Friends of Bygone – Newborn Theatre

Rachel Ganz is the Artistic Director of Newborn Theatre and a good friend of Bygone Theatre; our AD, Emily Dix directed her show “Plasterface” in November of 2012, and both Emily and Producer Matt McGrath were involved in last year’s Odds and Ends Festival.

Rachel Ganz
Rachel Ganz

1. What is your role with Newborn Theatre and “The Odds and Ends Festival”?

Artistic Director/God and I direct one show this year

2. Give us Newborn Theatre’s history – how and why did it get started?
We have been around for over a year now, producing and supporting the works of writers who are under thirty.  The whole point to the company is to give young artists the opportunity to grow and be featured amongst their peers.

3. Give us a quick run-down of “The Odds and Ends Festival”
5 shows. 5 playwrights from across the continent. 40 local cast and crew.  Most of the shows are dark and one is just insane.  
It’s at unit 102 from August 22-25.

Each show goes up every single night.

Super multi-cultural, super strange sexual things happening, characters of all ages, theatre in the round, glow in the dark, mud wrestling….cotton ball fights….gun shots…swords…clowns…..classical music….what am I missing??? OH YEAH THE BLACK HURRICANE KATRINA SHOW.  Good times.

4. What has been your favourite part of working on “The Odds and Ends Festival”?

Odds and Ends Festival 2013
Odds and Ends Festival 2013

Working with the playwrights is always the best.
Reading and selecting from 165 works is actually a great time.  I performed them all in my living room…solo.  Sober.

5. Any fun rehearsal/performance stories or anecdotes you’d like to share?
The only thing I  can think of is Jessica Brown loving her costume so much that she didn’t want to take it off to go get food at break. So she wore sequins underwear and a blonde wig out in Parkdale.

6. Where and when can everyone see the show?
Unit 102, Queen and Dufferin.  22-24 at 8 pm. 25th at 2 pm.

7. Anything else we should know?
It’s an extraordinarily small house…come early!


Review: Excuse You! – Theatre On A Thought, Toronto Fringe

Last night I went to see the opening of Theatre On A Thought’s “Excuse You!”, written and directed by Bryce Alexander Dudley and performed at the George Ignatieff Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe. The play is a collection of customer service horror stories, loosely linked together through an over-arching plot about a bunch of theatre employees; it runs about 90 minutes.

“Excuse You” was a fairly typical Fringe experience for me; the script needed some work, and the show felt a little under-rehearsed, but the actors were funny, enthusiastic, and seemed thrilled to be performing.

The structure of the play was a little odd; the concept of an over-arching story to link various anecdotes about customer service in general was good in theory, but wasn’t executed as smoothly as one would hope. There were however, a few stand-out moments.

Matt McGrath as Stephen was hilarious. His monologue about the horrors of cleaning the woman’s bathroom was one of the highlights of the show. McGrath had excellent comedic timing and a great stage presence. He also played some of the stronger roles in my favourite part of the show; the bar scene.

One of the play’s strongest scenes was where the actors swept around the stage in a flurry of different characters, each appearing with a one or two-line joke before switching out and reappearing as someone new. This was where their actor abilities shone brightest; each character, despite very minor changes in costume, was distinct and amusing. Kudos goes to Peter Nicol who had some of the funniest parts, and skillfully played both young and old characters.

Erynn Brook was unfortunately given a rather unlikable character, Deborah, the typical “bitch” staff member, who in this play lacked the redeeming qualities such a role usually relies on. Despite this, Brook was funny, had strong comedic instincts, and wowed the audience with several perfect accents, something that is rarely seen in amateur theatre.

In stark contrast was the character Michelle, aptly played by the bubbly Heather Sande. While the part of Michelle was two-dimensional and a little dull, Sande stood out in the smaller roles, especially as the aloof drunk-girl dragged to the theatre by her irritating mother. Her energy onstage was contagious, and helped to push along some of the slower moving scenes.

Rhonda, played by Sarah Cervinka was the most believable of the main-plot characters. As the jaded, tired, wannabe-writer, Cervinka best captured the dry humour and sarcasm the role required. Her part as the overweight restaurant patron who demanded to know the ingredients in every item, was also a highlight.

Finally there was Chai Lavie as Tony. While Tony was more of a caricature than most of the other main-plot characters, Lavie’s physicality made him a joy to watch.

Overall the show’s greatest weakness came from a general sort of “messiness”. Actors bumped into the set, took a little too long setting props, exited too slowly, and the lights were poorly aimed, making it difficult to see a lot of the action clearly. However, Dudley has clearly assembled a talented cast, as each actor had moments of brilliant comedy and I did find myself laughing at much of the show.

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, or if you’re just looking for a good laugh this Fringe, this is one I’d recommend.


Check out their website at

July 4, 8:15pm
July 5, 3:00pm
July 7, 10:00pm
July 9, 10:30pm
July 10, 12:00pm
July 11, 7:30pm
July 14, 5:15pm

George Ignatieff Theatre.

All fringe tickets are $10 and are available in advance at the fringe tent or at the door, while supplies last.

Toronto Fringe 2013 – Bygone’s Fringe Picks

942567_509117382482644_14951962_nThere are so many shows in the Fringe each year and it really is impossible to see them all. When you work in the arts, chances are you know at least a dozen people involved in the fringe, and for me that’s what determines which shows I go to see. So here are my (admittedly slightly biased) picks for this year’s Toronto Fringe:

1. “Teach Me” – Newborn Theatre: George Ignatieff Theatre
Written by my friend Rachel Ganz, I am stoked to see this show. I read the very first draft months ago when she started, and it was great then; I’m sure by now it’s evolved into something even better. Rachel has been accepted to National Theatre School for Playwrighting in the fall, so you know she’s one to watch out for. I was lucky enough to direct her one-woman-show “Plasterface” back in November, and I know her work always leaves a mark. If you’re looking for a bizarre, compelling story with hilarious and unbelieveably natural dialogue, I recommend this one.

2. “Excuse You!” – Theatre On A Thought: George Ignatieff Theatre
Bygone’s Producer, Matt McGrath is performing in this piece by Bryce Alexander Dudley. This show has already ended up on lots of “Fringe Picks” lists, and with good cause – a collection of stories about the hilarious world of customer service in the arts. Certainly something all of us can relate to, and sure to be a laugh!

3. SQUAT: A Super-Secret Back-Alley Musical – Watch The Elbow Productions: Site-Specific, CineCycle, 401 Richmond St. W
I’m psyched to see this site-specific musical because it’s got some amazing performers in it: Elizabeth Rose Morriss was one of our lovely performers in Retro Radio Hour, and Victoria McEwan and Colin Asuncion were in the production of “Hairspray” I did a couple years ago, as Tracy Turnblad and Seaweed. Plus what’s not to love about a site-specific musical? I’m interested to see how they tackle this one.

4. “Monstrous Regiment” – Socratic Theatre: Site-Specific, Paupers Pub, 539 Bloor St. W
Another site-specific show, this one features two of our “Dial M For Murder” actors, Jason and Rebekah Manella. A lot of what you see at Fringe is original works, which is great, but sometimes it’s just as fun to see a published show like this one, especially when it’s been adapted for a site-specific location, and shortened to fit the time slot. I’m excited to see them pull it off!

So these are the first ones on my list – I’m hoping I’ll get to see a lot more as well. See one you like? Let us know in the comments. And stay tuned for reviews on these and maybe more!