Friday, 29 May 2015

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Conversation Starters
An adjudication at Theatre Ontario Festival 2015
  • Our Festival has wrapped up for another year—but you can catch up on all the news articles, blog posts, and tweets in our Theatre Ontario Festival Storify.
  • This week’s #CdnCult Times reflects on a project that explored and celebrated the Indigenous Body of Work. Contributors were Jillian Keiley, Joseph Osawabine, and Cole Alvis.
  • You’ve Cott Mail dedicated a recent edition to issues of crowdfunding, including the question “who makes better decisions—expert funders or crowds?”
  • Looking for ideas to integrate the arts into other school subjects? Joe Patti writes on Arts Hacker about the intersection of theatre and physics and how the backstage is a “showcase” of physics in practice.
  • Mixed Blood Theatre in the U.S. has launched an innovative program: the Disability Visibility Project. Theatres can access grants of $5000 to produce plays about disability with the proviso that artists with disability are employed as the characters with disability.

Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres
  • R.H. Thomson is one of the recipients of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards.  In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, he reflects on his career including the influence of his mother, Cicely, who was also one of the founders of Theatre Ontario, and his first performance at the age of four on the stage of The Curtain Club community theatre in Richmond Hill.
  • Jane Coryell from our Talent Bank is holding a special exhibition of her set designs at the Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre in Oakville, from June 10 to September 30.

TO Toasts

In Case You Missed It

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Cultivating Tomorrow's Artists

by Kayleigh Robertson, Theatre Ontario Youth Advisory Committee Member

On Saturday May 16, 2015, as part of the 2015 Theatre Ontario Festival, Theatre Ontario’s own Youth Advisory Committee hosted Cultivating Tomorrow’s Artists–a conversation between community theatre artists, encouraging youth engagement in theatre programming. This panel was held in Oshawa–the location of this year’s festival–and was moderated by Wayne Burns. Panelists included Stephanie Andrews, Paula Brancati, Liam Lynch, Joseph Recinos and myself.

As a member of the Youth Advisory Committee, to create and be a part of a panel to get youth involved in theatre was truly amazing. There was incredible feedback and interaction from the audience as to how important this is. Theatre truly is one big community, and it was made very clear that although we all have different careers within the industry, we all live, work, and breathe the theatre community; the foundation of which is community theatre.

Cultivating Tomorrow's Artists - a conversation between
community theatre artists, encouraging youth engagement
in theatre programming.
The entire panel spoke passionately about the idea of drama programs being implemented in schools. Not just as a mandatory drama class–but showing the students taking this class that a career in the arts is possible. That being said, negative attitudes must be taken out. As a grade 10 student myself, I feel, find, and see myself being put into a box that I do not fit in. If I miss a class for an audition or a show I am part of, it is not "great job!”, it's either "how long will you be gone?" or silence. Though if I was away for a professional sports meet, how would my teachers react?

On the topic of sports, a Sports-Theatre analogy was created. In elementary and high school there are a variety of sports extracurricular activities. Students usually try a few until they find a couple that they like. We should develop theatre programing at the elementary and high school level that allows students to access knowledge and experience in the various areas of the performing arts e.g. performing, producing, set design, stage managing, tech and lighting, etc.

Rather than looking at the "performing arts", one audience member brought up the idea of this being the "arts and sciences." There are so many different parts of theatre than just acting and performing. Whether it be lighting, costume design, or even stage managing, as a panel we all felt very strongly about the importance of mentorship, and the role that community theatres play to bring the new “up and comers” in the theatre industry "in", and show them the ropes. It was also nice to hear from some Community Theatres in the audience that they are embracing this role and are beginning to start up Youth Theatre Programs.

Joe Recinos was stuck on a GO train on his way to
Oshawa.  He telephoned in, but without proper
speakers on hand, Rebecca Ballarin and Ray
Jacildo got creative in amplifying his voice.
At the end of our panel, we spoke of the idea that the arts world is not just about becoming famous. It takes a lot of hard work to get there, and if you happen to - great. But, passion is what all artists hold onto. On the community theatre side, youth programs are being created to help foster the next generation of theatre artists. If we all commit to work on eliminating the "poor-actor" stereotype–that you'll never make it and it is a "bad job to have"–and recognizing that theatre is more than just putting on show–it is about helping and loving each other–2015 will be an amazing year for the theatre community, resulting in more ways for youth to prosper in community theatre.

Find out more about Theatre Ontario's Youth Advisory Committee

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario
Vern Thiessen
  • Launching Your Career workshop with Rebecca Ballarin and Joseph Recinos on June 10 in Toronto: Answers to your FAQs about the business of acting
  • Actors, directors, playwrights of all skill levels—experience a week away from all distractions and immerse yourself in a unique theatrical learning experience. You will learn new skills, meet passionate theatre people, enrich your theatre capacity, and flex your creative muscle! Join us at our Summer Theatre Intensive, August 9 to 15 in Waterloo.
  • We're pleased to welcome Vern Thiessen as our Playwright-in-Person on August 10 in Waterloo. This is a free event.

Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • Upcoming Ontario Culture Days information sessions are in Windsor (today), Toronto/Downtown (May 28), and Toronto/Lakeshore (Jun. 3).
  • Deadline for submissions for the Arts and Letters Club Foundation’s Robert Beardsley Award for Young Playwrights for GTA students is May 29.
  • Deadline for applications for Humber College’s Puppetry Master Class series is June 1.
  • Canada Council deadline for Visiting Foreign Artists program grants is June 1.
  • Deadline for submissions for the Muddy Mary Project of original, ensemble works by emerging artists is June 1.
  • Ontario Arts Council deadline for Chalmers Professional Development grants is June 2.
  • STAF workshop on personal finance, cash flow, and debt management for arts workers starts June 3. 
  • Deadline to register for Theatre 3x60's Voice Connections workshop with Heather Dick in Port Perry is June 3.

Check out these items, and other postings from our members of funding opportunities, workshops, calls for submission, awards, and more—on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can also access auditions and job postings on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

PTTP Profiles: Exploring Projects Funded by the Professional Theatre Training Program

Several projects from the latest round of the Professional Theatre Training Program are now underway.  These reflections were written in early- and mid-May as these mentorships started.

Claire Burns is training in general management with Beth Brown at Nightwood Theatre (Toronto)

Claire Burns
Oh man I am so excited that I was accepted into this program.

I’m currently an Artistic Producer and the General Manager at the Storefront Theatre, and we are doing really well: lots of great press, amazing artistic endeavors and community development initiatives, but to be honest I am woefully under-trained for this position. I came on to help as bar manager at the theatre and then I moved to general manager—generally managing lots of little things but in reality I’m not sure that I’m actually a General Manager.  Budgets, fundraising campaigns, soliciting sponsorships—this is what I need to be a manager of, and really I don’t have much or any experience in any of the three categories.

So I’m really excited to work with Beth Brown, Managing Director at Nightwood Theatre, in order to lay a base foundation of knowledge in these categories. Beth and I have laid out a pretty ambitious calendar for a year-long mentorship which will delve into all the aspects of managing that I need to learn.

I am stoked to be working with such a positive, enthusiastic mentor and I’m also really pleased to be working with Nightwood Theatre! Ever since I moved to Toronto in 2001, Nightwood has been a company that I’ve always wanted to work with—albeit first as an actor, then a playwright and now as an administrator—and it makes me feel like a kid, working with a company of people that I have admired for so long.

