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!

Mid Century Luggage Tags

One of the necessary set pieces for Wait Until Dark is a suitcase with travel stickers, and so I’ve been scouring the internet for some of my favourite mid-century designs.

It’s really unfortunate that these are no longer used by hotels and airways, because some of them were really beautifully designed, and who wouldn’t love a bag covered in them? Personally, I might print off a second set for myself and add them to my own luggage.

-E.

1920s Cocktails & Vintage Liquour Labels

I did a post earlier on making authentic props for period pieces, and this is a bit of a continuation of that. Our current production, Rope, is set in 1929 and there is a LOT of drinking in it. Some specific drinks are mentioned, so I’ve been looking into the ingredients for those:

ginandit

ginandangostura

GINANDFRENCHBy knowing what ingredients are needed, we know a. what props to have and b. how long it would take to make the drinks. As well, it gives us an idea of how easily they go down, and how much they’d affect the drinker. All this just makes for more realism and helps, I think, with the actor’s character work.

Vintage Liquor Labels

Once I had established what was needed for these drinks I started to look up some vintage labels to affix to the bottles in my prop collection. The variety and detail on some of these is amazing, and so I’ve been able to be picky, choosing ones that catch my eye and even fit our colour scheme; here’s a few that I may be using:

I’ll post some pics of the finished prop bottles when they’re done.

All for now,
-E.

Let Them Eat Cake! – Making Fake Cakes

Here’s another fun faux food project I learned from Deb Erb at the Stratford Off The Wall Faux Food course.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Dense styrofoam (the type you use will depend on the type of cake you want. While it can get pricey, Deb suggested asking stores like Home Depot if they have broken pieces or scraps you can have discounted or for free)
  2. Cutting tools and file
  3. Super 77 Adhesive Spray
  4. Acrylic paint
  5. Benjamin Moore Stays Clear Acrylic Polyurethane (either Low Lustre or Gloss depending on the effect you want, I used a bit of both – from here on I’ll refer to this as “Stays Clear”. These come in paint cans – you may want to pour it into a smaller container for easier pouring. We used those condiment bottles from the dollar store)
  6. Non-silicone caulking
  7. Gel medium
  8. Spatula, large flat paint brush or jumbo popsicle stick

Optional Supplies:

  1. For strawberries: artificial plastic strawberries (I see these for sale online, and I suspect that in the right season you can get them at craft stores like Michaels, in the floral section), acrylic paint (red, yellow, orange – to give them a more realistic colour), Stays Clear in gloss.
  2. For whip cream: see my instructions in this post, or follow the icing instructions, minus the paint.
  3. Decorative cake plate or doily
  4. For marachino cherries: see my instructions in this post.  
  5. For sprinkles: see my instructions in this post.  

And again, get creative! Try fun foam for chocolate slices, or put a different type of berry on top. Substitute baby powder for icing sugar, or stick on some birthday candles or other topper. You are only limited by the scope of your imagination!

How to Make Your Fake Cake:

1. Prep the styrofoam base

Find a strong, dense styrofoam. If you want a crumbly cake, like carrot cake, go for one with a more textured middle. Decide on the size and shape of your cake. It is best to base it off of a standard cake pan size, so that it looks more realistic; I went with an 8-inch circle. If you can find pre-cut styrofoam in the shape and size you want, great. Otherwise you’ll need to cut it; I cut mine with a bandsaw. You could likely also use an exacto knife, though it would take longer. After you have the shape you want, round off the edges to give it a more realistic shape, like this:

Round the styrofoam into a cake-like shape

Round the styrofoam into a cake-like shape

File down the edges to give it the look of the top of a cake, one that rose to a slight dome in the oven

If you want a layered cake, like the one I made, repeat this. You may also choose to have a slice removed from the cake, as I did. Simply cut it out with the same tool you used to cut the initial piece (again, I did this on the band saw). When you are happy with the shape and size of your pieces spray the entire surface of each with Super 77; do not stick them together yet.

2. Create a lift for the top layer

If you are not doing a layered cake, skip to step 3. Cut out some thin foam, like Ethafoam  (that thin foam electronics sometimes come wrapped in. This term is also used to described the rounded foam used to seal around windows and doors) to a size just slightly smaller than the size of your cake. You want all the edges showing so that no one notices this foam lift. Attach with Super 77.

3. Paint the “cake”

If you are not taking a slice out of your cake, skip to step 4. Paint the inside of the cake with acrylic paint mixed with a low lustre Stays Clear. To get a realistic effect, it is best to use several shades, sort of sponging some of them on. You can pick out pieces of the styrofoam (before you paint) if you want a crumbly looking cake. I went over parts of mine with a high gloss Stays Clear to give it a moister appearance.

The inner "cake"

The inner “cake”

4. Make the “icing”

Mix up some caulking, gel medium, Stays Clear and acrylic paint in whatever colour you want your icing to be. Work with the ingredients until you get a smooth creamy mixture similar to real cake icing. You can add water if necessary. Sometimes if it gets lumpy, it’s easier to thicken it first with caulk, mix out the lumps,  and then thin it out with Stays Clear or water, rather than just continuing to thin it.

Caulking + Stays Clear + Gel Medium + Paint = icing

Caulking + Stays Clear + Gel Medium + Paint = icing

5. Ice the cake

Starting with your bottom layer (if applicable), apply the icing, being sure to apply a thick, generous amount. It’s up to you whether you go for a more homemade, rustic look (as I did) and leave big, noticable spread marks, or go for something more polished and smooth looking. When you have iced the top of your bottom layer, stick it under the top, and then ice the entire cake, starting with the top and moving onto the sides. You can apply the icing with a thick, flat brush (as I did for most of it), or use a jumbo popsicle stick (I used one for some of the side parts). You could even use a spatula. Just think of it as the same as when icing a real cake.

The foam lift and some "icing"

The foam lift and some “icing”

The iced cake

The iced cake

6. Decorate the cake

I chose to put whip cream and strawberries on mine, but you can really let your imagination go wild here. Look at pictures of cakes online, or better yet, use this as an excuse to buy one and copy it!

To make the strawberries I took artificial plastic ones, and added some depth by painting them a better colour and glazing them. If you can’t find plastic ones, you could likely mold some out of clay (though that may be heavy) or even carve them out of foam, then paint them. The devil’s in the details with this one; be sure to really look at a strawberry and see what’s there. Thinking about adding seeds, making the shape slightly uneven – the closer your copy is the better it will look onstage!

See the original colour underneath

See the original colour underneath

For the whip cream, I used more of the same kind of icing mix, without the pink paint (I did use a bit of creamy white in the mix, but the caulking itself could work as well) and piped it out through a decorative tip. You could use Dry Dex for this but it may be too heavy. Stick the strawberries in while it’s wet.

Strawberries pressed into "whip cream"

Strawberries pressed into “whip cream”

In the end, you should have something like this:

The finished product

The finished product

All done!

All done!