Toronto Fringe Festival Review: The Joy of Sax

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What makes the Fringe Festival so fun is that you really never know what you’re going to get when you shuffle into the theatre at some odd time of day: I certainly wasn’t expecting what I saw this afternoon at The Joy of Sax, Flash in the Deadpan’s Toronto Fringe production. Described by the company as fitting into the “new genre of saxploitation comedy”, The Joy of Sax is a bizarre tale of a young man named Luke (Cam Parkes) who inherits his father’s saxophone and finds that he has a special gift – no, not a musical talent (much to my dismay, the only sounds to come out of the horn were loud, blasting screeches), but the inexplicable ability to arouse and lead to orgasm any who are within earshot of his “music”. Can’t say that it’s not original! Continue reading

Toronto Fringe Festival Review: 32 Short Sketches About Bees

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Clear Glass Productions’s performance of 32 Short Sketches About Bees is a fast-paced mash-up of ridiculous scenes all tied together through the incredibly simple (but surprisingly diverse) theme of “bees” (or “Bea”, “B”, “be”… you get the idea). Playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Check out another one of my 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival reviews via Mooney on Theatre.

Toronto Fringe Festival Review: Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up

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“You can’t be that attractive and funny” — well, not unless you’re Caitlin Robson and Eric Miinch. Catch the comedic duo in Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up, produced by Squeaky Wheel, and playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Check out another one of my 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival reviews via Mooney on Theatre.

Toronto Fringe Festival Review: Adult Entertainment

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Sex, violence and morality battle it out onstage in George F. Walker’s Adult Entertainment, produced by Triple ByPass Productions and playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Check out another one of my 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival reviews via Mooney on Theatre.

Toronto Fringe Festival Review: Fastcar Man of Action

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Want to catch a show that completely encompasses the spirit of Fringe? Don’t let the prospect of a one-man show with audience participation scare you off;  Fastcar: Man of Action (produced by blind fool productions) is a delightful trip through the absurd, playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival . Learn more via my Mooney on Theatre review.

 

REVIEW: Behold, The Barfly!

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If you’re looking for nudity, strobe lights and God himself, check out Spoon Vs Hammer’s Behold, The Barfly! playing now at the Monarch Tavern as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe. Written and directed by the very funny Justin Haigh, this laugh-out-loud sketch show features the talents of Elizabeth Anacleto (Mark Purvis Award winner, Toronto Festival of Clowns), Jeff Hanson (Edmund, Storefront Theatre), Steve Hobbs (writer for Second City, CBC Punchline), Marsha Mason (Second City National Touring Company), Kevin MacPherson (Sex T-Rex, Robin Hood: The Legendary Musical Comedy), Eric Miinch (sketch troupe Fratwurst, Bygone Theatre’s Wait Until Dark), Ned Petrie (CBC Radio, Second City, Teletoon’s Night Sweats) and Sarah Thorpe (HereticLove Is A Poverty You Can Sell); with a cast like that you know you’re in for a good time.

I won’t describe any of the scenes as I don’t want to give away punchlines, but I’ll say that highlights included a passionate but slightly misguided children’s face painter, a holy unicorn, probably the most terrifying comic you’ve ever seen, an unusual trip to the Science Centre and two news announcer types who very eagerly tell you all about things that “make no fucking sense”. Add to that some popular songs that will have you asking, “are those really the lyrics??” and Benedict Cumberbatch (really! well, sort of) and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Plus, it’s in a tavern, so you can drink!

Verdict: Definitely worth seeing
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Check out my Fringe Picks blog for show times & more details.

 

 

My Top 5, 2016 Toronto Fringe Picks

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Every year at the Fringe those of us in the theatre community get very excited & very overwhelmed; it’s a chance to see everyone (many describe it as “Christmas for actors”) but also a time when you try frantically to fit into your schedule all the shows you feel you “must” see. I know there’s already a lot of “must see” lists out there but, hell, why not throw one more into the mix? These are 5 that I know will rock because of the fantastic people involved.

