti-Black racism that have sparked outrage across the world in the past couple of weeks have made being stuck in isolation especially hard. 2. Were any productions in rehearsal for BTW at the time of the lockdown? Were they far from premiering? Will these productions become part of any future slate(s) for BTW? Just as the lock down made its way to Montreal, we were about to present one show and begin rehearsals on another. We were bringing in the Toronto production of ‘Obaaberima’ produced by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, to present it with our partners Espace Libre in English with French surtitles, but it was quickly cancelled. This was the second time that we were working with Espace Libre to bring in a Buddies show (the first was ‘Black Boys’ back in 2018) and its a great collaboration between our three companies to bring Black queer content to Montreal that is accessible to both anglophone and francophone audiences. We are definitely planning to find time in a future season for ‘Obaaberima’. Our other project was a co-production of August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ with Centaur Theatre. We were just a week away from beginning rehearsals and, not yet fully understanding the extent of Covid-19, thought that we could save the show by simply delaying production for a month. Well, that plan wasn’t going to work either, so Centaur Theatre’s Artistic Director Eda Holmes and I made the decision to postpone the show indefinitely. We are both fully committed to seeing the project through, and as soon as we can safely and responsibly make it happen, we absolutely will. 3. What has been the most challenging part of the isolation and quarantine for you personally and professionally? Personally, I miss my family. And I miss hugs. I really do. But I think what has been most challenging for me is also what has been the most rewarding. I’ve been very introspective lately and it’s stirred up a lot of thoughts and emotions within in a very real and profound way. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been very enlightening and I’m grateful for the opportunity to turn inward for awhile in a way that I normally don’t. I’ve enjoyed that quite a bit. Professionally, there are a number of things. One of the hardest parts has been the uncertainty of knowing what if anything we will be able to present next season. It’s a milestone year for us – our 50th anniversary – and we’ve been planning it for some time, so this limbo that we’ve been forced into right now is certainly a challenge for us. I also want our artists to feel safe and confident and for them to know whether or not – or at least when – the projects they have been preparing for and looking forward to will happen. There’s also been the challenge of potentially shifting ‘online’ and deciding how much content to offer and what that content should be. But most importantly, our Black communities need support right now. We have to ensure that we are properly providing for them, listening to them and creating space for them, which is made that much more difficult by quarantine and isolation. I’d give anything to be able to open up our doors and invite everyone in and create a safe space for us to talk, share, vent, cry, support, hug – whatever we need. We can’t do it in person right now, so we’ll do what we can from a distance. 4. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time of lock down? Working. Our office is closed, but our full staff has been working very hard from home since the middle of March. In many ways it feels like we are busier than we’ve ever been. Our 50th season was intended to be one of our most ambitious to date, although now we’re still not sure how much of that season we’ll actually be able to deliver. Preparing for our launch, exploring other artistic activities, as well as revisiting and revamping our seasons to come has kept me quite occupied. I also jumped on the bandwagon! My folks are from Trinidad, and in our family, mom is the cook and dad is the baker. I had to try my hand at my dad’s Coconut Bake, and I have to say it turned out pretty good! I now understand that place my dad disappears into whenever he gets his hands in dough. It’s meditative. I like it. It’s been a welcome escape. 5. What advice would you give to other performing artists who are concerned about the impact of COVID-19? What words of advice would you give to the new graduates emerging from the National Theatre School? Make lemonade! We have to work with what we’ve got, so when the world gives you lemons, that’s what you do. There’s no denying that this is the world we are now living in. What we have to do is find the opportunities hidden behind the obstacles. The work is still the work and the craft is still the craft. That won’t change. Keep working on what you can, when you can. We’re on hiatus. Be ready when hiatus is over. 6. Do you see anything positive coming out of this pandemic? I hope people come away from this with a greater appreciation for art in general and live performance in particular. When the lockdown began, everyone was turning to art and artists entertainment and humour and comfort and connection. We needed it. I think a lot of people didn’t realize just how important it is in their lives until they no longer had access to it. I’d love to know that in certain circles, the value of what we do now requires less explanation. But beyond that, I just want all of us to be kinder to each other. None of us is exempt from this pandemic, and it would be unfortunate if something this global, something this devastating but potentially unifying would find more ways of dividing us rather than bringing us together. What a shame that would be. 7. Do you believe or can you see if the Quebec and Canadian performing arts scene will somehow be changed or impacted as a result of COVID – 19? It already has. I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be significant impact. Covid-19 has changed how we interact as a species. Our relationship to proximity and touch and intimacy isn’t what it was three months ago, and it won’t just disappear once we’re allowed to gather again at the theatre. Audiences are going to be receiving what they see on stage through a post-covid lens. Creators and producers can’t help but be affected by our current reality either. We have to embrace it. What are the stories that our audiences will want to see? What, if anything, do we need to do differently to tell them? It’s not a question of ‘will it change’ but rather ‘how will it change’. 8. Many artists are turning to streaming/online performances to showcase/highlight/share their work. What are your thoughts and comments about this? Are there any advantages or disadvantages? Will streaming/online/ You Tube performances be part of a ‘new normal’ for the live theatre/performing arts scene? It seems like there was a mad rush for many companies to begin producing online content to stay connected to their audience, and some fared better than others. I don’t think there should be a blanket rule because it’s not going to work for everyone. Some companies have more resources available to them and can create high-quality content in little time. Others just simply don’t have the means. I think some of the work that has been put out there is a nice complement to what we do, but there’s no substitute for the shared experience of being in the same space together. You can’t replace that. That being said, streaming and online performances allow companies to reach a much broader audience. We have our Artist Mentorship Program at BTW that culminates each year with a live Industry Showcase in May, which this year we had to cancel. Instead, we created an online showcase which has allowed us to share the work of our emerging artists with potential engagers not only in Montreal but across the country. It’s a new initiative that we hope to make a permanent addition to the program. 9. As Artistic Director, where do you see the future of Black Theatre Workshop headed as a result of this life changing event for all of us? Our approaching milestone anniversary has been a time of deep reflection for us. It’s made us look back on all that we’ve accomplished over the past fifty years, but also on what we want the next fifty years to be. BTW has had to fight against systemic anti-Black racism for decades, and, over the years, we have built a profound legacy of maintaining our relevance in a world and industry that are ever revolving around us. That certainly is the case now. I want us to continue amplifying Black voices and telling our stories because, let’s face it, the current state of the world right now is showing us that we need these stories now more than ever. There are multiple voices, diverse voices, still under-represented voices within the Diaspora, and BTW will be a place where they can all be given a platform. We will continue to be an example of the open door that we ourselves have been seeking. With a respectful acknowledgment to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the 10 questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews: 1. What is your favourite word? Kind 2. What is your least favourite word? Bland 3. What turns you on? Sincerity 4. What turns you off? Crowds 5. What sound or noise do you love? Crashing waves 6. What sound or noise bothers you? Construction 7. What is your favourite curse word? Fuck 8. What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt? Grade schoolteacher. 9. What profession would you not like to do? Medical examiner (despite my name) 10. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates? ‘What’s up, Girl?” To learn more about Black Theatre Workshop (BTW), visit their website: www.blacktheatreworkshop.ca . You can also visit their Facebook page: Black Theatre Workshop Twitter: @TheatreBTW Instagram: @theatrebtw Previous Next

