There is a group of young ladies from Notre Dame High School that would like to have their say about the production Jesus Chrysler, and how it has impacted them.
Christine Horne (r) plays poet Dorothy Livesay in Jesus Chrysler. She is mentoring an all-women teen theatre collective through the Paprika Festival who attended Praxis Theatre rehearsals last week.
That is us, an all-women cast with no one over the age of eighteen. We are participating in the Paprika festival for youth under 21, and it’s fairly safe to say our experience in theatre is limited to the classroom. In fact, the production we submitted came out of an exam six of us wrote and performed about oppression last year. It would be a fair assessment to say our progress has branched off from an oppression themed production, and we are currently collaboratively mounting something more to do with generation gaps and perceptions.
We work strongly together, primarily because we have been classmates for almost four years, and after working together for several months, Paprika decided to give us a mentor. Enter stage right, Christine Horne, our mentor and outside eye. She continues to work with us, and recently gave us the opportunity to watch one of the rehearsals for the show, Jesus Chrysler.
As a group of eight teenage women presenting their first production, we were grateful that the people of Jesus Chrysler let us sit in for one of their rehearsals. We had no idea what to expect as we walked into Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, we thought there would be some fierce director with a megaphone and a prima donna that always needed water. Those hoping Jesus Chrysler would have those two elements would have been severely disappointed.
When we entered, we entered a very calm atmosphere. After we were introduced to the team, they began their rehearsal, starting with notes and then beginning a full dress run through. They told each of us to move to different areas of the audience positions so they would know if they were being heard. If a line was getting lost we let Michael, the director, know. We watched Christine in action, working with Margaret Evans and Keith Barker, and noticed the cooperation between the actors and the director.
Any notes the director gave were listened to, but if the actors had any notes, they were heard as well. Someone that also really impressed us was Rebecca Powell, their stage manager, who seemed always focused. The way they worked with one another was a prelude to the actual show itself, it was clear they all had a common goal: tell the story.
Stage Manager Becky Powell, pictured here in tech,
We came in not really sure about what the play was about, or the story. None of us knew who Eugenia ‘Jim’ Watts was until they showed us, on stage. We were greeted with an intriguing personality, and had no idea this was a character born from someone with a strong history in Toronto until that time. After we left, we all checked in with each other to find out what we were all feeling.
There was this resonance towards the show, even if most of us didn’t know the story, simply because we could see that they all wanted to tell her story, and tell it well. This is something we weren’t doing for our own production, because we didn’t have a clear idea as to what story we were telling. They’re presenting a show about a woman that you want to know about. We got to an all girls Catholic school, focused on women’s empowerment, and we have never heard of the name Eugenia ‘Jim’ Watts. This is a woman we should know about, especially if we’re even remotely focused on the topic of empowerment.
There’s more to this play than the woman, but what we took away from the rehearsal was realizing the power of wanting to tell a story and realizing the importance of a story.
We hope the last two nights went well, and we are excited to come see it on Saturday. Thank you Jesus Chrysler.
Jesus Chrysler runs for two more nights at the Buddies in Bad Times Rhubarb Festival. Rumour has it that Saturday night is selling out, so if you want to avoid disappointment tonight could be your best bet. Click here for tickets and more information.
Mother Russia and the Socialist Fatherland: Women and the Communist Party of Canada, 1932-1941. By Nancy Butler
With specific reference to the activism of Dorothy Livesay and Jim Watts.
by Michael Wheeler
Because Praxis Theatre has been researching 1930s Toronto artist/activists off and on for the past year-and-a-half, I assumed I was already aware of the content of a link sent to the creative team by Jesus Chrysler performer Christine Horne in an email she sent titled: “giant essay on jim and dee”.
The link to the Next Year Country blog led to the document above: a 467-page Queens University PhD History thesis Nancy Butler posted for all to read via embed-able free online publishing software. (As the director of an earlier iteration of this project that included significant access to our content and process, I appreciate the availability of this work online.) The focus of Butler’s thesis are the two protagonists of the Rhubarb stage of our show Jesus Chrysler going on this week at The Rhubarb Festival: Director Jim Watts and poet Dorothy Livesay.
So if you would like a little light reading on an academic perspective of what we have been working on lately, here’s a summary of what the thesis investigates:
Through a close examination of the cultural work of two prominent middle-class female members, Dorothy Livesay, poet, journalist and sometime organizer, and Eugenia (‘Jean’ or ‘Jim’) Watts, reporter, founder of the Theatre of Action, and patron of the Popular Front magazine New Frontier, this thesis utilizes the insights of queer theory, notably those of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler, not only to reconstruct both the background and consequences of the CPC’s construction of ‘woman’ in the 1930s, but also to explore the significance of the CPC’s strategic deployment of heteronormative ideas and ideals for these two prominent members of the Party.