Behold, The Barfly!

Where: Monarch Tavern, 12 Clinton Street (Site Specific)

When: 
buy tickets  June 29th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  June 30th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 1st at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 2nd at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 3rd at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 5th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 6th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 7th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 8th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 9th at 3:00 PM
buy tickets  July 9th at 7:00 PM
buy tickets  July 10th at 7:00 PM

What: From the writer of the smash hit ‘Love is a Poverty You Can Sell’ (★★★★★ / NNNNN) comes a surreal and cerebral sketch spectacular featuring some of Toronto’s finest comedy talent! Peer into the pickled subconscious of a slumbering barfly and behold the wonders within: Mirth! Adventure! Mediocre Poetry! Sober contemplation of life choices! Dinosaurs?

Why: Writer Justin Haigh is hilarious and the very talented Eric Miinch is in this show as well (his own show comes later on this list). Who doesn’t love clever sketch comedy?

Bright Lights

Where: Tarragon Theatre Mainspace

When:
buy tickets  June 29th at 10:30 PM
buy tickets  July 1st at 8:45 PM
buy tickets  July 3rd at 3:30 PM
buy tickets  July 5th at 6:30 PM
buy tickets  July 6th at 12:00 PM
buy tickets  July 8th at 6:00 PM
buy tickets  July 9th at 11:30 PM

What: From Kat Sandler, Theatre Brouhaha, and the creative minds behind the Fringe smash hits Punch Up, Morro and Jasp, Peter n’ Chris, and Shakey-Shake & Friends comes a new dark comedy about survival, trust, and an alien abduction support group thrown into chaos by the suggestion that someone in their midst may not be as human as they seem.

Why: See the ladies behind Morro & Jasp perform without their clown personas (something I personally am very interested in) and check out the latest from Kat Sandler who recently won the Dora for her new production of Mustard at Tarragon.

Dan’s Inferno

Where: Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse

When:
buy tickets  June 30th at 8:45 PM
buy tickets  July 1st at 11:00 PM
buy tickets  July 3rd at 1:00 PM
buy tickets  July 5th at 2:30 PM
buy tickets  July 7th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 9th at 9:45 PM
buy tickets  July 10th at 5:15 PM

What: Based loosely on Dante’s famous poems, we seek explore the modern interpretation of what comes after death. Dan lived his life unremarkably and now he is dead. Don’t feel bad for him, dear reader. In death, Dan finds himself free to visit heaven and hell, purgatory too. He will find more meaning in his afterlife than he ever found in his beforelife.

Why: You may have seen a version of The Inferno before, but I’m sure you haven’t seen one like this. I know what was on their costume list, and it sounds like one hell of a show. Plus, Eric Miinch (recently seen as Roat in Bygone’s Wait Until Dark) is one of the funniest people I know; if you have a chance to see something of his, don’t miss it.

Everything Else Is Sold Out

Where: Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse

When:
buy tickets  June 30th at 10:30 PM
buy tickets  July 2nd at 7:30 PM
buy tickets  July 3rd at 4:30 PM
buy tickets  July 5th at 6:00 PM
buy tickets  July 6th at 11:00 PM
buy tickets  July 8th at 12:00 PM
buy tickets  July 10th at 3:30 PM

What: Bad News! All those hot ticket shows are sold out (don’t bother checking, they definitely are). Good News! Dame Judy Dench is back with an all new sketch revue! Covering everything from situations to other situations, it’s a show you’ve gotta see, especially since Everything Else Is Sold Out!
Past Reviews “Outstanding Ensemble and Production”, NNNNN, NOW Magazine

Why: While she didn’t get to show off her comedy-chops in Wait Until Dark, Shannon Lahaie is an extremely funny lady, and the range she showed in WUD proves her to be a talented actress as well. Dame Judy Dench has gotten great buzz for their past sketch shows and I’m sure this will be no different, definitely one I can’t wait to see.

