Ins Choi’s Subway Stations of the Cross

Ins Choi
As Kim’s Convenience tours the country, I’ve been partnering with local churches and charities in each city to perform my new solo show of songs and spoken words, Subway Stations of the Cross. It was inspired by an encounter I had with a homeless man a ways back. In 2002, I was in a little park in Toronto and heard this dishevelled man nearby muttering. He caught me looking at him and approached me with a stick in hand. He asked if he could show me something and began drawing on the ground as he explained secrets of the Hebrew alphabet, origins of European flags, Greek mythology, biblical UFOs, Illuminati conspiracies and Jesus. I dismissed him as a crazy homeless person at first. But by the end, knew that I had been visited by an angel of God or a prophet sent to tell me something; sent to lead me somewhere. I never saw him again. I began writing. Songs. Poems. Monologues. I began piecing together all the writing bits, bit by bit, and after performing them shaping the whole. That process has led me to this Easter weekend in Toronto.


Subway Stations of the Cross
by Ins Choi in association with Soulpepper will be presented in Toronto on April 18th at Little Trinity Anglican Church at 8 p.m. ($15, all proceeds in support of Yonge Street Mission; www.littletrinity.org) and April 19th at Walmer Road Baptist Church at 8 p.m. ($15, all proceeds in support of The Daily Bread Food Bank; www.walmer.ca).

Staff Profile – Peter Harte, Marketing & New Media Coordinator

Image

How long have you worked at Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consisted of lately.

I’m the Marketing & New Media Coordinator and this month marks my three year anniversary with Soulpepper! My position within the communications department allows me to get my hands into a lot of different areas. A large portion of my job is creating and sending e-mails to members of our e-mail list in order to keep them informed of the many productions we have on our stages. I also help in managing the content on soulpepper.ca and youngcentre.ca, monitoring site traffic, user navigation, and what source led them to our site in the first place. Tracking all this information allows for me and the rest of my department to analyze how we can tailor our digital presence to suit our patrons needs.  This digital side of my duties are those that I’ve had previous work experience in and still enjoy, but since I’ve been at Soulpepper I’ve been given the opportunity to expand my skills into the areas of advertising (both print and online), budget tracking, content planning, and copywriting.

What kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?

I attend a lot of theatre and dance performances but aside from being a supporting patron I’m not directly involved in production. There were a few years after I finished University where my friends and I would come up with a theme, create “art pieces” in various mediums, and throw parties in this auto garage my friend’s family owned. I had a great time doing it and I do still love being creative, but for various reasons I’ve lost interest in creating art and then putting on a show. I think having spent so much time in school doing exactly that, that I need some time away to focus on other things in life that I enjoy.

I used to spend a lot of my time after work building websites and editing videos for some of the comedian friends that I have. But I’ve stopped taking on these side jobs because I’m trying to focus more of my recreational time away from a computer. However, working with comedians is very fun and even inspired me to do stand up a few times – which I plan on continuing to do. Who knew I had such confidence? Who knew that people would listen to me? You’d pay $5 for that?

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?

My favourite thing to do when I’m not at work is getting on my bike and exploring new areas of the city. Or heading down to the waterfront trail and just bootin’ it until I feel like my lungs are gonna explode. I’ve also been running and signing up for races for the past 6 years and I guess you could say that I’m in love with running. It gives me more confidence, strength and peace of mind than I ever expected it to. But getting my bike 3 years ago and having fallen in love with him has made me have to take some time away from my running shoes. But no big deal. Running and I will have a relationship forever.

I’ve just begun rock climbing and I can see it becoming an addiction but I still have a lot to learn. I also need to redeem this trampoline class gift certificate that I’ve had for some time…

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?

At the risk of giving the same response as every other staff member who’s been asked this question; my answer is the people! The staff, the artists, the production teams – every single person that I’ve met here has been so friendly, warm and accepting. I’ve always felt like a bit of a weirdo, but here I feel at home. The people inside this building are so funny, distinctly themselves, and unconditionally accepting that it has made me so much more comfortable with my own “unique qualities”. Being exposed to so much theatre and the artists who give so much of themselves to their work is truly inspiring and makes me crave that same thrill. I’m not sure exactly what this looks like yet. I still have a lot of dance moves to coordinate and outfits to sew ;D

Photo: Nathan Kelly

The Gigli Concert – Background

If you walk into the rehearsal hall of The Gigli Concert, Soulpepper Founding Member Diego Matamoros may pick up a vinyl record, tap the technicolor portrait of a distinguished Italian gentlemen, and say: “This is the man. What this play is all about.” And it’s true, of course, but music in The Gigli Concert – particularly the work of Beniamino Gigli – is used to frame a powerful story about men, communication, mental health, therapy, relationships, life, and death.

