Artist Experience: John Jarvis – What were you doing at 27?

John Jarvis, who is currently performing in Orlando, reflects on an unbelievable adventure from when he was 27 years old! Hitting the stage shortly after Orlando is a brand new concert, The 27 Club, capturing the music, stories, and legacies from a staggering number of musicians who tragically left us at the age of 27.  We are thankful John is here today to tell this tale…

When I was 27 I traveled to Peru and the Amazon basin in search of, well, everything. It was in the off season of my time at Stratford and I was about to play Silvius in John Hirsch’s brilliant production of As You Like It. It was a golden time indeed.

In the town of Cusco, in the Peruvian mountains, I found a guide, a man by the name of Juan who agreed to take me up the Rio Maldonado to a camp in the jungle. It was a short plane ride down to the river’s edge. Juan, I think he had hoped to find a bigger group of people to take up the river, but he only had me. We settled on things and headed off in one of those flat bottomed boats with a hand held motor. It was four hours of the real deal, villages of people gazing, going about their lives living in the forest, and connected only by the great river.

On the fourth day of endless, amazing things we were cutting our way through the jungle, when we came upon a dugout canoe. Juan instructed me to take my wallet out and wrap it in a big green leaf and then bury it by a tree and leave it there until we returned from a nearby Village, where a meal awaited us. We stepped into the canoe and pushed quietly out through the thick branches and leaves. Then, suddenly, Kaboom! A shot gun blast! Then quiet. Then a deep voice rumbled from the depths of the forest. “Guaaaaatipa!” something like that. “Back, back amigo” Juan murmured with a whispered intensity.  We arrived back on shore and looked up to see two men staring down at us. “Juan!” the older one says in that deep assured forest voice. “It’s good to see you. Don’t take my canoe! But come with me for some wild boar!” A great guffaw and off the two men go down the trail and off we go in pursuit of where our hunger would take us. Now, I had been a vegetarian for ten years at that point so you can imagine my surprise when I saw the wild boar being brought into the village on a big pole over two sets of shoulders. “Go with them to the river and watch them clean it” the head man says. The family gathered in the shallows of the water and with surprising ease the dad takes a large machete and begins the task of cutting the most extraordinary lines through the hide. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen – children gently taking the heart and liver in their hands and washing them before passing them to mum for her to do her thing. Every organ carefully preserved and the meat cut and stored. I was overwhelmed and perhaps never more so than when I was sitting down to a lovely meal in the hot afternoon with a plate of fresh roasted boar crackling before me. With smiles around the table we all dug in with relish and great delight.

It was something else I’ll tell ya. Now that story occurred a week after I turned 27.

– John Jarvis

You can catch John Jarvis performing in Orlando today until July 29. Or join us at The 27 Club July 14 to 28, 2018.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.

Artist Blog: Fiona Sauder

It’s a surprisingly chilly day in June, I’m in bed and I’ve deleted this document I’m writing in four times now.  I’m struggling to write anything down without rolling my eyes.  Even in the infinite space that is the Internet, I hesitate to take up space.  Why?

Being born a rather confident young dame, for most of my life I’ve been confused about humility.  Specifically how to reconcile feeling very large, dreaming big and wanting a lot in an industry that lends itself so well to feeling like that’s inappropriate.  Despite my successes, in the interest of modesty, I try to make myself small; I lie.  This habit of oscillating between fearless self-reliance and feeling the need to apologize for it has come up a lot lately.

Unlike many of my colleagues in the building, I don’t work at Soulpepper often.  In fact, this is my first contract with the company as an actor proper and I’m still a bit in awe of that.  But this isn’t what I talk about when friends ask me what it’s like at work.  I catch myself talking about it like a grocery list.  These are some details, this is what I like, this is what I wish I had more of etc. etc. I inject my thoughts with a neutral tone of ‘it’s just work’ when the truth is I’m bursting.  The play I’m working on, La Bête, is a miraculous writing achievement and watching my cast mates tackle the thing is nothing short of a master class.  Working for this company is a gift.  I get a little electric buzz every time I use my key card to beep myself into the building (this is not because the electric lock system is broken, it’s because I’m pee-my-pants-happy to be here).  I have felt welcomed, celebrated, challenged, intimidated, seen, cared for and inspired in entirely new ways by this process and the people within it.  I’ve also been frightened on a daily basis that I’m not skilled enough to be playing at this level.  Nothing makes me feel less like myself than not saying exactly that to anyone who asks me what work is like.  Why is it always my last instinct?

