Archive | Artist Profile RSS for this section

Director Q&A: Jani Lauzon, Almighty Voice and His Wife

Jani Lauzon, the director of Almighty Voice and His Wife by Daniel David Moses, originated the role of White Girl in the World Premiere production. She is back at it again, this time with more knowledge, more experiences, and a new role to step into – the director. We asked Jani a few questions to get a sense of what she is planning. Soulpepper is excited to be sharing this beautiful true story with audiences next month.


Jani Lauzon What do you find most special about being able to direct Almight Voice and His Wife?

Ever since I was an actor in the world premiere I have wanted to continue my artistic relationship with this beautiful piece of writing. At first I was interested in a remount as an actor. Then when I past that possibility, due to my age, I set my sights on directing. That dream has been in my pocket since 2004 so here we go! One more item off my bucket list!

What excites you about Daniel David Moses’ text?

Daniel is a poet. His text is full of imagery that allows the audience and those interpreting the play to fill that space with interpretation. He is economical with his words and shapes an amazing journey that incorporates the intersection of deep love with incredible, senseless loss.

Can you share anything about your approach or your vision for the piece?

We are going to have a blast in the rehearsal hall, that is for sure. It’s a love story, first and foremost. But the story also allows us to use Vaudeville, as was intended in some cases, an opportunity to talk about oppression and racism through song and dance. We will start working on those Vaudeville numbers in the first week, because they will require that kind of precision in their execution.

Luckily I have a great creative team of Indigenous people to help with the song and dance. Marc Merilainen for sound and composition and Brian Solomon for choreography. This of course along with a talented, veteran cast that has the chops to pull it off. Michaela Washburn and James Dallas Smith….can’t ask for anything more.


Almighty Voice and His Wife by Daniel David Moses begins October 11, 2019.

Artist Experience: Darragh Parsons’ take on Pinter

Watching a Pinter work is a mental workout… try stage managing two Pinter productions at Soulpepper, with two very different approaches.

Darragh Parsons is a legendary Toronto Stage Manager, well known for her exceptional baked goods. She’s been working with the company for nearly 10 years on some of our celebrated works including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for colored girls…, Of Human Bondage, and on major works in the community like The Phantom of the Opera (Pantages Theatre) and two national tours of Cats. Read more to get Darragh’s take on a Pinter play like Betrayal, on stage now!


A stage manager pulls the technical elements together from all designs and direction over the rehearsal period, in what we lovingly call Tech week, and puts it all in book called the prompt script. That book is gold in the end but it all goes through the wringer before it gets to the shiny final copy.

Pinter exposes character flaws through humor, rhythm, absurd situations and simplicity. But be aware, his words are a mechanism, so don’t look for truth or meaning in them. There is rarely a connection between the characters and how they all pretend they are communicating. Anxiety is at the root of it all—no one feels comfortable, and their memories are flawed. All of the characters work for control because it is easier to control than connect. The actors have to read between the lines, between the words and for God’s sake never pause unless indicated! There are 130 pauses in Betrayal. Silence is not an actor forgetting a line, it is scripted.  In fact, there are 16 scripted silences in Betrayal.

Working in reverse time is a challenge. We are telling the story but the audience always knows more than the character. Navigating what the character knows makes discussions become entangled. Robert knows this. Robert thinks Jerry knows this. Jerry doesn’t know what Robert knows. Emma doesn’t know that Robert knows and Emma doesn’t tell Jerry that Robert knows or what she knows. Jerry lives in fear of Judith knowing and of Robert knowing. Jerry knows very little of anything really. Robert says this but is that a lie or the truth?. No one really knows what and who—those are the questions in Pinter.

For a 75 minute play that appears to be a bunch of superficial conversations in a story of people having affairs it will make you think, laugh, and applaud. Betrayal by Harold Pinter runs until September 22, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Experience: Huse Madhavji on working with Oliver Dennis and Diego Matamoros in his Soulpepper debut

Huse Madhavji is making his Soulpepper debut in the Tony Award-winning sharp comedy ‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton. Not only is he making his debut here, he is stepping into a role alongside some of Soulpepper’s most established and beloved actors, Founding Member Diego Matamoros and Resident Artist Oliver Dennis. Here is what Huse had to say about this exciting opportunity!

