Crew Spotlight: Emily Dix

25.pngEmily Dix is the Artistic Executive Director of Bygone Theatre, and is directing, stage managing, designing and producing His Girl Friday. Emily has produced all of Bygone’s shows and directed 5 of the 6, with this now being her 7th.

Bio: Emily Dix is a Toronto based theatre artist, a “jack of all trades” who has worked as a director, producer, stage manager, set & costume designer and performer. In 2008 she moved to the city to attend UofT and quickly became involved with companies on campus, like Victoria College Drama, the UC Follies, St. Mike’s Drama and Hart House Theatre. In 2012, she founded Bygone Theatre, a company which she still runs today as the Artistic Executive Director. Emily has worked as a producer for Theatre 20 and as the assistant producer at Tarragon Theatre, as well as a production assistant for Poculi Ludique Societas, the PR Manager for the Social Capital Theatre, and numerous other freelance positions. In addition to her work in theatre, Emily is a vintage lover and avid collector. She owns an Etsy shop, Tucked Away Antiques, that specializes in small vintage items and digital downloads. Emily has also dabbled in design, making web sites and posters for local artists. For past credits and more information, visit her website, www.emilydix.com.

What made you want to mount His Girl Friday?

While not a conscious decision, I realized that all of the shows Bygone had mounted so far were either dramas, or at the very least rather dark comedies. I never intended for us to stick to style like that so when I was planning our 2016/17 season I knew I wanted a comedy. I had a list of several that had caught my eye, but one day I stumbled across a list of films that were currently in the public domain, and couldn’t believe His Girl Friday was one of them! I was going to write the adaptation myself, but my uncle, Craig Dix, had recently sent me a radio of script of his he’d done, so I asked him if he’d like to do it, and the answer was an enthusiastic “yes”. It’s a great story, with a large and diverse cast, strong female lead AND in the public domain – how could I not want to put it on?

What do you love about the show?

It really is very funny. I love the fast-paced dialogue and the opportunity for cheesy, over-the-top humour. While there are certainly complications with having such a large cast, I did want to be able to include a lot of people, so the size of it appeals to me as well. Plus, I love stories that include a great romance, without it being the central part of the story. It keeps things endearing but not sappy, and makes for a plot everyone can enjoy.

Which role – director, producer, designer, stage manger – have you found most challenging? Why?

I think with this one, I’d have to say director, simply because of the size of the cast. While I did the first round of auditions very early December, it took a very long time to get everything cast; I’m glad I held out for the right actors, but it has been stressful not having the whole group. As producer, it’s always stressful because there is a lot of money on the line, but I feel like I’ve done it enough by now that I have a pretty solid idea of what it takes, and just look at past show reports to calm myself when I start worrying about whether we’ll be able to make rent.

What has been the most rewarding part of the process so far?

Seeing the advances the cast has made. Like I said, big show, lots of fast-talking dialogue, it’s not an easy play. It’s exhausting, especially for the leads. But I’ve got an amazingly talented cast, and every rehearsal they’re leaps and bounds above where they were before, so it’s super fun and rewarding to see them get comfortable in their roles and play with a lot of the silliness that is there in the script. It’s going to be a funny show.

Why should people come and see the show?

It’s so much fun. Fast-paced, goofy, it’ll have you laughing and on the edge of your seat. Not to mention we’ve got a huge cast, so if you’re in the local theatre scene, chances are you know someone involved! Come out and support Toronto Theatre.

Anything else we should know?

Sadly, it’s a very limited engagement, just one weekend. So there are only 5 chances for the public to come and see the show; Thursday March 2, 8:00pm; Friday March 3, 8:00pm; Saturday March 4, 2:00pm and 8:00pm; Sunday March 5, 2:00pm. We encourage you to buy your tickets in advance, which can be done through the Native Earth box office, at www.nativeearth.ca/hisgirlfriday. Hope to see you there!

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Cast Spotlight: Guifré Bantjes-Ràfols

guifre_9845webGuifré Bantjes-Ràfols plays cop-killer Earl Williams in our upcoming production of His Girl Friday; this is his first show with Bygone.

Bio: Guifré Bantjes-Ràfols is an emerging international artist who has worked on productions in Toronto, Barcelona, and Saskatoon, and is thrilled to be joining Bygone Theatre as Earl Williams. Most recently he has appeared as Jacob Mercer in Salt-Water Moon (Quarter Century Theatre), Lazarus in Lazarus and his Beloved (Broken Hill Theatre), Cheever in The Crucible (Kindling Collective), and Nelson in the feature film Sebastian (Bonpland Pictures). He recently graduated from George Brown College’s Theatre Arts program where, in addition to playing roles such as Alexander Kalabushkin (The Suicide), and Joe (The Crackwalker), he produced and directed trailers and other promotional materials for the graduating season in 2015-16.

