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Posts tagged ‘Brittany Kay’

“Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.” A Rapid-Fire Interview with the Women of Shakespeare BASH’d AS YOU LIKE IT

Indie darling Shakespeare BASH’d is gearing-up for their production of As You Like It, just in time for the spring! While the company has always put an emphasis on creating more roles for women in Shakespeare, As You Like It is one of the plays that already has a strong female role at the centre of it (the largest female role in the cannon). The show has, at its core, intelligent, powerful women and deep, important female friendships. The production has taken this a step further by changing a number of additional roles into female characters, adding more female voices to this beautiful story of growth and transformation in the Forest of Arden.

We sat down with the women working to bring this story to life and asked them some rapid fire questions about friendship, Shakespeare, and theatre.

They are from top left to right, then bottom left to right:

Jade Douris (Celia), Olivia Croft (Jacques), Hallie Seline (Rosalind), Hilary Adams (Lord, Wilma, Hymen, Co-Composer), Cara Pantalone (Adam, Corin, Oliver Martext), Lesley Robertson (Touchtone), Aubree Erickson (Oliver), Brittany Kay (Phoebe) & Bailey Green (Associate Director, Not pictured here).


Rapid Fire Questions:

Your female hero:

Aubree, Lesley, Cara, Hilary, Olivia: My Mom

Hallie: Honestly, I am constantly in awe of so many of the hard-working, loving, hilarious, talented, generous, intelligent, boundary-pushing, fierce, boss babes I have around me. So many female heroes. I see you. I am inspired by you. Keep shining.

Jade: AOC!

Brittany: Hallie Seline

Brittany Kay as Phoebe. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

A role in Shakespeare you’d like to see played by a woman:

Lesley, Bailey, Cara: Falstaff

Aubree: Lear or Titus

Olivia: Tybalt would be fun.

Lesley Robertson as Touchstone. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

Favourite pop culture/iconic female friendship:

Lesley: Anne and Diana (Anne of Green Gables)

Cara: The Golden Girls

Hallie: I agree with Lesley with Anne & Dianna (Anne of Green Gables), and I add: Cher & Dionne (Clueless), Lorelai & Rory (Gilmore Girls), Carmen, Lena, Tibby Bridget (Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants)… I could really go on…

Jade: Buffy and Willow

Jade Douris as Celia. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

Go-to pump up song/song that makes you feel powerful:

Bailey: “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga

Hallie: Pretty much anything by Beyonce, The Spice Girls, Laura Marling, Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco… I could go on (I’m terrible at these “choose one” answers), but for this show, let’s go with “Run the World (Girls)”

Hilary: “Eye of the Tiger”

Brittany: “Feeling Good as Hell” by Lizzo

Hilary Adams: Lord, Wilma, Hymen, Co-Composer. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

Best advice you ever received/current mantra:

Lesley: “It’s your Jesus year!” (I’m 33)

Cara: “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anybody else.” … can I get an amen.

Hilary: Love yourself for your mistakes and forgive yourself often. Try to accept your faults, they are part of you, and always try to be a better person, acceptance is a big part of that.

Olivia: Peace in the mind, harmony in the heart, love in every action. Sow and let grow.

Olivia Croft as Jacques. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

Favourite Shakespeare quote about women:

Lesley, Bailey, Cara: “Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak” (As You Like It 3:2)

Jade, Hilary, Brittany: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3:2)

Hallie: I’m quite fond of both of those but there’s also SO MANY amazing, fierce quotes about women in As You Like It, like: “Make the doors upon a woman’s wit and it will out at the casement; shut that and ’twill out at the key-hole; stop that, ’twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney.”

“You shall never take her without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue.”

Aubree Erickson as Oliver. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

Favourite Shakespeare actress (film or theatre):

Aubree: Just one?! Emma Thompson in Much Ado. Though technically not a Shakepeare film, Claire Danes in Stage Beauty. Every woman in Julie Taymor’s Titus. Helena Bonham Carter in Twelfth Night.

Cara: Does Dame Maggie Smith count? I adore her.

Hallie: YES CARA! Maggie Smith for sure!

Brittany: Miriam Margolyes as the Nurse in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet

Cara Pantalone: Adam, Corin, Sir Oliver Martext. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell


Finish these sentences:

“I am most creative when…”

Lesley: I’m happy and relaxed.

Bailey:  I have the pressure of a deadline.

Jade: I’ve had at least one cup of coffee.

Hallie: I’m surrounded by music, art, people, nature, new ideas.

“I feel happiest when…”

Bailey: it’s the summertime in Northern Quebec, and I’m with my family, partner, and a stack of books.

Hilary: I am on the beach, beer in hand.

Brittany: I’m with my nieces. They remind me that life is full of sweet discoveries and we can always be fun and silly! Also my dog Bruce, he’s endless happiness.

Hallie: I’m in the sunshine, and by the water… especially Lake Huron.

“I feel fired up when…”

Jade: I’m at the first read-through of any play. That moment the first time everyone’s in the room together and everyone gets inspired as a group.

Hilary: I see great talent, whether I see a great piece of theatre or live musicians – it gets me ready for anything and really inspired.

Olivia: The pre-show music is bumpin’!

“In the Toronto theatre scene, I want to see…”

Aubree: more interdisciplinary works – visual/sculpture artists, musicians, physical theatre, language, whatever!

Lesley: more avant-garde, risky, unusual forms and styles.

Olivia & Hallie: more arts funding, thus better wages or compensation for time spent.

