Cheque, please!

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I get a kick out of little details in things, which is why I often spend too much time on small prop details that likely won’t be noticed by anyone but myself. Today’s example? The certified cheque prop needed for Bygone Theatre’s upcoming production of His Girl Friday.

Really, it’s a pretty simple one, and since we’re seeing the cheque before it’s cashed, I’m not going to the trouble of embossing it, I did however want something from around the right date, and double-sided.

Since this show will be on a real stage, and not something that requires the same accuracy as was needed for shows like Rope, which practically happened in the audience’s lap, I just searched for 1930s or 1940s certified cheques and settled on one from 1933;

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I found this through a memorabilia site – it works great as it doesn’t have a big distracting logo, its from around the right time, the right place, and has the fun added detail of being signed by a Walter (it comes from our character, Walter Burns). Again, chances are none of these details will be seen on stage, but still fun to note. I did want it double-sided, so that took a very small amount of photoshopping, about 3 minutes worth.

I opened the image in photoshop, and then selected the general colour using the eye dropper tool. Then, I did a new “fill layer” (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Colour) so that I had a solidly coloured piece the same size as my cheque. The original image had a speckled appearance, so to do that I simply applied a filter (Filter > Filter Gallery > Reticulation).

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I chose the “reticulation” filter because, after browsing through a few like “film grain”and trying the “dust and scratches” one, I thought this looked the closest to what the front of the image looked like. So, voila! The back of my cheque.

I’m sure there are other (better?) ways to do this, but as I wanted to print quickly I just dragged both the front & back images into Word to print. I did 3 on a page (these will be for rehearsal, for the show I will of course have one for each performance, plus a couple back-ups), and since they are the same size just placed them in the same spots on 2 sheets.

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Then printed double-sided and there you go! Quick, easy, and I think certainly worth the few extra minutes to get something that isn’t white (and super-fake looking, imo) on one side.

All for now,

-E.

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.

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.

Building Prop Food for Wait Until Dark – Part 1, Research

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I usually try to do posts throughout rehearsals and leading up to a show but this past month has been too busy. On top of my work at Tarragon and rehearsals for Wait Until Dark, I have been prepping for Vaudeville Revue, have run another Retro Radio Hour, and moved into a new apartment only 2 weeks before opening. Now that the dust has settled, I’d like to go back and highlight some of the work that went into the show, starting with one of my favourite things, prop food.

I’ve done a post on vintage labels before, a brief one that highlighted using public domain images and another with the focus on old liquor labels, but what I needed for WUD was a little different.

A key piece to the set was a fridge, and knowing it would have to be open a lot, I wanted it to be stocked full of vintage goodies. As well, there is a point in the show where the characters have emptied everything out searching for something, and I need some things to make a mess with – seeing a kitchen as half of the set, I figured food and cleaning supplies as the way to go.

As often happens I planned more props than I actually had time for, but as these are relatively easy to make I may just make this one of my evening hobbies, maybe build a faux cereal box while the BF is watching football or something. At any rate, here’s a few tips if you’re looking to do some retro prop making of your own.

1. Decide on a decade

I’m a little odd. I often pick an exact date for my show and go to great lengths to make sure that everything in it is VERY period accurate – it goes without saying that this is not necessary, simply narrowing down a decade (or part of a decade) is enough to give the feel of the period, and what’s more important than knowing the EXACT date you’re looking for is knowing what’s characteristic of that time.

See the Rice Krispies packages above, ranging from 1928-1984,  the key change is the introduction of the elves and addition of bolder, brighter colours that would be more attractive to children. The image on the far left is from 1928, and the font-only package existed only a few years, as the elves were created in the early 1930s. However, if you were dressing a set for a play in the 30s, or if you were looking to dress an adult’s kitchen, you may want to use that style box a bit past when it was really used, as it immediately reads as old and has a great no-nonsense, grownup style. In the same vein, if you wanted to create a family kitchen, you would likely look for some “children’s cereal” and source some boxes with a fun cartoon character, like the third one above from 1965.

2. Narrow down a style & colour scheme, OR decide on the types of products your characters would buy

Another important decision in regards to your props is whether they are there to just enhance the look of the set, or if they are meant to add to the story or character. If, for example, you were going for something stylized and wanted a wholly monochromatic set, you could search for period packaging to fit your colour scheme.

