Artist Perspective: Reanne Spitzer on Peter Pan

When I was asked to write about Peter Pan, I was strapped with what perspective to take, as I wear many (bad) hats in this show. Should I talk about the adaptation, the choreography, the roles I play, or the growth of the show over the years? After asking these questions it became clear that that versatility was precisely the thing to discuss: the many hats that everyone in this show demonstrates as artists, and the unique rehearsal process that comes with that versatility. Just like any creative team on a new musical, we have a director, writers, a choreographer, a music director, a fight director, a composer and performers- but this ensemble in many ways are each a little bit of all of these roles.

It’s not exactly “rehearsal etiquette” for an actor to give a note about the direction, or the music director to offer up a piece of choreography, or the fight director to request a line change, or a producer to write a song for the finale. But in our rehearsal hall, ideas are being offered up in all fields of work, regardless of one’s role in the production. In many other instances, this would call for chaos, hurt feelings, toes being stepped on and egos being bruised, but this has never been the case with Peter Pan. There is a shared vision for this show amongst the creative team; a vision that is strong and clear and has grown with this ensemble for years. With that vision comes an absolute trust— trust that any idea that is offered up is to support our mutual goal to create a magical show, and if an idea is voiced, it’s worth listening to because we all trust that the note is being given in light of that vision and always comes from a place of support. One of Severn Thompson’s strengths as a director is creating a comfortable and playful work environment for her team, and fully trusting that her actors will make strong choices that serve the story we all wish our audiences to hear.

Now all this is not to say that the people in their creative roles are not individually responsible for their wonderful work. Each leader of every creative element directs with specificity, and each have a clear vision for their aspect of story telling (be it music directing a crunchy harmony or choreographing a seamless fight sequence) but there’s a wonderful acknowledgement in the room of the cast’s creative ability and there is an open heartedness to explore that creativity. I think that’s where the magic element comes in.

I often take for granted the uniqueness of this show and it’s ensemble. Really, I feel I owe it all to friendship. It’s been a highlight of my life creating a show with my friends. Some old friends from theatre school and some new friends I’ve grown close to in Neverland. This show and it’s process is demonstrative of love, friendship, support and trust. It’s the ultimate room to play in, to fail in, to voice opinions in, to let guards down in, to cry unabashedly in, to laugh uncontrollably in, to feel—in those moments of unity with each other and the audience— that we’re flying, and that this show and it’s journey will never ever finish, will never ever cease to be magical, and will never ever land.

Staff Profile: Milusha Copas, Communications Coordinator

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

I’m the Communications Coordinator at Soulpepper. I started here in October of last year, so it’s been a fast paced, but certainly enjoyable, 419 days. Lately it has been a lot of winding up the slingshot we call the Family Festival, getting it ready to launch when A Christmas Carol and Peter Pan hit the stage. There has also been some joyful singing – we’re all going to be singing “you gotta bow wow wow” for the next three months until Rose closes. For the record, that is not in my job description!

What is the best part about the job?

I love that my job is to talk about (really good) theatre, with anyone that will listen!

I went into communications not really knowing exactly where I wanted to land, but spent all of my down time befriending the students in my University’s theatre department and seeing all the shows in the city…

One day I thought to myself “oh, of course theatre companies need someone to talk with the media and the public, actors can’t play every role” and that is the story of how I ended up at Soulpepper putting together this newsletter for you every month. Better yet, if you ever flip open the paper and read a review of a Soulpepper show, that critic got their seat by coming to me first.

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

I am playing weird board games, living out my life as an amateur dancer with my friends, or mentally planning my next trip. I’ve got a few lined up in my mind right now, just waiting for the right moment to take the time and jet off.

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

I love monster trucks.

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

If the bit above about singing “bow wow wow” didn’t tip you off, I’m very excited for Soulpepper’s brand new original musical Rose. I love musical theatre, and so getting to see our artists that I am so fond of put together this inspiring musical is a real work perk.

Of course, it will also be tremendous to have two cool and intelligent ladies guiding this company into its future. Our Executive Director Emma Stenning has started already and Weyni Mengesha our new Artistic Director will be starting in January. I’ll miss having Alan Dilworth around in that capacity but I can’t wait to see him back in his element directing The Virgin Trial and the Greek tragedy Wedding at Aulis – his direction of the last Greek tragedy Idomeneus has been my favourite Soupepper production I’ve seen to date.

 

 

 

Artist Perspective: Gregory Prest, Words For My Nine Year Old Self

“We sing stories with a guitar with a pinecone or a shoe. Heck, everything’s an instrument when the music’s in you.”

– Frank the Logger in Rose

If I told my 9-year-old self what happened today, I think he would be slightly confused. And jealous. It’s the second day of rehearsals for Rose and the magical Mike Ross is teaching the cast the lyrics to the Act II big opening number “Here Goes Rose”, penned by the hilarious Sarah Wilson. Here’s a taste:

We’re shakin’ in our boots and our beards are twitchin’
And our knees are knockin’ and our tongues are itchin’
What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?
Oh, our hips are bumpin’ and our feet are tappin’

Our palms are sweatin’ and our breath is stinkin’
And our hair is frizzin’ and our brains are thinkin’
What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?
Oh, our nerves are shreddin’ and our gums are flappin’

Now imagine this at the speed a dog chases a squirrel. The hilarity and utter joy of watching Mike teach this – the insane actions the actors are creating to memorize the sequence, picking up inspiring “tips” from their neighbours – the desperate dizzying look of success in their eyes when they get it right – the energy in the room from repeating this over and over up to speed – the peals of laughter – it is a room full of 9-year-olds. Pure joy. Kind, tender joy.

Sarah and Mike have created something very special. It is a wonderful thing (I’m learning as a director) when you can actually see the cast, some encountering the script and music for the first time, realize in the moment how beautiful and funny the material is. It’s a special thing to see someone light up.

I can’t wait to share this show with you.

– Gregory Prest, Director

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!