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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Lights Go Out But Not the Show!

So yesterday I wasn't feeling well, so I made the call to stay home and miss the show, and MISS THE SHOW I DID!  What happened was apparently an AMAZING Night of THEATRE!  About 15 minutes from the end of the show, the theatre lost power and the show was stopped.  When the tech determined that it was not coming back on he made the announcement that the space would have to be evacuated into the Lobby.  The audience cried out, "But how will we know who wins?!" and in less than 30 seconds the cast and band moved the show into the Lobby and performed the rest of the show there.  Luckily there was a piano in the lobby and two of the musicians had portable instruments (no drums, but our drummer air-drummed along with the rest of the show).  The audience sat on lobby chairs and stood and some even sat on the floor and they were rapt.  The cast adjusted their choreography and blocking to the new space and just went with it.  They all describe the evening as magical.  How I wish I was there!

It is a true testament to The Show Must Go On!  I know that it worked because they all knew their characters and stories so well that it didn't matter where they were when they told it, but only that they told it truthfully.  Where you might except a potential train wreck, they were graceful and fluid - going with it.  It was described to me by someone in the audience as follows:

"It was an amazing moment of "the show must go on" -- congrats to everyone involved, it was a fantastic production & a beautifully committed ending!"

They are truly inspiring to me!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Woah! Slooooooow Down There Lady!" - What my body is telling me...

We were returned to the audience last night after our 10 day hiatus and it was a fabulous show.  The emotional energy in the space was the best and other than a few issues with mics, it was another awesome show.  So pleased and proud.  A friend of mine, who has seen almost 50 shows this season, was there and she related the following on FB:

"I just had the best experience I've had all season at the theatre. And since I've seen nearly 50 shows, that's saying something.  I laughed a tonne, I wept for the pain of childhood. And I was blown away by the incredible performances - on stage and off.  Congrats, Kristen Finlay and the rest of the 'Bee' participants - you are all T-A-L-E-N-T-E-D!!"

She's also someone who wouldn't just say that to be nice, so I was very touched by her post.

I hope that people make it out.  It has been selling really well though, so I recommend getting tickets in advance.  But I have lost count of the number of people who tell me they can't believe it's a community theatre production, and these are people who see a lot of theatre.  I think the community aspect is merely in that we are a community of players, friends as well as performers, many of whom will be life-long friends after this.  I think there are quite a few people in this cast who on the basis of their training and talent should be working in theatre. There are people in this cast that are just as good, if not better, than some professional actors I have seen over the last few years.   I feel honoured to have been able to direct them.

For my really good friends, I really do not want to hear you say to me next week or the week after that, "Oh I wanted to make it, but I missed it." Even thought I am not onstage myself, I am so very proud of this, that I will be a touch disappointed if you don't try harder.

Anyhow, tonight I must stay home.  I am glad that I went last night and saw it again with an audience, but I wasn't feeling well then and it has gotten worse today.  It's that bone-aching exhaustion thing that tells me I really need time off, and since I want to be up for Closing Night, I figure I better rest now.

Photo Credit: Janine Hodder

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

And Rain Will Make the Flowers Grow...

This day has been up and down for me... mostly because I finally did a few of my personal errands that I have been putting off because of a lack of time.  And these errands/tasks were both very expensive.  The first thing was arranging for Oliver's Orthodontists appointments for him to get his braces.  This will cost us between $8000-9000.00 when all is said and done.  I also had to do a little money moving from long term savings so that I would have it in place to pay for the teeth-work... ugh... It's times like these that I wish I was working for a school board somewhere with a nice dental plan and benefits instead of paying it all out of pocket... Sigh...

The second thing I did was book Summer Day Camps for the kids at the U of A.  The four weeks I booked will cost me around $1650 and those are just the sports camps.  I still want to book in a drama camp and an Art Gallery camp and those are generally more expensive. Why do I do Day Camps? I could theoretically keep them home, but then I would be fighting for them to go outside and be active and these camps are really good.  The U of A ones were phenomenal last year and I like it when my kids are worn out from a day of doing things. The Art Gallery and Drama camps are generally very good too and add diversity to their summer.

Anyhow, these are good and bad things - good because they are done and will be good for the kids in the long run, but bad because of the cost, so it was up and down.

