Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Toronto Indie Theatre’

“Community. Creativity. Craft.” In Conversation with Scott Garland on Sing For Your Supper at the Storefront Theatre

Interview by Brittany Kay

Scott Garland has announced his departure from Storefront Theatre‘s Sing for Your Supper (SFYS). Before his final show on January 2nd, we had the chance to sit down with him and discuss what this event actually is, how it helps to foster our community’s sense of togetherness and why events like these are so important in our theatre community

Brittany Kay: What is Sing for Your Supper?

Scott Garland: SFYS is a monthly cold read series held at the Storefront Theatre, in which new writers submit incomplete, unpublished works that are then read by first-come-first-served performers who show up on the night. They get the script an hour beforehand and we then perform them on the Storefront stage that night.

BK: How do the scripts get chosen for that night?

SG: For the month prior to the night, I send out a call for scripts on social media and anyone who will hear me: We need scripts, 12 pages max to be read. They send them to me at our email address singforyoursupper.sf@gmail.com. I set a deadline, which is usually the Friday before the event, and I read everything that is submitted to us – that’s our promise. We will always read every script and then we whittle it down to about 5 or 6 scripts and that’s what gets presented.

BK: How many scripts would you say you get in a month of submissions?

SG: We’re averaging about 10 incomplete scripts every month.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

BK: Where did this event first begin?

SG: Well this is actually a tradition that started with Red One Theatre a long time ago and it was done in a few pubs. It started with Ben Blais, Brenhan McKibbon and Tyrone Savage. That was less of a show and more of people getting together with scripts and reading them. It’s had various versions and then finally about 3 years ago when Red One Theatre occupied what is now the Storefront Theatre, they wanted to bring it back. It’s changed hands a couple of times. Danny Pagett hosted it for a while, then Ben Blais and Brenhan McKibbon. I had just started going because I was performing in Rarely Pure’s production of As You Like It with Ben Blais at the Storefront. He and I got along and he liked my cold reads so he asked if I’d be interested in organizing it or taking it on. I said, “You betcha Ben,” and so I did.

BK: What was your take on the night? How did you change or tweak it to make SFYS what it is today? 

SG: I started creating a bit of a variety night out of it. SFYS has become more of an open mic night for actors. Actors don’t get a lot of chances to do cold reads of new work. This is an opportunity for people to get together with no stress, no pressure, to just mess around with some text and their craft and also for writers to possibly experiment with their stuff. In the spirit of trying to give it a little flourish, I started bringing people in. Kat Letwin, who’s a very talented performer, a wonderful comedian and a great sketch writer in her own right, covered for me for a month while I was unavailable. She’s a first-class performer so, unsurprisingly, she did very well and so I said, “What if you stuck around and we co-hosted it together?” She actually just celebrated her 2-year anniversary co-hosting and we’ve been really happy to keep her. We’ve also been very fortunate to have a local magician, Leigh Beadon, who actually premiered some magic at an earlier rendition of SFYS. He’s our halfway point at intermission. He’ll try out some feats of mentalism on the crowd. They’re always consistently mind-blowing. They make you believe. They really do.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

BK: Why is it so important for the Toronto theatre community to have an event like this? 

SG: One of the metaphors I’ve kind of used for SFYS is that it’s a bit of an elevator lobby to the indie theatre scene. We get people from all areas of the community; people who are both indoctrinated in the community or have never been to the Storefront, or people who know nothing about theatre and just show up. It’s a hub. It’s really a crossover space where members of the community come together and create art together.

For me, it’s a seed-planting and grass-nourishing event. It’s free, no one’s getting paid. All are welcome. It’s free to submit. It’s a pretty equal opportunity event because it’s first-come-first-served for readers. We do try to ensure that new readers get first priority. The best way new and interesting art can happen is if you get as many different people in a room together, creating together. It’s an opportunity for writers, actors and the un-indoctrinated to kind of experiment with the theatre community in a low stakes environment.

It’s also a dramaturgical tool for writers, which can be invaluable. You have a room full of artists with a stack of scripts and a tickle trunk full of various props and costume pieces, so let’s make some work.

BK: This is quite the meet and greet, a place where people can connect. 

SG: Yeah, exactly. Part of what we do for SFYS is that if you have any projects, workshops, shows, classes or auditions coming up that you want to spread the word on, you get 30 seconds to say your piece.

BK: What’s the turn out usually like?

SG: We never have less than 30 people. It’s cabaret style so people can come and go.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

BK: Why are you leaving?