Hallie Seline as Rosalind. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell


As You Like It

Who:
Company: Shakespeare BASH’d
Directed by Drew O’Hara
Featuring: Hilary Adams, Daniel Briere, Michael Chiem, Olivia Croft, Jade Douris, Aubree Erickson, Kaleb Horn, Brittany Kay, Justin Mullen, Cara Pantalone, Lesley Robertson, Hallie Seline, Jonny Thompson
With original music composed by Kaleb Horn, and additional music composed by Hilary Adams
Associate Director: Bailey Green
Produced by Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis
Designer: Catherine Rainville
Fight Director: Nate Bitton
Assistant Fight Director: Bailey Green
Graphic Design by Matt Nish-Lapidus

What:
Welcome to the Forest of Arden and Shakespeare’s comedy of joy, wit, and transformation: As You Like It. Relish in the adventure of shepherds and courtiers in love in this energetic barroom staging, full of original music. It is truly Shakespeare’s most exceptional journey through the pastoral world of pleasure and connection.

Where:
Junction City Music Hall (2907 Dundas St W)

When:
April 23-28, 2019
Showtimes:
Tuesday, April 23 – 7pm
Wednesday, April 24 – 7pm
Thursday, April 25 – 7pm
Friday, April 26 – 7pm
Saturday, April 27 – 2pm
Saturday, April 27 – 7pm
Sunday, April 28 – 2pm

Tickets:
Sold Out online. Limited available for $25 at the door (pending availability).

Find out more: 
shakespearebashd.com

 

 

“Collaboration, Self-Advocacy & Finding Inspiration in the Details” In Conversation with Kevin Wong & Julie Tepperman on New Musical Development with THE PREPOSTEROUS PREDICAMENT OF POLLY PEEL (Act 1) at the 2018 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Brittany Kay.

Kevin Wong and Julie Tepperman are no strangers to the Fringe Festival. Their constant dedication and innovation to the Toronto theatre scene had us already very excited about their new musical in development The Preposterous Predicament of Polly Peel (Act 1), now running at the Tarragon Theatre. Seeing that only act 1 was being presented at the Fringe, it further peaked our interest and we were eager to chat with them about what it takes to develop a new musical and to discuss the nitty-gritty of how this process actually works. We were very lucky to catch the two busy creators to chat about development, collaboration, self-advocacy and finding inspiration in the details.

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

Kevin Wong: You go.

Julie Tepperman: No, you go…

JT: We can do one word at a time?

KW: That would be terrible. I’m not doing that.

(Laughter)

KW: Polly Peel is our developmental production of just the first act of what will be a two act musical. It’s a piece that follows the Peel family in the wake of the loss of the father, Paul Peel. In particular, we examine their processes of dealing with his loss through the eyes of his imaginative, biology-obsessed young daughter Polly. Very early on in the piece, she announces this theory that her dad is not dead, but that instead he is this frog she finds in the ravine at the moment of his death. Chaos, heartbreak and healing ensue.

BK: Where did this piece start? How did the beginning of this development first take shape?  

JT: Here’s the history in a nutshell: Mitchell Marcus, the AD of The Musical Stage Company back in the Fall of 2015 blind-matched-made us. We’d both done their Noteworthy program, but in separate years, which is the playwright-composer-librettist speed-dating workshop. He thought we would make a good match for Reframed, which is the next level of Noteworthy, where they pick three writer/composer teams to pick a painting in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery of the AGO and write a 25 minute musical that would be workshopped with Director of New Play Development, Robert McQueen. We had three actors, an orchestra, and a series of workshops over about an eight month period. Ultimately, they were performed and loosely staged in front of the paintings.

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: How did you choose the painting that would inspire you to write the musical? Why did this painting speak to both of you? What was it about the painting?

JT: We decided we would go to the AGO separately and then meet for coffee and talk about our top three paintings. We picked some of the same paintings, but I picked The Young Biologist. It was by a London, Ontario painter named Paul Peel, who actually got quite famous moving as a young man to study art in Paris. The Young Biologist is actually of his son Robert as a three-year-old looking down at this frog who’s hardly visible in the corner of this painting. To me, it felt really exciting that there is a sort of exchange going on between the frog and the boy. The title made me think about death and how a science obsessed child might reconcile and grapple with the death of a parent, and this notion of where the personality or the soul goes when the body dies. Coincidentally at the same time, I had heard a podcast about child grief bereavement centres and camps that are all around North America. I kind of pitched this idea to Kevin. At first, I wanted to write the outline of a one act musical that was maybe a TYA show and we’d pick 20 minutes to do for the AGO piece. (to Kevin) Somehow I convinced you though, and what I didn’t tell you at the time was that if you didn’t say yes to this, I wasn’t going to do the project. There’s nothing else that inspired me as much.

(Laughter)

BK: What was is it that convinced you Kevin?

KW: A lot of the portraits were just singular subjects and it was Julie’s point about there being two subjects in it, which was rare. She asked me what I thought about what the relationship between the son and the frog was? I hadn’t noticed the frog originally. When I did, I thought now there’s an interesting a relationship to write about. We started talking about who the frog was and who the boy was and what they were to each other. Because of the podcast Julie was listening to, there was a lot of child grief in the discussion. That was sort of the starting point.

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: Match making is an interesting way to begin what has become a lengthy collaboration. What makes for a good collaboration? What makes for good partners in development?

JT: (To Kevin) I googled the hell out of you. We knew of each other but hadn’t met.

KW: I also admired Brantwood. I had no idea who she was, but she had fabulous hair when I saw her standing by the exit…

JT: …and I’m also really smart right?

KW: …and then I met her and I was disappointed ever since.

(Laughter)

KW: No. Nooo! It was very clear that Julie’s imagination and her detailed work on characters and what motivates them was very, very precise and specific and immersive. And I was really interested in working with that.

JT: We laugh about the same things a lot.

KW: We have a raunchy dark sense of humour that we share.

JT: We procrastinate in the same way. We like food.

KW: More than that, the two of us are very committed to telling a story of the same voice. We are very up in each other’s business and on each other’s grills all the time. If a character says something that I try to fudge so that it could rhyme, Julie will usually pick out the sentence that isn’t true to what the character is feeling at that moment. And vice versa, if I know there is a moment in the spoken dialogue that they could sing better, then I might ask Julie to cut that or to save it.

