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Posts by in the greenroom

Artist Profile: James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus – The LaBute Cycle – This Week Only at Unit 102 Theatre – “We are who we are inside… The rest is unimportant.”

Interview by Hallie Seline

I had a chat with one of my favourite couples in Toronto Theatre, James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus, to discuss their most recent project – The LaBute Cycle, going from Shakespeare (with Shakespeare BASH’d) to LaBute, working professionally as a couple and their favourite places in Toronto. reasons to be pretty runs for one week only (April 8th-13th) with a special PWYC staged reading of Fat Pig on Sunday April 13th.

Read our latest Artist Profile here!


A Chat with Ryan Robertson & Peter Hodgins of Two Chips Theatre’s “Copy”

Interview by Ryan Quinn

We sat down with Ryan Robertson and Peter Hodgins of Two Chips Theatre Group to discuss their current production of Copy.

RQ: Tell me a bit about the show!

RR: Sure! It’s a workplace show, a comedy/drama. It has a few themes. Firstly, it’s about people who are frustrated about their job, who are not achieving what they want to achieve. The tension between men and women, and between generations of people. So, it’s a comedy, but with a lot of darkness in it as well. We see these characters superficially at the beginning, and then they reveal a bit more about themselves and open up.

RQ: So, you wrote this piece, you’re directing it, and you’re performing in it as well.

RR: Yes. By default, essentially. When you’re a new theatre company in Toronto, it is difficult. I wanted to start from scratch because, as a writer, if you want to put a play up you normally have to go about it certain ways and work with different companies; and you end up with so many oars in the water that your play can be something totally different than what you started with. I also really wanted to have the final say on my cast and whatnot, I mean, for example, Peter is absolutely perfect for his role, and everyone else is fantastic as well. I find that better than the collegiate approach where you have a lot of people involved. These guys are as much a part of it as I am, but I never feel compromised.

PH: (laughs) Yeah, there’s not much in the way of food at rehearsal.

RR: I mean, we got a lot out of it. We do find that there are no egos at this level in the game, when you’re starting at the bottom and working with people who are like-minded.

PH: It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s going to be more fun as time goes on.

RR: Yeah, we have plans to keep going with some of this same core group and with the same kind of mentality. We really want to go back to the idea of the independent repertory company. We don’t do it for money, though I know a lot of people don’t, but we really want to do our own plays, I find that really interesting.

RQ: Do you feel like new original Canadian work is something the independent scene needs more of?

PH: For sure, I mean, Shakespeare is great. Don’t get me wrong. But, I see casting notices for it all the time and I can’t help but think “Who’s going to see that? They must have already seen it three or four times”. Part of it is that there’s no royalties. These plays are all free, and so young companies don’t have to pay a writer. So, it’s good to find new original stuff, which, for the most part, you have to write and create and perform yourself.

RR: When you come forward with something original, some people want to come forward and try to change it, to say “this isn’t right, that isn’t right, etc.”. Okay, we have to put up a few bucks ourselves, but if people really want to support new plays, they have to go to them. I hear a lot of people complaining about the same shows being done over and over, but then they don’t go out and see original plays.

PH: Yeah, we really need this stuff. And I’ve spoken to Ryan about making this into a film because we’ll all be ready for it, and we all love it.

RR: The thing about original plays is, as well, that because you are the creator, it’s a journey. I saw it on the page, I’ve seen the characters brought to life. There’s no need to put a “new spin” on a character because they’re completely new. What’s also important to me is that everything should be natural. We didn’t want to fall into the trap of being a wee bit pretentious. It’s a workplace play, so it has to be kind of earthy. I don’t mean to use the word pretentious, that has a negative connotation, but I mean that as well as depicting higher class things, it should reflect ordinary life. Even in the plays about ordinary people, there’s probably a bit too much wordiness at times. This is a much more down-to-earth workplace show.

RQ: That’s something else I wanted to touch on. This show deals with the minimum wage. So, because of that, it’s inherently political, as well as being comedy. Is that true?

RR: When I spoke to other writers when I was younger, they’d say “never preach”. You find a way to explain big issues with humour or in a way that doesn’t condescend. I’ve tried to do that with all the characters. Characters are more interesting that way, I think, when they don’t have these grand speeches planned.

PH: As long as it’s real. If you accurately portray a segment of society, it’s going to be political.

RQ: What do you want people to be discussing on the way home? What do you hope it leaves an audience with?

RR: I would hope people would get from it that in a way we’re all divided by our employers, and we’re all slaves to our mortgages and our dreams, but we’re fragmenting as a society. If we all got together and understood each others’ pain, we could do a lot better. We are divided, and we do worry about ourselves too much, and that hurts society. After the show, we’d like to talk to the audience, see what they got out of it, right?

PH: Yeah. I agree.

RR: But I do agree that when we attack these things, we have to do it with humour, with a little seriousness thrown in.

RQ: I think it was Shaw that said “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you”.

RR: Exactly. That’s perfect.

RQ: And Peter, as a veteran performer, how did this project come about for you?

PH: I believe I found it on Mandy, actually. So I sent in my application and I erroneously asked if I could read the whole script. I guess that was a bad thing to do. So I didn’t hear anything for a while.

RR: So I went back to Peter after a couple cast changes, I wanted Peter from the start, and I sent him the script, and I guess he liked it. I tried to write something where everyone’s involved and has something to do, and consequently everyone in it seems to really enjoy doing it, so I hope that translates to the audience.

RQ: What’s exciting about this show for you, Peter?

PH: Well, this is my first time on a live stage, actually. I’ve done mostly acting in film and directing film, so that’s what’s exciting for me. Mail Room John is a very misunderstood guy, and I feel like that myself pretty often.

RQ: So both of you must have had an interesting time with approaching the work on day one. Peter, with it being your first time doing live theatre; and, Ryan with putting up your own work. How did you approach that?

RR: Well, I try to be a benign dictator. Every member of the cast has ideas and I wanted to avoid ego as much as possible. So, it’s been a real collaboration. We’ve had a lot of fun and I think that’s going to show through when we do it. It’s worked out exactly the way I wanted it to.

RQ: Going forward, what are your hopes for this company?

RR: Well, if people show up to this one, there will be more shows. I think it’ll be good because we don’t plan to stick to a certain group of actors, and everyone feels like a part of it. PH: Now that we have a great location, we can just keep doing it.

RR: It’s important that people come out because we ain’t made of money. We back it as much as we can, but we’re not a professional comedy. We’re just tailoring it to entertainment, not money.

RQ: Well, that’s become the new standard, hasn’t it? Independent companies doing professional-level work?

RR: Right, and you need to get dedication out of people because they are giving their time, so it has to count.

PH: I think it’s guaranteed we won’t make any money.

RR: If we break even, we’ll keep doing shows.



Written by Ryan Robinson, presented by Two Chips Theatre Group
Directed by Ryan Robinson
Featuring Alene Degian, Brian Stapf, Madryn McCabe, Peter Hodgins and Ryan Robinson
Where: Sterling Studio Theatre, 163 Sterling Road, Toronto, Ontario, M6P 0A1
When: March 18-22 8pm, doors open at 7:30pm
Tickets: Advance tickets $15+service fee, At-the-door tickets $15 cash only
Concessions available, cash only
For more information:

A Few Words with Rena Polley on The Chekhov Collective’s “The Seagull”

Interview by Madryn McCabe

We sat down with Rena Polley, producer and actor of The Chekhov Collective’s The Seagull, to discuss the Michael Chekhov technique, theatre in Toronto and what makes The Seagull so special.

MM: The production part of The Seagull is incredible. 

RP: The support team was made up of brilliant people, they’re all award winning, but they had never done theatre before. I got them involved because they’re friends of mine. Rob Gray has won Genies and Geminis. He literally finished filming two weeks ago, came home, pulled in every favour to get the set built, even painted it himself (and it’s been years since he’s done that) and he leaves tomorrow to go to Bucharest for six months, so he very kindly did all this. And it was a learning curve for him. The first time he built the set, it was flat. And Peggy [the director] said, “oh no, it has to be like a W, and this way” so they all learned something because it’s different in film. So, he built this beautiful set. He had it go from something very formal, until it moves across the stage and eventually it disintegrates. Kind of like the play. And the music! Rob [Bertola, Music and Sound Design] is an Emmy and multi award winning sound designer for film, he just finished David Cronenberg’s film, and he’d never really done theatre before either. He came up with the song that’s the theme song. It’s based on an old Russian theme song, but it was rerecorded in the 60’s by The Seekers, and it became this huge popular hit. It’s called “The Carnival is Over”. So he did the reverse; it starts deconstructed and then moves the opposite, so that by the curtain call, the song is sung with full song and lyrics. And Oh Susanna did the music. So it starts deconstructed and ends up full, and the set does the opposite, it starts full and ends up deconstructed as you go across. The lighting designer is Blue Rodeo’s lighting designer. He’d never done theatre before. He finished the Blue Rodeo tour Monday night and was in the theatre Tuesday morning. He’d only seen a run through once. But he’s so brilliant! And Comrags were friends of mine too.


