Tag Archives: Andrew Batten

The Sad Blisters: April 12-27 at The Commons


World premiere production of Andrew Batten’s “The Sad Blisters”.
Poster Design: Vic Finucci

Director Victoria Shepherd is a member of Alumnae Theatre Company. Andrew Batten made numerous appearances of Alumnae’s stages, including “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (2007), “Hedda Gabler” (2010),”Sylvia” (2011), “A Woman of No Importance” (2013), “This“, and “August: Osage County” (both in 2016).  His play “Or Not To Be” was staged in New Ideas Festival 2017.

The April 2019 production of “The Sad Blisters” is its world premiere.

life with more cowbell

Poking my head out of hiatus to jump onto the blog with details of Glass Hammer Productions’ upcoming run of Andrew Batten’s The Sad Blisters, directed by Victoria Shepherd, and featuring Bonnie Gray, Andrea Lyons, Anne McDougall, myself and Esther Thibault.

It’s a hilarious, poignant dramedy about family, memory, love—and a wedding!

The Sad Blisters runs April 12-27 at The Commons (587a College St., Toronto). Performances run Thur/Fri/Sat at 8pm, with matinees Sat & Sun at 2pm. Running time: approx. 80 mins. Tickets: $20 regular; $15 student/senior/arts worker. CASH ONLY at the door.

Check the Facebook event page for more info, photos and wedding anecdotes, as well as advance ticket purchase (Brown Paper Tickets link pending as of this posting; in the meantime, there’s a reservations email).

I’m honoured and happy to be working with this team of amazing, talented theatre artists. Hope you can join us!

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Love & loss, assumptions & perspectives in sharp, touching, painfully funny This

life with more cowbell

this-1-marrelljane-icecream-lowres Audra Yulanda Gray & Amanda Jane Smith in This – photos by Bruce Peters

Alumnae Theatre Company opened its 2016-17 season with Melissa James Gibson’s This, directed by Rebecca Ballarin, on the Mainstage on Friday night. I caught the matinée yesterday afternoon.

Four college friends, now in their late 30s, share life, love and loss in this poignant, sometimes wacky tale of relationships, and navigating life’s changes and chaos. New parents Marrell (Audra Yulanda Gray) and Tom (Andrew Batten) struggle with sleepless, sexless nights while their friend Jane (Amanda Jane Smith) deals with being a widow and single mom. Meanwhile, their single gay friend Alan (Michael Harvey), whose exceptional memory has earned him a career as a mnemonist, is itching for a new job. Marrell’s attempt to set Jane up with French doctor Jean Pierre (Christian Martel) at a dinner party has an unexpected outcome and, coupled with various…

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Lord Illingworth trapped in bathroom

As promised: the photographic evidence of Sunday’s excitement.  On Sunday (Jan 20), the cast of A Woman of No Importance, which opens on Friday Jan 25, had a rehearsal.   After running through the long first half of the play (it’s not really “half” – was written by Oscar Wilde as Acts I, II and III, but we’d call them “scenes” these days.  I’m calling it “half” although it’s 90 mins long because that’s the section before intermission.  Second “half” only runs about 30 mins), actor Andrew Batten (playing caddish Lord Illingworth) took a bathroom break.   When the time came to run the second half of the play, he was not to be found.  What, no one heard his pathetic cries for help; the desperate pounding on the locked door that wouldn’t open?

Well, someone eventually heard him or thought to check the bathroom, and Mike Vitorovich (Sir John Pontefract) broke the door frame in order to free his castmate.  Andy Fraser (Lady Hunstanton) went to a nearby hardware store to purchase a new door handle/locking mechanism.

In the photo, Andrew is the guy bending down, wearing a green or grey sweater.  I’m guessing that the unattached khaki-clad legs belong to Mike.  Jason Thompson (Archdeacon Daubeny) is observing from the doorway.  Thanks to Gillian English (Lady Caroline Pontefract) for the photo.


If you can’t see the photo, Alumnae re-tweeted from Gillian: check out @alumnaetheatre.

Any eyewitness clarifications to the events of Sunday would be welcome!

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Meet the cast of “A Woman of No Importance” – part 1

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of Oscar Wilde’s social satire A Woman of No Importance opens on Friday, January 25.  To get audiences somewhat up to speed, I posed a few questions to the cast.  Here’s the first installment – more to follow, as they submit their responses.

What's a little intrigue between friends? Our upper class of characters bandy politics and morals.  L-R:  Lord Illingworth (Andrew Batten), Mrs. Allonby (Paula Schultz), Lady Caroline Pontrefact (Gillian English, in back row), Sir John Pontefract (Michael Vitorovich), Mrs. Arbuthnot (Áine Magennis), Lady Hunstanton (Andy Fraser, in back row), Lady Stutfield (Amy Zuch, in pink jacket), Mr. Kelvil (James Graham), Farquhar the butler (Daniel Staseff, with tray), Frances the maid (Kathleen Pollard), Archdeacon Daubeny (Jason Thompson), and in FRONT ROW: Gerald Arbuthnot (Nicholas Porteous), Miss Hester Worsley (Sophia Fabiili).

