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.

screenshot-2016-06-23-23-41-49

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?

10815586_10152361847452583_1848336034_o

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 – Mark Nocent

Mark Nocent
Mark Nocent plays the con man Mike in our upcoming production of Wait Until Dark. Mark and director Emily Dix had first worked together back in 2012 on a short play titled Noble Savages for the Newborn Theatre Odds & Ends Festival.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do when you’re not rehearsing for Wait Until Dark?

I hold a position with an escape game company, which runs games out of Casa Loma. I’ve been performing within games for a number of rewarding months, and recently became a puzzle fabricator for their newest game, Station M, a spy themed game set in the tunnels of the castle. I’m building a board game currently, and just generally enjoying life!

2. How did you hear about the show? What made you want to get involved?

Emily reached out to me, and I had wanted to work with her again after doing a short one act a number of years ago. She sent me the script for WUD and I loved it, so I had to audition.

3. What has been your favourite moment in rehearsal so far?

Jeeeze, so many. Cynical life lessons for Abby, terrific Italian accents, 1950’s radio shows, discussions about dead bodies. Plus the process itself is a pleasure with such a great group of humans.

4. How do you prepare for playing a role like Mike? 

Mike is certainly in my wheelshouse, but there’s a lot of tension going on in every scene, and prepping for it has involved combing the scenes looking for moments to de-stress, and how Mike can do that.

5. Why should everyone come see the show?

This show is fun. The audience is immediately let in on the plan, and gets to watch it unfold, and watch the characters sweat when things go wrong. It’s a thriller, who wouldn’t want to see it?

See Mark in this captivating thriller April 14-16th in the rehearsal hall at Tarragon Theatre. Tickets on sale now.

Rope – Cast Spotlight – Elizabeth Rose Morriss

Elizabeth Rose Morriss

Today’s cast spotlight is with Elizabeth Rose Morriss who plays the aloof Miss Susan Kentley in Rope. Elizabeth has previously worked with Bygone Theatre on their Retro Radio Hour shows.

1. What first attracted you to Bygone Theatre and this production of Rope?
I really enjoyed working with Emily on “Noble Savages,” which she directed for Newborn Theatre. When she started Bygone Theatre, I was eager for the chance to work on a play with her again! I admit, I wasn’t familiar with Rope when Emily announced that it would be Bygone’s next production, but as soon as I read it I was interested in being part of it.

2. What challenges have you faced/OR/ what is your favourite part of working on a site-specific play that runs in real time?
I have worked on a couple site-specific plays before—Brant Theatre Workshop’s recurring production of Dracula at Casa Loma, and SQUAT: A Super-Secret Back-Alley Musical at Cinecycle warehouse in the 2013 Fringe Festival. My favourite part of productions like these is having such an incredible backdrop for the production, to have a real castle, warehouse, or turn-of-the-century house to stage your play in is a rare treat, and adds a whole new dimension to the performance. The biggest challenge for me is staging the piece in rehearsal spaces, and then having to translate it to the actual site. It’s a lot easier to visualize entrances and exits and blocking for a traditional theatre space than for a non-theatre space which you haven’t seen.

3. What have you done to prepare for your role?
Susan Kentley is a smaller role, and being such a quiet, uncommunicative character means she has very few lines. That means there are a lot fewer obvious clues about her character, so I’ve had to look very closely at the script for the few lines and stage directions she does have, as well as anything any other character says about her, in order to figure her out. Then it’s a matter of looking at the time she does spend onstage with that in mind, and figuring out her reactions to things, and her reasons for saying—or not saying!—what she does.

4. What has been your favourite part of the rehearsal process so far?
Watching each of the characters come to life, as each actor works through their own process. It’s fun to see people making discoveries and choices. And we always end up having some laughs along the way!

5. Why should everyone come and see Rope?
Great script, talented cast, cool venue—it should be an excellent show!

Say Hello To The Cast of “Rope”!

This weekend we had our auditions for our November production of Rope; what an amazing group of talented people! Some tough decisions had to be made but it’s made for what I’m sure will be a stellar cast. So say hello to the cast of Rope!

