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.
Five Questions for Miquelon Rodriguez, making his Soulpepper debut as Chester in Cowboy Versus Samurai
How does it feel to join the Soulpepper Company?
Being a part of this show and this company has been unreal, so far. To say that “it’s a dream come true” wouldn’t even be accurate because I’ve never dreamed I’d get a chance to work with a company like Soulpepper. As an actor of colour, an opportunity of this magnitude is very rare for me and to be doing this show with this company definitely makes me feel the self-pressure to bring work that’s better than my best. But coming to work every day, knowing that this show IS my every day is amazing.
Tell us about your character in Cowboy Versus Samurai:
Chester is an oddball, to say the least, but he is passionate about his beliefs, even if they are controversial. And that translates into a very fun character to play. There are definitely some aspects to him to which I personally relate, and others that I couldn’t disagree with more, but all of it makes sense to this person trying to discover his identity. He’s described as militant and “Che Gueverran” and we’ve definitely explored that aspect of him, but we’ve also discovered a different, slightly unexpected edge to his demeanour and voice that has been hilarious and exciting to play. No spoilers though, you’ll have to see for yourself!
Tell us more about Cowboy Versus Samurai:
Ins Choi (Director of the show) and Jenna Rodgers (Artistic Director of Chromatic Theatre, Calgary) invited me to read this play almost three years ago and I fell in love with the script. I love the humour, the discussions about love and being the “other” and, of course, that it has a 75% Asian cast of characters! (Seriously, when’s the last time you saw Asian leads on stage in a rom-com?)
What is it like working with Soulpepper Resident Artist Ins Choi?
Once upon a time in 2011, I was in a Toronto Fringe show called Shotgun Wedding. It was so popular that people lined up hours in advance to try to get tickets at the door. But the hype of it was a distant second to this other Fringe show called Kim’s Convenience. And that was my introduction to Ins: the guy who made the show that was outperforming my show. (In fact, patrons called us “Kim’s Convenience, Jr.”) But later that year, I was lucky enough to briefly work as an actor under his direction for another show. He’s a mentor I want to work with and learn from as much as possible. And I want to be Ins when I grow up! (If I ever grow up, that is.)
But seriously, Ins is so insightful, kind, and helpful, and it’s easy to work with him. He makes the process feel so inclusive and I think the way he conducts rehearsals really draws out the best work from all of us. Bringing this show to life truly feels like a collaborative effort with Ins. He has helped pave the way for actors like Rosie, Jonathan, and myself, and to be able to work with him is the actual dream come true.
What else do audiences need to know about Cowboy Versus Samurai?
Cowboy Versus Samurai is quirky, subversive, humorous and a lot of fun. It taps into some very real conversations about love and attraction that I think everyone has had at some point (especially those of us who have ever thought that they would never have a chance with that out-of-their-league “crush”). It explores how race affects love (and how it doesn’t) but in ways that are real and not preach-y.
And if you’ve ever wanted to see a big, goofy Filipino dude try to do his best Bruce Lee impression, this is the place to see it.
Cowboy Versus Samurai is on stage from January 26 to February 20. For tickets, visit www.soulpepper.ca.
Miquelon Rodriguez, photo: supplied. Cowboy Versus Samurai illustration: Gracia Lam.
How long have you worked at Soulpepper and what has your job consisted of lately?
I’ve just recently celebrated my one year anniversary as Development Officer here at Soulpepper! Our wee team of 5 is responsible for executing all the fundraising activity within the organization. With such an incredibly exciting and ambitious mission, Soulpepper requires the greatest support from our donors and I am happy to create and maintain those relationships.
When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
I’m the proud member of both a book club and a wonderful women’s choir called, Florivox! As I didn’t grow up here, the rest of my time is dictated by blogTO’s Top Ten lists as I discover and explore Toronto: Best Indian Food, Best Music Venues, Best…you get the idea.
What is something we might be surprised to know about you?
You might be surprised to know that besides my qualifications in Arts Management, I am a certified Doula and hope to one day run my own practice! I love helping women uncover their potential and new Mamas navigate their way into parenthood.
What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
In 2012, Soulpepper’s founding member Stuart Hughes helped me convince TJ Tasker, Director of Communications at the time, that his department needed an intern (Thanks Stu!). During those 4 months I worked in a tiny office at the back of the building, learning about public relations and reading article after article praising the recently produced Kim’s Convenience. I grew to love the company even more, a feat I didn’t think this possible. It was 2 and a half years before I had the chance to come back…well worth the wait. I am so incredibly proud to work for a theatre company that believes so strongly in maintaining its artistic integrity and taking risks that no one else is brave enough to dream, let alone accomplish. I’m more than excited to see what’s next and say that in some small way I was a part of it.
