“Sisters are for sharing laughter and wiping tears”

In honour of the powerful bonds of sisterhood and the World Premiere of Sisters later this month (Aug. 23), we asked those in the cast who have sisters to share something about their own. Here is what Karen Robinson and Raquel Duffy shared with us.

Karen Robinson

My great-grandmother had three daughters.  Her youngest, my grandmother Esther, had three daughters.  Esther’s youngest, my mother Joy, had three daughters.  I am Joy’s youngest.  I have no children.  So many sisters in my maternal lineage, and my particular strand ended with me. Makes me want to hold my sisters that much closer.

Raquel Duffy 

I have two amazing sisters. My sister Tara reminded me of this memory.

When our family moved off Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia, my little sister started school for the first time. She was incredibly nervous and needed me to walk her to and from school, and also stay with her through recess…for the ENTIRE YEAR. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with this arrangement. I wanted to make friends in our new school, but instead was surrounded by snotty nosed, little children.

One day, as punishment for attempting to talk to a fellow classmate during History, I was forced to stay behind and clean the blackboards. I knew my sister would be waiting so I asked to be released from eraser duty. The teacher refused my request. Ten minutes later, I hear very loud screams coming from outside. Teachers and staff came out of the woodwork and started running outside to help. Yes, the screams were coming from my distraught sister. She was in such a state, I was granted a dismissal from detention. I ran out of the school, feeling horrible that my sister felt that I’d abandoned her. When I saw her, I hugged her tightly and told her I was so sorry and not to worry, I would never leave without her. She said, “Oh, I know that. I just screamed to get you out of detention!”

Join us at Sisters, perhaps even with your sister, to reveal the hidden heroism in the everyday life of Ann and Evelina Bunner. Performances run August 23 to September 16.


Staff Profile: Myles Garland, Development Intern

What is your job title?

I am the Development Intern here at Soulpepper.

What does your role entail?

As an intern, my role here is to help out wherever I can! More specifically, my role entails assisting with administrative support, donor stewardship, marketing research, and event logistics and planning within the development department.

Describe a bit about the teams you work with?

I work closely with all members of the development team. Since starting here a month ago, I have spent the most time working with Brandon, Erin, and Angela, focusing on day to day operations including administrative support, thanking donors, and development research efforts. I also work with Mary, Director of Development, and Kathy, Associate Director of Development, on donor stewardship, reports, and some early stage event planning for upcoming Soulpepper events. I also work intermittently with the Marketing and Communications team, helping Brad, Milusha, Jason, and Michael with projects ranging from community outreach initiatives to miscellaneous marketing research tasks and archiving. I have also had the opportunity to sit down with Tania, and Chris, and will be helping out in various areas of the producing department within the weeks to come.

What are you most enjoying learning/working on while you’re here?

It’s extremely rewarding to be able to work within multiple different departments with their ongoing work and initiatives. I enjoy being able to see how they operate and overlap and learn how departments fit into one another. I also love working in an office that involves such a dynamic and stimulating work environment. Whether a day involves the option to participate in a professional development workshop, sit in on an arts management seminar, or get a sneak-peak at an upcoming production, there are always opportunities to learn more about non-profit management and what goes on behind the scenes. It’s also great to work within such a vibrant artistic community; I love feeling inspired by working with people who are so passionate about what they do.

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

I love sharks! I spent a month doing volunteer field research in South Africa for marine conservation a couple years ago where I got to see and study great white sharks in the wild almost every day. I definitely wouldn’t dive into the water with them, but I love them from afar and you can probably find me watching shark documentaries in my spare time.

Staff Profile: Angela Chau, Development Officer of Corporate Partnerships & Foundations

What is your job title?

I am the Development Officer of Corporate Partnerships & Foundations here at Soulpepper.

What does your role entail?

My role primarily focuses on managing the relationships with our corporate sponsors and foundation partners that support our year-round programming as well as specific program initiatives, such as the Soulpepper Family Festival and Soulpepper’s youth and access programs.

What is the best part of your job?

