Skip to content

Posts by in the greenroom

“Embracing Embarrassment, Renouncing Shame & Starring in Your Own Musical” In Conversation with Katherine Cullen & Britta Johnson on STUPIDHEAD! A Musical Comedy

Interview by Hallie Seline

Knowing that Stupidhead! A Musical Comedy was returning to the stage after loving it at the Summerworks Festival, I was excited to sit down with funny ladies Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson to chat all about it. We appropriately met in the Theatre Passe Muraille greenroom and spoke about how the piece has developed for this first professional production with TPM, Katherine’s inspiration to communicate her experience with dyslexia through her dream of being in a musical, and finding freedom in renouncing shame and owning where you’re at, epic life fails and all.

Hallie Seline: Tell me about the show and how it has developed from workshop to festival to first professional production.

Katherine Cullen: Stupidhead! is a sort of musical/standup comedy style/storytelling show about me growing up with dyslexia. I had this idea a couple of years ago and I started to write, let’s call them proto-songs when I was alone and bored and unemployed. And then videofag gave me the opportunity to do a workshop presentation of it, about three years ago now. So I went to Britta (Johnson), maybe a week before the workshop, (laughing) not even… and asked if she would help me with the song aspect of it – to help me add accompaniment. When we did that first workshop of it, we were exploring different ideas and forms.

When it came time to do the Summerworks Festival version, we really decided to make it more of a musical. The theme around that version was much more like… birthday party, piñata, musical, which is still very different from what it has grown to now.

Britta Johnson: The story of it now is that we’re trying to make Katherine’s dream of being in a musical come true so, you know, it has lighting, full songs and all of that. But I also think in the process of continuing to write and develop the songs, because that’s all I can speak to, we’ve tried to keep the essence of those early ones from the workshop in the fold of its current form. Where it isn’t necessarily about a perfect polished song, it’s about how to honestly step into each one, as herself and what song serves this character.

Photo of Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson by Michael Cooper.

KC: Yeah, this character, me, has no musical training and doesn’t know anything about singing, or pitch, or what makes a good song, or… anything. Anything I’ve picked up over the last few years has literally been because of working with Britta and forcing myself by saying, “I need to learn to hit that note!” So we put those parameters out there from the beginning and it allows the space to really fuck up and not hit the note, and know that it’s still going to be okay. I feel like I’m allowed to not be this polished musical theatre singer because that’s part of the conceit.

BJ: Yeah! I feel like part of the conceit is to joyfully and whole-heartedly step into doing something that you don’t feel you’re good at. That’s really important in this show.

HS: Which is so wonderful because we so rarely or just don’t do that. So often we feel like we have to wait to be perfect before we show it or do it.

KC: Exactly. I feel like this show has a kid-like mentality of being like “I don’t know? That looks fun! I will do that in front of people,” you know what I mean? It’s trying to get back to that place where you don’t second-guess yourself and you don’t self-edit and there isn’t that sort of judgmental voice being like “Oh, no. No. No. That’s ridiculous. Don’t do that.” It’s more like “That sounds like a great idea! I will try it.” (laughing) You know?

BJ: As someone who gets to watch it over and over again, it really looks like Katherine as a kid playing pretend in her room. The songs go everywhere from a full three-and-a-half-minute-long, emotional, perfectly rhymed song, to what I picture as her as a kid looking in the mirror and playing pretend. There’s room for all of it.

KC: Yeah, it’s like if this show had a spirit animal right now it’s that little girl in that viral video who wobbles into the room for her birthday party. She’s just having a hippity-hoppity day. Because, why not?

I mean, there are darker themes that are in the show that are being probed now in a way that we didn’t really probe when we were at Summerworks. One of the songs expresses how you need darkness to have light and I think I’m exploring a child-like freedom of expression but also those kind of adult things in the world or in our lives that make us feel like we can’t or that beat us down, make us feel like we’re losers or “less than”. I think that there is a real conversation that the show is trying to have between those two and trying to kind of make peace with it.

And part of having a hippity-hoppity day is saying “I don’t need those chains. I don’t need to think of myself as a bad loser. I can just be a person because we’re all just people and we’re all fine here, so why not just have a jazzy time?”

BJ: And that the imperfection isn’t something to overcome and get to the other side of. That’s why hearing you sing these songs is so moving. If it’s just something that you invite into the picture, and own, you can have a hippity-hoppity day with the dark parts and the light parts and the parts where you fail and the parts where you make an ass of yourself and it’s still just as hippity-hoppity! (they laugh)

Photo of Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson by Michael Cooper.

HS: Amazing. You mentioned from the beginning you were writing songs for this and you have also said that you have never been in a musical. So what was the idea behind making this piece of yours a musical?

KC: One thing that I do really like about musicals is that there’s this element that you get to express something extra or express something that you can’t satisfy just in dialogue. There’s this component to the expression that is sort of special or heightened and that isn’t in the realistic way that we express ourselves on a day-to-day basis. I feel that there is something also about dyslexia that has that. My experience with it and how I experience the world has been so sort of topsey turvey and that has been very difficult for me to explain to people. To me, it just makes sense that then to be able to communicate that experience that I would need to burst into song.

Photo of Katherine Cullen by Michael Cooper.

HS: What is something that you hope the audience takes away or experiences while they are here?

KC: I think this play is so much about, you know, just not feeling alone in the parts of yourself that you feel don’t totally fit in. So I hope it speaks to people from that perspective, that they feel like their humanity is seen, you know? And that it’s cool to laugh at the shit that you do that’s silly as opposed to being ashamed of it.

I think the show is really about renouncing shame, in a lot of ways.

BJ: I just feel that if the audience has half as much fun as I have sitting at the piano, laughing and crying along with Katherine, I think that we will have done our job.

Photo of Katherine Cullen by Michael Cooper.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite Food:
KC: Probably sushi.
BJ: Burritos, no question.

Favourite Musical:
KC: Jesus Christ Superstar
BJ: West Side Story.

Where do you get inspiration?
KC: Hmm… I think usually when I watch something really funny and it just makes me feel like there’s a lot of possibility in the world, when I see something super funny.

BJ: Probably the people around me. Watching people I love and respect… or don’t, you know (laughs) struggle with the same stuff I do.

KC: Watching people I hate…

BJ: Watching people I hate and delighting in their failure (laughing)

HS: That inspires me!

