Soulpepper Resident Artist Derek Boyes will uncover fellow Resident Artist and Soulpepper Founding Member Bill Webster’s encyclopedic knowledge and deep love of opera at this year’s Global Cabaret Festival. A mix of storytelling, interview and live musical performance will be delivered by Derek, Bill, and a cast of gifted opera singers with music direction by Nicole Bellamy. Featuring Nicole Bellamy, Derek Boyes, Diego Catala, Ryan Harper, Teiya Kasahara, Miriam Khalil, Sonia Shklarov & Bill Webster.
This original one-hour Cabaret is based on conversations Bill and Derek had for years at Soulpepper‘s cabaret evenings. For the festival, this format has been expanded to a more intimate an illustrative look at Bill’s love for opera.
“It’s programmed for everyone to enjoy, not only for opera aficionados,” says Bill. “Our hope is that entire families will enjoy this cabaret. It’s a show with lots of fun and drama, and high notes and low notes.”
Five singers from Toronto’s opera scene will be on hand to illuminate some of Bill’s favourite pieces and artists, from Bizet to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Mozart.
Each of Bill’s personal anecdotes as a lover, listener and performer of music for nearly eight decades will explore the intentions behind certain pieces, and compare and contrast musical styles. He will also share his incredible personal history with great moments in music and his fantastic memory.
“I used to listen to 78s with my parents every Sunday beside the fireplace,” says Bill. “I heard this music – opera – and I loved it. When you’re four or five it’s a huge adventure – these people sing to communicate. The wonder of the human voice. This exploration is part of the cabaret – what can only be expressed by the singing voice.”
“My parents took me to see the original South Pacific in New York in 1949 and (Ezio) Pinza was the first man to sing “Some Enchanted Evening.” Here’s the opera connection – he was a great star at the MET in New York, and for him to sing in a Broadway show at the time was considered outrageous – ground-breaking. At the time however, my dad asked how I liked it and I said it was ok. Spoiled brat I was.”
“I saw the most recent revival at Lincoln Center – fantastic – and as soon as the overture started I started to cry. It’s a great song, but it’s also about the inexpressible, a lot about what we’re exploring here in the cabaret. You can’t say it – you have to sing it, dance it, draw it.”
“In opera today there’s so much talk about what it used to be like, ‘the good old days’ – like in baseball – there’s a sense of that in opera but it’s simply not true. I feel that the golden age of opera is now and I want to share that with an audience. I will share my reminiscences, but we will hear it live from these artists: the sheer joy of performing live in the present.”
Webster’s Opera Corner is on stage at the Young Centre for the Global Cabaret Festival on Oct. 25 at 5:30 and Oct. 26 at 2:15. For more information and tickets visit globalcabaret.ca.
Ezio Pinza singing “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific (1949):
How long have you worked at the Young Centre and tell us a little bit about what your job consisted of lately.
I’ve been at the Young Centre for 2 ½ years; time flies when you’re busy! These days, my time is filled with preparations for our Annual Global Cabaret Festival. It’s also the first year that we are operating the café internally, so we are brainstorming a fun new menu and possibly a sweet-smelling fall beverage. I’m also in the midst of building the 2015 Soulpepper Season in our ticketing system so we can start selling tickets soon (can’t say more than that… it’s still a secret).
When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
My family has a very, very rustic little cabin that my grandfather built for my grandmother on the family farm where she was born. I love playing with my two little ones up there where they set the pace and we play until they are done! If we’re not at the farm, likely we’re racing from ballet to piano to ball hockey to swimming lessons. Yes, it’s true, my daughter has played ball hockey wearing her ballet outfit under her hockey gear!
What do you love about working at Young Centre/Soulpepper?
Life at the Young Centre is almost embarrassingly great! There is so much talent and creativity here, we all see it on stage each night but it’s just as strong behind the scenes too. Regardless of job title, ideas are always welcome and everyone’s voice is heard. I’ve been most impressed with the generosity here; people are so generous with their time, their ideas, their energy, their praise, their support and best of all with home-baked sweets!
How long have you worked at Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consisted of lately.
I started my work here at Soulpepper in mid-May as the Assistant Technical Director. I was going to include a job description, but Andrew Leeke has already summed it up quite nicely in his profile, which you should check out! I have had the fortune of working on shows and workshops of all shapes and sizes, including the Soulpepper Academy’s clown presentation, the Animal Farm workshop, and with Judith Thompson on Borne. Most recently, I have been working on A Tender Thing and Glenn, and was truly humbled by my experience.