  • Profiles Amy Keating

    Back Amy Keating Looking Ahead --- Joe Szekeres Amy Keating’s affection for live theatre has not abated at all on account of the pandemic. If anything, her unabated enthusiasm is so contagious that I caught it and was reaching that same height of missing the theatre crowd. You could read theatre ‘geeks’ in here if you wish because Amy said she loves them and misses them so much. Me too. Our recent conversation kept me smiling and laughing throughout the 45-minute interview. There was no pretentious air about her at all, and she made me feel very comfortable during our Zoom call that we even dropped some colourful language as we discussed so much. We were both surprised that time had slipped by so quickly without us even knowing because we had so much to say and to hear. First time I saw Amy on stage was at the Stratford Festival as Cathleen, the Irish housekeeper, in a hard hitting ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’. And then to see her in a completely different role in an outrageously bloody good production of ‘Hand to God’ at Toronto’s Coal Mine Theatre. And finally, Amy’s appearance in ‘The Flick’, at Crow’s Theatre which was the first production I reviewed there. You wanna talk about a show where I did not write any notes down on paper during a jaw dropping three hour running time because I couldn’t avert my eyes from the onstage action, not even for one second. She is a Toronto-based actor originally hailing from the Prairies. Amy works in both theatre and film and is three-time Dora Mavor Moore nominated actor. She is a founding member and associate artist of Outside the March with credits: The Flick, Mr. Burns, Passion Play, Mr. Marmalade. Favourite Film/TV credits: Murdoch Mysteries; Ginny & Georgia; Killjoys; P!GS (short film); SUCCULENT (short film). Fave theatre credits: Long Day's Journey into Night and Julius Caesar (Stratford Festival); The Glass Menagerie (Grand Theatre); Wormwood (Tarragon Theatre); The Importance of Being Earnest (Capitol Theatre). Thank you so much, Amy, for adding your voice to the conversation: 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. It’s interesting, Joe, to talk about how it has changed on a personal level, but I also want to talk about how it’s also changed on a macro level as my mind has also gone there in reflection. I feel there’s been a lot of changes and awareness with all of the social justice movements this year. I really do believe and I’m really grateful for the time that we’ve all had to take as the ‘big pause’ allowed us to re-think. Capitalism’s ideology is, “Go, go, go, make the money, make the money, do the hustle, do the side hustle”. I believe, without this ‘year old pandy’ (as my friend says), we wouldn’t have had the opportunity as we would have been too busy and still too caught up in ourselves to slow down and pay attention to what’s happening in the world. In terms of my bigger life, and I imagine this is what many of the artists have probably said, the chance to slow down and, of course, I’ve been privileged enough to have a safe house, to have running water, to have a home and TV to watch Netflix on at night. (Amy and I share a quick laugh because I’ve also done the exact same thing.) But the time to slow down, I’m really, really grateful for it. It’s been refreshing in a way, and I’m both incredibly excited, obviously, but also nervous to go back to that hustle. I think in this profession too there’s always the feeling, both in a beautiful way and in a sometimes-stressful way, of always having to be somewhere and do something and to be creating, and putting yourself out there, and meeting people. It’s time to slow down, and I’ve learned to say No as I may want to sit down and open a book of poetry one morning and read. Or maybe I might just want to lie in bed one Saturday morning or walk to the water. To have that time has been really, really cool. 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? Joe, I see the precariousness of it all. I try not to stop and think about it. When I think about the repercussions, I get really worried as an artist. I told my partner, Mitchell, that it’s also possible the year I just spent was a year I would spend in normal times. You never know that I could have had five plays, five shows back-to-back, a couple of days on set, some workshops OR I could not have had any of these. I could have been working in my three other Jane jobs the whole time or could have had nothing. As an artist, you’re used to that life in a way anyway. When I think about Crow’s Theatre, Canadian Stage or any of the smaller companies, students who have graduated from theatre school, I worry about all of this. For the theatre graduates, are we going to lose them because the pandemic may have dried up opportunities? I’m worried about this precariousness. It’s a profession, it’s a job, it’s a joy, this business but it’s so tenuous sometimes. I hope it’s going to recover because when it does, it’s going to be glorious. When I saw Stratford’s announcements of outdoor theatre, I gasped with excitement because yes, it’s coming back, get me back, please. As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry? The community. The everyday play with people. During this time when we’re outside walking on the sidewalk, we see others and yes, we too, we move to the side. It’s our calling as artists to move closer, not just physically but with our hearts, with our breath, with our minds. I miss that. Trying to lock in and connect. It’s connecting with people and playing with them. 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? (There was a long pause from Amy as I could sense she wanted to say it right) It will be the ability of a large group of people, audiences, and creators of a piece to be in the same room together. Because that’s the magic. That is what we have missed this past year and a bit, especially me with Netflix. (and we too share a quick laugh). It’s that, and that’s what scary right now is the gathering of big groups of people. Who knew even two years ago we would have said, “You know, next year is going to be really difficult and really dangerous to get over 20 people in a room together.” And I would have said,” No, what are you talking about, that’s my job to do that.” This also includes the audience too because they will wonder if it’s going to be safe for them. Yes, actors can rehearse outside but is an audience safe to watch you? Every day and every performance I will thankfully say, “Look at all the people who are here, even if it’s five of them.” We may not be sold out but we’re here, that audience is here, how lucky are we!!!!!! Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry. I feel as if this last year plus has forced us to slow down in multiple ways. I hope that when we get back to working, creating, and playing, we’re also going to slow down. And that, to me, means being able to take care of everyone who is in the room and be able to be present with everyone who is working on the project, everyone who has come together. That means meeting people where they’re at; that means dealing with anti-racist actions and making sure that people are being seen and taken care of. It must be noted where people are coming from and what they need on any given day. And if there’s something hurtful in the work, said in rehearsal or in the script that we’re able to (and money is always a thing, Joe, you know) that we’re able to call it IN or OUT first off and then take the time and say, “Hey, this doesn’t work. This isn’t helpful for us. Let’s take the time to do something different, to re-evaluate it and to change it.” We’ve done this already for the last fifteen, sixteen months outside the theatre. We now must bring this into the theatre. It can only be a good thing for any production if people are being seen, we meet them where they are coming from and to hear them. Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry. Oh my God, what a cool question. One thing – EVERYTHING!!!!! (And again, we had a good laugh) Oh, Joe, this is the hardest question because I actually do believe it’s everything. Here’s my thesis (and again Amy took some time because I could sense she wanted to say it right and to get it right) I started doing a bit of film and tv. I just finished my first short film, and I would like to find different ways to work and collaborate with people. So, I’d love to be part of a process or to lead a process that would stretch the container of the three – four-week rehearsal process. I feel I’d like to work in a playful way. I think I would like to write. I would like to direct. I directed once before and nearly killed myself, Joe. I was living off coffee and cigarettes and wasn’t sleeping. I want to go back and try it again. I think it would be fun, but I would like to pick the play. It would have to be a play I could see that I would want to do. Here’s the last thing I’ll say – I want to work in big communities of people. I think a lot of shows are kept small on account of budget. When we did ‘Passion Play’, it was a cast of 12. There were 3 directors. It was very large, and I would love to work in that way again, kind of on an epic scale and do plays that are 5, 10, 12 hours long with five directors and a cast of 20. (and I start smiling and laughing as Amy’s enthusiasm is contagious) We’ve been at home for the last year and a half doing nothing, and I want to work on a big, big scale. That’s what I want to do. 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. Joe, let’s re-phrase this question, okay? “Am I prepared to participate both as a professional artist and as a theatre goer in the potential tsunami of Covid themed plays and stories when we immediately return to the theatre? I’m going to echo several of the artists whom you have interviewed who have quoted the same thing…” Fuck, no!!!!!!!!!! (With uproarious laughter from both of us) Definitely not! I don’t want it! I actually wonder if down the road, say ten years from now, a Covid play might be interesting. Right now? No, no no… What I am a fan of now is Black Mirror on Netflix. There’s a cool thing about this show in that it’s not science fiction but more like a drama where it takes the world we live in today and just switches one little thing, just one thing about society. For example, what if in advertising we put a chip in you and see what happens, or your whole social status was based on how many LIKES you received daily. What I find interesting in this comparison of the show to Covid are the connections to some of the anti-vaxxers, anti- mask individuals. If we take the themes from this time of Covid and explore into a play. I don’t want to see any kind of Covid re-creation, but I do think there’s some interesting things revealed about people and society in general at this time. Those themes would be interesting to explore OUTSIDE of a Covid backdrop. I don’t want that. Now, if someone wrote a Covid themed play with me in mind and offered it to me for next year, I might say, “Too soon, too soon.” But if it’s my first theatre job offer in a post Covid world, I might just say, “Yes, please.” As an artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you? For me, specifically, this is such a self-reflecting In Memoriam. I feel the thing for me that makes live theatre so exciting for me and what I want to see in the actors when I watch, and what I want to bring to the stage, is a certain playfulness, aliveness and electricity that makes people feel that this interaction at this moment is new every time. It’s that kind of work that Outside the March reflects in that it was important that you were here on this night (or, in a matinee, this day) to see this interaction at this moment. This night is different because of you, the audience member, because you’re here. I’m really leaning into this In Memoriam question, Joe. I trained in Clown. I studied a lot of Clown in school. That’s all about breath, being in the moment, following impulses and listening. It’s not about trying to be funny, but it’s about being open and receptive. That’s what I aim to do – to be present, to be playful and open with the people I’m creating with on stage, and the people that I work with through rehearsal, and the audience as well. It’s bringing that magical electrical feeling into the room. You can follow Amy Keating online at Instagram: @lil_keats. You can also follow Amy’s first short film account SUCCULENT on Instagram: @succulentthefilm. 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

  • Dramas Where the Blood Mixes

    Back Where the Blood Mixes Soulpepper and Native Earth Performing Arts Dahlia Katz Dave Rabjohn A revival of ‘Where the Blood Mixes’ by Kevin Loring is now playing at Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto. Loring is N’laka’pamux and comes from Kumsheen otherwise known as Lytton B.C. recently in headlines due to devastating fires – this alone makes the play more contemporary. Although some of the writing is over-extended, the strength of this production comes from the agile acting, especially in the two main characters – Sheldon Elter as Floyd and Craig Lauzon as Mooch. They spar over a series of indigenous issues that focus mainly on the theme of home and origins. Samay Arcentales Cajas’ work is also noteworthy for her dynamic and creative video projections. Two lifelong best friends, Mooch and Floyd, live difficult lives due to a variety of factors including suicide (Floyd’s wife) and the ills of residential schools' history. They clown around in a seedy bar, drink heavily, rely on lottery tickets for any kind of hope and pretty much ignore their families. Skillful acting moves them from comedy to pain in a moment’s time. Mooch is most comic with all arms and hands as he exhorts. Almost a Laurel and Hardy routine, quickly and effectively changes into a darker Waiting for Godot sequence as the grief in their lives is exposed. Floyd has not seen his daughter, Christine, played by Tara Sky, for decades. The loss of the wife/mother and the interjection of government institutions has pulled the family apart, but Christine feels the need to revisit her roots and reconnect with her father. Floyd is anxious about their different lives and buries his anxiety in alcohol. Mooch’s parallel problems are exacerbated by his own drinking and his mistreatment of his girl June – played with passion by director Jani Lauzon. Christine’s entrance into these lives is rocky as Floyd rejects her need for connection. Various forms of reconciliation put a dent in the darkness, but it seems only temporary. Oliver Dennis plays an affable barkeep as he strives to temper the tumult in his customers’ lives. Much like the ever-present musician in the shadows (James Dallas Smith,) he serves as a Greek chorus, echoing and reacting to events. As mentioned, the work of Ms. Cajas is spectacular. Projections have become a theatre staple, but her work raises the bar. Highlights include soaring osprey and gorgeous natural beauty. Most creative are scenes of interaction between actors and projections – Floyd fighting to hold onto a sturgeon or running down the path of a railroad track. Ms. Cajas reveals how the beauty of the natural world tempers the greyness of the mortal world. Mr. Loring’s writing can be clever with humour and wit, but he has embraced a large tract of themes and issues that tend to overwhelm – suicide, alcohol abuse, difficult relationships, residential schools, criminal activity, abandonment, government and institutional intervention – a lengthy list to pack into ninety minutes. All topics of importance. Perhaps it’s an effort to jolt an audience into a necessary awareness, but highlighting just two or three of these themes may provide an opportunity to drill deeper and develop more depth of understanding and possible solutions. Some of the repetitive writing slowed the pace at times. Two brilliant moments offered some shimmer in the darkness of their lives. After going through an exhaustive reconciliation, Christine bursts out to her father without any preface – “would you like to see your grandson?” The audience shares his shocked and happy moment. The other instant is Floyd’s fear that Christine is reacting to poor bathing habits. No, she says, “you smell like home.” Perhaps the heart of the play. ‘Where the Blood Mixes’ by Kevin Loring Performers – Oliver Dennis, Sheldon Elter, Craig Lauzon, Jani Lauzon, Tara Sky, James Dallas Smith Director – Jani Lauzon Set design – Ken MacKenzie Video and projection design – Samay Arcentales Cajas Stage Manager – Cole Vincent Runs through June 16, 2022 Tickets – soulpepper.ca Previous Next

