Everything… came together!

Production crew Steph and Eden and Ms. Dawson My production team for this round: Director Steph and Sound Tech Eden! Thanks ladies!!!Robin Silhouette
One of the projections at the school – looked awesome!
Thank you Card from SinclairAww, you guys… thank you for having me! It truly was wonderful for you to host my show!

 

Today was my “trial by fire” with my Everything but the Cat… production about my first year of bereavement. Steph, my director, and my friend Eden, worked on the projections and sounds to bring together a 20 minute version of my show for Sinclair High School in Whitby. I was honoured to be invited and doubly so to have such an amazingly awesome audience – for BOTH shows. Yes you heard me. I did two back to back solo shows where I cried, they cried, I laughed, they laughed and then we had some great discussions. I walked away with some great ideas and feedback too.

Some of the highlights of this morning’s experience are as follows:

-The one thing contraband at this school was Oranges. One of the faculty is allergic. Guess what I have in my show? A GLASS OF OJ! It became a quick star of the show…

-I got hugs! I love that the students were so ready to let me into their lives and to give me some space in their heart! I had some great private one-on-one moments with students too!

-One student even asked if I needed an actor for some upcoming re-staging of the show. I was floored! They wanted to be a part of it? BEYOND FLATTERED.

-Teachers and students gave input into what they would like to see and how I may be able to help them achieve their goals in the classroom and still be on topic. I am excited to get the ideas down on paper (after this blog) so I can build a solid program for the fall.

I keep saying “for the fall” like I have a plan. The answer is – no, I really don’t. But if I give myself a deadline I am more likely to work. And at this school BOTH audiences asked when they could see the full version. My response? “I’ll see you in the fall!” 🙂

Next task on my wish-list for this program is to get a great counselor on my side. Many students wanted advice and to share some personal stories with me. I wanted to be able to provide the perfect answer… Trouble is there isn’t one. But at least with a trained professional who knows how to handle those in crisis or those who would like advice about crisis in their life or someone close to them – well I want them in the room with me so we can co-facilitate those types of interactions. Please let me know if you know someone who would be willing to tour schools with me!

So thank you to all those involved but especially Ms Dawson and Mr Emes who invited me to their school in Whitby for this special visit. It was an amazing day!

 

Everything… in the classrooms update

So! I had a fantastic meeting with Pat McCarthy who is an Education Consultant and Artistic Producer at Alumnae Theatre (which is where we met – during the New Ideas Festival where Everything… had its first public viewing as a staged reading.)

Here is the teachers info package I put together for critique:

Everything but the Cat Teachers Package (PDF)

Next week I’m taking a segment of my show to a high school in Whitby where senior  students in Social Humanities and Drama classes will view and critique my show. I want to know from the source if this is something that they want to hear! If this is a package they want to watch! So this will be a trial by fire…

More updates soon on that.

In other news I have been cast in Spur-of-the-Moment’s Shakespeare In Hospital Programs where actors tour hospitals and perform for the sick and the elderly across GTA. I am really proud to be a part of this! I also am now a part of the “Wharf at War” team that will be touring Ontario (Brockville to Ste. Marie!) doing scripted and improvisational historical interpretation about the War of 1812. I have two characters: a widow born in the Niagara region and a seamstress of Scottish decent. I’m eager to start both these projects as they really speak to the person that I am. I adore both of these companies’ mandates and I am ready to jump in head first 🙂

 

 

New Ideas Festival Reading was today….

bio poster at NIF2013
bio poster at NIF2013

So this happened today… I’m too exhausted to tell you ALL about it, but I wanted to mark the day and say that I had an amazing experience. I was just as nervous, anxious, & excited as if I were walking out on that stage. This team of women you see above – they blew me away. I felt respected and honoured this afternoon. And the audience was full of friends, family, strangers and thespians. It was a beautiful vibe in the audience and a great Q&A after (which for me was the scariest part I had to look forward to!) but all in all I had a wonderful experience.

Thank you especially to Steph, Stevie, and Krista for hitting it out of the park. And to Pat and Carolyn at Alumnae for letting us break the roof off that studio 😉

Now to rest, digest, and take it to the next step.

Breathe.

The good, the sad, and the ugly

First the sad news:

Secret Lives of Lovers has been put on hold indefinitely. Yes, the movie where I was playing Grace, the dancer alcoholic, is pretty much done at this point. We got two days on set – I did my tango which took a lot from me as I have never had to be something I’m not. I know, I know that sounds silly – I’m an actor – I clearly am not Lady Macbeth or a lesbian from Montreal (both great roles I had such fun playing in the past) – but this was a talent I couldn’t fake. I had to ACTUALLY dance. And I loved the challenge. It opened my heart and mind to a new me: one that just says yes even when severe doubt persisted. So I thank Five Strangers Films for that experience. And I hope someday soon to be Grace and get to finish creating her with the wonderful people involved in that production.