JT: I also like that you’re not married to this idea/format of scene-song-scene-song. Our structure is non-traditional, and whether it works or not, the Fringe will be a huge learning curve for us.

KW: The older stereotype of what a musical is, is that it’s modular and chunky. The composer sticks a song in and the book writer writes around it and then a scene happens and then a song happens. Our process on this show is sort of the opposite. It’s very lateral and very integrated. 

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: What did the Reframed series do for the first incarnation of this piece?

KW: The blessing of Reframed was that there was a finite gestation period and a hard deadline in sight because you knew no matter what you did, 20 minutes of your material was going to be mounted in April 2016. 20 minutes allowed us to figure out how a story breathes, why it sings, what music is doing in the piece and what the emotional heart and core of that is.

BK: What happened next with it?  

KW: Our process in Reframed was a bit different in that we were the only ones who knew that this piece was going to be a longer full two act piece. Our way in, was to find a couple of scenes that sort of could be strung together but something that we knew we were always going to expand. After Reframed, we then got the opportunity to workshop a little bit more at the In Tune conference in Vancouver. We wrote a little bit more material, added in a new character and did 45 minutes in front of a different audience.

BK: And after that?

KW: We were looking for another opportunity to expand. Those opportunities to have audiences actively responding to what you have written so far help keep you from going off the rails into your own head. You can get so close to a piece that you can’t see the forest for the trees anymore.

BK: I love that saying.

KW: You get too close to it. It’s like saying the word the over and over again, it doesn’t mean anything after a while. And so when The Paul O’Sullivan for Musical Theatre deadline came around, I suggested to Julie that we apply because even though self-producing at Fringe is very exhausting, if we were to win, the prize money would be helpful. The opportunity would be really helpful and it would be another deadline that we could use. I robbed myself of sleep putting together some demos and we wrote a little bit more material and applied. We were very lucky and are thrilled to have won that prize because it gave us this opportunity and now it’s 85 minutes of a first act.

JT: There’s no other way to do it. We would have gone on endless coffee dates and written slowly.

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: Why just one act? People obviously know what they’re getting when seeing the title but what would you say are the pros and potential negative perceptions of presenting just this one act?

KW: Luckily the Fringe is a great environment to try something. The audience comes in with an expectation that the material is very new in its form. Even if we wanted to do two acts we couldn’t because the longest slot is only 90 minutes. Writing-wise we had to be realistic with how far we were really going to be able to get. It’s possible that some things in this one act may end up in act two. We may have put some things in the wrong order… we’ll discover that. At some point you have to stop generating material and allow the actors to just do what they’re going to do without constantly changing it on them.

JT: It’s manageable. We grappled with wanting to give people a good Fringe experience, but also authentically explore what we want to explore, so I don’t think we’ve over-written it on purpose just to fill a 90 minute slot, but to learn about it.

KW: In a way, the pressure of just doing one act was helpful because if you did the full the story, you would expect naturally that the audience would walk out with some degree of emotional catharsis or completion. But because we’re just doing one act, it actually made us tighten the loop on our narrative storytelling. We’ve still got to send the audience out the way you would feel at the end of a very finessed intermission. Even if it’s to be continued, something has to happen enough that you feel like you have gotten somewhere you’re satisfied with.

JT: And then that there’s a hook and a feeling of what is going to happen next. We have a sense of the arc of act two, but it’s going to be a puzzle to figure out. I hope the audience response is that they want more. It doesn’t feel complete because it is not resolved and there’s a new bit of information we give right at the end.

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: What is the Fringe doing for the next stage of development? What’s next for Polly after the Fringe?

KW: What we’re going to learn from the Fringe is monumental because theatre is such a live medium that you really need that audience in some way to understand how something is landing and how your storytelling is coming across. Following that, we’re going to meet again and we’ll have plenty of rewrites and changes from what we did present. You inevitably get plenty of things wrong… you can’t get everything perfect.

JT: We know that there are things in there that are not working, just through our writing, lack of time, lack of resources, working on a Fringe budget.

KW: Once we finish the Fringe, we’ll start re-drafting. I think we have to work quickly. I think not losing the momentum will be important. Maintaining momentum in the actual writing is the best way to avoid letting fear become inertia because even with a piece that exists already, if you leave it too long it becomes scary and then you don’t touch it anymore.

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: What do you do when something isn’t working? How do you look at it from the outside and fix it when you are on a time crunch?

JT: Some stuff we have to let go and know we will address it later. 

KW: What we did very early on is we had a read of the script that wasn’t a finished version with the entire cast. That gave us a huge amount of information and we made a list of priorities of what we were going to tackle before we got into the rehearsal room.

As we got into the room, it sort of is like a funnel in that the big bulk rewrites don’t happen. The huge conceptual rewrites are smaller and smaller. There’s a point at which you are just adjusting lines and lyrics and cutting.

JT: Lots of cuts. I feel like 90% of what I’ve written overall has been cut. It’s almost like a pathway of getting to the right place. Even now we’re being really nit-picky, which I guess is a good thing. Our actors have been so positive and supportive to the rewrites we have done and have even made suggestions the closer they’ve gotten to the characters.

Photo Credit: Sam Gaetz

BK: Do you have advice for other theatre makers that are creating new musicals?

JT: Give yourself time.

KW: Learn how to collaborate. The temptation, even for your first piece, is to want to do everything alone so that you can show you can do a lot of things. Learning to collaborate is a very difficult, ongoing case-by-case process because every single collaborative team is different. Your product is almost always invariably better if you find the right collaborator, than if you try to do something on your own. It also enables you to really hone your skill set on your specific craft. Sometimes you need that extra eye calling you on your bullshit.

