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Posts tagged ‘Artist Profile’

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

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

 

 

Artist Profile: Rosamund Small, Playwright of Outside The March’s “TomorrowLove”

Interview by Brittany Kay

Rosamund Small has always been the most kind-hearted and generous artist that I know in this city. Her passion and love for her craft is always apparent. She is insanely smart, courageous and incredibly funny, which always shines through in her work. We sat down over nachos to talk about her current show TomorrowLove, which opens tonight with Outside the March. We talk about the magic in site-specific/immersive work, her writing process and the much anticipated experience audiences will have in this fantastical show.

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

Rosamund Small: The show is called TomorrowLove. It’s an immersive experience with Outside the March. It’s about love and it’s set in many different versions in the very near future, where one piece of amazing technology exists. Everything else is pretty much the same as our world except for just one thing. It’s about exploring different relationships and how this one thing activates change in the way that two people relate to each other. Sometimes it ends up bringing people closer together and sometimes it pushes them further apart. TomorrowLove touches on a lot of things to do with love and identity and sometimes consent and sometimes loss. The dream is that it will be a varied experience no matter what. There’s a lot of material and the idea is that you’ll wander through this futuristic environment and find yourself in these different stories.

BK: So things are happening…

RS: Simultaneously. There are multiple things happening at the same time. I think sometimes immersive theatre is structured so that you purposefully miss things. You miss whole stories, you miss the beginning, and you miss the end. In TomorrowLove, you grasp an entire story. It’s short but it’s complete, and then there’s another one and another one. It’s quite curated and carefully put together to make sure that you get the entire narrative and then a different entire narrative.

Photo by Neil Silcox

Photo by Neil Silcox

BK: Can you talk about this lottery system the actors are going to take part in each night? There are so many layers to this experience!

RS: So many layers! It’s got a lot going on underneath in terms of how the show is put together. One really exciting thing that we came across is that I wrote all of the characters to be gender blind, so they are not necessarily man or woman. I just didn’t make that decision when I was writing it.

Typically we have really gendered stories about anything from a break up to sexual violence to anything really to do with how two people relate in a relationship. Those stories can be super valuable, but in this case I wanted to sort of push out of those ideas and explore the idea that if I didn’t know the gender of the person, how would I navigate that in the writing? The characters have genders because whatever actor is playing them inhabits their gender, but that, I think, is part of a larger piece of the feeling of the show. It’s about the self and the individual and what is innate to you and how did you end up in your life?

There is also an aspect of the show where every night there’s a lottery and the actors get assigned their roles.

BK: So the actors have to learn a lot of material?

RS: Yeah.

BK: Shit, that’s fun. Cool!

RS: That is the reaction I’m hoping for: “That’s fun!” I hope they all say that. I think it’s going to be one of those things that ends up being really fun and then really hard and you cry and then it gets really fun again. All of the actors are going to be learning about as much as Hamlet or a little more, in terms of numbers of lines

BK: Wow!

RS: They are also playing different people, so they’ll inhabit very different stories. In one sense, in a lot of theatre, you feel like you want to rehearse and rehearse until you’ve hit something, but in another way that sense of rehearsal can take away from a sort of urgency or hopefully a sense of live-ness that I think we’re finding. It’s a big risk, obviously. They’ll be rehearsed. Their scene partner will be changing. Their goals will be changing. I think the experiences intrinsically will be a little bit out of control. Where you end up is a little bit out of your control. That’s a really big theme of the show.

Photo by Neil Silcox

Photo by Neil Silcox

BK: How did you start writing this? How did this idea come to be?

RS: I started working on it about two years ago. In a way it started because Mitchell Cushman and I wanted to work on another project together. It took us a really long time to shape what that would be. We had some specific goals. We wanted to make theatre that would appeal to people that often don’t go to the theatre. That’s kind of a tenant of a lot of theatre companies, but definitely of OTM. He’s really generous and I think he really wanted to create something that was my voice. It’s not like it was going to be something that he would come up with and I would execute. He really wanted to do something that we both felt really passionately about.

We started with short stories about sex. The idea to push them into a place that couldn’t quite happen was the next thing, so then you end up in the world of technology. For me, personally, I realized that the idea of a show about technology doesn’t really interest me because I think about technology a lot in a literal way. I can think about my phone and what it means but I think this show is more of a metaphorical access point to that. The pieces of technology are very nearly possible, in fact, I think a few of them have become more possible since I’ve started writing them.

