Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

Actor Chronicles: Voices from Inside Alumnae’s Latest Production: “The Heidi Chronicles”

by Suzanne Bowness

The Heidi Chronicles debuts this week at Alumnae! ​Directed by Ilana Linden and produced by Alison Smith; co-produced by Kim Croscup and Chenyi Guo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play is opener to our 102nd season. Written in 1988 by Wendy Wasserstein, the play covers 20 years of a woman’s life and relationships as she and her friends seek political, professional and personal fulfillment in a rapidly-changing world. There is also lots of room for nostalgia with many costumes from the 1970s and 80s (peasant blouses, anyone? Shoulder pads?)

“The Heidi Chronicles”: Hello New York.  Daniel Jones (Scoop), Breanna Dillon (Heidi), Eitan Shalmon (Peter), Brianna Diodati (April).
Photo by Bruce Peters

 

And while audience members usually have to wait for our post-show Talkback (coming up on Sunday, September 29) to hear from the actors, we’ve already managed to pin down Daniel Jones https://www.alumnaetheatre.com/bios-the-heidi-chronicles.html (who plays leading man Scoop Rosenbaum) for a Q&A right here on this blog! Here’s what he had to say on everything from the play’s appeal to its characters and even those multiple costume changes.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PLAY AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT? 

I love that it is a coming of age story—for Heidi, of course, but also for the other characters in her life—over decades of significant cultural change and upheaval. I love that we get to see who these people become, their hopes and dreams and disappointments. What happens when you stick to your beliefs and what happens when you settle?

I love that it’s really funny and tender and gives profound insight into the road women walked. And, without question, Wendy Wasserstein’s writing is brilliant with characters that feel real and relatable.

WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR THE ROLE OF SCOOP ROSENBAUM, ONE OF TWO LEADING MEN IN THIS PLAY?

Along with the rest of the cast, I did a good bit of research on the time period the play spans. For Scoop, I spent time focusing on what it would be like for a Jewish-American man to make his way in the WASP-y American northeast when anti-Semitism was prevalent—particularly at boarding schools and universities.

How would he face it? How does that inform the choices he makes? And what expectations would he have faced from his parents, peers, and of course, from navigating white male dominant culture. What does Scoop need to do to succeed—who does he need to become?

And then, of course, I focused on relationships, particularly his relationship with Heidi.

“The Heidi Chronicles” –
Heidi (Breanna Dillon) and Scoop (Daniel Jones).
Photo by Bruce Peters

Ilana walked Breanna [Dillon, who plays Heidi] and me through multiple exercises to explore, including having us write letters to each other’s character. This was significantly helpful and profoundly moving.

Lastly, Breanna and I had a good deal of conversation about these two characters—what attracts them and draws them together, even though they may not be so good for each other. Why they act on the impulses they act on and why they end up where they end up. Always a gift to collaborate with other actors and explore this world together.

 

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO PLAY THESE PAST ERAS FROM TODAY’S VANTAGE? 

The play feels resonant today and gives tremendous insight into the road women walked, the road my mother and her generation walked during their coming of age. It’s fascinating to step into their shoes—but for a brief moment—and imagine the complexity of choices and costs made to fight for justice and what is good and right or to perhaps succumb to expectations, fall in line and settle.

I appreciate the profound difficulty and possibility of that experience and appreciate the glimpse into this time through the voice of Wendy Wasserstein.

THE SHOW COVERS A LOT OF DECADES. IF YOU COULD BEAM YOURSELF BACK TO ONE WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?

Tough one. I feel pretty nostalgic for the eighties—big fan of eighties pop culture and there may or, may not have been a few movies in there that inspired me to become an actor—E.T., Indiana Jones, The Goonies.

If I had to choose, I find the 60s intriguing and exciting. It’s when my parents grew up and a time when everything was being upended, both for good and sometimes for not so good. But a fascinating, energetic era.

WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITE THEMES IN THE PLAY AND WHY?

All people can fulfill their potential. Love it. Love the possibility and hopefulness in that.

THERE ARE LOTS OF COSTUME CHANGES IN THIS PLAY—WHAT’S THAT LIKE AS AN ACTOR?

Fortunately, my changes are not quite quick and crazy like some others in the play (ahem…Breanna).

But I love how the period and changes in costume help define change and growth and helped me understand who Scoop is becoming—going from the casualness of youth to a suited, successful entrepreneur and businessman. It’s fun to imagine the persona your character is trying to project and why, through the clothes they’re wearing.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF THIS PRODUCTION?

