Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Early Bird Deadline for Summer Courses Approaching

Indulge your passion for theatre and experience a week away from all distractions as you immerse yourself in a unique theatrical learning experience.  You will learn new skills, meet passionate theatre people, and flex your creative muscle!

This year we have two returning favourites for actors:
  • Everything You Wanted To Know About Acting, with Tom Diamond—suitable for absolute beginners or more-experienced actors who want to get back to the basics
  • Hot Scenes—Scene Study for the Evolving Actor, with Brenda Kamino— learn, rehearse, and perform exciting short scenes from the repertoire of Canadian and world theatre in an intense, creative, and exciting week
This year, there are two directing courses, depending on your skill level:
  • Introduction To Directing: Covering All The Bases, with Stewart Arnott—for anyone who has always wanted to direct—or has already tried it once or twice—dive into this exciting craft by learning and developing important directing skills
  • Advanced Directing: Dramaturgy For Directors, with Virginia Reh—for experienced directors looking to take their skills to the next level, learn how to explore scripts to find your own approach to production
Finally, for those interested in a specialized actor training experience:
  • Physical Theatre And The Text, with Jim Warren—learn how action, gesture and rhythm inform text analysis and improve your performance
For over thirty years, Theatre Ontario’s Summer Theatre Intensive has brought together theatre people from all over the province for a week-long rigorous educational experience.  Our courses have earned praise from drama teachers, theatre schools, community and professional theatres, agents, and actors getting started in the business.

This year’s courses run from August 12 to 18 at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.  Read more about our 2012 Summer Theatre Intensive

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Authentic Conversations

As promised, here is the text of Autumn Smith's keynote address from the Theatre Ontario Annual Meeting on May 26. It was written as a speech; the headline is mine, and I've endeavoured to edit it in such a way that is captures the verbal flair with which Autumn delivered it. -- Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

When Carol asked me to give the keynote speech here today, I have to admit I was exhilarated and terrified at the same time.  What an honor it is to be asked to speak in front of my peers on the subject I love best—the theatre.

On the other hand I started musing about what the theatre has become for me.  Questioning myself on our art form and our community, and where I belong in it.

I recalled a recent incident I had during a workshop that I was directing.  It was post-show greeting time, with lots of mingling, people I needed to chat with and schmooze.  It was the time when (as we all know) our egos get fed by the praise of the people watching the work, a time when we can enjoy the fruits of our vision, fill ourselves up.  That time when our eyes dart around to spot the person (who we think) is the most important person in the room, hoping he or she will waltz over to us and say “Wow, you are the best thing to happen to this art form", which—face it—rarely happens.

I found myself there once again, once again seeking this inauthentic exchange, scrounging for one tiny morsel of false praise from someone with a bigger reputation.  During this same evening, a young man came up to me to talk about the work.  I had adjudicated for him in a play for the Sears Ontario Drama Festival years before.  He talked excitedly, as my eyes were darting around the room, seeking the evasive person who had the clout and power to give me my big break and a sure, steady income for the next year.  I found myself in a half-conversation with the one authentic voice in the room.  My partner watched this moment with this young man carefully. When he left, I immediately knew what she would say to me: Autumn—Where are you?  The person who thrives on talking to youth about theatre?  The you that states theatre must be honest, meaningful, authentic and real?

Boom—I was knocked over.  A palpable guilt flooded through me.  I was so ashamed.  I spent the rest of the evening trying to a) reconnect with this young man on a personal level—taking an interest in him rather than myself and b) trying to focus on having tangible real conversations with everyone else I came into contact with.  No small feat, as everyone else I came in contact with had the same agenda: to be seen and validated.

When did the art of making art become more important than the art itself?  When did we lose sight of what makes really great theatre: connection; dialogue—real words spoken to real people; engagement in action.  I worry that we have become complacent and ambivalent about this.

I think about Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. I think about how he wrote a character who was struggling with all of these questions.  How can we continue to make art without money, without critical acclaim?  Can we call ourselves artists if no one buys what we are selling?  How can we continue to keep a very old art form fresh?

Here is my current thinking about this: Go back to the beginning.  Take away the need for elaborate sets and clever concepts.  Take away the video projectors and the cool, hip sound designs.  Strip bare the imposed, and what is there?  Story.  What we say to one another, how we say it.

So much of our time is now full of stimuli that it seems like we forget how to be real with one another.  We look at our iPhones, blackberries, iPads, emails, video games, YouTube—visual bling-bling that allows us to disengage.  In this technologically crippled 21st century, we are now afraid to make eye contact, because we can now hide behind a machine.  At its best, theatre can help us reconnect with ourselves and each other.

But often, it seems that theatre has done the same thing; we have become so immersed in this idea of creating something new that we have lost sight of the form itself.  That same visual bling-bling blocks our words.

So, how do we move forward?  How do we begin the beginning?

Talk to each other—really talk.  Allow people to see our authentic selves.  By letting people in, we allow the possibility of a bigger fall if they do not like what they see; but that fall is way less terrifying than losing yourself.  As actors we are always striving for the character's true intent, their so-called "real voice."  Yet how can that happen when we are disconnecting from ourselves and others all the time in our own lives?  I'd like to encourage you all today to talk with someone in this room you do not know: try to have a real engagement.  Take a moment to have an authentic exchange with a stranger.  To connect, even in a small way.

Have more family meals.  Talk to your kids, husband, wife, partner…and more importantly, listen to their responses.  So many phenomenal playwrights have written dinner scenes.

Create community—places where people come together for a common purpose.  The same thing that draws me to my local pub draws me into theatres: shared experience.  I can sit down next to a stranger in a pub and have real conversations; hear their life in story form, unadulterated.  You can't put a ticket price on that.  Go to community theatre, where people come together for the love of art, not for the money or the acclaim.

I began a life in theatre because I craved the shared experience; that feeling that I was never alone on stage.  Even if I physically was, I had a whole audience there to play with; the audience—that other critical character, the people who are there to share the experience with us.  How divine!  What other profession can boast that they get to have someone listen to them rant on for an hour or two without interjecting?  The audience is the active listener: they have come to hear us tell a story.

I am stunned that so many people forget the simplicity of this fact.  They are overly concerned with humoring the public, or spoon-feeding them ideas and concepts. Yes, people like the escape of spectacle, but they also appreciate, and want—maybe even need—a well-tailored yarn that makes them think about what it means to be human.

So what is my conclusion in all of this?  I keep going back to Sondheim—an artist who, when he first began, found that audiences did not understand his craftsmanship.  His motto is content dictates form, and less is more.  That is what I always come back to; peeling away the layers of imposed material, that inauthentic facade covering the gem beneath.

One anecdote that always leaves me breathless comes courtesy of the British director Richard Eyre.  He speaks of Michelangelo's apparently most treasured work.  Immediately, we think about the Sistine Chapel and his frescos—the careful hand of God reaching out to Adam, the detail of every cherub, the cascading of the cloth surrounding the king of heaven.  Or perhaps we think of his marbled David, the most valuable sculpture of the Renaissance period.

But no.

It was a snow sculpture created in 1494 for the de Medici family.  The piece was said to be of utter beauty.  Something natural, real, that morphed as it melted into oblivion.  No one can actually document what the original form was.  But the ephemeral nature of it has lasted for centuries in the Italian cultural mind-set.  Much like theatre: the beauty cannot be harnessed or set in stone.  It is ephemeral.  So we owe it to our audiences, and ourselves, to make the moment as real as possible.