"People from Aurora don't go to theatre school," Christine Horne, 2011
Last summer I set out on an exploratory series of audio interviews to gather candid thoughts and feelings on the theatre school experience. The first Exit Interview post laid out my reasons for embarking on this project. It has for numerous reasons taken until now to finally get my first interview online. But it will not be the last. If you enjoy this one, please stay tuned for more to come very soon!
Christine Horne is one of the most talented and successful young actors I have had the pleasure of knowing. I was also blessed to have once directed her in the 2009 Praxis Summerworks production Underneath. Christine’s introduction to the world of acting was by her own admission, somewhat accidental.
(If you would like to download this Exit Interview as a podcast, click the arrow above on the right.)
Christine Horne, York University, 2004
Christine Horne is an actor and producer hailing from Aurora, Ontario. Recent theatre credits include Romeo and Juliet (Canadian Stage), The Turn of The Screw (DVxT Theatre – Dora Award), Miss Julie: Sheh’mah (KICK Theatre – Dora nomination), Underneath (Praxis/Summerworks), Twelfth Night (Resurgence), Bluebeard (GromKat/Toronto Fringe), The Seagull (Wordsmyth), and Gorey Story, which she also co-created (Thistle Project – 4 Dora nominations).
Film and television credits include The Stone Angel (VFCC and MethodFest nominations), Othello, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, Little Films About Big Moments, Flashpoint, Republic of Doyle, Rookie Blue, Befriend & Betray, and King. Upcoming: Jesus Chrysler (Praxis/Rhubarb), and Andromache (Necessary Angel/Luminato). Christine is the Artistic Co-Director of The Thistle Project, Artistic Producer of KICK Theatre, and a graduate of the Acting Program at York University.
Once upon a time, Thistle Project founders Christine Horne and Matthew Romantini were workshopping an original adaptation of Peer Gynt with themselves in the lead roles. Then one day everyone was like, “Wait a second. Christine is simply not old enough to play this part. It doesn’t work.”
So Christine was replaced by Susan Coyne. Burn on her. That’s what she gets for starting her own theatre company: the opportunity to be a producer for other more widely known actors in a role she helped to create. But she’s not bitter. See their conversation below. mw
You’re Susan Coyne! What the fuck are you doing working for us??
Oh my goodness! Did you think you’d hired someone else? Martha Burns, maybe. We’re often mistaken for each other. I could give her a call, explain the situation, maybe she could- oh, no. Wait. She’s doing a George F. Walker play at Factory. Sorry. I’m so sorry… I think you might be stuck with me.
How do you imagine your dressing room at the Holy Trinity will compare to that at, say, the Stratford Festival of Canada?
I imagine it will be similar: a spacious room, with a view of the swanboats on the river. My own beer fridge stocked with my favourite beverage, Gimli Goose. A security guard at the door to stave off creditors.
What’s your feeling about established, well-respected actresses stealing roles away from their younger, struggling, unemployed counterparts?
I assume you’re referring to the unfortunate situation in which the producer (Christine Horne) fired the original actor (Christine Horne) and cast me instead. It’s not often that I hear I’ve been hired because someone was looking for a Christine Horne type- but wrinklier. I think I like it.
What’s the deal with you and Chekhov? Ibsen wants to know.
I’m a boy, I’m a girl, I’m a seagull…. No that’s not it.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one Artistic Co-Director with you, who would you choose: Matthew Romantini or me?
You for your intelligence, grace, compassion and sensitivity of course. But in the end I’d have to go with Matthew because he’s so damn sexy. Also I’m completely at his mercy since he knows the lines better than I. What has been your least favourite thing about playing Peer Gynt?
Having to forgo wearing my pushup bra and lipstick. I tried, but the director wouldn’t let me.
And last but not least… Why should anybody come see this thing?
Because it’s a great play, though you might not be able to tell that on the page. Because it’s completely modern in its mixing of styles and genres. It’s fantastical and bawdy and biting and surreal and yet, at it’s heart, deeply spiritual. I think Erika Batdorf has directed a thoroughly entertaining production, unlike anything else you are likely to see this year. I kind of wish I could see it. Hey- you know the lines. Maybe you could step in?
Christine Horne is currently performing in Praxis Theatre’s production of Underneath at Summerworks.
She is also Artistic Producer of Kick Theatre and Artistic Co-Director of The Thistle Project with whom she is producing and co-creating Peer Gynt, adapted for two actors at the Church of the Holy Trinity opening in January 2010.
“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.”