Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Three Hats

So I realized just in the last couple of days that after almost 10 months of blogging I haven’t told you about me. The “About Me” section of the blog is about the company and, while I’ve introduced you to the people I’ve worked with, I’ve never introduced to you to me. So - here we go – a little more about the person behind most of the posts you read on this blog:

The first theatrical production I saw that made me want to do this thing we call “theatre” was Angels in America by Tony Kushner. I was in Grade 10 and my high school drama teacher took our class to see the touring production that stopped at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre here in Vancouver. Her name is Ms. St Cyr and boy did she have some balls taking a bunch of high school kids to see a play with male nudity! She, like many other teachers, and my other high school drama teacher Ms. Cave, fostered in me a love for the arts. They supported me and encouraged me and had the amazing nerve to take us to see what many people might deem inappropriate for high school kids. But, I for one, am glad they did because it helped me see that theatre really can change the way the world thinks. I still believe this. I always will.

The first person who told me I was going to be a Producer some day was my third year directing professor at the University of Victoria. His name is Peter McGuire and how in the world he ever foretold that is still beyond me. I remember sitting in his office one day during office hours chatting about something or other when he said to me “you’re going to produce someday”. In my head, I scoffed a little, because I wanted to be a director NOT a producer. Low and behold four years later I directed AND produced the first theatre production, This Is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan, for what would become Twenty-Something Theatre.

I became a costume designer by accident. Crazy but true. It was May 2004 and I was graduating from the theatre program at UVic. I saw a posting looking for people for the upcoming “Shakespeare in the Summer” festival and sent in my application. I thought maybe I could do stage management or something like that but the director of As You Like It, Libby Mason, offered me a position doing costumes. I thought to myself, "well, I did take all the costume design courses possible, so why not?!" I said, yes, and the rest, as we say, is history.

So, there you go, a little more about me. These are a few of my the moments in my life where I look back and think, I didn’t know it then, but that moment really changed my life. I really can’t thank those people who encouraged me - or who saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen myself - enough.

So, to all of you wherever you are, Happy Holidays and all the best for a wonderful New Year!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Choose Your Words

Many of you have probably heard this saying at one point or another. Probably from your mother or some other parental figure. There has never been more truth to this saying than in the last couple of days. An interesting discussion was started in the comments section of my last post. As Rebecca stated in her last comment “the issue lies in the word ‘reviewer’“.

So, what does the word “reviewer” mean to you?

To many this term refers to what I would call a “theatre critic”. When I hear the word “theatre critic” I personally think of an intellectual who is writing his “review” from an analytical set of standards. This person might have a Phd in theatre and/or a Graduate degree in journalism. Regardless of how they got it this person has a deep knowledge base from which they are writing.

Under this description I am clearly not a “reviewer” nor would I ever claim to be. Nor would I ever want to be.

As of now there are a handful of Vancouver theatre websites where the “reviewers” post their “reviews” but in my opinion don’t necessarily fall into the category of “theatre critic”. Then there are the various Vancouver bloggers who post “reviews” on their blogs after being invited to attend the performance. Again I wouldn't call them "theatre critics" but their opinion is just as valid. So what can we do? We can’t police the internet and stop people from using the word “review” just because they don’t fit the mold of someone who might traditionally be consider a “reviewer”. So maybe instead, as social media starts to become a bigger part of the publicity pie, we need to redefine what the word “reviewer” means.

I have basically grown up in a time where it seems like the internet has always been a part of my life. Due to this when I hear the word “reviewer” I think of anyone from a theatre critic to a blogger. Furthermore, I see it as inherent that bloggers who are “reviewing” are by definition writing about their opinion or experience. So, when I wrote the post about the PuSh invitation I automatically came at it from that perspective rather than a traditional point of view.

Like I said, in the traditional sense of the word I would never claim to a “reviewer”. I’m a blogger with an opinion. Thanks to everyone for your comments. Keep them coming because it has started a great conversation.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Interesting Invitation

Yesterday I received an email invitation that made me stop and think a little bit. What is the invitation you ask?! Well it was a media/new media invite to attend and review the shows at this year’s PuSH Festival.

I recently wrote a post raving about Carousel Theatre’s production of Robin Hood at Waterfront Theatre (which you should go see because it might be the most fun you’ll have at the theatre this holiday season). The publicist for Carousel (who is also the publicist for PuSH) asked me if they could use my comments on their website/blog. I said “of course” because I am always happy to support my fellow artists in any way I can. Next thing I know I’m being emailed an invitation to review the shows at PuSH.

Now, my first thought, was as much as I would love to see all the shows, I’m going to have to decline the invitation because this blog was never meant to be a site for reviews and I just wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting the invitation without writing a review. I mean that’s what the agreement is right?! They comp me in to see the show and I write a review.

But then I thought about it a bit more and I thought…well…maybe I could. Although I never intended to post reviews on this site on occasion I have talked about certain productions I have seen that have stood out to me for one reason or another. Usually I’ve discussed these particular production’s in context to the larger issues I’ve discussed on this blog (ie. audience development) and haven’t really thought of them as reviews per se. But what are reviews?! One person’s opinion and I have an opinion, right?!

And then, on the flip side, I thought well what about my personal connections within the industry. I mean, I work within the community, do I really want to be reviewing my colleagues?! Currently I only write about a production when it has made a positive impact on me. I generally try not to write about my less than positive experiences at the theatre because a) these are my peers and b) there is already too much negativity in this world. I’d rather, for the most part, focus on the positive then get dragged down by the negative.

But then maybe that’s why I should do it (you can see the flip-flopping going on inside my brain can’t you?!) because I DO work in the industry. Maybe people would be interested in hearing the opinion of someone on the inside? And on top of that, maybe, people would be interested to hear the opinion of someone who represents a young person’s opinion? Plus after further inspection of the program guide for this year’s festival I realized that I’m actually not closely connected to any of the artists or groups participating so I could be fairly objective (well as objective as I can be for something as subjective as theatre). And, since it is an international festival at least half or more of the participants are from other parts of the world. I have NO connections there.

So, I put it to you, my readers. What do you think? Should I review? Would you like to hear my opinion on the shows at this year’s PuSh Festival? Or should I just stick to what I have been doing?

Let me know what you think…

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving Thanks

Ok, new topic. One of my very first posts was about fundraising and today we are coming back to this topic.

Today is December 1 and that means 24 days and counting until Santa’s looking at his list to see if you’ve been naughty or nice (hopefully a little of both because what fun would it be otherwise). Chocolate #1 from my advent calendar has already been eaten. If you haven’t all ready, now is the time to break out the Christmas Carols and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. To bake the Christmas cookies and decorate the tree. We brave the malls to search out the perfect gifts for our loved ones.

So, what does that have anything to do with Fundraising?!

Well, for me, it’s the time of year I sit down and personally write out Christmas cards to send to all of the sponsors and individual donors who have supported us this year or in the past.

And, I don’t just write “Dear John, Thank you. Sincerely, Sabrina”. I handwrite each person a note to tell them exactly HOW we used their donation or sponsorship money and HOW it helped us produce our shows.

A couple years ago I went to a fundraising workshop and while most of it was rudimentary the one thing I took away from it was the necessity to make the people who give you money feel like more than just an ATM.

The people who support your company through donations or sponsorships are doing so because they believe in what you do (or you would hope) and want you to succeed. So let them know how they made that happen and then they will feel like they have been a part of it all. They have a personal connection to it.

Just like the art of making theatre is about creating personal connections between us and the audience the art of fundraising is also about making personal connections.

So, did you use Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s $100 donation to buy costumes or build props? Tell them that. Did those costumes or props contribute to a great production? Did that production sell-out or get great reviews? They helped make that happen. Don’t forget that. Without the donors and sponsors your production might still be an idea in the back of your mind.

This is the time of year for giving. Thank the people who have given to you and most importantly don’t forget to give back.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Good, Good Night

I love when I get excited about something enough to want to write a blog post about it. It means whatever I have seen or experienced made the wheels inside my head start turning and that, my friends, is a what good theatre should do.

Ask and you shall receive. That’s the saying, right?! Well on Thursday I wrote a post asking for my theatre experiences to be a little less on the boring side and a little more on the entertaining side. And viola! I found myself smack in the midst of one of the most entertaining shows this year: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood playing at the Waterfront Theatre from now until January 2, 2010.

I laughed until my eyes were watering. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Josue Laboucane) and Guy of Gisborne (Ryan Beil) were absolutely hysterical as the baddies. Robin Hood (Lawrence Haegert) and his merry men spent most of the play sword-fighting, shooting arrows and swinging on ropes. And the end…oh the end. There might be a little singing and dancing but I won’t give it away. Just go see it because trust me it will definitely be a “good, good night”.

