I am so excited for Checkpoint 300 at Fringe this year – ok ok I’m bias, because not only am I working on the show as their marketing and publicist, but I also know Michelle Wise (Playwright and Director) and Geoff Mays from a long time ago from my actors life. Plus bringing to life such a heavy but important subject as xenophobia and religious conflict in the middle east – this show won an award for being such a great piece of theatre. I hope you can see it: https://fringetoronto.com/fringe/show/checkpoint-300
I took photos from their rehearsal for media use and I am happy to put my learning curve of photography to use: (and a little graphic design to add in the mix!)
Happy Fringing to you all! And let me know what is on your “Fringe Picks” this year, I have some theatre to see 🙂
Once upon a time I wrote about something very close to my broken heart for the stage. I wrote a 40 minute one-woman show about my first year of bereavement after my brother died by suicide. As a theatre creator it was the best way to express myself and to process and understand what had happened. It accomplished some of those things.
I workshopped it, staged it, toured it, and still do it today on request. It propelled me into a new chapter of my life sharing my story and becoming a mental health advocate, smashing stigma around mental illness and most specifically the stigma surrounding suicide. I even trained up and became an ASIST trainer and teach suicide prevention to groups of people.
It has been 9 years since my brother took his life, and I am still rattled. I still get situational depression around his deathaversary every November. I call this seasonal depression the Novembears. I wrote a children’s book about it. I have had strangers ridicule me for my open grief, I have had people leave my circle of friends because I couldn’t “get over it already”, and I have even had fallouts with family who thought the same way. This play is about a sister who loses her brother and someone says to her: “You must love that boy something fierce.” “Death changes nothing,” she replies. This is what the show is about.
It’s also about the guilt, the shame, the sadness, the grief of losing someone and how that stays with you regardless of time. The grief changes, and the grief changes you. It’s not as all consuming, it gets “easier” (air quotes, you get it right?) but it never goes away, not completely, at least not at the 9 year mark for me.
I wanted to write something that felt like my journey through grief to this point. Truthfully I wanted something ready to mark his 10th year of passing. I don’t know why, maybe because like the first year with Everything But the Cat… it would help me start a new chapter of healing.
Scarred Leather is the next chapter – the journey has been laborious just like a cowgirl on horseback – complete with saddle sores and weariness; the pistol is the aggressive blame and shame trying to take down anyone in its path; the Victorian structure is society’s rules around how to deal with death (that’s why my heroine challenges it with dressing like a man, she lives fully outside it’s rules/stigma); and the characters around her are all dealing with death in different ways and their ghosts/memories haunt them in different ways too, because we all deal with death in different ways. It can make us hide our true selves, deceive ourselves and others, it can change us for better or worse, it takes the things we love and leaves a gaping hole, and it can tear us down to build something new in its place.
Scarred Leather gets its name from a cowboy term referring to the imperfections in ones leathers, namely the saddle, which it gets after years of use. The scars are from enduring harsh weather, long rides, and being thrown around the barn. We can see these scars on our own flesh as imperfections, or as a life lived complete with mistakes and regrets and the lessons learned from them.
This workshop production is not traditional in any sense, because what you think grief is from the outside, like this Western seems to be, is very different from what it actually is.
The cast behind my upcoming staged reading of my haunted western “Scarred Leather” all had their photos taken by me in my living room and then I set out to edit them some Deadwood portraits for their characters…
Each character is from 1847, old Upper Canada, in the wilds of the new land called home – the outback of the Western world.
But more excited to challenge myself in not just writing a period piece, not just collaborating with talented actors Jason Martorino, Phil Rickaby, and Caroline Concordia, but to up my photoshop skills to make the visuals for it! That includes my poster:
We are doing a staged reading as it is still in development, but we will be doing light rehearsals until the festival, and of course it will be costumed because why do a Western in plain clothes?! You can see behind the scenes and updates on Whiskey Ginger Collective’s social media:
I don’t think I have shared my non-secret with you… I LOVE puppets! Maybe it’s because I grew up in the golden age of puppetry with Fraggle Rock, Muppets, Mr Dressup, Mrs Rogers Neighbourhood, Sesame Street, and local favourite Today’s Special and Romper Room.
Over the years I have created with puppets as a way to get around production hurdles, mainly no one at my museums wanted to be on camera – yet I was tasked in creating content. Video has been the king of content for a while now, so I always tried to think outside the box when trying to make something on a shoestring budget of a few hours, an iphone, and a museum at my disposal.
Enter Little Red: a campaign for summer camp at Gibson House Museum. She was “mini-me” and a camp counselor helping people get excited for camps at the museum by having little adventures in the museum that were topical to the weekly theme of the camp:
And so Harry the Haggis episodes were born to explore the tradition of Hogmanay at Gibson House! Soon my museum workers were seeing the fun of content creation and I expanded my cast from fuzzy creatures and finger puppets.
It’s been a while since I created with puppets but just recently I had a resurgence of love for them with my new Fraggle, named Pebbles, commissioned by The Puppet Forge and designed by Jay P Fosgitt. I put it up on my personal page and its been viewed 700 times and people were so lovely with their comments that I was taken aback at my return to puppeting! It was a little rusty – and filming and puppeting all by oneself is HARD so it’s not the polished piece I would like it to be. But sometimes you just have to puppet dance, so that’s what I did:
I was back in love with creating with puppets! And so I brought my Eldritch Theatre monster puppet created by Eric Woolfe to one of my museums to do a silly idea…
It has about 700 views on Facebook, 11 shares, and such wonderful comments like these:
It sounds like Philbert Gilbert Dilbert needs to go on a museum adventure around our city! I’m currently researching what grants if any would support a web-series about a puppet interning at museums in the name of supernatural and history. Got any leads? I’m happy to hear them!
“Scarred Leather” comes from a keyword search, themes exploration, and phrases around my story. It alludes to weather beaten chaps, worn saddles, sun burnt and scarred skin is the life of a cowgirl. But it also speaks to how the past leaves a mark on the present.
The audience warning so far reads “use of gunshots, foul language, and R’lyehian. Vengeful Gods may be invoked.” Here is a sample of it:
Now to give it a rest and then re-read for a 1.2 draft then it’s off to beg for eyes on it to see the holes I can’t see because I’m too close to it. Welcome to my process for playwriting.
A few years ago I started working with Eldritch Theatre and it was magical – no really there was actual magic! The creatives in Eldritch Theatre are pretty stellar and even though I’m the Marketing Monster and Producer, I’m still made to feel a part of the creative team.
There have been great reviews, great fan feedback, and the houses are always bursting with laughter (and people! We keep selling out!) So as a Producer this is making my heart happy, and as a theatre creator it’s making my heart explode because we need more risk taking, more ridiculous, more PUPPETS in our lives.
I hope you get to see it – and because I’m the Producer I’m going to share a secret with you… “Comic Horror” is the discount code for $20 anytime tickets and there is always PWYC Sundays that you can book ahead!
Some of you may know I am a suicide loss survivor, and some of you even know I am a safeTALK trainer. It would be amazing to have you at my first public workshop this November 19th for Suicide Loss Survivors Day at Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto.
I will be leading the workshop, and Jason Martorino, a teacher and Distress Centre volunteer with his ASIST, will be on hand to help those who may feel triggered or need a moment with someone who has crisis intervention training.
This workshop is for those who want to help those around them by being alert to signs of suicidal ideation, and want to learn how best to help those who need resources to help them stay alive. I like to think of it as suicide prevention first aid: you are the first responder, and you will help keep them alive until you can connect them to a resource that will help keep them alive.