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“Shaking Up Your Process, Trusting Your Instincts & Falling in Love with Theatre Again” In Conversation with writer Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman on GUARDED GIRLS at Tarragon

Interview by Megan Robinson.

When I got on the phone with playwright Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman this week to discuss her newest show, Guarded Girls, premiering at Tarragon Theatre in association with Green Light Arts, I couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. I first came across her writing when I was in grade eleven and was performing in a student production of the play The End of Pretending, which she wrote alongside her friend Emily Sugerman. It was a show that deeply affected my friends and I at the time because it so accurately depicted the emotional lives of girls our age. Needless to say, I have been a long-time fan of Charlotte’s work, so I was thrilled at this opportunity to chat with her about her writing process.

Charlotte’s newest play, Guarded Girls is a complex four-part story that brings the audience into the world of the women’s prison system in Canada. It’s a subject matter that can be hard to look at because it asks a lot of questions about our society and what we consider to be good vs bad behaviour. But despite the challenging nature of the material, she hopes the audience will keep a level of openness as they engage with it.

That Charlotte started writing a show four years ago focusing on the cycles that are hard to break between mothers and daughters is especially interesting now that she is pregnant with her first child. With opening night coinciding so closely with her due date, she says that she’s relieved to be able to now switch her focus to childbirth.

I spoke with Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman about the real-life inspiration for the show, her intensive research process, and the unique experience she had writing Guarded Girls.

MR: How did the idea come about for the show?

CCC: So Matt White, who is the Artistic Director of Green Light Arts, a Kitchener Company, was very affected by Ashley Smith’s death, a 19-year-old who died at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener. She killed herself but it was ruled a homicide because the guards did not intervene. Instead, they watched her as she died. She originally went to a juvenile detention centre because she threw crab apples at a postman, and then she sort of just ended up in the system, unable to get out. It’s a really tragic story and it brought to the news a lot of talk about solitary confinement and segregation and what that does psychologically to inmates. So Matt was interested in that and brought it to me, asking if I wanted to do something with it. I told him that I didn’t know a lot about the prison system but I’d look at it. Then, as I was working on the piece, I learned about a lot more women and so many more things that made me want to branch off more. It was originally supposed to be a one-woman show but, as I kept researching, it made me want to write a fuller piece, instead of just focusing on one particular real person.

Guarded Girls, Tarragon Theatre

MR: Tell me about the research and interviewing experience. Did you focus mostly on Grand Valley?

CCC: I did a lot of research. I met with some people who had been at Grand Valley, as well as people who had been in the system. It’s really hard to get into the prison. They are sort of starting to open it up again… They’ll go through these phases where they’ll let people in and be like, “Everything is good…” and then there will be ten years where they don’t anyone in. Or at least that certainly happened at Grand Valley. I did a lot of research of women who’d been in prison all over Canada, but Grand Valley was, in a sense, what I was particularly looking at.

MR: Were the people you interviewed surprised to be asked these questions and have someone interested in them? How did they respond?

CCC: I think so. What I got from the people I talked to was a desire to be seen and that they really did want this play to go on. There was a lot of enthusiasm for this story, for sharing what it’s like to be in prison, in Canada, as a woman. There is very little known about it. And people don’t tend to care, you know? They just think, “Well, you did something wrong…” but it’s more complicated. A lot has to do with mental health. A lot has to do with addiction. That’s mostly why people are in jail. There aren’t that many violent crimes. So if you’re looking into all of this, knowing that, it’s very staggering. Like, what are we doing to these very vulnerable people in our society? So I did get a sense that people wanted these messages out.

Guarded Girls, Tarragon Theatre

MR: It feels like a very timely show.

CCC: These have been issues for a long time but now it’s in the news. I’m hoping people will want to think more about this. One of the problems is you create these rules but there’s no one really enforcing them in the prisons. They can be, for lack of a better term, like the wild west. They can be lawless in a way, which is so crazy because the whole reason anyone is there is because they’ve broken the law.

MR: How did you find the narrative for the show? You decided it wasn’t going to be a one woman show, so how did the story start to come to you as it is now?

CCC: It was a very mysterious writing process. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t plot it out at all. I did a ton ton TON of research and then I kind of put it away and was like, “Now I’m going to go into my imagination”. Of course it was fed by all of the things I had heard and seen and read, but I started to just listen to these two characters I was exploring. Eventually, they sort of just started to reveal themselves. But it’s a very strange structure to a play – there’s four parts and they’re sort of their own segments, so you’re learning the story not necessarily in the right order. Originally I figured I’d have to change it and make it more linear but then I realized that’s just what it wanted to be. Also, I realized that the real thing I was writing about was the cycle between a mother and a daughter and what is passed on, and how hard it is to break these cycles, and how hard it is to change oneself, and then how hard it is for a system to change, or a country to change, or an institution to change. But in the play it really came down to the question: How do we not pass on the bad things that we’ve inherited? I was just really struck by how the women I met were similar to me, and because of the privilege I’ve been afforded in my life and the circumstance I was born into, I was able to avoid a lot of things that would have been pretty much impossible to avoid had it gone another way. The kinds of struggles I’ve had in my life with grief and addiction have just fallen on the right side of the line, where it so easily could have not.

Guarded Girls, Tarragon Theatre

MR: That’s so interesting because originally I wondered how you managed to not get overwhelmed with getting into the heads of these people and these experiences. I mean research and interviews help, but the other things you’ve written have been really personal, right? So it’s interesting to learn about your process of balancing all of that.

CCC: I wanted to write something really emotionally true, that was really grounded in another person’s lived experience, but very emotionally true to me, as well. Really, I just loved all the characters so much. My job is just to love them, fully, and I really did. I think, for me, this is what’s been so unique about this writing process. My husband teased me because I’d wake up every morning and I’d be so excited to write, because I just wanted to spend time with these girls, these women. And I was like, “I just have to hear more from them…” (laughs) It was really weird, I don’t usually feel like that.

MR: That sounds amazing.

CCC: It’s the only time in my life that has ever happened. It hasn’t happened since. I hope I can bring that into my other writing… just a little more mystery.

Guarded Girls, Tarragon Theatre

MR: What did a typical day of work look like when you were writing?

CCC: I’d wake up pretty early and then just go write for the whole morning. Then I would stop and edit in the afternoon. Pretty boring, but I liked writing this so much that I was so excited, even with the rewrites. Usually I’d say my writing process is a lot of procrastination until I have to do it. Not that this one wasn’t frustrating and hard and painful and all those things that writing often is. I was very affected by the research, and I was very emotional while writing this play, but I wanted to be in it.

MR: Was the main reason because you loved these characters? What was it that pulled you in?

CCC: Yeah, I really loved them. Also, I felt really free by the structure being so unusual.

At the very beginning, I had nothing written when I met with Virgilia (Griffith) and Vivian (Endicott-Douglas). I just talked to them, then the next week I brought in pages for them. It started as a two-hander, then it grew to a three-hander, then it grew to four people. I was writing for them too, so it was an incredible experience in that way. It was an interesting process of people coming in right when I needed them.

Guarded Girls, Tarragon Theatre

MR: Do you have any writing rules or strong beliefs that you come back to when you’re struggling or having a hard time?

CCC: I think what’s really hard about writing is making choices. There are just so many choices available and I think something I really try to do when I receive other people’s art is, instead of thinking if I like it or didn’t like it, I ask myself why the writer made the choice that they made. Because when you’re writing you realize you don’t make any choices just on a whim, you really think about why you’re doing something and you spend a lot of time with what you’re creating and the choices you’ve made in it. I’ve been really interested in looking at art more in that way.

And I do this with myself, as well… trusting the choices I make. This can be really hard too when sharing your art with people while you’re in process, because they have so many opinions of what could happen. Something that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that anything could happen but it’s really about looking at what you’ve chosen to happen and sticking to that when you’re instincts are telling you to. I think you have those instincts for a reason so often, so really trying to listen to them.

MR: How do you maintain your relationship with theatre and writing? Do you have to work at it or does it come naturally? Because it’s been a long relationship for you, right?

CCC: When I first started writing I was a teenager and I had grown up watching theatre and being in the theatre. So when my mum died, I was like, “I have to write a play.” Which was kind of an insane thing to do, and not what you have to do. But it was very instinctual, so I wrote a play, and then I did it and that was sort of like, “now I’m a writer”… but it didn’t necessarily feel like this choice that I made. There was a lot of conversation at the time around whether writing was therapy. You know, I don’t believe it is therapeutic to write your story. Therapy is therapy, and it was life-changing for me. But I certainly learned how to write through this traumatic experience. Then when I went to theatre school for writing, that was really great. I learned to write things that were not at all personal to me, and learned how to sharpen my voice. That was really important because it was at that point that I felt like I was actually choosing to be a writer.

But then I did sort of take some time away from theatre, partly because I had come from it at such a young age. What I love when I talk to theatre people is always the story of “why theatre?” and I always felt sort of cheap in my response. I was just sort of like, “that’s what was around me”. It didn’t feel like the beauty of those stories I’ve heard about other people discovering theatre. But I think it was actually through writing a lot and writing for film and tv and kind of moving away from theatre that made me miss it. I was able to discover my own love of it and why I actually want to write for this art form. It was like falling in love again.

Guarded Girls

Guarded Girls, Tarragon Theatre

Company: Tarragon Theatre in association with Green Light Arts
Playwright: Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman
Director: Richard Rose
Cast: Columpa Bobb, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Virgilia Griffith & Michaela Washburn

A new play from Governor General’s Literary Award nominee.

The psychological destruction brought on by solitary confinement is at the heart of this wrenching and powerful new play. When 19-year-old Sid is transferred to a new prison, she finds friendship with Britt — but also forms a complicated relationship with the guard who seems to be watching their every move. Soon, it’s the guard who’s being watched, and this playful, theatrical, mysterious work heads toward its shocking conclusion.

Tarragon Theatre Extraspace
30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto

March 26 – May 5, 2019


“Parenting, Marriage, Punctuation and Onions” In Conversation with Actor Jennifer Villaverde on MUSIC MUSIC LIFE DEATH MUSIC

Interview by Bailey Green.