So, who was Gigli?

Born in 1890 in Recanati, Italy, Beniamino Gigli was an opera singer, renowned internationally for the great beauty of his voice and the soundness of his vocal technique, and one of the most famous tenors of his generation. In Tom Murphy’s The Gigli Concert, recordings by Gigli punctuate the play, as Gigli (the music and the man) becomes the primary obsession of the Irish Man, played by Soulpepper Founding Member Stuart Hughes.

Have a listen to Gigli singing Dai campi, dai prati from Act I, Scene 2 of the opera Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito, a song you can also hear during the play:

And why in this lauded Tom Murphy play does Gigli preoccupy the thoughts of the Irish Man, and subsequently, Diego’s British pseudo-therapist JPW King? To find out, you’ll need to catch The Gigli Concert, on stage at Soulpepper from March 28 to May 16.

The Gigli Concert is directed by Soulpepper Founding Member Nancy Palk, and features Soulpepper Founding Members Stuart Hughes and Diego Matamoros and Irene Poole in her Soulpepper debut.

Staff Profile – Farwah Gheewala, Education Manager

Farwah Gheewala

How long have you worked at Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consists of lately.
I’ve been at Soulpepper for almost 7 years working in the Education/Community Department, first as coordinator and currently as manager. We are a small, but very busy department offering theatre-based programs to the youth of our city throughout the year. We work with hundreds of kids each year, through our school programs, on-site outreach programs and community partnerships. We are currently gearing up for three programs that begin next week – a March Break one-week intensive, Curtain Up, a program through which city youth work with an artist on a specific discipline (acting, design, improvisation, etc.) and then see a Soulpepper show, culminating with a private talkback with cast members, and finally, an Alumni Program to graduates of our youth program. This program is very close to my heart because I love seeing kids come back to their Soulpepper home and keep our community vibrant with their energy and enthusiasm.

What kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?
Outside of work, I am currently finishing a Certificate Program in Community & Social Services. I took this program so I could learn more about the types of community resources and organizations that are out there. Through this training, my hope is to be able to have a better understanding of how to reach out to more members of our community and to develop the necessary tools to be able to interact with various participants and manage our relationships appropriately and effectively.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
I became a Canadian Citizen last year which gave me access to the Cultural Access Pass for a full year. I have used this pass as an opportunity to visit museums, go to concerts and the theatre throughout the year, for FREE! I recently went to Ottawa and visited the Canadian War Museum using this pass. It has been a culture-filled year and I am thrilled to have been exposed to so many cultural activities that I would not ordinarily have access to. Other than that, I am a big “Crafts Nerd” these days – making hand-made cards, bookmarks, and other fun quick crafts that help me relax after a long day at work.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
For me, Soulpepper is not just a place of work – it’s a community, a family. Besides managing and delivering arts-based educational programs, I have the privilege of working with some of the best artists, teachers and colleagues at Soulpepper and I am inspired by them every day. Above all, I have worked with hundreds of young people from this city through the years, which has had a deep impact on me –the way I perceive learning. I have learned SO much from the younger people in this city – about art, about openness and about being raw and real – which sometimes we lose as adults. Soulpepper embraces all artists, young and old, emerging and seasoned, and I feel so privileged to be part of such an organization.

Photo: Nathan Kelly

Staff Profile – Kimberly Davidson, Kitchen Supervisor

Kim Davidson
How long have you worked at the Young Centre and tell us a little bit about what your job consisted of lately.

I started working IN the Young Centre just over a year and a half ago as a senior cook for Les Louises. I was working part-time as I just started my nutrition biz – Green Blossoms, and needed some extra income while starting out. I had no intention or desire of moving up, I just wanted to improve my culinary skills and focus on my business. However, the longer I worked in the Young Centre and the more I got to know all the fabulous people who worked here, the more I enjoyed my time here. When Les Louises decided not to renew its contract, I was approached with the opportunity to run the new YC Café.

Being Kitchen Supervisor consists of juggling many things at once, never truly being able to focus on one thing at a time as something else continually requires attention. I cook. I cook a lot. However, while cooking many things at once, I am taking orders, making coffee, ordering produce, researching recipes, making schedules and training staff. If chaos is not your thing, I would not recommend working in a kitchen. Just like on stage, the kitchen is a place for much creativity. Serving the same people everyday, means you have to keep things interesting without scaring people away. It’s about balance. Also, similar to the stage, you experience the “pre-show” butterflies and pounding heartbeat in the kitchen. My pounding heart usually occurs at about 11:49am when I realize I have 11 minutes to get lunch ready, but I need about 35!

