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“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

Philip Ridleys “Mercury Fur” Gets Toronto Premiere – A Chat with Director Will King

Interview by Hallie Seline

HS: Could you tell me a bit about the show? 

Will King: Absolutely! Mercury Fur follows two brothers who survive in a lawless city by fulfilling the dark and vivid fantasies of their clients. Language is degrading, memories are disappearing, and as the population becomes increasingly dependant on mind altering butterflies, their desperate need to connect with each other is intensified. It’s provocative and unapologetic, but at its core this is a show about what you would do to protect the person you love.

HS: What inspired you to do this show in Toronto right now? 

WK: I’ve been a fan of Philip Ridley’s work for a long time, and once I realized that there’s never been a Canadian production of this play I knew we needed to bring it to Toronto. It has an incredible cast of characters, and I’m consistently impressed by Ridley’s ability to write three dimensional parts for young actors. I also think Mercury Fur challenges the audience to experience theatre in a new way. It weaves together horror, drama, and comedy into a shot of adrenaline which leaves you wanting more. I’ve never read or experienced anything quite like it, and I feel like the strength of the writing allowed us to bring together a pretty incredible cast and crew.

HS: What has been the most surprising discovery you have made while working on Mercury Fur?

WK: The humour. Mercury Fur can be wickedly funny. We are constantly finding joy in this bleak world they live in and although there’s plenty of heavy subject matter, Ridley has created a solid polarity of comedy to keep things rolling.

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HS: What inspires you as artists?

WK: At the moment I’m quite fascinated by Fantastic Realism. Through taking characters which are grounded and believable, and placing them in a heightened, magical, or supernatural environment I find we are able to expand the style and size of our world without compromising the given circumstances or truth of the characters.

For example, in Mercury Fur, every character has been affected by the outbreak of butterflies. Whether they sell them, consume them, reject them, or become hopelessly addicted to the power of their fantasy, the existence of these butterflies creates an immediate bond between the characters. 

Seven Siblings Theatre is also focused on utilizing the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique. So when I see a piece with strong shifts in atmosphere, an even ensemble, and characters that are heightened enough to be in a constant state of play I get excited. Mercury Fur goes hand-in-hand with my style and our company values, and I’m very proud of the people who are helping to make this possible. Their commitment to our psychophysical exploration was thrilling to watch, and the detail and nuance in their performance is the result of their engagement throughout our rehearsal process.

HS: If you could pitch this show to your audience in five to ten words, what would they be?

WK: Judith Thompson meets Quentin Tarantino. A party ensues.

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HS: What song or soundtrack should we listen to before coming to see the show? 

WK: As a small homage to the culture in which the play was written we’ve been digging into the soundscape of East London’s electronic music scene. I would recommend looking into Burial, Four Tet, Phaeleh, and SBTRKT. We’ve also been building a deep and dark sound palette, so Gesaffelstein seems appropriate to me as a pre-show prep. For the exact tone of our play, check out our sound designer’s work in his new self-titled Holloh E.P.

Lastly, I’d recommend that you brush the dust off your Elvis collection, but to find out why you’ll have to come to the show!

Mercury Fur

Presented by Seven Siblings Theatre Co.
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Director: Will King
Assistant Director: Madryn McCabe
Lighting and Sound Design: Parker Nowlan
Stage Manager: Andreane Christiansen
Fight Choreography: Nathan Bitton
Fight Captain: Annemieke Wade
Set Design: Stephen King

Cast:
Elliot: Cameron Laurie
Darren: Andrew Markowiak
Naz: Adrian Beattie
Lola: Eric Rich
Spinx: Mishka Thébaud
Duchess: Annemieke Wade
Party Piece: Kenneth Collins
Party Guest: D. Gingerich

Where: Unit 102

When: Aug 27th to Sept 6th

Tickets & More Info: http://sevensiblingstheatre.ca/mercury-fur/ 

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sevensiblingstheatreco
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SevenSiblingsCo 

FWYC Campaignhttps://fwyc.ca/campaigns/mercury-fur 

Our Favourite SummerWorks 2014 Moments

It’s that time again! Check out Our Favourite SummerWorks 2014 Moments, in no particular order, to see what performances we’ve particularly dug so far and left us feeling all of the feels. Some we’d love to see developed further and come back for a remount, others you still have a chance to catch to finish off your SummerWorks Festival weekend with a bang.

