How did you first learn about Soulpepper?
Ken: Through a very dear friend of mine who unfortunately died a number of years ago – Marilyn Michener, who was also a very good friend of Albert’s. Marilyn introduced me to Albert and the rest, as they say, is history. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion to become involved because he just had such an amazing vision for what he wanted to do.
What has inspired you to continue your support for a number of years?
Mike: The more we saw of the productions, the more we wanted to come back and say “What’s happening next year?” The donations just became second nature after we realized that this is really great theatre.
Ken: We were made to feel welcome, always. We were made to feel like we were part of the family and that’s important.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about giving to Soulpepper?
Ken: I think that Soulpepper is unique in the city. There are other organizations that are also very very good, but I think that one of the things here is that it’s year round and the company has a very clear vision. Your commitment to outreach and community involvement…
Mike: I think that’s extremely important. Things like the Soulpepper Academy you don’t get in many theatre organizations.
Ken: And the fact that the productions are, let’s face it, top notch. Year in and year out they are the best in the city, if not the province. It’s an easy sell for people to become involved.
Why do you think the arts should be a priority for philanthropy?
Ken: When I was in my working life, I was a strong supporter of the arts because I firmly believed that the arts reach so many people, as many people if not more people than professional sports. There are all sorts of causes that you can give to – healthcare, social services and education, but the arts, broadly speaking, rounds out a community. You need all the various parts for a community to be whole.
Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?
Ken: Ten years from now, what we’d like to see, what I think we will see, is Soulpepper being a much more diverse organization. There is increasing diversity in terms of the ensemble and I think there is growing diversity in terms of the canon – the third part of that will be the diversity of the audience. And that’s tough and everybody recognizes that. But in a city as diverse as Toronto… Out of all the arts organizations, Soulpepper has a vision and a strategy laid out to do that. And we think you’ll do it.
Michael Oakes and Ken Gingerich, photo: Nathan Kelly.
Marat/Sade is a huge ensemble piece which is rarely done on professional stage. How do you describe this play to others?
The complete title of the play tells us the facts of the story: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. There’s a beautiful irony to a group of people locked up in a cage putting on a play about the French Revolution and its fight for freedom, equality and brotherhood. The inmate’s production challenges them to negotiate their own relationship to these ideals behind bars.
What is particularly striking about this version?
In our version of the play we are set in 2015 Canada and have shifted the focus from the performers being in an asylum to a prison. Peter Weiss wrote this play during the 1960s in Germany, using the French Revolution to speak to the political unrest in his country at that time. Albert Schultz, our director, has set our production in the present and the meaning has shifted to address our own issues as a nation, with echoes of G20, Guantanamo Bay, and the plight of our First Nations. Fifty-two years after publication the play is still strikingly relevant.
In the same way that we are using anachronisms in our setting of the story, Mike Ross, our musical director, has set his original music to a mixture of genres. From revolutionary anthems, to soft rock love ballads and rebellious punk, music is at the heart of our production. Mike has been able to access the patriotism, rage, idealism, chaos and sex that are at the centre of the story.
What is your role in the play?
I play Rossignol, a prostitute who is one of the inmates in the institution and cast as one of the five singers in the French Revolution play. The singers serve as a musical Greek chorus commenting and elevating the action of the piece through song.
What was rehearsal like for this production?
This has been the most unique rehearsal process I’ve ever been a part of. Most of the cast are playing inmates who have little to no experience performing in plays so they are dealing with nerves and in some cases mental illnesses as they perform their roles. We have a giant copy of the script on stage with one of the inmates as a prompter who tries to keep everyone on track if someone forgets their lines or the order of the scenes. Albert has purposely crafted in loosely staged moments which add to a real feeling of “what am I supposed to be doing now?” None of the cast ever leaves the stage and the performance pressure creates a heightened awareness and interaction with the audience which changes from night to night. It is an exhilarating ride.
What makes this a must-see play?