Monday, 28 May 2012

ONstage Openings for the week of May 28

In Central Ontario
May 31, Annie at Drayton Entertainment: King's Wharf Theatre (Penetanguishene) with previews from May 29
Jun. 1, Sexy Laundry at Blackhorse Village Players (Tottenham) with a preview on May 30
Jun. 1, Parkdale Peter Pan at Talk Is Free Theatre (Barrie) with previews from May 31

In Eastern Ontario
May 31, Anne Of Green Gables, The Musical at Belleville Theatre Guild with previews from May 27

In South Central Ontario
Jun. 1, Not Now Darling at The Curtain Club (Richmond Hill) with a preview on May 31

In Southwestern Ontario
May 28, Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford Shakespeare Festival – currently in previews
May 29, 42nd Street at Stratford Shakespeare Festival – currently in previews
May 30, Back In '59 at Port Stanley Festival Theatre
May 30, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown at Stratford Shakespeare Festival – currently in previews
May 31, Cymbeline at Stratford Shakespeare Festival – currently in previews
Jun. 1, The Pirates Of Penzance at Stratford Shakespeare Festival – currently in previews
Jun. 1, Trouble In Tahiti at The Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in previews
Jun. 2, The Matchmaker at Stratford Shakespeare Festival – currently in previews

In Toronto
May 31, Theatre Out Of The Box at ACT II Studio Theatre
Jun. 1, The Inspirato Festival at Theatre Inspirato

For all the theatre currently playing across Ontario, and information for theatres on how to submit your listings, visit the ONstage theatre listings on the Theatre Ontario website.

Browsing The Bulletin Board

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • Deadline for Lower Ossington Theatre’s call for submissions for possible summer co-productions in Toronto is June 1
  • Deadline for Theatre Inspirato’s 10-minute-plays-written-in-10-days contest is June 2
  • Deadline for the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s undercurrents Festival in Ottawa is June 4
New on The Bulletin Board
  • Audition technique masterclass with Kelly Thornton from Nightwood Theatre in Toronto starts on June 16
Check out all the latest postings of workshops, calls for submission, and opportunities for recognition on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

Friday, 25 May 2012

Ontario Off Stage

TO Toasts
  • The Toronto Arts Foundation Awards announced its finalists.  Among the finalists: Sun Life Financial (sponsor of the Neil Munro Intern Directors Project at the Shaw Festival) is a finalist for the Toronto Arts and Business Award; Daniel Karasik, Artistic Director of Tango Co. is a finalist for the RBC Emerging Artist Award; and Jini Stolk—founding Executive Director of Creative Trust and a past recipient of the Sandra Tulloch Award for Innovation in the Arts—is a finalist for William Kilbourn Award for the Celebration of Toronto’s Cultural Life.  Winners will be announced on June 21.
Remember, you can also receive our news every month by email.  Our archives are online and the May issue is now available.

Assembled by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Psst…Don’t Forget To RSVP For Our Annual Meeting on Saturday

We’re looking forward to seeing our members, so please remember to RSVP to attend Theatre Ontario’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday, May 26 at 1pm at the Robert Gill Theatre (University of Toronto)—a great opportunity to hear about the work of Theatre Ontario and our plans for the future, to ask questions, and to network with other members!

The Annual Meeting will feature a talk by Autumn Smith, Artistic Director and co-founder of MackenzieRo: The Irish Repertory Theatre Company of Canada whose work reflects involvement in all three sector of Theatre Ontario’s mandate—professional, community and educational—and the diversity and connections between the sectors.  Following the meeting, we will have an informal networking reception with light refreshments.

We will also be welcoming Steve Beatty and Michael Kelly of Culture One / Mainway Hunter Critchton to make an important presentation on the innovative Arts Worker Health Insurance Program they have developed known as aWHIP.

The Robert Gill Theatre is at 214 College Street, Toronto, Ontario (the northwest corner of College and St. George Streets.)  The main entrance for the theatre is via St. George Street.  An underground parking lot can be found on the east side of Huron Street, north of College Street.

To RSVP, please email with AGM in the subject line.  Remember you will also be able to follow along through our Annual Meeting Live Blog—if you intend to follow along, please ensure you’ve verified your login prior to the meeting before noon on Friday, May 25, 2012.

If you are unable to attend and wish to vote, you may submit a written proxy.  Proxy ballots must be received by 5pm on Friday May 25, 2012.  All Annual Meeting documents (including the annual report, the financial statements, the agenda, and the minutes of previous meetings) are available to members on the Theatre Ontario website.

Read more about the Theatre Ontario Annual Meeting on the Theatre Ontario website

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

An Acting Lesson With Jack Wetherall

Notes by Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director
  • Jack’s workshop started with centering the actor and connecting to the breath and gut as the core of our being. 
  • We were taken through a number of exercises to release tension, in the body and relax the mind.  One solid tension releasing exercise, an oldie but goody is standing with knees slightly flexed, shoulder-width apart, and dropping the upper body from the waist as you exhale, so that your hands and head are dangling, and releasing all the tension from the neck, shoulders, arms.  When well-relaxed, slowly begin to stand, one vertebrae at a time, as you slowly inhale.  Head is last to be in an upright position.
  • Another exercise to connect breath, movement and mind, was done in a circle by throwing and catching a volleyball—listening, watching, speaking and working with the prop.  Speaking as you exhale from the diaphragm.  This was a good exercise in  concentration, as well as connecting the breath to voice and movement.
  • Lying on our backs on the floor, relaxing the body fully, and centering our breathing in the lower diaphragm, and then adding sound on the exhalation, and then dialogue – this removes stress from the throat, and connects the dialogue to the gut and the core of the actor.
  • On all fours we did some basic yoga stretches, which Jack highly recommends, together with dance and other physical activity to ensure that you do not as an actor limit your performance range due to your physical limitations.  The yoga stretches were extended into free-flowing movement on all fours and then adding sound and dialogue to experiment with the different levels of sound and vocalization that can be achieved through relaxation and movement.  Again remembering to stay connected with the core.
  • Another exercise – not for the faint of heart (literally) – the participants stood in a circle facing inwards.  Each participant was given a word of dialogue which could not be said until the person before passed the ball and their word – the trick was, each person had to hold the sound/note while they ran round the outside of the circle before delivering.  This was a great exercise, as listening, and breathing, anticipating the lung capacity we need to deliver a speech is very important.  I think each of the participants was surprised by how much capacity they had.
  • These exercises were fun, energizing, and really helped the participants to make the mind, body, breath connection, and emphasized the importance of listening and breathing with the rhythm of the text.
  • We explored space on stage – with regards to how to the actor can use and define space to clarify character and emphasize and add interest and creativity to their speech and movement.  As opposed to all monologues being delivered downstage centre, choose different parts of the stage to begin or move to – what is around you – where is the speech taking place and to whom, how can you incorporate all that to enhance your delivery, the audiences understanding and make it come alive.
  • Another thing that was emphasised  was to be ready – always have a couple of monologues prepared and ready even if you are not attending an audition – the actor that is prepared and ready will often be hired – you never know when an opportunity will present itself.
  • The latter part of the workshop was taken to discuss the importance of text analysis – to fully explore and understand the meaning of each word the playwright has chosen, and to understand the intent behind each word.  Again, a full analysis and understanding of the text can drastically change the meaning and the motivation for the delivery for the actor/character.
  • We spent considerable time analyzing a page of text from Romeo & Juliet – how the rhyming couplets, and quatrains that Romeo and Juliet formed in the piece of text analyzed, are a reflection of their lovemaking on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.  The text, when analyzed fully illuminates for the actors greater depths of physical and emotional creativity when developing and performing the characters for these roles.  It is particularly important to analyze text in the time that a play was written, as meanings change over time – this is something that Annette alluded to in her workshop, to ensure that you keep the integrity of the piece by understanding dramaturgically the intent of the play – the director’s role.  This is the actor’s dramaturgical homework.
  • This was a fun workshop that challenged the participants to think, move and thoroughly engage in study of the script when doing their character analysis –when in doubt as to your motivation – return to the script!

