Cast Spotlight: Cass Van Wyck

cass-van-wyck-heashotCass Van Wyck plays “newspaper man” Hildy Johnson in our upcoming production of His Girl Friday; this is Cass’ first show with Bygone.

Bio: Cass Van Wyck is a Toronto based actress who splits her time between her online sketch comedy group ‘Cookie Biscuits’ and her role as volunteer coordinator at The Storefront Theatre. In addition to her BA in performance from Brock University, Cass has worked with many notable directors including Soheil Parsa, Sonia Norris & Daniel MacIvor. Her latest credits include Mercy Lewis in ‘The Crucible’ (The Kindling Collective) and Bridget in Broken Soil Theatre’s ‘#dirtygirl’ (Audience Choice Award winner at the Hamilton Fringe Festival). Originally from the small town of Fenwick, Ontario, Cass currently lives in Toronto and can normally be found baking chocolate chip cookies and cheering on the jays. She is so excited to be working with the Bygone Theatre team can’t wait to share the work with everyone!

How did you hear about Bygone Theatre and this production of His Girl Friday?

I had worked with the fabulous Sean Jacklin previously and he reached out and mentioned that Bygone Theatre was looking to cast the iconic role of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday. 

What made you want to be involved?/ what do you love about the story?

Bygone Theatre has a reputation for producing amazing work and when I heard there was an opportunity to audition for them, it was a no-brainer. Hildy Johnson is such an amazing character who’s gusto and wit tops most of the male characters which is incredibly refreshing, especially for the 1940s. She is unapologetically vibrant and such a treat to play. 

What’s your favourite old movie?

Wizard of Oz.

Have you been in a show like this before? What else might people have seen you in recently?

I’ve never done a show like this before. Recently I’ve been doing a lot more contemporary theatre including Hamilton Fringe Festival 2016 Audience Choice Award winning production of “#dirtygirl” director by Michael Kras. 

Why should people come and see the show?

As fast paced screwball comedy, His Girl Friday is an absolutely hoot with crazy characters who find them selves in crazier situations – just good ol fashion fun! 

Anything else you want us to know?

I’m so excited for people to see the amazing work this group of talented artists are doing! Going to be a good time!

See Cass live onstage March 2-5, 2017 at the Aki Studio, Daniels Spectrum.
Buy your tickets today.

Cast Spotlight: Elizabeth Rose Morris

elizabeth-rose-morriss-headshotElizabeth Rose Morriss plays uptight Gertrude Baldwin in His Girl Friday. You may remember Liz from her role as Miss Kentley in Rope and as a performer in our Vaudeville Revue, as well as numerous Retro Radio Hours. She is also currently on the Bygone Theatre Board of Directors.

Bio: Elizabeth Rose Morriss most recently performed as Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music (Confidential Musical Theatre Project), as Adella in The Little Mermaid (Lower Ossington Theatre), and as Margot Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (Plain Stage Theatre Company). Previous Bygone Theatre roles include Miss Kentley in Rope, singer in the Vaudeville Revue, and a regular performer in their Retro Radio Hour shows.
She has degrees in Music Theatre (Acadia University) and Education (Nipissing University), is currently on the Board of Directors of Bygone Theatre, and does Marketing for the Toronto Confidential Musical Theatre Project. Keep up with Elizabeth online: Twitter and Instagram @lizrosemorriss, and facebook.com/elizabethrosemorriss.

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How did you hear about Bygone Theatre and this production of His Girl Friday?

Emily Dix directed a play I was in with Newborn Theatre, and I’ve been happy to be involved since the beginning of Bygone Theatre! I’m currently on the Board of Directors, and was intrigued from the first time Emily announced His Girl Friday as the next mainstage play.

What made you want to be involved?/ what do you love about the story?

I love the snappy, very stylized 1940s dialogue. The whole script is so witty and fast-paced, it’s a lot of fun!

What’s your favourite old movie?

I love a lot of old movies, mostly musicals, but my favourite has to be Singin’ in the Rain.

Have you been in a show like this before? What else might people have seen you in recently?

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Ian McGarret as Mr. Kentley and Elizabeth Rose Morriss as Miss Kentley in Rope, 2014.

