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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.


Staff Profile – Cristina Rizzuto, Marketing Manager

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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 have worked at Soulpepper for just over a year. As Marketing Manager, my role consists mostly of planning fiscal advertising campaigns, monitoring the marketing and communications budget, maintaining strong relationships with tourism, industry, advertising and community partners, and working with our team to plan and execute email, digital, and print marketing campaigns. I represent Soulpepper on the Toronto Attractions Council, and on the SOTUG (Southern Ontario Tessitura User Group).

What kinds of projects are you involved in outside of work?
Outside of work, I sit on the Board of Directors at Vaughan Public Libraries, and volunteer with a number of organizations, including the University of Toronto Alumni Association and Humanity First. I am also a writer, and have been published in various literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. My first book of poetry was published in 2012, and a few short stories will be published in an upcoming anthology of Italian-Canadian writers this year.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
Swimming, yoga, reading, spending time with loved ones, and exploring the city by foot are a few of my favourite activities. I also enjoy cooking and seasonal culinary traditions – ie. helping my father make wine and tomato sauce in the late summer, apple-picking in the fall.

What is something we would be surprised to know about you?
Every year, I endeavour to learn something new. In 2015, I wanted to learn something beautiful – so, I took up Spanish language courses. Last year, I completed the final course in the certificate. ¡Hola! This year, I am taking a course in neurobiology.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
I love working with a team of passionate, intelligent people, who inspire me daily. I love staff meetings and Opening Nights. I love creepily looking around the theatre at audience members reacting to a show we’ve all worked hard on for months. I love reaching the end of a performance, because the range of emotions I feel as a result of whatever is on stage reminds me of why I do what I do.

In The Presence of the Unknown – Katrina Darychuk

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I am writing this on the train from Stratford to Toronto, whizzing past farmland. Three months ago I came to Stratford with my mentor and Soulpepper Associate Artistic Director Alan Dilworth to work on The Virgin Trial, premiering in few weeks. Banner1 It is a sequel to Kate Hennig’s The Last Wife, which premiered at Stratford two years ago and at Soulpepper this winter.

I’ve spent most of my time as a director in new play territory. Working to give life to worlds that have yet to come to the stage. While these processes have similarities, there is a constant presence of the unknown.  How do you embrace it? Dance with it? Make it a part of the piece? Working as an assistant director on a new show is fascinating as I am privy to a team in ‘reveal’ mode. Every choice in terms of action, design, or new text, reveals more of the inherent nature of the play.

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Something inherent in developing new work is that you must be open to the element of surprise.  Even after workshops, and readings, the life of a new play isn’t revealed until weeks into rehearsal.  Just as everyone starts to think they know what it is, it wants to be something else. New plays are delicate. The creative team shares their genesis in a very intricate way.  There is no original to look back on; there is no precedent to compare to.

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Years ago, a colleague said, “You can only polish dead things”. As with many quotes in theatre, the author is lost but it is wisdom I hold dear. What is most thrilling for me about new work is its infancy; it’s innate life that is trying to find its way into the light. Not to be polished, but be offered for the first time.

Katrina Darychuk – Directing Student in the Soulpepper Academy

Katrina Darychuk, photo: Bronwen Sharp. Maev Beaty & Joseph Ziegler, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann. Cast & Creative team of Stratford’s The Virgin Trial, photo supplied. Katrina Darychuk & Academy members, photo: Daniel Malavasi.

How Far We’ve Come… by Marcel Stewart

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April 15th marked one year since the final audition stage for the 2016-2018 Soulpepper Academy. There were 30 of us, from across the country, selected from 1400 applications and 400 auditions! Most of us barely knew each other at the time. We were genuinely interested in getting to know each other, oh so polite, and annoyingly courteous. After 9 challenging, exhaustive months (working together) those sentiments have pretty much all gone. We know far too much about each other, and are constantly challenging and teasing one another. Recently, a Soulpepper company member referred to us as a “family” because of how boisterous our energy is when we’re around each other!

As I mentioned, the past 9 months have been CRAZY BUSY! Here’s a rundown of some highlights:

  • We explored speaking Shakespearean text, specifically Romeo and Juliet, with Albert Schultz
  • We sung O Canada, from a boat, while people watched and instagrammed us on Toronto Island
  • We explored Greek Tragedy, specifically The Bacchae by Euripides, with Alan Dilworth
  • We participated in one of Soulpepper’s most successful fundraising events ever
  • We explored Vocal Masque with Dean Gilmour, one of the founders of Theatre Smith-Gilmour
  • We contributed skits, songs, and story time to the 2016 Winter Waves festival, the highest attended WWF ever
  • We explored Chekhov, particularly Three Sisters and The Seagull, with Daniel Brooks and Diego Matamoros
  • We collectively devised a number of pieces, using Chekhov as the launch pad
  • We currently are exploring Commedia dell’arte with Marcello Magni, one of the founders of Complicite

With our first year quickly coming to an end I wanted to share some photos, to give insight into how we manage as a group.

