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Posts tagged ‘Drew O’Hara’

2014 SummerWorks Preview – And Now The End

Interview by Brittany Kay

What started out as a classroom project became something “much bigger than anyone could have ever conceived.” A team of five artists spent more than a year creating a dramatic musical that is sure to be a must-see at this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival. I sat down with creators, Victoria Houser, Emily Nixon, Drew O’Hara, Zach Parkhurst, and Jake Vanderham to discuss their upcoming show, And Now the End

Brittany: Talk to me about the show? What are some of the major themes or messages that come out of the story?

Drew: The show asks the question, “What would you do with the time you had left, if you knew how much it was?” A definite major theme, which we didn’t intend on having, was love. There’s also hope and survival, as you see these characters under this magnifying glass that is the end of the world and you just watch how they deal with it.

Emily: You never see the outside world. You only see the characters indoors referring to how the world is disintegrating, outside, how it’s completely falling apart. What you are actually seeing on stage, is the relationships between the characters contained away from that. You see how the world disintegrating has affected them and their relationships.

Drew: One of the primary questions that the play asks is “What is it that keeps us going? Why do we keep going?” One of the major answers that we found is each other. That’s why relationships and love became such a big part of the show.

Victoria: Another important question that it asks is, “What would we become at the end of the world? What would humanity become and also what is revealed about the people you thought you knew?”

Brittany: What was the spark that ignited the inspiration for the story?

Victoria: It started as a class project at Ryerson Theatre School. As a class we came to a consensus that we were going to go away and write something about the end of the world. We left with our separate ideas and came back to present. At the end of it all, there were five of us left and it just so happened that the five of us were all working on two characters each, aside from Drew and Zach who wrote their characters together.

Drew: It was also partly because of our creative performance teacher, Sheldon Rosen, who noticed that there was an unusually high amount of musical people in our class – not musical theatre people – but people who have an aptitude for music. He proposed the idea of trying to write a musical, which is not typically done at Ryerson. We’re an acting school. It’s not our main focus.

Zach: It certainly became that way!

Drew: You start with a book of course, and then the music… Yeah… It’s a musical!

Victoria: Is it? Did you know that yet? Do you need to write that down?

(Chuckles table round)

Photo Credit: David Leyes

Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Amir Haidar

Brittany: I mean having a strong foundation of a dramatic story with real characters underlining the music is such a positive feature and is sometimes missing in musical theatre.

Zach: Exactly. The fact that we’re all actors is something that’s really benefitted us in that way. We’ve been able to write for actors. Especially having great casts in the room and in every step of the process has been helpful because we can go away and think about what works and what doesn’t. Having been on stage, we know what’s helpful to them and hopefully we can write better scenes because of it.

Emily: When we were inviting people onto the project, they were presented with the book and the first decision, on whether they wanted to be part of it or not, was off of whether they connected to the book or not and then they heard the music and went “Oh My God, this is amazing!” As writers, it’s nice to know that the book is strong in its own right and is what in fact opened the doors for us.

Drew: Let me also toot Jake’s horn for a minute because we are blessed to have him with us. He is not only an incredible dramatic writer but also an incredible composer. Something really special about how the show was created was Jake’s involvement in the writing of the book and then shifting into the composing. All of the music comes directly from the page and directly from the characters that he knows so well.

Brittany: So much of this show is the music. Jake, as composer and lyricist, talk to me about the development of the music.

Jake: In order for the music to be effective, it has to come directly from the book, from the story and from the character’s dialogue. A lot of the lyrics are word for word some of the text that the characters say. What’s amazing, is how much of our speech and conversation is musical in its essence – it has music to it. When you can find those moments in the script and then fill it with more music, it makes it so affective. The music heightens the moment. It elevates the mood. It’s essentially a fast track to the heart.

Drew: What a quote.

Jake: Sometimes you don’t need words. Sometimes I can see the musical underscore hit the actor and open them up completely.

Brittany: So there has been a lot of development of this show. I just want to talk about the process that has gone into it.

Jake: So it started with a book. Once we knew we wanted to make it a musical (which was a choice that we knew all along) as the composer, I waited as long as I could for the book to come together. We knew we really wanted the book as a strong foundation. I took it and identified what places could be better expressed or heightened through music. Songs replaced text. There’s a lot of back and forth between that. Then we put it into other peoples’ hands and voices and it’s been very valuable having the actors that we’ve had in this process. With two different casts, we’ve been able to have a lot of voices and a lot of opinions and feedback…and so it’s been very…what’s the word…

Zach: Interesting?

