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

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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.

Designing His Girl Friday, Part 1: Vintage Office Desks

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While His Girl Friday won’t open for another 4 months I’m already busy prepping things on the production side. The budgets are set, fundraising & marketing scheduled, so now I get a little time to spend on one of my favourite parts of putting together a show (and part of why I started Bygone in the first place); designing.

Anyone who’s seen a Bygone Theatre production knows that we always do things set in the 20th century, and while there are of course budgetary restraints that don’t make 100% accuracy possible, I do work hard to get an authentic period feel to our shows, both with props and costumes, and when possible, set.

His Girl Friday is set in 1940 and takes place primarily in a newspaper office, which means that I have to find a lot of period office supplies. The good thing is, since it’s an office (as opposed to, say, the house of a trendy socialite), I can play with the time period a bit; supplies from the 30s or even 20s could easily still be showing up, as long as they do have modern necessities like typewriters and phones. So let’s start with the most basic part of an office…

Desks

There’s a few key styles of desk you will come across if researching those from the first half of the twentieth century; secretary desks, rolltop desks, typewriter desks and tanker desk.

The secretary desk is the oldest style in this list, and despite its name, would not be very useful for most secretaries, as it forces the user to sit staring into a bookshelf, rather than outward towards visitors. The base is made with wide drawers which have above them a hinged desktop surface, allowing it to be opened when a writing surface is needed, or closed to save space and protect documents when it is not. The top half of the desk features a bookcase – sometimes with some drawers – often covered by glass. All-on-all the secretary is a tall, heavy piece of furniture with a shallow depth. Once again, not very practical for a modern office, certainly not a shared space.

The rolltop desk was a staple of the turn of the (20th) century office. First designed in the late 1800s, it became popular throughout the end of the Victorian era as it was quite easily mass produced. Its signature element is the roll down top, wooden slats on a tambour that allowed the user to cover the desktop and drawers. While practical for a small office with minimal correspondence, the desks grew out of favour as large elements such as the typewriter required more desk space, and the small drawers and compartments grew unusable due to an increased volume of paper (again, thanks to mass production).

 

One of the modern marvels becoming appearing in turn of the century offices was the typewriter (I’ll go into more details on those later), and with that came the necessity for a new type of desk. Just as you would today want to have a different desk for your computer than say, writing or sewing, workers then found they needed something not only lower (for ease of typing) but sturdier than the hinged tops commonly used before; typewriters were heavy and required hard pounding on the keys. In addition to that, early typewriters were finicky and expensive, so it was important to keep them covered and safe from dirt and dust. Many initially considered them an eyesore as well, so the cover had an aesthetic value too.

1946 saw the introduction of the Tanker Desk, a new form of the pedestal desk made of steel, with a sheet metal surface. These utilitarian style desks were popular in institutions such as schools and government offices, and have a distinctly retro feel. They remained popular until the 1970s, and are often sought after now for a “industrial” look. However, as I mentioned previously, this show is set in 1940, so these are a little too modern. Plus, they are expensive and heavy; not a great choice for a show.

So what to use? Before even doing any research I knew I preferred the look of wood desks to wooden, and I knew I would need some that could support a typewriter. This play also calls for a rolltop desk. Given that we have a budget to stick to, and keeping in mind how difficult these can be to move and store, my plan is to get a larger, slightly older desk for Walter Burns (the editor) to have in his private office, and to use a small typewriter desk for his secretary.

The reporters will likely share a large table with just their own phone and small work station, and the back of the office will have a few older desks set aside, including our necessary rolltop desk. I’ll post photos when we have them all purchased, but for now, here’s an idea of what I’m looking for;

All for now, more to come soon!
-E.

Propnomicon – Vintage Telegrams

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While scanning the web for some vintage mail labels (making props for Wait Until Dark) I came across Propnomicon, a great resource for building some creepy props. They have a ton of posts on telegrams, and even though that pre-dates what I’m looking for, I loved them so much I thought I’d share. Enjoy.

-E.

Another Theatre-Filled Year – Looking Back at my 2015

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Skimming the blog that I wrote about this time last year I can’t believe so much time has gone by. I think we always start off a new year feeling positive and optimistic, and things rarely turn out the way we expect, for better or for worse.

I’ve certainly had my share of crappy moments this year, but when I sit down to write something like this, a summary in a few hundred words of several hundred days, I find that the things that stick out are still mostly positive. Why? Simply because while I can trace a positive experience back to every negative one, I never do the opposite; who cares what bad seems to follow from a good thing? Chances are, they aren’t really connected, and would you trade that good moment if it meant maybe not enduring the bad? When it comes to the negative, sure, it sucks. And honestly, if I were to just count them, this year has been mostly negative. However, with each and every bad moment I can follow it through and see how it played a crucial moment in the best times I’ve had this year. Flawed, contradictory logic? For sure. But whatever. If it gets you to the start of another year looking forward to the good things rather than dwelling on the bad, well, then, I don’t think anyone should complain.

