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Posts tagged ‘Charlotte Cattell’

2014 Fringe Preview – MUTE! The Musical – Infinity Arts Productions

Interview by Charlotte Cattell

I had heard of MUTE! The Musical by word of mouth before and now here it is as part of The Toronto Fringe Festival, spreading the word on bullying through song and dance to a brand new audience. I was also pleased to find out that many performers I know are part of this production, which in turn allowed me the wonderful opportunity to hear a bit about their process from a member of the cast, Holly Wyder, and from the show’s creator and director Alinka Angelova. 


Charlotte: What is the basic premise of the show?

Holly: It’s primarily focused around the theme of anti-bullying in the form of a musical, which of course is in the title. This theme is raising awareness of the hardships that children may face when it comes down to the pressures placed upon them by society and their peers. But the show takes place at the best performing arts school in Canada and the story follows a girl who is new to this school. Everyone else has heard about how amazing her singing voice is and so the gossip begins. Just like at most theatre schools gossip is a huge part of what the students have to deal with. So there are high expectations from the other students to hear her voice. And into the story a tragic event causes this girl to become mute so she loses her will to sing. The bullies hound her for this and add to the pressure, trying to get her to prove herself and show that she can really sing. And there is a big competition at the end where the climax and excitement and empowerment really comes to the surface.

Charlotte: Would you say the characters are separated into groups to represent what school cliques are actually like?

Holly: Well, there are definitely bullies and non-bullies which are seen pretty clearly as the story unfolds. And there is the one popular girl who takes it a bit too far. But there is also a bit of a love story in there as well so there is something for everyone!

Charlotte: And who are you playing specifically?

Holly: My character is Mandy. She’s basically the preppy nerdy type of character. I personally have really liked it because she’s a smaller character. So, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to play with the role and kind of add things to the character that I have a lot of fun doing. Everyone has been very supportive and positive about each other’s creativity and what each person can bring to their respective roles.

Charlotte: And how do you feel about opening this week? Do you feel ready and excited?

Holly: Again everyone has been super positive and it’s so great because through the entire process everyone has also just been super enthusiastic about being there. Everyone wants to be there and bring this show together to deliver a message. And I think we are ready to start sending that message out to our audiences at Fringe.


 After speaking with Holly I couldn’t get over how great it was to hear that a larger group of people were coming together so strongly and so passionately to orchestrate a show that has a really important message in this day and age. However, I thought, how did this show come to be what it is? Where do these messages of hope originate?

Alinka Angelova, the creator and head of this show and its process, was kind enough to answer some of questions!

Charlotte: What inspired you to write a show about bullying?

Alinka: There are a number of things that contributed to the making of MUTE. These are just a few of them: A little area of Phantom of the Opera with Christine coming out from being unknown and transforming into becoming the star of the grand show, Oprah Winfrey’s “Challenge Day” where they counselled and brought together the bullies and the Bullied.

Another contribution to MUTE was my Brazilian friend ‘Juliana’, an amazing dancer that I believe will be great one day. I named the main character after her.

Last but not least, when I was young, I had briefly experienced some bullying from one of my older brothers, Robert Chambers. The most amazing thing about that is, over the years he has helped me tremendously in composing music for my Musicals. We have partnered together to do many projects including MUTE.

Charlotte: And what lead you to make this show into a musical?

Alinka: I have always loved musicals. I especially LOVE musicals like MUTE such as, ‘Grease’, ‘Hairspray’, and ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’.

For some reason, no matter what I write, it always turns into music. Life without music for me would be like life without a heart.

Charlotte: How does the rehearsal process for the Fringe Festival differ from previous ones?

Alinka: I feel more pressured during this rehearsal process because this is first time I am taking MUTE into a professional atmosphere, so I want it to be the best it can be. I had to cut down a 3 hour show to 90 min, and we only rehearse once per week.

This time, I’m more at ease because I am working with a group that is more on a professional level. So they pick up choreography faster, they get into character easier, and they’re pretty dedicated.

