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Artist Profile: Something Wicked This Way Comes… Q&A with the Macbeths – Amelia Sargisson & David Ross

Interview by Bailey Green

I interviewed actors Amelia Sargisson and David Ross who play the Macbeths in Shakespeare Bash’d upcoming production of the Scottish play. We discuss working with Bash’d, focusing on storytelling and taking on the title roles. 

About the actors:

Amelia was born and raised in Montreal, she moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson Theatre School under the direction Perry Schniederman. Post graduation she decided to stay in Toronto to pursue her career. Her love of the city was a “slow burn” and she finds the city’s openness to new, and international, ideas and methodologies inspirational.

David is originally from New Hamburg, a menonnite town, and didn’t start out as an actor. He actually left a career as an engineer to attend the University of Windsor’s Acting program. Both actors share a healthy list of theatre credits to their name with companies across the province and the country.

Bash’d does Macbeth, how will it be different from other productions?

AMELIA: There isn’t a concept per-se. Bash’d built their reputation on a bare bones approach to the text which highlights the characters with their relationships and scenes above all. The action isn’t transposed, it’s just letting the words do the storytelling.

DAVID: I get questions from people all the time, what’s your concept? Are you doing Elizabethan? But our goal is just to be clear with the storytelling. For example, we fight with Bowie knives and there are garments that distinguish people as military or non-military, but there’s no time period. The story telling is clear and our main focus.

Julia Nish-Lapidus, Maggie Blake and Hallie Seline. Photo by Kyle Purcell

Julia Nish-Lapidus, Maggie Blake and Hallie Seline. Photo by Kyle Purcell

On the challenges of these well-known roles: 

AMELIA: Director James Wallis has insisted several times in rehearsal that there is no “Lady Macbeth,” there is only you. In some ways I agree with him, I only have myself to bring to the part. I can only trust that the words and language of this character will be the gateway into her soul, heart and thoughts. Her ambition is fierce in a way that is kind of frightening. I would call myself fierce, but I would never consider murder to achieve my objective, thankfully, so trying to make that leap is where I have to fill in the blanks.

DAVID: The expectations of people are astounding and if I think that for a second I get a little panicked. People love this show. When people say they can’t wait, the outside part of me smiles and the inside says what the bleep. I am what I am. I draw on my life experience; I’ve had a scrap at a hockey game but I’ve never dissected humans on the battlefield and been lauded and given medals for it. I’m an urban dweller that grew up in the country. Growing up, I knew men that were honourable and noble, warriors and athletes. It’s been wonderful getting him [Macbeth] to walk when I wanted him to run. I lost a lot of sleep, but even that gave me insight into the show.

On building the marriage of the Macbeths:

DAVID: When I first found out about Amelia’s casting I was thrilled. But then I laughed a lot because the woman playing the love of my life is actually the wife of my mortal enemy onstage (Macduff, played by Kyle Purcell) and they got married during the rehearsal process! Amelia is amazing, as attested I think by how busy she’s been in the theatre world. It’s such a terrifying relationship, and she plays a character that convinces me that one of the worst sins in the world is a-okay. It’s exciting for me to be convinced by her and it’s tough to put up obstacles. The relationship, for me, is the crux of the play. When it starts to fall apart, the plays goes to hell.

AMELIA: James [Wallis] identified that we have good chemistry onstage and we didn’t have to work for that. The privilege of working with Dave is that he’s game to try it every way, preposterous or silly or wrong and in doing that we’ve discovered textures and layers in all forms. There’s only so much you can learn by talking about it [which we did] but sometimes you just have to get in the muck of it. It’s important for me to have esteem and love and admiration for this man, for his courage and nobleness. I have found that easy to access because he is all of those things, lovable with a true heart. 

David Ross and Amelia Sargisson - Photo by Kyle Purcell

David Ross and Amelia Sargisson – Photo by Kyle Purcell

On working with Bash’d:

Amelia met Artistic Director James Wallis at Ryerson, and Amelia and David met when they were cast as the Capulets in Wallis’ staged reading of Romeo and Juliet, which was Bash’d first theatrical endeavor.

AMELIA: Beyond the first two staged readings, this is only the second full production I’ve done with Bash’d but it’s the first time James has directed me. It’s a privilege for me to work with him. His ability to illuminate the text is unmatched. The company is less practiced in doing tragedies, focusing on lighter content in the Fringe Festival. But last year they did R & J, and [Macbeth] is one of Shakespeare’s more mature tragedies. The company is continuing to grow and taking on more ambitious projects.

DAVID: Many things are different and the same. The same is James’ knowledge of Shakespeare. Before the show he has mined every source for context, meaning, double meaning, triple meaning, historical basis and he’s done that for every word of the play. What is different is I have never been a part of the rehearsal process this much. It’s my first crack at a title character. James and I have discussed things over drinks, through text and email, in moments passing each other in the hall. I have to say the process of building my character hasn’t been much different, but the journey is just a bit longer.

AMELIA: And the result will surely be different. 

Why theatre?