This was fairy-tale storytelling shrek-style and it was pure fun! The best part is I could tell, as an audience member, everyone on stage was having fun too!

I’ve never been to a Carousel Theatre production before (I know, I know, my bad) but if this is the quality of show they put on you can be sure I’ll go back. Yes, it is a TYA theatre production, but this show is fun for all ages. The little kids were shrieking and laughing which makes my grown-up heart burst because if this is the type of theatre kids are being introduced too then we are definitely building an audience for the future. Teenagers will love all the pop-culture references, even if they pretend not to in order to look cool to their friends, and every adult in that theatre last night was walking around with a giant smile on their faces. They weren’t there just to give their kids a good time. They were having just as much fun as the kids.

And guess, what?! The house was packed!!!

I haven’t said too much on my blog about the cuts to arts funding but it makes me sick to my stomach to think that a theatre company like Carousel - who puts on shows of this quality and who are helping to build the audiences of our future - is having their ability to do this kind of work threatened.

So, please, go support them. Last night was the first preview. Tonight is their official Opening Night. You have 5 weeks to go see this show. GO SEE IT!!! Take your kids. Take your parents. Your grandparents. Just go see it.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rock Concert or Musical Theatre

Somehow, a couple weekends ago, I ended up at the KISS concert and if that isn’t a form of theatre I don’t know what is. I mean, really, you’ve got 4 men on stage dressed up in these crazy costumes that range anywhere from a bat (oh, sorry, I mean “demon”) to a cat. Gene Simmons (aka The Demon) during his solo bit had fake blood gushing from his mouth and then flew like Peter Pan up into the rafters. At one point Paul Stanley (aka The Starchild) hopped on a trapeze-type thing and went flying through the air circus-style onto a revolving stage in the middle of the audience.



Only 2 hours previous to that concert I was at a matinee performance of another theatrical production and while I appreciated the performances given by the actors overall, and I’m sorry to say it, I was bored by the play and the subject matter. And, when I go to the theatre, I want to be more than appreciative of the performances. I also want to be entertained. Now the KISS concert on the other hand was more than entertaining. It was a visual and auditory assault and it was fabulous!

Now, I’m not saying, every time I go to the theatre I need to see men in platform shoes or a pyrotechnic show; but I do want to be entertained. At least a little. And, I’m not the only.

I would say the other major difference between KISS and the other production was the audience. I know, I know, I can already hear you saying “Oh, she’s back on that again” but I wouldn’t be saying it if there wasn’t an ounce of truth to it. GM place can hold approximately 18,000 people, so with 1/3 of the seats being blocked by the stage, there was, what, maybe 12,000 people there, give or take. Back at the other theatre, that can hold approx 150 people, I did a head count of the audience during the show and there was approximately 15 people in the audience.

My question is: how many people at KISS regularly go to the theatre? I don’t know but I think it is a fair assumption to say not all 12,000 of them. Maybe 5% and that is being VERY generous. Yet, 12,000 people paid on average approx $100 for what could be thought of as essentially a piece of musical theatre.

When you look at it that way it’s hard to come up with the justification that people in this city don’t want to spend money to go to the theatre now isn’t it?!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the Slow Times

Hopefully if you are very lucky in your life as an artist you will never have a ‘slow time’ but for many of us that is sadly not the case. This year November is my ‘slow time’.

I’m not working on anything currently. The next costume design contract doesn’t start until the first week of December. Things for my own theatre company won’t really start to pick up again until the New Year. So, what do I do with my time?

Well to be honest I pretty much do nothing (hence the lack of interesting tweets). And, by that, I mean I kind of hermit myself especially if it is November and raining every single day. Then I take this ‘slow time’ as an opportunity to regroup and figure out what my goals are and the things I want to accomplish in the future…

No wait, that must be someone else, because most of the time I just end up watching tv on my computer. Don’t judge me, I mean I can’t sit around all day, staring into space and pondering the big life questions, can I?!

Ok, so seriously, what do I do then? I try to do all the admin work that I don’t have time for the rest of year. The boring stuff like filling out those government documents I need to complete for the CRA (Please don’t come and audit me. Thank you.) I hate it because it is a mind-boggling mind-field of language that even the most intelligent of us don’t understand. Trust me. I took these documents to my lawyer on Friday and both of us were a bit stumped with certain questions.

But, this is where watching tv on my computer comes in handy. I do a little bit of work, then I watch the next episode of Dexter and then I do a little more work. It’s a reward system. I’m five years old and after I’ve been a good girl and gotten some work done I give myself a gold star and watch tv.

Don’t make fun of me. It works.

Oh, and this year, I’ve been trying to organize the disaster area that I call my office. To me, I can find anything, anywhere, at any time. It’s my own organizational and filing system I like to call “Piles of Paper”. But, to other people, it looks like the photocopier threw up all over the place.



Ok, so now that I’ve let you in on a few of the more idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes elements of my day-to-day, now it's your turn?

What do you do in your ‘slow time’?

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Monday, November 2, 2009

Status Quo

I am sick to death of hearing this phrase (or some version of it): “Oh, well, it’s Vancouver, it’s just the way it is”. If I hear one more person take a deep breath and sigh and begin a sentence with “Oh, well, it’s Vancouver…” and end it with any of the following statements – “they don’t go to theatre” or “they prefer musicals” or “it’s the summer and no one goes to the theatre” – I fear I might hurt someone. No joke.

Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.

To me when I hear those words come out of someone’s mouth they might as well have a sticker plastered across their forehead that says “I’ve given up”.

If everyone in society just accepted the status quo as though it were fact and something they can’t change then women wouldn’t be allowed to vote, Martin Luther King wouldn’t have uttered the words “I have a dream”, Rosa parks wouldn’t have refused to give up her seat on the bus, same-sex marriage wouldn’t be legal in Canada and Obama would not be President of the United States. I could go on and on but I won’t. You get the point.

Yes, these are all examples of huge social movements and I’m not suggesting we compare theatre to the civil rights movement; however, the point I am trying to make is that any change in society begins with one person (or two or a handful of people) saying “Yes, I can” rather than “No”, “Can’t” or “That’s impossible”.

It’s not impossible. If I had listened to everyone who had told me “No” or “That’s impossible” I wouldn’t be where I am today but maybe that is just me. When I hear someone utter those words my gut reaction is to say (not necessarily out loud) “oh, yeah, well I’ll show you” because in my world anything is possible.

Maybe Vancouver (or any other city in the world facing the same problems we are) isn’t going to change overnight but it will happen. All we have to do is stop thinking “Oh, well, it’s Vancouver (substitute name of your own city), it’s just the way it is”. We may not have all the answers and we may stumble along the way but we’ll get there because I, for one, don’t care about the status quo or “the way it is”. All I care about is the way it should be and how we're going to get there.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Friday, October 30, 2009

Our Audiences

This morning I received notification of a comment on my last post. Wow, that was quite the comment and one that should be addressed.

First of all I haven’t seen ”The Miracle Worker” at The Playhouse so I am not about to comment on the production itself. And, while I think that saying that they deserve to lose their funding because of the play, is a little harsh (ok, maybe way harsh, especially at a time when the words “arts funding” is such a contentious issue), it is his opinion and he is entitled to it.

However, the point that he raises, and one that obviously has made him so angry, is what I want to address. Obviously, he did not enjoy this play choice. The major reviewers in this town, Peter, Jerry, Jo & Colin, all seemed to either at least like it, if not full out, love it. But critical praise does not necessarily equate into audience praise or vice versa. What we have to remember is audience members, for the most part, are just Average Joe’s. They didn’t spend years in school studying theatre or reading plays. They haven’t written plays themselves or seen everything playing in town for the last 30 years. Plus since most of these critics (I don’t know for sure, I am just guessing here and I mean no offence) are at least 50 years old they certainly don’t represent a young audience members opinion.

Furthermore, if what he says is correct and the house count for the evening was approximately 25%, then that certainly says even more than the comment itself. For one of the largest companies in this city, who has a lot more exposure and reaches a lot more people than most of the theatre's in this town, to be selling shows at one-quarter of the House then there is definitely something terribly wrong and broken with our system for sure.

I don’t have all the answers but I do have a question: if audiences aren’t coming, plus they leave the theatre feeling the way this man did, then why are they doing it?

Theatre is about the audience. If I have to keep screaming it from the rooftops until someone hears me I will. Without the audience you might as well being doing sculpture or painting or something. If all you are interested in doing is creating theatre that is going to get you good reviews or win you a Jessie then you are missing the point. Theatre exists because of its relationship to the audience. Read Kris Joseph’s and Simon Ogden’s blogs for more on this discussion.