MM: Your costumes are works of art!

RP: Comrags had an army of people building all this! Judy [Cornish, Comrags] said, “do you mind if I do the costumes?” I said, “Of course!” and then Joyce [Gunhouse] her partner in the company got involved, and then Joyce’s sister Judy and sewers and interns, and when we all saw the level of the costumes we thought “Uh oh. We’d better up our game!” Everybody felt that. Everybody came with an extraordinary level of work. And it made us up our game as well. And then Peggy came so prepared. She dreamt two ideas. And that was 1) The play within the play. Using the frame, using this kind of deconstructed way of telling a story. Peggy and I did teacher training in New York and our flight got canceled. So we ended up sin Manhattan for two days, and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. There was a show on all these artists that used deconstruction, and we kept seeing references to the frame. Peggy said, “that’s what I want to do at the beginning”. We tried it at a weekend workshop, and she knew it was going to work. We brought in Ellie Hyman from New York, who is a Chekhov person, but also a Viewpoints person, so she did this stuff with us, and we transferred the actors over from Ellie to Peggy. It’s hard as a director to come in to an ensemble that has been working together for a year. She only had three weeks to shape this play. It’s a big play, an epic play. The final image that she came with is when Konstantin rips the papers. Everybody always has him throw the pieces in the air, and she had him stuff them into his clothes, so that he leaves nothing behind. He takes all his writings with him. And it’s such a beautiful, poetic image. So she came with these two very strong ideas that bookend the piece. And she kept hearing rhythms. She could tell when vocally we’d drop the beat and then come up again. She’d say, “Push it. Keep driving it. There’s a pause coming, and you have to earn it.” And you can see these quiet moments in the production. She could really hear the rhythm of the piece, and wanted to honour that. She used Viewpoints from Ellie. She didn’t call it blocking, she called it composition. There are ten actors. There’s a lot to do!


MM: When you said it was an epic play it really made me think of the number of actors in the play. The nature of the way theatre in Toronto gets produced these days means that ten actors are unheard of. 

RP: Ten big personality characters, and ten big personality actors, that I had empowered, for better or for worse, so everybody had an opinion. Peggy had to really set up a very strong structure for the rehearsal process. We had done all of this Chekhov work and it was all sort of loose and game playing and improv and playing with text, but not making choices about text because that’s directorial. Creating the world of the characters and then when we got to the rehearsal space, it was very traditional. I thought we could continue this process more, but I realized Peggy was right. There’s a three week rehearsal process, there’s a story to tell, and you have to get through each act. We got through each act quite quickly in a big sweep because of the work we had done, and then Peggy went in a worked smaller sections. There was more of a traditional work space. We looked at beats, we looked at text, and objectives. But she would bring in Chekhov vocabulary of “what’s the Atmosphere of this act?” We could get to it quickly because we had been training in that philosophy.


MM: How did this group of people all come together?

RP: I keep saying that we all worked for a year together, but we really didn’t. Every two or three months we did a three day intensive workshop. So that allowed us to do a lot of stuff, but then let things simmer during that time. And people have lives and shows and lots of stuff going on. So we maybe met three or four times for three or four days each time. In the last month we met every Monday. I knew I wanted to look at this play, and I wanted to see how far I could take the Michael Chekhov technique. Having studied it, I thought, “Okay, I’ve got to put my money where my mouth is”. What this process allowed us to do was to keep expanding and asking questions, instead of contracting and making choices quickly. That was the gift of this process. And even if you look at the program, Peggy talks about how it starts in expansion and ends in contraction. We can use the words of Chekhov. It’s been a really extraordinary process. The question I posed to myself at the beginning was “how far can I take this?” and what I learned is that you can use it all the way through to the end, but you’d better bring along other things as well. There’s a reason the Stanislavski technique is still surviving. It needs to be expanded, and other things looked at, but the ideas of beats, objectives, text analysis is really important, and you need to combine it with the Chekhov work. At some point in the process, you’ve got to throw out the head and let the body speak because it has a bigger vocabulary, but then bring the head back in.

MM: What I found really interesting is that they play is over 150 years old, but it’s still so relevant. 

RP: Every time someone reads this play, they say to me, “It reminds me of Facebook” or we had an athlete in the audience, and she said that Trigoren’s speech about loving the writing process but hating it when it’s published is how every athlete feels when they train. So it speaks to everyone. What we’ve discovered about this play is that there’s no bottom. We could explore this for five more years. For a nanosecond, I thought about modernizing it, but I thought, no, let’s make the audience do a bit of the work. Let them make the leap, put the dots together. Because it’s all there. It’s a story about desire, art, the heart, human nature, relationships, and family. All these things are universal. They’re timeless. We agreed it was best to tell this story simply, and through the heart. Let the play speak for itself. We tried not to add things or colour it.


MM: I see the program that you have adapted the play.

RP: I knew I wanted to cut the play, so I looked at about seven different translations. I wanted to make the language accessible, but not too modern. Some of the formality of the language is from the play, but I didn’t want it to be archaic either. I wanted to keep the names simple so that we’re not calling each other by three different names. I trimmed.

MM: There’s also a very strong feeling of the ensemble.

RP: We did that over time, but I also think the Chekhov work can speed that up in a rehearsal. I really want to put this process into the rehearsal process. I’d like to offer myself to directors and say “give me an hour of your day, every day, and I can really help you move this process along. I can help the ensemble, I can help the atmosphere, I can help actors drop into characters”. But rehearsals are short, directors don’t know what it is. I’ve offered a few times and heard no. I understand that, but I think the Chekhov technique can make that happen faster. We had the luxury of time, and I had them do all kinds of things. In the first intensive weekend, I had them read the play and write down images of the play. I collected them, we played with them. We came up with themes, we came up with the set design, I had them come up with one line describing the play, because I wanted them to think about more than their character. I wanted them to take ownership of the play. Sometimes as actors, we just highlight our lines and look at our part in reference to the play. It’s safer. We want to protect ourselves. So I wanted to blow that away, and give responsibility for the play to the actors. We did build the ensemble over time, but I think it could have happened much faster if all we had was the three week rehearsal process. I really want to encourage people to look to the Michael Chekhov technique because I think there’s something in it that every actor, director, designer can use.


For more information about the Michael Chekhov Technique, visit

For tickets to The Seagull, visit

“Start, Stop, Continue” for 2014: A Conversation Starter for the Theatre Arts Community of Toronto

Our feature initiative “Start, Stop, Continue for 2014: A Conversation Starter for the Theatre Arts Community” is back featuring the following voices: D. Jeremy Smith of Driftwood Theatre, Tina Rasmussen of World Stage, Holger Schott Syme of, Claire Armstrong of Red One Theatre Collective, Nina Kaye of Unspoken Theatre and Drew O’Hara & Jade Douris of Everybody to the Theatre Company. Read more in our features!

A Note from Editor in Chief – Hallie Seline:

2013 was an exciting year and 2014 has started with no shortage of encouraging moments for the Toronto theatre/arts community. We saw small venues develop and prosper across the city with national recognition from the Globe and Mail, and we saw the community come together showing support and strength in numbers, whether it was to stand behind Buddies in Bad Times Theatredemanding more questions when their Rhubarb Festival was suddenly denied funding, or by getting down and dirty to help get indie venue The Storefront Theatre back on its feet after amajor flood. Amongst these exciting moments, there is no shortage of challenges we are also knocking up against. Be it funding, debating the relevance of theatre on CBC Radio, or the concern that with the growing number of independent theatre companies that we may be spreading ourselves too thin, thus generating the every person for themselves attitude, we believe that there is a lot of discussion to be had about where we stand as a theatre arts community and where we should hope to go next.

I feel like this is an exciting pivotal time in the Toronto theatre arts scene and after having received immense feedback from our first instalment, my hope is to continue to develop this dialogue with another group of theatre artists (from different theatrical backgrounds, emerging to more established etc.) about their thoughts on the state of theatre in Canada, specifically Toronto, right now.

This is a discussion starter in which our participants identify what they think the Toronto theatre scene should Start, Stop and Continue to help theatre in Toronto prosper. This is just the beginning of the conversation. Help us to make this conversation grow to involve as many diverse voices across our community as possible and hopefully this will help us all move forward in 2014 in a supportive and productive way.

