Donor Profile: Lesley Wiesenfeld

How did you first learn about Soulpepper/What is your first memory of Soulpepper?

I’ve been going to shows at Soulpepper for such a long time that I actually can’t remember how I first learned about the company, but the sustained memory and feeling I have about Soulpepper is the pleasure of being able to go to see inspiring performances in my very own neighbourhood.  My husband and I are lucky to be able to literally grab a quick mid-week dinner after work, then walk over to see a great show. That feels pretty special to be able to do.

What inspires you to support Soulpepper?

I was really lucky to have an exceptional English and theatre teacher in high school – the kind of teacher who not only taught drama but who mentored anyone lucky enough to be in her class. She also directed the school plays where we learned teamwork, empathy and dedication.  So I have a very strong fondness and affinity for the energy and work it takes to put on a show.

How and why did you get involved with Top Women?

Top Women reflected another chance to support creativity, with the added lens of women supporting other women. This seems like an easy thing to say yes to in life, work and giving.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about giving to Soulpepper? And, why do you think the arts should be a priority for philanthropy?

The story of Soulpepper and its success as a ‘little new theatre company that could’ has always been very impressive. Giving to Soulpepper offers a chance to be part of something that is both intimate and growing at the same time.  It is also a chance to do something that enables opportunities for creative work for a whole host of people and that feels good. I also think that the recent challenges and the consequent shifts in leadership reflect an opportunity to recommit to a company aspiring to be even better and that is an important commitment to support.”

Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?

I see Soulpepper hopefully doing what it has become good at doing over the years: presenting classics that we kind of remember from Grade 10 drama class but didn’t realize could be as exciting to see performed and developing new and creative performances that you feel lucky to have seen.


Top Women is a community of exceptional women collectively underwriting a female-directed, female-written or female-centred Soulpepper production each year.

This year, Top Women is underwriting a deeply moving production written by award-winning Canadian playwright Beverley Cooper and directed by renowned theatre artist, Jackie Maxwell. Innocence Lost: A Play about Steven Truscott is a provocative and poignant re-examination of the Steven Truscott criminal case. Themes of truth, community, and coming of age are explored in this powerful piece.

To find out more about Top Women, click here.


The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.  

Staff Profile: Meg Woods, Associate Technical Director

What is your job title?

I am the Associate Technical Director here at Soulpepper.

Describe a bit about the team you work with?

I’m still figuring that out actually! I just joined the company in January and my first show, Animal Farm, hasn’t even closed yet. Soulpepper has a TD (short form for Technical Director) team of 4; a TD, an associate TD, and 2 assistant TD’s. Since Soulpepper is an ever-revolving door of productions there’s no way that one person could coordinate all the elements of every show. So we rotate—each person is assigned a show and by the time it opens they are assigned another. Of course we could not do it alone! We are able to lean on our fellow TD’s at any time. We might need advice on how to tackle a specific scheduling issue or have a structural or electrical question outside our wheelhouse. We each have different strengths and insights that are put to the test with each new show we tackle.

What does your role entail?

Technical direction is a title that encompasses a lot of different aspects but if I had to summarize it into one concept it’s sort of like being an air traffic controller. We are the ones who make sure that all the different elements of the show glide into the theatre smoothly and efficiently (and most importantly safely!) without getting caught up on one another or crashing and burning in the process. We have heads of departments like Props, Paint, Carpentry, etc., but we are the ones who assess and steer the bigger picture. We work with the team to cost and price out every department, ensuring that everyone is within their budget and coordinate ways to compromise if not. We talk to designers and directors to see what is possible with the time and resources we have along with keeping everyone in the loop throughout. We need to schedule the load-in of one show while working around the load-out of another, scheduling dozens of crew hours and making the stage ready in time for the actors. Once we get everything we need to land on the runway of the stage, it’s adjusting the everyday minutia of space to allow for creative growth and settling the play into its new home in time for the audience!

What is the best part of your job? And what are you most looking forward to at Soulpepper in the next few months?

