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Posts tagged ‘Caleb McMullen’

Rarely Pure Theatre’s “As You Like It” at The Storefront Theatre until January 26th

Interview by Ryan Quinn

I had breakfast with three of the wonderful collaborators of Rarely Pure Theatre, all three of whom are working on the current mount of As You Like It being shown at The Storefront Theatre. I spoke with Spencer Robson, who is playing Orlando; Christina Bryson, playing Rosalind; and Monique Renaud, one of the company’s Artistic Directors. All three are also involved in the production of the show.

When deciding on a show after the success of their previous productions of The Pillowman, We’re Lovers, and Until Our Paths Cross Again, they decided to focus on doing classical text. “We’ve wanted to do a Shakespeare for a while, because a lot of us have worked together with this text and we had access to a lot of great resources and actors for Shakespeare”, Robson said. Bryson explained why As You Like It was the perfect choice for them commenting that “It’s a fun, high-paced show. And you need a light comedy in the middle of January”. Though, it’s not just out of love for the show itself, but it was also a matter of feasibility, explained Renaud: “Part of it is, as a non-union company, we couldn’t get any older, union actors, so this youthful show is one of the best Shakespeare plays to go for.”

There is also a kind of magic in the lack of magical elements in this Shakespeare show. For one of the light summer comedies, there are no ethereal forces at work in As You Like It. “Some of the characters are pretty extreme and big, but it’s still real. There are no faeries, or magic. It’s focused on these human beings and what they want. It’s not the forest that changes them, it’s their experiences. It’s about driving your own narrative, which is very similar to what we’re focusing on as a company.”

Christina Bryson and Katie Ribout in "As You Like It" Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

Christina Bryson and Katie Ribout in “As You Like It” Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

As far as concept, the team decided to keep it fairly simple, while flipping the usual setting of the show to make it take place in the winter. “There are actually more references to winter than summer. We added some of the songs back in. There are a lot of winter references in those especially”, Bryson explained, while Robson added: “We thought it would be a nice subtle thing we could do without it being overbearing. Also, it’s really supported by the text. A lot of the pivotal moments of character realization are described in kind of wintery terms. I mean, we’re not going to have snow falling on the audience or anything like that. It was more of a subtle atmosphere choice.”

The show is being directed by Rosanna Saracino, an experienced director who has worked with young casts many times. “It was also important for us to get an established director on board, someone to help guide us. I still feel like we’re learning a lot, but I don’t feel spoken down to”, Bryson told me. “She works with young actors all the time, so she knows about a lot of the struggles we have,” Robson elaborated. In fact, Rarely Pure populated their production with people who specialize in those different areas of production instead of letting friends and acquaintances handle offstage duties, as many young companies tend to do. “There’s a reason people have different jobs, because they’re good at it”.

Michael Hogan, Gaby Grice, Scott Garland in "As You Like It". Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

Michael Hogan, Gaby Grice, Scott Garland in “As You Like It”. Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

The company isn’t content to just get lost in the shuffle, though, as they’re looking to help unite some of the disparate parts of the culture in Toronto. Robson told me that he “was talking to Caleb McMullen from Mnemonic Theatre, and he said that there are a lot of small upstart companies right now, and if we could just pool our resources and work together, we’d make some amazing work. This is kind of proof that we’re all on the same level. If you’re putting something on and people are showing up, and you’re proud of it, that puts you on even ground with the whole community. You’re all contributing to the same cause. Nobody is above each other, we’re all just doing different shows.”

For the new year, Rarely Pure is taking a bit of a paradoxical move, by both zeroing in on what they’re best at, while also expanding the scope of what the company is capable of. While still maintaining a bit of the company’s original motive that “if you have a good idea, and you want to execute it, we can help you get it off the ground,” the company is also looking into new and innovative ways to experiment with performance and theatre: “We have a Fringe spot, and a playwright to write for us, which is great. I’m hoping to start Rarely Pure Productions to do things with webseries and short films, so we’re really doing some exciting things.” Renaud asserted that while this many seem like the company is going off on a few tangents, they’re not going to lose their focus: “When we started, our mandate was a lot looser, but now we’re finding exactly what we can bring to an audience. So, next year, as a company, we’re going to be more specific and organized in our focus. We have to be more picky with what we put on because there is a lot of theatre in this city and nobody wants to see crap.”

Christina Bryson, Spencer Robson and Katie Ribout in "As You Like It". Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

Christina Bryson, Spencer Robson and Katie Ribout in “As You Like It”. Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare, presented by Rarely Pure Theatre


When: Thursday-Sunday January 9th-26th

Where: The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West

Tickets$20 General Admission / $15 (students/arts workers/seniors 55+) / PWYC Saturday Matinee

Specific times can be found on Rarely Pure Theatre‘s page on Facebook.

