“John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change.”
Every year, Ross Manson, Artistic Director of Volcano Theatre, brings together a group of nationally and internationally-acclaimed artists to teach at the Volcano Conservatory.
Explore the Alternative: The Volcano Conservatory seeks to provide professional theatre and dance artists with the tools to reinvent performance. For emerging and experienced actors, dancers, directors and theatre-makers.
When: July 22 – 31, 2011 in Toronto
Volcano: “The explosive company from Canada” – The Independent (UK)
For more information click here.
Courses include (but not limited to): Physicalizing Thought with Daniel Brooks Movement with Peggy Baker Fitzmaurice Voicework with Noah Drew Something From Nothing with Quinn Bauriedel from Pig Iron Theatre
Twice in one week! Let’s just say I like to talk and I like to tea. So I’m back with another installment of Tea with D’Agostino.
Today I talk with The National Theatre Of The World: a fresh theatre company intent on creating captivating live theatre through the art of improvisation. The company currently produces Impromptu Splendor, The Carnegie Hall Show, and a weekly romantic serial, The Soaps.
They are currently performing The Script Tease Project at Theatre Passe Muraille, where commissioned playwrights offer them two pages of a script and they improvise the rest. Playwrights include John Patrick Shanley, Daniel MacIvor and Hannah Moscovitch, to name a few.
I sat down with core members Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus, and Ronald Pederson for some tea and company.
On The Menu: Montreal Bagels, Hummus, Brie, Berries, Gluten Free Cookies
The Teas: Cream of Earl Grey and Long Life Oolong.
Workaholics and Pizza
Matt: It’s been non-stop for Naomi. It’s been exhausting watching her work.
Ron: Yes, but that’s a disorder.
Naomi: It’s a disorder? It might be a disorder. I do come from a father who is definitely a workaholic, so–
Matt: Donald Trump; that’s a disorder. Einstein: disorder. The work ethic.
Ron: You think? I don’t think Einstein had an insane work ethic.
Matt: I think he was the guy who was like: I’m not even going to take time to pick out my clothes so all I’m thinking about is—
Melissa: Oh yeah.
Ron: Oh right. He doesn’t have a clock—he doesn’t have a clock in his studio—or is that Thomas Edison? That’s Thomas Edison. He didn’t have a clock because he didn’t want to know what time it was while he worked.
Matt: There was that guy who wrote music in prison—he wrote a whole album because he asked to be put into solitary confinement–
Naomi: Right. He got stuff done.
Matt: –so that time wouldn’t be a concern.
Melissa: I need that. What’s the modern-day equivalent of solitary confinement?
Matt: Yes—no stimulus whatsoever.
Naomi: You should do that as a hotel and get people to pay you.
Naomi: Give me your cell phone and your computer. See you in a week and you’ll give me your play…and I’ll give you a pizza—you have food brought to you.
Melissa: Ha. I’ll give you a pizza. That’s your reward.
Matt: That’s our byline – ‘We give you a pizza’
Things that should be free
Matt: What’s this tea, here?
Melissa: (as Matt sips) It’s Earl Grey with some vanilla in it–Cream of Earl Grey.
Melissa: (off of Matt’s expression) How do you feel about it, Matt?
Matt: Well, it’s quite floral, Melissa. You set up an expectation of vanilla…
Ron: I can smell vanilla.
Melissa: Thank you, Ron. Matt, you seem a little bit—
Matt: It’s perfume-y. It’s a bit—
Ron: Vanilla perfume-y?
Ron: It smells like waffles. It’s vanilla.
Matt: It’s rose. It’s rose and vanilla.
Ron: It’s Earl Grey and Vanilla.
Melissa: There’s probably some kind of floral in there, yes. Do you want me to contact David’s Tea and inquire about it?
Matt: (quite a reaction) Is it David’s Tea?
Melissa: Yes it is. (Off of his expression) Are you upset?
Naomi: What do you—why do you have an issue with him?
Matt: So what is he supposing? What is he selling you—that he grows these herbs? He’s a mix-ologist? What is his service–
Ron: A mix-ologist?
Matt: What is his service?
Melissa and Naomi: Tea.