In May and June I’ll be working on finding foundations and sponsorships whose ideals align with Nightwood’s mandate, analyzing past marketing initiatives and helping with the Lawyer Show (May 28-30). I say bring it on! I absolutely cannot wait.

Catherine Ballachey is training in dramaturgy with Laurie Steven at Odyssey Theatre (Ottawa)

Catherine Ballachey
This week, I am beginning my position as Assistant Dramaturg of Odyssey Theatre’s New Play Creation Program here in Ottawa. I will be working under the guidance of Laurie Steven, an established director, playwright, and dramaturg, as well as Artistic Director of Odyssey Theatre. Before I dive into what I’m looking forward to about this experience and how it will be mutually beneficial for both Odyssey Theatre and me, I would like to take a moment to thank Theatre Ontario for providing me with this incredible opportunity. The training I will receive through Odyssey Theatre will be vital as I start my career in freelance and institutional dramaturgy.

Two years ago, I made the choice to pack up my life in Vancouver and return to my roots in Ontario to begin the Master of Arts in Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy program at the University of Ottawa. In Vancouver, I founded a small theatre company, Resounding Scream Theatre, with a colleague, and we began self-producing original work. I also had the opportunity to work with a number of independent theatre companies in Vancouver. However, the professional experience I was acquiring did not quite satisfy my creative goals. I was gaining valuable insight into the daily functioning of professional theatre companies, but I was also hoping for a hands-on professional dramaturgical experience.

With that in mind, I decided to take the leap into a Masters of Dramaturgy. Over the course of my graduate studies, my goal has been to make professional connections and begin to establish myself as a professional Dramaturg, while gaining valuable skills at an academic level. As I am currently in the final phases of my degree, I am eager to gain practical experience. The timing with Odyssey and their New Play Creation program couldn’t be better! With Odyssey Theatre, I will be able to experience and contribute to dramaturgical programs within a professional company.

Over the next few months, I will help guide the new scripts selected for Odyssey’s summer production from workshops into rehearsal and production. Once the production is underway, I will help prepare the New Play Creation program for next year by connecting with playwrights to instigate the submission and selection process. Not only will I be able to experience the role of dramaturgy within a professional company, but I will also be able to put my thesis research into practice. I have been researching the methodologies of dramatic adaptation, and, luckily, every play in this year’s New Play Creation program is an adaptation of an earlier text! I am also familiar with Odyssey’s unique style of physical theatre as I studied various from of mask and movement in my undergraduate studies. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to test my knowledge and contribute my skills in a professional setting.

In addition, I would like to recognize the unique opportunity of working with Odyssey Theatre as I complete my graduate studies and prepare for a career in dramaturgy. I look forward to applying my skills in a professional setting and contributing to a program that I find stimulating and rewarding. When I complete my residency with Odyssey as well as my degree, I will feel confident to pursue my goals as a dramaturg in Ontario.

Neil Silcox is training in directing with Matjash Mrozewski at Canadian Stage (Toronto)

Neil Silcox
In his own words: "As Mat has set our
production in Italy I decided to travel
there to get a sense of the country. Here
I am reading the play in front of the
Leaning Tower of Piza
(which has apparently been fixed.)"

I’m getting pretty excited.

In a week I’ll begin assistant directing The Comedy of Errors under director Matjash Mrozewski as a part of Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park.

I’m excited because Shakespeare in High Park is one of my favourite Toronto theatre experiences—one I’ve been going to since I first landed in Toronto from London. There’s something magic about outdoor Shakespeare, about sitting on the earth, eating and drinking with friends, and then seeing some great theatre.

I’m excited to be working with one of Canada’s leading theatre companies; seeing the intricacies of how they create top-notch plays. I have done many great shows, with many great companies, but none as big, complex and high-profile as Canadian Stage.

I’m excited for all I have to learn from my director, Matjash Mrozewski. Mat is a dynamic, engaging director who has a style all his own. Coming from an illustrious career as a choreographer, where he worked with companies across Canada and around the world, Mat brings to his shows a sense of energy and composition that I rarely see in plays. I hope to learn how he composes for the stage, how he manages to balance so well the big picture with the small details. I also hope to learn how he synthesizes inspiration from multiple sources—images, music, film, poetry and prose—and turns them into a vision uniquely his own.

I’m excited because I feel like I have a lot to offer this production. My own expertise in the language and history of Shakespeare will hopefully be an asset to Mat and to our cast. There’s probably going to be a fair amount of stage combat in the piece and I’m hoping my training in the discipline will be a help.

But although I’m feeling pretty excited, I’m also a little nervous. I’m worried that I’ll fall short of what’s expected of me, that when Mat, or a cast member, or a designer turns to me for an answer I won’t be properly prepared. I’m worried that people will think that I’m out of my depth, that I don’t belong.

The work on this project has already begun. I’m already compiling reference resources, meeting with Mat, and re-familiarizing myself with the play and its history; and although my fears are still there, the further I get into the work the more excited I am to finally step into that first read and start building a show.

Rose Napoli is training in producing with Rona Waddington and Ingrid Bjornson at St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival (Prescott)

Rose Napoli
I am very excited to get going on my mentorship with the St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival!  I have met with Rona (and spoken via email with Ingrid) and we have outlined the major duties to be completed in my five weeks of training.  We will be focusing on building web presence.  I already have a session booked with a web designer to learn the ins and outs of programming and web design.  We have had a brainstorming session and ways to build the presence of the festival on social media (and at the same time, teaching me to be more proficient with it.)

In addition to this work, Rona and I will be working on strategic three-year planning.  Rona has requested that I read plays and formulate my suggestion for the 2016 season (she will be meeting with me prior to the board to present the season in June.)  We are planning to work on the three-year planning model together as well. This will likely be the majority of my mentorship (as I currently have no context in long-term theatre planning.)  I will also be attending all board and production meetings with Rona and Ingrid while in Prescott.

Another portion of my training with Ingrid will focus on media – strategies in building media contacts, how to broaden the awareness of the festival to media in neighbouring cities (Montreal, Ottawa).  This will be hugely beneficial for me in my own work.

I am looking forward to getting started!

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2015.