So on that note, here’s a happy summary of all my fun-filled theatre experiences of 2015 – a reminder to you, and me, of all the good parts of the year and the bright things ahead.

A Dark New Musical

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I started off the year working on a new musical with one of my best friends. Those who know me likely know that it didn’t go as planned. At all. Still, in keeping with the positive theme of this post, here is what good did come from it;

  1. I met some amazingly talented people and was lucky enough to make some really great new friends. Theatre is all about connections and I made some good business ones there as well.
  2. I helped to create and produce an original, full-length musical, something that, not only had I never done before, but, regardless of how it turned out in the end, is a pretty big accomplishment in itself. I can’t tell you the number of hours put into that show, how exhausting it was on so many levels, but despite that I came out of it not jaded, not angry, still loving theatre and still loving the people I worked with. Anyone who has heard all the inside stories knows that that fact alone is nothing short of a miracle! It also tells me that, yes, I am in the right business.
  3. I got to visit NYC again for a little over a week. One of my favourite cities, I love going there and am trying to make it a goal to visit at least once every year.
  4. For better and for worse, I got to see the true colours of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very valuable thing to discover. For the most part, I was proud and very happy with what I saw, and for the rest, well, lesson learned.

I Wanna Be A…Producer?

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Conor, Kenton, Matt & myself

As I think I’ve said before, I started off producing purely out of necessity; there aren’t a lot of people out there who get excited by budgets and spreadsheets and who would prefer to stay behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly while most of the groups asks each other, “what do producers do, anyway?”. I had produced all of Bygone’s shows but not given much thought to doing it outside of that, until a friend of mine (who almost NEVER gives compliments) told me he thought I was good at it, and that it was a path I should follow. I took that to heart, as I do just about all that he says, still, I didn’t think there would really be any opportunity as I felt producers must have some sort of skill that I was lacking (although I wasn’t really sure what that would be).

In early February 2015 I started working for Theatre 20, initially without any title, just happy to be earning a living working in theatre in some capacity. When they decided what my role would be I was surprised to be given the title of Producer, but when they explained what I would be doing and why they thought that was the right role I realized, heh, that is what a producer does, that is what I’ve been doing and maybe this all isn’t as unattainable as I thought.

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35mm: A Musical Exhibition, Toronto Premiere, May 2015

A few months later (on a project outside of T20) I was the Assistant Producer for the Canadian premiere of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition and I found myself working on a show that starred an actress I had eagerly seen perform (and gotten an awkward fan photo with) about 10 years before. Small world, eh? And again, maybe not as impossible as I had thought.

Things with Theatre 20 didn’t work out but here again I learned some valuable lessons; don’t take people on their word. Don’t trust in someone just because you feel they are a “good person”. And when it comes down to it, it IS worth sticking to your guns and having a say, just make sure you get everything in writing so that if it comes back to bite you, you can prove that you were the one coming from the right place. I hope to be able to go into all of this in more detail in the new year.

What working with T20 did do, besides teaching me the above lessons, is give me the confidence to say, yes, I can be a producer. And so I went into those musicals feeling like I knew what I was doing. And I continued to put together Bygone, slowly easing more and more into a producer’s position. It also encouraged me to apply for the Assistant Producer position at Tarragon; I start there in the new year.

Bygone Theatre – INCORPORATED

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We didn’t change the name, didn’t add an “inc” or anything to it, so I guess most people would never know anything changed, but this year we applied and were granted non-profit incorporation status for Bygone Theatre and I couldn’t be happier. Granted, I have yet to make any money off this company (the shows with profit have directly financed the following shows – I don’t get paid for any of my work), BUT I can still say that at 26 years old I now own and run my own company, which is pretty nifty. Being non-profit meant I needed a board of directors and I am fortunate enough to have gotten an amazing team. Not only are they talented, with artistic opinions I respect, and a motivation and drive necessary for the company’s growth, they are great people and great friends. I think we’re set up well for the new year with this group at the helm.

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Bygone Board – Elizabeth, Conor, Elizabeth & Leete

More Freelance Work

As I did more work for my own company and other’s, I was surprised to find people actually liking what I’d done (who’d a thunk it?). I started doing some web design for friends and found that I liked it a lot. In the new year, I’m signing up for some more technical courses so that I feel qualified to advertise myself as a web designer, but already the encouragement I’ve gotten is great. Maybe this year some of that work will actually turn a profit!

True-Blue

As I’ve sort of said already, if I had to summarize this year with one general theme, one “lesson learned”, it would be knowing now who to trust (and not to) and who my true friends are. In some cases, it was obvious. In others, I was pleasantly surprised. But all round I’ve found that time together or apart has no baring on a friendship; it’s the quality of the person, not the quantity of the time spent together, and someone you’ve known for 12 years can cease to be a friend in a blink of an eye while someone you’ve known for 2 months can become your main source of support. I’ve been surprised by the kindness and generosity of a few people in particular, and in addition to knowing that I will pay them back as soon as I’m able, it’s also encouraged me to spread the love to some strangers. Not everyone is lucky enough to have friends like these, I know, so it’s time to share some of that luck.