We write letters and get all worked up because the funding to arts is being cut but what if we created theatre that was so popular that we didn’t need funding from the government.

STOP. Before I continue I am going to make a statement because I can already see the hate emails piling into my inbox:

Yes, of course, I believe arts should receive funding from the government.

Ok, now that I’ve made that statement everyone can stop hating on me. Thank you. And continue…

What if we started listening to our audiences and we started having full houses instead of 25% houses. Then maybe someday, down the road, maybe after I’m dead, we won’t need to rage against the government because we won’t be relying on them to fund us. We would rely on our audiences. Wow, now that is an amazing dream and one that I want to be a part of. It could happen. I believe it could happen but we have to start investing in that dream today.

How do we do that, Mrs. Soapbox? Well, thank you for asking Mr. or Mrs. Reader.

We could start by the taking the same energy we put into writing letters to the government and put that same energy into writing letters to our theatre’s. If you want them to listen, to you the audience, then you need to start taking action. So, my advice to Doug is, if you felt so strongly about your experience at The Playhouse then you should write them a letter and tell them. It could all begin with one letter. Then one letter turns into 50 and so on and so forth. And, maybe the next time a theatre goes to choose their season they might just think twice about the material they choose to produce.

But that’s just me. And my two cents.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amen, Hallelujah, so on and so forth...

I've discovered a new blog to follow (not new to anyone else probably but new to me as I am a little slow on the uptake). One of the most recent posts on this blog is about getting young audiences into the theatre so you can see why it sparked my curiosity. If you have been reading my blog this will be obvious and if you haven't I won't take it personally (although I may secretly be shedding a single tear right at this very moment). The title of the post is "No-Brainer Secrets Revealed" and here's what he has to say:

"Went to a panel yesterday about theatre.

Want to guess what the discussion eventually focused on at length?

I'll give you a hint... it's the thing that all public conversations about theatre eventually gravitate to.

Still don't know?

Why, it's how to attract younger audiences, of course! With the sub-conversation how do we use the twitters and the facebooks and the internets to do it?

So I'm going to reveal, right now, the secret to getting young people to come to your theatre and see shows. Because it's a no-brainer and I'm tired of having this conversation (For reasons that should become obvious in a second). Here's the secret:

(1) Do work they want to see.

(2) Endeavor to do it well

(3) Offer it at a price point they will find reasonable
"

Amen! Hallelujah! And any and all other exaltations that would describe my enthusiastic agreement! From there he goes on to say why theatre companies talk but don't seem to act:

"Theater companies and producers for the most part do not want to do the above three things. What they want to do is do the same work and use marketing to trick younger audiences into thinking it's what they want to see.

So the next time we have this conversation... can we please have it honestly and start asking some more interesting questions, some more difficult questions? Questions like: Do you actually want younger audiences, or do you just want their money? or Would your theater company be able to sustain itself on a younger audience base? And if not, are you just fucked? Are you just riding it out for as long as possible knowing it's not going to work out in the long run?

Now let's say for a moment that you are a theater producer or larger theater and you want to do the above three things. You just don't know how. That's fine! Here's the secret to solving that problem:

There is probably a theater company in your area that is succeeding at doing those three things. Produce their next show in your space.

You know where this happens with some regularity? Chicago and D.C. Both quite healthy theatre towns with interesting, vibrant scenes with quite a bit of interplay between more established theaters and young up-and-comers. This is not a coincidence.

I'm sick of this shit. The answers aren't that hard, they're only hard because the answers are things that people don't really want to do, so they're trying to find ways to cheat. Well, I'm sorry, you can't cheat. It doesn't work that way.

And if you don't want to do that, that's okay. If you don't want to do that kind of work, that's okay. Just stop claiming you want younger audiences. You don't want them. You feel entitled to them. There's a difference. Be proud of the audience you have and keep making work for them. Do the work you actually believe in. That's okay, for the most part.

Just stop asking about twitter already.
"

All I have to add to that very honest and truthful statement is that the facts speak for themselves. Every year Twenty-Something Theatre grows it's audience. This year, as I already stated in an earlier post, we had an 88% audience attendance and 6 sold out shows. In the summer! A time that is traditionally not thought of as a good time to do theatre unless you are Bard on the Beach or some kind of outdoor roving show. Young people showed up in droves. Why? Because we do items 1-3 on the list above.

It's a No-Brainer.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Playwright

New plays frighten me. As a writer, I have all the requisite anxieties to put me in a state of terror if trapped in a dark room as part of an audience, watching a cast of actors do The Robot in time to experimental whale music and multi-coloured strobe lights. I’ve since discovered that not all plays are like this, thank god. Only the ones I erroneously think look “fun”.

There’s something about the immediacy and inescapable act of theatre that has kept me from jumping into playwriting. A lot of credit is given to the author here. To a Canadian screenwriter, that can either be ruinous or an extremely empowering experience.

I started writing “Prodigals” as a way to avoid completing other projects. Initially, I sent 10-15 pages of this play to the Cold Reading Series in 2006. They were holding a special night for students from Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program (where I was studying at the time). Despite the fact that these few scenes went over surprisingly well, I quickly abandoned them to return to my mounting screenwriting demands.

Flash forward to 2008. After seeing Twenty-Something Theatre’s call for submissions (a phrase that’s like a bat signal for writers), I immediately recalled that play I flirted with two years before and quickly-yet-artfully dumped another 20 pages onto the previous 10 and hoped that amounted to something.

I’m extremely grateful Sabrina Evertt found a glimmer of a story worth telling in that mashed-up Frankenstein of a play I sent to her. With her help, alongside the talents of some amazing young local actors and the ever-patient dramaturgy of Peter Boychuk, we turned “Prodigals” into a story I now desperately want to bring to the world.

After expanding the play’s depth and scope, we kneaded each role into shape through table reads, one-on-one story sessions, and most recently, an intimate staged reading that proved the kind of straightforward drama and comedy I want to write isn’t interesting just to those directly involved in “Prodigals”. I think there’s a lot of potential here to appeal to a broad, young audience who – like me – might skittishly avoid more experimental theatre or the same handful of rehashed productions from other companies.

Rewriting this project has helped unearth new creative ground for me: I don’t believe my writing has ever been more personal. And because of that, I think this is a very truthful “dramedy” about a group of young adults marred by small town life, each trying to make the transition from irresponsible youth to contributing members of society.

I can’t give enough thanks to Twenty-Something Theatre. Without the Spotlight Series initiative to find new plays from emerging writers, I wouldn’t have finished “Prodigals”. The hardest part now is waiting until the spring when we get the play on its feet in front of audiences. It’s going to be great.

~Sean Minogue
Playwright, "Prodigals"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spotlight Series

In 2008 I added a second show to our annual summer production called the Spotlight Series. The idea for this addition actually came from my final year at the University of Victoria and their Phoenix Season of shows. The previous year, while I took the year off to gallivant around the world, the Phoenix changed their season structure to include something called the Spotlight on Alumni. The year I was away TJ Dawe performed his one-man show “The Slipknot” and the year I came back Meg Roe performed “The Fever” by Wallace Shawn.

It blew me away. Maybe because I had just been travelling and consequently felt or experienced some of what the narrator of “The Fever” expresses. Maybe because Meg Roe is a brilliant actress who captivated me and made me feel what she was feeling. Maybe a little of both. Regardless it was a play that would (and will) always stay with me. So when I had the opportunity to produce it with another young actress I jumped on the chance because it would be both a great challenge and opportunity for her to shine; thus, the Twenty-Something Spotlight Series was born.

The idea behind the series is that we feature one local emerging artist and give them the opportunity to shine. The first year Kirsten Kilburn (who just recently performed the role of Candy in “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love”) performed the role of the Narrator in “The Fever”. This past year Fay Nass, a young director who just graduated from the University of Victoria and who was the Assistant Director on our production of “SubUrbia”, directed “Anne Frank Is In My Dreams” for our second Spotlight production.

And, now we arrive at our upcoming season of shows. While I was trying to figure out what to do for this year I thought to myself: the 1st Year we put an actor in the spotlight and the 2nd year a director so what about if this year we put a playwright in the spotlight?! So I put out a posting, received a lot of submissions and through a selection process that included me and other theatre professionals we chose “Prodigals”, a new play by Sean Minogue.

There are many reasons I decided to go with a playwright, and a brand new play, but mostly because I believe it is so important to support the growth of Canadian, and more specifically Vancouver-based, playwrights who will give us plays that reflect the way we, the "twenty-something" demographic, experience our city, country and world.