I will end the day on an up with the Second Opening of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  I have missed the show and look forward to seeing it again tonight with an audience! I know a lot of people coming tonight so I am excited to see what they think of the show!

Photo Credit: Janine Hodder

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Back to the Bee... What the What!?

It's when I do a show like this that I truly feel spoiled. I felt spoiled at the audition when these amazing people came out and offered themselves up to me for the show.  I feel spoiled whenever I get to work with Sally Hunt, Music Director Extraordinaire. I feel spoiled when I have Kim Stadelmann in the booth calling the show and setting lights with me.  I do not know why I get to work with these amazing people, all I know is that I am eternally glad that I do.  I am glad that they return to work with me more than once.  I hope it never ends...

Today we returned to The Bee after a 10 day hiatus.  The show they did for the four of us in the audience showed very little signs of being away that long.

They blow my mind...

I am so lucky...

Have I mentioned that?

Monday, May 27, 2013

An Accident... Forgiving Yourself and Moving On...

Years ago, someone very close to me was driving on a dark winter's night.  She was not driving recklessly or fast, but it was winter and a little icy and dark.  She rounded a corner in a subdivision and a black object flew onto the road in front of her - it looked like a black garbage bag - she braked and tried to avoid hitting it but it came out too fast and she hit it and slid down the road with it under her car for a few metres. It was not a garbage bag.  It was a 10 or 11 year old boy who was tobogganing into the road from a snowbank alongside the subdivision street.  There wasn't anything she could have done other than being psychic to avoid it.  Thankfully, he was ultimately okay, but he did suffer a head injury and was hospitalized for some time until he recovered.  Until he was okay, it was a part of her - a constant piece of her mind was dedicated to worry and a feeling of responsibility and a need to be engaged in active thought towards his recovery. I imagine it still is today...

I thought a lot about this after seeing Northern Light Theatre's production of An Accident.  Things happen, accidents happen, we do not intend them to happen.  They happen when we are not even being careless.  They are not intentional.  They are accidents.  But we own them.  We dwell on them.  We feel responsible.  We need things to be okay. And on the other side, when we are damaged by others, however unintentionally, we want redress.  We want someone to be responsible.  We want it not to just be an accident. We want to assign blame and have an answer for the why did this happen? This production so beautifully articulated these zig-zagging feelings of responsibility and blame and of the connection between those who are injured and those who have injured.  Michael Peng and Melissa Thingelstad play injurer and injured respectively - neither completely blameless or responsible - both angry and sad and tied together. Trevor Schmidt's direction and their performances are heart-breaking and ultimately cathartic.

I have had the extreme pleasure of seeing a lot of theatre this season due to my good fortune and winning that awesome prize.  Based on the quality of the work and the thought-provoking and  engaging theatre I have seen at Northern Light Theatre this season I will definitely be buying season's tickets for next year.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Harshest Critic... Me

Well, we wrapped up From Cradle to Stage for another year.  Overall things went really well.  I think the playwrights were happy with their plays and from the feedback from the rest of the production team everything ran very smoothly.  We finished up with a super fast strike and had a great turnout in terms of audience.  And then today, as a finishing touch to the festival, in conjunction with APN, Walterdale hosted a playwriting workshop facilitated by Tracy Carroll that ran smoothly and was very well received by the participants.  I am also extremely confident that we are well under budget which is never a bad thing! There were several times in the months leading up to this festival that I wondered if I could get it all done. Luckily I had a great team who understood my time situation who rose to the occasion and did the work fabulously. So I am glad that I did not resign months ago, when it could have meant a much less stressful season for me.

So, as I drove home, why couldn't I just enjoy it?  Why? Because my mind was running through the 4-5 things I forgot or didn't do as well as I wished. Instead of being content and happy about all the success of the production and festival,  I was thinking of the three people I forgot to offer comps to and the prop that I realized was still at the theatre that needed to be returned to the person who lent it to us.  I was thinking about the branches I never actually put on the trees on the set. I was dwelling on the stereo I forgot to lock up and turn off and the incomplete cleaning job we did because I felt the incoming group was in a rush to get in the space since they moved in 20 minutes earlier than I expected. I know.  I should be thinking about the kudos and thank yous, and those good things are definitely there, but I also was thinking about a couple negative emails I received from people who should have been working to help me not criticize me, and things beyond my control like a website that with wrong times and emails sent out to the membership with limited and incorrect information. Things I had no control over, but that I felt responsible for.  I constantly go over in my mind - how could I have prevented this or that? Sometimes there is nothing I could have done, but it still bugs me.