Hallie Seline
Co-founder & Editor in Chief

A Few Words with Eric Regimbald on “Blackbird” by Adam Rapp

Interview by: Ryan Quinn

We sat down with Eric Regimbald of Pinchback Productions to discuss their upcoming production of Blackbird by Adam Rapp and his thoughts about the Toronto theatre scene and about the healthy opportunity for growth when taking the plunge with a bold, strong play choice.

RQ: Can you tell me a little bit about Blackbird?

ER: It’s a play by Adam Rapp, a two-hander. It takes place in the dead of winter, at Christmas Eve on Canal Street. It follows two “losers”. He’s a Gulf War vet, she’s an ex-stripper, and he’s trying to wean her off heroin. It’s a really dirty world that has cast them aside. What’s their place in society? But they realize more-so now than ever that they’ve found each other and they need each other to survive. I should mention that when I bring up this play, a lot of people think of the David Harrower play of the same name, which is also a two-hander that’s quite dark.

RQ: What draws you to this play?

ER: Well, I’ve always wanted to do a two-hander. Especially after doing my touring job as a children’s performer, which is fun but not very character-satisfying. I just wanted to sink my teeth into something visceral. Something real and exciting. So, my producing parter and acting partner Alona Metzer and I read a few plays, including One Night Stand by Carol Bolt, which would have been a really fun character to play, but this one is a little further out of my range and a little scarier. I also feel like a lot of people who put up theatre, especially Shakespeare, don’t seem to look into the last time a show was put up. The same shows seem to be done by different people all the time. So, we wanted to do one that hasn’t been done in around ten years, and this fit the bill. We wouldn’t put this up if it was done last year. Even if you might have something different to say with it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

RQ: How did this come about?

ER: I met Alona doing class simulations at Ryerson. I heard that she’s a producer and I’m always looking for new people to work with. We started by trying to write something, but I found that that wasn’t what I was really into, so we ended up deciding on doing a published play instead.

RQ: Do you think this show has importance now in Toronto? Do these characters resonate somehow culturally?

ER: The love story is the key thing we’re really trying to flesh out. Anyone can relate to a love story, and I think that’s relevant. I mean, it’s also relevant in that I hope it’s still snowing out in March. People can really feel that isolation, that cold. It would be different if we did this show in the summer, it would resonate a lot differently. It’s such a dark, winter show.


(L to R) Alona Metzer and Eric Regimbald

RQ: You have these really ugly, grimy characters, and this really beautiful love story. What’s your approach for getting to the heart of the show when the surface is so dirty?

ER: Adam Rapp’s language really juxtaposes all this swearing and talk of heroin with this really clear dialogue that they need each other. There’s a reason you come into the story at this point in the lives of these characters. So, the struggle is clearly there, and the need, and you just tell the love story around that. It’s exactly what you were saying, it’s that they can’t live without each other, and why not. They don’t want to be in their situation. If they were up on stage doing heroin and swearing and loving it, the story would be totally lost. He’s struggling to recover, and she just broke up with a violent, shady dealer, so they’re really trying to salvage a life together. It’s about finding the humanity.

RQ: What are your goals this year as an artist?

ER: I wanted to get a play done early in the year. I put up a play last year in Fringe, but I wanted to get one up early, especially since I’m on the road a lot. It’s that time to do something and not sit around. I’m hoping to work on some other projects later in the year. It feels good to put something up this early in the year, then there’s the hunger for “what’s next”, you know?

RQ: I want to go back on something for a second. Why do you think so many plays are done so often in this city, and do you believe there’s a shortage of original work while young companies tend to do British and American classic work?

ER: A lot of people seem to be afraid to buy rights to shows. They’ll go to Shakespeare right away because it’s free and the problem is that sometimes they don’t have anything to say, or they don’t have the training to bring them to the level that other local companies are doing the work at. What I’m passionate about is contemporary theatre, and a lot of the modern work I see falls toward doing theatre exercises on stage. It doesn’t make sense. I’m disappointed, and don’t get me wrong, I see amazing modern shows that use movement work as well; but a lot of the stuff I see just doesn’t live up to what it could be. It is an accomplishment to put up a show, but that shouldn’t be enough for you. I mean, obviously we’re doing this show partly for ourselves as well, but it can’t be just about that.

RQ: Do you feel that the theatre community is afraid to critique itself?

ER: I think so. I think people are really polite, and we’re not helping each other. I would love to have someone come up to me after this show and tell me why they didn’t like it. It’s better than hearing nothing. We’re trying to be strong in our voice, and we’re prepared for some people to have negative reactions to it.


Presented by Pinchback Productions
When: March 14th to 23rd
Where: Hub14 theatre.
Tickets: Available at the door or at

The Memo: A Satire of Bureaucracy

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I interviewed Tyler Seguin, director, and Helen Juvonen, producer and actor, of Thought for Food’s “The Memo” to talk about the show and their intriguing Kickstarter campaign.

MM: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about The Memo?

HJ: The Memo is a play by Vaclav Havel and we are presenting the Canadian premiere of a translation by Paul Wilson, who is also Canadian. I call it a satire of bureaucracy. What do you call it?

TS: A workplace comedy.

HJ: A workplace comedy! Plot wise, it’s in this nameless organization, which is probably a government agency of some kind, but we never actually find out what they do or what their function is. The main character, Andrew Gross, receives this memo, written in Ptydepe, which is an artificial language that has been introduced into the organization to streamline office communication and he spends the rest of the show trying to get it translated because he doesn’t understand it.

MM: And that’s the irony of the situation and he can’t read the memo and it’s supposed to streamline communication. 

TS: Exactly! And very few people in the organization know the language, and those who do know it are under mounds of red tape, so that they can’t actually do any translations for anyone.

MM: What was it about this play that made you want to produce it?

HJ: I produced a previous translation in 1999. Then, when CanStage was doing Rock and Roll, Paul Wilson was consulting on it.

TS: Rock and Roll was partially about a Czech rock band called The Plastic People of the Universe. Paul Wilson was the lead singer and guitarist for this rock band for a number of years during the 70s. Because he’s Canadian, he was deported for being seditious. This rock band became sort of a focal movement, and focal point of the dissident movement of the anti-Communist uprising. And that’s how he met Havel.

HJ: So Paul Wilson was a consultant on the production at CanStage, and in his bio, it said that he was currently working on a translation of this play. And went “Gasp! I have to do this play! I have to get my hands on this play!” And Tyler tracked down an email and said that we’d like to do the translation and he put us in touch with Havel’s literary agent in the Czech Republic and we got a copy of the new translation.

MemoStillsEditsII-3 web

MM: Do you know if this play has been produced anywhere? I know you said it was the Canadian premiere.

TS: It’s been done once before that we know of, that Paul knows of, and that was as part of a Havel festival in New York.

MM: That’s an exciting thing, that you are one of the first to produce this play. Do you feel like there’s any responsibility to that?

(They pause.)

TS: Yes.

(They laugh.)

HJ: It’s a little nerve wracking. This is the first time we’ve worked on a published play where we’re actually in contact with the translator. I feel like we owe him something. We owe him a good production at the end of the day.

TS: We’ve been in touch with Paul quite a lot. He’s been very supportive. We’ve talked to him about issues in the play, and ways we want to approach it and things like that, and he’s been great, he’s been really on board. But it does put a bit of pressure on us to do justice.

MM: So you’ve been getting some extra insight from the translator then?

HJ: It’s really interesting because he was friends with Havel. So we feel like we have an inside track.

TS: There was one thing we really had to talk to him about. We were like, “Well, we really want to make this little change…”

HJ: Ha! Little change!

TS: And he said, “Hmm. Well, I think Havel would approve!”

HJ: And that was the stamp of approval we needed. And the other reason that we wanted to do this play was a place we were working for… I don’t think we should say where. (She laughs)

TS: Shall we say a branch of the Ontario government?

HJ: Yes, a branch of the Ontario government. And we were going through some rather grotesque bureaucratic nightmares with them and at that time I told Tyler he should read the previous translation. “You’ll love this, this will totally make sense” and he read it and was like, “This is what’s going on in my life right now!” so when we had the opportunity to work on this new translation, we now have an inside track on what it’s trying to say because we’ve gone through something emotionally similar. There’s an emotional resonance in this play that we actually lived through ourselves. And we wanted to do this play several years ago now. As we were trying to get the script and figure out if we had the money to do it, Havel passed away. He passed away in 2011. And all the rights were put on hold. They froze his estate. So we couldn’t perform the play. And it was about a year ago that the agent called and said “You can do it now!”