We spoke with Jennifer Villaverde after she spent the morning in the wandelprobe for MUSIC MUSIC LIFE DEATH MUSIC: An Absurdical, written, directed and composed by Adam Seelig and produced by One Little Goat Theatre Company. Hearing the band for the first time is an exciting part of the process, and Villaverde noted the flourishes of each instrument and how percussion can so skillfully create a mood or feeling. MUSIC MUSIC LIFE DEATH MUSIC is about three generations of a family and their attempts to communicate and connect. Villaverde plays DD, who is both a mother and daughter within the show. We spoke about parenting, marriage, punctuation and onions.

Bailey Green: This is your first production with One Little Goat and Adam Seelig, can you tell me more about working with this company?

Jennifer Villaverde: The first week or so I spent a lot of time getting to know Adam as a director and his approach to the piece. And it’s also very personal, I had to be sensitive because it’s different when you’re working with someone who wrote the piece, you don’t want to screw up the line. Adam has been so patient with us. He’s a very different writer, he’s really a poet, and it’s reflected in how he structures the text on the page. Visually, it’s very different. His style of writing has no punctuation, he likes to leave it open to be interpreted on the page. So for me, to see a sentence without structure and fractured, it was a bit of a learning curve. I discovered that I rely so much on punctuation so for it to be so open was a bit jarring. Where is my next thought emotionally? It was a lot of discovering on our feet, but he [Adam] writes very musically, looking at the words on the page as not quite notes, but with rhythm.

Jennifer Villaverde

BG: Who is DD? Where is she in her life when we meet her?

JV: My character DD is like a lot of women who is married with a teenage child and everything is changing. Her child is no longer a baby, but she wants her child to be a baby because there’s a certain dependence in that. The easy love is slipping away and it’s a bit scary for her so she’s hanging on to what was, even though she can’t because aging happens, time happens… She has a great relationship with her husband. She’s very lucky, it’s a true partnership and they rely on reach other and look to each other for support. They’re a tag team. And DD is also every woman who has that tension with her mother. ‘I’m a grown up Mom, I make my own decisions Mom’ because she [DD] wants her child to be a baby forever but she feels the opposite with her mom [B is played by Theresa Tova].

BG: This is a show about a family. How do their dynamics relate to your own family and how do they differ?

JV: I love my mother very, very, very, much but you know, I remember growing up and telling her ‘I’m not 15 anymore’ and growing older and having to repeat that ‘I’m not 15 anymore, I’m 20, I’m 30, I have my own child,’ I have to remind her that I am an adult and it’s okay for her to relinquish that motherly control that she has developed. It helps that she doesn’t live in the city, but I will always be her firstborn child, her baby and we both have to be okay with that. And it’s okay if she wants to baby me and I can just let her sometimes.

As for how we differ… I don’t have a teenage son, I have a five-year old daughter. She’s five going on fifteen. Maybe I’m a bit scared of when that time is going to come. We were just talking about it the other day, my husband and I, [about] mourning the loss of a child to their teens and going to high school and knowing how mean people can be. And we have no idea how we’ll negotiate that as a family. We have a 5-year-old and we know how to do that. But we have no idea what the world is going to be like ten years from now, for her. Now, we have social media and it drives all our lives. So what is that social media going to be in 10 years?

BG: What has been the most challenging part of this process?

JV: Absorbing and memorizing has been really hard. There is a lot of repetition of words or actions. I can’t forget these repeated words, it’s very important that it is repeated a certain number of times. Mom and mom and mom after these lines. I put a lot of pressure on myself, so it’s purely technical and saying it out loud to get it. I can memorize much easier when I am standing and moving around, it’s in my body. I don’t know why, other than the stakes felt really high to have it perfect. But Adam was really really patient with us, and I wasn’t the only one having trouble, so we are all in this together, and it’s almost there!

BG: Can I ask about the onions in the production photo, or would that be giving away something special and secret in the show?

JV: The onions in our show… it’s not so much of a secret… it symbolizes family tradition and honouring family tradition. It’s not like something most people celebrate, like Halloween for example. This tradition is specific to this one family and they honour that. It’s the feeling when families have this weird little thing and then you realize other people don’t do that. We’re not allowed to forget where we came from.

BG: Do you have any shows or artists you would like to shout out?

JV: I just saw Ma Raineys Black Bottom and it was just spectacular. It was so moving and such an important show to produce and to see on a stage and to see as a person of colour and to see other people of colour up on stage. To see a new story and not the same old story. I just saw Fun Home and I loved it so much. I’m excited to see La Bête, really great people in that, people I love so much. Frame by Frame by Lepage and Côté, I’m so excited by that collaboration.

(Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Music Music Life Death Music: An Absurdical

Presented by One Little Goat
Adam Seelig

Richard Harte (One Little Goat’s Antigone: Insurgency, Talking Masks, Ubu Mayor)
Theresa Tova (NOW Magazine Top Theatre Artist of 2017, Tough Jews, The Jazz Singer)
Jennifer Villaverde (Soulpepper’s Animal Farm, Dora Nominee for YPT’s Hana’s Suitcase)

Sierra Holder (Sheridan College, Class of 2018)

Joshua Skye Engel (guitar)
Tyler Emond (bass)
Lynette Gillis (drums)
Adam Seelig (piano)

music director Tyler Emond
set & costume designer Jackie Chau
lighting designer Laird Macdonald
stage manager Laura Baxter
publicist Ashley Belmer
assistant producer Annie MacKay
executive producer Derrick Chua

“Toronto’s enterprising One Little Goat” (New York Times) presents the world premiere of MUSIC MUSIC LIFE DEATH MUSIC an “absurdical” with live music exploring the unexpected dynamics between three generations of family: a grandmother, her daughter, son-in-law and teenage grandson.

Featuring a cast and artistic team of multi-Dora Award nominees/winners. From the company that brought you the acclaimed Ubu Mayor and The Charge of the Expormidable Moose.

Tarragon Theatre Extraspace
30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto

May 25 – June 10, 2018
Tue-Sat 8pm | Sun 2:30pm

Adults $35 | Seniors $30 | Arts Workers $25 | Students $20
Sundays all tickets $20

To purchase, phone the Tarragon box office at 416-531-1827 (no service charge) or online at


“Environmentalism, Playwriting & Taking Your Time” In Conversation with Rosa Labordé, playwright of MARINE LIFE

Interview by Brittany Kay.

Rosa Labordé is one of the finest examples of a multifaceted, multi-talented, many-hats-wearing fierce female artist working in this city. Her work as a playwright, actor and director is highly praised and respected in this theatre community. We sat down to talk about her current production Marine Life, playing now at the Tarragon Extraspace only until December 17th. We spoke about how she approaches environmentalism, playwriting and the importance in taking your time with your work.

Brittany Kay: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Rosa Labordé: Mostly, from the experiences that I have in life or what I perceive or observe going on around me. I’m usually interested in how we’re functioning as a greater society, as a greater whole and how that ties into how we treat each other as individuals. I don’t think they can be separated. I like to look at very big issues and then bring them down to their most essential level of human beings interaction with each other. In a world where can bully each other, I want to know what that looks like in the grand scale, like corporate bullying or the presidency right now in the United States and how that all ties in together and how they can’t be separate. Like the family is not separate from the greater society within which it lives… that’s usually what interests me most.

BK: How did you first get into playwriting and what brought you to where you are now?

RL: I always wrote when I was little. I think my first poem was published when I was seven in the local newspaper. It was always my thing and I always put on shows since I was really, really young. Then as I grew up, I got more into acting and I went to theatre school and they always said, “You know, it’s good to still write.” I kept writing and I found the playwrights who I most loved and I started to just do exercises in writing plays. I had a drawer full of plays that nobody ever saw that were just about differentiating character or how people speak to one another. I never went out and said “I’m going to be a playwright”, I was just like “I’m going to make a thing…” and that’s how it started.

BK: You’re also in television right now. How did that all happen?

RL: Well I was interested in it, for sure, and then I wrote my first pilot and my TV writing agent at the time said “You don’t write a pilot, you sell an idea.” Well how can I sell an idea? I need to know how to write a pilot. So I just wrote it and that went really well and CTV at the time bought it outright. We started going through development on it and then everything changed at the company. It didn’t end up going through but it was amazing to go “I’m just going to write and see what happens” and then it went somewhere.

From there, I went to the Film Centre. All of it ties into storytelling, whether it’s acting, writing, directing, writing for plays, writing for TV, it’s just about telling a story and the different medium that it works for. It’s all connected to story, even a voiceover job, you’re telling a story. That’s all my life has been, stories.

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

BK: Tell me about Marine Life? Where did the inception first happen for that idea?

RL: Aluna Theatre was the company who originally commissioned it and I wrote it in my residency with them with grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council. They really wanted me to make a piece that I would direct. They wanted me to make a piece that was completely mine. I didn’t listen to that for a bit and I did some early workshops with other people directing the readings and presentations, until, I went “Fine, I’ll direct it”.

At the time they were looking at a lot of work around water and also human rights. I just started thinking about our relationship to the environment and our relationship to water and our seas. That got me into the world of the plastic ocean, the islands made of plastic, pollution in the ocean and what it’s doing to the fish and the marine life. And because it relates back to the way that I see things, I started exploring the question – what is the self-destructive path we’re on? What is it in humans that have the desire to self-destruct just on a personal level? I kind of put these two things together. The characters are allegorical. They are representative of aspects of our humanity that move in a direction that is not always healthy for the whole. They can be quite toxic and some of what we’re doing to our planet is quite toxic, so I wanted to explore that, but in a way that was playful and fun. I think as soon as you get that didactic about environmentalism people turn off.

BK: Some political and environmental theatre isn’t for everybody. If you find a way to present the information in a humanized way, I think it could be more accessible for audiences.

RL: I think when you get someone to leave their house now, when they are so busy (technology seems to have made everyone busier) and they can stay in to watch Netflix in pajamas, is it because you want to teach them a lesson? I don’t. I like to be entertained. I like it to be a fun thing, that even if it’s a sad play, I like it when there’s a little bit of kissing or love or levity. That’s my hope, that someone can come to the show and see all the deeper meaning in the allegory and then if they don’t want to, they can also just enjoy some of the “play” and what I mean by “play” is in the playful sense.

BK: Who are the characters in your play and what is their story?