In 2014, I played Miss Kentley in Bygone Theatre’s production of Rope—different decade and not a comedy, but also a period piece, and also a play with a classic movie version. Most recently I played Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music (Confidential Musical Theatre Project), Adella in The Little Mermaid (Lower Ossington Theatre), and was a singer in Bygone’s Vaudeville Revue.

Why should people come and see the show?

For fun, entertaining vintage comedy!

See Liz live onstage this March in His Girl Friday – tickets available online.

Cast Spotlight: Matthew Hallworth

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Matthew Hallworth plays reporter Roy Bensinger in our upcoming production of His Girl Friday.

Bio: Matthew is a Toronto-based Producer, Writer, Actor, Improviser and Singer. He is a largely supportive member of the Toronto Improv Community both on stage and as a Stage Manager at The Second City. His most notable work is “Fumbled” a short film created as part of the 48 Hour Film Project which he was Producer, Writer and Actor on and won “2nd Runner Up” and “Best Ensemble”.

1. How did you hear about Bygone Theatre and this production of His Girl Friday?
I have been familiar with Bygone Theatre for some time because of their Retro Radio Hour shows, I just had to jump on the opportunity to do a fast-talking 1940’s piece!

2. What made you want to be involved?/ what do you love about the story?
I’ve always had a fascination with classic comedies and as a modern comedic performer; I feel its important to be in touch with these classic styles as so many elements are still very much crucial today. I love all the layers to this work; the love triangle, the sleazy reporters, the big plot changes and the fun of all of it!

3. What’s your favourite old movie?
The Great Dictator (1940) I’m a huge admirer of Chaplin’s work and this one really speaks to me as a brave political satire which mocked Hitler before the world knew him to be a monster. Everyone knows the famous speech at the end, but the film all around is a beautiful work of slapstick and screwball comedy, all the bits with Chaplin and Jack Oakie still make me laugh hysterically. 

4. Have you been in a show like this before? What else might people have seen you in recently?
I was once cast in a slapstick production which unfortunately never came to be! I’m mainly an Improviser and perform throughout the city, I recently Produced and Directed Miracle on the Danforth, an Improvised Holiday Special at the Social Capital. In March you can see me in Round 2 of the World’s Biggest Improv Tournament with my esteemed partner, Sean Browning. 

5. Why should people come and see the show?
The comedy, drama and relationships in this piece are timeless; add to that the presence of a strong female character (Hildy) and, well, this is going to be a great time! 

See Matthew onstage this March in His Girl Friday. Buy tickets now.

Retro Christmas Countdown – Xmas in the 20th Century

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While Christmas dates back hundreds of years before, it was the start of the 20th century that saw the turn towards the lavish and very commercial holiday that we all know today. Here’s a very brief history of Christmas traditions from the last century.

1900s

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The first Christmas card was created in 1843 by John Horsley, and by the turn of the century the Victorian’s love of sentimental greetings had made this a popular tradition.

The Victorian styles of decorating carried into the start of the 20th century, with gilded nuts, candles and paper ornaments adorning trees.

This decade also saw the creation of what was to become one of the most popular children’s toys of the century; the Teddy Bear. Named after President Roosevelt, the charming story of the origin of this toy and its name can be read here.

1910s

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As Christmas rapidly became a highly commercialized holiday, more and more companies used it as a means of selling their products, and the image of Santa Claus began to morph into the one we are familiar with today. It was in the 1910s that Santa’s now unmistakable look, with red suit and pants trimmed in white fur, matching cap and long white beard, began to become the norm.

While a legend has grown that claims Coca Cola invented the modern-day image of Santa, that is not quite the case. Prior to the famous Coca Cola Santa (who was created in 1931), the jolly elf had been portrayed as anything from tall and lanky to a munchkin-sized man. Norman Rockwell had painted a Santa who is strikingly similar to the 30s Coke version all the way back in 1911, however it wasn’t until Coke began regularly producing consistent looking Christmas ads that the current version of St. Nick really began to stick.

For an interesting pictorial history of Santa, check out this link.

1920s

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By the 1920s the upper class had traded-in their candles for electric Christmas lights, and trees were as lavish and daring as the fashions of the decades.

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With the rising popularity of the wireless (radio), the 1920s also saw the first Christmas radio broadcast when, in 1922, Arthur Burrow presented “The Truth About Father Christmas”.

