Musical Works in Concert at SummerWorks
Check out some new musical theatre works this summer at the SummerWorks Festival. All three shows in the Musical Works in Concert series are definitely worth checking out. See the following Acting Up Stage Company alumni: Jeff Madden (UnCovered: Sting & The Police), Arlene Duncan (Caroline, or Change, Once On This Island), Alexis Gordon (Banks Prize winner 2012-2013), Chris Tsujiuchi (Banks Prize music director, 2013-2014) in Recurring John; Tara Litvack (Falsettos assistant music director) with Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show; and Lezlie Wade (Elegies: A Song Cycle director) with The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen.
August 10 – 11 – Various locations, Toronto – summerworks.ca or 416-907-0468
Crazy For You
See Acting Up Stage alumni Stephen Patterson and Steve Ross in this critically acclaimed production of Crazy For You. Sent to Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on a derelict theatre, banker Bobby Child falls for its owner’s daughter, Polly Baker. Can he reconcile the demands of duty and love – and his own dreams of dancing? “I Got Rhythm,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” are just some of the gems in this dynamic musical’s dazzling score.
Now on stage until October 12 – Festival Theatre, Stratford Festival– stratfordfestival.ca or 1-800-567-1600
Book of Mormon
Mirvish brings back the smash hit! Nine 2011 Tony Awards® say it’s the Best Musical of the Year. Vogue says “It’s the best musical of the last 25 years.” And The New York Times says, “It’s the best musical of this century.” It’s The Book of Mormon, the Broadway phenomenon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart calls it, “A crowning achievement. So good, it makes me angry.”
Beings September 16 – Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto – mirvish.com or 416-593-4142
By Laura Paduch
Meet the Acting Up Stage Company team at the office: a chance to get to know the people truly behind the scenes!
Paul Beauchamp – Producer & Operations Manager
Paul is a Toronto based producer and arts administrator and has been with Acting Up Stage Company for the past 2 years. In his role as Producer & Operations Manager, Paul helps to run the day to day operations of the company, as well as implement the short-term visioning of the company’s activity. To list all the tasks and duties this entails would be daunting. Paul’s multitasking abilities and endless efficiency make it hard to imagine Acting Up without him, but before beginning in this position in July of 2012, Paul previously was engaged as the apprentice stage manager on Caroline, or Change in January 2012, and initially as a volunteer stage manager for 2010’s One Song Glory.
After graduating from Ryerson University’s Performance Production program, Paul gained extensive stage management experience, working with such companies as Mirvish Productions, Tarragon Theatre, Soulpepper and, of course, Acting Up. With this valuable experience, Paul worked towards transitioning fully to producing and arts administration. These long term goals of his were realized when he was hired as the 2012 Luminato Festival’s Production Coordinator.
Currently, in addition to his docket at Acting Up Stage Company, Paul is the General Manager of the Artists Mentoring Youth (AMY) Project, a barrier-free, arts-education organization that enables young women who face various barriers (social, economic, physical, racial) to tell their own unique story. It’s an incredible amount of work, but it is worth the pay-off of seeing how profound and important this work is to the program graduates each year.
Deniz Kepenek – Audience Relationship Manager
Acting Up Stage Company is excited to welcome our newest staff member to the team! Deniz joins Acting Up as our Audience Relationship Manager. She will direct the approach to develop and maintain the company’s relationships with our audience, and the theatre-going community of Toronto. This includes managing communication plans, organizing events and engagement activities, providing insight and direction for the company’s marketing strategies and overseeing web and social media activities.
Deniz is an established arts administrator and specializes in performing arts marketing and communication strategies. She has very recently moved to Toronto from Montreal, where she was engaged by the Quebec Drama Federation, Quebec’s English-language theatre service organization. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Deniz graduated from Emerson College in Boston, MA with a degree in Marketing Communications. It was while there when Deniz developed her capacities in arts administration, working positions in marketing and sales, publicity, development and front-of-house management for various theatre companies. Presently, Deniz also is a marketing and communications consultant for Beautiful City Theatre, an up-and-coming Montreal-based theatre company.
Deniz believes modern musical theatre breaks the rules of traditional theatre, and is an entirely different approach to bringing stories to life. It brings light to socially, politically, economically, and environmentally relevant issues, and offers alternative perspectives:”Modern musical theatre is one that makes me think and it’s one that boils my blood”.