JT: …or your habits. Be rigorous with the collaborators you choose to be in the room with. Create the kind of room you really want to create. Don’t be shy about that. Trust everyone’s expertise. If something doesn’t feel right or go well in terms of how you are collaborating, address it early or it becomes ingrained and systemic. There’s nothing worse than being fearful about when to speak. I’ve been in gross rooms where that is the culture. Life is too short and there’s not enough money to justify feeling like we’re walking on egg shells all the time, especially when it started from a place of curiosity, imagination and love.

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

KW: I hope they hold their loved ones a little closer to them. We take so much for granted and life is fragile and I think there’s something about that at the heart of the piece.

JT: I’d say also that imagination is courage. I think that’s what Polly and her frog have been teaching us from the beginning and that there… this sounds very cliché… but there isn’t one singular way to grieve. You said this early on Kevin, but we think this is about a family that doesn’t realize they need each other. This might help people reflect on their own situation and family.

The Preposterous Predicament of Polly Peel (Act 1)

Who:
Company: The Polly Peel Collective
Playwright/Creator: Kevin Wong (Music & Lyrics) & Julie Tepperman (Book)
Director: Aaron Willis
Cast: Troy Adams, Alan Cui, Donna Garner, Faly Mevamanana, Richard Lee, Hannah Levinson, Ben Page, Jessica Sherman

What:
‘… Polly Peel (Act 1)’ explores a family grappling with death through the eyes and imagination of a biology-obsessed eleven-year-old girl. Originally inspired by acclaimed Canadian painter Paul Peel’s ‘The Young Biologist’, an early incarnation was presented in 2016 at the AGO as part of The Musical Stage Company’s ‘Reframed’.

Featuring a moving story, a funny and poignant musical score, and some of Canada’s top musical theatre talent, ‘… Polly Peel (Act 1)’ showcases a rare in-development look at a new Canadian musical. Frogs. Family. Forgiveness. RIBBIT!

Winner of the 2018 Paul O’Sullivan Prize for Musical Theatre.

Where:
TARRAGON THEATRE – MAINSPACE
30 Bridgman Ave
Toronto
Ontario
M5R 1X3

When:
7th July – 5:15pm
9th July – 1:00pm
10th July – 10:00pm
11th July – 7:00pm
13th July 3:30pm
15th July 5:15pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

 

 

 

“Environmentalism, Playwriting & Taking Your Time” In Conversation with Rosa Labordé, playwright of MARINE LIFE

Interview by Brittany Kay.

Rosa Labordé is one of the finest examples of a multifaceted, multi-talented, many-hats-wearing fierce female artist working in this city. Her work as a playwright, actor and director is highly praised and respected in this theatre community. We sat down to talk about her current production Marine Life, playing now at the Tarragon Extraspace only until December 17th. We spoke about how she approaches environmentalism, playwriting and the importance in taking your time with your work.

Brittany Kay: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Rosa Labordé: Mostly, from the experiences that I have in life or what I perceive or observe going on around me. I’m usually interested in how we’re functioning as a greater society, as a greater whole and how that ties into how we treat each other as individuals. I don’t think they can be separated. I like to look at very big issues and then bring them down to their most essential level of human beings interaction with each other. In a world where can bully each other, I want to know what that looks like in the grand scale, like corporate bullying or the presidency right now in the United States and how that all ties in together and how they can’t be separate. Like the family is not separate from the greater society within which it lives… that’s usually what interests me most.

BK: How did you first get into playwriting and what brought you to where you are now?

RL: I always wrote when I was little. I think my first poem was published when I was seven in the local newspaper. It was always my thing and I always put on shows since I was really, really young. Then as I grew up, I got more into acting and I went to theatre school and they always said, “You know, it’s good to still write.” I kept writing and I found the playwrights who I most loved and I started to just do exercises in writing plays. I had a drawer full of plays that nobody ever saw that were just about differentiating character or how people speak to one another. I never went out and said “I’m going to be a playwright”, I was just like “I’m going to make a thing…” and that’s how it started.

BK: You’re also in television right now. How did that all happen?

RL: Well I was interested in it, for sure, and then I wrote my first pilot and my TV writing agent at the time said “You don’t write a pilot, you sell an idea.” Well how can I sell an idea? I need to know how to write a pilot. So I just wrote it and that went really well and CTV at the time bought it outright. We started going through development on it and then everything changed at the company. It didn’t end up going through but it was amazing to go “I’m just going to write and see what happens” and then it went somewhere.

From there, I went to the Film Centre. All of it ties into storytelling, whether it’s acting, writing, directing, writing for plays, writing for TV, it’s just about telling a story and the different medium that it works for. It’s all connected to story, even a voiceover job, you’re telling a story. That’s all my life has been, stories.

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

BK: Tell me about Marine Life? Where did the inception first happen for that idea?

RL: Aluna Theatre was the company who originally commissioned it and I wrote it in my residency with them with grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council. They really wanted me to make a piece that I would direct. They wanted me to make a piece that was completely mine. I didn’t listen to that for a bit and I did some early workshops with other people directing the readings and presentations, until, I went “Fine, I’ll direct it”.

At the time they were looking at a lot of work around water and also human rights. I just started thinking about our relationship to the environment and our relationship to water and our seas. That got me into the world of the plastic ocean, the islands made of plastic, pollution in the ocean and what it’s doing to the fish and the marine life. And because it relates back to the way that I see things, I started exploring the question – what is the self-destructive path we’re on? What is it in humans that have the desire to self-destruct just on a personal level? I kind of put these two things together. The characters are allegorical. They are representative of aspects of our humanity that move in a direction that is not always healthy for the whole. They can be quite toxic and some of what we’re doing to our planet is quite toxic, so I wanted to explore that, but in a way that was playful and fun. I think as soon as you get that didactic about environmentalism people turn off.

BK: Some political and environmental theatre isn’t for everybody. If you find a way to present the information in a humanized way, I think it could be more accessible for audiences.

