Tag Archives: cold reads


Playwright Burke Campbell (New Ideas Festival 2017 – Week Two) gives his impression of the pre-audition Cold Reads in December.  Auditions finished on Sunday Jan 8; the Festival runs March 8-26.

Burke Campbell

burke-campbell-017-alumnae Alumnae Theatre, Toronto, Canada. Photo by Burke Campbell

My short play, The Red Lacquered Box, is one of 16 short works that will go on in March 2017 at the New Ideas Festival. Broken into groups, the various plays will be performed over a three week period at the Alumnae Theatre. Cold readings went on this past week, so the playrights and directors could hear the works spoken. Casting will take place later.


The 16 works  were picked from over 200 submissions, from Canada and the United States. The Alumnae staff has worked tirelessly to introduce playwrights to directors, and have sent out a call for actors to participate in the upcoming auditions.


The New Ideas Festival is an incredibly complex enterprise. For me, it’s an opportunity to meet a huge number of theatre artists and also have a lot of fun.

burke-campbell-019-actor-bwThe Alumnae Theatre is a gorgeous theatre…

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New Ideas Festival 2014 – the Cold Reads (Dec 2-5)

A few years ago – for New Ideas 2011 –  the Festival’s Artistic Directors came up with a plan to give playwrights and directors the opportunity to hear the plays read by actors before the auditions.  It’s especially useful for the writers, who may never have heard the words aloud before.  The cold reads are now a NIF tradition.   And it’s the true definition of cold read: actors arrive, and are handed a script to read!  After each reading, the writers or directors may ask questions about what worked and what didn’t for the audience.

NIF 2014 co-producer Jennifer McKinley handled the scheduling job, juggling everyone’s various schedules.  I could not attend on the first night, but the plays read were:

Be Careful, There’s a Baby in the House (by Nicholas Sgouros (to be directed by Sean Speake).  Readers:  Tara Gostling, Andrea Brown (on a rehearsal break from The Lady’s Not For Burning), and David Suszek.
The Living Library by Linda McCready (to be directed by Stacy Halloran).  Reader: Andrea Patreau.

The Shimmering Odessa Building or Whatever by Judith Upjohn (to be directed by Zoe Erwin-Longstaff).  Readers:  Jacqueline Costa (who played a delightful grumpy old man in Alumnae’s September production The Underpants), Melissa Chetty, and Fiona Green.
Pit Sublime by Alexandra Watts-Simpson (to be directed by Pamela Redfern).  Readers:  Shana Perriera and Donovan Jackson.

On the second night – Tue Dec 3 – I missed the first play:  Radical by Charles Hayter (to be directed by Darcy Stoop).  Readers:  Patricia Hawk, Sandra Banman, Aldin Bundoc, Brigitte Talevski.

Next up was In a Time of War by Anne MacMillan (to be directed by Jim Ivers).  The story of a working-class Glasgow family touched by their experiences in World War II.  Readers: Morna Wales, Frank Robinow, Scott Dermody, Melyssa Ade, Jacklyn Francis, Pat Hawk.  An earlier version appeared at Big Ideas back in May.  Currently runs approx. 35-40 minutes, but the playwright is still cutting!

Simprov is by a New York writer Laurence Klavan (to be directed by Stephanie Williams).   Approx 15 mins.   A slightly futuristic, absurdist and funny piece.  Imagine if you could pay to have reality TV played out in front of you by live actors!  Readers:  Tina McCulloch, Nicholas Porteous,  Joslyn Rogers, Michael Gordin Shore (also from The Underpants).

I’m Still Here by Ramona Baillie (to be directed by Dahlia Katz).  In this cute piece (running approx 10 mins), a long-ago movie star uses every trick in the book to convince a young reporter that she’s still relevant to today’s audience.  Readers: Brenda Somers, Melissa Chetty, Sandra Banman.

Night 3 – Wed Dec 4 – features Elsa and Marigold by Marissa Spada (to be directed by Janet Kish).  Readers:  Seema Lakhani, Tara Gostling, Liza Paul.

Airport Tales by Carol Libman (to be directed by Carys Lewis).  Readers:  Razie Brownstone and Justen Bennett.

Would You Do It Again? by Rebecca Grace (to be directed by Caitlin English).  Readers: Rae Kolbin, David Suszek, Billy Fillippakis.

Brockfest by Joan Burrows (to be directed by Eric Benson).  Readers:  Justen Bennett, Michael Gordin Shore, Natalie Kulesza, Billy Fillippakis.  The opening scene of this play was presented at the works-in-progress series Big Ideas back in May – can’t wait to see where it’s gone since then!

Tonight – Thu Dec 5 – the readings are:
Royal Seasons by Norma Crawford  (to be directed by Nina Bea Kaye).  It’s about Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, I am told.  Readers:  Sandra Burley, Ryan Genereaux.
Better Angels by Andrea Scott (to be directed by Pomme Corvellec).  Readers:  Kathleen Pollard, Ryan Genereaux.
Rotating Thunderstorm by Taylor Marie Graham (to be directed by Jillian Harper).  Readers: Shana Perreira, Nina Kaye, Robert Bellisimo, Krystyna Hunt.