At this point we have done two table readings as well as multiple meetings between myself, the playwright and the director/dramaturge. The play has come leaps and bounds from it’s original 30 pages (now at 66) and this weekend we head into a 3-day workshop where we are all excited to see it go to yet another level.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Maybe I’ll even get Sean or Peter Boychuk (director/dramaturge) to guest post about it…

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Monday, October 12, 2009

Being Thankful

What am I thankful for? A lot of things but today I am going to focus in on one thing in particular: my parents. I have great parents who not only exposed me to the arts but who also fostered and encouraged my love and participation in the arts. A lot of it probably comes from dad who when he was young sang with the San Diego Opera and when I was kid went to Japan with a touring production of Aida. He used to wake me and my friends up after a sleepover party playing Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano. My mother, god love her, couldn’t sing a note to save her life. My parents enrolled me in everything from ballet to figure skating to softball. Most of it I ended up quitting at one point of another. I had a very short attention span; however, the one thing I was required to do and not quit was piano. Back then I hated it. I hated practicing. I hated playing at recitals. I was very shy and got extremely nervous so much so that my hands would shake. Not so great for playing the piano in front of an audience. But then later in life I started taking voice lessons and, boy, was I grateful to have learned to sight-read music.



On a whim my dad took me to audition for the role of Cosette in the Vancouver touring production of Les Miserables when it first rolled into Vancouver. I think I was maybe 10. I can’t quite remember. All I do remember is that it was pretty much against my free will and I nearly peed my pants but he thought it would be a good experience. Obviously I didn’t get the part and as you can tell my dad believes in “tough love”. My mother was the one who gave me a giant hug when I came home bawling. Good cop, Bad cop. It must work.

When I was 12 my parents added me to their season subscription to the Vancouver Opera and I have been going ever since. They took me to see my first musicals: Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables (yes, the very same one I auditioned for). In high school when I joined the drama club they came to see every show I was in. When I wanted to go see a new rock musical based on the opera La Boheme who took me to see it? My parents.

Then I went to University and when I told them I wanted to do Theatre they didn’t once question it or say ‘are you sure?!’ or anything. They said ‘cool’ and that was that. So, there I was ASM’ing my first main stage production and my parents hopped on a ferry to come see it. I wasn’t even in the bloody thing. I was only 1 of 2 ASM’s. I lifted the sun prop into the sky in Act II. That was my contribution yet they still got on a ferry and stayed overnight to support me.

I talk a lot about fostering young audiences and a new generation of theatregoers but if every child could have my parents we probably wouldn’t even need to talk about getting young people out to the theatre. They would already be going to the theatre because their parents started exposing them to the arts when they were kids.

So, today, I am thankful to my parents who still come to see all my shows and support me and love me. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Happy Thanksgiving!


~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Inspiration

In my last few blog posts before I left for Toronto I talked a bit about inspiration or a lack thereof. I went to Toronto seeking something inspired. Little did I know that come October inspiration would be a 10-minute drive away from where I live.

That inspiration lives at The Cultch with DualMinds and their play Any Night. Written and performed by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn this play is something extraordinary. And, I do not say that often. As a play it is witty and dark. It is complex, challenging AND entertaining. As actors performing this piece they are both brilliant. I will try not to spoil it for all those who haven’t seen it yet (and who should. Yes now. Go buy your tickets before it is sold-out. You DO NOT want to miss this) but Daniel Arnold does an incredible job of making the audience both love and hate him. Not an easy feat. Medina Hahn is equally as wonderful. Is she just paranoid? Or, is there in fact something strange happening in the building where she resides? I’m not going to tell you you’ll just have to go see it to find out. Directed by Ron Jenkins (of Black Rider fame), he does an incredible job of bringing all the design elements and story together to create a unified, beautiful production.

Back in 2007, both Twenty-Something (with our production of The Shape of Things) and DualMinds were part of the now defunct Summer at the Waterfront series. They were presenting their first creation Tuesdays & Sundays. I didn’t have the chance to see it then and after seeing Any Night today do I ever regret that now. Don’t you regret not going to check out their newest venture. Any Night plays at The Cultch from now until October 17.

I strongly believe that when one of us succeeds we all succeed so go check it out and support your local theatre community.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Friday, October 2, 2009

That's A Wrap

So three weeks in Toronto and what have I accomplished &/or come away with?

I had one opportunity fall through and an interview for another opportunity that I also didn’t get.

I saw 8 films (2 Canadian, 1 Polish, 1 French, 1 British, 3 American), 3 comedy shows (1 stand-up, 1 sketch, 1 improv), 3 plays (1 in someone’s living room [don’t ask], 1 small independent and 1 large regional) and 2 musicals (1 local independent and 1 large commercial).

I discovered something fabulous called either “Goin Steady” or “Shake a Tail” depending on where you go. It is a 50’s & 60’s dance party that they have at two pubs/bars here in Toronto. It is all music from that time and people don’t go to be cool or be seen. They go to dance. And dance we did. Just ask my friend, who is a professional dancer, and who woke up the next morning with a sore neck. It is so much fun. It was more fun than I have had any night going out dancing in Vancouver because, sorry to say it, but Vancouver takes itself way to seriously. Lighten up a bit, put on some clothes and just dance. This is one of the things I will definitely miss about TO so I am currently thinking of ways I can bring this back to Vancouver with me.

And, generally I found that people are more active in their lives as “artists”. What do I mean by more active? I’ll give you two examples:

1) A group of actors that I met formed something they call “Actor’s Fight Club”. It takes place once a week on a Monday night. It isn’t a mandatory thing. It is drop-in so every week the people could be different. Actors bring in scenes or songs to present to the rest of the group for feedback. You can bring in something you are working on in a class or preparing for an audition or just because you want to continue developing your skills as an actor.

2) A group of friends, of the friend that I am staying with, formed something they call the “House of Waps” (don’t ask, don’t know, don’t even know if I am spelling it right). It is a night of the arts. It is artists from all walks of life from musicians to filmmakers to arts managers getting together to share what they do. First a couple of musicians played some of their songs then they did a film screening. They painted a white square on the brick wall of their outdoor patio and set up a projection system. The next week (I couldn’t go) they did another film screening.

This is wonderfully refreshing. It is artists getting together, being active with their art, and sharing it with other people rather than sitting around complaining. Since I have been here I haven’t heard one person complain. Interesting. Maybe it is because I haven’t been here long enough. But somehow I doubt it. I think people here are too busy “doing” to have time to complain.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Theatre For All Ages

Last night I went to see the North American premiere of True Love Lies by Brad Fraser at the Factory Theatre here in Toronto. It is a continuation of the David Macmillan saga. Well actually this one focuses on Kane, the 17-year old we first meet in Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, and the effect David has on his life when he re-enters the picture 20 years later.

It was interesting to see the development of the playwright from the time he first wrote Human Remains in 1989 to now. It was a lot more focused than the sort of scattered nature of Human Remains but it still had all the classic Brad Fraser trademarks. The scenes move quickly, flowing from one into the next with the fast-pace, witty rhetoric we have all become accustomed to. And, I personally enjoy seeing the references to his earlier “David” plays especially to Human Remains. The rifle even makes a guest appearance. For those of you who know the play or who came to see our production of Human Remains you will know what I am talking about. If you don’t know what I am talking about I suggest you go out and read the play. It is part of the Canadian theatre canon. Or at least it should be.

In the director’s notes for the show Brad Fraser talks about the success of the original production at Manchester England’s Royal Exchange Theatre and that it is possibly slated to move to London’s West End at some point. A bunch of other productions are also slated to open in various other cities across America but no others in Canada yet. Brad Fraser says “I hope another theatre from Canada will also do the show eventually.”

Yes, I agree. But again this strikes me as odd. I mean, why hasn’t another Canadian city picked up this play yet? Moreover, why hasn’t a theatre in Vancouver picked it up? This is just another example of why I am so often frustrated by the Vancouver theatre scene. Because, in my opinion, this is EXACTLY the type of play Vancouver should be doing. My parents, who just happened to be passing through Toronto on their way to New York, came with me. And guess what?! They loved it!!!! So, it isn’t just because I am young and like the edgy, provocative stuff. My parents are in their 50’s & 60”s and they still want to see stuff that is current, relevant and edgy.

And maybe I am just making a huge leap here but I think this might just be representative of a larger Vancouver audience as well. Another example of why I believe this to be true is that it wasn’t just the young “twenty-something’s” who made our production of Human Remains such a huge success. I was genuinely surprised at the number of older audience members who came out to see it and loved it as well. So, maybe we should stop underestimating our audiences here in Vancouver?! They aren’t just a bunch of grey hairs that want to see another production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Maybe if we stop thinking of them that way we as a community might realize we can put on contemporary, edgy theatre and they will still come out to see it. Maybe they’ll even come out in flocks. Why are we so afraid to take a little risk?!