1930s

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Rockefeller Centre, 1931

In the midst of the Great Depression few had money to spend on food and clothing, let alone Christmas gifts and decorations. Still, the tradition of putting up a tree hung on, with many families owning decorations they had purchased in the more prosperous 1920s. Homemade ornaments also adorned the tree, made out of things like the foil paper saved from cigarette packs. As previously mentioned, Coca Cola started to advertise with their own version of Santa, and upbeat Christmas songs were enjoyed on the radio. Advertisements still bombarded shoppers with ideas for the perfect Christmas gift, only their tactics had changed; a focus on the practical and sometimes financing options were promoted.

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The popular character Rudolph, everyone’s favourite red-nosed reindeer, was created in 1939 by Montgomery Ward. Although it wasn’t until a decade later when Gene Autry released the song that we’ve all learned as kids.

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1940s

The 1940s saw the Second World War, and with that came rations and a reminder that the war effort should be supported above all else. Sales in non-necessities like Christmas lights dropped dramatically as many companies changed their focus to assist in the war effort. War bonds were promoted as a perfect gift for any family member or friend, and Santa himself switched his classic red & white outfit to don army duds and support the cause.

With many families missing fathers, brothers and sons overseas, Christmas could have been a bittersweet time. However, back home the masses were reminded to keep their spirits up while fighting the good fight, so many Christmas celebrations resumed some of the splendour they had seen before the Depression.

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1950s

The post-war boom made the Christmas of the 1950s one of the biggest and gaudiest yet. The Baby Boom meant there were lots of families with youngsters, and so the toy market was buzzing. Wide-spread prosperity meant most were lucky enough to be able to afford Christmas celebrations, and women’s magazines, eager to encourage them to return to the home, now that the war was over, pushed for the ideal Christmas season, full of elaborate recipes and decor.

Television was also becoming popular and with it came a host of Christmas specials. Stars like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby recorded Christmas songs and popular shows like I Love Lucy recorded special Christmas episodes.

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1960s

By the 1960s, the fads of the 50s were firmly cemented; every toy imaginable was available on the market and they were advertised directly to children in between the cartoons they watched on tv. The Christmas shows we still see today – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman – first appeared on the airwaves and decorations were more colourful and outlandish than ever before.

There was significant variety now as well. Christmas trees could be anything from your traditional green pine, to the popular aluminum trees that came in silver, aqua and even pink! And don’t forget the fake snow! The concept of “Kitschmas” was truly born in the 1960s.

What’s your favourite Christmas decade? Tweet your replies to @BygoneTheatre #RetroXmas 

-E.

Hollywood During WWII

HOLLYWOOD STARS

With Remembrance Day around the corner we’d like to share some WWII facts about Hollywood and the stars who helped the war effort. While many stars performed for the troops and helped support their country by selling war bonds, some had more notable achievements that have been largely forgotten over the years.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

German-born performer Marlene Dietrich was a staunch anti-Nazi who became an American citizen in 1939. The outspoken actress was one of the first stars to start selling war bonds, and is said to have sold more than any other. She refused multiple requests to return to her native country and instead performed for American troops, sometimes dangerously close to enemy lines. She was awarded the US Medal of Freedom in 1945 which she said was her “highest honour”.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Actress Hedy Lamarr is mostly remembered for her stunning good looks, and for her risque nude scene, but the Austrian born actress contributed much more than pinups to the  Allied war effort. Along with the help of George Antheil, an Avant Garde composer, Lamarr created a device that could prevent the enemy from throwing their torpedoes off-course. By utilizing a piano roll to unpredictably change frequencies, they made it nearly impossible for the enemy to scan and jam frequency signals. This frequency hopping spread-spectrum invention would become the basis for modern technologies such as GPS and Bluetooth.

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Comedian Mel Brooks was drafted into the army and served as a corporal combat engineer. In addition to fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Brooks had the nerve-wracking task of diffusing land mines. Always a comedian, he kept up his fellow soldiers spirits by broadcasting Al Jolson music over the loud-speakers in response to the German propaganda playing (Jolson, like Brooks, was a Jewish performer).

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Born in St.Louis, Missouri, Josephine Baker moved to France in the 1920s and became enormously popular. During the war Baker served as part of the French Resistance, working as a secret informer and smuggling messages written in invisible ink on her sheet music. Upon her death in 1975 she was buried with military honours.