Marat/Sade is offensive, sexy, and very funny and has something to say about our government and country. I wish I had seen a production like this when I was in theatre school. It would have opened up my ideas of what theatre could be. The play challenges conventional audience expectations. The fourth wall is consistently broken, the audience is thrown into the spotlight and I hope challenged to confront their own beliefs and participation in the political apathy of our society.
For tickets and more information visit soulpepper.ca
Mikaela Davies, photo: Nathan Kelly. Stuart Hughes & ensemble, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann. Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Mikaela Davies & Stuart Hughes, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.
How long have you worked at the Young Centre/Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consists of lately.
I started working at The Young Centre as a Front of House Floor Captain in the Fall of 2011 and I have been working at Soulpepper since January of this year.
My current job is multifaceted; I perform administrative functions for all departments. Currently, much of my day is occupied with coordinating invites and seating for the upcoming openings of the shows in our Fall 2015 season.
What kinds of artistic endeavors are you involved in outside of work?
Outside of work, I work as a playwright. I have written and produced my own shows with Crows Theatre and at Toronto Fringe. I just completed a season in playwrights units at Obsidian and Cahoots theatre companies; I’m back at Obsidian for a second season working on my play; The Reception.
What else keeps you busy outside of work?
As above, I write a lot. I see a lot of theatre; I’m a Dora Juror for theatre for young audiences this year. I enjoy the outdoors as much as I can; my boyfriend and I like to go on little day trips. As I’m sure many others do, I love to cook and eat… particularly dessert; I do quiet a bit of baking for family events.
What is a hidden talent of yours?
I don’t know how hidden it is, but I am trained in Dominican cultural dance (The Commonwealth of Dominica not the Dominican Republic). I perform quite a bit outside of work and I also teach; I have a group of 6 little ladies.
Recently, Dominica was devastated by a hit from tropical storm Erica so I’ve been helping with the relief effort as much as I can in my spare time.
What do you love about working at the Young Centre/Soulpepper?
I like that…
Every day is different and presents unique challenges.
I work in a theatre; my favourite places to be on any given day.
The people here make every day a pleasure.
This fall Soulpepper presents the world premiere of Linda Gaboriau’s new English translation of Michel Tremblay’s Yours Forever, Marie-Lou. This is Soulpepper’s first time staging a piece by the artist many consider Canada’s greatest playwright. Founding Member and Governor General’s Award recipient Diana LeBlanc directs this emotional and unflinching story of a Quebecois family. Along with Mr. Tremblay, making their Soulpepper debuts in this production is an ensemble of Francophone actors, including Suzanne Roberts Smith.
Smith will be tackling the role of Carmen who attempts to overcome a tragic circumstance involving her parents (Christian Laurin as Leopold and Patricia Marceau as Marie-Louise) and her younger sister, Manon (played by Genevieve Dufour), in order to move on with her life.
Smith describes joining a Soulpepper production as a wonderful opportunity. “It’s a company I’ve wanted to be a part of for a long time and to be part of it in this way, with this piece, with this ensemble, and this translation, it’s like layers of dreams coming true.”
Along with this being Smith’s first time performing at Soulpepper she is also working with LeBlanc for the first time. She says about Leblanc: “Here she is having previously played both the roles of Manon and Marie-Louise in both languages and having directed other versions. And she has this relationship with the playwright’s work. The play lives in her in a unique way, and I can’t imagine anyone else on the planet better suited to directing it.”
Smith knows that taking on a new translation means tackling the complexities of communicating the themes and messages of the original script. “He [Tremblay] gave Linda Gaboriau a key insight into the translation and also for us as the actors. He said; ‘One step further and the ensemble would be singing.’ It’s a series of duets between the sisters and the parents.”
Along with Yours Forever, Tremblay’s productions perfectly illustrate Quebecois identity and the social struggles which are faced against the rest of Canada. The importance of bringing this production to the Soulpepper stage is to recognize Canadian identity through the Francophone culture. Smith explains there is an importance in Soulpepper showcasing this production with a Francophone ensemble, centered on this type of Quebecois family, to English speaking Toronto audiences. “He is this figure in Quebec to transform and to bring so much pride to this culture. He’s using a microcosm of the marginalized and disenfranchised Quebecois family to tell the story of Quebec’s relationship with the rest of the Canadian family.”