  • Profiles John Jarvis

    Back John Jarvis Looking Ahead --- Joe Szekeres First time I met John Jarvis was many years ago on a Sunday afternoon during an ‘Open Doors Toronto’ where audiences got the chance to speak to several professional theatre artists who graced some of Toronto’s finest stages. The late Al Waxman (CBC’s King of Kensington) led a group of us around to the theatres. I remember sitting in the Bluma Appel listening to John speak about the history of The Bluma Appel and some of the actors who worked on that stage. I can also recall some of us were given an opportunity to get up on the stage and ‘perform’ a scene with John. He was gracious and kind when volunteers came up on the stage and allowed each of us to have our ‘moment’ there on the Bluma Appel stage which I can recall as huge. Since then, I’ve seen John’s work in several productions at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre including ‘Innocence Lost’, ‘Orlando’, ‘Spoon River’ and ‘Of Human Bondage’, both of which he had the good fortune to perform to great success in New York City. John has also taught acting at George Brown College. Television and film credits include Seasons 6 and 7 of ‘Suits’ and ‘Business Ethics’. At this moment of writing his profile, I recall with much fondness John’s work in Soulpepper’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ which has become a holiday and Christmas favourite of mine. John has been the narrator in this production since its inception and plays the three Ghosts Scrooge meets on Christmas Eve. I let John know that perhaps we need a little ‘Christmas Carol’ this year to help move us out of the pandemic; ergo, Weyni Mengesha and Luke Reece – please take note this writer would love to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ on the slate again this year (provincial health conditions obviously in place) John’s recent television and Film include ‘Stockholm’, ‘Suits’ (Season 6 and 7) and ‘Business Ethics’. He also has taught acting at one of Canada's premier theatre schools, George Brown College. He studied at Montreal’s National Theatre School of Canada. We conducted our conversation via Zoom. Thanks again, John, for such a quick interview and turnaround in time: 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. Initially, I was quite taken aback by the global community recognizing the existential threat of what this was. For probably the first time in the world’s history, so many communities of people agreed to shut down, to cut off, to retreat to their homes. I was quite astounded by that global group activity. Then the fissures began, and people pushed back, and we’ve had such a very complex result. Friendships have been lost; family members have argued. While I was in Shopper’s Drug Mart today, there was a guy in front of me who was on his phone, and he was quite vehement in his call to someone saying, “No government is going to tell me what to do anytime!” And I thought, ‘C’mon, it’s the dilemma of Me, and what I want to do.” Or it’s my shared sense of protecting everybody in the group. I think the group is holding firm and, although we get attacked for being fearful coming to a power of government and this cultural war, I think people have found some strength in Covid that when it comes out the other end there will be a renaissance of ideas and activities. There will be a bursting forth of people wanting to come and see theatre and theatre artists in an expression of joy in wanting to get back on stage. 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. What I have delighted in is that so many companies, small and large, have put out product of some kind. Profile has been maintained that the artists are developing some kind of theatre to keep the profile of the company in the public view. But behind the scenes the money they will require to begin again to contract actors and designers and playwrights and the sheer enormity of producing a play, where is that dough going to come from? So far, we haven’t seen too much collapse of companies walking away. I know that some artistic directors have reached certain levels of exhaustion, and some have decided it was time to leave anyway. I’ll be curious because governments will come to the plate to a certain degree. And for the big companies, where will they get the money? There’s all the will in the world but when a large company says a million dollars is needed, what’s going to happen next? I haven’t heard the behind-the-scenes despair of the financial departments of theatre companies. A year ago, many actors, myself included, didn’t have a sound studio or filming studio in their basements. I do voice over work as well, so I had to get an expensive microphone and all the other accoutrements where I now have to do self tapes of lighting and sound and cameras. All actors are their own production company and their own editing suite now. It’s been active in television and film as there is a 37-page protocol that has allowed production companies to go ahead. It was always ironic that a theatre company was not able to rehearse and film a production of a play. But a film company could rent the theatre, come in and shoot a film or movie. It’s always been a head twister. As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry? Well, it’s the flesh and blood. It’s the only card we have on the table that we’ve had for 2000 years. It’s a piece of human breathing, audio flesh in front of us. I’ve watched some Zoom plays and have tried to engage as much as I can, but it started to pull away because I just need to see the actors. I want to see the play and watch the spittle come out of their mouths. My voice teacher said the Greeks had brass urns on top of all the aisles so that the human voice would ring through those brass urns and send pillars into the cosmos to hold the thing together. So, the sound of the human actor is holding it all together. People will be hungry to hear that sound of a real, live voice. 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 remember reading some of the profiles in this series, Joe, and some had some very funny answers. I’ll never take for granted that the joy of being in front of an audience is a celebration rather than a paranoia of performance or the worry of how I’m doing. I think all of that worrying now appears to be of little use, and that the chance to just be in front of people is a new psychological entity that I never really thought of, and I’m sure that’s what a lot of actors are saying that they need to be in front of people who will laugh and cry in the way that a story is told. Because this commonality of Covid that the audience and actor have gone through together, we are equally as hungry to meet each other. Whatever the fourth wall, it will have been of little or no use to people because they know that I haven’t been performing in front of audience, and I know that the audience has been watching television, Netflix or listening to the radio, and that there’s a genuine humility to be with each other again. I think that will be quite exciting. Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry. The discovery that theatre can happen anywhere; it can be on a bicycle zooming by, in a park, on your front lawn, in the driveway. Artists can go up to the balcony of your house; they can make an event happen anytime or anyplace and people will stop and be engaged. It is interesting through this societal change of Covid with the politics and the social justice issues spinning and boiling, I always thought that the theatre was moving towards this change. Before, many other arts industries were always trying to draw in the diversity of the cities we live in. As a veteran actor myself, the glory days are shifting and there’s new blood coming in, and new energy. If it takes telling the disparity and the dystopia, and the dilemma that the new culture is finding within the story, that’ll be the stories of the future. Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry. In the contemplation many of us have had to think about one’s career, one of the allowances of many hours of time that we’ve had during these last 16 months, you are as good as your last performance. There’s a new play coming up and you have to prepare for that audition and performance. When Ralph Richardson at 92 was asked about his career, he said, (in a British accent) “Good God, ol’ boy, I’m only halfway through the fucking thing.” (Uproarious laughter from me). I’ve much more to learn. With that contemplation, I’ve a new degree of expression that might reveal itself to people and I look forward to seeing what did that year do to one’s emotional world and the capacity to express the worries, the fears. During these last 16 months, I’ve read some of the great literature – ‘War and Peace’, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, ‘Our Mutual Friend’ that had no electricity in it and no sense of what was going to happen in the 20th century. So now that I’ve read about these incredible people in these incredible novels, what’s next. 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. I was sitting with my family the other night, and somebody said, “Oh, I bet you when we go back to the theatre that somebody will enter with a mask, and someone says to take the mask off. I don’t want to see a play about Covid.” I don’t want to see Covid used as a metaphor. I want this story of Covid to be over. I don’t want Covid to be a pivot point into a story. I want something different. I want a new story. I don’t want anything as a reminder because we’ve all quite had enough. I’m sure there will be a brilliant playwright who will find a brilliant way of incorporating the lonely person sitting in a basement trying to figure out what to do to tell a story or to engage. The cultural dilemma of Indigenous Canadians, Caribbean Canadians, Asian Canadians, it is their time to find their stories and to share it with us. Susan Coyne and Stewart Arnott delivered a beautiful two hander recently on Zoom about a virus. It was really quite beautiful, but we’ve seen enough about Covid. Susan and Stewart have already done it. As an artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you? Ah………. “John Jarvis did his best. He gave his all.” (He says with a gleeful grin) In the quiet solitude of the basement, there are great days of remembering performances you loved and cared and gave it your all. And there are days where you think and remember for whatever reason you stumbled through maybe because you weren’t focused, and you know you didn’t give it your all that you should have done. I would say that I poured my sense of life and my sense of humour, and my sense of joy in people, and I poured it into everything I did. That’s what I hope future audiences will remember. Previous Next

