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Posts tagged ‘Jared Bishop’

“Finding Your Process, Comradery On and Off Stage & Working with Planned Parenthood” In Conversation with actor Mattie Driscoll on Cue6’s DRY LAND at The Assembly Theatre

Interview by Jared Bishop.

We sat down with actor Mattie Driscoll to discuss Cue6 Theatre’s Toronto premiere of Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel. Mattie gets into her experience as a new actor tackling a challenging script, the comradery on and off stage and the show’s partnership with Planned Parenthood. Dry Land is a play about abortion, female friendship and resiliency, on stage now at The Assembly Theatre until September 22nd.

Jared Bishop: What was your impression when you first read the script?

Mattie Driscoll: When I first read the scene we were given for the audition, I was so excited. I was a little too excited. I was like ‘fuck, this is so good!’ This is one of the best scripts I have read maybe ever. It’s very much my style – dark humour and gross and weird and hard to watch a lot of the time. And I am coming from just graduating school from Ryerson where I didn’t have the opportunity to be a part of any shows like that. That’s not the work you are doing in school. Obviously there is a focus on classical work, which is great, but that means, as a young woman, you are playing the ingénue or a not particularly strong female character a lot of the time.

When I read the whole script it furthered my thoughts around that scene. I was just like, ‘it’s so good!’ I am astounded the playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel was only 21 when it was published. I was just really excited when I first read it.

Photo Credit: Samantha Hurley

JB: Can you talk about the Planned Parenthood partnership?

MD: Yes, I can speak to it a little. I know for Cue6 that it’s something important for them, that community outreach element. There are talk backs on Thursday nights and what we want the talk backs to be are a conversation around accessibility in Ontario and abortion rights and what that is all looking like. A focus more on that discussion instead of about the play. They are so great, we have had someone from Planned Parenthood come and speak to us because after our very first show we realized the conversations after performances sometimes involve people sharing their own stories. This is great because that’s what we want the play to do but it is a weird position to be in as an actor. To say ‘I hear you’ and to not go to a place of ‘OH, I am so sorry’. That is not how it is handled in the play. It’s coming from a place of ‘It’s ok, she is ok, her life is going to go on’, and not necessarily taking the power away from someone by assuming it was a horrible awful experience for them. We had someone come in from Planned Parenthood to talk about what language to use. They use language like ‘removing a pregnancy’, which I had never heard before. I am learning a lot about something I had thought I was pretty well versed in. I am realizing that there is still a lot to learn in that department. Planned Parenthood Toronto just seems amazing, so we’re excited that those talk backs are happening on Thursdays.

Photo Credit: Samantha Hurley

JB: In rehearsal what did you do to build the intimacy needed for the story?

MD: The thing that is super nice is that I am playing alongside my university classmate Veronica Hortiguela. So we had a lot of that level of comfort already, which was so nice. It’s made this process even better because I am working with someone I am super close with. We already had an intimacy there and a shared vocabulary because of school. We were able to work quickly and easily, and we were able to walk home together and talk about it.

In the rehearsal process, I have just loved Jill Harper (director). I think she is so great and she is so smart. Veronica and I always spoke about how she does this cleaver little thing where you think you came up with the brilliant thought but it was her who gracefully lead you there. She is trusting, which is so nice because I don’t feel like I trust myself yet necessarily. I am just coming out of school and figuring it out.

Photo Credit: Samantha Hurley

JB: How do you reset yourself between shows?

MD: Oh my god, well, I’m still kind of figuring that out. I am going to keep talking about how this show is different from school. Normally the show would have been done four times or maybe five. I have never run something for this long before, which I love. I get to do a play for this long? It is so fun and nice! So far I walk home, I chill out a little. That’s another thing why I feel grateful to be so close with Veronica because her and I get to debrief and it is important to me that she feels safe and comfortable after because it is just a different show for her than it is for me. I end the show and I am kind of okay, whereas she just had to experience what she did and that is totally different. That requires a different type of comedown. She is still navigating that as well and it is hard to make a judgement on the show when you are in that kind of clouded place. But I think we are good at making a quick joke about it, reminding ourselves that it’s fine, and kind of leaving the play there. I think I am good at leaving it there. I will be curious when people ask me this in a week because we will see how that is going. I just walk home. I try to take some deep breaths.

Photo Credit: Samantha Hurley

JB: Who do you think is the intended audience and who do you want to see this show?