Leete Stetson as Brandon Wyndham

Leete Stetson

Leete Stetson

You may remember Leete Stetson as Tony Wendice in last August’s production of Dial M For Murder.

Bio: Last year, Leete Stetson played Tony Wendice in Bygone Theatre’s production of Dial M for Murder, and assisted with Doubt and the Retro Radio Hour series. Despite what you may assume from his previous work with Bygone, he has murdered hardly any people. Leete is also the General Manager of Theatre Double Take and one third of the creative force behind the comedy/mystery podcast Duotang Chesterfield’s Mystery Theatre. In his spare time, he serves you coffee.

Nicholas Arnold as James Kelly

Nicholas Arnold

This is Nicholas Arnold’s first Bygone Theatre production.

Bio:  Nicholas Arnold is an award-winning writer, director and producer in the film industry as well as a professional actor in theatre and film. Nicholas produced his first documentary at the age of 14 and followed that with his feature directorial debut, “The Vicious Circle,” a film on bullying and hatred, by the time he was 17. Recently, Nicholas premiered his second feature film, “William’s Lullaby,” this time focusing on depression and grief and how it affects child-hood development. As an actor, Nicholas was awarded the Bancroft Theatre Guild Award for Acting Excellence for his 2008 portrayal of “Sparkle” in Judith Thompson’s gritty drama, Habitat. He has also toured Ontario with his one-man show, A Tribute to Jerry Lewis and in 2012 toured the Southern US in The Best of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Jamieson Child as Rupert Cadell

Jamieson Child

Jamieson Child


This is Jamieson Child’s first Bygone Theatre production.

Bio: Jamieson Child is an actor/ filmmaker/ playwright and graduate of Ryerson University’s Film Studies program. He has directed, co-written, and appeared in three shockingly funny shows created with his brother, one of which, Kill Sister Kill, premiered to startled reviews at the 2013 Toronto Fringe. Some past theatre credits include Cosi and You Are Here (Alumnae Theatre), and Orsino in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (Ruckus Magazine). He is an original member of the New Drama Company (www.newdramacompany.com). This is Jamieson’s first experience on stage with Bygone Theatre. He is very pleased to join such great company for Rope. Enjoy the show.

Chelsey MacLean as Leila Arden

Chelsey MacLean

Chelsey MacLean

This is Chelsey MacLean’s first Bygone Theatre production, however, she worked with director Emily Dix back in 2007 on a play called Stalls.

 Bio: Chelsey MacLean is thrilled to make her Bygone Theatre debut in the role of Leila Arden. Past credits include Theatre Sheridan: Make-Up Artist in Merrily We Roll Along, Dance Ensemble/ Swing in Chicago, Bessie Bletcher in Colours in the Storm and ensemble in Oklahoma! The Singer’s Theatre: Mimi Maquez in Rent and Yvonne in Miss Saigon. Chelsey is a recent graduate of the Sheridan Music Theatre Performance Program and is grateful to her Sheridan family of faculty and friends.

Matthew McGrath as Kenneth Raglan

Matt McGrath

Matt McGrath

Producer Matt McGrath is thrilled to be acting in his first Bygone production!

Bio: Matt has been acting on stage for over a decade; for five years he performed in productions with the Youngest Shakespeare Company. He attended Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts for their drama program, and graduated from U of T with a degree in Cinema Studies and English.

Selected Stage Credits: “Excuse You” (Theatre On A Though/Toronto Fringe); “Young Frankenstein” (Alexander Showcase Theatre); “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” (Hart House Theatre); “Absolute Alice” (Stratford Factory Productions/Toronto Fringe); “Hairspray” (St. Michael’s College); “Pigeons In Love” (InspiraTO Festival); “Arsenic and Old Lace” (Victoria College Drama), “The Philadelphia” (Victoria College Drama).

Ian McGarrett as Dr. Kentley

Ian

Ian McGarrett

You may remember Ian McGarrett (by voice at least) from Bygone’s production of Dial M For Murder; he played Thompson and all the voices on the phone and radio.