Do You See What I See?: A Workshop By Annette Procunier

Notes by Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director
  • Adjudication has moved from judgment to interpretation and education for participant groups and audiences alike.
  • Dramaturgy is the understanding of scripts: genre, structure, theme, conventions and all the components therein.
  • Theatrics are the elements of the theatre: acting, directing, stage managing, and designing – all the elements used to bring the play to the stage.  The importance is the relationship between dramaturgy and theatrics – what do each of the elements do to enhance our understanding of the play?
  • It is the adjudicator’s role to access the quality of the production NOT the quality of the play.
  • Vocal production, movement, quality of acting – is it consistent?  Is the use of language good? In other words are the actors technically skilful?
  • Is the character suitable to the play and suitable to the intent of the play?  Is the character carrying the arc of the play/the contextual line?  Is the character believable and appropriate?  Is the character well-rounded as opposed to one- or two-dimensional?
  • Annette’s personal style of directing is to block the play at the very beginning of the process – she spends approximately six minutes to block a page of dialogue and then spends a great deal of time exploring the characterization.
  • Listening – are the actors really listening and attending to the moment, or are they just waiting to say their line.  If as an actor portraying a character, you don’t have something to react to, then don’t respond.  How well-integrated are the elements of sound, light, props as part of the ensemble of the show – do they help to move the action and create the mood? Is it a truthful unit?  For example, a family, are the characters portrayed appropriate, and working together to create a truthful unit.  The sound plot helps us to feel the underlying mood of the production.  Annette encourages directors to use a sound plot throughout a show to move the plot and action.
  • For example, do you have enough males to perform a play, are the ages of your actors appropriate to the play?  What are your space, budget and technical limitations?  All this should be considered when selecting a play for performance.
  • Is there a clear vision for how the play should unfold?  Do you understand the play?  Are you going to do the play in the time the play was written, or can it be place in a different time?  Sometimes updating a show won’t work.  Don’t leave the audience with questions.  Technologically, our times are moving very quickly, this has to be kept in mind when doing a show e.g. 80’s, 90’s, 2000 – there has been, and continues to be a very rapid shift in the technological paradigm.  Not only the concept, but the realization of the concept through the theatrical elements of sound, lighting, acting, costumes, directing, props and set design must be fully integrated.
  • Scene structure – has each beat been defined and explored?  Are the characters fully realized?  Has the rhythm of the play and the moments of the play been realized?  Does the narrative and the story ideas evolve naturally for us?  The building of the climactic moments is there tension and dramatic conflict? Have we got the emphasis in the right part of the play?
  • Is the production interesting to watch?  As directors, we don’t have to move people around to create interesting visual pictures.  Is it multi-dimensional?  Are people standing, sitting, front and back of the stage?  Are the things they are doing natural to the characters?  Centre Stage is the Hot Spot, Stage Left is Cold, and Stage Right is Warm. 
  • One of the fundamental downfalls is poor pacing.  Pacing and rhythm are extremely important.  The variety in the pacing and rhythm has to be appropriate to what is being said.
  • We don’t need a complex set if it does not enhance the overall action or enhance the production of the play.  We need to create the environment with a less is more attitude and do it well.  Use the visual elements in a more imaginative way.  Fewer box sets and more suggestive staging is often an appropriate choice.
  • There may be a number of individual elements within a production that work extremely well, but they may not necessarily contribute to the overall impact of the production.  How entertained are we, did the overall impact of the production give us a great experience, even if some of the individual elements may not have worked as well in isolation.
Public adjudications should be more focused on enlightening the audience.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Peterborough Theatre Guild Wins Elsie Award For Outstanding Festival Production

Congratulations to Peterborough Theatre Guild, whose production of The Mouse House by Robert Ainsworth was awarded the Elsie as Outstanding Production at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 in Sault Ste. Marie.  This world-premiere production received seven awards at the Festival Brunch on May 20; it was the third time Peterborough Theatre Guild has received the Elsie since 2006.

Read the full list of Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 Award Winners and Nominees on the Theatre Ontario website and check out the transcript of the Theatre Ontario Festival Awards Brunch Live-Blog

ONstage Openings for the week of May 22

In Toronto
May 24, The Hypochondriac at East Side Players

In Eastern Ontario
May 25, Circle Mirror Transformation at Great Canadian Theatre Company (Ottawa) with previews from May 22
May 25, The King And I at Suzart Productions (Ottawa)

In South Central Ontario
May 23, Get STAGEstruck! 2012 at Ovation Performing Arts Academy (York Region)

In Southwestern Ontario
May 22, Rhinestone Cowgirl at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Port Dover)
May 23, Present Laughter at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) currently in previews
May 24, A Man And Some Women at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) currently in previews
May 25, Misalliance at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) currently in previews
May 25, The Laramie Project at Guelph Little Theatre
May 26, French Without Tears at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) currently in previews
May 26, Ragtime at The Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) currently in previews

For all the theatre currently playing across Ontario, and information for theatres on how to submit your listings, visit the ONstage theatre listings on the Theatre Ontario website.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Adjudication of The December Man / L'homme de decembre

Compiled by Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director & Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

Highlights from the detailed adjudication by Annette Procunier of The Curtain Club’s presentation of The December Man / L’homme de décembre at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012.
  • Annette – lighting plot very good – worked extremely well.  When we look at setting, costumes, etc. that is in the script, often it is just a recitation of the performing company.  The playwright expects the play to be produced.  You don’t have to be stuck to every word – this production did this very well with a semi naturalistic set. 
  • Placing of furniture – given the detail put into creating a wonderful environment – the placing of the furniture limits the working space by putting the sofa in the middle of the stage – it doesn’t allow for as much upstage/downstage work.  Think carefully about utilizing the furniture in a small performance space  - the choice of the furniture was good – colours, style etc – right chair for father etc, however, having sofa centre stage limits the movement, even although this might be somewhat realistic in terms of the room.
  • Good subtle lighting to indicate the television.
  • Lively and fun discussion – another set detail was the iron grate outside the window – but it was really tree branches – much laughter – the crew said if that added to the ambience then that’s what it was!
  • Costumes: liked all the technical aspects of the play – the costumes paid great attention to detail.  Liked the style of Catherine – reflected well each stage of her journey.  The cross on her costume was really good.  Benoit could have had a slightly more distressed work clothes – there was a story behind this.  Liked the logo on the work shirt.  All the costumes reflected who he was, and the life style he was living.  The costumes captured the young man with little style sense – just a kid.
  • Kathleen knitting – was lovely – might have introduced a little more knitting in the latter scenes (earlier part of the action) as the knitting was always there.  There is always a chance to use a convention throughout a production.
  • The drinking by Benoit was well handled.  During the early time line, the odd beer was very good.  As the drinking progressed the heavier, more aggressive and angry drinking was very well handled. 
  • Attention to detail around physical characteristics was terrific.  Nice balance between the actors at the beginning of the play.  The reflection of the love and nature of their relationship was well handled. Annette like the sense of the uncontrollable visceral responses. Question – are the responses bigger than the characters would have used in their regular life, is the shouting an abnormal response for these characters?  Being quiet is also a response to anger.  This is something that could be explored perhaps banging of pots and pans etc.  It is hard theatrically to watch a lot of shouting and fighting.  With these extremely fine actors, explore using smaller and less aggressive ways of showing anger. 
  • Only child – they captured the essence of Jean being an only child. 
  • Jean - difficult role being the only child with so much pressure of being the first child to graduate from university in their family.  The breaking of the boy may well have come anyway, perhaps not to suicide though.  Jean created a great sense of the torment without making the character crazy.  Annette felt that he captured that very well  A difficult role, very much liked the genuineness.
  • Like the discomfort of Benoit in comforting Kathleen.  This was very nice.  Nice sexuality shown in the earlier part of their relationship.  The revelation of their personal and private relationship was very nice.  We really sensed the difficulty of how Benoit would respond to comforting both Kathleen and Jean.  Like how he told stories of his childhood to comfort his son.  Benoit’s ability to bring these stories to life was very good.  His trying to be engaged with his son’s life, Annette appreciated how he handled this.  There was a little bit of a problem with Benoit’s projection at times.  However, the softness of emotion was very good.  Pacing of the first scene was good.  Scenes 2 and 3 could have been quicker.
  • Model of building – like what the model looked like – modern, was evocative and its position on stage and the creation of the fourth character was very good.  The running gag about the church was also very good.  The first model could have been more trashed and more obvious that it had been mended by Kathleen. 
  • Christmas tree was great because it was so awful.  Annette- hope it’s not yours – it was.  Much laughter.
  • Difficult emotional play for us to watch but we were compelled to watch it.  Annette was engaged instantly by Kathleen and continued to be by her throughout the production.  This was a balanced production from all the performers.
  • Brian J. Moore liked what Annette had said about the heartbeats in the public adjudication.  Annette said this was a good choice, however, tended to intrude and could have become softer as we moved toward the earlier stages in the story or perhaps the choice of an irregular heartbeat.  This was a good choice considering the playwright stated no music in the production.
Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 on the Theatre Ontario Website