Huse Madhavji 2


Have you ever been a part of a conversation with really inspiring and amazing people and then tried to contribute, only to quickly learn that it’s probably best to keep quiet and just be grateful you’re included? This is what it’s like working with my castmates Diego Matamoros, Oliver Dennis and our director Philip Akin (also making his Soulpepper debut). These three, insanely brilliant craftsman bring so much talent and experience to the table, that our rehearsals also dub as a master class in theatre for me! 

IMG_1182

Director Philip Akin with Oliver Dennis, Diego Matamoros, and Huse Madhavji in rehearsal for ‘Art’. Photo: Daniel Malavasi.

Each day starts off with fun and insightful anecdotes from all of the previous productions they’ve all worked on, everything from the early days of Soulpepper to Stratford. Quotes from Shakespeare are all too common, as well as the casual name-dropping of legends that have graced stages in this country. It’s not like I wasn’t prepared for the level of talent I was going to work with. Philip directed me last fall for a production at The Factory Theatre, so I knew all about his genius. But Diego and Oliver, I can thank Instagram!  A month before my first day of rehearsal for ‘Art’, I posted a screenshot from the Soulpepper website on my IG page, a shameless plug that featured my name along with my two soon to be castmates Diego and Oliver. I was expecting the messages to be pouring in about how cool it is that I’ll be taking a break from TV to do some theatre. Instead I got messages about how cool it is that I’ll be sharing the stage with these actors. One close friend of mine sent me a private message saying, “You do realize, you’ll be performing with theatre royalty!” And wow, was she right. You can just tell by the way they move and sound, they are masters at what they do, it’s in how they ask questions, how they think and really, how they see the world. 

IMG_1344.jpg

Oliver Dennis, Diego Matamoros, and Huse Madhavji in rehearsal for ‘Art’. Photo: Daniel Malavasi.

We rehearse 6 days a week working hard, doing our absolute best to tell this story and bring it to life. If you were a fly on wall watching us work, I’m confident what you’ll find is a room full of curiosity, openness, imagination and a real sense of play! Well… that, and me pinching myself thinking, holy crap, I’m surrounded by theatre royalty, maybe I’ll just keep quiet and listen.


Catch Huse making his Soulpepper debut in ‘Art’ August 9 to September 1.

Meet the Kates

Meet Kate and Kate; Kate Duncan and Kate Sandeson, that is. Down in the rehearsal hall for Fool For Love, if you call out for Kate, both the Stage Manager and the Assistant Stage Manager will come running. Get to know them!

What is your job title, have you been with Soulpepper before, and what does your job consist of?

KATE DUNCAN (KD): I am the Assistant Stage Manager for Fool For Love. My job consists of managing the backstage elements of the show, including props and costumes and any needs the actors may have backstage.  Together with Kate Sandeson, our Stage Manager, I help facilitate the process from rehearsal preparation through to the closing performance. I have worked at Soulpepper previously as an Apprentice Stage Manager on The Crucible and The Royal Comedians in 2012, as well as one of my favourite shows to date, Alligator Pie in both 2012 and 2013.

KATE SANDESON (KS): I am the Stage Manager for Fool For Love. I have worked at Soulpepper before as an Assistant Stage Manager on Billy Bishop Goes to War, for colored girls…, Happy Place, and Glenn.

My job as Stage Manager is to help facilitate the rehearsals, both in the hall and technical rehearsals, as well as maintain the show standard once we are open.

This means keeping clear communication open between departments and tracking all the moving pieces that encompass the rehearsal process from actors with props to when lighting and sound might need to happen. In a technical rehearsal the stage manager is the hub for all the information from designers to help create the final technical product that the audience sees on stage each night.