Ron: He sells tea. He’s a tea salesman.
Matt: It’s just next to selling air…to me. Like selling oxygen.
Naomi: Really? No.
Melissa: What about coffee? Do you feel that way about coffee?
Naomi: You mean water—that’s like water.
Ron: But you can trade tea—this country was built on—North America would be nowhere without tea.
Naomi: It’s not—if there was a water store, like a store that just served water that would be like selling air. Or if there was an air place like—well—they used to have the oxygen bars.
Ron: Yes, they have oxygen bars.
Matt: Tea should be free.
Naomi: What? That doesn’t—
Melissa: How should tea be free?
Naomi: This is very controversial.
Matt: It should be a right. I’m telling you. It should be available to everyone for free in the same way water is available to everyone for free.
Ron: Why? I don’t understand why.
Matt: Because it grows naturally.
Ron: So does corn.
Ron: So, everything’s free? Fruit is free.
Naomi: Yeah—everything’s free now.
Matt: No. Corn needs attention; it needs cultivation…
Ron: So does tea.
Melissa: Yeah—you don’t –David doesn’t just go out into the fields and scoop up tea, right?
Ron: And again—he’s blended it and he has worked on it—
Matt: Yeah, he’s put his name on it.
Ron: Del Monte puts their name on things—
Naomi: I think if this goes onto the Internet you’re going to stir up some big shit.
Matt: This will be the most provocative Praxis post ever.
Ron: –or the most full of shit.
Matt: I don’t mind shutting down David’s Tea.
Naomi: Why? Why would you—
Matt: Also cheese should be free.
Nonsense and Platitudes:
Naomi: I was on set yesterday and they had an original Marilyn Monroe calendar.
Naomi: I know. They had it shrink-wrapped and I thought it was interesting. She was naked.
Melissa: Like…totally naked?
Naomi: Yeah, it was her centerfold thing. It was an original.
Matt: Would you ever do a naked centerfold?
Naomi: Are you asking me to do a centerfold?
Naomi: Would you?
Matt: Would I ever—if I got my body to a place where I felt I was—
Naomi: –what if I said—
Matt: –very confident—
Naomi: What if I said, ‘Don’t worry about it; I’m going to Photoshop it and make you look fantastic?’
Matt: Well then why don’t you just do it now?
Naomi: Just Photoshop you?
Matt: Photoshop my head onto a gorgeous body.
Naomi: You know it’s going to be all over the Internet, right?
Matt: That’s going to be the visual component for this blog post, is a Photo-shopped centerfold of Matt Baram. Ron?
Naomi: Would you ever do a centerfold?
Naomi: Have you?
Naomi: Have you ever?
Matt: What about a calendar for cancer?
Naomi: Yeah, you’d do that for cancer.
Melissa: Like Calendar girls—you could do your own version—
Naomi: (laughing) National Theatre of the World presents—hahaha—with, like lemons—we should!
Melissa: You’d get picked up by Mirvish.
Matt: Well…think about it. Right now there’s Calendar Girls, and Women Fully Clothed—which has nothing to do with nudity but their title suggests it, and the Script Tease Project, and isn’t there that movie out with Kim Cattrall where she was a—
Melissa: –a hooker? She used to be a prostitute.
Naomi: Did she really?
Click to enlarge
Matt: Or a stripper—not in real life—in the movie.
Matt: I think it’s a stripper.
Naomi: I’m going to say this out loud…
Naomi: … I think sex sells.
Matt: Is that what you’re saying? Is that what you figured out?
Naomi: You heard it here first, folks.
Naomi: Tea should be for free and sex sells.
Ron: Nonsense and platitudes. That should be the title of this.
Melissa: Nice. I will steal that.
You can catch The Script Tease Project at Theatre Passe Muraille until Sunday May 29th. For tickets click here, and click here for more information.
Melissa D’Agostino is an award-winning actor, writer, singer and producer. She also likes tea. Check her out at www.melissadagostino.net.
