Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Four Chances Left to see Stop Kiss!

"As undoubtedly Vancouver's hardest working actors on stage right now, the cast of Secretly Women Productions' Stop Kiss not only serve up a powerful and shockingly relevant piece but do so in the tiny confines of the Havana Theatre, on a shoe-string budget and no guarantees of even being paid for their efforts. And that is the real crime here as this is one show that queer and straight audiences alike should be flocking to see it. Not only because of the relevance to recent gay-bashings in Vancouver but because Director David C Jones has managed to illicit such incredible performances from his actors." - Mark Robbins,

Saturday night we had a packed house & we are expecting more of the same this week. If you are planning to see the show, but have not yet booked your tickets, stop reading this, pick up your phone, call 604-630-9051 & reserve now!

UPDATE: Check out the mini review from today's Vancouver Courier.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The "To See" List: May

I began April with lofty ambitions and plans to see many plays. Here we are now at the end of the month & I've found that I've failed. Of all the shows I planned to see, I've only seen two. (That said, I have tickets booked to see some of them in May). There have been a number of reasons for this apparent failure.

- One performance which I had tickets to was canceled.
- Volunteer shifts got bumped to May
- I agreed to take on another show (which was on my list to-see) and ended up rehearsing evenings when I'd otherwise have been seeing shows.
- On my rare nights off I was just too tired to go & see something else

Looking ahead to May I've made a new list of shows to see, but I've tried to be a bit more realistic about what I can fit in to my schedule.

That said, here's the list of shows for May:

-John & Beatrice (Pi theatre at the PAL theatre)[attending opening: Weds, May6th]
-Secret World of Og (Carousel theatre at Waterfront theatre) [volunteering Fri, May 8th]
-Dying City (at Little Mountain Studios)
-Les Miserable (Arts Club Theatre at Stanley stage)
-Palace of the End (Touchstone Theatre, Felix Culpa, & Horseshoes and Hand Grenades at PAL)
-36 Views (Tempus Theatre at Jericho Arts Centre)
-Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op at Performance Works)

Got any other shows you think I should be checking out? Tell me about them in the comments. And if you see me at a show, come say hi!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Value of To-Do Lists

If lateness is one of my least favorite things, then to do lists are one of my favorite things. I make them everywhere: on napkins, on my computer, on scraps of paper, on the back of my hand... anywhere. My new computer has a great to do list template that you fill in, but it has boxes to check off as things are completed. (See photo at left.) Riding the bus to work in the morning, I can often be found making a list of all the things I intend to accomplish that day.

There are 3 main reasons that I love to do lists:

#1 - When there is a lot to do, a list is more reliable than my brain. This is entirely practical: when I have a lot going on (for example two shows, a job hunt, & a blog to maintain), writing things down is a sure way to remember that they need to be done. I have a pretty great memory for the most part, but ensuring that nothing is missed or forgotten is a key part of my job as a stage manager.

#2- They are a great way to proactively procrastinate. In putting off things I don't want to do, making a list of things I need to do is great. It allows more to still be doing something useful while procrastinating. This was one of the most valuable things I learned in university!

#3- There is nothing as satisfying as looking at a list with every single item crossed off. (confession: I have been known to put things I've already done onto my list, just so I can cross them off.) The sense of accomplishment that accompanies a list with every item finished is fantastic.

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One of my best tools for list making is this note pad from knock knock Novelties.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes: Stop Kiss Edition

From the producers notes in the program for Stop Kiss (opens tonight @ the Havana)

"This play struck a cord with our hearts & simultaneously an innocent face was struck in the city. With that in mind we decided this story needed to be told. It's a love story. Simple as that. Too often we hear of hate crimes that happen & all we focus on is the hate. We world like for you to sit back in this dark space & let us remind you of someone you love, that loves you back... just the way you are."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Timeliness is Next to Godliness

In her recent blog post on auditioning tips, Sabrina Everett gives her number 1 tip:

SHOW UP ON TIME. Seriously. If you can’t show up to an audition on time, what makes me think that you will show up to rehearsals on time? Please don’t waste my time (or anyone else’s for that matter).

And in her discussion of professionalism, BFG85 says:

You know, one really valuable lesson I learned at NYU that I'm fairly certain is taught at all theatre schools is that "early is on time and on time is late." Heck, even Strasberg got that one right. No one likes having their time wasted. This one goes both ways, I don't care who you think you are.

It seems like lateness is a big problem in indie/semi-professional theatre (I can't speak to the large houses, perhaps someone can comment below). As a stage manger, lateness is my biggest pet-peeve. Sometimes, it can arise from miscommunication or misunderstanding of schedules, but more often than not it is something that can be avoided. And must be.

