Hey, It’s Not All Bad! 2016 In Review

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It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, doing a “year in review” post, so here goes one for a year most of us agree has been pretty shit; 2016.

Despite the awful things happening in the world, the ridiculous number of celebrities to pass before their time, 2016 has been good to me in a lot of ways. Here’s the highlights.

Tarragon Theatre

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As I mentioned in my blog from this time last year, in January of 2016 I started working for Tarragon Theatre as the Assistant Producer; this has been my all time favourite job. The people at Tarragon are awesome, and I very quickly got to learn a lot. From doing CAEA contracts with Kesta, the Business Manager; mailings and social media marketing with Lauren, the Director of Communications; foundation & grant research with Leslie, Director of Development; workshops with students lead by Anne, Director of Education; and special projects grant writing with Richard, the Artistic Director, I’ve had a chance to do a little bit of everything and that has helped to confirm that, yes, I love everything about theatre. It’s been a hard year in a lot of ways and the staff have been very supportive, and I’m going to miss the place when my contract ends (soon). But I think I have now a good idea of what sort of training & experience I need to have a position there, and so I’m headed down that path in hopes of working there again someday!

New Apartment

For anyone thinking of moving to a new apartment a week before opening a show, I have one piece of advice; don’t. Despite it being insanely hectic, and taking a very long time to get organize and settled in, I’m very happy with my new home. It’s a lovely old building, built around 1910, and has a ton of vintage charm, which (surprise!) I love. Plus, I’m here with 4 of my favourite people; my bunny, Felicity, my budgies, Felix & Rooney, and my ever-supportive boyfriend, Conor (aka Coogle). Pretty great.

Wait Until Dark

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In April Bygone Theatre mounted a production of Wait Until Dark in the rehearsal hall at Tarragon Theatre. As happens with every show I direct, I got to meet a ton of funny, talented, and all-round awesome people. Also got to reconnect with Anthony Neary who I had worked with on Madeline Robin Known As Roxann a couple years back; he came out from Ottawa to set up some funky LED lights. We got to expand our Youth Outreach with this show by getting several teenage volunteers involved, which not only lessened my workload, but introduced all of us to some up-and-coming Toronto talents.

Directing with Richard Rose

This year I finally had a chance to take a class I have wanted to sign up for for YEARS; Directing with Richard Rose. I don’t have any formal theatre training and so I had wanted to add some things to my resume and get tips from a pro; for anyone looking for the same, I highly recommend this class. I haven’t had a chance to direct a show since taking the course, so we’ll see come His Girl Friday if his words of wisdom will improve my directing skills!

Vaudeville Revue

13581899_812129075590261_8621653151204502106_o(Most of) The Cast of Vaudeville Revue

Since I started Bygone back in late 2012, I have wanted to do a vaudeville show; in June 2016, I finally got the chance. Vaudeville Revue had a short run but we had an amazing variety of talent, and I’ve got another one planned for this season; hopefully this will grow into a yearly event. Everyone was not only talented but wonderfully positive. Despite not having the usual rehearsal process, I really witnessed bonding among performers backstage. That’s always one of my favourite parts of a show.

Tucked Away Antiques

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In August I decided to try and make some extra cash out of my second biggest passion (next to theatre); antiques. I have a ridiculous number of vintage & antique items at home – from shows, my own collections – and I always want to buy more. So I opened up an Etsy shop, Tucked Away Antiques, to feed my collecting addiction without making me go broke; it worked! It’s growing slowly, but it is growing, and I am making a profit. In the new year I hope to build it more and get it to a place where it can be a regular source of income.

Human Rights Hearing Against Theatre 20

This is meant to be a positive post, so I won’t go into this here. I’ll just say that the hard part is over, and that you can read more about it here.

Coming Up

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I’m already knee-deep in 2017 in a lot of ways. Work on Bygone’s next show, His Girl Friday, started a few months ago, and rehearsals will start in early January. I’ve signed up for online courses through Lynda, so I can brush up on my Adobe skills & Google Analytics, as well as learn how to use new programs like Quickbooks & Sage, and get some training on HTML & C++. Hopefully these skills will help me not just with Bygone, but any future work as a producer. I’ve got a bunch of things on the back-burner at the moment, and hopefully will have some more updates soon, though I won’t jinx it by mentioning them now.