As a nutritionist, I feel an obligation to provide people with the healthiest food possible. With this new opportunity I am given at the YC Café, I am working everyday at featuring delicious, fresh, creative food made in the healthiest way possible. Yes, we have cookies but did you know we also have fresh vegetable juice too? Balance.

What kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?

I guess one reason why working at the Young Centre feels so comfortable is because I’m back working for a theatre. Prior to ever becoming a Holistic Nutritionist and ever learning how to cook, I was a costume maker working for several theatres/productions in Ontario and Montreal. I started my career as a costume maker for Cirque du Soleil. After 3 amazing years there I left to go travelling and then ended up in Toronto. I worked again for Cirque du Soleil’s touring show that was here at the time and then immediately landed a contract at The Stratford Shakespeare Festival for their 2008 season. I made costumes for many of the actors I now serve coffee to today! Following that, I worked for Mirvish productions on The Sound of Music, Rock of Ages as well as a few others. I then decided to go back to school to study Holistic Nutrition but while doing so I worked for Silver Lining Costumes making costumes once again for Cirque du Soleil here in Toronto. Once I finished school, I slowly trickled out of costume and into food. But I continue to share a passion for both.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?

Outside of work you’ll most likely find me walking my 14-year-old Jack Russel Terrier, starting fundraisers, doing yoga, experimenting with some new gluten-free/sugar-free recipes, sewing something, canoeing at my cottage, travelling the 401 back home to see my family in Montreal and if I’m really lucky, busting some moves on the dance floor (any dance floor – I’m not picky)

What do you love about working at the Young Centre?

The creativity and the talent certainly make working at the YC very exciting. Not everyone can say they’ve had a marching band stroll through their “office”! However, it is the people that make me want to stay. The amazing people I get to share the kitchen with, as well as the amazing people I chat to from across the counter make me look forward to my many days ahead as a YC employee.

(Mi)stakes – Richard Lam on Idiot’s Delight

Richard Lam

I

It’s the first day of rehearsal. I have the smallest part in a very large play full of very, very talented people. It’s the first time that I, along with the other actors of the current Soulpepper Academy, will be taking the stage alongside Soulpepper veterans. For the past six months they have inspired us and instructed us and (ever so slightly) intimidated us. Technically we’ve already done one show at Soulpepper but this feels different. This one is on the stage, and if the stage does anything, it Creates Importance.

I’m nervous. The show is a gigantic affair – a cast of twenty, plus three musicians to round out the onstage band – and already my overactive and slightly over-caffeinated mind is concocting a hot, sweaty bouquet of worst-case scenarios. In my imagination I see myself being pulled out of the still-smouldering ashes of the Young Centre by a stern, Clint Eastwood-like firefighter. “Son,” he says, slowly, brushing ash off my shirt with one hand and crushing a lump of coal into a diamond with the other, “what exactly happened here?” And I hear my smoke-singed voice reply “I…I turned on the kettle and the coffeemaker at the same time.” The assembled firefighters gasp in horror, an outraged woman covers her young daughter’s ears, and Clint Eastwood just stares, his disappointment cutting deeper than any physical pain ever could. What I’m saying is the stakes felt high. It looked like a bunch of people around a table reading a play, but at any moment someone could make a mistake so terrible that the theatre would be destroyed.

The first mistake came about an hour later.

II

It’s an hour later. The first read of the play is humming along. What’s really coming across is the sharpness of Robert E. Sherwood’s dialogue – the ideas in the play are crisp and tight, and the veteran cast is tackling those ideas right out of the gate like a football team waiting at a gate to immediately tackle things that come out of that gate (I skipped simile class in high school). I am extremely impressed by the accents. Idiot’s Delight takes place in an Italian luxury hotel immediately before start of World War II. Sherwood’s characters are a grab bag of nationalities; as tensions increase among the nations of Europe, tensions between the characters increase in microcosm. Playing a part with an accent is rarely effortless for an actor, and this play calls for Russian, German, Italian, French, English, and American voices. The cast dives in headfirst, and the effect is electric.

We come to the introduction of Diego Matamoros’ character, an enigmatic arms dealer with a German surname and a French accent. The character is supposed to command the room and Diego’s voice rings out simply and clearly with his first line, precisely accented. I watched Soulpepper’s production of Angels in America three times, which is about 21 hours of watching Diego command rooms, there was no doubt in my mind that Diego could command a room, but I didn’t expect it on his first line in his first read, chalk one up for Diego. The read sears along at a tight pace – and then it happens.

