Category Archives: 2016/17 season

Artist Profile: Ali Joy Richardson, Director

Ali Joy Richardson and Laura Jabalee Johnston (plus lighting designer Steph Raposo) went straight from working on Sarah Ruhl’s dark-ish comedy The Clean House (closed April 22) for Alumnae Theatre Company to this new project: Sophia Fabiilli’s delightful modern farce, Liars At A Funeral.     Running to May 14 at St. Vladimir Theatre  (620 Spadina Ave., Toronto).

https://truthnliestheatre.com/

 

inthegreenroom

Interview by Hallie Seline

We’re all about hard-working #bossbabes being at the helm of the theatre we see, so it was such a joy to catch up with Ali Joy Richardson to discuss her latest directing project, Liars at a Funeral, why her directing mentors have been instrumental in assembling her own director’s utility belt, and the top three pieces of advice she’s living by right now. 

HS: Tell me a bit about your current directing project, Liars at a Funeral, and what caught your interest when deciding to direct it.

Ali Joy Richardson:Liars at a Funeral is set in a funeral home in Northern Ontario where a grandmother has faked her own death in order to get her family back together for Christmas. It’s a farce: 4 doors, 5 actors playing 9 characters, and a family curse of female twins who hate one another…but without the stale sexism…

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Big Ideas 2017: FREE readings of full-length plays, May 11-1

The “official” season of Alumnae Theatre Company is over, but the playwrights of Alumnae’s New Play Development group (the NPD) have a bonus treat for you:  this year’s edition of Big Ideas.  Over the course of a week, Thursday May 11 – Thursday May 18, head up to the 3rd floor Studio in Alumnae Theatre to see staged readings of 5 full-length plays-in-progress that are being dramaturged in the group.

These readings are FREE (but donations much appreciated!); no reservations required.  Give your feedback on these developing works, and you may see these titles show up in the company’s New Ideas Festival (March) or FireWorks (November) in a year or two.

Here’s the lineup of Big Ideas 2017 – all events start at 8pm in the Studio.   Enter via the front door (70 Berkeley Street) as usual.

Thursday, May 11:     THE BAY, by Liz Best, directed by Ramona Baillie.

Synopsis: Two high school students spend a few months at a seniors’ residence to complete their community service hours.

CAST:

Kathleen Allamby – Claire

Lucy Brennan – Tessie

Razie Brownstone – Hannah

Daryn Dewalt  – Pat

Seanna Kennedy – Felice

Carol McLennan – Barbara

Ian Orr – Morris

Robert Ouellette – Jed

Steven Pereira – Daniel

Kate Shroder – Emilia

Susan Q Wilson – Helen

 

Friday, May 12:         VERITAS, by Lynda Martens, directed by Kelsey Laine Jacobson.

Synopsis:  The dramatic true story of a Father’s quest for the truth after his son died under mysterious circumstances at the Royal Military College of Canada in 2003.  With an ensemble cast of nine actors playing over thirty characters, the play features actual text from a public inquest into the death.

CAST:

Adam Bonney

Chris Coculuzzi

Roxanne Deans

Nick Eddie

Melinda Jordan

Amy Meyers

Steven Pereira

Rob Prince

Mike Vitorovich

 

Saturday, May 13:     KILL WOMAN, by Judith Fiore, directed by Pat McCarthy.

Synopsis:  On a beautiful Spring afternoon, a professor of poetry and English literature is out for a walk. She is facing a serious and life-threatening situation, and she happens to come upon an unkempt woman who is also dealing with a terrible problem. With humour and compassion, they explore what their lives have amounted to.

CAST:

Lisa Lenihan – Unkempt Woman

Clara Matheson – Professor

 

Wednesday, May 17:    I AM AWAKE, by Anne MacMillan, directed by Ara Glenn-Johanson.

Synopsis:  A gothic paranormal story in early mid-19th century of a young Irish girl who has to escape her traumatic first employment as a lady’s maid through a forest with wolves, is thrown out by her parents who feel disgraced, saved by her grandmother and the nuns, is sent to Canada for a new beginning again as a lady’s maid, only to run into an evil other-worldly master, a helpful ghost who tries to save her and a young man who is keen to take her fishing…

CAST:

Lucy Brennan – Grannie

Michael-David Blostein – Elgin

Sheila Charleton – Apparition Mary

Claire Keating – Mary

Emmet Leahy – Harry

Frans Robinow – Wagoner

Ronak Singh – Gatekeeper

Morna Wales – Nun

 

Thursday, May 18:     WHERE TRUTH LIES, by Carol Libman, directed by Claren Grosz.

Synopsis:  What happens when a long-held family secret is secret no longer?  Does anyone really know where truth lies?

CAST:

Kathleen Allamby – Martha

Martha Breen – Cathy

Paquito Hernaci – John

Jamie Johnson – Peter

Tina McCulloch – Karen

Mike Vitorovich – Andre.

 

Check out Alumnae Theatre Company’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AlumnaeTheatre/, and also our website at http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/  for news of our upcoming 100th season starting in October!

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Tributes to theatre reviewer Jon Kaplan

Toronto theatre reviewer Jon Kaplan died on Friday, April 28.

He was a well-known fixture at many local theatres, large and small, and his reviews were very balanced – if he hated a production, the review usually contained some constructive criticism.  NOW magazine, where he worked for 35 years, has been “flooded with tributes, memories and love” in his honour.  Many theatres published photos of a seat with a “Reserved for Jon Kaplan” sign on it over the weekend. 

https://nowtoronto.com/stage/dim-the-lights-of-every-toronto-theatre-jon-kaplan/?utm_content=buffer664e4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

NOW’s Senior Entertainment Editor Susan G. Cole published a touching tribute to her longtime friend and co-worker on April 28:  https://nowtoronto.com/stage/theatre/in-memoriam-jon-kaplan-1947-2017/

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Lynn Himmelman’s ‘Laughing Workshop’, April 20 (a pre-show event re: “The Clean House”

Sarah Ruhl’s play The Clean House addresses the topics of love, betrayal, and loss; and shows – as one review put it – “the funny world of love and relationships”.  One of the themes running through the play is laughter: the character of reluctant housecleaner Matilde (Marina Moreira) is an aspiring comedian, constantly trying to come up with the perfect joke.

Producer Laura Jabalee Johnston and assistant director Nevada Banks got ‘laughter coach’ Lynn Himmelman to do a one-hour session for The Clean House audience, pre-show on Thursday evening (April 20).

Lynn, who said she used to be an opera singer, shared with the group an incident showing how laughter helped her overcome the loss of her father.  She had everyone do exercises like the Knee Slapper, laughing while pretending to read a credit card bill, and laughing continuously for 60 seconds.

Several people commented on the unexpected workout that laughing gave their ab muscles, and one was heard to mutter, “No more sit-ups, ever again!”

At the end of the session, one participant remarked that “Everyone seems better-looking now!”

Lynn agreed:  “Everyone’s light is shining.”

 

Teresa Bottaro, Alumnae Theatre Company’s Director of Marketing, shot some video of Lynn leading the group in the Knee Slapper exercise.

And I bet the ‘Laughter’ workshop was the reason that this audience had the most vocal response to The Clean House that I’ve seen during the show’s run.

Check out Lynn Himmelman’s website for more info: http://lynn.sites.toronto.com/

The last two performances of The Clean House are at 8pm on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22.

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Crazy LOL love & the power of the perfect joke in the quirky, poignant, hilarious The Clean House

Review of The Clean House, running to Sat April 22.
Tickets are 2-for-1 on Wed April 19; $20 Thu – Sat.
http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/ticket-info.html

life with more cowbell

Annemieke Wade, Neil Silcox, Andrea Irwin, Lilia Leon & Marina Moreira in The Clean House—photo by Bruce Peters

 

Love isn’t clean… It’s dirty. Like a good joke.

Alumnae Theatre Company closes its 2016-17 season with Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, directed by Ali Joy Richardson, assisted by Nevada Banks; currently running on the Mainstage.