Bio: It was my grandmother who instilled in me an interest in theatre. I can remember when I was seven or so, acting out improvised scenes with her based on bits from The Beverley Hillbillies in which she was Miss Hathaway and I was Mr. Drysdale. My grandmother was a schoolteacher and introduced me quite early to Shakespeare, reading from The Merchant of Venice, Portia’s speech about the quality of mercy and all that glisters etcetera. Although I maintained my interest in theatre and even did some volunteer work at the Tarragon and Factory Lab but owing to inordinate stage fright we have to skip fifty years before I first appeared on stage. Three words. “Sir. Yes, sir!” but for that I got to take a bow and I was hooked. I next auditioned for Nuts and got a callback, hoping to play the court’s security guard or maybe the stenographer, only to be surprised when the director asked me if I was okay with playing the District Attorney. That’s fairly well up to date, not much of a bio and all I can say is… still hooked.

Elizabeth Rose Morriss as Miss Kentley

Elizabeth Rose Morriss

You may remember Elizabeth Rose Morriss from our Retro Radio Hour. She also worked with director Emily Dix on the Newborn Theatre production of Noble Savages several years ago.

Bio: Elizabeth Rose Morriss has degrees in Music Theatre (Acadia University) and Education (Nipissing University). She has been involved with the Civic Light Opera Company since 1999, playing roles including Magnolia in Show Boat, Marsinah in Kismet, and Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes. Elizabeth has appeared in the Toronto Fringe Festival in Lord of the Rings: the Musical: the Musical (2007), SQUAT: A Super Secret, Back-Alley Musical (2013), and Group Therapy (2014). Other credits include the two-person comedy Romantic Fools at the Queen Elizabeth Dinner Theatre, Newborn Theatre’s 2012 Odds & Ends Festival at the Tarragon Theatre (with director Emily Dix), a recurring role as Mina in Dracula at Casa Loma, and Bygone Theatre’s 2013 Retro Radio Hour. Elizabeth is thrilled to be working with Bygone Theatre again!

Caitlin Robson as The Maid

Caitlin Robson

Caitlin Robson

This is Caitlin Robson’s first Bygone Theatre production.

Bio: Caitlin Robson is a Toronto-based emerging artist. Recent acting credits include Anna in Karenin’s Anna at Toronto Fringe (Outstanding New Play, Outstanding Production and outstanding Ensemble, NOW Magazine; Fringe Highlight, The Torontoist); Judith in Equivocation, Persephone Theatre (nominated for eight SAT awards) Caitlin is also an experienced drama instructor, and an independent director and producer. Thanks to her friends and family for all their love and support!

Production Crew
Emily Dix – Director

Emily Dix

Emily Dix

Our Artistic Director is going to be directing this production; she has directed all Bygone Theatre shows to date.

Bio: Emily is a founder member and the Artistic Director/Producer of Bygone Theatre. She has worked as an actor, director, stage manager and designer. In August of 2014 she traveled to New York with Promise Production to stage manage their production of “No Visible Scars” for the New York City International Fringe Festival. Emily is in charge of all of Bygone’s artistic decisions, as well as marketing and promotion.

​Selected Directing Credits: “Festival of Dance” (Hart House Theatre); “Dial M For Murder” (Bygone Theatre); “Festival of Dance” (assistant director, Hart House Theatre); “Revelation” (assistant director, New Ideas Festival, Alumnae Theatre); “Doubt: A Parable” (Bygone Theatre); “Plasterface” (Newborn Theatre); “Noble Savages” & “Children Don’t Cry” (Newborn Theatre, Odds & Ends Festival); “Pigeons In Love” & “Bucket” (InspiraTO Festival); “The Night of the Iguana” (assistant director, Hart House Theatre); “Hairspray” (St.Michael’s College); “Arsenic and Old Lace” (Victoria College Drama Society); “Stalls” (Sears Drama Festival); “Liars” (Sears Drama Festival).

Devon Potter – Stage Manager

Devon Potter

Devon Potter

Devon Potter is our stage manager for Rope; this is her first Bygone Theatre production.

