Category Archives: 2012/13 Season

Big Ideas 2013, May 8-12 : the casts & synopses

Starting  on Wednesday May 8, the Studio at Alumnae Theatre will be a hotbed of activity. If you are interested in seeing a play from its first reading, and giving feedback to the writers, this is for you.  Admission is FREE!

Big Ideas is a series of staged reading:  works-in-progress from the award-winning writers of Alumnae Theatre’s New Play Development group.  There will be short plays as well as full-length plays; check the lineup for schedule & synopses.

The scripts will be read by actors who have had only a few rehearsals with a director.  For many writers, this will be the first time they’ve heard the script aloud.

Big Ideas logo
The Lineup:

(Wed May 8 @ 8pm) I AM MARGUERITE by Shirley Barrie, directed by Molly Thom.

1542: Marguerite de Roberval is abandoned by her brother on a deserted island in the Strait of Belle Isle for daring to choose love over duty. Two and a half years later, haunted by the phantoms of those who have abandoned her, half-starved and half-mad, she sees a ship anchoring off the island. Rescue is possible, but…. is the prospect of returning to France more terrifying than another cold winter alone in the New World?

CAST: Paul Babiak, Dorothy Kelleher, Carys Lewis, Wendy Springate, Laura Vincent, Mike Vitorovich.

(Thu May 9 @ 8pm) FORGIVENESS by Mairy Beam, directed by Victoria Shepherd.

Lara struggles with a deep-seated anger towards her mother who suffers from schizophrenia. When she returns home, armed with a PhD in Biomedical Science, she disrupts the carefully orchestrated life her sister Chelsea and her mother have built together. The sisters have very different ideas of how best to help their mother, and each other. Their mother has her own ideas. Forgiveness and anger strive for the upper hand.

CAST: Lionel Boodlal, Andrea Brown, Tina McCulloch, Cathy McKim, Carol McLennan, Jeff Orchard.

(Fri May 10 @ 8pm) YOU HAVE TO EARN IT  by Ramona Baillie, directed by Jane Carnwath.

Will Betty ever earn her long overdue promotion? Her reach for the top is frustrated by a philandering boss, a scheming new employee, a wacky mail room clerk and a friend with a hidden agenda—a madcap roller-coaster of a play paying homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930s.
CAST: Matt Brioux, Andrea Brown, Chantale Groulx, Seema Lakhani, Joshua Mott, Lara Mrkoci, Derek Perks, Laura Vincent, Mike Vitorovich.

(Sat May 11 @ 2pm) IN A TIME OF WAR by Anne MacMillan, directed by Marianne Fedunkiw.

World War II. The bombing raids up the Clyde have begun. A Glasgow family manages to live their lives after a near hit with a bomb and dreadful loss of life nearby. Amidst the darkness of war, two young girls find much to occupy them, making secret spy plans with Grandpa. The realities of war intrude.

CAST: Scott Dermody, Karina Rammell, Olivia Reid, Frank Robinow, Marisa Ship,Tara Wosik.

(Sat May 11 @ 2pm) WAITING FOR KATRINA by Donna Langevin, directed by Pat McCarthy.

New Orleans August 2005. Hurricane Katrina is gathering strength and threatens to engulf the city. To stay or to go? Charlotte is determined to remain in her home at all costs while Dora, her estranged daughter from Toronto, has a crucial agenda of her own. Time is running out as the battle of wills escalates.

CAST: Kwaku Adu-Poku, Elisabeth Feltaous, Kerri Henman, Aileen Taylor-Smith.

(Sat May 11 @ 2pm) BROCKFEST by Joan Burrows, directed by Maria Popoff.

All Kitty wants to do is not be an American anymore! But her July 4th celebration is hampered by a sword- wielding husband dressed as Isaac Brock, her annoying younger brother and his partner who just happen to drop by, and the arrival of her sister, a cloistered nun who has taken a vow of silence. Who knew patriotism could cause such havoc?

CAST: Liz Best, Daryn Dewalt, Chris Irving, Mary Joseph, Brandon Moore.

(Sun May 12 @ 2pm) THE YEAR MY FATHER BECAME A SAINT by Linda McCready, directed by Brenda Darling.
Bernie is an alcoholic who has embarked on a journey to become a better man. When he opens a butcher shop in the mid-1970s at a time of high inflation, he hires his two teenage children to work in the store. Customers come and sometimes go, as Bernie struggles to connect with his children, make a go of the shop, and slay his own particular demons.