Still in mourning over her parents’ unusual and unexpected death, Matilde (Marina Moreira) moves from Brazil to Connecticut, where she becomes a live-in maid to doctors Lane (Andrea Irwin) and Charles (Neil Silcox). Thing is, she hates cleaning; it makes her sad. An aspiring comedian, and the child of two very funny people, she’s striving for the perfect joke. Things lighten up for Matilde when Lane’s older sister Virginia (Annemieke Wade) makes an odd request: she wants to clean her sister’s house. Virginia loves to clean and needs something to do, and Matilde…

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Report on “The Clean House” Talkback, April 9

Virginia (to Charles): “Oh, you found your bashert!” Lane: “How do you know about bashert?’ Virginia: “I heard it on public radio.” (Annemieke Wade as Virginia; Neil Silcox as Charles; Andrea Irwin as Lane; Lilia Leon as Ana [the bashert]; Marina Moreira as Matilde). Photo: Bruce Peters

Usually the Talkbacks for Alumnae Theatre Company productions are held on the second Sunday of the run, but because next week is Easter, the Talkback for The Clean House was on the first Sunday – April 9.  Director Ali Joy Richardson and producer Laura Jabalee Johnston could not be there, but the lively discussion was ably steered by assistant director Nevada Banks.  About half of the matinee audience (on a gorgeous spring afternoon) stuck around to ask the cast some questions.

 

Q:           Has this play been staged in Toronto before?         

A (Annemieke Wade, who plays Virginia):   Yes, CanStage did it about 8 years ago.  [bloggergal’s note:  It was February 2008 – see https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2008/02/10/inside_the_clean_house.html and https://nowtoronto.com/stage/theatre/house-lets-us-off-easy/]   Fiona Reid played my role, and Seana McKenna played Lane.

 

Q:           Could you please translate the first joke – the rather lengthy one – that Matilde tells in Portuguese?

A (Marina Moreira, who plays Matilde):  A man who’s never had sex is about to get married.  He goes to his doctor for advice…

[bloggergal’s note: Marina did translate the entire joke, but I’m not going to attempt to reproduce it in print!]

 

Q:           Is there a difference between the Portuguese that’s spoken in Brazil, and the Portuguese spoken in Portugal?

A (Marina):   Yes, just like there’s a difference between the Spanish spoken in Mexico and Argentina and Spain.  It’s a different dialect and vocabulary.

 

Question from Nevada to the cast:  What were the challenges or benefits of working with [playwright] Sarah Ruhl’s strangely specific stage directions?

A (Neil Silcox, who plays Charles):  They were specific as to the “feel”, but left room for interpretation by the director and the actors. For example, one of my stage directions is “Charles makes a noise like a wounded animal.”

A (Marina):  My favourite is “Lane and Virginia have a primal moment.”!

A (Annemieke):   In the script, Ruhl gives the option of using surtitles to translate the Portuguese and Spanish dialogue that Matilde and Ana speak, but we decided that the actors’ performances were so good, we didn’t need projections – their intentions could speak for themselves.

A (Lilia Leon, who plays Ana):  Ali [director Ali Joy Richardson] worked a lot with us on the rhythm and music of the language.

 

Q:           Loved the set design!

A (Neil):  The set design is by Orly Zebak.  She used many, many coats of white paint on the floor – it used to be black!

 

Q (to Nevada):    How did you feel about the stage directions?

A (Nevada):  Sarah Ruhl uses exciting language both in the dialogue and in the stage directions.  It was a gift, not a hindrance.  And the cast picked it up so well.

A (Andrea Irwin, who plays Lane):  For anyone who likes to read plays, and even if you don’t usually, I highly recommend reading this one!

A (Marina):  You can really see Ruhl’s background as a poet in the language.

A (Neil):  There are worlds of possibility in the stage directions, which Ali and Nevada helped us to hone and become more specific.  Specificity is everything in acting!

 

Q:           Is the playwright bilingual?

A (Marina):  No, she’s not.  I think she worked with a translator, or maybe a bilingual actor on the first production.

 

Q (to Neil):          What was it like being the only male in the cast?

A (Neil): It was grrreat!  Actually, the whole production team is women.  The sound designer [Nicholas Potter] and I are the only men.

 

Q:           How did this play come about?

A (Annemieke):   Sarah Ruhl was at a party, and overheard someone talking about her husband having an affair.  And she was at another party, and overheard someone mention that her cleaning lady was depressed and wouldn’t clean, so she was medicating her!

A (Nevada):  Sarah Ruhl’s father died of cancer, but he used the healing power of laughter to help with the pain.

 

Q:           It was a privilege watching your work today.  Are you similar to your characters?