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What’s Next

I start my job as Assistant Producer at Tarragon Theatre on January 5, 2016. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I’m grateful for the chance to work with one of the most respected companies in the city, and know that at the very least, I will work with some talented people whose careers I aspire to. I’m sure there’ll be much more than that, but I’ll save it for when I actually start working there.

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With Bygone, I’m working on making the Retro Radio Hour a regular program and talking to some of those involved about how we can make it tighter and better; we’ve got some great ideas brewing. As well, I will be directing another show, something I’ve really missed doing for the past year, when we mount Wait Until Dark. Plus, I am finally getting the chance to produce Vaudeville Revue, something I have been thinking about for the past 3 or more years. This is the year to set down our guidelines, to make an impression, to prepare ourselves for the 2016-2017 season, which will be our first fully-scheduled regular season. Lots of work, but I’m ready – bring it on.

So to everyone who has been a part of this year, thank you. Regardless of what our interaction was, what our current relationship is, you all helped to shape a year that has been the one with the most personal and career-related growth in…I don’t even know how long. The positive moments inspire me and the negative ones push me to drive forward and prove that this year can be better. Let’s see what 2016 has in store.

-E.

Blissfully Astray – May Updates

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The past few months have flown by, but May especially has been a whirlwind.

At the start of 2015 I began my job at Theatre 20, and after a month or two working part-time and doing the odd task I was given a full-time position as their producer. The organization is currently structured as follows; Brian Goldenberg (who I work alongside) as the Executive Director, David Keeley as Artistic Director and Nora McClelland as Associate Artistic Director – then comes me as Producer. Being a non-profit we have a board with 13 or 14 members, and then there’s a host of interns/volunteers & a new summer student. Big company, relatively small staff.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 8.24.59 AMI’ve been keeping busy at the office doing anything from updating our new fundraising software, eTapestry (which, as nerdy as this will sound, is very cool. Basically a really detailed & targeted way to track donors, ticket sales & grants), to updating their website, initiating a monthly newsletter, and working on getting things together for all of our projects for the coming season (can’t give details on that yet, join us for our Season Launch June 8th!). It’s nice to, after years of doing arts admin stuff for no pay, be able to say that no, I don’t have a ‘Joe Job’, what I do to pay the bills is produce theatre. Pretty nifty 🙂

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New Theatre 20 web design.

Alongside that I am still doing my work for the Social Capital Theatre, which I am happy to say keeps me busier than expected because they’ve been getting so many bookings. There’s nearly constantly a show going on and then they’ve got the rehearsal space across the street, and the classes they run every couple months; for their first year, they’re doing a pretty incredible job at filling the place up. Their One Year Anniversary party is coming up soon, which should be fun.

SoCapNewLogosForPosters-Apr2015-blackltrstranspbgThen of course there’s Kill Sister, Kill! which I am producing through Bygone Theatre alongside Drac & Jamieson Child, and our composer Mike Zahorak. The show got into the NYC Fringe so we have a lot of planning and prep to do before August; get all the forms in, find an ACR from New York, finish the script and score, set up a fundraiser, cast, book accommodations in NYC – it goes on and on. I’m pretty swamped with this stuff but I loved it there last year so I’m excited to have an excuse to visit the city again in a few months, even if it’s only for 10 days. Met some great people last year who I hope to see again, and I’m sure I’ll meet many more.

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical

I also recently acquired rights for what I’m thinking will be Bygone’s next show, but right now I’m trying to figure out if I will have time to get everything together for an October run; when I made the tentative schedule for it back when I applied, I was going to be having rehearsals start in August, and being out of the city may put a damper on that 😛 Oh yeah! And there’s was Bygone’s Retro Radio Hour – Spring Fling; those are always fun, we had some new voices up there and a great response yet again. I’ve got ideas for the next few, just need to find time to book a venue!

Retro Radio Hour Spring FlingOn the personal front, some of you may know that I recently moved back into the city after a year & a bit being stuck in the wasteland that is Brampton (I’m sorry Bramptonites, but there was just nothing for me to do out there). I’m back in my old building and it’s great to be able to go out when I want, be home from work by 6pm as opposed to 9pm, and to be able to stroll around the city in the nice weather. I saw Ballad of the Burning Star yesterday (more on that soon) and took the long scenic route to the theatre, sticking to side streets as I headed from Lansdowne & Dupont to the Theatre Centre on Queen near Dovercourt; I couldn’t believe how many streets I had been past but never down before! It really is a beautiful city, and I feel connected to everything here in a way I never did in KW where I grew up. Bloody expensive, yes, but I guess I’ll just have to become a ‘Big-Shot Broadway Producer’ to deal with that :-p

Bachelorette pad - the bedroom. More pics to come.

Bachelorette pad – the bedroom. More pics to come.

Time to head out to work, sorry for the less-than-poetic entry but I’ve been so busy I barely have time to remember all that I’m doing, let alone write anything insightful about it. More of that to come once things slow down a bit.

-E.

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.