All for now. Happy New Year!
– E.

Vintage Style Icons

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Today while wasting time on Pinterest I got to thinking about the problems with so many of the “style boards” you find on there; they are very obviously not made for Canadian winters. For those of us that love vintage looks, it can be especially disheartening to browse through gorgeous outfits knowing that you couldn’t stand them for more than about 30 seconds outside; those pretty dresses don’t keep you warm.

So I decided to throw together a few style boards of my own, all inspired by Golden Age actresses but made for us Canadians, with pants instead of dresses and all prices in CAD. More to come, enjoy!

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My 2014 – Looking Back at a Crazy Theatre-Packed Year

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It’s been a busy year, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing people. 2014 started off with me pumped to get more involved with new theatre groups and it certainly happened. Here’s a brief look back at my theatre-packed 2014.

Madeline Robin Known As Roxane

In February of 2014 I stage managed the Theatre Double Take production of Madeline Robin Known As Roxane. I got to work with my buddy Leete Stetson (who has been in every Bygone Theatre production so far) and his girlfriend, writer/director Grace Smith. I was reunited with Alex Simpson, an actress who I’d met through a Newborn Theatre festival a while back and got to work with Tennille Read who I had seen perform in a Soup Can Theatre show; it’s a small world, and it’s great when you see those with talent and commitment continuing to get work. The show was a new experience for me as it was in-the-round, had a bizarre set and I was running sound & lights as the SM. I learned how to work a new lighting program and got to know Anthony Neary, a great SFX artist from Ottawa. In a very short time I met a lot of people and learned a lot of new things.

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Tennille Read & Alex Simpson

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Tennille Read & Alex Simpson

UofT Festival of Dance

For the third year in a row, I was involved in the Festival of Dance (FOD) at Hart House Theatre. This time I was the Artistic Director and I started up the Festival of Dance Executive Council. I worked on the show and its related workshops throughout the year, and the performance in March was a huge success; great performances and sold-out shows. I made a ton of connections in the dance community, and it was fun to be directing something that wasn’t my usual theatre, plot-driven type show.

1797369_381087865363051_1340544635_nMillinery Course at Stratford Off The Wall

In July I took my second Off The Wall course. Having enjoyed the Faux Food one I took with Deb Erb in 2013, my mother & I decided to sign up for a millinery course. We learned how to make a buckram hat and I improved my sewing skills.

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The start of my buckram hat.

 

The millinery class with their completed buckram hats.

The millinery class with their completed buckram hats.

New York International Fringe Festival

In July I was hired as the stage manager for the Promise Productions show No Visible Scars. After a few rehearsals and a preview performance we took the show to the New York International Fringe Festival, and had the opportunity to stay in the city for nearly a month.

I won’t talk about the show itself, because frankly there was nothing positive that came from it aside from the fact that I learned it is important to get legal contracts done up in writing, and to get to know who you’re working for before you commit to living with them. However, the experience in NYC was still a great one, and I met some amazing people while there.

My ASM Astrid Atherly & technical director Craig Nelson were both a joy to work with, and tons of fun for site-seeing; the same can be said for actress Tea Nguyen.

We saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway and I was ecstatic to meet the cast after the show and get some great pics. I met the talented team behind His Majesty the Baby and saw one of my all-time favourite fringe shows. Got to know comedian Xavier Toby  who is brilliant onstage and off and saw the phenomenal musical King of Kong which starred Amber Ruffin (who is now making a name for herself on Late Night With Seth Myer) and Lauren Van Kurin; both ladies are extremely talented and were just a joy to talk to. Love meeting people who are both talented AND nice!

Got to know the city, a bit, and did some shopping. After only 3 weeks it felt like home. Can’t wait to go back.

Poculi Ludique Societas

In September I was hired as a Production Assistant for Poculi Ludique Societas (PLS) the Medieval & Renaissance drama group at UofT. I’ve gotten to dig through the jam-packed costume room (LOVE it) and help out with marketing as well as costuming. I still can’t believe I get paid to do this.

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Retro Radio Hour – Suspense!

DSC_0577In October we produced our third radio show, Retro Radio Hour – Suspense! We used the cast of our mainstage show, Rope and performed the one-night fundraiser at the SoCap. It was great to see everyone looking all dolled up and playing some funny bits; a nice break from the heavy drama of Rope.

Rope

In November Bygone produced their 3rd mainstage production; Rope. I had wanted to direct the show since 2012, and the work that went into this one spanned about a year. I directed, produced, did all the marketing, the costume design, the props; pretty much everything you can think of. It was an insane amount of work but deeply gratifying, and with a brilliant cast and on-the-ball SM we pulled off a great show that not only sold out nearly every performance, but one that got great reviews as well. Even better than that, I met some folks that I know will stick around and who I can’t wait to work with again. One in particular has proven to be a great friend, and I am currently working on producing a show that he has written (details to come in the new year).

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

The Social Capital Theatre

In December I found myself back at the SoCap/Social Capital Theatre where we had performed Retro Radio Hour – Suspense! I am now working as their PR Manager, promoting the stand-up/improv/sketch comedy shows the bar produces weekly.

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Another sign of how small a world it is? One of the managers, Carmine Lucarelli, was in Sundance a show that I did the costumes for back in 2012. I had learned about the gig through Matt McGrath (my fellow Bygone producer) who had acted in a show with Two Wolves producer Jesse Watts that year. Through that production I met Carmine as well as Alexis Budd (who later did the fight direction for Dial M For Murder, and who I acted alongside with in the Hart House production of Romeo and Juliet) and Geoff Kolomayz (who has been involved in our Retro Radio Hour series). It really is who you know. But it’s not about meeting the people at the top at Mirvish or Soulpepper, it’s about making great connections, friends, with the talented folks who are doing exactly what you are; starting off taking any work they can get, and pushing themselves to always do bigger & better things.

On top of all this, I graduated university, my boyfriend and I got engaged, bought a house in Brampton, bought a car, two budgies & bunny. We took a trip to Punta Cana and started planning for a wedding. Honestly, when I first sat down to write this I thought, I didn’t do that much this year, then I got scanning my calendar and thought, holy crap, how DID I do all this this year? That’s the amazing thing about working in something you love – it never feels like work. So while my calendar has been packed full the last 12 months I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I look forward to heaping even more on my plate in 2015, to spending more time with the incredible friends I’ve made this year and to making more in the year to come.

-E.

Opening Weekend – 3 Sold-Out Shows!

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We just wrapped up the opening weekend of Rope, and I must say this was the smoothest opening I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I am actually getting better at this whole “producing” thing or if the theatre gods were smiling that day, but we managed to get through 3 shows in a site-specific venue that was not without its difficulties, braving the sudden snow (you’d think Canadians would be used to it by now, but no, they can’t figure out how to drive in it) all without any accidents, incidents or missed cues. I am happy.

Jamieson Child watches Chelsey MacLean tie a "jolly good parcel". Photo by Danielle Son.

Matt McGrath and Jamieson Child watch Chelsey MacLean tie a “jolly good parcel”. Photo by Danielle Son.

It’s always exciting to see the show finally come together; don’t get me wrong, it’s been in a good place for weeks now, but the energy of the audience always kicks the actors up into high-gear. Even with those who I’d worked with many times before, I was thrilled to see new levels emerge, and actually found myself jumping at falls I’d seen a dozen times, getting teary-eyed at speeches that I know by heart. That’s always an amazing feeling.

Leete Stetson and Jamieson Child. Photo by Danielle Son.

Leete Stetson and Jamieson Child. Photo by Danielle Son.

As a director, I was proud to see the actors all perform at their absolute best. All the little notes and nuances that had occasionally appeared during rehearsals were remembered and performed to perfection. I was thrilled with each and every one of them.

Matt McGrath, Chelsey MacLean and Nicholas Arnold. Photo by Danielle Son.

Matt McGrath, Chelsey MacLean, Nicholas Arnold and Leete Stetson. Photo by Danielle Son.

As a producer, I was ecstatic to have 3 sold-out performances in a weekend, something that has never happened before for a show I’ve produced. Having a packed audience helps the cast and it helps Bygone’s budget as well.