I had a similar experience the last time I worked in this building, though the context was a bit different.  Last year I had the immense good fortune of bringing a show my own company, Bad Hats Theatre, created and previously produced to Soulpepper’s Family Festival over the holidays.  It was an adaptation of Peter Pan that I co-wrote, it starred a handful of my closest friends and I played the title role.  Does it get better than that?  Pretty much never.



Fiona performing with her  friends and colleagues in Bad Hats Theatre’s production of Peter Pan during Soulpepper’s 2017 Family Festival. Photo by Nicholas Porteous.

Still, I tried to make it less than it was by changing it’s outward perception.  I habitually performed the song and dance of ‘this is all normal’.  I lied when I said ‘Thank you for coming, yes, it’s a really fun show to do’ because what I actually meant was ‘AHHHHHHHH THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING IN THE REAL WIDE WORLD OF MY LIFE I CAN’T BREATHE!!!!!’ and that’s what I should have said.  The moment of working on that piece, in that place, with those people felt as magic as I had always dreamed it would be.  I felt really guilty for being happy in that way and it manifested itself in all kinds of pretending.

My relationship with the Young Center dates back further still.  I trained at George Brown Theatre School, which lives in the same building, just across the hall from Soulpepper.   This pattern of undercutting myself was present then, too.  I used to put away my scripts from school to read other plays in the lobby in the hopes that someone might mistake me as a professional instead of a student.  A completely hilarious and reasonable fact, but did I admit this to my classmates?  No.  And now that I work professionally in the building, do I tell other company members how desperately I longed to join their ranks back in school?  Absolutely not.

What the hell is that about?  I can only speak for myself but I do often recognize these habits in colleagues of mine as well.  Why are we wrapping our artistic experiences in calculated bows for the public and each other?  When did candor get so stuck in our throats?  Saying ‘I thought this thing I worked really hard on was deserving of the attention it got’ shouldn’t make me feel egocentric.  The fact that I’m still learning and want to learn enough to earn a seat at a table I revere shouldn’t be the thing I’m scared to admit.  Why are we so hesitant to shout ‘I’m scared! I don’t know what I’m doing!’ or ‘I feel amazing! I love what I’m doing!’? Perhaps we’re afraid that no one will care, or that feelings will be hurt because work is so scarce, or that making too much noise might get us in trouble with someone or other.  The fact is, it probably will.  Maybe that needs to matter a bit less.

I’m not sure when exactly I decided that being joyful in my work meant I was a narcissist or that practicing humility called only for self-lessening, but I’m trying to undo those attitudes.  There are myriad obstacles to making good art and being good people, feeling unwelcome to express the many facets of that journey shouldn’t be one of them.  I think there is immense value in feeling small if, and only if, it’s in the face of a challenge, or a place, or a moment so beautiful you have to reach for it. And, whatever the reaching looks like for you, I think it’s okay to shout ‘Look at me! I’m reaching!’

The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.

Orlando’s design concept by Lorenzo Savoini

Take an in depth look at the set design for Orlando to deepen your understanding of the set before you see the show.

Orlando is an astonishingly beautiful tale by Virginia Woolf adapted for the stage by Sarah Ruhl.  In classic Ruhl fashion she gives it a theatrical life by provoking our imaginations and adding endless magic and whimsy.  The story follows the life adventures of Orlando over four centuries in a fantastical fairy tale-like way. Katrina Darychuk, our director, knew she wanted to stage the production in a thrust configuration with audience on three sides, which evokes a more Greek/Elizabethan age staging. This makes for a very intimate three-dimensional experience for the audience and allows for great staging dynamics.