Hard to pick a favourite.  Love the era and the music and the truths that are presented. Love getting to speak brilliant words. Love collaborating with this cast and crew.

 

The Heidi Chronicles runs from September 20 to October 5, 2019. Click here for tickets:  https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=atc13

Photos: Bruce Peters

 

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Filed under 2019/20 Season, The Heidi Chronicles

First read-through of “The Clean House”, Feb 21

Last night in the lobby* of Alumnae Theatre, director Ali Richardson presented her cast doing a first read-through of the script of The Clean House, the final show in Alumnae Theatre Company’s season.  It was the first time many of the cast had met, but they did an amazing job, aided by producer Laura Jabalee Johnston’s reading of the often-funny stage directions.  Also present for this first read were set designer Orly Zebak, costume designer Daina Valiulis, props designer Helen Monroe, and sound designer Nick Potter.   Stage Manager Lizz Armstrong and Production Manager/lighting designer Steph Raposo unfortunately could not be there; they’re currently working on other shows.  Several Alumnae Theatre Company reps attended by invitation, including bloggergal (yours truly), Alumnae’s President Brenda Darling, and marketing team members Carina Cojeen (who took the photo) and Jeanette Dagger.

Sarah Ruhl’s delightful and semi-mystical play The Clean House was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

L-R: Annemieke Wade (Virginia), Lilia Leon (Ana), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Marina Moreira (Matilde), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer), Ali Richardson (director) at the first read. Neil Silcox (Charles) would be at far left. Photo: Carina Cojeen.

L-R: Annemieke Wade (Virginia), Lilia Leon (Ana), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Marina Moreira (Matilde), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer), Ali Richardson (director) at the first read. Neil Silcox (Charles) would be at far left. Photo: Carina Cojeen.

In it, Lane (played by Andrea Irwin) is a buttoned-up workaholic Connecticut doctor who hires a young Brazilian woman, Matilde (Marina Moreira) as her housekeeper.  But Matilde (the Portugese pronounciation is approximately “ma-chil-jee”) hates to clean – she’d rather spend her time coming up with the perfect joke.  Lane’s sister, Virginia (Annemieke Wade), a bored but smart-mouthed stay-at-home wife, is a confidante to both.   Lane’s surgeon husband Charles (Neil Silcox) is mentioned, but conspicuously absent for almost all of Act I.  He shows up in Act II, falling madly in love with one of his patients, Ana (Lilia Leon).  The resulting love triangle was played out both comically and with deep emotion – a beautiful balancing act by the actors, especially at this early stage.

 

Looking forward to seeing this production as it develops in rehearsals!  The finished article will be presented on the Main Stage at Alumnae Theatre, April 7 – 22.

See the Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/) and Alumnae Theatre website for more info and news.

PERFORMANCES:  Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sun 2pm.

TICKETS:  2-for-1 Wed; $20 on Thu/Fri/Sat; PWYC Sun.
Purchase online in advance (http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html), or reserve and pay cash on arrival.  Please note that in-person sales are cash only; no credit or debit cards accepted at Box Office.
RESERVATIONS: 416-364-4170, Box 1 or reservations@alumnaetheatre.com.

 

*because every other space in the building was in use – no kidding!  Rehearsals for New Ideas Festival (opening March 8) on both the 2nd floor and in the Studio; and Toronto Irish Players are renting the mainstage for The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down (running to March 4).

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Filed under 2016/17 season, Clean House

ICYMI: Audition notice for “The Clean House” (submit by Jan 8)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT over the holidays, there are still a few days to submit your headshot and résumé to be considered for an audition for the final production in Alumnae Theatre Company’s season – the April show, Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, directed by Ali Joy Richardson.  Deadline to submit is 5pm on Sunday, January 8.  clean-house-script-cover

The Clean House, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, takes place in the home of married doctors whose young Brazilian cleaning lady is fixated on creating the perfect joke. Their strict household unravels when the husband falls in love with one of his patients.
A fast-paced, fearlessly honest, and wildly funny look at class, comedy and the nature of love.

AUDITION DETAILS:
Please submit your headshot and résumé, with a cover note detailing which audition slot(s) you are available for.  Also specify your union status, and whether you are a member of Alumnae Theatre Company.