What’s a little intrigue between friends? Our upper class of characters bandy politics and morals. L-R: Lord Illingworth (Andrew Batten), Mrs. Allonby (Paula Schultz), Lady Caroline Pontefract (Gillian English, in back row), Sir John Pontefract (Michael Vitorovich), Mrs. Arbuthnot (Áine Magennis), Lady Hunstanton (Andy Fraser, in back row), Lady Stutfield (Amy Zuch, in pink jacket), Mr. Kelvil (James Graham), Farquhar the butler (Daniel Staseff, with tray), Frances the maid (Kathleen Pollard), Archdeacon Daubeny (Jason Thompson), and in FRONT ROW: Gerald Arbuthnot (Nicholas Porteous), Miss Hester Worsley (Sophia Fabiilli).

Q #1:     Who do you play in A Woman of No Importance?  Tell us a little about your character.

Lord Illingworth (Andrew Batten) flirts with his favourite sparring partner, Mrs. Allonby (Paula Schultz):  "Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humour in the woman."

Lord Illingworth (Andrew Batten) flirts with his favourite sparring partner, Mrs. Allonby (Paula Schultz): “Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humour in the woman.”

ANDREW BATTEN:  I play Lord Illingworth, who I think is really the hero of the whole piece.  Humble, self-effacing, warm, kind – he’s really a remarkable guy.  Some of the other actors seem a bit confused about his character – words like “lech”, “misogynist” and “icky” have been used.  I’m not exactly sure where they’re coming from, but we’re all professionals and I’m sure all the misunderstandings will be ironed out by opening night.

ANDY FRASER:  I play Lady Hunstanton – she thinks of herself not as shallow (see question #4), but as “very practical – and terribly helpful!”

NICHOLAS PORTEOUS:  I play Gerald Arbuthnot.  At first he appears to be a simple, fresh-faced and hopeful young lad with a spring in his step and a song in his heart.  As the play continues, he’s forced to question his most fundamental values. He starts off very Disney and becomes something much more complicated.

Q #2:     Director Paul Hardy has changed the period setting of the play from the 1890’s (which is when Oscar Wilde wrote it) to the 1980’s.  What surprised you about making the time switch?  Did you discover issues or social mores that were surprisingly similar (or not) almost 100 years apart?

ANDREW BATTEN:  I’m surprised by the continued relevance of Elton John’s music.  Apparently Elton wrote the original version of “Tiny Dancer” in 1891, but it was still very popular throughout the 1980’s.  I’ve heard a rumour that the secret to Sir Elton’s eternal life was the sale of his soul to Disney Corp., but I don’t know any of the details.

Q #3:     Can you relate any anecdotes from rehearsal (e.g: : another actor – in character or out – doing something unexpected)?

ANDREW BATTEN: No-one ever really knows what Jason [Jason Thompson, who plays Archdeacon Daubeny] is going to do.  He puts the bold in bold choices.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do the entire show with a raw turkey on his head.

NICHOLAS PORTEOUS:  For one run Paul gave Jason a note to play his character Dr. Daubeny a bit more drug-addled. He ran with it so hard that every character in the room appeared almost as high and delighted as he was. The spontaneous mirror-exercise with Lady Hunstanton was the “high”light.

Archdeacon Daubeny (Jason Thompson- far right) expounds about his saintly wife to anyone who will listen - Farquhar the butler (Daniel Staseff, left), Frances the maid (Kathleen Pollard), and Lady Hunstanton (Andy Fraser):  "Her deafness is a great privation to her. She can't even hear my sermons now."Photo: Bruce Peters

Archdeacon Daubeny (Jason Thompson- far right) expounds about his saintly wife to anyone who will listen – Farquhar the butler (Daniel Staseff, left), Frances the maid (Kathleen Pollard), and Lady Hunstanton (Andy Fraser): “Her deafness is a great privation to her. She can’t even hear my sermons now.”
Photo: Bruce Peters

Q #4:     Do you have a favourite line or moment from the play – yours or anyone else’s?

ANDREW BATTEN:  I really like Nic’s [Nicholas Porteous, playing Gerald Arbuthnot, son of the “Woman” of the play title] line “You know I love Hester Worsley.  Who could help loving her?” just because every time he says it Sophia [Sophia Fabiilli, as Hester] floats a few inches higher off the floor.  Also, I like every time someone says something nice about Lord Illingworth because it makes me feel like they’re finally figuring the character out (see response to question #1).

