Staff Profile: Christopher Hackett, Young Centre Patron Services Supervisor

What is your job title, how long have you been with the Young Centre, and what has your job consisted of lately?

I’ve been with the Young Centre for the Performing Arts for 6 months as the Patron Services Supervisor, with a focus on Front of House Management.

What is the best part about the job?

Having the opportunity to work with our outstanding Patron Services Team to provide memorable experiences for our guests has been great, particularly for those who are under-served. I learned so much from our ASL interpreted performances and I can’t wait to delve into our Relaxed Performances. It has also been a treat to be able to work with our great volunteer team, a group whose dedication has no peer.

What is something we would be surprised to know about you?

I went to Grad School in England, earning a Master of Research Degree in Theatre and Performance.

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

Commuting to/from work.

What are you most looking forward to at the Young Centre/Soulpepper in the next few months?

Professionally, I’m very excited to see the direction of the company under our new Executive Director Emma Stenning, and our new Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha. Personally I am looking forward to seeing what the Students at George Brown have to offer as we move into the Christmas Market Season. I’m told that the child focused Munsch Goes to School will be a lot of fun and that the kids are wonderful. In the same vein, I’m excited to see Soulpepper’s remount of Peter Pan, as Peter Pan happened to be my very first ‘panto’ experience at the Theatre I worked in England.

The four women of Escaped Alone reflect on their careers

Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone is written with four female characters over the age of 70,  which is something we don’t often see on stage. We asked Brenda, Kyra, Clare, and Maria to reflect on their first roles and compare it to their experiences now, working on Escaped Alone as established artists in their craft.

Maria Vacratsis

My very first role was in a production of a Polish play that was done at the Red Light Theatre Company in Toronto in 1977/78. That was the first Feminist theatre company in Toronto and they had been running all through the seventies but then that shut it down, that was the last production they ever did – I like to take credit for that! I was 22 years old.

Compared to now, I was thinking about my career, and now I’m not thinking about career. Now all I think about is the work because I know how ephemeral it all is. You can do something fantastic and a week later it is forgotten, or you can do something terrible and beat yourself up for it and then a week later nobody remembers.

It really is about the here and now and the work. My career is what my career is now at this age. So it’s very freeing.

Kyra Harper

I played Mary Warren in The Crucible when I was 14 or 15. That was magic to me. It was really magic to be able to submerge myself in that world – I had done a couple of shows before that point but that real role in a real play was just… I had a glimpse of what it was like really to be an actor and that was what I wanted to do with my life and it set me on a path that I’ve been lucky enough to follow through all my life.

Now doing something like this with four women of a certain age. I look at it from a totally different perspective. The work is so important, I still feel as an older actor that I am learning all the time and I’m eager to learn but there’s more ease in the work. There is more accumulated knowledge, and comfort, the comfort of being in the room with four other women who are similarly minded and of a similar age it’s just such a comfort and it helps to make you feel fulfilled in the work and the environment.

Brenda Robins

My first role that I remember was in Grade Five, we were doing Mother Goose Stories, and I really wanted the part of Mother Goose, but we had to do an audition piece and my dad had taught me a poem which was:

Starkle starkle little twink
Who the heck you are you think
I’m not under the alcafluence of incohol
Though some thinkle peep I am
I fool so feelish don’t know who is me
But the drunker I sit here the longer I get

I got the part of Mother Hubbard, which is an OK part, it wasn’t the lead though. And the girl who got Mother Goose did To Be or Not To Be. From Hamlet. In Grade Five.

That was still a good audition piece and I could probably still learn something from that, you know, the purity of that… The truth of it as an 11 year old.

I have to admit that this play now is kind of reminding me of my parents, so maybe it is a bit of a full circle – learning that wonderful audition piece from my dad for my first part and now pretty well playing a relative.

Clare Coulter

For my first role I was a child, a Canadian child, in London, England. I was a lost elf in the pantomime Where the Rainbow Ends at the Coliseum in London. It was very exciting to be what I thought was a professional.

The first school I went to was a ballet school in a church hall run by a very eccentric woman, and a few eccentric parents sent their children there to avoid the school system. The whole year was spent preparing for the summer charity concert that was held at the Fortune Theatre in Drury Lane. The days were spent preparing for these little concert presentations of musical songs and pas-de-deux and tap dances – all the things that were current in London for entertainment. I was under the illusion that I was a little professional.  Somehow, at the age of nine, I found myself ironing all the layers and layers of tutu and then jumping into a cab with my costumes and saying to the cab driver “Fortune Theatre, Drury Lane. Stage Door please.” And thinking he must think I’m a big star. It was those years you could just imagine you’re everything you wanted to be.