What I love about fundraising is making those connections with our donors and supporters. It is satisfying to be able to help a donor develop a deeper connection with the company where they believe in the importance of our work to support us with a philanthropic gift. Each time our team receives a positive note or comment from a donor about their experience and why they support Soulpepper – whether it’s the talent of the artists they saw on stage, the way a scene made them feel, the importance or relevance of a production, or how the work we are doing in the community had a positive impact on someone they personally know – it is deeply rewarding.

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

You can often find me eating (love food!), taking long walks around the city, riding my bike, and taking fitness classes as I am an avid believer in the importance of self-care and taking care of your body. To me, health is wealth. You can also find me spending time with friends and family, as well as listening to podcasts because I am fascinated by the stories we tell, how they are told, and learning something new.

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

I love to travel – experiencing and learning about other cultures, its history, cuisines, their way of life, has just helped me to be more empathetic and become a better human. My last big trip was to Peru which has now become one of my favourite destinations! My next trip? A two-week road trip in the States where I’ll be visiting Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon national parks – to name a few – and hope to find little gems in between. I also have a pretty extensive plant collection and I recently learned how to drive stick, which is something I’m pretty proud of!

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

Soulpepper will be announcing its newest 2018-2019 season in July and I’m really excited for it all. I can’t share what those are just yet but what I can say is, although I am not part of the creative team, whenever I see our Soulpepper artists at work, I am always taken aback by the incredible talent and quality of the shows that Soulpepper has to offer. Stay tuned!

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

Summer Set Designs from Academy Designers Alexandra Lord & Michelle Tracey

Our two Academy designers, Alexandra Lord and Michelle Tracey, are working on the next two Summer shows Bed and Breakfast and Sisters. Both sets they’ve respectively designed are homes to two, but each home tells a very different story.

Bed and Breakfast Set Design by Alexandra Lord

The set design for Bed and Breakfast is the essentialized architectural structure of a turn of the century home. This familiar frame is filled out by one unconventional couple who learn to love each nook and cranny of this house, the small town it is in, the townspeople around them and, at the center of it all, each other. The set itself contains all they need to tell the story of the year it takes to make a house a home. There are doors that swing both ways, hidden storage closets and front and back stairs. Brett, played by Gregory Prest, and Drew, played by Paolo Santalucia,  move us from multiple locations in the city to a small town and evoke everyone they meet along the way as they prepare to open their Bed and Breakfast with open arms and open hearts.

– Alexandra Lord

Sisters Set Design by Michelle Tracey

The set design for Sisters is at once a representation of the physical home of Anne and Evelina Bunner, their shop, and a transitory space that allows us to jump quickly through time, to flow seamlessly from location to location, and from reality to fantasy. The scenic design is also a physicalization of Anne’s internal world. At the heart of the play is Anne’s mission of self-sacrifice for the benefit of her sister; the audience has a chance to follow her emotional journey in addition to the story through the transformation of the space.

– Michelle Tracey

Bed and Breakfast, by Mark Crawford and directed by Ann Marie Kerr, begins August 11 and runs through September 1.

Sisters, written by another academy member Rosamund Small and directed by Peter Pasyk, runs August 23 to September 16.


Donor Profile: Archie Platt

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

I found Soulpepper on the National Ballet of Canada website.  When I accessed Soulpepper’s website, the breadth of the theatre and the concerts Soulpepper offered impressed me most.  My first memory of Soulpepper was my attendance at The Secret Chord:  A Leonard Cohen Experience.  The artists delivered an outstanding performance.  The intimacy of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts as a venue for performance enhanced the artists’ delivery of Leonard Cohen’s songs that evening.  I enjoyed that concert so much that I am attending the concert again at Soulpepper in July!

What inspires you to support Soulpepper?

I want to support an artist’s passion for performance.  I want to continue to have Soulpepper produce outstanding theatre and concerts.

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 arts contribute to the fabric and the texture of this city, this province and this country.  It is for this reason that I am contributing to Soulpepper.

Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?

I see Soulpepper continuing to deliver the wide breadth of theatre and concert performances.  I see Soulpepper continuing to reach out to the community and to mentor the next generation of artists.  I see Soulpepper as a place where an artist can express themselves and have their voice heard.

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

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.