Jimmy Stewart

482px-Jimmy_Stewart_getting_medal-e1282911945287Jimmy Stewart was eager to join the war effort and reapplied after initially being rejected due to being underweight. While initially his star status delegated him to tasks such as paperwork and making training videos, Stewart pushed for the chance to see combat and in four short years moved up the ranks from private to colonel. Stewart flew a B-24 into German and for his bravery twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. After the war, Stewart remained a part of the Air Force, reaching the rank of Major General (two star general) after 27 years of service.

Retro Radio Hour – Spring Fling!

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On Thursday May 14, 2015, Bygone will be presenting the 5th show in the retro radio series, Retro Radio Hour – Spring Fling. We are back at the SoCap and as always, tickets are only $5 cash at the door. This week’s show features; Emily Dix, Matt McGrath, Elizabeth Rose Morriss, Ian McGarrett, Mikey Zahorak, Peter Grant Mackechnie, Nicole Byblow, Astrid Atherly and Joseph Vita with magic by Leigh Beadon.

A Tip Of The Hat: Conveying Character With Hats

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Every costumer knows that it is their job to create an outfit that showcases the actor’s character onstage. While every designer has their own method, it is doubtless that all put in hours of research trying to find just the right colours and styles. But the actor too can make small changes to the clothes they are given and in doing so drastically alter the meaning of the pieces, especially when it comes to hats.

I am currently taking a millinery class at Stratford Off The Wall. You can see some of my how-to tutorials on making hats here. Today in class while we were creating our patterns an interesting point was made; depending on the angle someone chooses to tilt and wear their hat, a variety of personalities can be conveyed, all with the same costume piece. Take for example, a man’s fedora;

In the first image, Cary Grant looks sexy and sophisticated. Maybe a business man, or even a gangster. He wears his hat tilted and low down on the brow.
Bob Hope wears his hat a bit further back on his head and at a less severe angle. This gives a more laid-back vibe, almost tired or lazy and somewhat comical.

Finally, Ray Bolger wears his at the back of his head, giving him a clownish appearance that works well with his goofy, snarky farm-hand character.

A similar effect can occur with mens’ bowlers;

The first image shows a man wearing a bowler the “correct” way, sitting right atop his head. This is a serious, sophisticated and very vintage look.

In his Boardwalk Empire outfit, Steve Buscemi looks every bit the classy gangster, thanks in part to the casual backwards tilt of his hat.

Once again, a hat worn on the back of one’s head immediately creates a clownish look, as does an ill-fitting hat, as seen in this Laurel & Hardy shot.

Women’s hats can do the same thing;

For a serious, mysterious look, Joan Crawford wears a severe looking hat, tilted low on her brow with a minimal side tilt.

Lucille Ball looks sultry and sophisticated in a hat with a fashionably jaunty tilt.

The smiling woman also wears a hat tilted far to the side, but hers is further back on the brow, giving a playful, energetic vibe.

Finally, Judy Garland is the picture of youth and innocence in this cap that sits at the back of her head, wrapped around her ears.

When costuming it is always important to remember not just what your actors will be wearing, but how they will wear it. Subtle changes in attitude can be reflected through minimal costume changes; a man could start the play with his fedora tilted low, looking professional and suave. After a frantic day, he may push it further back on his head, while wiping his brow. During a madcap comical scene later on, the hat could end up right on the back of his head and even slightly squished (likely combined with a loosened tie or un-tucked shirt). That’s just a random example, but you get the idea.

So if you feel your costume is lacking a little “something”, give your actor a hat and let them play with it. It may just top things off perfectly.

Want to make your own vintage hat? Check out our A.D. Emily Dix’s tutorial on how to make a custom hat pattern from scratch!

-E.

Underneath It All: A Brief History of Women’s Underwear, 1900-1970

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When dressing a period show, it is important to remember that it’s not just the clothing the audience sees that makes the look authentic. To really capture a realistic period style, the proper undergarments need to be used to help achieve the accurate shape or silhouette.

For those doing a show set in the first half of the 20th century, the following crash-course may be of some assistance.

The 1900s

As you can see in the photos above, the early 1900s embraced a truly “feminine” shape; big hips, large breasts, and a very cinched in “wasp waist”. The look was not quite as extreme as it had been in previous decades (where, in some cases, women may have had ribs removed to try and make their waists smaller, though this idea is debated), but it still required tightly bound whale bone corsets and layers of heavy petticoats.  Little attention was paid to the breasts; push-up and padded bras did not exist, instead the curved upper torso was created by cinching in the waist, so that while the upper body appeared fuller, it did not yet have the definition that would be seen in later decades.