SG: Because I’m just not that good at it. No. No. I kid. I kid.

I’m very proud of what I have done and what the event has become under my time, but I feel in order for the event to grow beyond what it currently is, it deserves fresh eyes and a new artist with a greater reach in terms of the community. Cameron Wyllie who is a very funny guy from the comedy community, is taking over my hosting duties. He is a sketch writer and performer and he produced Toronto Sketch Fest earlier this year. I feel he has much more experience producing events than I do, so I feel the event will be in very good hands.

Marissa Heintzman is taking over most of the administrative duties. She has her Masters from the University of Glasgow and has expressed much more interest in administrative handling and has actually written a thesis on the effects of modern drama and modern theatrical writing on the current generation. I feel that she will bring so much insight in terms of the sociological implications that an event like SFYS can provide to a community. Kat Letwin is staying on board. She has been, and continues to be, an irreplaceable part of SFYS.

BK: What do you hope the future is for this event?

SG: SFYS under my guidance has been an equal opportunity for female readers. One of the strongest causes I am passionate about is equality for female writers and actresses’ voices on stage. I’m a big fan of HERstory Counts, who actually previewed at SFYS last year. My biggest failing has been in outreach and diversity of communities. Art benefits from diversity. The event is only 3 years old and hopefully this will reach into as many communities as it can. SFYS can introduce people from various communities to each other, if nothing else, to foster greater community building.

BK: That’s lovely.

SG: It’s truly a platform, it’s a stage, it says, “Come one, come all.” I’m hoping more groups will approach SFYS looking for partnership on certain projects. That would be nice. Again there’s no money or funding involved in SFYS. The only real currency in this event is each other, the talents we have and the work we make. I’m hoping that an artistic bunz trading zone can happen at SFYS.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

BK: Anything else we need to know about SFYS?

SG: It’s the first Monday of every month. Really come one, come all. If you’re reader sign up starts at 7pm, but some people have been showing up at 6:30pm.

I will also say that I’m consistently overwhelmed by the talent we have at this event. There’s something admirable in people trying something for the first time and it working out spectacularly. That truly is the virtue of live theatre. The amazement of a cold read is that if it happens once, even if the script goes on to publication, you really encountered the spark of something truly new and wonderful.

BK: 3 words that describe SFYS?

SG: Community. Creativity. Craft.

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Photo Credit: John Gundy

Sing For Your Supper

About:
All are welcome to participate. FREE ADMISSION

Script submissions will be selected by our
incomparable hosts Kat Letwin, Scott Garland, and Cam Wyllie,
alongside indie theatre instigators.

SEND SCRIPT SUBMISSIONS TO:
singforyoursupper.sf@gmail.com

The scripts will then receive a live workshop by Toronto talent on a first come first serve basis.

SIGN UP FOR PERFORMANCE OPENS AT 7pm
CURTAIN AT 8:00

Where:
Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West

When:
January 2, 2017

Find Out More: storefronttheatre.com/sing-for-your-supper/

In Conversation with Miranda Calderon, performer/producer of Taking Care of Baby

by Bailey Green

Taking Care of Baby is a verbatim/documentary style play focusing on the story of Donna McAuliffe—a woman accused of murdering her two infants. The play uses testimony from those closest to McAuliffe to dig deeper in search of the truth. There’s just one catch—Donna doesn’t exist. It’s all fake.

Miranda Calderon takes on the role of Donna at the Storefront Theatre in Taking Care of Baby, a fake documentary play written by Dennis Kelly. Director Birgit Schreyer Duarte read the script years ago and shared it with Calderon as part of another project they were collaborating on at the time that focused on the victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. “Birgit and I worked together for the first time years ago when we did a SummerWorks show that was an adaptation of a novel,” Calderon recalls. “We both found that we really enjoyed the collaborative process of working together. In the years since, she has had so much more experience directing shows, assisting at Stratford and Canadian Stage where she works as a dramaturge and translator. We’ve both grown, and of course we benefit from being close friends. It’s a treat, and we feel incredibly lucky to be working on this project. And everyone involved is so incredibly wonderful and professional.”

Photo of Dylan Trowbridge by John Gundy.

Photo of Dylan Trowbridge by John Gundy.

By the time we meet Donna McAuliffe, she has already endured a brutal life. She lost two babies and suspicion surrounded the circumstances of their death. She was convicted of murder, sentenced to life and then eventually exonerated with the help of her mother. And now, estranged from her husband, childless, and reeling from 14 months in prison, Donna is living at home trying to put her fractured life back together.