Last night at Factory Theatre all ages came out to see the North American premiere of Brad Fraser’s newest play True Love Lies and he is a playwright known for being controversial. We even bumped into one of my dad’s old buddies from when my parents lived in Toronto. He too has to be in his 60’s. Everyone, all ages, left that show talking about how much they enjoyed it.

I don’t know how much more evidence we need.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Friday, September 18, 2009

TIFF 09: Part II

Before I left for Toronto I wrote a post about finding the energy and inspiration again. Well I found it: a film called “Cole” directed by Carl Bessai. This movie was incredible. The direction, the acting, the music. Just phenomenal. And the best part is that it is a Canadian film set in Lytton, BC and has a lot of Vancouver actors in it. A home grown film that is as good as any “hollywood” film if not better than most. Now that is something to be inspired by.

The lead role of Cole is played by Richard de Klerk and his portrayal of this character was mesmerizing. It was simple and truthful. Chad Willett portrayed the character of Bobby who you loved to hate. Both were there at the screening along with Carl Bessai, and his producer, Jason James, and at the end of the film they all did a talkback with us, the audience.

And, while the film was incredible, this talkback was probably what inspired me the most. All of them talked with such passion and energy about what they do. You could tell they do it because they love it. They talked about how the three of them (Carl Bessai, Richard de Klerk, and Jason James) would just get into some SUV with a camera and a boom and go backroading through the country-side on their time off to get shots of the landscape. I mean, how cool, is that?! They lived in the town and really became a part of it. Riding their bicycles to and from the shoot. The producer made mix-tapes and they would drive around Lytton with them playing so he could get a feel for what kind of music they wanted. They were all there to make a great film. How can you not be inspired by that?!

I have never really been interested in film-making; however, "Cole" may have just changed my mind.

~Sabrina

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TIFF 09

I’ve been in Toronto for 4 days so far and it has been non-stop-go-go-go. This is literally the first second I have had to sit down and chill and think to myself ‘Hey, maybe I’ll throw up a blog post today’.

Right now the city is currently in the midst of a little known festival, you might have heard of it, the Toronto International Film Festival. Otherwise known as TIFF. It is funny because in July I was here for the Fringe and now I am back for TIFF so really I couldn’t have picked two better times to be in Toronto. During both festivals there is so much energy and excitement going on with people running around town trying to fit in as many shows as possible.

My friend and I yesterday were sitting on the patio of a pub after seeing our fourth film and having a glass of wine and talking about the film and art and life and I just thought to myself life doesn’t get much better than this. Because of the flexibility and freedom of what we do as artists I have the ability to come to Toronto for a month and spend my days seeing films. Yes, it really doesn’t get much better than that.

So, what films have I seen? A polish film called “Mall Girls” which was a really disturbing look into the culture of teen girls living in Poland and the lengths to which they will go to get the things they want. My favourite so far has to be “Whip It” which is the new film starring Ellen Paige and directed (in her debut as a director) Drew Barrymore. I was completely surprised by this film. I new I would like it but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. It was so captivating and funny and from the heart. Next was “Harry Brown” starring Michael Caine as this vigilante who goes around killing these street gang kids. It was VERY disturbing but, hey, it made us talk. We left that film and were discussing it for probably at least the next hour or so. And, the same can be said about the film we saw yesterday which was “The Informant” starring Matt Damon. Matt Damon was actually quite brilliant in it. It is hilarious but when you realize what you are laughing at it also makes you realize how disturbing the whole thing is.

On today’s agenda we’ve got two more films “Suck” and “Cole”. I don’t really know too much about these ones yet so I am excited to be surprised.

And, let me know, if you have any suggestions of other films to see.

~Sabrina

Thursday, September 10, 2009

By The Numbers

Yesterday I finished crunching the numbers for “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love”. It is very exciting news indeed. A summary:

Number of sold-out shows: 6
Average audience attendance: 88%
Audience attendance increase from last year: 34%

Yay! I really couldn’t have asked for more. We surpassed any goals/targets I had for this year and I am so proud of that. Ok, and now for some fun numbers:

Actors who were maimed on stage: 1
Times the cleaners came in and “cleaned” (ie. threw out all our props): 1
Windows broken while loading-in the set: 1
Audience members who laughed in awkward places: 2 many 2 count.
Belligerent audience members who yelled at the Front of House manager because he/she had to be put on a no-shows/waitlist: 1
Audiences who oooh-ed and awe-ed in all the right places: 2 many 2 count.

Thanks to everyone who came out and supported us & this show. It is because of you, our audiences, that we continue to do this year after year!!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Life in Me

In my very first blog post I wrote:

“In an attempt to join the rest of the social networking world I am creating a blog for our upcoming production Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love by Brad Fraser. The idea is that as we go along the production and design team, as well as the cast and crew, will blog about the process. The good, the bad and the ugly.”

And, while I (and or other members of the cast & crew) did blog about the process, it turned out to be so much more than just a “production blog”. I ended up blogging about ideas just as much as I blogged about the production itself and I realized something: I have a voice and I am going to use it.

So, looks like you’re stuck with me.

But, where to go from here? Obviously I will still blog about our productions and things that are happening with the company; however, what about those in between times? Well that is less defined and we’ll just have to take that as it comes.

In 3 days I am off to Toronto for the rest of September through to possibly mid-October. There are many reasons I am going: i) for TIFF (Toronto International Film Fest) ii) the opportunity to possibly be a part of a few productions and iii) just to get some new life into me.

It's the third one that is actually the most important to me. I’ve been in Vancouver for 5 years now, working away, and that was the plan. When I moved back here from Victoria my plan was to just put my nose to the grindstone and see what happens. Well a lot has happened and I’m so proud of that. I work professionally as a costume designer and I started my own successful theatre company. And, I’m not even thirty yet.

But recently, I’ve started to feel that restlessness because I find that I’m often bored and uninspired by what is happening around me. And, that is not necessarily about anyone else. It is about me. I need to have new experiences and meet new people. I need to find that energy and freshness and sense that all things are possible again. When we stick in one place or one community I find that it becomes so easy to get bogged down by negativity and this sense of hopelessness and it just crushes our own sense of wonder and creativity.

And, if there is one thing I never want to be is bored and negative. Life is too short for that. I want to be passionate and excited and energetic about what I am doing. So, I am off to Toronto to find that energy again.

And, I promise to blog all about it…

~Sabrina Evertt,
Artistic Producer

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Charmed Life

The life of an actor is not all the glitz and glam you see in the papers, magazines, or on the late night talk shows. For many actors rejection and un-knowing is a constant feeling. Many must retain part-time jobs to make ends meet in the pursuit of their career paths. Constant frustration re-arranging schedules, running around town, holding together relationships and trying to maintain a sense of self, when on a daily basis we are asked to believably portray characters that can wear on one’s own mental and emotional stability. It’s hard work usually with very little payback and the worst feeling being that of not doing it at all. So why would anyone choose a career acting in the first place?

Photo courtesy of Kevan Kase

For many of us it is a haunting question being asked constantly. For others the answer is quite simple: We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Sure fame and fortune is the ultimate perk in this industry but I, as well as others like me, know that there is no greater high then the feeling one gets when the phone rings saying they booked the part, having a complete stranger come up to you saying that they saw you in a show and were blown away, or even better, changed in some way by seeing it.

I believe that actors in theatre and film can change perspectives, give hope, a sense of escape, or aid during a rough time in an audience members life. Theatre has a rich history of educating the public on political and social matters that are affecting the present populace or better educating them on mistakes and achievements of the past. It’s these little gifts that make the struggle we all go through worth it. And, like I said before, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

“I don't know what is better than the work that is given to the actor - to teach the human heart the knowledge of itself.” --Laurence Olivier

~Kevan Kase,
Robert, "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Damn This Show is HOT

Last night was the official Opening Night of Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love and it was a huge success! Not only did we sell out and have to orchestrate a waiting list but the show went off without a hitch (which is a relief after what happened on our second preview). Thank you to everyone who made it happen! Here are some photos of the actual production for your viewing pleasure:


From L to R: Kirsten Kilburn as Candy & Rob Monk as David


From L to R: Joel Sturrock as Kane & Rob Monk as David


From L to R: Tara Pratt as Jerri & Kirsten Kilburn as Candy



From L to R: Kirsten Kilburn as Candy


From L to R: Sebastian Kroon as Bernie & Rob Monk as David
Photography: David Cooper

Hope to see you at the show!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer/
Director "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Bloody Night

A week or so ago Simon from The Next Stage posted a blog about the beauty of live theatre. Anything can happen and so it did. The SWAT team showed up during Itsazoo’s production of The Road to Canterbury.