RL: I think when you get someone to leave their house now, when they are so busy (technology seems to have made everyone busier) and they can stay in to watch Netflix in pajamas, is it because you want to teach them a lesson? I don’t. I like to be entertained. I like it to be a fun thing, that even if it’s a sad play, I like it when there’s a little bit of kissing or love or levity. That’s my hope, that someone can come to the show and see all the deeper meaning in the allegory and then if they don’t want to, they can also just enjoy some of the “play” and what I mean by “play” is in the playful sense.

BK: Who are the characters in your play and what is their story?

RL: Sylvia is an environmental activist but her activism has moved into the world of fanatic because she’s so upset about what’s going on that she’s taken it quite far. She falls in love with a corporate lawyer, who is basically on the other side of the spectrum of what she does. She also has a very co-dependent relationship with her sibling, which gets in the way. It becomes a strange kind of love triangle.

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

BK: There’s also music in this show? How does that play a part?

RL: I almost always like music in my plays. I had a play True and written right into it was a piano player. I love it being a part of the world and not just added on, but it being a part of the experience. I think playwriting is music. It’s all rhythm. It’s a score, basically, that you’re writing. It’s inextricably connected to have both actual musicians combined with this world that is already living in a rhythmic musical place.

BK: That’s so beautiful. What are you, a writer or something?

Laughter.

BK: This play went through several development stages in different festivals over the years. How did it grow from those first iterations to where it is now?

RL: Where it started was at Buddies’ Rhubarb! Festival and it was like 20 minutes, so it was just a look at these characters and who they might be. It built and moved from there. I was always working towards a flood in the first incarnations and then I’ve moved past that into, well, what now? We’re flooding all of the time. It’s a reality right now. In Quebec, there are still people dealing with the fallout of it. These people are literally homeless because floods destroyed their homes. Their homes were underwater. The water damage is insane. They can’t live there again and they’re just at a point where the Quebec government said we will pay. For a while, they were paying for housing, subsidizing hotel days and now they’ve pulled out of that. There are people in Quebec who are homeless because of flooding and it’s something that we’re not talking about. Climate change deniers are saying that it’s not us, it’s just the weather but it’s actually not just whether it’s a real thing and I find that really interesting and sad. It’s directly related to our overconsumption as a society, which, in a sense, the lawyer in my play represents – that kind of corporate desire to make more make more make more, sell more sell more sell more, but it’s a destructive act.

BK: Why is development and workshopping beneficial for any type of play?

RL: I think it’s so important to develop pieces and take your time figuring out what it is. The development process for this piece has been over 5 years and, in that time, I’ve also had two other plays produced and written on numerous television projects. It’s not like you’re just writing all the time for one piece. You put it aside and go, “Okay, I don’t want to let that go because I think it’s really important for us to think about these things, but how do I see it differently?” Whenever you get a chance to have an audience and have a response you can kind of connect to what is it that’s working and what is it that isn’t. It’s really useful to have “the what isn’t”. Here in Canada, we don’t quite have the structure that some other countries have in terms of developing something over a longer period of time. It can be so beneficial, even at Tarragon we get a week of previews, which is amazing. Whereas in London or New York, sometimes you get a month to 5 months to really go “what’s working and how is it working?” I think stretching it out a little bit and trying to learn the piece is a really helpful. 

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

BK: You are both playwright and director of Marine Life. How has that been difficult and helpful to wear both of those hats? How do you work between both?

RL: It can be a challenge. I really, really love directing and creating a world but where it can be challenging with new plays, is that if something is not working, the writer needs to rewrite it. Sometimes you actually just need to spend the time making it work. If everyone did their first few Shakespeare rehearsals and were like, “Ugh, it’s not working. We’re just going to have to cut those bits”, well, it’s not working because it’s really hard and you have to define every single moment of communication or it falls flat. One of my favorite Shakespeare productions was this group from the States who were dressed in all black clothes and wearing Keds. I saw them in high school and they were so great because all they did was play the action and make the story clear. Sometimes even with myself as a director, when we’re rehearing and something’s not working, I just say I’ll cut it. Only to realize later that, no, that was just a part of the process. We had a joke where I’ll say, “remember those lines I cut, you have to put them back in”. Most times you have to respect what the playwright is trying to say, but when I am both and I can be really self-critical, I go “It’s bad, what I was trying to say, I’m just going to change it.” To later think, no it’s pretty good, let’s make it work… that’s the challenging part of it.

BK: Why is Tarragon Theatre the right platform for this show?

RL: I love Tarragon and I think their audiences are really great and excited about going to the theatre. I think there’s already a lot of knowledge about environmental concerns for their audience, but this show does that in a playful way and allows them the space to think about it a little bit differently. It’s a smart audience that’s already thinking about these things and hopefully it allows their thinking to move in a bit of a different direction.

BK: Why this story right now?

RL: I think it couldn’t be more relevant because we are living our lives in a really dangerous direction and there’s a point at which we will not really be able to turn back. The depressing thing about doing the research for this project was talking to academics and environmentalists who are studying the effect of micro plastics on us. I was thinking this could get better and they would say no, it could be mitigated. That seems to be the overall place we’re at is this mitigation. It’s no longer reversible. It’s just what can we do to mitigate what we’ve done. A lot of it is about massive shifts in infrastructure and those shifts create massive economical shifts that people don’t want, especially the people who are sitting at the top of the economy where they’re benefiting from mass production.

BK: Are you an environmentalist?

RL: I care about our environment very much. I care about the world we live in. I kind of think I’m not anything. Am I a feminist, humanist, environmentalist? What am I? I can see all sides of a thing, which can be a blessing and a curse.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

RL: I hope that they’ve had an enjoyable time. I hope that they’re left with some beautiful images and thoughts about where we are and thoughts about the good in us, you know to realize our potential for change. I hope it makes you think more about the changes in policy that need to happen to make a difference.

BK: Advice for other artists?  

RL: Don’t compare yourself to other people, just be on your own trip. Be yourself, that’s all you really got. All that really matters is what your personal experience is with the people in your life that you love and what difference you can make in that and being more connected to each other. We all want community and connection.