I once had a cast member who was reliant on carpooling to get to rehearsal as she didn't have a vehicle of her own, and she lived over an hour away. When she slept in one morning because she forgot to set her alarm clock, not only had she missed her carpool, but it would now take her almost three hours to get to rehearsal on public transit. With a cast of 15 waiting to work and having to change their plans because of her, the decision to sleep an extra 20 minutes ended up costing a loss of 54-human hours or over 2 days of work (15 cast + 1 director +1 SM + 1 ASM x 3 hours). That is unacceptable.

When you are joining a show for the first time I'd advise planning a route and figuring out how much time it will take according to google maps (or google transit if you are taking the bus). But then add half an hour to that. That will give you a chance to see how long it actually takes you. And then based on that new information, still leave 10 minutes before you think you have to. It is always better to be at the theatre 10 minutes ahead of when you intended than it is to be late because traffic was more backed up than you expected or one bus was full and left you on the side of the road.

I am at the rehearsal hall an hour early getting things set up so that you can do your job. You being 15 minutes late matters. Be on time. Or, as Travis says, PUPPIES DIE.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes

"A play's got to be a dramatic event, not a lyrical event. It's not music, it's not poetry, it's not dance, it's not narrative - it's's about conflict. It's about forces coming together."
- Romulus Linney

"When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work, and so he often wrote better than he could write; Bach composed more deeply, more truly than he knew, Rembrandt's brush put more of the human spirit on canvas than Rembrandt could comprehend. When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens."
- Madeleine L'Engle

"Learning to write for the theatre is learning to be a human being, because the theatre by its very nature makes you deal with other human beings."
- David Ives

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's a Puzzling Life

You may remember that I've been job hunting. Mailing out resumes. Following up with companies. Networking. All of those things that I dread. And I'm starting to figure out just how cyclical it all is.

In the past week I've gotten two jobs. But each of them simply informs me what the parameters are for finding the next one.

The first one that I got is Stage Managing for a production of Diana Son's Stop Kiss which opens a week from tonight. They had a stage manager before, but she was overwhelmed by it all, so they were looking for someone to step in for the final week of rehearsal & to run the show. The cast is very generous and the show is coming together. Interestingly, it was on my "to see" list for April and now I'm working on it. But hopefully any of you in the Vancouver area will put it on your own version of the "to see" list. The play is about two friends' first kiss that leads to a life threatening attack.

This play is particularly timely in Vancouver at the moment with the recent attack on Rich Dowrey. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Dowrey is a 62 year old man who was recently put into a coma by a suckerpunch. The man who hit him allegedly told bystanders, “He’s a faggot — he deserved it.” You can read local news coverage here.

If you're interested in seeing the show it runs APRIL 24 - MAY 2 at 8 PM. Tickets are $20 and you can call 604-630-9051 to reserve. There will be a preview performance on April 23rd at 8:30pm (please note the time difference). Tickets for the preview are $15. Partial proceeds from the performance of the show will go to the GLTB Centre. You can check out the facebook event for it here.

The interesting thing about taking on this show is that it overlaps with with rehearsals for my next show at Pacific Theatre. I'll be rehearsing by day and performing by night; something I'm comign to realize is a necessity of making a living doing this crazy theatre thing.

Before I move on to the second job that I got, I will say that it is a very unique situation to be coming into a show this close to opening and taking over from someone else who is still involved in the production. Everyone involved has been wonderful and making me feel like I am a part of the group, despite my more recent entry to the production.

The second job that I got is spending my summer in Kamloops with Project X stagemanaging Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are dead while ASMing Hamlet. The two shows will run in rep from July 23rd to August 8th. I'm sure I'll be talking more about those shows as they approach.

This second job is what started me thinking about life in the theatre as a giant puzzle. Once I got this job, I had to make some calls to a couple of co-ops that I had spoken with about the summer, informing them that I could not be involved in their shows, but that I hope to work with them in the future. It also meant that I got to call some other folks and let them know that yes, I could work on their productions. As this piece fit into place, the pieces that go beside it became clearer.

For example, I now know that I have the time in August to go to New Mexico and be a bridesmaid in a dear friend's wedding, something that I wouldn't have been able to do if I had gotten a job that was all the way through August. I also know that I have time to fill between August 17 - Sept 5 and again Sept. 20 - Oct. 12 and can begin looking for things to fill those slots.

So the job hunt continues, but it continues in a more informed manner. As I keep saying, the whole process impresses on me a whole new level of respect for the actors who keep on doing this while working another job to pay the bills. My puzzle looks like a 4-yr old's play toy compared to your 500 piece landscape.