MM: That’s ironic that just as you’re getting ready to do this play, you end up with bureaucratic red tape in your way.

HJ: Exactly! It’s thematic at least. And now we’ve got the time and we were able to pay the up front costs.

MM: How long ago was the play first written?

HJ: It was first performed in 1965.

MM: Do you think something that isn’t modern or a new play still has a resonance for an audience today?

HJ: It’s kind of creepy that the play was written about Communist Czechoslovakia and it’s like it could have been written today. Part of that is the translation, because Paul is Canadian. But the language doesn’t feel old, and he uses Canadian idioms as well, so it feels modern.

TS: It feels very “of the now”, but what’s fascinating is that the themes of the play, the characters, and bureaucracy hasn’t changed in at least fifty years, probably longer. So, when I read it, I recognized the characters, I’ve worked with these people, and I’ve had to go through these weird situations. Corporate culture is corporate culture. And apparently it’s always been like that. There are arbitrary rules and people who adapt to strange social norms without really thinking about it. Trying to do anything you can to appear busy without actually doing any work is such a running theme in this show, and is very much a theme of the place where I was working at the time. It definitely says something to a modern audience.

HJ: Any time I explain the show to someone, they go “Oh I get that”. I talk about this new language that’s supposed to make things more efficient, and they go “Oh yeah I get that!” I talk to people that were at their place of business when things moved over into computers, and it sounds like the exact same thing. “This is supposed to make your life more efficient” but it ends up causing more problems.

TS: Even the idea of a new language. Havel was in a lot of ways pointing at the Communist party’s corporation of language into propaganda at the time. But you see it today, you see it in corporate culture all the time. I can’t say the word “innovation” anymore without irony to it.

MM: My favourite one is “connectitude”.

TS: And does that mean anything?

MM: It does not!

TS: Exactly! Corporate speak and jargon.

HJ: We’re also seeing it in our government right now with the Fair Elections Act. Is it really about fair elections? And that twist of language.

TS: Or any time a Conservative minister gets up and says, “I’d like to provide some clarity” and you know they’re going to talk about something else. Words don’t mean what they mean anymore. They just use them as noise to confuse everyone and obfuscate and that’s very much in the play. They literally bring in a whole new language that they say is supposed to be more efficient but actually just confuses everyone and causes total chaos.

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MM: Why don’t you tell me about your Kickstarter project? 

HJ: We call it the “Give Us an Hour of Your Time” campaign because we’re asking people to donate the equivalent of one hour of their wages. That actually came about as an idea related to a Pay What You Can Performance. People are always confused about how much to pay for PWYC. “I don’t know how much to give you. Is $10 okay?” And now there are signs that state a recommended donation, and I thought, well what is a fair amount to pay? I suppose an hour of my time. I’m going to see a show for an hour or two, so an hour of my time for an hour of entertainment. And then I started joking that it would be great if a CEO came to the show and gave us an hour of his time, because then he’d pay for the whole show. We thought it was an appropriate theme because it’s set in a workplace, so a great thematic tie-in.

TS: Also Havel was a very political author, and there’s a lot of talk right now about the income gap and wage equality and the whole minimum wage debate that went on and is still going on. And we thought, we’re doing a show about workers that is inherently political at a time when that is a resonant thing, so we might as well make a statement with it, in a way that I think Havel would have liked.

MM: I thought your reward levels on your Kickstarter campaign were interesting.

TS: As part of the “Give Us an Hour of Your Time”, we looked at what an hour of different people’s time is worth using some Stats Canada and other publicly available information.

HJ: We had to do some massaging a little bit because there’s no clear hourly wage for say, a lawyer, but it’s all pretty accurate. We started at $10, which is as close to our minimum wage as Kickstarter would let us get (they don’t like decimal points), and then the next step up is average Canadian, who apparently makes $23/hr and then senator at $65, and the 1% threshold, which is shockingly low. Yes, $92/hr is still impressive…

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MM: But to think that the people who run our country are making less than $100/hr. makes you think.

HJ: And maybe that’s just in Canada. We don’t have a super wide disparity of wealth and non-wealth.

TS: I think it’s amazing just how big the swath of the 1% is in Canada. ‘Because you do have people who are making like, 30 billion dollars a year, some really obscene figures like that, but you could be one of the top income earners in Canada with less than $100/hr.

HJ: And we have Prime Minister, who makes $154/hr. All these are averaged on a 40 hour work week and a 52 week year, but I know that people work more or less than that.

TS: There’s average lawyer, $301/hr and average CEO who apparently makes $631/hr and the top CEO is something like $7200/hr.

HJ: An hour! AN HOUR! So if just one of those top earner CEOs were to give us an hour of their time, they would give us our Kickstarter goal twice over.

TS: When we were setting our target, we thought, well what do we need to put the show up? And we decided it was about $3500. And when we saw that the top CEO was $7281, we thought, close enough; we’ll just make it half of that, so 30 minutes of a CEOs time will pay for our goal.

HJ: We’re doing this show as an Equity collective, which means that no one is getting paid up front. People only get paid if we cover our expenses and make a profit. And with all the actors and the people behind the scenes, there are 17 people involved. We haven’t done it yet, but I really want to sit down and find out how many hours work hours have gone into this show, so that people can see how much people have already donated of their time to make the show happen. It’s going to be astronomical because we’re looking at over 100 rehearsal hours, multiple people per rehearsal, and then all the time that’s already been put into it. So it’s not unreasonable to ask for an hour of your time considering everything that goes into it.

TS: People seem to be overwhelmed by all the different things that are going on. There are some great projects and ideas on Kickstarter and Indiegogo and GoFundMe and people don’t know what to donate to or don’t know what an appropriate amount is. So we’ve tried to make it simple and maybe fun. If you make $14/hr, then $14 is an appropriate donation.

HJ: It’s funny to see how literally some people are taking it. Some odd dollar amounts are being given to us, and I love it! I love that somebody actually figured out how much they made and decided to contribute. And someone was like, “Well, I’m not a senator, but I like the title, so I’m going to donate at that level”. People are having fun with it, and that’s great.

TS: This is an exciting opportunity to bring to a Toronto stage an author who is so rarely done and in a fresh new translation by a Canadian, so we’re really enthusiastic about the production and hope that people can donate.

The Memo

Written by Václav Havel, translated by Paul Wilson, presented by Thought for Food Productions

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When: April 23rd-May 10th
Where: Unit 102 Theatre
Facebook Page
Kickstarter Campaign Reference (Unfortunately the Kickstarter Campaign has is past its end date but fortunately they exceeded their goal in a 24 hour challenge! BUT… Of course you can still contribute to Thought for Food Productions by BUYING YOUR TICKETS to The Memo IN ADVANCE!)

In Conversation with Carly Chamberlain & Susan Bond of Hart House Theatre’s “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)”

Interview by Ryan Quinn

RQ: Hello! So I’m here with Carly Chamberlain, director, and Susan Bond, dramaturge, of Hart House Theatre’s production of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Tell me a bit about the show? 

CC: Essentially, it centres around a women who is an overlooked, often taken-advatage-of academic who is working on her thesis and she has a theory about some of Shakespeare’s plays that nobody believes in. That’s sort of the setup.

SB: So she’s come to a crisis about her work and her treatment in this academic model that she’s working through.

CC: In a larger sense, it’s her crisis of identity in general. So that’s the crisis, then she falls in a garbage can… as you do. There’s a magical element to the play where a choral moment initiates her falling into a garbage can, and falling into her subconscious, which takes form as a Shakespearean-like world.

SB: Right, she falls into a very specific Shakespearean world, as you could guess from the title. She falls into the worlds of Othello and Romeo and Juliet.


Photo Credit: Scott Gorman. (LtoR) – Nathan Bitton as Romeo, Lesley Robertson as Constance, Katie Ribout as Juliet

CC: She meets two of her heroines, and it’s a journey set around finding her way out and solving her thesis question, but it’s really about meeting the so-called “real” versions of them and also finding her own identity. It’s really a journey of self-discovery, especially since it’s her subconscious, they’re all elements of her.

SB: At the same time, she’s helping solve their problems of mortality.

CC: She’s searching for her real identity by assisting them.

SB: I think it’s also worth mentioning for people who aren’t already familiar with the play and perhaps not familiar with the fact that Ann-Marie MacDonald is Canadian, and that she is a struggling academic at Queen’s University in Kingston.

CC: That being said, I think it’s important to note that while the play is very clever, and it references a lot of Shakespeare, I don’t think you have to be intimately familiar with the plays to enjoy it. It’s a human story of loving yourself.