The good news – I’m researching my new play about love: why we keep it and why we discard it. But the catch, because I’m trying to stay away from writing a rom-com; is that I want to find science to back me up. There are several thoughts on why and how we love – like this gem that my friend Val showed me is Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love which defines different relationships. Fascinating! So this is my mind-set. It is a really slow process as I am still heart-broken about the movie being shut down.  But if you have any ideas on love, preferably something like this TED Talk then please pass it on!

And lastly – my play Everything But the Cat… is having it’s first staged public reading at Alumnae on March 23rd at 12 noon for a pwyc audience. I am terrified and excited. I hope to see you there 🙂

A little about me – for The New Ideas Festival

Hello! Thanks for stopping by to read a little about me and why I wrote “Everything But the Cat…”

andrewsmokebreakI wrote the play in response to my brother’s suicide. It is the first year of bereavement and what I did to cope. I really wanted this to be through the filter of one person – because every person has a unique story, their story. My play is not a recount of my brother’s life,  nor is it about how he died. It’s about how the death of someone, a family member specifically, shakes you and takes you hostage to your darkest self. This self-quake shakes everything you know and love, and for me, for this story, it made things crumble apart and I was left to pick up the pieces.

I adore the works of Daniel MacIvor and Sandra Shamas – the solo show masters in my eyes. The comedy within the solo show, and the honesty that one can achieve with this “confessional theatre” is fascinating to me. I want that. I wanted this to be an insight into a year of bereavement for someone you could relate to, someone you see on the subway crying into her iPod and wonder if you should say something. That person you see fuming with rage because her plastic lid for her coffee cup won’t fit – clearly the rage it isn’t just about that lid. Jump into those heavy and sad shoes of that person and see that there is still love, hope, and joy that is just itching to come out. It just can’t right now. It’s caught beneath something heavy called mourning.

I’m also an actor here in Toronto. I am working on an Indie Feature with Marc Morgenstern and Five Stranger Films called “Secret Lives of Lovers” which just began shooting. I adore doing voice work and I’m looking forward to working with Cardiac Game Studio on “The Princess of Nothing” video game this year too! Who doesn’t like pretending to be a kick-ass viking princess with an axe?!

So I hope you can come out on March 23rd at 12 noon to Alumnae Studio Theatre, and I hope you can stay after and chat with me and my team of “Everything But the Cat…” during the Q&A to follow.

Thanks!

Next Big Thing: Writer’s Interview

A writer friend, Chloe Whitehorn, tagged me in her writer’s “interview” that will be shared with other writers all over the web! Here are my answers:

What is your working title of your play? It’s called “Everything But The Cat…”

Where did the idea come from for the play? As an actor and sometimes playwright for the City of Toronto Museums – the most natural way to express my grief for the passing of my brother in 2010 was to write a play about it. The play is not just about death, but more about the topic of loss. Who we lose, what we lose – this can be relationships, the death of a loved one (or stranger), items that we hold dear – everything can be precious. Even your cat 😉

What genre does your play fall under? I would say Dramedy in the form of a Not-So-One-Woman-Show

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  I would cast myself! Ha! As a Canadian theatre creator I think it is necessary to make work for yourself, it’s not just a survival technique (hey I get to pay myself in this blockbuster right?!) but also it ensures you are making the type of art that moves you – that fulfills you. And if I was booked up I would cast Emma Stone, as long as she dyed her hair back to red. I love her work and her fantastically genuine presence on film.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your play? 

Loss is sometimes greater than leaving your umbrella on the subway.

Will your play be self-produced or mounted by a theatre?  So far it has been picked up by the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre for their 2013 run. I will have a one-off reading/staging of my show on March 23rd 2013. From there I am planning on filming it so I can submit for some grant proposals. Ultimately I would love to tour it to high schools or universities to raise awareness about mental health and dealing with loss. I hope to partner with a mental health institute to being a support package to schools when I visit so they have resources for any type of follow up.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your script? First draft took a year. It is basically a diary of the events that happened to me personally, then redrafted into something a bit more fictionalized as to help make it flow and exclude all the boring-ness of my actual life 😉 I have been working with Bricoteer Experiments Theatre; thank you James and Grey!  They helped me workshop the script through the use of puppetry. Dramaturg and editors, these two brought me out of my comfort zone and into a creative place where I was ready to give my story shape with well thought-out criticism and feedback.