  • Profiles Randy Graff

    Back Randy Graff Moving Forward Michael Kushner Joe Szekeres The other day I was perusing some online pages about original Broadway companies and I saw the cast list for the first New York production of ‘Les Miserables’. I remember on my first trip to NYC that I tried to get tickets for the production and was told by the box office ‘What planet did I live on as I was to return in five years?’ I laugh about that now as that was the same response the Toronto box office used to give for the original Canadian company of ‘Les Miserables’ as well. As I reviewed the New York cast list online, it was great fun to see Colm Wilkinson’s name (who later played the Phantom in the original Toronto production) and then I came across Randy Graff’s name. She had originated the role of Fantine. It suddenly dawned on me that I remember hearing Randy sing the titular ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ on the original Broadway LP album. I thought, well, why not try to get in touch with Randy through her webpage to see if she would be interested and available for an interview. And I am grateful she responded in such a timely manner and welcomed the opportunity for the interview. I encourage everyone to visit her website as she holds an extensive resume in the performing arts industry. Randy has been an instructor for the past four years at Manhattan School of Music. She also received the Tony award for her work in CITY OF ANGELS (another hell of a good show, by the way). Randy has appeared on the Broadway stage, off Broadway, regional theatres and concert halls. She has appeared in such productions as ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ and ‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor’. Randy now appears in the Original Broadway cast of 'Mr. Saturday Night' opposite Billy Crystal. We conducted our conversation via email as she is one busy lady right now in her work as an active arts educator. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions, Randy: As an active arts educator and instructor for the past four years at Manhattan School of Music, what has been the most challenging moment of your teaching during this pandemic? There have and continue to be a few challenges about teaching musical theater performance during the pandemic. The first was purely technical. How to use Zoom? I had never even heard of it. Fortunately, we have great tech support at MSM. They offered us workshops and tutorials, and really invested in getting the faculty ready. I'm less of a luddite now. A little pandemic perk. But, what continues to be a challenge is how I keep my students engaged when we are not live in the classroom. How do I keep them excited about learning on a screen, when they're taking class from their bedrooms, dorm rooms, bathrooms and parent's cars? When we went into lockdown last March it was a little easier because I had already been working in the classroom with my students since September. I knew who they were as people and artists. The start of this school year, with a brand-new group of students. was one of the bigger challenges for all of us. We're six weeks in and now, I feel like I have more of a sense of who they are, and I think, they do of me. As a professional educator, what words of wisdom and sage advice have you been sharing with future artists given the unknown and uncertainty of the live performance industry? Have these messages been positively received? Ahhh, I want always to be honest with them. This sucks! It's hard and depressing, so go ahead and allow yourself to feel all those things. Then remember, this is temporary. You are always going to have down time in your chosen profession. This happens to be an extraordinary pause, and we are still uncertain about when live theater will return and how it will return. I never say if, because I am certain it will, and my students need to hear that truth from me. So, ask yourselves what you want to do with this time, and remember there is no wrong answer. You can stay connected to your art, or you can decide to get a real estate license or become an architect. What feels right to you? If you have chosen to be in school, then work hard at your craft. There is much to be learned about expressing yourself through the Zoom platform. More on that later. I find that when I don't lecture my students about what they should do, regarding Covid, they feel empowered to make their own decisions, and then my words are well received. As an artist and educator, do you see anything positive stemming from Covid 19? On a personal note, the pandemic has taught me to be more present. To take life one day at a time, and to be even more grateful for the wonderful friends, family, and colleagues in my life. It's taught me to take better care of my health. It has reinforced what I already know about live theater. We need it. Desperately. To unite us, teach us empathy, and when the day comes where I can sit in a packed house and watch my favorite performers on stage, some of which may be my very own students, I will cry buckets of happy tears. As an educator, I see my students finding imaginative ways to connect with each other and with students all around the country. Some are doing Zoom play readings, their own work included, and having group discussions after. Many are using the time to self-tape monologues and songs and get them up on their websites. They've started Youtube channels and some are Zoom directing as well. All motivated by the pandemic. They have acquired mad techno skills! Honestly, some of these tapes are so impressive! They look like mini independent films, and their own acting/singing work has deepened. The multitudes of feelings they live with on a daily basis, because of life during the pandemic, has absolutely fueled them as actors. As an artist and educator, what kind of impact will Covid 19 leave on the Broadway industry? This is a tough question. I don't know how it's going to impact our industry. When it comes back, when audiences are willing to gather inside a Broadway theatre, I suppose there will have to be a new financial model so a show can sustain itself. I trust that our unions and the Broadway League will figure it out. This much I do know; there will be an appreciation for the work by and for everyone who is responsible for it, onstage and off, that is so filled with love and joy. I might want to bottle and sell it. I need to think of a name. Any suggestions? Share with us your honest opinions about online streaming and You Tubing dramatic/musical work for others to see. Will streaming and You Tubing be the new media for the future artist going forward into the unknown? Honestly, I'm grateful for the live streaming right now. The opportunity for a young kid in the middle of nowhere to see "Hamilton" or the National Theatre's "Frankenstein" is awesome. I've also participated in Seth Rudetsky's "Stars In The House" with two cast reunions; the OBC of "Les Mis" and "City of Angels." It was so wonderful to see everyone in their little squares, and all donations go to the amazing, what would we do without them, Actor's Fund. I watched the "Sondheim 90th Birthday" live stream celebration in tears and loved BD Wong's "Songs from An Unmade Bed," which I saw on YouTube. As far as going into the unknown future, we, as educators, have a responsibility to prepare our students for it emotionally and practically. I do think it will continue to be a part of our art form. Streaming and YouTube are great platforms for artists to get their work out there to entertain, inspire and educate. Of course, it's not the real thing no matter how well it's filmed and watching them does have a twinge of "oh, I wish I was in the theatre." I do feel that there needs to be some payment made for people's work, and that's complicated, maybe even prohibitive, considering all the people who should be compensated. On another streaming note, I'm a Netflix addict. So there's that. Have you seen "The Queen's Gambit?' Fabulous! (Joe agrees it is a wonderful series) Despite all of the tension and drama surrounding the live entertainment industry, what specifically is it about performing that Covid will never destroy for artists now, the mid career artist and the upcoming and future artists? I'm going to quote Arthur Miller on this, because his words are far, far better than mine. "There is a certain immortality involved in theater, not created by monuments and books, but through the knowledge the actor keeps to his dying day that on a certain afternoon, in an empty and dusty theater, he cast a shadow of a being that was not himself, but the distillation of all he has ever observed; all the unsingable heart song the ordinary man may feel but never utter, he gave voice to. And by that he somehow joins the ages." To learn more about Randy, visit her website randygraff.com or her Official Fan Facebook page: Randy Graff Previous Next

  • Dramas Orphan Song by Sean Morley Dixon

    Back Orphan Song by Sean Morley Dixon World Premiere at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre Cylla von Tiedemann Joe Szekeres This ‘Orphan Song’ resonates, but I had to play close attention to this challenging production. Please don’t misunderstand when I say the opening night performance of Sean Dixon’s ‘Orphan Song’ is a challenging one. Challenging how and what we think are good and necessary, and we need to be challenged constantly all the time regarding discussion of worthy artistic endeavours. ‘Orphan Song’ is truly worthy of sound, intellectual discussion and Tarragon will hold talkbacks following certain performances. I would strongly encourage future audience members to partake in those talks and to read the theatre Resource Guide and programme available. I wished I could have listened for a few minutes to a talkback following the play. The synopsis: In 40, 027 BCE, a grief-stricken Homo-sapiens couple Gorse and Mo (Beau Dixon and Sophie Goulet) adopts a Neanderthal child called Chicky (Kaitlin Morrow). Language separates the parents from the child, only then to separate mother and father. In other words, how does one love when it is difficult to communicate? Communication using what kind of language since the play is set BCE? Will it be standard English? Two challenges for me. In the Programme Playwright’s Note, Dixon states ‘Orphan Song’: “is an exploration of what it means to take responsibility for a child at all costs in a dangerous world.” He and his wife in 2014 adopted a girl and recall the struggle of forging attachment to her but don’t say how long this struggle occurred. His daughter is now 9. Since I’ve never raised my own children, here’s where I knew I would pay close attention to the story. The other challenge? Oral language takes on an entirely new meaning in ‘Orphan Song’ and that’s where I found the provided Resource Guide invaluable. Briefly, the English spoken in the play is derived from a list of 200 words considered basic to every language known as the Swadesh List. So, I really had to pay close attention to the dialogue and words spoken as it would be very easy to get lost if attention span wandered. And this is where I can make a personal connection since I was a Core French as a Second Language teacher at the beginning of my teaching career over thirty-five years ago in utilising a list of 200 words and phrases basic to a conversational understanding of the language. What makes ‘Orphan Song’ so deserving of a post discussion is the way director Richard Rose and this singular cast melded Dixon’s script together to explain how does one love an adopted child when there are difficulties in communication. Did it work for me, though? Was the play worth doing? These were the two questions I pondered on the GO train ride home. Yes, ‘Orphan Song’ did work soundly for me. I probably would have arrived at that decision earlier if there was a talkback to help guide some of my thinking. Graeme S. Thomson’s set, Jareth Li’s lighting and Juliet Palmer’s sound designs immaculately recreated the suggestion of eras and eras long ago. Upon entering the auditorium, I really liked hearing the sound effects of the gulls and birds. The hanging burlap fabric of meticulously and carefully painted Cro Magnon and Neanderthal rock was sharp. The dimly soft focused lighting thankfully did not pierce my eyes. Tree branches and sticks lined across the front of the stage which also nicely evoked a strong sense of the era. Charlotte Dean’s costume designs appropriately captured what I had envisioned from seeing pictures about the outfits worn from this specific era. Once the performance began, I was fascinated with the marvelous eye-opening introduction of the ensemble called Pipers who incorporated music and fantastic use of puppet mastery. I would really like to acknowledge Kaitlin Morrow’s work here in the latter. I found myself mesmerized in watching how the strong ensemble manipulated the puppets while blending, at times, unusually high-pitched trilling sounds which affectionately grew on me after awhile. There is further puppetry in the production as well from tiny, adorable hedgehogs to large, winged attacking and ferociously looking pterodactyl like birds. Absolutely breathtaking to watch this tight knit ensemble incorporate gigantic and subtle body and head movements. I can’t even begin to imagine the initial rehearsal process with the cast, Rose, Dixon, and the oral language issues because there must have been some obstacles which had to be overcome. It did take several minutes to accustom my ear to listening, hearing and then processing the message delivered, but I got used to it and was able to understand most of what was being said. There are two moments where standard English is used to help with plot delineation. Richard Rose is a gifted director and his clear vision of focusing on the universal and emotional elements of adoption remained solidly intact. Juliet Palmer’s musical direction and incorporation of melodic sounds subtly underscored tension and interest thanks to some terrific ensemble work of individuals whom I will name at the end of the article. Beau Dixon offers a towering patriarchal presence as Gorse. (Spoiler alert) Sophie Goulet’s matriarchal Mo tugged at my heart strings in the second act when she plans to leave the family and the others desperately search for her. (End of spoiler alert). The grandmotherly Gran’s Terry Tweed becomes that wise and sage figure for whom we all search in times of desperation and change. Kaitlin Morrow’s work as Chicky was one of the performance highlights for me. When the audience first meets them, there is an adorable, playful quality sound which emanates from Morrow in their trilling as they strive to communicate with the others. That sense of feeling that Chicky belongs through attachment which breaks and then re-forms and breaks again did play at my heart. Final Comments: At this moment in time, we now live in a world where listening and hearing one another becomes of extreme importance in relationship building. Through a visually captivating production to the eye and to the ear, ‘Orphan Song’ required me to pay close attention, to listen and to hear what others are trying to tell me about family, about communication and about love. There’s so much going on in the use of the language that perhaps I may have to pay a second visit. In any case, come listen to this song. Worth a visit to Tarragon. Production runs approximately two hours and ten minutes with one intermission. Covid Protocols in effect. ORPHAN SONG by Sean Morley Dixon (World Premiere) Directed by Richard Rose Set design by Graeme S. Thomson Lighting consultation by Jareth Li Costume design by Charlotte Dean Musical direction and Sound design by Juliet Palmer - voiced and created collaboratively by the cast and composer. Puppet mastery by Kaitlin Morrow Stage management by Sandy Plunkett Apprentice Stage Management by Alysse Szatkowski Performers: Heather Marie Annis, Beau Dixon, Sophie Goulet), Phoebe Hu, Germaine Konji, Ahmed Moneka, Kaitlin Morrow, Kaitlyn Riordan, Terry Tweed, Daniel Williston Production runs to April 24, 2022, at the Mainspace, Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, visit www.tarragontheatre.com or call 1-416-531-1827. Previous Next

