Interview #3 with Leslie McBay, intimacy director for Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production (running April 8-23, 2022) is directed by Victoria Shepherd, who also gets a few Q&As. Interviewed March 30, 2022 by  Alumnae’s Bloggergal/Bar co-manager Tina McCulloch.

 Q (to Leslie McBay): In our last interview, you mentioned that you use a spreadsheet to track “moments of intimacy” that occur in a script, and found about 30 (“a fairly large number”) in “In the Next Room”

Can you elaborate on a few that stand out for you?

A:  One of the first moments that stands out to me is Mrs. Daldry’s first “treatment”, performed by Dr. Givings and assisted by Annie. This is the first time the audience sees what goes on inside the treatment room, and it’s all a surprise to Mrs. Daldry. It’s the first time she experiences an orgasm, and her experience of sexual pleasure grows and changes throughout the arc of the play. This is also where Annie is able to be a great comfort to Mrs. Daldry, and we see a momentary spark between them. 

Actor Rachelle Mazzilli (left – as the doctor’s wife, Mrs. Catherine Givings), actor Ted Powers (centre – as Mr. Daldry, husband of a patient), in rehearsal with intimacy director Leslie McBay (right).
Photo: director Victoria Shepherd.

There’s a moment at the end of the first act where Mrs. Givings’ curiosity about what her husband is doing in the treatment room leads her to break into the room while he is out. She convinces Mrs. Daldry to explain the device to her, and demonstrate its function. In terms of character development, this is a great moment of intimacy where two women who have been deprived of knowledge about sexual pleasure and their own bodies are able to start exploring pleasure for themselves.

In the second act, we have a few moments of intimacy that show the disconnect and desire between Dr. and Mrs. Givings. We establish in the first act how they relate to each other physically, which always seems to leave Mrs. Givings wanting. In one of the scenes, Mrs. Givings persuades her husband to “treat” her with the vibrator. Dr. Givings wants to maintain his professional, almost paternalistic attitude, which is in conflict with his wife’s deep desire for intimacy, connection, and her newfound understanding of pleasure. I don’t want to give too much away, but the climax of the play hinges on whether or not they can find this connection with each other. 

Mrs. Daldry (Kim Croscup) is “treated” by Dr. Givings (Trevor Cartlidge), as the doctor’s wife, Mrs. Catherine Givings (Rachelle Mazzilli), listens curiously outside the door to his office. Set Design: Alexis Chubb. Photo: John Ordean.

Q: I was surprised to learn that the electric vibrator was invented in the 1880s. Who knew? You both researched the historical vibrators described in the play – did you discover anything that surprised you?  (Playwright Sarah Ruhl says she was “inspired” by a book titled The Technology of Orgasm: ‘Hysteria’, The Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction” by Rachel P. Maines, published in 2001.)

A (Victoria): Prior to pitching for the show, I attended a session at Mackenzie House Museum called “Victorian Secrets”.  Contrary to my belief that they were staid and uptight, the upper middle class and very wealthy were actually completely the opposite!  Photographs of nude women in provocative poses and sexually explicit novels were not uncommon at all. It was the lower middle classes who lived and perpetuated the ideal of rigid morality and tightly-controlled sexuality. I was also surprised to find out that in order to control these impulses, a number of horrifying devices were available for sale, via catalogue, to control male erections and access to female sex organs. Turns out our ancestors were a little more awakened than we think!

A (Leslie): Definitely. Vibration seemed to be used as a treatment for other body parts like the spine and the intestines. I was surprised by a description of a steam-powered vibrator that required a separate room for the engine!

Q: How did you find out about the Mackenzie House session, Victoria?

A: When my kids were little, I took them on every outing available. I subscribed to the Toronto museums newsletter, found out about that session, knew I was pitching for the show and [“In The Next Room” set designer] Alexis [Chubb] and I went! I actually talked about some of the things I had learned in my pitch.