Read more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Monday, 25 May 2015

ONstage Openings for the week of May 25

This week's openings across Ontario:

In South Central Ontario
May 26, The Shape of a Girl at Theatre 3x60 (Oshawa)
May 29, Tribute at The Curtain Club (Richmond Hill), with a preview on May 28

In Southwestern Ontario
May 25, Hamlet at Stratford Festival, currently in previews
May 26, The Sound of Music at Stratford Festival, currently in previews
May 27, The Physicists at Stratford Festival, currently in previews
May 28, The Diary of Anne Frank at Stratford Festival, currently in previews
May 28, Corpse! at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Port Dover), with previews from May 27
May 28, Rhinestone Cowgirl: A Tribute to Dolly Parton at Port Stanley Festival Theatre, with previews from May 27
May 29, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Stratford Festival, currently in previews
May 29, A Celebration of the Arts at Sun Parlour Players (Leamington)
May 30, The Adventures of Pericles at Stratford Festival, currently in previews
May 31, Pygmalion at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), in previews*

ONstage Opening in Toronto
The 10th Inspirato Festival from Theatre Inspirato
Danny Parkes in "Brother, Brother"
In Toronto
May 28, Eurydice at Soulpepper Theatre, currently in previews
May 28, The 10th Inspirato Festival from Theatre Inspirato
May 30, Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! at Solar Stage Children's Theatre

In Central Ontario
May 27, Ug, The Caveman Musical at Blackhorse Village Players (Tottenham)
May 28, The Mousetrap at Owen Sound Little Theatre

In Eastern Ontario
May 29, Needles and Opium at National Arts Centre—English Theatre (Ottawa), with previews from May 27
May 29, Hairspray at Orpheus Musical Theatre Society (Ottawa)

ICYMI: Check out last week’s openings

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can access discount ticket offers for shows marked with an * asterisk
Read more about Theatre Ontario’s Discount Tickets program

Friday, 22 May 2015

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Conversation Starters
STAF's Open Source Brainstorm as they develop a
plan for a new Shared Platform.
Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres
You can also receive news from Theatre Ontario every month by email.  Our archives are online and the May issue is now available.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Congratulations to Spring 2015 Youth Theatre Training Program Recipients

We are excited to announce the latest recipients of training grants through Theatre Ontario’s Youth Theatre Training Program (YTTP).  We thank all those who applied to the program.

$22,500 was awarded in total among the following recipients:

  • CultureLink – Newcomer Youth Summer Theatre (Toronto)
  • expresARTE – voZifor@s for Panamerican youth (GTA)
  • Jumblies Theatre – Youth Theatre Workshop Series (Toronto)
  • Mashed Collective – Youth Improv Program (Toronto—East York and South Parkdale)

Over $86,000 was requested during this application round.  The next application deadline for this program is October 15, 2015.

Find out more about the Theatre Ontario Youth Theatre Training Program

This program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario
Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops, and our Summer Theatre Intensive for actors, directors, and playwrights.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • PACTCON 2015: Outside Looking In conference from the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres opens today.
  • Upcoming Ontario Culture Days information sessions are in Greater Napanee (May 21), Belleville (May 22), Sault Ste. Marie (May 25), Toronto/East (May 26), Windsor (May 27), and Toronto/Downtown (May 28).
  • Deadline for applications for the Ruth Harcort Memorial Scholarship for graduating secondary school students in Northumberland County who have shown dedication to the arts is May 21.
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre is holding a Sewing and Costume Building for Theatre workshop on May 24.
  • Shaw Festival’s Play by Play, an enriched theatre-going experience for audiences, runs May 27 to May 29.
  • Deadline for submissions for the Arts and Letters Club Foundation’s Robert Beardsley Award for Young Playwrights for GTA students is May 29.
Check out these items, and other postings from our members of funding opportunities, workshops, calls for submission, awards, and more—on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can also access auditions and job postings on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

ONstage Openings for the week of May 19

In Southwestern Ontario
May 20, Crow Hill at Goderich Little Theatre
May 20, The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Regiment) at London Community Players
May 22, Talley's Folly at London Community Players, with a preview on May 21
May 22, Aida at Theatre Woodstock
ONstage Opening this week in Woodstock
Aida at Theatre Woodstock
May 22, An Inspector Calls at Guelph Little Theatre
May 23, Top Girls at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), in previews*

In Toronto
May 19, Eurydice at Soulpepper Theatre, in previews
May 20, Durango at fu-GEN Theatre Company / Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, currently in previews
May 21, The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds at Soulpepper Theatre, currently in previews
May 21, Quartet at East Side Players

In Central Ontario
May 22, Squabbles at Huronia Players (Midland)

In Eastern Ontario
May 21, Jesus Christ Superstar at Suzart Productions (Ottawa)

ONstage Now Playing in Gananoque
Closer than Ever at Thousand Islands Playhouse
Photo by Murray Mitchell, provided by Western Canada Theatre
ICYMI: Check out last week’s openings

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can access discount ticket offers for shows marked with an * asterisk

Read more about Theatre Ontario’s Discount Tickets program

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Theatre Sarnia Awarded the Elsie for Outstanding Production at Festival

Congratulations to Theatre Sarnia, whose production of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl was awarded the Elsie as Outstanding Production at Theatre Ontario Festival 2015 in Oshawa.

The production received three awards and ten nominations from adjudicator Ron Cameron-Lewis.

Theatre Sarnia last won the Elsie in 1995 for their production of The Melville Boys by Norm Foster. This was their fifth time participating at Theatre Ontario Festival, representing the Western Ontario Drama League.

Peterborough Theatre Guild represented the Eastern Ontario Drama League at Festival, presenting Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin, and received four awards and nine nominations.

Oshawa Little Theatre represented the Association of Community Theatres--Central Ontario, presenting Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, and received four awards and six nominations.

Gore Bay Theatre represented QUONTA (the northeastern Ontario community theatre association), presenting Agnes of God by John Pielmeier. They received three awards.

The annual Theatre Ontario Festival is a showcase of outstanding community theatre productions, a classroom for passionate, dedicated community theatre artists, a celebration of excellence in community theatre, and a destination bringing together theatre lovers from across the province.

Read the full list of Theatre Ontario Festival 2015 Award Winners and Nominees on the Theatre Ontario website and check out the transcript of the Theatre Ontario Festival Awards Brunch Live-Blog

UPDATED May 25, 2015: For those of you who attended the Awards Brunch, you had the opportunity to enjoy the fine work of Johnny Soln, our emcee.  The highlight for me was his musings on the Meisner Technique of acting:

In my humble opinion, a buffet represents the ultimate exercise in the Meisner Technique of acting.

You see, as you approach the buffet, all movements and actions are 100% driven by internal motivation of hunger – you are genuinely in the moment.

To gain the most from this exercise, I recommend following an individual who just cleared the food item you are most excited to eat.  For our purposes, let's say that item is bacon.

Excited as you were when you approached the buffet, you must now react truthfully to the new circumstances ahead of you – an empty bacon pan.

Your excitement turns to sadness, disappointment, and silent rage at the person ahead of you. In your head, you repeatedly direct angry, behavioral statements at the person ahead of you.

Yet, all that changes when a server arrives with a new, freshly prepared, fully stocked pan of bacon. Your anger turns to joy; your jealousy directed to the person ahead of you is now pride, as you know your bacon is fresher – defeat turns to victory!

Now you are taunting that person over and over again in your head. At this point you are living truthfully in the moment – plus you have bacon!

Thus, as you can see, a buffet (with bacon) is the most honest realization of the Meisner Technique.