KC: Don’t edit that…

BJ: That’s the end of the interview. “Britta Johnson, who kind of glommed on to the interview, talks a lot about the people she hates…” (laughing)

The Best Advice You’ve Ever Gotten or That You’re Currently Living By:
KC: My dad always says “Have faith in the future” and I don’t totally know what that means but I kind of like it. Have faith in the future. Why not?

BJ: I don’t know… There’s never going to be a moment where you’re like, “Now I’ve got it”, so don’t wait for that moment. You’re still doing it even if that “moment” doesn’t come.

KC: Yeah, you’re always doing the best with what you’ve got at any given moment.

BJ: Also I think my sister once told me that my hair always looks better than I think it does… which has also really helped me lately… (laughing)

Describe Stupidhead! in 5-10 words… together:
KC: … It’s a… fun,
KC & BJ: hippity-hoppity day
BJ: that embraces the honest struggle of simply…
KC & BJ: beeeing aaa..llliiv?—huuuman!

HS: Brilliant. Thank you!

 STUPIDHEAD! A Musical Comedy

Who:
A Theatre Passe Muraille Production
Written & Performed by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson
Original Music by Britta Johnson
Original Lyrics by Britta Johnson and Katherine Cullen
Directed & Dramaturged by Aaron Willis
Additional Dramaturgy by Andy McKim
Set & Costume Design by Anahita Dehbonehie
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lennon
Associate Producer: Colin Doyle

What:
Stupidhead! is a comedy musical about having dyslexia. It’s also about how being a human is really embarrassing… like all of the time. The winner of Best New Performance Text at the 2015 SummerWorks Festival, Stupidhead! returns to Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace with brand new material and brand new songs.

In Stupidhead! performer/playwright Katherine Cullen shares true stories about her dyslexia, the way she interacts with the world, and the way the world interacts with her. Cullen’s script – directed by the Dora nominated Aaron Willis and accompanied by lyricist/musician Britta Johnson’s original songs – makes for a show that is painfully funny, brutally honest, and totally relatable for anyone who feels like they do things a bit different.

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
16 Ryerson Ave.
Toronto ON.

When:
March 16 – April 2, 2017

Tickets:
passemuraille.ca/stupidhead/

Connect:
w: passemuraille.ca/stupidhead/
t: #StupidheadTO
@KatinkaCullen
@johnsonbritta
fb: StupidheadMusical
TheatrePasseMuraille

 

“Power, Authority & Shaking Up Traditional Structures” In Conversation with Rob Kempson, Playwright/Director of TRIGONOMETRY

Interview by Brittany Kay

We had the pleasure of re-connecting with playwright/director/artist/educator/all-around smart-cookie Rob Kempson to chat about Trigonometry, the final instalment of his trilogy, The Graduation Plays. We spoke about what can come with taking time to explore a subject more thoroughly, the need to shake up traditional structures with power and form, and how he wants these plays to ignite more complex discussions that continue beyond the show. The world premiere of Trigonometry runs from March 16th to March 25th.

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

Rob Kempson: I think the best way talk about the show is in the context of it as part of a bigger series. I think, like all the other shows in the Graduation Plays series, Trigonometry is about the interaction of power and authority structures in a school setting. What I found from my own teaching is that students have the capacity to take power that maybe isn’t assigned to them in a traditional school atmosphere. The authority in the school is clear but the power is not. These plays explore how we manipulate power and how the powerless gain their voice.

I have found in this series that some sort of student expression of sexuality is a great way for them to steal power because, being in a school setting, a lot of that is about tight-lipped, very square principals. It doesn’t always mean that they’re having sex. It means that they understand that by talking about, or referring to, or in some way bringing up sexuality, it makes teachers uncomfortable because they’re not allowed to talk about it in a school. I found that sort of tension really interesting.

Photo of Daniel Ellis, Alison Deon and Rose Napoli by Robert Harding.

BK: Why are you so drawn to the themes of student power and authority?

RK: I’m really interested in that idea because I don’t know how the education system can grow and change and find what’s next, unless we address the way in which students are now on the same level as teachers. We aren’t as different as we once were. I think unless we figure out how to tackle that, the education system is going to be stuck in this bizarre route for a long time.

BK: What makes Trigonometry different from your other two shows in the series?

RK: In this particular case, I tried to take a different perspective than the other two plays. If I was to simplify it down, I think SHANNON 10:40, Mockingbird and Trigonometry are all about the same thing. Something happens where a student takes power, it’s unexpected, and it’s about the way into that, which I think is different between them. SHANNON 10:40 is a largely student perspective, Mockingbird is a largely teacher perspective and Trigonometry is about the parent perspective. I think that’s why this is the end of the trilogy. I sort of found three different ways into the same problem. I don’t think I’ve solved the problem in any of the plays, but I’m interested in finding out how using those different perspectives enlightens new aspects of it.

Trigonometry 1

Photo of Rob Kempson by Robert Harding

BK: In the Greenroom has been able to talk to you about both shows in The Graduation Plays. You and I spoke at the beginning of your process and here we are at the end of it. Do you feel satisfied that this is the final play of the trilogy?

RK: I needed to work out what I wanted to work out. What all of this meant? Why this has been a multi-year process of writing all these things? I think this started as a nugget that I was picking at and I realized I wasn’t going to be satisfied just picking at it. I needed to go as deep as I could. I felt in writing the first two that I hadn’t quite uncovered everything that I wanted to uncover. I knew there was more there to explore, but I didn’t know exactly what that was going to be. The Graduation Plays, in a way, is a graduation for me as a writer and as an artist because I really gave myself the opportunity to spend time exploring a particular theme in a particular area. Not only with different plays, but in different structures of those plays with really different numbers of characters and really different play setups.

Photo of Daniel Ellis by Robert Harding

BK: Why the title Trigonometry?

RK: Everyone should read Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Sarah Ruhl is one of the greatest writers still living and that book says a lot of smart things that are very digestible. She talks a lot about play structure and one of the things she questions is why we see plays as having an arc and what would happen if a play had a different shape. I started thinking about that, what would a triangle shape play be like? The laymen’s answer is that it would have 3 people in it. I just started to think about why that was an interesting structure to explore. What did making a triangle play mean for me? Does this play have an arc? Of course it does, but it does happen in 3 separate parts. Each character is used in the same way. Each are only in 2 of the three scenes.

BK: How does trigonometry come into the structure of the play?

RK: The play is designed like a trigonometric function. If you know the sohcahtoa method, so SOH stands for Sine, which is opposite over hypotenuse; CAH stands for Cosine, adjacent over hypotenuse; and TOA stands for Tangent, opposite over adjacent. I built the play that way. If you assign each of those to characters and you sort of extrapolate as to why you might call those characters by those titles and then you apply those trigonometric functions to those characters, what happens in those scenes is mathematical.