What other plays would you compare this story to within your genre? My two big influences on this piece are Sandra Shamas (her one-woman shows, especially My Boyfriends Back and there’s Going to be Laundry was a huge inspiration/validation for my diary approach – or what I call Confessional Theatre,) and Daniel MacIvor’s solo shows (House, Monster, Here Lies Henry) were a great way to study pace and character work with one person on stage.

Who or what inspired you to write this play? Well, there are those playwrights above that act as inspirations…. But mainly the fact I couldn’t help but write this story. I was selfish and used the pen and page to help me work out what I was going through as I hit bereavement hard. So many people wanted to know what happened to my brother and to my family – to me. And so, this play about my one year of bereavement tells all those things. The horrors of depression, the triumph of finding love, the loss of someone dear to me, twice, three times – I lost count. But the fact that so many people sought me out to hear my story – to hear my brother’s story – I knew I had to write it out. And I knew it had to be theatre and not any other medium as I wanted the storyteller aspect to this. It needed the opportunity to connect with it’s audience in real time, in a real space. Film would create too much distance. A book seemed too close to being an actual diary and no room for the spontaneity I had learned through reading/watching MacIvor’s work with Brooks. No. It had to be theatre.

What else about your play might pique the audience’s interest?  I don’t want to ride anyone’s coat tails, so as much as I love MacIvor and Shamas – I wrote my piece to stand apart. How you might ask? I really am in love with shadows and silhouettes and the effect of them onstage.  I want my one-woman show to be not-so-one-woman with these shadows taking the form of everyone else in the show. She will essentially be alone with a scrim/screen behind her, yet she will find herself in a crowded subway “full of people” who will be nothing more than the shadows of the subway patrons. The saying “ever feel alone in a crowded room” comes to mind when I try to explain this to people. So come and see my experiment! I will be working with Steph Ouaknine who is already working on the projection designs for these shadow players.

I hope you can join me on March 23rd 2013 at Alumnae Theatre for the first ever public staged reading of “Everything But The Cat…”

 

Who tagged me? Well this talented redhead:  Chloë Ariane Whitehorn

https://www.facebook.com/ChloeWhitehorn

Who I tagged:

AJ LaFlamme http://www.artbytheft.com/

 

 

Inspiration recharge

I saw this last night – I needed a creative recharge after my last post/painful cold read experience. So naturally I turned to my two of my living muses: Daniel MacIvor and Sandra Shamas.

I met Sandra just recently, and revelled in her storytelling. Her style is a huge inspiration to me and my writing style. She made me believe that what I have to say, however I need to say it and what ever topic I find interesting – I have the right to say it. Confessional Theatre I call it. When I took my mom to see her at the Winter Garden Theatre here in Toronto, my mom leaned over, tears in her eyes from laughing so much and said,

“Holy crap! She’s just like you! She’s SO funny! I mean, this is horrible but this is funny!”

Sandra was talking about menopause and the pitfalls of such an experience, but I got what my mom was saying. I have this show about suicide and bereavement and I am trying to make it not as dark and heavy a show. Sandra is inspiring me to be heavy and light in my writing. Honest, brutal, but also hilarious – because hey, that’s me.

Daniel MacIvor’s solo shows make me want to be a playwright. I want to help people understand people. As in, I want them to understand the differences in people in a way that celebrates just how unique we are. And at the same time – just how fucked up we all are. And hey, that’s okay. But the gloss and shine job we put on ourselves to “face the world” is just that – a face. A mask.

I saw his “This is what happens next” last night by Necessary Angel and I needed that. I needed to see something I believe in. I believe in his style and writing so very much. Confessional Theatre: where the audience is your best friend and you can tell them ANYTHING. They will be there the whole time, waiting, watching, hopeful, supportive – even if you are being a dick (the character Will for instance in “This is what happens next”) or you know the inevitable (as with The Kid) and you can still be hopeful – you can still be witness to their story. Which is the important part.

In the writer’s note by MacIvor, one part stood out:

Are all stories true? Well what is truth? Is truth “fact”? If so, then no, all the facts are not true. Are the characters real? Well, if “real” means “actual”, then no they aren’t real. But fact and actuality have informed and filtered everything in this show and there is truth. True feelings and fears and joy.

I am now ready to go back and look at my script and make some decisions. Editing is hard. But with these two muses fuelling me I feel energized and ready for the challenge.

Playwright hat on.