Google makes this very easy. Go to images, search tools and you will see a dropdown for colour; the images above show what comes up for “retro packaging” with no search filters, and then with selected colours. Makes for a very easy starting point.

Of course, no one’s cupboards are really all colour-matching, and so if you are going for realism you will want to think more about the products themselves. Does your character buy only the best? Maybe they want a discount brand, or something in bulk. Do they clean with just water and vinegar or do they have all the latest cleaning supplies, one for everything that could possibly need to be disinfected? Give it some thought and you will make for a very authentic and interesting set.

3. Search for hi-res images, or simple designs

If you are looking to print off labels you find online, you want to be sure you have a high quality image, otherwise you will end up with something blurry or pixelated and that will distract from, rather than enhance your set.

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Check out sites like Etsy for hi-res scans of old labels, and browse for Flickr accounts by collectors as well. I have yet to find a really good, comprehensive collection of labels by decade, but I feel like there is one out there, and if not, I think I need to make one. Some companies that have been around a long time, like Hershey’s, have a history on their website, and that can be a good resource as well.

If you are unable to find enough high quality labels, look for a simple design that you can edit easily in photoshop. The labels above use complex design and typography, and would be difficult to replicate without some pretty serious artistic skill. However, many packages use simple colours and fonts, and with a few minutes of editing can be made into something passable, if not something very authentic. That is in part why I chose Dreft as one of my packages; greta retro colour, very simple design.

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4. Source forms

After you’ve decided on the labels you want, you need to find the forms to build them on. Existing cereal or granola boxes are an easy start, and you can always edit your label in photoshop to match the dimensions (like I did). Alternatively, you could build one yourself and finally use your grade-school geometry training, but honestly I think that takes more time than it’s worth. When looking for something like beer bottles remember that the shape used to be different, shorter and wider, and while it’s unlikely audiences will look at a bottle and say, hey! that’s not the right shape for that decade! when it is right, people do tend to notice. I managed to find something called “Vita Malt” (sounds yummy, eh?) that had just the right shape, AND the right dollar store price.

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5. Remember the magic of theatre

While I always aim for film-quality props, the magic of theatre is that you are generally far from the audience and under bright lights, two things that help to blur some details and let you get away with less-than-perfect props onstage. Found a great old label but it’s scanned from a crumpled original? No worries. Throw it in photoshop and paint out the details, fix only the logo and no one will notice if it’s missing some extra info. Want to alter the colours slightly to better match your set? Go for it. Up the saturation & contrast, adjust the hue, go crazy, no one is going to notice the change but they will notice the final effect.

After you’ve found your forms & your labels, you’re ready to build, a fairly simple process but there’s a couple important things to remember if you want to really nail the look – I’ll go over these next time. For now, goodnight.

-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.

Tarragon

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.

2015/2016 Season

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Our next season is announced!

Bygone Theatre

It’s a big year for Bygone! As we prepare to incorporate we are also starting our biggest season yet! Here’s a quick look at what we have coming up for our 2015/2016 season!

Judy: Songs of a Icon
by Thomas Finn
What: A new piece by Thomas Finn, a tribute show to the great Judy Garland.
When: Workshop November 2015

Wait Until Dark
by Frederick Knott
What: A 1960s thriller about a blind housewife who is unwittingly pulled into the seedy underworld of drug trafficking.
When: March 2016

Vaudeville Revue: A History of the Vaudeville Circuit
a collection of Vaudeville classics
What: A brief history of the Vaudeville stage from 1890-1930
When: Spring  2016

Interested in being involved? Email AD Emily Dix at emily@bygonetheatre.com to find out how. More details to follow.

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That’s A Wrap

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I always feel a weird sense of sadness when a show ends. Whether or not the experience was a positive one, a production takes up a lot of your life and when it ends I always feel exhausted, melancholy & a little lost; the post-show blues.

Usually, I work extensively on a show for no more than 3 months – I generally pick the play and venue about a year before it’s mounted, but the majority of the work is condensed into a couple months. With Kill Sister, Kill! however, the project that I have been spending all my time on for the past 9 months has just wrapped and to say this is leaving me feeling melancholy would be a major understatement.