MD: I want to just say a general everyone, and I want to say young women. But I feel they are who get it a little more so I want people who don’t get it. We have had conversations and watched interviews with Ruby Rae who say this is often a harder show for men to watch because the blood, for women, isn’t that freaky. It is normal but for men it is a little harder to watch. I do want young women to see this, to see themselves onstage in a way that I haven’t encountered before, but also especially men and people who don’t understand that this is a normal thing, more normal than it ought to be.

Photo Credit: Samantha Hurley

I am so curious to hear and see the rest of the run because we have had people leave, people have had to leave in the very first scene because the punches were too much for someone. Obviously we have had a few people leave during the blood. I am curious about what sets people off. We have a device to reset the energy for people but if I was on the other side watching it, I think I would freak out. I would love it as a young woman, I would see this play and say ‘yes, more of this!’ There is something about presenting woman not as fragile and the female body not portrayed as delicate. And I am so grateful for that. Ruby Rae has a note at the beginning of this play and it’s “Harshness is as true to this play as sweetness”, and that has been so fun to play with.

Dry Land

Who:
Company: Cue6
Cast:
Mattie Driscoll, Veronica Hortiguela, Jonas Trottier, Reanne Spitzer, Tim Walker
Written by: Ruby Rae Spiegel
Directed by: Jill Harper
Producers: Christine Groom, Matt Eger, Joshua Browne
Lighting Designer: Simon Rossiter
Sound Designer: Tim Lindsay
Stage Manager: Hannah MacMillan

What:
Ester is a swimmer trying to stay afloat. Amy is curled up on the locker room floor. Dry Land is a play about abortion, female friendship, and resiliency, and what happens in one high school locker room after everybody’s left.

Dry Land is the first full-length play from American playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel. Spiegel
was only 21 when Dry Land was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and its
premiere production received a five-star review from the New York Times, calling the
play “remarkable… caustic, funny and harrowing.” Dry Land has gone on to receive acclaim across the US, UK and Australia.

Where:
The Assembly Theatre – 1479 Queen Street West

When:
Sept 5th – 22nd
Wednesday – Sunday at 8pm

Tickets:
cue6.ca

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“From TV Pilot to Site-Specific Musical & On Keeping Open to Options and Optimism” In Conversation with Kris Hagen on LIGHTERS IN THE AIR at the 2018 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Jared Bishop.

Kris Hagen, often known for his comedy or his role as ‘Sketchy Looking Dude’ on Kim’s Convenience, brings his original music to the Toronto Fringe Festival. Lighters in the Air, the first show by Dive Bar Productions, is a site-specific musical set in a bar where the mic is always open. I spoke with Kris about how the story kept developing from TV Pilot, to feature, to site-specific musical, what it’s like wearing many hats with this show and on how he lives his life by keeping open to options, optimism and surrounding himself with good people.

The show is performed in the Monarch Tavern, this is where we met to chat about the show. We move throughout the space during our conversation. We start the interview with Kris behind the bar.

Kris Hagen: Water?

Jared Bishop: Yes, please.

KH: (looking over at their stage setup) I just realized I had left the table there. I kept running into it last night. There is always something to keep it fresh every night!

JB: Wait, so last night there was a table on stage that wasn’t meant to be there?

KH: Yeah, that little table there in front of the couch wasn’t supposed to be there so last night I am like walking and talking and walking backwards and it’s like right there and I am running into it.

Kris is walking me through the space, reliving moments from the show the night before.

JB: When did you know you were going to use this space?

KH: Well, basically when I decided to put it on as a live show, I thought that this space would suit the bar in this story. I had written this as a TV pilot, this was a few years ago, and I thought if I was to film it, this would be a great place to film. And I still had this place in my mind when I decided to make it into a live show. I know the Monarch has had Fringe shows before so they were perfect people to approach. When they agreed to do it, I adapted the film script into the live show. I could really visualize the space. I just thought this setup, apart from these pillars, was perfect, but I guess there will always be something when you’re working with a different space.

JB: The pillars though, they were written into the script and they even become a character in the story. This is an example of what impressed me with your use of the space. It felt like this show couldn’t happen anywhere else. What other unexpected challenges came up for you?

KH: So apparently we have the worst lighting board in history over there and these are the lights to the bar, so there are two places to change the lights on stage. So we just thought to get the cast to do it and that became part of the story as time went on. We didn’t have to bring in any other lights except for an LED strip along the base of the bar.

JB: How long was your cast in this space before the start of Fringe?