Orlando Model2

Maquette of the Orlando set design. Design concept and maquette by Lorenzo Savoini.

Our design tries to create a sort of blank canvas in a way that will allow for strong juxtaposition between a hi-gloss white floor and the performers and their costumes.  At one end of stage is a piece of architecture, an adaptation of a Skene type portal found in ancient Greek theatre.

Orlando Drafting

Orlando Skene drafting measurements, design concept by Lorenzo Savoini.

What makes it “Ruhl-ified” is that it is completely fabricated out of frosted plexi-glass (mouldings and all) and suspended two feet in the air.  It will create a poetic dream-like world, while also helping provide a sense of place for various locations over the centuries.  Much like the play, the set will hopefully appear as a simple offering until it transforms into more than what it seems.

Orlando Model

Maquette of the Orlando set design. Design concept and maquette by Lorenzo Savoini.


Orlando lighting plots – mid process. Lighting design by Lorenzo Savoini.

Join us at a performance of Orlando, on stage July 6-29, to see Lorenzos set and lighting design come to life in full scale!

The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.


Staff Profile: Erika Connor, Assistant Head of Wardrobe

What is your job title?

I am the Assistant Head of Wardrobe as well as a Costume Designer for Soulpepper Theatre Company.

What does your role entail?

As a member of the wardrobe team I have the responsibility to fulfill a costume designers vision. This could include anything and everything from an actors head to their toes. Examples of which include millinery, jewellery, hair, make-up, clothing, fabric, and shoes. I source, purchase, pull from stock, alter, and/or rent these items, all while maintaining a given budget and deadline. I also costume design for Soulpepper and you can see my upcoming work in our production of Sisters by Rosamund Small this summer.

Describe a bit about the teams you work with?

I work closely with Sarah, our Head of Wardrobe. The wardrobe team includes Geoff, our Cutter, and Barbara, the First Hand. They are responsible for the tailoring, alterations and builds for a production. We also hire on extra stitchers as required.  We work closely with the Hair and Makeup Department Head, Jaqueline. Every so often we are able to employee the services of crafts people for specialty millinery, shoe making, distressing, and special effects. Once the production “hits the stage” we hand it over to our Dressers who are responsible for the maintenance and running of the costumes in the show.

Our wardrobe team truly is a team. I love my job and feel lucky to have found a position where I do what I love to do.

What is the best part of your job?

If I’m being honest, the best part of my job would be the thrill of the hunt… I love being resourceful and finding the perfect item! There is a thrill to thrifting a fantastic pair of vintage jeans that fits the actor perfectly – you all know how hard it is to find a perfect pair of jeans – or finding those SHOES! on sale.

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

When I am not a work, I am at my cottage!  I recently bought a modest little shack on the Georgian Bay where I am improving my DIY renovation skills. Who knew that grouting tile makes your whole body ache?!  I adore kayaking, swimming, mountain biking, stacking wood, and cross country skiing. I enjoy long walks on the beach, and am often seen gazing longingly at wallpapers I can’t really afford.

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

Something that people probably don’t know about me is that I have a twin brother named Eric. No, I don’t know what my parents were thinking. He is a chef and landscaper in Vancouver and I adore him.

I also have fantasies about one day opening a shop called “Face, Fanny, Feet” that sells lotions, potions, and oddities.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.

Donor Profile: Lesley Wiesenfeld

How did you first learn about Soulpepper/What is your first memory of Soulpepper?

I’ve been going to shows at Soulpepper for such a long time that I actually can’t remember how I first learned about the company, but the sustained memory and feeling I have about Soulpepper is the pleasure of being able to go to see inspiring performances in my very own neighbourhood.  My husband and I are lucky to be able to literally grab a quick mid-week dinner after work, then walk over to see a great show. That feels pretty special to be able to do.

What inspires you to support Soulpepper?