AMELIA: I believe in the power of a well-told story to affect people in different ways [...] and to inspire them to make changes in their own lives. I love and appreciate the opportunity theatre creates for communion, to be in a room of sentient beings with a shared life and away from the solipsism of our glowing screens. The power of live theatre is very unique.

 

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One week only, Macbeth runs at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton Street, just south of College) until Sunday November 23rd.

Tickets: $17 http://www.shakespearebashd.com/tickets.html

Follow Bash’d: @ShakesBASHd
Follow In the Greenroom writer Bailey Green: @_BaileyGreen
Follow In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_

Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights Unit: Playwright Profile – Evan Webber

by Bailey Green

I connected with Evan Webber to ask him a few questions about working with the current Tarragon Playwrights Unit. The upcoming Play Reading Week runs from Tuesday November 18th to Saturday November 29th in the Near Studio in the Tarragon Theatre. Each reading is at 8pm. Other Jesus, the play Webber workshopped in the Unit, will be read on Friday November 21st.

BG: Tell me a bit about yourself, where you’re from and where you live now.

EW: I’m from Ottawa, or at least I mostly grew up there. I came to Toronto when I was still young enough to do some growing up here too. But I was old enough that I only have one layer of association on things. No nostalgia.

BG: When did you start writing? Did it begin with plays or have you experimented with different forms?

EW: I always wrote things as a sort of game with myself, from when I was very young. I couldn’t read or write until I was pretty old so I listened to things and got my mom to help me write things down.

Later, writing plays became a way of expanding that game to include other people, so I started doing that when I was in high school. It gave some form to the socializing, helped me to understand the dynamics of people, so I guess I liked that. I always felt drawn more to other forms of writing, but I liked the way that reading and writing plays always implied or assumed some other collective action to come, one set in motion by the text. Most of the writing I’ve done in the last five or ten years has been with other people, collaborative writing of one kind or another.

BG: Tell me about the play you’ve written with the Unit this year.

EW: I’d had this very schematic idea to make a pageant play about the life of Jesus for non-performers, a kind of allegory about virtuosity for presumably non-virtuosic people. It’s about the life of a teacher in ancient Judea who starts performing miracles and how that changes him and his friends, and about how he takes on that identity as a miracle-performer. I guess it’s about leadership in cultural projects. 

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BG: What was the experience of working with the Playwrights Unit like?

EW: It’s nice to realize that everyone has a different idea about what makes something good. Like I don’t think anyone agrees. That’s really cool. That’s evident all the time.

BG: How has the Unit helped with the creation process of this play?

EW: I wanted to produce something out of the constraints of the theatre and the Playwrights Unit. There was no other good reason for me to be there or for me to take part. I don’t mean to say that you’re only supposed to do one thing in the Playwrights Unit, I just mean that there are a number of assumptions that a conventional theatre company like Tarragon holds, it’s in the walls and the floor, it affects everyone there. So I thought, maybe I can exaggerate these particular institutional assumptions into a kind of system and make something out of that. So the play is all about the Unit from that perspective. Every part of the play reflects the conditions of the Unit.

BG: What has been the most challenging aspect of this play? What themes does it deal with?

EW: Sticking with the approach. The play sketches some people who grapple with their fundamental interchangeability. So I didn’t want to write something I recognized as my own: I wanted the language of the play and its structure to come to terms with interchangeability too, to be just barely acceptable or competent. It was a challenge to stay committed to that, to not make it more clever or polished, to stick to my constraints, even when they seem to deflate the drama.

BG: What advice has helped you the most in your creative career?

EW: I don’t know. I had a dream once where I went to a Japanese restaurant with an artist I really respect and this artist told me, “Okay Evan, you’re an okay writer, you work hard and you’re thoughtful but you don’t have any vision for feelings, and without that your work is meaningless, you’re in the wrong business…”

But that was just a dream.

 

Some Favourites:

Playwright(s): Heiner Müller’s and Gertrude Stein’s plays always surprise me. Richard Maxwell

Author(s): Lately, I keep going back to Kathy Acker and Roberto Bolaño

Time to write: Whenever

Coffee shop: Oh, huh

Website or Blog: Facebook or maybe Bomb magazine

 

More information on the Tarragon Playwrights Unit and the playwrights involved can be found on their website

 

Past In the Greenroom Playwrights Profiles:

Playwright Alexandria Haber: http://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/09/16/tarragon-playwright-profile-alexandria-haber/

Dramaturg Andrea Romaldi: http://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/06/19/tarragon-theatres-playwright-unit-an-introduction-with-dramaturg-andrea-romaldi/

 

Follow our writer Bailey on Twitter: @_BaileyGreen

ARTIST PROFILE: The afteROCK Plays: In Conversation with Sébastien Heins and Catherine Hernandez of Brotherhood and Femme Playlist.

Interview by Bailey Green

I interviewed Sébastien Heins and Catherine Hernandez about their solo shows, Brotherhood and Femme Playlist, playing at Buddies in Bad Times presented by b current as part of their afteROCK Plays series. They were both such a joy to interview. Their passion, gratitude and openness radiated as they spoke about their work. Catherine’s interjections with the children she cares for in her home daycare peppered our chat, “I’m feel like I’m the queer filipino version of Louis CK, children are very funny creatures and I approach my care of them with honour and humour.” And Sébastien had me laughing with his enthusiasm and bashfulness when discussing the title, and the creation, of his piece’s opening song, “Threesome with my bro.” #BroHood and #FemmePlaylist captivated me with each performance’s tremendous energy and detail. I had the pleasure of witnessing their creations and hope that many of you will too.