Photo of Miranda Calderon & Astrid Van Wieren by John Gundy.

Photo of Miranda Calderon & Astrid Van Wieren by John Gundy.

Calderon approached the role with a desire to understand the intense experiences her character has been through. She researched prison life and reached out to a friend who works as a defence attorney to better understand the process of a murder trial. Calderon also has a very personal tie to the subject matter of the play. “I’m pregnant for the first time, so when I found out [about the baby] this summer and then when the project was selected by Storefront for their season, I was just wow-ed by the odd timing,” Calderon says. “I wondered whether it was a good idea to put myself in this world while I’m pregnant. But at the same time there was something so exciting and interesting about that coincidence. It’s only added to the process.”

McAuliffe is surrounded by a varied cast of characters, all with their own opinions about whether she did or did not murder her children. The actors often play multiple roles, some of which include: Donna’s mother the politician (Astrid Van Wieren), the estranged husband (Dylan Trowbridge) and more. Donna’s defence hangs on a new diagnosis by a psychologist named Dr. Millard (played by Richard Clarkin). Millard has diagnosed Donna with Leeman-Keatley Syndrome (a fictional disease) where a mother is so overwhelmed by the empathy she feels for the world’s suffering that she turns on the source of her pain, namely her children.

Photo of Richard Clarkin by John Gundy

Photo of Richard Clarkin by John Gundy

“A big part of this process has been the struggle to determine what’s true, what’s not true, who can I trust […] it’s part of what the audience is going through at the same time,” Calderon says when asked about how the style and format of the play affect the story. “When we realize that we were wrong about people, it can be so unsettling. It happens with people we are intimate with, with colleagues, and then public figures as well. The characters in the play operate on all three of those levels and so the audience goes through this questioning with us.”

Taking Care of Baby

Presented by The Care Takers at The Storefront Theatre

TCOB-web-banner-3-862x319

Who:
Featuring: Miranda Calderon, Richard Clarkin, Caroline Gillis, Craig Lauzon, Dylan Trowbridge, Astrid Van Wieren
Written By: Dennis Kelly
Directed By: Birgit Schreyer Duarte
Set Design: Michelle Tracey
Lighting Design: Steve Lucas
Costume Design: Amanda Wong
Sound Design: Matthew Pencer
Video Design: Remington North
Producers: Miranda Calderon & Adam Paolozza

When: January 29th to February 14th, Wednesday through Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday Matinee @ 2pm

Where: The Storefront Theatre – 955 Bloor St. W, Toronto

Tickets: $20-$25, Advance tickets available here.

Connect: http://thestorefronttheatre.com/events/taking-care-of-baby/

‪#‎INDIEUNITE‬ ‪#‎BabySFT‬

#TheresMoreThanOneTruth #BabySFT

O, What a Noble Mind is Here O’erthrown – In Conversation with Julia Nish-Lapidus, Ophelia in Shakespeare BASH’d Hamlet

by Bailey Green

If you’ve ever seen a Shakespeare BASH’d show, then you’ve seen Julia Nish-Lapidus work her magic. Behind the scenes, Julia has an eye for aesthetics and design. As Artistic Producer of the company she handles everything from ticket sales to social media. As an actor, Julia brings intelligence, wit and energy to her text—whether as the fierce Kate in The Taming of the Shrew or the clever Mistress Page in Merry Wives of Windsor. This February Julia is taking on a new challenge, the role of Ophelia in Hamlet (presented by Shakespeare BASH’d.) “She doesn’t have to be a victim,” Julia says of the doomed Ophelia. “She’s actively choosing what she wants, it’s not a blind obedience. And yet she does want the people around her to be happy. And I think that’s in the text, but I do think it will be a different Ophelia than most people are used to.”

In the title role of Hamlet is BASH’d Artistic Director James Wallis. James and Julia have been married since 2012 and Julia discusses how their shared history translates to a powerful connection onstage. “Hamlet and Ophelia don’t have much time together on stage to create this very intense relationship,” Julia says. “So working with James offers me a way in to that world, not to mention the trust and freedom we have in rehearsal.”

Photo of James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus by Kyle Purcell.

Photo of James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus by Kyle Purcell.