Bio: Devon is a Toronto-based Stage Manager, Producer, theatre reviewer, writer and sometime performer who has been involved in theatre for the better part of two decades.  When not doing or reviewing a show, she spends her time watching Indie films and dreaming of life in Paris.  Selected credits include:  As Stage Manager:  Parade (StageWorks Toronto), South Pacific, My Fair Lady (Scarborough Music Theatre), Miss Caledonia (Lunkamud/Summerworks Theatre Festival), The Cat of Kensington (Cats in the Cradle/Toronto Fringe Festival FringeKids!), A Quest of Character (Kid-Safe Productions/Toronto Fringe Festival FringeKids!).  As Co-Producer:  Nine (Scarborough Music Theatre).  As Production Assistant:  The Canadian Premiere of Martin Crimp’s The City (Actors Repertory Company).

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!

To Cast, With Love – Director’s Notes from “Dial M For Murder”

There’s never enough space in the tiny little programs to say all that I want to about a show, and about all the amazing people who’ve helped to make it happen. I’ve considered doing what some directors do, and making a speech at the end of closing night, but that always felt more like a selfish statement than a good time to thank everyone; no one wants to see the boring old director after seeing the awesome show, and I don’t want to keep the cast and crew from getting out and celebrating. So in an effort to say all my thank-yous, but keep our program from becoming a full length novel, I’ve decided to write here the “director’s cut” version of my notes on “Dial M For Murder”:

First off, to my fellow producer and co-founder of Bygone Theatre; Matt McGrath. Matty is my best friend and my go-to for just about everything in life. When we started this company, he was mostly interested in being involved as an actor, but as the company has grown he has stepped up and taken on some major production roles, most of which he had no prior knowledge of. Matt does everything from scraping together the funds for the show, to working on the set, to going out and putting up hundreds of posters. He essentially functions as an assistant director and I often go to him for advice on scenes or moments in the play, be it just for reassurance or for actual help should I ever find myself stuck. He is an invaluable part of this company, this production, and my life. So many thanks, and a thousand hugs and kisses go to him.

My stage manager Jayden Hsueh has not only take on the dreaded SM tasks like booking rehearsal spaces and working out scheduling issues, but he has stepped up to help with finding props and building sets as well. Jayden is always a happy, positive influence in the room, and his smile (and the cookies and doughnuts he often brings to rehearsals) helps to keep everyone’s energy up. Jayden is motivated and reliable, and I can’t wait to work on another production with him.

Alexis Budd, our fight director, is a great guy to work with. He is smart, funny, and always patient when teaching actors the choreography. He has a creative mind and is great with thinking on the spot, but is always open to suggestions from actors or myself as well. His acting experience helps him not just give tips on how to safely move and fake things like slaps, but on how to really sell it as well. If I ever find myself needing another fight director, he’ll be my first call.

Jackie McClelland is our props master and one of our set designers for this show. I was thrilled to get her, as Jackie is working with increasingly bigger companies and productions, and I worry one day she’ll go off and leave us behind! Jackie is clever and a great problem solver, and has worked out all our props issues. She has a great eye, and is a fun and positive person to work with; I hope we’ll get the chance to do another show together again soon.

Mike Bazzocchi is an amazing builder. He has a unique background that includes engineering and acting, so he not only knows the practical elements required in making a set, he knows what will look good and what the actors will need as well. He’s quick on his feet, positive, and great at explaining things to those of us with no design knowledge. I hope to be able to give him a more creative set to design one day, as I know he is capable of coming up with really original ideas as well as making something that looks like an authentic 1950s living room. He makes me laugh, and I always feel confident any task left to him will be done, and done well. Thank you for that.

My mother Karen Henderson made not just our lovely pinch pleat curtains, but all of Margot’s dresses as well, which not only saved us a lot of money (and me a lot of time), but meant that we could have authentic 1950s dresses that fit our actor perfectly. She is a life-saver as her sewing expertise means I can pick out virtually any pattern and fabric, for any actor, and leave her to do all the hard work of actually making the thing! Every time we do a show and I pile more and more costumes on, she swears it’ll be the last time, but hopefully it doesn’t actually come to that as her costumes are a big part of what makes our shows look great.

Reg Matson is our technical director (and Inspector Hubbard, but I’ll get to that), and has helped me to solve problems from how to run sound from strange spots onstage, to what should be done with the lights. Reg not only has vast theatre knowledge, he has a great artistic mind. He never tells someone what they should do, but asks them questions and helps them to figure out what it is they really want to achieve. He’s been an amazing positive influence in so many ways these past few months, and I know we’ll continue to work together in the future.