Adjudication of Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Compiled by Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director

Highlights from the detailed adjudication by Annette Procunier of Guelph Little Theatre’s presentation of Picasso At The Lapin Agile at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012.
  • Gerry Butts (Director) described their theatre space and the challenge of fitting their set into a proscenium that was 30 feet narrower here than they were in originally.
  • Why this play?  He loved the quirkiness of it.  Gerry has a science degree and friends who helped him understand the physics.
  • Annette: The characters in this play are truthful but each has a quirkiness.  This cast mined the quirkiness but did not fall into the trap of being too slapstick.  The actions and reactions of the actors were truthful and the actors found the “heart” of these characters.
  • Annette felt the confined space enhanced the production.  It was a workable space and the “regulars” looked like they belonged there.  Freddy and Germaine’s underlying action around the bar showed their comfort in the space.
  • An inherent challenge for the space is the Picture that is so much a part of the play.  Some of the entrances were difficult because of the placement of the door.  The performers needed to be more conscious of their movement through the door.
  • It was helpful that the bar had a step up/another level so that the actors were always seen.  The back of the bar: lots of variety in the bottles used, visually good
  • A successful lighting plot – not obtrusive and were could see well.
  • The ladies costumes were strong showing great attention to detail and were easy to move in.  The men were good and achieved the overall effect even when more modern pieces had to be used.  Excellent men's shoes – leather soles.
  • The music was well-chosen and set the mood. 
  • The breakaway wall and start were really well done.
  • There are a lot of characters on stage – the most of any play this week.  The stage was well used and good stage pictures were created in what was essentially a “gabby” play.
  • The actors handled the transitions from different kinds of conversations very well – big speeches versus daily speech.
  • Einstein’s hair worked well.
  • All the actors created very specific characters.  There are opportunities to explore the characterization – don’t allow it to get too big between Picasso and Einstein.  There tended to be a bit of sameness – loud, could be more subtle.
  • Created specific characters and had the audience interested.
  • The Countess, Suzanne and “The Woman” had more difficult parts as they are not part of the normal action of the bar – Countess’s exchange with Einstein was truthful, Suzanne set up Picasso for the audience, she could explore her relationship with Picasso some more.
  • There was a good sense of the relationship between the bartender and Germaine, they created a good environment on the stage.
  • The comic moments were well timed and discussion ensued around techniques to aid with diction.
  • There was also some lively discussion between the cast and Annette about some of Steve Martin’s writing – what exactly did he mean by some of the lines he wrote.
  • Picasso and Einstein had grounded performances and mirrored each other well. 
  • Elvis – the actor chose to portray the softness of the young Elvis, though there were opportunities for him to swagger more and try to use the guitar differently.  Note to actors – don’t let the props overwhelm you.
  • Great attention was paid to the comic moments in the play, e.g. Was Germaine’s reaction to Elvis’s country boy.
  • There was lively discussion about Gerry’s choice to have actors speak so directly to the audience, effectively taking themselves out of the action of the play. 
  • The characterization of Sagot and Schmendiman were very good.  Gerry spoke about his process – the characters are iconic e.g. Sagot is crassness, Einstein is science and this informed his direction.  However, the characters e.g. Schmendiman delivered the crassness with such truthfulness that it was funny.
  • For the audience, we know the play is not real but we accept the truthfulness of the play which comes from the consistency of the performances.  This company approached the complexity of the play with real integrity and overcame the difficulties of the script with truthfulness.
Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 on the Theatre Ontario website

Saturday, 19 May 2012

ONstage Tonight At Festival: The Curtain Club

The final show at Theatre Ontario Festival always travels from the region that hosted the previous year’s Festival.  In 2012, the final show at Festival isn’t just from last year’s host region—it’s last year’s host theatre as The Curtain Club from Richmond Hill takes the stage, representing the Association of Community Theatres of Central Ontario (ACT-CO).

The Curtain Club was founded in 1954; Cicely Thomson, one of the theatre’s co-founders was also a founding member of Theatre Ontario.  They moved into their current building in 1972, the home for last year’s adjudications, workshops, and parties.  The Curtain Club traveled as ACT-CO’s representative to Theatre Ontario Festival for four consecutive years from 2003 to 2006, winning the Elsie Award for Outstanding Festival Production in 2004 at our last Festival in Sault Ste. Marie (for the original play Staff Room, later chosen as one of the scripts in the Grassroots anthology) and then again in 2005 in Belleville (for Marvin’s Room.)

The Curtain Club’s production of Colleen Murphy’s The December Man / L’homme de décembre was the first community theatre production of this Governor General’s Literary Award winner (published by our neighbours at Playwrights Canada Press).  In the aftermath of the 1989 Montreal Massacre, Benoît and Kathleen do everything they can to help their beloved son cope with his guilt and rage, but Jean’s young life becomes unglued.  This searing drama on courage, heroism and despair explores the long private shadow that public violence casts.

The Curtain Club won three awards in the Drama Category at the 2011-2012 ACT-CO Festival for this production: Best Production, Best Performance by a Male in a Leading Role (Rob Goodale) and Best Performance by a Female in a Leading Role (Lise Boily).

Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 on the Theatre Ontario website

The Blank Stage – Playmaking: A Workshop by Daniel Brooks

Compiled by Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

Playwright-in-Person has been part of Theatre Ontario Festival for over fifteen years, sponsored by Playwrights Canada Press.  Our Playwright-in-Person for 2012 was Daniel Brooks.
  • Daniel Brooks, a self-described “professional schmuck” and “theatre creator” began the afternoon with a play reading where he presented pieces from three plays – House and Here Lies Henry both by Daniel MacIvor and directed by Daniel Brooks, and The Good Life written by Daniel Brooks
  • After the readings, the workshop became a QandA discussing the many different aspects of the playwriting process and the innumerable ways that plays can be written
  • A key point of the discussion was how writing for the theatre is a form of improvisation.  There is a performance aspect to writing.  Every time he writes a play, he does it in a different way, suiting the writing to the purpose
  • He also is a strong believer in the collaborative nature of writing for the theatre.  He believes that having writers hear their work uses different parts of their brains and will inform their writing
  • Daniel gets his inspiration for writing by watching people; an example he used was watching the body language of people at a city council meeting: have a source for your inspiration
  • "Actors witness.”
  • About the process of writing he said: just write.  Put it down on paper and don’t self-censor, play with it.  Get others to work/read the work for you and then PLAY.  The point is to WORK.
  • He also is a strong believer in Set Designers, feeling that good set designers are almost dramaturges and just one stroke short of being directors.  Set designers are vital to the play creation process and must be fully involved—space is not separate from anything else in the process.
  • Two final thoughts for the captive audience were, when he gets stuck he always remembers “what we’re doing is making it up as we go along” and “theatre is a social art form.”
Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 on the Theatre Ontario website

Friday, 18 May 2012

ONstage Tonight At Festival: Guelph Little Theatre

The oldest of this week’s four community theatres takes the stage as Guelph Little Theatre—just one year removed from celebrating their 75th season—presents the only international play of Theatre Ontario Festival 2012.

Guelph Little Theatre first opened its doors in 1935 at the Guelph City Hall auditorium.  Today, their Morris Street theatre has been described as a hidden gem in the City of Guelph.  Guelph Little Theatre shares the distinction of being one of the participants in our first Theatre Ontario Festival in 1973, returning on numerous occasions—most recently in 2003 in Oshawa where they won the Elsie for Outstanding Production for their production of Cosi.  This year, they present Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Once banned for its questionable behaviour and adult themes, this gem is not only witty, and full of puns, pratfalls and zingers but some real thought-provoking dialogue that not only contains an adequate dose of realism, but suggests a seductive romp through a history of intrigue, invention and merriment, regardless of the century's faults. The year is 1904 and the Lapin Agile was a real bohemian bar where the artistic clientele of the time would often meet. Although the story itself is totally fictional, the place, would have seen similar heated philosophical debates between cocky young men like Picasso and Einstein trying to outdo one another in regard to their ideals, principles and general feelings about art, time, science, beauty and the world in general.

