Tag Archives: FireWorks

Questions for Madeleine Jullian: directing GASH

Interview with Madeleine Jullian about directing GASH – in the final week of Alumnae Theatre Company’s FireWorks series (Nov 8-26, 2017).


Madeleine Jullian has worked as an actor, writer, and director in Berlin, London, and Toronto.  She produced and directed Nick Dipchand’s solo show The Nature of a Bullet as part of the Toronto Fringe in 2013 and produced a double bill of Sheldon Rosen’s one-act plays, New Order and The Grand Hysteric, at Ryerson University’s Abrams Theatre in 2015.

Madeleine’s written works include Prize Horse, performed at the 2012 New Voices Festival, as well as bagged, created with the 2013 InspiraTO Playwriting Academy.  She also won Pat the Dog’s 24-Hour Playwriting Contest with her play Bunk*R in 2014.  Other directing credits include Caitie Graham’s earlier work Paradise Comics (2014), Positive I.D by Peter Dickinson (2012), and Laurie Campbell’s Just to See You Smile (2012).

Madeleine directs Caitie Graham’s GASH that opens Nov 22nd at Alumnae Theatre.  Let’s find out more: about Madeleine and GASH.

1) Are you…

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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: https://lankareporter.com/blog/theater-show-creases-sari-opens-toronto-follows-path-two-young-sri-lankan-immigrants-opposing-factions-fall-love/

D.J. Sylvis on Inked Heart:  http://www.djsylvis.com/?p=282

Kristine Greenaway on Motherlandhttp://intermissionmagazine.ca/artist-perspective/hovercraft-full-eels-translation/

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 https://www.facebook.com/events/2078801852345406/  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 (http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html)  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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Audition notice for FireWorks 2016

Alumnae Theatre Company is holding auditions Sept 6 – 10 for the three full-length plays in this year’s FireWorks series.  Rehearsals begin October 3.  Each play runs for one week in November:

Image/design by Suzanne Courtney.

Image/design by Suzanne Courtney.

The Creases in my Sari, by Sindhuri Nandhakumar.  Directed by Kimberley Radmacher :  Nov 9 – 13;

Inked Heart, by D.J. Sylvis. Directed by Pam Redfern: Nov 16 – 20;

Motherland, by Kristine Greenaway.  Directed by Andreja Kovac: Nov 23 – 27.

To request an audition, please email:     FWauditions@gmail.com.


THE CREASES IN MY SARI, by Sindhuri Nandhakumar.  Directed by Kimberley Radmacher.  Nov 9 – 13

Two young Sri Lankan immigrants from warring factions want to marry.  Will they find their place – and their love – in the midst of the political turmoil that threatens to drive them apart, even in Toronto?  A perceptive and poetic light on Toronto’s Sri Lankan community.


Maheshwari (Mahesh) – F, early 20s.  South Asian (Tamil,) born in Sri Lanka, grew up in West Toronto. Self-confident, well-spoken and educated. Close to her single mother (Rani) who raised her alone, but at odds with her mother over cultural memory. Mahesh is coming of age and searching for her roots.


Rani – F, mid-40s.  Mahesh’s mother.  South Asian (Tamil), left Sri Lanka with her infant daughter for a new life in Canada. Determined and strong-willed, she insists that she and her daughter assimilate to Canadian culture. Still she hasn’t let go of her past quite so much as she would have Mahesh believe. She holds a deep secret.


Chanaka – M, mid-20s.  South Asian (Sinhalese) newly arrived from Sri Lanka. Holds a post-doctoral fellowship at U of T. A bit bewildered by North American culture, he is well-spoken and romantic. Though somewhat oblivious to his privileged position in Sri Lanka, he is sensitive and devoted to Mahesh.


Praveen – M, early 20s.  South Asian (Tamil). A longtime friend of Mahesh and a master’s student, He has the energy and dedication of the new activist, and sees the world in black-and-white. Charismatic and passionate, potentially a powerful political leader.

Actors may be asked to do a movement/mime sequence, so please wear comfortable clothes and shoes.