The pitfalls of writing

Rant time.

If you’re not in the mood to hear a rant – press on to here: http://links.laughingsquid.com/ where you can get lost in what’s happening elsewhere.

The rant:

Last night I did something I have never done before: I had my script read by strangers in a public forum. It was a cold-read, which means there was just a person picking up my script and reading it without any direction (she cheated and had the script before the read date so I assume she looked at it before last night… But after last night I doubt it.)

It was painful. I shook from my solar plexus the WHOLE TIME. Not because I couldn’t stand someone saying my words (I have several historical plays that have been produced and enjoyed collaborative direction and I loved the experience!) – no. It was the complete lack of trust in the words. The complete lack of respect for the not just the words, but the punctuation.

HEY YOU. ARE YOU AN ACTOR?

May I suggest a couple things? Watch the last episode of Firefly. There is a quote in there where the character Early says to Doctor Simon,

You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose
a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know
what kind of pain you’re dealing with.
They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed
before they can get certified, but they
don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That
seem right to you?

I am not advocating getting shot. What I am saying is: if you want to be the best at your art form (here we are talking acting) then you should explore all the facets of that art form. I’m not saying stop your Meisner classes and take up directing or playwriting – I’m saying look into what goes into those types of roles. Figure out why they are there. Try to see their pitfalls, their trials and hardships in their position. Because the eye opener last night was that thing I heard back when I started learning how to read/deliver Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in himself (herself?) is a huge argument. But for this rant I want to talk about how I was taught to approach the text of Shakespeare. Yes, I know that there is a folio/quarto/modern editors…but I was taught that the words have a rhythm (hi, iambic pentameter!) and that the punctuation is crucial. This is why so many Bardolators get uppity around this topic, as there are so many people who have been involved in the punctuation placement game when it comes to his work.

I digress. Last night I heard the cold-reader blatantly disregard not just words (which hurt because it changed the meaning of the text) but mostly when they disregarded the punctuation. It is the one clear thing that a writer can write. Italics, parenthesis, underlining, hyphens – which I adore – all can mean different things. Did the writer mean to stress that or under-stress that word? Does that mean it’s important or should the reading be flippant? But the one thing that is quite clear is what follows:

Periods are full stops.

Commas are half breaths.

Hyphens are a push through, a sudden change even.

Colons are a list.

So actors (and yes I am reading my own words here when I say this) when you pick up and read in an audition room/cold read – please please PLEASE pay attention to the things that are set in stone. THE PUNCTUATION. *And if you bring up Christopher Walken I will mentally kick you in the shin!

The words are there for interpretation but the punctuation is there to help you find your breath (think Shakespeare and musicality) and ultimately the character. The punctuation is just as important as the words.

(side rant: at a reading, the stage directions should not be glossed over. But that’s all I have to say about that. And as actors we seldom get a leg-up. If there is an insight into what is happening in the audition room or the reading LATCH ONTO IT! If you get the sides beforehand: read them. Sorry, sorry… I know I’m supposed to stop ranting now….)

There. That is my rant.

Please rant back. Period.

LTTA

Learning Through The Arts – it’s something I have always facilitated, but maybe I just didn’t call it that. I have been teaching drama (well Shakespeare first and foremost) to kids since I was a counselor at 14 years old. Now at 30 years old, I am a program developer and facilitator with the City of Toronto, a teacher with Artsarama, and a hired character artist for several museums who need someone kids can interact with and learn from talking about the past.

So when this course caught my eye: http://learning.rcmusic.ca/teacher-and-artist-training/artist-educator-professional-training I had to know more. And once I did – I had to take it. Sure I already do most of the Foundations and Level 1 already in my job – but the higher levels are what are intriguing to me. Plus the connections made through the class is another great way to learn about LTTA.

I took the class not only to better my understanding of what I do and expand my knowledge base – but the main focus I wanted out of this is to learn how to integrate my suicide bereavement script into an education program that I can tour to Grade 12’s and First Year Frosh in Canada. Targeting the age group that my brother was when he felt the pull of suicide.

I enjoyed my time with the Foundations level, but, as many thought it would be, I felt ahead of the game in this course. I’m excited to keep climbing in the levels to a place where I feel challenged. I really enjoyed the people in the class (it was nice to have a small class of 7 so we could really have quality time with our instructors) and I liked the facilitators too. Nancy Dutra and Ciara Adams from Theatre Gargantua were great hosts to this level.

So as I take time between courses and apply some honed skills to my work immediately, I am beginning to think of how my shoe “Everything but the Cat…” can be an educational touring show for teens…