Is there a performance we’ve missed that really struck a chord with you that we should check out? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter and we’ll be sure to check it out as our final #SW14 shows! Enjoy the last weekend of SummerWorks, Friends!

Unknown Soldier – The Whole Package

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Presented by lemonTree creations, Architect Theatre

Written by Jonathan Seinen,
Directed by Jonathan Seinen,
Performed by Jeff Ho,
Dramaturgy by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman,
Set and Costume Design by Jung-Hye Kim,
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lennon,
Sound Design by Thomas Ryder Payne,
Stage Managed by Marc Benson,
Produced by Georgina Beaty, Indrit Kasapi

“A fictionalized drama, Unknown Soldier is inspired by the actions of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a US Army Private who leaked classified documents to Wikileaks and was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison.”

Thought-provoking, funny and beautifully styled, this sharp script by Jonathan Seinen and captivating performance by Jeff Ho has definitely been a highlight of this festival. We’re hoping for a remount.

When: Sat Aug 16 5:00 PM

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace

Recurring John – Tugged on Our Heart Strings

 

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Recurring John takes you through the life and times of John, a man whom you never meet, but who has impacted the lives of those around him. It is a contemporary song cycle that inspires you to be true yourself in every stage of your life. A story that moves you to take a critical look at your own world and ask, “am I living this life fully? Kevin Wong created an incredibly moving piece that brought the whole house into tears. Although this musical works had a very limited run, there will definitely be a future for this show.

Written by Kevin Wong,
Composed by Kevin Wong,
Directed by Jeff Madden,
Music Directed by Donavon LeNabat,
Produced by Seren Brooke Lannon,
Performed by Natasha Buckeridge, Kevin Dennis, Arlene Duncan, Alexis Gordon, Chris Tsujiuchi, Jennifer Walls, Paula Wolfson

Where: Artscape Youngplace

Trace – Part of the Piece

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Trace is a mesmerizing, haunting and unique piece of theatre. The two performers, Martin Julien and Michelle Polak, are sensitive, grounded and generous as they weave in and out of storytelling and audience interaction. Intimate and captivating, the performance allows you to reflect on your own memory and engage in the memory of others. Using music, movement and a collection of memoirs, Trace forces us to confront our own ghosts.

Presented by Vertical City, A Theatre Gargantua SideStream Cycle

Directed and Co-Created by Bruce Barton
Performed and Co-Created by Martin Julien and Michelle Polak
Dramaturgy by Pil Hansen

Where: Artscape Youngplace at 180 Shaw Street.

When: Saturday August 16, 8:00pm
Saturday August 16, 10:00pm
Sunday August 17, 8:00pm

Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales – Remembering Magic 

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“If you’re looking for a fairy tale, fable, or thinly-veiled metaphor to make you feel better about how life works sometimes…this isn’t it. But let’s pile into a blanket fort and get through it together.”

The blanket fort alone was the most magical, comforting, wonderful part of our SummerWorks. Add innovative, beautiful puppetry, charming musical transitions and smile-inducing and at times heart-breaking stories and you’ve got a truly special experience. Go early to secure a ticket as they are sold out in pre-sale tickets for the last two shows. 

Presented by Caterwaul Theatre

Written by Erin Fleck,
Directed by Maya Rabinovitch,
Puppet Design by Sarah Fairlie, Daniel Briere and Erin Fleck,
Video Art Direction by Sarah Fairlie,
Musical Direction by Brad Casey,
Set Design by Roxanne Ignatius,
Lighting Design by Pip Bradford,
Performed by Glyn Bowerman, Sascha Cole, Talia DelCogliano, Erin Fleck, Marcus Jamin, Jordi Mand, Michelle Urbano, Brian Webber

Where: Lower Ossington Theatre Studio

When: Saturday August 16, 6:00pm
Sunday August 17, 7:00pm

 

SummerWorks 2014 Artist Profile – Erin Fleck: Playwright, Performer, Puppeteer – Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

Interview by Hallie Seline

Hallie Seline: Could you talk a bit about your show Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales playing now as part of the SummerWorks 2014 Juried Series and where you got the inspiration to write it?

