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.

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.