Bloggergal note: the Mackenzie House event “Victorian Secrets” (described in Toronto History Museums’ programming notes as “An interactive and intimate look at Victorian sexuality through an evocative evening event suitable for adults… Participants will be encouraged to be curious.”!!) took place in September 2019. “In The Next Room” was originally scheduled to run in April 2020, and rehearsals were underway when the theatre shut down for two years due to Covid. But now we’re baaaaack! These are the people who made it happen:

Mrs. Daldry (Kim Croscup) gets a “treatment” from the doctor’s assistant Annie (Monique Danielle) and Dr. Givings (Trevor Cartlidge).  The doctor’s wife, Mrs. Catherine Givings (Rachelle Mazzilli) and a waiting patient, Leo (Chris Peterson) drink tea in the living room, and pretend not to hear the moans coming from the doctor’s office. Set Design: Alexis Chubb. Costume Design: Livia Pravato. Photo: John Ordean.
Mrs. Catherine GivingsRachelle Mazzilli
Dr. GivingsTrevor Cartlidge
AnnieMonique Danielle
Mrs. Sabrina DaldryKim Croscup
Mr. Dick DaldryTed Powers
ElizabethRée Andrews
Leo IrvingChris Peterson

Director…………………………………………………………… Victoria Shepherd

Producers…………………………………………  Ellen Green, Barbara Larose

Stage Manager…………………………………………………………. Victoria Stark

Asst Stage Manager……………………………………… Polina Zlochevskaia

Costume Design…………………………………………………….. Livia Pravato

Set Design…………………………………………………………….. Alexis Chubb

Lighting Design …………………………………………………….. Liam Stewart

Music / Sound Design………………………………….. John Stuart Campbell

Vocals………………………………………………………….……….Vivien Shepherd

Intimacy Director…………………………………………………… Leslie McBay

Master Carpenter…………………………………………………. Brent Shepherd

Sound / Lighting Operators……………………………….. Giovanna Varsano

Costume Team……….. Adrienne Winterhelt, Marcella Pravato, Emily

                                     Colucci, Kathleen Winterhelt (Hair, Wigs)

Properties………………………………………………………………………… Tamsine Ali

Stunt Portrait Artist………………………………………. Alyssa Quart Cartlidge

Marketing Director…………………………………………………………….. Kat Welsh

Graphic Design…………………………………………………….. Suzanne Courtney

Website…………………………………………………………………………. Jean Sheppard

Season Front of House Manager………………………………….. Alison Smith

Reservations Manager…………………………………………………… Krystina Hunt

Photographer………………………………………………………………. John Ordean

Videographer……………………….………………..……………………… Matt Jensen

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of

Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

directed by Victoria Shepherd

runs April 8 – 23, 2022.

Performances Wed – Sat at 8pm • Sundays at 2pm.
Regular tickets $25 • Wednesdays 2 for 1 • Sundays PWYC.



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Interview #2 with Leslie McBay, intimacy director for Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production (running April 8-23, 2022) is directed by Victoria Shepherd, who also gets a few Q&As. Interviewed March 25, 2022 by  Alumnae’s Bloggergal/Bar co-manager Tina McCulloch.

This is a synopsis of “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”, from website of playwright Sarah Ruhl:

Set in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity in a seemingly perfect, well-to-do Victorian home, proper gentleman and scientist Dr. Givings has innocently invented an extraordinary new device for treating “hysteria” in women (and occasionally men): the vibrator. Adjacent to the doctor’s laboratory, his young and energetic wife Catherine tries to tend to their newborn daughter – and wonders exactly what is going on in the next room. When a new “hysterical” patient, Sabrina, and her husband bring a wet nurse and their own complicated relationship into the doctor’s home, Dr. and Mrs. Givings must examine the nature of their own marriage, and what it truly means to love someone.

Q (to Victoria)What did you hope to achieve with an intimacy director?

A:  “In The Next Room” is play that has a lot of sexually charged and intimate moments. I wanted to make sure that they were realistic but not sensationalistic. I knew that this starts with making sure the actors felt safe and comfortable. We are asking them to be not just emotionally vulnerable, but physically vulnerable as well. I was determined from the start to ensure that we were properly resourced to provide a safe space for them, and the key tool in our safety kit is an Intimacy Director. We were very fortunate to have Leslie come on board to facilitate and navigate what can be very challenging rehearsals, resulting in what I think is the results I had hoped for and dreamed of! 

Q (to Leslie): How did you start the process of intimacy direction with “In The Next Room”

In rehearsal: intimacy director Leslie McBay (from behind), actor Monique Danielle (left, in red plaid shirt – as Annie, a midwife & the doctor’s assistant), actor Kim Croscup (right, in black – as patient Mrs. Sabrina Daldry). Photo: director Victoria Shepherd.

A:  I started by having a conversation with Victoria about her vision for the play, and her previous experience directing plays with intimacy. Then I broke down the script and built an intimacy spreadsheet which tracks scenes and characters involved in the intimacy, and the content of each scene. This is really helpful for shows that have a lot of intimacy – In the Next Room” has almost 30 moments tracked in the spreadsheet! I also did some research on the historical vibrators described in the play and commentary about their use. 

