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.

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Promise Productions, “No Visible Scars” True Story.

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As I’ve mentioned before,  No Visible Scars is a play about mental health, depression,  suicide and hope. 1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues in their lifetime,  and yet it is still highly stigmatized and rarely talked about.

In an effort to break down some of these barriers and minimize the stigma surrounding depression, the Promise Productions team has decided to share some of their real-life stories of depression,  suicide and hope.

To start things off, here is our technical director Craig A. Nelson’s own story.

     Hope is a wonderful thing. Yet certain events and circumstances in life can cause hope to diminish, even disappear completely. I’d like to tell you my story of how hope changed my life. During the years between 1998 and 2009 I abused my body with malnutrition, alcoholism and drug addiction. The human body can take a massive amount of punishment, but it can only take so much. I found myself at the limit of what my body could take and on January 6th, 2009, my body finally gave up.

During the years between 1998 and 2009 I abused my body with malnutrition, alcoholism and drug addiction… I found myself at the limit of what my body could take.

     I was diagnosed with Acute Necrotizing Pancreatitis and the Owen Sound Hospital I was in was doing everything in their power to keep me alive, with little success. Finally, I was transferred to St. Michaels Hospital in downtown Toronto where I was treated with the care that saved my life. I underwent a series of major abdominal surgeries, including a colostomy and other various drainage bags. Although my life was spared, I was still in really bad shape and the hospital was preparing a room in their long-term care facility where I was expected to remain for the rest of my days. This fate was not appealing to me at all, so I decided then to start digging for hope.
I made up my mind that I was not going to stay in the hospital until I died, rather I would start pushing myself to get stronger. It started with little walks from my hospital bed down the hall, then up a stair or two. It got to the point where the hospital was rethinking their plan to have me stay forever and now decided that I was ready to be discharged.

     I went to stay with my parents on the beautiful Bruce Peninsula. I would take daily walks down an old back road to a nice wooded area and then back again. On my way to the woods, I would pass an old farm gate. During one of my walks, I stopped at the gate and thought to myself, “I wonder if I could do a push up on that gate?”. It would be easier than doing a regular push up, but still, a virtual impossibility. I stepped toward the gate and placed my hands upon it. I awkwardly let myself down to rest my chest on the gate, clenched my teeth, closed my eyes and pushed with all my might. I could feel myself lifting off of the gate!!! I had done it!! I had actually done a push up. No matter how “girlie” it was, I did it!
The next day, I came back to the gate and dared myself to do two push ups this time. On the third day, I did three and so on until I was doing dozens of push ups on this old farmer’s gate. Today, I have made a full recovery and live every day to the fullest because you never know when your time will be up.

     There is hope in all of us. Sometimes that hope can disappear. It doesn’t ever leave the body, but becomes so far away that it seems absent. It’s in there though, waiting for us to start digging for it. If you dig and work hard enough, it can be found again, and that is the most hopeful notion there is.

Sometimes that hope can disappear… It’s in there though, waiting for us to start digging for it…it can be found again.

     Today, I am in the best shape of my life. I suffer no residual effects from my illness and require zero medication. I owe
it all to hope. Thanks for reading my story!!

Check out Craig’s technical designs onstage at the Connelly Theatre. No Visible Scars opens this Saturday;  check out the event page for details.