On the origins of the piece:

SÉBASTIEN: Brotherhood the hip hopera started as a fifteen minute solo show when I was a student at NTS. We were tasked with creating a show that was spurred on by a burning question. My burning question was “what if I had had a brother?” As an only child, this question held a lot of ammunition for me. So the piece is about these two brothers, Cash Money and Money Pussy. They have this crazy night where they rap at and with each other, sing r&b songs, and the night culminates into an epic climax where one of the brothers is killed in a car accident.

CATHERINE: The idea began when I did an interview for Ron Jones’ radio show in Harlem. He asked for was a playlist of your life. So I did that interview and it was a three hour long conversation. I was laughing and crying along to the soundtrack of my life. My friend Kim Katrin Milan began to host a retreat, often at my house, called Brave New Girls Retreats, for queer femmes of colour. We talk, meditate, do yoga and practice self-care. It was around then that I realized that my narrative was experienced by so many, but heard by none. Originally it [Femme Playlist] was a fifteen minute excerpt at Amplify Femme at VideoFag and then it snowballed from there to became a 45 minute piece that I did at a decolonizing conference and it went on from there.

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On the path to the afteROCK Plays series:

CATHERINE: In 2013 I called b current just before the rock.paper.sistahz festival. It was past the submission date, but I called anyway. I needed a night to perform the show in it’s entirety to test out the flow. I wanted to get a sense of the narrative and transitions. And b current said yes. It was a hit [with the audience] and there was a standing O. That was my first draft so [it was good to know] it connected. It moved on to Rhubarb, which is usually only shorter pieces, but Brendan Healy wanted it to stay intact and be full length. I was so, so honoured and I knew it [the piece] had legs (which is actually my burlesque name.) Then when I was selected for afteROCK, Gein Wong came on board as my director which was great. I feel very blessed.

SÉBASTIEN: [At National Theatre School] People liked it [Brotherhood], the dance and physicality, theatre and storytelling, they dug it. So I challenged myself to create a 60 minute version. I took Brotherhood to the largest solo festival in the world in NYC, United Solo, and I won Best Emerging Artist, but I knew I wasn’t done. Then b current gave me this opportunity to be in their afteROCK play series. They give me [and Catherine] everything a professional production would get. We built a light wall, like Kanye or Jay-z would have. My director Karin Randoja—one of the founders of Primus Theatre—she directed and dramaturged it into a new show. It’s more mature and braver than it was before, and I’m very proud of it.

On the experience for the audience: 

SÉBASTIEN: We have local up and coming hip hop acts opening the show, a couple nights we have ten year old breakdancers outside. It should feel like the fiction has already started, so it’s like you’re at a Cash Money/Money Pussy show when it starts. The piece deals with fame, facades, masculinity, the way men have to front and show themselves off which doesn’t always coincide with how they feel. There’s the bond of brothers and how it’s broken by the stress and the game. It is a hip hop opera, so you’ll recognize the medium as you watch it. There’s large emotions and big, arcing, epic story-line.

CATHERINE: Femme Playlist is a one woman show that tells the realities of being a queer woman of colour, a single mom and a femme. Queer theatre a lot of the time is grown in very subversive spaces, the tradition of the queer salon is in someone’s basement or small theatre hovel. So being in a much larger space with lighting and sound, it’s magic.

Photo Credit: Jacklyn Atlas

Photo Credit: Jacklyn Atlas

On being part of a team:

SÉBASTIEN: I have to shout out my sound designer Micky Rodriguez. He’s a beat maker and rapper, and he has been amazing. The music in the show before served a purpose but now the tracks are all bumped up, which is a game changer. We have this opening, I laugh every time I have to say it outside the show, but it’s called “Threesome with my Bro” which is like Cash Money and Money Pussy’s greatest single. I originally did the instrumental and I knew it was so not up to par, but Micky really put his energy into it and gave it a trap beat. We have another song where it’s raining and the droplets become a beat for the song, with like an usher “U got it Bad” feel, so the sound helps create the next moment in the story musically

CATHERINE: Gein Wong is so special with her vision when it comes to lighting and sound. I love having a team. The team is a chosen family. Our production manager Suzie Balogh was one of my students when I taught at Factory Theatre. She was a kid in highschool studying my play Singkil and now I look over and she’s at the board. It means a lot to see a story like this in the mainspace, that this story is being heard and that their [femme] lives are important.

On the challenges faced with this piece:

SÉBASTIEN: Not being the producer actually. This piece is my baby, so when you hire outside people you just have to trust them to do their job and not think about it. I took that freefall in letting go and it’s a huge step to go in and just be a performer. It can also be hard to re-vamp and re-envision a work, before it was more crowd pleasing. The second act starts in the 70s and 80s, and it’s still funny but it does get dark and scary. I never would have had such an intimate look at these characters had we not done that. They’re men who inspire and challenge me as characters in a way they have never done before. All I can do is bare myself and show my work and hope people get something out of it.