Mullet’s Ghost Story

Where: Harbord House, 150 Harbord Street (Site Specific)

When:
buy tickets  June 29th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  June 30th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 1st at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 2nd at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 3rd at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 4th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 5th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 6th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 7th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 8th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 9th at 9:30 PM
buy tickets  July 10th at 9:30 PM

What: A haunting tale about the dead, as told by the undead, for you, the living. Zombie clown Mullet wants nothing more than to never be alone. Be careful what you wish for. Starring Toronto’s Best Male Improviser (2015 NOW Magazine Reader’s Choice). Directed by 2x Canadian Comedy Award winner. Written by 3x Canadian National Playwriting Competition winner.

Why: Mullet was recently seen in Bygone’s Vaudeville Revue where he performed one of the most unique bits in the show. A clever writer and performer, I can’t wait to see what one of his full-length shows is like.

Check out the Fringe website for complete show listings.

Review of “A Woman Is A Secret”

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TC15011_AWoman_slider_G1-page-001-800x302Friday night was the opening of the world premiere of the new John Patrick Shanley play, A Woman Is A Secret. The show is a joint production between The Storefront Theatre and Rip Jaw Productions, and is being presented at the Theatre Centre on Queen St. in Toronto.

The writing was brilliant – I wasn’t surprised. This is coming from the man who wrote Moonstruck and Doubt: A Parable among many, many others. Shanley is well known for his deeply complex, honest and often funny female characters, something that was in no short supply in this production. Skillfully played by some of Toronto’s top female talents, the play was well cast, but while story and actors were top-notch, confusing design and weak directing made for only an alright overall experience.

Skillfully played by some of Toronto’s top female talents…story and actors were top-notch.

I have been unable to find any photos of the set but the premise is basic; downstage centre is a vintage styled bar table and two bar chairs that are used in every scene. Generally they are just that – a bar set – but in the second act they are moved around and also act as a couch, maybe a bed. Despite the fact that 99% of the action occurs in a small area downstage, the entire stage was decorated with fake trees and an abundance of dead leaves on the ground. While the look was interesting and something we discussed before the show opened, there was absolutely no reference to it, no use made of it, and I was left feeling like it was a concept that the designer came up with before even reading the script. The costumes as well, were lacking. Singer Matthew Barber accompanied the show, playing guitar and singing beautiful renditions of some great 50s love songs. Unfortunately, the funky burgundy jacket he had been outfitted in was ill-fitting, and as someone who often does costumes, I found myself distracted by the tight shoulders and rolled up sleeves. I was disappointed by the dress the sexy and seductive Sparkles (Molly Flood) was wearing as well, but it was less ridiculous looking than the shoes that Blanche (Anna Hardwick) had to wear in the first scene; for a woman who was supposed to “walk slow”, glide across the stage in a sexy, sultry fashion, she was put in the wrong shoes. Her movements were unfortunately stilted in those heels, and while I initially thought that was part of the performance, I quickly realized it was just another poor costuming choice. All in all the look of the show reminded me of a college production. I think I would have preferred to see a work-shopped version where the focus was only on the actors and writing, as those elements were spot-on.

Confusing design and weak directing…the look of the show reminded me of a college production.

In a play about women, it’s no surprise that the female parts were the stand-out roles, and the casting of greats like Martha Burns, Anna Hardwick and Karen Knox made for a thoroughly enjoyable performance. Knox’s Kasia, (a sultry Polish woman looking to have an affair) was hilarious, with each line delivered with a practiced dry wit that got the audience every time. While her accent wavered on some lines, her performance was strong and in-keeping with what I’ve come to expect from this Toronto-staple. While costume issues weakened her performance in the first scene, Anna Hardwick was outstanding as the embittered newlywed in the second act. The chemistry between Hardwick and Anand Rajaram was electric, and made for a not only funny, but very touching scene. Rajaram is not an actor I am familiar with, but one I will certainly be seeking out in the future; he was the stand-out male performer in this show. Katie Swift was another notable performer; her comedic timing made-up for an unfortunately weak performance by Jade Hassouné, in one of the less interesting scenes in the play. Martha Burns was hilarious as the Banshee Genevieve, and Tony Nappo matched her performance in energy and sincerity. However, it was the scene between Sparkles (Molly Flood) and Hank (Trent Pardy) that had me on the floor. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for the old-school Noir dialogue, but even writing that good could have been wasted if not performed by actors who understood the style & could handle the delivery. Flood & Pardy made for a scene that was both funny and honestly, very sexy.

