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Posts tagged ‘mnemonic theatre productions’

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.

10 Toronto Theatre Things to Look Forward to in 2012

By: Alex Johnson

Kim’s Convenience by Ins Choi at Soulpepper

I missed this Best New Play winner at Fringe last summer, and regretted it. I’ve always been a quiet admirer of Ins Choi (a Soulpepper Academy alumnus and an actor who manages to find why those peripheral parts are in the script, and elevate them from walk-on role to scene-stealer). At first it seems out of step that Soulpepper would add a Fringe winner to their docket of “important” and “time-tested” classics. But the Soulpepper website calls Kim’s Convenience a “Toronto classic in the making.” Props to Soulpepper for recognizing and nurturing a more localized “classic” and props to Ins Choi for writing it. It makes for a hell of a good underdog story.

Kim’s Convenience plays January 12th – February 11th at the Yonge Centre for the Performing Arts. More information available at or

Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Presents Beckett: Feck It! at Canadian Stage

Illustration by Marilyn Koop

The title notwithstanding, I am surprised to find myself so excited about this show. I am not a Beckett fan, so the idea of sitting through a Beckett-themed musical evening shouldn’t sit right with me. However, I can’t help thinking that if anything can shed some light on Beckett, and possibly change my mind about him, it’s going to be the combined energies of Laura Condlln, Jennifer Tarver, Tom Rooney and a smattering of contemporary Irish composers. And who am I kidding…the title kind of clinches it. Maybe Canadian Stage will hand out more of those slightly naughty buttons like they did at Krapp’s Last Tape.

Beckett: Feck It! Plays February 17th – 25th at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs. For more information  or

Arts cuts by City Hall

It hurts our wallets, our functionality, our sense of protection and calm. But historically, Toronto always produces incredible work when our funding gets axed. The community bands together and breaks new ground, flipping a well-crafted bird to the higher-ups. Look at what happened with Summerworks in 2011. I, for one, would wish away the budget cuts if I could, but intend on embracing them when they come. Strange as it is, I look forward to seeing what remarkable things happen when we get put inside the pressure cooker.

I probably wouldn’t be so doe-eyed about it if I had the job responsibilities of Matthew Jocelyn….

Penny Plain by Ronnie Burkett at Factory Theatre

I can’t stress enough how everyone should see the work of The Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes. It ain’t for kids, though it might make you feel like one. I dare even the hardest, crustiest cynics to not be blissfully caught off guard. Seriously. If you’re totally unaffected, send me your address and I’ll mail you a Radiohead album. I’ll assume that’s what you listen to…

Penny Plain plays January 20th – February 26th at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. For ticket information (and a great video interview with Ronnie Burkett) check out  

Closer by Patrick Marber, Mnemonic Theatre Productions

This play made the list because I see it as a diamond in the rough. The cast is relatively unknown, the director is new on the scene; but going to this production will give you the thrill of feeling that you’ve discovered something special and substantial before anyone else has – like how I felt when I got the first Arcade Fire album weeks before it aired on Much Music. I would be very surprised if these young, up-and-coming artists weren’t on many more “Top” lists in the years to come. Not to mention, the play is infinitely better than the film – as is often the case – so exorcise Julia Roberts from your brain and go check out the real deal.

Closer plays February 1st-4th at the Winchester Theatre in Cabbagetown. For more information visit

The new “Theatre trailer” and online promotions

I get sick kicks out of sitting down on YouTube and searching for trailers and promotional videos for theatrical productions. I’ve seen some bombs, and I’ve seen some goodies (anyone remember the Jersey Shore transcripts done in the style of Oscar Wilde that promoted The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway?). It’s interesting to see the creative ways in which people build interest for a live medium through a recorded medium, and I think that with each passing year we are going to see that creativity produce some pretty spectacular efforts. Who will have the most effective, ludicrous, sensational promotional video of 2012?

If you haven’t seen the Earnest Playbill promotions, just YouTube “jersey shore oscar wilde”. And enjoy.

The Year of the Playwright?

Is it? Maybe? Fingers crossed. I can only hope that we are moving into a revamped era where people aren’t just writing great Canadian plays, but they are being produced, watched, and taken seriously. I think that voices like Hannah Moscovitch and Anunsee Roy are showing us that the appetite for new plays is there, and following their example, more young artists are going out on a playwright’s limb. I think that very soon, the playwright will once again be a commanding force of a nature in Canadian theatre (I leave that to better people than I). 2012 is only going to bring us one step closer to that.

There are tons of great writing and creation workshops out there, so keep your ear to the ground. I’ll keep you posted through as they pop up.

The Neverending Story at Toronto’s Theatre for Young People

As if this needs any explanation. If you were born in the eighties, raised in the 90s, had even a smidge of a child’s imagination, and owned a VCR…this is a big moment in Canadian theatre for you. Atreyu and Bastian and the Childlike Empress on stage together? Live?? In the flesh?? I might have to knock me down some toddlers to get to the front row. All’s fair in Fantastica, the Land of Stories.

The Neverending Story plays February 27th-March 17th at Young People’s Theatre (it was never the Lorraine Kimsa to me!) For more information, check out There are cheapie tickets, too!

Groundling Theatre Company

Sometimes I think that every six days there is a Shakespearean start-up venture in Toronto (God knows I’ve been a part of my share). His work is like actor crack: sexy, high-stakes, showy, language that is almost edible. Everyone has an opinion on Shakespeare, and everyone wants to put their stamp on the canon. But when I heard about Groundling Theatre Company, a new Shakespeare company founded by Graham Abbey….well, I think it’s good news for all of us. Abbey knows what he is doing. He has been wrestling with the great roles and the great plays his entire career, has been mentored by the very best, and remains a staple of classical theatre in Canada. We need good Shakespeare, and I’m pleased as punch that he is helping an initiative to do just that. Although their first production isn’t slated until 2013, keep your ears clean and your eyes open and you may hear tell of something. Abbey will also be returning to Stratford for the Festival’s 2012 season. It’s a quick drive for a big treat!

For more information, you can look at their website,

The Tennessee Williams Project

Something is a-brewing in the Toronto theatre scene; something built off a love for Toronto, a need for community, a sense of artistic curiosity, and a hot and heavy love of Tennessee. The details are in the works, but we at will keep you posted.