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2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: James & Jamesy in The Dark

3 Jul

04-27-2017-212315-2858Your name: James & Jamesy

Your production: James & Jamesy in The Dark

Your role: The Playwrights & Players

Tell me about your show.

James & Jamesy in the Dark begins in blackness. Soon, two chaps, who each believe they are alone in existence, happen upon each other. The encounter launches them into a series of physical and philosophical discoveries, overflowing with intricately layered wordplay. As they navigate this inky limbo, they conjure an adventure around creation itself. The visually spectacular show is a painting come to life; a rich, raw encounter that blends the playfulness of Pixar with the existential ponderings of Beckett.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Theatre in the dark? What were they thinking? STUPID! SAD!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Multiple Organism (by Mind of a Snail); Interstellar Elder (SNAFU)

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

To refugee camps. Their mission: To help people enjoy a moment of joy. (emergencycircus.com)

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Hands Down

3 Jul

04-28-2017-185544-4092Your name: Stephanie Jung

Your production: Hands Down

Your role: Co-Producer

Tell me about your show.

From Warren P. Sonoda, director of Trailer Park Boys, This Hour has 22 Minutes, & Coopers’ Camera comes his first play since… 1992 high school English class. HANDS DOWN is a twisted comedy about ambition, endurance, and finding out what really matters… after holding onto a car for 100 hours. As four contestants hunker down to win a vehicle, truths, secrets and an occasional supernatural power are revealed that jeopardize each of them from winning. Everyone has a limit, but sometimes you don’t know it until you’ve crossed it. Like writing a new play after 25 years.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

The BIGGEST car contest in history? I’ll be the winner! Everyone else is a loser. Covfefe

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun, Soaring in Liquid Skies, Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains, 13 Ways the World Ends, Dear Uncle Wish, Roommate Agreements

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

Oh Jon. I have so many stories but one of the top ones involves the Fringe. I used to House Manage at a Fringe venue and Jon was on my media list. I knew about Jon Kaplan before we even officially met. When he came to pick up his media ticket, I was grinning like a fool and we started chatting about theatre and life. When Jon came to my venue again the next day to catch a show, we started chatting again. I mentioned that I was hoping I would have a chance soon to grab some food as I was starving, but my venue was pretty busy. Without missing a beat, Jon offered my half his sandwich. I declined but I remember thinking that this man barely knows me but he just offered me some of his lunch! I miss his twinkling smile.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

Oh….the options….I would drop them into any major Canadian city and ask them to create a show with a diverse team of artists and no stereotypes in the plot. The world is in transition outside of Canada but let’s explore the problems we have here and talk about them. Let all artist constantly ask questions about the world we live in.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert

3 Jul

04-28-2017-033834-1650Your name: Dana Puddicombe

Your production: The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert

Your role: Director/co-creator

Tell me about your show.

A musical duo come to Toronto to find fame and fortune at the Fringe Festival. Can their love survive the temptations and pressures of the Fringe?

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

The Diddlin’ Bibbles are the Sonny and Cher of this generation. Fact.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m a first time fringer and I understand how hard it is to get the word out! There are a bunch of shows on my list that are on everyone’s list but I have some close to my heart for a few different reasons: Dear Uncle Wish and Earth Tourist are productions by fellow Newfoundlanders who I love and hope they get a great go of it; and I’ve got so many Improv and Comedy pals that are pushing the limits but if I had to pick just three, I’m excited to see Welcome to the Bunker!, Franco Nguyens first one man show and my improv brother Ross (fellow player in Abra Cadaver) has a new play The Resurrectionists.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I think I’d drop them in schools. Any school, any where. If kids learn early on that they have a means to express themselves, it makes them more empathetic adults. I’d send them to all the schools… Like, a tour. All of the schools!

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Recall

3 Jul

06-02-2017-174128-9050Your name: Madryn McCabe

Your production: Recall

Your role: Performer. I play Charlotte, the administrator of a mysterious agency that “recalls” young teenagers.

Tell me about your show.

