Staff Profile: Seren Lannon, Assistant Stage Manager, Little Menace: Pinter Plays

Right now Little Menace: Pinter Plays is in rehearsal getting ready to hit the stage later this month. Assistant Stage Manager Seren Lannon is part of the magic that happens in the hall to bring a show from the page to the stage.  Get to know more about her and the works she does through her staff profile.


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

I am the Assistant Stage Manager for Little Menace: Pinter Plays. My first show with Soulpepper was A Christmas Carol in December of 2017. We are in the thick of rehearsals right now so my job consists of a variety of tasks including tracking props and costumes, running lines with the cast, and assisting our Stage Manager with anything else that may come up.

What has your experience been going from Apprentice Stage Manager to Assistant Stage Manager?

My experience going from Apprentice Stage Manager to Assistant Stage Manager has been fantastic. It’s always a bit of a challenge when you take on a new role, but I have loved the opportunity to gain more responsibility and become even more involved with the running of a show. I am also working with some really great people right now, and that has made the transition much easier.

What is the best part about the job?

For me the best part of my job has always been rehearsals. Getting the chance to be in the room and watch artists create something that didn’t previously exist, or interpret a pre-existing work in a completely different way, never gets old. I’ve also always been fascinated by the creative process and how it differs depending on the material and who is involved. No matter how many shows I do, no experience is quite the same, and that keeps it very exciting.

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

Many of my friends are also in the industry so when I’m not working, I try and see as many other shows as possible. I also read voraciously, and run a Bookstagram account on Instagram called @booksonatrain_.

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

Before I decided to pursue a career in Theatre, I wanted to be a journalist! I spent a lot of time writing while I was growing up, and I still have stacks of journals that I wrote in daily. Although I don’t write as often as I used to, a love of literature and the written word is still a big part of who I am. I also played the Alto Saxophone for six years.

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

I am really looking forward to the announcement of the summer season and what the future holds for Soulpepper under new leadership! I am also very excited to see August: Osage County in the spring. The entire team on that show is stellar, and it’s a play that I’ve always wanted to see.

Artist Experience: Shannon Lea Doyle on Designing 1 Set for 10 Plays

It can be tricky to design the perfect playing space for one show, let alone 10 completely different plays. Set and Costume Designer for Little Menace: Pinter Plays Shannon Lea Doyle has the unique challenge of making designs that can transform, and transform, and transform through all 10 of Pinter’s works. Here is what they shared about the process.


Designing for ten plays has been surprisingly similar to making a sculpture.It has been joyful to work on a bunch of plays by Pinter because I didn’t know his work before (having not gone to theatre school) but now I think that I am in fact very Pinter-esque. My boyfriend doesn’t agree, or maybe just doesn’t want to.

I found the plays to be very open, as though Pinter left a lot of room for me.

I have thought a lot about making art as a process of not knowing and I have thought of designing as creating impulses in other people, it’s been really nice to revisit both of these creative approaches in this process. Because I have thought of this design as a sculpture so often it’s made me extra grateful to be on a team with so many excellent craftspeople and technicians who are able to make the things I design on such a massive scale, like it’s no big deal.

 

Donations At Work: City Youth Academy

The City Youth Academy builds on a long tradition of mentorship and youth engagement at Soulpepper. The City Youth Academy offers six weeks of intensive performance training with Soulpepper Artists to a group of young people (ages 16-19) from across Toronto. As integrated members of the company, each City Youth Academy Artist is paired with an Artist Mentor from the Soulpepper artistic ensemble. The participants are offered high-level, rigorous performance skills training and artistic development.

The City Youth Academy breaks ground by giving these young artists payment equivalent to a summer job over the six week period, ensuring that any young person has the opportunity to participate regardless of their financial circumstance.

“I wish I knew about Soulpepper programs sooner. Young humans need to know that the arts are just as important as the academics. Soulpepper has been in my life for a long time. I am very thankful.” – An anonymous 2017 City Youth Academy Participant

 This program is designed to inspire personal creativity, artistic discipline, and support young artists in the development of their own artistic practice.

City Youth Academy artists participate in various forms of performance training including theatre creation, music, stage combat, dance, scene study, writing, and design. Together they developed a final presentation to share with family and friends.

By offering this program, Soulpepper gives youth the opportunity to explore their creativity and build confidence. After they complete the program, they carry these unique learnings and experiences forward, sharing them with their family, friends, and neighbours.

“Not only was it a great experience, but for me, was life-changing. As someone who had very limited resources and connections to programs like this, the City Youth Academy served as an unbelievable opportunity to do and learn more about what I love (theatre).”  – Yujin, age 19, a 2017 City Youth Academy Participant

The City Youth Academy is generously supported by Scotiabank and the R. Howard Webster Foundation. For more information about the year-round, free, youth programming offered at Soulpepper, please visit soulpepper.ca/youth.

Artist Experience: Bahia Watson on the Role of Women in The Virgin Trial

In The Virgin Trial I play Elizabeth Tudor, the person who went on to be known as Queen Elizabeth I, Gloriana, the White Queen, and the Virgin Queen. But this play takes place before that, and we meet Elizabeth, or Bess as she’s called, in her teenage years. Henry the Eighth, her father, is dead, Katherine Parr, her step mother is dead, her younger half brother Edward is a child king, and Bess has been called into the infamous tower for questioning, the tower where her mother, the infamous Anne Boylen was held before her execution.

As I was working on this, I kept thinking about Serena Williams and specifically her recent scenario at the US Open last year. There are people who adore her, who see her greatness, who see her as a queen, and there are people who, from my perspective, seem to be bothered by her ambition, by her power, by her refusal to play the game the old way, by their conservative rules, they are unsettled by someone like her, someone expressive and relentless, and, indeed, special.

A woman’s place. How much has a the notion of “a woman’s place” changed in the last five hundred years? If I say I want to be king, and I mean it, how is that received? How does that make you, the reader feel? I want to be king. I want the power. And, I deserve it.

One of the things I enjoy exploring most through Bess is the feeling of entitlement, which is not something that comes to me naturally. And it has been remarkable and useful in my life, both within and outside of the play, to sit in that energy, to practice the feeling of wielding it, to practice the feeling of taking – taking what I want, taking all that I feel I deserve. But what does ambition cost a woman? What does she sacrifice in order to build the strength to shatter those ceilings? An entitled woman, a woman entitled to power, a young woman entitled to power, a girl – child of a king and a sex-shamed mother who he had murdered, who was sent to live in exile, who went from celebrated princess to extraneous dependant, a motherless child, an outsider with an unshakable certainty of what is hers. How is a girl like that received in the world, 500 years ago, to today? What does it take, what are the characteristics required to assert agency and capability amongst people who see you, a girl, as incapable and, for the most part, unworthy, royal blood or not; in a world that wishes to deny you what you feel – what you know – is rightfully yours; that tells you you can have some, but not all, don’t you dare ask for it all.

And then, what if she does? What if she does dare? Dare to dream of having it all…? What if she doesn’t just dream, what if she acts on those dreams, what are the consequences? How does she do it? The character of Bess stands out as much today as she seems to have 500 years ago: highly intelligent, ambitious and, in many way, unapologetically so. Unapologetic ambition on a girl is almost criminal to some people.

Kate Hennig’s writing is direct and concise, there is no where to hide, it moves forward with urgency and a sharp sense of humour. Alan Dilworth’s direction and staging has shaped a tight, taut and thrilling play that will make you have to think fast, react, and decide for yourself, what is true? And – who is guilty?

Bringing The Last Wife from Stratford to Soulpepper has it’s obvious shifts, in space, but less predicted, were the shifts in time. The Last Wife happened in Stratford at a time where it felt very optimistic for strong women, people left the show feeling revved up. When we did it again, it landed at a different time. Hillary Clinton lost, Donald Trump was being inaugurated and the world had changed a lot. And, as you all know, theatre is alive, it is a living conversation, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and so as the world changes, as you, the audience, and us, the company, change and evolve and develop new insights and opinions, the same information is received differently. The same play sits in a new world every night, and soon, in a new city. In the remount, I am looking forward to discovering the difference between the two, which I can’t anticipate right now. but I do know the world, to me, feels like it is rapidly changing. Conversations on womanhood; on sexuality, on consent and accountability, on gender equality, equity, MeToo, and timesup – these themes are constantly active in our world, in our city, in our mouths, our minds, and on our screens, and so, it should be on our stage too. And it will be.

Artist Experience: Michelle Bouey on her Soulpepper Debut

Michelle Bouey is making her Soulpepper debut this month with the World Premiere musical Rose! “That is very exciting!” We wanted to get to know her and learn more about her experience working on this brand new show, and here is what she had to say about it.

michelle_bouey


Being a part of Rose has meant so much to me, in so many different ways. Having the opportunity to do a brand new show has meant a lot of “firsts” for me. I’ve had the chance to be a part of new works before, but only as far as the workshop stage, never at the point where we get to tell the story to a live audience.  The same goes for playing my cello. I’ve never really done it on this scale – I’ve had the chance in concerts and workshops, but playing the cello and acting in the same show is a whole new world for me. Another first is playing more than one character. Normally I undertake a specific role, but in Rose I am playing three! At first it did feel a little out of my comfort zone, but now I’m having a lot of fun with it; the experience has helped me to grow in so many ways as a performer.

I’m also very thankful to be working for a company that has inspired me ever since attending theatre school. It’s not every day you get to be involved in a brand new musical, let alone one that is premiering in your own city.

From day one everyone has been so encouraging, supportive and kind. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this sort of uplifting spirit in a rehearsal room. We are fiercely led by a creative team that welcomes our ideas and also gives us time to play around, and to find out how everything fits right for us; all while emboldening laughter, focus and hard work. The rehearsal space and process feel safe and warm.