Nicole Byblow chose all the lovely period music for the show. Nicole and I first met when doing “Retro Radio Hour”, and I’m so glad to have found not just a talented performer, but a fellow Judy lover as well! Nicole has a great ear and a real understanding of the period, so she’s certainly someone I will work with again. She’s a fun and sweet person, and great at everything she does.

Janice Li is our high school production assistant, and has helped with everything from sitting in on auditions, to making the bricks for the exterior wall, to doing random tasks like coffee runs and sweeping the stage. She’s always up to any task we give her, and I think she will do well as she goes off to focus in production design. I hope she’s managed to learn someone along the way, or at the very least had some fun – we’ve certainly needed all her help!

There have been dozens of people who have helped out with things along the way, and I hope I can remember them all here, so thank you to;

My aunt, Heather Henderson, who donated all our concession items and helped to make the cast t-shirts.

My sister, Rebecca Dix, who worked on the display boards, the concessions, and running Front of House.

My father, Kevin Dix, who shuttled around props, costumes, and concessions, driving up from Waterloo to do so.

Our former producer, Tom Beattie, who donated funds, supplies, and his time to this show.

Brian and Margaret McGrath, Matt’s parents, who donated both money to the show, and allowed us to use their garage to build the set, while putting up with not just the noisy actors and the mess, but with feeding all of us as well!

Danielle Son who took lovely photos of the show.

Kyle Pearson, K. Nolan, and Chris Ross who all came to help out with the load-in.

UC Follies, who helped with both cross-promotions, and who leant us space and props for the show.

Orphaned Egret Productions
, Newborn Theatre, BeMused, and Hart House Theatre, who all helped to promote the show.

Jesse Watts, who was the first to make a donation to “Dial M For Murder”.

Noa Katz and Deb Lim who are assisting backstage.

The staff at the Robert Gill Theatre; the late Lou Massey who helped with our initial set-up, Paul Stoesser who helped in running tech week, Teo Balcu who took the lead in our lighting design, and Vanita Butrsingkorn who assisted in all sorts of backstage and technical elements during tech week.

TAPA, TO Tix, and The Robert Gill Theatre for all the help and support.

Insomnia Restaurant and Lounge for sponsoring our opening night after party.

And, last but not least, my fabulous cast.

I’m so happy to have met Leete Stetson. He is a talented actor and a wonderful friend, and I thank him for all his support and advice on and offstage. We became friends while acting together in Hart House’s “Romeo and Juliet”, and quickly discovered a mutual love of musicals, and a lot of similar tastes. While he and I may disagree on some fundamental theatre things (like bare walls versus a full set), the debates are always friendly and useful. I know I will work with him again, and can’t wait to see what amazing character he does next.

Rebekah has been a total joy to work with. Every note I give her she takes and acts on immediately; she started out as Margot looking and sounding great, but the progression I’ve seen her make through the rehearsal process has really been astounding. She’s turned what could have been a 2-dimensional, typical 1950s housewife into a complex and compelling character, and she makes these changes with such ease that it’s clear she’s one to watch out for. On top of her talent onstage, Rebekah has helped with things like hemming pants, and has offered to pick up the slack wherever it’s needed. I hope we will work together again as she is a lady of many talents, and a very sweet girl to boot.

When I first met Kenton I hoped that he would be as talented as he was sweet and charming, because after 30 seconds of talking to him you know he’s someone you want to work with. Lucky for me, he was. Kenton takes initiative not just with learning and running lines, but with running warm-ups with the group as well. He has amazing stage presence, and is a total joy to watch. A man of many talents, I know he will go far, and I just hope that before he gets too big I have another chance to work with him! All that energy he has is bound to come in handy as he is one who I think will find himself constantly working.

As an actor, Reg is thoughtful and deliberate. He has a very analytical approach to acting, and often pauses to talk through the motivations of all the characters onstage. He is clever and committed, and I love to watch him go through his process as it often brings out new and interesting moments in the show.

Jason  has been a total joy to work with, because he is a kind, thoughtful and genuine human being as well as being a talented actor. Despite having a relatively short amount of time onstage, Jason has been at nearly every rehearsal and has helped with things like being on book, or reading for someone who wasn’t there. He’s always quick to offer assistance with anything, and is always in a positive mood. He takes notes to heart, and has created in Lesgate a truly disturbing character that is so far from his real self that it is a testament to how good an actor he really is.

Despite being onstage for only about a minute in this show, Ian has shown up to all the rehearsals and stayed attentive, offering suggestions, advice and questions throughout the process. He has truly taken the “there are no small parts, only small actors” motto to heart and has created several distinct characters for his brief phone conversations. He has been helpful by being on book and keeping track of actors blocking while he’s not onstage, and has always been a positive influence in the room. And with a voice like his, there’s no doubt he’ll find himself more work in theatre, or radio!

To everyone who helped in anyway, be it by working on the show directly or just being someone to talk to when the stress levels got high, thank you. And to everyone who came out to see all our hard work, thank you – none of this could happen without you.

-Emily Dix
Artistic Director
Bygone Theatre

Review – “Teach Me”: Newborn Theatre, Toronto Fringe

This afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing Newborn Theatre’s “Teach Me” at the George Ignatieff Theatre. My fourth Fringe show this year, and by far my favourite.

The show stars Mara Zigler as Stacey, Jessica Brown as Lauren and Robert Rainville as Mr.P, and tells the perverse story of two high school girls who catch their teacher masturbating in his car after school. A risque topic to be sure, but one that playwright Rachel Ganz approached with humour and sincerity in a way that made the story not just entertaining, but very real.

The play started a little slowly, with the two actresses seeming to struggle somewhat with their lines. Minimal movement meant that the focus was all on the dialogue, which was funny and well written, but came out a little jumbled at the start. However, the actors quickly grew into their parts, and by the time Rainville entered, I was completely enthralled.

I have tried with other reviews to focus on the acting and staging above the script or story, but in this case I don’t think I can do the show justice without including a few spoilers. For those who don’t wish to have the story given away, stop reading here and just know this is one show you should definitely not miss!

***SPOILER ALERT***

The ambiguity in this story is what drives it. It is impossible to be certain from one moment to the next who holds the power and who really knows the truth. This may be a frustrating show for some, because so many questions were asked, but the end comes abruptly, answering very few of them. When I first read this script months ago, my biggest worry was that the humour in the text could leave some people feeling that the issues of rape and abuse were trivialized, however, the cast’s acting ability helped to support what I think was Ganz’s intention; to show the complexity of these issues, rather than to focus just on sympathizing with the victims, or crusading against the abusers.

It certainly isn’t a show for someone with a weak stomach. Stacey’s detailed description of her own encounters with sexual abuse is raw and disturbing, especially as it comes in such strong contrast to her earlier, funnier remarks about men and sex. Watching Mr. P. try every tactic in the book to convince the girls not to turn him in, is equally upsetting, because until the very end of the show, I found myself sympathizing with him most.

Things take a bizarre turn after Stacey finally makes a move and angrily gives Mr.P. a hand-job – while this moment could ring as untrue, her earlier comment should be remembered here; “Nothing like a blow job to make a rapist forget he was going to rape you”. Given, it was a hand job instead (this is still live theatre!), but remembering that line makes the moment seem much less like a Lolita-esq move and more like a frightened girl trying to put on a brave face. Certainly disturbing. As Mr. P. falls to the ground and watches the girls, we see him take on a sort of animalistic transformation; his back to the audience, I was curious as to what was really happening, and this is one moment where I felt things could have been a bit clearer. When he drags Lauren to the ground for the very brief but upsetting rape scene, it is difficult to imagine what is going on in the minds of the characters. Lauren initially smiles, then cries out in a somewhat insincere voice; I am unsure as to whether this was a choice or just a weak acting moment. Mr. P. does not seem human in this moment, but rather just the “dog” Stacey had earlier referred to him as. Again, this is a moment where I would have liked to understand his change a bit more. Stacey is who carries in the scene here, as she switches from badass teenager to frightened child, calling out in a voice that made me almost sick. It was a very bold choice for an ending, and personally I left feeling a little ill, but leaving a show about rape feeling anything else would probably be more disgusting than that.