Sarah Ruhl’s Poetry in Three Dimensions: Adjudication of The Clean House at Theatre Ontario Festival 2015

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Ron Cameron-Lewis of Theatre Sarnia’s production of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl.
  • Sarah Ruhl describes theatre as poetry in three dimensions.
  • Set design: Loved the look of the set… we didn’t see a balcony so what a wonderful surprise when we returned for Act Two.
  • Costume choices created a great visual picture: Matilde in black, Lane in white, Virginia in gray, and then Charles and Ana bring colour.
  • Similarly, the revelation when the cupboards opened and we saw all the cleaning products (and the vodka.)
  • The unusual angle of the coffee table (legs pitched at 45-degree balanced by a flat base.)
  • Some lighting areas had problems: U.S.R. of the bar, D.S.R., S.L. on the balcony in Act Two; at a Festival, actors need an hour under the lights to learn where the hot spots are so they can find the adjustments they need to make.
  • “Stunning” musical choices: just the right mood, transition, and the volume was excellent.
  • Similarly the projects were effective, a particular highlight was the “primal moment” between Lane and Virginia.
  • The opening joke is told in Portuguese, but you didn’t need to understand the language because of the actor’s commitment and her vocal inflection, physicality, fun.
  • Each of the opening monologues were simple, with no movement, and driven by the power of voice.
  • Good accent work by Matilde and Ana.
  • The red blotch that appeared on the painting on the set in Act Two was unclear. It read like a crown: what did that mean? The goal was simply to add the colour and show the increasing messiness of their lives. In that case, it needed to be blotchier so it didn’t read as anything.
  • A wonderful example of the changes in vocal pitch that has been a theme this week: Lane’s line “I don’t know what to say except… you’re fired.” Her pitch dropped to a lower tone on the final two words.
  • A general observation to live longer in the final moments, the “buttons” of the scenes. They’re beautiful so let us take them in, don’t rush us out to the next scene.
  • “Magical realism”: The best illustration of what this category of theatre means was how the apples would be dropped from Ana’s balcony, and somehow land in Lane’s living room.
  • Lane’s wig hid her eyes. She would have benefited from something that pulled back the hair.
  • Strong character statements were made through physicality.
  • The parents dirty jokes was a fun sight gag, but it ended on a moment of unexpected poignancy. Many of the scenes had that impact.
  • Virginia and Matilde: There was great evolution in their relationship throughout the play.
  • Lane and Virginia: Wonderful use of pace in their vocal rhythms to convey their long shared history together as sisters.
  • Blocking had Lane was in profile for a long-time; we needed to see her full face earlier in the play.
  • Matilde’s floor work while she was stretching was excellent. The floor is the most overlooked part of the stage and thought should be given of how to use it more generously. In this case, it spoke of her character and her Brazilian heritage.
  • Virginia’s inner monologue while folding and caressing Charles’ underwear was quite clear.
  • Excellent comic timing on Virginia and Matilde changing places at the ironing board (and the moment of discovery that they needed to change places.)
  • Terrific split-second timing from Lane: “I have poise” as she unwittingly spills her drink.
  • Fun moment when Matilde tilted the picture, but it wasn’t straightened properly. Virginia needed to fixed that, but she did not notice it.
  • A well-executed emotional roller-coaster ride for all the characters when Charles leaves Lane.
  • More magical realism: Charles and Ana dancing, and Matilde asking Lane: “Who are they?” / “Just my imagination.”
  • Lane’s transition from laughter to tears was well-executed: we believed it.
  • Ana’s accent work was excellent, but it needed to be stronger from her first line as we didn’t hear the accent right away. If the text doesn’t provide the words you need, exaggerate the words that do carry the accent.
  • Charles and Ana’s transition from clinical doctor/patient relationship to falling in love (with musical and lighting accompaniment) demonstrated visual comedy galore
  • Clarity in Ana and Matilde’s exchange in Portuguese, and we could even hear the difference in their accents.
  • Superb holding of the moment by Lane before delivering the line “You’re not Jewish.”
  • Ana’s hair and the ringlets read so well for her character.
  • Charles was clearly in love with Ana, sitting as close to her as possible on the arm of a chair.
  • Virginia referred to her and Matilde as sisters, and then tying her hair.  This was one of those unexpected discoveries beyond the script.
  • Virginia almost touching Charles’ knee, showed how much she is suffering.
  • Wonderful shift in tone when everyone went to pick apples and the sisters were left alone and how they related to each other.
  • Wonderful visual impact when the balcony doors opened and all this colour appeared.
  • Imaginative solution to the need for throwing “yellow spices” – threw yellow confetti.
  • The mind-reading scene between Charles and Ana could have benefitted from more “Houdini” behavior by Charles, more theatricality, and separating the lines and an action. The funnier this scene is, the sadder this scene is.
  • Charles stripping to his underwear: courageous by the actor.
  • The moment when Lane discovers Charles’ sweater was lost by the audience in the split focus between the two scenes. The balcony scene drew our attention because it had colour and action.
  • Good use of non-verbal conflict over the vacuum.
  • Music throughout Ana’s illness was quite beautiful.
  • Virginia’s breakdown and trashing the set was excellent. When she threw the flowers, she changed her rhythm and intention. There is an exercise Ron uses: “25 ways to use a chair” to make those kinds of discoveries of variety. She found 25 ways to throw flowers.
  • Lane and Ana on the balcony: the blocking needed tweaking as this is Lane’s scene, and she was U.S.L. By the end of the scene, she was D.S.R. and the blocking fell into place. Needed it that way from the top.
  • The telephone call between Lane and Virginia was split with a scene on the balcony.  This was well-executed because the balcony scene moved slowly.  If there must be unimportant movement in a scene, do it at half-speed.
  • The sequence where they were eating ice cream on the couch was a charming sequence.
  • Lane watching Ana like a guard dog: this was an example of a moment that could have been sustained for 10 to 15 seconds before ending the scene.
  • It’s Victoria Day weekend, and fireworks were audible outside the theatre.  Good job by the company in not being distracted.
  • The final joke, Ana’s death and Lane holding the wash basin was a wonderful frozen moment of time.
  • The only prop that didn’t work was the yew tree that Charles brought from Alaska: everything in the story has become so extreme that the tree needed to be 20x larger. It didn’t need to come onto the stage, it could have been too big to fit through the door. The yew tree we saw was a safe tree.
  • Technical challenges were presented by the enormous jars of olives: the juices, the spills, the smell, the mould.
  • Magical realism did confuse some audience members. Some audiences fought the play. They weren’t sure how to feel about it. Some loved it, but they had no idea what it was. It’s important that the company accept the conventions of the play—which they did.
  • Thank you to Theatre Sarnia for bringin Sarah Ruhl to Festival.
(This is the final version of this post, edited post-Festival.)

ONstage Today at Festival: Awards Brunch

The Elsie Award
Sunday at 11:30am, join Brandon Moore on our online Festival Awards Live-Blog as adjudicator Ron Cameron-Lewis presents the awards for Theatre Ontario Festival 2015, including the Elsie for Outstanding Production in Festival.

We will also be presenting the Michael Spence Award for Contribution to Community Theatre to John Storey of Markham.

