Playwright’s Log – Opening Night

Opening night – an exciting, anxiety-ridden and thrilling experience for a playwright. Sometimes I think we must be masochists. It is a nerve-wracking experience watching your play performed on opening night. After years of work, hours and hours of laboring over the script, several readings and workshops… you finally find out if it works when it is before a live audience. You put it out there, your creation, for the world to judge.

Being the artistic director of the company as well as the playwright meant I had plenty of distractions the day of opening – dealing with the reception and final marketing. It also means I’ve had to wear two hats during the process and ultimately worry about both the script and the production as a whole. Lots of support from our great team though!

EDEN nightmare footage by Jordan Popowich

We certainly had a great audience to kick off the run! A full house with several of the company’s supporters and friends willing us to do well. The actors really shone and were able to feed off of that positive energy. The technical elements ran smoothly, despite the fact that the video had randomly decided to stop working mere moments before show time. Our tech genius, Chris Coyne, trouble-shot once again all the while remaining calm. It was up and running for performance. It’s amazing what he has been able to pull off in terms of video sequencing with the footage our video designer Jordan Popowich has provided.

Chris, along with myself and the director, chose to watch from the balcony. Removed from the audience so we wouldn’t need to expose everyone to our nervous energy. We all breathed a sigh of relief when it ran smoothly. Now just the rest of the run to go!

It felt great to see the play out there and all the components together. It’s thrilling, but you still second guess and see things that you may want to tweak down the road. What a crazy business this is! I can’t wait to see how the rest of the audiences respond.

EDEN Feature – Ti Hallas

Ti Hallas had the chance to travel to Australia this month, but instead chose to stay in Winnipeg in order to perform in EDEN. She plays Stacy, the Minister of Labour, who is forced to question her life choices. Here are her responses to our questionnaire:

1. What is one thing every actor needs to know? It’s not about you.

2. What does every great story have to have? Guts.

3. What is your favourite word?  I love words. Today my favourite is smooch.

4. If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? A compassionate planet.

Complete the sentences:

5. If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… on my way to Australia.

6. The most surprising thing that happened to me was… moving back to Winnipeg.

7. A common misconception of me is… that I don’t like to party. I do!

8. You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… Jane Goodall II.

Ti Hallas as Stacy in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

Ti co-founded Chinook Theatre which toured throughout western Canada and produced Canada’s first Fringe Theatre Festival in Edmonton. During her 10 years with Chinook, Ti was actor, director, playwright, stage-manager, tour-coordinator and General Manager. Ti has worked in television as actor, narrator, host and broadcast journalist, for the NFB, the CBC, and the Alberta Access Network, for CBC radio, and in numerous industrial films. She has documentary and docudrama writing credits.   She holds professional teaching certificates for three provinces and has taught Acting, Dance and Voice at various institutions including Grant MacEwan and Laurentian Universities.   Since returning to Winnipeg Ti has performed in AlbeeFest, TremblayFest, and FemFest, toured with Green Kids and performed in several independent film productions, commercials and fundraisers. She is a longstanding member of CAEA and ACTRA, has served as Councilor for ACTRA MB for 8 years and sits on the Community Outreach Committee for PAL Winnipeg.

EDEN Feature – Tracy Penner

Tracy is a new addition to EDEN, but a very welcome addition. She plays Delilah, a character who struggles to survive and find a better life. Tracy likes to keep rehearsals entertaining with her quick wit and talent for puns. She thought these questions were tricky to answer:

1. What is one thing every actor needs to know? How to listen.

2. What does every great story have to have? Conflict.

3. What is your favourite word? Supercalifragilisticexpealidotious.

4. If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? World peace.

Complete the sentences:

5. If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… serving.

6. The most surprising thing that happened to me was… becoming an actor.

7. A common misconception of me is… that I might be something other than normal.

8. You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… a clown.

Tracy Penner as Delilah in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

Tracy is thrilled to take part in Sarasvàti’s world premiere of EDEN! Other Winnipeg companies Tracy’s worked with include Zone 41 (Village Wooing at ShawFest 2012), Theatre Projects Manitoba, MTC, SIR, WJT, and Dancing Hen Productions. She’s worked in Edmonton with Catalyst Theatre, Shadow Theatre, Concrete Theatre and many others. Tracy is a graduate of the University of Alberta.