This is going to sound really cheesy but since moving to the city a few months ago I was really worried about leaving all my family and friends. I was anxious about what the atmosphere at my new work place was going to be like. Calling my first day a bit rocky would be a huge understatement. It was chaos – and I was worried that I had made a huge mistake. But since then I have seen so much growth and motion towards change within the company. I have met some really great people and established a new support system that feels really genuine and very strong. There’s a new awareness in the building, and I’m really excited to be part of it. I’m also excited to see how the company uses the catalyst of finding a new Executive and Artistic Director as an opportunity to rebuild and grow. To improve the company as a whole. I’m really looking forward to that!

What are 3 fun facts about you? 

I am left handed, I have been skydiving and I’m an air hockey master!


Who run the show? Stage Managers!

The week of March 19, Soulpepper had 12 stage managers working in the building at once. We had Marinda and  Lucia and Neha and Meghan working on the shows already on stage , Idomeneus and Animal Farm. Neha and Meghan were also in the final stages of rehearsal before A Moveable Feast: Paris in the ’20s hit the stage. The rest were prepping for rehearsals. Sarah, Ian, and Kelly, were working on Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott,  Robert, Liesl, and Seren, are working on La Bête and Darragh and Sam were prepping for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

While stage managers are no doubt most organized people in the building, organizing a moment where all 12 were on a break proved to be a challenge… At most we could manage to stage nine of them for a photo!

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Almost a full company – nine of the twelve SMs goofing around!

We took the opportunity to ask them to share some thoughts on their experience as stage managers – here is what they had to say.

Sarah M.

Why did you decide to be a stage manager?
Two teachers encouraged me towards stage managing our high school’s production of Into the Woods. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but loved every moment of the sublime chaos that ensued. That experience became the catalyst for me to pursue post-secondary studies in technical theatre production/stage management. I never looked back.

What is your favourite cue you’ve ever called?
So many cues! It’s impossible to choose a favourite. One that immediately comes to mind: a lighting cue in Theatre Passe Muraille’s production of The De Chardin Project (directed by Alan Dilworth and designed by Lorenzo Savoini) which slowly revealed the audience and actors to one another via dozens of bare light bulbs hung throughout the theatre. A beautifully breathtaking event to witness each evening.

Robert H. 

What Soulpepper show are you working on?
I am currently Stage Managing La Bête, in addition to my ongoing Production Stage Manager duties.

Why did you decide to be a stage manager?
When I started my BFA in Stagecraft I didn’t even know what a Stage Manager was! Starting out, I was much more interested in lighting, but found that narrowing my focus (pardon the pun) to that one aspect of production left me with many unanswered questions on how the rest of the show came together.  Something really clicked when I got my first Stage Management assignment.  A broader understanding of the process is required and that was something that really appealed to me.

What is your favourite cue you’ve ever called?
For The 39 Steps, Verne Good designed an amazing sequence of sound cues to accompany a choreographed scene of the 4 actors opening and closing doors, starting the car, driving around sharp turns, slamming on the breaks and honking the horn.  That whole show was filled with sequences like that and was a lot of fun to call.

Meghan S. 

Why did you decide to be a stage manager?
I got the opportunity to work backstage at my local community theatre in high school, and absolutely loved it.  There’s a wonderful sense to togetherness and family about working on a show.  Through theatre school, I tried many different theatre production disciplines, but kept coming back to stage management.  I love that you get to be involved in each part of the process from very early stages right to the very end.  You also get to help create art!

What is your favourite cue you’ve ever called?
I really enjoy calling precisely timed music cues.  In a show called Cockfight at the Storefront Theatre, I had a cue that brought us out of a blackout into full stage light that went exactly with a beat in the music.  It took a couple of tries in tech rehearsal, but once I got it right, it was exciting every time.

Do you have any fun backstage rituals?
I really like being an ASM because I get to observe or be a part of other people’s backstage rituals.  The cast of Animal Farm sings one of the songs from the show just before they go onstage, and it’s fun to be in the middle of that.

Lucia C. 

Why did you decide to be a stage manager?
In grade seven I joined the drama club, and was given the role of Dancer #4 in Newsies. In between scenes I would stay backstage to label costumes, shush noisy actors, fix broken props, and tell people which scene was coming up next. Eventually, a couple years later, I learned that this was called stage management.