CATHERINE: I’m a brown woman which means that the traditions that I heed to are multidisciplinary, but to me that’s storytelling. It can be hard for people to understand that sometimes. People are getting there, but this piece will help people understand my jive. Written down it doesn’t always translate, you need to see it visually. I hope it helps bring about a greater understanding of multidisciplinary.

On the greatest joy experienced with this piece: 

SÉBASTIEN: [Through this process] there was many times in rehearsal where I felt I’m part of a team. And as a solo performer I think that’s rare. It can be really lonely, and it’s all on you. The audience is just staring at you. I feel so supposed by my team, they’re like my rock. Like 300 Spartans behind me.

CATHERINE: The day of opening night I found out on Twitter that Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina, was found dead in a motel room. She was murdered by a U.S. marine. This news is tragic because it’s so widespread. I knew I needed to dedicate my performance to her for opening night, if there’s any femme I could give this to…and I felt her all day. Every queer that hugged me yesterday [opening night], we have a narrative of loss and judgement and danger and to know that I have the privilege to be the person on stage to speak on behalf of all of us. [When I’m onstage I have] queer in my ears, between my fingers, in my hair and all around me. What I love about being queer is we can laugh and cry about our triumphs and tragedies.

afteRock EFLYER

Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera

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Created/Performed by Sébastien Heins

Directed by Karin Randoja

a co-production with Sébastien Heins

This live virtuosic hip hop show tells the story of superstar sibling duo CashMoney & MoneyPussy, chronicling their climb to success, breaking apart, and epic reunion.

#BroHood trailer: 

fb event: https://www.facebook.com/events/687971971283848/declines/

Tag photobooth selfies with @CashMoneyRaps on twitter & instagram

The Femme Playlist

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Created/Performed by Catherine Hernandez

Directed by Gein Wong

a co-production with Sulong Theatre Company and Eventual Ashes

From masturbation to motherhood, body shame to burlesque, Catherine Hernandez uncovers the realities of living as a queer woman of colour set to the music of her life.

#FemmePlaylist trailer: 

fb event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1458812434386125/

Mature sexual content and coarse language in both shows – recommended for ages 16 and older.

Showtimes:

Both shows play every day (except Monday, October 20) until Ocotber 25. Schedule below.

Additional performance of Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera on Wednesday, October 22nd at 1pm, $10 (purchase by phone or in person, available online soon).

Regular updates via social media

@bcurrentLIVE on twitter

#afteRock2014 #bcurrent

www.facebook.com/bcurrentperformingarts

Tickets & Venue:

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street | Toronto | M4Y 1B4

Box Office: 416-975-8555

http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/2014-15/afterock-plays/

$15-$50

Student/Senior/Arts Worker/Underemployed discounts available

Rush tickets ($15) available the day of, in person only at noon.

Pay-what-you-can to this Sunday’s performances

2-for-1 tickets for femmes to The Femme Playlist on Friday, October 17, and Tuesday-Thursday October 21-23.

Get 50% off second ticket to Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera when you bring your sibling.

afteRock-Schedule

What afteRock is:

A play series that takes select plays from past b current rock.paper.sistahz theatre+ Festivals to the next level as workshop and full productions co-produced by b current and the show’s artists.

This edition of the series is presented by b current as part of the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s 2014-2015 – both shows were hand-picked by Artistic Director Jajube Mandiela from the 12th rock.paper.sistahz Festival.

An Interview on Theatre Archturus’ – Weïrd – An immersive original take on the witches of Macbeth

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I sat down with director Philip Psutka and actors Lindsay Bellaire, Lindsay Sippen Eitzen and Polly Phokeev to chat about their show, Weïrd, an immersive original take on the witches of Macbeth.

MM: Tell me a little bit about Weïrd.

Philip: Weïrd focuses on the witches of Macbeth and tells the story of Macbeth from the witches perspective. Essentially, what mistakes they make in picking Macbeth in the first place, and then what they have to do to go about fixing that. We use aerial silks whenever the witches are doing a charm or whenever they’re using any sort of force of nature or anything like that.

MM: Is aerial silks a medium that Theatre Arcturus often works in?

Philip: Yes. Basically any sort of rigorous element that we work with, silks or any sort of aerial apparatus are a huge part of it. And the big thing with us is, we’re not so much a movement or physical theatre company where we want to use silks or another discipline to, for instance, take a break from the story and focus on a character, focus on a moment or a character’s internal journey and express that through the silks. What we want to do is incorporate the physical discipline into the scenes, continuing the story, while dialogue is going on, having interactions between characters. So it’s less of taking a moment in time and looking at, for instance, an internal journey, rather it’s actually physically incorporating the silks as the main set of the piece into what the characters are trying to achieve in the moment, with each other. So overall, it’s really continuing the storytelling.

Lindsay B: We try to keep it fluid and try to avoid making it disjointed or making it seem contrived. We’re really trying to mesh them together in a seamless way.