EDEN Feature – Marsha Knight

Marsha Knight has also been involved with EDEN through several workshops and readings. It is great to have her on board for the full incarnation of the play and of her character, Essa. Essa is an elder who must decide how best to guide her people and in particular how to help the young generation. Here are her answers to our questions from April 24th:

1. What is one thing every actor needs to know? If you can’t handle being told ‘no’ – don’t get into the business.  Because when it comes to auditioning or submitting proposals, you’ll hear ‘no’ a lot more than you hear ‘yes’.

2. What does every great story have to have? hhmmmm.  If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise? Every great story has to have…. a reason? an audience? But why did the tree fall in the first place?

3. What is your favourite word? I don’t have a favourite word.  How about saying ‘not printable’.  That way, people may think my favourite word is a straight-forward/rich/good old-fashioned expletive. Actually – to think for a second – my favourite word is ‘Thank-you’.  And I’ve made a point for learning how to say it in a few languages.

4. If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? Three more wishes.

Complete the sentence:

6. If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… making my supper before heading out to work.  Work being today’s rehearsal.  The crew has been busy setting up the theatre and today, our rehearsal time has moved from morning/afternoon to afternoon/evening.  Excited to see the new digs today.

7. You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… working at the Canadian Space Agency – aerodynamics, space exploration, pilot, astronaut.

Marsha Knight as Essa in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

Marsha’s been in the industry for over 15 years, both on and off stage.  Her latest stage work was Norm Foster’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun for Theater Northwest.  She has been a part of the EDEN workshops since its early drafts.  She has also recently worked with Sarasvati Productions on developing Jail Baby, a new play based on drama sessions with criminalized women.

EDEN Feature – Andrea Del Campo

Next up as our featured actor, is Andrea del Campo who plays Ev. Andrea has been involved in the show since the 2009 workshop. Ev is a teenage rebel with a cause. Andrea now lives in Toronto but comes back to Winnipeg often to work! Here is what she had to say:

What is one thing every actor needs to know? No room for egos! Unless you have won an Oscar or donated millions to charity.

What does every great story have to have? Pain.

What is your favourite word? Dessert.

If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? To have a private, on-call masseuse.

Complete the sentences:

If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… sleeping.

The most surprising thing that happened to me was… getting curly hair all of a sudden when I hit puberty.

A common misconception of me is… my age.

You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… a rockstar or a housewife on a farm.

Andrea del Campo as Ev in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

Andrea is delighted to continue with EDEN, having played Ev in the 2009 workshop reading. A Winnipegger living in Toronto, Andrea works as an actor, singer and improviser. She has travelled to festivals all over Canada with critically acclaimed Winnipeg improv troupe, Outside Joke, and has performed with various groups in Toronto, including Ghost Jail Theatre and Bad Dog Theater. Andrea’s has appeared onstage at PTE, MTYP and in Strike!, television credits include Men With Brooms and Wingin’ It, and film credits include My Awkward Sexual Adventure and Open Window, official selection of TIFF 2010. Andrea thanks everyone who worked on the world premier of EDEN, as well as her Mom, Ray, and OJ.

EDEN Feature – Kevin P. Gabel

In order to let our audiences get to know some of the actors in EDEN better, we asked them to answer a few questions. It’s a bit like Inside the Actors Studio.

Since he was the quickest draw, in terms of replying, we’ll start with the youngest actor in the cast. Kevin P. Gabel plays Adam, the resistant hero of the play who is forced into a journey of self-discovery. Kevin told us he stayed up late toiling over the answers to these questions.

1. What is one thing every actor needs to know? How to listen.

2. What does every great story have to have? A question that needs answering.

3. What is your favourite word? “Groovy.

4. If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? A truckload of grant money.

Complete the sentences:

5. If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… looking at my script.

6. The most surprising thing that happened to me was… winning a watch for a random draw prize.

7. A common misconception of me is… people think I’m Jewish.

8. You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… a dragon.

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam; photo by Janet Shum

Some of Kevin’s stage credits include the University of Winnipeg’s production of Howard Barker’s The Possibilities and last year’s five-star Fringe Festival hit Brain Cravers: The Curse of Extollo. On film, he has appeared in Shelagh Carter’s debut feature Passionflower, as well as a number of short films including Deprivation, The Hell of It, and Rush Hour Paul. He is also the award-winning writer-director of such short films as The Projectionist, Lindsey, and The Drive Home. Kevin is currently studying in the University of Winnipeg honours acting program. The Drive Home was just nominated for 5 awards at the U of W Student Film Festival!