I was in London then because of my parents work, and when my parents work took them back to Canada, I was sea-lifted back to my own country and was absolutely desolate. There was no opportunity for children, or anybody actually, to have a career in theatre in the 1950s. Stratford had begun, but it wasn’t exactly something that people would say “I will make my career there”, it can be now, but it wasn’t at the time.

I went into this period of growing up having lost what I thought I could do and was very homesick for London and for my lost life. When I came to graduate I could’ve gone back to London to take up my life as an actress there. I had been so homesick that I thought I could never go through it again, and I didn’t want to be homesick for Canada so I thought I’d do something else. Thinking “obviously there is no theatre here”, I went go to the college of art.  Sitting in front of a block of paper or a canvas in silence all day long was just not the thing that suited me at all – I needed to be with people. It wasn’t long after that that Pierre Trudeau that came up with Local Initiative Program grants for anyone that wanted to initiate something in the arts. This is when Theatre Passe Muraille started, Tarragon started, Factory Lab started, all these came from these Local Initiative Program grants and so I suddenly had a beginning!  I started out with people my own age and we didn’t know very much and nobody knew anything about us. We were in church hall basements again, and if it weren’t for Urjo Kareda as the Toronto Star critic, I don’t know where our audiences would have come from. He began promoting like crazy these small groups saying “If you think you’ve seen good theatre at Stratford, come back here and you’ll really see something now.” We all kind of watched in wonder as he, through the press, built more and more credibility for what we were doing and it became something of wonderful happiness.

I really found my thing at Tarragon – Bill Glasgow was exploring scripts and writers. I found I could get a lot of satisfaction out of written scripts, and that lasted for a very long time.In some ways I feel I’ve done my best work for international writers, maybe because my earliest training as a child was not in Canadian writing but in English and American. For those English writers like Caryl Churchill, I feel like I’ve done very, very fine work for her. And yet my heart has always been with Michel Tremblay, Judith Thompson, and George Walker, and the people who have made this country come to light in the theatre.


Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill continues through November 25, 2018.

 

 

 

First Look at Early Set Designs for the World Premiere of Rose!

The World Premiere of Rose is going to be our most highly anticipated and most ambitious show ever! Here is a sneak peek at the set designs Lorenzo Savoini has been preparing for Soulpepper’s fully original musical. Lorenzo described the look he is going for as Wes Andersen meets Pixar. Take a look for yourself!

The World Premiere musical Rose is on sale now! Performances begin January 17, 2019.

Signature Soulpepper was a Success!

 

 

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On October 23, 2018, Soulpepper welcomed a crowd of over 300 guests at its annual gala. Co-chaired by Raj Kothari and Maureen Dodig, Signature Soulpepper celebrated the  Company’s work and its dynamic creative ensemble. The highlight of the evening was a performance with music, drama and narrative led by some of Soulpepper’s many talented artists.

The event was a huge success, showcasing Soulpepper’s  resiliency and enthusiastic spirit. We are thrilled to report that over $560,000 was raised – surpassing the goal for the night. All proceeds will go towards supporting Soulpepper activities on-stage and off-stage. For example, two important programs highlighted during the evening; Soulpepper’s Culturelink Newcomers Welcome Program, and Soulpepper’s Youth Outreach Programs will benefit from the generosity demonstrated at this year’s Signature Soulpepper.

Our immense gratitude to the committed Signature Soulpepper sponsors, table hosts, donors, guests, staff and artists who made it all possible!

Staff Profile: Kathy Mile, Associate Director of Development

What is your job title, how long have you been at Soulpepper, and what has your job consisted of lately?

I am the Associate Director of Development. I’ve been with Soulpepper for a little over a year now but, I actually worked for the Company, as Development Coordinator and then Manager from 2004 to 2008. It’s hard to believe that there was a gap of a decade when I worked elsewhere. It often feels like I never left.

In my current role, I manage our annual fundraising plan and development operations. It’s a pretty diverse portfolio of work and there are often other odds and ends that come my way.  Right now, I am preparing our Fall Donor Renewal Campaign and acting as the event manager for our upcoming gala, Signature Soulpepper.

What is the best part about the job?

How many other people can say they attend opening nights, dress rehearsals, and read-throughs for work? It’s a tough job.

What is something we would be surprised to know about you?

I lived in Edinburgh after I graduated university. I worked at the Edinburgh Fringe and got to experience the chaotic and exciting Festival season there. In August alone, the city hosts at least five or six different Festivals – it was a fantastic and fun time in my life.

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

I have two very active young kids and so my weekends are spent going to and from their swimming and gymnastics lessons, shuttling them to birthday parties, helping with homework, etc.  And laundry, there is lots of laundry. When we have a bit of downtime and the weather cooperates, we like to escape to our family cottage on Lake Simcoe.

What are you most looking forward to at Soulpepper in the next few months?

I’m really looking forward to seeing The Royale in a couple of weeks. Beyond that I’m very excited about getting to know Emma Stenning, Soulpepper’s incoming Executive Director as well as our new Artistic Director. There will be a lot of new creative energy in the office soon and I’m excited to see what the future brings.

Donor Story: Kit and Barbara Moore

In April 2000, Kit Moore attended his first Soulpepper production. It was The Mill on the Floss, which had been suggested to him by a friend during Soulpepper’s third season. It was just two years after Soulpepper opened and Kit was excited to have a company in Toronto that focused on the classics. Kit was drawn to the inviting and warm nature of Soulpepper and its acting ensemble. Ten years later Kit introduced Barbara to Soulpepper. Barbara grew up in an artistic household and is a long-time patron of Toronto’s classical music scene. Aside from occasional jaunts to the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, she did not actively attend theatre.  Once she started attending Soulpepper with Kit, live theatre became a part of her life. Like Kit, Barbara enjoys theatre companies where you can get to know the actors and feel like a part of a community. As she puts it “It’s special to see a production, then, be joined by the familiar faces of the actors in the atrium post-show.”

Kit has been donating to Soulpepper for over 18 years. He recognized the financial challenges that any new start-up organization faces but believed in Soulpepper’s mission and wanted to support its growth. Barbara sees Soulpepper’s strength in its artists and its contribution to Toronto’s theatre ecology. The Moores feel that it is a priority to support theatre because of its power to expand your horizons, to present you with new points of view and also engage you in stories that often feel incredibly familiar. Kit and Barbara also appreciate the escape that attending live theatre offers. Kit, who is an avid rock climber and has been known to rappel down City Hall for charity each year, added: “Climbing on rocks outdoors is not unlike theatre, in that they both take us outside of our everyday lives for a little while.”

Over the next ten years, Kit and Barbara anticipate that Soulpepper will continue to work with great artists to produce new works and new old works they may have never seen before. Soulpepper is exactly the company that Kit imagined it would be 18 years ago.


Photographer: Janet Trost

Jacob Kay: Six Weeks with the City Youth Academy

I was first introduced to Soulpepper through one of their school visits when I was eight. Having just moved downtown, these school visits led by various Soulpepper artists including: Paula Wing, Martha Burns, Bill Webster, Sarah Wilson, and Jennifer Villaverde gave me my first taste of theatre. I find community programming like the City Youth Academy and school visits a crucial method in producing an inclusive means of artistic expression for youth. After more than a decade later, programming like the City Youth Academy is one of the reasons I felt so strongly to apply to work with Soulpepper this summer, this time as a program assistant.

The City Youth Academy has been such a rewarding opportunity to be a part of. I had the chance to work with ten vibrant, eclectic, and diverse young  performers, each bringing such a great enthusiasm and sharpness which reminded how joyous theatre making is. As the Program Assistant, I worked with Program Leader, Jennifer Villaverde, to assist in facilitating the guest artists’ workshops, creation and exploration in various forms of devised theatre, and stage managed the final performance. Additionally, the environment within the Young Centre was such an incredible way to spend my summer. For the first time, I was able to go ‘behind-the-scenes’ and witness the immense dedication and drive each Soulpepper staff and administrator brings to their work.

Photo by Winnie Doyle-Marshall (3)

City Youth Academy participants in Graffiti Alley on Discovery Day

As far as the CYA participants, they have each grown in various ways over the six weeks. This program’s emphasis on collaborative creation has ensured a sense of constructive idea building within the creation itself. Functioning as one unit, a “Blob” as referenced in their final piece I Was Here, is essential to utilizing every single group member’s assets and skills, without creating a hierarchy of voices. As well, through creation and scene study work with Guest Artist Jordan Pettle, it was evident how much empathy they had for each other through their keen listening skills onstage. As they got more comfortable with each other, they learned the individuality of each of their peer’s processes, a crucial skill in producing an environment conducive to meaningful creation.

Photo by Daniel Malavasi (36)

Learning a Fight Brawl with Guest Fight Director Casey Hudecki

Looking at the past six weeks there are so many highlights! Here’s just a few:

  • Blowing bubbles through the Distillery to bring back a sense of ‘joy’
  • Spending a day exploring Graffiti Alley and Kensington Market
  • African Dance with Guest Artist Pulga Muchochoma
  • Getting the opportunity to sit in on a Bed & Breakfast rehearsal
  • Watching the performers ecstatically learn a “Fight Brawl” from Guest Fight Director Casey Hudecki
  • Getting to know and work with amazing administrators, especially Fiona Suliman and Winnie Doyle-Marshall
Photo by Daniel Malavasi (94)

City Youth Academy Learning African dance with Pulga Muchochoma

Do you know any youth interested in training in theatre and developing their own artistic practice? Applications for next years City Youth Academy will be open next spring.