Photo of Alison Deon by Robert Harding

BK: Incredible. Do you need to know anything about math to see the play?

RK: No. (laughs) If you watch it, you would never see that unless you really went into it with that perspective. That’s where the title came from. It came from me wanting to write a triangle play and I get a bit obsessed with ideas like that. I sort of spin into what could that mean structurally, what could that mean in content, in tone, and form, and all of the other things you think about. I love finding things to weave through.

One of the most common things teachers say is that math is all about relationships. If math is all about relationships between angles and lines and numbers and symbols and all of the things that go into that, then math is of humans and humans are of math. There is a connection there that maybe we like to sometimes deny. It was a really neat discovery… I also had to watch so many Youtube videos about trigonometry to try to remember.

Photo of Daniel Ellis, Alison Deon, Rose Napoli by Robert Harding

BK: Where did the inspiration for this specific story in the trilogy come from?

RK: I have no idea. I mean a lot of the catalyst for the first play, SHANNON 10:40, came from what was the 2015 fight against the new Sex Ed. Curriculum. This play riffs on that in a way that Mockingbird didn’t. I needed to explore it more actively. It started from there.

The other thing that is true of Trigonometry, is that I don’t really love any of the characters. That’s not something that people generally do. I tend to write people who I mostly like with some villains. I started thinking about people who I don’t agree with politically or philosophically or educationally. We are living in such a polarized world that we have to try to learn how we listen to one another and who’s deserving of that respect. I tried to listen to what those people had to say. They became some of the voices in the play.

BK: Why this story right now?

RK: I think that this is a story that is now. One of the things that I think is a fact in contemporary classrooms that is such a struggle are cell phones. It sounds so simple and silly and trite. The effect of having personal property that you can’t abscond or take away from kids that is so distracting to them changes the education game entirely. It changes the power dynamic between students and teachers. I think that anyone who has been in a contemporary classroom will see themselves in this play in a way that is frustrating.

BK: Oh yes. It’s insane, they’re just staring at their phones and re-watching Snapchat videos.   

RK: I’ve been in those rooms, where the integration of technology is really exciting and innovative, but where I get a bit lost, is the way in which it allows a whole other avenue for students to be making bigger choices in the way they choose to react to what their teachers are saying. It’s not only the choice of apathy or tuning out and looking at their phone, it’s also the choice of if they record you. Are they taking your picture? Are they texting their friends saying something about you? The power dynamic really changes because students have this thing that disables you. This play is for “now” because this is a story that happens everyday in schools and I really wanted to explore that.

Photo of Rose Napoli by Robert Harding

BK: Tell me about your cast?

RK: The actors are the most amazing humans. Rose Napoli is giving a performance that will be talked about for a long time. She is remarkable. I was new to Daniel Ellis. I saw him in The Circle and, working with him, he has just so many great insights about who the character of Jackson is and how he is able to tread the line between being a good kid that maybe does bad things. Alison Deon, who I think is one of the most under-used actors in the country, who I’ve known for a number of years from the Thousand Islands Playhouse, is a brilliant performer. Her range is enormous and it’s really exciting to be able to showcase her in this city. People deserve to see the work of all three of these actors. They’re just phenomenal.

BK: And your creative team?

RK: I’m once again collaborating with the fabulous Lisa Li. She’s the best and has been a real dream to work with as she always is. She’s also working with the support of Erin Vanderberg. Katie Saunoris is our marketing and publicity person. Beth Beardsley is our stage manager and is amazing and everyone should hire her. They are an amazing team. Dream dream dream.

Then we look into the design. Anna Treusch is our set and costume designer and is one of my most deeply loved collaborators. In the next 3 months, we are working on 3 shows because we work so well together. She forces me to work really hard. It’s a good relationship. Kaileigh Krysztofiak is a new collaboration for me and is a such cool up-and-coming lighting designer. When I found out that Andy Trithardt, who I’ve seen as an actor a million times, was also a sound designer, I wanted to get him on board. He’s looking at how the idea of trigonometry comes into the design. How and where do we see triangles and how do we hear that? How can we hear things in three? The design team is allowing this play to be explored more fully and deeply.

Photo of Anna Treusch, Beth Beardsley & Rob Kempson by Robert Harding

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

RK: I want them to be divided. My favourite thing is for audiences to walk out and have something to talk about on the car ride home. I don’t want them to come out and have the same opinions of each of the characters. I want people to like one character over the other. Questioning who is making the right decisions for the right reasons. I hope that there is a lot of disparate conversations happening after the show. I really want audiences to walk out with something to chew on for themselves. John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt is such a brilliant parable not only because it’s such a well written play, but because it makes you feel doubt. You walk out feeling the thing that he asks you to explore through these characters. While my play is not called Doubt, I want people to walk out feeling differently about the people that they just witnessed and maybe testing their own morals or testing their own values through the lens of these characters on stage. That’s exciting…I think, I hope!

BK: Anything else we need to know about?

RK: This play stands on its own, so if you haven’t seen the other two in the trilogy that’s okay. You don’t need to. There’s nothing that you will miss. For those who have seen both or any part of it, I think that this will be a really great conclusion for you. I feel so grateful that I have been able to work with collaborators on all three of these pieces that have allowed me the artistic freedom and desire to explore something as fully as I can. If you want to see the outcome of that, I’d encourage you to come out and check out the show.

Trigonometry

Who:
WRITER & DIRECTOR: Rob Kempson
SET & COSTUME DESIGNER: Anna Treusch
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Kaileigh Krysztofiak
SOUND DESIGNER: Andy Trithardt
FEATURING: Alison Deon, Daniel Ellis, Rose Napoli
PRODUCER: Lisa Li
PUBLICIST: Katie Saunoris
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Erin Vandenberg

What:
Gabriella wants action. Jackson wants a scholarship. Susan wants a family. In this new play by Rob Kempson, three disparate people find themselves bound together by desire, destiny, and a few scandalous photos. Trigonometry is about how far we go to get what we want: what we do to survive.

Where:
Factory Theatre, Studio Space
125 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M5V 2R2

When:
March 16 – March 25

Tickets:
416.504.9971
trigonometrytheplay.com

Connect:
#trigtheplay
w: trigonometrytheplay.com
fb: Trigonometry Facebook Event
t: @rob_kempson

Meet Some of the Cast & Characters: 

In Conversation with Trey Anthony, playwright of “How Black Mothers Say I Love You”

by Bailey Green

NB: Trey uses the spelling of womyn when referring to black women in her directors note, so we have respected that in this piece within her quotes.  