BK: What kind of technology are we talking here?

RS: One is an implant that you can get that prevents you from saying certain things that you really want to make sure you never say… so you don’t let something slip, which obviously has huge implications for relationships. Another one is you can choose to show your partner an extended montage of all of your memories. Another one is an online chatting app that actually finds you your soul mate. Another one is you can get a piece of someone’s DNA put into a little mixture and inject it into yourself so that you can experience their emotions.

BK: Why site-specific and immersive for this show?

RS: I think immersive and site-specific theatre is very magical because you immediately don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s very much how I feel about all relationships. I think how I feel about progress and technology is really surprising and personal. Immersive theatre really lends itself to heightening that experience. Sometimes people have an idea of immersive theatre being scary or that it’s going to put you on the spot or make you uncomfortable and I think, in a lot of ways, it’s the opposite of that. It’s an invitation to this world.

Photo by Neil Silcox

Photo by Neil Silcox

BK: I know a lot of your plays has been verbatim or immersive in their nature and presentation. What draws you to that kind of work? What makes you keep doing this?

RS: It’s funny because TomorrowLove is such a departure from that. This is heightened and fiction.

The draw to documentary and to interviews and to Vitals (which was fiction but really well researched) is that the world is really interesting. I would always advise writers who were stuck in their writing or were just starting to write, to think about starting there because it grounds you in the way that people actually talk and the way that things actually happen. You put so much of your heart and yourself into your documentary work but a lot of the time people don’t know that because they assume it’s more distant from you. I think, for this piece, it’s scary because it’s going to be really hard to hide that the characters and observations are going to seem like they are from me.

BK: What was your process to write this script?

RS: This is such a boring answer because it’s such a writer answer: I would just start. A lot of it is really just like improvisation except I was writing it down. I would just go. I would always go for a relationship problem or a change in a relationship or a relationship crisis and then ask how would a piece of technology either begin that or change that or heighten that? So I never made up a piece of technology and wrote the play to go with it. I started to write the story and then the necessary technology would merge into the story.

There are definitely pieces that are inspired from things that have happened to me or to people that I’ve loved. I think all writers steal shamelessly. They are much more me, honestly. They are much more from my own questions about people. Fiction is so embarrassing, somehow.

BK: The audience is invited to the Aorta? What is that?

RS:

BK: Ahh, a mystery?

RS: (she smiles.)

BK: Love that. How are your actors rehearsing this show?

RS: There has to be more than one thing rehearsing at once because there is so much material. They are all crazy pros. These artists are really, truly the real deal and really experienced, as well as being really good. They are like a crazy dream. It’s a real ensemble. So we’re reading the pieces, we’re doing the pieces, and we’re trading off because there will be more than one actor playing every part. There’s a bit of a tap in tap out mentality going on. We also have two amazing assistant directors (Llyandra Jones and Griffin McInnes) and Mitchell and myself. We’re all “do-si-do”ing the rehearsal process.

Photo by Neil Silcox

Photo by Neil Silcox

BK: Are there any fears or excitements for this show?

RS: No.

I’m joking. I’m joking so hard.

I think the fears and the excitements are always the same thing. The fear and the excitement is that I think the pieces are very vulnerable. The characters are in really vulnerable places. I feel very vulnerable. They’re really raw, sometimes in a comedic sense and sometimes in a tragic sense with really painful experiences. So the fear and the excitement is about sharing that, but that’s also such a part of theatre and such a part of love.

BK: What’s your working relationship like with Mitchell Cushman? How did you guys meet? What makes you want to continue to collaborate with him?

RS: We met at the Paprika Festival. He was working there and I was one of the oldest participants. He directed a staged reading of mine in the festival and so that’s the first time we worked together really. I think you can tell immediately when you work with someone like him that you can just trust him. You can trust him to be honest. You can trust him with your work. Actors trust him. He’s just a really sort of subtly supportive and reassuring person, you know? You also trust him because it’s so obvious how wicked smart he is.

He saw a little bit of Vitals and he asked to direct it and we turned it into Outside The March doing this huge production of it. It was incredible. It’s a very close working relationship. We’re really in each other’s business. It’s not like I write the script and he directs the show, it’s very collaborative. We argue and we compromise and we work really well together. I’m incredibly lucky to work with someone like that and to work with our whole team, as well.

