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Posts tagged ‘The Toronto Fringe Festival’

In Conversation with Sophia Fabiilli – Adaptor & Performer of The Philanderess in the 2015 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Hallie Seline

I had the pleasure of chatting with the Fabulous Fabiilli. I call her that as 1 – her twitter handle is FabFabiilli and I want it to catch on and 2 – she’s inspired me to think that should be her superhero name. Currently wearing the many hats of adaptor/writer, producer, actor etc. etc. in her show The Philanderess in this year’s Fringe Festival, Sophia shares her inspiration for the adaptation, the strength of her team around her and some very good advice for surviving the ever-necessary evil of wearing those multi-tasking shoes in indie theatre. #FringeFemmeTO power!

HS: What inspired you to adapt George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer for the 21st century?

Sophia Fabiilli: Want to know my little secret? I didn’t have a project when I applied for the Fringe (gasp!). I was trying to find the perfect play to produce, but nothing felt right and my gut told me I was trying too hard. So, I sat down in my front of my bookshelf and said: “What do you really like, Sophia?” (out loud, alone, and creepily in my apartment). And there was my copy of Shaw’s Plays Unpleasant. I loved working on a scene from The Philanderer in theatre school and I realized what I really like are plays that make me laugh and make me think. I’m also very passionate about the representation of women on stage and in the media, so thought it would be interesting to re-invent the play with a woman at the centre of a modern love triangle, while trying to let Shaw’s smart, funny, and witty writing inspire my own. Then I realized this idea would involve writing a PLAY, so I went around telling myself I couldn’t possibly do THAT. Then, I finally told someone the idea, they said “DO IT”, and I started writing (and I haven’t slept a full night since).

What resulted is a weird, little farce. Our tagline is “Open relationships, ballsy sexcapades, and weeping men… What would Shaw think of that?”. Laugh? Cry? Throw rotten tomatoes from the grave? Come see the show and tell me what you think over a Steamwhistle after.

HS: You have a great group of artists working on this play. What was it like bringing something that you had been working with so intimately as an adaptor to the team you have around you?

SF: My amazing director/dramaturg/work wife, Michelle Alexander, was the first person I asked to help me with this project and I will sing her praises to anyone willing to listen. It’s been her and I since the get-go and we have slowly built our mighty little team together.

HS: What’s it been like?

SF: As an actor and producer: AWESOME. Work with great people. They’ll make you look like you know what you’re doing.

As a writer: AWESOME. And, to be honest, a little overwhelming. If you hire smart actors, they will ask hard questions about your weird little play baby, which in the moment is challenging, but in the long run is invaluable. There were a few humbling rehearsals where discrepancies were pointed out and questions were asked and I had to go back to my laptop and figure it out. Overall though, everyone’s profesh (that’s how I say professional without sounding pretentious); they all know what they’re doing and they’re all invested. I’m extremely lucky to be working with them.

HS: As you mentioned, you wear many hats for this production – adaptor, writer, producer, actor – what was your experience taking on so many roles in this show and do you have any words of advice for others who are or might one day be in the same kind of multitasking shoes?

SF: Full disclosure: writing, acting, and producing this show is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It is as difficult as everyone tells you it is (Michelle and I answer each other’s calls “Hello! Panic Attack Central” which gives you an idea of what our lives have been like leading up to opening).

Even now that we’re open, I’m STILL working on trying to separate my different roles, but things always come up! For instance, once we started rehearsals, I was trying really to “hang up my writer hat”, but then… the ending needed a major rewrite. And then… the show was too long. And then… it was still too long. And then… it was still too long… Layer in a never-ending producing to do list and slaying my demons as an actor, and… yes, Panic Attack Central really should have been the name of my theatre company now that I think of it.

So, here’s my humble advice:

1) Just like in real life, wearing more than one hat isn’t a “good” idea. But wearing multiple hats in this crazy biz is often unavoidable, so: prioritize and carve out time in your schedule for the creative things. Often there are harder deadlines for the producer things and will take priority sometimes (okay, a lot of times), make time for the creative stuff (for writing, learning lines, warming up for your show)… because chances are the creative part is probably why you’re producing your own show in the first place.

