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Posts tagged ‘The Storefront Theatre’

Rarely Pure Theatre’s “As You Like It” at The Storefront Theatre until January 26th

Interview by Ryan Quinn

I had breakfast with three of the wonderful collaborators of Rarely Pure Theatre, all three of whom are working on the current mount of As You Like It being shown at The Storefront Theatre. I spoke with Spencer Robson, who is playing Orlando; Christina Bryson, playing Rosalind; and Monique Renaud, one of the company’s Artistic Directors. All three are also involved in the production of the show.

When deciding on a show after the success of their previous productions of The Pillowman, We’re Lovers, and Until Our Paths Cross Again, they decided to focus on doing classical text. “We’ve wanted to do a Shakespeare for a while, because a lot of us have worked together with this text and we had access to a lot of great resources and actors for Shakespeare”, Robson said. Bryson explained why As You Like It was the perfect choice for them commenting that “It’s a fun, high-paced show. And you need a light comedy in the middle of January”. Though, it’s not just out of love for the show itself, but it was also a matter of feasibility, explained Renaud: “Part of it is, as a non-union company, we couldn’t get any older, union actors, so this youthful show is one of the best Shakespeare plays to go for.”

There is also a kind of magic in the lack of magical elements in this Shakespeare show. For one of the light summer comedies, there are no ethereal forces at work in As You Like It. “Some of the characters are pretty extreme and big, but it’s still real. There are no faeries, or magic. It’s focused on these human beings and what they want. It’s not the forest that changes them, it’s their experiences. It’s about driving your own narrative, which is very similar to what we’re focusing on as a company.”

Christina Bryson and Katie Ribout in "As You Like It" Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

Christina Bryson and Katie Ribout in “As You Like It” Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

As far as concept, the team decided to keep it fairly simple, while flipping the usual setting of the show to make it take place in the winter. “There are actually more references to winter than summer. We added some of the songs back in. There are a lot of winter references in those especially”, Bryson explained, while Robson added: “We thought it would be a nice subtle thing we could do without it being overbearing. Also, it’s really supported by the text. A lot of the pivotal moments of character realization are described in kind of wintery terms. I mean, we’re not going to have snow falling on the audience or anything like that. It was more of a subtle atmosphere choice.”

The show is being directed by Rosanna Saracino, an experienced director who has worked with young casts many times. “It was also important for us to get an established director on board, someone to help guide us. I still feel like we’re learning a lot, but I don’t feel spoken down to”, Bryson told me. “She works with young actors all the time, so she knows about a lot of the struggles we have,” Robson elaborated. In fact, Rarely Pure populated their production with people who specialize in those different areas of production instead of letting friends and acquaintances handle offstage duties, as many young companies tend to do. “There’s a reason people have different jobs, because they’re good at it”.

Michael Hogan, Gaby Grice, Scott Garland in "As You Like It". Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

Michael Hogan, Gaby Grice, Scott Garland in “As You Like It”. Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

The company isn’t content to just get lost in the shuffle, though, as they’re looking to help unite some of the disparate parts of the culture in Toronto. Robson told me that he “was talking to Caleb McMullen from Mnemonic Theatre, and he said that there are a lot of small upstart companies right now, and if we could just pool our resources and work together, we’d make some amazing work. This is kind of proof that we’re all on the same level. If you’re putting something on and people are showing up, and you’re proud of it, that puts you on even ground with the whole community. You’re all contributing to the same cause. Nobody is above each other, we’re all just doing different shows.”

For the new year, Rarely Pure is taking a bit of a paradoxical move, by both zeroing in on what they’re best at, while also expanding the scope of what the company is capable of. While still maintaining a bit of the company’s original motive that “if you have a good idea, and you want to execute it, we can help you get it off the ground,” the company is also looking into new and innovative ways to experiment with performance and theatre: “We have a Fringe spot, and a playwright to write for us, which is great. I’m hoping to start Rarely Pure Productions to do things with webseries and short films, so we’re really doing some exciting things.” Renaud asserted that while this many seem like the company is going off on a few tangents, they’re not going to lose their focus: “When we started, our mandate was a lot looser, but now we’re finding exactly what we can bring to an audience. So, next year, as a company, we’re going to be more specific and organized in our focus. We have to be more picky with what we put on because there is a lot of theatre in this city and nobody wants to see crap.”