BK: Why Outside The March for your show?

RS: I think the short answer is because this is the kind of work that Mitchell wants to develop with the company. I remember when I saw their production of Mr. Marmalade and it blew my mind. I was like this is the kind of theatre that I want to do.

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

RS: That’s hard because you can’t really control it, no matter how hard you try. I hope they experience some empathy and have been entertained. I think entertainment is really undervalued as a quality. Not thoughtlessly, but entertained. I think it depends what kind of person you are – if you are interested in a mind-bending puzzle, you might be interested in crazy technology and its implications, if you’ve been through a break up, it might stir some things up, might make you think about your own life or it might just be an experience that you leave behind you at the door. I just hope for something.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Book: What? That isn’t fun, that’s so hard.

Favourite Play: What? What is this? Like which is your favourite parent Brittany?

Favourite Food: Pizza. Is that a boring answer? It’s why I moved to Little Italy.

Favourite Place in Toronto: The Island, Ward’s Island specifically.

What are you listening to: I’m leaning heavily into this Carly Rae Jepsen album “Emotion”. It’s like really good… Love good pop music!

Best advice you’ve ever gotten: Katherine Cullen once told me, “When you feel like you just can’t go on and something terrible has happened, it’s really important to just go to bed and wake up tomorrow.” We can fall asleep and escape and wake up and something will be recharged in us. It’s amazing.

TomorrowLove

by Rosamund Small, Presented by Outside The March

unnamed-2

Who:
Written by Rosamund Small
Directed and Developed by Mitchell Cushman

Ensemble
Damien Atkins
Katherine Cullen
Paul Dunn
Amy Keating
Cyrus Lane
Mayko Nguyen
Oyin Oladejo
Anand Rajaram

Producer – Michelle Yagi
Stage Manager – Kate Sandeson
Production Manager/Technical Director – Alanna McConnell
Scenic Design – Anahita Dehbonehie
Lighting Design – Nick Blais
Costume Design – Lindsay Dagger Junkin
Composition and Sound Design – Richard Feren
Choreographer – Robert Binet

Associate Director – Llyandra Jones
Associate Director – Griffin McInnes
Associate Production Manager – David Costello
Apprentice Stage Manager – Kate Hennigar
Assistant Producer – Deanna Galati
Front of House and Group Sales Manager – Sabah Haque
Assistant Choreographer – Cassandra Martin
Production Consultant – Katherine Devlin Rosenfeld
Publicist – Samantha Eng

What:
An intimate immersive encounter that imagines the future of romantic connection.

Navigate your way through a series of simultaneously-unfolding duets, in which innovations in technology grant physical transformation, time and space travel, immortality, the extraction of the human soul, and a fridge that expands to hold infinite groceries—all in the name of love.

If you roll over in bed and reach for your iPhone, if you store more memories on your feed than in your brain, if you’ve ever longed to upgrade yourself or your partner, then welcome to TomorrowLove™.

From the creative team behind Vitals (2014 Dora Awards for Outstanding Production and Outstanding New Play).

Where:
The Aorta (733 Mt Pleasant Rd)

When:
Show runs from From November 19 – December 18 (Mondays excluded)

Tickets:
Tickets: $40 General, $30 for under 30/arts workers http://tomorrowlove.brownpapertickets.com/

Connect:
w: outsidethemarch.ca
fb: /OutsideTheMarch
t: @outsidethemarch
ig: @outside_the_march

 

Artist Profile: Actor Jakob Ehman on Rebellion, Drive, Risk & “The Circle” at Tarragon Theatre

Interview by Brittany Kay

I sat down with the incredibly talented Jakob Ehman who is making his Tarragon Theatre debut in The Circle. We discussed rebellion, his drive for the craft, and the need for established theatre companies to take risks on young artists.

Brittany Kay: What has been your journey to getting to where you are right now?

Jakob Ehman: I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. I lived there for a short couple of years. I moved to Calgary, Alberta until I was 5 and then we drove across the country to Nova Scotia. I lived in a couple of different places in Nova Scotia: LaHave, which is in the country and very rural, I lived in Bedford, and I lived in Dartmouth where I spent the most amount of time. At the end of grade 8, I moved to Toronto and started high school here at the Danforth Collegiate Technical Institute.

BK: What made you go to theatre school?