Catherine Rainville is taking the helm as director of this production. Catherine—who has acted in several BASH’d shows and co-directed Merry Wives during their Fringe 2015 run—leads a gender balanced cast that includes a female Laertes (played by Jennifer Dzialoszynski) as well as female Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (played by Jade Douris and Megan Miles.) “Catherine is such an actor’s director. She knows how to get you to solidify what you’re thinking.” Julia says of working with Catherine. “She just lets her actors’ impulses come out naturally, and then she helps shape them.” Julia also mentions how interesting it is to watch Hamlet surrounded by women that he mistrusts and how that new element affects the story.

Photo of Jennifer Dzialoszynski by Kyle Purcell

Photo of Jennifer Dzialoszynski by Kyle Purcell

Ophelia’s family dynamic has also been key to Julia’s exploration of Ophelia. Laertes’ (Jennifer Dzialoszynski) apprehension of Hamlet takes on a different tone coming from a sister as opposed to the older brother dynamic that audiences are used to. And Daniel Briere, who plays Polonius, is “such a giving scene partner who knows his text like no one’s business and has really embraced the idea of having two daughters,” says Julia.

Photo of Daniel Briere by Kyle Purcell

Photo of Daniel Briere by Kyle Purcell

Exploring the sister dynamic between Ophelia and Laertes has been a joy for Julia, “I couldn’t ask for better actors to be in a fake family with. And I think Catherine was right on the nose with her casting, especially with Jen. Wait until you see her fight,” Julia says. “The fights for this production, created by Nate Bitton, are incredible, and Jen performing them is amazing. It’s great to see a badass woman at the end of the show taking on the protagonist in a fight. Laertes being a woman brings a whole different quality to the fight at the end because now we’re seeing the rage and heart of a women whose entire family is dead.”

BASH’d shows have a reputation for selling out, so get your tickets early to avoid disappointment (plus when you buy online in advance, you save a dollar!)

Hamlet

Presented by Shakespeare BASH’d

12313755_1166705590023898_1840679382065778869_n

Who:
Directed by Catherine Rainville
Featuring: Daniel Briere, Jade Douris, Jennifer Dzialoszynski, Tim MacLean, Megan Miles, Jesse Nerenberg, Julia Nish-Lapidus, Drew O’Hara, David Ross, Jane Spence, James Wallis
Production Team: Dorea Beaudoin, Nathan Bitton, Darcy Haywood Stoop, Chloe Purcell, Kyle Purcell, Simon Rainville

What:
Shakespeare BASH’d caps off their biggest season yet with one of the Bard’s most beloved plays: Hamlet. Artistic Director James Wallis takes the stage in the title role, alongside a company of Shakespearean powerhouses in this energetic, compelling production. Returning to the Monarch Tavern, Hamlet will mark the fourth and final show of the company’s hitherto sold-out season. Don’t miss this new, fresh, and bold staging of a Shakespearean classic.

When: One week only! February 2-7, 2016

Where:  Monarch Tavern

Tickets$19 online, at shakespearebashd.com, $20 at the door (cash only)

Connect:

@shakesBASHd

@_BaileyGreen

@intheGreenRoom_

Artist Profile – Jesse LaVercombe of Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender at Videofag

Interview by Hallie Seline

HS: Who is Billy H. Tender?

JL: Billy is the popstar of his generation, and the play is about his infamous concert on January 31st, 2021. Before his unorthodox transformation into contemporary folk music, however, he collaborated regularly with producer DJ Jeh, and his production company, Front Row Fleek Freak, was sponsored by major players like Neosporin, Chef Boyardee, the State of Israel, Teen Physique Drinking Water, and Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Krunch. His mother, Stella Virginia Tender, was a Canadian stage actress until she accepted her position in the department of Post-Audience Theatre Theory and Semiotics Department at the University of Guelph. Billy’s younger brother, Hal, is fifteen and is his number one fan, A-1-since-day-1.

_DSC7104

HS: What was your inspiration to write this piece?

JL: Minaj’s “Anaconda” music video was pretty important, in all seriousness. As was DJ Khaled’s “Hold You Down”.

I spent seven months off the grid in 2014. I was living on this pirate ship that sailed the American East Coast performing opera and circus (it’s a long story…), but reintegrating into urban life was tough, and there’s this feeling of anxiety or loneliness I’d feel when I’d spend a couple of hours absorbed in Facebook… It reminded me of insomnia, and a lot of this play is trying to figure out and give some catharsis for that feeling.

I also wanted to write a show where I could wear a dress, but that element has been cut for a long time now.

HS: Tell me about working with director Adam Lazarus and dramaturg Guillermo Verdecchia.

JL: Both Adam and Guillermo are stupidly generous and infuriatingly smart, and they really like to make fun of each other.