Erin Fleck: Growing up, I remember my parents, grandparents and important adults in my life telling me fairy-tales, fables and other stories to teach me about the world. In many cases, they were lessons outlining morality, how to be a good person to others, or how to find my place in the world. Which, according to them, and me, was going to be something important, something for the history books. We all are the heroes of our own story, right?

I remember most of the stories told to me by my parents tending to frame life as a positive adventure, where things always work out in the end, even if the journey gets hard along the way. Good things happen to “good” people, and “bad” people get what’s coming to them… or at the very least they learn something and become better people.

But when you grow up, it becomes very apparent that this isn’t the case most of the time. Of course, there can be a lot of beautiful things to celebrate in life, but things don’t always work out, even for the nicest, most caring, well-intentioned people out there. And people who do evil things don’t always have to answer for them.

(And to add another level to that, ideas of what or who is “good” or “bad” are never that cut and dry.)

Life often throws you disappointments, unwanted responsibilities, lowered expectations, and in some cases, tragedies that you have to survive. I think this realization also coincides with an age where most people consider us too old to sit down, curl up and have someone read aloud to us from a book of treasured tales.

So, I started writing the Tales with that idea in mind. People who are trying to be heroes in their own stories, but end up having the heroism or that poignancy snatched away by circumstance. But I still wanted the telling of their stories to capture the magic and whimsy of the tales I loved as a kid. And also, I didn’t want to lose the sense of surviving those things, and keeping on, because we do that every day.

HS: You have quite the team of creative people working on it with you (sound designers, puppet makers, video artists etc.) Being the playwright, what surprised you the most while developing the show to its current version?

EF: Honestly, the amount of enthusiasm, passion and resourcefulness that all of the artists have, who’ve been involved with the development since the beginning. I love the show and the stories, but there was a part of me in the early stages that thought, who besides me is going to care about this whimsical and sad little world, that is actually a huge logistical undertaking? And to have so many talented people throw themselves into it has been overwhelming and wonderful.

We had Jordan [Tannahill] and Will [Ellis] at Videofag back in January (where we did the first workshop) saying “We will give you space, make this thing happen”. My director Maya [Rabinovitch] heard my ideas about a puppet show in a blanket fort and what I was trying to create as an experience with this show, and thought “Ya, let’s just go for it. We’ll deal with logistics later.” Our designer Roxanne Ignatius has been living with 100 yards of blankets for the last few months to build a tent big enough for the LOT Studio space. Sarah Fairlie, who runs Caterwaul with me, and is the puppet designer and main builder, has designed five puppet shows and a stop motion film in the last eight months. The puppeteers and narrators that have come on board, are all incredibly talented and busy actors and performers, and they’ve just taken whatever has been thrown at them, and given back insight into the stories that has been so helpful to me as the creator. And since she’s come on board, Pip [Bradford], our stage manager and technician, somehow managed to look at our five shows worth of puppets, a 25 x 30 foot tent, four projectors and a puppet screen and say “Why yes, we can get that ready in 25 minutes before curtain, no problem, Erin.”

Erin Fleck & Maya Rabimovitch Photo by: Juni Bimm

Erin Fleck & Sarah Fairlie. Photo by: Juni Bimm

HS: What are you most excited for the audience to experience with the show (We’re really excited about this blanket fort that you can watch in!)

EF: We opened on Thursday, so I’m cheating a little bit with this question. We’d just gotten the tent up and set up all of the inside seating and puppets, and I was waiting behind our shadow screen as the audience was let in. And all I could hear were people reacting to realizing that they were walking into a giant blanket fort built for them. They were pointing out details to each other, exploring the space, identifying knickknacks, wondering what everything was going to mean to the show they were about to see. Having that off the top of the show really sets the performance for me. We’re doing five different puppet shows in and around the audience. Sometimes you can see us as puppeteers and narrators and sometimes you can’t. Having the audience already curious, already engaging with the space, really sets the tone for how we want to engage them with the stories. It really is a “these stories are sad, but we’re all in this together” kind of environment for that 60 minutes.

HS: Why do you think festivals like SummerWorks are so important to the Toronto theatre scene?

EF: I’m a playwright who creates new work primarily, and I’m also a puppeteer. Having a festival that focuses on supporting artistic risk and innovation on stage, while encouraging their audiences to do the same, provides artists with a relatively safe space to create, develop and showcase their work. Those opportunities aren’t always so available with such a high level of exposure for that work.