Before we got into intimacy rehearsals, I checked in with the performers individually by email to talk about the content in the play, to emphasize that all choreography will be built around their consent and agency over their bodies, and to privately discuss any concerns or boundaries they wanted me to know about.

Q:  Do you have a fairly standard process when meeting with casts for the first time, or is the intro different for every script and situation?

A:  I have a fairly standard order of operations when working on a play, though that does change based on the needs of the ensemble, and when I am hired. If I’m brought on early enough in the process, I can consult on the audition process and content. It’s fairly common for the directors and actors I work with to have limited experience working with an intimacy director, so whenever possible I like to start the process with some teaching around theatrical intimacy, a nuanced model of consent, and practical exercises to help people feel comfortable expressing boundaries and giving/receiving consent.

In rehearsal: actor Rachelle Mazzilli (left – as the doctor’s wife, Mrs. Catherine Givings), actor Kim Croscup (centre – as patient Mrs. Sabrina Daldry), intimacy director Leslie McBay (right). Photo: director Victoria Shepherd.

Q: What do you mean by model of consent?

A: I use the FRIES model of consent from Planned Parenthood, and talk about how it applies to the rehearsal hall. This is one of the elements we addressed at the Zoom read, when I was introducing concepts around theatrical intimacy. 


F is for Freely Given, which means that consent is given free from coercion. This can be hard to see, because we’ve got power dynamics going on in a rehearsal space that can influence whether or not a performer feels like they can say no to an offer or request from a director, or even another actor who has more experience or clout. I talk about the different types of power and how intimacy directors can help to mitigate these dynamics.

R is for Reversible. Consent can be removed, at any point in the process. We build choreography around performer boundaries, and work to ensure that performers feel confident repeating it every night. However, sometimes things change in a performer’s personal life, or in the rehearsal hall, and that changes where their boundaries are. We can always rebuild choreography at any point in the process if a performer no longer consents to a specific action.

I is for Informed. This means that a performer is aware of the intimate content/nudity involved for the character before they accept the role. It’s really important for casting breakdowns to list this information, so that actors can choose whether or not to submit to or audition for the role. It can be harmful for their careers and mental health if they get the information too late and they turn down a contract, or if they’ve already accepted a contract and feel forced into content they would never have wanted to perform. 

E is for Enthusiastic. This is a bit different from how enthusiasm might play out in real-life scenarios. It could feel really off-putting if you were performing a scene of sexual violence, for example, and your scene partner seemed really excited about doing that. So enthusiasm in rehearsal is more about making sure that performers feel confident, and if they seem unsure, to pause and check in about that.

S is for Specific. Let’s say an actor accepted a role knowing that it required a kiss, and the stage direction in the script says “They kiss.” What kind of a kiss? Is it a quick peck, or a lengthy make out? Is it passionate, aggressive, chaste? Is there other contact between hands or body parts during the kiss? These are elements we figure out in rehearsal, and performers need to know the specifics before they can appropriately consent to the contact. 

Q: Would you say that this is one of the more sexually-charged scripts you have worked on, or is it pretty average in your experience?  

A:  I would say that this is a play that has a fairly large number of intimate moments to navigate, both between characters who are connecting with each other romantically and sexually, and under the guise of medical “treatments”. These moments are really embedded into the script and sometimes interwoven with pages of dialogue. I’ve certainly worked on comparable scripts! There are many scripts though that place the intimacy almost entirely in stage directions separate from the dialogue, or imply that an escalated moment is happening offstage by going to a blackout as soon as there is contact between characters.

Thanks, Leslie and Victoria! The next interview will focus on the specific techniques Leslie used with the actors for “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”.

Mrs. Catherine GivingsRachelle Mazzilli
Dr. GivingsTrevor Cartlidge
AnnieMonique Danielle
Mrs. Sabrina DaldryKim Croscup
Mr. Dick DaldryTed Powers
ElizabethRée Andrews
Leo IrvingChris Peterson

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”, directed by Victoria Shepherd, runs April 8 – 23, 2022.

Performances Wed – Sat at 8pm • Sundays at 2pm.
Regular tickets $25 • Wednesdays 2 for 1 • Sundays PWYC.


Poster design: Suzanne Courtney.

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Interview #1 with Leslie McBay, intimacy director for Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”

The production is directed by Victoria Shepherd, who gets a few Q&As.