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MM: So you interact with the silks in the way actors interact with the furniture onstage or with props onstage?

Linsday B: Yeah. Or sometimes with a character. Because [the silks] do move, and you have to be able to react to those kinds of things. Something that I discovered through the process was realizing how much it was going to be like having another person there. Usually the set is stagnant. You pick up a prop and put it down, and it stays there. Whereas with this, the slightest breeze will move the silks, and your own movement will have a ripple effect through it, and that changes the way you have to react to it, constantly.

Polly: And it’s really interesting inheriting the silks. Let’s say Lindsay’s done a charm, and then the next person who approaches the silks has to deal with the way they’re all twisted up and the directions in which they’ve gone. When we were rehearsing in isolation, it was a non issue. The silks would be straight down but then it’s interesting to go into that again. 

MM: I know that Lindsay B has trained in silks. Have the rest of you trained as well?

Lindsay SE: Nope, just with this process! (laughs) 

MM: So how did you get mixed up in this crazy business?

Lindsay SE: I don’t know! (laughs) I’m friends with Lindsay and Phil and they asked me to be a part of the project. Partially, I think, because they know that I am passionate about creating things and taking a very physical approach to theatre, which I think is really cool and really important. I thought the silks were a brilliant idea. I said, “That sounds amazing! It’s going to be so cool!” And I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t really just HOW difficult it was going to be. I’m like, “I didn’t know I owned those muscles!” Whenever you see someone performing aerial silks or circus arts or anything like that, they just make it look so easy. We realize that they’re working, but I don’t think people realize just HOW hard it is, even to just get off the ground.

Polly: You have had more time than I have to start learning how to do the silks, and I’m ecstatic when I can even get an inch off the ground, so I’m so impressed with what Lindsay B can do. The way I got involved in the project is stage combat. I know Dan Levinson from Rapier Wit, where I did my Intermediate with them last June, and he knows Phil, who did his Advanced with them, so that’s our connection.

Philip: That fits right in with our company. It’s not just circus arts or aerial silks, but it is really rigorous physical discipline. So we’ve got an aerial performer in the show [Lindsay B], we’ve got someone with a lot of experience with dance [Lindsay SE] and then we’ve got someone who has a lot of experience training with stage combat [Polly]. We’ve got three separate physical disciplines that we’ve been able to incorporate into the same piece, and it’s been amazing how well the three of them have actually flowed together, how seamlessly they’ve worked together as part of the whole piece. I feel like the reason why it has worked so well that way is that whenever we are focusing on a moment where one of those disciplines or one of those physical aspects is really coming out, we keep going back to the text. We go back to “how is this actually forwarding the story? How are we staying in the scene? How is this not stepping out and being its own thing?” So as a result, we’ve worked the scenes and we look at them afterwards, and there’s this moment of realizing “Oh, right, you did some aerial in there, you did some dance, and there was even some stage combat in there” and we realized we couldn’t actually tell where one started and one began. At least not consciously, because all we see is the full scene and what’s progressing with the story.

Lindsay B: It’s interesting how much ground work in dance and movement [Lindsay SE] has been working on while I’m thinking vertically, and having Polly always being on us about text. Which has been very helpful to always be pulling it back to “Why are we doing that?” text-wise and character-wise. We have a fight scene in there, and it’s my first fight scene. It’s been really interesting for me because I’m learning things too.

Lindsay SE: I just wanted to comment briefly because you touched on the text and I wanted to say how cool it is that we’re using all text from Macbeth. It’s the witches’ scenes, and we’ve pulled a little bit of text from other scenes that fits into the story that we’re telling. It’s all from the story, it’s all from Macbeth.

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MM: So there’s no original text?

Philip: No original. Basically, we have the witches scenes from the actual play. We’ve even changed those up a little bit. Sometimes there are lines from other parts of the play added in, but we also have the moments with the witches where we DON’T see them in Macbeth. It’s ‘what is happening in between those scenes?’ and those scenes in our piece are what’s formed out of text from other scenes in the play itself that other characters say. Sometimes it’s been an entire page almost of Shakespearean text that another character says literally the way it is, that could transfer to the witches’ story perfectly, and we have moments where we have four lines, and each of those lines have words from different parts of the play to form the line. Some of them are very quick jumps from one part of the text to the other, but it all works seamlessly so it is the story of the witches, whether we’re used to seeing them in Macbeth, or whether it’s some place or time that we’re seeing in between that’s completely new.

MM: So how did you come up with this concept? I’ve not heard of anything like this happening before. There are physical-based theatre companies, but none that seem to be so text focused.

Philip: Amazing! That’s great to hear. We originally thought of the idea for this show because we were talking about the possibility of working with a pop-up theatre company who was looking for some stuff, and the only information we could get from them about what they might want from us is ‘some aerial, maybe some other physical stuff, maybe some classical text, you know, everything, whatever’. So we were like, ‘okay, we need to figure out something that works that will play to our strengths, the aerial, Shakespeare, classical text, and we can develop a piece that will work outside or inside, where we can set up the rig literally in any space, and have either part of the show work if it’s a ten minute version that they want, or a full length show’ so we started working with the idea of the witches because that made the most sense in terms of things that we could think of off the top of our heads that was Shakespeare that would be easy to incorporate in terms of silks in a very believable way that they audience could buy into. So we just started working on it on our own, and then we thought ‘fuck it, let’s do it on our own!’ Which is great, because when we have other opportunities, like if we wanted to do it at events, it’s a very easy piece to adapt sections to that. 