On a somewhat related topic, my friend Sabrina, the Artistic Producer/Director of Twenty Something Theatre has just posted a great blog post about how to give a great audition. You should check it out.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why Do I Have a Blog Anyways?

Lately I've been feeling like I need to remind myself why it is that I have this theatre blog, so forgive me - this post is as much to define this blog for myself as it is for anyone who reads it.

I scan & read an average of 45 blog posts per day from my 115 subscriptions, and most of those are Theatre related; yes, Theatre with a capital T. Economics. Manifestos. Theory. Marketing practice. Script Development. Current events analysis. Philosophy. Projections for the future.

I enjoy reading what people are saying and wrestling with the ideas that they are discussing, but that's not what I want to write about, because it isn't what I am passionate about.

Don't get me wrong. I love theatre. I wouldn't be continuing to try to find work doing theatre if I didn't love it. But my passion for theatre comes from creating theatre and seeing the theatre that is being created by my peers, not arguing about theory. And this may be naiive of me, and I'm okay with that. When it comes right down to it, I still have a lot of time to become jaded with the industry or to learn about just how hard it is to get the necessary funding. I'm still relatively new to all of this.

For me, this blog is an outlet for my writing - something I've missed sorely since finishing university. While in school I was churning out about 3000 words a week and when I graduated and had no assigned writing to do, I missed it. A self-imposed assignment is as good as something a professor assigns as long as it makes me keep writing and thinking. And sometimes it's better because I'd far rather be writing about something I'm passionate about (theatre) than something I'm not (pre-confederation Canada).

So, what do I want to write about?

I want to write about all the crazy things that happen behind the scenes in the course of making theatre. I want to share my experiences as I take part in creating this thing we call theatre. I can't share everything interesting - that ends up breaking confidences - but I'll share what I can.

I also want to write about the theatre I see, but I'm still trying to figure out how to do that. When I started the blog I thought I might include reviews (you can find some among my early posts), but the reality is that at this point in my career doing peer reviews of shows will burn bridges I can't afford to burn. I've written about some theatrical trends that bother me and about shows I am looking forward to, but I'm not yet convinced that these are the best approaches to discussing the vast amount of work that is happening in Vancouver. But I'll keep looking for those ways.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes

"A playwright is the litmus paper of the arts. He's got to be, because if he isn't working on the same wave length as the audience, no one would know what in hell he was talking about. He is a kind of psychic journalist, even when he's great." - Arthur Miller

"The primary function of a theatre is not to please itself, or even to please its audience. It is to serve talent." - Robert Brustein

"I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act." - Orson Welles

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Many are Too Few?

I was incredibly dissapointed this afternoon to receive a phone call from the Vancouver Playhouse informing me that the performance of Studies in Motion to which I had booked tickets was being cancelled due to lack of attendance.

The performance was scheduled for next Thursday afternoon and for me, a week day matinee is the ideal time to see a show. If I am in performances, I have my day times free and this coming week when I am off work I have booked in evening performances most nights of the week and squeeze in a matinee as well (of course they also tend to be more affordable - in this case a difference of about $15). At this point the Playhouse has refunded my ticket without any problem, but I am uncertain if I will be able to see the show now despite really wanting to. Am I willing to shell out the additional money to go to an evening show? Do I have an evening free to go? What about the closing Saturday matinee?

So I'm curious: how many people are too few to do a show for?

I can understand the need to have enough people to cover costs, but for any union house, you wouldn't be paying performers & stage management extra per show - 8 shows per week are written into the Equity contract. The only additional fees that would exist would be technicians who are paid hourly & any additional front of house and bar staff. There really must not have been many of us booked in for that matinee.

In a smaller theatre where there is no hourly staff, I've done shows for as few as four people. In a Fringe situation I can remember doing shows for two. Friends tell stories of doing a production of "Jack, or the Submission" for one elderly woman who at the end, when asked how the production was, said, "That was exhausting!" Reality is, in smaller theatres we can make those decisions and go on with the show.

Backstage during co-ops there are always the whispers of "if the house is smaller than the size of the cast we can cancel" but each time I've been in that situation, the cast has chosen to go on with the show: they've come this far, they don't want to turn back now. And I've had positive experiences in doing those smaller audience shows. There are people who have come up to the performers afterwards talking about how touched they were by the show. And we've been glad that we haven't cancelled.

What would it take for you to cancel a performance?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ken Davenport of The Producer's Perspective Hosts Theatre Bloggers Meet Up

I've RSVPed for this, despite not being from New York - if they find a way to link in the rest of us through the wonders of online technology, I'm excited to be a part of the wider discussion about theatre & the role of theatre blogs.