Interviewed March 17, 2022 by  Alumnae’s Bloggergal/Bar co-manager Tina McCulloch.

ABOUT LESLIE (from her website

Leslie McBay (she/her) is a performer, producer, and intimacy director based in Tkaronto (Toronto). As a certified intimacy director with IDC, Leslie works for theatre companies across southern Ontario, as well as for student productions at the University of Toronto. She has also adapted her intimacy practice to work in virtual rehearsal rooms.

Leslie is invested in creating a culture of consent in our rehearsal spaces by teaching workshops, advocating for actors, and building empowering choreography. She wants every actor to know how to communicate and receive boundaries, and to have a nuanced understanding of consent, so they can dive fully into the daring work of storytelling. “No, but” is the new “Yes, and” — pass it on!

Recent intimacy director credits:

“Skin a Cat” (Pat the Dog Theatre Creation) 

“All’s Well That Ends Well” (Dauntless City Theatre) 

Professional Consultant with Hart House for University of Toronto student productions 

Coming up on April 3, Leslie is speaking on a panel discussing Stage Combat, Intimacy, and Workers Rights at Gwaandak Theatre’s Awaken Festival. 3pm YT, 6pm ET.

Festival Program here:

* * * *

Q:         How did you come to be attached to this production?

A:          I was referred by the previous intimacy director, who had moved out of town and couldn’t work on it anymore.  [Bloggergal note: “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” was in rehearsal back in March 2020, but was paused for 2 years due to COVID-19 pandemic and local health rules.]

So when rehearsals started up again, I was at the first read-through via Zoom [February 1, 2022], and then I worked with the cast in-person last week [March 1, 3, 6] – we did Act I – and I’ll go in next week [March 22, 24, 27] to work with them on Act II.

Q:         What exactly is intimacy direction? What does an intimacy director do?

A:          Intimacy directors choreograph simulated intimacy like fight directors choreograph simulated violence. Intimacy onstage can include a lot of things, like simulated sex, nudity, or other intimate physical contact between performers. It’s really vulnerable to perform intimacy onstage, so intimacy directors help advocate for actors and their boundaries, and build choreography that they feel confident performing night after night.

The field of intimacy direction exploded at the time of the #MeToo movement – there was a feeling of “We can do better to protect actors” that got buy-in from the people in power, especially in the film industry. One of the pioneers of the field is Tonia Sina ( who, with other intimacy professionals, founded the organization IDC (Intimacy Directors & Coordinators) in the U.S. to create standards for simulating sex or intimacy on stage and film. “Intimacy Director” is the title used for people who do this for theatre/live performance, and “Intimacy Coordinator” is used in film/TV.

Q:         When did you start training for your certification as an intimacy director? How long is the course?

A:          I began training for my certification in 2018, and started assisting intimacy directors on productions. Then in 2019, I completed my advanced training at an international choreography intensive. Along with the specialized training in intimacy choreography, intimacy directors have training in Mental Health First Aid, anti-oppression, advocacy and more. I’m certified with IDC (Intimacy Directors & Coordinators) (  The training and pathway to certification has been adapted for pandemic times. Now people can train online for Levels 1 and 2, and start in-person workshops for Level 3.  The whole thing might take 2-3 years, and cost several thousand dollars, and for me, because of COVID, it was a long process.

Q (from director Victoria Shepherd):      Some productions have been using fight directors as intimacy coordinators, as both intimacy and fight require careful choreography. What are your thoughts on this practice?

A:          There is certainly some overlap in the skillsets between intimacy and fight directors. Fight directors choreograph movement to tell a story in a way that is repeatable, sustainable, and safe. Where fight directors focus on physical safety, intimacy directors are sensitive to the psychological and emotional safety of the performers. Before the field of intimacy direction was well-known, sometimes a fight director would be in rehearsal for a fight and the play’s director would ask, “Oh, while you’re here – could you look at this bit of intimacy?” It’s actually something that motivated some of the pioneers of the field of intimacy, who came from a background as a fight director or stunt coordinator [for film/tv]. Now that we have specialized training for intimacy directors, and standards for approaching this work, it’s important that producers and directors do their due diligence to make sure that they are hiring people that have the training and qualifications to do the work safely. If I [as intimacy director] am working on a scene of sexual violence, I collaborate with a fight director.