In the subject line of your email, please include the character you’d like to audition for.
Please read the play before auditioning. Reading copies are available at the 5th floor Performing Arts desk of the Toronto Reference Library.

Sides from the script will be provided to those selected to audition. We would also ask that those auditioning prepare a short joke, in any language.

Audition Slot 1: Saturday January 14:       7pm – 10pm
Audition Slot 2: Sunday January 15:           10am – 1pm
Audition Slot 3: Sunday January 15:          2pm – 5pm
Audition Slot 4: Monday January 16:        7pm-10pm.
Callbacks:  Sunday January 22

Deadline to submit: Sunday January 8th, 2017 at 5pm.
Email applications to: alum.cleanhouse@gmail.com
Contact name: Laura Jabalee Johnston

ROLES:

LANE – F, early 50s.  An important doctor. She wears white. Extremely smart, extremely driven, not extremely happy.
MATILDE – F, late 20s.  Brazilian.  Lane’s cleaning lady. She wears black. She has a refined sense of deadpan. She is confident and wryly matter of fact about the dark parts of life.
     ***Note: Actor must be able to speak basic Portuguese and speak English with a Brazilian accent.
VIRGINIA – F, 50s.  Lane’s older sister. She loves cleaning. Could have been someone important. Hides her disappointment. Tries her best and treats others well, even if they hurt her.
CHARLES – M, 50s.  Lane’s husband. A compassionate surgeon. He is child-like underneath his white coat. Deeply in love in Ana. Wants to save the day.
ANA – F, 60+. She is Argentinean. She is impossibly charismatic. Deeply in love with Charles. She is dying and embracing it. She knows herself.
   ***Note: Actor must be able to deliver text in Spanish 
 

Rehearsals begin late February, part-time schedule.
Venue for auditions, most rehearsals, and the performance (April 7 – 22) is Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley St, Toronto.
 

Please note this is a non-union and non-paying engagement.

Equity and diversity are factored into every casting decision at Alumnae Theatre Company. We encourage and welcome submissions from artists of all genders, ethnicities, and abilities. We would like to thank all applicants for their submissions, but will only contact those applicants to whom we are able to offer an audition.
http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-clean-house.html

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Filed under 2016/17 season, Clean House

Audition notice for “The Clean House” (submit by Jan 8)

The auditions for New Ideas Festival 2017 take place in the first week of January, and right after that (January 14 – 16) are the auditions for the final show in The Alumnae Theatre Company’s 2016/2017 season.

clean-house-fb-imageThe production team is now accepting submissions for roles in:

The Clean House
by Sarah Ruhl
Director: Ali Joy Richardson
Producers: Laura Jabalee Johnston & Tabitha Keast
Performance dates: April 7-22, 2017

This runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize takes place inside the home of married doctors whose young Brazilian cleaning lady is fixated on creating the perfect joke. Their strict household unravels when the husband falls in love with one of his patients.
This is Sarah Ruhl at her best; The Clean House is a fast-paced, fearlessly honest, and wildly funny look at class, comedy and the nature of love.

AUDITION DETAILS
Sides from the script will be provided to those selected to audition. We would also ask that those auditioning prepare a short joke, in any language.
Please submit your headshot and résumé, with a cover note detailing which audition slot(s) you are available for.  Also specify your union status, and whether you are a member of Alumnae Theatre Company.

In the subject line of your email, please include the character you’d like to audition for.
Please read the play before auditioning. Reading copies are available at the 5th floor Performing Arts desk of the Toronto Reference Library.

Audition Slot 1:
 Saturday January 14th, 2017 from 7pm – 10pm
Audition Slot 2: Sunday January 15th, 2017 from 10am – 1pm
Audition Slot 3: Sunday January 15th, 2017 from 2pm – 5pm
Audition Slot 4: Monday January 16th, 2017 from 7pm-10pm
Callbacks:  Sunday January 22nd, 2017

Deadline to submit: Sunday January 8th, 2017 at 5pm.
Email applications to: alum.cleanhouse@gmail.com
Contact name: Laura Jabalee Johnston

CASTING BREAKDOWNS

LANE – F, early 50s.  An important doctor. She wears white. Extremely smart, extremely driven, not extremely happy.

 

MATILDE – F, late 20s.  Brazilian.  Lane’s cleaning lady. She wears black. She has a refined sense of deadpan. She is confident and wryly matter of fact about the dark parts of life.
     ***Note: Actor must be able to speak basic Portuguese and speak English with a Brazilian accent.
 