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KSK ran August 26-30 at Theatre 80 in Manhattan, NYC

I have worked on original shows before, but none that were full-length musicals. Watching something go from a 40 minute script to a 90min production, seeing new songs be created from scratch, and watching an absolutely brilliant cast stay together through a lot of bullshit has been a really intense experience. The production tested everyone’s friendships, patience and often sanity, but in the end we can all proudly say that in under a year a new musical was created, mounted off-off-Broadway at a famous theatre, and that a cast & crew of 12 spent 10 days crammed together in 2 small hotel rooms and we all lived to tell about it. Pretty good if you ask me.

Usually I get to say my thank-yous in the directors notes, but as I was producing this show I didn’t have a chance to make a public mention of how proud I am of those involved, something that has always been important to me. So here it goes.

Birthday cupcake from Shy

Birthday cupcake from Shy

I’ll start with the people who made small but very important contributions. Anyone who has listened to any of us panic or complain about any part of the process these past few months. All of those who made donations to the show and everyone who offered insight and advice. Thank you to Elena Holy from the NYC Fringe who got back to me immediately when we had some trouble crossing the border, and to Rich & Tatyana at Theatre 80 who helped us by switching our tech date & accommodating us by giving us a bit of extra time to sort our stuff out. Thanks as well to Shyaporn Theerakulstit, a fellow NYC fringer, who not only offered advice & support throughout the past couple months, but who took over box office duties and even came by with birthday cupcakes for me on our opening night – a very sweet gesture, especially from someone I hardly know, it was exactly the kind of boost I needed after an incredibly stressful few days. Thanks as well to all those who came out to see our show, especially everyone who came from outside NYC and to Shon & John from His Majesty the Baby & Australian comic Xavier, all of whom I met at last year’s fringe & am very happy to still be in touch with.

The cast

The cast

Next up, the fabulous cast. This show was tricky to pull together. Whether it was the timing, the fact that it was being produced outside of the country or, as our director liked to put it, “the resistance”, there was something that took a process I’ve done easily so many times and dragged it out into the most stressful casting I’ve ever been a part of. That said, it all worked out for the best, because we ended up with an amazing group of people who rocked it onstage and were equally awesome in real life. I got to work again with the lovely Astrid Atherly who is always a joy. I met a fellow Judy lover who shares my taste in old movies and crooner music with Thomas Finn, and one of the funniest girls I’ve ever met (and coincidentally, also a fan of the classics), Heather Motut. Heather’s positive attitude & nearly endless patience is something I can’t praise enough. I think we all needed her there more than she likely knows. Aaron Williams is the complete opposite of the disgusting character he played – he’s sweet, honest, and someone I am very happy to now call my friend. Samantha Walkes proved herself not only an incredibly talented woman but a mature, level-headed and professional performer as well. You can count on Sam to stay focused and calm under stress just as much as you can count on her to be hilarious and the life of the party when you’re out for a few drinks – a pretty perfect mix. From a very quiet young man to an absolutely hysterical Mooky and surprisingly intimidating pimp, we have Robert Iannuzziello. I think I can best describe Robert as a chameleon; I don’t think we could have cast him as two characters any further from his real self, but by the time he got to the stage he played both perfectly. That poor boy was stuck in a garbage can and forced to lean over what I’m sure was a very uncomfortable metal edge, but I have not once heard him complain. The youngest of the group but you’d never know it, because he’s already figured out how to act like a real professional. Felicity “Fifi” Adams-Hannigan was someone I had met before through Astrid, but didn’t know very well. It quickly became apparent that her bubbly attitude was not a front, and that she somehow just has that level of energy ALL the time. She made for a delightfully funny “low-class hooker”.

With the band out front of the theatre

With the band out front of the theatre.