What (if any) kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?
This summer has been quite busy here at Soulpepper and I was not as involved with productions that I have worked on in the past. Before I started working at Soulpepper, I was a freelance technician technical director and production manager. Most of my time was spent at the National Ballet School as a sound technician. Most recently, as a TD, I was working on Journey’s End by The Empty Room Theatre Company.
When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
For starters, my girlfriend Lois and I have recently moved in together, and have been putting the finishing touches on our apartment. It’s really starting to come together! When not at work or at home, we have been taking advantage of the summer weather and the great outdoors. Between cottages, camps, weddings, and day trips we’ve been keeping busy! Weekends have been packed with sunshine, good friends, and the odd cold beverage. It really has been quite the summer.
What’s a staff profile without an embarrassing/entertaining fact about yourself? When I was in elementary school, I took Irish dance lessons. I wasn’t great at it, but it was fun for a few years. If you’re lucky, and “Home for a Rest” is playing, you might catch a glimpse what I remember for those lessons!
What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
Any successful team is made up of good players who understand their role and who do what it takes to get the job done. Our production team works in the same way. As the new player, I am coached, encouraged, and kept in line by LJ our Director, I am inspired by the experience and example set by our captains Mike and Greg, and my line mates Andrew Leeke and Andrew Hillman have kept me from making huge mistakes and have always been willing to talk things out when I have been stumped. These guys are the best in the business.
I think Soulpepper as a whole works in the same way. The leadership, the artists and the staff all work together and support each other. We are a great team, that is why we succeed, and that’s why I love working here.
Last night, sitting in the greenroom, drinking this special tea we’re convinced brings our voices back to health, we posed the question out loud to anyone who would listen: What should we write about in our blog post?
Oliver Dennis suggested we write about what it’s like to be an actor in a remount.
Mikaela: In my experience, the most prominent thing about being a new actor in this remount of The Crucible was that at the start of rehearsals the rest of the cast was already miles ahead of me. The returning actors have had the story in their bodies longer, they have an in-depth understanding of their journey in the play, the kind you can only get from running the show again and again. And this is a wonderful thing. To come into those first days of rehearsal and be able to develop my early stages of Mary Warren against Stuart Hughes’ living and breathing John Proctor, to fumble through my first pass of the court scene with Joe Ziegler’s striking Danforth staring me down, it has been an experience to remember. I feel I’ve been playing catch up from day one – but that is a seriously good game to play when you have the likes of this cast on the stage. There are 11 new cast members in this production. In two and a half weeks we have entered the world Albert and the previous cast have created. We’ve been invited to shake it up, fill it in and push and pull our way into our new version of the story.
Hailey: Being a new actor in this remount of The Crucible has been like taking a giant “trust fall”. It is that inevitable activity you do in your first year of theatre school, or at the beginning of a long day of team building at work. The “trust fall” is an exercise in which you cross your arms over your chest, close your eyes, and fall back into the arms of a partner. They have to both determine how far you will fall and have the strength to catch you in the first place. I have a complicated relationship with this seemingly simple “task”. Needless to say, I have always been caught and, much like my experience with this play, I usually walk away wondering why I was so tentative in the first place. The original cast, crew and director of Soulpepper’s The Crucible had their eyes opened to this play over two years ago.Their breadth of knowledge about the characters and their circumstances are vast. Rather than the safety of a timid tip-toe, the only way into this complex world was to cross my arms, close my eyes, and fall. Then, through the exhilarating ups and the excruciating downs of Arthur Miller’s Abigail, this team caught me. And I think we all walked away stronger than ever.
Nancy Palk mentioned a blog by actor John Lithgow, who is playing King Lear in New York, that tracked the everyday stuff actors go through. She said “I think audiences would be interested to know how you actually feel transitioning from rehearsal hall to stage…”
Hailey: The everyday “stuff” for me are the small steal-away moments during rehearsal time: It is when I’m cleaning my bathroom at four in the morning, because I can’t sleep, listening to an audio book about Salem and the voice speaks a line from Paradise Lost and, for some reason this one line changes how I see the whole town. Or when I steal away from some scene work to buy myself a chocolate bar at SOMA and as soon as I bite into it I know that I’m ready to take on the rest of the day. It was the moment when our cast stepped onto the raked stage of Lorenzo Savoini’s beautiful set for the first time. In that moment I felt like wherever I was I was being propelled into the audience, which made me very aware of being seen. It’s half thrilling and half terrifying up there; much like the journey of my character in the play. After a few hours of making this transition I was able to sit in the back of the theatre and watch my fellow cast mates perform act two of the play. Seeing them and observing how they existed in the space made me conscious of how important this play is. It was a small steal-away moment that caused me to feel immensely grateful.