RL: Sylvia is an environmental activist but her activism has moved into the world of fanatic because she’s so upset about what’s going on that she’s taken it quite far. She falls in love with a corporate lawyer, who is basically on the other side of the spectrum of what she does. She also has a very co-dependent relationship with her sibling, which gets in the way. It becomes a strange kind of love triangle.

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

BK: There’s also music in this show? How does that play a part?

RL: I almost always like music in my plays. I had a play True and written right into it was a piano player. I love it being a part of the world and not just added on, but it being a part of the experience. I think playwriting is music. It’s all rhythm. It’s a score, basically, that you’re writing. It’s inextricably connected to have both actual musicians combined with this world that is already living in a rhythmic musical place.

BK: That’s so beautiful. What are you, a writer or something?


BK: This play went through several development stages in different festivals over the years. How did it grow from those first iterations to where it is now?

RL: Where it started was at Buddies’ Rhubarb! Festival and it was like 20 minutes, so it was just a look at these characters and who they might be. It built and moved from there. I was always working towards a flood in the first incarnations and then I’ve moved past that into, well, what now? We’re flooding all of the time. It’s a reality right now. In Quebec, there are still people dealing with the fallout of it. These people are literally homeless because floods destroyed their homes. Their homes were underwater. The water damage is insane. They can’t live there again and they’re just at a point where the Quebec government said we will pay. For a while, they were paying for housing, subsidizing hotel days and now they’ve pulled out of that. There are people in Quebec who are homeless because of flooding and it’s something that we’re not talking about. Climate change deniers are saying that it’s not us, it’s just the weather but it’s actually not just whether it’s a real thing and I find that really interesting and sad. It’s directly related to our overconsumption as a society, which, in a sense, the lawyer in my play represents – that kind of corporate desire to make more make more make more, sell more sell more sell more, but it’s a destructive act.

BK: Why is development and workshopping beneficial for any type of play?

RL: I think it’s so important to develop pieces and take your time figuring out what it is. The development process for this piece has been over 5 years and, in that time, I’ve also had two other plays produced and written on numerous television projects. It’s not like you’re just writing all the time for one piece. You put it aside and go, “Okay, I don’t want to let that go because I think it’s really important for us to think about these things, but how do I see it differently?” Whenever you get a chance to have an audience and have a response you can kind of connect to what is it that’s working and what is it that isn’t. It’s really useful to have “the what isn’t”. Here in Canada, we don’t quite have the structure that some other countries have in terms of developing something over a longer period of time. It can be so beneficial, even at Tarragon we get a week of previews, which is amazing. Whereas in London or New York, sometimes you get a month to 5 months to really go “what’s working and how is it working?” I think stretching it out a little bit and trying to learn the piece is a really helpful. 

Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

BK: You are both playwright and director of Marine Life. How has that been difficult and helpful to wear both of those hats? How do you work between both?

RL: It can be a challenge. I really, really love directing and creating a world but where it can be challenging with new plays, is that if something is not working, the writer needs to rewrite it. Sometimes you actually just need to spend the time making it work. If everyone did their first few Shakespeare rehearsals and were like, “Ugh, it’s not working. We’re just going to have to cut those bits”, well, it’s not working because it’s really hard and you have to define every single moment of communication or it falls flat. One of my favorite Shakespeare productions was this group from the States who were dressed in all black clothes and wearing Keds. I saw them in high school and they were so great because all they did was play the action and make the story clear. Sometimes even with myself as a director, when we’re rehearing and something’s not working, I just say I’ll cut it. Only to realize later that, no, that was just a part of the process. We had a joke where I’ll say, “remember those lines I cut, you have to put them back in”. Most times you have to respect what the playwright is trying to say, but when I am both and I can be really self-critical, I go “It’s bad, what I was trying to say, I’m just going to change it.” To later think, no it’s pretty good, let’s make it work… that’s the challenging part of it.

BK: Why is Tarragon Theatre the right platform for this show?

RL: I love Tarragon and I think their audiences are really great and excited about going to the theatre. I think there’s already a lot of knowledge about environmental concerns for their audience, but this show does that in a playful way and allows them the space to think about it a little bit differently. It’s a smart audience that’s already thinking about these things and hopefully it allows their thinking to move in a bit of a different direction.

BK: Why this story right now?

RL: I think it couldn’t be more relevant because we are living our lives in a really dangerous direction and there’s a point at which we will not really be able to turn back. The depressing thing about doing the research for this project was talking to academics and environmentalists who are studying the effect of micro plastics on us. I was thinking this could get better and they would say no, it could be mitigated. That seems to be the overall place we’re at is this mitigation. It’s no longer reversible. It’s just what can we do to mitigate what we’ve done. A lot of it is about massive shifts in infrastructure and those shifts create massive economical shifts that people don’t want, especially the people who are sitting at the top of the economy where they’re benefiting from mass production.

BK: Are you an environmentalist?

RL: I care about our environment very much. I care about the world we live in. I kind of think I’m not anything. Am I a feminist, humanist, environmentalist? What am I? I can see all sides of a thing, which can be a blessing and a curse.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

RL: I hope that they’ve had an enjoyable time. I hope that they’re left with some beautiful images and thoughts about where we are and thoughts about the good in us, you know to realize our potential for change. I hope it makes you think more about the changes in policy that need to happen to make a difference.

BK: Advice for other artists?  

RL: Don’t compare yourself to other people, just be on your own trip. Be yourself, that’s all you really got. All that really matters is what your personal experience is with the people in your life that you love and what difference you can make in that and being more connected to each other. We all want community and connection.


Marine Life, Tarragon Theatre

Produced in collaboration with Aluna Theatre
Written & Directed by Rosa Labordé
starring Nicola Correia-Damude, Justin Rutledge & Matthew Edison
sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne
lighting & set designer Trevor Schwellnus
projection designer Trevor Schwellnus
costume designer Lindsay C. Walker
stage manager Robin Munro
surtitle translator Bruce Gibbons Fell
surtitle specialist Sebastian Marziali

Save the world or save yourself? This romantic comedy sees Sylvia, an ecological activist, caught between her own environmental extremism and falling in love with a man who has a secret dependency on plastic. When the rains come and the flood water rises, who will survive the deluge?

Tarragon Extraspace
30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto

On Stage now only until Dec 17, 2017


“Collaboration, Mentorship and Intertwining Art & Activism” In Conversation with Melissa-Jane Shaw, director of LELA & CO.

Interview by Hallie Seline

It was a complete honour and pleasure to chat with my ever-inspiring friend and mentor Melissa-Jane Shaw about her latest project directing Lela & Co. We spoke about collaboration, intertwining art and activism, and the necessity and power of mentorship in this community, both as a woman and an artist. Lela & Co. is on stage now at the Theatre Centre until October 8th.

HS: Tell me a little bit about the show and what it has been like directing this piece.

MJS: Lela & Co. gives space for a woman to tell her story of being sex trafficked by her husband, during a time of war. Beginning with memories of her childhood, Lela dives headfirst into her haunting and harrowing story with bravery, tenacity and even humour. I hope it will be a satisfying 100-minute theatrical experience, as well as a moving and motivating piece of activist art. Directing Lela & Co. has been both rewarding and hard. It’s a tricky piece and requires careful handling. It has really tested my directorial chops. While I don’t want to let the audience off the hook with the play’s challenging content, I also want to avoid gratuitous voyeurism. I hope I’ve kept that balance.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

HS: What has it been like collaborating with Discord and Din Theatre?

MJS: Well, just as Seventh Stage is really MJ Shaw, Discord and Din is really Jenna Harris, and collaborating with Jenna has been wonderful. As a co-producer, she’s incredibly hard-working, professional and level-headed. As an artist, she’s very smart and conscientious, open to taking risks and is always thinking beyond the rehearsal walls. It’s been a great collaboration, especially considering we didn’t even know each other before we started working on this show together.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

HS: Can you speak to me more about the local charitable organizations that you have aligned the show with and about the link you are making between art and activism?

MJS: Our hope is that Lela & Co. leaves the audience with a sense of “so what can I do?” We would like to capitalize on that feeling by having a local related charity present after each show for a talk-back and provide the opportunity to get involved and/or donate. We are partnering with,, and We are also having several school groups in for educational workshops and talk-backs. Our larger mission is to get the subject-matter of Lela & Co. beyond the walls of the theatre.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

HS: That’s incredible to hear! What’s next for yourself and for Seventh Stage Productions?

MJS: Seventh Stage will continue to develop its musical production Wendy, Darling, which is a contemporary feminist look at Wendy’s (of Peter Pan) life once they grow up. I will move onto a couple of choreography gigs and launch my dance fitness program FITPOP, a class designed to bring out everyone’s inner dancer. On a personal front, my husband and I will continue the next steps of our fertility journey. Hopefully this time next year I’ll either have a big belly or a babe in arms.

HS: What shows are you most looking forward to seeing this season?

MJS: Oh jeez… well, I’m excited to see my friend Rosa Laborde’s show Marine Life at The Tarragon. Looking forward to Nightwood’s Asking for It, which is a very compelling subject-matter to me. I’ll also see Musical Stage Company’s Life After. Otherwise, I’m a pretty terrible theatre-going planner.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

HS: What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten/What is your current mantra that you’re living by?

MJS: Stop bullying the universe! If something is too hard or you are putting more in than you’re getting out, then it’s time to let go. I have a tendency to muscle through things and work harder than I need to. This is my approach at working ‘smarter’ and letting the right things come to me, rather than me always reaching out.

HS: I would love to hear you speak a bit about Mentorship. You have been such an amazing mentor to myself and to some of my colleagues, as well. Did you have a mentor who made an impact on your life and why do you think mentorship is important in this community?

MJS: Thank you. I have been blessed to have several incredible young women come into my life. The mentorship really is mutual: the mentor gets mentored as well. Debra Goldblatt (founder of rock-it promo) was an amazing mentor and still continues to be an excellent resource. Derrick Chua (you all know him!) has been a long-standing theatre mentor and supporter of mine. Larissa Mair (casting director) provided me professional opportunities and support that gave me a leg up. My goal is to empower women via whatever opportunities and guidance I can provide. We are stronger working together to gain our rightful half of the pie.

HS: 100%! Thank you. Where do you look for inspiration?

MJS: I am inspired by great theatre, film and TV. I’m a news junkie, which also gets me riled up and can be a good source to fuel my fire. While I’m creating work, however, I find these sources can also stimulate my critical mind, which is not always helpful. Ideas seem to flourish best for me though music, yoga, art, reading and nature. These things still my restless mind and give me space to create.

HS: I love that balance. What is your favourite place in the city and why?

MJS: Parkdale. The mix of hipsters and refugees and fancy families and Tibetan monks, encompasses the diversity that is the life source of Toronto. There are also tons of good hang-out spots and it’s close to the lake.

HS: Please describe the show in 5-10 words.

MJS: Harrowing reveal of one woman’s escape from sex-slavery

Lela & Co

Written by Cordelia Lynn
Produced by Discord and Din Theatre in association with Seventh Stage Productions
Director: Melissa-Jane Shaw
Performed by: Jenna Harris & Graham Cuthbertson
Scenographer: Claire Hill
Lighting Designer: Jazz Kamal
Sound Designer: Verne Good
Associate Producer and Educational Coordinator: Brittany Kay

First produced in 2015 at the Royal Court Theatre in London, Lela & Co. is a timely and gut-wrenching play about women’s worth in a capitalist world.

Based on a true story, Lela & Co. gives space for a woman to be able to tell her story of being brought into sex trafficking by her husband during a time of war. Starting off as a seemingly innocuous telling by Lela of her childhood, Lela & Co. dives headfirst into this while also exploring “truth” in storytelling, who gets to tell whose story, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator
1115 Queen Street West

September 21st-October 8th, 2017

$15-$30, PWYC Sundays (additional high school student and group pricing) or by calling 416.538.0988

t: @MJShawB @DiscordandDin @seventh_stage #LelaCoTO

#FiercelyFringe 2017 – Part 1

It’s the most WONDERFUL TIME of the year! Happy Opening to the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival! Every year, we are constantly inspired by the core values of The Toronto Fringe Festival:

  • It’s about creating art at a grassroots level.
  • It’s “theatre by the people, for the people“.
  • It’s about taking risks and exploring something new.

So, we asked this year’s Boss Fringe Artist Babes: How are you FIERCELY representing these values? How are you #FiercelyFringe?

After an overwhelming response, we’re thrilled to share our first #FiercelyFringe preview with you, listed in no particular order, and in two parts (because we can only get our scroll on for so long…)

We hope this gives you a more personal look at these shows and the artists behind them as you plan your viewing schedule over the next two weeks.

Be sure to follow along with us on twitter, facebook and instagram for our full #FringeTO coverage celebrating all of the people and moving pieces that make this festival so electric!

See you at the Fringe Club #FiercelyFringe friends!


Pineapple Club 


The Pineapple Club team is comprised of Director/Choreographer Robin Henderson (of last year’s Best of Fringe hit, Dance Animal) and performers Paul Barnes, Jonathan Shaboo and Pascale Yensen.


The Pineapple Club tagline is “Come for the comedy. Stay for the calamity”. With everything that’s happening in the world, it’s especially important to be laughing right now.


Where else would you find a mash-up of comedic dance, sketch comedy and social commentary? Pineapple Club speaks to the emotional fallout of the world’s events in 2016 through the unique lens of comedic dance, sketch comedy, puppetry and music.


t: @PineappleClubTO

Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun


From a group of seasoned Fringers boasting a total of 13 Fringe tent romances collectively, Janelle Hanna’s new solo show Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun is not simply a clown show, but it does feature her clown Bad Baby, prominently. Think of it instead as a new play about love, loneliness and humans’ need for connection, as well as it being Bad Baby’s first Fringe appearance, all rolled into one.


Bad Baby has seen a lot of Fringe shows, and she is a self-proclaimed fringe expert. So she knows exactly what to do and what not to do. She knows all of the rules.


What makes us FIERCE is how the play itself goes deeper, exploring themes that writer and performer Hanna feels strongly about: love, relationships, vulnerability and shame. Expect a lot of laughter and comedy at this show, but don’t expect to see only that.


t: @lark_and_whimsy
i: @janellemhanna

Interstellar Elder


SNAFU is the creators of SOLD-OUT shows ‘LITTLE ORANGE MAN (***** – VueWeekly) and ‘KITT & JANE,’ (****½ – Edmonton Journal)

We’ve been touring across Canada for the last ten years, both to all the fringes and to curated festivals like Wildside, Undercurrents, Next Stage and SummerWorks. All of our shows are weird.


In Interstellar Elder, we meet Kitt, fierce lone geriatric astronaut adrift in a spaceship carrying cryogenically frozen human cargo. Her mission: protect the last of humankind.

“Amazingly versatile physical comedian with the BEST ENDING IN THE HISTORY OF FRINGE.” – Montreal Gazette.


This summer, we’re touring 9 FRINGE FESTIVALS across Canada. #FringeHogs. This is my second time winning the CAFF lottery in the past three years, whereas some artists have applied for CAFF every year for the past two decades and never been drawn. If I win CAFF a third time, I expect death threats from other fringe artists.


t: @snafudance



#FiercelyFlamenco – Inamorata Dance Collective was found in 2014 by Mexican Canadian dancer, Sofía Gudiño, to explore experimental crossovers between contemporary and flamenco dance, music and theatre.


Their premier full-length work, Picaza, is an honest and visceral look into one woman’s journey to self-awareness, told through bilingual poetry, dance, traditional Latin music, and experimental compositions!


One of this year’s Culturally Diverse Projects at the Fringe, this group of twelve multidisciplinary artists is #FiercelyFringe, building everything in their grassroots show from scratch and pooling their creative resources to learn from each other and create something completely new.


i: @inamoratadance
#Inamorata2017 #Picaza

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons


The Howland Company with Slow Blue Lions


(1) It’s about love, and law saying you can’t say more than 140 words/day; (2) It’s the healthiest, most citric, show in Fringe; (3) It’s funny and touching, also has a couple of tips for mostly silent relationships.


(1) women directing and producing*, each for first time; women AD and intern; *producer won Cayle Chernin Award for theatre production’; (2) show is by first time playwright Sam Steiner and comes from UK Fringe.


f: /TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
t: @TheHowlandCo
i: @thehowlandcompany

Welcome to the Bunker


Portius Productions is a brand new company that aims to explore the opportunities different theatrical spaces offer for experimentation with audience immersion and interaction, with an emphasis on all things nerdy. Its inaugural show, Welcome to the Bunker! is written, produced, and performed by Clare Blackwood and Ryan F. Hughes, and is an immersive zombie apocalypse comedy set in a bunker deep below the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.


This is a show for nerds, comedy lovers, and anyone who wants to laugh at two weirdos trying and failing to lead an apocalypse orientation for the survival of humanity.


We’re pushing the boundaries of how to involve audiences inside of a traditional theatre space, taking them out of their pre-armageddon comfort zones, and maybe singing welcoming songs to them. That is, if the zombies don’t get to them first…


t: @bunkertofringe

Macbeth’s Head


I’m Kyle McDonald, the founder of Malfi Productions, whose mandate is: to produce entertaining and interesting film, television, theatre, and literature by merging tradition with innovation for an audience who craves emotional and intellectual risk. We’re dedicated to injecting classical material into something contemporary and relevant.


How many people can say they’ve seen a disembodied head with magical powers running around on a dessert trolley while threatening to destroy all of Shakespeare’s work?


We’ve gotten this show on the road with pure love: from the illustrator who did our amazing artwork, to the composer who made original music, to our photographer who’s shot us free of charge. Also, there is little to no set, and we’re relying only on our wits to tell the tale of this maniacal head! And, the script is half in original verse, which seems like a pretty bold move in the age of one liner TV scripts!


t: @malfiproduction
#macbethshead #malfiproductions #longlivethehead

Perfect Couples


We’re an indie theatre collective dedicated to generating bold new work. We are passionate about stories from underrepresented voices, and providing opportunities for emerging artists to flex their muscles.


Our fringe show, Perfect Couples, is a good example of this. Written, directed, designed and performed by emerging artists, the show is distinctly millennial. Yet, refreshingly, it’s never reductive or patronizing— there’s not one mention of twitter or selfies. Perhaps more defining as a millennial piece is that it talks about mental illness, which is rampant among 20-somethings. The play is a twisty trip down visual artist Valencia’s unravelling, and we see how her struggle with mental health impacts her relationship and community. Women-driven, queer, sexy as hell…


Perfect Couples by Mitchell Janiak is both witty and dark. It takes advantage of what Fringe provides— an opportunity to take risk and tell stories that aren’t heard often enough.


t: @PencilKitProd
i: @PencilKitProductions
f: /PencilKit

Monsters By Nature


We are Kindling Collective! We take an intersectional feminist perspective to classical works. Our show Monsters By Nature was created in a similar fashion to how Frankenstein made his creature, by piecing together classical and self-written texts, punk and folk music.


Audiences explore what makes them feel empowered by their inner monster and reflect on their perceptions of people that they fear.


Monsters by Nature owns the term Fiercely Fringe by its bravery to examine the roots of our fears. It’s terrifying to watch pieces that force you to look into what makes you a monster. But it’s also empowering to do so. At rehearsal last night I thought how fulfilling it feels to be in a room with 6 fierce women, an electric guitar, and bare hearts telling these stories of characters that have remained relevant through the ages. We can’t wait to meet you in the midnight.


i: @kindlingcollective
f: @kindlingcollective
t: @kindlincollec3
#kindlingcollective #whatareyouafraidof

13 Ways the World Ends


Good Morning Apocalypse is a comedy troupe from South Ontario, formed in 2015.


Why see our show? For one thing, we have a hour-long revue about all the ways the world will end, and not once does someone mention Donald Trump. Nothing about what’s happening in the U.K. either, since we couldn’t find a rhyme for “Brexit.” There’s zombies, but not enough to get you all zombied out. At one point someone plays the saxophone – badly. There’s a killer robot, and a killer plague, and a lovely little sketch about how all the bees are dead and we’re next. Mostly it’s full of people who go through their days with a vague sense of dread, and who also have opinions about which of the Mad Maxes is the best Mad Max.