Ari Weinberg – Metcalf Foundation Intern Artistic Director
Ari’s position as Intern Artistic Director with Acting Up is made possible by the generosity of the Metcalf Foundation. Through this opportunity, Ari is able to shadow Mitchell Marcus, assisting with the tasks and work necessary to prepare for the upcoming company activities for 2014/15. He is also overseeing One Song Glory and contributing to the Syd and Shirley Banks Prize program. Prior to this position with Acting Up, Ari worked with the company as a Producing Assistant in the spring of 2014.
Ari graduated from Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance Program in 2006. Since then, he has worked extensively as an actor, including credits with Stratford Festival, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Globe Theatre (Regina) and Drayton Entertainment. He has also begun exploring direction; he co-directed Godspell for Theatre Sheridan and recently directed Hugh and I at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. He was the recipient of a Professional Theatre Training Grant from Theatre Ontario in 2013, to assistant direct Salt-Water Moon at the Thousand Islands Playhouse with Ashlie Corcoran, and to be mentored by Steven Schipper, Artistic Director of the Royal Manitoba Centre.
In addition to his position with Acting Up Stage, Ari is also the Internship Advisor for students in their third year of the Music Theatre Program at Sheridan College, and a teaching artist for the Stratford Festival. While he works towards his life goal of becoming the artistic director of the Stratford Festival, Ari is inspirited to learn from as many people in the industry that he can, and to continue to grow as an actor, director and arts administrator.
Ari believes modern musical theatre means, “using the art form of musical theatre to illuminate contemporary themes and deepen the meaning of our shared experiences. Modern musicals inspire far more personal reflection than the classic musical theatre, it makes us think about who we are, the world we live and how we live our lives”.
Our team members were each asked to describe their favourite musical theatre experiences, ever:
“I can’t choose, so I’m going to have to describe two! As an audience member, one of my favourite experiences was watching Patti LuPone on stage as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. On the flip side of things, as a theatre professional, my favourite moment came during the run of Caroline, or Change. I truly fell in love with the show and the cast when I worked backstage on this production.”
– Paul Beauchamp
“I feel like it’s so hard to pick a favourite musical theatre experience, let alone describe my favourite one!…When I was 9 years old, I was on a family vacation in London when my parents took me to see the English production of the French-Canadian Notre-Dame de Paris. I was a little girl at the time, and was in love with the Disney animated movie of the story. Little did I know, the musical was nothing like the movie. Interesting enough, the musical ended up being more appealing to me than the movie. The dancing was beautiful, the acting and singing were breathtaking; most importantly, the music was seriously out of this world. I never knew such beauty could exist, and was even more amazed to see that everyone else around me – including my parents and all the strangers in the house – were experiencing similar emotions. It felt great to be surrounded by that energy.”
– Deniz Kepenek
“1. Seeing Patti Lupone in Gypsy. I am a big Patti fan and her performance was everything I had ever envisioned Mama Rose to be. 2. Seeing Into The Woods at Canadian Stage in 1995. The first time I was introduced to the work of Stephen Sondheim. The cast was filled with phenomenal actor/singers and the set was a combination of ramps, stairs, platforms and giant projection screens, it instantly became my favourite musical… it still is.”
– Ari Weinberg
By Ari Weinberg
In May, I got a call from some friends to see if I would be interested in directing their show at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Hugh and I was a musical based on the life of Hugh Hefner and the creation of Playboy Magazine; its libretto, score and lyrics were written by a team of writers who had all had previous Fringe hits. A great testing ground for new works, the Fringe selection is lottery based. So the writers of Hugh and I had known they had a space in the festival since November of 2013 and had worked through several drafts of the material before the creative team and cast were assembled in May.
Whenever someone says the words “Fringe” and “musical” in the same sentence, I immediately think of The Drowsy Chaperone; it’s a legendary show in Canada, having started as a spoof wedding gift that turned into a Fringe show that was picked up by Mirvish and eventually ended up on Broadway. Other musicals that premiered at the Fringe have gone on to success beyond the festival. My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding and Top Gun! The Musical both had New York workshops and productions across North America. So the bar has been set pretty high for what a new musical at the Fringe can achieve.
While the Fringe offers many benefits for exposure, it does not negate the massive amounts of work that go into creating a new musical. Hugh and I required a cast of 8. The concept was to tell the story of Hugh Hefner through the eyes of the Playboy Bunnies; that meant that a male would play Hugh and all the other roles (male and female) would be played by seven women.