Once we got to NYC I had the pleasure of meeting the band. Zac Selissen, Greg Germann, Enrique Mancia & Tim Basom – some of the most talented and fun musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Zac was a major help as he was the one who pulled the whole group together. Greg’s matter-of-fact, very blunt sense of humour was always appreciated, as was Enrique’s passion for his music and very honest sincerity in everything he talked about. Tim proved to not only be a great musician but a good teacher as well (I now have somewhat of an understanding of those pedal things for his guitar, though I seem to have forgotten the proper term…), and let’s not forget a pretty kickass TMNT player. The band sounded great, was positive & supportive throughout, and I’m very happy to have had a few chances to grab drinks with some guys that I’m sure will have hit the big time in a few years.

David's daily quips are often as witty as his lyrics.

David’s daily quips are often as witty as his lyrics.

Normally, once the lyrics are finalized, the lyricist’s role in the show is done. Not for David Backshell. David came out to support the show in any way he could, from offering his dark, dry but very funny sense of humour to conversations, to running out mid-tech rehearsal to purchase a huge stack of batteries. He stood backstage to help move set pieces during the show and throughout the entire thing seemed genuinely happy to do so. He was always there to listen to any worries or complaints and I haven’t heard the guy say a single bad thing about anyone. That was a kind of positive attitude that was very necessary and very appreciated.

Drac & Tea out for drinks in Brooklyn.

Drac & Tea out for drinks in Brooklyn.

Co-writer Drac Child was there to fill in the gaps, picking up random tasks as they arose. Backstage during the shows he did everything from makeup to moving set pieces, fixing props & exchanging excited high-fives. I’ve known Drac for about 9 months now and I had never seen him as happy and enthused as I did during the opening night. Seeing the look on his face while he watched the project he had invested so much into finally take off was, as cheesy as it sounds, a really fulfilling and special moment. I know he was no less stressed or worried than any of the rest of us, but Drac managed to keep a cool head and a smile on his face during our time in NYC, which was appreciated by more than just me, I’m sure. As well, his lovely girlfriend Amy was there for part of the run and took some killer photos.

Associate Producer Tea Nguyen took on everything from rehearsal space booking to getting us into the breakfast room after hours – gotta love free juice! She was always there with a hug & a diet coke and helped to keep everything running smoothly.

Now for the two people who have not only contributed, in my opinion, the most to the show, but certainly to my life these past few months; our director, (and co-writer), Jamieson Child, and composer/music director, Michael Zahorak.

Jamieson Child

Jamieson Child in NYC, August 2015

With J at Retro Radio Hour - Suspense!

With J at Retro Radio Hour – Suspense!          Oct. 2014

This mount got started because Jamie and I met about a year ago when he auditioned for Rope. We hit it off right away, and when I heard about Kill Sister, Kill (which had been produced in a shorter form at the Toronto Fringe in 2013) it sounded like just the thing to take back to the NYC Fringe. A lot has come up this year that could have, and maybe at times should have, stopped this show from happening. But maybe the best thing I can say about Jamie is that, while it may take him a while to make up his mind, when he does there isn’t anything in the world that will stop him from doing what he’s set out to do. It may not be the best thing for his health or sanity, but his commitment to putting this show over absolutely EVERYTHING else in his life the past couple months has been a major part of why it actually managed to get this far. Once he made the decision to do the show, he was of a one-track mind, and has been working on KSK around the clock for months. Anyone who knows me, or who has read any of my previous posts that mention J will know how much he means to me, and so I’ll keep what should go without saying short; I hope that now that the show has wrapped, he can go back to the mellow, goofy guy I know and love, and I hope that he is happy and proud of himself & the show he created. Most of all, I hope I have my buddy back by my side soon.

With Mikey in NYC

With Mikey in NYC

When we brought on composer Mike Zahorak it was because his talent & dedication were evident from the start. We’ve been very lucky that in addition to that, Mike is one of the sweetest people out there, and that he has (if not sometimes somewhat reluctantly) often been the glue holding this group together. Everyone goes to Mike with their problems because you can count on him to listen to you with patience, respect and to give you honesty and support when you need it. I’ve been lucky enough to see more of this than most as he has gone above and beyond MD duties to also sit up late listening to my worries or heartache, and to take care of me when I’ve been sick. He may sometimes try to put on a bit of a tough or aloof front, but Mikey is truly a sensitive and caring guy, and it’s meant a lot to me, especially these past few days, to have someone I can count on by my side.

This has been the most stressful production I have ever been a part of, for many reasons, none of which are important to go into because I know that ultimately, the hardest things in life are what are also the most rewarding. At the end of the day, whether any of this changes how any of us do a show in the future, or how we think of the show or each other, I am happy to say that the friendships I have gained or strengthened through the last few months really do make all the stress worth it. Thank you all for another story to tell, here’s to the next chapter.

-E.

Click.

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The cast & crew of KSK; Ed Queffelec (fight coordinator), Tea Nguyen (Associate Producer), Aaron Williams (Dagger), Astrid Atherly (Kitty), Thomas Finn (Ronnie), Felicity Adams-Hannigan (Kourtney), Samantha Walkes (Lily), Emily Dix (producer, stage manager), David Backshell (lyricist), front row: Jamieson Child (director, writer), Michael Zahorak (composer, music director), Heather Motut (Teresa). Not pictured: Robert Iannuzziello (Mooky), Drac Child (writer, production designer), Judith Ann Clancy (costume designer).

Every show hits a point where it all suddenly ‘clicks’. Sometimes it’s early in the rehearsal process and sometimes it’s not til closing night, but there’s always that magical moment when all at once, everyone seems to just ‘get it’ and the whole thing picks up speed, emotion, and leaves you sitting there with your mouth hanging open thinking, ‘where in hell did that come from?’.

That’s what happened at last night’s rehearsal for Kill Sister, Kill!

I’ve been working on this show since October and have seen it go through many stages, be touched by many hands, and have the typical highs and lows of anything in theatre. While it was evident from the start that we had a strong cast, yesterday was when I saw emotions hit new peaks, and got to hear all the beautiful nuances of the music by Michael Zahorak and David Backshell finally reach their full potential. By the time we hit “Dagger’s Law” in act 2, I couldn’t stop smiling, even through scenes that were so heart wrenching and beautifully performed that it had me near tears.

We’re headed to NYC tonight on the midnight bus and will open at Theatre 80 in Manhattan on August 26th. I’m so proud of all the hard work, talent & energy the entire cast & crew has thrown into this production over the past few weeks and months, and can’t wait to give you all more updates on our time in NYC and the premiere of our show, Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical.

-E.

How Much Can It Be? – What It Costs to Take a Musical to the NYC Fringe

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If you haven’t tried to finance a show on your own before, chances are you have little to no idea how much it costs – and why would you? As an actor, you understand that money is needed for props, costumes, the venue, but chances are you don’t give much thought to the less glamourous expenses like insurance, printing fees, mileage fees, and small but essential purchases like batteries, notebooks and flashlights. If you’re only familiar with theatre as an audience member, you are likely even more removed, and may not consider how many hours goes into rehearsal for a show, and how much money it costs to rent a decent sized rehearsal space. Or the fact that your actors and crew need to be fed, need to be given print materials like scripts and dramaturgy notes; it all adds up. Fast.

Rope was performed in November of 2015 with a budget of only about $3000. Before that, Dial M For Murder was produced with a budget just under $6000.

Rope was performed in November of 2015 with a budget of only about $3000. Before that, Dial M For Murder was produced with a budget just under $6000.

Currently I am working on a show that is headed to the NYC Fringe in a couple of weeks; Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical. While the show costs are pretty comparable to what I am used to raising for a Bygone Show, taking a group of 12 to New York City for 10 days, and hiring a professional band has nearly doubled the budget from what I’ve dealt with in the past.

My handy-dandy pie chart clearly lays out where the majority of our costs are going.

To give you a basic idea of our costs for Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical, here are a list of the major expenses, also outlined in the above pie chart;

  • Fringe Participants Fee: $870.00
  • Insurance: $700.00
  • Travel Expenses: $1300.00
  • Accommodations: $3000
  • Band Fees: $2000.00
  • Set, Props & Costumes: $300.00
  • Production Fees: $200.00
  • Advertising: $200.00

TOTAL BUDGET: $8570.00

As you can see, the main expenses are our accommodations and the band. We managed to secure sponsorship from Pointe Plaza Hotel and got a great deal – 12 people staying for 10 days in a great area in Brooklyn – but it’s still a large amount overall. Likewise, the band is playing for a ridiculously low rate – we scored 4 professional NYC performers (plus our own Michael Zahorak, who is also the musical director) whose experience includes Broadway shows & national tours. For the talent we’re getting for 5 shows, it’s a very reasonable rate, but again, it adds up fast.