It was the scene between Sparkles and Hank…that had me on the floor…Flood & Pardy made for a scene that was both funny and honestly, very sexy.

When I first learned that the world premiere of a show by such an established playwright was not only being produced here in Toronto, but by a couple indie companies (rather than a large force like Factory, or Mirvish) I was surprised and excited. Unfortunately, despite having an exceptionally strong cast, the show felt lacking, and I wish that it had been put in the hands of a stronger director and design team. Despite its flaws, it really is an enjoyable show. You’ll spend much of it laughing, and if you’re like me, may find a few moments bring you close to tears. Definitely worth the trip.

A Woman Is A Secret runs March 19 – April 5, 2015 at
The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. West, Toronto.
Tickets are $20-$30 and can be purchased at 416-538-0988 or online.

Keeping Busy – Rope Wraps Up & I Start a New Job with the Social Capital Theatre!

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Rope wrapped up a couple weeks ago and I’m very pleased with how it all went; sold out 5 of our 7 performances, the actors were great and we got some positive reviews. I was even mentioned in a couple, which was a nice surprise! Check it out:

“The story’s best known in its film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock, but there’s some point in seeing the theatrical original, especially in Bygone Theatre’s site-specific staging at North York’s Gibson House Museum…Under director and costume designer Emily Dix, the visual details, including millinery by David Dunkley, are generally understated but impressive. She’s also given the action a local flavour with mentions of Upper Canada College, Yonge Street and Rosedale. Most importantly, she generally keeps the tension taut: will someone discover what’s in the trunk?”
– Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

“…where this company dug up such marvellous and contrasting costumes is beyond me.”
– Mike Anderson, Mooney on Theatre

Took a while to wrap up everything on the producing side, but I’ve got a handle on it all now, and am happy to say we made a (very slight) profit on the show. Let’s hear it for not losing money! woot woot! I also took the time to organize and catalog all of our props and costumes, and now have a very organized basement with a lovely excel worksheet to match.

Now on to the next project!

I have just been hired as the PR Manager for the Social Capital Theatre and am pumped to get started on their marketing & promotions. They’re the awesome comedy bar that is on the 2nd floor of the Black Swan Tavern, the location for Bygone’s Retro Radio Hour – Suspense! back in October and for our next show, Retro Radio Hour – Romance coming up February 2015.

logo-socapThey’ve got a few cool events coming up this month, including their holiday party this coming Monday;SoCap Improv Karaoke Pizza Holiday Party Drinking Time. Cheap drinks, great comedy & karaoke – not to be missed.

Learn more about the Social Capital Theatre by checking out their facebook page; I’ll be posting regular updates.

All for now,
E.

Theatre Audition Tips

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I’ve been getting dozens upon dozens of audition applications for Rope this week, and while a lot of the auditioning process is fun, over time there are some poor choices I see actors making again and again, something that leads to frustration for me, and ultimately missed opportunities for them. So here are a few quick audition tips, for those of you applying for Rope or any other show. Hopefully they help.