What are you most excited about with Fool For Love?

KD: We have an incredibly talented cast of actors, so it’s very exciting to watch them rehearse and piece the show together. Also, one of the most exciting parts of the production process for me is beginning on stage rehearsals where we merge the work we have been doing in the rehearsal hall with the work of our creative team including set, costume, lighting and sound designers.

KS: My favourite part of any rehearsal process is getting to meet and work with the artists who are involved. Fool For Love has a stunning cast as well as an amazing creative team. Not to mention, working with all of the talented people that keep Soulpepper running behind the scenes!

What is the craziest thing you’ve done for love?

KD: My boyfriend and I took a trip to Iceland last year; he is a very skilled hiker and wanted to climb a glacier while we were there. This was a bit out of my comfort zone but outfitted with ice picks and boots with spikes, we went for it. He ended up asking me to marry him while we were hiking on the glacier, so it was totally worth it!

KS: I’m a pretty low-key person and don’t tend to lean towards crazy when it comes to my romantic life. I just make decisions and then tell the people around me I’ve made them. I did corner my now husband backstage right before we had to do an onstage change during a performance and ask him to be my boyfriend. He had no choice in the matter in the moment – but here we are married for 1 year this summer and together for almost 8!

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

KD: I have a rescue dog named Riley and I love taking long walks with her in my spare time. I also love to travel when I’m not working on a show. My next travel destination is Cape Cod in August!

KS: You can usually find me hanging out with my husband and cat at home on the sofa. If I’m not there I am at Soulcycle – spinning brings me a lot of joy and keeps my energy and positivity up! ​


Be sure to catch the hard work Kate and Kate put into running Fool For Love by Sam Shepard beginning July 13.

Artist Experience: Stuart Hughes on revisiting Fool For Love

Stuart Hughes reflects on the experience of revisiting a play years later, but this time in Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love he’s saddling up for a new role.


When Frank Cox-O’Connell asked me to consider being in his production of Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love, I was intrigued. He knew I’d been involved in a production about 15 years earlier, playing the role of Eddie, the broken down, impulsive rodeo rider. Frank felt their might be some value in me now stepping into the role of ‘The Old Man’. That there might be some kind of familial thread which would be worth mining.

I have had the great fortune to be able to return to a number of great plays over the years. For a second, sometimes a third go round, but always in the same part and usually within a much shorter span of years. The Crucible, A Streetcar Named Desire, Twelve Angry Men, Zoo Story were a few that I was lucky enough to revisit. It’s always a real luxury. You get to mature and grow in a role, and in great pieces of writing. This, given the years between productions and the new role, would be a different kind of reunion.

IMG_9771.jpg

Eion Bailey and Stuart Hughes. Photo: Daniel Malavasi

I reread the play to see what would grab me now that I was 15 years older, and also from the perspective of this different character. When I was younger, and given the nature of the young cowboys’ role, what I felt I was asked to explore was primarily the consuming nature of dysfunctional love.

Now, with this reading, what was intriguing me was the lineage of dysfunction. The repetition and cycle of pain that is handed like a baton from a deeply flawed man to the generation that follows him.

We see characters within the play struggling to either calcify in their destructive behavior or break free from it, and find some ease and resolve. Some Light. What speaks to me profoundly now in this play is the hope that that potential choice provides.

I’ve never been territorial about roles. I’ve always felt you get the opportunity to do a particular character to hopefully learn something. You go through that journey and then you leave it behind for some other person to do, in their own fashion, for their own reasons and needs. You push on to the next.

I remember being very proud of that earlier production of Fool For Love, and of everyone’s work on it, but I certainly didn’t feel any kind of ownership over the play or the role of Eddie. Having been on the inside of this piece, however, I knew its’ specific demands, and I knew it would be important to get the right spirits collected. It’s an extremely physical show. There are a lot of fights. You have to be able to throw a lariat. It’s a passionate, emotional cyclone, but you also have to be able to ride the poetry of Shepard’s language. And it’s chock full of great humor. There are a lot of demands. So I knew the right spirits would need to be gathered. When I heard who was being assembled, I started to get more and more excited about returning to this play, in this specific outing.