Follow our Theatre Ontario Festival Awards Live-Blog

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Timeliness, and The Politics of a Period: Adjudication of Born Yesterday at Theatre Ontario Festival 2015

Born Yesterday
Peterborough Theatre Guild
David Adams and Kellie McKenty.
by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Ron Cameron-Lewis of Peterborough Theatre Guild’s production of Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin.
  • This script opens with a dense scene with a lot of information conveyed in it.  Members of audience were not hearing key information. Some delivery was too fast. Previous adjudicator had told them to speed up. But there is a happy medium. Pace is the rhythm of the show, rate is the speed of delivery: don’t confuse them.
  • The dark room exercise (which has come up in both previous adjudications) was referenced again. 60% of information for audience is conveyed visually, 30% via subtext, 10% via text.  That exercise helps you to rediscover the rhythms of the show by taking out the visual component.
  • Live in the moment that is happening on stage.
  • First-time directors who took on ambitious, large cast show.
  • The set was visually impressive, and well-designed to provide playing areas. Physically massive: “We have no right to expect such a set at Festival.”
  • Sound levels were too low: we needed to hear and enjoy the lyrics of the opening music.
  • Visually-paced opening. Paul nosing around was so appropriate in defining his character.
  • In comedy, always sustain energy to the end of the line and avoid what Ron calls “the great Canadian drop-off” in our vocal patterns—especially in comedy, where the final word of the line is the punchline.
  • The play settled down in the scene between Brock and Devery when they were left alone. In general, it was the two-hander scenes of the play that had the most believable quality.
  • Show us inner monologues: When Brock hands Paul the cigar, this is something expensive and valuable and needs to be examined before “I’ll give it to someone…”
  • Brock’s speech about 1937 and how he got started: this is an opportunity to slow down and explore the text, being in that past time, living in the reminiscence.
  • Terrace was a wonderful playing area for giving us an opportunity to see characters while they were impacted by the view.
  • Good rehearsal exercise to find subtext in lines is to say only the key words from the lines.
  • Brock’s bellowing hurt our ear drums and was thus appropriate.
  • Billie and Devery signing papers: another case of a strong, two-person scene with rhythm that was clearer and well-paced.
  • Lovely costuming work. Especially noteworthy was Mrs. Hedges’ hat. Eddie wore his hat well, and it said a lot about his character. One pair of shoes seemed too contemporary for the period.
  • Blocking could have benefited from more cheating of dialogue out to the front. There must be moments of connection where characters lock eyes, but then try the “water sprinkler” effect of moving your head through the lines bringing it back to the moment of connection.
  • Fun example of character detail work in Billie: the bored chorus girl mouthing the words to a song.
  • Use the power of vowels to carry emotions. Ron led an exercise where the characters sung their lines from the Senator Hedges’ meeting scene. Find a ballad tempo and let the voice do whatever it wants.
  • Billie’s wiggle up the stairs was a highly effective visual moment.
  • Ron led an exercise where Brock delivered a monologue, and Devery, Senator, Mrs Hedges verbalized their reactions out loud at the same time. This helps to create inner monologue. The next step is to find non-verbal ways to express it.
  • Furnishing: The D.S.R. table was really too small for the papers (although it was effective for the card game.) The telephone was a wonderful discovery by set dressing.
  • One of the dangers of a rushed vocal rate is that syllables elide together. “Verrall” sounds like a single syllable.
  • Lighting problem: The wall sconces were too bright. Unfortunately, they were non-dimmable fluorescents. (They flicked into and out of blackouts.) Lights are the most effective way to draw the eye on stage.
  • Paul’s bow to Billie was a missed opportunity for a reaction in establishing their relationship.
  • Good job at finding the comedy in the Paul / Billie scene.
  • Billie’s voice served the character well. Explore varying the pitch during the seduction scene (specifically dropping it.)
  • Excellent choice to drop the smoking. It’s not integral to the action, there is no dialogue about it, and it is challenging to execute effectively. Also, there are municipal rules about smoking in publicly-funded facilities/schools.
  • The gin game was a wonderfully executed sequence of inner monologues. The way Brock and Billie treat each other is appalling. This is an opportunity to see what they are like when they are together and alone.
  • That scene is another opportunity to dim the lighting around the rest of the set (just 10%) while bumping the level on the card game (up 10%)—just slight enough to direct the audience’s eye.
  • Scene change for Act One to Act Two: music level needed to be bumped up so we could hear the lyrics to Anything Goes.
  • Since Act Two opens with no dialogue, just Billie alone, reading and marking up the newspaper, the music did not need to stop—just drop the level so that it fades out when someone else comes in.
  • Glasses are challenging costume as they obstruct eyes, our “windows” to the character’s soul.  When they are fundamental to the text, find opportunities to take them off.
  • Billie: “What makes you think I’m 30?” An opportunity to say the line to him, but then react to us.
  • Tears: Show us the progression to that moment, get upset in the earlier lines.
  • “What is a peninsula?” “It’s that new medicine.” This is a moment for discovery: Billie is triumphant, and in that moment the other characters figure it out.
  • Billie and Devery talking about the cartel: this scene had an effective and clear reaction/response sequence. Again, Billie could drop her vocal pitch to convey her seriousness about the business. (Save the higher pitch for when she is putting on “the bimbo.”)
  • Be careful about key moments of blocking being hidden by furniture, e.g. Brock grabbing at Billie.
  • Holding the fight between Brock and Billie while Helen the maid enters and leaves with the sheets: This is a moment for silent inner monologue while they wait for Helen to leave.
  • The moment of domestic violence reminds us of when this play was written.
  • Fill your blackouts with music; start it before the house lights come down and keep it going until the stage lights come up.
  • Act Three lighting: The time of day did not read like it was 1:30am in the morning. It needed more table lamps and consideration of the light sources, etc.
  • Brock found really meaningful delivery in Act Three.
  • Actions can be louder than words, and can distract an audience’s eye. Be careful of physical movements that are not intended to draw focus.
  • Senator Hedges Act Three costume: Did he really have time to get into a suit? The costume could have conveyed the character’s urgency to be there when woken up and summoned by Brock.
  • Paul: “My wife wouldn’t like it.” / Billie: “She certainly wouldn’t.” This is the marriage proposal and acceptance, a shared moment between the two characters while the other characters are oblivious. Make the most of the moment.
  • Lovely final moment for Billie and Eddie’s reaction.
  • Devery’s final lines are the denouement of the play. Many were delivered up stage. The moment needed a “re-grouping” to re-block characters so that the line could be delivered down stage.
  • Would Paul’s glasses have been better without lenses. Avoids reflecting light. Good design choice to match the frames between Paul and Billie.
  • In their own theatre, they had decorated the lobby as the hotel, with the hustle and bustle of the Assistant Manager, bellhops, etc.
  • Billie’s challenge was keeping as big (or bigger) than Brock. She created a nice emotional arc as she grew up and fell in love.
  • Billie was a brunette. They considered dyeing her hair blonde, but all agreed that it would have been unnecessary and would have added nothing to it.
  • Sibelius Op. 47 is a tricky piece of music to use during a scene without lulling the audience.  Effectively handled by establishing the music and then bringing the volume down.
  • Harry’s challenge was the nastiness. Live and enjoy these types of characters. “I don’t own anything that’s cheap. Except you.” is a wonderful, awful line.
  • Did the play need a trigger warning in the program for the audience about the scene of domestic violence?  Since the audience expectation was a comedy, it would have been appropriate.
(This is the final version of this post, edited post-Festival.)

ONstage Tonight at Festival: Theatre Sarnia

Our festival opened with a presentation from the Festival hosts; tonight's closing performance is a presentation by last year’s Festival hosts as Theatre Sarnia presents Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, representing the Western Ontario Drama League (WODL).  The last theatre to serve double-duty as Festival host and their regional representative?  Theatre Sarnia in 2006.

