Alexandra Lord and the creation of Functional/Nostalgic space

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It has been so interesting to work with Lorenzo as he designs a recording studio from the 1940s as the set for the radio-drama version of It’s A Wonderful Life. We are working on a functional yet nostalgic space where this timeless Christmas story can come alive in the mind’s eye of every audience member. Each prop that you will see on the stage will be used by the actors to create live sound affects along with some incredible voice acting which will transport you to the Bedford Falls of your imagination.

I have been building the model for Lorenzo and assisting him with sourcing practical lights and choosing paint colours for the set. We have started collaborating with the sound designer on the show, John Gzowski, making sure we have all the specialized props we need for the actors to start making radio magic as soon as rehearsals start. The incredible fun of this show will be witnessing the wacky ways certain familiar sounds are made. My favourite so far is a pillow case full of corn starch being used for footsteps on snow.

One of the best things about my time in the Soulpepper Academy so far is the chance to work with specialists such as John and Lorenzo. This is my first time working on a show with such detailed foley and it is my first time building a box set model. I am really enjoying learning Lorenzo’s tricks of the trade.

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Here is a sneak peak of the preliminary model. The final one will be presented on the first day of rehearsals, in just over a week. Bring on the holiday production season!

It’s a Wonderful Life is on stage December 9. Learn more here: soulpepper.ca. Alexandra Lord, photo: Bronwen Sharp.

Staff Profile: Daniel Malavasi – Digital Content Coordinator

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How long have you worked at Soulpepper and what has your job consisted of lately?
It’s been less than one year, but I feel like I’m part of the family already! I’m responsible for filming and editing promotional videos for our shows: trailers, interviews with artists, rehearsals…  anything that gives the audience a fuller idea of the Soulpepper experience, on stage and behind the scenes.

What kinds of projects are you involved in outside of work?
I’ve been editing short movies for Canadian directors since I moved here about three years ago. I worked in the film and TV industry in Brazil, as an editor, and since moving here I’ve expanded my activities to assistant director as well. I’m always editing something! I’m  especially proud of being part of a project called “Standardized”, an online original series that is running its second season now.

What else occupies your time?
I’ve always been an “indoors” person – the Canadian weather  is probably enhancing that even more! I watch a lot of movies and TV shows of all kinds, but I focus on the independent (and weird) ones. I also love anything horror-related: films, board games, videogames… A perfect way of spending the day, for me, is drinking a good hoppy beer with friends, watching a bad horror movie.

What is a hidden talent of yours?
I don’t consider myself a shy person, but I’m also not very good with small talk… That’s the opposite of a talent, right? On the other hand, if you start talking about any kind of art expression, I can keep the conversation forever. If I don’t know much about a subject, I will turn into a sponge – I love to learn.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
Ha! What don’t I love about Soulpepper? I feel like I’m in my element here: I help to tell stories about  subjects I love, using the skills I’ve  chosen to develop in the last decades. And a big plus: surrounded by incredibly talented people.

Donor Profile: Sylvia Soyka

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How long have you been a Soulpepper Supporter?
I have been supporting Soulpepper almost 15 years. I have always been an avid theatre-goer and even considered at one point making a career of it when I was at university. The abundance of English-language theatre was definitely one of the bonuses for me when I moved to Toronto from Montreal.

What is you first memory of Soulpepper?
I saw Soulpepper’s first production at Harbourfront at what was then the du Maurier Theatre on a balmy summer’s evening. It was Schiller’s Don Carlos with Brent Carver, Nancy Palk, Diego Matamoros and other members of the Soulpepper company. I remember standing at the railing of the theatre’s wraparound balcony during intermission, in a warm breeze, thinking to myself that I had arrived, that I was living in a city where they were able to put on Schiller at a mainstream venue – in the summer! It was nothing short of thrilling for me.

What inspired you to support us?
Support for the theatre is a natural extension of my love for it. Having decided to pursue a different career, I feel it is the least I can do – for the theatre, for myself, for my son (and other young people) and for the Toronto community in general. Philanthropy is always a way to give back a little, but it is also a way to participate in what can be a very exciting ride, certainly at Soulpepper!

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?
Albert Schultz, partnering with Leslie Lester, is a fearless and indefatigable leader of a talented, hard-working, thoughtful and very enthusiastic group of actors and theatre artists. Together they dare to dream: they inspire each other to ever-greater ambitions and successes. Most importantly, this is a company very much focused on building the next generation to ensure the survival, continuation and growth of its creative initiatives. Art in general, but theatre perhaps in particular, is a window on our own culture, diversified as it is here in Toronto, and those of others. In its best iteration, it can be, not only a mirror, but an active agent for the collaborative shaping of our society.

How do you imagine Soulpepper in 10 years?
I see the company maturing and realizing much of the potential it is showing today, extending its reach in any number of directions. It has already expanded its original mission and mandate to include exciting new ventures such as commissioning new work, shepherding original plays into new media and new geographies and other innovations and initiatives. I believe there is so much creativity in this company that it will move down whatever roads the traffic will bear!

Staff Profile: Ella Batten – Marketing Coordinator

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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 was first involved with Soulpepper as a summer student in 2014 before heading back to UofT for my final year in Arts Management and Theatre. I returned as Soulpepper’s Marketing Coordinator the following spring and have been here ever since! Lately I’ve been working a lot with our beautiful new website, tweaking it towards digital perfection.