HS: Can you speak about the role of music in the show?

JL: It’s big. Adrian Shepherd, in addition to building an already complicated sound design, has created basically a whole album of pop music, and it rocks.

HS: If your audience could listen to a song or a few before the show, what would it/they be?

JL: Check out our music videos on our Facebook page

“Hey Adrian, can you make, like, a Skrillex song?”

“Sure.”

And three days later he sent us Show Ü My Love”

_DSC7060

Short Answer Round:

HS: What music are you listening to right now?

JL: I’m giving a second listen to the audiobook So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. It’s great. He also narrates it and his voice is comforting and it’s about all my nervous system can handle right now.

HS: Favourite place in the city?

JL: Golden Patty in Kensington Market has been very good to me these past few weeks.

HS: Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

JL: “I don’t believe anything you’re saying. Act better” – Adam Lazarus

12341581_10205590574585400_1382858201410272397_n

Who:

Written and performed by Jesse LaVercombe

Directed by Adam Lazarus
Dramaturgy by Guillermo Verdecchia

Music by Jesse LaVercombe and Adrian Shepherd
Sound design by Adrian Shepherd
Design by Shannon Lea Doyle and Kelly Anderson
Cheography by Neeky Dalir
Stage Managed by Alexa Polenz
Producer: Curtis te Brinke

What: “I want to tell you about a day. January 31st, 2021. It wasn’t that long ago, I believe.

It was a salient day, at least in North America. I felt it on the Internet and in the weather and in my tummy. It was like the zeitgeist finally saw itself in the mirror, and it wasn’t sure whether to fight or flirt, so it kind of did both and just ate itself. It was a Sunday, clear skies but cold.”

– Hal Tender
(second son of Stella Virginia Tender [former Canadian stage actress, now research assistant in the U. of Guelph’s Post-Audience Theatre Theory and Semiotics Department], younger brother of the one, the only, Billy H. Tender) FB event here.

Where: Videofag, 187 Augusta Ave

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2469896

When: Jan 5 — 12, 2016
Jan. 5th @ 8pm – SOLD OUT
Jan. 6th @ 8pm
Jan. 7th @ 8pm
Jan. 8th @ 8pm
Jan. 9th @ 2pm and 8pm
Jan. 10th @ 2pm and 8pm
Jan. 11 @ 8pm
Jan. 12 @ 8pm

Connect with us!

Spread the word: #billyhtender

Jesse LaVercombe – @jesselavercombe

Videofag – @Videofag

In the Greenroom – @intheGreenRoom_

Hallie Seline – @HallieSeline

Artist Profile: Lesley Robertson takes on the role of King John in the upcoming production by Shakespeare BASH’d

Interview by Hallie Seline

Hallie Seline: King John has been scarcely performed up until last year when Stratford staged it. Why do you think King John is due for a ‘come-back’ and what about it stood out the most after working on it now in comparison to some of Shakespeare’s more often produced work in Canada?

Lesley Robertson: I think King John is definitely due for a come-back because I think we all need a break from the over-produced comedies for a bit, while still getting to enjoy Shakespeare’s spectacular poetry, characters, and timeless themes of humanity. I especially think it’s due for a come-back in the bare-bones, accessible way Shakespeare BASH’d is approaching the play.  The text is heavy with political maneuvering, battles over ‘right’, and religious language – it’s very dense and rooted in its history. But with the clear direction of James Wallis, I think we will make this difficult, murky-seeming play come alive for an audience through our emphasis on the story and language (without relying on expensive sets and costumes) and our youthful energy and passion to tell a story about oppression. I personally celebrate the play’s complexity and messy imperfections – I think it suits the story, which is full of political and moral errors and people switching back and forth between sides. I also think it’s a great time to tell a political story with Canada just having had a very interesting election and also a travelling Magna Carta exhibit!

HS: What have you discovered in exploring the character of King John? 

LR: I’ve thought a lot about manipulation and what is right and wrong. I’ve rarely played characters that, on the outside, might be perceived as ‘villainous’ or even not likeable. But from the inside, those people are simply acting in a manner they think best. They are doing what they think is right and they are simply going after what they want and need. So, I guess that’s to say, I’ve found it very interesting to empathize with someone that has been hated so widely and for centuries! (That’s not to say I think what John does is ‘good’ and ‘right’!) I think Shakespeare has created a deliciously complex play and I hope to imbue John with the complexity of any human being; we are all vulnerable. I hope to complicate the audience’s inherited perception of “Bad King John.”

HS: What are you most looking forward to in doing this piece in The Junction City Music Hall?

LR: The proximity between the audience and our playing space, I like being able to see audience members’ faces, and, of course, the beer.

HS: Describe this play in 10 words or less.

LR: Oh, I’m terrible at this… Crap, are you counting?… “Oppression.”

Lesley Robertson as King John. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

Lesley Robertson as King John.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

HS: Favourite Drink at The Junction City Music Hall:

LR: I remember noting several craft tall boys that I love, but I can only remember Conductor’s Ale at the moment. Ask me again at the end of the run!

HS: Favourite rehearsal moment:

LR: When everyone laughed at me during an early movement rehearsal in which I created a giant angry horse with my body that simply yells “NEIGH!!!”

HR: Favourite place in Toronto:

LR: Other than my home, the 13th floor of Robarts Library.

HS: Where do you find inspiration?

LR: Music, literature, history, documentaries…

HS: Best advice you’ve ever gotten:

LR: Hm… My streetcar driver today said “Life is too short to be grumpy” and that was pretty great.

HS: What do you think is on your King John’s pre-show playlist?

LR: Something that really pumps me up I guess… like gangster rap… Yeah, probably some gangster rap.

King John Graphic

Directed by James Wallis

Featuring: Sochi Fried, James Graham, Bailey Green, Catherine Rainville, Lesley Robertson, Caitlyn Robson, David Ross, Matt Shaw, Tim Welham, Kate Werneburg, Jeff Yung

When: November 16 – 21, 2015

Where: Junction City Music Hall, 2907 Dundas Street West, Toronto.

Tickets: $19 online: shakespearebashd.com $20 at the door.

Connect with us!

Shakespeare Bash’d: @ShakesBASHd

In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_

The Sex Ed Curriculum, Plays in Threes & Making a Statement with a Dildo – In Conversation with Rob Kempson, Playwright/Director of SHANNON 10:40

Interview by Brittany Kay

Brittany Kay: Tell me about your title character Shannon and SHANNON 10:40?

Rob Kempson: Shannon, the character, was born out of my work as a teacher and meeting students who don’t feel like they are welcomed in the environment of school. I’ve taught in a lot of settings where they are welcomed and that is truly amazing, like if you look at an arts school, for example, and the amount of students who are queer or questioning or in some of sort in-between place with their sexual identity or gender identity, those schools tend to be leaning towards a more supportive side. What was most interesting to me were kids who are incredibly confident with their sexuality and are able to talk about it openly, and the way that other kids in school respond to that kind of confidence and power. I was not one of those kids. After creating Shannon, I started thinking about myself as a queer teacher and the challenges associated with that in this day and age. I thought putting those two people on stage together might create an interesting dynamic.

BK: What has been your inspiration for writing this show?

RK: I’m producing two plays of mine this year. SHANNON 10:40 is the first one before the holidays and the second one is called Mockingbird, which will be in the Next Stage Theatre Festival in January 2016. They are part of a series that I’m calling The Graduation Plays. I think that I tend to work in threes. I kind of get obsessed with an idea for a little while and hang out with that idea in my brain. I’ve been teaching for a long time and so I’ve obviously always thought about school settings but for SHANNON 10:40 and Mockingbird, it was just their time in my brain to come into being. I was ready for them to exist. Jokingly, 2014 was the year of Grandmas for me. I did a musical that was about a grandma (The Way Back To Thursday) and then I did a piece at Hatch that featured three grandmas (#legacy). I don’t think my grandma phase is over, perhaps, but I’d like to think that now I’m on to my school phase.

Once I get interested in a given environment or topic, I want to explore that from a lot of different places before I’m done with it and sometimes you can’t fit all of that into one play, so it becomes two plays.

BK: Is there a third one in your series?

RK: I think there’s a third play… and I think I know what it’s about. I certainly didn’t imagine I would get into Next Stage this year and also get to produce SHANNON 10:40 this year, so the fact that they are being presented so close together is very exciting. I feel really lucky.

BK: Why the title of the series – The Graduation Plays?

RK: I always thought of them as a series and then a smart publicist friend of mine told me that I needed to name it as a series if it’s going to be one. Of course, initially what came to my mind was the Education Plays and I thought, “well that sounds stupid,” and then I thought that that’s not actually what this is about. It’s about all of us as an education community but also us as a world advancing in some way. Getting to somewhere that we weren’t before. That’s what graduation is in theory and I think I imagine these plays to both showcase characters and situations that challenge what we expect and challenge what we understand to be acceptable.