MARINE LIFE

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre

Who:
Produced in collaboration with Aluna Theatre
Written & Directed by Rosa Labordé
starring Nicola Correia-Damude, Justin Rutledge & Matthew Edison
sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne
lighting & set designer Trevor Schwellnus
projection designer Trevor Schwellnus
costume designer Lindsay C. Walker
stage manager Robin Munro
surtitle translator Bruce Gibbons Fell
surtitle specialist Sebastian Marziali

What:
Save the world or save yourself? This romantic comedy sees Sylvia, an ecological activist, caught between her own environmental extremism and falling in love with a man who has a secret dependency on plastic. When the rains come and the flood water rises, who will survive the deluge?

Where:
Tarragon Extraspace
30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto

When:
On Stage now only until Dec 17, 2017

Tickets:
tarragontheatre.com

“The Actor’s Process, the Future of The Storefront & Working with Canadian Theatre Legends on George F. Walker’s THE CHANCE” In Conversation with Claire Burns

Interview by Brittany Kay

I got to sit down with one of Indie theatre’s fiercest ladies, Claire Burns, and chat about her role in George F. Walker’s The Chance on stage now at The Assembly Theatre. We spoke about working with Canadian theatre legends, her processes on and off the stage, and the future of The Storefront Theatre.

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

Claire Burns: I had a really good teacher in Elementary school who did big musicals so I got involved at the early age of ten. One of my first roles was Fagin in Oliver!, pretty mature role for a ten-year-old. I then did musicals all through high school. From there, I went to UofT and got my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History, but at the same time I was in the UC Follies. That drama club led me to projects at Hart House with people I still know and work with. And then I went to George Brown for classical theatre training.

BK: You caught the acting bug?

CB: I started to get really jealous of all my friends who were in theatre. I had to give it a go or else I was going to live with regrets. No regrets, right? After George Brown, I’ve just been working. I did a couple professional gigs at the Blyth Festival and the Grand Theatre. Since then I’ve been playwriting and acting in a lot of independent stuff, including projects at The Storefront, which I was running for the last three years. In the last year and a half/two years I’ve gotten more into directing.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

BK: How did you get involved in this show?

CB: I met Anne van​ ​Leeuwen, who is the head producer for Leroy Street Theatre and the Artistic Director of The Assembly Theatre, through the Indie scene with the shows she did at Unit 102 and at The Storefront. She’s a wonderful person and I totally support everything they’re doing with The Assembly Theatre.

George F. Walker and Wes Berger (our director) work together a lot. George wrote this new play and wanted Wes to direct it. Wes contacts Anne to be in the show and she asks who’s producing it. He said “I dunno” so she’s like “I will!” The other casting happened. Wes and I worked on a project together called The River You Step In, which is an independent film that will be coming out later this year with Astrid Van Wieren and Wes asked me to audition for this show from that.

BK: Can you tell me a little bit about the show and the character you play?

CB: My character’s name is Jo and my mother Marcy, played by Fiona Reid, are down on our luck. Marcy owes a lot of money and I’m potentially going to jail. She finds a cheque for $300,000 made out to cash in our couch left there by a guy I slept with. Comedy ensues. What could we possibly do with this cheque? Opportunity-comes-knocking type of thing.

It’s a very well written play. My character has a lot of angst. She’s living with her mom. She lost custody of her daughter, who’s six because she has a drug problem. She’s a bit quick to anger, but her mom is insane. It’s a very cool role. Deep but fun.

BK: Why this story right now?

CB: I think it’s really relevant that it’s in Parkdale, with all the MetCap buildings and the rental control issues. People are getting kicked out of their spaces because they can’t afford basic living expenses because of minimum wage. I think it’s very current. This play is part of a larger series that George has written that takes places in one of those apartments (if you think of the apartments on Jameson). The fact that it’s about that demographic and being done in a storefront space that is within that neighborhood, I just think that there are so many levels of relevancy.

BK: What draws you to the play?

CB: I love that it is only three women on stage.

BK: YAS!

Photo Credit: John Gundy

CB: You just don’t see that kind of representation on stage very often. What drew me to it was the comedy of it, the quick turns of the script, the fact that it’s George F. Walker! I was just like oh my god. The fact that I studied him in theatre school and now I’m meeting him and I get to ask him questions about acting. I think it’s been an amazing process to be working with Fiona Reid, as well.

BK: What is it like working with those legends of Canadian theatre?

CB: George has written such a fast-paced script and I love the way he works because sometimes I’ll improv or I’ll paraphrase my lines, (which I’m not proud of because I was taught to in fact learn them) but sometimes with lines it just comes out of my mouth better, you know? Because it’s so contemporary, he’s not precious about his script. He’s like, “No, no if that feels better, change that.” It’s a really live rehearsal process. He likes when we add things in. He’s got such funny, great ideas. That’s been awesome.

I really like Wes. I really like working with Wes. Wes always says it’s like jazz. We know it really well, but then we get within it, we can kind of play little notes within the play. I really like that too, because as an actor, I never like to do everything the exact same way every night. There are always little nuances. Each night can feel different. He gives us the permission to walk on that tightrope and just really commit to the moment, the moment, the moment. The play is also in real-time, which is really fun.

Fiona Reid is a goddess. She is generous. She is so kind and welcoming and humble and talented. She really asked questions about the script that I think I would have been embarrassed to say. I would have not asked because I would’ve felt like I was holding up the process or maybe I should have figured that out in my homework. Having her in the room really empowered me. We were able to figure out details and plot specifics together. I like to work that way.

We can build the moments together and took the time to do so. She’s fantastic and so specific. She’s really fun in the dressing room. She knows how to dance!

BK: Why do Indie audiences need a voice like George F. Walker’s?

CB: I don’t think George is writing his plays for the upper middle class. I think he’s really writing plays that speak to a more economically disadvantaged audience. Indie is that. It doesn’t have the same kind of restraints. I think it’s great that Indie theatre can have such an established playwright play to their crowds. I hope Indie audiences come out to this play. It’s hard not to think about the producing side of things while being in a show too.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

BK: Which leads to my next question…you wear so many different hats all of the time. How do you juggle and stay sane?

CB: I don’t know… I tend to work on projects when people ask me. As it turns out, a lot of those projects end up being generated by me and by the people who I’ve worked with at Storefront and collaborators that I know. How do I stay sane? I stopped drinking, which is really helpful for me. It allowed me to understand that sleep is really important.

I still party and stay up late, but sleep and regular sleep has kept me saner. It’s interesting that you ask about staying sane. Running Storefront was always, always on the go and now that we don’t have a space, I’m able to breathe a bit more. I’ve had time to write. I’ve gone through some recent life things that have also been able to propel me to write more. With acting, friends will ask. Directing wise, I’m trying to figure out how to climb the ladder of that career. Producing is another bag and I’m trying to get better at how to raise money. And then there’s what I actually do to make money, which has now been more community outreach. Unlike the bar or restaurant industry, it allows me to work from home.

BK: What is the future of Storefront?

CB: I really think there’s going to be a backlash on digital technology and people are going to be seeking a space where you can go to experience something particular. So I think storefront theatres are going to be needed in the country. The future is getting the business model down. We can’t rely on government funding in a way that Tarragon, TPM, and Factory did in the 80s. We have to figure out a new model. We can take the model from the Chicago Storefront Theatre movement where they’re all nightclubs with theatres in the back. The model we want to adopt are spaces that can become party spaces at night. We’re not looking for a space because you have to have money before you even get the space. I am looking for people to join our board. People like Jen Agg from the Black Hoof, her views on feminism in the restaurant industry are super relevant to the theatre industry. There needs to be subsidization on a municipal level. The city needs to give some sort of incentive to landlords to rent to artists for less, give them a tax break or something because the real estate in this city is crazy if you’re not for profit. It’s definitely not dead. We’re also producing. We’re producing a co-pro with Factory and Blood Pact Theatre called After Wrestling. Then we’re doing a Feminist Fuck It Festival in April, which will feature female identified performers and writers.

BK: Yessss. What an amazing name. I want to come!

CB: Right! FUCK IT.

(Laughter)

And we just got funding from the Canadian Heritage to present work in 2018/2019. The presenting and the producing will keep happening, while working towards finding a space.

BK: Any other upcoming projects for you?

CB: We are working on a new adaptation of I Love You Baby Blue with Paul Thompson and Clare Preuss. We want to honour TPM’s 50th Anniversary since it was first done there. I’ve been working on a play called Teeswater. It’s a town near Blyth, Ontario. It’s where my family moved to in the 1700s from Scotland. It’s a trilogy, but the one I want to focus on is about my great-aunt Margaret, who was a lesbian and lived with a woman. I want to explore what a queer relationship was in the 1940s/50s.

BK: Do you have advice for emerging artists?

CB: Diversify your skills now! If you’re an actor and you want to be an actor 80% of the time, learn about production management or lighting design. Stay relevant. You’ll meet so many different people doing different kinds of jobs. Then you’re just already networking.

BK: Sound advice. What do you want audiences walking with?

CB: I just want them to think that it is so much fun. This play, anyone can enjoy it.

Rapid Fire Question Round

What music are you listening to? Tom Petty

Favourite movie? The Wizard of Oz

Favourite book? I’ve read 33 books this year and they’re all of my favourites. I just read a book called A Little Life. I read all the time. You’d have to pick a genre and we’d go from there.

What are you watching on Netflix? Mindhunters

Last Play you saw in Toronto? Lukumi by d’bi.young anitafrika at Tarragon.

Favourite Musical? Rocky Horror Picture Show

Food? Mannings or Sour Cream

Best place in Toronto? Kensington Market, Parkdale, Gladstone Hotel and The Beaver

Best advice given to you/mantra? My mantra today is don’t be a low priority to somebody. For this industry, is don’t take anything personally and don’t be jealous, it’s not worth it.

THE​ ​CHANCE

Who:
Written by​ ​George​ ​F.​ ​Walker
Directed​ ​by​ ​Wes​ ​Berger

Where:
THE​ ​ASSEMBLY​ ​THEATRE-​ ​1479​ ​Queen​ ​St.​ ​W

When:
October​ ​14-28th,​ ​Tuesday-Saturday​ ​8pm

Tickets​:
brownpapertickets.com

In Conversation with Scott Emerson Moyle, director of Dauntless City Theatre’s TWO GENTLEWOMEN OF VERONA

Interview by Brittany Kay.

We sat down with Scott Emerson Moyle, director of Dauntless City Theatre’s Two Gentlewomen of Verona, to discuss the necessity for inclusive casting in Shakespeare, adaptation, and making the Bard more accessible for audiences and actors alike. 

Brittany Kay: What first drew you to the original text of Two Gentlemen of Verona?  Why is this comedy rarely staged? 

Scott Emerson Moyle: This is the third play I’ve staged in Berczy Park, but the first since a recent renovation that installed the notorious dog fountain. A site-specific staging has to respond to its location, and there was no avoiding the aesthetic of that gigantic fountain… and Shakespeare only put one live dog onstage, so there we were. I’d guess that the text is rarely staged because it has some serious problems with internal consistency (it often reads like a sloppy early draft), but I’d personally written it off because it normalizes misogyny and rape culture with its awful handling of Silvia’s story arc.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: Those normalizations obviously led to a much-needed adaptation, one that is an intersectional feminist reimagining. Talk to me about your process of adaptation and why you saw the play in this way?