A cast of eight is large for a Fringe venture, especially when no one is getting paid (well…you split your profits at the end, but there is no guarantee as to how much- or how little- it will be). Scheduling the entire team of writers, the cast, musical director, choreographer, costume/set designer and props mistress was a rare and magnificent feat that took incredible patience and skill from our stage manager.
With little opportunity to workshop the material in advance, much of the show was tested on its feet during rehearsals. A scene could be re-written on the fly and songs would be scrapped over night, which meant new melodies and lyrics had to be learnt the following day. The cast of Hugh and I were musical theatre machines, learning harmonies, choreography and blocking fast and furiously during a rehearsal period that amounted to approximately 2 weeks plus 3 hours of tech time on the stage. There were 16 songs (7 of them were large production numbers), 9 scenes, over 60 costumes and a running time of an hour and twenty-three minutes.
This year, the Fringe had 150 productions playing at over a dozen venues across Toronto. Strong word of mouth is essential to a show’s success at the Fringe and we were lucky, almost a thousand people came out to see the premiere of Hugh and I. While it still needs work and re-tooling, the Fringe offered the creators of Hugh and I a chance to see it realized on its feet in a low budget production. What will happen next? Who knows, but the hard work that went into it was enjoyed by many.
By Mitchell Marcus
The arrival of summer marks the end of another year at Acting Up Stage Company. Let’s be clear – 2013-2014 was not just another year. It was our largest season of programming to date, and it marked our 10th anniversary of theatre in Toronto. It was a year of wonderful memories and terrific learnings. As we say goodbye to 2013-2014 and welcome all of the exciting things in store for 2014-2015 I have taken a moment to reflect on some of the highlights and surprises from the last year:
- “Hey, Old Friends”
My favourite memory from 2013-2014 was the first day of rehearsals for Elegies: A Song Cycle. Seeing Thom Allison, Barbara Barsky, Eliza-Jane Scott, Steven Gallagher, Lezlie Wade and Wayne Gwillim reunited to begin reviving and re-exploring this work was a very emotional moment. Elegies was our first big hit back in 2007 and I am eternally indebted to the artists who brought it to life. Knowing how much the piece meant to everyone involved the first time, and having them all clear their schedules to bring it to life again meant a great deal.
- “Go West”
In January/February we took our production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata to Calgary and Edmonton. I arrived in Calgary on our closing night. It was the first time that I got to watch one of our shows in a packed audience of 400 people where I didn’t know a single audience member. It was a thrill to sit anonymously, feeling the energy of 400 delighted spectators and to secretly take pride knowing that it was our production up on that stage.
- “I’ve Come To Hear New Music”
Attending the National Alliance for Musical Theatre conference and showcase last November was a highlight of the year. Beginning to make connections with our American counterparts for future partnerships was a wonderful opportunity. More importantly, seeing the Canadian musical Come From Away take the festival by storm gave me a great deal of faith that Canada can definitely play a major role in the next generation of great musical theatre.
- “We’re Opening Doors”
We were so delighted to be invited to participate as a renter at the new Daniels Spectrum and very proud to have brought three musicals to the revitalized Regent Park over the last two years (Falsettos, Once On This Island and Elegies). After these three productions however, we have decided to go back to the Berkeley Street Theatre in 2015 where we worked from 2007-2012. While our audience loyally traveled to the new Daniels Spectrum to see our work, we found it more difficult to drum up word-of-mouth in a new facility without the habitual esteem of an established theatre. Plus, there are some elements of the Berkeley Street Theatre facility that suited our work better artistically. As we say goodbye to the Daniels Spectrum for now, we are very proud to have been a part of its first two years and very grateful for the opportunity to try our work there.
- “Gotta Dance”
In October we launched “Take the Stage”. Nearly 100 amateur singers and actors came together on four teams to compete in this friendly fundraising event. Each team worked with a professional musical theatre artist on a song from the musical theatre canon. They had four hours to put their song together before presenting it for our panel of judges. Each team raised $2000 for Acting Up Stage Company as their entry fee. But more significant than the funds raised, I loved getting to see so many musical theatre enthusiasts up onstage performing. The joy and excitement was really infectious.
All in all, it was a pretty wonderful year. There are things in store for 2014-2015 that are making me jump up and down for joy! We can’t talk about all of them yet, but stay tuned for many announcements in the coming months.