Staff Profile – Kevin O’Connor, Building Manager

kevin-blog

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

Since joining The Young Centre for the Performing Arts one year ago this month, I’ve learned so many new things: colleagues taught me about the industry and shared their knowledge with me. I will always be thankful for the people who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to grow, not only within the organization but also as a person. This last year has flown by and I’ve learned so much. I laughed, I cried, I faced challenges, and I also experienced very beautiful moments that will stay forever in my memory. Here’s to continuing my career at this exceptional organization.

The 2015 calendar year promises to be an exciting one for all Operations Team Members. We have recently completed our objectives and development planning for the upcoming year with the primary focus falling into three categories:

  • Continue in the development and implementation of a proactive preventative maintenance program to include a painting/decorating plan
  • Maintain a healthy, safe, and secure environment for all who work and visit The Young Centre for the Performing Arts
  • On-going initiative for the retention/recruitment and development of all Operations Team Members. Several information sessions and workshops scheduled for 2015 will feature the following topics: Prevention-Protection-Safety

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

I’ve recently been asked to attend a series of 2015 Pan Am/ParaPan Am Games Business/Community Information sessions to learn more about how the downtown core (more importantly The Young Centre for the Performing Arts) may be affected by the Games, including details of transportation, security and a Games overview.

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

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and I’m passionate about the game of GOLF. I’m the third son-of a third son- of an Irish immigrant who has been known to hold court in the odd pub every once in a while. On a personal note I would like to share a memory and a story I was told at a very young age that “Irish women are always carrying water on their heads, and always carrying their husbands home from the pub. Such things are the greatest posture-builders in the world” maybe not funny to everyone, but hilarious to me.

What do you love about working at Young Centre?

What makes The Young Centre for the Performing Arts stand out is that every single employee has a stake in the organizations success. We are very team-driven and we operate in a way that puts collective goals ahead of individual glory. Throughout the years we have grown very quickly, and we continue to succeed because we are a nimble organization that can rise to any challenge we may face. Everyone at the Young Centre is smart, energetic, and fun to work with. We love what we do, and it shows in the strong relationships we have built with our patrons.

The Serious Side of Comedy – Daniel Williston on Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Daniel Williston

I have to stop laughing on stage. I have one of the smaller parts in this show with a cast of only seven, so the others do the bulk of the talking. All I have to do is stand or sit, pay attention, and not laugh at some of the best comedic actors this city has to offer. It is my responsibility as an actor to support the show of which I am a part… and that means keeping a straight face.

Daniel in Rehearsal

The play deals a lot with responsibility. Dario Fo wrote this scathing play about power being abused, and the fervor with which those in power will attempt to cover it up. He wrote it about Italy in the 1960’s, but in finding modern and local parallels to the political climate Fo was raging against, this show may has well have been written yesterday. The arguments remain the same: What rights and responsibilities do police have to cross the line in pursuit of criminal justice? What rights and responsibilities do ordinary citizens have when under suspicion? What rights and responsibilities do the government officials tasked with setting and maintaining standards and practices of officers have? What happens when those standards are not met? Or when there is a glaring lack of regulations to prevent corrupt behavior? These are complicated questions that are asked when a situation involving police ends in violence.

But even larger questions are raised on the backs of these questions: What is the responsibility of journalism in these cases? The court? The ordinary citizen? The theatre actor? The theatre audience? I know there is something I should be doing, and though working on this show has not provided me with any easy answers, it has succeeded in forcing me to ask serious questions about myself and my responsibility to my city. Other than happening to be cast in this wonderfully complex show, what else can I be doing to rage against scandalous injustices while reading The Star, The Globe and Mail and parsing through Facebook and Twitter feeds? Is what I am already doing even helping? What can I do with the anger and frustration I feel hearing that Sammy Yatim, suffering from a mental illness was shot nine times and tazered for brandishing a pen knife on a streetcar? What were Yatim’s rights in that situation? What were the responsibilities of the officers who killed him? What are MY responsibilities after hearing about it?