Charlotte: And what are you aiming to achieve with the show at Fringe as opposed to when it was performed for schools? 

Alinka: I am aiming to achieve sold out shows in hopes that someone who knows the business will see its potential and offer to invest in MUTE and take it further. I would also like to win “The best of the Fringe award”!

Charlotte: Lastly, where do you hope to take this show once you have completed Fringe? What are your future goals for this production?

Alinka: I would like to take this show on another School Tour starting with Toronto. Ultimately, whether sooner or later, I’m taking it to Broadway.

There are definitely some big goals for this show and with good reason! I would like to thank Holly and Alinka for taking the time to discuss with me a bit about the show and I wish everyone involved a happy run. And for the folks wandering around the Fringe, be sure to stop by and check out the toe tapping anti-bullying joys of MUTE! The Musical.

MUTE! The Musical.

Presented by Infinity Arts Productions as part of The Toronto Fringe.


Written By: Alinka Angelova

Director: Alinka Angelova

Choreographer: Teisha Smith-Guthrie

Cast: Bryna Weiss
Sam Strelshik
Nicole McCafferty
Rochelle Robinson
Kierans Jordan
Freeyon Chung
Roselyn Kelada-Sedra
Charlene Dorland
Alyssandria Messina
Holly Wyder
Luiz Monterei
Jenifer Boyce
Jackie-Rose Brown
Preston Squire
Robert Venton

Creative team:
Director: Alinka Angelova, Composer: Alinka Angelova and Robert Chambers, Choreographer:Teisha Smith-Guthrie, Backstage Manager: Veronica Chambers, Assistant Director: Jerome Chambers, Photographer: Leo Vicari

Where? The Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)

When? July 2-12

July 02 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 03:30 PM
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 07 at 08:15 PM
July 08 at 01:00 PM
July 11 at 05:15 PM
July 12 at 11:00 PM

Tickets: $10 at the door, OR you can order online: as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival



2014 Fringe Preview – Three Men in a Boat – Pea Green Theatre Group

Interview by Charlotte Cattell

On a warm Friday afternoon I entered a very warm rehearsal hall. But even in the stifling heat I entered a room of extremely happy and exceedingly warm-hearted artists. Having just completed a run, this generous team agreed to sit down with me and talk a little bit about their upcoming production in the Fringe, Three men in a Boat. I had the privilege of speaking with Adaptor: Mark Brownell, Director: Sue Miner, Stage Manager: Hilary Unger, and the Cast members including: Scott Garland, Matt Pilipiak, and Victor Pokinko.

Charlotte: Sue, tell me a little bit about the show. How did this group and project come together?

Sue: Well, the show is Mark’s adaptation of an old book by Jerome K. Jerome. The book was published in 1889, and it’s known all over the world, it’s a very very famous book. There have been a lot of different interpretations, but this story actually came into Mark and my life years and years ago. We actually… well, he’s been wanting to do a play on it since the nineties, hey?

Mark: (Nodding yes.)

Sue: We’ve done the Fringe for a very long time, the Pea Green Group, and Mark was actually a theatre history teacher of both Scott and Matt. So, he said, let’s do “Three Men” with these guys, and I had just worked with Victor. So this is how we all came together.

Mark: We got too old to do it ourselves, we needed some young bodies.

Charlotte: And Mark, what drew you initially to this piece?

Mark: It has a really strange lasting appeal because it’s never been out of print. And the reason is, I think, is because bad camping experiences are kind of universal and eternal, and Canadians understand that really well. That’s why it goes well in Canada. It just never falls out of fashion. This story has a freshness to it, even though it’s Victorian and the language is very old fashioned, for some reason it strikes a chord with us to this day.

Sue: And also, the fact that these three guys are stressed out and have to get away from it all. And we think it’s new to us. You know, it’s like, I have to get off Facebook, I have to get away, but these guys are feeling the same things that we do and they have to get away. So that’s what they try to do.

Charlotte: How has the overall rehearsal process been?