This is the kind of show that can only happen at Fringe, and we’re fiercely proud of it.


t: @ApocalypseGood
i: @GoodMorningApocalypse

White Wedding


I’m a female writer / director who is trying to combine those skills for the first time with a new play called “White Wedding”! I’ve had a lot of luck in the past as both a writer and director and now I’m trying to bring those two sides of my brain together with an incredible group of creative individuals!


White Wedding explores really recognizable feelings in a new way. Instead of asking what happens as a wedding, White Wedding asks what happens in a hallway above a wedding. What private conversations and secrets are told? Who makes out with who? Who ends up drinking themselves into a sad quiet corner somewhere? Why do we celebrate stupid emotions like love again?


We are creating theatre in a found space firstly because we think it’s a cool thing to do, but also because it’s a necessity. Re-imagining theatre for new spaces for today’s audiences is what will bring in new audiences, make people feel invited to the art form, and open up the stage to something new, something novel, something fierce!


t: @PortAlbertPro
i: @portalbertproductions

Bendy Sign Tavern


Sex T-Rex is a comedy collective that has been in the Toronto Fringe since 2013!


Bendy Sign Tavern is our most Fiercely Fringe show yet- a site specific puppet show where six-legged barflies trade actual Fringe reviews and you can order a pint from a puppet!


We’ll have rotating fringe guests from our favourite shows. Throw in live music and Sex T-Rex’s signature wit and you’ve got a real tour-de-fierce.


t: @sextrex
f: /sextrexcomedy



The Gracie May Theatre Company, named after the creator’s late childhood dog, is devoted to creating new Canadian content. The company refuses to take any political stand and holds no beliefs whatsoever.

 The founder, Joey Monahan, currently resides in a fortified compound near Georgetown, Ontario.


MUTTS OR: 101 LIBATIONS is a unique comedy, not for the faint of heart. As dark as it is funny, the story follows two hopeless, helpless, and hapless drunks who steal dogs and return them for reward money to support their addiction. After taking a service dog and causing the death of a blind man, the two find themselves at odds with each other when one wants to continue their lifestyle and the other decides to stop.


It has been created and is being performed by a small group of local artists. Although the play itself never states a location, it is very much a Canadian, and specifically a Torontonian piece. It has been made with the intention of making people laugh and hurt at the same time, because in life sometimes something can be humorous and heartbreaking at once.


i: @GracieMayTC
f: /GracieMayTC
t: @GracieMayTC

The Stories of Lantern Tales



I am a storyteller.

Encountering the storyfire in 1981 at the age of 28, when I hitchhiked 70 miles from St. Catharines to Toronto to hear my first storyteller, Trinidadian Paul Keens-Douglas. I became interested in composing original tales, especially stories inspired by my childhood in the Ottawa. Valley. I am a violinist/fiddler and featured in festivals across Canada and abroad.


Composed in traditional forms The Stories of Lantern Tales are unique, shaped by a childhood spent in the countryside of Black Bay Road.
 They are an excellent opportunity for listeners to meet the devil, a 4 tonne traction engine with a soul, 12 sea serpents and a cedar canoe pulled by six Ottawa Valley beavers.


The distillation of images and experiences that came from growing up as a child in an isolated Ottawa Valley countryside, wandering alone along endless trails in the woods, the silence of a winter moon.

Through the imagination of the listener those experiences live again.

Death Meets Harlequin


Unspoken Theatre was founded in 2011 by sisters Nina & Natalie Kaye, and focuses on new writing with a classical influence. We have produced over a dozen new plays by local women writers.


Our short comedy, Death Meets Harlequin tackles big themes with a light heart, using archetype, music, dance, Commedia dell’Arte, and physical comedy to infuse our attitude on life and death with a little optimism.

Our cast and crew are Festival veterans, with credits at Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival and Big Ideas Festival; SoCap Theatre’s Short Short Play Festival; InspiraTO; and the Toronto Fringe.


Death Meets Harlequin offers something for everyone. A deeper meaning for the philosophical thinkers; bright costumes and silly songs for the kids; great new writing for the lovers of literature; a touching family story for the ones who cry and laugh at once; and a circus pre-show by Deflying Feets for anyone else!


t: @TheatreUnspoken

The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert!


Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw are “The Diddlin’ Bibbles”, a comedy band making their Toronto Fringe debut. Co-written and directed by the hilarious Dana Puddicombe, “The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert” tells the story of Rose-Marie and Jessop Bibbles, a sex-positive and spiritual singer-songwriter duo, who have travelled from small-town Wisconsin to Toronto to perform at the Toronto Fringe Festival – their lifelong dream.


Their show, “The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert” is part sketch comedy, part live concert, part mockumentary, part metatheatre, and part love story. Think: Flight of the Conchords meets Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind meets #the6ix.


This show is “fiercely fringe” because it’s a new play written and designed specifically for the Toronto Fringe Festival, St. Vladimir Theatre, and Toronto audiences! The entire show is a self-reflexive comedy spoofing the experiences of the Toronto Fringe Festival, the arts, and the city of Toronto.


f: /thediddlinbibbles
i: @thediddlinbibbles
t: @DiddlinBibbles

Madeleine Says Sorry


Prairie Fire, Please was founded by Aaron Jan and Madeleine Brown, lightweights with no taste whatsoever in alcohol. We welcome you to judge our poor choices – we’re likely already judging yours. Madeleine Says Sorry is the company’s inaugural production. Will it be our last? Depends how bad the hangover is…


Where else can you see a 6×4 foot poster-shrine of David Suzuki, and a magical cardboard Apologemeter X that descends from the heavens?


How are we #FiercelyFringe?
 We collectively had three very successful fringe shows last year. Rowing, Silk Bath, and Knots. This one is nothing like any of those shows. Our process has been entirely funded by popsicles. 
We never start rehearsal on time. Our director cannot afford underwear. We are one of the most diverse teams in the Toronto Fringe! #FiercelyFringe


t: @MadeleineSaysTO
i: @madeleinesaysto

Pillow Talk


We are a group of comedians, actors and creators who met while attending the Second City Conservatory Program. Shortly after graduating, Charlotte Cattell and Olivia Brodie-Dinsdale reconnected to start a sketch duo, the O.C. After their successful show at Montreal Sketchfest they thought there would be no better idea than asking their friend and fellow creative, Adam Martignetti to join them in making a completely original sketch revue.


Pillow Talk is not what you would expect from a traditional sketch revue, we wanted to keep things real and make it more than just making people laugh. We tackle those intimate and vulnerable moments in life that people wouldn’t normally talk about openly. Pillow Talk, doesn’t imply the usually sexual connotation. I mean, we would like to think we are pretty darn sexy!


Written by 3 real people about real experiences, Pillow Talk couldn’t be anything more than “Fiercely Fringe”! We are people with anxieties, fears and the notion that ghosts are real! But what is more fierce than displaying those moments for everyone to see.


f: @Pillowtalkfringe2017
t: @PTFringeTO17
i: @pillowtalkfringeto




how.dare.collective. is making their debut at this year’s Toronto Fringe. The brainchild of two-time Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame performer-choreographer St. Stella and writer/director Kay Brattan, their mandate is to create theatre for the underdog – representing the underrepresented. The Lysistrata company is made up of experienced and talented performers from both the theatre and burlesque communities, and some of whom are well-known in both scenes, such as Sebastian Marziali (El Toro to the burlesque & boylesque community).


Lysistrata brings an appetizing take on classic Greek comedy to the contemporary audience. Brattan has used her own words to combine three different translations of Aristophanes’ work, and through the combination of slam poetry, songs and striptease, this will be a retelling of the story the likes of which has not been seen before, with the two mediums blending to embody and convey the messages of the piece (such as female empowerment, peace not war and, of course, equality).


With this show, we bring together the varied talents of our diverse company to tell this story in a fresh, powerful and memorable spectacle. Bring on the glitter and good times!


i: @LysistrataTO
t: @Lysistrata_TO

The Miserable Worm



We are Let Me In, a theatre collective spearheaded by Justine Christensen and Patrick J. Horan. We seek to remix, alter, satirize, and break “classical” plays, thrusting them into a contemporary landscape.


Our show, The Miserable Worm, exposes gendered expectations often ingrained in old works, bringing to light new colours from Chekhov’s “untitled play”, which our show is based off of. The story is made new through gender-bent casting; particularly by placing a woman in the title role of the smarmy playboy Platonov.


Let Me In’s The Miserable Worm is Fiercely Fringe because it draws in and implicates the audience into the action. As soon as they walk through the doors of the Annex, each audience member becomes a guest at the Platonov Estate. They are privy to the events and intimacies of a fatal night of hard drinking and painful nostalgia. Oh, and it’s going to be really funny. 


t: @LetMeInTheatre

Lover Lover


Subverting Something is a company founded by Veronika Gribanova and is now based in Toronto and New York. Our mandate is our name. We’re almost half serious.


A lesbian and a straight man walk into a bar: a love story. It’s complicated. Lover Lover is a story about the limitations and possibilities of love. This site-specific play is an intimate conversation between strangers in a public space. At Nightowl, a bar in Little Italy, audience members can have a drink and watch the story unfold. Allow us to subvert your expectations.


Lover Lover explores issues that aren’t often discussed in a public setting. Questions of sexuality, identity, and polyamory, as well as of vulnerability and intimacy, are brought to light. We have risked placing emotion at the centre of our work and we are telling the truth as we understand it, which is both an obligatory and subversive act.


i: @subvertingsomething
t: @subvertingsome

For the Love of Pie



I’m the daughter of a French Canadian mother who taught me the importance of butter and extravagance. For the Love of Pie, my play, showcases a lot of that French “je ne sais quoi”! Montrealers and Chicagoans were dazzled by the show nominating it for Best Solo Theatre Production (Montreal Fringe) and naming it one of of the 5 Best Bets of the Chicago Fringe (TimeOut Chicago).


Why see it, Toronto? Because sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and need to be reminded that life is not as easy as pie and why not embrace failure as opposed to suppressing it.


It’s fiercely fringe because, well, it’s just me writing, producing and playing three very extravagant characters leading over the top ridiculous lives and my challenge is to make their story resonate with the audience.


t: @PieGeorgiaPeach



The Creation Coffin is a Toronto based company that focuses on progressive work, emerging artists and female creators. The cast and crew of Hexen are all recent Randolph Academy Alumnae.