2) Ask for help. This one is so hard! It’s hard to trust other people with your weird play baby (no one understands her like you do). Surround yourself with awesome people and let them help you. My stage manager, Laura Paduch, offered to take on producer-y things from the get-go and I will forever love her for that. I also ended up bringing on my awesome co-producer, Vikki Velenosi, who keeps forcing me to give her items off my to do list, which she then magically accomplishes. I will love her forever, too. And then there is my small army of friends who I call for advice, for help postering, or for free therapy sessions. Oh, and Mom built my set. So, yes, I would definitely recommend having handy (and retired) parents.

3) Think less, just do it. This became my weirdo Nike-inspired mantra. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Do one thing at a time. Make a to do list and start checking things off. Just do it.

4) Budget extra time. For everything. Yep.

5) Take care of yourself. Take breaks. Take your vitamins. Sleep. Eat well. Call your mom (especially if she built your set).

Please note: I did not do these things unless we count eating Nutella off a spoon at 2am as “eating well”.

6) Remind yourself to enjoy the process. Half way through rehearsals I realized I was stressing so much about making a play. A PLAAAY. Even though I am totally the CEO of Panic Attack Central, making theatre isn’t heart surgery, so I tried my best not to stress about it like it was (and failed, but this sounds like excellent advice, doesn’t it?).

HS: Tell us about your favourite aspect of the Fringe Festival.

SF: The lottery system. “Breaking into the scene” is really daunting and can feel impossible, but anyone can get into the Fringe! It doesn’t matter what’s on your resume!! I just love that. And the beer tent is pretty fun, I guesssss…..

HS: Describe The Philanderess in 5 words.

SF: Silly. Sexy. Weird. Ridiculous. Unicorn.

HS: We’re loving the #FringeFemmeTO hashtag you ladies started! As Femmes who are Fringing, any other shows you think we should check out?

SF: It caught on! Woohoo! I feel like an old lady who got her DVD player to work! Honestly, I have a very on-again/off-again relationship with Twitter, but this really is evidence of its power to connect people.

So many #FringeFemmeTO shows to see and so little time! Here are just a few in no particular order:

In Case We Disappear, Bout, Hanger, Adventures of a Red Headed Coffee Shop Girl, Morro and Jasp do Puberty, Waiting for Alonzo

The Philanderess

Presented by Truth ‘n’ Lies Theatre as part of The 2015 Toronto Fringe


Meet Charlotte. She has a PhD in feminist philosophy, just asked her lawyer boyfriend to be her life partner, and authors a wildly famous blog about sleeping with men on the side. She has it all!
Until one of her lovers – and his entire family – crash her engagement party.
An outrageous, sexy, fast-paced farce inspired by G.B. Shaw’s ‘The Philanderer’!

By: Sophia Fabiilli
Company: Truth ‘n’ Lies Theatre
Company origin: Toronto, Ontario
Director: Michelle Alexander
Cast: Amos Crawley, Seth Drabinsky, Jakob Ehman, Sophia Fabiilli, Deborah Tennant and Suzanne Bennett
Creative team:
Stage Manager: Laura Paduch, Co-producers: Sophia Fabiilli and Vikki Velenosi, Designer: Laura Gardner, Fight Director: Nate Bitton

Where: Annex Theatre

July 02 at 07:00 PM  buy tickets
July 04 at 11:00 PM  buy tickets
July 06 at 01:30 PM  buy tickets
July 08 at 07:30 PM  buy tickets
July 10 at 05:45 PM  buy tickets
July 11 at 12:30 PM  buy tickets
July 12 at 04:00 PM  buy tickets

Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language


Connect with them: @truthnlies


Connect with us: @intheGreenRoom_


Fringe Preview: People Suck – An Irreverent Exploration of Human Suckiness – Presented by Nutmeg Creations at the 2015 Toronto Fringe

by Bailey Green

Megan Phillips had an epiphany. She was being a complete jerk to the people she loved — she had no idea why. She sat in a hipster coffee shop in Toronto during the 2014 Fringe when it hit her. After “journaling-out” some ideas, she got in contact with Peter Cavell. Megan calls Pete, “a brilliant composer” and knew he was the right person to bring this idea to life. When Megan told Pete the title, it sealed the deal — People Suck, an irreverent exploration of human suckiness.

They were intrigued by the concept of creating a song cycle based around a theme, as opposed to a musical with a linear arc or central character. People Suck plays with musical genres and unique characters, injected with a healthy dose of comedy. “Pete and I had very similar ideas of comedy,” says Megan, “but we also knew that in order to give that comedy depth, we had to explore the emotional layers behind the songs.”