Matt: It’s been great! It’s been a whirlwind. This is our day nine of twelve, but it’s great because, although it’s a short amount of time, it’s the only thing we’ve been focusing on and we’ve been able to constantly live in this world for the last week and a half. It’s been a lot all at once. Sweaty and fun, but it’s been really good.

Scott: The virtue of such a shortened intense rehearsal process is that we as actors are given a chance to practice efficiency in process. We love playing, we still play in the room. However, this has been a wonderful opportunity to show up, do your job, and then have fun doing it. I wish we had more time, but with the time we’ve been given it’s one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had, and that’s due also in part to the professionalism of the actors and the trust of our wonderful director and the wonderful material to play with. And also, Mark has made cuts throughout to make it even more efficient. There’s something very refreshing about being able to zero in and harness the core of those entertaining bits.

Mark: It is a new script so we are cutting and chopping away. Putting stuff in to make it work.

Charlotte: Has the pressure of a short rehearsal process caused you to make rash decisions in terms of cutting or changing scenes in the script?

Mark: I wouldn’t say rash but we are well aware of the pace. The fact that it’s a journey, it has to be paced well. You can’t just have frantic action. You need the little nooks and crannies where they have pauses so the audience can take a breath as well. It’s quite a different experience were we to take it on further, which is of course what we want to do, but we’d have to expand it into ninety minutes and two acts and then the pace would be quite different.

Scott: Also, the minimalism of props and sets, the world is very much created mostly through our three combined efforts.

Matt: We have a stool, a chair, a stuffed dog and a banjolele. That’s it! And somehow we take the audience on an entire journey down the river.

Victor: I think what Scott said was bang on. The fact that we can play and that we can find play because there is a certain level of chemistry between me and these two that I can kind of harness and tap into and work off of. I think the reason we are able to get as much work done as we are is simply because the chemistry is flying constantly. And even if one of us is having an off day or an off run the other two are very ready to pull up and work a little harder to get things rolling.

Matt: Yes, even though I narrate a majority of the piece, it is impossible without the three. You need three to carry the story and you can’t have any part of the story happen without one of them.

three men

Charlotte: And Mark, as the writer, are you seeing what you expected to see while you were creating the piece?

Mark: Yes absolutely. I mean, I wrote the original text so long ago, that I obviously had three other people in mind, but when we reopened the text and had a look at it again I knew I wanted three very distinctive actors that stand out individually but can come together. And that’s the unique thing about these guys. They fit like a glove, from day one. They’re still close to their theatre school training so they haven’t gotten lazy like me. You know, you get far enough away from school that you lose that kind of edge, that sharpness and these guys have it in spades. I’m exceedingly happy with these guys.

Charlotte: I noticed that Rigzin Tute is noted as being in charge of music. Was the music created specifically for this piece?

Matt: Rigzin, who is the Music Director of this piece, didn’t write the music but he took an old song, it’s called the Eton Boating Song, and he arranged it into an a-cappella, three part harmony, barber shop sort of thing. That we use as a motif throughout the journey.

Scott: Would you like to hear the song?

Charlotte: Absolutely!

Victor: Do you have the pitch pipe?

Matt: Yeah!

Matt proceeds to blow into the pitch pipe. All of the gentlemen hum, and Matt counts them in with a rigorous and British “1,2,3,1,2,3”. They proceed to serenade me with one verse of an old fashioned and very upbeat song that put me right into their world and onto the boat with them.

Charlotte: Wow! That was so amazing thank you! It’s like a free concert! In the 1800s! Even from that I can get a sense of that chemistry you all spoke of earlier, which leads me to my next question. Sue, how has it been to take on this project with just a three person cast?

Sue: Three’s the perfect cast! Three is the perfect amount of people in a show because a one person show that’s a whole different animal, and two people you feel like you’ll be stuck with these two people, but three you’re never bored! Some of them sort of play other characters too and it’s so lovely.

Charlotte: And how has it been for you guys? How has it established the relationship dynamic between the characters?