Do you have any fun backstage rituals?
I love the moments I spend with the actors backstage – when we connect during a quick costume change, or share a joke together every night. I often work on musicals, so there are a lot of backstage sing-and-dance-alongs. Sometimes there’s a line or a lyric that I listen for every evening – because it makes me laugh, or because it moves me in some way.


Donor Profile: Ann and Saar Pikar

How did you first learn about Soulpepper/What is your first memory of Soulpepper?
We first learned of Soulpepper when T.J. Tasker (Ann’s brother) was working in the box office in 2006.  The Young Centre was just opening and he told us that the space was incredible and that we should see the production Our Town.  We went to see it, absolutely loved it and have been hooked on Soulpepper ever since!

What inspires you to support Soulpepper?
The quality of the product is inspiring – every show, every concert, every person associated with the company, all are top notch and makes us want to get involved and proud to be associated.

Soulpepper has grown tremendously in both scope and number of productions, events and community outreach and this, combined with the growth of the Academy, gives us a sense that any financial support is well spent and is impactful.

The arts in general can use more support in Canada and Toronto – Soulpepper is a not-for-profit organization that does a lot with, relatively, very little compared to more purely commercial enterprises and in our opinion is an essential and inspiring part of what the Canadian experience can and should be when it comes to the art scene in Toronto, Canada and beyond.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about giving to Soulpepper? And, why do you think the arts should be a priority for philanthropy?
Giving to Soulpepper means supporting a vibrant and innovative Canadian theatre company; a company that not only inspires its talent but also its audiences, and is committed to bringing theatre and culture to the greater community.

We need the arts in our lives for culture, history, joy and wonder.  We feel that everyone wins if you give to the arts.

Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?
We see Soulpepper continuing to produce excellent theatre for Canadians to enjoy in the coming years.  We also know that the talent within Soulpepper ‘can travel’ so there is no doubt in our minds that we will see Soulpepper on international stages.  What we have learned about Soulpepper is that anything is possible!


The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.  

We let the cast of Idomeneus loose in the Distillery District…

On February 28, we let the cast of Idomeneus loose in the Distillery District, costumes and all (designed by Gillian Gallow)! Here’s a look at what they got up to…

 

Don’t miss the Canadian Premiere of Idomeneus by Roland Schimmelpfennig, on stage this March at Soulpepper Theatre Company! Tickets available at soulpepper.ca.

Resident Artist Blog: Guillermo Verdecchia

I have re-written this post three times already. Each time I think I’ve finished writing it, some new event or conversation makes the post seems inadequate or outdated. I’ve tried to write about how working on Animal Farm has afforded an opportunity to think about the change unfolding at Soulpepper. To be clear, Animal Farm has nothing to say about sexual harassment. It is, however, a play about leadership and revolution. It’s about living inside structures larger than an individual. It’s about how those structures shape our choices and possibilities. It’s about how those structures benefit some and harm others. It’s about the difficulty of making change.

Change it seems (seems, madam?) is suddenly upon us, or, it seems that some significant cultural change might occur if only we seize the moment properly.  In the larger scheme of things, the upheaval at Soulpepper is small but still significant because it’s an indicator of greater change outside this theatre, and because, well, it’s where many of us have worked for years, and because this theatre has been the locus, rightly or wrongly, of attention, approbation, criticism, envy, and much material support. I am hopeful that the change confronting us might be lasting and meaningful. I think I’m still hopeful.

What does it take to make change? How do we know what the right change is? One thing I’m sure of: the change can’t be a palace coup. We can’t simply replace one man with another and leave an entire structure intact.

Who’s ‘we’?

Some things have already changed in the past month. Foremost among those changes:

The adoption of an anonymous and confidential reporting line.
Clarification of roles in administration to prevent any perceived and actual conflicts of interest.

There are other changes. Most significant, as far as I can tell is a new spirit of communication — at least informally. We’re talking in rehearsal halls about creating safe spaces, about supporting one another. We’re asking questions of one another. We’re talking casually and in organized groups and meetings. We’re talking with experts who can help us make Soulpepper a genuinely diverse company.