  • Profiles Barbara Fulton

    Back Barbara Fulton Theatre Conversation in a Covid World --- Joe Szekeres When I read Barbara Fulton’s biography she had sent to me, I hadn’t realized just how many of the productions I’ve seen in which she has appeared. I’ve recognized her name in programs and it was a delight to be able to connect with her via Zoom today for our conversation. She is a singer and actor who has worked primarily in Music Theatre. Until March of 2020 she played Diane in the Toronto company of ‘Come from Away’ at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. After a year of theatre training at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Barbara went to England to train at Bird College in musical theatre. Upon returning from England, she spent three seasons at the Charlottetown Festival and then played Grizabella in the Toronto production of CATS. (And I do remember Barbara’s performance.) She worked with the Stratford Festival for 22 seasons with notable shows: Notably, A Little Night Music, The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe, Fiddler on the Roof, Electra, Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Into the Woods, The Mikado and The Miracle Worker. Barbara is a recipient of numerous Guthrie awards from Stratford and a Dora award for her work in ‘Life After’. Also, in Stratford, Barbara sang with The Duke Ellington and Glen Miller Orchestras and has produced two jazz standard CDs with her husband Paul Shilton. Thank you so much for your time, Barbara. I look forward to speaking with you in person when it’s safe to return: 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? Well, at first, I have to admit that I was giddy with excitement at the thought we were going to have a month off, and that we would have a nice holiday. But that’s not how it turned out. The week before I had just said to my husband that I was getting weary. I have an apartment in Toronto and my home is in Stratford. I would go home here on Sunday evenings until Tuesday morning. And that was great, but I was getting weary of the entire thing of six days a week for two years. I’ve had three weeks off interspersed in those two years, but it was uncanny that it was the week before the theatres were all shut down when I thought I don’t know if I can carry on and I was weary. Then this ‘thing’ happened, and none of us knew how serious it really was. Yes, the first month was nice to be at home in Stratford. Spring was coming, going for walks, seeing all kinds of people in Stratford whom I haven’t seen in months. And then this pandemic started to get a little tiring and this whole idea of having to stay and separate from people and not being able to gather in the way we used to be able to. That started to really wear on me. And then it started to get a little bit lonely. I have a son who lives in Toronto and I was back and forth a bit but not much. I kept the Toronto apartment until the end of September and then I had to give it up. Closing up the apartment was a real nail in the coffin as well as I have no idea when ‘Come from Away’ will start up again. My husband and I keep saying thank God our parents are not going through this pandemic. It’s a very hard thing for the seniors. My husband and son are doing alright. My son did get Covid early September and it was a mild case, so far he’s fine. It lasted maybe a week and a half. His taste came back and everything came back. His girlfriend didn’t get it all. Paul, my husband, and I had been with our son the day before he was diagnosed, and it was terrifying thinking we could possibly have it. But we were masked and didn’t see our son without masks on. Paul and I had to go and get tested. That was a stressful time. Paul’s fine. He works as a music director at a church and for the longest time the church wasn’t meeting. They don’t have a choir at this time so his workload is much less. But at least they were gathering for awhile. How have you been spending your time since the theatre industry has been locked up tight as a drum? My thing now is walking and listening to audiobooks, and it’s saving my life and getting my 10,000 steps in. It’s beautiful here in Stratford for the walks. I had a lot of enthusiasm for the mask thing initially thinking if this is what is going to be, so I made some masks. I made about 10-15 and gave some away and lost some since masks fall out of your pocket quietly or go flying away without me even knowing because they drop on the ground silently. I was in the middle of rehearsal of a little outside show but couldn’t attend rehearsals until I had a negative test before I could return. This show did go on. There was a dance company called Corpus in Toronto and they do site specific and a lot of outdoor performances. So that’s how we got around this. We did this show in Trinity Bellwoods Park. It was myself and four other women and the show was called ‘Divine Intervention’. We were on a quint bicycle so five of us in a row on one bicycle. It was kind of a crazy thing to try to learn to do, but what a joy to have to learn a new physical skill at this time. We were masked as well the whole time and had to physically distance in rehearsal. The whole show was set up so we wouldn’t get very close to each other. We just told this story through music and movement on this bike. It really got the attention of the audience as we sang on the bike. It was a delight and it got me through. I was so looking forward to it. I knew about it in late May so I knew about it all summer. The show ended October 4 and we were lucky as the weather was perfect in the fall. Paul’s family has a cottage on Georgian Bay, and we were up there for two full weeks – one week in July and one week in August. For the first time, ever for me, I was always unavailable to spend any time at a cottage either because I was working at the Festival or performing in ‘Come from Away’. For me, this was so unbelievable as I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to be anywhere, that I could just sit and enjoy myself for the two weeks and not worry about missing a show or being late. My family is in Nova Scotia and they are very strict down there as well with no visitors. 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 nearly year long absence as something else? I wouldn’t say Covid has been an escape from the theatre. It has been a cruel captor. For everyone. Now that I’m now not up on the stage offering my heart to the character, the audiences and my colleagues, I often feel empty, not knowing what my purpose is anymore. I’ve been in this industry for 40 years, and all that time there was this natural engine that kept me looking outward towards this unknown and exciting energy that I plugged into daily. Sometimes it was hope, sometimes fear, sometimes sheer excitement and anticipation of what I was about to connect with out there with people whom I loved and respected, whom I laughed with and who infuriated me and so on and so on. All I know of work in the theatre is coming together with a common, tangible purpose – to serve up a story that the audience can connect with. To share a piece of ourselves in the process and finishing the night with appreciation, there’s no other better job in the world. So, it hasn’t really felt like an escape other than that first month. It feels like I’m being kept from the natural rhythm of my life. 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 wouldn’t disagree because I think that’s really logical. I’ve done some investigating into what the 1918 flu was like and what kind of impact that it had and compare it to what’s going on. It was about five years before that virus stopped being a threat at all. That’s a long time but that’s without vaccines. So, I’m hopeful that the vaccine will speed up things up compared to that experience. There’s lots of talk about Broadway coming back in September, and that’s all well and good. It’s not just us we’re talking about. We’re talking about the general public’s comfort level with gathering and being close together for that length of time. Whether or not theatres can or are interested in setting up plexiglass between seats, between the actors on the stage and the audience, there’s so much I can’t fathom about what Mirvish is even thinking at this time and what to do. Their discussions must be all the time in thinking what should we do? There are options and a lot of them cost a lot of money. The other option is to wait this out. That’s fine for those of us who are capable, able, and still the right age (Barbara starts to laugh). I sort of worry that perhaps I’m ageing myself. I think all of us in ‘Come from Away’ are ready to pick up right where we left off. There might be some people who have moved on professionally, but I think most of us are in for the long haul. We’re all going to have to rehearse the show to get it back to where it was before the shutdown. Just to add to all this, in a post Covid world I don’t really know what the theatre will really be like. Naturally, I believe we will be through the worst of this virus but whether or not it will be safe to gather? I don’t know. Part of this is question is if it’s going to change me. I think we’re dependant on connection with each other. Story telling is ancient; it’s a teacher; we need to see ourselves reflected back at us to learn to learn empathy and perspective. Sometimes theatre is described as an escape, but I prefer to think of it as a portal, consciously or unconsciously we’re learning what it means to be human by watching stories unfold. We will not lose the theatre that we knew, it’s just going to take a long time. 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? This is hard because Covid has forced us to separate from each other emotionally as well as physically because you don’t get the emotional without the physical as human beings. That muscle in me, I feel, has gone a little bit dormant. The whole business of connecting in a shared experience. And we’re missing out on a lot of shared experience right now. That’s going to be a challenge, but no better place to do it in a theatre. I’m not too sure as a performer how Covid has transformed me because I haven’t performed in awhile. As a person, I’ve become a lot more aware of other people. The whole idea of wearing a mask, yes, you’re protecting yourself and others. The caring about others is surely more evident right now and necessary. There’s a caution moving forward that I didn’t ever use to have. None of us did. We just assumed that we were all in this big soup together and we were all fine. Being close and involved with each other, I took for granted. I’m not sure I do now. ‘Come from Away’ is going to be an emotional experience for all of us when we return because of what the story entails and details so that transformation will be strongly evident when we return. The director, Christopher Ashley, has told us we are reporters of what occurred after 9/11, but it’s going to be a challenge to not let our emotions get the better of us when we do return to what this production stands for – empathy and compassion for others. 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? It's funny I felt danger in my own life when my son contracted Covid and I had to stay away from work. I lost sleep about my son having Covid. It was terrifying. He’s fine as he only had a mild dose, but it was still terrifying. My world started to spin with understanding just how dangerous a virus this and how much of a danger I might be to others which was something I had never felt before. My presence in other people’s company is potentially dangerous. I had a test and was negative. Until I had that negative test, I felt like I wanted to disappear and not be near anybody and be responsible for anymore of this ‘horribleness’. That’s what it taught me just how we are all connected and so responsible for our actions. When I transfer that danger onto the stage, I totally agree with Ms. Caldwell’s definition. Danger is present only if you are in the moment. The work of an actor on stage is to keep it fresh every night as if it’s your first time doing it. There’s techniques to get through or to just let go and just be fully present. When you are fully present in life as well as onstage, that’s a really vulnerable place to be. And when you’re that vulnerable, it’s dangerous. I wonder if that’s what Zoe Caldwell means by danger in this context. The audience can feel danger if we are fully and truly in the moment. If you’re completely in, it’s almost scary because you don’t know what’s going to come next. If we can all feel that danger, it’s a much richer experience. 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? I’m going to be a lot more sensitive to other people’s level of comfort. I don’t know how it’s going to work when we get back together as a group and be in the same room. I’m terrified of bringing something into that space when we return because of my closeness and proximity to all of us. I’ve learned though this that different people have different levels of comfort or discomfort with this situation. It hadn’t really occurred to me that I could catch Covid just from someone walking by but now, when I walk by people in Stratford on the street, I have to be more aware of other people’s level of comfort. I hope that masks are around for quite some time, just in case. There’s won’t be any possibility of anyone wanting to go to the theatre unless they’ve been vaccinated. Nobody knows how long these vaccinations will last. 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? I feel so almost stuck. I don’t feel like I’m living the same life that I once did. It feels like a forced retirement. It might be a good thing, but I’m not ready for retirement yet. I’m always going to be available if anyone wants to pay me to sing. As far as curiosity goes, having this time has been really a gift because I’ve read so many books. I’m now very much okay with sitting down and spending a couple of hours reading. I’m not a news junkie, but it’s something I can click into if I want to. The gift of time has been incredible so I’m curious about all the things going on in the world. Books I’ve been dying to read. There’s also a curiosity about each other and how everybody is feeling emotionally. We’re all riding this thing out in the best way we can, and I love having conversations with people just about how they’re doing. In ordinary times, we talk about what we’re doing, but don’t talk about how we’re doing. Covid has made me curious as to how others are feeling. That’s a human curiosity. I love having the time and freedom to explore and be curious about other things. Previous Next