Well this must be a summer for crazy things happening because last night we had to cancel the second half of the show due to an actor being injured on stage. The events as reported by the SM:

Act 2 was called off due to a “technical difficulty/emergency” right at the end of act 1:
o Rob/David slammed his hand on the door frame where the door closes. He continued to do the end of the act.
o When I reached the backstage area, Rob was holding his hand with a cloth, Kirsten was there as well.
o Kevan, Emilie and Jergus (thank you!) performed first aid on him.
o At 9:30pm, I made the call to cancel the 2nd act.
o Kevan drove him to the hospital. I spoke with Kevan briefly afterwards (around 11:00pm). He then drove Rob home.
o Rob received 4 stitches; he will be wearing some sort of bandage for the next week or so. The Dr. gave him a go-ahead for tomorrow’s show. After 4 days, he will be able to take off the bandages.
o Jergus and Patrick took care of the door frame where Rob was injured.

It was a total fluke. Everyone was freaking out wondering what he could have cut himself on. There were no sharp edges on the wood or anything. Then they looked at the plate on the inside of the door. It had blood on it. You know how “real” doors have a metal plate where the door handle is and sometimes it sticks out just a tinsy-tiny bit. Well it just so happened that Rob scraped his hand on that tinsy-tiny bit when going to open the door. Jergus took off the metal plate from the door handle and now hopefully (fingers crossed) there will be no more accidents.

Anything can happen: it is the beauty (not sure if that is the right word in this instance but…) of live theatre.

I offered everyone the opportunity to come back and see Act II for free with their ticket stub from that evening. The audience seemed to be ok with the cancellation and hopefully they will all come back to find out what happens.

Tonight is Opening Night, and to borrow a phrase, let's all "keep calm and carry on".

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer/
Director, “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jerri

Part of why I love this craft is the realization that I cannot fail in my efforts, nor can any other actor, because all that written characters ask is that we bring to the table what is unique to each of us, and that we make these characters our own. In joining the already solid cast of Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love nearly halfway through the rehearsal process, I was of course aware that not only was another actor previously playing the role of Jerri for this very production, but that she had undoubtedly built Jerri’s character around her own interpretation and understanding of her motivations...and it would now become my task to do the very same thing, hoping that I could “insert” my own version of Jerri amongst these other characters that were not only established in their own right, but were almost certainly used to interacting with a different version of Jerri than I had prepared.

Photo courtesy of Tara Pratt

Thankfully, I’d like to think this transition was made as seamlessly and joyfully as possible, and in no small part due to the fact that Sabrina allowed me to “fill out” Jerri in a way that was organic to me, and not as a replacement to the work that Aili had previously accomplished. I felt secure in the exploration of this character because my director and fellow cast mates had the grace to honour Aili’s work while simultaneously embracing my own contribution; the rehearsal process was not a competition nor an attempted replication...in essence, I do believe I have been fortunate enough to prepare for this role in my usual fashion, with great encouragement and support.

I wish Aili a healthy recovery, and I thank the cast and crew of this awesome production for welcoming me on board. Now let’s rock the casbah, guys.

~Tara Pratt
Jerri, "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mind, Body, Spirit

Last week I posted a rant about the need for actors to learn to take care of their health, both physical and emotional. After that post I received a message from someone who had read my blog post and they said:

“Saw blog. In my experience, actors not trained in emotional health. Huge in 'getting into', very little/none in exiting character. Very few teach acting students how to exit a character and return to healthy self. Sets a pattern for personal life. Root of the problem. Best of all things with your show.”

I agree with his comment but why is this? Everyday we asked actors to be open and vulnerable to the truth. We ask them to laugh, to cry, to scream with anger and sometimes to show parts of themselves to the public things we would never show to another living human being. This is the job of the actor. So, if we are asking our actors to go these scary emotional places then why are we then not providing them with the skills to cope?

Moreover actors, and artists in general, become actors and artists often due to the events that happened to them in early life and as they grew up. These events, whatever they may be, lead them to seek a community where they would be accepted. Where they would be revered on stage. There is a reason theatre people seek the applause of an audience. We don’t need a psychologist to help us with that one.

So, not only do most actors and artists have a complicated past but then on top of that they are asked to show us their gaping wounds and vulnerabilities on stage every night and then we don’t teach them how to deal with it?

In my other life, outside of the theatre, to make extra cash (because we all know how well theatre pays) I also work as a Personal Trainer and on the weekend I went to the annual BCFit Conference at UBC where I took a lot of workshops that focus on mind, body & spirit. Being “healthy” isn’t just about getting out and getting your 20 minutes of exercise everyday. It is a 360 degree approach:

1) Exercise: daily physical activity
2) Nutrition: eating properly and regularly.
3) Sleep: getting enough sleep every night and setting a regular sleeping pattern.
4) Stress Management: the ability to cope. “The process of living is the process of having stress imposed on you and reacting to it” --Stanley Sarnoff, physician and stress researcher.
5) Counsel: “advice given especially as a result of consultation”. This can come in many shapes and forms from talking and laughing with friends to seeking the help/advice of a professional.

Most people I know do not do one thru three very well and most theatre people I know, who also work as hosts, servers, bartenders, definitely do not do one thru three very well. Then we get to four. Life is stressful all by itself. Acting, by that very definition above, is highly stressful. And finally we land on five. How do we deal with stress? We talk and share with friends but sometimes our friends lead equally, or more, stressful lives than we do. So this is where the professionals come in and I don’t just mean doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. I mean teachers, leaders & coaches as well.

Maybe we need to start thinking about teaching theatre people and coaching actors on how to deal with the stress instead of throwing them out into the ether at the end of a rehearsal or performance where they head off to the bar or pub to deal with the stress by having a few drinks. Isn’t there a healthier way?

I don’t know and I haven’t tried it before, or even thought about it up until this point, but maybe we take the last five minutes of rehearsal and do some breathing/relaxation exercises. Research has shown that just breathing and slowing down the breath can lead to a reduction in stress. Why do you think things like yoga are so popular? It relaxes and focuses the mind & body. Or maybe we spend the last 10 minutes of rehearsal doing yoga? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily have the answer but I do know there is a problem and maybe we should start thinking about a solution instead of passing it off as “not our job”.

It is our job. As directors, leaders, teachers, coaches, etc it is our job to help give the people we work with the skills necessary to navigate through life or their job successfully. That is what it means to be in a leadership position.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some New Faces

In the Cast:
As I mentioned in my last post we unfortunately had to replace one of the cast members. Firstly, I want to thank Aili Storen for all her hard work and dedication to the production up to this point and we all wish her the very best and hope the she will get back to good health very soon. Consequently, I would like to introduce our newest cast member, Tara Pratt, who will be taking over the role of Jerri. A huge thank you to Tara for coming aboard half-way through the rehearsal process and taking it all on with such confidence.


In the Production Team:

Welcome to Abby Renee Creek who played Bee-Bee in last year’s production of SubUrbia and who has come on board as the Front of House Manager. She is a freakin’ star and a life-saver! Also, a big thank you to Vicky Marghelis who is going to help Abby with Box Office. And, finally, welcome to Stu Wilson who has also recently joined the team as Fight Director to help us with the stage violence.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shit Happens

The past two weeks have been a crazy stress fest. I think this past Sunday was the first rehearsal in two weeks where the entire cast was all there. And, further, I think that was only the second rehearsal where everyone was actually present.

What?! That is insane!

It is extremely difficult to feel like you are progressing somewhere when you constantly have to go back and re-do something because an actor (or actors, yes plural, as in more than one) wasn’t there when you went over it the first time. Especially since, as I have mentioned previously, this is an ensemble piece with all actors being on stage at all times.

Now, for the most part, the reasons various (again, yes, more than one) actors have had to miss rehearsal have been beyond their control. Life is messy. Shit happens. It can’t be helped. One actor had a family emergency that took them out of the province for 10 days. Another actor became seriously ill and missed two weeks of rehearsals and due to the uncertainty of her situation I had to re-cast the role.

Those were circumstances that could not be helped and although it is stressful these things happen. We deal with them the best way we know how (in my case with a lot of red wine).

However, at the same time as this was happening with these two actors there were also major life-crises happening with other actors in their personal lives. Again, can’t be helped. Life is messy. Shit Happens. But when it starts to effect the ability of an actor to come to rehearsal prepared and ready to work then I get very stressed indeed.

