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!

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

Dial M For Murder – Tracking the Production Process

So much goes into the production of a show. From administrative work like budgeting and scheduling, to work on set, costumes, props advertising, fundraising, makeup – it’s almost endless.

So for our next production, “Dial M For Murder”, I’ve decided to do regular posts that focus on particular elements of the production process, highlighting both the cost and time spent, as well as some little tricks-of-the-trade that we pick up along the way.

If there’s an area of production you are curious about, ask us! And we’ll make it the focus of one of our blogs.

ttfn
-E.D.