New Ideas Festival 2017 lineup

Alumnae Theatre Company ‘s 29th annual New Ideas Festival (March 8 – 26, 2017) is a three-week juried festival of new short plays, works-in-progress, and experimental theatre with a different program each week.

4 short plays are presented Wed – Sat at 8pm, with matinees on Saturday & Sunday at 2:30pm.  Saturday’s matinee is followed by a Talkback.  In addition, there’s a staged reading of one longer play (approx. 60 mins) each Saturday at noon, also followed by a Talkback.

new-ideas-2017-wk-one-fb-imageWEEK ONE LINEUP (March 8 – 12):

“Call”  by Rosemary Doyle ; directed by Rebecca Ostroff.
Or Not to Be”  by Andrew Batten; directed by Julia Haist,
Teach Her My Name”  by Michael Kras; directed by Paige Foskett.
D-Cup”  by Alicia Payne; directed by Eilish Waller
      Reading (March 11 only):
“Riverkeeper “  by Katherine Koller ; directed by Rebecca Grace.


new-ideas-2017-wk-two-fb-imageWEEK TWO LINEUP (March 15 – 19):

“The Red Lacquered Box”  by  Burke Campbell; directed by Lynn Weintraub*
“Parallax”   by Michelle Glennie; directed by Ara Glenn-Johanson.
I Am Awake”  by Anne MacMillan; directed by Sandra Cardinal.
Professionally Ethnic”  by Bobby Del Rio; directed by Rouvan Silogix.
      Reading (March 18 only):
“Who You Callin Black, Eh?”  by Rita Shelton Deverell; directed by Donald Molnar.

* With the permission of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association


WEEK THREE LINEUP (March 22 – 26):

Beat” by Dale Sheldrake; directed by Josh Downing.
The Ballad of Sadie Wong”  by Andrew Lee; directed by Cassidy Sadler.
Who Knocks?”  by Connie Guccione; directed by Chantel Martin.
“The Hungriest Woman in the World” by Shannon Bramer; directed by Claren Grosz.

      Reading (March 25 only): 
“Thistlepatch “  by Catherine Frid; directed by Kelsey Laine Jacobson.


Tickets for the Festival are $15 per week.  Purchase online at, or reserve seats by phone (416-364-4170 box 1) and pay cash on arrival.

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New Ideas Festival 2017: Call for Stage Managers

Stage Managers needed!

New Ideas Festival (NIF) is Alumnae Theatre Company’s annual three-week juried festival of new short plays, works-in-progress, and experimental theatre, with a different program each week and a workshopped reading on Saturdays at noon. The 2017 festival will run from March 8 to 26, 2017. new-ideas-2017-image


Would you like to get involved in New Ideas Festival and join the fun this year? NIF needs stage managers for many of the 15 short plays. We will provide training if you don’t have experience. Rehearsals start January 30.


Each show runs one week (6 performances), and the readings have one performance each at noon on the three festival Saturdays.



  • Jan. 4 – 8: Festival auditions
  • Jan. 24: Production meeting 7–9 pm (to be confirmed)
  • Jan. 30: Rehearsals begin
  • Feb. 15: Production meeting and lighting demo 7–9 pm (to be confirmed)
  • Feb. 23 – March 4: Tech days by week
  • March 8 – 26: New Ideas Festival performances.

If you are interested in stage managing a play in the New Ideas Festival, please email and put “Stage Manager” in the subject line.

See for more info on New Ideas.

NOTE:  Alumnae Theatre Company is a non-union organization, and this is a volunteer position.

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FireWorks 2016 – background stories of the plays

This year’s FireWorks series features three full-length plays, all developed by/through Alumnae Theatre Company.  They’ve all been significantly dramaturged, revised/re-worked, and expanded since their first appearances on our stage.  Themes explored include cultural influences, political unrest, family dynamics, and the nature of art.

"The Creases In My Sari" playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar.

“The Creases In My Sari” playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar.

The Creases In My Sari by Sindhuri Nandhakumar, directed by Kimberley Radmacher (ran Nov 9 -13).  An earlier version was presented as a staged reading in New Ideas Festival 2015.

Inked Heart by D.J. Sylvis, directed by Pamela Redfern (ran Nov 16 – 20).  A one-act version – then titled “An Inked Heart” – was presented in New Ideas Festival 2010.

"Inked Heart" playwright D.J. Sylvis.

“Inked Heart” playwright D.J. Sylvis.

Motherland by Kristine Greenaway, directed by Andreja Kovac (runs Nov 23 – 27).   It was developed in Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Play Development group, and an earlier version appeared as a staged reading in the company’s Big Ideas Festival in 2015.

"Motherland" playwright Kristine Greenaway (centre) talks to some of the cast.

“Motherland” playwright Kristine Greenaway (centre) talks to some of the cast.

Each of the playwrights has published fascinating articles on the background of their play, and how they came to write that particular story.

