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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Stanton’s Circle, A Theory On Comedy (aka My Review of “We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much”)

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This afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing His Majesty The Baby‘s New York Fringe performance of We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much; I can honestly say it is one of the most cleverly written works of comedy I’ve ever seen and certainly the best fringe festival show I’ve ever watched. The show is a sketch comedy, written and performed by Shon Arieh-Lerer, Nathan Campbell, John Griswold, Andrew Kahn and Max Ritvo. Playing backstage is the band Sister Helen, a rock group that “likes to play terrifying music”; they were the perfect accompaniment to the surreal, darkly funny show.

It’s difficult to give a synopsis of this show; while it is a sketch comedy the scenes are better connected than you’d find on something like SNL or the Second City stage. Some broad, over-arching themes of birth and death, truth and the ability to create it and the purpose and power of an audience all are visited throughout the show, but in-keeping with a sketch comedy style they are all addressed through absurd characters and there is, of course, no linear plot.

I was thrilled to see the scene that first caught my eye at the teaser night played out onstage (the palindromic argument that is caught in what seems to be an endless cycle) along with some brilliant scenes like that with the elderly Pepsi Garbage, “America’s Television”!. The show included a secret, hidden pepper; some “questionable meat”; a disturbing “Womb Song” and a sickly looking, curious baby.

The danger with intelligent comedy is that it can sometimes forget its purpose and become so wrapped up in high-concept ideas that it ceases to be funny, entertaining. This was not an issue for these men. Sketches such as “Adam and Susanna” allude to real-world issues like that of gay marriage and what our concept of marriage should be, however at no time does it come out and say anything directly related to the topic. It doesn’t preach or lecture and simply creates a parallel by exploring the idea of a man named Adam who believes that, according to the bible, the only real marriage is that between a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. Anything else is not only wrong, “it’s not marriage”. When the sketch ends with everyone (audience included) speaking gibberish, we are left to question where the true meaning of words comes from and lead to think about the arbitrary nature of terms such as “marriage”. Clever stuff.

I won’t give away any more sketches but I will say that I was especially impressed by the actors’ ability to perform as both men and women, the physicality of the characters and the melding of live theatre, live music, and video presentations. There was always a lot going on but it never felt confusing or forced. The entire show has clearly been worked out from top to bottom, and I found myself having many “ohhh” moments as a previous sketch’s theme would be revisited, tying the whole show together. I especially liked Stanton’s Circle, a comedy theory that was both funny and accurate; you’ll have to check out their show to see what I mean.

If you have not yet seen We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much then clear your Friday night; only one performance is left. Check them out at Venue #4, Teatro Latea at the Clemente on Friday August 22, 7:30pm.

One more thing to add, once again something that is not usually found in a review but it’s going in here anyway. One of the troupe’s members, Max Ritvo is suffering from a rare form of cancer; Ewing’s Sarcoma. It is frequently found in the bone or soft tissue of children or young adults and unfortunately, there is very little known about how it forms or how to treat it. His Majesty, The Baby has already raised over $10 000 for Ewing’s Sarcoma research, but as it is a rare type it lacks funding, and so they can always use more. If you cannot make it out to see their show, or if you can but understand the pain of dealing with cancer, please check out the Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Foundation and consider making a donation. Even just sharing the link to the site can be helpful. Let’s support our fellow artists and our fellow man; we can all hope for a future without cancer.

-E.

My Fellow Fringers – My NYC Fringe Picks

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We’ve been in NYC for about a week now, and we’ve already seen a ton of amazing talent. What makes the NYC Fringe different from other ones around the world is that it is a juried festival, meaning all of these plays were selected by a team of judges. As another Fringer pointed out the other night, this basically means we’ve “all already made it”. Some criticize this method as being against the “nature of the fringe”, but it does mean that all the shows here are phenomenal. We’ve been to two teaser/promo nights so far, and so while I have yet to see any of the shows I do already have an idea of what I want to see. So here are my New York International Fringe Festival, 2014 Picks:

1. King of Kong
Starring the lovely and talented Amber Ruffin and Lauren Van Kurin, this musical parody tells the story of 2 men on their quest to hold the high score on the classic Donkey Kong game. Their song, “Billy’s Sauce” is absolutely brilliant and we’ve all been watching it on repeat. Check out a version of it here. These ladies are not only funny and talented, but really nice as well. This is top of my list for shows to see.

2. We’re Very Proud And We Love You So Much
Created by the comedy troupe His Majesty, The Baby, this sketch comedy is described as the “funniest bad dream you’ve ever had”. They performed a piece of it at the busking night on Thursday and it was brilliant; a couple finds themselves in a hilarious (and at times very touching) palindromic argument, repeating the same thing over and over changing only their intentions. Very well done. Another one to see for sure.

3. Fatty Fatty No Friends
I was blown away by Jason Sofge’s vocals at the teaser night, and I am very intrigued by a show that is described as, ” A dark spoken-word musical diving into the lunchtime of life, where bullies are delicious.” They sold out their opening night, so hopefully I can find a less packed performance!

4. Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions
Saw a scene from this at the teaser the other night and it was phenomenal. Great voices, looks very funny – I don’t know a ton about it and I haven’t had the chance to chat with any of the cast, but I’m adding this one to my list nonetheless.

5. Absolutely Filthy
I got chatting to actor Curt Bonnem after the teaser night on Thursday and found him to be a very charming and funny man (and one who knows Toronto! woot!). While I don’t know much about this show either, it was one of the first that caught my eye, in part because the postcard boasts having won 3 L.A. Weekly Awards as well as Best of the Hollywood Fringe 2013. Can’t wait to check it out!

While these are at the top of my list, honestly, there wasn’t a show at the teaser night that didn’t look good, and if I had the time and money I’d see them all.If you’re checking out the NYC Fringe, be sure to look up our show, No Visible Scars.

All for now!
-E.