At the 2012 Western Ontario Drama League Festival in Sarnia, Guelph Little Theatre was awarded the D. Park Jamieson Memorial Award for Best Production in Festival, as well as Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Rob Gray), Best Coordinated Production, Best Visual Production, Outstanding Ensemble Work, and an Adjudicator’s Award for “clever detail in a cameo performance” (Sally Nelson).

Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 on the Theatre Ontario website

Adjudication of The Mouse House

Compiled by Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

Highlights from the detailed adjudication by Annette Procunier of Peterborough Theatre Guild’s presentation of The Mouse House at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012.
  • At the adjudication, Robert Ainsworth, writer/director told the story of the birthing of the play.  After having a panic attack on a plane due to the confinement of the space, he began to think in terms of being trapped and the exploration of that theme became the play.
  • Annette spoke about the technical aspects of the play first.  She felt the play was beautifully produced with incredible attention to detail.  The crew created a believable cottage environment.  She felt that the set did not need the upstairs bedroom – the audience kept waiting for things to happen up there and it was not used after the first scene.
  • There were good moments of expectation when things were happening (can’t tell you what, would spoil the moment)
  • The Bobby character is an awkward character to play.  The character sets up the situation and then disappears from the play.  The actor was truthful in her part and Annette suggested that there were opportunities for the actor to explore the character’s hard edge versus her softer side.  She was energetic and poised.
  • Carson, the lead character, had a good sense of the room – it was a comfortable space but also held some not so good memories. 
  • The lighting was extremely well coordinated and the audience could see whether the scene was at night or in daylight.  Annette suggested that more attention could be played to outside the cottage.  In this kind of play, what the audience imagines outside is very important.
  • The clothing reflected who the people were. 
  • These characters were interesting characters to pursue and were well-developed by these actors.  They were rooted and grounded and as the audience we felt we were in an established situation and not walking into a play.  Annette spoke to each actor about how they could tweak their characters technically.
  • Of particular note was a discussion about the development of the character of Troy as a tough street kid.  Note to actors – in rehearsals start by being over the top, play with your role.  It is easier for a director to pull the actor back to where the character needs to be rather than drawing the character out.  The director’s job is to say to the actor - that’s it – that’s where the character should be.
  • The fight choreography is the most difficult to stage in a play and this company did it very well. 
  • When it came to the dialogue in the play it was obvious to Annette that the actors and director took time and care with the monologues.  The performers had great attention to detail, they were well-matched on stage and skilled as actors.  They talked to each other and their characters were established from the beginning.  They also took the time to allow the physicality of the moments to tell the story.  They created a level of consistency throughout the play. 
  • It was noted that this is the only play with an intermission this week and these actors were able to sustain their energy through the intermission.
  • There was an interesting discussion of the ending of the play (again I can’t give too many specifics, don’t want to ruin the plot) about creating more menace and tension rather than being too comic.  It was obvious that this company had explored what happened to characters after the play had ended.
  • There was also a technical discussion of the blackouts used in the play.  The blackouts were good and quick but suggestions about brownouts as a way to move the story along were made. 
  • Note to everyone, this company used an infrared system to see the actors in the dark.  Let’s investigate.
  • Annette said that speaks to the attention to detail by the company.  The stage management and technical crews of our shows need as much time as the actors to rehearse the show.

Adjudication of The Attic, The Pearls And Three Fine Girls

Compiled by Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director

Highlights from the detailed adjudication by Annette Procunier of Gore Bay Theatre’s presentation of The Attic, The Pearls And Three Fine Girls at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012.
  • Set: Representational walls were a successful choice for this play, they created working spaces for the actors, and a particularly good choice for a traveling set; the use of lighting effects helped to enhance the creation of spaces successfully
  • 1st Entrance: The actors entered in a black-out and used flashlights.  This was a good choice to create a sense of entering the attic and also the excitement of young children. (The original script called for the entrance to me made through a trap door).  Annette suggested using an upstage entrance for the “attic” entrances – creates a definitive space helping to define the “attic” scenes for the audience by creating this convention.  It also encourages a great use of the overall space.
  • The pieces around the stage did not necessarily enlighten the audience – everything should give us a sense of time and space.  Suggest putting props into specific spaces e.g. living room, attic.  This further engages the whole space.  Would also suggest exploring what things are, and why they are there (particularly Jelly’s boxes, being distinct from attic “junk”).
  • The transitions between scenes were good – the convention of the music and lighting helped with these transitions.  Would suggest the actresses keep the emotion of one scene a little longer during the transition – take the moment – allow the audience to gradually join you in the next scene.
  • The music plot was lovely – 4 original tracks were in this plot – the choices were good and enhanced what we saw on stage.
  • Always aim to enlighten the playwright’s intention – it is about the script – choices need to be dramaturgically sound and connected to the script – we need to respect that.  Let the play be the play.  Pace coupled with the - rhythm – it is the director’s responsibility to create a believable situation by controlling the pace and the rhythm of the play.
  • Characters – the casting choices for this play were good – the look and feel worked, with good contrasts in physicality this was reflected particularly well between Jelly and the two older sisters Jayne and JoJo, as the two older women are more closely aligned.
  • The inherent challenge in the writing of this play is that the children are the first to enter – this creates a difficulty in engaging with the audience – adult women portraying children – we were not always sure what age the children were.  The actors need to make very specific vocal and physical choices to define the age of the children they are playing.  How are they different?  What age are they in relation to each other?  How do the choices for the children inform the choices for the adults they become?
  • Vocal energy needs to match the physical energy, particularly at the beginning of the play.  The first entrance on stage is the most important.  Need more focus on the vocal choices, and more focus on the individual intentions of each character, so the audience knows what to watch?  Whose scene is it?  What is their intention?  Good surprise of Jelly.
  • Specifics of the clothes – why are you wearing what you are wearing e.g. Jelly’s bra – we need to understand who Jelly is trying to be – who each child is trying to be when they are dressing up – this will help the audience to understand.
  • There was good physical awareness and strong use of bodies by each of the actresses on stage – all were very good at this. 
  • Arguments were believable – particularly towards the latter half of the play. 
  • Shared memories – there is an opportunity to further explore the sudden realization of a shared memory when the sisters are adults – particularly between JoJo and Jayne.  The audience needs to see the beginning of the recognition of these memories.
  • The cast created an environment where the audience cared about them and entered into their world.
  • Within the fast pace of the play, consideration should be given to the rhythm – there were beautifully times exchanges between JoJo and Jayne whilst ignoring Jelly.
  • Watch how the children interact – they all have different ways of behaving as children and adults – they need to keep their own specific character identity – be careful not to meld the character to become a group.
  • Good job in creating momentum within each scene.
  • There are complexities of the script with respect to the boxes.  If its Jelly’s image and idea, one essential question is to ask – whose story are we telling?  Annette’s conclusion is that this is Jelly’s story – she is the central character.  The boxes are part of this – the boxes could grow into something for the art installations that Jelly is preparing for in Germany – an artistic creation could develop as Jelly’s confidence and character develops.
  • The Boxes on stage right are indistinct – there is an opportunity to have something grown and develop out of this – this would give us an opportunity to understand another truth.  Perhaps connect the significance of the pears further to the boxes at the conclusion of the play.
  • Go back to the script and review every reference to the boxes – your roles as creative artists is to go beyond the italics and further create.
  • As directors it is important to look for some recurring image that we can take throughout the play and throughout each character.  This can balance the relentless argument of the play.   We can become engaged in the installation and creation of the artwork of the boxes.
  • Last third of the play:  money is an underlying theme in this part of the play – explore the unsaid stuff.  Don’t let the intensity of the argument mask what you want the audience to know.  Break down the narrative components – what are the issues that are important to each character and each scene.  Why did the writer choose the words used?  When working on a script that builds emotional intensity – particularly one that has vague wording, it behooves the actors to fully understand the scene and what is left unsaid.
  • Dancing between Jayne and JoJo very successful during the funeral party scene.  The Tam O’Shanter Scene less successful.
  • JoJo putting on the bridal dress was very good – a good sense of creating the decay that JoJo is going through – the threatening aspect of the cake knife captured the essence of the moment really well.
  • The fighting scenes as children were a little restrained – you  need to give yourself permission to go for it – don’t hold back – training and practice help with this.
  • Arcing in the play – each time a new character comes in they create an arc that builds.
  • There is a difference between acting technique and the character.  The character needs to do something, therefore the actor needs to it e.g. the character is going to hit someone or something – the actor needs to hit – cannot hold back.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

ONstage Tonight at Festival: Peterborough Theatre Guild

At last year’s Festival, we celebrated playwriting that premiered at Ontario’s community theatres.  One year later, Peterborough Theatre Guild takes the stage at Festival with a world premiere production.