SB: You’ll certainly get more out of it if you’re familiar with those two plays and the rest of Shakespeare’s work. You’ll see more of the layers in it if you do, but it’s not essential.

RQ: There’s a few things I want to touch on there. Constance is very much a modern protagonist. She’s an iconic character of Canadian theatre. Is there a calling for more strong, modern female protagonists?

CC: Yes! But I don’t think “strong” is the right word to describe her, necessarily. She has strength and she discovers her strength, but I think what makes her a good example of a female character in Canadian theatre is that she’s complex.

SB: Most of her problems aren’t “woman problems”. She has career problems and self-discovery problems, which are things that everyone has. She’s an important female character in that she’s a great role for female actors because she’s also more complex.

CC: The whole thing is about her finding her strength, but there’s a problem with the writing of female characters in general where if they aren’t someone’s girlfriend or wife or talking about their romances, the other extreme is that they’re superheroes; which is another sexualized, objectified version of a woman, as well.

RQ: So it looks at the concept of strength beyond the male-centric idea of what a strong woman looks like.

CC: Yeah. I think there’s something to it even beyond a male-centric idea. I mean, patriarchy is everywhere, so we’re all viewing through those goggles, but what’s really special to me about this play (and part of it is that you view whatever you’re working on through whatever you’re processing yourself) is that it’s not about male or female but about saying, “Hey, things are complicated, nothing’s black and white, and the mess of life is okay, and I’m still awesome even if I’m a mess”. That’s something we all need to readjust to as far as what strength is.


Photo Credit: Scott Gorman. (LtoR) – Cydney Penner as Desdemona , Nathan Bitton as Iago, Lesley Robertson as Constance

SB: “You shouldn’t need to be above the mess. Strength is living in the mess and working through it.”

CC: But yes, to come back to the question, I do think there’s a real lack of complex female roles in film and TV, obviously in classical theatre, but also in Canadian theatre. We spoke about finding other Canadian plays with complex women in them and it’s actually a struggle.

RQ: In pop culture in general. In the zeitgeist, there are very few of them.

CC: Yeah, and then, when there is, it’s a big thing. Look at the reaction to HBO’s Girls.

RQ: Because there’s that thing where people look at it and say “But these characters are kind of shitty sometimes. How are they supposed to be female role models?”

CC: I read a really interesting article recently that compared Hannah from Girls to Llewyn Davis from Inside Llewyn Davis, and it was showing that that’s a perfect example of the flaws in innate sexism. We look at Llewyn Davis and we’re like, “Man, he’s fucked up. He’s talented, but he’s fucked up and he makes fucked up decisions. He’s a tragic hero,” but with Hannah we’re like “You’re a brat. Get over yourself”. I would argue that the Coen Brothers do romanticize Llewyn Davis more than Lena Dunham romanticizes her character, but it’s the same thing, she’s a self-indulgent, talented person and so is he, but she is the one who gets ragged on.

SB: Also, I think that because there’s a relative dearth of complex female characters like that, she winds up standing in for not just self-indulgent talented people but also “ladies”, or “girls” in general. That’s just a problem of underrepresentation.

CC: Since there’s a lack in general, every female character has to live up to the standard of not being any stereotype, which is pretty impossible.

RQ: As soon as someone becomes iconic in that sense, they have to be everything to everyone all the time.

CC: Exactly, which is impossible. But, as much as I’m all about more roles for women, I don’t think anyone that champions that wants to watch plays about perfect people, because why would you watch it?

RQ: So what you’re talking about is that female characters are allowed to have conflict. They don’t have to be the side character but they also don’t have to be above all conflict and completely inscrutable.

CC: Essentially.


Photo Credit: Scott Gorman. (LtoR) – Katie Ribout as Juliet, Lesley Robertson as Constance, Cydney Penner as Desdemona

RQ: So, Susan, as a dramaturge, there are several different worlds in this play. How do you go about investigating the different worlds and how they interconnect?

SB: My speciality as a dramaturge is working with Shakespeare, so the knowledge I bring to the table at a production is going to be actually stronger than the Canadian academic world, despite being a Canadian graduate student, though not in the 80′s. You referred to Constance as a “modern” female character, but she’s not actually that modern, she’s set in the 1980′s and it’s surprising how much that world lives in the play. Because we’re not actually in Verona or Cyprus, we’re in Constance’s imagination, it’s amazing how her world kind of emerges in them in strange ways.

CC: And we’re definitely trying to highlight that. I think sometimes people go for an interpretation where we’re actually there in stereotype-land. Our set doesn’t change, other than through light and sound, and that’s on purpose. The office is onstage the whole time. Something we talked about from the very beginning is the idea that she’s in “Cyprus”, not Cyprus. Because of that, the dramaturgy becomes complex. The first step is saying “this is what it was in the original play”, and making a conscious choice if it’s going to be different.

SB: “This is what the coastline in Cyprus was. These are the places it would be appropriate for Desdemona to be. This is where a historical Desdemona would be. This is where Shakespeare’s Desdemona would be.” But, MacDonald’s Desdemona is in a different place altogether.

CC: The layers of references in the play are astounding. For example, there are a lot of references to alchemy; but there’s a difference between Renaissance alchemy, which is transmuting base metals to gold; but there’s a very intentional layer on top which is Jung’s idea that they were being metaphorical and alchemy is actually about self-actualization. So, all that stuff is layered in.

SB: There’s a lot of dramaturgy in this show.

RQ: And all the layers inform each other, right?

CC: Yup, real easy, super easy.

SB: Yeah, I just know what the words mean.

CC: But that’s something about Shakespearean dramaturgy in general, is that the actors or I might have a question about what some little thing means and we might find out it’s a reference to some obscure thing.

SB: Like the Gustav manuscript. It’s an 18th Century German novel about someone searching for a manuscript that was lost, so in a way, it sets up the premise for Constance’s entire academic career.

CC: Yeah, then you go, “This is all interesting, but to the character, it means nothing”. You don’t know these things, it’s outside of the world.

SB: But then some elements are conscious references, so it all ties into itself.

RQ: And how has it been working with Hart House on this show?

CC: It’s good. We both have histories with them, though Susan’s is longer.

SB: I’m the Resident Dramaturge.

RQ: How did you start there?

SB: I started as a dramaturge for Canopy Theatre, which is associated with Hart House and so I worked with Jeremy [Hutton], when he was acting in a show I was dramaturge for, and he saw what I brought to the table.

CC: When I was an actor, earlier in my career, I was in Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Hart House. So I had a bit of a relationship with them, then Jeremy and I worked together at Shakespeare By the Sea as well, and we had a good working relationship. And I assistant-directed there last year for Robin Hood: The Musical, which is another Hart House/Shakespeare by the Sea crossover. It’s been pretty awesome working with them. As far as the management goes, they’re very supportive and trusting.


Photo Credit: Scott Gorman. (LtoR) Lesley Robertson as Constance, Nicholas Porteous as Professor Claude Knight

RQ: What would you say your goals are this year?

CC: In life?

RQ: In life!

SB: In 2014?

RQ: In 2014!

CC: I think for me, it’s two things. On the one hand, I’m still trying to figure out what directing means and how to be good at it in a thoughtful way. I want to continue to develop because you can only learn it by doing. On the other hand, Susan and I work together separately [with Neoteny theatre] and I think we both want to make a positive and significant contribution to the theatre scene, particularly as it relates to classical-adjacent work and roles for women, so this falls right in line with that. We want to be thoughtful instead of making work for work’s sake. That’s really hard because we all want to be working all the time. When we did Overruled and Romance last year, it went really well and people wanted to know what we were doing next, but we’re trying to resist the urge to just do something for its own sake. You know, “put on a show and put my friends in it”, because that’s tempting.

RQ: Vanity project theatre.

CC: Right, and that’s such a murky area because to some degree, everything you do is a vanity project because even if you’re getting paid, you’re not getting as much as you should, so you have to be getting something else out of it. I think that sums it up nicely.

SB: Yeah! I think we’re trying to reconcile the intersection of classical work with women’s roles in general. A, let’s just say it, feminist model, to some extent.

CC: I think what we’re dancing around is that we’re interested in feminist work that’s not feminist for its own sake, but feminist for that basic definition of equal rights for all people. It’s one of those things that once you start seeing things through that lens, and you’re a creator of any kind, you have a responsibility to make sure that work continues. That being said, we’re not entirely humourless. So that, plus joy in the work. That’s the other thing with me directing is that I’m trying to find that line where everything is falling into place, but that sense of play and joy and ensemble is there too. That’s really important, as an audience member. I want to find that balance where they’re in an environment where they can live in the moment.