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

I first heard about Bygone Theatre a couple of years ago when they were taking their production of Kill, Sister, Kill!, to the New York Fringe.  The show sounded really interesting so when my wonderful friend Sean Jacklin, who is playing the role of Walter Burns, was kind enough to tell me they were casting for His Girl Friday, I jumped at the opportunity. 

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

I really enjoyed the witty dialogue and fun characters when I read the script. All the characters offer so much room for play and depth. Even though there is a central narrative, and characters, that drives through the play, you really get a sense of everyone’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.

What’s your favourite old movie?

Probably Singin’ in the Rain. (Or perhaps Lion in Winter)

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

No, I can’t say I’ve ever been in a show quite like this before. It’ll be interesting to bring that film style to the stage.

In January, I played Jacob Mercer in Quarter Century Theatre’s production of Salt-Water Moon. But it was in Collingwood so… Unless you have a car, I won’t hold it against you if you didn’t make it out :p Before that, I played Cheever in The Crucible with Kindling Collective.

Why should people come and see the show?

Because it’s going to be great! Do you like wit? Do you like it with a touch of slapstick? Do you like to have a great story to tie it all together? (and do you like it to have a vintage film flavour?) Then you’ll love it. You’ll have a great time! What better reason to go to the theatre!?

Anything else you want us to know?

Not really.. 🙂 Most of my life is up in the air most of the time and I’m never really sure what I’ll be working on next. Hopefully something as cool and fun as this.

Get your tickets to His Girl Friday online now.

Retro Radio Hour – Winter Wonderland

Retro Radio Hour – Winter Wonderland is just around the corner! This is the 7th in our radio series, another fun-filled evening of vintage radio plays, oldies music, magic & a Christmas sale all in support of our mainstage season. The show is playing at the Imperial Pub, 54 Dundas St. E (Yonge & Dundas) Friday November 27th; doors open at 8pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

This month’s show features…

Elizabeth Stuart-Morris – Bygone’s Chair
Elizabeth makes her Bygone performance debut this week. Come see the lovely lady who’s been hard at work behind the scenes. You may have seen her in other performances in Toronto, like the recent Summerworks production of Seams.

Leete Stetson – Bygone’s Vice Chair & Past Performer
Leete has been a part of Bygone since its beginning. He starred as Tony in Dial M For Murder and as Brandon in Rope, as well as having participated in past radio shows.

 Emily Dix – Bygone’s Artistic Executive Director
Emily usually works behind-the-scenes, directing and producing Bygone’s shows, but she has performed in every one of our radio shows to-date.

Matt McGrath – Bygone Founding Member
In addition to working on the production side of Bygone’s shows, Matt has been seen onstage in previous radio shows, and as Kenneth in Rope.

Ian McGarrett – Past Performer
Ian made his acting debut as Thompson in Dial M For Murder and since then has been a staple of Bygone’s radio series. He also played the role of Dr. Kentley in Rope.

Leigh Beadon – Past Performer
Leigh has been involved in the last few radio shows, performing his incredible magic/mentalist routine!

Michael Zahorak – Past Performer
Mike first joined Bygone as the composer for Kill Sister, Kill. Since then he has performed for several of our radio shows.

#BTradio #WinterWonderland

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Cast Spotlight – Astrid Atherly

Astrid Atherly plays the sinfully seductive Vegas dancer, Kitty!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Astrid Atherly and in Kill Sister, Kill!  I am playing Kitty, Lily’s little ex-stripper sister. I envision Kitty being a restless soul looking for adventure. Tired of small town life, leaves home for greener pastures and ends up in a world of sex, drugs and alcohol, the trifecta of fun right! I feel her time in Vegas wasn’t all fun and games, but puts a happy demeanor because the truth sucks and she doesn’t want her sister to worry about her. I feel that Kitty loves her sister with every bone in her body. Yes, Lily is older, but Kitty’s street smarts lends to a protective side, that when confronted by danger in a grimy bar, protects her sister. I just recently finished playing Martha in Flotow’s Martha. It’s actually a lot of  fun to play such different characters. Going from a Lady in Waiting to the Queen to a Vegas dancer from Kansas, is a challenging and I am finding rewarding.

How did you first hear about the production?  