(Table round laughter)

Jake: It’s been involved.

Victoria: There also came a point where we couldn’t finish it until we had bodies and actors to play these roles.

Drew: Not that it’s finished…

Victoria: No, it’s not finished by any means. We couldn’t really go any further until we had people there because… I don’t know… after working on a project for so long you get trapped in this voice that you’ve created in your head of these people, and it was so helpful to have other people come in and give a completely different take on what you’ve put on the page.

Jake: We brought on our director, Esther Jun during the workshop process that was the Ryerson New Voices Festival. And as dramaturge as well.

Zach: Esther has been instrumental. Before, when we were writing this, the five of us would just dramaturge each other, but that would take five hours. Having one person who became super familiar with the script and music was really beneficial. She was really a key player in the development of our show to where it is now.

Drew: Absolutely

Emily: Absolutely.

Victoria: She still is. We’re still doing rewrites as they come.

Jake: The average musical takes ten years of workshops and productions and the only way it gets better, is by doing it. We’ve been very fortunate in the stretch of six months to have had the opportunity to do the show twice.

Drew: What’s really special is that it came from the collective brain of five people and that has been really amazing to be part of, because it’s much bigger than any one of us could have conceived. I think that development goes back years and years because we all came from a really strong bond of friendship and years of knowing each other… bizarrely intimately.

Emily: Theatre school.

Drew: (Shrugs shoulders) Theatre School. Having all of that behind us, made it easier and in some ways harder for us to discover a collective vision.

Victoria: Having a diverse group of people working together has made for such unique voices because, naturally, we’re all five different people and there’s no way we could sound the same on paper.

Emily: Something that has been really special for me about this process, is that we’re in this absolutely wonderful position where we’re working with people like Tamara Bernier Evans and Troy Adams and Esther Jun. I just remember so much of this process was us between classes, sitting in the hallway, trading and editing scripts and sharing things whenever we could.

Photo Credit: David Leyes

Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Ruth Goodwin

Brittany: To state the obvious, there are five of you. What were some of the challenges of working and creating with such a large group?

Drew: I don’t talk to Victoria anymore.

Drew: We all fight all the time.

Emily: It’s true!

Victoria: We’re all friends and we’re all friends still. We all know each other so well that when we get into an argument, we know it’s going to be okay.

Drew: It’s almost like family getting together at Christmas and your uncle is being an asshole and you all fight and say terrible things to each other.

Zach: And you’re sister’s drunk.

Drew: And someone needs to put her to bed. You’re at each other’s throats, but it’s all rooted in love. We fight all the time, but it’s always been in the interest of the project.

Zach: In the words of Drew, everyone’s been on Team Good Show.

Emily: We all love the project so much. We’re tied together by it.

Victoria: It’s what’s expected when you work with five people, but the project wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Brittany: What’s the future for And Now the End? Any further development?

Jake: Having a chance to workshop it without the pressure of a final product – without as much of a high stake deadline. It would be really lovely just to have another fantastic group of people getting together to hammer out the mechanics and see what’s not working. It is more complicated because it’s a musical – you’re telling the story in more than one way. We’ve been workshopping it and also mounting a show at the same time.

Brittany: How has it been being a part of SummerWorks?

Drew: It’s been a very fast maturation for us, from being in theatre school to entering the professional world. SummerWorks has been the craziest part of that because all of a sudden we’ve had this show we’ve been writing for two years, and we get into this festival, and realize that it’s too big for us right now and we need help. We’ve been fortunate to have our dream team of professional artists that we’ve looked up to for years jump aboard. What’s amazing about SummerWorks, is that the Toronto theatre community loves this festival and people of the highest caliber in Canadian theatre want to do shows in it.

Zach: It’s also been a wonderful learning experience for all of us getting into the producing side of things. A lot of this is still very new to us. Being able to work so closely with the creative team in a way that’s not acting, has been an incredible learning experience I would say for everyone. It’s helped us establish ourselves as emerging artists and what creating art, as artists, becomes.