Q (to “In The Next Room” director Victoria Shepherd):   I suppose it’s kind of a silly question, given the play’s subtitle – “The Vibrator Play”! – but why did you decide to use an intimacy director? How has the process been?

A:          When I was directing “August: Osage County” for Alumnae Theatre in 2016, we had a sexually charged scene that evolved into violence. As our Fight Director began working on choreographing that action, we began to talk about the intimacy in the scene. He choreographed that as if it were part of the fight, and the process was really effective.  I brought him back for a production of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” that I directed in 2017, and he choreographed very sexy scenes in the play.  The actors felt comfortable because the sex scenes were all meticulously choreographed in a way that was completely non-sexual.

When I pitched to direct “In The Next Room”,  I knew that I wanted an intimacy director because of the many sexual situations in the play. When we resumed rehearsals after the Covid shutdown I needed to replace my intimacy director, and Leslie McBay was referred to us. Watching her work has frankly been revelatory – she spends a lot of time talking to the actors, checking in with them, putting them in space where they can focus  on the work, and helping them take chances in a safe and respectful way. She really creates a cocoon that fosters creativity and the end result is very convincing! Watching her work has inspired me to be a more thoughtful and careful director.  

Q:         Leslie, how do you get new business?

A:          Most of my referrals are word of mouth! Productions can hire me as an intimacy director via my website I also consult, conduct workshops, and speak on panels.

Thanks, Leslie! The next interview will focus on the specific intimacy direction she’s worked on for “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play”, directed by Victoria Shepherd, runs April 8 – 23, 2022.

Performances Wed – Sat at 8pm • Sundays at 2pm.
Regular tickets $25 • Wednesdays 2 for 1 • Sundays PWYC.


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Alumnae Theatre Company Director Chronicles: Brenda Darling on “The Trip To Bountiful”

By Suzanne Bowness

Ludie Watts (Jamie Johnson) and his wife Jessie Mae (Kim Croscup)

Following up on our first post about The Trip to Bountiful, here is a Q&A with the show’s director Brenda Darling. Brenda’s past contributions to Alumnae include directing Stepping Out in 2016, several plays for the New Ideas Festival, and acting as NIF co -producer and president, each for 3 seasons.  Her full bio along with those of the rest of the cast and crew is online at In this interview, she talks about what caught her eye about Bountiful, her production choices, and the rehearsal process.


The need for a place to call “home” struck me strongly in this play. I deeply long for the cottage we sold where I lived in every summer for nearly 60 years—it was in our family for over eight decades!  I wanted to explore what’s missing in mega-cities: that there are so many isolated, lonely and rootless individuals. I also wanted to explore what “home” actually gives to us.



Mrs. Carrie Watts (Jane Hunter) and her son Ludie (Jamie Johnson)


Especially in the city, where we’re surrounded by millions of strangers, it’s easy to lose empathy and become indifferent to the plight of others. For the first hour of The Trip to Bountiful, Mrs. Watts speaks little and seems more of a shadow of a person. However, away from her stifling environment, this woman, whom we might have overlooked, begins to express herself, claim her identify, find her dignity and show her depth of love. Her humanity shines through and we care about her.




Horton Foote

Everything was in the text of Horton Foote. He writes in such a naturalistic style, employing the parlance of everyday speech, that at first read we couldn’t help but miss the depth behind every phrase. Even “Yes ma’am” or “I would” carries a wealth of information about the character. We did a lot of talking. We applied it to our own lives. We experimented until, like finding gold, we all sensed we’d discovered the real thing.



I could see the scenes in this play in my mind. They were three-dimensional, in certain colours, and with a great deal of depth. There were also five environments, each of which I wanted to be distinct. A painted flat couldn’t reproduce what I was imagining. The use of projections also allowed me to go from black and white stills to colour videos over the progress of the story.



I don’t think human beings have an identity in a vacuum. We know ourselves in our relationships with our environment including physical places and community. Jessie Mae’s narcissism cuts her off from authentic relationships and she’s a very unhappy woman. Mrs. Watts had lost her “dignity and sense of peace” after 30 years estranged from her childhood home and once she finally returned, at risk to her life, she regained it.

It is also about ageism and elder abuse. It is revealing of our society and its changing consciousness that when this play appeared on Broadway and as a film over 50 years ago, there don’t seem to have been any reviewers who commented on this mistreatment of a senior. That seniors right to respect, civility and control of their finances is more officially protected today. However, this play remains relevant because, like Mrs. Watts, thousands of seniors still face abuse and mistreatment away from public scrutiny.