So, here is my message to all actors (and one which I conveyed to the cast Sunday after I had just about reached my breaking point):

Your body is your vessel. The same way a singer must take care of the instrument that is their voice so too must an actor take care of their instrument: their body. Your body inhabits this character that you take on. Your body walks like the character. Moves like the character. Talks like the character. Part of doing your job as an actor is to do what is necessary to take care of your body so that you can inhabit and move this character through space and on stage. This includes taking care of your emotional health because we all know the way emotion & stress can manifest and affect our physical health. This is a fact. If actors are not healthy in mind & body it makes it very difficult to be prepared and ready to work. Taking care of yourself properly is something every person should learn how to do but for actors it is crucial. It is part of your job.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer/
Director “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Killer Good Time

Yes, yes, it has been awhile but since my last post on Tuesday, July 28th. Since my last post the course of events that have transpired have been overwhelmingly stressful and have taken my full attention; thus, the lack of blog posts and twitter activity. I am still in the midst of processing and resolving the events that have transpired so unfortunately I am not here to blog about that today. Soon, though, I promise.

What I am going to blog about today is our upcoming fundraiser on Wednesday, August 19th, 7pm at the Roxy Burger on Granville Street. Thank you to Kevan (who plays Robert in the show) for organizing this for us!

Tickets are $10 which includes 1 free drink (approx value of $5) plus if you hold onto the hard copy of your ticket and show it at the box office during the run of the show you will get $5 off the price of admission.

So, basically it's free. Everyone loves free stuff, right?!

There will be a 50/50 draw and lots of raffle prizes. Plus we will be having a special presentation at 10pm. You'll just have to show up to find out what it is.

See you there!

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Process

“In order to awaken the creative process at the beginning of the rehearsal the director might say, “…Let’s begin at the beginning and read for sense and see what we discover”. You don’t have to say more than that. After that all you have to do is listen and say yes… Let [the actor] do the work. Make it easier for him. Clear the obstacles from his path. Most actors feel as though a script is an obstacle course. Help him find the path.

The path we are looking for, the actor and director together, is the inner life of the character. The director’s responsibility is to evoke and discover that inner life… That’s why we say, Impose as little as possible. Speak as little as possible. Encourage as much as possible. Say yes to everything. Allow Nature to work for you”

-- William Ball, A Sense of Direction

Joel Sturrock (Kane)

This is a process that I pretty much subscribe to whole-heartedly. As directors when we cast a show we cast the actors in their roles for specific reasons. It is because we believe them to be, out of all the actors we saw in auditions, the actor best suited to the role and the vision of the play. Therefore, we must then learn to trust the instincts and intuition of the actors that we have chosen.

And, this is generally, where it all begins for me as a director. I want the actor to discover the inner life of the character on their own and take responsibility for the choices. Yes, I come to rehearsal prepared with suggestions, ideas, etc but for the most part I try to let the actors make most of the choices themselves. I don’t want to impose something on actor that they are not comfortable with because then it comes across to the audience as forced or unnatural. Plus 9 times out of 10 an actor will come up with an amazing idea or do something I never would have thought of thereby making that scene better than I could ever imagined. I would never, EVER, intentionally want to squash those moments by trying to force the actor to do exactly as I originally imagined in my head. I do my job. I come prepared. Then I throw it all out the window and “see what we discover”.

Yet, some scripts call for a more defined process and is probably part of the reason I find Human Remains such a challenge. Normally I just like to play. I would basically do exactly as the quote above describes. We would read the “scene for sense” and then I would just say “ok, let’s put it on its feet and see what happens”. I like to play. I like to see what the actors will bring to the script without me having to tell them anything; however, with Human Remains every actor is on stage at all times. So, rather than being able to play around during these past two weeks I needed to give the actors a basic skeleton within which we can now, hopefully, play. The actors needed to know where they were sitting and/or standing when not in the immediate action and how they would get into and out of those scenes as they unfold.

Now that we have set a basic skeleton and everyone knows where they are going (without crashing into each other or tripping over each other) we can play. And, I am really looking forward to finally being able to play and discover the inner life of these characters and this play as we work through it a second time.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer/
Director “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Candy

So, it's been almost two weeks now that we've been rehearsing for Human Remains. Wow. Crazy intense show! There is so much action and blocking to work out as everyone is on stage the entire time that it's left me feeling...well, less than envious of Sabrina. That being said, I'm also in awe of her! She is incredibly organized and has a great vision of what she wants to see. I think sometimes it's a little difficult because, even though it may not feel like everyone is being utilized, it's such a collective process that it makes such a massive difference having everyone there. And it's great for me cause I like all the cool cats in the cast and I get to talk to them!

Photo courtesy of Kirsten Kilburn

Working a cast of seven is a great opportunity to understand everyone's creative process, the ways in which they communicate, and the tools they use to find the journey of their character. I find that I'm learning new methods every day from my fellow artists. Thanks, guys. I'm totally stealing!

I can't wait for the upcoming rehearsals and the growth of the show that's about to take place. Having the blocking worked out initially I think is going to allow us to really explore and find that journey as our bodies will already know the path to take. Which is where I'm off to now...


~Kirsten Kilburn
Candy, "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Solving A Puzzle

Well the first week of rehearsals is over. We worked through almost half the play on our feet and by 6pm on Sunday evening my brain was mush. I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. And, I couldn’t quite figure out why I felt so wrecked. Usually if I feel that way after a rehearsal I can pin-point the exact reason why. Maybe it was particularly difficult working on one section or some conflict arose that I needed to deflate. Yesterday, however, there wasn’t one reason that really stuck out. Then I realized, oh, right, I am working on a Brad Fraser play.

Most of the plays I have directed so far have been pretty “naturalistic” or “realistic”. Yes, they have had their challenges but not like this one. In this play the scenes between characters are very much “naturalistic/realistic” but the framework within which these scenes reside is completely stylized. All characters are on stage at all times. The characters who are not immediately involved in the current scene/action are often throwing in lines here and there. These lines represent commentary or inner thoughts or background on events. It is brilliant writing but a mind-boggling problem to solve.

And, I often look at my job as a director as the problem-solver to the play. Like a puzzle. How am I going to fit all the pieces together to create the final product? Some plays are like a 10 piece puzzle where all the pieces easily fit together nicely to create a nice little picture; whereas, some plays are like a 1000 piece puzzle. You throw all the tiny little pieces onto the table and just stare at the gigantic pile. Part of you wants to throw your hands up in the air and say “What the F---?! I am never going to put this all together!” but the other part, the part of you that loves a challenge, digs in and begins to piece it together bit by bit. It may take a lot longer before it actually starts to resemble anything recognizable but in the end you’ll have this magnificent photograph or painting that you can mount and put on your wall. (If you are someone who is so inclined to do so. I tend to think of it like putting needlepoint on my wall. I’ll leave it to my grandmother.)

This play is a 1000 piece puzzle. It’s going to be rough going for awhile putting all the pieces together but once it is finished it is going to be amazing.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer/
Director, “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Year End Report

So, as all us not-for-profits know, there is that time of year where we sit down and crunch our numbers. We are required by the government to have year-end financial statements that will accompany our annual report that we file with the government.

This is neither fun nor exciting but it does make you take a moment to reflect on (hopefully) the progress you’ve made in the last year. You can see where some things may have gone off track or where you made a brilliant leap forward. So, instead of thinking of it as a chore maybe we should start thinking of it as an opportunity to learn and set new goals for the year ahead.


What happened this past year:
  • We added a second show during the winter: The Fever by Wallace Shawn.
  • Audience attendance went up again. Not in leaps and bounds like the previous year but by a steady 6.5%
  • We secured another media sponsor: The Westender
  • We started working together with another local independent theatre, Pi Theatre, in order to help us raise funds
  • We fundraised over $5000 through various methods such as corporate sponsorship, running concession(s) and individual donations.
  • We got a proper website up and running that is easy for us to use and modify ourselves.
  • Actor & Director interviews for The Fever appeared on The Next Stage and CiTR Radio 109.1
  • The Fever was chosen as part of the Georgia Straight’s Winter Preview
  • A photo preview of SubUrbia appeared on the Fashion Magazine website.
  • Our shows were reviewed by the Vancouver Courier, Globe & Mail, Westender, The Republic of East Van, Review Vancouver, CiTR Radio 109.1.