To begin to live up to previous lofty claims of being “a place of belonging” will mean respecting the voices of women, staff, artists, people of colour, Indigenous, and queer people; in short, those voices that have been marginalized here in the past.

Soulpepper will be twenty years old soon. It’s time to take stock. While I’ve been here, whenever problems came up they were consigned to the past, not to be dwelt on, because the focus was always on moving forward. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about growing and doing more. Maybe we should take the time to ask where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and where we want to go based on an accurate assessment of where we stand. We need to talk about the work: the work we’ve made, how we made it, and the work we want to make.

I’m glad to be back at work, to be rehearsing this play written by a former Academy playwright.  But it’s also worrying because the more we get on with it, the greater the possibility that we will perpetuate old habits and patterns. I started this post weeks ago, on something of an adrenaline rush. Today, I’m thinking about Kaupscinski’s description of the end of a revolt:

“But there comes a moment when the mood burns out and everything ends …  We look uncomfortably into each other’s eyes, we shy away from conversation, we stop being any use to one another. […] This fall in temperature, this change of climate, belongs among the most unsettling and depressing of experiences. A day begins in which something should happen. And nothing happens […]. We begin to feel a great fatigue, apathy gradually engulfs us … .”

I’m thinking too about Boxer’s mantra: I will work harder. We know how that worked out for Boxer and most of the animals on the farm. Blind, heroic, individual effort won’t do it. We need to know what our work is for. We need to think about where our work is leading us. We’ll need to pull together and work smarter. Can we? Do we want to?

Who’s ‘we’?

Guillermo Verdecchia
7 February 2018


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.

 

 

Resident Artist Blog: Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster

Today, a bunch of theatre makers sat in a room together and rehearsed a play—but we didn’t recite our lines, or work on the staging.

We’re in our second week of rehearsal on Idomeneus, a script by Roland Schimmelpfennig, and directed by Alan Dilworth. Alan never expected, when he started planning to direct this show, that he would also be carrying the weighty responsibility of Acting Artistic Director during such a challenging time at Soulpepper. Despite the many pressures on him right now, what I see him doing, with such commitment, is holding space for the admin and staff and artists in this building to express their anxieties and hopes in this time of change.

So back to how we rehearsed today. We started the day with conversation, first about a scene in our show with sexual content and how we felt about presenting that content. Soon, we were talking more generally, about working in theatre, about safety and art. We talked about the recently cancelled run of Amadeus, and scenes from that play and others that felt dated and misogynistic. A wise colleague offered that the option to not do the scene, to not do the play, needs to be on the table, along with the possibilities of editing or re-contextualizing the scene. I added something I recently heard from a thoughtful facilitator in our community – when looking at all the options of moving forward as an organization, the option of finding a healthy ending to parts, or all of the organization needs to be on the table. Otherwise we’re not looking at all the options.

We talked on about the history of Soulpepper. Things that had worked.  Things that went wrong. Harm that had been done.

Our rehearsal continued, and we spoke about our anxieties that we might make others feel unsafe, through our words or actions, and how to create an atmosphere in our rehearsal hall and in our theatre, where people feel able to speak up about something that is harming them. We spoke about race, we shared experiences of being othered, at Soulpepper and elsewhere. We asked questions of each other. We talked about ‘calling in’, the practice of identifying someone’s problematic behavior in a way that invites them to change that behavior, and doing so with patience and compassion. We’re going to practice ‘calling in’. We talked about the myth of family, how we are first and foremost professional artists contracted by a theatre, with all the rights and limitations that implies, and that family cannot exist without trust, trust that is earned, and consistently re-affirmed.

We talked for hours. We never opened our scripts.

Idomeneus is a unique play. It is an act of collective story telling and re-telling, as the ten actors in the play pass around the words of this Greek myth about a King’s failure, tacking on ‘what-if’s and ‘maybe’s; rewinding our story and trying again – this time will it be different? Better? Hard to say. But with our shared words, we start, we try, we try again. And that’s how we rehearsed today.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.