The Trip to Bountiful continues Wed Jan 29  to Sat February 1.  All performances at 8pm.  Visit  for more details



  • Students entitled to a $5.00 ticket (plus $2.00 service charge).
  • Student promotions are only available for advance purchases; not at the door.
  • Students must show student ID at the box office for each ticket purchased.
  • Student discounts is only applicable to students (without student ID, discount will not apply).

Tickets can be purchased online and in advance at  Use special promo code BOUNTIFUL2020

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Opening night in Bountiful

By Suzanne Bowness

As the lights rose for intermission to The Trip to Bountiful, my theatre companion turned to me and shared a story about her own family relationships. The play’s first half had also prompted me to think about the same thing, the dynamics we have with the ones we love.

Or in the case of protagonist Carrie Watts, the need to escape, however briefly.

The Trip to Bountiful

Jane Hunter and Jamie Johnson in “The Trip to Bountiful” (Jan 17 – Feb 1, 2020 at Alumnae Theatre Company)

At the opening night of Alumnae’s latest production, the audience was right there with 80-year-old Watts (played with vigour by lead actress Jane Hunter) as she finally plunged her hands into the cleansing dirt of a flower pot at her idealized hometown of Bountiful. It was a collective sigh of celebration as she finally gained her freedom from the city and her insufferable daughter-in-law and flaccid son (played with a perfect degree of grating irritation by Kim Croscup and Jamie Johnson).

Premiered in 1953 on NBC-TV before moving on to Broadway, Horton Foote’s play about a woman in her twilight years who aspires to return to the idealized hometown of her youth is brought to life at Alumnae Theatre by director Brenda Darling and producer Simone Goldberg (associate producers are Barbara Salsberg and ​Gisela Ramos). See full cast and crew details here:

This production stands out with a smart use of large screens with projected video and photographs, a backdrop that helps add a new dimension to the main character’s journey to freedom. Photographs of old buildings and 1950s cars help to set the scene initially, and establish a contrast for the wondrous canopy of stars that appears on the bus ride to Bountiful. Adding movement, the final backdrop of tree branches fluttering in the wind, as only video can capture them, helps the audience to further appreciate the freedom that the protagonist is meant to feel.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

“The Trip to Bountiful” producer Simone Goldberg, Alumnae Theatre Company president Barbara Larose, “Bountiful” director Brenda Darling. Photo by Gisela Ramos

Following the production, a celebratory reception was held in the lobby and catered with tasty  appetizers provided by Hot House restaurant. Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell was in attendance this opening night, and greeted the actors upon their appearance at the reception. Alumnae Theatre Company President Barbara Larose congratulated the hard work of cast and crew, presenting flowers to the play’s director and producer, and thanking both members and audience for coming out to celebrate the production’s opening. A festive start to what promises to be an excellent journey for this play!

Alumnae Theatre Will Stage THE TRIP TO THE BOUNTIFUL

Jane Hunter and Priscilla Asiffo in Alumnae Theatre Company production of “The Trip to Bountiful” (Jan 17 – Feb 1, 2020)

Great options for seeing The Trip to Bountiful:


Wed. Jan. 22 – Artists Appreciation Night – Tickets to other theatres will be given away and a Reception will follow the performance.

Wed. Jan. 29 – Neighborhood Night Out – a Bountiful feast following the performance created by Sasi Meechai-Lim, winner of Longo’s Iron Chef competition. The restaurant, Mengrai Thai, a favourite with celebrities, has “the best Thai food outside of Chiang Mai,” according to Fodor’s.


On Student Discount Days:

  • You are entitled to a $5.00 ticket (plus $2.00 service charge).
  • Student promotions are only available for advanced purchases and not at the door.
  • Students must show student ID at the box office for each ticket purchased.
  • Student discounts is only applicable to students (without student ID discount will not apply).

All tickets are general admission

  • Jan. 23 – 8pm performance
  • Friday Jan. 24 – 8pm performance
  • Jan. 29 – 8pm performance
  • Jan. 30th -8pm performance
  • Friday Jan. 31 – 8pm performance
  • Saturday Feb. 1 – 8pm performance

Tickets can be purchased online and in advance at  Use your special promo code BOUNTIFUL2020


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FireWorks Festival: Fairy tale favourites collide with a contemporary feminist twist in the hilariously charming, bawdy If the Shoe Fits

life with more cowbell

Erik Mrakovcic & Marina Gomes. Set design by Teodoro Dragonieri. Costume design by Margaret Spence. Lighting design by Liam Stewart. Photo by Bruce Peters.