Some goals set for this year:

  • Continue to grow our audiences (evaluate in September)
  • Acquire Charitable Status (working on it)
  • Continue to work with other local independent theatre companies in order to help raise funds (DONE: Patrick Street Productions)
  • Secure a season sponsor (DONE: Nexus Investment Corporation)
  • Hire a publicist (DONE: Jodi Smith…and she’s already acquired an interview with the Vancouver Province)
  • Get professional publicity photos (DONE: David Cooper took some amazing shots)
  • Increase social media presence (Well…I think that one pretty much speaks for itself since I am writing this in my Blog that I will then link to my Twitter account).


All in all I’m pretty happy with the progress we made last year and I am extremely happy with the progress we’ve made so far this year. Let’s hope it continues.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Monday, July 13, 2009

Toronto: The Rest

Ok, so I think I was a little overly ambitious thinking I was going to Blog, diary-style, while I was in Toronto. I barely had time to sleep let alone sit down in front of my computer to write. I did manage to get one out about my first two days (or day and a half) while I was there. Now I am home and here is the rest.

Friday:

My friend didn’t have a show that day so we set out to see the city. First stop however, was breakfast/brunch and we ate this diner-style place just off of Dundas Square called The Senator. I love diners (the real kind not the kitchy ones made to look like diners) and this place was great. After we were sufficiently stuffed full of eggs and coffee we set out towards to waterfront.


From there we walked along the water and back up towards Theatre Passe Muraille where the Fringe show Nebraska was being presented. Nebraska is a country-rock musical that is “based on the true events of the 1957 Starkweather/Fugate Murders in Lincoln Nebraska”. Beyond this I knew nothing of this show and I had no friends in it either so I am completely unbiased when I tell you that it was excellent. Obviously the Fringe is over and I don’t know if they are putting it on at another Fringe or not but if you have the chance to ever catch this show again go see it. This is the kind of new theatre we need to be seeing. It was fresh and contemporary even though it was set in 1957. The music was great and it was all around a very well done piece of theatre. You can check out the Toronto Star review and Now Magazine designated it a “Critic’s Pick” as well as gave it 4 stars.

Afterwards we hit the beer tents at the Fringe and stayed until the beer tents turned into the Fringe club complete with a rockin’ DJ.

Saturday:

After the previous nights activities we didn’t actually get out of the house until 2:30pm. We made our way into town and grabbed some food at a pub/bistro on Bloor. By then it was 5pm and my friend’s call time for her show was 8pm plus we were slightly hungover (hmmmm, have you guessed the theme of this trip yet) so we went to the park and had a nice little lay around for a couple hours. I seem to have spent a lot of time napping in parks on this trip.

My friend’s show is called Quarterlife: The Musical. She plays the character of Amy and will also being playing the role of Candy in our upcoming production of Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love.

The production was actually originally produced in Vancouver last September at the Beaumont Studios and won the 2008 Ovation award for Outstanding New Work. This new version is a cut 90 minute version with 3 actors from Toronto who joined the cast. Congratulations to you all!


Photo courtesy of Feisty Fairy Productions


Afterwards we all headed out for a drink and I met up with a friend who actually helped me produce Twenty-Something’s very first production of This Is Our Youth. We didn’t get home until 4am. I slept for an hour and a half. Got up at 5:30am….

Sunday:

….and flew home.

Now I am going to attempt to restore my body to normal functioning capabilities as rehearsals start tomorrow for Remains and I think it would be a good idea if my brain was firing on all cylinders.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Friday, July 10, 2009

Toronto: Day One & A Half

So as I had mentioned in an earlier post I was going to Toronto to visit friends, do the Fringe thing and just generally explore the city. I've never been before and yesterday was technically the first full day but I did arrive on Wednesday afternoon. So, really, this post is about day one and a half.

Wednesday after catching up with my friend who I hadn't seen in awhile we made our way into Downtown Toronto (She is staying out in Etobicoke). Our first stop was this great little restaurant, Grace, in Little Italy. Great atmosphere, food and service. If you are in Toronto check it out. Pretty decent prices as well.

Now I'll preface this next part by saying at the restaurant we had already downed a bottle of wine. Then we stopped off at a bar called The Embassy in the Kensington Market area to have a few cocktails. While we were there the bartender said "Shots?" and it all went down-hill from there. After a few drinks and a couple of rounds of tequila we ended up in some place called The Something-Or-Other (can't remember what the full title is) Sex Bar. Most random place ever with the most random mix of people. I am pretty sure we stuck out like a sore thumb but at that point we also pretty much didn't care.

Next Day, due to a really bad hangover and headache, I opted out of touring the city and pretty much parked my butt on a patch of grass in the sun and slept while my friends were doing their Fringe show.

But, after we managed to nap and sort ourselves out, we did manage to catch the Fringe show Circus. It is a one-man show created and performed by Sebastian Kroon, who is playing Bernie in our upcoming production of Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love. It was a really good show and some of the special effects were really cool. He had a big-top tent-like set piece that was also a costume piece. When he slid his arms in and the lights went dark, with the exception of one black light, the big-top tent-like set piece would turn into his Ringmaster costume. Plus somehow the black light also illuminated his face to make it look like he was wearing a mask. Really cool effect and a great performance.

Afterwards we headed to a swank bar/lounge place called BarChef where my friend ordered the $45 Manhattan that comes presented to you in a smoky glass box as the drink is infused with Hickory smoke and something else. The presentation is pretty impressive but I don't know if I would pay $45 for a cocktail; however, she said it was worth every penny. I had one of the cocktails from the Recession page. It was $8. That is about all I can afford. We had some food as well which was all in all pretty good but the cheese platter was excellent.

Then we took the streetcar home. To the end of the line. Proceeded to walk out of the streetcar and were instantly bombarded by the most horrifying smell ever. Apparently we were right near the treatment plant. Just lovely. We booked it into a cab and were off home to bed.


~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why This Play?

Good Question. And one that was recently asked in the comments section to my post Damn This Poster is Hot. In the comment it seems that the writer is raising two questions:

a) How does this play speak to our target audience (18-35)?
b) How is the play relevant today?

The beauty of theatre (and of life) is that it is subjective. You might think one thing about a play and/or production and I may think another. Both may be right. Both may be wrong.

From the tone of the comment, I would gather (and that is the down side about anything on the internet where a conversation ensues, whether it be email, twitter or a blog, tone is inferred) the writer is not the biggest fan of “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love”. So be it.

I, however, think it is a great play but I’ve only ever read the play. I’ve never seen a production of the play or the film so I’m not sure what another director’s/producer’s take on the play might be. I only know what I think based on the text.

And based on the text, it is a play well suited to a “twenty-something” crowd. David, the lead character is turning 30 (Kane asks David “how old are you anyways?” David replies “Thirty in a few months”, pg 18) and Kane, another lead, is 17 (Benita states “He’s only 17”. David replies “he told me he was 18”. Benita “He lied”, pg 33). Now, I’m not going to go through the rest of the script and provide factual, text–based evidence for the rest of the 5 characters because that would be just plain boring for you, the reader.

But as producer/director of this play, I’ve done the work and I can safely say that the rest of the 5 characters fall within that 18-35 range; however, even if they didn’t, I don’t see the problem. As long as it is a play that deals with the issues of our time and generation then my requirement is met which brings me to back to the second part of the question.

How is it relevant today? I believe (and, again, just my opinion) that the issues that this play deals with in terms of things like identity and violence are as relevant today as they were when Brad Fraser first wrote the play. Universally, the question of identity - who we are or think we are - is something we all struggle with regardless of age because our identity is continually evolving. Who we think we are now is not going to be the same as who we think we are five years from now.

More specifically this play deals with sexual identity and the differing ways in which the characters deal with that. Now, I could write a whole blog post on this issue alone but already this post is getting long so I won’t. All I will say is that in the past 5 years, I have gone from 24 to 29, and I know 2 friends personally who have struggled with this issue. That is as relevant as it gets.

As for the violence in the play: all we have to do is turn on our television and/or read a newspaper and we can all see the relevance. Specifically at one of our early meetings, Jergus (the Scenic & Lighting Designer) and I were actually discussing the relevance of this play in correlation to the current news regarding the woman who was brutally murdered while jogging in Pacific Spirit Park. Just Google it and you’ll see article upon article regarding this story. (There is a very good article you can read at Vancouver Magazine regarding this woman, her life and the mystery behind her murder, if you are interested). This just happened in April of 2009. As current as it gets.

However, it is the job of the director to bring this relevancy out in the production of the play. Have other productions been successful? I don’t know I’ve never seen them. I only know that when I tell most people we are doing this play, their comment is either a) wow, I love that play or b) wow, that is brave.

It is not an “easy” piece of theatre but I look forward to the challenge. I hope to bring Vancouver audiences a fresh perspective on a great piece of Canadian theatre. You’ll just have to come see it to find out.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer