Fun With Photoshop

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Well it’s nearly 5am and for some reason I’m still awake. Playing with Photoshop and now writing a blog about it. I swear my body wants me to be nocturnal.

Thought I’d throw together a few quick “before & afters” to show you what I’ve been working on lately. I was getting frustrated with my business card design for Bygone so I decided to take a break and play with simpler Photoshop stuff for a while (turns out 4am is not a good time to try and learn how to use Illustrator for the first time, go figure).

Before&After - Basic 2The above photo is one I took of Tom Beattie a few years back when I got a new camera and was testing it out. Since it was an extreme close-up, and quite clear, I thought it would be a good one to test blemish removal on. The challenge is always making skin look smooth and “perfect” without losing the natural texture and having it come across as fake. This is especially a concern when editing pictures of men, as they don’t wear makeup and sometimes have facial hair that makes editing difficult.

Before&After - Basic Edit

This rather ridiculous looking photo of me is from a couple years ago and is meant to look like a picture of my Grandma Henderson from when she was in her 20s. I noticed I had nearly identical hair, so I did my makeup like hers and attempted to mimic the pose. The problem was it was taken in horrible lighting, so I used this one to work on colour correction. The whole image could still stand to be lightened and brightened a bit, but all I was going for here was something less orange.

Before&After - StylizedI started off playing with this picture of Matt McGrath (originally taken by Krista Hovesepian several years ago) just trying to see how fake and stylized I could make it look without having to do anything too complicated. The result was starting to remind me of those SNL photos, so the colours are inspired by that, but I would have to put some more thought into how to mimic that style exactly.

Original photo by Amy George

Original photo by Amy George

Amy George took this promo shot for Kill Sister, Kill! when we were in NYC back in August. I played around with the colour and focus here.

Before&After - Vintage RetouchThis is a photo of my Great Grandmother, Candace Myrtle Dix (nee Clare) and my Great Aunt Mary, taken in the late 1920s. The photo was in very poor shape and I wasn’t able to fix it as much as I’d like, partly because it is a low-res scan to boot. I did adjust the colour & contrast though, and managed to remove the fold marks.

Before&After - ColourizedThis one I did a while ago, and quite quickly; I might re-edit in the same style and take some more time on it. Just a simple (exaggerated) colourized photo of my Grandpa Henderson from the 1950s or 60s. I wasn’t going for realism here, but I think I’ll try to get some colourized well enough they look like actual colour photos; wish me luck.

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.

Keeping Busy

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Big week ahead.

We start off today with the first round of auditions for Kill Sister, Kill! It’s going to be weird to be sitting in on auditions as something other than director, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done that. We’ve got another night of them on Tuesday then callbacks next Sunday then right into rehearsals – things are chugging along. We had a long but very productive music meeting yesterday, pumping out some sounds for the overture and talking about the musical structure of the whole show. While after several hours of that and no real food besides Little Debbie Snack Cakes, we all start to get a bit giddy, but I think we made some good progress and I’m excited to see it pull together.

Tomorrow is the Theatre 20 Season Launch Party. It’s being held at Vagabondo Italian Ristorante + Lounge, which means I need to be dressed up, but since I’m also helping run the event I get to do things like carry risers & set up cords; we’ll see how well I do at that in a cocktail dress & heels. Should be a good night. We have a bunch of preview performances, tons of industry people coming and I’m expecting to see quite a few friendly familiar faces. I’ll update on the party & the season later this week.

I’m busily working on stuff for the next Bygone Theatre fundraiser, another Retro Radio Hour performance that will be used to raise money & give a sneak peak of Kill Sister, Kill! That comes up on July 4th, so I’ve gotta hustle in the next couple days to get the final things in place. Mostly I need to finish the poster design so I can start promoting it, and that’s something that I always take a while with.

Then of course there’s all the trip planning aspects of our trip to NYC. It is expensive to stay there, especially when you’re bringing a large group, so I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time looking things up and trying to find us the best deal. I want to get some of that nailed down this week so I can focus on more show-specific things. It’ll be a good time when we get there, but there’s nothing fun about the planning.

Meanwhile, I keep trying to get out in the evenings to meet new people and maintain my sanity; had a lovely time the other night and it’s always refreshing to meet someone outside of theatre who actually still has a decent understanding of it. Good drinks, good conversation, good time. Hoping to do that again soon, should I ever have another spare minute.

Back to the grind.
-E.

Blissfully Astray – May Updates

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

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

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

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New Theatre 20 web design.

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

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

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical

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

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

Bachelorette pad - the bedroom. More pics to come.

Bachelorette pad – the bedroom. More pics to come.

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

-E.