VIRGINIA – F, 50s.  Lane’s older sister. She loves cleaning. Could have been someone important. Hides her disappointment. Tries her best and treats others well, even if they hurt her.

 
CHARLES – M, 50s.  Lane’s husband. A compassionate surgeon. He is child-like underneath his white coat. Deeply in love in Ana. Wants to save the day.

 
ANA – F, 60+. She is Argentinean. She is impossibly charismatic. Deeply in love with Charles. She is dying and embracing it. She knows herself.
   ***Note: Actor must be able to deliver text in Spanish 

 

Rehearsals begin late February, part-time schedule.
Venue for auditions, most rehearsals, and the performance is Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley St, Toronto).
Please note this is a non-union and non-paying engagement.

 

Equity and diversity are factored into every casting decision at Alumnae Theatre Company. We encourage and welcome submissions from artists of all genders, ethnicities, and abilities. We would like to thank all applicants for their submissions, but will only contact those applicants to whom we are able to offer an audition.
http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-clean-house.html

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Filed under 2016/17 season, Clean House

Casual cruelty & family secrets in ferociously funny, devastatingly poignant August: Osage County

Review of “August” – running to April 23.

life with more cowbell

_DSC5303 Marie Carriere Gleason (foreground), with Paul Cotton, Kelly-Marie Murtha, Melinda Jordan, Pearl Ho & Andrew Batten – photos by Bruce Peters

Alumnae Theatre Company cordially invites you to attend a family gathering at the home of Beverly and Violet Weston in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Alumnae opened its production of Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County on the mainstage last night. Directed by Victoria Shepherd and featuring a talented ensemble, this is family dysfunction at its grittiest, no holds barred best.

When the Weston family patriarch (Thomas Gough) goes missing, middle daughter Ivy (Andrea Lyons) – the only child who stayed in town – rallies the family around her ailing mother Violet (Marie Carriere Gleason). Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Carol McLennan) and husband Charlie (Rob Candy) are the first to arrive, and we get a sense of the estrangement that underpins the family dynamic. The Weston’s oldest daughter Barbara (Kelly-Marie Murtha) is the…

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Filed under 2015/16 season, August: Osage County

Audition notice for “August: Osage County” (Jan 17-19)

Anyone fancy a little play reading over the holidays? You might want to slot that in, because auditions for the final production in Alumnae Theatre Company’s season, August: Osage County, take place January 17 – 19!

August Osage County imageRemember the 2013 film version?  It starred Meryl Streep as Violet, Julia Roberts as Barbara (both received Oscar nominations), and some English dude named Benedict Cumberbatch as Little Charles… http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3037715456/tt1322269?ref_=tt_ov_i

The play earned playwright Tracy Letts the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and won five Tony awards (Best Play, Best Direction – Anna D. Shapiro, Best Scenic Design, Leading Actress -Deanna Dunagan, Featured Actress – Rondi Reed as Mattie Fae) for the original Broadway production.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production (April 8 – 23, 2016) will be directed by Victoria Shepherd, who has helmed many shorts in Alumnae’s Big Ideas and New Ideas, as well as Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke on the mainstage. Other favourite directing credits are the Titanic-themed drama Scotland Road (for Amicus Productions) and the charming, based-on-a-true-Canadian-story Queen Mili of Galt (for Village Playhouse).

 

August: Osage County
By Tracy Letts
Directed by Victoria Shepherd
Performance dates: April 8 – 23, 2016

When the family patriarch vanishes, the Westons return to rural Oklahoma to care for their afflicted, manipulative mother.  Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, Tracy Letts’ darkly comic drama is a harrowing epic that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.

