Month: January 2013

The Year of The Child – I’d Rather Be Swimming

We have begun swimming lessons. I don’t know if we can expect our 6 month old babies to be ready for the next Olympic games, but we have nonetheless begun taking them for a lesson once a week. The lessons mostly consist of the parents pulling and pushing their kids through the water while keeping them from crying. We chase toys, go down slides, and help our kids ‘jump’ into the pool.

For some reason, swimming is the first activity that I have found where I don’t stick out like a sore thumb as the token Dad amidst a sea of Moms. There are Dads EVERYWHERE! More

Craigslist Press Release

Acting Up Factory News:
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata (PDF, 654Kb)
Jan 30 – Mar 3 2013

Working with Emerging Artists

Banks Prize Showcase

There are so many avenues and pathways into the performance industry. As you listen to different artists discuss their journey into the business, you realize quickly that there isn’t a common path. How does one find the best chance for success? This question could be answered any number of ways, but in my own experience on the path, the answer is twofold; opportunity and mentorship.

For the first time in Acting Up Stage Company’s nine-year history, we are taking two young emerging musical theatre artists into residence for a season. There are very few opportunities, particularly in Canada, that bridge the gap between theatre school programs and the professional world of theatre. The Syd & Shirley Banks Prize, new this season, is allowing us to do just this. In early September, we auditioned just over one hundred emerging musical theatre artists, and we are thrilled to be working with Alexis Gordon and Andres Sierra throughout our 2012-2013 season. Our Banks Prize winners receive:

  1. A $1,000 cash prize;
  2. A performance/cabaret created by and starring both winners;
  3. A featured role in our annual concert;
  4. Behind the scenes access to our major production; and
  5. An opportunity to originate a role in an original musical reading.

As a somewhat emerging artist myself, it has been quite a privilege for me to work with these two artists so far, and a real gift to both the artists and the musical theatre community in Canada to have this sort of opportunity available.

Andres recently finished college at Sheridan for musical theatre and has dreams of becoming a pop artist. He writes his own music, has many followers on Youtube and fuels this passion alongside his musical theatre work. Alexis graduated a few years ago from Windsor’s BFA Acting program. She has written her own plays, and has developed her musical talents alongside her formal acting training. Alexis plays the ukulele, and has a deep love for language plays and classic musical theatre that most young artists of her generation would not have any interest in. These two are a unique pair to say the least.

We are currently working together on their showcase performance which will take place at Factory Theatre on February 18th and 25th. It is up to Andres and Alexis to come up with a show that will best demonstrate their talents to Toronto audiences – in other words, we want them to make their Toronto debuts with a splash! They come up with the concept, write the show, choose songs and then work out the details with a director (me) and a music director (Lily Ling). How did we start? How did we come up with an idea? How, as a mentor, do you steer the idea in the “right” direction? The direction that leaves enough room for their creativity and ideas to flow, but that upholds the values and integrity of Acting Up Stage at the same time?

My answer to the above set of questions is that I ask a lot of questions! We throw a lot at the wall to see what sticks and what feels right. As a professional director, it has been of the utmost importance to this process with Alexis and Andres that the work serves them first, helping them to create a show that features their range of talents, highlights their strengths, and gives them the opportunity to do things they might not have the chance to do in other places.

Like all symbiotic relationships, we learn from each other. As I watch Alexis and Andres work toward this incredible showcase of their talents, I am astounded by their energy and their drive. I am grateful that I am able to learn from these two smart and reflective artists, who are teaching me what it means to tackle difficult topics with a sense of humour, love and bravery. As a mentor, the best thing I can do is help my mentees feel confident on the path they’re on, and trust that for a brief moment in time, I’ve played a part in pointing them in the right direction


Banks Vlog #7 – On the Road Again

Alexis and Andres are on the road to the Banks Prize Showcase. Here’s a sneak peek of them, and Associate Artistic Producer Elenna Mosoff, as they prepare for Canada’s Next Top Token!

The Craigslist Phenomenon

Craigslist has been around for a while now, and it’s a service that many of us take for granted. Perhaps you use it to find one-of-a-kind antiques, or a comfy chair to fill a void in your living room. Maybe you even use it to meet up with new friends. In any case, it’s a service that makes certain aspects of our lives much easier.

Craigslist didn’t just pop up over night. It first began in 1995 as a simple e-mail distribution list among friends, which listed social events of interest to software and internet developers in the San Francisco Bay area. As with most internet success stories, this email list grew rapidly through word-of-mouth, and it wasn’t long before merchandise and job posts were included. The number of users also grew, resulting in the need for a transition from email based posts, to a full fledged web page.

It took only 5 years for the website to become popular in other US cities. April 2001 saw the phenomenon break through into Canada with success in Vancouver. By 2004, Craigslist went global with off shoots in cities such as London and Amsterdam. As of August 2012, Craigslist is operational in over 700 cities within 70 different countries.

With over 20 billion page views per month (37th overall among websites worldwide), Craigslist is certainly an internet phenomenon. Documentaries have been made, an off-Broadway show has been produced, music has been created, and of course the Canadian musical Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata is about to begin performances in Toronto. In anticipation of our upcoming production, we caught up with director Amiel Gladstone to pick his brain about the online sensation.

First and foremost, why does the subject of Craigslist interest you as a director?

Initially I was intrigued how we were going to take those ads and put them onstage, and then Veda (Hille, co-writer) sent me demos of about eight songs. I remember clearly listening to them for the first time on an airplane and having some serious laughing fits. I found those catchy first songs so funny and human and surprisingly affecting, I knew right away we were on to something.

Why do you think the online platform of Craigslist is so popular?

It’s one of the great examples of what the Internet is best at—bringing together large communities and making it so that they can easily communicate with each other. 

Have you ever used the site?

I use the site all the time. I have two sofas in my home that I bought there. When we were work shopping the show Veda saw an ad in which a single woman posted asking if anyone wanted to go see the show with her. Veda says she saw a woman meeting that description in the audience. People were selling their tickets to the show on the site in Vancouver, it was pretty neat!

There have been lots of dangers associated with Craigslist, especially with relation to their personals section. Do you think Craigslist should shut down their personals section, just as other online classified websites, such as Kijiji, have done?

Unfortunately any time there is human interaction in the world there is some risk. No one suggests shutting down the entire city of Toronto because people occasionally get hurt there. Just as you do on the street, there are ways to do what you can to protect yourself in your interactions with strangers.

How has the format of the online platform of Craigslist affected your directing approach toward this show? 

Through the process of creating the show we had a lot of questions about how to represent the online world. We tried projections of ads on the back wall. We had the actors using laptops. In the end, the key was to play to the strengths of theatre—dynamic, likeable performers, putting their heart into these great tunes, and engaging the imagination of the audience. In some ways I had to go back to my first initial listening on the plane—creating a place that we can be delighted and surprised.

Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata begins performances on January 30th and runs until March 3. For tickets and show times, visit