INKED HEART, by D.J. Sylvis.  Directed by Pam Redfern. Nov 16 – 20

Ed, a tattoo artist who aspires to greatness as a painter, struggles with the breakup of his marriage, spars with his sassy goth-girl apprentice, who has her own story.  Will he be able to create his art for his upcoming gallery show surrounded by the complicated folk who bring their own secret agendas to hang out at his tattoo parlour?


Ed – M, 40s.  Owner of a tattoo parlour, heavily inked himself.  A tough exterior, sharp tongue and ready wit mask his sensitivity and the pain of his disintegrating marriage.  Aspires to be a painter.


Josie – F, 20s.  Ed’s apprentice, smart, sassy.  A blunt, take-no-prisoners sharpness and wit hide her longing for connection and affirmation.


Bette – F, 60s.  Fit, intellectually and emotionally youthful.  Josie calls her a “hippie grandma”.  Has her own reasons for hanging out in the tattoo parlour.


Angela – F, 30s.  Assistant at the art gallery where Ed’s work is to be shown.  Needs the show to                be a success, for Ed and for herself.  Shy, but with a sense of style with which she masks and defies her demons.


Guy – M, 20s.  College student, has won a tattoo on a bet.  Awkward, entitled, tends to blunder into situations of which he’s completely oblivious.




MOTHERLAND, by Kristine Greenaway.  Directed by Andreja Kovac. Nov 23 – 27

A young Armenian actor-musician struggles to make a life for himself as an artist.  Will the free-spirited young French woman who believes in him give him the strength to break free from the mother who desperately plots to keep him tied to her?


Davit – M, 25-35.  Gifted Armenian actor-musician, lives with his mother to whom he’s tied economically and emotionally.  He earns a precarious living by juggling a string of small jobs – voice-over artist, usher, composer, actor.  He longs for his own home and freedom to be a man.  (NOTE: Actors auditioning for this role must be able to sing.  Ability to play an instrument is an asset)


Ana – F, 45-60.  Davit’s mother, clever, charming, needy.  A librarian who lost her job because of her outspokenness and demands for respect. She now sits at home and smokes. Her life revolves around Davit. She fears being left alone and will stop at nothing to keep her son with her.


Line – F, 25-30.  French, colourful, free-spirited, ambitious.  A business-school dropout, she’s an aspiring project manager at a film bureau.  When she meets Davit, she falls for him both romantically and as an actor whose career she wants to manage.


Arman – M, 20-30.  Perceptive, sardonic, dismissive of traditional values. A business school student and            Line’s friend, he’s outspoken about his gayness.



 AUDITIONS will be held September 6 – 10 at Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street (at Adelaide), Toronto.

CALLBACKS (conducted separately for each play):  September 12 – 17.

The scripts are available at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St., 5th floor, Performance Desk.


TO REQUEST AN AUDITION, please email:     FWauditions@gmail.com

Be sure to include your RESUME, HEADSHOT, AGE RANGE and PHONE NUMBER, and indicate which play/character you wish to audition for.  Candidates chosen to audition will be asked to prepare a 2 – 3 minute contemporary monologue.  Directors from more than one play may be present at the audition.

This is a non-paying, non-union engagement.

For more info on the plays, check out the April 22 post, Directors Call for FireWorks:

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Big Ideas 2016: Free readings of full-length plays, May 9-15

Yes, 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.  Big Ideas image & wordsFrom Monday May 9 – Sunday May 15, head up to the 3rd floor Studio to see readings of 10 full-length plays-in-progress.  All FREE (but donations much appreciated).

Give your feedback on these developing works, and you may see these titles show up in New Ideas Festival (March) or FireWorks (November) in a year or two!
Here’s the lineup of Big Ideas 2016 – please note the different start times:

Mon May 9 8:00 pm Bargains in the New World

In New France, the colonists make bargains with God, the devil and each other to fit into or escape the king.

Donna Langevin
Tue  May 10 8:00 pm Shattered Dreams on St. Helena

Napoleon feared one person, and now she has come to haunt his dreams in exile as he dictates his memoir.

Kristine Greenaway
Wed May 11 8:00 pm Into The Abyss

A drama based on historical figures in Niagara Falls, including daredevils, circus showmen and female impersonators.