I think that there are so many examples of students taking back power because they need to act out, they need to say they’re not happy, they need to stand up for themselves… there’s a lot of different reasons. The term ‘graduation’ is kind of about all of that – it’s about moving forward and understanding something new. Both plays have that sort of characteristic to them.

BK: How has teaching, being in a school environment, and around these types of students influenced your writing?

RK: I feel so lucky that I get to work as an artist educator and as an artist because those two streams for me are incredibly important in my life, in my career, and they ultimately inform one another. So things that I’m working on in my artistic practice often end up infiltrating my work as an artist educator and vice versa. Things that happen in my practice as an artist educator always make their way into my writing. There’s this real sort of back and forth between those two parts of my brain.

Hallie Seline as Shannon in SHANNON 10:40

Hallie Seline as Shannon in SHANNON 10:40

BK: Why 10:40?

RK: Oh, because that’s the time of Shannon’s guidance appointment. She’s going to a guidance appointment at 10:40. It’s not like 4.48 Psychosis or anything crafty. It’s literally the time of her guidance appointment. The timeline is all about the school day and 10:40 is midway through second period, it’s right before lunch and she’s been called out of class to come to this guidance appointment. There’s a very different kind of day for students because school starts so early in the morning and ends so early in the afternoon.

BK: This play is very timely and appropriate for what some are calling The Education Crisis that is going on.

RK: Yes. It’s not really brain surgery though… Oh, the world changes but we’ve done the exact same thing for a very long time? If we expect to be relevant and expect to connect with our students and we expect to have our education system actually do anything for the community that we live in, it needs to change with the world. The bureaucracy that prevents it from doing so is, in fact, the problem. We need to be able to respond quickly with curriculum development. We need to give teachers enough autonomy to be able to work with the curriculum in an innovative and progressive way, but we also need to be able to support them as they make those choices. The message of Shannon 10:40 is definitely political in scope in the sense that a teacher, Mr. Fisher, is dealing with this desire to be a progressive forward thinking teacher and he’s not receiving the support that he needs to in order to do that effectively. Shannon is a student who’s caught in the cross-fire, not feeling represented in her school, not feeling represented in her classes that she has to take and, therefore, feeling oppressed. She is feeling like she is the victim of oppression in her everyday life as a student and so, of course, she’s going to do something to change that, because she has to.

I think the play is about students figuring out a way to state their case, to share their message, to say what they need to say—and students don’t always do that in the most appropriate way. That’s what it’s about: a student taking back the power and fighting the oppression of that system.

BK: Tell me you’re inviting Kathleen Wynne because this is so timely around what is happening right now in the world of education.

RK: I do have dreams of doing so. I’m definitely inviting some folks who are into education pedagogy and hoping we’ll be able to have a discourse around that.

BK: I think that’s what theatre is about… that, often it needs to reflect what’s happening in our day-to-day.

RK: I agree. I also think that we don’t give students tools to talk about or react to oppression, but we then oppress them. If we’re not teaching them how to react to that in a way that’s appropriate, how can we expect anything but outbursts, outrage and acts of defiance because they need to be heard. They need to say what they feel.

I think the last great bastion to knock down in a school setting is really around sexual and gender diversity and it’s way better than it used to be. It’s not like we aren’t making progress but it’s when in that progress that we need to recognize we’re never done… We still need to work. We still need to continue and develop.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with from SHANNON 10:40?

RK: Hopefully, a new perspective in their toolkit when they’re thinking about the way that education works in this province. And, also, that they got to see a show with a dildo in it! We haven’t even said that—Shannon brings a dildo to school.

Rapid Fire Question Period:

Favourite movie: Sister Act 2.

Play: Impossible to choose… You Are Here by Daniel MacIvor?

Musical: Elegies.

Food: Cheese.

TV Show: Please Like Me.

Book: Favourites are so hard… I don’t like the commitment… The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Best advice you’ve ever gotten or something you live by: This is where I find myself. You have to be happy where you are.
12096604_10153332772663952_6415745338846030385_n

Who: Written and Directed by Rob Kempson
Featuring Qasim Khan and Hallie Seline
Set and Costume Design by Anna Treusch
Lighting Design by Oz Weaver
Sound Design by Daniel Maslany

When: Wed‐Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm

Where: Videofag, 187 Augusta Avenue, Toronto

Tickets: $20 or $15 for Artsworkers/Students. Plus a $10 Halloween ticket treat for Saturday October 31st at 8pm.
Available at shannon1040.bpt.me

Connect with us:

Rob Kempson – @rob_kempson #shannon1040

Brittany Kay – @brittanylkay

In the Greenroom – @intheGreenRoom_

 

*Disclaimer: Please note the editor’s personal involvement in the show has not affected the editing and content of this piece. The views of this interview are that of the interviewer and the subject.