  • Profiles Bahareh Yaraghi

    Back Bahareh Yaraghi Self Isolated Artist Anita Alberto Joe Szekeres The first time I had seen Bahareh Yaraghi’s work onstage was during Stratford Festival’s 2018 production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘An Ideal Husband’. Her confident performance as conniving Laura Cheveley certainly made me pay attention to this character and to the story itself since Wilde’s tale of the context of cheating in Victorian England took on a different meaning in our #metoo world today. I then saw Ms. Yaraghi as daughter Emmy in ‘A Doll’s House Part 2’ when central character, Nora, knocks on that same door she slammed years ago. For me, it was interesting to watch from an acting perspective just how Ms. Yaraghi approached the daughter-mother relationship in ‘A Doll’s House Part 2’. Well, the mother-daughter relationship was taken to an entirely complex level of intrigue in female empowerment when I saw Bahareh’s divine performance (as I called it in my review) in ‘Oil’ at ARC just this past February. The audience viscerally witnesses a mother’s tumultuous relationship with her child (as a baby waiting to be born, a young person and adult) at three extremely different time frames. For me, Ms. Yaraghi has always captured a natural and convincing vocal delivery which makes me want to listen to the story she is telling and the journey she is about to take me on with her. I am most certainly looking forward to her next performance once the pandemic is lifted. She received her BA from McGill University and then trained at Humber Theatre School. A six time Dora award nominee, Ms. Yaraghi has performed on numerous stages in Toronto and across the country. She has been an ARC company member since 2012 and has appeared in past ARC productions since then including ‘Bea’ ‘Moment’ and ‘Pomona’. We conducted our interview via email: 1. How have you been keeping during this crisis? How has your immediate family been keeping during this crisis? I’m grateful to say that all my family and loved ones are all safe and healthy around the globe. We are so privileged in so many ways to be living in Canada, so my husband and I try to keep our focus on the positives, as opposed to all the uncertainties and sadness out there in the world. I’ve learned that if I literally take it one day at a time, my spirit feels much happier that way. 2. As a performing artist, what has/have been the most challenging and difficult element (s) for you? I MISS PEOPLE!!!! I miss interacting, hugging, talking, and collaborating with PEOPLE! Ok, I got that out of my system. As an artist, one of my biggest joys is to be in a room filled with fellow artists, creating work together and ultimately sharing that work with our community. Not being able to do that right now – or for the unforeseeable future – is of course extremely challenging and scary. But all artists around the globe are in the exact same position – so, staying patient and shifting my focus to my TODAY is what is most important right now. The rest will fall back into place when the time is right. 3. Were you in rehearsals, pre-production or performances of any production was the pandemic was declared and a quarantine was imposed? What has or will become of any of those productions in which you involved directly or indirectly? Yes, I was in the middle of ARC’s production of OIL. We had begun the 2nd week of our run, when we quickly realized we had to make the tough, but necessary, decision to cancel our 3rd week of performances. It was such a beast of a show and I was so proud to be telling it with such a wonderful group of humans. It was heartbreaking to have to close it early, but we considered ourselves very lucky to have had 2 weeks with it and to be able to share it. I was also supposed to start rehearsals for Soulpepper/Necessary Angel’s WINTER SOLSTICE that following week which, of course, was sadly cancelled as well. Fingers crossed you will see both productions programmed in the future. 4. What have you been doing during this time to keep yourself busy? I’ve kept myself quite active, socially. Zoom, phone, and FaceTime conversations with friends and family that I always feel I don’t have enough time for. Now I do and that’s a great feeling. I’m finding that physical exercise and meditation are vital to me right now, and they help me feel strong, calm and light. Otherwise, lots of cooking!! Which I absolutely love (I read cookbooks like they’re novels), lots of catching up on movies/tv shows with my husband, and lastly, I’ve been keeping busy working on the future of ARC with my fellow collaborators. There’s lots of exciting ARC news in the works, so stay tuned! 5. Do you have any words of wisdom or sage advice to other performing artists/actors who have been hit hard by this pandemic? Any words of advice to new actors out of theatre schools? The other day a good friend of mine said, “I don’t think I’ve got this covid thing figured out yet.” I understood exactly what he meant: he doesn’t know how he’s ‘supposed’ to feel, how he’s ‘supposed’ to use all this new-found free time, how he’s ‘supposed’ to feel creative when he’s not necessarily inspired, how his perspective ‘should’ be changing because of all this world change. However, I don’t think most of us do. My only advice to anyone would be to keep yourself strong and healthy – physically and mentally – as best you can. Stay hyper-sensitive to the things that truly bring you joy and peace, that truly enrich your spirit, and perhaps start contemplating on the things you will choose to reintroduce back into my life, or the things you’re ready to part ways with, when life and society picks back up. I think this “covid thing” can be a great opportunity for change. But it will require great thought, great strength, great belief and bravery. OR… Netflix and a bag of chips to ease the soul is also time well spent in my books! 6. Do you see anything positive stemming from COVID 19? The earth and the animals are much happier. The air quality is much more refreshing. And the rat race has been calmed. There’s so much relief in all of that. On a simple level, what I love is that we’re being reminded over and over again that we are all connected, that we need one another, and that we need to take care of each other otherwise we all fall. 7. In your opinion, will COVID 19 have some impact on the Canadian performing arts scene? I have no idea what the future of theatre looks like. Or sport events. Or concerts. Or any event where the energy from a live audience changes everyone’s experience. All I know is that we need immense patience. And the need, desire and hunger to tell and hear stories will come back strong and it will be powerful. I look forward to the re-emergence. 8. Some performing artists have turned to online streaming or You Tube presentations to showcase and/or share their work. In your opinion, is there any value to this presentation format? Will online streaming or You Tube presentations become part of the ‘new normal’ for performing artists? I haven’t watched any of them. I haven’t had the desire yet. I admire the artists testing the waters and finding new ways of sharing their work. Some artists may need to keep creating; and some artists might need stillness and time to process. Everyone has their own pace and might need different creative outlets (or none at all) during these extraordinary times. There is no right answer. But the search is necessary, and I appreciate that very much. 9. What is it about the performing arts community that you still love even though it has been tremendously affected by this pandemic? Oh, it’s one of the best communities in the world! I feel so lucky that I’ve devoted my life to it, even with all its challenges. My husband is not in the performing arts community and he always says, “theatre artists are some of the most intelligent, humble, hilarious, compassionate, well-spoken, and worldly people I’ve ever met.” And it’s true. The theatre community is rich in heart. And if your heart is full, it gives you a different kind of energy. And that energy remains strong, even through a pandemic. As a nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are ten questions he used to ask his guests usually at the conclusion of the presentation: 1. What is your favourite word? Love 2. What is your least favourite word? (It’s two) Shut up 3. What turns you on? Wisdom 4. What turns you off? Excuses 5. What sound or noise do you love? Laughter 6. What sound or noise bothers you? Someone in pain that I cannot help 7. What is your favourite curse word? F**K 8. Other than your own at this moment, what other profession would you have liked to do? I wish my parents had put me in dance when I was a child. I think I’d be good at it. 9. What profession could you not see yourself doing? A surgeon 10. If Heaven exists, what do you think God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates? “Let’s dance, B”. Previous Next

  • Profiles Ann Harada

    Back Ann Harada Moving Forward Bruce Alan Johnson Joe Szekeres Now that I’m retired from teaching, I can state that I had called in sick one Friday morning and traveled with my mother to New York City to see the original Broadway cast of ‘Avenue Q’. I remember we had both seen trailers on television for the production and made the production a must-see. We were not disappointed in the least as we had a ball at the theatre that night and this very adult performance which probably seems tame by today’s standards. I especially enjoyed watching Ann Harada as the character Christmas Eve whose fiancé didn’t have a job. They had bills to pay and all of the other responsibilities that come with living together. Ms. Harada was deliciously sassy and saucy as the adorable Christmas Eve. A quick bit of online research also led me to discover she has played Madame Thenardier on Broadway in ‘Les Miserables’ and was in the original cast of Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’. She’s also appeared in TV shows such as ‘Smash’, ‘Blue Bloods’, and ‘New Amsterdam’. Born and raised in Hawaii, Ann graduated from Brown University with a double major in English and American Literature/Theatre Arts. We conducted our interview via email. Thank you again, Ann, for participating. It appears that after five exceptionally long months, we are slowly, very slowly, emerging to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. Has your daily life and routine along with your immediate family’s life and routine been changed in any manner? And how! Once my son’s school ended in June, we headed for my mother in law’s house on Cape Cod, where we’ve been ever since. And we’re not exactly sure when we’re going back since school is completely remote right now. When we look out of the windows here we see water and trees. Sometimes a squirrel, or a bunny. In NYC I have an incredible view of a back alley and I see my neighbor smoking pot. And I sure don’t blame him a bit. Were you involved or being considered for any projects before everything was shut down? I was shooting some episodes of a TV show, but I just found out my character’s storyline was cut “due to complications from COVID”. I am devastated. I was in ‘Emojiland’ off-Bway— we shut down in mid-March. I was supposed to go to the Kennedy Center and do ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ –canceled. Describe the most challenging element or moment of the isolation period for you. For me, it is being unable to hug my friends and not being able to talk to them in an intimate way, my husband is always pulling me away from people and saying, “That is not six feet!” What were you doing to keep yourself busy during this time of lockdown and isolation from the world of theatre? Since theatres will most likely be shuttered until the spring of 2021, where do you see your interests moving at this time? Like everyone else I have been doing things on Zoom and practicing making self-tapes, converting a closet into a recording studio, trying to fold my green screen, fun things like that. I don’t enjoy this part of the business at all. If I was interested in iPhone cinematography or home lighting, I would have pursued those interests. My interests will turn to reading more actual books and catching up on series I never paid attention to before. Any words of wisdom or sage advice you would give to other performing artists who are concerned about the impact of COVID-19? What about to the new theatre graduates who are just out of school and may have been hit hard? Why is it important for them not to lose sight of their dreams? Well, this isn’t the first time we’ve gone through a national shutdown or a pandemic. Our industry managed to survive both 9/11 and the AIDS crisis. Theatre isn’t going away, it just might take a while to sort out. I’m not worried about young people. They’ll figure out a way to do what they want because they’re not set in their ways yet. It’s the older people I’m concerned about. Without any way to earn health insurance, what’s going to happen? Do you see anything positive stemming from this pandemic? I hope we see continued respect for our frontline workers, from medical professionals to grocery workers and restaurant workers. It was beautiful to participate in the nightly 7 pm applause for them, and I hope we continue to appreciate their service. In your informed opinion, will the Broadway and North American performing arts scene somehow be changed or impacted on account of the coronavirus? Of course. How are we going to get audiences back in the theatre safely? How long will it take for people to want to come back, to not be afraid of crowds? How long will it take for me to feel comfortable in an audience? How will I feel safe onstage? Everything is a question. What are your thoughts about streaming live productions? As we continue to emerge and find our way back to a new perspective of daily life, will live streaming become part of the performing arts scene in your estimation? Have you been participating, or will you participate in any online streaming productions soon? I’ve certainly enjoyed the live streaming events I’ve seen. I’ve only done a few live streams, they were mostly educational. But I do think it’s a great way to bring people together. I don’t know that every play is satisfying performed as a reading but if it’s creatively done, it can really be extraordinary. What is it about performing you still love given all the change, the confusion, and the drama surrounding our world now? I love connecting with people, I love performing with other people, and we are still desperate for human connection. Maybe even more so now. I know that people enjoy what we’re doing, even if it isn’t live and in person. I’m happy to keep putting things out there if people enjoy it. With a respectful nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the 10 questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews: What is your favourite sounding word? Gobsmacked What is your least favourite word? moist What turns you on? Intelligence What turns you off? Ignorance What sound or noise do you love? Orchestra tuning, rain on a tin roof What sound or noise bothers you? Beeping noise when the freezer or fridge door is not closed What is your favourite curse word? Shite or bollocks What is your least favourite curse word? Refers to female reproductive anatomy What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt? Novelist, photographer, museum curator, librarian What profession would you not like to do? Daycare, law, stunt person If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates? “You didn’t do everything perfectly, but you always gave it your best attempt. Please have a seat. To follow Ann on social media Twitter: @annharada Instagram: @iamannharada Previous Next