Get a Little bit Closer

By: Erin Reznick

I’m sitting with Caleb McMullen and Gaby Grice, the producers of Patrick Marber’s Closer, with the undeniably delicious scent of pad thai and spring rolls wafting through the air. While chatting and scarfing down Thai food, I can’t help but notice how extremely exhausted the two look. They managed to squeeze in time for an interview in between shopping for costumes and putting together props for their upcoming show. Though the dark circles under their eyes may be larger than the average person’s, so are their grins. Discussing this project with them still gets them excited even after hours and hours of arduous rehearsals.

Why did you want to produce Closer?

G: Well to be honest, it was a play that I completely fell in love with. I read it in third year and I immediately knew that I wanted to put it on. It’s an easier show to produce with there being only four people in the cast. It doesn’t need an extravagant set, the characters are amazing and I could think of so many actors who would be great for the roles.

C: It actually took me a while to sign on to this project. I had just finished producing Wolfboy a few months before Gaby came to me with Closer and it just seemed like a daunting task. It took me around six months to say yes.

G: I don’t remember hounding you that much.

C: Oh you did. You would come to me every few months or so asking me if I wanted to do it. Finally you said that you were going to do it with or without me and that really lit a fire under my butt.

G: I’m so happy you did. I don’t think I could have done this without you.

Caleb, what is it like being a director and a producer?

C: It’s really difficult because I wear so many hats that I’m the only resource I have to get things done. I’ll be working on a variety of things throughout the day, then I’ll light up a cigarette, sit in my directors chair at rehearsal for 4 to 5 hours, and then go back to working on whatever needs to be done. I’ve lost around 15 pounds putting this show on.

G: I hate you.

C: I treat myself as an employee of Mnemonic Theatre Productions and my hours are from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. As my own boss, I set deadlines and parameters for myself. I have this list of things that need to be accomplished before the show goes up and every day I work a little bit on every one until they are 100% complete. My last bullet on my list is “produce and direct Closer.” And on February 4th, after the curtain falls, I get to check that off my list. And that’s my reward.

Your theatrical trailer for Closer looks awesome. How did you decide to create that? 

C: We wanted to market the show in a new and interesting way. We also wanted it to be professionally done so I went to my friend Alex Josselyn, who is brilliant. It took us two days to film that.

G: And we’re talking 14 hour days.

C: Yes. But it was actually a really good time on set. Everyone was so cooperative and professional. And Alex let me come in while he was editing incase I wanted to put my two cents in. And I’m so happy with how it came out.

Watch the theatrical trailer below:

What advice do you have for people who want to produce their own work?

G: You really have to love what you’re doing. You have to be willing to sweat, bleed and cry for it. If you’re not going to love the show after a month or so in, you’re fucked.

C: You’re so fucked.

G: You also need to know what you’re good at and what you’re not. Know your limitations. I knew I needed someone to compliment me and Caleb is definitely good at the things I can’t do. I knew that I was willing to put my time, money and passion into this project but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Know your scale. Know what you’re capable of but respect what’s not possible at the time.

What do you want people to take away from the show?

G: I really think people are going to relate to the show. Patrick Marber is a genius. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had. There are really bold things said and done in this play, and I know people will walk away saying that they have at least thought about doing or saying those things before. It’s really interesting because all of the actors have completely different relationship statuses.  There are actors who are single, in a relationship, gay, married but it doesn’t matter. We all feel connected to the thoughts and words of these characters because they are so true. And I want the audience to feel the same way, and I think they will.

C: I want audiences to recognize that independent theatre companies are capable of producing high quality theatre. I truly believe, and am willing to say, that Closer will be an incredible production. As a producer, I strive to make a theatrical experience that cost $25 a ticket feel like it should have cost $100 a ticket. That’s why it was important to us to make a really professional trailer as well. I want people to walk away from the show with a new expectation from small, independent theatre companies.

What have you learned from being a part of this show?

G: I’ve grown so much as an actor with this show. I’m so happy I did [Hart House’s] Lysistrata when I did, but I only grew so much because I had played roles like that before. This show really took me out of my comfort zone and I had to experience a lot of new things. I learned that I can be a dramatic character. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and I don’t want other people to pigeonhole me either.

C: I’ve learned that I want to be an artistic directer. I really feel like I want to spend the rest of my life creating new projects.

Closer runs from February 1st – 4th at the Winchester Street Theatre. For tickets and more info visit 

Read another interview with and about Gaby in our Actor Profiles

Gaby Grice is In the Greenroom!

Gaby Grice joins us In the Greenroom for an interview about theatre in Toronto and her upcoming show, Patrick Marber’s Closer. The show Runs from February 1st-4th at the Winchester street Theatre. Click here to read her actor profile.