Alumnae Theatre launches the final week of its FireWorks Festival with Genevieve Adam’s If the Shoe Fits, directed by Heather Keith—opening last night in Alumnae’s Studio Theatre. Fairy tale favourites collide, with a contemporary feminist twist, in this hilariously charming, bawdy deconstructed Cinderella story—and an inside look at what really happens after the “happily ever after”.

2-alumnae-theatre-if-the-shoe-fits_origChris Coculuzzi & Erik Mrakovcic. Set design by Teodoro Dragonieri. Costume design by Margaret Spence. Lighting design by Liam Stewart. Photo by Bruce Peters.

Hosted by our glittering Narrator (Eugenia De Jong, with a twinkle in her eye and an arch in her brow) as she interacts with both audience and characters, we’re introduced to the intrepid Sir Eglantine (Chris Coculuzzi), who’s been tasked by the Prince to find…

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FireWorks Festival: Navigating the media circus in the face of profound loss in the moving, razor-sharp, thought-provoking Grief Circus

life with more cowbell

Bronson Lake & Alison Dickson. Set design by Teodoro Dragonieri. Costume design by Paige Foskett. Lighting design by Liam Stewart. Photo by Bruce Peters.

Alumnae Theatre opened its second week of the FireWorks Festival last night, with Crystal Wood’s Grief Circus, directed by Paige Foskett. As moving as it is razor-sharp, this timely multimedia piece holds up a mirror to society’s morbid fascination, involvement and sharing in the death of strangers. A family has lost a beloved daughter and sister, an event that becomes fresh meat for the news and social media feeding frenzy. As they navigate the media circus that follows, mother and sister take very different paths to work through their grief.

Leah (Alison Dickson) speaks to us directly, our host and narrator as we witness scenes—sometimes in flashback—around the events of her older sister Jesse’s (Claire MacMaster) disappearance. Jesse’s body was later found in a…

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FireWorks Festival: Real-life fame, fortune & fall in the entertaining, heart-felt Belle Darling Klondike Queen

life with more cowbell

10-belle-darling-klondike-queen_1_origLindsay Sutherland Boal. Set design by Teodoro Dragonieri. Costume design by Adriana DeAngelis. Lighting design by Liam Stewart. Photo by Nicholas Porteous.

Alumnae Theatre Company (ATC) opens its annual FireWorks Festival of new works with Natalie Frijia’s Belle Darling Klondike Queen, directed by Lori Delorme, with music direction by Anita Beaty—running upstairs in the Studio. Part cabaret, part vaudeville, all heart—this highly entertaining and engaging piece of musical storytelling takes us on vaudeville star Klondike Kate’s (born Kathleen Rockwell) real-life journey of fame, fortune and fall, all set against the backdrop of fading days of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Put on your boots, leave your pick and sing along at the Portland Alaska Yukon Society’s 1931 Sourdough Reunion, featuring headliner—none other than the famous star of vaudeville stage—Klondike Kate (Lindsay Sutherland Boal)! Alumnae Theatre’s Studio Theatre has been transformed into a vaudeville music hall for this real-life tale of…

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Actor Chronicles: Pt 2 of Voices from Inside Alumnae’s Latest Production, “The Heidi Chronicles”


Following up on our first post about The Heidi Chronicles, here is a second Q&A with our other leading man, Eitan Shalmon ,  who plays Heidi’s close friend Peter Patrone. Read on for his thoughts on his character, the play’s message, and the rewards of working with Alumnae Theatre Company. Thanks to everyone who attended our live Q&A at the post-show Talkback this past weekend!

Cast of “The Heidi Chronicles” (Nadine Charleson, Rebecca MacDonald, Noah Sisson, Eitan Shalmon, Joyce Chan-Baretta,
Daniel Jones, Brianna Diodati, Breanna Dillon)
with moderator (Producer) Kim Croscup at post-matinee Talkback on Sept 29, 2019.  Photo: Alison Smith


I love that we get to see the growth of the play’s four main characters throughout the span of almost 25 years: how their aspirations have changed, what becomes more and less important to them as they get older, and how the changing social and political climate has affected their lives. At the end of the day, all Heidi and the rest of the characters want is to be happy, and I think everyone can relate to that. I also think it’s a really funny, sensitive and insightful play with a complex and intelligent character like Heidi steering the ship.