EDEN Log – Week 3

EDEN Playwright’s Log – Hope McIntyre

Yesterday we moved out of the rehearsal hall! Monday we load in to the theatre and we open on Friday. Hard to believe how quickly the time is going. We have an intensive four days of tech coming up but it is exciting to see it take shape. Tracy Penner, our fabulous Delilah in the play, said to me yesterday “your baby is almost done.” After so many years of working on the piece it does feel very much like I’ve created something very personal, although I can’t compare it to a human child, it will be a very special thing to share it with the world as well as being extremely nerve-wracking. At the same time it won’t ever feel like it is complete. I’m sure there will be adjustments after seeing it before an audience and hopefully with publication and second production…

Andrea del Campo and Tracy Penner in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

This week was a mix of run-throughs of the play, working sections that needed cleaning up, costume fittings and final videotaping. The actors have made huge leaps thanks to director Sharon Bajer. It was great to have Wab Kinew take on the role of Eduardo, a character who appears on video at a key moment in the play. Our tech genius, Chris Coyne, also brought cameras in so the actors could start playing around with the live video feed. It looks really cool and really helps capture the world of the play. A key idea in the play is the power that comes with the control of the air waves.

Music was also starting to be integrated by yesterday and it adds a whole other element to the play. It will be amazing to see it on stage and the lighting design by Dean Cowieson will certainly add a great deal to Kim Griffin’s stark set design. After seeing what great work Jordan Popowich did with the promo video, I can’t wait to see the video sequences he has created for the play. There are some pretty crazy dream sequences that I haven’t seen yet!

It’s also really neat to see how Ali Fulmyk, our props coordinator extraordinaire has dealt with some of the challenges like a video camera that gets smashed to the ground in every performance. Not to mention military uniforms, quick changes and an array of dirtied-up clothes that our costume designer, Kelsey Noren, has had to deal with.

Of course the week before opening also means ramping up with media coverage and promotions. Our administrator, Robyn Pooley, has been very busy in the office working on all of this. Actor Andrea del Campo was on both CKUW’s Say It Sista and Eat Your Arts and Vegetables last Thursday. Marsha Knight will be on the NCI morning show on Tuesday and we hope to have a wide array of media out to our media call on April 25th.

Marsha Knight and Ti Hallas in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

I’m starting to feel like the host of a party, hoping lots of people will show up. Winnipeg is so great, but there is always lots going on. I can’t wait to share the play and mostly the great work all of these artists have been doing. Hopefully everyone can make it out!

For performance dates and tickets check out the EDEN web page.

EDEN Promo Video Just Released

We are extremely excited to share our new promo video for the world premiere of EDEN by Hope McIntyre, April 27 to May 13. It’s a great sneak peek and beautifully shot by Jordan Popowich.

For full info on the play and to book tickets go to the EDEN webpage.

EDEN Log – Week 2

EDEN Playwright’s Log – Hope McIntyre

We’ve just finished the second week of rehearsals and wrapped it up with a first stumble-through of the play. It’s wonderful to see the play take shape in a first run and get a real sense of how it all fits together. The actors get a real feeling for their character’s through-line and the designers get a clear sense of technical needs. This show does certainly have its technical challenges with both recorded video and live video feed. There is a camera on stage that will project live footage but also an actor offstage who has video conversations with characters on stage. This all means balancing the rehearsal time with working the live action and shooting video footage. It’s amazing though to picture what it will be like when it all comes together!

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam and Andrea del Campo as Ev; Photo by Janet Shum

As things continue to progress beautifully in the rehearsal hall, I am still hit by things outside that echo the world of the play. For example, last Saturday when I was reading the paper I came across an article about refugees fleeing Syria who are using video to prove the government is massacring citizens (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/syrian-refugees-bring-tales-of-horror-146514835.html). There were some lines that seemed to have come straight from the script for EDEN. This relevancy of the piece is sad. When writing the script I was really projecting forward to explore what would happen if a culture of fear continued to dominate, a culture where those who are different or disagree are branded terrorists and sanctioned. Unfortunately, with the global situation we don’t have to project forward to see the extremes in the play. In fact the research the team has been doing has found many historical examples that echo the play.