I first heard about Kill Sister, Kill!  a few years ago when they were at the Toronto Fringe Festival. I worked with Emily Dix, as a volunteer backstage crew at the New York Fringe last year! She told me about this production, found the audition notice and history wrote itself after that!

What has been your favourite moment of the rehearsal process so far?

My favorite moment was being introduced to the timbit song! I also have to say working with Samantha has been inspirational and a blessing. I honestly learn so much from this woman, I felt like I met a long lost sister. Also the fact that we have the exact same ethic background is crazy! I learn so much from this whole cast and seeing people so talented, working together is a great moment in itself.

Tell us about your character – what do you love about her? What are some challenges?

I love how out-going and sensual Kitty can be, but she is also smart and has a heart. She is strong and she doesn’t follow some rule set out for her years ago, she goes by the beat of her own drum. Some challenges I have with her, is Kitty’s death scene and some language within the script. My own personal beliefs are different from that of Kitty’s and I sometimes struggle to bring that as her truth, when it’s not my truth. What make her fun is that she is fun. She doesn’t want to have a care in the world. Things happens and one must move on, but I think she knows sometimes you need to be safe.

Why should people come see the show?

People need to see this show, because of its message. We don’t live in a perfect world, THERE ARE PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIKE THIS IN THE WORLD! The audience may feel uncomfortable at times, but these are very real issues and events that happen still today. You go from being disgusted to laughing in seconds.  To watch the story of a woman, who literally has her world torn apart, and see how she deals and rehabilitate her life is one of the biggest reasons to come. Her story is so powerful, it’s not pretty but life is not always pretty.

Any funny embarrassing rehearsal moments to share?

My pants slowly moving down, during combat practise of my death scene. I just had to lay there and take it!

Want to learn more about the show? Check out the website – www.killsisterkill.com

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Cast Spotlight – Samantha Walkes

Samantha Walks is starring as weapon of hellbent vengeance, Lily!

BIO: Samantha began her passion for theatre in high school which led her to perform for local community theatres in the area, and the Hamilton All-Star Jazz Band. Samantha was accepted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy where she studied in LA and New York, making great strides in the industry. She took a break from theatre and returned to Canada in February of last year. At the start of 2015, Samantha decided to finally return to the stage and begin a career here at home. She formed a 70s-80s Motown, Disco group with her younger Sister, Candace, called Sister Walkes, which performs throughout the year with their 6 piece band. Her Canadian credits include: Three Testaments: Shalom, Pease, Salam (Niagara Falls, NY), Kill Sister, Kill (Bygone Theatre, New York City Fringe Festival), and The Man With the Womb (GRIP Media). Samantha gives all gratitude to God, her biggest supporter, closest friend and life partner.

Tell us a bit about your character.

I am playing the character, Lily. She is Kitty‘s older sister and is quite protective and concerned for the state of her soul. Ultimately, Lily had to be the mother they both never had and continues to feel responsible for Kitty. She is sweet, kind, considerate, nurturing and above all, want to do the Lord’s Will. This manifests in the ways she cares for the lost souls of New York City.

How did you first hear about the production?

I found a posting online that led me to the audition information. I wasn’t sure what to expect! But having lived in New York and knowing the hype that surrounds The Fringe Festival, I wanted to be apart of this project, no matter how big or small the role.

What has been your favourite moment of the rehearsal process so far?

The stage combat scenes with Ronnie and Dagger  have been a lot of fun. Making every hit feel real to the audience is my primary focus. When they can feel it in their gut, we have accomplished something worth celebrating.

 Tell us about your character – what do you love about her?

I love the closeness between the sisters and Lily’s love for God. My own Sister and my relationship with God are both very important to me and there are many events in Lily’s journey that parallel to my own life.

 Why do you think people should come see the show?

I think as human beings we are fascinated with suffering and punishment. We have a natural desire to see justice prevail. And so, the fall of an angel (Lily) and watching her struggle to find her way through the muck of life and it’s sufferings are worth more than the price of admission.

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Crew Spotlight – Director Jamieson Child

Jamieson Child is co-writer and director of the show. Here he shares his thoughts on the process so far.

This is my third time directing this frigging show. You think I’d be sick of it by now. I’ve worked on numerous projects in the intervening years since my brother [Drac] and I first put on the earliest version of this show back in 2010 when it was nothing more than a very serious joke–but whether I’m acting, writing, or directing some other thing, I just keep coming back to Kill Sister, Kill!. I think we’re a little obsessed with our own idea and get too much joy freaking out an audience with new challenging material, mostly using humour and shock. I hate watching a lot theatre, but there is so much potential in the live format to grab people in their seats and give them a good shake, so this is me being a pissed off spectator wanting something entertaining out of the experience if I’m going to leave my house and spend more than $20.