SB: If there’s no play in the play, then it’s entirely joyless.

RQ: It’s moral responsibility theatre, which can be pretty boring.

CC: I think about this stuff all the time because I’m kind of a cynical person and when people say things like “Oh, when this show closes, I’m going to miss this cast so much!”, I’m the one that’s like “You’re doing a job”. Navigating the line where there’s a sense of joy in the ensemble and the bond you form with the other members comes from working toward the same goal, that’s huge and important. All the other stuff, drinking together and whatever, that’s cool if you have that social vibe, but the vibe in the room is so much more exciting and important.

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

By Ann-Marie MacDonald, presented by Hart House Theatre


Where: Hart House Theatre, University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle
When: February 28th – March 8th, 2014 8pm, Saturday Matinee 2pm
Tickets: $15-$28

For more information on the show:

Events We’re Crushin’ On: Everybody to the Theatre Company’s “Theatre on a Theme: Love” – Sunday February 23rd

Interview by Bailey Green

Everybody to the Theatre Company unintentionally greeted me with piano chords and harmonized voices as the cast rehearsed a musical interlude for their upcoming show, Theatre on a Theme: Love. This unique show is EtoTCompany’s second production, following the success of their first show Theatre on a Theme: Failure (September 2013).

“The interesting thing about the theme of love is how much it is related to pain. This show isn’t just a happy stroll through the park, under the stars,” director Drew O’Hara says of his cast. “The company have brought some really personal stuff to the work.” Artistic Director O’Hara founded Everybody to the Theatre Company with several members of his Ryerson acting class. The soon-to-be graduates were looking for a creative outlet and something they could call their own. O’Hara had conceived the idea of constructing a show called “Theatre on a Theme” where new, short plays would be woven into a whole, cohesive performance.

ToaT LOVE PR Photo 5

This winter the company put out its second call for submissions on the theme of “Love”. The plays have to be 5-10 minutes in length and use up to any of the three men and three women of the company (and of course be based around the selected theme). “When the audience watches through the lens of a theme, it allows them to make the connections for themselves,” said director Drew O’Hara. “It gives our audiences a more immediate connection to the actors and to the show. The experience of seeing Theatre on a Theme is more personal.”

Everybody to the Theatre wants to explore the theme of love in all its facets. Though many of the submissions were romantic, and that aspect is not ignored in the performance, O’Hara looked for plays that explored love in many forms. “The goal is that hopefully we’re going to find something for everybody,” said Artistic Producer Jade Douris. “But there are as many different kinds of love as there are people.“

Then something amazing happened when the call for new plays was posted for Theatre on a Theme: Love website. “The submission post went viral in the United States,” O’Hara said. None of the company knew how it had happened. Somehow the call for plays about love made its way into the right hands. Everybody to the Theatre Company was rewarded with almost two hundred plays from LA to New York, from Ohio and Michigan and from Halifax to Texas to Toronto.

Artistic director O’Hara selects the plays for each show by searching for the most unique perspectives, the variety of character or shows that may compliment and contrast each other. “We got so many submissions in the last ten days,” said producer Jade Douris. “Sometimes we just couldn’t cast the show, say a grandmother and grandchild scene, but for the most part it wasn’t easy. We read all of them.”

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Everybody to the Theatre Company’s mandate reflects its name as they focus on bringing theatre to different audiences. Theatre on a Theme searches to find stories from as many different voices as possible. The playwrights range in age from 19-65 and include a past Dora nominee, a graduate of two masters programs, not to mention both experienced and amateur playwrights.

Two members of the company have their own work included in Love. “Owen and I both wrote for this show for the first time,” says Jade Douris pointing to founding member and actor Owen Stahn. Stahn smiles and admits, “Yeah, I’m still pretty self-conscious about that.” They laugh, grin and shift in their chairs.

Not to mention that the company still balances a full semester of theatre school. The collective process can be challenging and the company works hard to knit the plays into a cohesive whole. Honesty is key. “It requires you to bring a lot of passion and energy to rehearsal and risk getting completely rejected by your peers,” O’Hara says of the process. “Most of us learn to let go,” Jade Douris smiles as she teases Owen. Owen mourns for a vignette of his that was cut from Failure, the company’s first production. “By the end of the process, we learned that failure is an absolute part of life and a critical part of growing,” Owen says. “You can escape it, but you can also just embrace it.”

ToaT LOVE PR Photo 1

These intrepid artists have plans for future themes, but plan to adjust them depending on the social climate or what life throws at them. They hope to one day bring their shows to as many audiences as possible. After the performance in Toronto, Theatre on a Theme: Love is travelling to Peterborough to perform at the Theatre on King. Showtime is at 9:30pm, tickets are $15 or $10 if you see The Dumb Waiter, the show performing before theirs.

If you see an Everybody to the Theatre show and think of a theme you would love to see, visit their website and drop them an email. They are always open to hearing suggestions from their audiences.

Theatre on a Theme: Love

Presented by Everybody to the Theatre Company


When: Sunday February 23rd at 2pm and 8pm
Where: Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
Tickets: Visit their website:  $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

Everybody to the Theatre Company rehearses in the UCRC Studio. It’s a lovely studio space on Saint Clair West and has great, affordable rental prices, (!rentals/cij8).

On Our Radar TO: Fall in Love with Toronto Theatre this Month


Whether it’s with your family, friends, lover, significant-other or you’re treatin’ yo self, we’ve listed our different date suggestions for these lusted-after February shows plus some February events we’re swooning over! These shows are On Our Radar, Toronto, and we think you should Fall in Love With Theatre all over again this February! 

Genesis & Other Stories

Written by Rosamund Small, presented by Aim for the Tangent Theatre

Genesis 2014 Promo Photo #1

Did the nudie promo pictures convince you yet? If you didn’t catch Genesis & Other Stories in their sold-out run in last summer’s Fringe Festival, lucky for you they have brought it back for a February re-mount in the Red Sandcastle Theatre after a revised run in the Hamilton Fringe. If you did catch it, you know you’ll want to see it again! Laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking and feel-good family fun… well… It’ll get you talking!

This is our On the Laugh-track to Love date recommendation.

Check out our interview we did with playwright Rosamund Small to find out more about the show.

“After his father’s death, Christopher, a theology student, leads a misfit cast of amateur actors in a production of his late father’s play: a hyper-sexed version of Adam and Eve set in 1960′s USA.  Slapstick, satire, and meta-theatre frame a surprisingly complex story about lonely people trying to fill roles that do not suit us. Christopher tries to convince everyone including himself that he is committed to his religion and its strict views on sexuality, and capable of directing and producing his father’s bizarre script. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a break up, forgotten lines, and a crisis of faith conspire to sabotage the production. The primary focus of Genesis is on laughter, but the show is only funny because of the pain and struggle of Chris and the other characters. A hilarious romp that is sure to get you thinking, whether you’re religious, theatrical, or somewhere in between.”

Genesis Promo Photo #2

“Comically disastrous… very funny. Things could only go worse if the theatre collapsed.” - Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

Where: RED Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East)
When: February 5th-15th Wednesday-Friday 8pm, Saturdays 7pm & 9pm
Tickets: $15 at the Door, $10 in Advance at or call (416) 845-9411
For more information, visit:


Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, presented by Red One Theatre Collective


Killer cast, intriguing promotional poster, “puppetry & Vaudeville charm” set in the Klondike? After being big fans of After Miss Julie, we’re excited to see what Red One Theatre brings us next and Shrew seems to be just the ticket.

This is our Rowdy Buddies at the Shakespeare Show date recommendation.

“The beautiful and gentle Bianca has no shortage of admirers, but her mother insists that she will not marry until her older sister, Katharina, is betrothed. The only problem is that Katharina is the wildest, loudest, maddest shrew in the Klondike. It’s a low-down showdown with honky-tonk, puppetry, slapstick, and Vaudeville charm, and one of these gunslingers will either go broke or strike gold.

In his directorial debut, rising Stratford Festival star and RedOne Theatre veteran Tyrone Savage gathers together Toronto’s premier emerging talents for the first time in this one-of-a-kind production.”

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 15th – March 2nd, 2014 8pm (Sunday PWYC Matinees – 2pm)
Tickets: $19.99 Advance tickets available @

The Way Back to Thursday

Written by Rob Kempson, presented by Theatre Passe Muraille


Call your Grandma, call your mother… Hell, call EVERYONE and take them to the theatre this month. Rob Kempson has written a charming, funny and moving musical about unconditional love that will have you beaming one minute and reaching for a box of tissues the next.

This is our Reconnecting With Family date recommendation.