JE: I don’t know… I can’t really remember what it was that got me into it, but I had to take some sort of arts class in high school. I was interested in drama, I guess, and I had a great teacher! Her name was Heli Kivilaht. I think I remember one of the first classes I played this character ‘Indiana Jake’ and everyone laughed. My childhood memories have a lot do with me entertaining the family. I started to like making people laugh a lot. The years went by and that drama teacher left, but while she was there, I was pretty heavily exposed to some wicked writers – David Mamet, Beckett, MacIvor. I was in grade 10 and 11 studying those writers and that was kind of crazy to me at that time. I was so fascinated by it because it reminded me of the type of films I was into when I was in high school – ones with dark writing. It seemed pretty cool just to be able to do that, to say those words. I felt like I had an affinity for it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pursue acting or not. I was still pretty into the idea of some sort of work in policing, investigations or the military. I decided I would apply to George Brown, NTS and Ryerson.

Vivien Endicott Douglas & Jakob Ehman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedmann.

Vivien Endicott Douglas & Jakob Ehman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedmann.

BK: Why those three?

JE: They’re all that I really knew, I guess. I was more into the idea of doing some sort of conservatory. Figured that if I was going to go do this, I didn’t want to have to also take a bunch of other classes and be in a university setting. I kind of decided if I didn’t get in, that would be that. I would go to UofT and be a spy or something.

I got into George Brown and I loved the feeling I had when I went to that audition and the Young Centre was new, beautiful and seemed great. So I kind of left everything else behind… gave in and immersed myself into that program and into the life of what I thought it was to be an actor and eventually then a creator, which George Brown wasn’t very helpful in overall.

BK: To create your own work?

JE: Yeah.

BK: Is that where HUMANZOO came from?

JE: Yeah. Sort of. George Brown had a couple of projects that were based in creation, but they had pretty specific ideas of what being a professional actor was and what they wanted us to be, at least that’s how I felt. It was actually helpful because it really gave me something to rebel against. That’s generally when I feel most at home.

BK: When you rebel?

JE: Yeah, I’m sort of an antagonistic kind of person, especially as an artist, though not necessarily in rehearsals. I don’t want to be like that. But you know, challenging everything.

BK: So how did HUMANZOO come to be? What happened after theatre school?

JE: HUMANZOO was an idea that was formed in theatre school. My great friend Edward Charette and I lived together. I talked a lot about ideas I had, just all the time…. just spouting off things. I think it annoyed him quite a bit. We had this idea about a human zoo, a zoo for humans. The actual company was all just ideas and a name that I liked, until I was contacted from the Hamilton Fringe. Somehow a spot had opened up there and they didn’t want to put it out to the public or have a whole bunch of people applying for this spot, so they asked me if I would be interested in doing something. At that time I had no clue what that would be. I decided to take the spot and figure it out after. I spent a week in the reference library reading every play that looked interesting. I looked for ones that had small casts since we were all going to be living at my parent’s house in Hamilton. Eventually I found this play called Normal by Anthony Neilson about this real life serial killer in Germany who killed a great many people. I thought the play was terrific and felt very inspired by it as soon as I read it. I kind of took the book… went downstairs and I ripped the sticker out of it.

BK: You stole it from the library?

JE: Yeah, I stole it from the Reference Library. The Reference Library, if you’re reading this… come get me, I guess. I’ve got it and I don’t intend to give it back.

So yeah, we did that and it was awesome. We won the Critic’s Choice Award. It was the first thing I directed.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: Do you have future plans with this company?

JE: I definitely want to do stuff in the future with the company. That sort of becomes about deciding how to manage your own time. I’ve been quite fortunate in the last couple of years where I haven’t necessarily had a lot of off time to plan a production or knowing when I’m going to have time next year. I haven’t committed to deciding that I won’t accept any acting work so that I can do that.

BK: You’re not just an actor, though. You’ve also sound designed, produced, directed, and written. How do you choose when you want to do what? Is it whatever is offered at the time or is it an active choice you make?

JE: Well, we went back to the Hamilton Fringe the next year. We really enjoyed our time there. I like the city of Hamilton. I knew I wanted to direct again but I also wanted to write and sound design once I started writing the play. I always want to be doing all of those things. I think that theatre is such a collaborative thing that if you want to, you can sort of have a part in all of those things, no matter what role you are in with the production. As an actor, you are still collaborating with a director. If you fight for your ideas of your character, you could feel like you have a say in some parts of the direction.