ANDY FRASER:   My favourite line (my own) is “My dear young lady, there was a great deal of truth, I dare say, in what you said, and you looked very pretty while you said it, which is much more important.”

NICHOLAS PORTEOUS:   I have to give a shout-out to “He picked up the cudgel for that pretty prude with wonderful promptitude.” Half of the amazingness of this line is that it doesn’t even need to be interesting. It shows how unstoppably clever Lord Illingworth is, even when describing his own embarrassing scandals. He can’t help it.


Hmmm.  Since two of his castmates have now mentioned him,  doesn’t that make you curious to see just what exactly the notorious Jason Thompson gets up to onstage? Let’s hope we hear from the man himself next!  And don’t forget to reserve tickets: reservations@alumnaetheatre.com


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Report on “Sylvia” Talkback (Nov 20)

Sylvia heads into its final week – only 4 more chances (including tonight – Wednesday) to catch this charming and very funny show, which closes on Saturday November 26.

Greg (Andrew Batten) tries to persuade Kate (Dinah Watts - left) to let him keep Sylvia (Lea Russell - front). Photo: Bruce Peters.

The enthusiastic audience at last Sunday’s Talkback asked some interesting questions of the cast and director Maria Popoff,  which were fielded by producer Ramona Baillie.  Here are some excerpts.

Q:           Was there a reason why the dog Sylvia becomes more human-like in the second act?

A (director Maria Popoff):  It’s the way the play was written.  Sylvia becomes more part of the family…

A  (actor Lea Russell, who played Sylvia):   I noticed that the rhythm of Sylvia’s speech changed drastically in the second half of the play.  She’s less frantic and her thoughts are clearer.

Q:           I found the ending unrealistic – the author obviously wanted to have a happy ending, but it didn’t seem believable that Kate would have such a transformation.

A (actor Dinah Watts, who played Kate):  I actually agree.  I think Kate would have gone to England and stayed!

A (actor Lea Russell, who played Sylvia):   It’s kind of a nod to Shakespeare (which Kate quotes throughout the play) – the happy ending as an epilogue, wrapping everything up.

Q:           Kate makes a smart decision, and it saves her marriage, but to be believable, there should have been hints earlier in the play.

A  (director Maria Popoff):  A pet brings people together.  They start talking to each other more.  As the therapist Leslie says to Greg, maybe Kate is talking to him through the dog.

Q:           How did Lea play such a believable dog?

A  (actor Lea Russell):  When I first came to rehearsal, I just tried to go with my first instinct, and acted like I thought a dog would – just “animal”.  But I discovered it was too feline!  We had a fabulous movement coach, Jennifer Jones, who came twice to rehearsal and helped me build a small vocabulary of movements.  I also observed a lot of dogs in a park near my house, and Maria’s dog Sadie who came to rehearsal.

Q:           I enjoyed the scene where Sylvia reacts to the cat.

A (actors Dinah Watts, who played Kate, and Kay Montgomery, who played Phyllis):  It’s our favourite too!

Q:           Why the androgynous marriage therapist?

A (director Maria Popoff):  The playwright was very specific in the script about the gender ambiguity of the character.  I just tried to stick with what he set out, and find the truthfulness in it.

A (actor Mary Joseph, who played Leslie):  But the unitard, the watch and the glasses were all Maria’s idea!

Maria noted that in the script, the characters of Leslie, Phyllis and Tom (played by Douglas Tindal – the dog owner who befriends Greg, played by Andrew Batten) are intended to be played by the same actor.  She got permission from playwright A.R. Gurney to cast three different actors in those roles.

Q;           Has this play changed anyone’s mind about dog ownership?

A (actor Dinah Watts):  I’m a cat person; never liked dogs.  But after doing this play, I’m reconsidering!

Maria admitted that the lovely part-Lab in the photo seen at the end of the show is her own dog, 11-year old Sadie.  She came to rehearsal a few times, so the cast could observe and play with her.  She is credited in the program as “Canine Coach”!

Seven people from a MeetUp group called Thumbs Up Theatre came to see the show, and some posted comments on their site:

 It was fantastic. Well written, directed and performed. Lea Russell who plays Sylvia stole the show, but the whole cast was wonderful. Bravo!!!

I was pleasantly surprised at how funny this play was!! It was a cleverly written script and thought the acting was superb. The dog Sylvia was particularly entertaining.

A lot of fun. Well worth seeing.

It is indeed!

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Another “Sylvia” interview: Douglas and Kay’s backstage stories

I asked the cast how the show’s been going so far – four performances in.  Kay Montgomery (Phyllis) reports happily that  “A couple of lovely ladies came opening night, and enjoyed it so much that they came back for the Sunday matinee!”

Love to hear stuff like that.

Phyllis (Kay Montgomery - right) gives Kate (Dinah Watts) some strong advice. Photo: Bruce Peters.