  • Profiles Rodrigo Beilfus

    Back Rodrigo Beilfus Self Isolated Artist Ann Baggley Joe Szekeres Rodrigo (or Rod, as I found out later) Beilfuss told me in an email that he owes a great deal of appreciation to his high school English teacher, Mr. Gord McLeod, who opened the young exchange student’s world to the beauty of the language of William Shakespeare. Beginning with the study of ‘Hamlet’ in high school, Rod affectionately blames his teacher for everything since the young actor hasn’t stopped pursuing and bringing to life some of Shakespeare’s greatest stories. Rod’s path in life has certainly fascinated me. Born and raised in Brazil, he moved to Winnipeg in 2001 as an exchange student. In Manitoba’s capital city, Rod is a founding member of Theatre by the River and has also acted and directed in several productions at local various theatres. He holds a BA (Honours) from the University of Winnipeg, an MA in Classical Acting in England’s London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Rodrigo is also a graduate of the Stratford Festival’s two prestigious flagship programs: The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre and the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction. Some impressive high credentials here. Currently, Rod is Artistic Director for Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR) in Winnipeg. This young actor was a member of the Stratford Festival Company for four years. Since I began reviewing for On Stage not that long ago, I can recall two productions in which he was involved that were personal favourites. Rod played young Siward in a very sexy production of ‘Macbeth’ that is now streaming until the end of the month. He also was the Assistant Director with Graham Abbey in a top-notch production of ‘The Front Page’: 1. How have you and your family been keeping during this two-and-a-half-month isolation? Are you in Winnipeg right now? Yes, we are in Winnipeg; after 4 years in Stratford, Winnipeg has been our new home since last Fall. We are generally ok…but I’m not going to lie, parenting a 4-year-old while both of us work from home AND with a new baby coming out in early June…we feel a bit scattered. There are good days, and there are bad days – same as with everyone else out there. With the weather warming up, we feel less claustrophobic and a bit more hopeful. My wife is now entering her mat leave (baby comes out in a couple of weeks), and she’s busy nesting. My 4-year-old really, really misses his friends. Think about it, little kids out there haven’t played with other kids in about 10 weeks. Wouldn’t you feel a little crazy?! 2. Were you involved in any productions that were cancelled as a result of COVID? Were you in rehearsal or pre-production/planning stages that have been temporarily halted? If so, what will become of this work? Yes, we were in pre-production for ‘The Winter’s Tale’, the mainstage offering from my company, Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR). The Cast and Creative team were set to go, and we were a month away from rehearsals starting. It was going to be an exciting bilingual production, done in both French and English, staged outdoors at a beautiful heritage park. As Artistic Director, it was my job to call everyone involved to tell them the show couldn’t happen this year – that was not a fun day on the job at all, as you can imagine. But everyone took the news with such grace and kindness. Theatre people are incredible. Right now, the plan is to stage this production next year instead, as part of our 2021 season. 3. What has been most challenging and difficult for you personally during this time? What has been difficult for your family during this time? What have you all been doing to keep yourselves busy? I think finding an emotional balance amidst such uncertainty has been a challenge. Every day is its own journey, there is no consistency. And living in an “eternal present” can be a bit maddening. My wife and I feel like we don’t have enough energy to devote to our boy properly – he’s a busy boy. We are trying our best; we’ve been reminding ourselves everyday that this is not “the new normal” – it’s just a moment in time. Personally, I’m struggling with the predicament of ‘The Theatre’; we will be one of the very last sectors to recover, and I already miss being a room with great people creating something beautiful, together. I have to dig deeper into my well of patience. I have been devoting myself to little healthy obsessions to keep the mind busy, such as listening to a lot of classical music, and reading a biography of Chopin; and watching my favourite trashy show on TV right now: Billions. Trying my best to unplug the mind from the universe of Theatre sometimes, so I can re-charge. 4. You are one busy man, Rodrigo, with your work at Stratford plus your work as Artistic and General Directors of companies in Winnipeg. In your estimation and opinion, do you foresee COVID 19 and its results leaving a lasting impact on the Canadian performing arts and theatre scene? Ya know, funny thing is, I’m a bit of a workaholic, and I always feel guilty if I don’t “do something” – it’s terrible, I’m working on fixing that, and failing. Maybe it’s my Catholic background growing up in Brazil; there’s so much guilt around enjoying life’s idle pleasures. Managing a theatre company right now, weathering this pandemic storm, is fascinating – and incredibly exhausting. It turns out ‘not making theatre’, or “unmaking” theatre, is more work than making the bloody thing. The game right now is all about strategizing and stabilizing, thinking long term so that our company has enough resources to come out of this intact. It’s logistical, careful work, and terrifying. But also thrilling; the possibilities for reinvention are endless. We are in the middle of the storm right now, and I cannot wait to see what we create out of this. This is our chance to re-design how we work. We were overdue for a re-examination of our processes in the theatre; for instance: do we really need to rehearse 6 days a week? How about we start giving people a two-day weekend? And: what are the stories we want to tell once we can gather again? What are the stories we will need? COVID-19 has changed everything. Theatres will never be the same, I do not think. We also live in an era of constant paranoia, about everything. The fear of a resurgence or another pandemic will always be present. I expect we won’t be as huggy anymore…which is a shame. I love hugs. 5. Do you have any words of wisdom to console or to build hope and faith in those performing artists 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? Oh god. Where does one begin? This is a moment in time. It is not a “normal” time, and we should not think in those “new normal” terms, ever. Instead, we should work toward learning, adapting, and supporting each other – constantly. Events will unfold incrementally into the next few months, and our sector will go through a lot of ups and downs within the next two years. It will take time for things to feel “right”. It is ok to feel completely devastated by this. It is ok to feel like you need to let go of this “business” for a while. In fact, maybe that’s the best thing to do right now if you really feel like taking a break: letting go. It is ok if you must take on odd jobs to make ends meet – you’re not alone. It is ok to stop. You won’t be forgotten. Everyone, from busy Oscar winners to amateur performers, everywhere, is out of work right now. Remember when Daniel Day-Lewis took FIVE years off and became a cobbler? He did win 2 more Oscars after that…maybe it was good for his craft? Sure, Day-Lewis was always a bit eccentric – and already rich and famous. But maybe there’s method in his madness. I’m managing a theatre company at the moment, but if theatre is no longer a thing we do for the next few years…hell, “maybe I’ll sell shoes”, as Martha Henry once said to me. All joking aside: it will suck for a good while. And then it won’t. Think of it this way: the possibilities are endless. For once, we can completely dream, openly, about what we want theatre to look like in the future. And you can be a part of that revolution. 6. Do you foresee anything positive stemming from COVID 19 and its influence on the Canadian performing arts scene? As I mentioned above: yes. This is our chance to begin again. And it is also a chance to reveal, once and for all, to everyone out there, just how precarious our lives in this medium really are. This is the moment to advocate for better public funding, for more partnerships, for a better collective understanding of what it is that makes life worth living. Is it really status? Money? Competition?...I don’t know about you, but I don’t miss the Before World. I miss people, and being in togetherness when celebrating Art. But I do not miss that world at all. It was a vile place, moving at an obscenely, unnecessarily fast pace. This is our chance to properly slow down, and to investigate our sense of community. 7. You Tube presentations, online streaming seems to be part of a ‘new normal’ at this time for artists to showcase their work. Nevertheless, I’ve spoken with some individuals who believe that online streaming or You Tube presentations destroy the impact of the moment of a group of people who have gathered with anticipation in one sitting to watch a particular production. 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? I think Theatre is a lot of things, and it is constantly changing and evolving and challenging our pre-conceived notions and prejudices. I think all these Zoom readings and streamed productions are fascinating, and the whole online revolution only proves just how utterly resourceful and inventive theatre people are. But none of it is ‘live’ – ie. in the true presence of an audience. And that is a big thing to miss from the equation… Ultimately, I find all those options unsatisfying by nature. In that regard, I suppose they do a good job in making us miss the real deal – and in that way, they make us value live performance even more; because nothing compares to it. Again, I don’t think this is a “new normal”, and I refuse to believe there is such a thing anyway. It is simply the thing we do, for now. What I am really interested in is finding a ‘new art’ from this; what sort of theatre can we create that is inspired by these social restrictions, and not done despite them? What does that look like? 8. Given all this confusion, drama, tension, and upheaval about COVID, what is it about your career as a performer you still like? We are trained to be very empathetic creatures; to have our senses open to all sorts of stimuli. I’m trying to use that training to investigate what’s beautiful about the world right now: the acts of kindness from strangers; the chance that Nature has to recover; the emotions I feel when I sit down and listen to a great piece of music or the immense pleasure I get from watching my son grow up. We call that “being in the moment” in theatre. “To be here, present, alive, in the moment”. We have used those words to describe the act and the experience of Theatre so often, they are almost clichés…well, now we have been forced to LIVE those concepts. I’m finding the experiment immensely fascinating. With a respectful acknowledgement to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are ten questions he used to ask his guests: 1. What is your favourite word? “Ridiculous” 2. What is your least favourite word? “No” (my 4-year-old likes that word a lot…) 3. What turns you on? Great theatre; there’s nothing like it. It’s like being awaken from the Matrix. 4. What turns you off? People bragging about money. 5. What sound or noise do you love? The sound a soccer ball makes when it hits the back of the net! 6. What sound or noise bothers you? Construction noises. Just big machines making a mess, that sort of thing. 7. What is your favourite curse word? Nothing beats a good “fuck” and its myriad variations; but when I lived in the UK, I did throw a few “bollocks” and “tosser” about. 8. Other than your current profession now, what other profession would you have liked to attempt? Teaching, or writing. 9. What profession could you not see yourself doing? Anything to do with tools, construction…I look absurd with a hammer in my hand. 10. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates? “It’s not what it looks like, but we do have Campari!” His Twitter handle: @RBeilfuss. If you wish to know more about Rod, visit his website: www.rodrigobeilfuss.com . To learn more about SIR (Shakespeare in the Ruins) of which Rod is the Artistic Director, please visit www.shakespeareintheruins.com . Previous Next