I do not yet know the answers to these questions, but this play has forced me to wrestle seriously with them. These serious questions that are presented alongside juggling, singing, fake mustaches, eye patches, slapstick, and all kinds of absurdity. Yet the most absurd thing about this show is the fact that these situations, like the one that angered Fo enough to write this play over 50 years ago, continue to happen, even here in Canada. I’m not sure exactly what my civic responsibilities are after being a part of this show, but if this show can get the audience asking that question of themselves, that’ll be a start. And hopefully I can fulfill my responsibility of keeping a straight face on stage when the audience begins to laugh.

Staff Profile – Mike Ledermueller, Technical Director

mike-1-blog

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

I’ve worked for Soulpepper since 2003, and I have been Technical Director since 2007. Lately, my job has consisted of planning the 2015 season, and building the schedule and framework that will dictate how and when each production will be produced. I lead my team of Associate Technical Directors who take on individual productions; currently we are in tech rehearsals and previews for our first two shows of the year, but we are also in pre-production for the next eight(!) shows. This means reviewing designs and deciding if and how we can realize what the designers are hoping for. On top of that, we are managing our concert series, and several Soulpepper Academy workshops and projects.

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

I really hate to say it, but I’m not as involved in the greater theatre community as I once was. Life has been slowly taking over. What I still manage to do is be a resource for my colleagues in the city who, in turn, are a valuable resource to me when I need some help. Creative problem solving is my favourite part of my job, so whenever I get a call from another TD or a theatre schools student looking for advice, and also through social media groups, I am more than happy to help find a solution. There’s always something different and new popping up in theatre, that’s what keeps it fresh and interesting, even after 12+ years.

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

Recently, most of my spare time has been taken up with changing diapers and making goofy faces for my 6 month old son, Luke. But, when he’s finally asleep, I like to spend my time being nerdy.

One hobby of mine is Astronomy, I really like pointing a telescope at the sky and seeing what’s out there. If I can, I try to capture some of what I see.

My photos of the recent lunar eclipse:

eclipse

My biggest obsession has been WW2 cryptography, especially the Enigma machine. I recently built a digital replica of one, and I’ve read countless books on the topic. It has taken me to the archives of the Canadian War Museum and in the fall, I’ll be going to Bletchley Park in England.  Thankfully, there is now a movie out about it, so people finally know what I’ve been going on about for the last year.

My Enigma-E in action:

 

What do you love about working at Young Centre/Soulpepper?

I love that this company is always changing and evolving, trying more ambitious ideas, and pushing the limits of what this building can contain. It has never stayed the same for long; I was there for some of the Harbourfront years, I was part of the ground breaking ceremony for the Young Centre, and I’ve helped put on bold new programming like our Festivals and the Slaight Family Music Program.  I am very proud that I have been involved in much of Soulpepper’s growth – it has kept my job fresh, exciting and, most of all, fun.

 

Sketches from Rehearsal in The Dining Room – Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster

Today I played a middle-aged sister, a six-year-old daughter, an Irish maid, a frustrated Masters’ student, and an elderly grandmother. And that’s just Act 1. We did a run-through today, and now I’m questioning my ‘transition’ strategy; how to jump from playing one character to the next in just a few moments. Physical cues are a big part of it – the way I hold my spine, the weight of my feet, my walk…and breath! Even as I write this, I’m wondering if I’ve fully considered breath. Surely an elderly woman breathes differently from a small child? And costume, of course—thank goodness for our diligent designer. Casual clothes make me stand and behave very differently than, say, a starched maid’s uniform. After the run-through today, I’m realizing I need to work on a strategy for shaking off characters too, how to clear one scene out of my head to prepare for the next. Otherwise, I’m going to be late for my entrance in scene 16 again…

We (the cast, director and assistant director and stage-management team) talk a lot about our own families in the rehearsal hall. More than is usual, I think. Each scene brings up anecdotes and observation from our own life, our relationships with partners, parents, siblings, the way we were disciplined as children, the way we argue with relatives, the way we grieve or prepare for loss. I am grateful for this: everyone’s contributions are helping me understand scenes and characters from stages of life I have yet to reach, or eras of the past I can’t remember.