I guess it does come down to what is offered more. Acting happens more frequently for me. It takes a lot more of my own drive to make any of the other things happen. I’ve done a couple of sound designing jobs on the side but I’ve also been involved in the production as an actor so it’s never one thing at a time.

BK: What motivates you?

JE: I think just being really hungry. I’m obsessive – about the craft and about wanting to be…awesome. I want to be better every time. I want to inspire other people. I want to inspire people who I’m working with to work as hard as I want to work, so that what we give in the moment on stage is truthful and electric and vibrating with energy and life. I’m just sort of addicted to that feeling and to that kind of presence, but that type of presence takes a lot of preparation work and a lot of thought and time. It’s literally just thinking about the work, about the character’s stories and motivations like a detective.

BK: This is part of your rehearsal process, as well?

JE: Yeah. For sure.

How can I find other things to bring into this? How can I go deeper? And sometimes it can be really simple things you might not think of. Where does this person look when someone’s talking to them? Which eye? Do they look at both eyes? There’s an infinite level of details humans have. That makes me excited to investigate.

BK: We’re going to shift into talking about The Circle. What is it about?

JE: The Circle is about a group of young people from 15-18 years old. There’s this guy Ily, who I’m playing, and he’s living in his girlfriend’s mom’s garage. He’s dropped out of school and he sells weed and works at The Keg. During the day when his girlfriend is at school he gets this call from Tyler, an old friend of his that used to live at his place. It’s this guy who’s ended up living on the street and in various squats and in and out of homelessness. Tyler calls him wanting to hang out that night and Ily agrees but meanwhile his girlfriend has also invited her friend Will over that night with his new boyfriend Daniel. There’s this clash of groups that are going to come together and it really becomes a fucked up party.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: What draws you to this character?

JE: I think I’ve played a lot of emotionally unstable and intense kind of characters. When I read this one, I was excited because it felt more like a side of me. You know, a happier kind of guy. He’s just generally smiling and laughing. He’s the kind of guy who can hang out with any group. I dunno, it felt like I needed a change and play that part of myself and to not always be going down those dark paths.

I really think that within each of the characters there’s something every person in the audience, whether young or old, can relate to. The characters are so varied. The play is about them figuring out who they are and figuring out who they want to be. They are looking for a place of belonging with each other and in their own lives.

Jakob Ehman in The Circle. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

Jakob Ehman in The Circle. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

BK: This is a cast of all young people and a big first for Tarragon. It’s nearly everyone’s Tarragon debut. There’s been a bit of a trend with professional theatres not often hiring younger performers. How do you feel about Tarragon programming this kind of show filled with young actors?

JE: It’s a huge risk for them. This is Geoff’s debut play. It’s been produced before at ATP (Alberta Theatre Projects) but he’s still a very young writer. The cast needs to be playing 15-18 years old, so no matter what, you’re going to be taking a gamble on some very young actors that may or may not perform at the sort of level that an audience or critics are used to from an establishment like Tarragon. I think it’s going to pay off for them. The first step to making it pay off was hiring director Peter Pasyk, who took the time to find the right actors that were going to be able to make this thing live. Even then, it could still really have not worked out for them, but they have to do it. They have to do this play and plays like this, written by young people with young directors and young actors so that they can get younger audiences because their subscriber base is going to end and if they don’t have a new subscriber base and new people who are interested, they won’t survive. It’s a risky production but I think necessary for their survival.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: What is it like working with Peter?

JE: Peter is a funny guy.

BK: That’s it?

JE: He and I joked once when we were leaving the theatre about how he’d like to be described, and he said he’d like someone to say that he’s a funny guy. So yeah, I’ll leave it at that…

But he’s actually tremendous. He’s a tremendous director. A wonderful, lovely person to work with everyday. Really patient and demanding and never gives up on anybody or anything that he wants. I think he’s quite courageous and I had a great time working with him.

BK: Why is this story relevant today?

JE: I don’t think it’s specifically the story that makes it relevant. It’s quite simply about young people – that young people are portrayed fully, at all. They aren’t used as a device for some older character’s story. They’re not the singular teen in the play. It’s a play about them. That’s really different. That’s what’s relevant, I think.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: That’s an impossible question.

Favourite Play: Nope.

Favourite Book: “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

Favourite Food: Sushi. Chino Loco’s burritos.