  • Dramas Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka

    Back Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka Onstage at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford Festival Akosua Amo-Adem. Photo credit: David Hou Joe Szekeres 'Death and the King's Horseman' hits deep to the emotional core I had the opportunity to hear this play as part of Soulpepper’s ‘Around the World in 80 Plays’ series in June 2021 when the theatres were shut down for the pandemic. At that time, the audio version was also directed by Tawiah M’Carthy. Seeing it live for the first time, I noticed just how incredible of an epic spectacle it became for me but the play’s conclusion hits deep to my emotional core. I had forgotten ‘Horseman’ was based on actual events from Nigeria during World 2. Under colonial British rule, the village was trying to uphold its culture amid the struggle of the British who considered Elesin’s action horrific and awful. District Officer Simon Pilkings and his wife, Jane, epitomize the lack of cultural understanding. Given the fact that our country remains in mourning over the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, this play hit even harder for me. In the first act, we meet the King’s Horseman, Elesin Oba (Anthony Santiago). His Yoruba King has already passed away. Tradition states that the Horseman is to follow his King to death, and yes this means Elesin must kill himself. Elesin considers this act of suicide an honour to fulfil, and he plans to follow through. But before he does this, Elesin plans to marry the most beautiful girl in the village, have the wedding night and the consummation, then fulfil his promise to follow his King into the afterlife. Elesin knows he is most handsome and doesn’t hide this fact, but some of the women in the village take him to task for his actions. There is the Praise Singer, Olohun-iyo (Amaka Umeh) and Mother of the Market, Iyaloja (Akosua Amo-Adem). These women stand up to Elesin for his bravado. But to complicate things even further, Elesin selects as his bride a woman who was promised in marriage to the young son of Iyaloja. We then meet Simon and Jane Pilkings (Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty) who are preparing for a costume party and are quite disrespectful as they are wearing costumes which take on a completely different meaning for the Yoruba culture. Rather than removing the costumes out of respect, the Pilkings flagrantly disregard and continue to wear them. To me, this seems as if the British at this time were forcefully (perhaps violently?) robbing the people of their traditions and enforcing Christianity on them. Rachel Forbes’ set design works extremely well on the new Patterson stage. There is so much to take in at the marketplace setting at the top of the show I just sat for a few moments and looked. Sarah Uwadiae’s colourful costume designs are outstanding. I really liked Debashis Sinha’s opening soundtrack of voices in the marketplace as I knew I wasn’t in Stratford anymore but overseas in another place and time. The off-stage sound of the distant drumming perfectly resonated just enough to create interest as to what might come next once it ceased. I also loved hearing the incorporation of the music and the dancing in the marketplace which, once again, made me aware I was not in my home country. I was in another country and living vicariously through the times. What struck me about the audio story when I first heard it as part of Soulpepper’s series? It was poetic language and visually appealing imagery. I remember just closing my eyes as I wanted to hear the words being spoken last year. I didn’t have to do this today as the actors solidly captured the sounds for me. Tawiah M’Carthy’s direction remains unhesitating throughout the entire production. Not only do the actors continue to capture the poetic language and rhythmic free verse style (most noteworthy in the opening scene in the market, but also the cultural representation issues strongly remain at the forefront throughout the nearly three-hour running time. Anthony Santiago and Amaka Umeh are extraordinarily impressive in their respective performances as they both regally command the stage with passionate ardour. Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty mightily capture that distinct colonial aloofness in their scoffing of native belief as they mock how Sergeant Amusa (Ngabo Nabea) reacts to their wearing of the sacred clothing connected to death. Nabea resoundingly revealed his escalating frustration and anger over the times he was called back by the Pilkings. As Olunde (Elesin’s eldest son), Kwaku Adu-Poku sharply handles how he feels about the cultural issues between Nigeria and Britain. Olunde has dutifully returned home when he hears the King has died. Olunde has been studying medicine in England for four years, but is not happy about the state of England. I love the line when Jane Pilkings asks Olunde if he is upset by what they wear. No. Olunde is not upset but he tells her: “You have no respect for that which you do not understand.” A perfect comeback to this cultural representation of the era. Final Comments: ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ is a long one clocking in at nearly three hours; nevertheless, the strength of this production lies in the detailed script to the eventual build to the tragic outcome in the second act that I had completely forgotten and was completely shocked when it does occur. Running time: approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes with one intermission. ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ runs to October 29 at the Tom Patterson Theatre. For tickets, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1-800-567-1600. ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ by Wole Soyinka Directed by Tawiah M’Carthy Set Designer: Rachel Forbes Costume Designer: Sarah Uwadiae Lighting Designer: Christopher Dennis Sound Designer: Debashis Sinha Cast: Amaka Umeh, Anthony Santiago, Akosua Amo-Adem, Graham Abbey, Maev Beaty, Ngabo Nabea, Pulga Muchochoma, Kwaku Adu-Poku, Josue Laboucane, Kevin Kruchkywich, Tyrone Savage, isi bhakhomen, Dejah Dixon-Green, Espoir Segbeaya, Celia Aloma Ijeoma Emesowum Bola Aiyeola, Norman Yeung, Matthew Kabwe, Andrea Rankin, Rachel Jones Onstage Musicians/Drummers: Amade Dedeu Garcia, Adekunle Olorundare (Kunle), Erik Samuel, Oluwakayode Sodunke Previous Next

  • Musicals Peter Pan Musical adapted by Piers Chater Robinson

    Back Peter Pan Musical adapted by Piers Chater Robinson Staged at Oshawa's Regent Theatre and produced by Mansfield Entertainment --- Joe Szekeres Do I believe ‘Peter Pan’ deserves another round of storytelling? What’s different or unique this time around? We all know the story of Peter Pan and the Darling children as they travel to Neverland to battle Captain James Hook. It might be the J. M. Barrie story itself, the Disney animated film, the early/mid 60s musical that seemed to tour forever (Mary Martin as the original Peter Pan) or various versions of the play (one version was produced at Port Perry’s Theatre on the Ridge a few summers ago). Ergo I don’t really have to give that much of a plot summary. Simply put, it’s a story about young children and the inevitability that we all have to grow up sometime. For some, it becomes a natural part of life while others (like the title character) do not want to grow up. From what I understand, Oshawa’s Mansfield Entertainment secured the rights to the musical with the blessings of the adaptor Piers Chater Robinson. The poster for the production asks the question that is also one of the titles of the songs from the Second Act: ‘Do You Believe?’ Well, yes, I do believe in the power of theatre to move an audience. Theatre reviewers, critics, bloggers, and lovers always want to encourage audiences to go to the theatre to see a production. We don’t write for a theatre company, or the actors, or the production team. We write for the audience to let them know what we thought with the hope it will encourage others to attend. When a company calls itself professional, it must also be able to take all kinds of feedback. And was this opening night 2-hour and 35-minute performance of ‘Peter Pan Musical’ with tickets starting at $44 with tax (they go up in price the closer you get to the stage) worth it? I sat in these seats near the back of the auditorium. For the most part, yes, but there are some quibbles. ‘Peter Pan’ needs a good-sized stage to tell a story and it was a wise choice to stage it at Oshawa’s Regent Theatre. There’s no mention of a Set Designer in the program but that Mansfield Entertainment provided Sets and Props. The pre-show music was a bit puzzling as I heard a few ABBA synthesizer melodies from MAMMA MIA. I couldn’t figure out the connection between ABBA’s music and Peter Pan. Hmmmmmm. There were a few elements that worked well on the stage. Stage right is three beds angled which is the nursery in the Darling home. Stage left is the window angled and adorned with lace curtains from which Peter will enter and the children leave to fly to Neverland. One thing that kept annoying me throughout that first scene and at the end when we return to the nursery. Every time Peter entered through the window, it kept shaking and, at one point in the last scene of the second act I thought it would fall over. Can that somehow be stabilized because it spoils the illusion of wanting me to believe the sturdiness of the window if it wobbles. Lace curtains adorn the window. Lined wallpaper behind the children’s beds and the windows give some depth to the room. What was a nice touch was this backdrop slowly spun around for each of the scenes which added further depth to the setting of each scene. Bright green and fall colours clearly caught my attention and made the scene come alive. Hanging centre stage is a rectangular screen used for projections which add nuance to each scene. It was fine for me, but in the second act when Hook is at sea and we see the water behind, there are moments when it is apparent that we’re watching a film as it stops and starts. Andrew Nasturzio’s Costume Designs are eye-catching and highly colourful for the entire company. I must applaud Nasturzio for the hours that were probably spent in searching, coordinating and measuring each cast member for fittings. Colin Hughes’ lighting design finely accentuates each of the scenes whether it’s full lighting or effective hiding in the shadows. There were a couple of times when some of the ensemble were in the shadows and I couldn’t see their faces. Thanks to Dale Wakefield for the clear audio design. Again, there were moments where some of the dialogue was not clearly enunciated by some of the actors and I couldn’t hear it. That isn’t Wakefield’s concern, however, it’s the actors. At times, Tristan Matthews’ choreography was rather simplistic to the point it reminded me of some similar dance moves one might find in a high school musical production. Concluding a dance number with jazz hands didn’t cut it for me. One of the highlights of the production was the solid synchronistic work of Miguel Esteban and Diana Chappell as Music and Vocal Directors. Thankfully, save for one moment in Act One, there was never any overpowering of the seven-piece band members in the company musical ensemble numbers. Another highlight of the opening night production was the array of youthful up-and-coming 18 cast member talent that I hope to see in other productions soon. Space will not allow me to mention each, but I do want to highlight a few. Jeff Hookings becomes a dastardly devilish Captain Hook. Laura Denmar’s compassionat