A lot has happened since that first show and this time we’ve managed to assemble an amazing crew of very talented artists with a new perspective. Bygone Theatre helped us get the show back on its feet. Finding Mike Zahorak (Composer) and David Backshell (Lyricist) has launched us deeper into the depravity with more juice than ever before. They gave us the creative power we needed to expand and hear this story in a whole new way; now proudly, a full-length 90 minute musical. *Tears of joy.

However, this is my first time not acting in the show. I leave the character of Ronnie in better hands with Tom [Finn] anyway. So it goes. Taking off my performer cap was easy when he walked into the audition room. That’s how you know when you’re making the right decision out of a hard one…when the answer simply lands in your lap; it’s just following your instinct. I’d love to say that’s how easy my decision making process has been throughout the whole production so far, since I know the track so well, but we’ve changed the story so much, added new characters, big all-cast musical numbers, that I’ve been digging like a fiend into books, watching video, researching, pulling favours asking friends and colleagues for assistance wherever I need it. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a wicked cast who do more to empower me than they know. The true joy is in seeing our material come to life.

As for now, my excitement for taking Kill Sister, Kill! to the NYC Fringe off-Broadway stage is completely stunned by the colossal amount of work that remains to see this show reach the high level of thrilling performance that myself and my team demand from it. Will it be easy? No, but will we kick serious ass and blow minds? We’re ready for it.
I told you I like a challenge.

Kill Sister, Kill! – Cast Spotlight – Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams is starring as the punk low-life, Dagger, in the upcoming production of Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

 

My name is Aaron Williams. I am an actor and vocalist from Mississauga. I studied Philosophy, Religion and Music History at the University of Toronto before starting my journey as an actor. I think has given me a the tools necessary to deal with the multiple existential crisis’ that I’m sure will arise from choosing this career path.

 

How did you first hear about the production?
I first heard of the production through a Facebook forum and sent an email and never heard anything back. I assumed that they had cast everyone. I forgot about the production until one day I received a message from Tea the associate producer who had seen me playing Judas in Hart House Theatre’s Jesus Christ Superstar and asked me to come down for an audition and was lucky enough to be brought on board.
What has been your favourite moment of the rehearsal process so far?
I have no one favourite moment, though the fundraiser was a great time. Generally rehearsals have been very enriching, being so close to the creation of a show like this with such hard working people has been a highlight. It has given me an opportunity to play a wild, outlandish character who’s evil as all sin, which honestly is the funnest part about acting, creating those dynamics.
Tell us about your character – what has been fun or challenging in playing this role?
Dagger is most definitely a sadist. He takes pleasure in the pain of others, even those close to him. He has absolutely no regard or respect for other humans, whatsoever, and is a villainous junkie fiend. What I like about him is that he’s completely void from concern. He does not give shit, which I can appreciate. Some of the difficulties is bringing myself to simulate some of the actions Dagger has to carry out in the script.
Why should people come see the show?
People should come see the show because it will definitely be one which will keep peoples mouths ajar, while at the same time being comedic and vile yet very very tense. Not to mention how raw and raunchy it is.
You can check out Aaron’s performance August 26-30th at Theatre 80 in NYC. For tickets, go online.

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Cast Spotlight – Heather Motut

Heather plays tough-as-nails bartender Teresa in the upcoming Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Heather Motut and I am an actor/singer.  I do both of those things, sometimes at the same time!  I’ve done a little bit of everything: plays, musicals, film, television, improv, and sketch comedy. I love any kind of collaborative project that allows me to work with fellow creative types in the community.  In Kill Sister, Kill!, I  play Teresa, the brassy, trashy, punk bartender who works by choice at “The Butt-hole,”  the most garbage establishment in New York City.
How did you first hear about the production?
I heard about this production through Jamieson.  We were on set for another project and he told me about the auditions.

What has been your favourite moment of the rehearsal process so far?
My favourite moment of the rehearsal process was the call back.  It was the first time I got to work with the material and I had an absolute blast.  It was also the first time I saw Astrid and Samantha work together, and I thought they were the bees knees.  Seeing these ladies, and hearing Drac and Jamieson’s hilarious script, and Mike’s gorgeous music, made me really want to be a part of this show.

