Tag Archives: rehearsal

Alumnae Theatre Company Director Chronicles: Brenda Darling on “The Trip To Bountiful”

By Suzanne Bowness

Ludie Watts (Jamie Johnson) and his wife Jessie Mae (Kim Croscup)

Following up on our first post about The Trip to Bountiful, here is a Q&A with the show’s director Brenda Darling. Brenda’s past contributions to Alumnae include directing Stepping Out in 2016, several plays for the New Ideas Festival, and acting as NIF co -producer and president, each for 3 seasons.  Her full bio along with those of the rest of the cast and crew is online at https://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-trip-to-bountiful.html. In this interview, she talks about what caught her eye about Bountiful, her production choices, and the rehearsal process.


The need for a place to call “home” struck me strongly in this play. I deeply long for the cottage we sold where I lived in every summer for nearly 60 years—it was in our family for over eight decades!  I wanted to explore what’s missing in mega-cities: that there are so many isolated, lonely and rootless individuals. I also wanted to explore what “home” actually gives to us.



Mrs. Carrie Watts (Jane Hunter) and her son Ludie (Jamie Johnson)


Especially in the city, where we’re surrounded by millions of strangers, it’s easy to lose empathy and become indifferent to the plight of others. For the first hour of The Trip to Bountiful, Mrs. Watts speaks little and seems more of a shadow of a person. However, away from her stifling environment, this woman, whom we might have overlooked, begins to express herself, claim her identify, find her dignity and show her depth of love. Her humanity shines through and we care about her.




Horton Foote

Everything was in the text of Horton Foote. He writes in such a naturalistic style, employing the parlance of everyday speech, that at first read we couldn’t help but miss the depth behind every phrase. Even “Yes ma’am” or “I would” carries a wealth of information about the character. We did a lot of talking. We applied it to our own lives. We experimented until, like finding gold, we all sensed we’d discovered the real thing.



I could see the scenes in this play in my mind. They were three-dimensional, in certain colours, and with a great deal of depth. There were also five environments, each of which I wanted to be distinct. A painted flat couldn’t reproduce what I was imagining. The use of projections also allowed me to go from black and white stills to colour videos over the progress of the story.



I don’t think human beings have an identity in a vacuum. We know ourselves in our relationships with our environment including physical places and community. Jessie Mae’s narcissism cuts her off from authentic relationships and she’s a very unhappy woman. Mrs. Watts had lost her “dignity and sense of peace” after 30 years estranged from her childhood home and once she finally returned, at risk to her life, she regained it.

It is also about ageism and elder abuse. It is revealing of our society and its changing consciousness that when this play appeared on Broadway and as a film over 50 years ago, there don’t seem to have been any reviewers who commented on this mistreatment of a senior. That seniors right to respect, civility and control of their finances is more officially protected today. However, this play remains relevant because, like Mrs. Watts, thousands of seniors still face abuse and mistreatment away from public scrutiny.


The Trip to Bountiful continues Wed Jan 29  to Sat February 1.  All performances at 8pm.  Visit https://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-trip-to-bountiful.html  for more details



  • Students entitled to a $5.00 ticket (plus $2.00 service charge).
  • Student promotions are only available for advance purchases; not at the door.
  • Students must show student ID at the box office for each ticket purchased.
  • Student discounts is only applicable to students (without student ID, discount will not apply).

Tickets can be purchased online and in advance at https://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-trip-to-bountiful.html  Use special promo code BOUNTIFUL2020

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Filed under 2019/20 Season, The Trip To Bountiful

Sitting in on rehearsal for “The Clean House”, March 5

Somewhat delayed post about the full-cast rehearsal of The Clean House that bloggergal watched on Sunday March 5.

In addition to the actors, director Ali Joy Richardson and stage manager Lizz Armstrong, Assistant Director Nevada Banks was there, and producer Laura Jabalee Johnston arrived later.

