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Posts tagged ‘Erika Downie’

In Conversation with Erika Downie, director of Seven Siblings Theatre’s THE PLAY ABOUT THE BABY

Interview by Hallie Seline

HS: Tell me a bit about the show:

Erika Downie: Imagine an advertisement for anything during the 50s and then introduce Salvador Dali mixed in with Picasso and sprinkled with Banksy and you have The Play about the Baby. It is naturalism turned upside down, the identity of individuals questioned and the dream world of a young couple’s “Eden” shattered, but always returning to hope.

HS: What drew you to Albee?

ED: His writing. The way he approaches character, and the arc of this play in particular was and is exciting. There is always something new to discover in Albee, every page can be approached with such different views that it’s exciting to see what will unfold. But I am most drawn to Albee’s approach to humanity, how he captures character in crisis with humour and play, but mostly with honesty and truth.

HS: This is one of Albee’s lesser known later plays. What drew you to direct the show for Toronto audiences now?

ED: Identity and the question of who you are and why and when you became you. We as a society are saddled with questions of identity and for some it’s very easy to proclaim who you are and for others… not so much. Albee discusses identity in a fundamental manner, you are who you are because of your lessons, your tragedies, your wounds. You grew from out of these moments and I thought it was very poignant to come to understand this and share this with our Toronto audiences.

HS: Edward Albee straddles the line between naturalism and absurdism in a really interesting way. There seems to be a tension between the two. How does working with the Michael Chekhov technique lend itself to performing this play?

ED: The Michael Chekhov technique lends itself to any play. Even in the “not so well written” plays Chekhov will help develop the best aspects of that play as best it can. For Albee’s The Play about the Baby is so well written that the marriage between Albee and Chekhov fell naturally into place. The focus was character relationships and through Chekhov the actors developed with such a solid foundation in character that the text lifts off the page and wraps itself around the audience forming a relationship between actor and audience, audience and playwright.


HS: What are you most looking forward to with presenting the show at The Rhino?

ED: Intimate spaces help bring the idea that the audience is in the living room of a young couple, The Rhino lends itself to this and puts the audience right in the action of the play.

HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words.

ED: Wounds children wounds, without them who are you?

HS: If your audience could listen to one song or soundtrack before coming, what would it be?

ED: Beethoven’s sixth.

The Play About The Baby

Presented by Seven Siblings Theatre
Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Erika Downie
Featuring Scott McCulloch, Judith Cockman, Will King, Nora Smith
Stage Managed by Emma Miziolek
Set Design by Stephen King
Produced by Madryn McCabe

A young couple has just had a baby. They are madly in love, and have the perfect life. Their bliss is suddenly interrupted when they are visited by an older man and woman. A truly strange turn of events transpires, setting off an evening of manipulations and mind games that ultimately question reality.

The Rhino
1249 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ontario, M6K 1L5

May 18 8:00pm
May 19 8:00pm
May 20 2:00pm
May 20 8:00pm
May 21 8:00pm

May 18-21 Artsworkers $20, General $25



“Picasso & Einstein walk into a bar…” – In Conversation with Will King & Dylan Evans of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

Interview by Ryan Quinn

RQ: Tell me a little about the show itself and your production of it.

WK: Steve Martin (the established comedian, actor, writer, banjo aficionado) has written a play that features a young Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein at the tipping point of their careers. It takes place at the Lapin Agile, a fictional bar in 1904 Paris, where notable intellectuals and visionaries go to talk about their manifestos. It also features a wide range of characters that gravitate to that space. It expertly deconstructs the intersection between art and science, and somehow manages to remain brilliantly funny.

We’re doing it site-specific at an event space in Kensington Market called Round. When we decided to produce it, we knew we wanted to get away from a traditional performance space. We wanted our audience to see the sparks fly between the actors, and really feel immersed in their revelations. We also thought they might like a beer!


RQ: In what ways do you think this show questions how we look at art or innovation?

DE: This play challenges anyone’s personal definition of art. Einstein argues that his scientific discoveries are art, whereas Picasso dismisses these as mere equations. Steve Martin tells us that science is more than numbers: it’s a vision, it’s imagination, and then it’s trying to capture that and turn it into something calculable. We can’t dive into a black hole, or travel to other solar systems, but we can dream it. And then we can take that dream and see if we can prove it.

RQ: How do you think your choice of site-specific theatre informs or enhances the piece?

WK: I love the intimacy. Performing in the round (pun intended) just feels right.

DE: I had a very clear image in my mind of what I envisioned the space looking like. When we walked into The Round for our photo shoot I was blown away by how much the space looked like what I had imagined. I had no trouble believing that I had just entered a bohemian Paris bar circa 1904. It makes a huge difference as a performer, and hopefully for the audience too. You’re right there in the bar with us. You can grab a drink and be a fellow patron in the Lapin Agile with a host of eccentric characters. So it is definitely an engaging performance and the wonderful venue is a big part of that.

RQ: What can you tell me about Seven Siblings theatre?

WK: Madryn, Erika, and I founded Seven Siblings Theatre while gaining our teacher certification at the Great Lakes Michael Chekhov Consortium in Kent, Ohio. We shared the same ideals of theatre, a similar process, and wanted to bring more Fantastic Realism into Toronto’s indie theatre community. We aim to help artists develop their psychophysical connection, and dig deeply into the atmospheres of each production. By the end of each process, our artists have a range of tools and exercises from the Michael Chekhov work to play with.

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RQ: Why did you choose this piece as your next production?

WK: I am adamant that everything we work on needs to present a new challenge. We’ve played with malleable classical text, highly dangerous subject matter, explosive absurdist and visual performance styles, and now we’re tapping into an immersive experience. This is one of the most playful pieces I’ve ever worked on, and the incredible duality between farce and intelligence made it a no-brainer.

RQ: If you were going to set this show in 2016, which people would be the closest parallels to the way this show characterizes Picasso and Einstein?

WK: That’s a tough one. A lot of the charm in this piece is that they’re diamonds in the rough.

DE: [In terms of banter] Stephen Hawking and John Oliver (because that first interview was too good not to have a sequel). Bill Nye and Bob Ross. Spock and Han Solo.

WK: Yeah. Einstein’s definitely the Han Solo of this show.

RQ: If you could give this show a soundtrack, what three songs would be must-haves?

The Scientist – Coldplay
The Life of Pablo (the entire album) – Kanye West (Tidal required)
Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Eiffel 65

Bistro Fada – Stephane Wrembel (watch Midnight in Paris for context)
Space Oddity – David Bowie
Sounds of Science – Beastie Boys

DE & WK:
*Bonus Track* Tubthumping – Chumbawamba


Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Presented by Seven Siblings Theatre


A play by Steve Martin

Directed by Erika Downie
Featuring Dylan Mawson, Jamie Johnson, Madryn McCabe, Will King, Erin Burley, Erik Helle, Dylan Evans, Andrew Gaunce and Maxwell LeBoeuf
Stage Manager Jocelyn Levadoux
Production Manager Kate MacArthur
Lighting Designer Parker Nowlan
Dialect Coach Margaret Hild

Run Time: 90 minutes

February 25 at 7:30pm
February 26 at 7:30pm
February 27 at 2:00pm (Matinee)
February 28 at 7:30pm

February 25-28 $25

Round, 152A Augusta Avenue, Kensington Market, Toronto, Ontario