Christina Bryson, Spencer Robson and Katie Ribout in "As You Like It". Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

Christina Bryson, Spencer Robson and Katie Ribout in “As You Like It”. Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz Photography

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare, presented by Rarely Pure Theatre

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When: Thursday-Sunday January 9th-26th

Where: The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West

Tickets$20 General Admission / $15 (students/arts workers/seniors 55+) / PWYC Saturday Matinee www.secureaseat.com

Specific times can be found on Rarely Pure Theatre‘s page on Facebook.

Toronto’s Favourite Cost-Effective Rehearsal Spaces

by Ryan Quinn & Hallie Seline

We asked Toronto theatre artists what their favourite cost-effective rehearsal spaces were:

b current’s studio theatre

Located within the beautiful Artscape Wychwood Barns at St. Clair and Bathurst, b current performing art’s new 700-foot studio theatre is perfect for rehearsals, workshops, intimate theatre events, meetings, and community gatherings!

Features include: 50 seat capacity, wheelchair accessible, with elevator access, dressing room/backstage area, lighting and sound system to be installed by end of May 2017, charming vintage Edison bulb string lights for general non-theatre events, Hardwood floor, wireless internet access, 50+ chairs for your use, dry bar and front of house area for concessions by donation, gender neutral washroom, air conditioning, high vaulted ceilings and is steps away from public transportation.

Rate: $15/hour and all monies earned go towards b current performing arts’ programming and community building initiatives, which uplift the voices of racialized theatre artists from the page to the stage.

To book, please contact Artistic Director, Catherine Hernandez at catherine@bcurrent.ca

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The Attic

1200sft open concept unit is a beautiful space for rehearsals of all kinds. The space features a private bathroom, ceilings which range from 6′ to 14′, and it is not attached to any residential units. The space is available to book from 8am to 12am. theatticartshub.com

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The Box

The Box is a large, multipurpose rehearsal space located at 103-89 Niagara Street that often holds open movement classes and other events. It’s a 600 square foot space with beautiful exposed-brick walls (we love that stuff) that also includes a greenroom, kitchen, and bathroom. http://www.theboxtoronto.com

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Collective Studio (Theatre Lab and Pandemic Theatre)

Collective Studio is run by Theatre Lab and Pandemic Theatre, and is located near Lansdowne station. It is a newly-renovated 500 square foot adaptable studio for things like rehearsals, readings and workshops! http://theatrelab.ca/space/

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FuGEN Theatre

FuGEN Theatre at 157 Carlton Street is a 430 square foot studio space equipped with dance floors and mirrors, which could be very useful for those of you working on physical theatre or perhaps for those who just like to watch themselves act… It also has free Wi-Fi, a stereo system, air conditioning and a full kitchen. http://fu-gen.org/about-us/fu-gen-rental-space/

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lemonTree Creations

The lemonTree Creations Studio is a large space that regularly holds classes for those looking to hone their craft. They will also soon be instituting a residency program, which is a great opportunity for dedicated artists to have a regular rehearsal home. This space also comes equipped with a kitchenette and Wi-Fi.  http://www.lemontreecreations.ca/

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Aluna Theatre’s Studio Space

Located at 1 Wiltshire Ave. Unit 124, in Toronto, Aluna’s Studio is a beautiful 750 sq. foot studio with sprung floors and two-piece washroom. Equipped with a fridge, coffee maker, microwave, tables, chairs, and mats.  Sound and lighting equipment available for an additional charge. Read more about prices and availability here: http://www.alunatheatre.ca/studio/

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**Are we missing your favourite Toronto Cost-Effective Rehearsal Space?
E-mail us at inthegreenroom.ca@gmail.com and we will add it to our list!**

A Chat with Alex Johnson. The Playwright Project A Year Later: Sam Shepard May 1-7th

by Ryan Quinn

Q: Here with the brilliant Alex Johnson. The Playwright Project kicked off last night to a great start. Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing with the project this year.