Trey Anthony was inspired to write How Black Mothers Say I Love You when she read The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. During that time, Anthony’s grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Anthony decided to interview her grandmother and when she asked her if she had any regrets, she said her biggest regret was leaving her children behind in Jamaica when she moved to England to seek a better life for her family. She believed that her daughter, Anthony’s mother, had never forgiven her for that decision. “The more research I did, I realized there were so many womyn who were affected by those decisions – by womyn leaving third world countries and migrating to first world countries,” Trey Anthony explains. “There was a history of a lot of Caribbean families, a sister, mother, aunt leaving and I wanted to explore what happened to these families after they reunite. No one talks about the damage being done to these families – to my mother and grandmother’s relationships.” These relationships live at the centre of How Black Mothers Say I Love You. 

beryl-bain-and-ordena-stephens-thompson-in-how-black-mothers-say-i-love-you-joseph-michael-photography

Anthony’s mother left England to live in Canada when Anthony was 9. Anthony and her brother remained behind in England, while her sister travelled to Canada with their mother. “We always had a level of distance. We struggled to connect emotionally,” Anthony says of her relationship with her mother. “And I feel it was because I was left from ages 9-12, during very formative years, that I struggled to develop that relationship. And for my sister, who was never separated from my mother, there is a closeness in their bond that my mother and I were never able to build.” Anthony discusses how her research speaking to daughters of women and women who had left brought about a new healing and a shift in her perception. Her mother became more than just a family member, but a woman who made choices to better herself. “It helped me heal from some of the anger and what I thought I missed out on. It is still a journey and it can trigger me but I am a lot more forgiving of her. The first time my mother saw the piece she broke down crying.”

allison-edwards-crewe-ordena-stephens-thompson-beryl-bain-and-khadijah-roberts-abdullah-in-how-black-mothers-say-i-love-you-joseph-michael-photography

How Black Mothers Say I Love You focuses on three daughters returning home to their mother, Daphne, after receiving news of a ‘devastating diagnosis’. The reunion forces them to confront the past. “The heartbeat of this play is really the story of these women trying to love each other,” Anthony says. The main character, Claudette (played by Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah), is the daughter who was left behind. Anthony says that creating nuance in the character of Claudette and revealing the deep feelings of abandonment behind her bitterness and anger was a challenge. “You see some forgiving and redeeming qualities instead of just a womyn who is angry at her dying mother.” 

allison-edwards-crewe-and-ordena-stephens-thompson-in-how-black-mothers-say-i-love-you-joseph-michael-photography

How Black Mothers Say I Love You has returned to Factory Theatre as part of the 16/17 season for an extended run after the show sold out last May. When asked about how the show has changed this time around, Anthony says: “having the luxury to tweak the various scenes and have some more dramaturgical work, and to have the support of a producing team, has made me able to focus more on the creatives. Having two new actors in the roles [Beryl Bain as Cloe and Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah as Claudette] has helped it have a new dynamic and energy.” Anthony also praises collaborating director Nisha Ahuja for her creativity, specifically noting her work on the transitions and making the piece more movement oriented.

ordena-stephens-thompson-khadijah-roberts-abdullah-and-allison-edwards-crewe-in-how-black-mothers-say-i-love-you-joseph-michael-photography

For Anthony, one of the greatest joys of this piece has been telling a Caribbean-rooted story in a mainstream space and to give voice to those women. “Many people who have seen this play have talked about never seeing their families onstage,” Anthony says. “And for friends who are white, they take it for granted that they can see their lives in some way in any theatre across the city and that is not a luxury that people of colour have.” How Black Mothers Say I Love You speaks across race and class, says Anthony, because at the heart of the piece is a story of a family who is trying to love and is dysfunctional in that love. “As black womyn we don’t get that opportunity to be well-rounded characters with layers,” Anthony says of wanting to focus on black women in black storytelling. “We can be the angry black womyn, or the sassy one, or the one on welfare… I want all of these womyn to go on this roller coaster of emotions and be well faceted, be loving, crying, jealous. So you can see the anger, joy and abandonment […] For me, to hire womyn who look like these womyn onstage and get to be these full characters, that’s groundbreaking and what I want to see.”

beryl-bain-ordena-stephens-thompson-khadijah-roberts-abdullah-and-allison-edwards-crewe-in-how-black-mothers-say-i-love-you-joseph-michael-photography

How Black Mothers Say I Love You

1617_hbmsily_950x200

Who:
A Trey Anthony and Girls in Bow Ties Production
Presented by Factory Theatre
Written by Trey Anthony

What:
A devastating diagnosis brings Daphne’s daughters home where they are forced to confront a traumatic six year separation in their past and their individual quests for love, reconciliation, and forgiveness. How Black Mothers Say I Love You is a poignant and hilarious examination of our desire for truth and understanding from what has been left unsaid. Featuring an original score by Juno Award-winning composer Gavin Bradley and a thought provoking and deeply personal script from ‘da Kink in my Hair creator Trey Anthony, How Black Mothers Say I Love You returns to Factory after being the hottest ticket in town last May.

Where:
Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst St.

When: 
February 9 – March 5

Tickets:
factorytheatre.ca

 

Artist Profile: Peter Fernandes, Actor

Interview by Hallie Seline

It was a complete joy to connect with the wonderful and uber-talented young actor Peter Fernandes and chat about acting and what he is currently working on. We discussed what drew him to acting as a kid, how Passing Strange has impacted him both as an artist and as a young black man, and about how now, more than ever, it is extremely valuable for an audience to touch base with their relationship and their biases towards music and art. You can catch Peter rocking out on the stage in the Toronto premiere of Passing Strange at the Opera House from now to February 5th.

Hallie Seline: First things first – what drew you to acting?

Peter Fernandes: My parents had me and my siblings start singing for community events at a very young age, so performing was always an important part of growing up. For theatre specifically, I had just moved to Edmonton and auditioned for the grade 6 production of The Wizard of Oz. I was so nervous at the audition that I got cast as the Cowardly Lion. There was a scene where I had to faint and on the first night we performed, when I fainted I heard the audience laugh. I said to myself “Yeah, I want to do that again.” So from then on I kept looking for opportunities in the community or through theatre school programs to perform.