CAST: Paul Babiak, Jamieson Child, Scott Clarkson, Marianne Fedunkiw, Roselyn Kelada-Sedra, Lisa Polivka, Michael Sherman, David Suszek.

May 8 – 12, 2013 • Alumnae Theatre, 3rd floor Studio • FREE admission

For more information visit our website


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Alumnae Theatre’s Big Ideas 2013 coming May 8 – 12

Looking forward to it!

life with more cowbell

Alumnae Theatre Company’s annual Big Ideas festival of works in progress – organized and programmed by the company’s New Play Development (NPD) group – is coming up, running May 8 – 12 up in the studio. Big Ideas features readings of full-length plays, as well as scenes from plays, and this year’s line-up includes:

I AM MARGUERITE by Shirley Barrie, directed by Molly Thom

FORGIVENESS by Mairy Beam, directed by Victoria Shepherd

YOU HAVE TO EARN IT by Ramona Baillie, directed by Jane Carnwath

IN A TIME OF WAR by Anne MacMillan, directed by Marianne Fedunkiw

BROCKFEST by Joan Burrows, directed by Maria Popoff

WAITING FOR KATRINA by Donna Langevin, directed by Pat McCarthy

THE YEAR MY FATHER BECAME A SAINT by Linda McCready, directed by Brenda Darling

Admission is free. For more info, including synopses, times and dates (each play gets one reading), please visit the Alumnae Theatre

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David Ferry to speak at James Reaney memorial lecture

Playwright James Reaney’s namesake son sent me a note that:

 The fourth James Reaney memorial lecture is set for Oct. 20, 2013 at 3 p.m. at the Stratford Public Library, 19 St. Andrew Street, Stratford. The speaker will be David Ferry, actor/director/impresario/educator; a friend and ally of dad’s for many decades. Please visit for information about the lecture, other Jamie Reaney news and reflections.


Killdeer - Stratford Public LibraryHe mentions that “the library is right across the street from the Stratford jail, likely the inspiration for the jail scenes in The Killdeer, and near the Perth County courthouse where Madam Fay holds sway until Dr. Ballad finally saves us all.”, and sends a final “congratulations to everyone involved in [Alumnae Theatre’s production of] The Killdeer.”

 Stratford Public Library’s website is  David Ferry has just returned from directing James Reaney’s Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, QC.

Other upcoming Reaney events:

Adam Holowitz is starring as Kenneth in James Reaney’s The Easter Egg running in London May 24 – June 1 at The ARTS Project Theatre, 203 Dundas Street .   519-642-2767.

Speakers are already lined up for the next two Reaney memorial lectures: in October 2014, Tim Inkster of the Porcupine’s Quill will deliver the 5th Reaney lecture, and in October 2015, Thomas Gerry, who has just written an excellent book about James Reaney’s Emblem poems, will be the 6th speaker.

And of course, there are two more chances to catch what Reaney’s daughter-in-law Susan Wallace praises as “Barbara Larose‘s wonderful production of The Killdeer” at Alumnae Theatre, Toronto – tonight and tomorrow night, Sat April 27.





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“The Killdeer” Talkback, Sunday Apr 21

After the matinee last Sunday, the audience was invited to stay, and make comments or ask questions of The Killdeer director, designers and cast – and about half the audience stuck around to do so.

Producer Lynne Patterson had everyone introduce themselves – in addition  to the actors, onstage were director Barbara Larose; assistant director Ellen Green; sound designer Rick Jones; and sitting in the audience, set designer Marysia Bucholc and props designers Tess Hendaoui and Deborah Roed.  Here is what I transcribed  of the Q and A.  Unless otherwise specified, the responses are from director Barbara Larose.

Q:  The play is written in blank verse?

A:  Yes, and it was also one of the first plays to be performed in Toronto with the local accent and colloquialisms.

Q:  Would like to compliment the cast on their physical language – the way Eli and Harry in particular grew up before our eyes was very impressive.

Q:  What was the significance of the tree in the room?

A:   The tree was something that [playwright James] Reaney envisioned, but in discussing the set design with Marysia, we tried to show the battle between the natural world and civilization.  The tree is in the middle of the room, painted purple with gold tips and covered with Mrs. Gardner’s knick-knacks, representative of her attempt to control her son.