The Clean House
Theatre Sarnia
Megan Hadley, Henri Canino, Ashley Carlisle
Theatre Sarnia is one of the oldest, continuously operating community theatres in Canada.  The Drama Club of Sarnia was created in 1927, and among its founders was WODL founder D. Park Jameson.  Later known for many years as Sarnia Little Theatre, Theatre Sarnia performs out of the Imperial Theatre which opened December 31, 1996.  Theatre Sarnia has hosted our Festival three times—in 2002, 2006, and most recently in 2014.  Five times they have represented WODL, most recently in Kanata in 2009 when they presented Night Sky by Susan Yankowitz. At Theatre Ontario Festival 1995 in North York, Sarnia’s production of The Melville Boys (by our honourary Festival Chair Norm Foster) won the Elsie for Outstanding Production.

The Clean House is a whimsical, romantic play centred on Matilde, a Brazilian cleaning woman who would rather be a comedian. This comic drama mixes fantasy and reality as it tells the story of five distinctive characters. Sarah Ruhl’s extraordinary play, embracing “the mess of love and life”, is theatrical, funny and philosophical.

At the 2015 WODL Festival in Owen Sound, Theatre Sarnia won the D. Park Jameson Award for Best Production, as well as Performance by a Female in a Leading Role (Henri Canino as Virginia), an Adjudicator’s Award for a particularly humourous performance (Ashley Carlisle as Mathilde) and Best Coordinated Production, with additional nominations for Outstanding Technical Production and Outstanding Ensemble Work.

Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2015 on our website

Friday, 15 May 2015

Explorations of Faithfulness: Adjudication of Agnes of God at Theatre Ontario Festival 2015

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Ron Cameron-Lewis of Gore Bay Theatre’s production of Agnes of God by John Pielmeier.
  • Livingstone’s black costume with a touch of red: Had they considered gray or brown? Black gave her balance and symmetry with Mother Superior, adding a hint of red gave a suggestion of blood. A distinctive colour would have given a sense of Livingstone living in the outside world.
  • Also, the use of black legs meant that Livingstone and Mother Superior disappeared into them.
  • Colours and moods of the lighting shifts were effective.
  • Livingstone’s opening direct address to the audience: Accomplished connection with audience through stillness and storytelling.
  • The prop powder cigarettes were not effective—the smoke did not read, we couldn’t see Livingstone blowing smoke into Mother Superior’s face. They chose not to use herbal cigarettes because of the scent sensitivity.
  • Livingstone’s first interrogation of Mother Superior: When blocking patterns are static, vocal dynamics and nuance are good tools. Ron again references his black room exercise, which one of the co-directors has used in the past (but not on this production.)
  • This is a text where the characters say things that really have impact on each other. Rehearsal exercise: When characters say a trigger word, the character repeats the trigger word as a question and then says their own line. This goes back-and-forth between the characters.
  • Text also has marked overlapping interruptions. As an exercise, trying doing more of the play that way—it increases the conflict, adds to the tension.
  • This is a play that is desperate for the releases in the author’s moment of humour. Some of Livingstone’s monologues are an opportunity to bring in theatricality, e.g. tell the story to two people over drinks.
  • Directors debated staging choices for monologues: Isolation in spots vs. movement.  Going with the isolation choice, lighting each monologue differently can be effective.
  • It is difficult for actors in nun costumes to express themselves with physicality. It was a wonderful choice for Agnes and Mother Superior’s scene about "love" for her face to be up and out.
  • Ron lead the entire group in a difficult-to-describe exercise to explore vocal ranges and find optimum pitches. People in other conference rooms would have wondered why they were hearing strange variations of Mary Had a Little Lamb.
  • Pathos was well-developed around the stigmata.
  • In moments of conflict, explore more blocking for Livingstone. Again, she is from the outside world and is not confined by the nun’s rules for subsuming passion.
  • Actors were given some physical exercise to engage their diaphragms and then played the “sending to prison/asylum sequence”. It makes the fights bigger. The strongest emotions come from our guts, but actors automatic tendency is to act from heads and chests. Agnes had done diaphragm work for her singing.
  • Livingstone’s French fiancé monologue—another opportunity for fun and humour.
  • Actors can get caught up in each other’s vocal tempos. One exercise is to force one character to “rev up” while the other character “revs down”. Each keeps their own rhythm by snapping their fingers.
  • Agnes’ emotional defense of her mother came quickly, as per the stage direction. Seemed to be a fast discovery for the character. Always difficulty to interpret stage directions in acting editions: Are they from the author, or stage manager notes from the first production?
  • Agnes sobbing: Tears have origin and duration. Audiences don’t need to see tears, they need to see physical wracking, hear labored breathing. We need to see the journey to the tears.
  • Livingstone: Can you check the date? Another sequence which was emotionally dynamic but physically static. This is a good scene to run as an exercise by taking away the characters' words so they must express the essence of the scene exclusively through body language.
  • Mother Superior effectively claimed status through vocal power.
  • Some tripping over lines. This was their 5th performance, two pre-QUONTA Festival in March, performance at QUONTA, and one more last Friday. Things happen. Don’t try to re-start the lines. Bluff your way through it.
  • Another opportunity for movement by Livingstone: the molestation revelation. Directors wanted to give Mother Superior a strong, grounded presence. They tried blocking it as a boxing match but they felt it was “stagey.” One exercise is to “play tag” while speaking the lines in the scene. You may have to pull back and 'mark' the physicality if the space is small. Ron has done it in tiny classrooms, comparable in size to the Gore Bay stage.
  • “Bullshit” earned a good laugh from the audience. It didn’t play that way in Gore Bay.
  • Livingstone’s loss of faith starting in childhood: this was good truthful storytelling.
  • The jokes about the saints smoking could have been revved up. The pace was off in this sequence during last night’s performance. An unusual accidental substitution of one of the lines also caused a problem.
  • We believed the hypnotism, but Agnes’ legs were a bit clenched for the delivery of the baby.  This is a difficult sequence to block depending on the physical location of the audience in relationship to the stage. If she is giving birth facing upstage, we don’t see her face. Last night, Agnes had audience members right in front of her.
  • Agnes screaming “bitch, whore, liar” about her mother took the actress (15 years old) significantly out of her comfort zone. (ED – This is a tricky one. My own thoughts and discovery as an actor in trying things outside of my own personal comfort zone is to think about how you’re giving voice to people to have had none. There will be people in audiences who had horrible, painful relationships with their mothers, and are unable to say these things. This is a gift that you as an actor are giving to them.)
  • Mother Superior’s confession scene. Her face was down and to the right, which is a natural human instinct to take personal, private moments to the floor. Resist that urge and play these moments up and out.
  • Livingstone’s final monologue needed more volume. In rehearsal, it definitely seemed okay.
  • The final lighting effect clearly illuminating the cross was an enjoyable effect. It also read differently depending on where you were sitting in the auditorium: The cross was made of cardboard (light and easy to transport) and then layered with paper, giving it different colours.  From Ron’s perspective, it looked like religious imagery.
  • Choice was made to perform the play with no intermission. According to the playwright, it has never been done without one. His concern was actor fatigue and audience fatigue.  One hour, forty-five minutes felt like the maximum. But if you let the audience out, how do you get that tension back? It accomplished the goal of sustaining momentum. It worked for Ron, but he recognized that it wouldn’t work for everyone in the audience. He cut back on his public adjudication to compensate.
  • Intermissions are challenging. Two of the four plays this week are three act plays; the first ran with only one intermission and we don’t yet know what we will see tonight.
  • We're fans of Ron's book Acting Skills for Life and many of its exercises.  It's now available as an e-book through Dundurn Press in Toronto.
(This is the final version of this post, edited post-Festival.)

ONstage Tonight at Festival: Peterborough Theatre Guild

Our Friday night performance features the return of last year’s Festival winners for Outstanding Production as Peterborough Theatre Guild presents Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin, representing the Eastern Ontario Drama League (EODL).
Born Yesterday
Peterborough Theatre Guild
David Adams, Mark Paton, Kellie McKenty

Peterborough Theatre Guild began in 1965, purchasing and renovating an old church that had been gutted by a fire.  They have hosted our Theatre Ontario Festival three times, in 1980, 1993, and 2001. Peterborough Theatre Guild has represented EODL many times at Festival—most recently a year ago in Sarnia with their presentation of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which won Peterborough their fourth Elsie Award for Outstanding Production (following wins in 2006 in Sarnia for Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, in 2008 in North Bay for Proof, and in 2012 in Sault Ste. Marie for The Mouse House.)

In Born Yesterday, belligerent junk tycoon, Harry Brock, brings his entourage to Washington to make some crooked deals, but when advised that his beautiful but unrefined girlfriend could be a liability, Brock hires a tutor to give her a crash course in culture.

At the 2015 EODL Festival, Peterborough Theatre Guild won the Leslie M. Frost Award for Best Production, as well as Actress in a Major Role (Kellie McKenty as Billie Dawn), Acting Excellence (Wyatt Lamoureux as Ed Devery), and Best Visual Presentation, with honourable mentions for Directing (Pat Maitland and Ian Burns), Actor in a Major Role (Dave Adams as Harry Brock), Acting Excellence (Mark Paton as Paul Verrall), Set Design, Costuming, Contribution by a Student (Anita Spasov and Glennis Desrochers as Bellhops, Blackboots, Waiters, and Manicurists), Cameo Performance (Chuck Vollmar as Eddy), and Adjudicator’s Awards for Production Crew, Ensemble Work, Risk Taking (first-time directors Pat and Ian.)

Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2015 on our website

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Taking Apart the Human Mind with Neil Simon: Adjudication of The Odd Couple at Theatre Ontario Festival 2015

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator
The Odd Couple
Presented by Oshawa Little Theatre
James Burrell, Steve Maddiss, Tom Lynch

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Ron Cameron-Lewis of Oshawa Little Theatre's production of The Odd Couple by Neil Simon.
  • Neil Simon on playwriting: Like a mechanic takes apart a car, a playwright takes apart a human mind.
  • From the public adjudication: the set as Oscar's home could have benefited from more of his presence.
  • Concessions were made to remount the show, originally produced in October and they thought they were done with it.
  • Originally they did have a desk for the typewriter (the china cabinet they used felt more like the ex-wife than Oscar.)
  • Also the messier the set, the trickier the logistics of the clean-up between Act 1 and Act 2 (when there was no intermission.)
  • Lighting was also difficult; they had problems in the original production lighting the S.L. area around the window, caused problems with a dark area around S.L. of the sofa.
  • The closet was a late reveal during the performance; it was under-used during the blocking of the show and could have been used earlier in the play.
  • The apartment floor-plan seemed implausible.
  • The opening moment was glorious with the generous amounts of “cigar smoke” haze: a stunning way to start the play.
  • The actor who had been cast as Vinnie in the first production had to withdraw due to an injury; the remount gave him an opportunity to perform.
  • Roy had also been recast; actor had only three rehearsals in the role.
  • Well-executed visual comedy: the beer opening and spraying everywhere had authenticity, seemed to catch everyone by surprise.
  • Lighting enhancements can be a useful tactic to draw the audience’s eye and focus attention on a moment: Just enhancing the area in question 5-10% more while taking the rest of the set 5-10% less.
  • Eyes are the window intoa character’s soul – make sure the audience can see the actor's eyes.
  • The windows of the set could have benefited from more of the grime of New York City.
  • Oscar had some excellent timing on many lines.
  • Toilet flushes were well-executed sound effects: timing, sense of direction.
  • Vocal variety is a useful tool for performers; In Act One and Two, Felix tended to hold a single note through his lines, as opposed to finding different notes to reflect his emotional turmoil; variance in rhythm is another useful tool for actors.
  • The problem is the tone becomes self-pitying; a character can feel sorry for themselves, but character must be trying to fight that.
  • One exercise Ron recommends (ED: Me too!) is doing scenes in a black room, no blocking, just vocal work on the text.
  • Wonderfully executed sight gags such as the cards flying everywhere on one of Felix’s entrances.
  • The four card players had strong differentiation among their characters; this made for an effective climax when they leave and then each return one by one.
  • When people leaves the room, there is always a change in the dynamic among the people who are left on stage. Explore these moments. It can simply be a moment of relief that needs to be lived in. But we interact differently in front of an audience (of other characters.)
  • Felix’s spasms: Physical moments can benefit from greater specificity—rather than generalized spasms, try more specific spasms.
  • Great trust between Oscar and Felix as they climb onto each other, etc.
  • Wonderful moment for Felix clearing his sinuses: effective because there was not a shred of dignity in it.
  • Explore all of the beats in significant moments of realization for a character e.g. Felix realizing that his marriage is over.
  • Scene change from Act One to Act Two was confusing for the audience. Some thought there was going to be an intermission and got up our of our seats. Felt like the house lights cue had been missed. Find ways to keep the action moving. Ron suggested bringing in a couple of stage crew sweeping downstage of the house curtain while the set was being cleaned upstage of the house curtain. As long as there is action happening, we remain engaged and there's no sense of "intermission."
  • Top of Act Two: A lovely example of change in dynamics of a relationship by the ensemble.
  • Oscar and the pickle: another wonderful visual moment.
  • Roy’s emotional build of outrage was excellent.
  • D.S. moment between Felix and Murray talking about the Playboy Club: This was an example of the effective use of comic stillness, beat by beat, “moments of repose.”
  • Comedy can thrive in moments where things are used in a way that you don’t expect: the potato chips, the ladle, and the apron was an effective sight gag.
  • The Pigeon Sisters are tricky characters: giggly, silly, charming, just a bit obnoxious; also trying to match their British dialects.
  • More great moments of physical comedy: Felix and the Sisters, turning 360 degrees in the chair, timing of lines: (“Where do you get your ideas?” / “From the news.”)
  • When the Pigeon Sisters start crying, vocally they were caught in their upper register, this make it hard on the ears, and sound becomes generalized.
  • The power of details within a moment: Oscar unplugging the vacuum cord (this moment almost didn’t happen as the vacuum handle broke during the afternoon run.)
  • An example of a wonderfully executed moment of repose: Oscar “It was signed F.U. ... It took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Unger.” Sequence: The actor moved, froze, delivered the set up-the line, moved, froze, and delivered the punchline.
  • Another example of the dynamic of a room changing on an entrance/exit: The card players reactions to the arrival of the Pigeon Sisters.
  • The period of play is not specified. While it is not contemporary, the company chose to place it in the 1970s.
  • Simon’s comedy is well-crafted.  He had a tragic childhood and he writes this pain into his plays; these experiences are heartbreaking for his characters.
(This is the final version of this post, edited post-Festival.)