HS: And now here we are, performing at the Opera House! Tell me a bit about your current show Passing Strange.

PF: Passing Strange is a semi-autobiographic musical created by Stew and Heidi Rodewald. Through a range of Rock, Punk Rock, Gospel and Blues, it follows a black youth through Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Berlin during the 70s on his journey to find “the real”. It looks at his relationship to music, his identity, blackness and family. It’s also about someone looking back at their choices and reflecting on how they became the person they are today.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1131

Peter Fernandes, Sabryn Rock, Divine Brown, Beau Dixon, Jahlen Barnes, Vanessa Sears, David Lopez. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: Why is it your favourite musical at the moment?

PF: I remember seeing it on Broadway and being immediately blown away by it. I hadn’t seen anything like it and the music made everyone in that theatre jump up and rock out, which was also an unfamiliar sight. Both as an artist and a young black man, I found myself finally being able to relate to a piece in a way that I hadn’t before. Youth’s journey made me reflect on my own relationship to family, and my identity, and then, to top it all off, it had exhilarating music – it was a real rock show.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1132

Divine Brown, Sabryn Rock, Peter Fernades, Beau Dixon, Vanessa Sears, David Lopez, Jahlen Barnes. Racheal McCaig Photography.

It’s also one of those musicals that I have revisited often: First on Broadway, then multiple times through the soundtrack, the filmed version and now finally being involved in the Canadian premiere. Each time it has had a profound effect on me. Your relationship with this piece will change each time you see it. The way you connect to this musical grows as you grow and reflect on the stupid or profound choices you made as a teenager.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1025

Sabryn Rock, Jahlen Barnes, Peter Fernandes, David Lopez, Beau Dixon. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: What has surprised you the most about the show that you’ve discovered while working on it?

PF: Naively, I thought I knew this show inside and out – that I knew everything at the core of the show. But the entire cast discovers new things the more we delve into the piece and the more we give time to the words, thoughts and ideas that Stew and Heidi have infused into the music.

There’s an incredible section in the show that continues to move me. The Narrator describes someone’s words “washing over [you] like a Bach Fugue … you know how when the music goes right over your head and straight into that part of you which is most beautiful.” That’s what happens to you in this musical. Despite having seen the original and listening to the soundtrack over and over again, this still happens to me. Sure you’ll be able to come back to it later with more understanding, and you’ll be affected differently, but some things will still only exist in this indescribable place for you.

Because of the stellar cast and creative team behind this production, every rehearsal gives you the opportunity to hear something new and that’s the best kind of surprise you can ask for when you’re working on a show.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1077

Sabryn Rock, Peter Fernandes, Vanessa Sears, David Lopez, Jahlen Barnes. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: Why do you think Passing Strange is important for audiences right now?

PF: It is incredibly important to give opportunities to underrepresented communities on the stage, and this show provides the unique chance to explore a black story and black storytelling in a way that audiences have not seen before. It breaks down a lot of the barriers and biases that have been created about our identities and about the way people create.

Now, more that ever, it is extremely valuable for an audience to touch base with, not only their biases, but their relationship to music and art. Passing Strange gives you the chance to do that.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1013

Vanessa Sears, David Lopez, Divine Brown, Jahlen Barnes, Peter Fernandes, Sabryn Rock, Beau Dixon. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: If your audience could listen to one song or album before coming to see the show, what would it be?

PF: Album – “Woodstock: Music from the original soundtrack and more” (If you don’t have time to listen to it all before the show, I would focus on Jimi Hendrix)

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite spot in Toronto: Rooftop at Spadina and Bloor overlooking the Annex.

What are you listening to right now? The Two Dope Queens Podcast.

What is one song that you wish you wrote? “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim.

Who inspires you? My Parents.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten: On risk-taking: “The answer is always no if you never ask.”

Describe Passing Strange in 5 words: Music is a freight train OR Love is more than real.

Passing Strange

header_image

Who:
Co-Produced by Acting Up Stage Company & Obsidian Theatre Company

directed by: Philip Akin
music directed by: Bob Foster
choreographed by: Kimberley Rampersad
starring: Jahlen Barnes, Divine Brown, Beau Dixon, Peter Fernandes, David Lopez, Sabryn Rock, Vanessa Sears
set & lighting design: Steve Lucas
sound design: Peter McBoyle
costume designer: Joanna Yu
production manager: Adrien Whan
stage manager: Jessica Severin
apprentice stage manager: Jordan Guetter

What:
Passing Strange is a bold coming of age story told through sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In the late 1970s, a black teen is driven from Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin in search of himself and a place to call home.

Fusing punk rock, R&B and soul, and performed at Toronto’s preeminent music venue the Opera House, Passing Strange is unlike any musical you’ve seen before. Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and three Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, don’t miss the show that has been universally applauded for its originality, authenticity, and powerful score.

Where:
The Opera House
735 Queen Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M4M 1H2

When: 
January 24-February 5, 2017

Tickets:
online: tickets.ticketwise.com
by phone: 1-888-324-6282

 

*Featured Image of Peter Fernandes by Nathan Kelly

“Legacy, Purpose & The Act of Listening” – In Conversation with Tetsuro Shigematsu, playwright and performer of EMPIRE OF THE SON

by Bailey Green

Growing up, Tetsuro Shigematsu and his father Akira Shigematsu did not communicate beyond requests to pass condiments at the dinner table. In the early 90’s in Montreal, Tetsuro approached their distant relationship in a piece called Rising Son. “It was a very small show that very few people saw. But an excerpt of it was played on the radio and that was a sort of catalyst that pulled me out of theatre and into these different career directions,” Tetsuro references the beginning of his career in broadcasting. In the following years, Tetsuro became host of CBC Radio’s The Roundup, fought Vikings on the reality show Deadliest Warrior and worked as a writer for This Hour has 22 Minutes.