Kay also mentioned that she suspects one of Alumnae Theatre’s resident ghosts of hiding her earrings.  Hmm – I know at least one of them enjoys flickering lights and moving furniture, so wouldn’t be at all surprised…  If you’re new to this blog, and want to read about some ghostly encounters at the theatre, check out :



And now, enjoy some Q & A with a couple of the very real “Sylvia” cast!

Q :        Do you, or the cast as a whole, have any pre-show rituals?

DOUGLAS TINDAL (Tom):   Can I tattle?  Dinah [Watts] and Andy [Andrew Batten] do a silly walk.  Mary K [stage manager Mary Keenan] counts us down and then throws the “places” to Steph [ASM Stephanie Souille].  Gerry [lighting operator Gerald Croteau] appears from somewhere at about 15 minutes to and stands in the doorway for a bit.  Kay [Montgomery] sets out her lunch for intermission.  Lea [Russell] does great stretching.  Mary J [Mary Joseph] gets half suited, like a track star at the end of the race.  I sit in the corner, and Dinah and Kay tell me to stop singing.

KAY MONTGOMERY (Phyllis):  Fortunately, I’m only in Act I, so I can start relaxing sooner and have my first glass of wine for the day.  The next big hurdle is not to get too relaxed and miss my curtain call….

Q:         Any funny anecdotes about stuff that’s happened onstage or in the dressing room?

DOUGLAS TINDAL (Tom):  The dressing room is a very bubbly place. Of the dressing rooms I’ve known, this is the bubbliest.

KAY MONTGOMERY (Phyllis):  I am suffering from the ‘Missing ear-ring’ syndrome, one at a time, one personal one and one costume one.  We do have a ghost at the Alumnae Theatre, and I’m blaming him, especially since my costume ear-ring showed up at home!

Q:         If you don’t already have a pet, has this show inspired you to adopt one?

DOUGLAS TINDAL (Tom):  No no no no no no no. Nope. Uh-uh. No.

KAY MONTGOMERY (Phyllis):   Never owned a pet, but I’m definitely in line to adopt Lea!

Q:         Would you prefer a full house of quiet people, or a small but loudly appreciative audience?

DOUGLAS TINDAL (Tom):  Wednesday’s audience was the latter:  small but very engaged and appreciative. They were the best so far.

KAY MONTGOMERY (Phyllis):  Definitely the latter.

** BONUS QUESTION (and you should stop reading **NOW **if you don’t want to be spoiled):

Who is that lovely dog in the photo at the end of the show?

KAY MONTGOMERY (Phyllis):  It’s a female named Sadie, and she’s owned by a member of the company.  (Guess who!)

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Two of the “Sylvia” cast talk about their pets

Thought it would be interesting to ask the cast of Sylvia about their experiences with pets.  Here are the first two responses – I’ll post more as they come in.  Hmmm – there seems to be an ‘accident-prone turtle’ theme and a lot of maternal fibbing around first pets – see question #2!

Q:           First of all – a very important distinction:  are you a cat person or dog person?

A:         Dinah Watts (Kate) – I am a cat person.  I tolerate dogs (barely).

A.    Andrew Batten (Greg) – Meow!

Q:           What was the name and type of your first pet?

A:         Dinah Watts (Kate) – The first pet I remember was a turtle named Tinker, but he committed suicide with a piece of lettuce (at least that’s what my mother told us).

A.         Andrew Batten (Greg) – I think it was two turtles – Benjamin and Ron.  Apparently they got out of the bowl and there was some sort of accident involving the vacuum cleaner.  My Mom never gave me the details.

Q:           If you see dogs in the park or on the street, are you compelled to pet them?

A:         Dinah Watts (Kate) – Rarely – some dogs are nice, but I usually avoid strange ones.
A.    Andrew Batten (Greg) – Only if they are being walked by a cat.

Q:           Do you currently have a pet?  If so, tell us about it.

A:         Dinah Watts (Kate) – Not at the moment, we just lost our little cat Phoebe in August.

A.    Andrew Batten (Greg) – Two pets, Sarah Valentine, a cat, and T-Bone.  He’s a dog but he wears a cat suit.

Q:           Do you think animals can teach humans something?  What?

A:         Dinah Watts (Kate) – Yes. Animals are simple people – they teach us how to love without thinking about it. They are also invaluable for warmth (literally), hilarity, and keeping us on schedule.
I think anyone who has a loving animal in their life knows they are very lucky.

A.    Andrew Batten (Greg) – Naps are good.  Licking eye lids is a perfectly legitimate way to greet someone.  And we should all be able to catch Frisbees with our teeth.

Andrew Batten (as Greg) and Douglas Tindal (as Tom) discuss dogs and women. Photo: Ramona Baillie.

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