KH: We were able to get in and do a fair amount of rehearsals here starting a month ago. Being a Fringe show with a 9 person cast, everyone wasn’t always available. It was great to have the space to work with small groups in the cast. Trying to transfer a script into a site-specific space, I have never really done that. Taking a square rehearsal space and trying to move all of that into here, it would have been a nightmare. Being able to be in here saved us a lot, it just made the show feel more polished with transitions and lighting. All of that stuff would not have been possible without earlier access to this space, so we got lucky. It was fun to problem solve in a space like this.

JB: When did you start writing the story you tell in Lighters in the Air?

KH: It was originally a TV pilot. I had all these songs I had written over the years and I hadn’t done enough with them, so I started this TV pilot idea, setting it in the Toronto music and busking scene, having each episode feature one of my original songs. From there, I adapted the story into a feature film. In terms of story, it kept shifting a little bit with each version. It evolved over time. Focusing the story in a dive bar with the final version that we have now all came to me in January and February when I knew I had to adapt it for this space. It sat in the back of my mind for about a month, and then one day within an hour I had every scene finished. It all just came to the surface.

JB: Musically, where do you find inspiration?

KH: I think I’m drawn to the idea of music being a soundtrack to life. I have tended to write more sad ballads because, when I turn to write, it is more often than not when things aren’t going that well in life. I am just home by myself and the guitar is kind of my therapist so I pick it up and start improvising songs. I think it’s very helpful. It’s helped me stay calm just having those songs and, at any time, having that ability to write.

JB: How has it been wearing all of these different hats in a production? Is it something you have done before?

KH: I have done it but not like this… maybe for a short film or web series… there was some significant effort before but not like this. I have been living off of coffee and potato chips for a month. I have lost 15 pounds, so right after this I am heading back to the Good Life. But I just feel like I got to keep going. Once you get a great cast and crew together you feel responsible to do it for them, as well. I have two great assistant directors and the cast is great. It has become very collaborative. I want to be sure to be in the scenes and present when I’m acting, so it’s good to have those eyes on the outside. And everyone gets along so well, it’s a great group.

JB: Are there other parts of this experience you feel are important to share?

KH: It’s an art-imitates-life sort of thing for me. The story is about personal relationships and how important they are in a community. The dive bar is this community, it’s in rougher times but those bonds between people persist through that. Just working with this group, I think we have imitated that. Building a community out of nothing. It’s that experience for me that’s been the most fun. We are all pleased to have met each other and to be working together. We have fun and we try to bring that energy to the audience. Hopefully we are achieving that with this show.

I have always wanted to do more with music. Did that inspire me to do this show? Or is it inspiring me to focus on the music side and record an album and do more live shows? I am not sure at the moment.

JB: Your character said the exact same thing on stage

KH: Just not sure what to do next, right? As long as you have some options and some optimism and some good people around you to work with, you can always do something.

JB: I like that, options and optimism.

KH: Yeah, you find it by pursuing things actively and pursuing relationships openly and accepting. I am trying to cultivate that in my own life. Being active and optimistic can go a long way.

Lighters in the Air

What:
A musician named Leo returns to his former hangout, The Empty, a dive bar where the mic is always open.

Lighters in the Air will feature original songs by Hagen as well as nightly guest performances by some of the brightest talent in the Toronto music and comedy scenes, including Laura Tremblay (Jukebox Hero: The Musical; Stage West Calgary’s Legally Blonde: The Musical), Ben Beauchemin (Kim’s Convenience, Saving Hope), Ted Morris (Yuk Yuk’s, Just for Laughs, Sirius XM), and more!

Where:
The Monarch Tavern
12 Clinton St.
Toronto
Ontario

Who:
Company: Dive Bar Theatre
Creator: Kris Hagen
Assistant Directors: Kristen MacCulloch & Steven Holmberg
Cast: Natalia Bushnik, Balinda Corpus, Cody Crain, Anna Douglas, Rachael Fisher, Kris Hagen, Olaf Sham, Amanda Silcoff, Taylor Wittaker

Remaining Shows:
July 14th 3:00pm
July 15th 7:00pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

 

 

 

 

“Inspiration, Travel & Getting Personal” In Conversation with performer Clare Blackwood on BIKEFACE at the 2018 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Jared Bishop.

BikeFace is a show ready to inspire adventure. Strange but true tales of writer Natalie Frijia’s solo journey across Canada are brought to life by performer Clare Blackwood, on stage now at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival. We sat down with Clare to talk about inspiration, travel and how personal this show became.

JB: When did you first learn about the story told in BikeFace?