When Tetsuro became a father to daughter Mika (13) and son Taizo (9), he began to consider what legacy he would pass on to his own children. “Now that I have kids, [I knew] they were going to start asking questions about who they are and where they came from,” Tetsuro says. “So when my father’s health began to falter, for my kids’ sake I knew it was now or never that I had to ask questions and get his stories.”

tetsuro-shigematsu-in-empire-of-the-son_-photo-raymond-shum-28

Photo Credit: Raymond Shum

Akira Shigematsu had worked as a broadcaster for the BBC. When Tetsuro placed the microphone in front of Akira, the familiar format unlocked years of silence between father and son. Throughout the interviews, Akira never asked why his son was interviewing him and for what purpose. Near the end of the process, Tetsuro asked his father’s permission to use the material. Without permission, Tetsuro would have no research for his PhD and no material for his show. “I asked him, “Have you ever wondered why I have been interviewing you all this time? Well I would like to share your story.” He was quite mystified because it was so counter-intuitive to him that others might find his story interesting,” Tetsuro says. When Rising Son was being performed, Akira began to tell people that his son made fun of his father’s accent for a living. This was one of the reasons Tetsuro stopped performing the piece and so he wondered about what made Empire of the Son different. “He gave me his permission. He said yes right away. When I asked him why he was ok with it, he said “If you tell my story, my life will have some meaning.” That was a big surprise to me. This process was to find meaning in my own life but this whole endeavour would lend meaning to his.” 

tetsuro-shigematsu-in-empire-of-the-son_-photo-raymond-shum7

Photo Credit: Raymond Shum

Tetsuro describes Empire of the Son as a “homecoming for me and my father. Empire of the Son revisits these relationships [seen in Rising Son], but now that I’m a father, it explores my tempestuous relationship with my Japanese Canadian father and his relationship with his father… It spans four generations and the continuum of that.” When Tetsuro was still searching for the form for the show, he heard a quote from a personal hero of his, Robert LePage, about how radio is the most visual of mediums. “I began to think about how I can deepen the experience of listening,” Tetsuro says. “What is it about campfire stories that are so engrossing? Ghost stories are just variations of urban legends, but people become entranced by the rhythm of the dancing flames, or for myself the embers, so I wanted a visual equivalent for a theatre audience.”

tetsuro-shigematsu-in-empire-of-the-son_-photo-raymond-shum-27

tetsuro-shigematsu-in-empire-of-the-son_-photo-raymond-shum17

Photos by Raymond Shum

Empire of the Son has several silent sequences with visuals of miniatures projected above Tetsuro. “During the silent parts there is just time for the audience to think about their own memories and experiences – It’s a moment for them to stare into the fire, so to speak. This is a story about a Japanese Canadian father and his Canadian son, but in fact, the uncanny effect that is achieved is an explosion of memories in people’s own minds. They gave me all the credit, when I am just lighting the wick, so to speak.”

tetsuro-shigematsu-in-empire-of-the-son_-photo-raymond-shum20

Photo Credit: Raymond Shum

In the fall of 2015, Akira Shigematsu passed away. He died a few weeks before Empire of the Son opened at The Cultch in Vancouver. “When my father died, my whole family was there. My sisters cried and I didn’t. I wanted to investigate that and if I tell stories that are hard for me, I can hopefully break up the ice in my heart and when my father’s funeral comes one day I will be a little bit more complete.” Now, a year later, Tetsuro describes a stronger connection to his father’s memories, “With the passage of time I feel more mindful and present in the moment and open to connecting with my father onstage.”

Photo Credit: Raymond Shum

Photo Credit: Raymond Shum

Taizo and Mika, the fourth generation referenced in the show, have seen Empire of the Son and have “mixed feelings about seeing their lives on stage.” In the play they are referred to as 8 and 12 years old. When they are in the audience, they heckle Tetsuro about their updated ages (9 and 13). “My son points out that compared to other artists I am profoundly uncreative because I use my own life,” Tetsuro laughs. “It’s surreal for an audience because sometimes when the interactions begin they don’t know if it is real or staged and the line between art and life becomes blurry. I’ve made this commitment to not inventing anything, so when my mother or sisters or children attend, I acknowledge their presence either through eye contact or directly speaking to them.”

To artists at the beginning of their careers, Tetsuro encourages them to be prepared for a life of uncertainty. “If you can deal with that, it’ll be ok. If being creative and making art is something that truly makes you happy, then focus on those internal values and you’ll maintain a sense of integrity or wholeness about what you believe in.”

EMPIRE OF THE SON

1617_eots_950x200

Who:
Written by Tetsuro Shigematsu | Directed by Richard Wolfe
Starring Tetsuro Shigematsu
Set design by Pam Johnson | Costume design by Barbara Clayden
Lighting design by Gerald King | Sound design by Steve Charles
Documentary audio by Yoshiko & Akira Shigematsu
Produced by Donna Yamamoto
A Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre Production

What:
From the ashes of Hiroshima to swinging 1960s London, EMPIRE OF THE SON tells the dynamic story of Shigematsu and his emotionally distant and stoic father, Akira, also a former public broadcaster. A compelling father and son story, EMPIRE OF THE SON is also the story of three generations of a Japanese family separated by language, culture and history.

Told through a blend of dramatic storytelling, family video footage, archival audio from Akira’s CBC interviews, recordings of phone calls between father and son, and intriguing miniature worlds projected on a screen, EMPIRE OF THE SON is a deeply thoughtful portrayal of parent/child relationships.

Where:

Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street

When:
January 18 – 29, 2017
Tuesday – Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm, Saturday, January 28 @ 2pm & 8pm

Tickets:
Ticket prices range from $25-$35
Student, Arts Worker and Senior Prices also available
In Person: Factory, 125 Bathurst Street,
Online: factorytheatre.ca
By Phone: 416.504.9971

Connect:
@tweetsuro
@FactoryToronto • FB/FactoryTheatreTO/
@vact FB/vact1  www.vact.ca
#beyond1617 #empireoftheson

Artist Profile: Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Actress

Interview by Brittany Kay

This Lady Boss had a kick-ass 2016, which appears to be shaping into an even more exciting 2017. We couldn’t be luckier to sit down and chat with actress Vivien Endicott-Douglas, who’s performing in the current remount of Infinity at TarragonWe spoke about not going to theatre school, how she has grown as an artist at Tarragon over the years, and the love that comes with Infinity.

Brittany Kay: What made you choose performing as a career?

Vivien Endicott-Douglas: I’ve always been a performer, ever since I could talk. I loved to perform for my family. My family is a huge fan of the original Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. I had listened to these stories on tape a bunch. There was one point where I was 4 or 5 years old when my dad turned on the tape and I had memorized it entirely. I just recited it, instead of listening to the tape. I asked my parents if I could start acting when I was 8 and they sent me to these drama classes called Dragon Trails with a woman named Jill Frappier, who’s this incredible actress and had this drama school for kids. I was in love with her. I was in awe of her. She was always doing voices and had so much energy and we created plays with her. She said to my parents, “Have you ever considered Vivian doing this professionally?” I really wanted to, so when I was 11, I got an agent and started working professionally. That was mostly in TV and film so I was able to learn so much. I got a lead in a TV series when I was a year into working professionally and I was in almost every scene, so I really absorbed a lot and got to work with some incredible actors.

Richard Rose gave me my first professional theatre gig right out of high school at 18. I was taking a year off and trying to figure out whether I wanted to go to theatre school or not. I was working and there were all of these other actors who were like, “If you’re already working, maybe theatre school isn’t right for you and you can find other people to train with on your own.” That was a big debate for me for a while of whether I should go or not go. Not going kind of won out in the end, just based on friends and people’s advice to me. The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I really wanted to find a community of artists and actors and theatre makers.

BK: That can be hard if you’re not going to theatre school.

VE-D: Exactly. And I was always kind of like the kid amongst the other artists. I was so lucky to be working with these older, super experienced actors but I didn’t feel like they were people who I could necessarily create new projects with. Around that time it was important for me to find people my own age who wanted to experiment and create. I met Rosamund Small during my time at UofT and our friendship and working relationship blossomed from there.

BK: Well that’s a great connection! Without the training of theatre school, what is your process or preparation for auditions and rehearsals?

VE-D: I started taking voice classes with a woman named Rae Ellen Bodie about 4 years ago out of Pro Actors Lab. She’s an incredible actor, director and coach. I took this class because I thought I should have something on my resume that says that I’ve had some kind of training. I walked in on my first day and Rae was like, “Where have you trained?” and I was like, “Mhmm… I haven’t.” Everyone started making these sounds and moving freely and I just tried to do that too with absolutely no idea what I was doing. It turned out to be about breath and body work to connect with how you’re feeling right now in this present moment and so I have incorporated that into my daily practice. It helps with auditions, a lot. Auditioning is not easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for anybody.

BK: What are you talking about? It’s the best process ever…

VE-D: (laughter) I certainly enjoy auditioning for theatre more than I do for TV/Film just because there feels like there is more time and you can really talk about it and get into it. I’ve picked up other things along the way. There’s a book called the Power of the Actor by a woman named Ivana Chubbuck. It’s these twelve steps to approaching a character and script. What really spoke to me was this idea of what you need from the other person and what you want to make them do. That has really helped my work. I have played a lot of victims or people who don’t necessarily have a lot of agency, just because of the nature of the roles I’ve been given in my career so far. This book really empowers you. Instead of just wanting something from them, it forces you to look at what are you doing to that person to make that happen.

I think I have an emotional intuitiveness and I’m a very empathetic person. I think I bring that to my work. For the past few years it’s been really important to be more powerful. Not just in the work but in the room. Really have my voice heard by directors and other actors. Because I started as kid, I’ve always felt like a kid.

paul-braunstein-amy-rutherford-vivien-endicott-dougas-in-infinity-photo-by-john-lauener

Paul Braunstein, Amy Rutherford, Vivien Endicott-Douglas in Infinity. Photo Credit: John Lauener

BK: Tell me a little bit about the show?

VE-D: Infinity is about a couple, who are two brilliant people. One is a theoretical physicist and the other is a musician. I play a young woman, named Sarah Jean who’s a mathematician and I go between being in my mid twenties to playing an eight year old. It’s about her figuring out her emotional life because she doesn’t actually live in that at all. She’s a very intellectual academic, a very smart, driven person, who doesn’t often take an emotional inventory of where she’s at or of her past relationships. Without giving away too much, there’s kind of an incident that makes her have to reflect on it. It’s about how we come to understand love in our lives, with parents and with lovers.

It’s also filled with beautiful live music. There’s a violinist, named Andréa Tyniec that plays throughout the show. It’s amazing because live music has such a resonance as you’re working. It’s so visceral. It’s really intertwined with what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. She has an incredible ear so she can be dynamic in the way that she plays. She changes with us from night to night.

BK: There’s definitely something about strings that brings you further into the experience as an audience member. It just hits you somewhere deeper.

VE-D: Well the vibrations hit you. I find it so moving when there’s live music.

BK: Were there excitements or fears or challenges coming into a remount, where Haley McGee played the part before you?

VE-D: Well yeah, those are certainly big shoes to fill. Because I didn’t see the original production, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the character. I just had a couple of monologues and read the script and went into the audition bringing what I had to it. We worked quite intensively in the audition. I think we made a lot of fresh discoveries about the character and about how I relate to Sarah Jean. Our director Ross Manson was really willing and very interested in me finding the character myself, which was awesome because I felt like he gave me the kind of support to just go. There are certain things about the character that are true for anyone playing this part but within that, I was able to find what my own relationship to her was. We only had 10 days of rehearsal…

BK: Whoa! Why so short?

VE-D: Well because it was a remount and originally Haley was going to do it. She wasn’t available and so they had only budgeted for 10 days.

BK: Wow…

VE-D: Yeah… It was an intensive rehearsal process. I found out that I got the part while I was doing Killer Joe, so I had a lot of time leading up to prepare. The first day we just got on our feet. I came into a room of people who were already so confident in the work, which was actually really neat. Amy and Paul, the other actors in the play, have such a great dynamic in their relationship. They were very encouraging and supportive of the work that I was doing. Ross worked with me and really challenged me. He pushed me, which was important because we didn’t have a lot of time so I had to be on my toes. I felt like I came into a room that was filled with a lot of love because I think people really love the play. From the whole team, everybody loves the play, and you really feel this connection… they all feel connected to it.

BK: Why is this play so important and important to bring back?

VE-D: It’s so relatable in the way that it shows a relationship between two people who are deeply in love and who can’t quite get on the same page or can’t quite give each other what they need. My character, Sarah Jean, is so relatable because she’s this young woman who’s trying to figure out her relationship to her parents and what their legacy is and her relationship to how her childhood has made her into who she is. It’s her opportunity to reflect on how she’s gotten to where she is and that she can actually change… that the future is not written and she kind of comes to this realization that she can change for the better.

andrea-tyniec-vivien-endicott-douglas-in-infinity-photo-by-john-lauener

BK: This is your fourth show with Tarragon. What do you love about being there and what keeps you coming back?

VE-D: I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to work there. I have learned so much working there because they produce all of these new plays. I actually have also been a part of numerous workshops that have taken place there. Being a part of those with other actors and directors has allowed me to learn so much about theatre and about being an actor and the process to creating a show. I have been able to learn how other actors approach the work. People will really question playwrights and then the play changes and grows and that’s a huge part of working at Tarragon – having these conversations about stories. You’re often not getting a static play that’s already written. So much of the time it’s about dramaturgy. I love that part of it.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with from Infinity?