On the menu today: Croissants, scones, hummus, pita and dark chocolate.
by Melissa D’Agostino
It’s been a while since I’ve held a tea with some fine, theatre-folk, so I’m happy to bring you the second installment of Tea with D’Agostino. In this edition I sit down with Julie Tepperman and Aaron Willis, co-Founders of Convergence Theatre, and husband and wife in this crazy game called life.
Convergence Theatre engages like-minded emerging and established theatre artists to create original, intimate and memorable experiences for a broad audience. Since 2006, the company has ‘converged’ with over 75 artists in the city to bring usAutoshow,The Gladstone Variations, and the currently remounted Yichud (Seclusion)at Theatre Passe Muraille. Aaron and Julie are also active teachers in the community and in the school system.
On Teachers and Teaching:
Julie: I was at this elementary school a couple of weeks ago—and I had this one grade 6 class with a male teacher. The guy was, you know, our age and wearing a really cool t-shirt. Does not greet me. I find the classroom and I’m like, ‘Oh hi, I’m Julie—‘ and he mumbles and he says ‘Walk with me this way’, and I follow him with all the kids to this drama room, and then there’s no key, and he’s upset about it. Then we finally get into the room and this there’s a couch in the corner, and I say, ‘You’re welcome to join the circle and participate’ and he goes, and sits on the couch, takes out his iPhone to play with it and then falls asleep.
Melissa: When I was in grade four in Catholic School, I had this teacher named Mrs. Sheardown.
Aaron: Hahaha. Sounds like a character in a restoration comedy.
Melissa: Exactly! And she would show you how to say her name—like break it down. Shh. Ear. Down. As if it’s the hardest name to say, ever. And she would sit at this student’s desk in the middle of the portable with a bell, and just ring the bell whenever you irritated her. And you’d have to recite In Flanders Fields by memory and if you tripped up she’d humiliate you.
Aaron: It’s like a Charles Dickens novel.
Melissa: You have no idea. Well…part way through the year she had to get her hip replaced, and we got this substitute teacher fresh out of teacher’s college. Mr. DeRose.
Julie: Great name.
Melissa: Oh yeah. He was gorgeous—he looked like Elvis and he wore biker boots, and basically we could do anything we wanted. We would play soccer baseball all morning—
Aaron: I LOVED soccer baseball!
Melissa: I know! He would play chess tournaments with the boys, but never the girls.
Julie: Was that a rule of his?
Melissa: Yep. Girls weren’t allowed to play. I think he wanted to hang out with the boys and he thought all the girls had crushes on him.
Julie: Ah yes.
Melissa: And he used to make us play this game called Duck Hunt, where you would have to walk across the blackboard one at a time and he’d whip tennis balls at us to try and hit us, and you weren’t allowed to duck—you were only allowed to move forward or back or walk faster.
Julie: What? Did people get concussions?
Melissa: No… just minor bruising. And then one day, he brought in his guitar because we were doing a unit on sound and instruments. And he says, ‘Okay, kids, I want to introduce you to my favourite band—The Sex Pistols.’ And he unbuttons his shirt and he’s wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt.
Melissa: Oh yes. And then he plays us the song Abortion—which is really a song called Bodies, but it’s about Abortion. ABORTION. In my fourth grade, Catholic School, portable classroom. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that song, but the lyrics are pretty much: She was a girl from Birmingham/She just had an abortion. Dragged to a table in a factory…etc, etc.
Melissa: And I think we were all so shocked that it was happening that none of us went up to our parents and said, ‘Guess what? Mr. DeRose played us an abortion song today’.
Julie: Do you know what happened to that teacher, Melissa? Did you ever see him again at school?
Melissa: I’ve never seen him since then.
Julie: You should put a shout out.
Melissa: Ha. I should.
Julie: I mean…we have all these memories. And we were quite young when some of these things happened. And I wonder if these teachers would be shocked to hear our memories of these stories played back, how they remember them—if they remember them at all. It just proves that what you do has an impact.
On Diego Rivera & Being Lost in Detroit:
Julie: In November we were in Michigan teaching Shakespeare in High Schools. And we were obligated to go one afternoon to a luncheon with these members—
Aaron: These are all the rich donors—
Julie: Our grandparents’ age, mostly, who give money to the company we work for, and support this education program.
Julie: So they have couples who come pick us up at the hotel and drive us downtown into Detroit, now what’s so funny is that none of them live in Detroit, they all live in the Burbs, which is where the hotel was, so they all got lost, they didn’t know where they were going.
Melissa: Lost in Detroit?
Julie: Lost in Detroit.
Melissa: I’ve been lost in Detroit. At night. In a cab. It’s not fun.
Julie: So we go—it was actually at a gorgeous museum—
Aaron: The Detroit Institute of Art.
Julie: Right, the DIA. And before lunch, the couple who drove us, they’re nice enough, and they say, before lunch you have to let us take you to this mural. It’s the –I can’t remember his name. Frida Kahlo’s husband at the time—
Melissa&Aaron: Diego Rivera.
Julie: Yes. Was commissioned to make a gigantic mural of the workers. So he took us there—
Aaron: And what was cool is they got a docent to give us a talk about it. And she was telling us the story of the mural, and the things he did, because he was an ardent socialist, and—
Julie: He put himself in the mural—
Melissa: He often did, yes, and other historical and socialist figures.
Aaron: And so there’s a lot of stuff about the Ford factories, and there is a black man front and center working on the floor.
Julie: Which was very controversial—
Aaron: –because Ford never had a black man working on the floor. He also had Ford sitting at his desk next to a bunch of pipes which looked like a big ear, alluding to the fact that Ford would have people on the floor listening to people talking about unions.
Julie: And then she leaves…
Aaron: and they’re walking back, and this guy felt the need, very strongly, to defend Henry Ford. I don’t know if he knew we were Jewish, or not.
Aaron: You know, because Henry Ford is so famous for anti-Semitism.
Aaron: But he was basically saying, ‘You know Ford did a lot of great things’. He was doing all those mental contortions…
On Criticizing Israel & Judaism:
Aaron: Well our times running out here.
Melissa: I know. I wanted to talk more about Jewish things.
Julie: Like his conversion?
Melissa: Yes—because you converted to Judaism, right Aaron?
Aaron: Yes. And we didn’t get into Jews and Israel.
Melissa: Well, I thought about that question, and then I thought ‘That’s going to take over because that’s a huge question’.
Julie: This idea of Tikkun Olam, which is Hebrew for ‘Repairing the world’, and it’s something that—it’s a Jewish value, but it’s a human value. Because we’ve come up against older people in our lives who’ve said, ‘You know…as a Jew, you just have to vote for the candidate that supports Israel’. And that’s so infuriating to me. We live here. And it’s lip service! It’s total lip service! Just because you criticize Israel doesn’t mean you don’t support it.
Melissa: A thing I’ve noticed in the world is that we’re living further and further away from living in a real context—a communal context. Everything is being taken out of context. When you start divorcing one ideal from the rest of your ideals, or from your community or the world, you start making decisions that are incomplete.
Julie: And it doesn’t actually mean anything—what does it mean to ‘support’ that country? Does that mean if there’s a war you’ll send troops? Will you…what will you do?
Melissa: Yes, I suppose it means if there was a war, that Canada would be on Israel’s side.
Julie: It means nothing to me.
Melissa: I know. But it’s also all in the context of war, and money and politics on a level that I don’t really think about on a daily basis. I don’t use that as a context to negotiate my values—like, ‘If there was a war, how would I feel about that? ‘
Aaron: No, in fact, really it’s about what about today, now? What are the problems happening here, now?
Melissa: Yes! And what can my leaders do to make things better. Here. Now.
2011 is shaping up to be a particularly interesting year for local independent companies at Luminato and audience engagement through social media as these companies reach out to audiences across Toronto.
Lu Xun Blossoms
My official involvement this year is connected to my work with Theatre Smith-Gilmour and their recently launched website which will have regularly updated original and engaging content about the North American Premiere of Lu Xun blossoms at Luminato.
Co-produced by Theatre Smith Gilmour and The Shanghai Centre for the Dramatic Arts, it is the first ever Sino-Canadian theatrical co-production.