Scott: To echo Victor, it’s wonderful to be in rehearsal with a cohesive unit. But the characters in the script are done in a way that each one is different enough to be interesting on their own but they’re similar enough that when they’re together they act as a unit. It’s three pillars holding up a show and it’s the perfect balance.

Victor: When you’re blitzing into a Fringe, if you have a ten person cast, the chance of you getting to know nine other people is difficult. If you have a two person cast it’s very easy to get sick of them. But with three it becomes a nice dynamic.

Matt: You have the dynamic of each individual. Then you have the relationship between two and the relationship between the other two, and finally all three together. So then there are a lot of different microcosms, and all of that you can kind of rest on.

Charlotte: What has been your favourite thing to rehearse for this show?

Victor: I don’t want to give too much away, but we have a spectacular pineapple war. And that is my favourite part.

Matt: We go to war with a tin of pineapple. Umm…

Scott: It’s…It’s intense.

Victor: Possibly the most intense thing I’ve ever done.

Matt: Uh, yeah actually, I think that would have to be my favourite bit too.

Scott: Yeah, it’s unanimous. I love that sequence so much.

Charlotte: Kind of a silly question, what would you say, for each of you, is your character’s favourite and least favourite trait about your two counter parts?

Victor: Oh God!

Scott: There’s so many!

Mark: All they do is complain about each other.

Victor: I think Jay (Matt Pilipiak) takes things too personally and I think Harris (Scott Garland) drinks too much. What I like about Harris is that he always makes me laugh, always, always, always. And, what I like about Jay is that he is so poised and so elegant. He’s so idealistic. The beautiful things in the world, he just wants to grab them and put them into his philosophical brain and muse and muse.

Matt: I like that George (Victor Pokinko) has all these facts. He’s a very factual man, regardless of whether or not they are correct facts. I go to him for the facts. He’s like Wikipedia before it existed. But I don’t like when he tries to steal my spotlight. That hurts my feelings. I like what a wild card Harris is, that I never know what he’s going to do. I find that very entertaining. And I don’t like that he drinks.

Scott: I like that George is very willing to be my partner in crime for anything. Let’s go swimming! Okay! I like that Jay clearly holds us as part of his team. He’s very selfless in that way, very loyal and I appreciate that. What I don’t like about George is that he thinks he can play the banjolele. You cannot play the banjolele. And what I don’t like about Jay is he’s less willing to do something stupid with me.

Charlotte: Any final thoughts?

Sue: I’m really excited to share it with an audience because I sit here and I am grinning from ear to ear watching it. It’s so much fun and it’s going to be great to see it in that space because the Annex has that wood. In fact we’ve incorporated the wood of the theatre into the play. And our little set such as it is matches the theatre so it’s just going to be really wonderful to be there. And the thing that always blows me away is watching them, and I know how it goes, but to see them travel so far and always wherever they are I’m there. If they’re sitting out on a grassy bank looking up at the stars, I’m there. If they’re in the middle of a busy walk, if they’re in a thunder storm, I’m there. I think that’s really special.


I for one cannot wait to be charmed by this cast and its production team once again during the Fringe. Bon voyage, see you on the waters!


Three Men in a Boat

Presented by Pea Green Theatre Group as part of The Toronto Fringe

Three Men in a Boat Cast from left to right: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, Scott Garland

Three Men in a Boat Cast from left to right: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, Scott Garland

Directed by: Sue Miner

Original Story by: Jerome K. Jerome

Adapted by: Mark Brownell

Musical Arrangement by: Rigzin Tute

Period Costumes by: Nina Okens

Stage Managed by: Hilary Unger

Starring: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, and Scott Garland

Where?  The Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst Street)

When?  July 2-13
July 02 at 6:30pm

July 04 at 1:15pm

July 06 at 4:00pm

July 09 at 9:15pm

July 10 at 11:00pm

July 12 at 7:30pm

July 13 at 12:00pm

Tickets: Can be purchased via or by calling 416-966-1062

And for further information on the Pea Green Theatre Group you can visit their website at: