Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.

Category: Tea with D’Agostino

October 17, 2011, by

by Melissa D’Agostino

It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of sitting down to tea with some Toronto theatre folks to specifically NOT talk about theatre.  I’m happy to report that I got to do just that with some folks from The Original Norwegian to talk about everything BUT their latest show, Guns & Roses.  Remarkably, we also did not address the topics guns, roses or the 80’s super rock group (and legends) Guns AND Roses.  I can’t tell if that means I’m doing a good job, or a bad job at this, but regardless, welcome back to Tea with D’Agostino!

Guests: Julian DeZotti (Artistic Director and Writer/Director of Guns & Roses), Rebecca Applebaum (Actor), Brendan McMurtry-Howlett (Actor), Peyson Rock (Actor)

On the menu: Earl Grey Tea, Croissants, Brie baked with sundried tomatoes and garlic, crackers, carrots and some chocolate-covered almonds (cause…why not?)

Thumbs and Apps

Melissa: How do you think High School is different now than when we were in school?

Julian: Well, now kids have phones, and apps and video cameras with them.  I didn’t have that.

Melissa: And how has that made school life different, do you think? Or has it?

Brendan: I did recently hear that kids are developing their thumb as the dominant finger.

Melissa: Oh.

Rebecca: What was our dominant finger before?

Brendan: The index finger. So, instead of  pressing an elevator button with the index finger, the younger generation is pressing it with their thumb.

Peyson: Because of video games and cell phones.

Rebecca: And then they’re going to start mutating and get longer?

Brendan: Right.

Melissa: I wonder how they measure that, though.  There must be some test.

Rebecca: I’ve done enough paid tests to know they have tests.


Melissa: You have?

Brendan: Have you ever done one of those sleep tests?

Rebecca: I’ve done that one.

Melissa: Really?

Rebecca: Well, I didn’t do that one for money, I did that for myself.

Julian: Where you have to sleep in a controlled environment?

Brendan: Yeah.  I could not do that.

Peyson: Well now they have that iPhone app that registers what’s happening when you sleep and if you’re waking up.

Rebecca: What? Really?

Melissa: Yeah, I just read about that in Toronto Life. It’s connected to these sleep clinics – you can determine your sleep pattern.

Peyson: Yeah.

Rebecca: How does it sense it? I mean – where do you put it on your body, or…

Peyson: No, I think you just set it on your bedside so it can register it. I think it’s the camera, or maybe it’s the gyroscope.

Rebecca: What’s that? The gyroscope?

Peyson: A gyroscope can sense where you are, like, spatially.  Like, in a driving game, video game—

Rebecca: Oh.  Then it would have to be on you.

Peyson: Yeah, and I don’t think it is.  So…I think it’s just beside you.

Melissa: We’d have to do some research.

Julian: Is there an app you wish existed that doesn’t?

Peyson: I have an idea for an app.  It might actually exist – I never looked into it.  I remember when I was a kid I’d hear a song on the radio and think ‘Oh man, what’s that song?’.  And then they came out with—

Melissa: Shazam, right?

PEYSON: Yeah, Shazam.  But what about the times that you don’t hear a song, but you have one in your head? And you know a couple of notes and you’re like (hums a tune)…

Melissa: Yeah.

Peyson: And you’re like, ‘But I don’t know’ –

Melissa: So you want a mind reader app?


Peyson: Ha.  No, no.  I mean you can put in the genre of it to narrow it down.  Do you know any lyrics to it? You can narrow it down.  Then you sing whatever notes you know and it just keeps narrowing it down.  And you keep making selections and eventually it offers you a song and you’re like, ‘Yeah! That’s the song I keep singing!’

I don’t know how that would work, but…

Melissa: That would be an AMAZING app.  I guess you can’t just sing into your Shazam, right?

Julian: Nope.  Will not compute.

Melissa: That’s right.  Cannot identify.