Scenes worked on included the serio-comic moment when workaholic doctor Lane (Andrea Irwin) confides to her sister Virginia (Annemieke Wade) that her surgeon husband Charles (Neil Silcox) is having an affair.  Lane also works up to firing her Brazilian housekeeper, Matilde (Marina Moreira), who doesn’t like to clean so much!

Rehearsal shot of Annemieke Wade as Virginia in “The Clean House”. Photo: producer Laura Jabalee Johnston

“Go with your instinct, and we’ll figure out optimum funny,” Ali directed actor Annemieke Wade (Virginia) on a bit of physical comedy.

There was a stumble-through of Act II scene 5 – “the longest scene in the play”, as Ali noted.   In this scene, Charles boldly brings his new “soulmate” Ana (Lilia Leon) to meet his wife.  Virginia and Matilde are there to witness the awkward encounter.

At one point, actor Andrea Irwin (Lane) requested guidance from director Ali Joy Richardson:  “Do you want me to freak out there, or hold the freak-out until…?”

We had a special guest at rehearsal:  Annemieke’s 11-month old daughter Vesper.  AD Nevada entertained Vesper in another room for the most part, but the baby got her on-stage moment in Scene 5.  Annemieke’s character Virginia is supposed to bring drinks for everyone, and Vesper played “the role of the serving tray”, in Ali ‘s words!

Photos of the action courtesy of producer Laura Jabalee Johnston.

Rehearsal shot – Matilde (Marina Moreira) watches as Charles (Neil Silcox) dances with Ana (Lilia Leon).
Photo: Laura Jabalee Johnston

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl runs April 7-22 at Alumnae Theatre.

The web page http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-clean-house.html will be updated this week with team bios and photos, etc.  Also visit the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/


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Filed under 2016/17 season, Clean House

At a rehearsal for New Ideas Festival play “Four Hours”

Bloggergal is a late addition to the cast of Four Hours, written by Alumnae Theatre Company member Joan Burrows. This short play – around 30 minutes – appears in Week Three of the New Ideas Festival.

Structurally and thematically unlike most of Joan Burrows’ previous scripts (which tend to be comedies), Four Hours is a tense drama that follows the reaction of a tight-knit neighbourhood when a local child is abducted.

Last night was Bloggergal’s first rehearsal – meeting director Helen Monroe and stage manager Erin Maxfield, as well as three cast members.     Chris Peterson plays Joe, who runs the local convenience store, and is married to Mary (played by Bloggergal). We rehearsed our one scene together, and then Nikki Chohan arrived to rehearse our scene. Chohan plays Farah, whose family are relative newcomers to the neighbourhood. Farah has a powerful monologue (“well, now you know”) at the end of our scene, and even at this very early stage it was possible to see the potential.

"Four Hours" director Helen Munroe [back to camera] confers with actors Nikki Chohan [L] and Armand Antony [R] in rehearsal.  Photo taken Feb 10, 2016 by  stage manager Erin Maxfield

Four Hours director Helen Monroe [back to camera] confers with actors Nikki Chohan [L] and Armand Antony [R] in rehearsal.  Photo taken Feb 10, 2016 by stage manager Erin Maxfield.

Bloggergal stuck around to watch Nikki and Armand Antony (who plays Farah’s husband Faiz) rehearse their scene together, which happens near the end of the play. Again, some powerful stuff in embryo – will be exciting to watch it develop!






New Ideas Festival runs March 9-27, with a different lineup each week – see http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/new-ideas-festival-2016.html

Performances are Wed – Sat at 8pm, and Sat & Sun matinees at 2:30pm. The Saturday matinee is followed by a Talkback.   Four short plays will be staged at each performance – one ticket admits you to all of them!

In addition, a PWYC reading of a different play will be staged each Saturday at noon, followed by a Talkback.
Tickets can be purchased by the week ($15 each) or a 6-ticket Flex Pass ($75) can be used for two people to attend all 3 weeks of the Festival. http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html

If you prefer not to purchase online, reservations are strongly recommended. Phone or e-mail to hold seats, and pay cash on arrival – no credit or debit cards accepted for in-person sales. 416-364-4170 Box 1 or reservations@alumnaetheatre.com



Bloggergal invites all New Ideas Festival participants to submit blog posts, rehearsal photos, or snippets of funny stuff that happened in rehearsal.

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Filed under 2015/16 season, New Ideas Festival

Sitting in on “I Am Marguerite” rehearsal, April 1

Bloggergal picked a good day to check out a rehearsal for I Am Marguerite, which opens on April 10. Not only was the cast in full costume (for the benefit of photographer Bruce Peters, who snapped away during the run), but it was also director Molly Thom’s birthday – no foolin’! Producer Ramona Baillie surprised Molly with a cake, and everyone sang “Happy Birthday”.

Bones (prepared by set designer Marysia Bucholc) for "I Am Marguerite".

Bones (prepared by set designer Marysia Bucholc) for “I Am Marguerite”.  Photo: Bruce Peters

Before the run started, I got a chance to take a close look at the bones onstage – yes, they’re real! Set designer Marysia Bucholc bought them at St. Lawrence Market – a giant cow bone and several large fish – and boiled them to remove the flesh. “I got excellent stock out of it,” she says!

Sound designer Angus Barlow was sitting at a production table in the middle of the house, beside stage manager Margot Devlin (Kelsey Rutledge takes over as stage manager on Saturday for the rest of the performances). Angus played a recording of a new lute piece by composer James Langevin-Frieson for Molly’s approval.

There was a small audience watching the run – assistant director Meg Moran, assistant producer Dale Stewart, set designer’s assistant Fotini Paraschos, lighting designer Wesley McKenzie, and costume designers Peter DeFreitas and Toni Hanson.

 Having read (OK, devoured) Shirley Barrie’s amazing script for I Am Marguerite, I knew that it is not a straightforward telling of a historical event. But this performance blew me away.

"I Am Marguerite":  Marguerite de Roberval (Daniela Pagliarello - front left); Eugene (Christopher Oszwald - front - right); Jean-Francois de Roberval (Chris Coculuzzi  - left rear); Damienne (Heli Kivilaht - centre); Queen of Navarre (Sara Price - right rear).

The play begins with Marguerite (Daniela Pagliarello – left front in this photo by Bruce Peters) marooned on a deserted island off Newfoundland in 1542.   Wisps of smoke conjure up Nfld fog; eerie wolf howls raised goosebumps. And she sees a ship approaching – there is the possibility of rescue.  How Marguerite wound up on the Isle of Demons for two years, and her relationships with her ambitious brother Jean-François (Chris Coculuzzi – left rear), her old nurse Damienne (Heli Kivilaht – centre), her lute-playing lover Eugène (Christopher Oszwald – front right) and her mentor the Queen of Navarre (Sara Price – right rear) is told in a series of scenes that flow into and out of each other, fluidly jumping around in time.  It was not at all confusing: for example, sea noises and gull cries would cue us that a scene was taking place aboard the ship that sailed Jean-François and Marguerite from France to the New World, where he planned to be “King of Canada”.

Shirley Barrie calls I Am Marguerite “a play for a soloist and a quartet of voices”, and that description seemed perfectly apt when reading the words on the page, but it came to magical life when I was watching it play out on the stage.

After the run, all the designers took turns conferring with Molly or the actors about what worked, what didn’t, etc. I eavesdropped on costume designers Peter DeFreitas and Toni Hanson, talking to Sara Price, who plays the very regal and proper Queen of Navarre. In addition to the most stunning gown – seen below – Sara also sports an amazing wig, which Peter made by attaching various hairpieces to a black velvet cap.