Pete and Megan have known each other for almost 15 years, they attended Western together, and also come from similar backgrounds of working with Second City and sketch/improv work. Pete, writer and co-music director, is a current musical director at Second City. Megan, writer and cast member, heads an all-girl sketch comedy troupe called STRAPLESS COMEDY (who you may have seen at Fringe last year!).

They wrote People Suck on and off into the winter of 2014, while Megan lived in Vancouver and Pete lived in Toronto. But when they were pulled for the Fringe, they began writing multiple times a week over the phone. “Skype is not our friend,” they say. They kept track of lyrics in Google docs to coordinate progress, but couldn’t resist chasing each other’s cursors around the screen. “Our biggest challenge was time and distance,” Megan remembers. With the time difference, there was a narrow window where they could work. “I would get home after work, put my son to bed, and have only a few hours to write with Megan,” Pete says. In May, Megan moved to Toronto and the pair began to work on production. “Pete’s like a ‘real’ person… I mean he has a job and family and 2 year old, and Adriana [Pete’s wife] has been so amazing and supportive of Pete and this project,” Megan says. “She’s the best!” Pete agrees.

After both knowing him for years, their director Kerry Griffin (current director of Second City mainstage) was the first person they thought of to bring on to the project. As for cast, they needed to find actors with a comedic background who also had strong vocal chops. They chose: Ashley Comeau (Second City mainstage) and Connor Thompson (Second City) who are “a real life couple” adds Megan; Allison Price (Second City) who “coincidentally, we grew up as kids together,” says Pete, “and went to the same piano teacher”; as well as Arthur Wright, who went to university at the same time as Pete and Megan, who they also herald is a “phenomenal singer and actor.” Pete and Megan have been deeply appreciative of the hive-mind-like comedic writer atmosphere that has brought their piece to a new level.

They also credit their producer Victoria Laberge for her excellent work. Laberge, a native Montrealler very involved with theatre and FRINGE Montreal, has allowed Pete and Megan to focus on the creativity while Vic handles deadlines, press releases and “so many emails,” Megan says.

Their co-music director Jordan Armstrong, also a music director at Second City, brings a level of fresh musical improvisation and a bevy of skill with instruments to the table. Jordan plays clarinet, flute saxophone, percussion and piano (to name a few.) “So maybe she’ll grab her sax and I’ll grab my guitar, to we’ll fill out the musical texture a little more,” Pete says.

As for what they’re most excited for with the Fringe:

Megan: “Just doing the show for an audience! This show is so special and I feel so lucky to have had Pete as a partner and then the cast and everyone else who’s been involved. It’s our gorgeous little baby and now we’re get to show the baby to the world.”

Pete: “Getting this out there. We’ve been living with it for so long. Watching it now, the actors are all doing their thing and it’s made us step back and realize – wow, that was ours and now it’s this massive thing that can actually stand on it’s own.”

As for a teaser or preview? Megan graciously sings me a preview of their opener, in a Tim Hortons. The featured character is Miss Talbot, a teacher, who tells her class to settle down for the day’s lesson — that everyone has a special talent they bring (“In the potluck of life we can’t all bring the casserole,” Megan sings) but there’s always someone who plays a specific role.

“Suppose you lend your favourite dolly to Delilah,

Cause you were taught it’s nice and kind and good to share,

But then she keeps it for five years, and when it you get it back,

It smells like pee and it’s missing all it’s hair,

Then Delilah is an asshole.”


People Suck

Presented by Nutmeg Creations as part of the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festivalunnamed

By: Megan Phillips and Peter Cavell

Company: Nutmeg Creations

Company origin: Vancouver, British Columbia

Director: Kerry Griffin

Cast: Ashley Comeau, Megan Phillips, Allie Price, Connor Thompson, Arthur Wright

Creative team: Musical Direction by Jordan Armstrong and Peter Cavell. Produced by Victoria Laberge.

Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language

Where: Randolph Theatre


July 01 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 10:30 PM
July 06 at 12:45 PM
July 07 at 06:45 PM
July 08 at 10:30 PM
July 09 at 05:15 PM
July 11 at 11:00 PM

Connect with them: @PplSuckMusical

Connect with us: @intheGreenRoom_ & @_BaileyGreen


On the Subject of Kissing: Shaun Benson on Stop Kiss

Interview by Shaina Silver-Baird

I took some time to chat with Shaun Benson, the director of the exciting production of Stop Kiss at The Toronto Fringe Festival. Here’s what he had to say about connection, same sex relationships and The Fringe!