Tea: The Gateway Drug

Julian: So I was wondering…it seems that a tea party…I mean…would that have been a pre-drink for something? I mean, historically, instead of getting together to drink alcohol, they were like, ‘Okay we’ll get together and have tea, and then smoke opium.’?

Melissa: Were you hoping that there would be opium?


Julian: No, I just feel like this tea with ceremony feels like it’s a gateway to something else.

Melissa: Really? That’s an interesting theory.

Julian: I mean, not like a gateway GATEWAY.

Brendan: It was just an excuse for old ladies to socialize.

Rebecca: Back in the day when they didn’t have phones.

Melissa: Yeah.

Peyson: It was a gateway to gossip.

Drunk History, Tom Green & Pauly Shore

Rebecca: Have you guys seen the Drunk History web series?

ALL: Yeah.

Rebecca: I feel like I learn more factual things from those videos.


Rebecca: That one about Oney Judge? I almost peed my pants.


Julian: Has anyone actually ever peed their pants laughing?

Melissa: Oh yeah.

Rebecca: Definitely.

Julian: I don’t think I have.

Melissa: You’ve never peed your pants laughing?

Julian: I’ve almost had a heart attack, like, I literally couldn’t breathe from laughing, but—

Rebecca: And your bladder didn’t give out?

Julian: Nope.


Melissa: I’ve peed.

Rebecca: Me too.

Peyson: Like, a full-out pee?

Melissa/Rebecca: No./Not full out.

Melissa: Just a moment when everything releases and you’re like, “Oh! Shit!”

Julian: Oh, I see, so a little bit.

Melissa: Yeah.

Rebecca: I remember it happened once in my parents’ basement when I was watching Tom Green.

Julian: (guffaws) Tom Green!

Rebecca: The original Tom Green.  On Rogers.

Brendan: Oh yeah.

Julian: Cable 10 on Friday?

Rebecca: Yeah.  I lost it.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

Brendan: You should write Tom Green a letter like that.

Rebecca: Are you friends with him?

Melissa: Do you have a direct line to Tom Green?

Brendan: No.

Peyson: Well, he probably has time to read fan mail.

Julian: Well he went back to writing a cable access show, but in the States. But he’s doing the same thing that he was 10 years ago.

Melissa: Really?

Brendan: Yeah.

Melissa: That’s kinda sad.  Or maybe not.

Rebecca: Yeah, maybe it’s good.

Julian: Maybe it’s what he’s best at.  I don’t know. Our DJ Fraser was saying that he was playing at the Thompson Hotel on Saturday and Pauly Shore came in with his girls.

Rebecca: His girls?

Julian: I mean, I haven’t heard from Pauly Shore for a long time. But apparently, his mother ran the Comedy Store in LA, right? And then he went to take it over and he bankrupted it.

Melissa: (feigning shock)You mean Pauly Shore’s not an ace businessman?

Julian: No, apparently not.

Melissa: I can’t believe it!


Julian: I thought after Son in Law, I mean –

Peyson: Son in Law’s probably the best one.

Brendan: Uh – Encino Man!

Peyson: Oh yeah! You’re right.

Melissa: (suddenly remembering something I was happy to forget) Encino Man? Wow.  I have totally blocked out Pauly Shore’s entire career.

Julian: And existence.

Melissa: Pretty Much.

Julian: Yep.

High School, Russians & Kurt Browning


Click to enlarge

The Original Norwegian, in association with Breakaway Addiction Services & Mixed Company Theatre present:

Guns & Roses

A play written & directed by Julian DeZotti, starring Rebecca Applebaum, Zarrin Darnell-Martin, Alex Fiddes, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, Peyson Rock, and DJ Fase

PREVIEW: Monday, October 17th @ 7:30pm – $10

GALA NIGHT: Monday, October 24th @ 7:30pm – $30

Proceeds from evening performance go directly to sending students from under-serviced high schools to see the show for free. You can also make a charitable tax-receipted donation by visiting their partner organization, Breakaway Addiction Services on the Canada Helps site here.

Melissa D’Agostino is an award-winning actor, writer, singer and producer.  She also likes tea.  Check her out at

May 27, 2011, by
1 comment

by Melissa D’Agostino

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.

Melissa: Yes!

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?

Matt: Hmmm.

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.

Melissa: Yeah.

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.

Melissa: Wow.

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.

Ron: Right.

Matt: Would you ever do a naked centerfold?

Naomi: Are you asking me to do a centerfold?

Matt: Um…okay.

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?

Ron: No.

Naomi: Have you?

Ron: Nope.

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.

Melissa: Ooh.

Matt: Is that what you’re saying? Is that what you figured out?

Naomi: You heard it here first, folks.

Matt: Amazing.

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

May 24, 2011, by

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 us Autoshow, 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.

Julie: No!

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.

Aaron: Wow.

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.

Melissa: Okay.

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.

Aaron: Scary.

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.

Melissa: Okay.

Aaron: You know, because Henry Ford is so famous for anti-Semitism.

Melissa: Yes.

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.

Aaron: Totally.

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.

You can catch Yichud (Seclusion) at Theatre Passe Muraille from May 21st to the 29th, and then at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival from June 3rd to the 6th.

Melissa D’Agostino is an award-winning actor, writer, singer and producer.  She also likes tea.  Check her out at

March 4, 2011, by

by Melissa D’Agostino

Welcome to Tea with D’Agostino, an interview series where members of Toronto’s theatre community come over to my place for tea and homemade treats, and we sit around to not talk about theatre.  That’s right: theatre artists not talking about theatre.  It’s time.

My inaugural interview is with the core members of Project: Humanity who recently doubled their goal to raise 5000 tokens for Youth Without Shelter in Rexdale through a massive campaign that took over TTC Subway stations called Tokens4Change. They managed to raise 10,000 tokens and raise awareness through live performances by both youth and professionals within the subway stations, as well as a texting campaign that is still active (text TOKENS to 45678 to donate).

They also recently opened The Middle Place at Canadian Stage, a piece of verbatim theatre written by Andrew Kushnir based on on-camera interviews with the residents of Youth Without Shelter. The Middle Place is a product of the De-Shelter Initiative they began in 2007, and is the inaugural project emerging from the community work they are currently engaged in.

I sat down with Andrew, Dan, Antonio and Catherine for some tea.

On the menu today:

Teas: Cream of Earl Grey, Forbidden Fruit, Bravissimo

Treats: Homemade blueberry scones and finger sandwiches

Melissa: Thanks for doing this, folks.

Andrew: No problem.  We want to win the trip

Melissa: Oh right, one of the interview groups wins an all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas.

Andrew: Really? That’s great.

Melissa: Yeah.  This is a theatre blog so we have lots of money!

Catherine: I can’t remember the last time I had a cucumber sandwich.

Antonio: Um…quarter past never.

On effecting social change:

Melissa: Now, your company started out wanting to effect local and global change, but you seemed to have shifted your focus more on the local.  We’ve talked before, Antonio and I, about how my personal feeling is that that’s how you create global change, through the local.  Do you think there’s another way for you to move into having a more global, or national, or wider affect through the work that you do, or if you see the local as the stepping stone to that?

Antonio: I don’t really think you can be here and affect things globally without being there.  Does that make sense? I’m not totally interested in sending relief, I’m interested in knowing what the culture is around you and figuring out who you are in that ecosystem, and figuring out how you can be a better you, and help people be a better them, and help people develop their own skills and resources. So if I had the money and the this and the that, I would say ‘Here’s a parachute Dan, we’re going to drop you off in this place, go set up a headquarters and make a whole new team that works elsewhere’, and then once you’re there start fixing things locally.   It’s still global change and global awareness, but it’s from a local sensibility.

Melissa: So you’re taking the language that you’ve created as a company, or the…

Antonio: the methods…

Melissa: right, but then tailoring it to that community?

Dan: Yeah, like, what are the fundamental principles behind what we’re doing? And I think our principles and our approach to the work we’re doing is what forced us to be local. What we found, as we tried to do things and approach things authentically, what we found actually connected was local, because that’s what we had access to.  But, even in being ‘local’, we are still entering a community that’s not our community.  So our approach still has to do with getting to know the community, finding out what their needs are, how we can fit in, how we can be helpful—so our result is from that process of getting to know that community.

Antonio: We are interested in saying ‘What is our conversation with this community, and what am I bringing to it and what are they bringing to it?’

On Justin Bieber & Swagger Coaching:

Andrew: Can we talk about Justin Bieber?


Melissa: Actually I was going to ask you about Bieber.

Antonio: Really?

Melissa: Yeah.  We can’t talk about theatre, so…

Andrew: Well there are these two things that are going to come out in this Rolling Stone article—

Antonio—is it out already?

Andrew: It may be out already.  He says abortion is wrong, and arguably under any circumstances—so they asked, ‘What if somebody was raped’, and he sort of said, I’m paraphrasing, ‘Everything happens for a reason’.

Antonio: Yeah, I read it though.

Andrew: You read the actual interview?

Antonio: That’s why I thought it was out already.

Melissa: I think it is out.

Antonio: I just feel like, ‘cause I’ve heard a couple people say ‘Justin Bieber thinks abortion is wrong’, and the other half of that sentence is, ‘I’ve never been in a situation like that and I’m not judging anybody’, so…

Dan: And I think that’s an important side to it.

Antonio: It is!

Dan: I mean are we actually looking to a twelve year old for our worldviews?

Andrew: He’s not twelve.

Dan: Well-

Catherine: He’s 16.  He doesn’t even know how to have sex yet.

Andrew: His music would suggest that he is a fantastic love maker.


Andrew: He also makes a comment about gay people in that interview, and I think maybe this is being spun in a certain way, but, he says it’s a person’s decision whether they are gay or not. So people have pounced on that because is he saying—does he think that homosexuality is a choice, which would be a terrible idea to advance.

Antonio: Sure.

Catherine: But if he’s coming from the religious background that the abortion comments come from—

Antonio: No, he’s from Stratford.

Catherine: His family’s very religious.  He’s all about God gave me this, God is bringing me this way, so if that’s the background from which he’s coming, at 16 years old when you do not understand action versus consequence, the world’s bigger picture, all of these things, then it’s just doctrine, right?

Antonio: He’s a kid, right? So he says things the way they come out.

Andrew: And frankly, he can have whatever view he wants. I don’t actually care what his view is.

Dan: Well—

Andrew: It would significantly alter my appreciation for him as a, you know…

Antonio: You might return the album?


Melissa: (to Andrew, and somewhat surprised) do you like Justin Bieber? Are you a fan?

Andrew: I’m actually more impressed by Jaden Smith.  I think he’s a good little actor, and he’s got that, what’s that called that Bieber had? Not a ‘strut coach’ but a –

Antonio: Swagger?

Andrew: Yeah, like a ‘Swagger Coach’

Antonio: Oh my God! Why do I not have that job?

Andrew: I know.

Antonio: I could be a Swagger Coach.

Dan: Yeah.

Melissa: But do you like the ‘Swagger’? I find it so fake. He was on Ellen and they were dancing, and he wasn’t dancing.  He was posing.

Antonio: I find a lot of his dance moves suspect. They’re very weird.  He’s not a good dancer, so when he does them it looks like he’s punching the air. It’s like punch the air, kick the tiger, turn, turn.

Melissa: Kick the tiger?

Andrew: Isn’t it like the Michael Jackson ‘distract the tiger, kick the tiger move’?

Melissa: Wow, I am clearly missing out on Bieber’s moves.

On Distracting the Tiger:


The Middle Place runs until March 12th at the Berkeley St. Theatre.  Click here for tickets and info.

To make a $5 donation to Tokens4Change, and help raise even more tokens for Youth Without Shelter, text TOKENS to 45678. For more information visit or

Melissa D’Agostino is an award-winning actor, writer, singer and producer.  She also likes tea.  Check her out at