Tag Archives: matinee

“I Am Marguerite” post-matinee Talkback, April 19

After yesterday’s matinee (Sunday April 20), patrons were treated to a Talkback with the cast, director Molly Thom, and playwright Shirley Barrie. Everyone was asked by producer Ramona Baillie to introduce themselves. What follows is a rough transcript – as fast as I could scribble – of the Q&A. Warning: may contain spoilers if you haven’t seen the show!


Q:           What happens to Marguerite? What’s the end of the story?

A (Shirley Barrie):   Marguerite did go back to France. Some stories report that she taught young girls. Enough people wrote about her that her story has endured for more than 4 centuries.


Q:           If this version of the play is “stripped down”, what was left out?

A (Shirley Barrie):   In other versions there was more talk, more backstory, more about the Queen of Navarre’s court, and how Marguerite might have had knowledge of the New World. Molly called all that “diversions”!


Q:           Was this originally a radio play?

A (Shirley Barrie):   Yes, the first version of this story was done as a radio play. It was much more straightforward – Marguerite was in France telling her story to the little girls.


Q:           Is this the last version?

A (Shirley Barrie):       Every time I wrote the story, I thought it was “the last”! But yes, I think I’m done now.


Q:           Was Jean-François in France when Marguerite returned?

A (Shirley Barrie):     Yes, he was there. He became a Calvinist – he had those extreme religious tendencies anyway – and was murdered in Paris a few years later. Outside a Calvinist church. He was never punished for abandoning Marguerite – it was fairly acceptable behaviour for the time and place, much the way honour killings are regarded today.

A (Molly Thom – director):   You’ll all be glad to know that his settlement [in Canada] was a disaster!


Q (Ramona Baillie – producer):   Last Wednesday, we performed a matinee for 130 students from Karen Kain School of the Arts, who are studying the “New France” settlement. The teachers said Jean-François might have been Marguerite’s uncle, not her brother?

A (Shirley Barrie): There are different reports of their relationship. As a writer, I had to choose one, and thought the brother/sister dynamic was better.


Q:           Daniela, what discoveries did you make as an actor playing this character?

A (Daniela Pagliarello, actor who plays Marguerite):   It’s a tough role. At first I thought “Oh, I can’t do this” – switching from past to present; going crazy… I discovered I could. There are very few roles like this for a young performer; I want to thank Shirley for writing this amazing part. It’s been scary, but great!


Q:           The music and soundscape of this play are wonderful! Can you talk about that?

A (Molly Thom – director):   We had a composer [James Langevin-Frieson] who did the songs and the dance music. Then our sound designer [Angus Barlow] manipulated the music, and added sound effects like the seagulls, waves crashing, wolves howling, etc. It really made the place come alive. Oh, but unfortunately the fog machine wasn’t working today. Normally when the phantoms appear at the start of the show, they’re coming through fog!

Daniela Pagliarello as Marguerite, Christopher Oszwald as Eugène.  Photo:  Bruce Peters.

Daniela Pagliarello as Marguerite, Christopher Oszwald as Eugène.     Photo: Bruce Peters.

Q:           What does Eugène do for a living? Why would her brother object to him marrying Marguerite?

A (Christopher Oszwald, actor who plays Eugène):   He’s a nobleman and a musician. Well, he’s the younger son of minor nobility, and the costume design kind of indicates that he’s not so noble. He planned to go on this expedition to the New World and make his fortune writing songs about it.

A (Shirley Barrie):   Eugène is the “spare, not the heir”, so he has to make his own way in the world.


Q (to Christopher Oszwald): Is that your real hair? [Ed note: much laughter from cast & audience]

A (Christopher Oszwald):   Yes, it is.


Q:           What was the audition process like?

A (Molly Thom):   About 150 actors sent resumés. We discarded about 100. I wanted actors with classical experience who could handle text.


Q:           Shirley and Molly, you’ve worked together many times before. What’s your next collaboration?

A:            Nothing planned at the moment. Yet.


Sara Price as the Queen of Navarre.  Photo:  Bruce Peters

Sara Price as the Queen of Navarre. Photo: Bruce Peters

Q:           The costumes are gorgeous.

A (Ramona Baillie):   Peter DeFreitas and Toni Hanson designed them. For instance, Peter just took some black velvet and gold braid and created the Queen of Navarre’s gown.


Q:           This is a question for all the cast. Do you have other jobs?

