Tag Archives: Ramona Baillie

Decorating the lobby with “I Am Marguerite” costumes

When the run of a show ends, the theatre lingo for dismantling the set, putting away the lights, props and costumes, cleaning the dressing rooms, etc. is “the strike”. If you’re lucky, it can turn into a “strike party”.

After I Am Marguerite closed on April 25, producer Ramona Baillie had the idea to re-dress the mannequins which stand atop old firemen’s lockers (you knew that Alumnae Theatre was a working firehall until 1971, right? Check it out: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/history.html ) in the lobby.

 

"I Am Marguerite" - Damienne costume (worn onstage by actor Heli Kivilaht), designed by Peter DeFreitas/Toni Hanson. On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show's run, April 10 - 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

“I Am Marguerite” – Damienne costume (worn onstage by actor Heli Kivilaht), designed by Peter DeFreitas/Toni Hanson. On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show’s run, April 10 – 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

The mannequins wear costumes from past productions – currently sporting gowns from Pride and Prejudice and Lady Windermere’s Fan, and a suit from The Love Of The Nightingale.

So I Am Marguerite costume designers Peter DeFreitas and Toni Hanson, assisted by Donna Langevin (whose son James Langevin was the production’s composer) re-dressed the mannequins in Marguerite costumes, and their antics – including clambering atop the 7-foot tall lockers – were captured by Marguerite playwright Shirley Barrie.  Enjoy!

"I Am Marguerite" costume designer Peter DeFreitas dresses a mannequin atop the old firemen's lockers in Alumnae Theatre lobby after the show run, April 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

“I Am Marguerite” costume designer Peter DeFreitas dresses a mannequin atop the old firemen’s lockers in Alumnae Theatre lobby after the show run, April 25, 2015.
Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

Costume designer Peter DeFreitas dresses a mannequin in Eugène costume from "I Am Marguerite" (worn onstage by actor Christopher Oszwald). On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show's run, April 10 - 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

Costume designer Peter DeFreitas dresses a mannequin in Eugène costume from “I Am Marguerite” (worn onstage by actor Christopher Oszwald). On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show’s run, April 10 – 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

"I Am Marguerite" - Queen of Navarre costume (worn onstage by actor Sara Price), designed by Peter DeFreitas. On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show's run, April 10 - 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

“I Am Marguerite” – Queen of Navarre costume (worn onstage by actor Sara Price), designed by Peter DeFreitas. On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show’s run, April 10 – 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

"I Am Marguerite" - Marguerite costume (worn onstage by actor Daniela Pagliarello), designed by Peter DeFreitas/Toni Hanson. On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show's run, April 10 - 25, 2015. The ladder in photo is temporary! Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

“I Am Marguerite” – Marguerite costume (worn onstage by actor Daniela Pagliarello), designed by Peter DeFreitas/Toni Hanson. On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show’s run, April 10 – 25, 2015. The ladder in photo is temporary! Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

"I Am Marguerite" costume designer Toni Hanson dresses a mannequin in the costume of Jean-François de Roberval (worn onstage by actor Chris Coculuzzi),  On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show's run, April 10 - 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

“I Am Marguerite” costume designer Toni Hanson dresses a mannequin in the costume of Jean-François de Roberval (worn onstage by actor Chris Coculuzzi), On display in lobby at Alumnae Theatre after the show’s run, April 10 – 25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie (the playwright)

 

Donna Langevin (mother of "I Am Marguerite" composer James Langevin) shakes a sleeve of mannequin dressed in the costume of Jean-François de Roberval (worn onstage by actor Chris Coculuzzi).  Lobby of Alumnae Theatre, after the show's run, April 10-25, 2015.  Photo:  Shirley Barrie

Donna Langevin (mother of “I Am Marguerite” composer James Langevin) shakes a sleeve of mannequin dressed in the costume of Jean-François de Roberval (worn onstage by actor Chris Coculuzzi). Lobby of Alumnae Theatre, after the show’s run, April 10-25, 2015. Photo: Shirley Barrie

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“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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FireWorks series opens Nov 13

Have you heard about the FireWorks happening at Alumnae Theatre? FireWorks started last season – an initiative to showcase full-length plays which have been developed by Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Play Development group of playwrights (the NPD) or which have gone through dramaturgy in Alumnae’s New Ideas Festival.  FireWorks’ mandate is to promote the work inside, around, and after playwriting, and to “pull back the curtain” on the work of bringing new scripts to stage.   Last year it featured three plays, plus associated workshops and panel discussions.

This year, FireWorks presents two plays: the drama Burying Toni by Catherine Frid, and the comedy You Have To Earn It by Ramona Baillie and Maria Popoff.