Theatre is one of the places in my life where I consistently have this desire to be perfect and yet never feel I am.  I'd like to get over it... Maybe someday.  But maybe not. Maybe it's what pushes me to do better work.

I don't think I am alone in this.  I think a lot of people over-assess things.  I also know that one of the reasons I have grown to feel this way is because very often the only time people give any feedback is to report something gone wrong, and perhaps they are not always the kindest or most diplomatic about it.  So now I sit, waiting for the feedback about the things that weren't perfect... Things I have already accounted for in my mind.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Play Writing Workshop! This Sunday!

So, I have been working on From Cradle to Stage at Walterdale Theatre Associates this year.  One of the cool things we are doing is holding a play writing workshop - facilitated by APN's Tracy Carroll.  It's free to Walterdale Members, so if you aren't a member and would like to take it, it will only cost you the $25 Walterdale membership fee.  A totally amazing deal!  And we provide lunch! That's a steal of a deal.  It's for any level of playwright, so don't be scared. 

The Nuts & Bolts of Playwriting – An APN Workshop

Sunday, May 26th

10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
(Lunch provided)
Walterdale Theatre – Glenfield Rehearsal Hall
Facilitator: Tracy Carroll

By creating mini-production companies with participants, we’ll look at some of the building blocks of developing a new play from the writing, acting and directing point of view.

A fun, hands-on session for all participants of the From Cradle to Stage Festival and members of Walterdale Theatre.

This workshop is free to all Walterdale Members, contact Sarah Van Tassel at to reserve a spot.  Space is limited.

I'll be there - I hope to see you there too!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A New Project on the Not-So-Far Horizon

Today the 55th Season at Walterdale Theatre Associates was announced.  I am pleased to announce Proof, by David Auburn, at Walterdale in the Fall.  The show will have auditions in September, start rehearsing in mid October and go up on deck the first two weeks of December.  Stay tuned for audition information.  I will be looking for 2 women and 2 men of varying ages, stay tuned for more details...
 that I will be directing

I am so excited to be directing this play.  I have an awesome Production team assembled: Joan Hawkins (Set Design), Richard Hatfield (Lighting Design), Elaina Bolton (Costume Design), Erin Foster-O'Riordan (Sound Design), Pierre Valois (Master Builder) and Catherine Wenschlag (Production Manager).  I have a few other roles on the team, so let me know if you'd like to be involved! This a great script, so incredibly well written, and it brings art and science together as it contemplates genius and madness and love and honesty.

More information about Proof and the rest of the 2013-2014 Walterdale Season can be found here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Over Halfway Through Hell Month! And it's not so bad...

Well, I have made it through the toughest part of the month... having both shows Open and up and running.  Spelling Bee is a resounding success so far with audiences leaving with aching ribs from laughing so hard.  I have gotten so many wonderful comments from people on the show.  I hope that you all find the time to make it out to the last part of the run (May 29th - June 1st).  It's an extremely high caliber show in terms of the talent onstage and even if you are not a musical theatre fan, I dare you not to enjoy it.  The script itself is so smart and sharp and funny. From what I have heard tickets are going fast for the remainder of the run so I would advise people to pick them up sooner rather than later. For me it's a weird feeling to be in the middle of a run but technically on a break from a show.  I miss them all!

Last Night From Cradle to Stage opened on Walterdale's stage.  All the pieces were in place and the shows themselves ran very smoothly.  It was great to have an audience there reacting and laughing.  I hadn't realized how funny the second show was until the audience came in.  But to be honest, I was worrying about my set and props and other details of the production.  The best thing for me was to see these brand new works up on our stage.  Because one play was written by three playwrights, that meant we actually helped four young playwrights get their work onstage!  It remains a point of pride for me that Walterdale continues to foster new, local playwrights in this way.  The Festival just started and there are 5 more shows (we run to Saturday, May 25th) and for those of you who wanted to know more about playwriting, there is a Playwriting Workshop on Sunday, May 26th that is free to all Walterdale Members ($25 for anyone else and we throw in a membership!).

But the hardest part of this was getting to Opening Night.  It's opened and it was well received and now I can relax a bit before Strike and the next Opening of Spelling Bee! I don't know if I will pile as much into one month again, but it is nice to know I can handle it!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Another Opening!

From Cradle to Stage opens tonight at Walterdale.  I encourage you to come out and see these two lovely new works by emerging Alberta playwrights.  I also designed and painted the sets so I am very excited to show those off! I am quite happy with how the sets turned out and I love how they work with their respective shows! It was a challenge to design two sets - one indoor and one outdoor - for the same space.

After the show tonight there is a nice reception upstairs to mix and mingle with the cast and crew and the other members of the audience! It's a great way to round off your holiday weekend.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Final Dress for Cradle to Stage and a Flight Around Europe with a Viscount... All in a Saturday's Work!

I had a take a break from the Bee to handle some things at Walterdale as we had our last Dress Rehearsal and Theatre Clean before Preview and Opening for From Cradle to Stage. Things went remarkably smoothly and the only thing I didn't like was that it meant I had to find parking in the area on a Saturday.  For those of you who know the Strathcona Farmer's Market traffic situation you know why this was irksome.  I made it work and it only cost me $4.00! I have been so happy with how things have gone with Cradle this year.  I was upfront with the level of my busyness so I did a tonne of work to try and be super organized and everyone stepped up to the plate and we are in great shape with very low stress! Huzzah!  Today is the Artist's/Director's/Students' Preview and it will be nice to show the work to some people outside the team. Show is at 2 p.m. and students with ID can see it for FREE! We open tomorrow night at 8 p.m. The shows this year are lovely and strangely thematically linked.  Each deals with seeking healing and forgiveness after a traumatic event and coincidence/fate causes the people to meet the right people to allow that to happen. Some nice, strong work from these new playwrights.  After we ran the dress we cleaned the theatre and then celebrated with pizza! It's a nice group of people and it was great to visit with them all in a more social atmosphere.

Following the pizza I took my friend Heather to see Flight of the Viscount by David Belke at Shadow Theatre. The show was tonnes of fun as we followed the escaping Viscount James Westerly (Jamie Cavanaugh) across Europe as he is pursued by the relentless maid Maggie (Caley Suliak).  Along the way we encounter many strange and hilarious locals all played with much hilarity by Nathan Cuckow. Cuckow was a delight to watch, his accents more outrageously funny than strictly accurate and a variety in facial hair that added greatly to the comedy.  Cavanaugh and Suliak were fun to watch, playing off each other deftly.  I was fascinated by the main set piece which became a myriad of items in a Rubiks Cube-like fashion, but I was disappointed with the projections which provided the backbone of setting the scene.  I liked the use of maps, but to use a projection to represent so much, it meant that some of the other lighting was compromised and there were many a dark spot here and there on the remainder of the deck. I am being picky, but I have a pet peeve with projections in theatre - I only like them when they work perfectly. However, It was a nice light evening full of laughter and I did enjoy myself.  I think they close today, so if you want to catch this fun show you have to act fast!

So today, I return to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at La Cite.  We have a matinee today, then we pack up for a week and return on May 29th for four more shows. I missed it last night so I am excited to see it again and see what today's audience does with it!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Two Shows Down! Happy Director Dance!

I just got home from the second show in the run.  I took Mark to Opening Night yesterday and he was up onstage as one of the audience volunteers.  It was fun to see him up there as he knew very little about the show despite being my husband and because he is very competitive so he REALLY wanted to get the words right.  The show was wonderfully received.  I so enjoy how much the audience laughs.  The best post show comment for me, however, was from a friend who said:

"I knew I would be laughing, but I wasn't expecting to cry."  

I felt like I had succeeded because I really wanted it to be more than just another fun musical.  It is that, but I also wanted it to have heart and a sense of realness under the quirky exteriors of the competitors.

Tonight I took Oliver, who is almost 12, to see the second performance. I was concerned about the "inappropriate for young children song" (not it's real name), but I needn't have worried.  Oliver was more concerned about the candy than actually paying attention to the song.  He has fun and I was very, very pleased as the show was even better than Opening.  The first night had a wonderful electricity as Opening Nights often do, but tonight was clean and sharp and still so very, very present.  Happy Director Dance for me!

And then I came home to this brilliant review from the St. Albert Gazette.  So pleased with the analysis and assessment of the show as a whole and of the individual performances.  A very nice end to a long week!