Nina Kaye
Thu May 12 8:00 pm *A Very Different Place

“You can’t go home again,” so said Thomas Wolfe.  But if you chance it, what you’ll find – is a very different place.

Carol Libman
Fri May 13 8:00 pm The River Flows Both Ways

Margaret Laurence, faced with yet another move, packs up mementos from her lifelong search for acceptance and belonging – a “tribe” and a home.

Jane Carnwath
Sat May 14 2:00 pm Where The Heart Is

Irish matriarch Mairead confounds, confronts and comforts her family.

Mary Barnes Amoroso
Sat May 14 3:15 pm They All Get Off The Bus

Unexpected happenings on a family farm in the 1970s.

Anne MacMillan
Sat May 14 8:00 pm **Yeats in Love

The love story of W.B. Yeats & Maud Gonne: a poet and a firebrand.  He is obsessed with her. She is obsessed with Irish freedom.

Anne Tait
Sun May 15 2:00 pm Run, Father, Run

The collision of a priest who can’t allow himself to be human, and a woman who can’t allow herself to be loved.

Lynda Martens
Sun May 15 7:00 pm A Little Happiness

Madness, murder and medical ethics are all themes of this complex and compelling drama.

Ramona Baillie


*a short version appeared in New Ideas Festival 2010

**a short version appeared in New Ideas Festival 2016 – video trailer by Nicholas Porteous: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8PrSod97-k&feature=youtu.be

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Directors Call for FireWorks 2016

The last production of Alumnae Theatre Company’s  2015/16 season, August: Osage County, winds up its  run tomorrow.   FireWorks 2016 imageAnd already plans are underway for the 2016/17 season:  the scripts have been selected for FireWorks series in November, and now it’s time for directors to apply!  Deadline is April 27 – read on.


FireWorks, born in 2013, is Alumnae Theatre Company’s annual festival of new full-length plays which were developed at Alumnae – either through the company’s New Play Development group of playwrights (the NPD) or having received dramaturgy in Alumnae’s New Ideas Festival.  FireWorks is a collaborative process where playwrights and directors work in partnership throughout the design, audition, and rehearsal stages.


 Deadline for director submissions:  April 27, 2016

Director interviews: May 16, 18, 19

Auditions: September 6-10, 2016

FireWorks 2016 production dates: November 9 – 27, 2016

 Interested directors – please send your resume and a note of which play or plays you wish to apply for to:

fireworksATC@gmail.com with subject line FW16 call for directors. Those selected for interviews will be provided with the link to the scripts and asked to prepare a detailed proposal.


There are 3 plays in this year’s lineup – here are the details:

 The Creases in My Sari by Sindhuri Nandhakumar

Mahesh and her mother Rani are Tamil refugees who have been living in Toronto since Mahesh was a child – she has no memory of Sri Lanka, is thoroughly westernized. She meets Chanaka, a Sinhalese post-doc student, here to complete his studies. They fall in love, plan to marry despite the conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese in their native land. Praveen, a Tamil, is a lifelong friend of Mahesh – she regards him as a brother.


None of these young people is political – initially. But Praveen becomes increasingly radicalized as the increasing violence in Sri Lanka affects them all. Rani learns of Chanaka’s military family, and it would appear the marriage is impossible. But Rani has her own story of guilt and lost love. Praveen, by now committed to violence, goes to Sri Lanka on a mission, where his fate is unknown. Mahesh and Chanaka recognize the dire implications of the extremism around them, and that their love is too important to them to give up.

A moving, often funny tale, full of vivid, nuanced characters with a timely, powerful story.  The immigrant experience of the Sri Lankan in Toronto, in all its variety and contradictions – “What’s the real capital of Sri Lanka?  Scarborough” – is explored with humour and sensitivity.  An earlier version of this play was presented as a staged reading in New Ideas Festival 2015.

Characters:  3m, 2f, all Sri Lankan. Multiple settings


Inked Heart by D.J. Sylvis

Everybody has secrets.

Ed’s a gifted tattoo artist who runs a successful parlour. He also has aspirations of being a successful painter, and is busy preparing for an upcoming show in a local gallery. He puts on a brave face and tells no one that his marriage is disintegrating.