Sindhuri Nandhakumar on The Creases In My Sari:

D.J. Sylvis on Inked Heart:

Kristine Greenaway on Motherland

Inked Heart and The Creases In My Sari have now closed, but you can still catch Motherland – it opens on Wednesday, and runs to Sunday Nov 27.  See  for details.


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Playwright’s Note: “The Creases in My Sari’ (FireWorks 2016)

The Creases in My Sari playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar couldn’t make it to her own premiere last night, as she is working in India and Sri Lanka.  But she promised to wear a sari to mark the occasion!  She wrote to Alumnae Theatre Company’s FireWorks series producer Molly Thom:  “My soul will be in Toronto with you and everybody else who has been working so hard on this play.”

"The Creases in My Sari" playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar

“The Creases in My Sari” playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar

This is Sindhu’s playwright’s note:

Born to an Indian-Tamil family in the Sri Lankan Central Province of Kandy, I grew up firmly steeped in the periphery of a conflict. Ealam and the war zone were far away from me. My family, while sympathetic to the plights of fellow Tamils in the North and East, were largely apolitical and strove to continue running their small businesses without attracting too much attention from either the military or the Tamil Tigers – money is what had brought them from India to Sri Lanka, after all. Large numbers of my relatives had fled to India after the 1983 pogroms, but there was a certain stoicism about the war. The mentality was that even if we were affected, it wasn’t our battle.

In 2009, two months after the war ended, my family migrated to Canada. The move wasn’t politically motivated – it was economic. We moved in to an apartment in Scarborough, and for the first time in my life, I experienced a sense of Sri Lankanness that I had never seen before – there was an obvious display of pride in Tamil culture, and that too a uniquely Sri Lankan Tamil culture. I have seen more signage in Tamil in Scarborough than I have seen in Sri Lanka. I have learned more about Jaffna cuisine in Toronto than I did in Kandy or Colombo. Not being able to travel to the former war zone until recently, Toronto was the first place where I learned more about the “other” Sri Lanka.

I also learned that people in Toronto had displayed their anger about the war more vocally than most Sri Lankans had. People in Sri Lanka either didn’t or couldn’t protest with such vigour, probably because they feared for their lives at a time when the President and his outfit ran the country with an iron fist and an unforgiving attitude. Canada, on the other hand, provided a platform for these grievances to be aired, and provided a home for many of Sri Lanka’s Tamil refugees to express themselves and their identity.

I felt both a part of this world and excluded from it. Yes, I grew up in a war torn country, but much like Chanaka [played by Suchiththa Wickremesooriya in The Creases in My Sari; his father is a military man], I grew up in privilege. I wanted to write about these tensions within my own identity, and that is what gave birth to this play. I hope you go on a journey with these characters and feel the battle between the political and the personal as much as I did – as much as I still do.

Carolyn Zapf, the dramaturg of this play, is probably the sole reason why this play exists. With her encyclopedic knowledge and kind attitude, she did not let me forget about the play until it went through the many revisions that it did. I owe her all my gratitude. Thank you Carolyn.


The Creases in My Sari runs to Sunday Nov 13 in the Studio at Alumnae Theatre.  Showtimes:  Wed – Sat at 8pm, plus 2pm matinees on Sat & Sun.  Tickets:  $15.  Purchase online (  or reserve at 416-364-4170 Box 1 and pay cash at Box Office .  No credit or debit cards accepted for in-person sales.



7pm on Friday Nov 11 – Pre-show panel discussion (in lobby) with author Koom Kankesan; former Tamil refugee and current PhD candidate Thursica Kovinthan; and Sri Lankans Without Borders member Amra Ghouse.
Saturday Nov 12 – post-matinee Talk Back: Writer and director discuss their artistic process and answer audience questions about the play and the production.

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Write Now! 2016 – Oct 23: the plays + writers + directors

As mentioned in the post dated Sept 23, Write Now! is an annual writing challenge spearheaded by Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Play Development group (NPD).  Company members who accept the challenge must write a 10-minute play over a specific weekend, having been sent the “challenge ingredients” on Friday evening.

write-now-2016-imageThis year, the event’s producer Anne MacMillan, a playwright and actor, devised the challenge: to write a detective story based on this poem (the famous first line was penned William Wordsworth in 1802; the rest is by Annie!):


In Prose or in Verse


I wandered lonely as a cloud

Spouting ancient poetry aloud

When all at once I saw a sight

which filled me with a sense of fright

An old trunk by the river’s edge

Floating by a single shoe

A glove with blood tipped fingers

Lying half covered on the ground

All under a weeping willow tree

No one else around to see

When a smiling stranger appeared

from behind a high earthen mound

Upon seeing me, frowned.


Annie shares that one of her favorite romantic poets is Wordsworth, and especially his “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, which reminds her of her father – a photographer – and a photo he took of daffodils under the oak trees in the beautiful Botanical Gardens in  Glasgow.  “When I was a schoolgirl I would sometimes walk home through the Botanical Gardens after school,” she said.  “You could hear the Kelvin River rushing, there were weeping willow trees – their fronds in the river… It was, and still is, a magical place.”

So those memories of the willow tree by the river wound up in the poem, combined with Wordsworth, and became the Write Now! Challenge.

16 writers accepted the challenge on Friday, October 14, and 13 submitted their scripts by the Sunday noon deadline on Oct 16.  These plays will be presented as staged readings; actors (some not yet cast!) have not memorized the scripts, and will only have one or two rehearsals.  Here are the writers / plays / directors – note that this list is in alpha order; not in performance sequence:

Teresa Bottaro – No objects from the past are allowed to stay directed by Laurie Williams.

Barbara Brown /Rhona Bennett – Finding Amy in four scenes directed by Nina Kaye.

Norma Crawford – L & D                        directed by David Suszek.

Judith Fiori – Poetic Justice                  directed by Stacy Halloran.

Connie Guccione –  Road Less Travelled  directed by Aleksandra Maslennikova.

Stacy Halloran – If you come to a fork in the road directed by Kat Horzempa.

Krystyna Hunt – Out of the Past            directed by Rebecca Grace.

Nina Kaye – The Magician                     directed by Jennifer McKinley.

Donna Langevin – Dear Professor         directed by “Present Conductor”.

Carol Libman – At Peace by the River   directed by Kelsey Laine Jacobson.

Tina McCulloch – The Last of Tuesday  directed by Sandra Burley.

Jennifer McKinley – Dark and Deep        directed by Carina Cojeen.

Morna Wales – Worthy Words              directed by Pat McCarthy.


Write Now! Staged readings take place 2 – 4:30 pm on Sunday, Oct 23 in the Studio at Alumnae Theatre.  There will be an intermission, with refreshments available.  PWYC admission; no reservations required.

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Amicus Fundraiser at Whistler’s

Our friends at Amicus Productions are having a FUN-draiser on Monday night. Great opportunity to support Toronto theatre, and witness some talented folks getting their classics on! PWYC admission.

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Andrea Irwin in “Toronto, Mississippi” at The Box, Oct 20 – Nov 6 (Panfish Productions)

Alumnae Theatre Company member (and newsletter editor!) Andrea Irwin  is performing in Panfish Productions’ presentation of award-winning Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod’s drama Toronto, Mississippi.  It will be staged October 20 – November 6, 2016 at The Box (89 Niagara Street, Toronto), directed by Kitty Laki.

Panfish Productions present Joan MacLeod's "Toronto, Mississippi" (Oct 20 - Nov 6, 2016)

Panfish Productions present Joan MacLeod’s “Toronto, Mississippi” (Oct 20 – Nov 6, 2016)

Bloggergal asked Andrea a few questions…

Q:  How did you get involved with this show and Panfish Productions?

A:  Quite simply, I saw the posting on the CAEA [Canadian Actors Equity Association] e-drive and submitted right away. A strong role for a woman over 30? I’m on it! The show also spoke to me as it deals in part with an individual who is developmentally delayed. I have a family member who happens to be developmentally delayed and can relate to many of the challenges and rewards faced by the characters in the show.


Q:  Tell me about the character you play in Toronto, Mississippi.

A:  Maddie is real. She purports to being solid as a rock; she has to be as a working single mom to a teenager with special needs, BUT she’s inextricably drawn to King…yes, her boozing, womanizing, Peter-Pan of an ex-husband. At the same time, she’s best friends with her boarder, Bill; ostensibly the “perfect” match for Maddie and a dedicated father-figure to Jhana. I think she’s at her wit’s end with her life as she knows it…it’s a helluva challenge being the Responsible Adult and it has worn her down.


Q:  Who are your co-stars and their characters?

A:  Peter Nelson plays King, Maddie’s ex-husband, father of Jhana.  A touring Elvis impersonator…he loves the ladies and they love him. He’s a part-time dad, but he truly does love his daughter.

Kayla Whalen plays Jhana, 18-year-old daughter of King and Maddie, struggling to be an independent young woman (establishing a work-life and love-life) but with the added challenge of achieving independence with special needs.

Yehuda Fisher plays Bill, boarder in Maddie and Jhana’s home. He connects with Jhana in ways that Maddie can’t. He’s become family…but he doesn’t want to “play” Dad, he wants to be dad to Jhana and a romantic partner to Maddie.


Thanks, Andrea!

For some background info, here’s a link to playwright Joan MacLeod’s website:


And this is the link to Facebook event for Panfish Productions’  presentation of Toronto, Mississippi at The Box:

Tickets: $25 reg (Tue – Sun); $20 students/seniors/artsworkers.
Monday tickets: PWYC.  Purchase tickets via Panfish Productions website

Showtimes:  Oct 20, 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 31, Nov 3, 4, 5 @ 8:00pm.
Sundays – Oct 23, 30, Nov 6 @ 2:00pm.

FYI – This is a full 2-act play – running time approximately 1.5 hrs including a 15-minute intermission.  The Box (89 Niagara St.) is a small venue with limited seating.

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