“Inspired by the traditional song cycle form, The Way Back to Thursday is a musical about unconditional love that crosses generations, genders and lifetimes.

Cameron and his Grandmother have a special tradition – movie nights every Thursday.  Together they escape into the glamour and romance of the Golden Age of film.  But as Cameron grows, so does the distance between them.”


Where: Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson)
When: Now to February 8th
Tickets: Pwyc-$32.50. 416-504-7529

The Ugly One

Written by Marius von Mayenburg, translated by Maja Zade. Co-production by Theatre Smash and Tarragon Theatre


Sharp, odd, hilarious and the tightest staging, design and performances that we’ve seen in one show in a while – The Ugly One is a must-see before it closes mid-February. We can’t and we won’t stop chatting about it. Theatre Isn’t Dead said it perfectly: “Non-theatre folks will dig it too. I can almost promise that.” –Blog Theatre Isn’t Dead.

We deem this our Theatrical Rejuvenation date aka. Win-over-that-friend-who-is-too-cool-for-theatre-with-the-cool-theatre-show date recommendation.

“You can’t sell anything with that face.” A razor sharp satire about getting ahead in the world. With mesmerizing speed, this award-winning work by one of Germany’s hottest playwrights catapults us into a narcissistic world obsessed with beauty, image and plastic surgery.”


Where: Tarragon Theatre Extra Space
When: Now until February 16th

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp

Created and performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee, presented by U.N.I.T. Productions and Factory Theatre


U.N.I.T. Productions is excited to announce the remount of Of Mice and Morro and Jasp!

Morro and Jasp feel the pinch of the recent economic downturn and decide to try to make ends meet by staging John Steinbeck’s classic tale Of Mice and Men. Can the clown sisters stick to the story? Will they both make it out alive? This winter, find out for yourself!

This is our Friends Until The End date recommendation.

Where: Factory Studio Theatre
When: Jan 28 to Feb 8, Tue-Sat 8PM, Thur 1PM, Sat 2PM
Tickets: $25 Regular Price / $20 Student, Senior, Arts Worker PWYC Preview Jan 28 416-504-9971


Read our latest interview with Co-creators & performers Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee here:

Idiot’s Delight

Written by Robert E. Sherwood, presented by Soulpepper Theatre

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

With 1920’s flair, song, dance and love amongst wartime, this is our Indulging in Delights date recommendation.

“A cast of wonderfully eccentric and international guests – countesses, arms dealers, showgirls, revolutionaries, charlatans and lovers – spend a fateful weekend in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps. While songs are sung and dances danced and loves rekindled, the dark clouds of war come rolling in.”

Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
When: January 29th – March 1st

Read our latest Artist Profile with Paolo Santalucia & Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster “From Academy to Company in Soulpepper’s “Idiot’s Delight” here:

the dreamer examines his pillow

By John Patrick Shanley, presented by JR Theatre Company


the dreamer examines his pillow is a surreal, intimate look at the beautiful and dark forces of love. The play explores the aftermath of love, whether it’s after an explosive affair between two lovers, or the dwindling, harsh lack of love from a widowed father to his daughter. Poetic, lyrical and rough – the dreamer examines his pillow is one of contemporary theatre’s finest looks at intimacy and need. It sounds to us like the perfect antithesis to Hallmark’s version of Valentine’s Day!

This is our Dark Surrealist Valentine’s Day date recommendation.

Where: The Box Toronto (89 Niagara Street)
When: February 7th-16th Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm


Written by Eric Welch and Ryan Welch. Based on the original short story by Ryan Welch with further realization by The Coyote Collective Company, presented by Coyote Collective


LABOUR looks at the Sisyphean life of factory day-workers, who see no choices but to go to work every day, and have resigned themselves to a life of the same. For these four characters, commodification has completely changed the way they think about life, love, and happiness.

This is our Socially Conscious date recommendation.

Where: Theatre Passe-Muraille Backspace
When: February 5th to the 9th. 5th-7th 7:30pm, 8th 2pm & 7:30pm, 9th 2pm
Tickets: $20, Student/Senior $15, PWYC: Saturday, February 8th 2:00pm, Opening and Media Night: Wednesday, February 5th
Tickets available for purchase at or at the door. 

Events We’re Crushin’ On:

The 35th Rhubarb Festival


Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents their 35th annual festival of new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music. For two weeks artists transform the Buddies neighbourhood into a hotbed of experimentation, sharing new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music with adventure-loving audiences.

New to the festival this year is a new series of Open Space Projects will animate unexpected spaces around the Buddies neighbourhood and make new artistic connections between five historic queer institutions here in Toronto.

When: February 12th-23rd
Where: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre & around the neighbourhood
Tickets: Open Space Projects & Artist Talks – Free
Young Creators Unit – PWYC
Week One Mainstage Projects – $10
Week Two Evening Passes – $20


Written & performed by Spencer Charles Smith, presented by Straight Camp


“Roar – a solo play about beefy, burly, brawny love”

SYNOPSIS - A boy’s campy quest for furry love, Spencer will explore his unapologetic desire for ‘bearish’ men, critique the problematic spectrum of identities within the Bear community (Bear, Cub, Otter, Panda, Muscle-Bear, etc.) and hopefully deconstruct notions of hegemonic masculinity.

Above all, it’s a love letter.

This is a staged-reading of Spencer’s latest draft of Roar and he is eager to hear your feedback. A talk-back will follow the presentation. And drinks. Featuring a special pre-show presentation: “Kid: A Queer Fable”, written, illustrated and performed by Katie Sly

Where: Videofag (187 Augusta Ave)
When: Wednesday February 5th 8pm, Thursday February 6th 8pm
Tickets: PWYC (at the door)

Theatre on a Theme: Love

Conceived and Directed by Drew O’Hara, presented by Everybody to the Theatre Company


“Six actors, 18 theatre pieces that vary in length from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. What do you get? A hilarious, heart-wrenching, fast-paced, occasionally musical, exciting night at the theatre. Following the success of Theatre on a Theme: FAILURE, the Everybody to the Theatre Company gang will bring you Theatre on a Theme: LOVE, just in time for Valentine’s Day.”

Where: Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
When: Sunday February 23rd 2pm & 8pm

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope”

Written by Ian Doescher, presented by Red One Theatre Collective and Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl


A one-night only staged reading of the classic sci-fi epic told in the Bard’s style.

“This sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The Saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.” This is the play you are looking for. Lightsaber fights included! Themed drinks/food/entertainment too – say whaaat!

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 7th Doors at 7pm, Show at 8pm
: $10 in advance online or $15 at the door. 

The Howland Company Reading Group – February:

February 9th Charles Mee’s “Big Love”, February 23rd Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”


“Bi-weekly, The Howland Company hosts an open event called The Reading Group, where artists are encouraged to gather, meet, reconnect and work with fellow members of the Toronto theatre community and ultimately read a play together.

The readings are a laid-back, social way to work with peers and continue to develop our craft. Scripts are provided and parts are assigned and exchanged on the fly. All are welcome to participate in reading or sit back and listen.”

Check out the history of The Reading Group, including all plays past and future, at:

For event updates:

When: Sunday February 9th & Sunday February 23rd 7:30pm
Where: Location is posted on the Facebook Event page:
Tickets: Free

Artist Profile: Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster & Paolo Santalucia – From Academy to Company in Soulpepper Theatre’s “Idiot’s Delight”

Interview by Hallie Seline

I sat down with Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and Paolo Santalucia to discuss their journey from the Soulpepper Academy, to graduation, their ongoing involvement in the Soulpepper Company and their current show Idiot’s Delight on now at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

HS: Tell me a bit about yourself and your relationship with Soulpepper and the Academy.

PS: My name is Paolo Santalucia and I’m a 2012 graduate of the Soulpepper Academy. Before that I trained at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College’s joint Theatre and Drama Studies program and after training at the Academy for a year and a half, I started working with the Soulpepper company.

CCL: I’m Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster. I’m originally from Nova Scotia, did my undergraduate at UBC in Vancouver and after that I did the Citadel/Banff Professional Theatre program and then the Soulpepper Academy with Paolo. We are also both part of the founding members of The Howland Company.

HS: So tell me a bit about your experience in the Soulpepper Academy and your relationship with Soulpepper since graduating. 