IMG_0062

Frank Cox-O’Connell, Simon Fon (Fight Director), Eion Bailey and Cara Gee. Photo: Daniel Malavasi.

Sitting in rehearsals I couldn’t be happier. I can’t imagine a better cast, director or gang of designers gathered to tell this story in a fresh and fiercely relevant way. It’s a real ball to watch Cara Gee, Eion Bailey, and Alex McCooeye ferociously jump into this world. Infusing these characters and this piece with such physical and mental athleticism and pure joy of playing. It’s dangerous, full of humour and intelligence. It’s passionate and painful. I am so proud to be along for the ride and I know audiences are going to be in for a very special experience.

– Stuart Hughes, Soulpepper Founding Member


Catch Stuart Hughes role of The Old Man in Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love beginning July 13.

Artist Profile: Get to know our Youth Link Artists!

This year we welcome six Youth Link Artists who are working with us to become artist educators through the Ada Slaight Youth Link program. All of these young adults have been part of the Soulpepper community through our various Youth Programs. Through the arts education they were exposed to growing up, they’ve been inspired to take the next steps in becoming professionals in arts education themselves.  Get to know our six newest Artist-Educators-in-Training and a bit about their history with Soulpepper.


Jacob

YL-JacobHow did theatre/art education affect you as a young person?
Art education had an immense effect on the way I interact with the people and things in my life. Growing up in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, I had the chance to learn from artist-educators from Soulpepper and Young People’s Theatre who allowed me and my peers a space to take risks through theatrical creation and play. It was a new way to see the world, a much needed variance from math or science based logical thinking. I was inspired by this freedom and independence that these artists bestowed us, and directly pushed me to attend an arts-based high school, and subsequently, to study theatre in post-secondary. Art education has become a method for self-growth and reflection, giving me a better understanding towards what direction I want to pursue as I move past my academic career and look forward to the areas and interests I want to pursue.

What Soulpepper youth programs did you participate in in the past?
I participated in school outreach programs throughout my elementary schooling at Market Lane Public School, specifically the Soulpepper In-The-Schools program in 2006. As well, I was the Program Assistant for the 2018 Soulpepper City Youth Academy.

Rafael

YL-RaphaelHow did theatre/art education affect you as a young person?
For me, the most valuable education I received when I was younger came from theatre. Not just being exposed to co-operation but actually having the opportunity to practice communication skills, hone my strengths all while being engaged in artistic creation was invaluable. I carry all these lessons forward with me in all fields that I work in today.

What Soulpepper youth programs did you participate in in the past?
I was able to participate in the Curtain Up program in 2013, as well as the Alumni Program in 2017. I was the March Break Program Assistant in 2019.

Kathleen

YL-KathleenHow did theatre/art education affect you as a young person?
As a young person, theatre has always given me the opportunity to exercise my creativity, and imagination in a safe space. It has taught me the importance of hard work, and how to maintain confidence in your own ideas while collaborating with others, and letting go of control. I truly owe my confidence and communication skills to the theatrical spaces in which I have existed since I was a child.

What Soulpepper youth programs did you participate in in the past?
In the summer of 2016 I was fortunate enough to be part of the City Youth Academy.

Alexandra

YL-AlexandraHow did theatre/art education affect you as a young person?
As a teenager I was troubled, and struggled to feel comfortable at home or in school. Theatre was a safe place for me to be myself and a much healthier avenue of escape than what I had explored previously. I found myself totally engaged in the work and met great artists that are now my colleagues and friends. Arts education was, quite literally, a lifesaver for me. It’s so rewarding to now be learning how to create those sort of spaces in our communities, spaces where participants can create and thrive.

What Soulpepper youth programs did you participate in in the past?
I was in Curtain Up, Leading Ladies, and the Youth Mentorship Program.