MM: For something that seems so complex, you guys are talking about it as though it’s very easy and fluid.

Lindsay SE: Well, sure there are challenges of course, but I don’t think there was anything that was super hard to pull in and have to work really hard to make something work in terms of the storytelling. I feel like the storytelling isn’t a stretch.

Polly: Like with anything, you compartmentalize and then you work bits and it comes together, layer by layer. Like a cake.

Philip: And everyone has endured the weather with us.

Lindsay SE: We’ve been lucky, I think, to work outside for a lot of the rehearsals. It’s been really neat to have the challenges in terms of weather and wind and rain. I think it all added to the process, because in the play, the witches scenes take place outside, so it’s just added a lot to what we’ve been able to do.

Lindsay B: And we’ve been playing to people in their apartments. It’s been a very communal experience. We’ve met so many people in our building because of it. We even drew out another aerialist! There’s another aerialist who lives in the building which I found out because I had my rig up and she was so interested. We’ve been working with our feet in the dirt. We’ve got such a great cast. Sometimes it’s wet. Sometimes it’s muddy. I wish I could provide a better space and it’s like, ‘sorry guys, please slog through this with us, we have no budget’ but it’s been a cool experience and we’ve found amazing people with really good attitudes.

MM: How would you sum up Weïrd?

Linsday B: Sisterhood.

Polly: Collaboration.

Philip: Immersive.

Lindsay SE: Storytelling.

Weïrd

Presented by Theatre Arcturus

Weu00EFrd Poster Final Small

Deal: Bring your Weïrd ticket to Mill Street Brew Pub or Beer Hall before or after the performance on the day of the performance to receive 15% off food!

When: Shows Oct 17 8pm, Oct 18 2pm, 8pm, and Oct 19 2pm, 8pm.

Where: Playing at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery Historic District

CAST
Witch 1………………………….Lindsay Bellaire
Witch 2……………………Lindsay Sippel Eitzen
Witch 3…………………………….Polly Phokeev
ARTISTIC TEAM
Director……………………………Phillip Psutka
Stage Manager……………Alexandra Brennan
Choreographer…………………Lindsay Bellaire
Fight Director……………………..Phillip Psutka

Tickets:  http://www.theatrearcturus.ca/en/shows/runs-october-17–19-tickets-now-available

“A Harmful Bit of Fun” – Interview with Richard Harte on One Little Goat’s Ubu Mayor

Interview by Madryn McCabe

MMC: Could you tell me a little bit about the show? 

Richard Harte: UBU Mayor is a collision between Alfred Jarry’s outrageous 1896 masterpiece, Ubu Roi, and the dizzying world of Toronto’s mayoral politics. So instead of the king from Jarry’s play, we have a mayor (Ubu) whose wife (Huhu) is having an affair with his older brother (Dudu). Ubu wants Huhu to love him again; Ubu wants what’s best for the city; but both his love and political ideals are foiled by brother Dudu’s machinations.

MMC: What inspired the merging of the Ubu Roi story and the Ford brothers? 

RH: I think Jarry’s original play, which scandalized audiences in 1896, is a natural fit with the antics of the Ford brothers, which have of course scandalized Toronto and beyond. The One Little Goat twitter account  has been putting up quotations from the original Ubu Roi and the Ford brothers, and it’s hilarious (or alarming) how similar their language resembles each other.

MMC: What makes this a “play with music” instead of a “musical”? 

RH: I think I have this right – Adam Seelig, playwright and director of One Little Goat, intended on writing strictly a play, but soon found himself at his piano writing a song about bacon. So there was an organic transformation from a play, to a play with songs in it. I don’t think he intended to write a musical at all! That being said, i think the musical elements have come together extremely well, both serving the story of UBU Mayor, and also because we have an ace band, led by Tyler Emond on bass, Jeff Halischuk on drums, and our director Adam on piano.

(L-R) Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, Richard Harte, and Adam Seelig.

(L-R) Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, Richard Harte, and Adam Seelig.

MMC: What were the challenges in putting this show together? 

RH: From my perspective, the challenges lay in discovering how a brand new play works, hearing it for the first time, trying out new songs, having the voices of three different performers blend together, and remembering how to bring a story to life. Believe me, all of these challenges are challenging, but they’re also extremely fun. Not a day went by in the rehearsal hall that wasn’t filled with laughter. My comrades in this play are Michael Dufays, who plays the mayor’s brother, and Astrid Van Wieren, the mayor’s wife, and they are simply wonderful company, inventive, playful, and generous. I gush, I know.

MMC: I hear there’s bacon in the show, actually cooked onstage. Can you tell me more about it, or will that give away a major surprise? 

RH: Initially the plan was to cook bacon during the course of the play. We discovered it wasn’t feasible, so it is instead accomplished with a little theatre magic (or rather, with the magic of pre-made bacon).

MMC: Is there anything else you’d like your audience to know? 

RH: I think they’ll have a great time! 9 shows only! Call 416 915 0201 - no service fees!

MMC: Sum up the show in five words or less! 

RH: I’m going to cheat here – the playwright has given me this one right in the title: A harmful bit of fun.

Ubu Mayor poster

**One Little Goat is running a promo called “Gravy Train” Sundays!** 
“Gravy Train” Sundays: $15.00 tickets to UBU MAYOR on Sun Sept 14 & 21.
Book tickets by phone (416) 915-0201 (no service fees), online, or in person (also no service fees).

Connect with One Little Goat: @1LGoat

Website: http://onelittlegoat.org/ubu-mayor/

Connect with ITGR writer Madryn McCabe: @FuriousMAD

Romeo and (her) Juliet – An interview with Leslie McBay

Interview by Brittany Kay

I chat with the lovely Leslie McBay about the necessity in creating your own work, the need for fascinating female characters, and of course the fresh take on a classic in the show Romeo and (her) Juliet.

Brittany Kay: Tell me a little bit about Romeo and (her) Juliet? 

Leslie: Romeo and (her) Juliet is a queer take on the classic love story, featuring women in the title roles. The characters have been reimagined for contemporary Toronto, which allows us to open up opportunities for female-identified, LGBTQ and culturally diverse performers and audiences. We edited the play down to a 90 minute running time, and staged it throughout the sanctuary of Bloor Street United Church, creating an immersive experience for the audience.

BK: Where did the inspiration for the interpretation of the show come from?

LMB: Out of frustration, largely, and a longing to have more opportunities for interesting female characters, particularly in classical theatre. Melanie Hrymak (my wonderful co-adaptor, co-producer and Tybalt) and I decided to create the work that we wished we were auditioning for, in this case, classical theatre that centres women and a queer story. Which is pretty hard to come by, even in contemporary theatre. Repurposing some of the traditional male roles as female allows the women to be much more active in the story, and telling queer stories has personal importance. What better love story to tell (and to queer) than the quintessential Western love story?

Romeo & (her) Juliet: Leslie McBay & Krystina Bojanowski

Romeo & (her) Juliet: Leslie McBay & Krystina Bojanowski

BK: Talk to me about the Bloor United Church as a space. I know Urban Bard likes to do site specific classical work, so how is the church used in conjunction with the play?

LMB: The church is a big part of our story. It is Friar Laurence’s church, and the play is framed as part of a service after the kids (Tybalt, Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet) have died. The audience arrives to find memorial tables for Tybalt and Mercutio, before heading into the sanctuary. Part-way through the prologue spoken by the Friar (played by the incredible Lisa Karen Cox), her memories come barging in and play out the action.

BK: As this show is being co-produced, how did these two groups come together?

LMB: Melanie had worked with Urban Bard and director Scott Moyle before, and Urban Bard frequently casts women in very active, traditionally male roles. Scott has feminist sensibilities, a ridiculous knowledge of Shakespeare and a lot of experience staging site-specific work. It made a lot of sense to team up and pool our resources and skills to make this production happen.

BK: I see that composer, Stephen Joffe, is on your production team. How is music used as an element in the show?

LMB: Stevie composed a lot of cool music inspired by the show, and we hope to have a music night at some point where we can feature the music, because we weren’t able to incorporate all of it into the show. He wrote an awesome song for Juliet (the lovely Krystina Bojanowski) which she performs at the Capulet’s party, instead of the traditional group choreographed dance. It’s a song gives us a glimpse into Juliet and how stifled she feels by the roles she’s forced into by her family.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

LMB: I want people who have never seen themselves onstage in classical theatre to see themselves represented, particularly queer women. I want the audience to feel personally involved in the community that failed these kids and consider why the suicide rate among LGBTQ youth is still so high. And I want the audience to look at the classics in a new way, with an eye for subverting the traditional.

BK: You are clearly not a one trick pony, how do you divide your time between creating, acting, and producing?

LMB: Well, producing has sort of become one of my jobs out of necessity. Performing is where my heart is, and to do the work I want to be doing, that often means creating it. The last 18 months have mostly been focused on creating, producing and performing a couple of projects, and trying to compartmentalize acting and producing roles, so they don’t interfere with each other. I am super lucky to be collaborating with Melanie on R&J, because she took over most of the producer duties during the rehearsal process, which allowed me to focus on acting.

BK: Where does your inspiration come from when you create/write?

LMB: Lately, I’ve been working on reimagining classics with Romeo and (her) Juliet, and Honest Aesop’s Fables, which was a collective creation adapting Aesop’s Fables for a young, modern audience. I love subverting expectations about what a classic story should be. (Hint: It shouldn’t be limited to stories about/for straight, old, white men.) Mostly, my inspiration comes from a place of frustration about being told what I can and should do as a woman and an actor, and saying, “Screw that!”

BK: Do you have  a favourite place to write?

LMB: Anywhere I can wear giant, fuzzy socks, drink tea and wrap myself up in a blanket. So, my apartment. Preferably not in the sweltering summer months.

BK: Where did you grow up? How did you get to where you are now?

LMB: I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, in Northern Ontario. I co-founded a youth theatre company as a teenager, under the well-established Sault Theatre Workshop, and was able to access free rehearsal and performance space. To say our group was prolific is an understatement. We were constantly rehearsing original and classical works, hosting classes and experimenting. That group of people had a huge impact on who I am and where I am today.

BK: Any advice for emerging artists?

LMB: If you aren’t doing the work you want to be doing, create it!

And take time to invest in yourself, outside of all those acting class. Take care of your body, go to therapy, build fulfilling relationships, and be kind to yourself.

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Presented by: Headstrong Collective, in association with Urban Bard

Where: Bloor Street United Church

When:
Wednesday September 17th at 7:30pm
Friday September 19th at 1:00pm and 7:30pm
Saturday September 20th at 7:30pm

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/827954

Connect:

Romeo and (her) Julietwww.RandJTO.com

#RandJTO

Urban Bard:

https://www.facebook.com/UrbanBardTO

@Urban_Bard

Leslie McBay:

@LeslieMcBabe

ITGR Writer – Brittany Kay:

@brittanylkay

Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights Unit: Playwright Profile – Alexandria Haber

by Bailey Green

I interviewed playwright, actor and fellow Montrealer, Alexandria Haber as part of our series of profiles on the members of the 2014 Playwrights Unit at Tarragon Theatre.

Too busy to write? Alexandria Haber might inspire you to re-think what’s possible. A mother of four, Haber writes in the chunks of time she can find throughout the day, “It can be difficult to take advantage of those moments, but it has made me the writer I am.” It was during her second pregnancy that Haber began writing plays as a creative outlet. Birthmarks, her first work, led to her acceptance into the unit at Playwrights Workshop Montreal. With several years of writing credits under her belt, a few highlights include multiple Fringe shows, productions throughout Canada and collaborations with companies like Imago Theatre, Edmonton Theatre, Centaur Theatre (to name a few) and plays included in the Wildside Festival (essentially Montreal’s Best of Fringe.)

When the email came from Andrea Romaldi saying that the Tarragon Playwrights Unit was interested in Haber’s work, she actually didn’t have a play at the ready. What she did have was the image of a couple who had hit a girl with their car while on their way to a party. The girl survives and the couples takes her to the ER, where things become very uncomfortable for multiple, and undisclosed, reasons. The first pieces of this idea had taken shape a few years ago, but were put aside to make way for another play. “I dug it up, spoke to Andrea and then barreled through a first draft in three months,” Haber recalls.

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Over the months that the Unit has been working together, On This Day has been workshopped several times in meetings with dramaturg Romaldi, with actors reading scenes and in hearing feedback from the other writers. Haber’s play deals with happiness—the ways we define it, the choices we make to obtain it and what happens when those choices come at the expense of other people’s happiness. On the process with the Unit, Haber says that to sit in a rehearsal room with other writers and work on scripts for several days every three months has been a great experience. She also mentions the importance of moving a piece past the workshop phase, “At times, in Canada, I think we over-develop. When a play is done, it’s done. Not everything is going to be perfect about every piece you write. Some things only show up in the rehearsal room or in production.”

Born in Hamilton, Haber moved to Montreal when she was 5. She had some experience with Toronto’s theatre scene before the Unit, but not as much as in her home city. “[The community in] Montreal is smaller, so you immediately have that comfort level. I didn’t know the Toronto community very well,” Haber says, “but we have really gelled as a group which has been so nice.” Navigating how to speak with each other as fellow artists is always part of the learning curve, especially given the variety of voice and subject matter with each individual play and writer.

“I’ve had a lot of people who believed in me and supported me and I feel very fortunate to have had that experience,” Haber says of the tight-knit English theatre community in Montreal. “There’s a lot of self-perpetuated work and people getting things off the ground. It’s a great city, and an affordable city, which has helped me a lot as a theatre artist.” Haber’s husband, an actor and director, is one of her greatest supports and the first person to read every draft she writes. With an objective eye and her best interests at heart, he explores with her to discover what works and what doesn’t. Their fellow actor friends also deserve due credit for coming over to their house on Saturday night to share a bottle of wine and read scripts. Haber stresses the importance of hearing your script read out loud by people outside the immediate process.

Her advice to anyone struggling with their own writing? “It’s advice everyone has heard, but if you want to write, you just have to write.”

Some Favourites:

Playwrights: Caryl Churchill, Judith Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Craig Wright.

Authors: A.S. Byatt, Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch), Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong.)

Time to write: Mornings, and whenever she gets the chance.

Coffee Shop: Shäika Café.

Website or Blog: Not a huge website or blog person, but she currently enjoys Renegade Mothering

What she can’t live without (besides the obvious, e.g. her family, oxygen): My morning coffee. It’s gets me out of bed and I look forward to it the second I’m opening my eyes. And my yoga.

Be sure to check back over the next few months to follow our Tarragon Playwrights Unit Feature as we meet with each of the playwrights, culminating in their Play Reading Week in November 2014.

Follow our writer Bailey on Twitter: @_BaileyGreen

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