Fringers should be sure to see Hexen because it is a savage critique on the society that we have constructed for ourselves, through a powerful, sexy and feminine lens.


Hexen is truly “fiercely fringe”. The show and our site-specific venue are designed to make you feel like you’re deep in a forest. Because of this we did the majority of our rehearsals outdoors and we have benefited greatly from the inspiration that nature provides. Stylistically, Hexen is quite pioneering – we would describe it as a “deconstructed musical”, something we have never seen done before but are fiercely experimenting with for this year’s Fringe Festival!


f: /thecreationcoffin
i: @thecreationcoffin



Sue Morrison is a world-class teacher of performance-oriented Clown and Bouffon.

Mélanie Raymond has been working and training at DynamO Theatre (acrobatical theatre) for 15 years.


The performance has been described as like having a conversation with a best friend that you didn’t know you had. The arc of the show is affected by the qualities that the performer brings to the theatre each night, and the qualities of the audience, and how those interact. The audience is part of what happens each night and no two shows are the same.


This is outsider theatre. This is bottom-up, grassroots theatre. The collaborators developed the script through a process of question and answer, call and response between the outside eye and the inside eye… a bricolage brought to life using the language of twelve masks. There is a universality to the experiences that the performer encounters and explores.


t: @guayoyo_ca
i: @guayoyo_ca



Malcontent Theatre Company is a diverse, grassroots indie company made up of performers from students to seasoned professionals. We are committed to inclusiveness and challenging standards.


RISE/FALL is an immersive, site-specific production that has the audience divided by a wall. A unique show happens on each side, and occasionally interacts with the other side. The wealthy percentage of society has gained control of the government and banished anyone of minority to the other side of a wall.


This production is fiercely Fringe because we are an independent group of local artists, who are playing around with new theatrical concepts and tackling political issues with no holds barred. We are creating a show unlike anything any of us have ever seen, and are taking a huge risk with such a complicated concept. This deals with subjects that are close to everyone’s hearts, including segregation, prejudice, racism, homophobia, and Trump’s America.


t: @MalcontentTC
#RiseFallFringe #BreaktheWall

The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me  


We are Spindrift and our combined talents include: acting, writing, directing, magic, music and stage combat! We put all of these to use in our very first Fringe outing, The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me.


What’s a Hart Crane you may be asking? Answer: a sailor-loving, hard-partying poet who burned through the burlesque houses, vaudeville theatres, boxing matches and speakeasies of Jazz age New York before blazing out at 32. His grave merely says: Lost At Sea.


We chart his final hours, explore how his life and art intersect with our own, and attempt to invoke the feeling of encountering his poetry for the first time using all of the rad methods mentioned above. This summer we invite you to get #KissedByHart


t: @spindrifttc
i: @spindrifttheatreTO

Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains 


We are Theatre Rhea and Neoteny Theatre.


Yes, it may have the longest title ever, but most importantly it’s a millennial love letter dedicated to the misfits of the Peter Pan Generation. Lucy and Bennett, our two main characters, are lonely but are given the chance to connect. Written by Rose Napoli and directed by Carly Chamberlain, be sure to visit us in the backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille, just down the street from the tent!


Our characters are just like the people who come to the fringe. People who exist on the periphery, and find a connection by being on the outside. The show itself may be about nothing. Or it may be about everything. But it’s definitely about an urn of ashes and six popsicles.


t: @TheatreRhea

The Life Henri 


Award winning Artist Adam Bailey: creator of Fringe hits The Assassination of Robert Ford and Adam Bailey is on Fire, and director of The Enchanted Crackhouse .This year I’m doing The Life Henri, a play about dead painter Henri Rousseau. It includes a slideshow and we’re selling wine. 


It’s a really intimate experience that’ll sweep you away. We got four stars when we tested it in Edmonton and it deftly touches on some modern issues like bullying. Plus, slideshow!


Henri Rousseau should be the patron saint of Fringe. An outsider artist, spends years unlocking the key to success, overcoming poverty and incarceration along the way. Also, I mash his story with a 1970s horror movie and somehow that makes it all very touching.


i: @still_your_friend
t: @stillyourfriend

Traffic Jams



Resilience Theatre. We are a feminist theatre company dedicated to telling women’s stories and those of the underrepresented. This is our first production and hope this opportunity will allow us to make connections and create more content that young people can relate to that illustrates their experiences.


Five-word pitch: woman attacks depression with ukulele! See this show because it’s funny, relevant, and sometimes uncomfortable. It deals with issues many young people are facing, particularly artists, and highlights the different ways mental illness can surface within one person.


This show came from a late-night phone call between two friends about mental health and artistic struggles. We refused to wait for this story to be told, so we’ve brought it to the stage ourselves. Mental illness is tough to talk about, even for us, but by taking the risk to show this battle, we can contribute to a dialogue on mental health.


f: /resilienceTO
t: @resilience_TO
i: @resilience_to

Love and Information  


The play is by Caryl Churchill, will be directed by Andrea Donaldson and performed by the 5th term students at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. Our show is essentially 50 mini shows packed into one.


Contemporary issues regarding knowledge, communication, and our capacity to love and be loved are beautifully represented. We explore these issues in the most unique ways, incorporating movement, song, and even silence. There is so much to take away from this beautiful painting of humanity.


As the actors, we have been very thankful for the process. Every day we go into rehearsal and are utterly moved by our discoveries. We dive into various human behaviours, points of view, sexualities and cultural differences. When something doesn’t work, we ask ourselves why, and approach it from a different angle. It has been the most incredible journey for us, and we cannot wait to share it with Toronto.


#RALoveandInformation #LoveandInfo #LoveandJan #JanLovesInfo #RAPA

 The Resurrectionists  


House of Rebels Theatre started in 2014 as a podcast audio drama company, that has since expanded into interviews and original stage plays. In the 2016 Toronto Fringe, we produced King of the Castle, and are excited to bring another exploration of morals and humanity to the Randolph Theatre this year!


The Resurrectionists tackles one of the western world’s best-kept, darkest secrets. Grave-robbing in the 19th century was a rarely-reported crime that occurred anywhere people studied medicine. Shortages of bodies with surpluses of students lead to creative, criminal solutions to the growing demand. This play examines Canada’s habit of hiding it’s less-savoury history, and why we keep letting ourselves do so. 


The Resurrectionists is co-produced with Theatre Parallax. We are companies interested in theatre that is provocative AND entertaining – and we don’t believe those are mutually exclusive qualities. We want to have our art, and like it too.


t: @RebelsTheatre
i: @RebelsTheatre

Kassandra aka Joyia, Fringe Concert Series  


My name is Kassandra, aka Joyia, and I’m a musician. I’ve made it my mission to make unique music, which represents myself. I make all of my songs in both acoustic and electronically produced versions. I make music that combines R&B with a bit of an electronic sound. I’ve coined my genre as “soultronic,” and want to bring the genre to life in my own unique way.


I’m part of the Fringe concert series on July 9! True songwriting and composition has always been my passion, and I’ve been building up a new repertoire over the last few months. For the first time, I’m making music that I feel is 100% me, and it’s the most liberating feeling ever.


I create art for the reason art was created. It’s a freedom of expression, a chance to connect people. It’s finally giving me a chance to share my true self with people. It’s been a long journey of self-discovery, and I can finally say that the music I make truly represents me. 


t: @joyiamusic

Life Records 2: Side B 


I’m Rhiannon Archer & I wrote/perform Life Records 2. This company is just me & I named it after my late dog Beefy. He was really great! 


2 words: IT’S FUN! Everyone should see Life Records 2. Unless if you hate fun, then maybe just stay home.


7 words: Because I’m Fierce & in the fringe! I’m really putting myself out there in order to connect myself and the audience with one another.


t: @rhiannonarcher
i: @rhiannonarcher

A Flea in Her Ear



Pulse Theatre’s “A Flea in Her Ear” is a modern adaptation of one of the greatest vaudevilles ever! We made the characters quirkier, the relationships more sensual, the show more exciting! A splendid cast, terrific creative team, a visionary director.


The energy, the sexiness, the colorfulness, the playfullness- our show is funny and entertaining! All the original comedy gold, plus hippies and furries, and just a touch of…well, let’s not spoil the surprises! Even if you do know the original script – you don’t know this show!


A part of Pulse Theatre’s mandate is working with immigrant artists and diverse performers – “visible and audible minorities”, and we did just that – our talented cast and crew depicts the wonderful diversity of Toronto’s theatre scene. A fierce comedy with a powerful ensemble and crew, and beautiful promo art by the amazing Derrick Chow! Our Flea roars like a tiger!



The Balding 


Jeff Gandell is a Montreal writer, storyteller, actor, musician and teacher. I tell stories that aim to make people laugh and feel a greater connection to the emotional landscape of the universe.


The Balding is a hilarious story about a twenty-year-old man who’s convinced he’s going bald because he’s still a virgin. In his quest to find romance, he falls down a rabbit hole of dangerous car accidents and property destruction. It’s a show about learning to love the fleeting nature of all our lives. Basically, the lighter side of mortality and decay.


It’s funny! The rawness and vulnerability of the protagonist will make audiences concurrently laugh and feel better about their own insecurities. Plus, there are a couple of raucous rock n’ roll numbers. And it’s a masterfully constructed story that will leave audiences breathlessly anticipating what comes next. Come on!


t: @jeffgandell
i: @jeffgandell




Seven Siblings Theatre utilizes the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique to create the Theatre of the Future, Fantastic Realism. We’re presenting a sci-fi thriller that pushes the boundaries of government control. Written by genre-shattering female playwright Eliza Clark, the show is centered around a mother and daughter relationship holding their ground as the government tries to “RECALL” potentially dangerous or psychopathic children. 


Clark dives into a troubled child’s mind and examines emotional understanding as the two desperately try to start fresh. The world of this play is a truthful and surreal depiction of our future society.


This Fiercely Fringe show not only gives us sci-fi in theatre, something you don’t see often, but gives women the lead narrative in what is usually a male domain. Plus… we have violence, blood, guns, mature language, a shopping list of food props, sci-fi machinery, and a sick sense of humour. We’re fierce as f$%k.


t: @SevenSiblingsCo

On The Inside  


My name is Michelle Thoms and I’m the writer and director of On The Inside, a play about a young woman caught in the vicious cycle of Canada’s Corrections System. It doesn’t stop there though, it’s also about humanity and the lengths people go to survive.