When asked what she hopes audiences will take away from this production, Smith says, “I hope audiences can see themselves, their own struggle represented. I hope they can identify with the characters and can feel a catharsis from this manifestation. I hope audiences can feel a sense of liberation and a sense of hope.”
Yours Forever, Marie-Lou is on stage from September 14 to October 17. For tickets, visit www.soulpepper.ca.
Suzanne Roberts Smith, photo: supplied by artist. Patricia Marceau & Suzanne Roberts Smith, photo: Nathan Kelly. Diana Leblanc & Suzanne Roberts Smith, photo: Nathan Kelly. Suzanne Roberts Smith & Genevieve Dufour, photo: Nathan Kelly.
Soulpepper’s City Youth Academy is a six-week intensive summer training program for promising young artists in Toronto ages 16-19. Ten youth this summer will be given six weeks of skills training and artistic development as integrated members of the Soulpepper company. Participants Tatyana Mitchell and Nick Eddie share their thoughts on the experience so far.
What are your personal artistic areas of interest?
Tatyana: My areas of interest include acting and set designing.
Nick: I have been very interested in theatre arts for a long time. It was only after many years of my grandparents dragging me to plays before I realized I actually enjoyed it. I personally, enjoy acting the most, but am more than content to participate in the THEEAHTER in any way, shape, or form.
What expectations did you have coming into the City Youth Academy, and how has the program differed or met them?
Tatyana: I didn’t think there were going to be so many activities jam packed into 6 weeks. Before my audition I was still unsure of what exactly we’d be doing. However, when we started, I was kind of overwhelmed. In a good way. I was surprised by how much we were doing.
What is your group currently working on?
Nick: I am always surprised by how much work a theatrical production is. So far we have mostly done work with strengthening the ensemble; learning new things, working as a team, etc. And then occasionally we will have time dedicated to creating pieces, which is mixed in outcome, as it always is with collective work. Hopefully by the time we are done we will have enough material to pick and choose all the best stuff, but honestly it is just so nice being involved in creation work again.
What activity/workshop/moment has really excited and inspired you so far?
Tatyana: A workshop that has excited me so far is music. I don’t sing in public unless it’s required, and now singing solos and being surrounded by people who enjoy singing has helped me cope with my nerves. Other workshops that have inspired me are Text and Design; Text has helped me look at scripts and characters more in depth. I was able to create a background, how my character would interact with the people she surrounds herself with, and I have learned not to judge my character no matter how troubled they are. And although Design was one session, I still learned how creative you can get with a setting that is not just three walls, a table, and a chair.
Nick: Working with Greg Oh has been one of the most gruelling processes I have had the pleasure to experience. We’ve been working on a song with four harmonies, and every note is a battle. Learning with him takes so much dedication and focus. And Greg makes it easy. I wouldn’t want to have a bad teacher when it comes to something like this.
How do you see the City Youth Academy affecting your future artistic journey?
Tatyana: I’m going to Humber College in September for Theatre Performance and I’m treating the program as if it’s pre-training, before I head there for the next three years. Movement and Text are helping me be the most prepared for what’s to come. So I’m grateful.
Nick: Well, I hope to stay connected with Soulpepper in any way I can. I constantly have to remind myself that I need to use every moment of this great opportunity, not just those in workshops and activities. So this time, I have been making a concerted effort to meet people, and to prove my worth. But damn it, it’s hard. Anyway, that’s my goal, to become an active member in the Soulpepper community.
Anything else you want to share?
Tatyana: Best advice I’ve received so far is “Don’t be an Adam Sandler.”
Visit soulpepper.ca for more information.
The Soulpepper City Youth Academy is generously supported by Scotiabank with additional support from R. Howard Webster Foundation.