Tell us about your character – what do you like best about her? What do you find challenging?
Teresa is an absolute treat to play.  She’s Queen of the Dregs for sure, but she’s got a good heart and is a smart judge of character. She stands up for people being abused or taken advantage of.  She sees Ronnie for the good egg he is and takes an interest in his making something of himself, something better than just his brother’s lackey. I love how honest and irreverent she can be.  Teresa is a true punk who celebrates complete freedom of action and attitude. It’s such a joy to play a character that is so  uninhibited, and I get to indulge so many delicious parts of my personality. The New York dialect definitely presents a challenge, but I’m finding so much of it comes from an attitude more than anything.  Watching a lot of George Carlin’s stuff has really helped me find that “Balls to the Wall” attitude this character needs.

Why should people come see the show?
I think people should come see this show because its going to be a lot of fun. Where else are you gonna see ”Kill Bill meets Sister Act” !?!!!??!?!?  It’s one of the most electric, bold, and joyous productions I’ve ever been involved in.  I’m a fan of anyone who takes risks in what they create, and the people involved in this production should get a friggen medal for that.
Have any funny rehearsal stories to share?
I have absolutely no funny or embarrassing rehearsal anecdotes to share. Rehearsals have all been very run of the mill, restrained, and all business all the time.  Very little fun has been had by anyone, and we’ve really kept a lid on silliness and mischief of any kind. Very serious bunch.
Check out Heather on the off-Broadway stage at Theatre 80, August 26-30, 2015. Tickets available now online.

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Crew Spotlight – Associate Producer, Tea Nguyen

Associate Producer Tea Nguyen joined the team about a month ago, coming into a project that has been steadily pumping along since October 2014. We asked her for some insights on the show and her process.

Some people would be intimidated by joining a team late. The team has already created bonds, had great moments together and they have the ball rolling. In joining the team, there was a slight moment of panic, as there is any project. Luckily, Kid Switchblade and Bygone Theatre has welcomed me onboard with open arms. As their associate producer, I work under Emily Dix. This will be my second time under her care and I must say, I’m very excited to return to New York with her to do our second New York International Fringe show. The show is dark, comical and tells a great story about two girls who have grown up under the grace of God and have gone in complete opposite directions in life. If you are squeamish or have a small stomach for gore, this isn’t the show for you. Watching these talented actors is so inspiring. We had a full day of learning stunt choreography and they gave it their all. Blood sweat and more sweat (referring to Thomas, playing Ronnie). They are eager to learn, thriving to do well and hungry to perform. I’m quite excited to see it all put together, yet enjoying the journey along the way.

Kill Sister, Kill! A Musical – Crew Spotlight – Lyricist, David Backshell

How did you get involved in KSK?
I had been friends with Drac for a couple of years; I was a a regular in his bar and I worked in a cafe down the street from where he lived. So when I released an EP earlier this year (called Halfsleeper), I played it for him, he dug the lyrics and asked me to help out. I had a meeting with his brother and director Jamieson and brought along some lyrics surrounding some general themes (some of which eventually got used in the show’s opener ‘Fuck This City!’). He liked the direction of them and I was pretty much hired.

What’s the creative process like for the lyrics like?
Typically it starts with a production meeting where the creative crew talk about content, structure, themes, what voices we are going to hear and character arcs that should be present in the songs. I go away and overwrite and essentially create a brain dump. I bring it back to Drac and Jameison  and they talk about what they like, dislike, what fits and what elements we should play up or play down. At this point the refining process begins until we are happy with the end product. I take it to Mike (the composer) and see how it works together with the music and we tweak things until it fits.

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing the lyrics for KSK?
Probably trying to incorporate all these distinct voices into a clear narrative. Trying to make each character’s voice well rounded but balanced to serve the story without making them cliched.

As a result I feel that Dagger and Kitty both have strong personalities but act very much as catalysts to the story. The repercussions of their actions often fall upon their respective siblings who find themselves picking up the pieces.

Who is the most exciting character to write for?
Ronnie, he’s arguably the most tragic character in the musical. Certainly the one that audience will be most sympathetic too. His voice also mirrors fairly closely the kind of lyrics I naturally write. I had a great time writing Ronnie’s lament, I feel it cuts to the core of his character and you see both his naivety, idealism also his weakness. He is a man that is lost in the world.

Who has been the most difficult character to write for?
Probably Lily, as she is a very schizophrenic character. In the first act she comes across as almost a Mother Theresa type character, doing her best to help those around her. In the second act, after the attack it’s hard to know where she is coming from. She’s incredibly violent and we are left wondering whether this is some kind of PTSD reaction, or is she really doing God’s work? Balancing this Old Testament style judgement against someone who has gone through traumatic events, while keeping them human is a hard act to get right.
Check out David’s own work on his website. Want to help support our show? Visit the show page to make a donation.