Costume designed by Peter DeFreitas for the Queen of Navarre in "I Am Marguerite" (world premiere April 10-25, 2015 at Alumnae Theatre Company)

Costume designed by Peter DeFreitas for the Queen of Navarre in “I Am Marguerite” (world premiere April 10-25, 2015 at Alumnae Theatre Company)

Having spoken last week to props designer Razie Brownstone (who was experimenting with fabric and gelatin), I was very interested to check out the fish that Marguerite catches and eats in the play. Tonight she worked with a fish made from fabric, with a handy pocket to accommodate her stabbing and gutting it. “There was talk of putting gummy worms in the pocket so I could eat them as fish guts, and I’m so down with that!”, Daniela told me. But the fish I saw tonight may not be the final version in performance.

Ramona insisted that everyone on the production team gather onstage with the actors to have a photo taken. There will be official photos coming soon.

In the meantime, don’t forget to reserve or purchase a ticket for the WORLD PREMIERE of I Am Marguerite, running April 10 – 25. http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/i-am-marguerite.html

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Filed under 2014/15 Season, I Am Marguerite

Toronto Irish Players blog

Toronto Irish Players’ production of John B. Keane’s Big Maggie runs on Alumnae Theatre’s main stage until March 8.  Check out the interview with Saskatoon actor Kyrah Harder, who plays Maggie’s youngest daughter.

Showtimes: Thu – Sat at 8pm; Sun at 2pm.

Tickets: $18 – $20.

416-440-2888 or torontoirishplayers.com

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February 25, 2014 · 11:08 pm

Titanic mystery & intrigue in Amicus Productions’ haunting, twisting Scotland Road

Having watched a rehearsal a few weeks ago, am excited to see the full production.

life with more cowbell

scotland road deck chair!Amicus Productions explores the romance, mystery and tragedy of the Titanic in its production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Scotland Road, directed by Victoria Shepherd.

“The Titanic – a symbol of arrogance, glamour and tragedy – has captured the imagination and passion of generations … Scotland Road tells the story of a passion so powerful that it transcends time and logic, completing a journey that was started over one hundred years ago.” – Victoria Shepherd (from the Scotland Road press release)

This is a perfect play for director Shepherd, a Titanic aficionado with a wealth of knowledge about the subject and a great love of storytelling. The “Scotland Road” of the play’s title refers to the lower-deck passageway that ran the length of the RMS Titanic. The cast does a lovely job handling the layers of these characters – like the enigmatic young woman, rescued as she floated in period dress…

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New Ideas Festival seeks stage managers

Are you organized and methodical? Have you ever wanted to just TELL people what to do?  Ever considered stage management?

The annual New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre  is recruiting stage managers for the 15 short plays this year (check out the Dec 2 post titled New Ideas Festival 2014 – the lineup! at https://alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/new-ideas-festival-2014-the-lineup/ ).  Experience not required!  Here’s the official notice:

 New Ideas Festival (NIF) is Alumnae Theatre Company’s annual three-week juried festival of new plays, works-in-progress, and experimental theatre, with a different program each week and a workshopped reading on Saturdays at noon.

Would you like to get involved in New Ideas Festival and join the fun this year?  NIF needs stage managers for many of the 15 short plays.

We will provide training if you don’t have experience.

Rehearsals start February 1, and the festival runs from March 12-30, 2014.

Important dates:

 • Thu Jan. 23:  Production meeting and stage manager orientation, 7-9 pm

• Sat. Feb. 1: Rehearsals begin

• Tue Feb. 18: Production meeting and lighting demo, 7-9 pm

• March 6 – 9: Tech days by week

• Wed. March 12 – Sun. March 30: New Ideas Festival performances.
Each show runs one week (6 performances), and the readings have one performance each at noon on the three festival Saturdays.

If you are interested in stage managing a play in the Festival, please email newideasfestival@gmail.com  and put Stage Manager in the subject line.

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Filed under 2013/14 Season, New Ideas Festival 2014