Last play you saw in Toronto that stayed with you: James Smith’s Lessons in Temperament.

What are you currently listening to: Solange, Bon Iver’s new album.

Advice for young emerging artists: Don’t settle for doing what a director asks you to do, always suggest something to do… make offers, continue every moment that you can. Try and give your own perspective, different intentions/objectives/movements. Never settle for just taking direction. Always take it, but give more than what you’re asked for.

The Circle

A Tarragon Theatre Production

The Circle, Tarragon Theatre

The Circle, Tarragon Theatre

Who:
by Geoffrey Simon Brown
directed by Peter Pasyk
starring Nikki Duval, Jakob Ehman, Daniel Ellis, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Brian Solomon & Jake Vanderham
set designer Patrick Lavender
lighting designer Rebecca Picherack
sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne
costume designer Joanna Yu
fight director Steve Wilsher
stage manager Sandy Plunkett
apprentice stage manager Victoria Wang

What:
Welcome to Ily’s high school garage party: there’s the genius, the drug dealer, the runaway, the kid with ADHD, and the son of a priest. Everyone’s a total mess, but it’s better than being alone on a Friday night in suburbia. This remarkable debut by 26-year-old playwright Geoffrey Simon Brown is an explosive SOS from an orphaned generation desperately looking for a place to belong.

Where:
Tarragon Theatre Extraspace
30 Bridgeman Ave.
Toronto

When:
Oct 18 – Nov 27, 2016

Tickets: 
tarragontheatre.com

Connect:
Jakob –
w: jakobehman.com
t: @JakeEhman

Tarragon –
w: tarragontheatre.com
fb: /tarragontheatre
t: @tarragontheatre

Exploring Modern Tragedy and the Importance & Impact of Stories about Mental Health in the Theatre – In Conversation with “Salt” Playwright Erin Vandenberg

Interview by Hallie Seline

We spoke with the lovely Erin Vandenberg, playwright of Salt, about her curiosity in exploring how we experience and express tragedy, the impact of telling a story through the theatre, and the necessity to talk about mental health and addiction. You can catch the world premiere of Salt, on now until September 28th, at Alumnae Theatre (show details below).

Hallie Seline: Tell me a bit about the play and what inspired the piece?

Erin Vandenberg: Salt explores the impact of mental illness and addiction on two teenage sisters and their alcoholic mother.

I was re-reading several translations of Euripides and thinking about how we experience and express tragedy – whether that be intense personal tragedy or horrific societal injustice (or both at once, as is often the case). The elegance of the classical Greek play doesn’t feel right for today somehow, but still grabs me personally. In the middle of that, I came across a headline about two sisters who committed a crime as a response to a lifetime of coping with their mother’s alcoholism. From the outside, the fact that they would take such desperate action is shocking, but I didn’t feel shocked. I felt the opposite, that in the face of certain circumstances the sisters’ response was all too understandable, and that was part of the tragedy of it all for me. We don’t talk enough about mental illness and addiction. We would rather simply be shocked when someone dealing with those issues acts out and then move on.

I started Salt from there. I didn’t have a lot of details about the girls involved (they were young offenders and thus protected). I also decided not to research the real story, which I believe involved co-conspirators and a social media element. I was more interested in what might it be like for two girls to grow up with an alcoholic mother, what was happening day-to-day in the home. What was happening for the mother too – alcoholism is a disease. I placed them in a situation with limited access to resources as well. How do you cope through that? Every character is in pain in the play and fumbling to deal with that, particularly when it becomes obvious that the pain is unrelenting. I have some insight into what that feels like from my own experience with depression.

From left: Cosette Derome and Lucy Hill in a scene from Salt. In the bg from left: Philippa Domville and Stephanie Jung. Photo by Robert Harding.

From left: Cosette Derome and Lucy Hill in a scene from Salt. In the bg from left: Philippa Domville and Stephanie Jung. Photo by Robert Harding.

HS: Why were you drawn to present this story in the theatre? 

EV: I’m drawn to theatre in general because there’s something so visceral when you have a real live human being in front of you, enacting a story. You don’t have a screen between you. You don’t have to conjure the story up from words alone.