Plus, in addition to the plays themselves, audiences can attend a couple of fascinating events – included in ticket price! In the “Playwrights Speak” sessions, writers Ramona Baillie, Maria Popoff and Catherine Frid discuss what inspired them, how their scripts evolved and developed from draft to draft, and how they coped with feedback, advice and criticism at various stages.

In the “Roundtables”, audiences can take part in a spirited and provocative symposium.  Scholars and experts, with experience and expertise in the issues raised by the play, will exchange their thoughts with each other and with you.
Instead of a third play, FireWorks producer Dahlia Katz arranged for renowned playwright and director Maja Ardal to conduct a Playwrights’ Intensive series of workshops, on the theme of “There is no such thing as Writer’s Block”.   There was an overwhelming response to this event – only 20 applicants were selected to participate, based on submitted samples of their work. Check out http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/playwrights-intensive.html for an idea of what’s going on.

Tickets: $15.00 – Sunday Matinees PWYC – Festival Pass: $25.00
* Note that the ‘Playwrights Speak’ and the ‘Roundtable Sessions’ are free to attend and occur immediately after the matinee performance on the dates noted.
MooneyOnTheatre is currently running a contest to win tickets to either play – check it out at http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/category/toronto-theatre-contests/

Here is a little info about the plays, and a schedule of when you can see what!

BURYING TONI by Catherine Frid, directed by Ginette Mohr.
Burying Toni explores the complexities within Emma Jung as she grapples with her history, real and imagined, after 50 years of marriage to psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Emma conjures up her husband, Sigmund Freud, and others as she struggles to understand the truth about her past.  Check out photos at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.947601685267809.1073741839.212563355438316&type=1
YOU HAVE TO EARN IT by Ramona Baillie and Maria Popoff, directed by Jennifer Radford.
This madcap roller-coaster ride pays homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s. A philandering boss, a scheming new employee and a wacky mail room clerk, to name just a few, all with hidden agendas. Can the unassuming Betty survive the intrigue of the corporate world?

See photos athttps://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.948152735212704.1073741840.212563355438316

 

BURYING TONI
Thursday, November 13, 8pm – Opening Night
Saturday, November 15, 8pm
Sunday, November 16, 2pm
Wednesday, November 19, 8pm
Friday, November 21, 8pm
Saturday, November 22, 2pm
Thursday, November 27, 8pm
Saturday, November 29, 2pm
*Playwrights Speak
Saturday, November 22
*Roundtable Session
Sunday, November 16
YOU HAVE TO EARN IT
Friday, November 14, 8pm – Opening Night
Saturday, November 15, 2pm
Thursday, November 20, 8pm
Saturday, November 22, 8pm
Sunday, November 23, 2pm
Wednesday, November 26, 8pm
Friday, November 28, 8pm
Saturday, November 29, 8pm
*Playwrights Speak
Saturday, November 15
*Roundtable Session
Sunday, November 23

 

By the way, when you tweet about what you saw at FireWorks @alumnaetheatre, please use the hashtag #FireWorks2014.

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FireWorks 2014 audition notices

FireWorks 2014 imageFor the second year, Alumnae Theatre Company is presenting the FireWorks series in November, to showcase full-length plays which have been dramaturged by the company’s New Play Development group of playwrights (the NPD).

This year there are two plays – the drama Burying Toni by Catherine Frid, and the comedy You Have To Earn It by Ramona Baillie & Maria Popoff.

FireWorks runs November 12 – 30, 2014.  Auditions for Burying Toni will be held August 11 & 12;  and auditions for You Have To Earn It will be held between August 18 – 22.  Please visit our website  for details.  http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/auditions.html

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Sex, magic, intrigue & spies in New Ideas Week One program

Week One reviewed!

life with more cowbell

NIF2014-banner-1024x725A new year and another edition of Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Ideas Festival of original, short plays.

Caught the Week One program last night. Sex, magic, intrigue and spies figured prominently in this week’s roster of plays – here’s what was on the menu:

Be Careful, There’s a Baby in the House, by Nicholas Sgouros and directed by Seane M. Speake, is a sharp, fun commentary on modern family life. What starts out as a pre-planned – and secret – night of passion becomes something else entirely. Sex After Kids meets The Honest Toddler. Nice work from actors Andre de Carvalho, Caroline Concordia and Sara Jackson.

Elsa and Marigold, by Marissa Spada and directed by Janet Kish, is the story of two hormone-driven, romantic-minded and curious teen girls whose attempt at creating the perfect man takes an unexpected turn, all under the cloaked and watchful eye of…

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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.

"The

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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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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