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.

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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.

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.