Necessary Angel is another local company involved in Luminato 2011. In fact, it has not one, but TWO shows in the festival this year. It’s probably a testament to the general consensus on how important/boundary pushing Necessary Angel is that no one has really complained about this fact.
The company is running two separate audience engagement initiatives for the shows through their Facebook page:
For the production Tout Comme Elle, audience members are solicited to submit pictures of their shoes and the stories they tell. Participants are entered into a draw to win dinner and tickets to a show.
Andromache is recruiting
For the production Andromache – something pretty crazy is happening:
The production is casting one of the roles, “the recruit”, through a Facebook competition facilitated by the Andromache Facebook App where potential “recruits” upload their photo and key info before being voted on by other facebook users who access the Andromache ap. The top three vote-getters will receive an interview with internationally acclaimed director Graham McLaren and one will be hired to play the role.
No shit. Forget that agent that doesn’t return your calls: Just get on Facebook, get that photo up there, and get your friends voting. There is work out there after all. (Please note: I uploaded my own photo and profile and I am not doing well. Come on Praxis Blog readers – don’t you want more weird blog posts about using Facebook to get work with important theatre companies?)
On a producing level, this is already a slam dunk in my mind – I can see that the number of people that “Like” the Facebook page, which is part of the process of voting, has gone up significantly since these competitions started. As Facebook groups become de-activated in favour of Pages, while Toronto remains a city with exceptionally high Facebook saturation – using participation in an international festival to leverage your Facebook Page Fans this way is pretty darn smart. Here’s hoping they get an actor in the top three that can play the part…
With the growth of the arts sector easily outpacing the growth of public investment, we have found ourselves in a difficult situation, asking questions about how to protect and sustain our current assets while nurturing the growth and development of future generations of artists.
The capitalization models that succeeded in past phases of industry growth make less sense today when existing organizations are struggling to find stability and so many new high potential ideas and innovations are left unfunded by government sources.
What are the new business models and resourcing strategies that will provide a platform for the next generation of development in the sector? How can we better engage the private sector and form new partnerships that will enhance our potential for success?
Beyond lagging public investment, the arts sector is also adapting to other environmental shifts. Previously declining levels of arts education in the public school system have produced a generation of adults entering the work force with little relationship to the arts. The advancement of digital technology, particularly in the last decade has had a profound effect on the creation and distribution of creative content to audiences, presenting both new challenges and opportunities for the sector.
How have these shifts affected audience participation? How have we adapted? What are the barriers to fully leveraging new digital opportunities?
Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creation began on Monday, and I’ve been able to observe two very different processes that are part of the New Creations section of the Festival.
Peter Fechter - Click to enlarge
There are free events almost every day until May 21st, and it’s a great way to see some really innovative work-in-progress.
As a response to the processes that I observed, I made pieces that reflect what I saw, but that share many common materials.
The Proust Project: modelling clay, acrylic paint, twine.
Peter Fechter: modelling clay, acrylic paint, wood dowel.
You can check out the entire schedule for the Festival by clicking here.
Both of these pieces – and others – will be exhibited in the lobby of the Berkeley Street Theatre as of Sunday if you would like to see them in person.
Shira Leuchter makes performance stuff and other art stuff. She recently worked with UnSpun Theatre on a new piece that was performed as part of Harbourfront’s HATCH program this April. She collects all of her shallowest thoughts here.
There will be music, food, a cash bar, and a communal creative activity. The activity will be a surprise, but they promise it won’t be hard and that it will be a ton of fun. Meet fellow female artists from other practices and disciplines and expand your creative circle. RSVP to winterbirdarts(at)gmail(dot)com so they know how many surprises to make.
Named after Harold Kandel: a theatre fan, social activist and avid heckler – winning a Harold is a big deal and probably means you put in years of tireless work in some way that has been essential to the theatrical ecosystem. Going to the Harolds is also fun because heckling and consumption of adult beverages is encouraged.
Below is the list of who was Harold-ed last night and now becomes an organizer of the 2012 event. See what you get for working so hard Haroldees: something new to organize and produce!
2011 Harold Award Winners
Patty Gail Peaker
Ken McDougall Award
Check out this great tribute video to Harold created by Kirsten Johnson
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”