Marysia adds:   I was influenced by the pockets of nature in southern Ontario (wild growth) and the imposition of order (cultivated fields, houses) on it.

Q:   Did anyone involved in this production  see the previous production?

A:  The original production was in 1960, and most of the present cast were not yet born! Reaney revised the script significantly after that – fewer characters, no courtroom scene (play ends with a birthday), etc.

Marysia adds:  “I saw a production of the revised script in Ottawa around 1975.  It was too earnest; there was no humour.”

Barbara:  “I much prefer the original script – the myth, fairytale, crazy journey that’s somehow more real.  It’s got poetry, magic and imagination that drew me in.”

Q:  What’s the significance of Rebecca telling Madam Fay “I know what you want”?

A (Blythe Haynes, who plays Rebecca):  I see Madam Fay as being like the Evil Queen, who just wants to belong and never has.  So Rebecca helps her to play – go back to childhood; turn back the clock.

Barbara adds:  James Reaney said this play was about “two girls and a bird”!

In response to a question about the music used in this production, sound designer Rick Jones mentioned that he was lucky enough to hear John Beckwith‘s music (on cassette!) which he composed for the 1960 production.  Had hoped to use it, but it wasn’t possible due to sound differences that would have been impossible to match: the original was recorded in Beckwith’s kitchen on an upright piano, using a handheld microphone.  Instead, Jones re-recorded new arrangements and composed new pieces to fill  the gaps.  For example, a  viola represents Madam Fay – gives her the sense of being an outsider; it contrasts with the “town band” feeling of the other residents.

Q:  Is the revised script published?

A:  Yes, and it has been produced much more often than the original.  James Reaney’s work is dense and delicious, and asks a lot of audience: to accept things on emotion and without logic.


Three more chances to catch The Killdeer before it flies away – Thursday, Friday and Saturday (April 25 – 27) at 8pm.   Tickets are $20, and can be purchased online at, or e-mail to reserve seats, and pay cash on arrival.

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“The Killdeer” Sunday matinee: oh, what a day it was

Yesterday’s Sunday matinee of The Killdeer was followed by an audience Talkback – will post about that later.  But first, a look into dressing room and other shenanigans, because people like hearing about those, right?

Well, the first thing that happened was that co-producer Lynne Patterson, who was serving as Bar Wench that day, reported that there was only enough coffee to make about 6 cups pre-show.  A search in the storage cupboards turned up no backup supply, so one of the Box Office volunteers was dispatched to No Frills to purchase a big can of coffee.  And some milk, and some cream, and ….

No sooner was that problem solved – about 40 minutes to showtime – than stage manager Margot Devlin sidled up to me and whispered, “I have no sound operator.”  We had e-mail addresses for the two sound ops, but I had not entered their phone numbers on my contact sheet.  Lynne had their phone numbers, but not with her.  Just as we were conferring how to solve the problem, Margot spotted sound op Daniel Salij strolling towards the theatre, hoodie up, headphones on, half an hour late.  Phew.

When Margot came down to the dressing room to give the cast their half-hour call, actor Matt Brioux (childlike Eli Fay) was also M.I.A., but rushed in shortly after, having come straight from work.  “Is the wedding still on?” he asked.  (See “She said yes!” in April 19 post).  Actor Anne Shepherd (Mrs. Gardner), perhaps sensing Margot’s stress level – Anne is a psychotherapist in real life – soothed her with a chocolate bar!

The show started smoothly, and Scene 1 between Mrs. Gardner and Madam Fay (Tricia Brioux) was almost over.  The young hero Harry Gardner (played by Paul Hardy) makes his first entrance in Scene 2. I happened to be backstage, watching Scene 1 on the monitor, when Marie Gleason (Mrs. Budge), who was waiting behind the door at stage right for her entrance in Scene 3, popped her head around the flat and hissed, “Where’s Harry?”  I realized that Paul was not in position for his entrance, and assistant stage manager Anna Plugina had not yet noticed, because she was busy with a prop handoff to Anne.  As I reached the stairs down to the basement dressing room, Paul came steaming up, just in the nick of time.  It turned out he’d been in the midst of a deep discussion of Tolkein’s Lord of The Rings books with Blythe Haynes (Harry’s true love Rebecca) and almost missed his cue.