Throughout the rehearsals, director Sharon Bajer, and the cast have been drawing on many sources. In fact Sharon has been consistently referencing 24 with Keifer Sutherland. There is a character in the play very similar to Jack Bauer, except Jack Bauer is seen as a hero. It will be interesting to see if the audience sees George, played by Tom Soares, to be justifiable in his interrogation techniques. Some of the cast also recently saw The Hunger Games and found many parallels. But again, real life trumps fiction as Ti Hallas who is playing the Minister of Labour, Stacy, was intrigued by reports that our current Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt allegedly asked the RCMP to “arrest these animals” after Air Canada workers slow clapped and sarcastically said “Oh, great job” to her as she walked through Lester B. Pearson Airport on March 22nd. Of course there have been two sides to this story but it all feeds in to what EDEN is exploring – an ‘us and them’ mentality with two versions of the truth.

With such a great group of actors, there were even moments of goose bumps for those of us watching the run yesterday. It’s hard to brag about my own writing but I feel okay saying that the performances will be amazing and the direction has truly brought the script to life. I also was so pleased with having the involvement of grass dancer Wayne Ruby. We shot video of him on Tuesday and he is truly a wonderful dancer and a very special person. I was so impressed with his dedication to the traditions he has chosen to carry forward. He does Pow-Wow Clubs for youth every night of the week at different places in Winnipeg. He is such an important role model to them. Also this week actor Marsha Knight met with our translator and coach to work on the Cree chants in the play. We’ve been pleased to have the support of so many associations and community groups. All of these elements mean there is a lot to keep on top of but they truly make the play into a very special event.

Marsha Knight as Essa; Photo by Janet Shum

The rehearsal hall is also such a positive and creative environment. The apple pie, cookies, Tim bits and chocolates people keep bringing in surely help!

Hard to believe there is less than two weeks until opening – more info and tickets on the EDEN webpage.

EDEN Rehearsal Blog – Hope McIntyre

First week of rehearsals are complete! It’s been an amazing start to the process. At the meet and greet the rehearsal hall was full, several tables surrounded by actors, designers and production team members. It is both rewarding and scary to think all these people are here because I wrote a play.

After a week workshop in January, I’ve been rewriting in whatever spare time I had with the excellent guidance of dramaturg Rick Chafe. His attention to detail is amazing, but he’s also been a great cheerleader – giving encouragement to keep me from feeling overwhelmed. Terrence McNally once said that writing is a supreme act of self-confidence. It does certainly take a lot of guts, particularly to keep working through the fog hoping that in the end things will be clear. Since November, the entire structure of the play has changed. It took a lot to let go of the former skin of the play. To find that balance between letting go of what is not working but to hold on to what I know deep down is vital to the story. Then at the reading on Tuesday to hear yet another completely reworked version and to hope that it works. You think it does but you listen to each word watching for reactions, hoping you’ve made it better not worse. The laughter, at the right spots, are so comforting. Then afterwards just a couple of script notes from Rick and director Sharon Bajer – much better than the pages and pages of notes from the previous months!

Terrence McNally also said you have to love your collaborators. What’s not to love about the great group we have! Not only are they talented artists but they care enough to really think about the piece, provide insights and ask really great questions. Plus they’re fun to be around! Even rehearsing over Easter weekend was made less of a chore when Andrea del Campo, who plays Evelyn, decided to organize an Easter egg hunt over lunch.

Director Sharon Bajer and actor Tracy Penner on lunch break

As a playwright watching director Sharon Bajer clarify each moment with the actors is so valuable. Her experience as an actor and playwright really feeds into her work as a director. She’s not even overwhelmed by the fact we have a lot of video to shoot for the play, Cree translation, technical challenges and a tight rehearsal schedule.

Paula Vogel recommends that the playwright not answer questions directly in the workshop and rehearsal process. Of course the actors keep asking them though. I work hard to listen and observe, to see what they get from the script before explaining anything. I’m much more interested in their choices and discoveries than in telling them what I intended. It’s the only way to find out if the script is off the mark.

Okay, yes, it has been an exhausting week with some final script massaging and tweaking. It meant having to ignore everything else for a while, but it is so exciting to see it coming to life! It is a joy to see the work of our amazing design team, to see the actors finding a way to deliver each moment so effectively and to also continue the investigation of the themes that propelled me to spend seven years working on this piece.

Check out the EDEN webpage for tickets and info.

Kevin Anderson as Ophidian in video by Jordan Popowich