Jake: It really is the Toronto theatre community that brought this to life. We all have poured our hearts and souls into it and countless hours. We’ve all made our sacrifices to go the extra mile for the show. That’s the wonderful thing about our theatre community, people are willing to make those sacrifices for theatre’s sake. No SummerWorks show has a Mirvish budget…it’s a lot of people making a lot of sacrifices and working extremely hard just to support it.

Emily: The professionals in the community have truly embraced and welcomed us. Everyone is just so eager and willing to help us with this project. It’s incredibly inspiring.

Brittany: What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing this show?

Zach: Tears. Tears everywhere.

Emily: I want people to feel like they need to live more fully. I want them to feel the pressure of time in some way and through that, kind of wake up and stop fucking around… if that’s what they’re doing… and really just try and be more present.

Victoria: I hope they leave asking the questions we have asked.

Drew: I hope they go home and hug somebody they love.

Zack: I just want them to cry a lot…and then want to see it six more times during the run (laughs). In all honesty good theatre makes me think. I would want someone to go away really examining and thinking, “what would I truly do?” A really incredible line that Jake wrote is, “What will our legacy be?” I want people to think “all the living that I’ve done, what does it amount to it and how can I know that I’ve made it worth while for myself and die knowingly.” It’s a huge question for someone to ask.

Emily: And who do you live for?

Jake: And now…the end.

And Now The End

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Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Ruth Goodwin

A NEW MUSICAL by Victoria Houser, Emily Nixon, Drew O’Hara, Zach Parkhurst and Jake Vanderham presented as part of the 2014 SummerWorks Festival

Directed by: Esther Jun

Cast: Troy Adams, Tamara Bernier Evans, Ruth Goodwin, Kaleigh Gorka, Amir Haidar, Zach Parkhurst, Hugh Ritchie, Paolo Santalucia, Jeff Yung

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

When: Thursday, August 7, 9:30 PM

Saturday, August 9, 5:00 PM

Monday, August 11, 4:30 PM

Wednesday, August 13, 9:30 PM

Friday, August 15, 7:00 PM

Saturday, August 16. 10:00 PM

Sunday, August 17, 5:00 PM

Website: andnowtheend.com

“Start, Stop, Continue” for 2014: A Conversation Starter for the Theatre Arts Community of Toronto

Our feature initiative “Start, Stop, Continue for 2014: A Conversation Starter for the Theatre Arts Community” is back featuring the following voices: D. Jeremy Smith of Driftwood Theatre, Tina Rasmussen of World Stage, Holger Schott Syme of dispositio.net, Claire Armstrong of Red One Theatre Collective, Nina Kaye of Unspoken Theatre and Drew O’Hara & Jade Douris of Everybody to the Theatre Company. Read more in our features!

A Note from Editor in Chief – Hallie Seline:

2013 was an exciting year and 2014 has started with no shortage of encouraging moments for the Toronto theatre/arts community. We saw small venues develop and prosper across the city with national recognition from the Globe and Mail, and we saw the community come together showing support and strength in numbers, whether it was to stand behind Buddies in Bad Times Theatredemanding more questions when their Rhubarb Festival was suddenly denied funding, or by getting down and dirty to help get indie venue The Storefront Theatre back on its feet after amajor flood. Amongst these exciting moments, there is no shortage of challenges we are also knocking up against. Be it funding, debating the relevance of theatre on CBC Radio, or the concern that with the growing number of independent theatre companies that we may be spreading ourselves too thin, thus generating the every person for themselves attitude, we believe that there is a lot of discussion to be had about where we stand as a theatre arts community and where we should hope to go next.

I feel like this is an exciting pivotal time in the Toronto theatre arts scene and after having received immense feedback from our first instalment, my hope is to continue to develop this dialogue with another group of theatre artists (from different theatrical backgrounds, emerging to more established etc.) about their thoughts on the state of theatre in Canada, specifically Toronto, right now.

This is a discussion starter in which our participants identify what they think the Toronto theatre scene should Start, Stop and Continue to help theatre in Toronto prosper. This is just the beginning of the conversation. Help us to make this conversation grow to involve as many diverse voices across our community as possible and hopefully this will help us all move forward in 2014 in a supportive and productive way.


Hallie Seline
Co-founder & Editor in Chief

Events We’re Crushin’ On: Everybody to the Theatre Company’s “Theatre on a Theme: Love” – Sunday February 23rd

Interview by Bailey Green

Everybody to the Theatre Company unintentionally greeted me with piano chords and harmonized voices as the cast rehearsed a musical interlude for their upcoming show, Theatre on a Theme: Love. This unique show is EtoTCompany’s second production, following the success of their first show Theatre on a Theme: Failure (September 2013).