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 most recently in 2001.  Peterborough Theatre Guild has represented the Eastern Ontario Drama League (EODL) many times at Festival—most recently in Kanata in 2009 with Twelfth Night—and winning the Elsie Award for Outstanding Production twice: at the 2006 Festival in Sarnia for Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, and again at the 2008 Festival in North Bay for Proof.

This year, they’re presenting The Mouse House—an original work written and directed by Robert Ainsworth.  The play is a suspenseful drama set in a secluded cottage where an author, struggling with writer’s block and his own demons, tries to retreat from the outside world to finish his book—until he receives an intrusion.

Winner of EODL’s Leslie M. Frost Award for Best Production at the 2012 EODL Festival in Ottawa, it also won awards for Best Director (Robert Ainsworth), Best Production of a Canadian Play, Best Actor in a Major Role (shared by Jack Roe and Matthew Finlan), Acting Excellence, Male—Supporting (Terry Novak), Best Use of Speech (The cast), Outstanding Contribution by a Student (Finlan again), Best Cameo Performance (Cheryl Lyon), Best Visual Presentation, and Set Design (Carolyn Boyer).

Read more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 on the Theatre Ontario website.

Festival 2012 Kicks Off in Sault Ste. Marie

By Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director & Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

The Opening Gala on Tuesday, May 15 at the Grand Gardens was the local kick-off to the 2012 Theatre Ontario Festival and a celebration of the arts in the Sault—what a terrific way to showcase the wide range of talent both in and from Sault Ste. Marie!

To begin the evening Tiana Nori—Sault native and television host—introduced us to 14-year-old Victoria Jones, a violinist who recently won the Young Artists Competition by the Sault Symphony.  What a talent!  Then came a video of Sault natives living out of Town (including Tanya Kim) who could not make the week bringing good wishes to all the casts and crews at the Festival, and big hellos to all their friends here in the north.

Local barbershop quartet Solid Ground kicked off a short set with the classic “Here Comes the Sun.”  I’m sure with this wonderful song they have gifted us with great weather this week.  Their last song was a tribute to the tremendous spirit of the north, and of theatre in general, “I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends.”  The Musical Comedy Guild of Sault Ste. Marie entertained us with selections from their 50th Anniversary Review.

Jack Wetherall, honorary Chair of the Festival gave an impassioned speech about the value of community theatre.  His theme: at its best, all theatre is community theatre.  He received a heartfelt and very long standing ovation at the end.

After Jack, we were treated to the vocal stylings of Will Gartshore.  Will presented us with numbers from his “All the King’s Men—Broken Ballads with a Stiff Upper Lip” cabaret.  This cabaret included stories and a photo slide-show of his childhood—what a brave man to include a picture of himself at age 5 in a Spiderman T-shirt.  He was ably accompanied by local artists Anthony Aceti on piano and Ashley Smith on violin.

Kudos to Sandra Forsell and her team for planning such an outstanding evening – great food, great friendships, great show.

On Wednesday night, the celebration continued at the Mayor’s Reception.  City of Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Debbie Amaroso welcomed participants in Theatre Ontario Festival to a special reception held in the Hamilton Room of City Hall, overlooking a bay of beautiful Lake Superior.  Festival organizers, participants and local dignitaries shared a warm intimate reception with the refreshments provided compliments of the Mayor.

Mayor Amaroso gave a very warm welcome to everyone from the four regions of festival attending, and made a special presentation to Carol Beauchamp, Theatre Ontario Executive Director, of a framed copy of the Proclamation that was made at Council declaring this week Theatre Ontario Festival week in Sault Ste Marie.  Carol then made a speech thanking the city for their generous partnership, the other wonderful sponsors, and welcomed the regional representatives from QUONTA, EODL, WODL and ACT-CO, as well as the participants from the companies of  Gore Bay Theatre, Peterborough Theatre Guild, Guelph Little Theatre and The Curtain Club.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

ONStage Tonight At Festival: Gore Bay Theatre

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.  Over the past six years, Gore Bay has produced 19 plays including five children’s plays and two major musicals—the Fall production of The Sound Of Music played to over 700 people, or approximately 80% of the population of Gore Bay.  This is their third appearance at Festival as the QUONTA representative—in 2007, they presented Norm Foster’s Kiss The Moon, Kiss The Sun at the Festival in Newmarket, and two years later they traveled to Kanata to present John Mighton’s Half Life.

That trend of presenting Canadian-written plays at Festival continues this year with The Attic, The Pearls & Three Fine Girls, created collectively by Jennifer Brewin, Leah Cherniak, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alisa Palmer and Martha Ross.  This show “captures the essence of family and sisterhood in an infinitely humourous and poignant script,” said Walter Maskel, Director of the production.  Their father’s death forces the Fine sisters to confront their childhood and re-define their future together, just as it forces all of us to acknowledge the fragility of family.  At QUONTA Festival 2012 in Elliot Lake, in addition to Best Production, the show was awarded Best Director (Walter Maskel) and Best Visual Presentation (Walter Maskel, Tim Lafonde, Bill Viertelhausen & Dave Edwards.)

Walter will also be one of the four recipients of the Michael Spence Award for Contribution to Community Theatre at Sunday’s award brunch.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A Proclamation

WHEREAS theatre has endured, without interruption, since the beginning of human history; and

WHEREAS theatre communicates our stories and our cultures from one generation to another through time; and

WHEREAS theatre continues to move us to laughter, to tears, to amuse, to entertain, to educate and to enlighten, to join us in a communal gasp, a sigh, a smile, a grimace, a tingle or a yawn; and

WHEREAS theatre can transport us to far off lands, to the battlefields of emperors and kings, to modern living rooms, and bedrooms; and

WHEREAS theatre will this week, over the course of four nights transport us to a cafe in Paris, to a deserted cottage in the Canadian bush, to a moment in history in the city of Montreal, and into the inner sanctum of a family home; and

WHEREAS Sault Ste. Marie is naturally gifted in all of the arts, blessed with an exceptionally strong and vital community theatre; and

WHEREAS Theatre Ontario, joins the City of Sault Ste. Marie in a synchronicity  of birthdays celebrated with award winning theatre from across the province:

NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor Debbie Amaroso, do hereby proclaim the week of May 14th to May 20th, 2012 as Theatre Ontario Festival Week in the City of Sault Ste. Marie and call upon citizens to celebrate, promote, take pride and take part in this week long event hosted by Theatre SMC, the QUONTA Drama Region and Theatre Ontario.

May the festivities begin!

Debbie Amaroso
MAYOR, City of Sault Ste. Marie

Grassroots and Homegrown

By Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

I find the art of the playwright fascinating.  A playwright must find a moment, bring it to life with dialogue and then let it go—let someone else take over and make the work live for an audience.  A playwright takes something so personal—their thoughts and their words—and then opens them up to the world.  Amazing!

We have all experienced the work of the “great” playwrights – the Shakespeares, the Shaws, the Rodgers And Hammersteins whose work has become classic.  We read it, study it in school, perform it and watch it.  In our community theatres, we try to find the formula that will create great theatre for our audiences.  We often choose the classics, the standards, the tried-and-true works—perhaps because they are safe or they have the value of recognition for our audiences.  Our audiences know Neil Simon, Norm Foster and Oscar Wilde.   But many community theatre groups have new, usually local playwrights and have given them a shot.  Imagine Stratford, Ontario if the producers at the Globe Theatre over four hundred years ago hadn’t given Shakespeare his first shot as a writer.  Who knows what future classic Canadian playwright is just waiting for a big break?

We can thank Playwrights Canada Press for recognizing the value of Canadian playwrights.  They have published three volumes of plays which were selected by Theatre Ontario, plays chosen for their appeal to community theatres.  The first, Seven Short Plays from Theatre Ontario is out of print.  You can still purchase copies of the second volume entitled Ontario Playwrights.  Last year saw the publication of five full-length plays written by homegrown, Ontario playwrights – Grassroots.  These plays were originally produced by community theatre groups in Ontario.  Work from Grassroots has been showcased around the province.  Joan Burrows’ Staff Room has been produced by The Curtain Club; Theatre Guelph; Kanata Theatre; Belleville Theatre Guild and at two high schools in the GTA.  Another play of hers, Willow Quartet was recently produced by The Curtain Club and an Equity Co-op in Toronto.  Michael Grant’s Hamish was performed in Kincardine; his most recent play Bear Bare Bones had its world premiere in Elmira in February.  And Kristin Shepherd’s play, $38,000 for a Friendly Face, which first premiered in North Bay, has had a three-week-run in Alberta.

This year at Theatre Ontario Festival 2012 we are in for a treat.  Not only are there going to be four nights of fabulous theatre, one of the plays is a new work having its world premiere this year.  The Mouse House by Robert Ainsworth was performed at Peterborough Theatre Guild, and entered into the Eastern Ontario Drama League Festival in Ottawa in April, winning the right to represent the region at Theatre Ontario Festival.  It is wonderful to see new work at this level of competition.

Where can you find these wonderful new works?  Right now, the ACT-CO region is running a web page to publicize the work of new playwrights whose work premiered at community theatres.  The page is called Homegrown and can be accessed through their website at (Click on Shows and then click on Homegrown Plays).  The page lists the name of the play and playwright, first community theatre production information, and a short synopsis of the play.  Contact information will also be included so that individuals can contact the playwrights directly.  While the site is still in its early stages, ACT-CO hopes this webpage will be the first place community theatre groups go in search of plays to present in coming years.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Browsing The Bulletin Board

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • Toronto Arts Council is hosting a Grant Writing Workshop for Playwrights on May 16
  • Also in Toronto on May 18, Puppetmongers will be holding a workshop on Shadows For Dance, Music and Physical Theatre Artists
  • Workshops as part of Aluna Theatre’s Panamerican Routes Festival in Toronto continue: Getting Close To The Scene, with Carlos Satizabal for playwrights interested in collective creation starts May 18; El Cuerpo: Territorio y Frontera / The Body: Territory and Border, with Violeta Luna for students and professionals interested in performance art and paratheatre starts May 22
Check out all the latest postings of workshops, calls for submission, and opportunities for recognition on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

ONstage Openings for the week of May 14

The 2012 Theatre Ontario Festival runs this week in Sault Ste. Marie - here's the theatre opening in the rest of the province.

In Southwestern Ontario
May 15, The Sound Of Music at Drayton Entertainment: Drayton Festival Theatre

In Toronto
May 15, Panamerican Routes Festival from Aluna Theatre
May 16, Rent from Theatre Sheridan
May 17, Islands from draft89 collective
May 17, Home at Soulpepper Theatre (currently in previews)

In Eastern Ontario
May 15, Romeo & Juliet at Kanata Theatre
May 18, Stalkyard Hurts at IANA Theatre Company (Tweed)

For all the theatre currently playing across Ontario, and information for theatres on how to add/update your listing, visit the ONstage theatre listings on the Theatre Ontario website.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Ontario Off Stage

Still catching up on the news worth sharing from while I was away, so only a few items in this edition…

From The Wire
TO Toasts (Belated)

Assembled by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Please RSVP for our Annual Meeting

Theatre Ontario invites our members to join us at our Annual General Meeting on May 26 at 1pm at the Robert Gill Theatre in Toronto.  We are pleased to welcome Autumn Smith as our keynote speaker at the meeting.  RSVPs are requested.

Autumn Smith is the Artistic Director and co-founder of MackenzieRo: The Irish Repertory Theatre Company of Canada, and her work reflects involvement in all three sectors of Theatre Ontario’s mandate—professional, community and educational—and in the diversity and connections between the sectors.  She is a past intern director in the Neil Munro Intern Directors Project at the Shaw Festival, and has served as an adjudicator for the Association of Community Theatres—Central Ontario and the Sears Ontario Drama Festival.  As an educator, she has worked with Tarragon Theatre, the Stratford-National Ballet Project, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada Shakespeare School, Equity Showcase Theatre, and is a featured artist with ART SMARTS, and Stagedoor Manor, an international training centre partnered with The American Theatre Wing.  Recent projects include an international workshop of the new Canadian work The Rake’s Progress: Do You Know Where Tom Rakewell Is? and directing for the double-bill/co-pro between Obsidian Theatre and MacKenzieRo; upcoming for her will be Bloodless for Theatre 20/Mirvish Productions.

We will also be welcoming Steve Beatty and Michael Kelly of Culture One / Mainway Hunter Critchton to make an important presentation on the innovative Arts Worker Health Insurance Program they have developed known as aWHIP.

Following the meeting, we will have an informal networking reception with light refreshments.

Theatre Ontario’s Annual General Meeting is on May 26 at 1pm at the Robert Gill Theatre (University of Toronto) located at 214 College Street, Toronto (the northwest corner of College and St. George Streets.)  The main entrance for the theatre is via St. George Street.  An underground parking lot can be found on the east side of Huron Street, north of College Street.

To RSVP, please email with AGM in the subject line.  Remember you will also be able to follow along through our Annual Meeting Live Blog, but if you are unable to attend and wish to vote, you may submit a written proxy.  Proxy ballots must be received by 5pm on Friday May 25, 2012.  All Annual Meeting documents (including the annual report, the financial statements, the agenda, and the minutes of previous meetings) are available to members on the Theatre Ontario website.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Congratulations to the 2012 Michael Spence Award Recipient for Educational Theatre

Theatre Ontario is delighted to award the 2012 Michael Spence Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Sears Ontario Drama Festival to Marty Southcott of Ottawa, formerly of North Bay.  The award is presented by Theatre Ontario on the recommendation of the Sears Drama Festival to honour an individual for his/her sustained contribution, generosity of spirit, and legendary commitment to educational theatre in Ontario.

Marty Southcott started working in high school theatre in 1963.  By 1975, she had formed The Company at Widdifield Secondary School, and began 25 years of participation in Sears Festival, winning countless Outstanding Production Awards at all levels of competition.  In 1987, she formed TOROS (Theatre Out Reach On Stage), her own summer theatre program for students which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  Her student productions have travelled to theatres in the United States, England and New Zealand.  Dozens of her students went on to professional careers as performers; and she inspired many others to go into the field of teaching performance arts.  She made a point of casting students who she felt would benefit from the self-confident boost of being on stage.

“Dozens more performing arts teachers, who teach all over the world are continuing her principals, traditions and pedagogy,” said Wayne Fairhead, Executive Director of the Sears Ontario Drama Festival.  “This is her true legacy!”

“It is a wonderful opportunity to have the honour of presenting Theatre Ontario’s Michael Spence Award,” said Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director of Theatre Ontario.  “Recipients like Marty have made unselfish contributions to the Sears Drama Festival.”

The Michael Spence Award will be presented at the Sears Festival Provincial Showcase on May 12 in North Bay.  Since 1997, Michael Spence Awards have been presented every five years, on the quinquennial anniversaries of Theatre Ontario, and honour legendary contributions to educational theatre in Ontario through the Sears Drama Festival.  The awards are named after Michael Spence, the founding President of Theatre Ontario.  Michael was active in community theatre at Hart House Theatre, London Little Theatre, and the University Alumnae Dramatic Club (now known as Alumnae Theatre.)  He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Dominion Drama Festival, a past President of Arts Etobicoke, and he continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of Theatre Ontario.  For more information about Theatre Ontario's Michael Spence Award for Contribution to the Sears Ontario Drama Festival, please visit the Theatre Ontario website.

Summer Course Profile: Physical Theatre and the Text

Action, gesture and rhythm inform character.  In this course, Jim Warren will help actors learn how the techniques of Physical Theatre inform text analysis and improve your performance.  Participants will learn how the physical styles of Commedia, Clown, and Mask can be integrated into scripted works.  Each actor will also explore his/her habits and mannerisms to discover how habitual physical choices and behaviours can help or hinder character development and story.  Students will also learn how to create a character and tell a story when you take the text away.

The course culminates in a final performance in-class of scenes chosen from modern classics.  By understanding and using Physical Theatre, you will be able to strengthen your work as an actor.

Jim Warren’s Directing credits include: The Bald Soprano (Dora Award for Outstanding Direction), The Chairs, Loot, Black Comedy, The Real Inspector Hound, What the Butler Saw (Soulpepper Theatre); No Exit, The Human Voice, The Elephant Song (Stratford Festival); The Sisters Rosensweig (Harold Green Theatre); 7 Stories (Neptune Theatre); Proof (Centaur Theatre); Having Hope at Home (Theatre Aquarius); The Hobbit (YPT); A Year with Frog and Toad (MTYP / Citadel Theatre); Derailed (Stiletto Company / Factory Theatre) Dora Nomination Outstanding Direction.  Acting credits include: Waiting for Godot (Centaur Theatre); Much Ado About Nothing (CanStage); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (YPT) Dora Nomination Best Actor.  Teaching credits include: George Brown Theatre School; York University; Humber College; University of Toronto; Equity Showcase; Theatre Ontario; University of Windsor; Waterloo University; University of Guelph.

The Theatre Ontario Summer Theatre Intensive runs from August 12 to 18 at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.  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, and flex your creative muscle!  Read about all of our Summer Courses on the Theatre Ontario website.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Browsing The Bulletin Board

Upcoming on The Bulletin Board
  • Aluna Theatre’s Panamerican Routes workshops begin today in Toronto with Dance Puppet Theatre with Federico Restrepo
  • Also in Toronto, Puppetmongers will be holding a Halogen Shadow Technology workshop on May 14 and a Shadows For Dance, Music and Physical Theatre Artists workshop on May 16
New on The Bulletin Board
  • Toronto Arts Council is hosting a Grant Writing Workshop for Playwrights on May 16
Check out all the latest postings of workshops, calls for submission, and opportunities for recognition on Theatre Ontario’s Bulletin Board on our website

ONstage Openings for the week of May 7

In South Central Ontario
May 11, Music Man, Jr. at Brampton Music Theatre

In Southwestern Ontario
May 11, French Without Tears at Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in previews
May 11, Enchanted April at London Community Players

In Toronto
May 8, Baobab at Young People's Theatre
May 8, Home at Soulpepper Theatre in previews
May 9, Beyond The Cuckoo's Nest at Young People's Theatre (with previews from May 7)
May 10, My Fair Lady at Scarborough Music Theatre
May 11, Stockholm at Nightwood Theatre

In Central Ontario
May 11, Menopositive! The Musical at Theatre Orangeville with a preview on May 10

In Eastern Ontario
May 11, King Lear at National Arts Centre—English Theatre (Ottawa) with previews from May 8
May 12, Nunsense II at Thousand Islands Playhouse (Gananoque) with a preview on May 11
May 12, Lilia! at Festival Players of Prince Edward County (Picton)

For all the theatre currently playing across Ontario, and information for theatres on how to add/update your listing, visit the ONstage theatre listings on the Theatre Ontario website.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Congratulations to Spring 2012 PTTP Recipients

Theatre Ontario is pleased to announce the latest recipients of training grants through Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP).  $40,500 was awarded in total among the following recipients:
  • Kawa Ada to train in artistic direction with Nina Lee Aquino at Cahoots Theatre
  • Colin Bruce Anthes to train in artistic producing with Stephanie Jones and Jason Cadieux at the Essential Theatre Collective in St. Catharines
  • Marjorie Chan to train in directing for contemporary opera with Ross Manson at Volcano Theatre
  • Jason Chellew to train in development with Jennifer Watson at Tarragon Theatre
  • Anahita Dehbonehie to train in set and costume design with Julie Fox
  • Caitlin English to train in directing with Pablo Felices Luna at Carousel Players
  • Lindsay Forde to train in scenic design for musical theatre with Eric Diaz at various theatres in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, U.S.A.
  • Jessica Glanfield to train in directing with Daniel Brooks at Soulpepper Theatre
  • Shira Leuchter to train in directing with Jillian Keiley at Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland
  • Teri Loretto-Valentik to train in directing with Craig Walker at Plosive Productions in Ottawa
  • Kat Misztal-McCubbing to train in projection design with Beth Kates and Ben Chiasson at Playground Studios
  • Erika Morey to train in technical direction with Sam MacLeod at Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover
  • Morgan Norwich to train in festival curation with Laura Nanni at Buddies in Bad Times
  • Lauren Toffan to train in producing and marketing with Rosie Shaw at Theatre 20
  • Dylan Trowbridge to train in directing with Christopher Morris at Human Cargo/Magnetic North
The next application deadline for this program is October 1, 2012.

Read more about the Professional Theatre Training Program on the Theatre Ontario website.

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

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Spaces Still Available In Getting Started For Actors

We still have spaces available in next week’s Theatre Ontario “Getting Started” workshop, held on Thursday, May 10 at 2pm.

Theatre Ontario's Getting Started sessions are for actors beginning their professional careers. In this two-hour workshop, Tim Chapman, Professional Theatre Coordinator answers the most frequently asked questions about the business of acting. Find out about the realities of showbiz, pictures and resumes, Equity and ACTRA, agents and casting directors, auditioning do’s and don’ts, and maintaining and improving your acting skills.  Getting Started has no registration fee, and is available to members of Theatre Ontario only.  There is a $5 charge per participant for photocopies of the materials distributed at the workshop.  For more information, including how to register, please visit Getting Started For Actors on the Theatre Ontario website.

Summer Course Profile: Advanced Directing—Dramaturgy for Directors

For experienced directors looking to take their skills to the next level, Virginia Reh will help you learn how to explore scripts to find your own approach to production—focusing on what drives you to work on a play, finding interpretations that don’t violate the text, and creating theatre in a collaborative environment as one in a team of equals.

Participants will examine two scripts that they have read in advance, and research materials will be made available.  Dramaturgical work will combine with in-class exercises to help turn concept into reality during the rehearsal process.

Virginia Reh’s multi-faceted career embraces directing, acting, teaching, theatre, music theatre, opera, film, T.V.  A former Artistic Director of the Gryphon Theatre and founding Co-Director of Script Lab, she has worked with the Shaw Festival, Edmonton, Canadian and Vancouver Opera Companies, Opera Lyra, Tapestry Singers, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Theatre on the Grand and Shakespeare in the Square.  Currently a member of the Dramatic Arts faculty at Brock University, she has taught at he Banff Festival, Sheridan College, the Opera School at the University of Toronto and Theatre Ontario's Summer and Youth Courses.  She was drama coach and Production Manager for the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus for 14 years and has been Dramatic Consultant to Opera In Concert for 23 years.   A transplanted New Yorker, Virginia has been a champion of Canadian theatre, dramaturging and workshopping scripts for theatre, film and music theatre.  She has adjudicated in every region of the province, as well as adjudicating Theatre Ontario in Sarnia in 2006 and Sudbury in 1983.  She has worked in communities around Ontario as director, workshop leader and consultant.  Virginia is a past recipient of Theatre Ontario's Maggie Bassett Award, for her outstanding contribution to theatre in Ontario.

The Theatre Ontario Summer Theatre Intensive runs from August 12 to 18 at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.  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, and flex your creative muscle!  Read about all of our Summer Courses on the Theatre Ontario website.