In the script, the line is “where are our rooms”. Now that seems like a fairly innocent line, but there are a lot  of “R” sounds in there, and as a hapless Anglophone who suffered through 10 years of mediocre west coast public school French classes and who has two “R” sounds in his own name, I can tell you that those French “R” sounds can really ruin your day. Maybe Diego is caught up in the momentum of the part, or maybe he had just used up his good karma for the week, because he tries to say “where are our rooms” but instead says something more like “WherCHHHRRRCCHHKKHCHCHHHRKRKRRRCH
HHCHRRRKRRKRRRKRRRCCHHRRR”.

This is not just a little hiccup in Diego’s line, this is the Hindenburg. He sounds like he needs serious medical attention. There is a cavernous silence in the room, in which the echo of his demonic noise seems to live for an eternity, and then the entire cast and crew laughs so hard I think someone actually dies. When the dust settles Diego looks slyly around the room and says, in a perfect deadpan, “Why don’t I take that line again?” And the cast laughs, and eases their way back into the read, and we continue on with smiles on our faces.

III

It’s January 15, 2014. We have been in rehearsal for five weeks. Albert Schultz, Artistic Director of Soulpepper and Director of Idiot’s Delight calls everyone in at the start of the day and sits us down. His freshly-minted Order of Canada glints on his lapel. “I woke up this morning at 6:30 and had a thought,” he begins, and the cast mock-groans because we like to have a good time, and Albert shoots back with “that’s worse than if I had an idea…at least ideas have forward momentum!” and everyone laughs.

“In all seriousness,” Albert continues, “I realized that we’ve built the end of the first act around something that we know about the relationships in the play that the audience doesn’t yet know. So, we’re going to have to figure out a new place to put the intermission.” Then he says “really everyone this is my fault,” and leads the entire company in a three-minute physical comedy sequence in which he repeatedly slaps himself in the face, with half of the company providing slapping sound effects while the other half yells variations of “No, Albert! Don’t do it! Don’t punish yourself!” And again everyone laughs and laughs, and I have a faint memory of being terrified of making any mistake whatsoever that seems so distant now.

IV

In order to figure out what is right we must risk being wrong. When we are wrong, we can choose to be wrong with a smile on our faces and a joke in our hearts. When we laugh at our mistakes we own them. The courage and good humour of the veterans in our cast are infectious. We look up to them and learn from them, and when we laugh together they empower us to join them. So we do join them: in making mistakes, in learning, in crafting this play. And we laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Staff Profile – Nathan Kelly, Communications Coordinator

Nathan Kelly

How long have you worked for Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what you do.

I’ve had the good fortune of being employed at Soulpepper for nearly four years. I work in our Marketing and Communications Department, helping to manage the website, creating digital content like our videos, coordinating artist materials like bios and headshots, overseeing our social media presence (perhaps you’d like to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube?) and even updating this very blog you’re reading now.

What has your job consisted of lately?

Digital video and photography as become a big part of my job here, so I’m periodically scampering around the Young Centre with a camera and video gear. I get to sneak into rehearsals, interview artists and directors, and generally try to capture stuff happening “behind the curtain”. Recently we’ve been planning our approach for the 2014 season and coming up with new and hopefully interesting ways to connect our audience with the amazing work that goes on in this building.

What kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?

I fill up some of my off hours doing freelance photography and videography. Working at Soulpepper exposes you to a very broad group of creative types, some of whom I’ve helped doing photo/video for their independent theatre projects, filming music videos and other more “offbeat” ideas. Recently I’ve been doing some video projects for the Director’s Guild of Canada, which has been very exciting!

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?

Probably basking in the warm glow of Netflix on my couch. But despite my love of the Internet I do get out often – I try to take in as much culture as I possibly can – concerts, movies, theatre, comedy. I love biking around the city (though it gets considerably less fun in this kind of weather). I’ve even been known to tear up a dance floor on the weekends, if the mood strikes me.

What do you love about being a part of the staff at Soulpepper?

Soulpepper is packed to the brim with creative, engaged and interesting people. Artists, admin, box office staff – pretty much all the people who work here are very unique souls who lead extremely fascinating lives! It’s inspiring (and mildly intimidating) to be right in the middle of all that energy. It’s also impossible not to feel the warm, special sense of community and family that permeates the building. Everyone here takes pride in what they’re doing, and I think that shows both on stage and off.

Photo: Jacob Whibley

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