Recall takes us to a grim, sci-fi world in which crimes might be prevented before they occur. Lucy makes people uncomfortable. There’s something about her eyes. There’s something about the way her mother’s boyfriends keep disappearing. And there’s something about the government agents on her trail. Radically imaginative and achingly plain, this razor-sharp thriller explores our need to feel connected, understood, and loved. No matter the damage, no matter the cost.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Recall? Great show. Great cast. Bigly talented. If I ran the Recall, there would be no more violent scenarios at all! Shame the government doesn’t do more!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I’ve been following Clare Blackwood’s progress on developing Welcome to the Bunker! for a while now, and I can’t wait to see it. Clare has an infectious energy, so I know that the audiences will be game for just about anything that pops up while they wait out the zombie apocalypse.

I’d also really like to see Rough Magic, which is being performed and produced by Theatre Arcturus. They have such a unique, physical way of performing Shakespeare. They combine aerial acrobatics and Shakespeare’s text to create new interpretations of characters, and it’s so beautiful and powerful.

 

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

That’s so tough to answer, because we already have elite squads of theatre artists all over the world, trying to make change for the better. We just saw a company in New York performing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a 400 old play, staged to reflect current American politics, interrupted, protested, mocked, and have its funding withdrawn because it was “too violent” and “not reflective of American values”. The dialogue wasn’t changed, nothing that isn’t in the original text was added, and yet people were so uncomfortable having the current administration reflected onstage that they couldn’t even stop and listen to the actual message of the play. It’s frustrating and frightening sometimes, but theatre artists have been protested since theatre began, and we’re all still here, and we’ll always be here. It also just occurs to me that you only asked “what would their mission be?” and I automatically starting talking about change for the better. I just assumed that would be the mission, because I think for every theatre artist, that IS the mission. We want to make the world a more beautiful place, have audiences think about what’s going on in the world, and what they want to do about it. Theatre has always been a place of ideas and growth, and that’s what the mission is.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

3 Jul

Your name: Rebecca Ostroff

Your production: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Your role: Assistant Director

Tell me about your show.

In “Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons”, the government imposes a Quietude Bill, limiting people’s speech to 140 words per day. The play follows Oliver, played by James Graham, and Bernadette, played by Ruth Goodwin; a couple desperately trying to navigate communication in this new world, rediscover themselves within it, and above all, hang on to each other. Under Harveen Sandhu’s beautiful direction, our production explores the resentment, hope and heartbreak when the political becomes very personal.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

People are saying the Quietude Bill has been good in Norway. A Fake News Joke!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

So many! To name a few: “The Food Project”, “The Seat Next to the King”, “Alex The Artist”, “Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of your Cremains”, and “Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party”.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

Space. Just to see if we could hear them from here.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Macbeth’s Head

3 Jul

04-17-2017-184510-2208Your name: Kyle McDonald

Your production: Macbeth’s Head

Your role: Show creator. Writer, director, producer, performer.

Tell me about your show.

The Scottish play, an ancient curse, and a disembodied head on a dessert trolley out for revenge – MACBETH’S HEAD – a new play (half in prose and half in original verse) is the story of actors Tim and Rupert who activate an ancient curse and awaken Macbeth’s severed head, who’s athirst for revenge on William Shakespeare for ruining his life. The Head, using his arcane powers, enslaves Tim and Rupert, and then brings Space Pirate Cleopatra, gender bending Richard III, and Hip Hop Hamlet to life to help in his insidious designs. It’s up to Tim and Rupert to stop the maniacal Head lest Shakespeare’s works are obliterated from the face of the earth forever!

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

This head guy…he’s on top of it. We’re going to be good friends.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

The Life Henry by Adam Bailey, Bendy Sign Tavern by Sex T-Rex, Hands Down by Warren P. Sonoda.

 

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I’d drop them in Parliament on a -50’C day to convince them to let Turks and Caicos join Canada by filling the house with sand and then distributing fruity cocktails.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Miserable Worm

3 Jul

04-26-2017-202111-2338Your name: Justine Christensen

Your production: The Miserable Worm

Your role: Adapter-Writer, Performer, Producer

Tell me about your show.

Platonov will be shot tonight– but, by who? And why? Anton Chekhov’s first, title-less play about the downfall of the smarmy intellectual-playboy Platonov has been adapted many times since the script was discovered in a bank vault in the 1920’s. Our version, The Miserable Worm, reduces Chekhov’s original six-hour melodrama into a 55 minute rapid-fire tragi-farce, focusing in on eight characters. Gender-bending casting, an original score, and much laughter can all be expected from this brand-new adaptation of a Russian classic, set in a Rosedale mansion on a hot summer night.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Gender-bent tragi-farce The Miserable Worm is an adaptation of Chekhov’s peculiar “untitled play” about sex, death, and nostalgia. #exciting

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Monsters by Nature: A collectively-created new work produced and performed by a group of kick-ass women, The Kindling Collective. Happy Birthday Benjamin Holloway: Three George Brown peers created a show together– they’re excellent performers with tons of comedic chops. MEANT: A brand-new Greek-inspired musical, composed by and staring Worm’s musical director, Lucas Penner. Plague: a sic love story: Two Sudburian talents perform a play by Sudburian playwright Matthew Heiti. Edgy Canadian work! Rise/Fall: Site-specific, politically on-the-pulse, charged and challenging– looking forward to the experience.

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

Jon was cared so much about the theatre community in this city that he made it a point to have a Q&A with the second year actors at George Brown every year. During my class’ season, Jon attended several of our plays and reviewed them for NOW, providing us with an introduction into the theatre ecology of this city. I feel very lucky to have met him, particularly at a time in my training when I was experiencing doubt. When I asked him, “Why make theatre?”, he replied that he always loved theatre because plays taught him new things, or reminded him of things he had forgotten. A truly kind person who cared deeply about the work.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

This is general, but I think it’s true: if the team of Nightwood could access young women in the third world, the result would be a a ton of rightful empowerment.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: A Peter N’ Chris-tmas Carol

3 Jul

05-01-2017-223631-2688Your name: Chris Wilson

Your production: A Peter N’ Chris-tmas Carol

Your role: playwright / performer

Tell me about your show.

ITS CHRISTMAS IN JULY! Why would we do this, you ask? Why not! 3x Canadian Comedy Award winning duo Peter N’ Chris (Just for Laughs) present a hilarious send up of the classic Dickens’ Christmas story. Grumpy Chris, Busy ghosts and dangerous snowmen! This show has it all. Please wear appropriate Christmas attire, thanks.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Tremendous Show. Tremendous. It will sell out and not everyone will get to see it. SAD!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Weaksauce, Templeton Philharmonic, Bendy Sign by Sex T Rex, and In Search of Cruise Control.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

Drop them anywhere to make people laugh!

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Seat Next to the King

3 Jul

04-27-2017-051849-3711Your name: Tanisha Taitt

Your production: The Seat Next to the King

Your role: Director

Tell me about your show.

It is September of 1964 and behind the doors of a public washroom in a Washington D.C. park, two lives linked to two of America’s most important figures collide when a white man seeking sex meets a black male stranger. Steven Elliott Jackson has written a bold and affecting play — one that explores race, sexuality and masculinity — and the cost of reconciling these things to two very different human beings with a shared innate need.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

It is not September 1964! It is 2017! FAKE NEWS! Also — SEX in Washington D.C. I have a lot of this.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I definitely want to support the work of fellow female creators who are talented friends of mine. I’m looking forward to Welcome To The Bunker, Bad Baby, This Is Not She, and Nourishment. Really hoping to see them all — unfortunately I’m working fulltime during Fringe so hopefully I can make the calendar work.

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

I miss Jon so, so much and it breaks my heart that he isn’t here to see this show. I really hoped that he would make it. Jon was incredibly kind, passionate and ever-encouraging. We had the loveliest conversations. He was so supportive of my first play, and interviewed me for a preview piece in NOW when no one else would have considered me enough of a “name” to do that. I especially loved Jon’s intense respect for TYA, and always enjoyed running into him and sharing hugs at YPT. He saw children and youth as critical audiences, which so many adult theatre artists still fail to understand. It will be so strange to not see Jon making his way around the festival. It will be so strange to never see him again. I adored him. He made our artistic community more reflective and more loving. An absolute gem of a human.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

That is a next to impossible question. I could choose one place, but then I couldn’t justify it over somewhere else. Art isn’t needed one place more than another; it is a universal imperative. I also think that elite theatre artists already exist in just about every nation on earth. I would never presume that I could give any nation artists that could do for their societies more than there own creators could. Not the sexiest answer, but my honest one.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Welcome to the Bunker!

3 Jul

04-25-2017-223841-1788Your name: Clare Blackwood

Your production: Welcome to the Bunker!

Your role: Writer/Actor/Producer

Tell me about your show.

Welcome to the Bunker! is an immersive zombie apocalypse comedy set in a bunker deep below Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Katie, a young zombie rights activist, and Todd, an antisocial doomsday prepper, will give you and your fellow survivors an orientation into bunker living that could just save your lives- if everything goes according to their half-assed, yet optimistic, plan. Feelings Circles! Obsessive rationing! Nearly fully figured out chemical toilets! Just ignore that scratching coming from the walls, won’t you?

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Canadians hiding from zombies in bunkers? Not surprised! Isn’t pot legal up there? Sad! #brainless

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Definitely Sex T-Rex’s Bendy Sign Tavern at the Paddock Tavern; Peter N’ Chris’s Chris’tmas Carol; Dear Uncle Wish by Theatre Enthused; The Coincidence Men Presents Shakespeare’s Ghostbusters; and Everything There is to Know by Musicals Canada.

 

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

How did you find out about the Initiative?! I have to go make some untraceable calls now….

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: She Grew Funny

3 Jul

04-28-2017-145329-8548Your name: Brett McCaig

Your production: She Grew Funny

Your role: Producer

Tell me about your show.

Comedian Joanne O’Sullivan tells the touching, funny and true story of how her life changed when her daughter turned 6, the same age that she was when her own mother died.

A pivotal moment that sent her on a journey to try answer the question she sees in everyone’s expression the moment they find out about her loss – “What did you become having lost your mother so young?

“She Grew Funny” is a look into the age-old connection between tragedy and comedy and how our pasts can irrevocably affect our future.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

My fabulous mother died when I was little. Sad. But it made me amazing!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m actually looking forward to seeing as many as I can, all of them if possible!

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

I did not know Jon Kaplan personally. But losing anyone who is so committed and vested in the arts community is always a sad thing.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I definitely think the US should stop dropping smart bombs and start dropping musicals anywhere and everywhere in the world…it always makes people happy.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Bendy Sign Tavern

3 Jul

06-12-2017-141758-7707Your name: Seann Murray

Your production: Bendy Sign Tavern

Your role: Collective member of Sex-T-Rex

Tell me about your show.

Bendy Sign Tavern is a puppet rom-com set inside the Paddock tavern. It’s like Cheers if everyone was made of foam. Also, there are songs, because they are puppets. Also you can order a beer from the puppets, because they are running the bar. The beer is made out of hops and barely, but also, appropriately enough, has foam.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Despite starting out as a joke, Bendy Sign Tavern actually is in the Toronto Fringe asygdy

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

There are so many great comedy acts in the Fringe this year. We always look forward to Ingrid Hansen’s work (Interstellar Elder) and Peter N’ Chris never disappoint, but I’m particularly interested in taking in some of the many promising sketch shows in the festival, as Sex T-Rex is looking to move into more sketchy work in 2018.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I don’t think you need to send theatre artists very far afield to find craziness and volatility- all people need entertainment in trying times, and an entertained audience is much more open to internalizing whatever call for change might be in your work.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up

3 Jul

06-08-2017-153628-1484Your name: Caitlin Robson

Your production: Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up

Your role: Actor/co-writer/producer

Tell me about your show.

The play is centered on an imaginary rebound between Caitlin Robson (Karenin’s Anna, Fringe 2014; Seams, Summerworks 2015)and Eric Miinch (Behold! The Barfly! Fringe 2016; Fratwurst Comedy) In 2015, the respective actress and improviser met at an open-mic where they each told true stories from their past relationships. He liked hers. She liked his. This play is a combination of both their stories. Throughout the show, they transition between the present and their past, playing each others’ partners. Through this painfully funny encounter Caitlin and Eric explore the meaning of love, marriage and divorce, fidelity, growing up, growing out of love, and the art of moving on.

The show is directed and co-written by Toronto’s own feminist comedian, Jess Beaulieu, of the Crimson Wave Comedy and Podcast; and devised through a one-of-a-kind experiment in storytelling, improv and written sketch.

If there are any lonely hearts out there looking for a laugh, this one goes out to you!

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

MAKE CAITLIN & ERIC NOT BROKEN UP AGAIN!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Peter ‘n’ Chris, Sex T-Rex, Shakespeare’s Ghostbusters, Diddlin’ Bibbles

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

He was a big supporter of young artists. He was very gracious about our 2014 Fringe play Karenin’s Anna.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I would air-drop all of Sesame Street into the White House to explain to Trump about world history and politics along with all the lessons he should have learned as a child.

Preview Questionnaire: Titus Andronicus – by Seven Siblings Theatre

25 Oct

titus-promo-thumbnailWith Halloween just around the corner, there is no better time to take in Shakespeare’s first, and most gruesome play; Titus Andronicus. Seven Siblings Theatre obliges with a unique and hefty production that promises to be a highlight of the fall theatre season. We had a chance to chat with director Will King about the upcoming production.

What drew you to Titus Andronicus?

I’m a huge advocate for Horror and Thrillers in the theatre. I think it’s a dynamic and visceral form that is too often left for film to explore and I love creating a palpable feeling of suspense. It’s also a tremendous challenge for the actors. We get to play in a world where the stakes are so high, and the experiences are so out of the ordinary that playing them honestly leads to fulfilling and surprising sensations. It’s always the actor’s job to experience their work for the first time, but it’s especially apparent when you must experience things as large as shock, terror, or fury. These feelings and atmospheres stem from a world that is completely detached from our naturalist day-to-day. It creates a memorable and provocative experience and keeps us on our toes.

Do you feel there are any aspects of the play that mirror today’s society? Why is it still relevant?

I think it mirrors anyone who struggles with loss, particularly in a situation that merits a response. We live in a world that values antiheroes. We champion those who stand up against injustice, but seldom question the lengths they go to balance the scales. Tragedy rarely provides an equivalent exchange, and this is what happens when there’s no one to break that cycle. My central question is “how do you honour the death of a child?” Is there retribution that can fill that hole in your heart? Parenthood is a strong theme in the play and I think that relationship grounds their revenge in something worth playing.

You’ve chosen to incorporate puppetry into this production. Tell me about that choice.

The primary reason was to unlock the use of the supernatural. Fantasy helped define our sub-genre of Horror and clarify what tropes to play with throughout the process. It required a lot of diligence from the creative and technical team, but the world we’ve created helps us manifest the themes and story of the play. We’ve steeped the show in a contemporary Roman Mythology. I’m also adamant that each production we create with Seven Siblings offers a new challenge, and puppetry certainly fits the bill!

The cast of this production is quite large by independent theatre standards. How has that facet of the production shaped the work and your vision?

I think it has been a tremendous asset. This ensemble has offered a lot to one another and the power of having this number of collaborators is continually refreshing. The main reason we have such a high number is because doubling doesn’t work as well when you’re manipulating fear and suspense. In Comedy it doesn’t shatter the world, but there’s certainly a realism that Horror demands so I’ve been very conscious about multiple roles for an actor.

There are a million macabre events this time of year; why should Titus Andronicus be at the top of everyone’s list?

Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful world. The space is mythological realm with a military bunker rammed on top of it. We’ve also saturated the play in a delightful Horror nostalgia. But the center of this piece has always been the story, the text work, and the characters. It’s such an incredible collection of flawed human beings. There are no heroes in this play, but everyone is justified in their actions. Morally, I’ll leave it up to the audience to decide who’s right, but it absolutely fascinating to watch them duel.

 

Titus Andronicus opens this Thursday and runs until November 6th at the Citadel (304 Parliament St). Tickets and details can be found here.

Preview Questionnaire: The Music Man

12 Sep

the-music-man-3-resizedEver wanted to literally step into a classic musical? Theatre lovers will soon have that chance with Talk Is Free Theatre‘s immersive and ambitious production of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, which will transform downtown Barrie, Ontario into the song & dance filled streets of River City, Iowa. With audiences being whisked from one city site to another to witness the whimsical tale amongst unsuspecting local residents, as well as a cast of more than 60, including barbershop quartet and full brass band, this promises to be a production to remember.

We had the pleasure of talking with Talk is Free’s Artistic Producer, Arkady Spivak, who conceived this bold staging:

One of your best known productions is Sondheim’s dark and brooding Assassins. The Music Man, by contrast, far more cheerful and wholesome. What drew you to this piece?

My job is to provide a pertinent platform to the company of artists. I actually think Assassins is easier to produce better than The Music Man. When you assemble a company of classically trained, singing actors of high caliber, you know they will put everything they have into a piece like Assassins for many reasons (great parts, rarely done, always pertinent). We have also done a number of esoteric plays and musicals – Anyone Can Whistle in Concert, Floyd Collins, Sunday in the Park with George, and more accessible but troublesome Napoleon in Concert, Darling of the Day as well as over 20 Canadian musicals from many major established writers. It’s easy to mobilize great talents to do those shows.

Someone dared me to do The Music Man. I thought it a major joke first. How would I invite total commitment from the artists I love? I tried to think of a way to do it that would add something new to what others did before us. And I fell in love with the show I barely tolerated in the past.

The Music Man is often celebrated and lampooned by contemporary pop-culture, including The Simpsons and Family Guy. In your opinion, what is it about this work that keeps it alive when so many other musicals from the same era have faded into obscurity?

Oh it is a good show, damn it. When something is as good and successful it is the first thing to be parodied. Let’s say it’s a good thing.

Tell me about the unique staging of this production. What prompted this idea?

Upon reading the libretto I wondered what the show was about. To me, it’s about transformation – personal and that of an entire community. I soon knew that the way to do that show was actually to transform the community. That, and the fact that most characters are running away from the things they are chasing, made me want to move the audience and the action. And because it celebrated a sense of community – we wanted to involve children, non professional adults and celebrity cameos into the story. All in all, it’s a 60 person show. It’s pretty much an entire city playing a city.

What have the greatest challenges related to this staging been? What have been the most positive surprises or discoveries?

The greatest challenge is the unknown factor for everyone. No two performances will be the same from an aesthetic point of view. When it gets dark, who is on the street, whether it rains (and we have all sorts of contingencies).  As we are performing in a living city, some people walking through the scenes will not know they are in a show.

The biggest challenge is for the cast. Acting is volatile. Singing is even more volatile. Singing around unsuspecting pedestrians, without anything to hide behind makes it even more volatile. You can imagine what kind of brave actors this required. And the creative team have been consistently superb.

The greatest surprise is about how excited people get when they hear singing even though it totally interrupts their work or passage to wherever they need to go. Commercial musicals pay thousands for a chorus like this. We just blatantly use unsuspecting pedestrians.

The size of your cast and creative team is just as notable. Tell me about the experience of working with, and the desired effect of so many “moving parts”.

We were onsite today for the first time. We all found this liberating. No one solves more challenges better than the talented artists. They should be on every corporate board.

You referred to “unsuspecting local residents”. How do you feel the citizens of Barrie will react to this production?

Who doesn’t like to be a star?

If you had to pick a favourite number from the show, what would it be?

I like how we staged and reinterpreted Marion the Librarian especially. It’s sexy and satirical, in equal measure.

Any plans/daydreams to mount other shows in a similar manner and scale?

Here you are, attending my wedding and asking me what my next one will look like.


The Music Man opens this Wednesday, September 14th. Tickets (which are expected to be in high demand) and more info can be found on the Talk is Free website here.