Philip Ridleys “Mercury Fur” Gets Toronto Premiere – A Chat with Director Will King

Interview by Hallie Seline

HS: Could you tell me a bit about the show? 

Will King: Absolutely! Mercury Fur follows two brothers who survive in a lawless city by fulfilling the dark and vivid fantasies of their clients. Language is degrading, memories are disappearing, and as the population becomes increasingly dependant on mind altering butterflies, their desperate need to connect with each other is intensified. It’s provocative and unapologetic, but at its core this is a show about what you would do to protect the person you love.

HS: What inspired you to do this show in Toronto right now? 

WK: I’ve been a fan of Philip Ridley’s work for a long time, and once I realized that there’s never been a Canadian production of this play I knew we needed to bring it to Toronto. It has an incredible cast of characters, and I’m consistently impressed by Ridley’s ability to write three dimensional parts for young actors. I also think Mercury Fur challenges the audience to experience theatre in a new way. It weaves together horror, drama, and comedy into a shot of adrenaline which leaves you wanting more. I’ve never read or experienced anything quite like it, and I feel like the strength of the writing allowed us to bring together a pretty incredible cast and crew.

HS: What has been the most surprising discovery you have made while working on Mercury Fur?

WK: The humour. Mercury Fur can be wickedly funny. We are constantly finding joy in this bleak world they live in and although there’s plenty of heavy subject matter, Ridley has created a solid polarity of comedy to keep things rolling.

Edit-1

HS: What inspires you as artists?

WK: At the moment I’m quite fascinated by Fantastic Realism. Through taking characters which are grounded and believable, and placing them in a heightened, magical, or supernatural environment I find we are able to expand the style and size of our world without compromising the given circumstances or truth of the characters.

For example, in Mercury Fur, every character has been affected by the outbreak of butterflies. Whether they sell them, consume them, reject them, or become hopelessly addicted to the power of their fantasy, the existence of these butterflies creates an immediate bond between the characters. 

Seven Siblings Theatre is also focused on utilizing the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique. So when I see a piece with strong shifts in atmosphere, an even ensemble, and characters that are heightened enough to be in a constant state of play I get excited. Mercury Fur goes hand-in-hand with my style and our company values, and I’m very proud of the people who are helping to make this possible. Their commitment to our psychophysical exploration was thrilling to watch, and the detail and nuance in their performance is the result of their engagement throughout our rehearsal process.

HS: If you could pitch this show to your audience in five to ten words, what would they be?

WK: Judith Thompson meets Quentin Tarantino. A party ensues.

MFUR-11

HS: What song or soundtrack should we listen to before coming to see the show? 

WK: As a small homage to the culture in which the play was written we’ve been digging into the soundscape of East London’s electronic music scene. I would recommend looking into Burial, Four Tet, Phaeleh, and SBTRKT. We’ve also been building a deep and dark sound palette, so Gesaffelstein seems appropriate to me as a pre-show prep. For the exact tone of our play, check out our sound designer’s work in his new self-titled Holloh E.P.

Lastly, I’d recommend that you brush the dust off your Elvis collection, but to find out why you’ll have to come to the show!

Mercury Fur

Presented by Seven Siblings Theatre Co.
 Edit-2

Director: Will King
Assistant Director: Madryn McCabe
Lighting and Sound Design: Parker Nowlan
Stage Manager: Andreane Christiansen
Fight Choreography: Nathan Bitton
Fight Captain: Annemieke Wade
Set Design: Stephen King

Cast:
Elliot: Cameron Laurie
Darren: Andrew Markowiak
Naz: Adrian Beattie
Lola: Eric Rich
Spinx: Mishka Thébaud
Duchess: Annemieke Wade
Party Piece: Kenneth Collins
Party Guest: D. Gingerich

Where: Unit 102

When: Aug 27th to Sept 6th

Tickets & More Info: http://sevensiblingstheatre.ca/mercury-fur/ 

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sevensiblingstheatreco
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SevenSiblingsCo 

FWYC Campaignhttps://fwyc.ca/campaigns/mercury-fur