CB: It was about two months ago. I had no Fringe plans. My friend Rebecca Perry (producer) called me out of the blue and was like “Hey, Natalie Frijia (creator) and I have this script, you are one of two people we are considering for it. Is this something you would like to be a part of?” and I was like “Oh God, yes!”

That was a couple months ago. When I read the script, I knew that this was exactly the type of story I was interested in telling. I am a solo traveller as well. Natalie’s writing really resonates with me. We have the same style of dry humour about travelling alone. It’s really nice because it makes her words really easy to speak.

It was such a pleasure to read a script that felt tailor-made for me and she didn’t even know it.

JB: How did you make the story your own?

CB: I have done a lot of travelling by myself. I have had a lot of the experiences explored in the play, I didn’t have to sit there and wonder what’s it like to be alone in the middle of the road, in the middle of the country, in a place I have never been. I have that experience, I have that knowledge and I know what it’s like to be camping in the middle of nowhere and hear noises and think “I am going to die now… glad I had a good life!”

A big theme of the play is how being a woman is different when travelling alone, the adversity it comes with and the attitudes you get from other people. It’s often quite rampant so I know what she is talking about. Men are cat-calling you on your bike or you’re being told you shouldn’t be by yourself. It is something you get all the time when you are by yourself. So this made it very personal for me.

The joy of meeting new people is so prevalent in this play. Some of the best human beings I have ever met in my life are people who I have known for a day or two. They just leave this mark on you and then they leave. You think “I will probably never see this person again but I will remember them for the rest of my life.” I think that is also a really relatable theme in this show with all of these characters. They have all left such a huge mark on her (Natalie) that she wanted to bring them to life. It was my pleasure to try to do that without ever having met them.

JB: What inspires you to travel?

CB: I am a Gryffindor. I like not knowing where I am going and I like missing trains and having to figure out alternative routes and meeting new people and camping in stupid places where I shouldn’t be camping and not planning where I am sleeping. There is just such a thrill in that.

I love seeing new things. I am a giant history nerd and I go where the history is. It’s just fun for me. I know how I travel for some people is horrifying but for me it’s fun, that’s the baseline.

I’m influenced by my family who taught me to love camping. My mom is a person who has gone skydiving and who camps by herself, so this has always been encouraged.

I have always just been a stubbornly independent person so that’s where my inspiration for travel comes from. And it’s also a nice “fuck you” to people who say I can’t.

JB: There are many characters you explore in this show, do you have a specific process for developing them?

CB: It’s funny because I have never played multiple characters on stage before. This show was a huge challenge for me. I had to draw on a whole lot of sources to create these characters. Some came a lot more naturally than others. Normally, when I create a character, I start with the voice and go from there. That’s mostly what I did for these people. If I was having trouble with the character it was because I wasn’t being specific enough in their voice.

JB: How does telling this story compare to your past Fringe experiences?

CB: My fringe experiences have been varied and wonderful. This has definitely been the easiest story to tell. My parents came to see the show Saturday and they were like, “You could have written that. That’s the story we keep waiting for you to write.” Again, Natalie and I are very similar in the way that we write and the way that we travel. So with this show, the process of creating it for me wasn’t easy, but the act of telling it and the act of engaging with the audience has been a breeze.

You don’t have to work to get people on your side with this show. They are already there. You open your mouth and the words come out and they are like, “Oh yes, I like this person.”

This has been the most personal show for me. And the one that is closest to who I am as a human.

JB: What is something important to share with people who haven’t yet seen Bike Face?

CB: I really want people to come see this show, whether you like bikes, whether you go camping, whether you have gone on an adventure. It’s a show that people have been saying really resonates with them. It’s a perfect fringe show in the sense of it will make you laugh and it will make you cry and it will make you want to go on an adventure. I think it’s such a gift as a performer to have a show like this.

And because it’s been created by this badass group of women who are really good at their jobs! It feeds the inner adventurer in everybody, which I think is so lovely.

BikeFace 

Who:
Company: Trailblazing Ladies
Playwright: Natalie Frijia
Director:Mandy Roveda
Cast: Clare Blackwood
Producer: Rebecca Perry

What:
“Like a ride down the road with the wind at your back!” (Edmonton Journal)
During the Victorian cycling craze, doctors warned women riders they would undoubtedly cultivate “bicycle faces”: becoming over-exerted, wild-eyed, un-sexed vulgarities, with nothing before them but the wide, open road. Over a century later, the Journal of Paediatric Psychology still finds that girls are four times more likely to be warned about dangers inherent in exploration and adventure. This is where BikeFace takes off! It will tickle your funny bone and above all else, ignite your thirst for adventure!