A (Sara Price, actor who plays the Queen of Navarre): Well, I haven’t made any money at acting! So I’m a supply teacher.

A (Christopher Oszwald): I just recently graduated from university. I have a part-time job.

A (Chris Coculuzzi, actor who plays Jean-François ):   I’m a full-time high school teacher.

Jean-François de Roberval (Chris Coculuzzi) dodges an attack from his sister Marguerite (Daniela Pagliarello).  Photo:  Bruce Peters

Jean-François de Roberval (Chris Coculuzzi) dodges an attack from his sister Marguerite (Daniela Pagliarello).    Photo: Bruce Peters

[Ed note: when pressed by other cast members, Chris admits to also running another theatre company, Amicus Productions.  “And don’t they have a show opening soon?” prompted Heli Kivilaht. They do – it’s “The Madwoman of Chaillot”, opening April 30. See inserts in your “I Am Marguerite” programs!]

A (Heli Kivilaht, actor who plays Marguerite’s nurse Damienne): I was a professional actor many years ago. Didn’t make much money, and became a teacher, which I loved. Now retired, and have been getting back into acting for the last 3 years or so.

A (Daniela Pagliarello): I’m an actor, a dancer, an artist. I run a gallery – it’s called Nowhere Gallery – on Dundas West. It’s a crazy wonder of a world, with a performance space as well as display space. We wanted a home for young up-and-coming artists of all disciplines.   [Reluctantly adds:]  I also have a “paying” job.


Q:   This is a very intense play. How do you prep and how do you decompress?

A (Sara): I start my prep at home.   Some physical work, some voice work. And when I get to the theatre, when I’m getting into my costume, sometimes I pretend I’m the Queen being dressed [by servants]. Before we go on, there’s a bench backstage that Heli and I hang out on. To decompress, it’s pretty simple. I take off the costume!

A (Christopher O.): I’m an anti-Method actor. To prep, I find my voice, find the resonance in my head and stomach. To decompress, I get out of costume.

A (Chris C): Nothing. Life is acting; everyone is always acting. When I walk into a classroom, I’m playing a role.

Heli Kivilaht as Damienne.  Photo:  Bruce Peters

Heli Kivilaht as Damienne (Marguerite’s nurse).     Photo: Bruce Peters

A (Heli): Well, I make sure I know the damn lines! My husband helped me put them on tape, so I review before each show. Plus we [the cast] have a fight call warmup and a choral warmup. And I improv in my head, like “Damn that Marguerite, why won’t she get dressed?”, and things like that. He [Chris C as Jean-François] gets the worst of it, though. You wouldn’t like to hear what I say about him!

A (Daniela):   I warm up my voice and spine. And I listen to aggressive 90’s hip hop, because I have to be crazy at the start of the play. To decompress, I listen to aggressive 90’s hip hop!


I Am Marguerite’s final week runs Wed – Sat at 8pm, closing on April 25. Tickets for Wednesday are 2-for-1; all other nights $20. Purchase online at http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/i-am-marguerite.html , or reserve by calling 416-364-4170 Box 1 / e-mailing reservations@alumnaetheatre.com , and pay cash at the door. Box Office does not accept credit or debit cards for in-person sales.

"I Am Marguerite" cast in costumes.  Caricature by Peter DeFreitas.

“I Am Marguerite” cast in costumes. Caricature by designer Peter DeFreitas.


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Filed under 2014/15 Season, I Am Marguerite

“Awakening” – Write Now! plays presented Oct 26

Did you know that Alumnae Theatre Company, in addition to staging plays, also has a group of playwright-members  – the New Play Development group (NPD) – who like to challenge themselves?   The annual fall challenge is called Write Now!  The writers receive a challenge theme or “ingredients” on a Friday afternoon, and have just a weekend to write their 10-minute play.  Then the scripts are matched up with a pool of volunteer directors and actors, and presented as staged readings on the following Sunday.

This year’s theme – devised by Annie MacMillan, who usually writes or directs – was AWAKENING.

These are the plays that resulted (listed alphabetically by writer), and their directors.

Coming Round by Mairy Beam – Director: Stacy Halloran

Graveyard Shift by Sandy Cardinal – Director: Nina Kaye

The Walker by Norma Crawford – Director: Joanne Williams

 Does Anybody Hear Me by Marianne Fedunkiw – Director: Molly Thom

War And Peace – A Family Story by Krystyna Hunt – Director: Danielle Capretti

Somnolence by Nina Kaye – Director: Julia Haist

Last Chance by Carol Libman – Director: Jane Carnwath

When Is A Table Not A Table by Reva Nelson – Director: Pat McCarthy

The Tower by Jenny Prior – Director: Brenda Darling

A Fairy Tale Ending by Jean Shepherd – Director: Jennifer McKinley

But A Brief Dream by Morna Wales – Director: Anne Harper

You can see the short plays (max. 10 mins each) performed as staged readings on Sunday Oct 26, starting at 2pm in the 3rd floor Studio at Alumnae Theatre.  No reservations necessary, and admission is FREE, but donations are gratefully accepted.  Drop on by!

*** Please note that the Toronto Irish Players will be presenting a matinee of Bernard Farrell’s Bookworms on the Main Stage at the same time. ***

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Filed under 2014/15 Season, NPD readings

Guest blogger’s report on “Rabbit Hole” Talkback, April 20

I was out of town for the traditional second-Sunday post-matinee Talkback, so this report is courtesy of guest blogger Pona Tran, who has worked as Assistant Stage Manager on a couple of Alumnae Theatre Company productions (The Trojan Women and Cosî) as well as acting in two of my short plays for Gay Play Day and other occasions. Thanks, Pona!

"Rabbit Hole" cast & director at post-show Talkback, Sun April 20, 2014: with Cameron  Johnston  (Howie), director Paul Hardy, Christopher Manousos (Jason), Paula Schultz (Becca), Joanne Sarazen (Izzy) and Sheila Russell (Nat).

“Rabbit Hole” cast & director at post-show Talkback, Sun April 20, 2014: with Cameron Johnston (Howie), director Paul Hardy, Christopher Manousos (Jason), Paula Schultz (Becca), Joanne Sarazen (Izzy) and Sheila Russell (Nat).

Producer Brenda Darling and director Paul Hardy joined the five actors onstage. What follows are highlights from the Talkback – as best as I could capture.

Brenda introduced Rabbit Hole as an Alumnae favourite, and provided the leading question:

Q: (Brenda): Question for Paul. You wanted this to be a naturalistic set.  [Set design is by Jacqueline Costa]  Questions like “At what level should the drawers in the kitchen be placed? Where do people keep their cutlery?” were considered. Why was that important?

A (Paul): This is not my typical style. But the play really called for and demanded it. We needed to show the family as clearly and with as much realism as possible. The action of eating, folding, and doing really gives it its strength. The play is about watching people living, so that concept was the motivation.

Q: Question for each of the actors: How do your characters change from the beginning of the show to the end of the show?

A (Paula Schultz): For Becca, there aren’t any huge changes, but the ones that she goes through are very much about finding some comfort. She finds it (through Jason) in the most unexpected place, and in the most unexpected way. It was a release and one of the big things for her and her journey.

A (Christopher Manousos): It’s similar for Jason; the comfort, the closure. It was an accident, it was left at odds, and he wasn’t sure how to go on with the rest of his life. Coming to this family changes things for him.

A (Cameron Johnston): For Howie, the driving force or goal was to make some sort of connection with Becca. Most of his changes happen offstage: the group is not helping him anymore. For him, it’s the difference between being there and not being there (the support group).

A (Sheila Russell): I think Nat’s very concerned about her daughter, and that her daughter finds some comfort. Nat has been able to deal with her grief in her own way, but she was concerned about her daughter finding some way to deal with her grief. She wants her to let go. There’s a nice resolution at the end where Nat has become closer to Becca and that’s something she would have wanted. They are different characters and they are not alike at all, but they come to some sort of understanding, so she’s happy that Becca has found some comfort in the journey.

A (Joanne Sarazen): For Izzy, it’s the pregnancy and what follows that. Having the baby turns her from a fly-by-night creature into a more stable person, and lets her bond with Becca despite the bad timing.

Q: How much experience do you have/ What research did you do to prepare to play characters who are dealing with the loss of a child? It hit the spot, it was overwhelming, but you didn’t overdo it. What did you do to make it so real?

A (Paula): It was a big source of anxiety for me coming into this, not being a mother. It is such a particular loss. It’s the unspeakable loss that no one knows how to talk about, because it’s just so awful. While it was a very particular loss, grief is grief. We talked to friends and family. I have a good friend whose family lost a young boy to an accident and she was very generous to talk about it. She discovered Rabbit Hole and said it helped her understand something about her family that was never spoken about.

A (Paul): I think the research is in the piece itself; it was all done by the playwright [David Lindsay-Abaire]. He created a rich portrayal of the experience and how the family deals with it. For me, the main push of research was just the piece itself and making every moment live.

Q: I really liked the way the lighting and music bended with the play. It gave a nice atmosphere. Each character had a lot of courage in the way that they handled the situation. They were true to life, and they had good and bad moments. This reminded me that in dealing with grief, you need that courage to go on on a day-to-day basis. I don’t know if each character realized how much courage they were showing.

Q (Paul to the actors): Do you think your character showed courage?

A (Christopher): Not mine.

A (Joanne): Is there a difference between courage and balls?

A (Paul): Well despite everything, Izzy tells everyone that they all have to get it together, and that she’s not going to accept the destruction of her life and her birthday party.

Q: Have you seen previous productions or watched the movie, and did that influence you in terms of the sound choices?

A (Paul): I’ve never seen the film. The sound is all original composition.  The dog, dryer buzzer, the TV, etc. is called for in the script, but the music is original [by Angus Barlow], and creates a nice soundscape for the play.

Q: The music is so evocative, and we’re always talking about using it on stage for atmosphere. As actors, did you find yourself using it?

A (Christopher): I know it’s there, but I just kept doing what I’m doing.

A (Sheila): Same for me.

A (Cameron): It’s just there, as part of the scene. I allow it to affect me.

A (Joanne and Paula): We both use it.

A (Paula): We open the play, and we wait for it to come on, to set the atmosphere.

A (Joanne): It has weight to it but it’s not emotionally manipulative. You can listen to it and respect it, but it doesn’t manipulate you.

Four more chances to catch Rabbit Hole – Wed to Sat at 8pm.  Tickets are 2-for-1 on Wed; $20 on other nights.  Reserve seats and pay cash on arrival by emailing Reservations@alumnaetheatre.com , or purchase tickets online at www.alumnaetheatre.com.  Closing Sat April 26th!

*****     *****      ******

Pona mentions in her notes that at one point director Paul Hardy asked the audience for a show of hands: “Who thought that Howie was cheating on his wife?” and also “Who thinks that Becca and Howie stayed together?”.  Darn – would have liked to know the count on those answers!

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“A Woman of No Importance” Talkback

Sunday’s matinee (Feb 3) was followed by a Talkback with director Paul Hardy and the cast. Oh, and the performance was SOLD OUT.  Really sold out – as in: not a single seat was empty.  Meetup group Thumbs Up Theatre brought a huge crowd, and judging from their comments on the Thumbs Up page, they really enjoyed it.  http://www.thumbsuptheatre.com/events/63549302/?eventId=63549302&action=detail

Often at Talkbacks, people are reluctant to be the first to comment or ask a question, so even though I’d guess about 90% of the audience stayed in their seats and didn’t seem shy, after Paul had the actors introduce themselves, Ramona Baillie, Executive Producer of A Woman of No Importance, started the ball rolling by asking Paul why he decided to set the play in the 1980’s instead of the 1890’s which is when Oscar Wilde wrote it.

Paul responded that he wanted to contemporize the piece, and initially considered setting it in the 1950’s, but discovered that had already been done.  So he went for the 1980’s instead – a time when the gap between rich and poor was very wide in Britain.

Then the questions rolled in from audience members.  Here’s a sampling, as fast as I could scribble:

Q:           Did you have to get permission to change that reference in the script to “Thatcher”?  What was the original name?

A:            No permission was necessary, as Oscar Wilde has been dead long enough [since 1900] that the script is in the public domain.  The original name (an imaginary person, not a real politician of the day) in the script was Cardew.

Q:           How did the modernization work for you?

A (Paul Hardy):  I’ll turn that around : how did you as the audience find it?

A:  Modernization worked well in Acts 1-3, but seemed a bit forced in Act 4.  Sensibility would have worked better if set in 1940’s or 50’s.

A (Paul Hardy): Yes, the shame [of having illegitimate child] in Act 4 was personal for Mrs. Arbuthnot, not societal.  By the way, the play is written in 4 acts; we chose to put the intermission after Act 3.


Q:           What is the significance of the butterflies and window frames on the set?

A (Paul Hardy):  What does the audience think?

A:  Windows with the destroyed bottom signify a broken home, or a broken standard in society?

A: Butterflies signify a metamorphosis?

A: The transparent chairs are easy to see behind and through.

A (Paul Hardy):   I told set & costume designer Brandon Kleiman (who couldn’t be here today – he’s working in Stratford) that I wanted a very simple set because there would be 13 people onstage.  Originally the windows were intended to move all over, but Brandon nixed that!  He found inspiration in a piece of artwork that showed a dress with deconstructed hem and butterflies erupting – it spoke to us of rebirth and metamorphosis.  The deteriorated windows signify decay.

Q:           What’s the significance of the two women in old-fashioned dress who are onstage before the play starts?

A (Paul Hardy): That was just a bit of fun.  I wanted to transition the audience from 1890’s to 1980’s and give a visual cue that this production is not the usual.

Q:           The dining room scene [a silent bit in which the table is created by the servants spreading a tablecloth] was brilliantly staged!

Q:           How long does it take to learn your lines?

A (Andy Fraser – Lady Hunstanton):  I still don’t know mine!

A (Áine Magennis – Mrs. Artbuthnot):  We started rehearsing in November.  I’ve got my lines on my iPhone, and posted up all over my house, including in the shower (in a plastic protector)!

A (Nicholas Porteous – Gerald Arbuthnot):  We make filthy jokes as a memory aid.

A (James Graham – Mr. Kelvil):  It helps to know WHY you’re saying a particular line.

Q:           I’m fascinated by Lady Caroline’s walk…

A (Gillian English – Lady Caroline):  I can walk in heels better than Lady Caroline can; some of the walk was a character choice.  Partly it was because of the way the pleather pants stick to my legs.

Q:   In his book The Art of Coarse Acting,  Michael Green says there’s a line in every show that could turn the whole play around.  What’s the line in this show?

A (Paula Schultz – Mrs. Allonby):  I believe it’s “Gout” – that’s just my personal opinion!

Q:           The butler [Daniel Staseff] and the maid [Kathleen Pollard] didn’t say much, but I really enjoyed their performances.

Q:           Was Lady Caroline’s costume meant to announce the 1980’s time period to the audience?

A: [Paul gets up from his chair and surveys Gillian’s glitzy outfit]:  Yes!

A (Gillian):  I figured that with each failed marriage, Lady Caroline adds more and more materialistic armour – it’s an accumulation of gaudy clothes and jewellery.

Q:           How does the actor playing [Caroline’s henpecked husband] Sir John deal with the role?

A (Mike Vitorovich – Sir john):  I drink a lot – at least 6 in the opening scene.  And I try to do more every show!

Q:           How do the actors feel about playing characters who may hold such different opinions from themselves?

A (Paula Schultz) – The things Mrs. Allonby says about gender equality are appalling.  She’s so behind the time (in 1985).  But the more divergent a character is from yourself, the more fun it is to play.

A (Sophia Fabiilli – Hester Worsley): You can’t judge the character.  You have to love the character.

A (Andrew Batten – Lord Illingworth):  We can find facets of ourselves in every character if we dig deep enough.  Lord Illingworth is the tragic hero of this play – from his point of view, his actions make perfect sense.

Q:           Why was the Vicar [Archdeacon Daubeny] portrayed so off the wall?

A (Jason Thompson – Archdeacon Daubeny]:  He was written as a quirky character.

Q (to Jason):  Have you done any movies?  You’re very funny!

A (Kathleen Pollard jumps in):  Are you casting any?

Q:           Who in the cast is most similar to the character they played?

A (Paul, in diplomatic mode):  Performers find the truth in every character.  All the cast are genuinely nice and charming people, but they could share some of the issues of the characters they play!

A (Kathleen):  I’m not onstage a lot, so get to watch the show every night, and it’s delightful to see it growing – it’s never the same from night to night.

A (Andy Fraser):  Yes, it’s unfortunate that the run is so short [2-1/2 weeks].  It’s only by the end of the run that you go, “Oh, so THAT’S what that line means!”

Q:           Loved Lady Stutfield’s [played by Amy Zuch] constant repetition of “very, very”!

Q:           As the show evolves, are you ever horrified by the direction that new choices may take it?

A (Paul Hardy):  That’s what I have a stage manager [Margot Devlin] for!  No, I trust everyone and the work we did.  The show grows and changes, but it’s never out of the shape that I wanted for it.

Q:           Was the butler’s Groucho Marx-style schtick in the script?

A (Daniel Staseff):  No, we came up with it in rehearsal.

——- And that, folks is when my pen literally ran out of ink and my writing hand cramped up!

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Filed under 2012/13 Season, A Woman of No Importance