Headshots
Your headshot is the first glimpse the director or casting director gets of you, so it’s important to have a good one. Colour photos are the norm these days and they should be clear, close-up (shoulders up) and accurately reflect what you look like. That one’s important, so I’ll say it again; your headshot should look like you; a cleaned up version yes, but not a glamourous or fake one. This is not a modelling shot, so don’t send in a photo of you with beautifully styled hair, perfect makeup and fancy clothes if you’re going to show up to the audition in sweats and a ponytail. It won’t help you get the part; if anything, it’ll make it less likely. Your headshot is meant to be a reminder of who you were so if you don’t look anything like it, you’ll end up forgotten.

Artistic Resume
Along with your headshot you will need to submit an artistic resume that outlines your experiences. The most important thing on your resume is your contact info; list your name, email, and a phone number at which you can easily be contacted, right at the top of the resume. You should also list any union affiliations and agent contact info at the top. Generally you will also want to list your height, weight, hair colour, eye colour and ethnicity. Next, list whatever you have the most experience in; if you are right out of school and have a lot of training, but minimal experience, start with the training. If you have done more film than theatre, list those first. List projects in reverse chronological order, and don’t include dates. Follow this format;

  • Theatre: Title of Show, Role, Theatre Company, Director
  • Film & Television: Title of Show/Film, Category of Role (ie. Principle, Supporting), Producer/Network, Director

Generally you don’t include extra work in your main film/television category, or specific commercials; these can be provided on a separate form if requested. An important note about your theatre listings; be sure to list the theatre company you worked with, not just the venue. Sometimes outside companies rent a space from a major theatre, and listing that space as your company is essentially lying on your resume; directors notice, and we don’t like it.

For example, say Bygone Theatre produced a show and we rented out Factory Theatre, the format should look like this;

Rope, Brandon, Bygone Theatre, Emily Dix

NOT like this;

Rope, Brandon, Factory Theatre, Emily Dix

The second example would imply it was produced by Factory Theatre, which is incorrect.

Cover Letter
Unless requested, you don’t need to include a cover letter, but if you do, make sure it’s well written. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors look unprofessional and can get you tossed out before you even have a chance to audition. As well, be sure that your cover letter is specific and tailored to the role; it is easy to tell when something is copied and pasted, and things like referring to a play as a “film” can also see you rejected. Take the time to show you are interested and committed to the project if you want the director to take the time to see you in an audition.

In the Audition
Make sure you arrive on time for your audition; often they are scheduled back-to-back and being even a couple minutes late can throw things off and lose you your spot. Be dressed appropriately; this means wearing something that looks good on you and suits the style of the show. Unless you are auditioning for a character that would do so, don’t show up in sweats. Make sure you are cleaned up and that you look like your headshot.

If you need to warm-up before your audition, do that outside. Th director shouldn’t see you doing this; don’t waste time inside the audition room. When you come in, be cheery and polite; don’t complain about your day or make excuses for being late or ill-prepared (sounds obvious but I’ve seen this a LOT). Be friendly but not too chatty, you’re there to audition, not make friends. Try to avoid asking too many questions. Come in having done your homework and be ready to start immediately.

Choosing a Monologue
If a monologue isn’t provided, choose one that suits the style of the piece you are auditioning for. Think about  whether it is a comedy or a drama, what the period is, and what type of character you are auditioning for. Avoid monologues that have a lot of sexuality or profanity; this rarely comes across as shocking or interesting and is more likely to make the whole room feel uncomfortable (fun story – when casting for Doubt I had several women auditioning to be nuns do monologues that involved excessive amounts of swearing; needless to say, they didn’t receive callbacks) . Try to show some emotional range but don’t feel like you need to choose something that involves screaming or crying; play to your strengths.

Remember, as awful as this may sound, when you are auditioning for something you are putting yourself out there to be judged; put your best foot forward and do what you can to impress your audience. Talent is important but being polite and professional matters just as much. An actor who isn’t right for the role but impresses a director with their preparedness and manners is much more likely to be asked back to audition for another piece than one who is talented but rude and unprepared.

If you find you have trouble at auditions, the best way to improve is to do as many of them as you can. Each time you will be more relaxed and will pick up new tips. To those of you out there auditioning, break a leg!

-E.