Breanne

YL-breanneHow did theatre/art education affect you as a a young person?
My experience in art education as a child, a very shy child, helped me open up and gave me the opportunity to explore myself. I discovered that I could express myself, that I had things to say, and that these “big kids” (the artist educators) would listen. Through my youth, my path was continually shaped by theatre and art education, so deeply that I realized this was what I wanted to pursue. I hope to be an artist educator who gives young people the space and freedom to discover immense possibilities within themselves.

What Soulpepper youth programs did you participate in in the past?
I was a participant of the City Youth Academy the summer of 2016. I had just moved to Toronto and didn’t know anything or anyone, but the Soulpepper family welcomed me in. It was my introduction to the Toronto theatre community and I was blown away by these experienced professional artists who were eager to work with me and hear my voice.

I’ve also often been a part of the wonderful MyPlay program, getting free tickets to Soulpepper shows and attending some really great pre-show chats with Resident Artists!

Calum

YL-CalumHow did theatre/art education affect you as a a young person?
Theatre and arts education has shaped my life in almost every way. It gave me access to a state of being that is deeply powerful. In expressing myself I change my surroundings, I create things out of my experiences, my environments, and my relationships, things that have never been seen before. I connect to everything and everyone more completely by understanding artistic expression. It frees me.

What Soulpepper youth programs did you participate in in the past?
I participated in the 2014 City Youth Academy, and the 2017 Summer Acting Masterclass.


The Ada Slaight Youth Link Program is a training program for new Artist Educators,who are all alumni from Soulpepper’s other Youth Programs. These Artist Educators in Training are paired with a Lead Artist Instructor, from Soulpepper’s tremendous company of artists. Together they lead a series of workshops for the youth at across community organizations. While being mentored by Soulpepper Artists, the Youth Link Artists serve as young facilitators and inspire other youth in the city to be passionate about the arts.

Artist Experience: Samantha Brown on the Significance of the Character Johnna in August: Osage County

Samantha Brown is making her Soulpepper Debut playing the role of Johnna Monevata in Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County. While many often think of the plays epic layers of family drama and biting humour, Samantha shares another perspective on some of the layers Letts’ writing touches on. Read on to see what Samantha has to share. 

samantha-brown


When I was first approached with August: Osage County I had many questions, the most pressing was Why? Why August: Osage County? Letts uses an interesting approach to this play because the form is very traditional American Theatre. This play could be set in any time alluding to this idea of “America the Great” and “The American Dream” and all of these nuclear family ideals that, frankly, are unrealistic social constructs that no longer represent our generation.  As a result of trying to maintain these ideals a sickness festers and grows.

Diving in deeper to the metaphor, Letts has also introduced the presence of a Cheyenne Matriarch (Johnna), whose presence is always there, but avoided by the other characters unless needed. This alludes to Indigenous land rights and a commentary about building a dream on stolen land. This play exists on the surface, but is so fueled with rich commentary on the state of America and its treatment of Indigenous people. Letts carefully demonstrates cycles of trauma passed down through generations, and damage done by unhealthy coping mechanisms. Opposite to this is Johnna who is on her own healing journey, a woman who is decolonizing and reclaiming. It begs the question: what would North America be without first contact? Doubling down and avoiding the truth causes a dark poison that will erupt. The more we avoid the truth, or excuse genocide, claiming lack of involvement, the more it leads to an inherited generation benefiting from bloodshed.

In our production we have also cast a biracial couple with a multiracial daughter, which only thickens Letts’ commentary on the treatment of people of colour in America.

So why August: Osage County in Canada? I offer the question knowing that our Canadian underbelly is just as, if not more, filled with a history that is ignored. A history that is ever-present and continues, due to a lack of acknowledgment and understanding. For that reason, I felt I had a responsibility to tell this story.  For me Johnna is an act of resilience; her body in its space is a political statement over a country that sought to exterminate her and her ancestors. Johnna is a strong message that we are still here.