A (Lilia):   A close friend said he saw a lot of me in Ana, but I think she is braver than I am.  I tried to bring boldness into the character.

 

Lane (Andrea Irwin) and her sister Virginia (Annemieke Wade) argue in The Clean House.  Photo:  Bruce Peters

Q:           What’s it like playing sisters?

A (Andrea):  I don’t have a sister, only two brothers.  But Mieke and I are two years apart, just like Lane and Virginia, and our birthdays are within a week of each other.

A (Annemieke):  I can relate to Virginia’s wanting to do something with her life, because I have a sister who might have been a philosopher, if depression had not had its way with her.

 

Q:           Marina, your character is very subtle, but you seem to be quite commanding!

A (Marina):  Thank you!

 

Q:           Whose story is this? 

A (Marina):   It’s everyone’s story – it’s an ensemble.

The cast of The Clean House: Marina Moreira (Matilde), Lilia Leon (Ana), Neil Silcox (Charles), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Annemieke Wade (Virginia). Photo: Bruce Peters

 

Q:           Yes, but who takes the greatest journey?   *** SPOILER ALERT!  STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW! ***

A (Marina, pointing to Lilia):  Well, she dies!

A (Neil):  I go to Alaska!

A (Andrea):  Charles and Lane?

 

Q:           The characters all had funny moments, but you could see the poignancy and intimacy underneath.

A (Nevada):  Thank you.

 

Q:           What was the last line of the play?  I didn’t quite hear it.
A (Marina):  “I think maybe heaven is a sea of untranslatable jokes.  Only everyone is laughing.”

*****************************

The Clean House runs to April 22, with performances Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sun matinee (April 16) at 2pm.  2-for-1 Wed; $20 Thu/Fri/Sat; PWYC Sun.  Purchase tickets online at http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html, OR make a reservation (416-364-4170, Box 1  / reservations@alumnaetheatre.com) and pay cash at the door.  PWYC matinee tickets not sold online; no reservations taken for Sundays

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Q&A with Marina Moreira, star of “The Clean House”

Here’s a short Q&A with Toronto-based actor Marina Moreira, who delivers a delightful bilingual (Portugese/English) performance as reluctant house-cleaner Matilde in Sarah Ruhl‘s The Clean House, directed by Ali Joy Richardson.  Ruhl’s play, opening Friday at Alumnae Theatre Company, tells the story of Matilde, an aspiring comedian who moves from Brazil to Connecticut after the unexpected death of her parents to clean the house of two married doctors. It’s soon apparent that she gets swept up in more than just dust bunnies. Moreira, who is Portuguese Canadian, gives us some insight as to what it’s been like to play Matilde.

Q: What has your experience has been like performing in a bilingual play as a bilingual actor?

A: So exciting! I grew up speaking both English and Portuguese, the transition between the two is so natural for me, but I never get to do that on stage. I’m excited because I get to play a character who is connected to my life not only in experience or personality, but also in language. Also, I’m excited that my parents get to come see the show and have a connection to what I do (even though they will likely poke fun at me for being so excited).

Q: What has it been like exploring a character whose cultural background aligns in some ways with your own?

A: Familiar? I don’t know how to explain it. It feels comfortable to speak the language and tell the jokes and not imagine that there is a gap between myself and the character I am playing. I guess seamless is a better word for it.

Q: Is there anything that particularly interests you about the character Matilde?

A: I love her deadpan nature. She is written as a character who is observant and not afraid to share her observations with others. She is much bolder than I am.
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Marina and the rest of the cast clean up April 7 – 22!  Performances Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm. Tickets: 2-for-1 Wed; $20 Thu – Sat; PWYC Sun.

Purchase Wed – Sat* tickets online (www.alumnaetheatre.com), or reserve seats via phone (416-364-4170 Box 1) or email (reservations@alumnaetheatre.com) and pay cash at the door.  Please note that Box Office does not accept credit or debit cards for in-person sales.    *Sunday matinee tickets not available online.

 

Post-show talkback: Sunday, April 9 following 2pm show

FREE Pre-show event “Laughter Yoga”: Thursday, April 20 at 6:45pm.  See https://www.facebook.com/events/285150885243312/ for more info.

Follow us on Twitter: @AlumnaeTheatre #CleanHouseTO

 

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