Though Rose challenges me on many levels it’s been easy to enjoy the process of this wonderful project. We’re surrounded by the best people and the most amazing material. The book and score sparkle in such a big way – I think it is going to leave people of all ages feeling curious, joyful, enchanted and truly touched. And, the fact that I get to learn from, and perform with, these seasoned actors and musicians to help make this beautiful story come to life is a dream come true. I can feel the excitement buzzing and building from everyone, and I can’t wait for all walks of life to follow the journey of Rose!

Artist Experience: Words For My Nine-Year-Old Self

Rose is nine, almost ten, and she has these questions that don’t quite make sense to her. Her thoughts are constantly going around and around in her head, as she tries to find a sense of certainty about who she is, where she belongs, what the world is, and what she wants from it, so she goes on an amazing journey to find her answers. We asked some of the company of Rose what questions they had when they we’re Rose’s age, and what they would tell themselves back then. Here is what they had to share about their little selves.

Troy Adams, Ensemble

 troy-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

Interesting enough, the majority of those questions I still have today. There may be slight variations – but ultimately the same. I came to the understanding that we are continually growing and changing. The quest for those answers, is, life.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

You are worthy and you have so much to share. Know that. And love yourself.

Sabryn Rock, Teacher/Ensemble

sabryn-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

I remember having a lot of questions about life and death. I was an alter server at church and would serve at funeral ceremonies so was exposed to death at a young age and in some ways was desensitized to it. I remember not being scared of death but being fascinated specifically by seeing a body in a casket. That definitely led to some existential questions similar to Rose like ‘Why are we?’ And ‘How are we?’ or ‘why do we exist?’

I also asked questions about religion and beliefs and our purpose on earth. I had a hard time reconciling getting older even from a baby to a very young 9 years old. I distinctly remember the realization that I was no longer a baby who would be taken care of and had to learn independence and autonomy and that was a very painful truth for me around that age.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

I would tell my 9 year old self that it’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to be weird and not go along with things you don’t believe in or agree with; to march proudly to the beat of your own drum and not be afraid to ask hard questions much like Rose. So much of my childhood was spent mimicking my brothers or following friends around doing whatever they were doing even if I didn’t find it fun for fear of not being included or left alone. But I actually had a great time playing on my own, writing, singing or lost in my own imagination and could entertain myself for hours. Now as an adult being a socialized introvert I crave those quiet solo times and I would give my 9 year old self a gentle reminder that I’m pretty great and to enjoy those times of solitude; I remember that so often those times were when I was the most creative as a kid; I could also take a cue from that little girl back then and try and be more creative in my private time which is something I don’t do as much as an adult.

sabryn 9

Chapter three, a page from Sabryn’s autobiography.

Michelle Bouey, Ensemble

michelle-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

I was a very curious child and asked a lot of questions. I grew up in a household where I heard two languages: English and Korean. So, up until a certain age I sometimes didn’t know which language some words belonged to. An example that makes me laugh is: Ja mot (the word for pyjamas in Korean) – I remember going up to my parents and saying “How do I say Ja Mot in Korean? I wanna teach my friends at the sleepover tonight!” I also had a major fascination with big words. There would be certain words I’d hear on TV, read in books, or overhear adults saying and I would persistently ask my teachers what they meant. Then I would go home and teach my sister, even though she is older than me and likely already knew them!  One question I asked my parents, and that stuck with me for much of my childhood, was wondering if there was a way to make time stop. Part of me genuinely believed it could be possible and so I thought that maybe my grandparents might be with me forever.  My grandparents are gone now, but somehow the memory of that question will stick with me for life.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

To always be herself. To realize that who she is, is enough. She doesn’t need to try to change her appearance or personality just because it’s not what other kids look or act like. Remind her that she’s special. And, one day she’ll meet other friends and people who will see that in her, as she will see it in them. I would tell her to be more brave, to trust her instincts more, to believe in her talent. I might tell her to step out of her comfort zone more often, to take a chance on being wrong. And, even though I already have stick-to-it-ness, I would encourage her to persevere even when things seemed daunting.

Erika Morey, Assistant Stage Manager

erika-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

When I was about Rose’s age, I fell in love with books.  I was learning a lot about the world as a result of my interest of reading, but of course this newfound curiosity opened up a whole lot of new questions, as well! I started to wonder how my life might be different if I didn’t live in Moncton, New Brunswick, or if I’d been born to a different family, or under a different set of circumstances. Would I still be me? Was my identity tied to my history and my environment more than anything that was especially uniquely me?  Was it possible to leave my history and environment behind to pursue a life that was entirely mine? I’m not sure if I would’ve had the language to articulate my questions exactly this way, but I did question if I would forever be defined by my parents choices.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

I’d reassure nine-year old Erika that her circumstances and surroundings would shift many, many times as she got older, and that her perspective and sense of self would keep growing and changing as well. I’d try to explain to her that it’s perfectly valid to choose to abandon, re-write or embrace the narrative of your early life if it serves you as an adult.  I’d also tell her to put down her book and play outside for a while.

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.