Despite a few slow moments at the start, and somewhat dull blocking, the text and the actors made this show one of my all time favourites. You will leave shaken and likely disgusted, but certainly not without something to say. A show that will get people talking this way is one that needs to be seen, and I would highly recommend it to anyone (except maybe children!).

-E.

SHOW TIMES
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 – 8:45pm – 9:45pm
Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 1:45pm – 2:45pm
Sunday, July 7, 2013 – 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Monday, July 8, 2013 – 10:15pm – 11:15pm
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 – 5:45pm – 6:45pm
Saturday, July 13, 2013 – 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Sunday, July 14, 2013 – 7:30pm – 8:30pm

George Ignatieff Theatre

All Fringe tickets are $10.

The Rehearsal Process – Retro Radio Hour

Every show brings its own challenges, and with the plays collected for our upcoming Retro Radio Hour I encountered some that were new to me.

When working on larger scale shows like Doubt, Hairspray or Arsenic and Old Lace, I often found I didn’t have time to do all I wanted to do. Character exercises were neglected, and warm-ups abandoned in favour of instead focusing on blocking, or a specific moment that was troublesome to an actor. I had hundreds of ideas that had to be narrowed down to dozens, and even then rarely explored fully. The biggest creative challenge was knowing when to not bring up something that might have lead to an interesting discussion, simply because we needed to focus our energy elsewhere.

This wasn’t quite the same for some of the smaller one acts, like Plasterface, Pigeons In Love or Bucket. Here, timing seemed more important than character because everything was just a snippet of a larger picture, tiny vignettes that were sometimes more visually interesting than thought-provoking. Here we spent significant time discussing what we wanted to come across, and then working to find ways to make that read onstage, in simple, clear terms. It may sound less creative, but it was actually a very helpful process, and something I keep in mind now when working on larger projects as well – it’s all well and good to have grand ideas and intention, but the audience needs to understand where that’s all coming from too.

Other short plays like Noble Savages and Children Don’t Cry provided different challenges, like simply understanding what the hell the writer intended. We spent countless rehearsals just talking about possible scenarios, and in the end decided we need to just pick one and stick to it. Thankfully, it worked.

But now, working on 5 very different scripts at once (not to mention rehearsing the songs, worrying about schedules, marketing the show and trying to keep costs down so we can actually PROFIT from this – a rare thing in theatre) I have problems I’ve never faced before. The main one being, how do I get across to my actors the sound and style I’m looking for, without simply making them mimic?

I’ve tried very hard in the last couple years to eliminate “do this” from my directing vocabulary. While it’s sometimes very hard to step back and watch someone do something one way, when you know (or so you think) they’d be better if they’d “just do it more like this”, I’ve found that ultimately, letting my actors find things themselves makes for much happier people and much better results. I’ve tried to keep all my directing to asking questions (even if they are rather pointed, like, “are you thinking of something right now? or just trying to look like you’re thinking of something?”, you know who you are :-P) and suggesting scenarios, often playing devil’s advocate for the sake of conversation. However, in this limited time frame, and with scripts that are little more than soap operas (funny ones, it’s true, but still simplistic), I’ve found I need a new method of directing.

At first, I felt a little useless at rehearsals; as there was no real character work being done (aside from deciding on the kind of voice someone would be doing), I didn’t have much to contribute past, “good job” or “we need to tighten that up”. As someone who likes to really get into the text I found that rather frustrating. However, as time has gone on, I’ve found it’s actually really interesting to watch a group of people collectively form a play. By taking a step back as a director, my actors, more than ever, were left to explore things on their own. While this is something I always encourage, here the tight time frame meant that there wasn’t any real discussion about it, they just each adjusted themselves slightly with each reading. What’s really amazing is, they seem to all sense the same thing, and each one gets better, and moves more towards the same unified piece on their own, without even discussing it! While it may minimize my role, it’s been great to see confirmed the thing I’ve suspected for a few years now; the best thing I can do as a director is to cast amazing actors and let them do their thing. My shows have turned out great because my actors are always great, and I can’t wait to watch them rock these shows again, come May 11.

~E.D.