SS: Describe Stop Kiss in 5 words… other than Stop and Kiss.

SB: Fear meets Love meets Life

SS: What attracted you and the rest of the team to this play? Why does this story have to be told?

SB: I was initially drawn to it because each scene is so immensely playable and in so many different ways.  Melissa Hood and I wanted a piece with which we could use a certain acting approach to grow our own work and grow the life of the play. Each scene — and ultimately this story — allowed that to flourish beautifully.

This story has to be told for the stupid reason that it is somehow still a problem for person A how person B spends their love and their heart and their time.  I still can’t get my head around the amount of violence perpetrated on people who choose to kiss another — same sex, different race, etc.  It’s 2013 and somehow this play is still relevant. Too bad.

SS: Can you talk a little about your rehearsal approach – the technique you used to explore the material and how you think that shaped the performances?

SB: I used Meisner as the fundamental approach to the work.  We would build the scenes with the actors using personally meaningful imaginative circumstances to guide their beginnings and then use repetition and improv work to break open the dialogue.  The real thrust from start to finish was that talking to one another and listening to one another was the most vital thing — always with those conversations riding the emotional waves of the actors’ imagined needs.  This may seem obvious but in most work I see it’s given lip service yet not realized. It shaped the performances so that nothing you see on stage comes from the generic world of ‘acting’.  Scenes between Kate and Melissa, for example – – are actually happening before your eyes with them both living the experience and the feelings and the interactions.  Again, seems obvious but when I watch them speak to one another I feel a glue and a bond that I see all too rarely.

SS: How do you think being a part of The Fringe Festival has affected the project?

SB: I think it has helped it immensely.  The Fringe itself is so dynamic and amazingly organized and there is so much rad buzz about it all — it’s a free bump.  That said, only if the show goes well!!! The other main thing is the constraints have kept me focused on what I believe really matters — the relationships between the actors.  Extra set pieces need not apply.  Trick stages need not apply.  It kept the piece honest and dynamic at its core — not dynamic through flourish — there wasn’t time or space for flourish!! And looking back — I’m so glad of that!!!!!

SS: I know you’re an established actor yourself. What inspired this venture into directing?

SB: I had begun teaching because of work I had been doing on a film in France called Populaire.  It seemed the less I understood when my co-stars would improv or riff in French (I’m not totally fluent) the more the director dug my work — so I realized all the Meisner work I had done at Playhouse West in LA was paying off since the behaviour was reading as more interesting than “how I said my lines” and that I should pass that on.  Teaching has been wonderful and Melissa – a student – approached me about directing her Fringe slot.  I had shot an indie film recently and was brimming with ideas on “how I’d have shot it”, so it seemed like I was being given a chance to put my money where my mouth was.

SS: At In The Greenroom we like to explore sources of inspiration. What inspires you?

SB: Pink Floyd, Tarantino, Scorsese, Terry Richardson, Emily Coutts, my brother Ormonde, the possibility that I am enough, God.

SS: What was the scariest or most challenging part of the process?

SB: When I realized that I couldn’t act for the actors.  My ego took a real hit because the very basis of how I want to work and be worked with is negated if a performance is imposed — so I had to let go of knowing how they would realize our beginnings.

SS: The play has been getting some awesome reviews. But why do you think audiences should come see the production?

SB: I think it is a beautiful play.  Beautifully lit, scored, acted and written — and Beauty to me is paramount.  There’s edgier stuff or more dynamic stuff or whatever but this Beauty stuff’s for real.

Stop Kiss by Diana Son
Directed by Shaun Benson
Presented by gun shy theatre
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 10:30pm-Midnight
Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 5:15pm – 6:45pm
Sunday, July 7, 2013 – 10:00pm – 11:30pm
Monday, July 8, 2013 – 8:00pm – 9:30pm
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 – 3:00pm – 4:30pm
Thursday, July 11, 2013 – 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Sunday, July 14, 2013 – 5:15pm – 6:45pm
Where: Tarragon Theatre Main Space, 30 Bridgman Avenue
Tickets or call 416-966-1062
For more info, check out their website:
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