The 1910s

As the century progressed, silhouettes began to transform into a leaner, straighter shape, and the corsets and bustles of the previous decades mostly disappeared. What corsets were still in use now were longer, coming down past the hips and up to just under the bust, helping to achieve a streamlined look. The waist line rose to an “empire waist”, just below the bust, and as the ankles were now often visible, the length of slips shortened. As the petticoats slimmed, bloomers were replaced with a closer fitting underwear, more similar to what we see today. It is also during this time that we see a change in the overall aesthetic of undergarments; they were truly becoming lingerie. Machine-made lace was more readily available, and so decorative underwear could be purchased for a more reasonable price. The ads of the time no longer looked like a textbook page on what was available, but began to embrace the beauty and sensuality of the products.

1920s

The 1920s saw the change from a “womanish” figure to a “girlish” one; the bust, hips and waist were slimmed to a straight, narrow, almost boyish look, and hemlines shortened dramatically. We begin to see some two-piece undergarments, but the bras still are not lifting or defining the breasts. As hemlines were shorter, decorative garters and stockings became popular. Tube-like corsets were used to help curvier women attain a straighter silhouette.

1930s

Two-piece undergarments were the norm come the 1930s and slips were less common. Curves again were being embraced, and women with round, curved hips were adored. Tight-fitting girdles were sometimes used to shape the hips, and early versions of the bras we wear today are seen. Hollywood began to have a major part in the popularity of women’s styles, and ads of the decade catered to those looking for a glamourous silhouette.

1940s

The war had a major effect on women’s fashions as many materials were rationed. “Make do and mend” was the motto, and women were encouraged to sew their own clothes and update their old ones to match the current styles. The limits on fabrics meant that a more angular, fitted look defined the decade, and hemlines were once again shorter, hitting just below the knee. Military styles were popular, and women’s suits came in fashion. Nylon was one of the casualties of the war, as it was needed to make parachutes, and so nylon stockings disappeared from the stores. In an effort to maintain the look, some women drew black “seams” up the back of their legs, giving the illusion of wearing stockings. As many women went out to work in factories, they traded in their dresses and skirts for trousers and overalls, a style that required more form-fitting underwear. Silk was also unavailable because of the war effort, and so slips were less common. To make up for the simplicity in clothing, women’s hairstyles became more elaborate, and accessories were used to decorate an outfit rather than wearing a whole new garment. While there were new styles in 1940s undergarments, keep in mind that many would not have been purchasing them, and would have likely used what they already had instead.

1950s

When the war and its rations ended, fashions embraced the new availability of fabrics, and the female silhouette returned to a fullness it had not seen since the turn of the century. Fitted tops showcased a full bust, and pointed bras lifted and accentuated the breasts. The waist was cinched with a girdle, and full skirts were ballooned with petticoats and bouffants. Stockings were again available, and new “seamless” ones were on the market. Underwear ads became increasingly sexual, and there is a noticeable turn in the marketing which now aimed itself more at men (purchasing for their wives) than women.  Most women were back in the home, and so fashion could again take place over practicality. The ideal women was one who, as Audrey sings in “Little Shop of Horrors”, “cooked like Betty Crocker and looked like Donna Reed”; feminine, fashionable and a devoted wife and mother.

1960s

While many in the 1960s still embraced full skirts, girdles and push-up bras, as feminism blossomed many in the fashion world began to lean towards more natural silhouettes and more comfortable clothing. Skirts got very short, cut high on the thigh, and so slips and underwear shortened as well. Late in the decade and into the 1970s, some women stopped wearing bras and by that point most had long abandoned the corset or girdle. When dressing the 1960s, there are several ways you can go, so before looking for undergarments, ask yourself; is your character a Glamour Puss? a Hippie? a preppy teen? There are many ways to go.

Earlier Decades:

While we here at Bygone tend to focus on the first half of the 20th Century, when it comes to underwear, earlier periods have some of the most interesting articles. Want to learn more about women’s unmentionables? Check out some of these articles:

Mental Floss – A Funny Approach

Hosiery History – Stockings Through The Years

Vintage Lingerie Ads

Elizabethan Costuming

 

-E.