People should watch this show because it raises questions about solitary confinement, society and about the grey area that sits between professionalism and caring.


We are pushing the envelope by taking a true story and extending and exploring further questions that surround it. Questions like: Why is the rate of women of colour increasing at a dramatic rate in Canadian federal prisons? Why is self injury increasing in women’s prison? Is “othering” used in the prison system and to what extent?  As well, On The Inside is taking a risk because it is being presented as a docutheatre production. 


t: @ontheinside17
i: @ontheinside17

*Submissions have been slightly edited for clarity and length.

But wait! There’s more!

For more #FiercelyFringe, continue here.



Artist Profile: Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Actress

Interview by Brittany Kay

This Lady Boss had a kick-ass 2016, which appears to be shaping into an even more exciting 2017. We couldn’t be luckier to sit down and chat with actress Vivien Endicott-Douglas, who’s performing in the current remount of Infinity at TarragonWe spoke about not going to theatre school, how she has grown as an artist at Tarragon over the years, and the love that comes with Infinity.

Brittany Kay: What made you choose performing as a career?

Vivien Endicott-Douglas: I’ve always been a performer, ever since I could talk. I loved to perform for my family. My family is a huge fan of the original Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. I had listened to these stories on tape a bunch. There was one point where I was 4 or 5 years old when my dad turned on the tape and I had memorized it entirely. I just recited it, instead of listening to the tape. I asked my parents if I could start acting when I was 8 and they sent me to these drama classes called Dragon Trails with a woman named Jill Frappier, who’s this incredible actress and had this drama school for kids. I was in love with her. I was in awe of her. She was always doing voices and had so much energy and we created plays with her. She said to my parents, “Have you ever considered Vivian doing this professionally?” I really wanted to, so when I was 11, I got an agent and started working professionally. That was mostly in TV and film so I was able to learn so much. I got a lead in a TV series when I was a year into working professionally and I was in almost every scene, so I really absorbed a lot and got to work with some incredible actors.

Richard Rose gave me my first professional theatre gig right out of high school at 18. I was taking a year off and trying to figure out whether I wanted to go to theatre school or not. I was working and there were all of these other actors who were like, “If you’re already working, maybe theatre school isn’t right for you and you can find other people to train with on your own.” That was a big debate for me for a while of whether I should go or not go. Not going kind of won out in the end, just based on friends and people’s advice to me. The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I really wanted to find a community of artists and actors and theatre makers.

BK: That can be hard if you’re not going to theatre school.

VE-D: Exactly. And I was always kind of like the kid amongst the other artists. I was so lucky to be working with these older, super experienced actors but I didn’t feel like they were people who I could necessarily create new projects with. Around that time it was important for me to find people my own age who wanted to experiment and create. I met Rosamund Small during my time at UofT and our friendship and working relationship blossomed from there.

BK: Well that’s a great connection! Without the training of theatre school, what is your process or preparation for auditions and rehearsals?

VE-D: I started taking voice classes with a woman named Rae Ellen Bodie about 4 years ago out of Pro Actors Lab. She’s an incredible actor, director and coach. I took this class because I thought I should have something on my resume that says that I’ve had some kind of training. I walked in on my first day and Rae was like, “Where have you trained?” and I was like, “Mhmm… I haven’t.” Everyone started making these sounds and moving freely and I just tried to do that too with absolutely no idea what I was doing. It turned out to be about breath and body work to connect with how you’re feeling right now in this present moment and so I have incorporated that into my daily practice. It helps with auditions, a lot. Auditioning is not easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for anybody.

BK: What are you talking about? It’s the best process ever…

VE-D: (laughter) I certainly enjoy auditioning for theatre more than I do for TV/Film just because there feels like there is more time and you can really talk about it and get into it. I’ve picked up other things along the way. There’s a book called the Power of the Actor by a woman named Ivana Chubbuck. It’s these twelve steps to approaching a character and script. What really spoke to me was this idea of what you need from the other person and what you want to make them do. That has really helped my work. I have played a lot of victims or people who don’t necessarily have a lot of agency, just because of the nature of the roles I’ve been given in my career so far. This book really empowers you. Instead of just wanting something from them, it forces you to look at what are you doing to that person to make that happen.

I think I have an emotional intuitiveness and I’m a very empathetic person. I think I bring that to my work. For the past few years it’s been really important to be more powerful. Not just in the work but in the room. Really have my voice heard by directors and other actors. Because I started as kid, I’ve always felt like a kid.


Paul Braunstein, Amy Rutherford, Vivien Endicott-Douglas in Infinity. Photo Credit: John Lauener

BK: Tell me a little bit about the show?

VE-D: Infinity is about a couple, who are two brilliant people. One is a theoretical physicist and the other is a musician. I play a young woman, named Sarah Jean who’s a mathematician and I go between being in my mid twenties to playing an eight year old. It’s about her figuring out her emotional life because she doesn’t actually live in that at all. She’s a very intellectual academic, a very smart, driven person, who doesn’t often take an emotional inventory of where she’s at or of her past relationships. Without giving away too much, there’s kind of an incident that makes her have to reflect on it. It’s about how we come to understand love in our lives, with parents and with lovers.

It’s also filled with beautiful live music. There’s a violinist, named Andréa Tyniec that plays throughout the show. It’s amazing because live music has such a resonance as you’re working. It’s so visceral. It’s really intertwined with what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. She has an incredible ear so she can be dynamic in the way that she plays. She changes with us from night to night.

BK: There’s definitely something about strings that brings you further into the experience as an audience member. It just hits you somewhere deeper.

VE-D: Well the vibrations hit you. I find it so moving when there’s live music.

BK: Were there excitements or fears or challenges coming into a remount, where Haley McGee played the part before you?

VE-D: Well yeah, those are certainly big shoes to fill. Because I didn’t see the original production, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the character. I just had a couple of monologues and read the script and went into the audition bringing what I had to it. We worked quite intensively in the audition. I think we made a lot of fresh discoveries about the character and about how I relate to Sarah Jean. Our director Ross Manson was really willing and very interested in me finding the character myself, which was awesome because I felt like he gave me the kind of support to just go. There are certain things about the character that are true for anyone playing this part but within that, I was able to find what my own relationship to her was. We only had 10 days of rehearsal…

BK: Whoa! Why so short?

VE-D: Well because it was a remount and originally Haley was going to do it. She wasn’t available and so they had only budgeted for 10 days.

BK: Wow…

VE-D: Yeah… It was an intensive rehearsal process. I found out that I got the part while I was doing Killer Joe, so I had a lot of time leading up to prepare. The first day we just got on our feet. I came into a room of people who were already so confident in the work, which was actually really neat. Amy and Paul, the other actors in the play, have such a great dynamic in their relationship. They were very encouraging and supportive of the work that I was doing. Ross worked with me and really challenged me. He pushed me, which was important because we didn’t have a lot of time so I had to be on my toes. I felt like I came into a room that was filled with a lot of love because I think people really love the play. From the whole team, everybody loves the play, and you really feel this connection… they all feel connected to it.

BK: Why is this play so important and important to bring back?

VE-D: It’s so relatable in the way that it shows a relationship between two people who are deeply in love and who can’t quite get on the same page or can’t quite give each other what they need. My character, Sarah Jean, is so relatable because she’s this young woman who’s trying to figure out her relationship to her parents and what their legacy is and her relationship to how her childhood has made her into who she is. It’s her opportunity to reflect on how she’s gotten to where she is and that she can actually change… that the future is not written and she kind of comes to this realization that she can change for the better.


BK: This is your fourth show with Tarragon. What do you love about being there and what keeps you coming back?

VE-D: I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to work there. I have learned so much working there because they produce all of these new plays. I actually have also been a part of numerous workshops that have taken place there. Being a part of those with other actors and directors has allowed me to learn so much about theatre and about being an actor and the process to creating a show. I have been able to learn how other actors approach the work. People will really question playwrights and then the play changes and grows and that’s a huge part of working at Tarragon – having these conversations about stories. You’re often not getting a static play that’s already written. So much of the time it’s about dramaturgy. I love that part of it.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with from Infinity?

VE-D: I hope that people walk away feeling hopeful. I hope that people walk away and maybe call someone they love and tell them that they’re grateful to have them in their lives or if they come with family or friends and can walk away and talk about their connection to each other. I hope that it opens people up.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: Back to the Future

Favourite Play/Musical: The Sound of Music

Favourite Book: Fall On Your Knees, closely followed by The Sun Also Rises

Favourite Food: Salmon

Best place in Toronto: Either of grandparents’ houses or the ravine close to my parent’s house.

Advice you live by: Trust your instincts.



Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Original score composed by Njo Kong Kie
Directed by Ross Manson
Co-produced by Volcano Theatre
Featuring Paul Braunstein as Elliot Green, Vivien Endicott-Douglas as Sarah Jean Green, Amy Rutherford as Carmen Green and Andréa Tyniec as violinist

How does a new Theory of Time change everything we know about ourselves? Three brilliant minds – a musician, a mathematician, and a theoretical physicist – smash together like colliding particles in an accelerator. Together they learn that love and time are connected in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Infinity is a shocking, funny and revelatory play about love, sex, & math by Tarragon Playwright-in-Residence Hannah Moscovitch developed with Volcano Theatre. Back by popular demand from Tarragon’s 2014/15 season.

Tarragon Theatre

January 4 – 29, 2017




Artist Profile: Actor Jakob Ehman on Rebellion, Drive, Risk & “The Circle” at Tarragon Theatre

Interview by Brittany Kay

I sat down with the incredibly talented Jakob Ehman who is making his Tarragon Theatre debut in The Circle. We discussed rebellion, his drive for the craft, and the need for established theatre companies to take risks on young artists.

Brittany Kay: What has been your journey to getting to where you are right now?

Jakob Ehman: I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. I lived there for a short couple of years. I moved to Calgary, Alberta until I was 5 and then we drove across the country to Nova Scotia. I lived in a couple of different places in Nova Scotia: LaHave, which is in the country and very rural, I lived in Bedford, and I lived in Dartmouth where I spent the most amount of time. At the end of grade 8, I moved to Toronto and started high school here at the Danforth Collegiate Technical Institute.

BK: What made you go to theatre school?

JE: I don’t know… I can’t really remember what it was that got me into it, but I had to take some sort of arts class in high school. I was interested in drama, I guess, and I had a great teacher! Her name was Heli Kivilaht. I think I remember one of the first classes I played this character ‘Indiana Jake’ and everyone laughed. My childhood memories have a lot do with me entertaining the family. I started to like making people laugh a lot. The years went by and that drama teacher left, but while she was there, I was pretty heavily exposed to some wicked writers – David Mamet, Beckett, MacIvor. I was in grade 10 and 11 studying those writers and that was kind of crazy to me at that time. I was so fascinated by it because it reminded me of the type of films I was into when I was in high school – ones with dark writing. It seemed pretty cool just to be able to do that, to say those words. I felt like I had an affinity for it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pursue acting or not. I was still pretty into the idea of some sort of work in policing, investigations or the military. I decided I would apply to George Brown, NTS and Ryerson.

Vivien Endicott Douglas & Jakob Ehman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedmann.

Vivien Endicott Douglas & Jakob Ehman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedmann.

BK: Why those three?

JE: They’re all that I really knew, I guess. I was more into the idea of doing some sort of conservatory. Figured that if I was going to go do this, I didn’t want to have to also take a bunch of other classes and be in a university setting. I kind of decided if I didn’t get in, that would be that. I would go to UofT and be a spy or something.

I got into George Brown and I loved the feeling I had when I went to that audition and the Young Centre was new, beautiful and seemed great. So I kind of left everything else behind… gave in and immersed myself into that program and into the life of what I thought it was to be an actor and eventually then a creator, which George Brown wasn’t very helpful in overall.

BK: To create your own work?

JE: Yeah.

BK: Is that where HUMANZOO came from?

JE: Yeah. Sort of. George Brown had a couple of projects that were based in creation, but they had pretty specific ideas of what being a professional actor was and what they wanted us to be, at least that’s how I felt. It was actually helpful because it really gave me something to rebel against. That’s generally when I feel most at home.

BK: When you rebel?

JE: Yeah, I’m sort of an antagonistic kind of person, especially as an artist, though not necessarily in rehearsals. I don’t want to be like that. But you know, challenging everything.

BK: So how did HUMANZOO come to be? What happened after theatre school?

JE: HUMANZOO was an idea that was formed in theatre school. My great friend Edward Charette and I lived together. I talked a lot about ideas I had, just all the time…. just spouting off things. I think it annoyed him quite a bit. We had this idea about a human zoo, a zoo for humans. The actual company was all just ideas and a name that I liked, until I was contacted from the Hamilton Fringe. Somehow a spot had opened up there and they didn’t want to put it out to the public or have a whole bunch of people applying for this spot, so they asked me if I would be interested in doing something. At that time I had no clue what that would be. I decided to take the spot and figure it out after. I spent a week in the reference library reading every play that looked interesting. I looked for ones that had small casts since we were all going to be living at my parent’s house in Hamilton. Eventually I found this play called Normal by Anthony Neilson about this real life serial killer in Germany who killed a great many people. I thought the play was terrific and felt very inspired by it as soon as I read it. I kind of took the book… went downstairs and I ripped the sticker out of it.

BK: You stole it from the library?

JE: Yeah, I stole it from the Reference Library. The Reference Library, if you’re reading this… come get me, I guess. I’ve got it and I don’t intend to give it back.

So yeah, we did that and it was awesome. We won the Critic’s Choice Award. It was the first thing I directed.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: Do you have future plans with this company?

JE: I definitely want to do stuff in the future with the company. That sort of becomes about deciding how to manage your own time. I’ve been quite fortunate in the last couple of years where I haven’t necessarily had a lot of off time to plan a production or knowing when I’m going to have time next year. I haven’t committed to deciding that I won’t accept any acting work so that I can do that.

BK: You’re not just an actor, though. You’ve also sound designed, produced, directed, and written. How do you choose when you want to do what? Is it whatever is offered at the time or is it an active choice you make?

JE: Well, we went back to the Hamilton Fringe the next year. We really enjoyed our time there. I like the city of Hamilton. I knew I wanted to direct again but I also wanted to write and sound design once I started writing the play. I always want to be doing all of those things. I think that theatre is such a collaborative thing that if you want to, you can sort of have a part in all of those things, no matter what role you are in with the production. As an actor, you are still collaborating with a director. If you fight for your ideas of your character, you could feel like you have a say in some parts of the direction.

I guess it does come down to what is offered more. Acting happens more frequently for me. It takes a lot more of my own drive to make any of the other things happen. I’ve done a couple of sound designing jobs on the side but I’ve also been involved in the production as an actor so it’s never one thing at a time.

BK: What motivates you?

JE: I think just being really hungry. I’m obsessive – about the craft and about wanting to be…awesome. I want to be better every time. I want to inspire other people. I want to inspire people who I’m working with to work as hard as I want to work, so that what we give in the moment on stage is truthful and electric and vibrating with energy and life. I’m just sort of addicted to that feeling and to that kind of presence, but that type of presence takes a lot of preparation work and a lot of thought and time. It’s literally just thinking about the work, about the character’s stories and motivations like a detective.

BK: This is part of your rehearsal process, as well?

JE: Yeah. For sure.

How can I find other things to bring into this? How can I go deeper? And sometimes it can be really simple things you might not think of. Where does this person look when someone’s talking to them? Which eye? Do they look at both eyes? There’s an infinite level of details humans have. That makes me excited to investigate.

BK: We’re going to shift into talking about The Circle. What is it about?

JE: The Circle is about a group of young people from 15-18 years old. There’s this guy Ily, who I’m playing, and he’s living in his girlfriend’s mom’s garage. He’s dropped out of school and he sells weed and works at The Keg. During the day when his girlfriend is at school he gets this call from Tyler, an old friend of his that used to live at his place. It’s this guy who’s ended up living on the street and in various squats and in and out of homelessness. Tyler calls him wanting to hang out that night and Ily agrees but meanwhile his girlfriend has also invited her friend Will over that night with his new boyfriend Daniel. There’s this clash of groups that are going to come together and it really becomes a fucked up party.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: What draws you to this character?

JE: I think I’ve played a lot of emotionally unstable and intense kind of characters. When I read this one, I was excited because it felt more like a side of me. You know, a happier kind of guy. He’s just generally smiling and laughing. He’s the kind of guy who can hang out with any group. I dunno, it felt like I needed a change and play that part of myself and to not always be going down those dark paths.

I really think that within each of the characters there’s something every person in the audience, whether young or old, can relate to. The characters are so varied. The play is about them figuring out who they are and figuring out who they want to be. They are looking for a place of belonging with each other and in their own lives.

Jakob Ehman in The Circle. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

Jakob Ehman in The Circle. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

BK: This is a cast of all young people and a big first for Tarragon. It’s nearly everyone’s Tarragon debut. There’s been a bit of a trend with professional theatres not often hiring younger performers. How do you feel about Tarragon programming this kind of show filled with young actors?

JE: It’s a huge risk for them. This is Geoff’s debut play. It’s been produced before at ATP (Alberta Theatre Projects) but he’s still a very young writer. The cast needs to be playing 15-18 years old, so no matter what, you’re going to be taking a gamble on some very young actors that may or may not perform at the sort of level that an audience or critics are used to from an establishment like Tarragon. I think it’s going to pay off for them. The first step to making it pay off was hiring director Peter Pasyk, who took the time to find the right actors that were going to be able to make this thing live. Even then, it could still really have not worked out for them, but they have to do it. They have to do this play and plays like this, written by young people with young directors and young actors so that they can get younger audiences because their subscriber base is going to end and if they don’t have a new subscriber base and new people who are interested, they won’t survive. It’s a risky production but I think necessary for their survival.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: What is it like working with Peter?

JE: Peter is a funny guy.

BK: That’s it?

JE: He and I joked once when we were leaving the theatre about how he’d like to be described, and he said he’d like someone to say that he’s a funny guy. So yeah, I’ll leave it at that…

But he’s actually tremendous. He’s a tremendous director. A wonderful, lovely person to work with everyday. Really patient and demanding and never gives up on anybody or anything that he wants. I think he’s quite courageous and I had a great time working with him.

BK: Why is this story relevant today?

JE: I don’t think it’s specifically the story that makes it relevant. It’s quite simply about young people – that young people are portrayed fully, at all. They aren’t used as a device for some older character’s story. They’re not the singular teen in the play. It’s a play about them. That’s really different. That’s what’s relevant, I think.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: That’s an impossible question.

Favourite Play: Nope.

Favourite Book: “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

Favourite Food: Sushi. Chino Loco’s burritos.

Last play you saw in Toronto that stayed with you: James Smith’s Lessons in Temperament.

What are you currently listening to: Solange, Bon Iver’s new album.

Advice for young emerging artists: Don’t settle for doing what a director asks you to do, always suggest something to do… make offers, continue every moment that you can. Try and give your own perspective, different intentions/objectives/movements. Never settle for just taking direction. Always take it, but give more than what you’re asked for.

The Circle

A Tarragon Theatre Production

The Circle, Tarragon Theatre

The Circle, Tarragon Theatre

by Geoffrey Simon Brown
directed by Peter Pasyk
starring Nikki Duval, Jakob Ehman, Daniel Ellis, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Brian Solomon & Jake Vanderham
set designer Patrick Lavender
lighting designer Rebecca Picherack
sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne
costume designer Joanna Yu
fight director Steve Wilsher
stage manager Sandy Plunkett
apprentice stage manager Victoria Wang

Welcome to Ily’s high school garage party: there’s the genius, the drug dealer, the runaway, the kid with ADHD, and the son of a priest. Everyone’s a total mess, but it’s better than being alone on a Friday night in suburbia. This remarkable debut by 26-year-old playwright Geoffrey Simon Brown is an explosive SOS from an orphaned generation desperately looking for a place to belong.

Tarragon Theatre Extraspace
30 Bridgeman Ave.

Oct 18 – Nov 27, 2016


Jakob –
t: @JakeEhman

Tarragon –
fb: /tarragontheatre
t: @tarragontheatre