I was really lucky to have an exceptional English and theatre teacher in high school – the kind of teacher who not only taught drama but who mentored anyone lucky enough to be in her class. She also directed the school plays where we learned teamwork, empathy and dedication.  So I have a very strong fondness and affinity for the energy and work it takes to put on a show.

How and why did you get involved with Top Women?

Top Women reflected another chance to support creativity, with the added lens of women supporting other women. This seems like an easy thing to say yes to in life, work and giving.

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?

The story of Soulpepper and its success as a ‘little new theatre company that could’ has always been very impressive. Giving to Soulpepper offers a chance to be part of something that is both intimate and growing at the same time.  It is also a chance to do something that enables opportunities for creative work for a whole host of people and that feels good. I also think that the recent challenges and the consequent shifts in leadership reflect an opportunity to recommit to a company aspiring to be even better and that is an important commitment to support.”

Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?

I see Soulpepper hopefully doing what it has become good at doing over the years: presenting classics that we kind of remember from Grade 10 drama class but didn’t realize could be as exciting to see performed and developing new and creative performances that you feel lucky to have seen.

Top Women is a community of exceptional women collectively underwriting a female-directed, female-written or female-centred Soulpepper production each year.

This year, Top Women is underwriting a deeply moving production written by award-winning Canadian playwright Beverley Cooper and directed by renowned theatre artist, Jackie Maxwell. Innocence Lost: A Play about Steven Truscott is a provocative and poignant re-examination of the Steven Truscott criminal case. Themes of truth, community, and coming of age are explored in this powerful piece.

To find out more about Top Women, click here.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.  

Staff Profile: Meg Woods, Associate Technical Director

What is your job title?

I am the Associate Technical Director here at Soulpepper.

Describe a bit about the team you work with?

I’m still figuring that out actually! I just joined the company in January and my first show, Animal Farm, hasn’t even closed yet. Soulpepper has a TD (short form for Technical Director) team of 4; a TD, an associate TD, and 2 assistant TD’s. Since Soulpepper is an ever-revolving door of productions there’s no way that one person could coordinate all the elements of every show. So we rotate—each person is assigned a show and by the time it opens they are assigned another. Of course we could not do it alone! We are able to lean on our fellow TD’s at any time. We might need advice on how to tackle a specific scheduling issue or have a structural or electrical question outside our wheelhouse. We each have different strengths and insights that are put to the test with each new show we tackle.

What does your role entail?

Technical direction is a title that encompasses a lot of different aspects but if I had to summarize it into one concept it’s sort of like being an air traffic controller. We are the ones who make sure that all the different elements of the show glide into the theatre smoothly and efficiently (and most importantly safely!) without getting caught up on one another or crashing and burning in the process. We have heads of departments like Props, Paint, Carpentry, etc., but we are the ones who assess and steer the bigger picture. We work with the team to cost and price out every department, ensuring that everyone is within their budget and coordinate ways to compromise if not. We talk to designers and directors to see what is possible with the time and resources we have along with keeping everyone in the loop throughout. We need to schedule the load-in of one show while working around the load-out of another, scheduling dozens of crew hours and making the stage ready in time for the actors. Once we get everything we need to land on the runway of the stage, it’s adjusting the everyday minutia of space to allow for creative growth and settling the play into its new home in time for the audience!

What is the best part of your job? And what are you most looking forward to at Soulpepper in the next few months?

This is going to sound really cheesy but since moving to the city a few months ago I was really worried about leaving all my family and friends. I was anxious about what the atmosphere at my new work place was going to be like. Calling my first day a bit rocky would be a huge understatement. It was chaos – and I was worried that I had made a huge mistake. But since then I have seen so much growth and motion towards change within the company. I have met some really great people and established a new support system that feels really genuine and very strong. There’s a new awareness in the building, and I’m really excited to be part of it. I’m also excited to see how the company uses the catalyst of finding a new Executive and Artistic Director as an opportunity to rebuild and grow. To improve the company as a whole. I’m really looking forward to that!

What are 3 fun facts about you? 

I am left handed, I have been skydiving and I’m an air hockey master!

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!


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.