Here's the info from Ken's blog: click on over there to RSVP yourselves.

Thursday, April 23rd. 6 PM - 8 PMPlanet HollywoodBroadway at 45th St.
To RSVP, comment to this blog with your name and the URL of your blog. Confirmation and final details will be emailed to you. Oh, and to qualify as a "Theater Blogger", you should:
Have a blog devoted primarily to theater
Post regularly
Be an independent blogger (not sponsored/paid to blog by any organization)
If that's you, then come on down to Planet Hollywood on the 23rd and meet others who do what you do. Share some appetizers. Swap some links. Find guest columnists. Argue about whether discounts are eroding our sales or not.
Maybe we'll agree, maybe we won't. But at least we'll have the conversation. And when we're all in one room, the volume of that conversation will be loud enough that people will have to listen.
Who knows, maybe it will be the first meeting of this.
If you're an out-of-town theater blogger, RSVP as well. We're working on a way to e-hook you in.
And if you don't have a blog? Start one. And you can come to the next event.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes

"I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being" - Thorton Wilder or Oscar Wilde (attribution debated)

"Men are not suffering from the lack of good literature, good art, good theatre, good music, but from that which has made it impossible for these to become manifest. In short, they are suffering from the silent shameful conspiracy (the more shameful since it is unacknowledged) which has bound them together as enemies of art and artists.” - Henry Miller

“You don't merely give over your creativity to making a film -- you give over your life! In theatre, by contrast, you live these two rather strange lives simultaneously; you have no option but to confront the mould on last night's washing-up.” - Daniel Day-Lewis

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Theatre: or, What I Loved About World Theatre Day

There are already a handful of World Theatre Day 2009 round-ups online. You can find them here. And here. And here. And here. And here. But now it's my turn to weigh in on it.

In the lead up to World Theatre Day there was a lot of discussion about "Why Theatre?" It was blogged (and again and again). It was videoed a few times. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, but never got as far as writing about it. But here's what it boils down to for me: I tried to get out, and I couldn't.

I did some theatre in high school - stage managed a couple of shows, designed a poster, built some sets & hung some lights. And I liked it. But I didn't see it as something that I could make a career out of. Someone else, sure. But I was cut out for something different. I was going to study PR & marketing, and I was going to work in the music industry doing that.

So I went into university looking to do that. I declared a Communications major (& media certification) before I took my first class and I was ready to conquer the world. But I needed some fine arts electives, so why not just take 1 credit worth of production. Well, 1 credit turned into 3 and soon I found myself declaring a theatre minor. And then a theatre concentration. And then I was stage managing a professional show while still in school. It was only after that experience that I went to my adviser and re-wrote the graduation requirements so that I could do a theatre major without upper level acting classes. Even then I still kept the communications major, just in case.

But here I am, a couple of years out of school and still doing this crazy thing called theatre full time. And I'm here because theatre pursued me and won me.

But now you're wondering what the heck does any of that have to do with World Theatre Day.

For me, World Theatre Day was all about celebrating this crazy thing I love to do & inviting others who love it to celebrate with me. Sure, as Rebecca pointed out, Vancouver's events weren't that well attended, but those of us who were there had fun (see myself & Simon at left). I even stage managed a special World Theatre Day show here in Vancouver. Even more important than any events at a local level was the international co-operation that truely made this a WORLD theatre day. With each online meeting of the facilitation team excitement grew and new relationships were formed. There are still ways to get involved in WTD09. Have you submitted a photo of yourself standing on books yet? Ian over at Theatre is Territory is collecting them from the tumblr site and you can submit yours by e-mailing it to The idea is that the photos will be used to create a commemorative poster from this year's event.

Already people are talking about 2010 and all the things they want to try out, and 2009 has barely wrapped up. I've got to say, I'm looking forward to it.

Photos from A Time to Dance (and a special 2-for-1 offer!)

"Her dance was as varied as her vocalizations and the story rich and captivating from beginning to end. Touchingly telling the tale of this remarkable pioneer of 1930's modern dance and innovator of dance therapy, Libby followed Lisl life from Vienna across Europe escaping Nazis to poverty then fame in New York City. Libby was beautiful throughout bringing the heart, sadness and promise of an era to the little theatre with her remarkable art." -William Hay

(Photos of Libby Skala by Damon Calderwood. Ms. Skala appears with permission of CAEA)

I do have a special 2-for-1 ticket offer available for the next two days. Just call the box office (604-731-5518) and say that it's "A Time for Tickets". Simple. See you all at the show!