by Nathaniel Bryan and Paul Beauchamp
Nathaniel Bryan: Congrats on producing the tour of A Craigslist Cantata, which opened to rave reviews in both Calgary and Edmonton this past month, Paul! What would you say was the most rewarding aspect of producing a show outside of Toronto?
Paul Beauchamp: It was really rewarding to get to know the audience in Calgary because they loved the show so much. Leading up to the tour, I didn’t know how the audiences in Alberta would take to the show, and it was neat to watch the first couple of previews as well as the opening night performance. I got to know what made them laugh, what didn’t, and what worked differently in the show. On top of this, we were playing to a 400 seat theatre, which ended up averaging about 300 people every night. It was quite a difference from the Toronto run, were we could only hold 100 people in the studio at Factory Theatre.
NB: You mention what “worked differently in the show.” Is that in comparison to our production at Factory Theatre last year? What were some of the major changes made and why?
PB: I think the biggest change made in the touring production versus the Toronto production was made to the second number. The show still begins by launching us into the first whacky ad of the night, “Bus Boyfriend”, however, instead of continuing into a group number recounting numerous quirky tid-bit ads, this production is more streamlined and simply morphs into actor Selina Martin’s coup as a children’s guillotine vendor. This change cuts about 5 minutes off the show, which helps tighten things up. This type of show truly benefits from being short and sweet. It also cut some unnecessary repetition – though the ads were all different from other numbers, the structure of the original second number mimicked the group numbers that come later in the piece. I think that omitting this number strengthened the larger songs that come later.
NB: That’s quite an exciting change! What would you say has been overall the most exciting part of producing our first touring production?
PB: The word of mouth has been really exciting. We got some stellar reviews in Calgary which really helped build the buzz for the tour’s second leg in Edmonton. I think that the success of this production has really allowed Acting Up Stage to build a name for itself, both within the industry and with the general theatre going public, beyond Toronto. It’s been cool to watch this happen.
NB: I’m interested in the challenges/rewards posed by transferring a show between cities in such a short period of time. What would you consider the biggest challenge you encountered in producing this tour?
PB: I think the biggest challenge we encountered as a team was transferring the technical aspects of the show between the venues. The Alberta Theatre Project’s Martha Cohen Theatre in Calgary is huge. It’s a 400 seat house, and the stage is probably about 3-4 times the width of the Factory Studio. By contrast The Citadel Theatre’s Club Theatre in Edmonton is about half the size of the stage in Calgary and only holds around 150 patrons, so all of our technical needs had to be adjusted. The set was scaled down and the performers needed to adjust their staging.
NB: Since this was the first Acting Up Stage show on which you took the lead as producer, how has it increased your abilities in the field?
PB: As this was a touring production, there were a whole slew of company management details that took up most of my time. I’ve never worked as a company manager, so a lot of learning took place here. How do people get from point A to point B? What hotel are they staying at? What are the most cost effective solutions? I also took a lot away from dealing with the various performer unions, specifically the Musicians’ unions. Unlike Equity (the actor’s professional association), the musician’s union is not national. So details, such as fees and work hours, are different from city to city. It was quite the challenge to coordinate between Toronto, where we rehearsed for the show, and the two cities in Alberta.
NB: Speaking of all the cities Craigslist has visited, can you share any information about the future of the piece?
PB: My lips are sealed, but my fingers are crossed!