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Posts by in the greenroom

Call for Submissions: How Fiercely Fringe Are You?

We’re compiling the most epic Toronto Fringe preview and we want to hear from all of you boss Fringe babes why you are the most #FiercelyFringe and why Toronto NEEDS to see your show.

 

Find out more about how to submit here! 

Artist Profile: Vanessa Smythe, storyteller / actor / spoken-word-performer-of-many-colours, on her new show “Lip Sync Sleepover”

Interview by Brittany Kay

Vanessa Smythe is one incredibly unique performer. She combines poetry, music, spoken word and storytelling into a memorable and mesmerizing experience. I feel very grateful to have sat down with her to discuss her new show, Lip Sync Sleepover, which opens tonight at Streetcar Crownest.

“It can be scary being vulnerable with parts of your life that you’re still sorting out.” – Vanessa Smythe

Brittany Kay: Tell me a little bit about your show.

Vanessa Smythe: I think the show is ultimately inspired by my fascination with childhood, wonder and the kind of magic you see in the world when you’re a kid and how it gets harder and harder to see that magic as you get older. It’s the search between those two places of childhood magic and the realities of being an adult.

BK: Why the title, Lip Sync Sleepover?

VS: The title was a strong impulse I had. I didn’t really fully understand why that was what it was called. Growing up I loved to do lip syncs. They represented ultimate happiness and joy for me. Sleepovers were what I (and maybe not on a conscious level) associated with true love and intimacy and companionship. It spoils the show to talk too much about that. It’s kind of a clue about what we go after as young people and how that changes as we get older.

BK: How did you get into storytelling, spoken word and poetry?

VS: Let’s see… I’ve always considered myself a storyteller since I was a kid. I remember a professional storyteller came to my classroom when I was in grade one and she told a ghost story and I was like, “Oh My God. That is just the most powerful thing,” and so I wanted to do that. When I was little I was always making up routines and filming them with my dad’s video camera. I was just drawn to different ways of creative expression, which sort of evolved into what I’m doing now. I was really into poetry for a while and this show has some poetry in it but colloquial storytelling is a lot of the show, which is new for me.

BK: What is your process when creating these shows?

VS: I’ll typically make up stuff out loud and record myself and then listen to it later, or make a video. I’m very private initially. I usually don’t share any of my stuff with anyone else until very late in the process. I’ll rent a venue like Free Times Café and I’ll have a mini show and test out new pieces in front of an audience. There’s not a lot of attention paid to structure at the beginning. It’s mostly just following impulses and then seeing if any of these pieces might belong together.

BK: Then how do you structure it down to be a coherent piece?

VS: I have struggled with that in the past, which is why I’m really excited to be collaborating with Mitchell Cushman on this. He’s developing and directing the piece.

BK: What’s it been like working with Mitchell?

VS: Mitchell was the first person to sort of give me a chance, I think, as a solo performer. Crow’s Theatre did this site-specific one person show festival a couple of years ago where we took over parts of Leslieville. Mitchell put me in. I was kind of a wild card, like nobody knew who I was, and I don’t know if anyone still knows who I am.

(Laughter)

Mitchell felt like he saw something unique about what I was doing and what inspires me to do what I do. Right away, I have trusted him as somebody who seems to really understand how I work and how I can be pushed further. We’re exploring movement as a device in this show, which I’ve always wanted to do but never have known how. He is offering some of his own really good instincts about how some of these pieces can bridge together to become something that belong together. He has such a great balance. His fingers aren’t all over the piece, but at the same time he’s able to dare me to try different things, which is very hard to find, so I’m grateful.

BK: What inspires you to do what you do? Why storytelling?

VS: I love stories so much. I think stories are sacred and magical and I think that they remind us of who we are and who we are to each other. I remember doing a residency at Banff for their spoken word program and the mentors were really amazing. It was the first time I worked with d’bi.young anitafrika and she led this series of workshops where she talked about the role of the storyteller in the village. Your responsibility as a storyteller can be to protect what is sacred and nurture a place for it. On a deep level I really believe that. I try to remember that as all of the details and variables can kind of distract you; you care about if people come or if it’s good, but I try to as much as I can to go to that initial impulse. I feel that if I have any chance of making something genuine or honest that’s where it has to come from.

BK: Are there any fears or excitements about presenting your own stories and work?