2015 City Youth Academy participants and staff, photos supplied by Jennifer Villaverde and Fiona Suliman.
This fall, Soulpepper is presenting the return of one of its most successful production’s, The Play’s the Thing. Based on Ferenc Molnar’s 1926 Hungarian script and with a faithful adaption by P.G. Wodehouse, this stylish romantic comedy set on the Italian Rivera pokes fun at the behind-the-scenes life in the theatre. Reprising his role as Almady in this highly anticipated remount is C. David Johnson.
Johnson describes Molnar’s play as a love letter to the stage. “It’s full of love of theatre, love of actors and a love of language,” says Johnson, while noting how the playwright experimented with the absurdist style, “Molnar starts out the play with three men going, ‘gee isn’t it difficult to begin a play.’ All of a sudden that fourth wall has been broken down, a slightly absurdist situation to start the play. And then it proceeds to poke a lot of fun at playwriting and the theatre and the absurdity of actors and egos.”
This will be Johnson’s third time being part of Soulpepper’s production for The Play’s the Thing but he first starred in the production at Theatre Calgary in 1985 in the role as the young lover, Albert Adam.
Along with Johnson, this production will feature the return of Diego Matamoros and William Webster. Joining them will be new cast members Gordon Hecht as the young composer, Albert, and Raquel Duffy as the Prima Madonna, Ilona. Johnson says the new cast members will help “bring new life into the show.”
Why is the play such an enduring crowd pleaser for new and returning Soulpepper audiences? “There’s a lot of fun in it, there’s a lot of laughs in it, but there’s also a lot of heart in it,” reflects Johnson, “getting it up in front of an audience is just a blast. The audiences just eat it up, they love it.”
The Play’s the Thing is on stage September 2 to October 14th. For tickets visit soulpepper.ca
C. David Johnson, photo supplied by Artist. C. David Johnson and Allegra Fulton, photo Cylla von Tiedemann (2003 production). Jim Warren, C. David Johnson, and Allegra Fulton, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann (2003 production).
How long have you worked at Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consisted of lately.
I’ve been at Soulpepper for a little over a year now! My job as Development Coordinator consists of lots of different things including work on our annual campaign, donation processing, donor e-communications and event coordination. I also act as the recording secretary for our Board of Directors – sitting in on those conversations has really been an incredible learning opportunity. Lately, I’ve been working on revamping SoulsNotes, our donor e- newsletter, adding new curated content from Soulpepper artists. It’s been a relatively quiet summer for the department due to the programming hiatus around the PanAm/ParapanAm Games, but once September comes we’ll have our hands full again with four new Soulpepper shows opening and plenty of donor cultivation events.
What projects do you have on the go outside of work?
In addition to my role at Soulpepper, I also work as the General Manager of the Paprika Festival – a performing arts festival dedicated to the mentorship and artistic development of young theatre artists. We pair participants from all of our programs with professional artistic mentors and arts facilitators, give them the resources to develop their creative ideas over the course of six months, and provide a number of training workshops along the way. All of this culminates in an annual festival of new work in the spring, and – new this past year – a full-day conference for emerging artists. We’re currently heading into our 15th season, marking the beginning of a two-year partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and expanded community arts engagement in Regent Park. I’m also producing a show with Re: Current Theatre, a new theatre collective currently in residence at Hub14. It keeps me busy!
When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
Well I try to see as much theatre as possible, for starters! I’m glad I got the chance to catch a bunch of the Panamania programming while it was here and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season at Summerworks. I love being a part of the theatre community in Toronto… it’s such a small world but there’s so many talented people working in this city and a lot of interesting new work out there. When I’m not dragging my friends to shows, I try to make time for reading, writing and music whenever possible.
What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
Soulpepper is a pretty special place. The company’s success stories are easy to understand when you meet the incredible staff and artists who work here, and it’s such a supportive environment. There are also a lot of very exciting, very ambitious plans for the future floating around this building, and I’m looking forward to seeing them come to life!