ROLES
Beverly Weston:   The father of the Weston family, 69  –  (age range 60 – 75)
Violet Weston:   The mother of the Weston family, 65 –  (age range 60 – 70)
Barbara Fordham:   The oldest daughter of the Weston family, 46  – (age range 40 – 50ish)
Ivy Weston:   The middle daughter of the Weston family, 44 – (range late 30’s – late 40’s)
Karen Weston:   The youngest daughter in the Weston family, 40 –  (age range 30’s – 45)
Bill Fordham:   Barbara’s estranged husband and Jean’s father, 49 – (age range 40’s – 55)
Jean Fordham:   Bill and Barbara’s smart-tongued teenage daughter – (age range 14-19)
Steve Heidebrecht:   Karen’s fiancé, 50 – (age range mid 40’s to mid 50”s)
Mattie Fae Aiken:    Violet’s sister, 57 –  (age range 50 – 65)
Charlie Aiken:   Husband of Mattie Fae & presumed father of Little Charles, 60 – (range 55-65)
“Little Charles” Aiken:   Son of Mattie Fae and Beverly, 37 – (age range 30-45)
Johnna Monevata**:   Young, empathic Cheyenne woman who works as housekeeper to the Weston family and is the silent witness to the family dysfunction, 26 (range 20’s-30’s)
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau:   High-school classmate & former boyfriend of Barbara’s, 47 (range 40-50ish)
**Alumnae Theatre Company is auditioning First Nations, Metis or Inuit actors for the role of Johnna

AUDITION DATES & TIMES
Sunday January 17, 2016 from noon – 6:00pm
Monday January 18, 2016  from 6:00 – 10:00pm
Tuesday January 19, 2016 from 6:00 – 10:00 pm

CALLBACKS: evenings of January 25 & (if required) January 26.

PREPARATION
Please prepare a short (2-3 min.) contemporary monologue.
Please read the play before auditioning. Reading copies are available at the Toronto Reference Library, 5th floor – Performing Arts desk.
Please submit or bring your photo and résumé.

 
TO BOOK AN AUDITION TIME
Please e-mail augustauditionsATC@gmail.com or leave a message on the audition line at 416-364-4170 ext 3.
Auditions will be held at the Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street (SW corner of Berkeley and Adelaide)

The Alumnae Theatre Company encourages diversity in its membership and casting. Please note this is a non-paying engagement.

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Filed under 2015/16 season, August: Osage County

Raves for “Rabbit Hole”

It’s a tough sell – any play about grief or loss or terminal illness… you get the picture.  A play about parents dealing with the barely-comprehensible tragedy of losing a child, well it takes a brave audience to go there.

Full disclosure:  I am not a parent.  As an actor, I did audition for the role of Becca, the grieving mother in Rabbit Hole, because it’s a fantastic part and I absolutely adored David Lindsay-Abaire’s script, which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s production, directed by Paul Hardy, just opened on Friday (April 11), and the audience response after only two performances has been amazing.  Here are a few samples:

“Beautifully acted, elegantly directed production of a moving play. Don’t miss it!”

“…a very moving and often unexpectedly hilarious show!”

“This play was sooo good! Really powerful and real, very sad but funny too. Loved it, highly recommend it!”

“…a brilliant play… It is poignant yet there is a wonderful levity to it too, despite its dark subject matter. The themes and subtext have been rolling around in my brain since I watched it last night… a great production.”

“A talented cast. Very well done.”

“So much substance! So much food! So good! Last night I fell down the Rabbit Hole at Alumnae Theatre and I will be digesting for some time. Go!”

Yes, go!  You will be transported into the family life of Becca (Paula Schultz) and Howie (Cameron Johnston), eight months after the sudden death of their only child, 4-year old Danny.   The actors, including Joanne Sarazen as Becca’s sister Izzy and Sheila Russell as their mother Nat, are perfectly real.  It’s like you know these people; you’re sitting in their very real kitchen (kudos to set designer Jacqueline Costa and the tech wizards who arranged running water onstage!) or sunken living room  eating cake and chatting.  Schultz has the brittle, dry-eyed quality of a woman barely holding it together as she navigates the pointless wasteland her life has become.  When she accuses her husband of thinking she’s “not grieving enough for you”, you can feel the pain of both parents.

Must particularly mention the scene transitions.  Sometimes they can be awkward moments in semi-darkness when actors or stagehands move furniture or place props for the next scene.  In this production of Rabbit Hole,  Hardy has the actors smoothly pick up props, replace a chair into position, etc.  in a sort of gentle dream-state. Meanwhile, Angus Barlow’s original compositions perfectly underscore the moment. As Hardy hoped, “the music is like a character onstage who speaks when silence falls over the performers.”   Exactly.  The silent moment at the end of the play is just stunning.

So’s the whole thing, actually. But you can see for yourself – Rabbit Hole runs to April 26.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.alumnaetheatre.com, or check the site for other options.  There’s a 2pm matinee today – no reservations required, and it’s PWYC.  RUN!

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Filed under 2013/14 Season, Rabbit Hole