PS: Well, the Academy was amazing for so many reasons. I think, for me, in retrospect, what it promoted in me and what took me by surprise the most is the fact that at the end of the day what the Academy was doing was… of course it was focused on theatre and of course it was really rigorous, but at the end of the day it felt like what they wanted was to instil sort of a larger sense of what it meant to be an artist. It showed me the potential responsibility of artistry and the ways to contribute as an artist beyond my work on stage, that there is a bigger picture. This company was founded to contribute to the arts in Canada and at the end of the day it is something that I, as a Canadian Artist, can also continue to contribute to. They did things like take us to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), the movies, seeing plays elsewhere as a group. They weren’t afraid to take us out of the Soulpepper context. What it did was allow me to realize the larger things at work and the amazing arts community there is in this city. In retrospect, for me, that was the most significant part of the training – learning about just how much goes into becoming a ‘good actor’ and how much being a good artist is about being someone who appreciates, understands and has love for so many different art forms even beyond the theatre in the city and Canada.

HS: So that was part of the Academy training? Taking you outside of Soulpepper to art galleries, films, different plays…

CCL: Yeah, to expose you to as many different artistic stimulants, including people too, bringing in fantastic Canadian artists to spend some time with us.

PS: I am so thankful for the encouragement that we got in the Academy to explore other aspects of our artistic selves. I’ve never been in a situation where that’s been as encouraged and not only encouraged but it’s been necessary. It’s what will make myself as an artist, and what will make our contribution that much more sustainable… if they come from a place of appreciation for the millions of aspects that go into the arts in this country.

CCL: Well from a practical point of view, there’s no place else in the country, I think I can say, where you would have the opportunity to be in rehearsal and practice the same way that dancers and musicians are in practice all of the time. I mean you don’t meet a professional pianist who doesn’t practice for hours a day to keep himself in shape. But when you’re an actor, you’ll have periods of time where you’ll be working on a contract, working on that one show, which is one kind of practice, one kind of rehearsal, but the rest of the time you’re very often stumbling to try to pay your rent and working your ‘joe’ job while still trying to read plays and stimulate yourself. While we were in the Academy, we had a living wage for the whole time we were here and we were told to focus on art and your craft and develop yourself. It’s a very rare thing, that kind of opportunity.

HS: Idiot’s Delight marks the professional debut of this year’s Soulpepper Academy actors. Can you talk of the benefits of being both taught and working along side Soulpepper Company members?

CCL: It’s great to be in the rehearsal hall with the current Academy actors because this is also being treated as a learning experience for them and they are also, brave souls that they are, they are also still taking Academy classes in the mornings, rehearsing the show in the afternoon… so they are resilient! But because it’s a learning experience for them, I find Albert [Schultz] who is directing, is taking his time with things. We have a slightly more extended rehearsal process so he can take his time and explain the mechanics as we go. Therefore with his decisions as a director, he’s taking the time to explain them, allowing everyone more of an opportunity to learn. So we get to take advantage of this learning opportunity just as much as the Academy does!

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

PS: It’s amazing to watch people in process. I love that. When the process is, as Courtney was saying, this exposed and part of the rehearsal is actually part of exposing that process as a learning exercise, everyone in the room benefits. I feel like that’s really exciting. There’s such a strong sense of company here. Albert said on the first day of rehearsal, “This marks the first show where the number of Academy involvement (post-graduate and current Academy members) actually outnumbers the other members of the company.”

CCL: Not just in the acting department but in the design, the assistant stage management etc.

PS: It’s the first time that that’s happened and I can only imagine what that means for him but for us what’s incredible is that it just sort of promotes that stronger sense of company. It makes you feel like you’re supported and a part of something that is just a little bit bigger than just the play. It’s really exciting because, again, it doesn’t really happen that much. To continue to support these kinds of programs and to continue to bring these generations of programs back in contact with one another, we’re very lucky here to get to be a part of, learn from and see that kind of evolution. It’s a really cool place to rehearse from.

HS: It seems like there is a lot of multi-generational collaboration and support within the company, the Academy grads and current Academy members.

CCL: And there’s a common working language that has been developed through the shared training. Part of the Academy is that you have founding members of the company coming in to teach you, so already they have a shared language, which they then impart on the students as well as the different artists who are coming in and out. When you get into the rehearsal hall, you already have a level of understanding and intimacy that usually takes weeks to develop when you’re starting a new project.

PS: That common language is actually a huge benefit. It’s amazing listening to when you see senior members of the company trying to piece through something, the specificity of how they work together, you can connect it to the broader common language that you’ve been taught in the academy and watch it work in such intricate, specific ways. You feel like you can engage with these actors who have so much more experience, which can seem sometimes quite intimidating I can imagine coming in fresh, not knowing them and not having worked with them before, but in this situation it’s really cool because you feel like you can go up to someone like Albert [Schultz] or Diego [Matamoros] and tell them about a part in the work you’re having an issue with and they can either teach you or speak to you through an established common language. That’s really exciting to have that multi-generational connection through your working relationship I think.

Raquel Duffy, Paolo Santalucia & Diego Matamoros. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

HS: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

CCL: Albert will always say, “Listen” and he’ll say “Big thoughts. Bigger thoughts” and it’s almost too simplistic but that’s kind of what it boils down to. And “It’s not about you. It’s always about the other person”. And those are the kind of things that you always forget, the simplest things. It’s not about me, it’s about the other person…

PS: “Think on the line”…

CCL: Yes! Exactly. And then when you’re having a moment where you think “I’m terrible today” you stop and think, “Why am I terrible today? Oh it’s because I’m obsessed with myself today”. (laughs) It’s not about me. Instead I need to be listening to the other person because it’s about them.

PS: I think it was the first huge thing that I remember hearing in the Academy, in our first week, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. We were doing scene study and our teacher at the time said, “My favourite actors, and what I think are really good actors… a good actor never lies on stage.” And I don’t think that I had ever really heard that said in that way before. I had never heard of acting being spoken of with that much truth before. And the amount of work that goes into communicating that much truth. It really struck a chord with me at that moment in this place.

CCL: I think for a long time, when I first started, I had a perhaps romantic idea that being an artist and being an actor required a certain amount of constant self-flagellation and it took people, in the Academy, saying “You’re really hard on yourself. That’s not very useful,” to learn to let that go and just focus on the work and the other person and listen and keep going. I think as actors we think that there is very little in our control and sometimes that turns inward and we think “What am I doing wrong? I need to be better. I look silly when I stand like this. Etc” But all of that just gets in the way. That was a big lesson for me. Learning to let go of always trying to fix yourself and just focus on the work.

PS: Again, to add on to that, I learned to go through a checklist. When I’m stuck I’m either not having big thoughts, I’m either not thinking on my line, I’m either not listening or I’m not trying to affect my scene partner. I go through that checklist and usually I’ll find out where my problem is.

CCL: And it’s like a muscle, to build it you have to practice and that’s what the Academy offered to us. A place to practice and practice and practice.

HS: What’s your favourite place in Toronto?

PS: Just by Lakeshore, out past what’s called Mystic Point, there is a lighthouse. You can only get there by biking west of the Humber river. You bike over this path that curves around the island and right at the tip of the island is the lighthouse. I found it one day by accident when I was trying out a new bike path and it was stormy and the wind was blowing over lake Ontario. And it’s the only place that I’ve found where the lake looks as big as it is to me. It’s one of my favourite spots in Toronto.

CCL: When I moved here from Vancouver, I guess two and a half years ago now, gosh, I struggled with the lack of the obvious natural beauty in Toronto because Vancouver is like, ostentatiously beautiful in places, so it took me a little while to discover that Toronto has some really beautiful pockets and they are all the more charming for being a little harder to find. So there’s a new park I’m loathed to tell people about, but it will be overrun soon enough anyway, just by the DVP called Corktown Commons, which is just south of King by the DVP, south of Eastern I guess, and it’s a beautiful new little park. They’ve tried to include the indigenous plants and swamps, incorporate them into this beautiful park that also has paths, trails and playground equipment that I totally play on. So I’d say that place and the Riverdale Farm are my two current favourites. Beautiful, hidden spots.

HS: If you could entice someone to come see Idiot’s Delight in five to ten words, what would they be?

CCL: I’ll go first. Showgirls in sequins, singing, sexy-sex-sex, poignant, funny, sad and beautiful.

PS: It’s a sexy, beautiful, topical, war-play you’ve never heard of.

CCL: And it has a cast of twenty-four which you rarely see! We look forward to seeing you there.

Idiot’s Delight

Dan Chameroy & Raquel Duffy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

By Robert E. Sherwood
Presented by Soulpepper Theatre

What: A cast of wonderfully eccentric and international guests – countesses, arms dealers, showgirls, revolutionaries, charlatans and lovers – spend a fateful weekend in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps. While songs are sung and dances danced and loves rekindled, the dark clouds of war come rolling in.
Sherwood’s mad-cap romance won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1936.
Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
When: January 29th – March 1st

For more on the Soulpepper Academy, check out their website:


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