Cast Spotlight: Eric Miinch

Eric Miinch plays the sinister Roat in our upcoming production of Wait Until Dark.

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

I am a professional improviser and sketch comedian. I can be seen with my comedy troupe, Fratwurst.

I am writing my first one man show. It’s about being too good at lying.

I am training myself to lucid dream.

I read everything.

I brew beer and am pursuing a side career as a brewmeister.

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

Justin Haigh of Soupcan Theatre informed me of the show. He is a beautiful man.

I always love playing a villain. Roat is a fascinating character with onion like layers. Robert Duvall played him in a very distinct way, but the ambiguity in the character description and the odd demeanour allows an actor to play Roat in a million different ways. And that is bloody fun.

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

Fight rehearsal and choreography was great. Specifically when I practiced punching with Abby. Being fake punched by a 14 year old girl and fake punching her back is a great way to spend an evening.

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

I think my sketch and improv background help me to make quick choices and to play Roat. He appears briefly several times throughout the script and it’s important to make an impression immediately! I also draw inspiration from an uncle of mine who also stole dolls and murdered people.

5. Why should everyone come see the show?

Damn good cast and director. Great production team. It’s thriller and it’s a lot of fun! It will be an intimate space which will serve to heighten the text.

6. Anything else you want to add?

I want to thank Daria, Rudolph, Evan and Josh for all their support and patience during rehearsals! Couldn’t do it without you!

I am writing and directing my first play which will premiere at the Toronto Fringe Festival in July. It is a modern telling of the epic poem, Dante’s Inferno.

More info at http://www.fratwurst.com.

See Eric’s sinister side on stage April 14-16th, tickets on sale now.

Advertisements

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! A Musical – Crew Spotlight – Writer Drac Child

Kill Sister, Kill! co-writer Drac Child shares a bit about the writing process, and gives us a brief history of the production.

Five years ago, my brother and I wrote Kill Sister Kill, then titled Sister, Sister (sorry Tia and Tamara); it was a simpler, shorter script with less-refined profanity, restrained displays of wanton violence and only five (!) songs. A lot has changed over the resulting period, including yet another version of the script for a 2013 production, an infusion of new music and lyrics and a new cast. Come 2015 and the addition of Bygone Theatre to the production, with an entirely new creative team, Kill Sister Kill is in it’s best shape yet. Imagine the past productions were Tim Allen on a coke bender: disgusting but funny, but looking worse for wear. This year, KSK is Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street: increased stamina, better looks, yet still comically adept and more importantly, revolting.

My brother and I have been at this for awhile now; churning out scripts and making them into viewable entertainment is something we’ve done since childhood. I was tempted to say that the only thing that’s changed is that we fight less than we used to as kids, but that’s patently untrue. But, due to that history, our voices and ideas compliment each other; once the concept for a scene gets rolling, we just keep throwing dialogue at it until we’re both laughing or wincing. Year after year, Kill Sister Kill has always been a challenge, whether it’s tackling musical theatre for the first time, or producing shows with nothing but the small amounts of money in our staggeringly barren bank accounts, but this time, everything seemed to synchronize. The entire production is an assemblage of incalculable madness, but we’re all getting along and turning things around on time and no one’s died yet.

Success.

Want to help support the show? You can make a donation through our website or indiegogo campaign.

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.

Review – “Evacuate”: Rhymes With Orange Productions, Toronto Fringe

I saw Rhymes With Orange Production’s “Evacuate” Saturday afternoon at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, a show written and directed by Katie Alguire. It starred Anne Shepherd (who played Sister Aloysius in Bygone’s production of “Doubt”) and Tom Bolton, with a brief appearance by Scott Cavalheiro. The show follows Iris and John, an elderly couple faced with the possibility of abandoning their home when a forest fire starts nearby. The show is on the whole very well written, and had a somewhat dark and unexpected ending.

Tom Bolton as John is a delight. He was at once a cranky, crotchety old man and a worried, loveable human being. He very much reminded me of my Mother’s Father, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him onstage. Anne Shepherd as Iris was funny and playful, though at times worked a little too hard at seeming old. Overall, both actors did a good job with a text that had a very natural sound, but relatively little action.

The script itself was good, but could use a few revisions. Some of the more interesting moments, like the discovery of the photograph (I won’t go into more detail so as not to spoil it) were not developed to the extent one would hope. This is something that could maybe be addressed in a later incarnation of the show, perhaps one that was lengthened just slightly. The end of the play was also a little disturbing, and possibly not in the way it should have been. A sudden raising of the stakes leaves the audience feeling shocked, but not at all satisfied, and was another moment that could have been developed further.

The play’s biggest fault was its staging. The arrangement of the set made it difficult for the actors to have much movement, and while the chairs and floating window created some nice symmetry for the pre-show, it was not the best design for a play of that length, especially when a lack of depth to the stage meant lots of pacing back and forth. The lighting design was a little surreal at the end, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I haven’t made up my mind as to whether or not I liked the choice, but it was certainly memorable.

Despite an overall melancholy tone, “Evacuate” was a funny and enjoyable play. Very natural characters and dialogue made it easy to watch, and so this is one I would add to my recommended list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-E.

Check out their website at ExcuseYouToronto.com

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

George Ignatieff Theatre.

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

Toronto Fringe 2013 – Bygone’s Fringe Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

-E.