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This is week one of the Academy, and the boat that we took to the Island (and eventually sung “Oh Canada” on).

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The first fundraising event we attended. About 2 months in. We thought we were so cool.

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This was the BIG event that we participated in. 4 months in.

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Winter Waves Festival. The Blanket Fort of Wonder. 5 months in.

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Rehearsing one of the collectively devised pieces. It was titled Anonymous. 7 months in.

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Another picture from Anonymous rehearsal. 7 months in.

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The most recent donor event, where we met our philanthropic mentors. 8 months in.

To learn more about the Soulpepper Academy visit soulpepper.ca.

Michelle Tracy, Hunter Cardinal, Danel Mousseau , Ellie Moon & Rosamund Small, photo: Marcel Stewart. Christef Desir, Marcel Stewart, Daniel Mousseau & Hunter Cardinal, photo: Marcel Steward. 2016/2018 Soulpepper Academy, photo: Ryan Emberley. Ghazal Azarbad, Marcel Stewart & Hunter Cardinal, photo supplied. Daniel Mousseau, Ghazel Azarbad, Nicole Power, Christef Desir & Hunter Cardinal, photo: Marcel Stewart. Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, Daniel Mousseau, Hunter Cardinal & Rose Tuong, photo: Marcel Stewart. James Smith, Marcel Stewart & Michelle Tracy, photo: Daniel Malavasi.

Staff Profile: Mimi Warshaw – Operations Services Coordinator

mimi_newspepper2How long have you been at the Young Centre and what has your job consisted of lately?
11 months now! Hard to believe…  As Operations Services Coordinator for the Young Centre, the bulk of my job revolves around the space usage. If you’re looking to host an event in our spaces, I’m your gal! Though no two days are the same at the Young Centre, and sometimes I help out on weird jobs like folding a 4-foot paper crane.

What kinds of projects have you been involved with outside of work?
I just completed Second City’s year-long conservatory which was a blast! And now I am in the process of writing proposals for a performance piece I’d like to remount that focuses on food and culture and how they act to preserve one another. The Universal Dumping looks to explore what each culture’s version of a dumpling says about their culture, through a dinner with members of Toronto’s diverse food community.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
I love to cook and I’m an avid cyclist, but for the most part, I spend a lot of time watching theatre, especially comedy. Most nights you can find me plunked in a seat laughing like crazy at the amazing comedic talent Toronto has to offer.

What is a surprised hidden talent?
I can breathe fire. And then I taught my siblings. Now we’re like the Partridge Family of fire breathers. My parents are very proud!

What do you love about working at The Young Centre?
For sure it has to be the people. Everybody I get to work with is a joy and a laugh and incredibly supportive! I would work any job if these people were there! That, and OBVIOUSLY the Cruban Sandwich on Tuesdays at the Café.

Members in the News

Here are a few highlights of where you’ll find Soulpepper Academy members and alumni making news.

Alexandra Lord (2018) is assisting Astrid Jansen with her design for Soulpepper’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange, directed by Djanet Sears.

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster (2012) is working with the Paprika Festival as a training day facilitator and as an Associate Producer on Paprika’s Intersection Conference. She is involved in ongoing projects with The Howland Company, and in May will be in Public Recordings’ Other Jesus, a new play by Evan Webber directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell.

Frank Cox-O’Connell (2015) is performing in the Millennial Malcontent at the Tarragon Theatre, running March – April, and will be directing Other Jesus for Public Recordings.

Hailey Gillis (2015) and Peter Fernandes (2015) will be in The Musical Stage Company’s Onegin this May.

Ins Choi (2011) is head writer and co-show runner for CBC’s Kim’s Convenience TV show. Season two premieres September 2017.

Jennifer Villaverde (2008) is in YPT’s James and the Giant Peach, and will be at Soulpepper as Lead Instructor for the Soulpepper City Youth Academy, July 24 – Aug. 25.

Ken MacKenzie‘s (2011) set design can be seen on stage currently in Kim’s Convenience, and recently George Brown’s As You Like It and Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Katherine Gauthier (2015) has been working on the web series Running With Violet.

Marcel Stewart (2018) will be performing this March in Brock University’s re-enactment of the August Wilson vs Robert Burstein debate as August Wilson.

Michelle Tracey (2018) is set designing for Crawlspace a Soulpepper Solo Series production, and assisting Academy graduace Lorenzo Savoini (2008) with the upcoming Cage. She is also designing the set and costumes for University of Toronto’s opera Imeneo, by Handel in the Macmillan Theatre, directed by Tim Albery.

Mikaela Davies (2015) is one of Canadian Stage’s 2017 RBC Emerging Artist in their Director Development Residency, developing her solo show Facebook Anonymous. She is also creating and directing Mars Interviews with Polly Phokeev, and will be at the Stratford Festival in The Changeling, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Timon of Athens.

Nicolas Billon‘s (2008) X-Company is in its third season on CBC. His adaptation of Treasure Island will be premiering at Stratford this season and the award-winning Butcher, directed by Weyni Mengesha (2008), returns to Toronto as part of the Mirvish season.

Qasim Khan (2012) has been workshopping new work with Theatre Passe Muraille, Studio 180, Common Boots and Soulpepper. Upcoming, Qasim will be at Stratford Festival in Timon of Athens, The Changeling, The Madwoman of Chaillot.

Producer and performer Sascha Cole‘s (2018) HROSES: Outrage à la raison is in Toronto at the Waterworks running February 22 – March 4.

Shannon Lea Doyle (2015) has designs up with The Company Theatre (John), upcoming design with Crow’s Theatre for Breath in Between, and both I’m Doing This for You and Vimy at Soulpepper.

Thomas McKechnie‘s (2015) 4 1/2 (ig)noble truths will be touring to Victoria this May for UNO Fest.

Weyni Mengesha‘s (2008) direction can be seen on stage now in remounts including Kim’s Convenience at Soulpepper, and Butcher at Mirvish. This spring she will be directing Martín Zimmerman’s Seven Spots from the Sun at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York.

The shaping of Cage: Based on an interview with Michelle Tracey

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We caught up with Soulpepper Academy designer Michelle Tracey, fresh from working on It’s a Wonderful Life, to tell us about upcoming projects she is engaged with:

I am very excited that the Soulpepper Academy has led to my involvement in the development & production of new work. I’ve had the opportunity to assist my mentor, Lorenzo Savoini with his design work for Cage, a new devised piece he is creating alongside Soulpepper resident artists Diego Matamoros, Richard Feren, and Shannon Litzenberger. It’s inspiring to see Soulpepper’s contribution to Canadian theatre move beyond re-envisionings of the classics into new work and new theatrical forms. I’m excited for a non-traditional, non-narrative piece like Cage to be shared with the theatre community in Toronto and in New York this coming summer.

Watching Lorenzo’s process of creation, development & realization has been a huge learning experience. Cage encourages audience members to re-experience space, sounds, feelings instead of filtering out things that are often a given: Engaging with so called ‘silence’ for instance, or paying attention to otherwise innocuous objects through Lorenzo’s design that essentially creates a laboratory… of sorts…for the creators to experiment in. For this project: I have built a detailed scale model of Lorenzo’s design… which by the way, was exhibited at Artscape Youngplace in the exhibit Toronto Design Offsite Festival: Performance Design (curated by Shannon Lea Doyle) … it’s new, it’s odd, it’s crazy!

Meanwhile, I’m designing two other pieces as part of my Academy curriculum. I’m designing the set and costumes for Imeneo, an opera by Handel that is being put on by U of T Opera Division. I am stoked that Soulpepper allowed and encouraged me to bring this contract into my Academy experience. For Imeneo, I am collaborating with director Tim Albery to create an intimate theatrical experience. We’ve taken a site-specific approach to the design by placing the audience onstage at the Macmillan Theatre to bring them as close as possible to the performers.

In addition, I’m designing the set for Crawlspace by Karen Hines, a Soulpepper Presents production in the Tank House Theatre (another new work!). Crawlspace is a one woman show about Karen Hine’s real experience buying a house in Toronto, and the grave impact it has had on her life. It was first produced at Videofag and has since been performed in peoples’ homes. I am collaborating with Karen on a design that will maintain a similar sense of immersion and intimacy. Stay tuned for more details to come!

By Sina Gilani

*Michelle is a Graduate of York University 2013 (Toronto), Design Intern with Tarragon Theatre 2013-2014 (Toronto), and a Member of the 2016-2018 Soulpepper Academy.