ONstage Tonight at Festival: Gore Bay Theatre

There is a familiar face in one of the directing chairs at tonight’s performance.  Andrea Emmerton, who was Theatre Ontario’s Community Theatre Coordinator from 2000 to 2007, is co-director of tonight’s performance of Agnes of God by John Pielmeier, presented by Gore Bay Theatre representing QUONTA, the northeastern Ontario community theatre association.

The company of Agnes of God
Gore Bay Theatre
Kayla Greenman, Tara Bernatchez,
Shannon McMullan
Gore Bay Theatre is a community group located on Manitoulin Island in a small town of 850.  They are busiest during the summer season, catering to a tourist audience and presenting two to three plays in repertory.  This is their fourth appearance at Festival—most recently they opened our 2012 Festival in Sault Ste. Marie with The Attic, The Pearls & Three Fine Girls by Jennifer Brewin, Leah Cherniak, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alisa Palmer and Martha Ross.

Summoned to a covent, Dr. Martha Livingstone, a court-appointed psychiatrist, is charged with assessing the sanity of a novice accused of murdering her newborn. Miriam Ruth, the Mother Superior, determindly keeps young Agnes from the doctor, arousing Livingstone's suspicions further. Who killed the infant and who fathered the tiny victim? Livingstone's questions force all three women to re-examine the meaning of faith and the power of love leading to a dramatic, compelling climax.

At the 2015 QUONTA Festival in Sault Ste. Marie, Gore Bay Theatre won Outstanding Production, Outstanding Supporting Actress (Shannon McMullan as Mother Miriam Ruth), Outstanding Visual Production, and Adjudicator’s Awards for performance (Kayla Greenman as Agnes) and original music (Shannon McMullan, Bob Sproule, and Jean Lavalle).

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

ONstage Tonight at Festival: Oshawa Little Theatre

For the first time since 2006, the host theatre will also be a presenter as Oshawa Little Theatre takes the stage tonight with their production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, representing the Association of Community Theatres—Central Ontario (ACT-CO).

Oshawa Little Theatre owes its existence to Verna Conant. In 1928, she had a vision to create a community theatre and hired a professional director to instruct local actors. In the early 1980s the membership decided to build their own theatre and obtained a Wintario grant.  This, together with some amazing contributions from businesses and individuals, set the wheels in motion to build today’s 360-seat facility adjacent to the old rehearsal room and workshop, which opened in 1983. Oshawa Little Theatre previously hosted Festivals in 1991 and 2003.  This is their first time representing ACT-CO in 35 years, last appearing at Festival in 1980 with a production of The Diary of Anne Frank adapted by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.

The Odd Couple
Oshawa Little Theatre
Will van der Zyl, James Burrell,
Tracy McCarten, Shari Thorne
This classic comedy opens as a group of the guys assembled for cards in the apartment of divorced Oscar Madison. And if the mess is any indication, it’s no wonder that his wife left him. Late to arrive is Felix Unger who has just been separated from his wife. Fastidious, depressed and none too tense, Felix seems suicidal, but as the action unfolds Oscar becomes the one with murder on his mind when the clean-freak and the slob ultimately decide to room together with hilarious results as The Odd Couple is born.

At the 2015 ACT-CO Festival, Oshawa Little Theatre won Best Production of a Comedy and Best Performance by a Male in a Leading Role (Will van der Zyl as Felix Ungar), with nominations for Best Director, Best Performance by a Male in a Leading Role (James Burrell as Oscar Madison), and Best Set Design.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Browsing Our Bulletin Board

Coming Up from Theatre Ontario
Check out all of our upcoming Career Stream and Creator Stream workshops, and our Summer Theatre Intensive for actors, directors, and playwrights.

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • Upcoming Ontario Culture Days information sessions are in Timmins (today), Brampton (May 14), Greater Napanee (May 21), and Belleville (May 22).
  • Deadline for submissions for Clay and Paper Theatre’s Day of Delight for collaborators interested in working on an outdoor performance is May 13.
  • Deadline to apply for Driftwood Theatre’s free Creative Roots Youth Theatre Training Program for youth 14 to 19 is May 15.
  • Deadline for Ontario Arts Council Northern Arts grants is May 15.
  • Deadline for nominations for the Playwrights Guild of Canada’s Tom Hendry Awards (Carol Bolt Award for Playwrights, Stage West Pechet Family Comedy and Musical Awards, Lifetime Membership) is May 15.
  • Deadline for applications for a director, musical director, and choreographer at The Oakville Players is May 16.
  • PACTCON 2015: Outside Looking In conference from the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres opens May 20.
  • Deadline for applications for the Ruth Harcort Memorial Scholarship for graduating secondary school students in Northumberland County who have shown dedication to the arts is May 21.

New on The Bulletin Board
  • Essential Collective Theatre is holding a Meisner Technique Training Course in Toronto starting June 6
  • The Ontario Trillium Foundation has announced its new registration and application deadlines for the first granting round of 2015; registration opens July 22

Check out these items, and other postings from our members of funding opportunities, workshops, calls for submission, awards, and more—on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can also access auditions and job postings on our Theatre Ontario Individual Member Resources on our website

Monday, 11 May 2015

ONstage Openings for the week of May 11

Theatre Ontario Festival opens May 13 in Oshawa—this year’s showcase of outstanding community theatre features The Odd Couple presented by Oshawa Little Theatre, Agnes of God presented by Gore Bay Theatre, Born Yesterday presented by Peterborough Theatre Guild, and The Clean House presented by Theatre Sarnia.

In Eastern Ontario
May 12, The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon at Kanata Theatre (Ottawa)
May 16, Closer than Ever at Thousand Islands Playhouse (Gananoque), with a preview on May 15*

In South Central Ontario
May 15, Crookback at West End Studio Theatre (Oakville)

In Southwestern Ontario
May 11, The Taming of the Shrew at Stratford Festival, in previews
May 12, The Physicists at Stratford Festival, in previews
ONstage Opening in Niagara-on-the-Lake
You Never Can Tell at Shaw Festival
Julia Course, Tara Rosling, Peter Krantz,
Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Jennifer Dzialoszynski
Photo by David Cooper
May 14, You Never Can Tell at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), currently in previews
May 15, The Lady From the Sea at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), currently in previews
May 15, Legends... of Rock 'n' Roll at Drayton Entertainment: Drayton Festival Theatre, with previews from May 14
May 16, Peter and the Starcatcher at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), currently in previews*
May 16, Sweet Charity at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake), currently in previews
May 16, She Stoops to Conquer at Stratford Festival, in previews

In Toronto
May 12, Big Ideas at Alumnae Theatre Company
May 14, VideoCabaret's Trudeau and The FLQ: The History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1963-1970 at Soulpepper Theatre, with previews from May 12
May 14, The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds at Soulpepper Theatre, in previews
May 14, Harvey at Stage Centre Productions
May 14, Morro and Jasp: 9-5 at Factory Theatre, with previews from May 12*
May 16, Durango at fu-GEN Theatre Company / Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, in previews

ONstage Now Playing in Toronto
9 to 5: The Musical at Scarborough Music Theatre
ICYMI: Check out last week’s openings

For all the theatre playing across Ontario, visit Theatre Ontario’s ONstage theatre listings on our website

Theatre Ontario individual members can access discount ticket offers for shows marked with an * asterisk

Read more about Theatre Ontario’s Discount Tickets program