Setting the Stage for Summer with designer Gillian Gallow

Newly minted Dora Award-winner Gillian Gallow sent us a first look at the maquette of her crisp set design for ‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza. You can see her work on stage August 9 to September 1.

Soulpepper X The 519

Soulpepper is a home for artists on our stages, but also a place of learning and teaching off stage. Through the Ada Slaight YouthLink program Soulpepper has been working with a local community organization, The 519 to host a summer theatre workshop for LGBTQ2S youth, with guidance from Soulpepper’s artist educators.  We asked Makram, the workshop lead, to give us a look into the Queer and Trans Youth Theatre summer program. 

Can you tell us a bit about The 519?

The 519 is a city of Toronto Agency and registered charity that is committed to the health, happiness, and full participation of LGBTQ2S communities in Toronto. As a community centre located at Church & Wellesley, we  focus on responding to  the needs of our local community and of broader LGBTQ2S communities.  For over 40 years, The 519 has been providing and creating resources, services, programs, and offering space. We are one of Canada’s largest LGBTQ2S organizations, with over 500 thousand annual visits.

What is the group you are leading through this workshop?

I am leading an eight week Queer and Trans Youth Theatre summer project.  The initiative works with queer and trans identified artists who are between 16-29 years old that are interested in expanding their practice as theatre artists through explorations of performance and theatre writing.  The group welcomes varying levels of experience in the pursuit of bridging queer and trans theatre artists together in a space that allows them to explore themselves, their theatre creation, and the history of queer theatre.  We went through a series of performance, monologue writing, and scene writing workshops which will culminate in  a “Personal Mythology” showcase.  Alongside this, we’ve learned and discussed the works of several queer and trans theatre artists working in Canada today.  This year, the group decided to name their ensemble, QT Collective.

How long have you been at Soulpepper and what have you been working on in that time?

The program has been in collaboration with Soulpepper and I have been working with the theatre company since May. Soulpepper was able to support the 519 with incredible artist-educators that helped with the facilitation of the program.  It was a vital part of the program’s success that the youth were in a real theatre space such as Soulpepper.

Why do you think theatre education important?

I think theatre education is learning how to be human.  Theatre offers us the necessity of rehearsals, where we can trial our voices, strengthen our arguments, and refine our own understanding of ourselves and the world we move through.  For queer and trans communities, as with any other marginalized communities, this is all the more vital.  Theatre education, and especially the process of playwriting and monologue writing from a personal position, allows participants to manifest, in 3D space, their fears, hopes, desires, and dreams.  Theatre teaches meaningful collaboration; it might ask us to sit with our contradictions and our tensions and then faithfully go on in the pursuit of the collective creation.  This seems essential in an increasingly divided cultural climate.  But for me, the thing theatre education does best is the invitation of vulnerability.  This is what makes theatre distinct as an art form.  We must sit in our theatre art, we must be with it as it happens, and it is only ever honest when it is vulnerable.   Whether it lands with an audience or not, the process of practicing this kind of vulnerability strengthens the participants – it has the potential to enrich our lives and make us celebrate the subjective experience of being a complex and dynamic human being.

What do you find most valuable about leading these workshops?

The ensemble’s willingness and bravery throughout the workshops was the most valuable and rewarding part of the experience.  As an educator, I can imagine and plan and prepare in so many ways, but it is truly in the hands of the ensemble and each individual that the experience of the workshop is so rewarding.  Their commitment to the craft, their honesty and vulnerability in their sharing, and their commitment to one another as an ensemble was heartening.  My experience with queer and trans communities has taught me that resilience and an intelligent hopefulness is an integral part of our story.  I don’t mean to ever minimize the difficulty many of us face, but the magic which happens when queer and trans people come together is galvanizing – and it’s especially inspiring to work with an ensemble of young artists and to know that these are the ones who will be cultivating and contributing to the conversations of queer and trans theatre creation in the future.

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! 


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. 


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.


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.


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.

Soulpepper recieves 27 Dora Nominations

Here is the full list of Dora Nominations for Soulpepper this year. We’d like to extend a huge congratulations to all the incredible artists and works recognized. We cannot wait to celebrate everyone’s successes and our vibrant community together on June 25!

General Theatre Division

Outstanding Production:
The Royale

 Outstanding New Play:
The Virgin Trial by Kate Hennig

Outstanding Direction:
Guillermo Verdecchia, The Royale
Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, Oraltorio: a Theatrical Mixtape

Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role:
Lovell Adams-Gray, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Sarah Afful, Orlando

Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role:
Alex McCooeye, Orlando
Christef Desir, The Royale
Sabryn Rock, The Royale

Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design:
Ken MacKenzie, The Royale (Scenic Design)

Outstanding Costume Design:
Gillian Gallow, Orlando
Michelle Tracey, Wedding at Aulis

Outstanding Lighting Design:
Lorenzo Savoini, Orlando
Michelle Ramsay, The Royale

Outstanding Sound Design/Composition:
Thomas Ryder Payne, The Royale
Thomas Ryder Payne/DJ L’Oqenz, Oraltorio: a Theatrical Mixtape

Musical Theatre Division

Outstanding Production:

Outstanding New Musical:
Writer: Sarah Wilson, Mike Ross Composer: Mike Ross, Rose

Outstanding Direction:
Gregory Prest, Rose

Outstanding Musical Direction:
Mike Ross, Rose

Outstanding Choreography:
Monica Dottor, Rose

Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role:
Hailey Gillis, Rose

Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role:
Peter Fernandes, Rose
Sabryn Rock, Rose

Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design:
Lorenzo Savoini, Rose (Scenic Design)

Outstanding Costume Design:
Alexandra Lord, Rose

Outstanding Lighting Design:
Lorenzo Savoini, Rose

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.