Renting out a professional theatre and building flats for Dial M For Murder were major costs.

Renting out a professional theatre and building flats for Dial M For Murder were major costs.

You may have noticed some of the above expenses are quite low, like, ridiculously low. Bygone’s previous shows usually have a costume budget of $500-$800 and that’s for a small cast. Props, as well, would generally be at least $300, and I’ve spent as much as $2000 on a set. However, there are a few things that make this show a little different; with a 15 minute set-up and strike time, our set needs to be minimal – no flats for us! Costumes are a bit less expensive as it’s easier to find cheap 70s looks than it is to say, find flapper dresses. Finally, with all categories, we are making a real effort to borrow EVERYTHING. At long last, my massive prop/costume collection is paying off! It pays as well to have friends in theatre, as all of us are working to source things for free.

Advertising as well is very low. We managed to get all our posters & postcards printed for under $100, and the remaining money will be used to make some buttons and to likely get a Facebook or other online ad. The benefit of living in this social-media-obsessed time is that there are lots of methods of free advertising out there; problem is, they all take considerably more time than traditional methods (mailings, newspaper listings, etc) do, which means more work for us on the production team.

I haven’t included on this budget some basic things like rehearsal space, printing costs, food, parking etc. because when doing a fundraising campaign I don’t think it’s necessary to outline every expense. Here I stuck to the major ones everyone is familiar with, but trust me, if you go through my producer notes you will see every cent accounted for, detailed potential revenue reports and a tracking sheet for all our receipts. I do daily updates to the budget and it’s essential that I keep on track of every expense, no matter how minor, because it is very easy to let things get off track.

For our countless hours of work we are about 47% of the way there.

So how are we doing so far? Well we’ve had some very generous donors, and have gotten gifts-in-kind from several local companies which has helped keep costs low. We hosted 2 fundraisers (Retro Radio Hour – Sin & Sensation and Fuck This City) and continue to push every day to spread the word and secure more donations. For our countless hours of work we are about 47% of the way there; if we raise another $2000 – $2500 we are unlikely to lose any money on the show, if we raise another $4000 we stand a chance of making a profit, and that means being able to pay the cast and crew.

So this is where the selfish part of the post comes in; we need your help. I personally have been working on this show since October, and for the past couple months have been spending 30-40 hours a week (on top of my two jobs) on the show, doing anything from poster design to budgets, marketing to rehearsal scheduling and much more. Our crew includes Michael Zahorak, the composer/music director (who hasn’t slept in days), Lyricist David Backshell (who has stayed up many sleepless nights to work with Mike), Associate Producer Tea Nguyen (who joined the tame late but was immediately thrown into the lion’s den) and writer’s Drac & Jamieson Child (Jamie is also directing, and so spends his evenings in rehearsals and his days perfecting the script). The cast has a tight rehearsal schedule so they too have nearly full-time hours, and again, none of us are getting paid.

If we raise another $2000 – $2500 we are unlikely to lose any money on the show, if we raise another $4000 we stand a chance of making a profit, and that means being able to pay the cast and crew.

A career in the arts is a hard thing to begin, and an even harder thing to maintain. While some may look at a show like this and say “well, they want to do it, they need to pay for it, it’s just fun, isn’t it?”, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure there are fun moments, but ultimately when you work in theatre you have resigned yourself to working 80 hour weeks for little to no pay, and to over and over be putting all your heart and soul into something that will be judged by total strangers. It’s exhausting. And stressful. And yes we love it but it really can be hard. But you can help make it a bit easier, and in doing so help to launch the careers of the 12+ young artists who are involved.

If you would like to make a donation, visit our website or indiegogo campaign. We have a bunch of wicked perks available to those who donate, and again, you’ll be helping to support the efforts of a large group of artists. If you are unable to make a donation, please consider sharing this post, or the links to our donation pages – getting the word out is important, and the more people who help spread the news the better chance we will have at success.

Thanks for getting this far, all for now.

-E.