Selected Quotes from the Review:

"The talented cast has attacked William Finn’s score with tons of energy and are fearless in taking risks. They immediately establish their characters without straying into caricature.

Kudos to director Kristin Finlay for channelling the energies of an engaging cast of adults playing children.

But throughout this frothy fun there are some important lessons to learn. Family isn’t always right, and it’s all right to win and just as okay to lose."

- Anna Borowiecki, St. Albert Gazette

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Meet Mark Sinongco - Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

What is your role in this show? 

I play Chip Tolentino, last year's winner of the Putnam County Spelling Bee. All he wants is to win again this year … However, puberty has some other plans for him.

What is your background in theatre? 
I was first introduced to Theatre at M.E LaZerte under the instruction of Pamela Schmunk. After graduating, I moved to Victoria, BC and trained at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, receiving a Diploma in Performing Arts. In those years, some of my favourite roles include Ren (Footloose: The Musical), Reverend Hightower (Bat Boy: The Musical), and Prince Amir (The Ash Girl).

What is your favourite word to spell, and why? 
Definition: A lame joke told by 3rd Graders, and apparently recent college graduates.
Sentence use: Hey man, how do you spell ICUP?

Photo Credit: Janine Hodder
Kate Wylie as Mitch and Mark Sinongco as Chip Tolentino

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Really Should Be Sleeping... But I'm not... We Open T-O-M-O-R-R-O-W

What a fun night!  We had the ELOPE Board of Directors come and watch the show tonight and some of them participated as audience volunteers so we would have a practice run before Opening and it was so much fun.  The energy give and take from them allowed me to see the show through new eyes, which is not easy to do after living with it for so long. I spent a bit of time tweaking light cues so that they were as good as what was happening onstage, but for the most part I just enjoyed it.  It was great to have four volunteers onstage who didn't know what was coming and a good 8-10 people in the house enjoying the Bee!  It's why you do Previews.  I think it was really good for the actors to hear the laughs and feel what that felt like before we face our first ticketed audience tomorrow night.


Goodbye! Goodbye!
I have wisely left myself time tomorrow to rest and get ready.  I do have to do a little shopping.  For those of you who know me, I am a bit of a show gift weirdo (in a good way) and I have a few more to get.  I was going to do this dictionary theme, but I think because everyone has a computer now it is actually very hard to find many pocket dictionaries.  Why buy a book when you can type a word into Google?  Anyhow, I have rebooted my show gift plans and it will all be lovely!  So I can sleep in a bit, write cards and do a little shopping.  My mom is watching the boys so Mark will be in attendance so that is nice!  

Anyhow, here are a couple more fabulous photos from Janine Hodder from our Tuesday night Dress Rehearsal!

Barfee (Curtis Knecht) at the Mic!
Pandemonium - The Best Speller won't necessarily win!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Of Souls and Spelling Bees...

I have been so knee deep in Spelling Bee this last little while that I feel bad that I haven't taken a moment until now to write about Catalyst Theatre's production of The Soul Collector.  As it was, I was very fortunate to find a night when I could actually take in the show.  I actually booked the tickets over a month prior as I missed Frankenstein due to it's being Sold Out and I vowed that would not happen this time (especially after I heard so much about what I had missed from all my friends!).  So, on Friday night I met up with AM and we took in a bite and a show.  We had great fun at the lobby Photo Booth. Very cool to try on the show inspired costume pieces and since we are both theatre performers we could not resist the tickle trunk! It is good to be able to just be silly! It was also cool to run into a few people from Spelling Bee there that night.  I guess we all had the night off!

The show, the show, the show... First I have to talk about the design and concept.  It was a visually stunning piece.  From the costumes, to the alley set, with everything labelled and outlined very intentionally, to the toboggan race, to the accountants, to the ballroom dance, to the many incarnations of snow it was one of the most conceptually complete pieces I have ever seen.  It is not so much that it was all black and white and grey, but more that everything had the right off-kilter feel and Tim Burton/Gothic kind of aesthetic.  It's not just a black coat - it's the 'perfect' black coat with the 'perfect' detailing.  This show is why I think Scenographer Brette Gerecke is a genius.  It's absolute proof of it.  This was matched with the choreography and the tone of the script.  So complete.  Watching this show is like taking a masterclass in design.  The cast itself was outstanding.  It's hard to single people out since they worked so well as an ensemble, however, I felt Karyn Mott was lovely in the lead as Memory McQuaid.  Her bright hair and textured voice made her very compelling. Opposite her, Benjamin Wardle as Gideon Glumb was delightful.  Because the stage was in an alley arrangement, it created a bit of a detachment effect for me, however, Wardle seemed to easily reach beyond that wall.  Similarly did Garett Ross as Popcorn Pete. Ross was fun to watch in his many incarnations - always drawings us in.  It is hard, though, to single people out - From Elinor Holt as the Icy Soul Collector whose vocal range was truly impressive, to Nancy McAlear as Anemone Knight whose dance was as elegant as her sadness. I thought Eric Wigston as tortured, love-struck, composer Thorvald Jesperson was note perfect, his record-skipping solo amazing.  I saw no flaws from anyone as they were all committed and strong in their performances. The script... hmmm... I am a bit torn on this.  I left the play really liking it, however, for the first 1/3 of the show I found it hard to get into.  I struggle with heavily-narrated shows and I think the narration off the top combined with the alley stage made it difficult for me to immerse myself right away.  There were also some balance issues with the sound so I couldn't really make out many of the lyrics of the first song the ensemble sang.  It was tightly and terrifically choreographed, but without knowing what they were saying I felt like I was reaching to understand what it was about.  Solos were always clear and those are what brought me into the show.  So, like I said, the first third I was disconnected, the last 2/3 thirds I was there and really captivated. It may also be that this is more of a show that is about the concept and style.  The narration automatically removes the audience so that you know it is in the realm of story-telling.  It is not until we start to hear the characters own voices that we start to care about them.  I am still pondering the message of the show.  I think this would have been a good one to see more than once and from different vantage points.  If they remount it, I would definitely try to catch it again.

And so, I was glad for the night out in my busy week! This weekend after Spelling Bee opens I will be catching The Flight of the Viscount at Shadow Theatre. Wish me luck for a good opening on Thursday night!  I was very excited to see our huge photo in the Edmonton Journal this week and to hear that tickets have been moving fast at Tix on the Square.  I am so pleased with the show.  I'm tickled because our SM frequently says to me following a run,  "This is NOT a Community Theatre show..." I think so too, but it is nice to hear it from someone else!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Meet Matt Graham - Carl Dad in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Matt Graham - Carl Dad

What role do you play in the show?

I play Carl Dad- one of Schwartzy's two fathers. He is an extremely competitive coach, and will stop at nothing to see his daughter take the Putnam Bee!

What is your background in theatre? 

I did a few shows for my high schools drama club, but some recent highlights include playing Horton in festival place's "Seussical the Musical" as well as getting the chance to work as assistant music director on the Walterdale Playhouse's production of "Nine" last summer!
This is my first production with ELOPE, and I'm SO excited to be involved in this show!

What is your favourite word to spell?

Mamihlapinatapai- "a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves". So wonderfully succinct!

Matt Graham and Dean McQuay as Carl Dad and Dan Dad in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Photo Credit: Janine Hodder

Homestretch! Feels Like We Need An Audience!

The ensemble cleaning arms for I Speak Six Languages (featured in picture: Kelly Webber and Meredith Honda) 
So, there are only two more rehearsals for Spelling Bee before we install in the space on Monday.  We have Sitz Probe tonight.  This is where we add the other instruments to the music with the cast.  It can be complicated because very often a note played on piano will sound very different played on a Cello and it is nice to have a rehearsal solely devoted to the music at this stage.  We know all the parts, we need to put them together.  I am excited to hear the sound with the orchestra! Usually I do a theme night for Sitz Probe because it is a great cast/orchestra bonding time.  I like Pyjama day, but it is too warm for my Snuggie, so we are going with "Beach Party"!

Then on Sunday night we have a run through and then we are in the space! A big shift for me after doing Walterdale shows.  My fabulous Stage Manager, Kim, and I have meticulously planned out the time on Monday so that we maximize what we get to do in the space before Opening Night. It's crunch time, but there isn't much crunchy about the show so I am far more relaxed than I expected to be.  All the fixes required are tiny tweaks.  It is great for me to see the actors still playing and keeping it present and real.