SEM: Wanting to do the fun stuff in the play without the baggage was always going to require an adaptation of the text, which is often necessary when trying to argue for Shakespeare’s modern relevance. Since the original text largely treats the female characters as property without agency, I figured a good starting point was casting the two title characters as women. From there, the adaptation kind of took care of itself; the characters and relationships are mostly exactly as Shakespeare wrote them. The biggest change comes at the end, where Shakespeare’s original is unpleasant and unsatisfying for no apparent reason, and where the wrap-up feels forced and inauthentic. I’ve borrowed bits and pieces of text from a few sources to fill out the end of Proteus and Valentine’s story, and that involved a lot of digging around through plays and sonnets for the right fragments to borrow.

Another interesting aspect to the adaptation is in the character of Julian: the source’s character is a girl named Julia who disguises herself as a boy to follow her love Proteus to Milan. I cast a transgender non-binary actor in the role without a clear idea of how that gender-as-disguise narrative would play out, and that actor brought a handling of the character’s arc that feels much more deeply nuanced than the original play’s fairly simplistic proto-Viola story.

The “why” comes from a need to normalize female protagonists and complex relationships between female characters, which Shakespeare’s work rarely has space for. Countless men have had the chance to play Valentine and Proteus, and I wanted to do something new.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: That’s really incredible. In your audition call, you asked for people who felt unwelcomed or alienated by Shakespeare. Why this choice? What did this do for you in terms of casting and how has this brought success or challenges to the process? 

SEM: Everyone has the tools to speak Shakespeare – but I think we get hung up on a particular supposed “correct” approach. It can be challenging text to tackle, but there are lots of tools that can help actors navigate the technical stuff. Lots of very talented actors have so much potential in this work, but they’ve been told, implicitly or explicitly, that they don’t belong in Shakespeare, or that Shakespeare doesn’t exist to tell their stories. If we’re going to keep asserting that Shakespeare is universal, we need to stop only letting one kind of voice be heard. We have to back Shakespeare’s purported universality up with a diversity of voices.

It’s really simple: a cast with a wide range of life experience makes for richer art. The more actors have space to reflect and represent their audience, the better.

BK: I feel like this has a lot do with who you are as a company. Who is Dauntless City Theatre? What makes you different from other Shakespeare companies in Toronto? 

SEM: Dauntless City Theatre has been in operation since 2009, formerly under the name Urban Bard (with a rebrand as Dauntless in 2014). There are certainly other site-specific/immersive companies in town (Outside the March and Convergence Theatre, for example), and other companies doing classical theatre with a focus on inclusive casting (like Shakespeare in the Ruff or Theatre Why Not’s recent Prince Hamlet), and amazing groups like Buddies in Bad Times and Maelstrom Collective making theatre that centres marginalized voices, but I think we’re the only folks trying to work at the intersection of all those ideas. I want to take these great old plays and make them approachable and fun to engage with while creating room for a diversity of voices in the work.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: You have just been accepted into Generator’s Artist Producer Training program for the coming year. Congrats! What does this mean for the future of your company? 

SEM: I’m excited to work with a class of brilliant and talented humans, and I look forward to learning how to produce riskier and more progressive theatre in sustainable ways. This, of course, means that I will bring those skills and connections I’ll develop with Generator back to Dauntless.

BK: How has it been working in Berczy Park? What makes Shakespeare performed in parks desirable as a theatre maker and also for audiences coming to watch? 

SEM: Berczy Park can be a tricky space! We’re very close to traffic, and it’s always a challenge to get the audiences to move around and get close to the action. It’s also a highly visible space, and that means the audience always grows over the course of a performance. Working in a park is a great way to find an audience of people who, for a range of reasons, might not go to a traditional theatre space.

BK: There are elements of live music in your show (I saw some very cool Facebook videos!) Can you talk about how it is used in the performance?

SEM: The music in The Two Gentlewomen of Verona is performed on boomwhackers, which are a series of hollow plastic tubes that each produce a particular pitch when struck. Each of the ten actors has two or three of them, and they get played together to create some fairly complex music. The boomwhackers also become other items in the world of the show, the outlaws’ weapons, the Duke’s staff of office, and so on, which let our composer David Kingsmill compose a rich soundtrack that integrates tightly with the play.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: There’s also a real dog on stage! How has working with this cast member added to the show? 

SEM: Starbuck, who plays Crab the Dog, is actually a fantastic scene partner – attentive, present, and willing to roll with anything. Her human, Leslie McBay, plays Crab’s owner Launce, and their existing relationship translates well in performance. She’s also very patient about wearing a tiny cowboy hat, which is pretty important.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with? 

SEM: The play talks a lot about loyalty, about honesty, and about how tough forgiveness can be; I’d love for the audience to still be thinking about how they’d handle those situations themselves. I also really value how many audiences seem to be taking at face value that Shakespeare wrote a play called The Two Gentlewomen of Verona – I hope this leaves them questioning the amount of space that male characters take up in classical theatre.

Two Gentlewomen of Verona

Who:
CAST – Uche Ama – Antonia/Thuria
Eric Benson – Lucetto / Eglamour
Tallan Byram – Outlaw Captain
Naya Guzman – Valentine
Isabel Hornstein – Speed
Jordy Kieto – Silvio
Jesselle Laurén – Proteus
Leslie McBay – Launce
Christopher Mott – Duke of Milan
Jordi O’Dael – Julian
featuring Starbuck The Dog as Crab The Dog

Scott Emerson Moyle – Director
Lucy McPhee – Stage Manager
Stevie Baker – Producer
Annelise Hawrylak – Assistant Director
David Kingsmill – Music Director
Christopher Mott – Fight Director
Stevie Baker – Costumes
Dahlia Katz – Poster Design

Where:
Berczy Park

When:
August 18, 19, 25, 26 at 7:30 PM
August 19, 20, 26, 27 at 1:00.

Tickets:
All performances are Pay-What-You-Can!

This is an immersive performance, so wear comfortable shoes! The entire show is accessible to wheelchair users.

Connect:
dauntlesscitytheatre.com