“The interesting thing about the theme of love is how much it is related to pain. This show isn’t just a happy stroll through the park, under the stars,” director Drew O’Hara says of his cast. “The company have brought some really personal stuff to the work.” Artistic Director O’Hara founded Everybody to the Theatre Company with several members of his Ryerson acting class. The soon-to-be graduates were looking for a creative outlet and something they could call their own. O’Hara had conceived the idea of constructing a show called “Theatre on a Theme” where new, short plays would be woven into a whole, cohesive performance.

ToaT LOVE PR Photo 5

This winter the company put out its second call for submissions on the theme of “Love”. The plays have to be 5-10 minutes in length and use up to any of the three men and three women of the company (and of course be based around the selected theme). “When the audience watches through the lens of a theme, it allows them to make the connections for themselves,” said director Drew O’Hara. “It gives our audiences a more immediate connection to the actors and to the show. The experience of seeing Theatre on a Theme is more personal.”

Everybody to the Theatre wants to explore the theme of love in all its facets. Though many of the submissions were romantic, and that aspect is not ignored in the performance, O’Hara looked for plays that explored love in many forms. “The goal is that hopefully we’re going to find something for everybody,” said Artistic Producer Jade Douris. “But there are as many different kinds of love as there are people.“

Then something amazing happened when the call for new plays was posted for Theatre on a Theme: Love website. “The submission post went viral in the United States,” O’Hara said. None of the company knew how it had happened. Somehow the call for plays about love made its way into the right hands. Everybody to the Theatre Company was rewarded with almost two hundred plays from LA to New York, from Ohio and Michigan and from Halifax to Texas to Toronto.

Artistic director O’Hara selects the plays for each show by searching for the most unique perspectives, the variety of character or shows that may compliment and contrast each other. “We got so many submissions in the last ten days,” said producer Jade Douris. “Sometimes we just couldn’t cast the show, say a grandmother and grandchild scene, but for the most part it wasn’t easy. We read all of them.”

ToaT LOVE PR Photo 3

Everybody to the Theatre Company’s mandate reflects its name as they focus on bringing theatre to different audiences. Theatre on a Theme searches to find stories from as many different voices as possible. The playwrights range in age from 19-65 and include a past Dora nominee, a graduate of two masters programs, not to mention both experienced and amateur playwrights.

Two members of the company have their own work included in Love. “Owen and I both wrote for this show for the first time,” says Jade Douris pointing to founding member and actor Owen Stahn. Stahn smiles and admits, “Yeah, I’m still pretty self-conscious about that.” They laugh, grin and shift in their chairs.

Not to mention that the company still balances a full semester of theatre school. The collective process can be challenging and the company works hard to knit the plays into a cohesive whole. Honesty is key. “It requires you to bring a lot of passion and energy to rehearsal and risk getting completely rejected by your peers,” O’Hara says of the process. “Most of us learn to let go,” Jade Douris smiles as she teases Owen. Owen mourns for a vignette of his that was cut from Failure, the company’s first production. “By the end of the process, we learned that failure is an absolute part of life and a critical part of growing,” Owen says. “You can escape it, but you can also just embrace it.”

ToaT LOVE PR Photo 1

These intrepid artists have plans for future themes, but plan to adjust them depending on the social climate or what life throws at them. They hope to one day bring their shows to as many audiences as possible. After the performance in Toronto, Theatre on a Theme: Love is travelling to Peterborough to perform at the Theatre on King. Showtime is at 9:30pm, tickets are $15 or $10 if you see The Dumb Waiter, the show performing before theirs.

If you see an Everybody to the Theatre show and think of a theme you would love to see, visit their website and drop them an email. They are always open to hearing suggestions from their audiences.

Theatre on a Theme: Love

Presented by Everybody to the Theatre Company

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When: Sunday February 23rd at 2pm and 8pm
Where: Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
Tickets: Visit their website: www.everybodytotheatrecompany.com  $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

Everybody to the Theatre Company rehearses in the UCRC Studio. It’s a lovely studio space on Saint Clair West and has great, affordable rental prices, (http://www.uppercanadarep.com/#!rentals/cij8).