The Dining Room

Some of us have been reading Tad Friend’s autobiography, “Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor,” because while I believe everyone can recognize themselves and their family’s features and flaws in The Dining Room, many of the characters (and the playwright) come from a distinctly privileged, New England background. Some of the stories and vocabulary (how often do most people use “propitiate” in a sentence?) in the play are echoed in Mr. Friend’s book: stories of diminishing wealth passed down through generations; of servants that were part of the family but not quite; patriarchs with strongly valued traditions and etiquette, who struggle with sensitivity and emotion. Big drinkers. Pride. Deeply felt but unspoken love, sometimes expressed in passing along heirlooms, like a dining room table and chairs.

My parents didn’t have a dining room. To quote the play, “We ate in the kitchen.” Nor do I have one now, in my small Toronto apartment (again the show echoes: “Does Debbie want a dining room? In a condo? In Denver?”) But my grandmother’s dining room was the seat of family tradition when I was a kid. There was an oriental rug on the floor, a huge china cabinet against the wall, an oak sideboard filled with cutlery and crystal glasses. There was a rubbing of St. George on the wall, and two big sliding doors overlooking her garden. The table was dark, glossy, and big. With the extra leaves in, it could seat ten. In The Dining Room, there’s a scene where a character crawls beneath her table and is shocked to discover “it’s all just wood …just a couple of big wide boards.” I remember crawling under my grandmother’s table when I was small, during a holiday dinner. I remember seeing everyone’s knees, mum and dad, my aunts and uncles, brothers and sister, my grandma at the head of the table. I felt absolutely safe. Grandma and that room have been gone for 16 years, but I can perfectly remember how the room smelled – candles, and varnish, and wax, and wood.

***

The Dining Room goes on stage Feb 5. Directed by Joseph Ziegler and featuring Derek Boyes, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Jeff Lillico, Diego Matamoros, Brenda Robins and Sarah Wilson.

Staff Profile – Brad Lepp, Director of Communications

Brad Lepp
How long have you worked at the Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about w
hat your job consisted of lately.

Today is my one-year work anniversary. There is so much going on around here the time has flown by. This past year has been focused on refining our Mission Strategies, and resourcing special projects such as a new website, new equipment, and the new Soulpepper Family Festival, which was a big hit this December. As I shift into the Director of Communications role, we’ll be launching the exciting new 2015 Season, and reviewing how we tell the Soulpepper Story to a wider audience.

What (if any) kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?

I sit on the board of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), and the Advocacy Committee for the Toronto Arts Foundation. I’m also the Vice Chair of the Actors Repertory Company which recently presented the Canadian premiere of Moment, by Irish playwright Deidre Kinahan, and have an upcoming project for World Theatre Day. I also try to find time to do some writing – a couple of plays have been work shopped.

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

I have a toddler at home who has just learned the word “No”, and we’re expecting our second in March, so that takes up the remains of the day… and night.

What do you love about working at Young Centre/Soulpepper?

How inspiring it is. I knew working in the theatre with a great team is emotionally satisfying, but I also find Soulpepper intellectually satisfying as well. There are big, bold ideas being batted around. There is an entrepreneurial thread that runs throughout the building, and the prevailing attitude is “Yes, we can do that! Let’s figure out how.” That makes it an exciting place to work.

Design Exchange

The Soulpepper Academy Design students have been hard at work at the Young Centre but not only on Soulpepper shows. This fall, the George Brown Theatre School produced Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller and recruited Anahita Dehbonehie to design the costumes and Shannon Lea Doyle to design the set. We sat down with the designers to talk about their experience.