Where:
The Annex Theatre
736 Bathurst St
Toronto
Ontario
M5S 1Z5

When:
July 12th   1:45pm
July 13th   9:45pm
July 14th   2:15pm
July 15th   7:30pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

Photo Notes: Photographer: Hayley Andoff Featured in Photo: Clare Blackwood

 

 

 

 

An Honest Goodbye

By Jared Bishop

The joy expressed in this collection of festival-goers, meeting one last time in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s, no longer matched its environment. The lights weren’t twinkling like the eyes of excited Fringe performers. We were all dressed up, sparkly and beautiful, waiting for the parade to start, to say one last goodbye to our ghost of a home. With no more blood pumping through Mirvish Village, we took the life in us to our new home at Scadding Court Community Centre.

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

Mirvish Village was a beautiful space to occupy. There was magic oozing from all those strings of lights and graffitied walls. We radiated that energy right back. The Toronto Fringe is a community brought together once a year and our home base is integral. For every great difficulty faced in independent theatre, the Fringe Club and Mirvish Village had something to offer. Losing this home is sad. It symbolically connected the old Toronto with the new and the Fringe Club felt like a manifestation of those things coming together.

I came to the parade, not to promote a show or give out hand bills to the public, but to work through feelings of grief and sadness. The Toronto Fringe has lost a home and our city is losing honest history and culture. I wanted to bring in the intentions of healing to this Costume Parade. Dressing up, being silly and marching down the street is already a practice I use to heal personal wounds. I often find new confidence and boldness when dressed as something a little outside of myself. I put on one of my partner’s lacy, floral shirts and donned a straw hat I had decorated with flowers and vines. I wanted my costume to represent new life – like a garden in the spring. I walked from my home in Little Italy with a bit more bounce and optimism in each step, towards Bloor and the special place we used to call The Fringe Club.

A large group had amassed in the space surrounded by the boarded up windows. Empty homes and businesses, a place once full of life but now sacrificed for higher profits. It was evident we most move on.

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

There was a politeness to the way we travelled down Bathurst. We shared the sidewalks, stopped at red lights, smiled, waved and courteously engaged the public. We divided ourselves into groups easily managed by the sidewalks and intersections. Our parade stretched a great distance down Fringe’s main artery. We were a cheerful spectacle moving at an eager pace. Our community features an incredible collection of beauty and inspiration. Amongst us were Mimes moving with mostly muteness – tuba and saxophone singing in their place.

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

High Park Noir’s collection of crime-fighting critters created comradery between the new creations. The feline Fuzz was quite flirtatious. Physical representations of our most private parts were shared to the public for peer review. These fringe folks representing their shows or supporting a friend’s, passed out their offerings of invitation to all who would accept. As we continued closer to our new home at Scadding Court, we announced our presence with confidence and celebration.

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

As 100+ fabulous Fringe people filed into our new home it felt like ecstatic celebration. Celebration for our community and the new community welcoming us in. Scadding Court is already a high use centre. Many different groups of people utilize this multifaceted facility. Our presence felt like a positive offering back to these folk. I started to make comparisons between our new and previously used spaces. Has Fringe found a home that builds stronger connections to the larger communities we exist in? Is there greater stability in this type of community space? It is clear we are guests here right now. We share this space with the skateboarders and shipping container merchants, the families and youth groups that use the pool, park and baseball diamonds. This is unlike the alley we used to occupy, that at any other time of the year was a dank space mostly used for leaving a car behind. That parking lot was ours for twelve days and we filled it. We must engage our new space with more intention and mindfulness. It is now important to create something that involves our larger community. Something that offers welcomeness and accessibility to the folks outside of ourselves. I hope this will facilitate growth and deeper roots. Fringe is a tree with many branches and we wish for our fruits to flourish.

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

This club has captivated the neighbourhood and we must stretch out our hands to share the joyous events that make this festival special. The reflections of grief and loss I addressed with my floral costume transformed into celebration of connection and community. I gathered sparkling, joyous energy and wish to radiate that back to Scadding Court and all the other spaces our festival shares. These conclusions were created by the Parade. It provided a space for catharsis if that is what you wanted. The symbolic mobilization of community in response to gentrification instigated honest reflection and a unifying spirit. This is something radiant we can all share. A continuous pursuit of cohesion is what will turn this space into home. I can do little else but emit excitement for our future. It’s something I am a big fan of.


Find out more about The Toronto Fringe, the shows and events in this year’s festival and book tickets here.

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana