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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.

Staff Profile: Sarah Farrell – General Counsel and Director of HR

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How long have you worked at Soulpepper, and what has your job consisted of lately? I’ve been at Soulpepper since the summer of 2015.  I am General Counsel and Director of Human Resources.  “General Counsel” is another term for “Director of Legal Affairs”.  My job consists of all things legal and HR-related for Soulpepper.  On a micro level that means drafting and revising agreements, giving legal opinions on things like intellectual property rights, and providing recommendations with respect to regulatory requirements.  I am also involved in staff recruitment and evaluation, and in developing and implementing workplace policies and procedures.  I’m always happy to chat with Staff about questions, concerns, challenges and accomplishments!

What kinds of projects have you been involved in outside of work?
I’m very honoured to have been chosen to participate in the Federal Cultural Human Resources Council’s new ‘Talent to Lead’ mentorship/leadership program.  I just finished a tenure as President of the Toronto Fringe Festival’s Board of Directors. Prior to joining Soulpepper I had my own entertainment law practice specializing in theatre, film and tv.  In the slightly more distant past I was a cast member at Second City, a founding member, Producer and performer with the Toronto Festival of Clowns, and a Producer and performer with a multitude of other stage and tv shows.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
I have 2 very active toddlers at home, so I spend a lot of time running around after them!  Oh…and I’m taking a painting class, which I was nervous about, but I’m really loving it!

What is something we might be surprised to learn about you?
I studied clown and bouffon for several years with John Turner and Mike Kennard (Mump and Smoot), and Karen Hines (Pochsy, Crawlspace, etc.).  I’ve been told that my bouffon work is “side-splitting” (I can only assume in a good way).  I really love making people laugh, it’s such a joy.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
Everyone laughs at my jokes!  Seriously though, I love our team.  I get to work with some of Canada’s most accomplished, passionate and delightful theatre professionals.

Photo: Daniel Malavasi

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.

Staff Profile: Brian Butler – Café Manager

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How long have you worked at the Young Centre and tell us a little bit about what your job has consisted of lately.

I joined the Young Centre this past June. It’s been a quick seven months! Located in the beautiful atrium, my team (who I couldn’t do this without, they are amazing) and myself serve the staff, artists and students that work and learn within the Young Centre. We make a bit of a transition from cafeteria during the day to a theatre bar for our evening shows.

Over the past few months, I’ve really worked on bringing a new energy to the café. Whether it’s our new wines, menu items or approach to customer service, if you haven’t been to the Young Centre Cafe in a while, you might be pleasantly surprised!

What kinds of activities are you involved in outside of work?

Since moving to Toronto a year ago, I’ve done a lot of hiking from the Don Valley to trails near Orangeville. I’m always on the hunt for a new type of coffee, drink or dish that can inspire me. Another reason I love this city is the culture: the concerts, shows and events that happen all over the place. I try to get out and support them as much as I can. I’m also a pretty avid Toastmaster, which is a group where you get to hear some great speeches and interesting ideas.

What else occupies your time?

On weekends, you can usually find me reading a good book (currently J.D. Salinger’s biography) at my favourite coffee shop around the corner from my home. I’ll typically read 2-3 books a month (most of them on my commute to and from work.) In my spare time, I try to get to the gym to counterbalance being surrounded by desserts all day long. I think that’s the secret to not being 300 pounds when working at a café! Most recently, I’ve also starting taking a Spanish language course with a friend of mine, which is a lot of fun.

What is a hidden talent of yours?

I’m pretty good with recalling people’s names. There’s some people I meet just once and can still remember their name years later. To be honest, I don’t have any tricks, people’s names are just something I remember.

What do you love about working at the Young Centre?

My favourite part of the day is being able to bring a smile to our patrons’ faces. I love having the opportunity to talk with people and get to know them, whether it’s their first time to the Young Centre or they have been coming to shows since we first opened our doors. Our patrons are some of the best in the city, and beyond, with how supportive they have been. They are the reason we do what we do!

Photo: Daniel Malavasi  

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.

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.