Set Design

For Shannon, working with the George Brown production team was different from shows she’d worked on in the past. “I’m used to working on indie projects where I was the designer/production manager/builder/everything. Projects where, if I didn’t know how to make it, it simply wouldn’t get made.” This made for an exciting design opportunity, wherein she was able to hand drafts off to a team of professional carpenters and builders. “It was really cool to have the support system of Soulpepper while working on a show outside of the company.” This support system included the designers’ mentor Lorenzo Savoini, who continued to be a resource and sounding board throughout the process. “It’s wonderful to have an experienced and trusted mentor who cares about you as a person,” says Shannon.

Costume Design

Anahita’s time working in the costume department proved equally fruitful. She commented that the range of resources were wonderful but it was the personnel that sticks out for her, especially the head of the costume department Ina Kerklan. “It was amazing to have a half hour conversation with someone about a colour and what it does and what it means.” Like all designers, their biggest challenge was the management and allocation of resources. “When you only have a finite amount of time and resources, you begin to think about specific elements of the show and make decisions,” says Anahita. “And you have to cut some things and keep others, and this quickly helps you realize the most important piece of the puzzle.” A prime example of this was the dress for Elizabeth, one of the lead roles in the play. Anahita’s original design was very ornate, but would have used up the lion’s share of time and money. “I worked with Ina to simplify the dress, deciding which parts were essential to get the same idea across, within budget and on time.” This is the type of hands-on experience that the Designers will take with them as they build a professional career post-graduation. Both of the designers said they would be pleased to work on another show with George Brown and with their director, Jeanette Lambermont Morey. “She was really open and receptive to our ideas and our input. It made the process very easy.”

You can see Anahita’s design work next in Marat/Sade (September), and Shannon’s in The Dybbuk (May).

Pomme in Edinburgh

As part of the Soulpepper’s International Residency program, Academy members are matched with professional development opportunities that will give them global experiences in their field. Kelly Read, current member of the Soulpepper Academy, shares about her experience Producing abroad.

Pomme Edinburgh

The Canadian hit pomme is french for apple, by Liza Paul and Bahia Watson, premiered in 2010 at the Young Centre as part of its Saturday Night series. After two more workshops it showed at the Toronto Fringe in 2012, where it was awarded Best of Fringe, and received a return engagement that December as part of Winter at the Young. In 2014, when they got word the show was returning, Executive Director Leslie Lester and 2014 Resident Artist Ravi Jain connected the Academy’s Producing student Kelly Read, with Liza and Bahia. With generous contributions from Soulpepper, the Ontario Arts Council, and The Canada Council for the Arts, they were able to take the show to the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“The Fringe was amazing” says Read. “It’s a full month of artistic performance. There are around 3,200 individual offerings at the Festival Fringe alone, let alone the International Festival, the Free-stival, and the Forest Fringe, which are going on at the same time. You’re performing alongside some of the world’s most accomplished artists.”

Kelly Read served as the Producer on the piece, bringing expertise that she learned from her time at Soulpepper. “We had a small three-person team, so the role of the producer included putting together the touring budget, contacting international producers, dealing with the venue, audience development, and managing the finances.” All skills which are difficult enough in a normal environment, but Edinburgh is the World Series of theatre. “The Fringe is relentless. It’s 26 days long, and we performed the show 25 times. Every hour not performing was spent marketing and networking. The atmosphere is incredibly competitive, with some projects having more than ten times our marketing budget.” To make up for this, the pomme team had to get creative. “The show deals with female sexuality and so we had a ‘panty protest’ in the streets of Edinburgh. When people came up to ask us what we were doing, we would tell them all about the show. You only get a few seconds, so we learned all about the importance of an elevator pitch.”

Read did her research and contacted experienced producers in Canada for advice on how best to promote and manage the show. She smiles, ready with an anecdote. “We’d heard Colin Mochrie was going to be in town, and I thought if we could get him to come to the show, that would be great promotion.” Through a friend of hers, Read got in touch with Mochrie. “He didn’t have time to see our show, but he still tweeted about it, and some people told us that they came on Colin’s suggestion.”

“It was an incredible experience. I learned, more than anything, the importance of standing behind my work.”

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