VS: Yes, there are certainly things that scare me. Almost everything in my shows is inspired from true things that have happened to me. It can be scary being vulnerable with parts of your life that you’re still sorting out. I think you have to be really clear with yourself about what your intentions are because if you want some kind of validation or even laughter or acknowledgment from your listeners, you have to be very careful why you want that and what you actually might be seeking. I try to be as a clear as I can about what draws me to each piece and who it’s for because if you can connect to why you’re doing it, then no matter if it’s received or not, you can sort of still be a bit protected by your knowledge of whatever that impulse was. It keeps you a bit supported because otherwise I feel like it can be slippery.

BK: Excitements?

VS: I like feeling like I can have a one-on-one conversation with the audience. I try to really be present and breathe in the room and meet the energy of whoever is there. Which is exciting and thrilling and kind of unpredictable.

BK: You also have a background as an actor and as a performer you sit somewhere in the middle of storyteller and actor. I find that incredibly unique. How did you get there and what kinds of things helped and guided you into this work?

VS: I know it’s kind of a hodge-podge. Sometimes you can feel a bit lonely because I’m not sure where I fit necessarily but I think that there’s also something cool about that, as well.

The most formative things in my training? I have a big dance background, so I’ve always been interested in physical language and live performance from a theatrical standpoint. I did my undergrad in philosophy, which really got me passionate about writing and writing poetry. I think ever since my undergrad, I’ve kind of had a very specific impulse about what draws me to storytelling and why I might try to do it and commit a life to it. Then it’s just fun to get inspired. A lot of my influences are musicians. I don’t try to pay attention to where I belong because you can kind of get a little bit stuck in your own notions of yourself. I just try to un-obstruct myself as much as I can. I try not to worry too much about the categories.

BK: Most of the time, you’re working and creating alone. Is there something that motivates you to create?

VS: I find usually, whether I realize it or not, whatever I’m making is probably what I need to hear. If I listen in the right way (and not to everything you make, sometimes it can be a lot of garbage too) if you’re lucky you can maybe kind of understand something about what you’re going through or something that teaches you where you are in this moment. That can be really nice. Even though it’s lonely, it’s kind of a way to be more okay with wherever you’re at, which makes you feel less alone I think… in the best of times… sometimes.

(Laughter)

BK: How is your storytelling different from when you are portraying a character in a play?

VS: It gets hard. My favourite acting coach will have you do an exercise when you’re rehearsing a scene with him of making you do the scene in your own words. I like that because I feel like it stimulates both my writer brain and my actor brain. I can access the material in a way that I don’t have to work so hard to access when it’s my own stuff. I get used to starting with an understanding of the person I’m portraying. That’s something that helps me bridge that difference. I do think there is an exciting thrill of portraying somebody that’s not you. There is maybe more permission you give yourself to go further with certain choices, so I try even in my solo show to dare myself in the same way as if I had a disguise on. You talk to a lot of actors who will describe that feeling of freedom when they put on another mask, they can say and do anything.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

VS: I hope people feel more connected to the things that they care about. I hope they feel more connected to the people they care about in their lives. I hope that they have a bit of fondness when they imagine the child-like version of themselves because that’s sort of what we’re championing in this new piece.

Rapid Fire Questions

Favourite Food? Greasy Breakfast.

What music are you listening to? Modest Mouse’s new album.

Favourite place in Toronto? I love the waterfront. I love to find streets that I have never walked down before. Anywhere when it’s warm out.

Favourite musical? The Phantom of the Opera. Once.

Favourite play? The Encounter by Simon McBurney

Favourite book? I like Miriam Toews.

Favourite movie? Lots.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten? My mom telling me to “make your bed every morning.” And my other advice, just to be kind.

Lip Sync Sleepover

Who:
Created & Performed by Vanessa Smythe
Developed & Directed by Mitchell Cushman, With Support from Crow’s Theatre

What:
What day of childhood do you wish you could live again? What would you tell your 7-year old self, if you could write and send her a letter? In this new solo show, and in her “spellbinding combination of storytelling, stand-up comedy, poetry and song – all at the same time”, Vanessa Smythe takes us back to childhood in this poignant, funny, deeply personal celebration of the people we dreamed we’d be – and the memories that remind us of who we truly are. A celebration of life’s tricky disappointments – and its enduring, understated joy.

Where:
Streetcar Crowsnest (Scotiabank Community Studio)
345 Carlaw Ave (Dundas and Carlaw)

When:
Two Nights Only: Thursday May 25 8:30pm & Friday May 26 8:30pm

Tickets:
$20 crowstheatre.com

Connect:
t: @vsmythe

“Punk Rock, Remounts & SITUATIONAL ANARCHY” In Conversation with storyteller Graham Isador

Interview by Brittany Kay

It’s always the best chatting with storyteller/artist Graham Isador so we were thrilled to catch back up with him about remounting Situational Anarchy, which was runner-up for outstanding production at the 2016 SummerWorks Festival. We spoke about Against Me, punk rock, remounts, and why it’s important to keep doing what means something to you.

Brittany Kay: Tell me a bit about the show?

Graham Isador: Situational Anarchy is a storytelling show about how punk rock is the most important thing in the world. It’s also a show about how punk rock is the stupidest thing in the world. The show is framed as an open letter to Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer and frontwoman of the band Against Me. It chronicles my times growing up in the Southern Ontario Music scene, my obsession with her band, and the frustration I felt when Against Me signed to major label Sire Records (a division of Warner Records). While the framing device has to do with music, the show is a series of stories about the compromises we make and the things we leave behind as we get older.

BK: What was your initial draw into Against Me!?

GI: I found Against Me in my adolescence. Like a lot of creative types, my teen years were spent in turmoil. I didn’t have a lot of friends. My creative inclinations – which mostly consisted of unreadable poetry and a penchant for eyeliner – made me stand out from my peers. Those differences often lead to violence both psychological and physical. Against Me’s music offered refuge. I could sing along with tracks that celebrated my outsider status. The band introduced me to punk rock and gave me a place to belong. They mattered to me in that overwhelming, heartbreaking way, things can matter to you as a teenager. But it was more than just that.

There is a saying that my friend Frank has: If you grow up and your favorite band was Oasis it means you liked a band called Oasis. If you grew up and your favorite band was Minor Threat, it means you liked a band called Minor Threat and had a certain opinion about how the world was supposed to function. To me, and to a lot of my friends, punk rock is more than just shitty music played very loud. It’s a set of ideologies and values. Those ideologies and values shaped the person I am today.

BK: Why do this again? What was successful about it the first time around?

GI: Theatre is such a ridiculous medium. Situational Anarchy has been celebrated as the most successful thing I’ve done in my career, we were awarded runner-up for outstanding production at the 2016 SummerWorks festival, but we only did three performances. A couple of hundred people saw the show. I’m grateful to everyone who bought a ticket. I’m also grateful for the praise we were given. But I’d like more people to see what I do. This is a chance to do that.

I don’t think it’s up to me to decide what was successful about the show. I just get up there and try to do the best job I can. Without giving too much away, people have told me they enjoyed the depictions of how awkward growing up can be, what depression can do to people, and the nature of the things we love. Also there are jokes.

BK: What was the creation process for this show? How do you rehearse/structure a show that is based in storytelling?

GI: I started writing this show because it was impossible not to. When Against Me signed to a major label it felt like a personal affront. It hurt my feelings. I was sad and I was pissed off and despite knowing that those emotions might seem laughable to others – why should a band being on the radio throw your life into a tailspin? – it’s still how I felt. I couldn’t not talk about it. I’d be at a house party and I’d talk about Against Me. I’d be at Thanksgiving dinner and I’d talk about Against Me. I’d be interviewing another band for my job and it’d turn into an interview about Against Me. It was all getting to be a bit much.

When I was at Soulpepper a first draft of the script was created as a part of the playwrights unit. I performed different versions of the story at smaller stages across Toronto and it kept getting longer. When we got into SummerWorks last year, I brought on longtime collaborators Tom Arthur Davis and Jiv Parasram to help me shape the story into an actual play. They’re both wizards with that type of thing. They were a crucial part of taking my anecdotes and making them into something palatable. If anyone enjoys the show that is as much to do with their work as it is to do with mine.

BK: Why is this story important for you? Why is this something that is close to your heart

GI: Growing up there are so many times when we have to question whether the things we believed in as youth still matter to us as adults. I devoted my life to mediums which people at best ignore and at worst actively dislike. But I do it because these things are important. They mean something to me and if I do my job then this show will make them mean something to other people. I need them to be important to other people because otherwise what’s the point?

BK: Why the title?  

GI: It is a clever play on words.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

GI: That punk rock is the most important thing in the world. And that punk rock is the stupidest thing in the world. We are also donating the proceeds of the show to Trans life Line and Gender is Over. They are two organizations helping trans at risk youth and hopefully people will know we tried our best to help them.

 Situational Anarchy

Who:
Written & Performed by Graham Isador
Directed by Tom Arthur Davis & Jivesh Parasram

What:
Situational Anarchy is 100% true. Sort of.

For the past thirteen years Graham Isador has been in an on again/off again relationship with transgender rockstar Laura Jane Grace. The relationship is characterized by two main factors:

1. Laura Jane Grace is the lead singer, lyricist, and front woman for the punk rock band Against Me.
2. Laura Jane Grace does not know that Graham exists.