HS: Best advice you’ve ever gotten.

EF: This was about being a writer:

No one cares about your work as much as you do. So make sure you’re doing it. People will invest in it, and you, only if you believe in it and put it out into the world for others to see.

HS: Favourite place in Toronto.

EF: Toronto Island. Hands down.

HS: Where do you look for inspiration?

EF: I write a lot from personal experience, but I’m also a pretty big history, literary, folklore nerd, so I find as a writer I’m often trying to weave those things together. It harkens back to the inspiration for the show really. It’s the attempt to find the epic in your own personal narrative.

HS: Tell us in five to ten words why you think someone should come see the show? 

EF: We’ll make you sad, but we’ll hold your hand through it.

HS: If the audience were to listen to a song or soundtrack before coming to see the show, what should it be?

EF: I’ve had a lot of music playing during the writing and building of this piece. (You need it when you are exacto-knifing bristol board for hours on end!) In fact, on our production blog I was tracking an “Unintentionally Depressing Soundtrack” If you’re interested, it’s here: erinmaefleck.tumblr.com

But in terms of a go-to for the writing of the Tales, I always came back to this:

Just Another Diamond Day – Vashti Bunyan

 

Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

Written by Erin Fleck, Directed by Maya Rabinovitch presented by Caterwaul Theatre as part of the 2014 SummerWorks Festivalstatic.squarespace

Puppet Design by Sarah Fairlie and Erin Fleck
Video Art Direction by Sarah Fairlie
Musical Direction by Brad Casey
Set Design by Roxanne Ignatius
Lighting Design by Pip Bradford
Performed by Glyn Bowerman, Sascha Cole, Talia DelCogliano, Erin Fleck, Marcus Jamin, Jordi Mand, Michelle Urbano, Brian Webber

Where - The Lower Ossington Theatre Studio

When -Thursday August 7, 8:30pm
Saturday August 9, 8:00pm
Sunday August 10, 12:30pm
Monday August 11, 9:00pm
Wednesday August 13, 4:00pm
Thursday August 14, 10:00pm
Saturday August 16, 6:00pm
Sunday August 17, 7:00pm

Buy Tickets: tickets.ticketwise.ca/event/UnintentionallyDepressing

More about Caterwaul Theatre:

www.caterwaultheatre.com

Twitter: @catrwaule

 

2014 SummerWorks Preview – And Now The End

Interview by Brittany Kay

What started out as a classroom project became something “much bigger than anyone could have ever conceived.” A team of five artists spent more than a year creating a dramatic musical that is sure to be a must-see at this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival. I sat down with creators, Victoria Houser, Emily Nixon, Drew O’Hara, Zach Parkhurst, and Jake Vanderham to discuss their upcoming show, And Now the End

Brittany: Talk to me about the show? What are some of the major themes or messages that come out of the story?

Drew: The show asks the question, “What would you do with the time you had left, if you knew how much it was?” A definite major theme, which we didn’t intend on having, was love. There’s also hope and survival, as you see these characters under this magnifying glass that is the end of the world and you just watch how they deal with it.

Emily: You never see the outside world. You only see the characters indoors referring to how the world is disintegrating, outside, how it’s completely falling apart. What you are actually seeing on stage, is the relationships between the characters contained away from that. You see how the world disintegrating has affected them and their relationships.

Drew: One of the primary questions that the play asks is “What is it that keeps us going? Why do we keep going?” One of the major answers that we found is each other. That’s why relationships and love became such a big part of the show.

Victoria: Another important question that it asks is, “What would we become at the end of the world? What would humanity become and also what is revealed about the people you thought you knew?”

Brittany: What was the spark that ignited the inspiration for the story?

Victoria: It started as a class project at Ryerson Theatre School. As a class we came to a consensus that we were going to go away and write something about the end of the world. We left with our separate ideas and came back to present. At the end of it all, there were five of us left and it just so happened that the five of us were all working on two characters each, aside from Drew and Zach who wrote their characters together.

Drew: It was also partly because of our creative performance teacher, Sheldon Rosen, who noticed that there was an unusually high amount of musical people in our class – not musical theatre people – but people who have an aptitude for music. He proposed the idea of trying to write a musical, which is not typically done at Ryerson. We’re an acting school. It’s not our main focus.

Zach: It certainly became that way!

Drew: You start with a book of course, and then the music… Yeah… It’s a musical!

Victoria: Is it? Did you know that yet? Do you need to write that down?

(Chuckles table round)

Photo Credit: David Leyes

Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Amir Haidar

Brittany: I mean having a strong foundation of a dramatic story with real characters underlining the music is such a positive feature and is sometimes missing in musical theatre.

Zach: Exactly. The fact that we’re all actors is something that’s really benefitted us in that way. We’ve been able to write for actors. Especially having great casts in the room and in every step of the process has been helpful because we can go away and think about what works and what doesn’t. Having been on stage, we know what’s helpful to them and hopefully we can write better scenes because of it.

Emily: When we were inviting people onto the project, they were presented with the book and the first decision, on whether they wanted to be part of it or not, was off of whether they connected to the book or not and then they heard the music and went “Oh My God, this is amazing!” As writers, it’s nice to know that the book is strong in its own right and is what in fact opened the doors for us.

Drew: Let me also toot Jake’s horn for a minute because we are blessed to have him with us. He is not only an incredible dramatic writer but also an incredible composer. Something really special about how the show was created was Jake’s involvement in the writing of the book and then shifting into the composing. All of the music comes directly from the page and directly from the characters that he knows so well.

Brittany: So much of this show is the music. Jake, as composer and lyricist, talk to me about the development of the music.

Jake: In order for the music to be effective, it has to come directly from the book, from the story and from the character’s dialogue. A lot of the lyrics are word for word some of the text that the characters say. What’s amazing, is how much of our speech and conversation is musical in its essence – it has music to it. When you can find those moments in the script and then fill it with more music, it makes it so affective. The music heightens the moment. It elevates the mood. It’s essentially a fast track to the heart.

Drew: What a quote.

Jake: Sometimes you don’t need words. Sometimes I can see the musical underscore hit the actor and open them up completely.

Brittany: So there has been a lot of development of this show. I just want to talk about the process that has gone into it.

Jake: So it started with a book. Once we knew we wanted to make it a musical (which was a choice that we knew all along) as the composer, I waited as long as I could for the book to come together. We knew we really wanted the book as a strong foundation. I took it and identified what places could be better expressed or heightened through music. Songs replaced text. There’s a lot of back and forth between that. Then we put it into other peoples’ hands and voices and it’s been very valuable having the actors that we’ve had in this process. With two different casts, we’ve been able to have a lot of voices and a lot of opinions and feedback…and so it’s been very…what’s the word…

Zach: Interesting?

(Table round laughter)

Jake: It’s been involved.

Victoria: There also came a point where we couldn’t finish it until we had bodies and actors to play these roles.

Drew: Not that it’s finished…

Victoria: No, it’s not finished by any means. We couldn’t really go any further until we had people there because… I don’t know… after working on a project for so long you get trapped in this voice that you’ve created in your head of these people, and it was so helpful to have other people come in and give a completely different take on what you’ve put on the page.

Jake: We brought on our director, Esther Jun during the workshop process that was the Ryerson New Voices Festival. And as dramaturge as well.

Zach: Esther has been instrumental. Before, when we were writing this, the five of us would just dramaturge each other, but that would take five hours. Having one person who became super familiar with the script and music was really beneficial. She was really a key player in the development of our show to where it is now.

Drew: Absolutely

Emily: Absolutely.

Victoria: She still is. We’re still doing rewrites as they come.

Jake: The average musical takes ten years of workshops and productions and the only way it gets better, is by doing it. We’ve been very fortunate in the stretch of six months to have had the opportunity to do the show twice.

Drew: What’s really special is that it came from the collective brain of five people and that has been really amazing to be part of, because it’s much bigger than any one of us could have conceived. I think that development goes back years and years because we all came from a really strong bond of friendship and years of knowing each other… bizarrely intimately.

Emily: Theatre school.

Drew: (Shrugs shoulders) Theatre School. Having all of that behind us, made it easier and in some ways harder for us to discover a collective vision.

Victoria: Having a diverse group of people working together has made for such unique voices because, naturally, we’re all five different people and there’s no way we could sound the same on paper.

Emily: Something that has been really special for me about this process, is that we’re in this absolutely wonderful position where we’re working with people like Tamara Bernier Evans and Troy Adams and Esther Jun. I just remember so much of this process was us between classes, sitting in the hallway, trading and editing scripts and sharing things whenever we could.

Photo Credit: David Leyes

Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Ruth Goodwin

Brittany: To state the obvious, there are five of you. What were some of the challenges of working and creating with such a large group?

Drew: I don’t talk to Victoria anymore.

Drew: We all fight all the time.

Emily: It’s true!

Victoria: We’re all friends and we’re all friends still. We all know each other so well that when we get into an argument, we know it’s going to be okay.

Drew: It’s almost like family getting together at Christmas and your uncle is being an asshole and you all fight and say terrible things to each other.

Zach: And you’re sister’s drunk.

Drew: And someone needs to put her to bed. You’re at each other’s throats, but it’s all rooted in love. We fight all the time, but it’s always been in the interest of the project.

Zach: In the words of Drew, everyone’s been on Team Good Show.

Emily: We all love the project so much. We’re tied together by it.

Victoria: It’s what’s expected when you work with five people, but the project wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Brittany: What’s the future for And Now the End? Any further development?

Jake: Having a chance to workshop it without the pressure of a final product – without as much of a high stake deadline. It would be really lovely just to have another fantastic group of people getting together to hammer out the mechanics and see what’s not working. It is more complicated because it’s a musical – you’re telling the story in more than one way. We’ve been workshopping it and also mounting a show at the same time.

Brittany: How has it been being a part of SummerWorks?

Drew: It’s been a very fast maturation for us, from being in theatre school to entering the professional world. SummerWorks has been the craziest part of that because all of a sudden we’ve had this show we’ve been writing for two years, and we get into this festival, and realize that it’s too big for us right now and we need help. We’ve been fortunate to have our dream team of professional artists that we’ve looked up to for years jump aboard. What’s amazing about SummerWorks, is that the Toronto theatre community loves this festival and people of the highest caliber in Canadian theatre want to do shows in it.

Zach: It’s also been a wonderful learning experience for all of us getting into the producing side of things. A lot of this is still very new to us. Being able to work so closely with the creative team in a way that’s not acting, has been an incredible learning experience I would say for everyone. It’s helped us establish ourselves as emerging artists and what creating art, as artists, becomes.

Jake: It really is the Toronto theatre community that brought this to life. We all have poured our hearts and souls into it and countless hours. We’ve all made our sacrifices to go the extra mile for the show. That’s the wonderful thing about our theatre community, people are willing to make those sacrifices for theatre’s sake. No SummerWorks show has a Mirvish budget…it’s a lot of people making a lot of sacrifices and working extremely hard just to support it.

Emily: The professionals in the community have truly embraced and welcomed us. Everyone is just so eager and willing to help us with this project. It’s incredibly inspiring.

Brittany: What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing this show?

Zach: Tears. Tears everywhere.

Emily: I want people to feel like they need to live more fully. I want them to feel the pressure of time in some way and through that, kind of wake up and stop fucking around… if that’s what they’re doing… and really just try and be more present.

Victoria: I hope they leave asking the questions we have asked.

Drew: I hope they go home and hug somebody they love.

Zack: I just want them to cry a lot…and then want to see it six more times during the run (laughs). In all honesty good theatre makes me think. I would want someone to go away really examining and thinking, “what would I truly do?” A really incredible line that Jake wrote is, “What will our legacy be?” I want people to think “all the living that I’ve done, what does it amount to it and how can I know that I’ve made it worth while for myself and die knowingly.” It’s a huge question for someone to ask.

Emily: And who do you live for?

Jake: And now…the end.

And Now The End

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Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Ruth Goodwin

A NEW MUSICAL by Victoria Houser, Emily Nixon, Drew O’Hara, Zach Parkhurst and Jake Vanderham presented as part of the 2014 SummerWorks Festival

Directed by: Esther Jun

Cast: Troy Adams, Tamara Bernier Evans, Ruth Goodwin, Kaleigh Gorka, Amir Haidar, Zach Parkhurst, Hugh Ritchie, Paolo Santalucia, Jeff Yung

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

When: Thursday, August 7, 9:30 PM

Saturday, August 9, 5:00 PM

Monday, August 11, 4:30 PM

Wednesday, August 13, 9:30 PM

Friday, August 15, 7:00 PM

Saturday, August 16. 10:00 PM

Sunday, August 17, 5:00 PM

Website: andnowtheend.com

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