Josie, his smart-mouth goth-girl apprentice, has dreams of her own: to be a tattoo artist in her own right.  But Ed limits her to looking after the shop and the equipment, rarely lets her wield the needle, and refuses to give her a tattoo himself. Their relationship is spiky – it only emerges slowly how much they care about each other.

Bette, a customer whom Josie calls “hippie grandma”, has her own agenda. Turns out she is a grandma – Josie’s – and after hanging around the parlour on the pretext of acquiring an elaborate tattoo, Bette finally comes clean to Josie, hoping thereby to reconnect with her alienated daughter, Josie’s mother. The gallery curator, Angela, is deeply invested in the success of Ed’s show. She bolsters his confidence and offers sympathy and support as his marriage crumbles, all the while battling her own demons. And then there’s Guy, the drunken frat boy who’s won a tattoo on a bet.  He lurches and stumbles through the events that surround him, with little understanding of what’s going on, and no interest in anything outside himself.

Snappy dialogue, irresistibly engaging characters, a plot full of surprises, slapstick humour, and some surprising insights into the complexities of human nature – and the art of the tattoo. An earlier (and shorter) version of this play – then titled An Inked Heart – was presented in New Ideas Festival 2010.

Characters:  2m, 3f. One major set – the tattoo parlour. One minor set – the art gallery


Motherland by Kristine Greenaway

Davit (late 20s) is a young Armenian, striving to make a living in his economically depressed country. Genuinely talented as a musician, he earns a precarious living with a string of small jobs – radio jingle-writer, voice-over artist, singer-songwriter, usher. He lives with his mother, Ana, and he longs for financial independence, and freedom to be a man.

Ana (50s) his mother, is charming, witty, intelligent. She is also terrified of being left alone. Though she was once a librarian, she lost her job some time ago and has never taken another one. Now she never leaves the apartment. The relationship with her son is close, teasing, affectionate. But when he finds love and the prospect of making it on his own, she becomes increasingly desperate to keep him with her.

Line (early 20s) is an extremely competent project manager at a film bureau. Colourful, free-spirited and ambitious, she is impressed by Davit’s talent, and wants to manage his career as an actor-musician. She’s working for a renowned German film director who would almost certainly cast Davit. The future looks bright – romantically and professionally. The problem is that he’d have to leave Armenia.

The battle lines are drawn: Ana vs. Line for Davit. The battlefield: the cramped apartment that Ana and Davit share. Ana knows his vulnerabilities and plays on them skillfully, invoking history, tradition, Line’s sketchy past, her own desperate fear, and of course, guilt. The action reaches a climax that is both horrific and inevitable.

Arman (25) is Line’s friend, who allows them to use his apartment to be together. He’s gay, perceptive, sardonic. Also observing the action is Haroun, an aspiring television producer and Davit’s confidant.

A powerful story, with vivid, complex characters against a background of struggle between tradition and progress. Full of music, traditional and contemporary.   This play was developed through Alumnae Theatre Company’s NPD group.

Characters:  3m, 2f. Set:  Ana’s apartment, and a space where Davit works and plays – offices, bars, etc.



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FireWorks: Lumpectomy champion Dr. Vera Peters puts ‘Do No Harm’ to the test in Radical

Review of Radical, running Nov 18-22 in FireWorks series at Alumnae Theatre Company.

life with more cowbell

Helly Chester as Dr. Vera Peters in Radical - photo by Bruce Peters Helly Chester as Dr. Vera Peters in Radical – photo by Bruce Peters

The final production of Alumnae Theatre’s annual FireWorks program opened last night: Charles Hayter’s Radical, directed by Neil Affleck, with associate director Ingryd Pleitez.

I saw an earlier version of Radical at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival – and loved it – so I was very excited to see it again in its current iteration. Hayter and Affleck describe the process that led to the FireWorks production in an interview on the Alumnae Theatre blog.

Based on the true story of Canadian oncologist Dr. Vera Peters’ (Helly Chester) fight for a less aggressive procedure than radical mastectomy to treat stage one breast cancer tumors, Radical takes us along with Peters as she navigates the old boys’ club that is medicine – represented by the character Dr. Bernie Fowler (Rob Candy) – and an 80-year-old ‘gold…

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