During the second half of the play, Mike Vitorovich (hangman Mr. Manatee; Judge Crane) introduced those of us in remaining the dressing room WITHOUT imminent entrances to British comedian Eddie Izzard’s hilarious voiceover to a Lego-staged piece called “Death Star Canteen”.  Imagine Darth Vader patronizing the cafeteria on the Death Star, where everything is made of Lego.  Mike, Naomi Vondell (Mrs. Soper the jailer’s wife), Blythe, Rob Candy (brutal farmhand Clifford) and I watched it on Naomi’s iPad, and practically bust a gut at the sly Brit interpretation of Star Wars geekery.


A report on the post-show Talkback to be posted later.  I leave you with Eddie Izzard:


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Overheard in “The Killdeer” dressing room

There’s a segment I’ve heard on a morning radio show called “Random Out-of-Context Theatre”, which replays snippets of the DJs’ dialogue throughout that day.  In that spirit, here are a few things overheard in The Killdeer dressing room recently:

– “I’m farting a lot.”
– ACTOR, entering arm-in-arm with STAGE MANAGER: “She said yes!”
– MALE ACTOR to well-padded FEMALE ACTOR: “Boooobs!”
– ACTOR at intermission: “I’m not putting my clothes on.” [to be clear, she actually was clothed; she meant that she wasn’t changing her costume!]
– “It still smells like fart in here.” [at least half an hour after the incident]

THE KILLDEER: Tipsy on elderblossom wine, Harry's mother Mrs. Gardner (Anne Shepherd - L) and her friend Mrs. Budge (Marie Carrière Gleason) dance with paper cutouts of Eli and Clifford. • Photo by Dahlia Katz

THE KILLDEER: Tipsy on elderblossom wine, Harry’s mother Mrs. Gardner (Anne Shepherd – L) and her friend Mrs. Budge (Marie Carrière Gleason) dance with paper cutouts of Eli and Clifford. • Photo by Dahlia Katz

Catch The Killdeer – the audience-ready version! – until April 27.

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audience & critics comment on “The Killdeer”

“This show really had me. I was reeled in. Strange and quite absorbing. Very nicely acted, beautifully lit and perfect off-kilter music and sound design. Elements of archetypal fairy tale stuff, Shakespearean devices all make this quite a wonderful outing. Best to [director] Barbara Larose and her team.  Definitely worth checking out this Canadian play.” – AUDIENCE MEMBER


 “The play revolves around a murder mystery but it’s much more than that. It’s about small towns and gossip, about parents and children and coming of age, about enduring relationships, about love and jealousy, all timeless themes.  …During the scene between Harry Gardner (Paul Hardy) and his about-to-be ex-wife Vernelle (Joanne Sarazen) you could almost see the electricity, the energy between the audience and the stage.”  – MOONEYonTHEATRE
 Mooney also singles out a couple of other cast members for special mention:  “..the two that stayed in my mind are Naomi Vondell as Mrs. Soper, the jailer’s wife. Her performance was lyrical, she seemed to be floating, almost ethereal. The other is Michael Vitorovich as Mr Manatee, the terrifying hangman.”
“Alumnae Theatre has done students and friends of Canadian drama an invaluable service by reviving James Reaney’s first play The Killdeer (1960). …The play is important not just for launching Reaney’s career as a playwright but for providing the first example of what would later be called Southwestern Ontario Gothic that finds strange and lurid doings beneath the seemingly placid façade of small town life.  …Marysia Bucholc’s set does much to remind us we are not quite in the realm of realism.  …While the story is complex and the characters seem to speak in riddles, once you reach the surprising conclusion, you realize clearly that a search for the one’s family, one’s self, one’s identity is what the play has been about since the very beginning.  …The Killdeer should be better known and we can only be thankful that a company like the Alumnae Theatre has chosen to bring its richness and importance back to our attention.”  – STAGE-DOOR (Christopher Hoile)
 Hoile  praises Blythe Haynes [as Rebecca] for  “effortlessly maintaining the balance between poetry and realism throughout the play”, and notes that  “Tricia Brioux [as Madam Fay] gives an absolutely fiery performance as a human being whose inner torment causes her to become an embodiment of evil. ”


 Intrigued yet?  Catch the show up to April 27.  There’s a Talkback session with director, designers and cast following the Sunday matinee on April 21.

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