For Salt specifically, there’s an element of storytelling inherent in the piece – all the characters tell each other and themselves stories in order to cope. But the stories alone cannot sustain them and they begin to fail as coping mechanisms. And there’s such an opportunity to show that breakdown in the theatre. In the play, one of the characters makes landscape scenes out of construction paper as her way of telling herself stories, and we have the opportunity to get to see those creations in the production in a deeply theatrical, larger than life way; seeing them like that adds to the impact. Design brings so much and can carry so much of the narrative, and that is really interesting to me as a writer. That words alone don’t have to do all the work.

Lucy Hill as Petal in "Salt. Photo by Robert Harding

Lucy Hill as Petal in “Salt”. Photo by Robert Harding.

HS: Can you speak about the development of this piece and how your mentors have influenced your work?

EV: This piece would not be where it is without Briana Brown, my director and dramaturge. Before her, I had been writing mostly on my own, with some sporadic, one-off workshop readings sprinkled through the process. Workshop readings are definitely helpful, but it’s different when you can get someone’s sustained support. It becomes an ongoing conversation, and to be able to have that with someone who not only understands the territory the play explores but who is perched just outside of my process is really illuminating. She also gets me really well, and the relationship we’ve established (really quickly too) makes me feel not so lonely, the way so much of the writing process necessarily is. Briana and all of our cast and design team ask really sharp questions and finding my way to answering them has brought a new clarity to the piece. They are all downright heroic, and it’s wonderful to be able to work with so many other artists. Writers in other forms don’t get that in the same way as playwrights.

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

EV: Find out who you are without the depression. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me with clinical depression told me that. That was tough. It’s not necessarily related to my artistic practice, but it opened something up for me – I am not the disease. When you are inside it, it’s so easy to get lost. I’m still figuring out who I am without the depression.

Also, always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then, always be a unicorn. I think that’s pretty solid. (The internet tells me this can be attributed to Elle Lothlorien from her book Alice in Wonderland, which appears to be a romance novel…)

HS: What is your favourite place in the city?

EV: My bed. Especially when I’m reading or napping there with my cats. I made my peace with the fact that I am not cool long ago.

HS: Where do you look for inspiration?

EV: Books. Conversations. Paintings. History. Nature. Anything that both gets me out of my own head and resonates with me on a gut level.

I also find that I find inspiration through the work – the act of writing, forcing myself to sit there with a piece and think through it, breeds inspiration. I find I often can’t answer questions about my work in person, I can only do it through the next round of re-writes.

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

EV: Asking for Flowers by Kathleen Edwards. I’ve been listening to it every time I sit down to work on the play. Part of the chorus is “Don’t tell me you’re too tired, 10 years I’ve been working nights.” Which pretty much sums up how I feel about living with depression, how frustrating and exhausting it can be. I am not the disease, but it’s something that I wrestle with every day, just like the characters in the play.

Salt

Presented by Lark & Whimsy Theatre Collective

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Who:
Written by Erin Vandenberg
Directed by Briana Brown
Featuring: Philippa Domville, Cosette Derome, Lucy Hill, Geoffrey Armour and Stephanie Jung
Set & Costume Design by Anna Treusch
Lighting Design & Production Manager – Gabriel Cropley
Sound Design by Lyon Smith
Stage Manager – Laurie Merredew
Assistant Stage Manager – Deanna Galati
Publicity Consultant – Katie Saunoris
Consulting Producer – Lisa Li
Assistant Producer – Brittany Kay
Produced by Chris Baker and Erin Vandenberg

What:
When Lilias returns home after a year at school, she finds her mother Vivian increasingly fixated on Great Aunt Rose ‐ a figure Lilias believes never existed ‐ and her sister Petal virtually engrossed in a construction-paper fantasy world. Faced with an ever‐deteriorating family situation, Lilias struggles to chart a course that protects herself and Petal from Vivian’s abuse. But as tensions run high, the roles of abuser and victim become blurred.

Where:
Alumnae Studio Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street

When:
Tuesday, Sept 20 – 7:30pm (Opening)
Wednesday, Sept 21 – 1:30pm & 7:30pm
Thursday, Sept 22 – 7:30pm
Friday, Sept 23 – 7:30pm
Saturday, Sept 24 – 1:30pm & 7:30pm
Sunday, Sept 25 – 7:30pm
Tuesday, Sept 27 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, Sept 28 – 7:30pm (Closing)

Tickets:
larkandwhimsytheatre.com/salt/

Connect:
facebook – @larkandwhimsytheatre
twitter – @Lark_and_Whimsy
hashtag – #SaltPremiere