Paige Phillips, photo: Daniel Malavasi.
Like money in the pocket of an old jacket. That’s what Tricks is all about.
For many, I am often the first magician that they have met in person. Even though magicians have been around for hundreds of years, and can be seen—thanks to YouTube and reality television—more frequently and by more people than at anytime in the history of the craft, few people have actually met or seen a magician up close and in person.
After discovering that performing magic is what I do, the usual follow up question is: “What kind of tricks do you perform?” And then, before I can respond with “the usual fare – sawing people in half and making them float”, they say, “Oh, should I have said illusions rather than tricks?” as if the word “tricks” was somehow pejorative.
I always assure them that the word “tricks” is just fine.
So why do we need tricks and why do I perform them?
The answer, at least to the first question, came to me in a piece Luc Sante wrote for the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 2001 in an issue devoted to “secrets”. (For me, “secrets” is part and parcel of “tricks”.) There, Sante wrote,
“People need secrets because they need the assurance that there is something left to discover, that they have not exhausted the limits of the environment, that a prize might lie in wait like money in the pocket of an old jacket, that the existence of things beyond their ken might propose a corollary that their own minds contain unsuspected corridors. People need uncertainty and security. It’s not that secrets make them feel small but that they make the world seem bigger—a major necessity these days, when sensations need to be extreme to register at all.”
As for the second question, it is as simple as the first; for the love of it.
– David Ben
Tricks is part of Soulpepper’s Family Festival and is onstage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts from December 5 – January 3. Click Here to buy tickets.
David Ben, photo: David Linsell
What is appealing to you about the musical format as a theatre artist?
Combining story with music is one of the oldest paths to the human heart, and it has been a major form of storytelling from the Greeks, through opera, and through the advent of musical theatre in the 20th-century. When words meet stories meet notes in that perfect way it can make people feel something profound. There’s great power in the form. But it takes a great amount of energy to create memorable moments. You have to build towards those moments. And it’s knowing how to build that momentum, that is the challenge. And it’s the exciting part of writing musicals. When you can create something meaningful, it feels like a service, not just something for your own success or ambition. You’re the creator of something that is bringing energy into people’s lives, and you can feel really good about what you do.
I’ve been at Soulpepper for 10 years studying words and storytelling, and that path has led me to bring music into the creative equation when I’m working on a new production.
What do you think contributes to the success of Spoon River, which is returning for its third run at Soulpepper, and touring out of province next summer?
The amazing thing about Soulpepper is that I know I have a chance of my work being heard and that fuels me: it’s motivating and inspiring. The landscape here gives artists lengthy meaningful employment – it inspires creation. You know you can dig into the work and not have to get distracted by outside concerns.
And you have access to people you know, and that will be around, and so you build things around certain people and their talents, which also inspires creation. The music for Spoon River I wrote partly on my own, and partly for specific people I knew would be in the show. And that affected the range, the energy, and the tone of the songs.
I’m really excited that Spoon River is going on the road next summer, and that it will be part of the Charlottetown Festival, my PEI hometown. My personal connection aside, there are universal themes in Spoon River that I think could resonate anywhere else in the world. People want stories about where they’re from. And small towns – they’re everywhere. And the themes in this show are universal, about living your life every day to its fullest, something everyone strives for. And there are songs about gossip and that’s everywhere. Death – everywhere. It’s about America also – it’s familiar, audiences get it, and the situations of the characters can be applied to personal situations.
I would love to see this show reach an audience as wide as it can, and for people to know that it can be performed by virtually any group of people willing to take on a whole bunch of characters and strum some guitars – it can play to 100 or 1,000 and ideally have the same impact. I would love to eventually see more companies perform it as well.
There are still moments that make me laugh. There’s a moment you can feel the audience understand what the show is about, from whose point of view – I never get over that moment. I never get over the musicianship present on stage. Or the journey that Albert Schultz and I created in terms of meeting characters in a certain order so the train of the show keeps carrying the story through the Spoon River community. And I love standing backstage with the ensemble before we go on – that feeling of anticipation.
How long have you worked at the Young Centre and tell us a little bit about what your job consists of lately.
I have been working at the Young/Soulpepper 5 years and three of these as the Head of Scenic Art. Prior to being with Soulpepper I worked at the Stratford Festival for six seasons and before that in film and television.
The past four shows have varied considerably; the designs were all over the map. On the Baillie stage in Victoria Wallace’s design for The Play is the Thing Paul Boddum (scenic painter) and I started off by painting a parquet floor witch was quite involved, it was like painting three different wood grained floors in one. The show also had a lot of ornate gold trim work and a large gilded looking frame, which we made with plastic bits and bobs from the dollar store and some penne pasta, then painted it all gold. The show that repped with this was Marat/Sade designed by Lorenzo Savoini which was the polar opposite; concrete, grunge and rust. On the Young stage again two completely different designs; Happy Place had clean lines and was so eloquent, this was juxtaposed with Glen Charles Landry’s organized chaos of a car crash with rusty car parts and broken windshields witch we achieved with hot glue from a glue gun.
What artistic projects have you been involved in outside of work?
I also work outside of Soulpepper occasionally. I’ve worked on:
• George Brown Theatre School, Head Scenic Painter, 2-3 shows per season – 2013-Present
• Toronto Centre for the Arts, Head Scenic Painter – Driving Miss Daisy – 2015
• Crow’s Theatre/Canadian Stage, Head Scenic Painter – The Seagull – 2015
• nightswimming, Head Scenic Painter – Fish Eyes – 2014
• Adelheid Dance Projects, Drop Painter – Elsewhere – 2014
• Canadian Stage, Head Scenic Painter – Dream in High Park – 2013
• Opera Atelier, Drop Painter – Der Freischutz (The Marksman) – 2012
• Canadian Opera Company, Scenic Painter – Aug 2012
• The Royal Conservatory of Music, Drop Painter – Nov-Dec 2011
• Stratford Festival of Canada, Scenic Painter – 2003-2009
• Partners Film/Mood Design, Head Scenic Painter, Carpentry, Props, Set Deck – 2001-2003
• Hot Sets Film Scenic Painter – 1999-2003
I am also a visual artist and have been showing and represented by Alison Skinner at the Distill Gallery for over ten years. My web page is: http://www.duncanjohnstone.com
When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
When I’m not at work I’m usually hanging out with my partner, my dog and my two kids: Ada, my daughter, who is 14 and my son Emmett who is 12. Hiking, cycling, gardening and cooking are a big part of my life, and of course painting.
What is something we would be surprised to know about you/what is a hidden talent?
Hidden Talents………. Hm? I wish I could say something like I can burp the alphabet but I can’t. I grew up in Rossland BC and spent most of my youth ski racing downhill and X-country, mountain bike racing, X-country running and Rock Climbing. I then moved to Vancouver and attended Art School at Emily Carr University of Art & Design and planted trees in the summers to help pay my way through school.
What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
My favourite thing about working at Soulpepper is the diverse and supper talented people that are working in every department of the organization. I also really enjoy the smell of our neighbors SOMA Chocolate which somehow manages to work its way through the wall and right into the scenic shop on a regular basis
How did you first learn about Soulpepper?
Ken: Through a very dear friend of mine who unfortunately died a number of years ago – Marilyn Michener, who was also a very good friend of Albert’s. Marilyn introduced me to Albert and the rest, as they say, is history. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion to become involved because he just had such an amazing vision for what he wanted to do.
What has inspired you to continue your support for a number of years?
Mike: The more we saw of the productions, the more we wanted to come back and say “What’s happening next year?” The donations just became second nature after we realized that this is really great theatre.
Ken: We were made to feel welcome, always. We were made to feel like we were part of the family and that’s important.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about giving to Soulpepper?
Ken: I think that Soulpepper is unique in the city. There are other organizations that are also very very good, but I think that one of the things here is that it’s year round and the company has a very clear vision. Your commitment to outreach and community involvement…
Mike: I think that’s extremely important. Things like the Soulpepper Academy you don’t get in many theatre organizations.
Ken: And the fact that the productions are, let’s face it, top notch. Year in and year out they are the best in the city, if not the province. It’s an easy sell for people to become involved.
Why do you think the arts should be a priority for philanthropy?
Ken: When I was in my working life, I was a strong supporter of the arts because I firmly believed that the arts reach so many people, as many people if not more people than professional sports. There are all sorts of causes that you can give to – healthcare, social services and education, but the arts, broadly speaking, rounds out a community. You need all the various parts for a community to be whole.
Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?
Ken: Ten years from now, what we’d like to see, what I think we will see, is Soulpepper being a much more diverse organization. There is increasing diversity in terms of the ensemble and I think there is growing diversity in terms of the canon – the third part of that will be the diversity of the audience. And that’s tough and everybody recognizes that. But in a city as diverse as Toronto… Out of all the arts organizations, Soulpepper has a vision and a strategy laid out to do that. And we think you’ll do it.
Michael Oakes and Ken Gingerich, photo: Nathan Kelly.