"You suspect what, did you say?" Jamieson Child confronts Leete Stetson. Photo by Danielle Son.

“You suspect what, did you say?” Jamieson Child confronts Leete Stetson. Photo by Danielle Son.

As a designer I was relieved to see none of the costumes fell apart, and that they looked good together onstage. The lighting worked, the sound cues were effective (even if they weren’t what I initially had in mind), and thankfully I had a stage manager (Devon Potter) who was keeping everything running smoothly.

As anyone who works in theatre knows, a general rule is that, if it can go wrong, at some point, it will. And usually that’s what happens during the tech & dress (if you’re lucky, everything falls into place for opening). I’m knocking on SO much wood as I write this, but really, this time, nothing has gone wrong. I’ve said before that I think my greatest strength as a director is with my casting. I don’t claim to be doing anything new or groundbreaking, I choose plays with a clear plot and don’t try to change the audience’s view on anything. I just want to entertain them with a great show performed by talented actors. It’s happened again here. I have a brilliant cast and crew who I couldn’t be more pleased with. Everyone has come through to not only perform their best onstage, but off as well; this is a group I can trust and rely on, and for that I am so grateful.

We’ve still got four performances to go, with a few days in between here for us to all take a breath and finally exhale. I can’t wait for next weekend, I’m sure they’ll all blow me away again.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

My beautiful cast. Photo by Danielle Son.

Haven’t gotten your tickets to Rope yet? Get them online now through TO Tix.

Want to see more production stills? Check out our facebook page. Photos by the talented Danielle Son.

Dressing “Rope” – Costume Design Boards

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Check out my costume design boards for “Rope” – the real things will be coming very soon!

Bygone Theatre

Accurate period-appropriate costumes are an important thing to me, and to Bygone Theatre. I spend a considerable amount of time researching vintage fashion, and then even more time trying to figure out how to make it work on a budget. For a simple breakdown of what I’m looking for in terms of costumes for Rope I’ve created these costume boards.

Colour Scheme:
I am a fan of very specific colour schemes. While I could easily do the show with all the actors wearing any colour that suits them, when I first start planning a production, one of the first things that pops into my head is the overall design and the colours that I want to use. For Rope, I decided to go with what I’ve been describing as a “bruise” palette; dark blues, purples and greys, along with accents of green.

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Bruises typically have some yellow…

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How To Make a Buckram Hat Frame

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Recently I posted a blog on how to make a custom hat pattern from scratch, based off of skills I learned at my Stratford Off The Wall millinery course. Here is part 2 of my very simple how-to series on constructing a buckram hat.

How To Make a Buckram Hat Frame:

Step 1. Trace Your Pattern

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Step 1. Trace your master pattern onto the buckram.

In the last blog, you created a master pattern for the crown of your hat. If you haven’t already, make sure you remove all the tabs from the head opening (inner circle); this is to ensure you are always coming back to the same, original size. They will be added again shortly.

To make sure you trace it perfectly, try pinning your pattern into the buckram and through a piece of foam. Be sure to hold your pencil perpendicular to the floor so you don’t skew the measurements by adding or subtracting space when angling your pencil.

Step 2. Darts and Seam Allowances

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Step 2. Make sure to leave an 1 1/4″ seam allowance in the head opening. Don’t cut out your darts.

Now that you’ve traced your pattern, it’s time to add in a seam allowance and mark your darts. Add a 1 ¼” seam allowance to the head opening of your hat. Mark all of your darts and seam allowances. If you have large, cut-out darts like I do, don’t cut them out; simply trace the edges as these will later be folded over. When you’ve completed your tracing, cut out the buckram and add tabs again by slicing from the edge of your seam allowance up to the edge of your head opening. They should be approximately 1/8″ wide.

Step 3. Hand Stitch Your Darts

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Step 3. Stitch together your darts

Since it can be difficult to properly pin your darts (buckram is very stiff), it is best to hand stitch the tops so that they stay in place when you move to the machine. Make sure that you are following your original guidelines and are using the proper measurements. Extra strong thread, like upholstery thread, may be good for this step.