Framed as an open letter to the singer, Isador chronicles his teenage years spent in the Southern Ontario punk scene, sharing stories of Internet message boards, strip mall record stores, and concerts in basements and backrooms.

Situational Anarchy is a one-man storytelling show about the growing pains of adolescence and the inevitable heartbreak of teenage conviction.

Where: 
Stop, Drop, and Roll (Located Above Rancho Relaxo)
300 College St, Toronto, ON M5T 1R9

When:
May 24th-27th and May 31st-June 3rd
All shows at 8pm, with an additional performance June 3rd at 4pm

Tickets:
Door tickets are Pay What You Want
Advanced tickets are $15
Very limited seating. Only 25 seats per night.

All proceeds from the show (after expenses) will be donated to TRANS LIFE LINE/GENDER IS OVER.

Connect:
w: http://www.pandemictheatre.ca/situational-anarchy/
fb: /pandemictheatre
t: @presgang

In Conversation with Erika Downie, director of Seven Siblings Theatre’s THE PLAY ABOUT THE BABY

Interview by Hallie Seline

HS: Tell me a bit about the show:

Erika Downie: Imagine an advertisement for anything during the 50s and then introduce Salvador Dali mixed in with Picasso and sprinkled with Banksy and you have The Play about the Baby. It is naturalism turned upside down, the identity of individuals questioned and the dream world of a young couple’s “Eden” shattered, but always returning to hope.

HS: What drew you to Albee?

ED: His writing. The way he approaches character, and the arc of this play in particular was and is exciting. There is always something new to discover in Albee, every page can be approached with such different views that it’s exciting to see what will unfold. But I am most drawn to Albee’s approach to humanity, how he captures character in crisis with humour and play, but mostly with honesty and truth.

HS: This is one of Albee’s lesser known later plays. What drew you to direct the show for Toronto audiences now?

ED: Identity and the question of who you are and why and when you became you. We as a society are saddled with questions of identity and for some it’s very easy to proclaim who you are and for others… not so much. Albee discusses identity in a fundamental manner, you are who you are because of your lessons, your tragedies, your wounds. You grew from out of these moments and I thought it was very poignant to come to understand this and share this with our Toronto audiences.

HS: Edward Albee straddles the line between naturalism and absurdism in a really interesting way. There seems to be a tension between the two. How does working with the Michael Chekhov technique lend itself to performing this play?

ED: The Michael Chekhov technique lends itself to any play. Even in the “not so well written” plays Chekhov will help develop the best aspects of that play as best it can. For Albee’s The Play about the Baby is so well written that the marriage between Albee and Chekhov fell naturally into place. The focus was character relationships and through Chekhov the actors developed with such a solid foundation in character that the text lifts off the page and wraps itself around the audience forming a relationship between actor and audience, audience and playwright.

 

HS: What are you most looking forward to with presenting the show at The Rhino?

ED: Intimate spaces help bring the idea that the audience is in the living room of a young couple, The Rhino lends itself to this and puts the audience right in the action of the play.

HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words.

ED: Wounds children wounds, without them who are you?

HS: If your audience could listen to one song or soundtrack before coming, what would it be?

ED: Beethoven’s sixth.

The Play About The Baby

Who:
Presented by Seven Siblings Theatre
Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Erika Downie
Featuring Scott McCulloch, Judith Cockman, Will King, Nora Smith
Stage Managed by Emma Miziolek
Set Design by Stephen King
Produced by Madryn McCabe

What:
A young couple has just had a baby. They are madly in love, and have the perfect life. Their bliss is suddenly interrupted when they are visited by an older man and woman. A truly strange turn of events transpires, setting off an evening of manipulations and mind games that ultimately question reality.

Where:
The Rhino
1249 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ontario, M6K 1L5

When:
May 18 8:00pm
May 19 8:00pm
May 20 2:00pm
May 20 8:00pm
May 21 8:00pm

Tickets:
May 18-21 Artsworkers $20, General $25
sevensiblingstheatre.ca/the-play-about-the-baby/

 

 

Inside a “Creepy Fantastical Cloud of Sly Slickity Evil” – A Chat with Julian R. Munds on his new show THE GOOD DOCTOR HOLMES AND HIS CHILDREN OF GOD

Interview by Hallie Seline

Julian R. Munds might be one of my favourite people to have a great conversation with about theatre and life. He speaks his mind, he’ll challenge me and he always makes me laugh. It was such a pleasure to chat with him about this newest play, The Good Doctor Holmes and His Children of God, about working with powerhouse Denise Norman as the challenging title role of Dr. Holmes, and on the importance of carving out a space for yourself to be the artist you want to be. Be sure to catch The Good Doctor Holmes and His Children of God on stage now only until May 21st in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. All performances are Pay What You Can. 