VE-D: I hope that people walk away feeling hopeful. I hope that people walk away and maybe call someone they love and tell them that they’re grateful to have them in their lives or if they come with family or friends and can walk away and talk about their connection to each other. I hope that it opens people up.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: Back to the Future

Favourite Play/Musical: The Sound of Music

Favourite Book: Fall On Your Knees, closely followed by The Sun Also Rises

Favourite Food: Salmon

Best place in Toronto: Either of grandparents’ houses or the ravine close to my parent’s house.

Advice you live by: Trust your instincts.

Infinity

Tarragon_Infinity

Who:
Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Original score composed by Njo Kong Kie
Directed by Ross Manson
Co-produced by Volcano Theatre
Featuring Paul Braunstein as Elliot Green, Vivien Endicott-Douglas as Sarah Jean Green, Amy Rutherford as Carmen Green and Andréa Tyniec as violinist

What:
How does a new Theory of Time change everything we know about ourselves? Three brilliant minds – a musician, a mathematician, and a theoretical physicist – smash together like colliding particles in an accelerator. Together they learn that love and time are connected in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Infinity is a shocking, funny and revelatory play about love, sex, & math by Tarragon Playwright-in-Residence Hannah Moscovitch developed with Volcano Theatre. Back by popular demand from Tarragon’s 2014/15 season.

Where:
Tarragon Theatre

When:
January 4 – 29, 2017

Tickets:
tarragontheatre.com

 

 

In the Greenroom’s Next Stage Theatre Festival Favourites

We couldn’t think of a better way to start 2017 on a high note than with a jam-packed festival of new theatre, dance, music, storytelling and improv; watching artists take their work to the ‘next stage’; and, of course, some good beer tent times re-connecting to old friends and meeting new ones!

We wanted to share some of In the Greenroom’s Festival Favourites, with the hopes of inspiring you as you begin your final NSTF scheduling. We’ve chosen something different, something new, something bloody and something true… maybe.

Be sure to share your favourite festival moments!

Connect with us on:
twitter: @intheGreenRoom_
facebook: @ InTheGreenroom.ca
instagram: @inthegreenroom
#NSTFestivalFaves


Something Different: MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS

manic-2

Go to MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS if you want: something different… completely different!

It’s hard to find just one word to describe MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS. Wild, weird and wonderful, this show is bold, hilarious, absurd, athletic and completely fun! There’s nostalgia. There’s glitter. There’s incredible “wow-did-they-just-do-that” dancing, blow-up props, Garden State references, singalongs, and bags of milk! Yup, it’s a total trip and the more we think back on everything we experienced during MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS, the more we smile.

**We also recommend reading the program note on the work by choreographer Alyssa Martin either before or after for an even deeper appreciation of the piece.

What:
Join dance-theatre renegades Rock Bottom Movement for a hallucinatory romp through millennial nostalgia and classic indie film. Choreographer Alyssa Martin conjures a gleefully glitter-soaked pop-culture mashup featuring 90’s singer-songwriter karaoke and athletic dance breaks.

Where:
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 11 at 06:45 PM
January 12 at 07:30 PM
January 14 at 09:00 PM
January 15 at 05:15 PM

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


Something New: Songbuster, an improvised musical

songbuster-1

Go to Songbuster if you want: something new… every time!

Songbuster, an improvised musical is perfect if you’re looking for heart-wrenchingly hilarious ballads about _____ (You fill in the blank!) At this fully improvised musical, audience members get to choose the subject matter of the play! On opening we witnessed an entire saga about comicon that we won’t soon forget. We especially loved the improvised flamenco duet… Enough said!

What:
Fast paced, ridiculous and always entertaining, the cast creates an hour-long musical from suggestions provided by the audience. This dynamite cast has been seen in mainstage musicals and comedy clubs around the country and knows how to make you laugh one moment and break out your jazz hands the next.

Where:
Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 11 at 07:00 PM
January 12 at 05:30 PM
January 14 at 06:00 PM
January 15 at 01:45 PM

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


Something Bloody: Blood Ties

blood

Go to Blood Ties if you want: something bloody…fun & musical!

Witty, charming and funny dialogue, plus beautiful songwriting with clear and engaging narrative sung throughout, Blood Ties is a bloody fun musical. Hats off to their thoughtful and clever costume design and a special shout-out to performer Jeremy Lapalme!

What:
Sheila’s uncle shoots himself in his bathroom on the eve of her wedding, and when her three best friends arrive in town to celebrate they are instead faced with the task of cleaning up the considerable mess left behind. This flagship musical show by Dora-nominated team Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston has previously been a hit at SummerWorks, the Edinburgh Fringe, and on BBC America’s ‘Orphan Black.’ Based on true events.

Where:
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 12 at 05:15 PM buy tickets
January 13 at 10:00 PM buy tickets
January 14 at 02:00 PM buy tickets
January 15 at 07:00 PM buy tickets

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


Something True (or False… either way there’s Spam!): Two Truths And A Lie

truths

Go to Two Truths and a Lie if you want: something true… or false! Regardless, someone is going home with a can of SPAM after this truly feel-good, laugh-out-loud, intimate storytelling show, so how could you miss it?

Though filled with lies and liars, Two Truths and a Lie promises to be filled with hilarious laugh-out-loud moments for a truly feel-good time in a cozy venue. These three talented storytellers transport us to horrifying yet still somehow endearing moments in their lives, and whether you can figure out who the ultimate liar is or not, a can of Spam is up for grabs, so… who wouldn’t want that?!

What:
Each night of the festival, Graham Isador (Situational Anarchy), Helder Brum (Born with a Tale), and Rhiannon Archer (Life Records) will regale audiences with three unbelievable stories…one of which is completely made up. After the critical successes of their honest and funny solo shows, these veterans of Toronto’s storytelling scene are coming together to make you laugh while lying to your face.

Where:
Factory Theatre Antechamber (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 11 at 05:55 PM
January 12 at 08:40 PM
January 13 at 06:40 PM
January 14 at 05:40 PM
January 15 at 04:25 PM

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


We hope this inspires you to kick off your weekend NSTFestival schedule planning and be sure to see something you wouldn’t normally! This list is just the beginning.

There’s 10 shows that have each been selected to offer something different. Be bold. See something on a whim! That’s what the festival spirit is all about. You never know what you might be surprised by.

Happy Closing, NSTF! We’ll cheers you in the beer tent!

cropped-untitled-1-12.jpg