What is something we would be surprised to know about you?
I have years of busking experience playing violin/fiddle in Vancouver. It became my only source of income as its flexibility allowed me to focus on school, studying dance, and travel. I played for years every weekend at markets and public food courts, perfecting the balance of focus on my music and responding to my passing audience. When I was 16 I earned enough to travel through Peru!

What kinds of projects/events have you been involved in outside of work?
I am producing a deliciously exciting show called The Numbers Game, on stage September 29 at the Storefront Theatre! The Numbers Game is a 6-part miniseries set in the dirty 30’s, and dives into the race-fueled clash between Queenie St Claire and Dutch Shultz, two real-life titans of illicit industry. Unlike any other show, The Numbers Game has been written by a brilliant team of six playwrights and is performing new ‘episodes’ weekly at The Storefront.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing to have fun or relax?
If I’m not at Soulpepper or working on personal projects, I am most likely practicing yoga or eating. I’ve been indulging in my deck-garden’s basil crop all summer and have eagerly tried every recipe using Pesto I can find.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
There is a constant buzz in this building as everyone works towards bringing stories to life. No matter what a person’s role here is, from students to artists to administrators, we are all working towards bringing stories to life and creating a moment of communal *something*. Working with that shared purpose in mind is joyously satisfying.

Donor Profile: Martha and George Butterfield

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Since the early work of Albert Schultz we have been drawn to his creative, entrepreneurial and energetic leadership. He is an inspiring and effective leader.

We have been donors since the beginning of Soulpepper, [which we kept hearing about] because of the excellence of their productions and the excitement of having year-round classical productions in Toronto.  As well, two of the Founding Members Diego Matamoros and Robyn Stevan were guides for our travel company Butterfield & Robinson, giving us another wonderful connection [with the company].

Soulpepper has not stood still. We support its important new initiatives and directions:  cultural diversity in productions and commissions, gender equality, mentorship, empowering at-risk youth, promoting a love of language everywhere.

A great vision for the future of theatre and community.

Q&A with Raquel Duffy on The 39 Steps

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What is it like being in the rehearsal room with Ravi again after working with him on 2015’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist?

I was sooo pregnant during Anarchist (7 months). The entire process ended up being an absolute joy for me. Firstly, that Ravi felt the character could be pregnant. (It wasn’t written in the script). So many times in the profession pregnant actors are not given a role because it’s too risky for a myriad of reasons. Both Soulpepper and Ravi were so supportive.
I struggled to find the role in Anarchist because the journalist character appears only in Act 2 and plays a specific yet intrinsic role in the piece. Ravi is a very gracious and affirming director. He encourages you to make brave choices and many choices. As an actor you are given a lot of space in the room. By that I mean space to fail and be really bad yet not be judged harshly. That is quite rare (in my experience).

Tell us about your roles in The 39 Steps:

I play Annabella Schmidt, a femme fatale German(ish) spy; Margaret, a wee lassie from Scotland; and Pamela Edwards. The latter is the leading lady to Richard Hannay, Kawa’s leading man. (Have I expressed how much I adore Kawa Ada?????)

What is it like tackling such a range of characters?

It’s truly a pleasure. And for lack of a better word, FUN! The roles are based in the world of Hitchcock but with a more heightened quality. This allows the performer to mine the essence of a character. Sometimes for sheer comedic value, other times for the iconic relationship or role they serve to the piece.

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This play is extremely physical, how does that enhance the storytelling?

Imagine four actors deciding to do an homage to the movie The 39 Steps. They want to do the best job they can to honour the film but only have a tiny budget. (The whole point of the piece is that the play doesn’t rely on fancy effects or scenery). This troupe is determined to do justice to an iconic Hitchcock film. They create and invent what they need in order to tell the story the best way they can. They play multiple characters, especially Andrew and Anand who play around 50 different roles.

Why should audiences experience The 39 Steps:

First of all, you don’t have to see the movie to enjoy this play. However the enjoyment resonates more if you’ve seen the film. If you like to laugh or need to, or maybe just want an escape from the world right now, come and see The 39 Steps. We hope it will be as enjoyable to our audience as it is for us to perform.

Staff Profile: Amy Hunter – Administrator & Interim Executive Assistant to the Artistic Director

Amy-HunterHow long have you worked at Soulpepper and tell us a little bit about what your job consists of lately.
I’ve worked at Soulpepper since December 2015. I’m an administrator, which lately has consisted of creating & tracking contracts, and working with our payroll department to make sure our artists get paid. I’m also the executive assistant to Albert Schultz, our Artistic Director, which can include any number of things, from managing his schedule, to providing him with any resources he might need throughout the course of his day. He’s an incredibly busy person, which makes me an incredibly busy assistant!

What is something we might be surprised to know about you?
I used to perform & tour professionally as a folk-pop musician, and my debut album was recorded & produced by Drake’s producer!

Any ongoing projects outside of work?
A new project I just launched is an online vintage clothing shop on Etsy which is curated by me. It’s called Sweet Fig Finds and I’m adding new pieces to it nearly every day. I personally source all the pieces myself, so lately my spare time has consisted of a lot of thrifting for vintage clothes.

What keeps you busy outside of work?
When I’m not thrifting for my online shop I’m usually out on the town! I like to be busy, and this city has so much to offer. I like to attend art openings/music shows, and try new restaurants. I’m also a bit of a coffee enthusiast, so I spend a lot of time sampling different roasts or beans from various regions.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
Soulpepper is an exciting and innovative organization, which makes working here pretty exciting too. That, and the people who work here are so kind and passionate, it’s contagious.