HS: How did you find this piece of history and what made you want to turn it into a play?

Julian R. Munds: I first became aware of the Pitezel case through am episode of Supernatural years ago. You know, that show that for some inexplicable reason is still on the CW. In the episode, the ghost of “America’s First Serial Killer” was haunting some building and the Winchester brothers had to stop the ghost. Anyway, the ghost was apparently the ghost of HH Holmes and I stored it in my brain. A few years later while pouring over old Toronto newspapers, I noticed that HH Holmes figured prominently in a lot of them. And I discovered that he was caught in Toronto. I then went on a search for the location. I am a very hyperactive person and need to keep myself occupied with many different projects lest I become downtrodden or bored. It is then I know I am not working on a challenge.

One of the projects was finding the original location of arrest. It was difficult to find. St. Vincent Lane, the place that Holmes was caught, has both moved and been renamed. There’s a lot of reasons for this. The government of Toronto “The Good,” for instance, feeling that the city’s reputation as a crime mecca covered in mud and runoff from the pork slaughterhouse – which it was in the early 1900s – was not a good one. They decided to do their best to cover up all the crime in the city. One thing they did was to erase St. Vincent Lane from existence. Move it two blocks from it’s original location and try to forget the horror discovered there in 1894. I had to go through tons of old maps to find it. Sat in the reference library and Toronto Archives for eons.

This rabbit hole opened up and I started to gain as many documents as possible connected with the arrest, the subsequent investigation, the personal accounts, and even a picture or two. For instance, I have a full facsimile of the notebook of Frank Geyer (the original investigator) sitting on my desk as we speak.

At the same time as I was doing this, I was also working on a sketch of a new play called “Bob, the Monster.” A play that investigates some ideas I was working on around the value of life, especially the value of a person who has been named guilty of heinous acts, and I discovered that both purposes could be combined. Eight drafts later, a one week workshop, another four drafts and BOOM: The Good Doctor Holmes & His Children of God. A Historical Fantasia, in that it is inspired by true events but I use the themes of the original event to investigate modern problems. Institutional Misogyny, Racism, Quackery, Anti-Intellectualism, and general alienation.

Photo of Denise Norman. Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

HS: We can’t wait to see Denise Norman take on this challenging role. Can you tell me a bit about working with her and what you’re most excited about to see her bring to the role?

JM: Denise came to me as a fluke. In my undergrad at the University of Toronto, when I was “training” as an actor, and I’ll explain the quotes in a moment- Denise was one of my professors. She was one of the odder ones I must admit. A voice and movement teacher, her class was more about generally just fucking around. But what I remember most is the general relaxation or understanding that there is no finished product in the world. Everything is in a constant state of flux and doubly so in the world of theatre. This is
why theatre still exists. It is the only art form, aside from live music – particularly instrumental music – that can change from performance to performance. It’s why people go. They don’t go to be educated. They don’t go to be entertained. They go to experience. Theatre is about taking an environment, interaction, moment and expanding it into a full experience. Denise Norman is one of the first people that helped me realize this.

Fast forward to this past April. The original actor in the role of Holmes got sick. Dropped out. And Denise Norman applied. By far this role was made for her. There is something anchored and unexpected in the work she does on stage. She has fought hard to continue working on the stage and it is evident by her work there. Every moment she fights. And in a cast populated by fighters, John Chou, Suzanne Miller, and Jack Morton – a literal fighter – I’ve seen it – she stirs the place to create a hurricane. The designers Christine Urquhart, Lin-Mei Lay and Adrien Shepherd-Gawinski provide the lightning to her thunder. Adrien literally provides thunder. Also Virginia Cardinal – the best Stage Manager I know… I value her work so much.

HS: What drew you to become a playwright and what are you most interested in exploring in your work at the moment?

JM: Is that what I am? A playwright? I am not sure that I’m comfortable with that title. It implies that I sit at a pad of paper and pour dialogue onto a page then allow someone else to come along and bring it alive on stage. “There must be a kitchen sink here or a gun here” I’m not that guy. I’ve always thought of myself in much the same way one thinks of Zaphod Beeblebrox of Douglas Adams – “he’s just this guy, you know?” When I graduated from school I found myself launched into a world that did not want me. Tons of people are being cranked out of these institutions of higher learning now being told that they must do something this way to get a good mark. It gets beaten into brains. If you don’t fall inline then boom! You are not a human worth caring about. I came out of school broken – confused on who or what I was – ready to be taken advantage of to work in underpaid precarious work.

I had trouble reconciling myself to it. Then I decided, through the help of some faithful family, my mother, my two sisters, my wonderful nieces, and the old lady cat — who hit me a lot when I was depressed –that I needed to make a change. If the world didn’t want me – then damn it – I’ll make a corner that’s all mine. I began creating theatre that day. I don’t create plays. I tell no stories. I create experiences. Sounds. Feelings. Smells. Ideas. Don’t come to my plays expecting to learn about a subject. Read a book, see a doc, go to a lecture for that. My plays — for lack of a better word – are about being a part of something. I want you to come out of “Holmes” and feel shell shocked. Like you’ve gone through something.

That’s what I like to explore. How can I use all the tools of the theatre and art to leave an impact on the audience. The “Randoms” who walk through the door wondering what the hell did they just walk into? That’s my jam.

Photo of Denise Norman & John Chou. Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

HS: Why did you decide to make the full run Pay What You Can?

JM: Insane. I know. But also worthy. Modern Canadian Theatre Institutions are like Janus, the two faced god. Out of one mouth moans a complaint on how no one is coming to the theatre, while in the other, is a demand to charge people more money for less satisfying shows. No one is listening to the fact that people don’t see a worth in going to the theatre. It offers them nothing. So theatre is worth nothing. Simple economics. Now, to rekindle a passion for the theatre we have to gamble. We have to start with nothing and build up a model that is more relevant. I decided, with my collective’s endorsement, to go ahead and find out what people thought the experience is worth to them. If they like it, they pay more. If they don’t have the cash, they tell a friend who pays. There is nothing but win. We have to give up old top heavy things to find that spirit again. This is my way of trying to do that. She exists! She’s just broke.

HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words:

JM: Creepy Fantastical Cloud of Sly Slickity Evil – with kickass design.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Favourite place in the city?
Outside of it. I don’t care for the city. I’m only here because this is where the art is. I love the countryside. Huron County. Anna Mae’s in Millbank. Best pie, a coffee, and they have this stuff called broasted chicken. But all right. I’ll play along. Kos patio in Kensington. I sit with the birds and eat pancakes.

Favourite play?
What a nutty question. Impossible for me to answer. I’ll give you my top five. Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee, The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco, One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace.

If you could go for a beer and a chat with any playwright (alive or dead) who would it be and what beer would you order?
I don’t think I’d like to personally meet any of my favorite playwrights. I like to know them through their work. If I met them I would see them for what they are. Meat sacks with problems. I’d have trouble after that. I wouldn’t mind having an Absinthe with Antonin Artaud though. Imagine the nuttiness. I’d invite David Mamet to a drink, tell him to stop writing, and basically how he’s ruined a generation of male actors by telling them it’s ok for a male to yell obscenities at a woman for two hours and call it art. There is nothing more upsetting and vomit worthy in my mind than David Mamet.

Where do you look for inspiration?
I don’t look for it. I stumble on it. I read around 10 books a week. Listen to countless podcasts. Go for long walks. And talk to people all around my life. You find inspiration in the weirdest place. One of my plays was created after I could not stop a fire alarm from going off. Another, was created because I once saw a woman with a cell phone shut a door in the face of a downtrodden fellow smoking an unlit cigarette.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten or mantra you are currently living by?
“It doesn’t matter if you are the smartest guy in the room. The most good looking guy in the room. Be the last guy in the room.” – Michael Caine

“Life is meaningless but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good Yorkshire pudding.” – Peter O’Toole

“Nothing is written. All things can be changed..” – Thomas Edward Lawrence

“Quantity not quality” – anon

“If you can lose your backup job, may as well do the thing that makes you fulfilled.” – Jim Carrey

The Good Doctor Holmes and His Children of God

Who:
Playwright: Julian R. Munds
Dr. Henry Howard Holmes – Denise Norman
Benji/Carrie Pitezel – Suzanne Miller
Frank Geyer – John Chou Guard,
The Shadow – Jack Morton

Direction: J.R. Priestley
Scenography: Christine Urquhart
Sound and Composition: Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski
Designers: Lin-Mai Lay, Julie Skene
Stage Management: Virginia Cardinal

What:
In 1894 the bodies of two little girls were discovered in a Toronto basement by an eccentric, mild mannered, private detective. This was the beginning of a nightmare.

Julian R. Munds’ new play puts us in touch with one of the most prolific serial killers in history: Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Holmes — a doctor, pharmacist, sometimes cannibal — constructed a hotel in Chicago for a singular purpose: to destroy human life. Charged in the deaths of nine individuals, Dr. H. H. Holmes is thought to be connected with more than two hundred disappearances during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

In “The Good Doctor Holmes..”, Munds takes us into the interrogation room, puts HH at the forefront, in all his genius and all his horror, and weaves a labyrinthine fantasia that is sometimes an episode of Columbo and sometimes a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.

“We are asked to look into the eyes of a devil but what is found there is not what we expected. “ – Chris Tester, The Actor’s Podcast

With aid from the Quantico Behavioral Archive, personal journals of Carrie Pitezel, and using a modern perspective, this show drags the forgotten “Pitezel Children Case” from the shadows of the past and makes us question whether Toronto is truly “The Good.”

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto

When:
May 11-21, 2017

Tickets:
By Phone: 416-504-7529
Online: artsboxoffice.ca

“No one story is the same. No one mental health case is the same.” In Conversation with director Brittany Cope for GREEN IN BLUE

Interview by Brittany Kay

BK:  Tell me a little bit about the show you directed – Green in Blue:

Brittany Cope: Daniel and Curtis are two strangers who were destined to meet on this one bench at Woodbine Beach. Both are going through a personal crises and both unknowingly end up helping each other. Curtis fails to help Daniel in his biggest time of need, which results in personal tragedy. After having thought about everything Daniel told him that night, Curtis is changed. He tries to express his gratitude to Daniel’s mother, only to be shut down. Daniel saved Curtis’ life, now Curtis must try to keep Daniel’s legacy alive.

BK: This play has been performed before? What has the development been, if any, from its first installment?

BC: This play was first performed as a staged reading last summer and then we [Greenlight Theatre] produced a workshop production in Windsor, ON last fall. As far as development goes, the major changes we’ve made this time around have taken place in little character nuances. We’ve focused on clarifying responses and making sure only the words that need to be said on stage are actually spoken. The second act has changed the most. We wanted to really understand these two characters [Daniel and Curtis] and their views on mental health; why they think the way they do about the main actions in the play.

BK: Why the title, Green in Blue?

BC: Green in Blue actually comes from a Miles Davis song titled Blue in Green which we use in the show. It was flipped around because of a line one of the characters says in the play (you’ll have to come see the production to figure it out!)

BK: Why this piece right now?

BC: This piece is important right now because it looks at mental health and suicide in a different light. With shows like 13 Reasons Why becoming so popular and inciting conversations about the “correct” ways to look at and discuss suicide, I think it is important to open ourselves up to new and different perspectives. No one story is the same, no one mental health case is the same, so instead of judging, I think it is important to be open to a wide scope of experiences.  

BK: This is Greenlight Theatre’s first production. Are there future productions in the works? What sets you apart as a company?

BC: The goals for the future of Greenlight Theatre are simple: We want to continue creating new Canadian work by emerging artists. This mandate seems straight-forward and seems to be what we hear all the time in audition postings, but we really want to focus on the emerging artist aspect of it. We want to give these artists the opportunity to work at a professional level when they produce their work. Just because you’ve applied for several grants and never received one, doesn’t mean that your show doesn’t deserve to be seen. We want to foster those opportunities. As for the near future, we are hoping to put up another show later this fall and we will be hosting our annual Backyard Play-Reading Evening this summer to hear new work and hopefully find some collaborators for the future!

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

BC: I want our audiences to walk away with questions. I’d like everyone to question their own ability to listen to others instead of focusing solely on themselves. I think we all need to question our pre-conceived notions of how people “should” cope with the issues surrounding mental health and suicide. What would it be like in those final moments? The suicide in this play isn’t the climax of our story – it’s about the people who are affected by it.

BK: Describe the show in 3-5 words.

BC: Dark, quick, witty, thought-provoking.

Who:
by Duncan Rowe
Directed by: Brittany Cope
Featuring: Kevin Doe, Kasia Dyszkiewicz, Stacey Iseman and Duncan Rowe
Produced by: Emma Westray

What:
Daniel and Curtis are two strangers who were destined to meet on this one bench at Woodbine Beach. Both are going through a personal crises and both unknowingly end up helping each other. Curtis fails to help Daniel in his biggest time of need, which results in personal tragedy. After having thought about everything Daniel told him that night, Curtis is changed. He tries to express his gratitude to Daniel’s mother, only to be shut down. Daniel has saved Curtis’ life, now Curtis tries to keep Daniel’s legacy alive.