Here are a few more rehearsal pictures from the amazing Janine Hodder:

Amanda Neufeld as Rona Lisa Perretti
Nadien Veroba as Olive and Curtis Knecht as Barfee
Nadine Veroba, Curtis Knecht, Meredith Honda, John Evans, Kristin Johnston and Mark Sinongco as the Spellers!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Pieces Falling Into Place... Walterdale One Acts and ELOPE Spelling Bee...

Both of the productions that I am working on are getting close.  I like this time, for the most part, especially when things are running smoothly. This afternoon, I watched the rehearsal for both of the One Acts in Walterdale's From Cradle to Stage today so I could see what the set looked like under the lights to check on colours and such and I was delighted on more than one front.  First, the way lighting designer, Brad Melrose, has lit both shows really works to transform the space into two distinct environments.  This is not easy when one place takes place outside in a wooded ravine and the other is inside a mental health facility.  I was very happy with what he did.  I was also so pleased to see where each of the shows were at in terms of the acting and such.  I think that the playwrights will be pleased with how the directors have served their work.  I haven't had any contact with the shows since the first read through, although I have spoken to the directors with regards to set and props, so it was great to see that the plays were clearly in good hands!

In the evening we had a  cleaning and spacing rehearsal for Spelling Bee.  Choreographer Jake Hastey was back with us to see where we were at with the dance numbers.  I was very happy that we were able to show him some really clean numbers that he didnt' have to do much more with.  I always want the dance in my shows to be top-notch, so I made sure that we worked them a lot in Jake's absence.  Kudos to our two Dance Captains, Kelly Webber and Cleo Halls, for leading that over the last few weeks.  I was very proud of my cast tonight!

I was also tickled to get a phone call from my Mom, saying she went to Let the Light of Day Through at Theatre Network because she read about it in my blog.  She said she wouldn't have gone if not for the write up I did as she couldn't really tell much about it from the advertisements.  She loved it. So I am glad that I helped get her there.

Photo: Director Eric Rice on the Exposure set... setting lights.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Tonight! JTMF West Artists For Life!

Meet the Music Master of Spelling Bee - Sally Hunt, Music Director

Sally Hunt:  Music Director

What is your role on this show? I am responsible for the music in this show.  This one is particularly fun -- the lyrics are really fantastic.  How many shows rhyme "exuberance" with "protuberance".  So much fun!

Tell us about you experience with ELOPE: My first outing with ELOPE was their production of South Pacific, circa 1988.  I was a singing and dancing nurse.  My most recent project with ELOPE was music director for I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.  And I'll be back as music director for next season's A Tale of Two Cities.

What is you favourite word to spell? Favourite word to spell:  loquacious.  It's a great word, and is a more grown-up way of saying "chatterbox" (which I definitely am!)

photo credit: Janine Hodder

Friday, May 03, 2013

Overlap! Knee deep in two major projects, attending read-thorugh for the next one tonight!

So, despite my desire to slow down this season, I did not... clearly... I am directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for ELOPE which runs May 16 - June 1 at La Cite Francophone and I am Coordinating and am Production Manager (and set-designing and painting) for Walterdale's Annual From Cradle to Stage festival of new one act plays which runs May 20 - 25 at Walterdale with a Playwright Workshop on the 26th.  So if you look at those dates you can probably figure out why I might get cranky over the next few weeks... So far so good. I think I have managed to hold myself together despite numerous hiccups primarily concerning ridiculous arising scheduling conflicts with the first one and some minor communication issues with the second.  Everything is delightfully on track and barring any further complications I should survive May! With my set painting I am ahead of schedule due to some terrific volunteers who came out to help me and that is very nice as it meant I could do a few other things today instead of going in to the theatre.

Anyhow, tonight I get to dip my toe in the waters of my next project.  I have been asked to direct a Fringe show - Death Comes to Auntie Norma!  Tonight we have a read-through so that I can hear the play aloud and so that the playwright (Zack Siezmagraff) can revisit it before he writes his next draft.  I am looking forward to meeting the entire cast and hearing the play so that I can let it percolate in my brain under the surface before we start really working on it in June. Should be fun!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Great Artists, Great Party, Great Cause! JTMF Artists for Life - May 4th at the Citadel Club

This Saturday Night I will joining friends and community members at the annual JTMF Artists for Life event.  This will be the third year I've gone (I missed the first year because I was in a show) and I am looking forward to it.  It is the brainchild of Top 40 Under 40 Joyce LaBriola who formed the satellite organization as a offshoot from the original JTMF that she was a founding member of years before in New Jersey. Anyhow, it's a great cause and a GREAT PARTY!  This year the event has moved to the Citadel Club and I am looking forward to celebrating and raising money for a good cause in the new digs!

JTMF West is a local arts organization, created with the mandate of raising funds for HIV/AIDS and LGBT youth support services. 2013 Artists for Life raises funds for HIV Edmonton, Camp fYrefly and YESS.

This year Wil is the featured artist. Named 2005 WCMA Entertainer of the Year and selected as the songwriter for Travel Alberta’s “Remember to Breathe” campaign, Wil uses his legendary live performances to develop a roots-rock sound and create a style that is honest, edgy and raw, yet achingly beautiful all at once. One such performance was written up by the Calgary Sun as having so much “power and soul it could stop your heart.”

After the show, hosted by Breakfast Television’s Bridget Ryan, attendees will enjoy a catered reception sponsored by Alley Kat Brewery and verleo interiors, a silent auction filled with items donated by local artists, and a post-show dance party by local star Audrey Ochoa and the Crashers, plus the DJ stylings of The Urban Monks and a special appearance by The Carolines.

Tickets are $50, which includes the full night of entertainment, catered reception and silent auction. VIP Tickets are available for $100 and include entry into a special prize draw to win a trip for 2 to Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and $1,000 in Fairmont Gift Cards, courtesy of Minsos Stewart Mason. A silent auction rife with donated art from local artists completes the evening.

Fans may also purchase $20 tickets for the dance party only.

Doors open @ 6:30pm. WiL takes the stage at 7:00pm, Audrey Ochoa & The Crashers @ 9:15pm.

What I love about this event is that not only are you raising money for some really great causes, but it is a fabulous party.  It is never the same twice because the line-up changes yearly and it supports both Artists and those in need. There are a few VIP tickets left (but not many) so I recommend you get them now! There are also some great options if you can't afford the VIP tickets, so it is a very inclusive event. Oh, and did I mention the Open Wine Bar? I suppose it's bad if I say that's my favourite part...

Meet the Cast of Spelling Bee - Rolando and Erin!

Rolando Bautista

What is your role in this show? I play Paul Coneybear, one of Leafs siblings.

What is your background in theatre? When I was in high school I did Pippin, Urinetown, and Babes in Arms. But that was kind of it, haha. I’ve never taken any singing lessons, most of the techniques that I use now (which isn’t very much) when I sing is mostly self-taught, but I think I’ve gotten pretty far considering! This is my very first ELOPE production, actually my very first production outside of high school and I’m extremely happy to be a part it!

What is your favourite word to spell? My favourite word to spell  is Awkward because it just has a weird vibe to it when you’re spelling it as compared to saying it, not quite sure how to explain it but it’s a weird word to spell but I like it.

Erin Foster-O'Riordan

What is your role in this show? Olive's mother, or more precisely, Olive's dream version of her mother--a dream where her mom is longing to be with her as much as she longs to be with her mom.

What is your background in theatre?  After years of being far too serious for my own good, I re-connected with my love of theatre, and am so grateful for the experiences I've had, and the people I've met. With ELOPE, I appeared in Baby as part of the ensemble of crazy mamas, and as Irene Malloy in Hello, Dolly!  Favourite roles elsewhere include Truvy in Steel Magnolias, the Wife in Putting it Together, and Cathy in The Last Five Years.  

What is your favourite word to spell? Chimerical. So beautiful yet so melancholy!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Meet the Spellers - William Barfée (aka Curtis Knecht)

Introducing Curtis Knecht

What is your role in this show? I play William Barfée, a spelling competitor.   William was tragically forced to forfeit the Bee last year and is back to win it all... at any cost.

What is your background in theatre? I've been involved in theatre for over 35 years both onstage and as a director.  I also have a Master of Music degree in voice and pedagogy, so music has also been a large part of my life.  Some of my favorite roles have been Bottom (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Sancho (Man of La Mancha) and the voice of the plant - Audrey II (Little Shop of Horrors).  This is my first show with ELOPE and I'm very excited to be a part of the Bee.

What is your favourite word to spell, and why? Hasenpfeffer - a rabbit stew often served with sour cream.  There's just something... magical about the word.

Photo Credit: Janine Hodder