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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A Trip To The Future (With A Penguin!) – Review of Xavier Toby’s “When We Were Idiots”

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The other day I wrote about Australian comic Xavier Toby’s Fringe NYC show, Mining My Own Businessa stand-out, stand-up routine about his experiences working on a coal mine. Last night I had the pleasure of attending Toby’s other Fringe show; the walking tour, When We Were Idiots.

When I’d asked him about the show before, he told me “I lead people around downtown and yell at people through a megaphone”; I went in expecting some dumb comedy, possibly a few insults, and figured “when we were idiots” would refer to the time spent on the tour. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The tour takes place in 2114, 100 years in the future. Our host, a penguin descendent of Toby’s, has graciously hired actors to move about downtown so that we can experience what life was like back in 2014. We were fortunate enough to come across vendors, tourists, drug addicts – all “actors”, of course – who all remained in character, almost as though they were just normal people.

While there was the promised yelling at strangers on the street, none of it was inappropriate. In fact, the entire group of us, decked out in high-visibility vests, were often called upon to applaud the every day actions of the New Yorkers we encountered.

The surprising part of the tour was the references to real-world issues, like our deteriorating environment and the concept of money. You wouldn’t expect it from a penguin with a megaphone, but Toby brought up some interesting and intellectual points. All of these were done in a very nonchalant way; references to “tree prisons” and the fact that he, as a penguin, was stuck in NYC because Antarctica had all melted. Turns out 2014 was when we were all “idiots”. Despite his serious points, these statements were surrounded by jokes and odd little historical facts (like the origin of the word “hooker”) so that the entire show still felt like a comedy; it didn’t get preachy.

It’s not that bad a walk, so don’t let the format of the show discourage you from going. It’s highly interactive and thanks to the frequent applause and questions for the audience, you will find yourself leaving with a smile on your face. It’s a nice way to end the day.

If you want to check out When We Were Idiots you have 3 more chances! You can meet Toby in the Fringe Central lot (114 Norfolk St., between Rivington & Delancey) Friday August 22 at 2:30pm or 7:30pm or Saturday August 23 at 7:30pm. Tell your friends!

-E.

 

Review: Xavier Toby’s “Mining My Own Business”

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The other day the NVS team headed out to see Australian comic Xavier Toby perform his show Mining My Own Business at the NYC Fringe. While structured like a stand up routine, the audience interaction is minimal, and Toby performs with well-versed speed, prepared with fun little photos and props to help his story along.

The routine runs about an hour and describes Toby’s experiences working on a coal mine in Australia. There are some anecdotes about other miners, but for the most part the story is very personal and provides an insight into the comic’s goofy, lovable personality. As one of the only men working in administration on a site full of very big, very macho men (Toby refers to himself as an “anorexic midget” next to these brutes) Toby is often ridiculed and dismissed. While self-deprecating humour can get tired and trying, Toby manages to find a balance by allowing others to beat-up on him while he maintains his cheery, optimistic attitude; you will often catch yourself saying “awww” and giving him an encouraging smile!

Australian comedian, Xavier Toby

Australian comedian, Xavier Toby

While there is a fair bit of swearing (and the occasional “smurfing” as well) overall the content is pretty PG. If you are very easily offended (or grossed out) this may be one to pass on, but personally I found it well-suited to a Fringe Festival.

If you haven’t yet caught Xavier Toby’s Mining My Own Business, no fear. He still has two performances left; Tuesday August 19th at 8:00pm and Saturday August 23 at 3:30pm. Catch him at the Underground, Venue #12, 64 East 4th Street (Bowery and 2nd Ave).

-E.