Staff Profile: Winnie Nwakobi, Coordinator of Community Programming

How long have you have worked at Soulpepper, and how would you describe your role?

I have worked at Soulpepper as the Coordinator of Community Programming for 3 months now.  However, I have been a part of the Soulpepper community since 2010. I was a participant in the 2010 Youth Mentorship  Program and continued as an Alumni Programs Participant, a Program Assistant, and a Youth Link Artist.

As the Community Programming Coordinator, I work with the team to run all of the youth outreach and access programs at Soulpepper, as well as programs in schools and the local community. I also facilitate student group bookings for Soulpepper performances. Working in the administration here in my various capacities has been exciting and dynamic. I am now part of a team that provides opportunities for youth to explore their interests in theatre and the arts. These are opportunities that were provided to me, and to be on the other side of it is a privilege and I am very excited for the year ahead.

What kinds of projects are you involved in outside of work?

This past summer, I co-directed and produced a play called SCAT, which was performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival. I came to Soulpepper not long after that, and went through other exciting changes in my life. I basically got a new job, a new apartment, and got engaged all in the same week. The last couple of months have really been adapting to new environments and adjusting to new beginnings.

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

It depends on the day. I like watching Netflix on my couch, preferably accompanied by a glass of wine. I try to do a wine and cheese night at least once or twice a month! I also enjoy knitting around this time of year. That’s something I would really like to master eventually. Right now, simple headbands and scarfs are my thing…I am getting better with hats but I need a whole lot more practice. I LOVE to cook and bake and enjoy trying new recipes. So if you have any cool recipes – feel free to send them my way!

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

I love to dance!! I used to be in a dance group during my time at York University and I miss it very much. One of my goals for 2018 is to join a dance group/class and I am thoroughly looking forward to it! I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?

I love that this company feels like a community. We are all interconnected and everyone here has been incredibly welcoming to me. Being a part of this department is all the more rewarding because we get the opportunity to work with youth and provide free programming. One of my favourite moments so far was during a youth workshop – when I saw some participants come into the building for the first time. They were in awe of the building and the opportunity and were keen to learn and experience a performance at this theatre. It reminded of my first time here. I am looking forward to the coming year – to work directly with my fellow coworkers, youth, and community organizations.

“I just hope laughter is a good medicine for cold weather!” – Academy Blog by Christef Desir

It’s the end of November and most of my fellow Academy members are gearing up to be part of Soulpepper’s Family Festival. This is the second Family Festival show I will be a part of; last year I was in It’s a Wonderful Life, a staged adaptation of the famous movie by Frank Capra. It was directed by Albert Schultz and it was my first time working with many of Soulpepper’s resident artists, where we performed in the Bluma Appel Theatre.

For this year’s Family Festival I will be doing The Story by Martha Ross, co-produced by Common Boots and Soulpepper. I am happy to be doing this project with four other Academy artists: acting with Dan Mousseau and Marcel Stewart; wearing the wonderful wardrobe of Alexandra Lord; and being co-directed by Katrina Darychuk. This year our stage is a bit different, this year will be my first outside theatre show, where Christie Pits Park is our stage!

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In rehearsal at Christie Pits Park, photo by Daniel Malavasi

We have just finished our first week of rehearsal and it has been quite an exciting process. The Story is a fun, comedic parody of the nativity story. Doing an outside show during the winter is brand new for me; we have to be ready to adapt to changes in temperature and changes in terrain. We are also preparing to perform for up to 400 people on some of the busiest nights and making sure everyone can hear the show is a big vocal challenge. I love when you know you are growing as storyteller from doing a certain show and The Story is one of those shows.

I felt prepared to act in this style of show because the Academy recently completed two six-week comedic workshops: Clown with Leah Cherniak; and Commedia Dell’arte with Marcello Magni. Both are master teachers and both styles of comedy are based in physical comedy. In these workshops we were constantly challenged to create our own routines, bits and gags. So now during rehearsals my fellow Academy actors can offer great prompts and ideas for the directors to work with. I just hope laughter is a good medicine for cold weather! ​

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Laughing away the cold weather, photo by Daniel Malavasi

Soulpepper at Play 2017

Soulpepper at Play 2017 was a tremendous success!

$RLTTVPDClick the image above for highlights from Soulpepper at Play 2017

On October 24, 2017, Soulpepper welcomed a crowd of 300 guests at its annual gala, this year chaired by Raj Kothari and J-F Courville. Soulpepper at Play celebrated the company, and included wonderful performances and a lively auction led by Albert Schultz, Artistic Director.

We raised over $600,000 in support of Soulpepper’s work, both on and off the stage. $185,000 was raised during the auction alone! Proceeds collected from Soulpepper at Play directly benefit Soulpepper Theatre Company and the continuation of our important programs and initiatives, including:

  • Developing new and original works
  • Being the city’s leading provider of creative engagement for theatre artists
  • Training future artistic leaders through the Soulpepper Academy
  • Working with youth in the community
  • Welcoming new Canadians to be part of the creative community

Thank you to our committed event sponsors, table hosts, donors, guests, staff and artists who made it all possible!

For information about Soulpepper at Play 2018, contact us at 416.203.6264 x 138 or development@soulpepper.ca

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“It was breathtaking to witness the power of our imaginations…”– Academy Blog by Michelle Tracey

At the beginning of October, myself and my fellow Soulpepper Academy artists had the chance to complete a week-long masterclass in design dramaturgy with Michael Levine. Michael is a renowned Canadian scenographer based in London, England, but his work in theatre, dance and opera can be seen all over the world. I was familiar with Michael’s work having seen his designs for the COC’s remount of Götterdämmerung (the 3rd in Wagner’s Ring Cycle) and the National Ballet’s production of Le Petit Prince, for which Michael was credited as ‘Set and Costume Designer’ and ‘Creative Concept’, alongside choreographer Guillaume Côté.

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Michael Levine Masterclass, photo by Lorenzo Savoini

I was fascinated to meet Michael, having heard that his design practise was uniquely holistic, possibly due to his experience with London-based company Complicité who is known for their rigorous devised creations. I was excited for what insights Michael could share with our group about the potential of design to shape storytelling. From what I had seen of Michael’s designs, his work is less concerned with literal representation than with invoking the imaginations of the audience. This masterclass also marked a coming together for our Academy. It had been several months since all of our artistic disciplines had worked together in the same room.

Over the course of the week, we dove into analyzing the libretto for the opera Wozzeck by Alban Berg. Michael knew the libretto inside and out having designed it himself several times. Wozzeck is regarded as one of the first 20th– century ‘avant-garde’ operas because it utilized dissonance and atonality to express the tragic and often deranged inner worlds of the characters. Its libretto and score were an ideal jumping off point to discuss different kinds of space that exist in the theatre.

Beyond literal space, we discussed emotional space, psychological space, dream, fantasy, metaphor, etc. After establishing this shared language to discuss space, we experimented at length with how design elements could evoke different kinds of space.

We discussed power dynamics within scenes, and asked ourselves how could these power dynamic manifest themselves physically. It became much easier to understand how the placement of one set piece might amplify a power dynamic between two people in space.

We spent most of the week on our feet, working with choral movement and exploring how the physical relationships between bodies can create dramatic tension. I think it was surprising to most how movement-oriented Michael’s work was with us! I believe this work is at the heart of what scenographers can provide; dynamic space that provides strong opportunities for performers.

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Michael Levine Masterclass, photo by Lorenzo Savoini

We also took time to look at simple objects in the room, and discover how they could be transformed in a theatrical context. This kind of transformation has always seemed like magic to me. It was breathtaking to witness how the power of our imaginations can transform an object as unassuming as a table into a boat, a gurney, a canvas, a prison cell (and on and on), or how a few sheets of paper can transform into a soaring flock of birds.

Michael also facilitated skype calls with several of his London-based colleagues throughout the week. It was fantastic to get a sampling of so many artists’ unique perspectives on theatre making from different disciplines. Finally, we were able to look at the different properties of theatre lighting and what emotional qualities they bring. It was an incredible week, and I feel that we grew as an ensemble as a result of it. The lessons that Michael taught us left me feeling empowered and inspired to continue creating with this bright group of artists.

 

Staff Profile: Chris Scholey, Producer

How long have you have worked at Soulpepper, and how would you describe your role?

Wow…hadn’t really thought about it until now but I’ve been here for two years.  Amazing how quickly the time goes by.  My role as Producer involves a wide range of adventures, everything from looking after our extensive Play Development program and our quickly expanding Audio Programming platform to negotiating rights for projects.  I also do a lot of industry outreach, meaning I connect with companies, producers, and artists to talk about potential collaborations.  Added to all this, I’m often the point person for shows that Soulpepper presents in the Young Centre.  My desk is usually a mess, but it’s a joyous mess.  Is that a term?

What kinds of projects are you involved in outside of work?

Life these days is Soulpepper and then home to my two boys.  The benefit of having two hockey-playing boys is that I get to hang out in all the hockey arenas in the GTA.

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

Getting kids ready for hockey, taking kids to hockey, watching hockey, bringing kids home from hockey, cleaning up after hockey.  Go to work.  Repeat.

Ok…it’s not quite that drastic.  But it sometimes feels like it!

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

I was the inspiration for a comic book character.  When I was (much) younger, I won first prize at a community rap contest.  I dropped out of a PhD in Marine Biology to play in the world of theatre.  There might be others but let’s keep some of the mystery alive.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?

It’s always about the people, isn’t it?  And the people at Soulpepper are amazing.  On those days when your to-do list is weeks old, you have multiple shows opening, and the emails are coming in faster than you can respond, it’s the people around you that keep you sane.  And while the people around me may argue the point, I’m still relatively sane so I thank them all!

“I’m practicing to truly take in every moment…” Academy Blog by Nicole Power

As September comes to a close, it is really hard to believe that we are half way done our Academy journey. We all often reflect back to our callback in April of 2016 and how the excitement we felt that weekend really hasn’t gone away. We’ve gone through a lot and grown so close as an ensemble.

This summer I got the opportunity to visit NYC and witness “Soulpepper on 42nd Street” at The Pershing Square Signature Center. I got to catch up with all of the artists and see Spoon River, Of Human Bondage, and Kim’s Convenience. It was so exciting to sit in an audience of New Yorkers and listen to them chat about how moved and inspired they were by the work Soulpepper was doing. I met one woman who was seeing Of Human Bondage for the third time!

When the Soulpepper family returned from NYC, we jumped right back into work. We spent six weeks working under the direction of Alan Dilworth, Soulpepper’s Associate Artistic Director. We worked on both Anne Carson’s Antigone and fellow Academy Member Sina Gilani’s adaptation of Iphegenia by Euripides. We took a group trip to Stratford to see Bakkhai and had a talkback with some of the cast.

In Soulpepper on screen news, I’m just finishing up a Cross Canada promotional tour for Kim’s Convenience season 2! We went to Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, and capped it off in my hometown, St. John’s, Newfoundland. We spoke with theatre students at my alma mater, Gonzaga High School. I got to chat with them about my journey to Kim’s through meeting Albert and joining the Academy and share what we have been working on for the last year.

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Chatting with the theatre arts class at Gonzaga High School, St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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Moving forward, I’m practicing to truly take in every moment… we are so fortunate to be among Canada’s great theatre artists and I’m trying to sponge everything I can. As I walk into the building each day, I pause to acknowledge the opportunity Soulpepper has given us to learn and grow.

Staff Profile – Cristina Rizzuto, Marketing Manager

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How long have you worked at Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consists of lately.
I have worked at Soulpepper for just over a year. As Marketing Manager, my role consists mostly of planning fiscal advertising campaigns, monitoring the marketing and communications budget, maintaining strong relationships with tourism, industry, advertising and community partners, and working with our team to plan and execute email, digital, and print marketing campaigns. I represent Soulpepper on the Toronto Attractions Council, and on the SOTUG (Southern Ontario Tessitura User Group).

What kinds of projects are you involved in outside of work?
Outside of work, I sit on the Board of Directors at Vaughan Public Libraries, and volunteer with a number of organizations, including the University of Toronto Alumni Association and Humanity First. I am also a writer, and have been published in various literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. My first book of poetry was published in 2012, and a few short stories will be published in an upcoming anthology of Italian-Canadian writers this year.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
Swimming, yoga, reading, spending time with loved ones, and exploring the city by foot are a few of my favourite activities. I also enjoy cooking and seasonal culinary traditions – ie. helping my father make wine and tomato sauce in the late summer, apple-picking in the fall.

What is something we would be surprised to know about you?
Every year, I endeavour to learn something new. In 2015, I wanted to learn something beautiful – so, I took up Spanish language courses. Last year, I completed the final course in the certificate. ¡Hola! This year, I am taking a course in neurobiology.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
I love working with a team of passionate, intelligent people, who inspire me daily. I love staff meetings and Opening Nights. I love creepily looking around the theatre at audience members reacting to a show we’ve all worked hard on for months. I love reaching the end of a performance, because the range of emotions I feel as a result of whatever is on stage reminds me of why I do what I do.