And that’s all 15 plays!  Actors, book your auditions now (see previous post https://alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/audition-notice-for-new-ideas-festival-2014/ for instructions).  Audiences, come see New Ideas in March!

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New Ideas Festival 2013: third night of cold reads (+ listing of 4th night)

new ideas_womanThird night (of four) of the cold reads of New Ideas scripts.  The evening began with Still Waters by Suzanne Gauthier, to be directed in Week One by Stacy Halloran.  The playwright could not attend, but she had already seen a reading of this piece (although with different actors and director) at the Write Now event on October 21.  Charles, a 60-something retiree who’s a compulsive Canadian Tire shopper, thinks he has the solution to his wife Monica’s “sleeping problem”.  I thought this 10-minute comedy was so charming when I first heard it at Write Now (see post at https://alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/write-now-2012-running-water/),  and it’s still adorable.

Next up was Say The Words by me (Tina McCulloch), to be directed in Week One by Kim Radmacher.  I confess to sitting in the audience of other writers and directors,  shaking with nerves a little, in anticipation of hearing it read aloud for the first time.  And wondering how it would be received!  It’s an 8-minute monologue – a form I’ve never written in before – about love and loss.  The audience was very attentive [phew!], and quite complimentary.

Then we heard The Deepest Trench by Chloë Whitehorn, to be directed in Week Two by Justen Bennett. Described by the playwright as “an almost love story”, this flashback and flash-forward piece shows the relationships between Kate, her friend & roomie Emma, and Kate’s brother Ryan, who develops feelings for Emma.  Contains a great geek reference to Zander’s invisibility in episode 4.4 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer; Emma’s malapropism “pair of ducks” (was it deliberate?  She means “paradox”) that culminates in an adorable gift; and the Best Quote Ever, from Kate:  “Could we please not talk about my brother’s genitalia?”.

Wrapping up the evening was the Week Three reading, Falling by Jamie Johnson, dramaturged by Diane Forrest, to be directed by Ed Rosing. This is a play that the writer confessed had been stashed in a drawer for 18 years when he pulled it out to submit to New Ideas.  Currently the format is a series of monologues interrupted by brief interactions with other characters – but that could change!  Constance, mocked in her small town as the “crazy widow” (she’s survived two husbands and miscarried a baby), defends her choices and tries to explain her life to the daughter she imagines she might have had.  Lovely, semi-mystical stories about the moon and its power punctuate the text.  Johnson noted that the reading helped to highlight some clarity issues which he will work on, along with exploration of theatrical possibilities.

Readers for night #3 were: Carol Baker, Charles Hayter, Neale Kimmel, Tina McCulloch, Lynne Patterson, Derek Perks, Laura Vincent, Mike Vitorovich, Maria Wodzinkska.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make tonight (Thursday) – the final cold read night.  The plays tonight are:

–          Dead French Philosophers and What We Mean When We Talk About Love by James Papoustsis,  to be directed in Week Three by Yevgeniya Falkovich.  The readers (as scheduled, although there have been last-minute substitutions on all the previous nights!) are Derek Perks, David Christo, Elisabeth Feltaous and Carys Lewis. 

–          My Friend’s Best Friend’s Boyfriend by Wesley J. Colford, to be directed in Week Three by Joanne Williams.  Readers:  Carys Lewis, Alex Dault, David Christo, Jake Michaels, Elisabeth Feltaous, and Derek Perks.

–          Over the Edge by Catherine Frid, to be directed in Week Two by Pomme Corvellec.  Readers: Elisabeth Feltaous, Alex Dault.

–          Everything but the Cat by Adrianna Prosser is the Saturday reading in Week One, to be directed by Steph Ouaknine.  Readers:  Carys Lewis and Elisabeth Feltaous.

And that’s it for the cold reads – all the scripts that will appear in the Festival have been read!  Next for New Ideas:  the auditions in early January. 

 By the way, yesterday’s post about the second night of cold reads has been updated to add the names of the readers.

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New Ideas Festival 2013: second night of cold reads

New Ideas 2013Second night (Tue Dec 4) of cold reads for New Ideas Festival 2013.  The lineup started with Eglinton by Anthony MacMahon, to be directed by David Suszek in Week Three.  Mary calls her friend Charlie for help when a date with a Bay Street type (this is very definitely a Toronto setting!) goes horribly wrong.  Meanwhile Charlie has an unfortunate dating experience of his own.  The playwright specifies that both characters are onstage the entire time, even through each other’s monologues – they don’t always speak to each other.  Nice contrast of the characters: Mary’s speeches are descriptive and lyrical; Charlie’s bitter-verging-on-nasty, but funny.  Carolyn Zapf, one of the New Ideas Artistic Directors, was curious about where Charlie and Mary were when they had monologues.  MacMahon responded that the style was modeled after Irish theatre; no frame or place.

Next up was Flora Stohr-Danzinger’s My Red Feather Boa, which originally appeared in the 2004 New Ideas.  To celebrate the Festival’s 25th anniversary, it was selected as an audience favourite, and will be directed by the original director, Nancy Bradshaw as the Festival  closer.  It’s a monologue told by Celine, a small-town girl from Chicoutimi. Quebec, who came to Toronto with dreams of stardom.  She tells the story of her adventures – both tragic and funny – in a group therapy session , interacting with other [unseen] patients and the doctor.

R.J. Downes, a playwright formerly based in Toronto but now living in Kingston, Ont. , has penned the comedy Two Actresses, to be directed by Pam Redfern in Week Two of the Festival.  Assistant Director/Stage Manager will be Sean Speake.  Margo and Susan are best friends (they say!) who are also bitter rivals in their community theatre group.  The play takes place in a hospital emergency room, where they’ve wound up – in full Victorian costume – after Susan “accidentally” pushed Margo off the stage during a dress rehearsal.  The reading was recorded for the playwright, and there were lots of guffaws and snickers at all the theatre jokes and zingers.  Director Pam Redfern noted that the first draft of the script was “very AbFab” [British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, sweetie darling.  What – you haven’t seen it?].   She thinks it still needs “a bigger ‘a-ha’ moment” – something to explain why these two are still friends, and what does Susan, who’s stuck with all the “dignified supporting roles” while Margo snatches the leads, get out of the friendship.

Last on tonight’s schedule was Rain Chan’s Lullaby for the Abandoned, which will be the Saturday reading in Week Three, dramaturged by Shaista Latif and directed by Brenda Darling.  It was inspired by an article that Chan read only in August, and she whipped off a 12-page script and submitted it to New Ideas.  It was accepted, she kept writing, and the piece is now at least 60 minutes long.  The story centres around a family in China, and ranges from the present, with 88-year old matriarch Liu Ying in a hospital suffering from kidney disease, all the way back to her young adulthood, when she began collecting abandoned babies to raise them.  China instituted its one-child policy in 1979 [for some reason I thought it was much earlier…], and girl children were frequently abandoned.  Liu Ying, a fictional character based on the real woman profiled in the article, is a poor cleaner who cannot resist taking in these girls, to the despair of her concerned husband – “We have too many babies!” he protests, more than once.  Also in the present, Liu Ying’s now-adult daughters (one biological and two adopted) try to comfort their sick mother with the help of a sympathetic hospital nurse, and reassure her that the youngest adoptee, a 7-year old boy, will be cared for and educated.   Director Brenda Darling intends to have several workshops of the play as the script develops, and asked for actors interested in improv and script development to contact her.

Tonight’s readers were:  Zahir Gilani,  Barbara Haber, Susan Kerr,  Anthony MacMahon, Lara Mrkoci, Kay Randewich, Kristen Scott, Maria Wodzinkska, Sangeeta Wylie.

Two more nights of cold reads to come!

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New Ideas Festival 2013: the writer/director teams!

Amendment to Nov 27 post:  the play Dinner Date by Jessica Moss (Week One) has been replaced by Suzanne Gauthier’s Still Waters.   (If you attended the Write Now! event on Oct 21, you might recall  this charming piece.  See post at https://alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/write-now-2012-running-water/)

Here are the writer/director teams – note that the sequence shown here may not end up being the final running order!  Saturday Readings updated on Jan 2, 2013.

*** WEEK ONE: Wed March 6 – Sun March 10, 2013 ***
Revelation by Shirley Barrie, directed by Molly Thom
Still Waters by Suzanne Gauthier, directed by Stacy Halloran
Say the Words by Tina McCulloch, directed by Kimberly Radmacher
Stalled by Eugenie Carabatsos, directed by Kerri MacDonald
Saturday Reading: Falling by Jamie Johnson, directed by Ed Rosing

*** WEEK TWO: Wed March 13 – Sun March 17 ***
The Deepest Trench by Chloë Whitehorn, directed by Justen Bennett
Two Actresses by R. J. Downes, directed by Pam Redfern
Over the Edge by Cathering Frid, directed by Pomme Corvellec
Pieces of Penelope by Gina Femia, directed by Janet Kish
Saturday Reading: Lullaby for the Abandoned by Rain Chan, directed by Brenda Darling

*** WEEK THREE: Wed March 20 – Sun March 24 ***
Dead French Philosophers and What We Mean When We Talk About Love by James Papoutsis, directed by Yevgeniya Falkovich
My Friend’s Best Friend’s Boyfriend by Wesley J. Colford, directed by Joanne Williams
Eglinton by Anthony MacMahon, directed by David Suszek
My Red Feather Boa by Flora Stohr-Danziger, directed by Nancy Bradshaw
Saturday Reading: Everything but the Cat by Adrianna Prosser, directed by Steph Ouaknine

SHOWTIMES: Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sat & Sun matinees at 2:30 pm
STAGED READINGS: every Sat at noon
TICKETS: $15 per week + PWYC readings; or $35 Festival Pass for everything. Cash only at Box Office.

Next step:  the cold reads next week!  An opportunity for playwrights and directors to hear the plays read aloud by actors.  No, this is not the auditions – the actors are assigned by the Festival’s Artistic Directors, not cast by the actual director of each play.  The real thing happens in January – watch the Auditions page of Alumnae’s website for the official notice in a week or so.

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