Mikaela: It’s our first day on stage and I feel like a crazy person. I’m convinced all my good acting was left in the rehearsal hall. We have some incredible rehearsal halls at Soulpepper: brick walls, high ceilings and wooden slats that cover two skylights. I could curl up on the floor backstage and pretend I was really in Salem, looking up at the moon shining through the cracks in the roof. (Note to Equity: It was not actually the moon but the sun, there have been no overnight rehearsals.) Now that we’ve transitioned from the hall to the theatre I don’t know where to wait for my cue before I enter on stage. There are no skylights backstage with wooden slats – just carpeted floors, dark ceilings and actors gathered round a water dispenser. I’m sure I’m driving stage management insane with my constant repositioning. Lying in the middle of the floor, curled up in a ball behind the curtains, pacing back and forth, none of it seems to fit. I know that I’ll find a new ritual and a new place (perhaps a simple chair would suffice?) but it is striking to me how much the energy of a space can affect us.
*Three days later I can now say I wouldn’t go back to the rehearsal hall if you paid me. All I want to do is perform on Lorenzo’s beautiful set under the dark and sculpted lighting design of Steven Hawkins. The wooden planks, the raked stage that catapults you into the audience, the flicker of candles in the dark, all of it creates a vivid world to walk into. Also, I have found my perfect place to wait before I enter on stage, between the walls of the Tartuffe set.
Albert Schultz said we have to write about everything we learned…
Hailey: Albert Schultz is a master builder. The way he can zoom in and zoom out of a theatrical image to build specificity into a complex world is truly amazing. What I have come to learn throughout these rehearsals is that: at the centre of this talent is his commitment to the character and actor’s journey. Together Albert and I have tried to find an Abigail that it a lover, fighter, and ultimately a survivor. Albert has safely and expertly guided me to places where I can understand in myself what it means to experience determination from a place of loss. “God is in the details” Albert often says, now I fully understand and believe in that truth.
Mikaela: Ah yes, the master builder. Albert has the ability to use every single body in the space to tell a story and at the same time to zero-in on the smallest detail to frame a moment. A breath, a look, a hidden smile, these are all subtle things you will notice in our production because he put them there and meant for you to catch them. The biggest thing I’ve learned in this process is to trust the director. There is this fantastic line in the play said by Ann Putnam, played by Raquel Duffy, “there are wheels within wheels in this village and fires within fires.” There are wheels within wheels in our production and fires within fires. There are inner workings telling bigger stories that I can’t see. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn because I want to know and see everything ALL THE TIME. There are moments in our play that, isolated, I may not understand but my specific movement is part of a bigger picture that the audience will receive. The other day, while directing a scene, Albert said to us, “I wish you could see what I see, but you can’t, so you’ll just have to trust me. It’s really good.” Now it is the afternoon of our opening night, Albert called us all for one last rehearsal run. He ended his final notes session with the words, “this run is for you guys now.” The trust has come full circle: he’s put the show in our hands.
Katherine Gauthier, actress in the Soulpepper Academy, recently returned from a two week exchange to Budapest, where she and her fellow Academy actors were embedded with Master Teacher László Marton at the Hungary University of Theatre.
“It was such a hospitable country,” says Katherine. “We spent a lot of time with the Hungarian students. We saw where they lived, we ate with them, and talked about art together. During the trip, we saw nine plays, all in Hungarian. We got immersed in a different aesthetic, language, and approach to performing.” An example of that different approach was the daily classes with Master Tamás, the university’s acrobatics instructor. “His students take his classes five times a week for three years. Going into the class I didn’t think I could even do a cartwheel, but by the end of our time with him we were doing flips and lifts, and all surpassing our own expectations. He really pushed us beyond what we thought our bodies could do, and that naturally impacts what we are capable of on the stage.”
This trip was the second part of a Hungarian-Canadian exchange facilitated by the Soulpepper Academy. In July of 2013, Soulpepper brought László Marton and his Hungarian students to Canada for two weeks of masterclasses with the renowned director. The students worked with each other in their native language, performing Shakespeare scenes half in English, half in Hungarian. “We had no time to worry or stress. We had to jump into this new way of working,” Gauthier reflects. “We got to work with people who were experts in this method and aesthetic, and see it come to life.”