Heidi (Breanna Dillon) dances with her friend Peter (Eitan Shalmon) in Wendy Wasserstein’s
“The Heidi Chronicles”.
Set Design: Teodoro Dragonieri. Photo: Bruce Peters


It puts into perspective how far we’ve come when it comes to the rights of women and the LGBT community. However, there are still those resonant moments in every scene that feel too familiar to the present time, and you realize that women are still fighting for equality and respect. It’s a look into how far we’ve come, but how these problems are still present today.



Heidi (Breanna Dillon) and her friend Peter (Eitan Shalmon), a pediatrician, in Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles”.
Set Design: Teodoro Dragonieri. Photo: Bruce Peters

To be honest, I’d probably stick to the present day! The 60s, 70s and 80s all had great music, fashion and movies, but with all the advances we’ve made in technology, medicine and the rights of marginalized people, I don’t think I’d want to go back in time! Maybe I’d go back to the 80s for a cool track suit.



Probably the pursuit of happiness, and how identity and career play into that. Once you have your dream job, are you happy? Does your job make you who you are? Heidi articulates it in the play better than I can: “Do you ever think what makes you a person is also what keeps you from being a person?” It took me a while to understand that, but in essence I think we’re all just looking for happiness and a sense of identity.



Fortunately, I’ve only got one intense quick change that I’ve rehearsed down to a science! It’s pretty exhilarating, actually. I have about 20 seconds to completely change, head to toe, from one outfit to another, and enter the next scene cool as a cucumber.

I have 2 cast members help me into my suit and cram my feet in a new pair of shoes while I wildly fling off my old costume. It’s pretty wild, but not nearly as insane as what Breanna [Dillon, who plays Heidi] has to go through for almost every scene! I don’t know how she does it.



There have been so many rewarding and incredible moments throughout this production. Working with Ilana has been such a great learning experience, and the entire cast and crew have been so dedicated and passionate. I’ve learned a lot from my fellow cast members, and we’ve become quite close!

Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles runs to October 5. Click here for tickets:

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Review of “The Heidi Chronicles” from Hye’s Musiings

From the website Hye’s Musings, a review by Heidy M. :

The AluToronto Arts & Culturemnae Theatre Company opened its 102nd season with Wendy Wasserstein‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Heidi Chronicles. Over a span of 20 years, the titular character Heidi and her friends seek to achieve political, professional and personal fulfillment in a rapidly-changing world.

The Heidi Chronicles captures the experiences and anxieties of the baby boom generation, spanning through the 1960s to the 1980s. During this time, Heidi’s life plays out as pictures help depict historical and political events, from Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign to John Lennon’s assassination to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As we see Heidi’s (Breanna Dillon) life evolve through high school dances, political awakenings, and finally becoming an Art History Professor, advocating for women in the arts. Alongside her, we get to know her high school besties, Susan (Joyce Chan-Baretta) and Peter (Eitan Shalmon). They are Heidi’s constants, for better or worse as she tries to figure out how to navigate a world in which people are often telling her what to think, how to act, or worse yet, not letting her speak her mind.

Toronto Arts & Culture
Eitan Shalmon, Brenna Dillon

Some of the interactions between Heidi and Peter are some of my favourite moments of the play. Peter is the one person who can relate to Heidi’s inner struggles, as being a gay man during those times was very difficult. This is one of the most honest parts of the play.

There are other scenes which also stand out, like when Heidi is out with Susan and some of her friends from a feminist group. A good reminder of how women are stronger together.

Also worth mentioning here is ​​Joan Jamieson‘s costume design and Elaine Freedman’s projection Design work. We see photographs of pivotal moments in time projected onto the stage. Through the cast’s wardrobe, we see Heidi and friends grow up over the decades. These may be overlooked by some, yet these are also essential to enhance a play.

For the record, there are aspects of the play that can be irritating to watch as it seems like not much has changed for women and LGBTQ+ people in our society. Nonetheless, there are redeeming reasons for remounting this play. It reminds us of the fact times have changed, but also reminds us of the work we have yet to do to reach equality and rid ourselves from sexism, homophobia, racism and so much more.

The Heidi Chronicles continues at Alumnae Theatre until October 5, 2019. There is a Talk Back with cast members after this Sunday’s Matinee performance. For more information and to get your advance tickets, visit

Toronto Arts & Culture

Photos: Bruce Peters

Poster Design: Suzanne Courtney, Ticking Time Bomb Productions

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Filed under 2019/20 Season, The Heidi Chronicles