A: It’s the exact same format as last year with a different playwright and several different venues. We wanted to rebrand as The Playwright Project and move away from being a Tennessee Williams festival. We never had any interest in being a Tennessee Williams festival; it’s more the format, the community-mindedness, and the artistic collaboration that we were interested in. So, we rebranded as The Playwright Project and went with Sam Shepard for a number of reasons. I guess the first and most important one was that we’re all absolutely in love with him. He’s exciting, he’s a little filthy, you know, “the sacred and the profane”. There’s great music in his plays, huge amounts of live music, that awesome, bluesy, folksy stuff. There’s all that sweaty, New-York-in-the-60’s experimental theatre, but there’s also some really down-to-Earth and conventional work. So, there’s a huge variety. Also, they’re plays our generation can really sink their teeth into. They’re restless and young and urban. So, it seemed like a good fit for the people we were working with.

Q: And who are you working with this year?

A: So, we’ve got Heart in Hand Productions, who actually just did a Sam Shepard play. They did Cowboy Mouth at the Cameron House, which is also a venue that we are working in this year. Those girls are great and they were very keen to re-enter the world of Shepard and investigate a different play with us. They’re also this great team of babes doing a really masculine Shepard play, so I’m really excited about that. They’re doing Fool for Love. Peter Pasyk from Surface/Underground will be joining us, doing When the World Was Green. He was just chosen to be the 2013/14 Urjo Kareda Resident at Tarragon Theatre, so that’s amazing. Theatre Brouhaha and Red One Theatre Collective are both back on the project; they were with us last year as well. We’ll actually be working in Red One’s new venue, The Storefront Theatre, which those boys are also running. We’ve also got Alec Toller, who is more known for being a filmmaker. He’s got a film coming out called Play, that Kelly McCormack was in, and it’s about theatre. He’s doing Angel City which is very cool because it’s really film noir and cinematic, so I’m really curious to see how this filmmaker meets this live filmic piece. Natasha Greenblatt and Pomme Grenade Productions, who just did The Peacemaker at Next Stage, which was a huge hit. She will actually be doing Cowboy Mouth. Lastly, and this is really exciting, Alex McCooeye has adapted a Sam Shepard short story called Saving Fats into a play. Alex and I actually worked on his adaptation of a Poe short story about a year ago with the incredible Greg Kramer who sadly passed away a couple weeks ago. Alex is a really great writer with an amazing eye for adaptation, so I’m really excited he’s taking this adventure on. Jeremiah Sparks is in it, so, yeah, it’s going to be great.

Q: Are you doing it in the same venues as last year?

A: Yeah, so we are back in the Curzon in Leslieville. I was in there the other day and since we were in there last year, it’s been revamped into this amazingly Sam Shepard-like space. It’s the coolest. There are these white embossed animal heads on the walls, and it’s all…country. It’s so cool. It’s so cool. I walked in and I was just like “Why? This is so perfect. This is touched by God”. We’re also back in the Magic Oven. The interesting thing about that space is that once the Project is done for this year (although we’re already vamping up for next year), I’m partnering up with Tony at the Magic Oven to turn that downstairs space into an actual year-round, multi-disciplinary performance space. Tony has built a full kitchen and bar in the back, so it’s going to be fully operational by the fall. I will be managing and programming everything in that space. I mean, there’s not a lot like that out there on the Danforth. You have the Fraser Rehearsal Studios, the Danforth Music Hall, you’ve got the Red Sandcastle, but it’s significantly more south. We’re really going to try to engage with the Danforth community and be a new place where culture can happen. It’s really exciting. We have not confirmed a name for the space yet. We jokingly call it The Tragic Oven.

Q: That sounds horrible, haha. That’s a horrible name.

A: I know! We’re just going to program Greek tragedies. So, yeah, we’re back there. I think everything else is new. We’re at the Storefront; we’re at the Cameron House…oh! The Cameron House is partnering with us this year to be the post-show hub every night. So at the Cameron House every night at 10pm, Cameron House records and our director of music Gaby Grice have co-curated a whole line-up of Shepard-y music in that bluesy, folksy, rock and roll cowboy vein. So, every night at 10pm, a whole different lineup of Shepard-y music at the Cameron House. So, that’s going to be a blast. We’re also in some other great spaces, the May Café in Little Portugal, Lazy Daisy’s in The Beach, Annette Studios in The Junction. I’m really excited about the venues.

Q: Now, sometimes you call it a project, and sometimes a festival. It also kind of seems to walk a line close to being a repertory season. Where is that line?

A: It’s so funny that you bring that up. We were just talking about this last night, actually, that the language that we use needs to be paid close attention to because the end result is festival-like but the process is not. The process is much more collaborative and about the seven companies as well as the administrative body supporting each other as opposed to them working independently of us until show time like you would for Fringe or Summerworks. So, the process is much more, as our initial vision from last year stated, about creating a tighter-knit community of artists who work toward one communal goal together. In that regard, I don’t think you could call us a festival.
I like what you said about thinking of it almost as a repertory season. It’s like a really fast, really intense repertory season that goes down. If I can find a more succinct way of phrasing that, I might steal it from you for next year. I actively avoided calling it a festival last year, but the language sort of just became easier to use. People understood more what the end result was, what May 1-7 would be. But, yeah, I think I want to go back next year, for 2014, and re-examine what we call ourselves.

Q: Do you feel like the community has gotten more tight-knit since the festival last year?

A: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think we’ve changed the theatre scene. I think what Playwright Project has served to do is broaden many of our artists’ connections and resources. They now know, in some cases, almost a hundred new people that they can access in the community and that they can share with. The thing is, though, everybody works differently. Everyone has their own process. Some are more about reaching out and bringing people into the fold, and some people are much more isolated. One is not better than the other. Some people work better in isolated think-tanks, and some work better with an “it takes a village” mentality. So, I wouldn’t qualify the festival as being some giant community. What I know it is, is an opportunity to access things that you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. And you’ve got a really strong support system under you. So, like, the Playwright Project team and I are here to handle the things that could take away from your artistic focus and clarity of vision. We are here to enable you to do what you want to do.
But, in the bigger picture of things, is the Toronto community getting tighter? Yeah. I think it is. I think I see things changing and I see the grassroots stuff growing and I see people reaching out more.

Q: What have you learned since last year that’s been implemented this year?

A: It’s so funny. We were talking last night about how at the end of last year we went “Oh alright, we know what to do now. We know now. We get it now. We got it”. And now it’s coming up to the end of the rehearsal period and I’m like “Oh wait. I still don’t know anything”. What have I learned? I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned that people want to help. People want you to call them up and present them with an idea and a way they can get involved. I’ve also learned a lot of practical things. I’ve learned how to rent a van and how to hang a piece of black fabric. I’ve learned a lot about Equity and the new agreement and the festival waiver.
I have learned that it is very important, whether you’re an arts institution, or an organization, or a collective, or an individual artist, every project and every endeavour needs to have a personality. It needs to know what it is and have a clarity of what it’s doing. When our logo started going into development and our amazing graphic designer Lisanne Binhammer was sending us sheets of proposals, picking it was remarkably hard because we didn’t yet have that seed of exactly as an organization, what our personality was. As the logos started to come in, I started to see it. Started to visually see what we look like on paper, and it helped us to better understand what we are. We’re this scrappy, spirited group of young people, and trying to fight it and become something more polished is not helpful. I was at the Shakespeare in the Ruff gala and they know so well who they are as an organization. They have such a specific sense of humour and how they put themselves out into the world is so clear. I’m becoming more and more aware of how important that is. I mean, I guess, in simple words: branding. The importance of branding. You can’t engage people if you don’t know who you are. You can’t get them on your team if you don’t know who that team is.

Q: Looking into the future, in five years, where would you like to see the project?

A: There are a lot of internal things I would like to see change. Just in terms of, you know, office space. Things that would make the daily practical work easier. I think much of our personality is that every year, we’re going to be different. Last year was Tennessee Williams, and this year is Sam Shepard and there are cowboy hats everywhere and the music at the Cameron House. If it’s Ibsen (and it won’t be, but hypothetically), if it’s Ibsen, the personality of that week in May will be entirely different. Instead of having music at the Cameron House, we might have…sad Norwegian poetry nights. Every year there will be a different flavour to what we do.

Q: An atmosphere?

A: An atmosphere, yeah! And secondary programming will arise from that, and different people we can work with will arise from that. Different things these neighbourhoods can engage with and see that they wouldn’t normally. I want to be surprising people five years down the road with what we do. I don’t want to sit still too long. As I said, we’re already in talks for next year, and it will be surprising. I can tell you right now, the format will not be changing, but some things will be and it’ll surprise you. You’ll like it.

The Playwright Project: Sam Shepard runs May 1st-7th
For show listings check out our complete Toronto Theatre Listings page.
For exact venue schedule and ticket purchase go to The Playwright Project’s website!