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Step 3. If you are having trouble holding the fabric with pins, try tape. Just make sure not to stitch over it.

Step 4. Machine Stitch Your Darts

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Step 4. Use a zig stitch on your machine to hold together the back seam and your darts

To make sure that your back seam and darts are strong, you will now want to machine stitch them. Use the zig stitch on your machine, keeping the stitches close together. This can be a little awkward if you’ve never sewn a 3D object like this before, but it gets easier as you go along. Make sure you have a strong thread and needle.

Step 4. A dart, zig-stitched together

Step 4. A dart, zig-stitched together

 Step 5. Add Millinery Wire

Attach the millinery wire

Step 5. Attach the millinery wire

Adding the millinery wire can be a difficult step if you have an unusual shaped crown like I did. First, bend the wire to fit the top of the crown, holding it in place with masking tape. This can be a tedious process, but it will add strength and shape to your hat and so is well worth it. Next, machine stitch the wire to the buckram using the zig stitch; on the one side, the needle should be going into the buckram, on the other, into air. It is very easy to break your needle if you hit the wire rather than the buckram or the air, so go slowly. I hand-cranked the majority of mine.

Step 6. Molding The Crown

Step 6. prep your form so  you can mold your buckram crown

Step 6. prep your form so you can mold your buckram crown

In order to mold your crown, you first need to prep your form. Mark clearly your FC, BC, SR, and SL marks, as well as the edge of where you want your crown to be. Again, mine was a topper and so was a bit unusual; it was high-up on the head and wasn’t parallel to the floor. If you are using a good hat block, this should be done on masking tape, never the block itself. Afterwards, wrap your form in plastic to make removal of the buckram easier. We used plastic produce bags; any thin plastic will work, including cling wrap. Be sure it is as smooth as possible.

Step 6. cut buckram on the bias

Step 6. cut buckram on the bias

Cut out a piece of buckram larger than your crown (give yourself a fair bit of room to make tugging easier) and lay it on your head. The bias should be facing FC and BC. Spray your buckram with water. It should be damp enough that it begins to soften, but not dripping to the point where the glue (in the buckram) washes away.

Step 6. pull and form your buckram

Step 6. pull and form your buckram

You will notice the buckram start to soften; now is the time to stretch it. Pull and smooth your buckram over your form, pinning it in place. Since I used a wrapped styrofoam head, I was able to use straight sewing pins. If you use a wooden hat form, you will need tacks or nails that may need to be inserted with the help of a hammer. Remember, you need just enough to hold it in place, all of these will have to come out again so don’t go nail-crazy.

The buckram will get sticky so be careful of your clothes and jewellery. You can achieve the majority of the smoothing by pulling rather than rubbing your hand over the surface, and this will help you be a bit less dirty. Once you’re satisfied with the result, set it aside to dry, leaving about 24 hours.

Step 7. Finishing The Brim

Step 7. glue bias tape to the edge of the crown

Step 7. glue bias tape to the edge of the brim

While your crown is drying you can complete your brim. Take a piece of bias tape longer than the circumference of your brim, and coat it lightly with a strong, tacky glue.

Step. 7 use the knife ridges as a guide

Step. 7 use the knife ridges as a guide

You can use a plastic knife to spread the glue evenly, and try to leave just the amount in between the ridges. Be sure there are no globs.

Step 7. attach to the wire

Step 7. attach to the wire

Once the bias tape is covered in glue, your can attach it to the wired edge of your brim. Go slowly and make sure you are attaching it evenly, and applying it firmly. You will be left with a smooth, covered edge.

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Step 7. your completed brim and the molded crown

Step 8. Removing Your Crown

Once the crown is completely dry, you can remove it from the form. Sometimes a vacuum is created and so you may want to enlist the help of a buddy.

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Step 8. Remove your crown

After you’ve removed your crown, trim it with some sturdy scissors to get it to  your desired shape. You are now ready to start covering your hat!

If you are putting light-weight or sheer fabric on the hat, you may want to try mulling it first. This is a technique that involves covering the entire form in some lightweight, white, flannelette. If you don’t think this is a necessary step, you can begin to cover your hat with your final fabric. But that will be covered in another blog!

All for now,
-E.