Where:
Beach United Church
140 Wineva Ave., Toronto, ON
(a wheelchair accessible venue)

When:
May 11-13, 2017 at 7:30pm

Tickets:
Tickets are $20 cash at the door, or you can buy $15 advanced tickets at http://greeninblue.bpt.me.

Connect:
fb: /GreenlightTheatreProductions
ig: @greenlighttheatre

Artist Profile: Ali Joy Richardson, Director

Interview by Hallie Seline

We’re all about hard-working #bossbabes being at the helm of the theatre we see, so it was such a joy to catch up with Ali Joy Richardson to discuss her latest directing project, Liars at a Funeral, why her directing mentors have been instrumental in assembling her own director’s utility belt, and the top three pieces of advice she’s living by right now. 

HS: Tell me a bit about your current directing project, Liars at a Funeral, and what caught your interest when deciding to direct it.

Ali Joy Richardson: Liars at a Funeral is set in a funeral home in Northern Ontario where a grandmother has faked her own death in order to get her family back together for Christmas. It’s a farce: 4 doors, 5 actors playing 9 characters, and a family curse of female twins who hate one another…but without the stale sexism that’s so often sprinkled in the genre. Sophia Fabiilli has revived farce with a refreshing dose of 2017 sexuality and three generations of very funny women. Sophia told me the plot of the play over a pint at Tequila Bookworm back in September and I was hooked. I immediately sent her a batch of imagery that resonated with the play for me (Edward Gorey illustrations, Wes Anderson stills, and some weird ‘70s family Christmas photos). I’m very grateful to have been trusted with this play.

Photo Credit: Neil Silcox

HS: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in your experience directing?

AJR: It requires rigorous, detailed homework to be able to properly play jazz in the room.

HS: Do you have a directing mentor? If so, who is it and why do you think it’s important to have a mentor?

AJR: Thank heaven for mentors. I learned the fundamentals from assistant directing for Melee Hutton and Estelle Shook and script coordinating from Andrea Donaldson. Richard Rose has been my primary teacher for the last while (his process has totally re-shaped my practice) and Aaron Willis is my go-to emergency phone call for all things theatre. These directors have given me clarity and confidence in my practice. I’ve gratefully thieved tools from each of them to assemble my own utility belt.

Photo Credit: Neil Silcox

HS: You have a pretty #bosslady production team going on for this show with you (director/dramaturg), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer) and Sophia Fabiilli (playwright/producer). How has it been working with this team?

AJR: DREAMY. Lots of late night 3-way calls, endless hustle, and masterfully colour-coded email threads. They’ve made me a better artist and collaborator. I’d trust these women with my car, child, or estate (if I had any of those things).

HS: What are you most excited for audiences to experience when they come see the show?

AJR: The rollercoaster – Liars at a Funeral is very funny and bravely truthful.
Also…casket comedy.

HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words.

AJR: Just one: unstoppable.

(For a complete list of the myriad of obstacles we overcame, from the Storefront Theatre closing to our casket hinges busting right before we opened, buy anyone on the team a drink.)

Photo Credit: Neil Silcox

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite place in the city:
The Toronto Reference Library.

Where do you look for inspiration?
Conversations, naps, and the Toronto Reference Library.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text (a deeply nerdy podcast by two Harvard theologians) and re-reading Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”.

Best piece of advice you’ve received or current mantra you’re living by:
“What is the next right move?” (Oprah)
“Follow the campground rule – leave the audience better than you found them.” (Neil Silcox)
“Stand up from your desk every hour, Ali.” (my Mom)

Liars at a Funeral

Who:
Playwright – Sophia Fabiilli
Director & Dramaturg – Ali Joy Richardson
Ensemble – Ruby Joy, Rhea Akler, John Healy, Danny Pagett & Terry Tweed
Producers – Laura Jabalee Johnston & Sophia Fabiilli
Stage Management – Lori Anderson
Set & Wardrobe Design – Lindsay Woods
Sound Design – Nicholas Potter

What:
A black comedy about a grandmother who fakes her own death in order to reunite her family in Northern Ontario.

Grandma Mavis stages her own funeral in order to reunite her estranged family… just in time for an ice storm to trap them all in a funeral home over Christmas. Can this eccentric clan of liars navigate the rocky road to reconciliation? Or will the next 24hrs be the final nail in this dysfunctional family’s coffin?

Featuring five actors playing nine characters, Liars at a Funeral is equally hilarious and heartbreaking. It’s also a teensy bit inspired by Hamlet.

Where:
St. Vladimir Theatre
(620 Spadina Ave, south of Harbord

When:
May 5-14 2017

Tickets:
$25
truthnliestheatre.com