Now Katherine and her fellow Academy actors have carried these techniques onto the stage for Soulpepper’s recently opened production of Moliere’s Tartuffe, directed by Marton. “Being able to work with László again is such a dream. Over the past year we’ve grown as artists, and had the time to process all the information he taught us all those months ago, and now we get to put it into practice with this rich material.” Katherine is playing the main love interest in the piece, Mariane, which she says is a great challenge. “He gives us an immense amount of freedom. He allows us to do the work, and explore what we feel the need to explore,” says Gauthier. “László is so excited about the project that it makes all of us excited. He’s ultimately so encouraging, deeply humble and passionate in his direction.”
You can see Katherine and many current Academy members in Tartuffe, currently running at the Young Centre until September 20th.
Richard Lam wears many hats within the 2013-2015 Soulpepper Academy. Richard shares about being an actor, musician, composer, music captain, and sound designer, and how a fateful pairing changed everything for the young artist.
“When I came into the Academy as an actor, I was assigned Mike Ross as my mentor,” tells Richard, “at one of our first meetings together I offered to help him out if he ever needed an assistant for anything and he took me up on my offer for Idiot’s Delight.” As the musical demands of Idiot’s Delight grew, so did Richard’s responsibilities, “We had to source period music, co-ordinate a live band, and create choral pieces for the 24-person cast…Mike would be wherever he was needed most and I would help fill in the gaps for him.” “Watching Richard progress in the early months it became pretty obvious that he has a real knack for music and sounds and an ambition and willingness to explore that side of himself further,” recalls Mike Ross, the Slaight Family Director of Music at Soulpepper.
Mike and Artistic Director Albert Schultz were so impressed with Richard’s work that they developed a new blended stream of study at the Academy, special to Richard, in recognition of his gifts and the growing role of music at Soulpepper. This program facilitated new opportunities for the mentor pair to collaborate, including on the world premiere production of Vern Thiessen’s Of Human Bondage, which won seven Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including best Sound Design and Best Ensemble Performance.
These experiences have not only developed Richard’s technical ability but also his understanding of Mike’s unique way of working. “My job is to anticipate him and where creativity is taking us next. It is a constant balancing act that always keeps us on our toes.” Mike says, “Richard was given pretty major responsibility right from the beginning. He has the collaborative spirit and work ethic which is key for achieving a high level of work.” This August Richard’s training will be put into practice as he takes on the role of Lead Sound Designer for Soulpepper’s new production of A Tender Thing.
Richard and Mike both speak passionately about the Academy’s mentorship program and what it has unlocked for both of them. “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with an artist as amazing as Mike in a world-class company like Soulpepper. The opportunity to work with Mike has changed the trajectory of my career in exciting ways,” says Richard.
You can hear Richard’s work next in A Tender Thing, opening August 19th, and see Mike Ross perform in Glenn, opening September 2nd.
This month the SummerWorks Performance Festival and Artscape Youngplace present an exhibition exploring local graphic design and poster art for the stage. A series of designers have been asked to display their work, including Soulpepper Graphic Designer Jacob Whibley, who has curated a history of Soulpepper’s eye-catching and distinctive designs. The exhibit at Artscape Youngplace is free, and runs from August 7 – 25, 2014, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM daily.
Having established itself after six seasons of critically-acclaimed performances, Soulpepper undertook its first major visual branding redesign in 2004, led by Jenny Armour and Carmen Dunjko (working under the name The Beggarstaff Sisters). The project reinforced Soulpepper’s creative mandate across its entire communication platform by blending a sense of classical and contemporary values. The most distinctive design element was taking an illustrative approach to the company’s production posters; the theatrical poster being a primary touch point for the brand, outside of the plays themselves. It also provided an opportunity for the company to collaborate with forward-thinking visual artists, who could produce original and striking work that reflected the passion and values of Soulpepper.
In 2013 Soulpepper’s design platform underwent an update to refocus the visual language for its expanded range of programming, and to promote the company’s variety of immersive multi-disciplinary cultural experiences. Through framing, layering, and blending of the image/text relationships across its communication, the refresh reflects Soulpepper’s evolving engagement with its audience. The new speech bubble icon is employed to represent a conversation between Soulpepper and its audiences, a relationship extending beyond the theatre. The production posters were given a full-bleed treatment and commissioned illustrative artists are encouraged to take visual cues from the timeless imagery and social resonance that are inherent in Soulpepper’s programming. The designs are imbued with a playful sense of wit, and the promise of an intelligent and energizing Soulpepper theatrical experience.
Visit Soulpepper.ca for more information about the 2014 season.