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

Friday, July 3, 2009

Worst. Day. Ever.

DISCLAIMER: Yesterday I wrote this blog post and at the time I decided to wait until I had a little bit more perspective to actually go live with it. Then I went back to my first blog post and remembered how I promised to write about the good, the bad and the ugly. Well yesterday was the ugly and I think it is only fair that we celebrate our successes and discuss our failures. So without further ado my post from yesterday...


I've just had the worst day ever. I’ve been involved in theatre since I was 14. I’ve had to deal with many people and many personalities and in the past 5 years since I’ve moved to Vancouver I have NEVER had an experience like I had today.

I’d like to think I am a fairly easy person to work with. I’m fairly confident that when I work for other companies they are happy with my work or else they wouldn’t continue to work with me. On my own productions I try to create a positive environment and sense of community. I won’t lie and say it’s all been roses and tulips and running-through-the-meadow kind of bliss; but, I think (I hope) for the most part, the people I’ve worked with have enjoyed working with me.

Tensions rise and people may have disagreements or things may be misinterpreted. It’s life. We are human. Therefore we are all fallible. I am definitely not perfect. I won’t pretend that I am. I’m 100% positive that at some point (or many points) I have said or done something that has offended or angered or hurt someone. Conflict happens. Again, this is life.

So, the frustration lies, not in the conflict itself but in how we deal with the conflict which leads me back to today’s events. Today I had basically had to fire someone. I wish I could think of a nicer way to put it but there just isn’t a nicer way to say it. I could say “let them go” or “part ways” but everyone knows that I am still essentially saying “fired”. And, it is probably one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do.

I didn’t set out with the intention to “fire” this person but I was basically given no alternative. There were some issues (I won’t get into specifics here because I don’t believe it right or helpful to start a smear campaign against anyone) that had come up over the last 2 months that needed to be addressed. When I tried to address these issues in a diplomatic way it did not go well. I realized then and there that my communication style was not going to work with his/her communication style. And, if we can’t communicate properly with each other, and operate from the same page, then there really isn’t any point in continuing on. It would only make the next 2 months unpleasant for us both. So, I had to make a very hard decision and bring up the possibility that maybe we should just go our separate ways. Again, this did not go over well, and unfortunately things did not end on a friendly note.

This is the hardest thing for me. I take pride in my ability to work with all different types of people. I wouldn’t have been able to manage and grow my own company over the last 4 years if I wasn’t good at managing people. So, this for me is a big deal. I wish things could have been resolved more constructively or at least ended on a more positive note but I cannot control how other people react to or deal with conflict.

As much as I try I will not get along with everyone. And, not everyone will get along with me. So, I guess, the only thing we can do when a difficult situation arises is to at least try and treat each other with the respect that every human being deserves. Then we move on with confidence knowing that we have done our best.


~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Damn This Poster is HOT

The final proof is in. The poster for our 2009 summer production....



Thoughts?


~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer