Tag Archives: Retrospective Choice

Rough & rowdy, it’s all guts & no glory in the funny, poignant, political The Gut Girls

Review of The Gut Girls...

life with more cowbell

They’re an unruly, foul-mouthed, hard-working, hard-drinking bunch ‘a gals—and their world is about to be turned upside down.

Alumnae Theatre starts off the New Year with its production of Sarah Daniels’ The Gut Girls, directed by Maya Rabinovitch. The Gut Girls is part of Alumnae’s Retrospective Series, leading up to its 100th anniversary next season.

The Gut Girls takes us to 1901, where the “gut girls” work in a gutting shed in the Foreign Cattle Market in Deptford, England. Paid good money, but working punishing hours in a foul environment—often up to their ankles in blood—it’s an offal job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Gut girls Polly (Alexandra Augustine), Ellen (Sarah Thorpe), Maggie (Kaya Bucholc) and Kate (Tasia Loeffler-Vulpe) take new girl Annie (Claire Keating) under their wing. Formerly in service, Annie found herself pregnant and fired, now living in a home for wayward women since the…

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The Gut Girls: Play revival sure to excite Toronto Theatre Fans

The Entertainment Fairy says: beat the winter blues and come see The Gut Girls (Jan 20 – Feb 4)!

The Entertainment Fairy

imageSo, first and foremost…how was your festive, holiday season? Did you enjoy it? Did you over-indulge? Are you regretting that last slice of pecan pie? Whether you have the January blues or not, there’s no reason to be cooped up inside, when a whole world of new shows and theatrical adventures lie beyond your front door.

The best thing about live theatre is that it never sleeps. Yes, winter has arrived, but the fantastic performances that await you on stage, are the reason to get downtown. With the new year comes new ideas, new productions, new theatrics , fresh faces and new audiences. And there is one show on the horizon that cannot be missed.

Ever since I first attended the Alumnae Theatre, Toronto, I was blown away by the selection of enjoyable shows for all tastes and interests; ranging from hard-hitting dramas to bright new musicals, and from…

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January 3, 2017 · 7:02 pm

Audition notice for “The Gut Girls” (2016/17 Retrospective Choice)

Back in our 1997/98 season, Alumnae Theatre Company staged British writer Sarah Daniels’ 1988 dramedy about the young women who worked in the bloody ‘gutting sheds’ of Victorian London, The Gut Girls.  It was directed by Jane Carnwath, and performed in the intimate 3rd floor Studio space, complete with realistic pig carcasses, spewing intestines.

gut-girls-image Nineteen years later, as part of the Countdown to our 100th season – the company hits the century mark in February 2018! – we present The Gut Girls as our Retrospective Production of the 2016/17 season.  This time, it will be played on the Main Stage, directed by Maya Rabinovitch, and I don’t know about the pig carcasses!

Here’s the audition notice:

The Gut Girls

By Sarah Daniels

Directed by Maya Rabinovitch

Performance dates: January 20 – February 4, 2017

Surprisingly funny and hard-hitting, this beautifully written piece follows the fortunes of the brash and proud working-class “gut girls”.

When the gutting sheds are shut and their way of life disappears, the girls must try and find a place in the new world order of late Victorian London.

Alumnae Theatre Company seeks:

6 women (ages 15-60)

2 men (ages 20 – 60)

 To play multiple roles in this sharp comedy about rotting meat and workers’ rights, where Margaret Thatcher meets Victorian England.

Please note: all actors must be able to perform with a formal and/or cockney British accent.  The ability to sing is an asset.


All interested applicants should email gutgirls.alumnaetheatre@gmail.com or leave a message on the Alumnae audition line at 416-364-4170, xtn 3.


Wednesday October 5th –  6:30 – 10pm

Saturday October 8th –  10am – 5pm

Callbacks: Sunday October 9th – 10am – 5pm



Alumnae Theatre: 70 Berkeley St. (SW corner of Berkeley & Adelaide), Toronto


Please prepare a 2 minute monologue. You may also be asked to read from the script.

Please read the play before auditioning. Reading copies are available at the 5th floor Performing Arts desk of the Toronto Reference Library.

All auditioners must bring a photo and résumé to the audition.


Alumnae Theatre is a non-professional theatre company which encourages diversity in its membership and casting.  Please note that this is a non-union and non-paying engagement.

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“Stepping Out” opens on Friday Jan 22!

When Stepping Out opens on Friday, the Main Stage of Alumnae Theatre is transformed into a London church basement.

 (L - R) Felicia Simone, Mish Tam, Kay Randewich , Jessica Westermann, Alyssa Quart Cartlidge, Rebecca Grenier, Scott Turner, Lisa Kovac in STEPPING OUT at Alumnae Theatre, Jan 22 - Feb 6, 2016. Photo: Bruce Peters.

(L – R)
Felicia Simone, Mish Tam, Kay Randewich, Jessica Westermann, Alyssa Quart Cartlidge, Rebecca Grenier, Scott Turner, Lisa Kovac in STEPPING OUT at Alumnae Theatre, Jan 22 – Feb 6, 2016.
Photo: Bruce Peters.

The award-winning script was penned in 1984 by British writer Richard Harris (no, not the actor!), inspired by a dance class that his wife, dancer-turned-actress Hilary Crane, suggested he check out.

Brenda Darling directs Alumnae Theatre Company’s production, which is choreographed by Alyssa Martin.

The production is this season’s Retrospective Choice: during the lead-up to our 100th birthday in February 2018, Alumnae Theatre Company will remount a play which was previously produced here. Stepping Out originally appeared in our 1989/90 season, directed then by Mavis Hayman. Check out the lobby display, which includes photos and the program from that show!

The story is set in the 80s, so prepare to be dazzled by bright tights, shiny catsuits, and leg warmers. Former professional dancer Mavis (Jessica Westermann*) and her grumpy piano accompanist Mrs. Fraser (Jeanette Dagger*) lead seven quirky women (Alyssa Quart Cartlidge, Linette Doherty*, Rebecca Grenier, Lisa Kovack, Kay Randewich, Felicia Simone, Mish Tam) and one brave man (Scott Turner) with varying levels of competence in a weekly community tap dance class.

For cast bios and ticket info, please visit the Stepping Out page on our website: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/stepping-out.html


*Appearing by permission of CAEA

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Call for Directors for 2016/17 season

Alumnae logoCalling experienced non-union directors! Alumnae Theatre Company invites you to submit a proposal to direct one of these three plays in our 2016/17 season:

 THIS by Melissa James Gibson

September 16 – October 1, 2016

The Gut Girls by Sarah Daniels

(retrospective choice, first presented in Alumnae’s 1997/98 season)

January 20 – February 4, 2017


The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl

April 7 – 22, 2017


Application deadline is Thursday, Feb 11, but early submissions are encouraged!

Interviews will be scheduled between Feb 16 – 25 (actual dates TBA) at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley St., Toronto).

Reading copies of the plays are available at the Performing Arts Desk in Toronto Reference Library, 5th floor.


To apply: Please send your CV and a brief (max. 6 sentence) letter that summarizes both your directing experience and your interest in one of the programmed plays to Program Committee Chair Joanne Williams at theorytheplay@gmail.com no later than February 11 at 11:59pm.

*SUBJECT LINE of e-mail must include your name and the play title you are interested in pitching to direct.*

Previous experience with Alumnae is not required.


Directors selected for an interview will be asked to prepare a proposal outlining your ideas for a full production. (A template detailing what the proposal should include will be provided.) Your written proposal will be due no later than February 14.


Please note that Alumnae Theatre Company is a non-union house (volunteer-run and non-profit), and this is a non-paying engagement. We love our Equity and ACTRA friends, but have no budget to pay your fees!

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“Blood Relations” Talkback

An excellent house was riveted by yesterday’s matinee performance (Sunday, February 1) of Blood Relations, and about 75% of the audience stuck around for the Talkback which followed.

Blood Relations family photo2

FROM TOP: Rob Candy (Uncle Harry – with axe), Sheila Russell (Abigail Borden), Marisa King (Lizzie Borden), Thomas Gough (Andrew Borden), Kathleen Allamby (Emma Borden), Andrea Irwin Brown (The Actress – with friend), Steven Burley (Defense lawyer & Dr. Patrick). Photo; Dahlia Katz.

The whole cast was present:

Kathleen Allamby as Emma Borden (Lizzie’s older sister);

Andrea Irwin Brown as The Actress (who also “plays” Lizzie in flashbacks);

Steven Burley as Defense Lawyer and Dr. Patrick;

Rob Candy as Harry (brother of Lizzie & Emma’s stepmother);
Thomas Gough as Andrew Borden (Lizzie & Emma’s father);

Marisa King as Lizzie (who also “plays” the Bordens’ maid Bridget in flashbacks);

Sheila Russell as Abigail Borden (Lizzie & Emma’s stepmother).
In addition, director Barbara Larose, assistant director Ellen Green, and sound designer Rick Jones took part in the Talkback, which was facilitated by co-producer Carina Cojeen.   The other designers – Margaret Spence (costumes), Ed Rosing (set) and Gabriel Cropley (lighting) – unfortunately could not make it.

Barbara asked the cast seated onstage to introduce themselves, and Thomas Gough, who was after Rob Candy, sparked laughter by starting “I’m Rob – oh, wait…”!


Barbara told the audience that Sharon Pollock’s 1980 script, which won a Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, was previously produced at Alumnae Theatre in 1994. It is remounted this season as a ‘Retrospective Choice’ – part of our Countdown to 100 – Alumnae Theatre Company celebrates its 100th birthday in February 1918! Barbara commented that people had asked her why Blood Relations was selected as this season’s ‘Retrospective Choice’, and her answer is that its themes still resonate today, particularly the aspect of how women fit into society. She noted that Lizzie Borden was probably the first [alleged] celebrity murderess – the female O.J. Simpson of her time!


Following is a rough transcript of the 25-minute Q&A. Unless otherwise indicated, the answers were provided by director Barbara Larose.

Q:           The script is ambiguous about whether Lizzie committed the murders or not. Did you and the cast discuss and/or make up your minds in rehearsal?

A:            I told the cast they could each make their own decision, but as a director, I did not. I wanted to say open.

A:            (Marisa King) I think Lizzie did it!

A:            (Thomas Gough) The only mystery is why she didn’t do it sooner!

A:            (Sheila Russell) I think she did it. It was a very dysfunctional family. And it was so hot.

A:            (Rob Candy) I think she was guilty, but also crazy.

Defense (Steven Burley) represents Lizzie (Marisa King - LEFT) at her trial.  The Actress (Andrea Irwin Brown - RIGHT) is beside her in this flashback scene.  Photo:  Dahlia Katz.

Defense (Steven Burley) represents Lizzie (Marisa King – LEFT) at her trial. The Actress (Andrea Irwin Brown – RIGHT) is beside her in this flashback scene. Photo: Dahlia Katz.

A:            (Steven Burley) I didn’t decide. As the Defense, I had to believe she didn’t do it. Notes from Andrew Jackson Jennings, the Borden family attorney, were made public a couple of years ago. They provided a lot of material for Lizzie’s defense lawyer.


Q:           How did they manage to get her acquitted?

A:            It was an all-male jury, some with daughters of their own. Lizzie’s defense team played on their sympathies and prejudices: how could a woman be capable of such a horrible crime?


Q:           Is that a real axe?

A:            Yes, we’re using a real axe onstage, but it’s not sharpened. It has to be a real axe because Mr. Borden buries in the table in Act I – that’s not a sound effect – that’s the real axe striking the table!


Q:           Was it a directorial choice to switch Lizzies?

A:            No, it’s in the script. The playwright takes the audience on a journey with The Actress as Lizzie.

A:            (Thomas Gough) The Actress was a real person, her name was Nance O’Neil. She was quite well-known in the early 1900’s.


Q:           Were Lizzie and The Actress a couple?

A:            They were very good friends.   [ED. NOTE: this was said with no emphasis and just a slight twinkle!]


Q:           How did Lizzie spend her inheritance?

A:            She didn’t spend wildly – she stayed in the same town [Fall River, Massachusetts] and bought a nicer house.

Set (designed by Ed Rosing) showing carousel influence in curved platform & flags above; and the scrims to indicate the characters' shadowy presence in Lizzie's life.

Set (designed by Ed Rosing) showing carousel influence in curved platform & flags above; and the scrims to indicate the characters’ shadowy presence in Lizzie’s life.

Q:           Lovely effect with the people standing behind the curtains. Were the screens in the script, or a directorial choice?

A:            Sharon Pollock’s script only stated that the actors should not leave the stage. Having them stand behind the scrims was my idea – to convey the impression that Lizzie was never free from these people – they were always shadowy presences in her life, even after they were dead. They are memories who have a constant presence.

A:            (Rob Candy) Steven and I are developing really powerful calf muscles.

A:            (Steven Burley) Lemme tell ya, when you have to stifle a sneeze…!


Q:           I saw a movie years ago, with Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie Borden. Don’t remember the character of Harry.

A:            Oh, yes: and she does the murders naked to avoid blood spatter!   (In the actual court testimony, Lizzie was seen burning clothes 3 days later.) Sharon Pollock created the character of Harry Wingate (Abigail’s brother) for the play. In real life, the uncle figure was John Morse, brother of Andrew Borden’s late first wife. He was a suspect in the murders.


Q:           Thomas Gough’s bio said he was close to 100. Really??

A:            (Thomas) I’m 107.

A:            (Kathleen Allamby) And I’m 94!


Emma (Kathleen Allamby) wants to escape household tension by taking a weekend trip.  Lizzie (as played in this flashback scene by The Actress - Andrea Irwin Brown) tries to prevent her going.   Photo:  Dahlia Katz

Emma (Kathleen Allamby) wants to escape household tension by taking a weekend trip. Lizzie (as played in this flashback scene by The Actress – Andrea Irwin Brown) tries to prevent her going. Photo: Dahlia Katz

Q:           Who are “the girls” that Emma goes to visit?      

A:            (Kathleen) My idea is that they are neighbours or good friends.

A:            (Sheila Russell) Emma and Lizzie had cousins with money who lived [in the “good” neighbourhood] on the hill.


Q:           Is the Lizzie Borden rhyme attributed to an author?

A:            No. And it’s in the script, so if the author was known it would be credited.

A:            (Thomas Gough) There’s a rumour that it was written by Emily Dickinson when she was drunk!


Q:           How did you come to the decision to use a real axe in the play?

A:            I wanted to balance realism and the abstract – use the reality to create real moments. My central image is the carousel – see how the rounded edge of the platform onstage mimics the shape; the lights and coloured flags during Lizzie’s carousel monologue, etc. That monologue seemed like a metaphor for the murders.


Q:           I enjoyed the actors’ movements – it flowed.

A:            Good! Ginette Mohr did a Laban movement workshop with the cast.


Q:           What was the significance of the note that Abigail receives?

A:            It’s from her husband, summoning her to town to witness the property transfer in his will – as suggested by Harry in an earlier scene.

A:            (Rob Candy) And if she’d just read the note downstairs, she’d have been OK!

A:            (Thomas Gough) There was talk of a note in the real case, but it was never found.


Q:           Did you study the character of the father?

A:            I wanted to avoid a stereotypical “evil” Mr. and Mrs. Borden and show their humanity. When Mrs. B says to Lizzie “You don’t have a choice”, she’s not being mean: it’s a statement of fact. Back then, a woman DIDN’T have a choice (to get married). The Bordens were people of their time. Some people are apart from their time, most live in their time.

A:            (Rob Candy) Thomas is actually a very violent person backstage. If I steal his crossword he goes ballistic!


Q:           Why so much pressure for Lizzie to get married [to Johnny McLeod with three little monster-children], but none for Emma, who was older?

A:            Because Emma’s duty was to stay at home and look after parents in their old age!


** Blood Relations : Part drama, part mystery, all compelling. “Did you, Lizzie?  Lizzie, did you?” **

Next performance  Wed February 4 at 8pm.  Tickets are 2-for-1.  reservations@alumnaetheatre.com

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“Blood Relations” continues – 2-for-1 tickets tomorrow

Marisa King (Lizzie Borden) and Andrea Irwin Brown (The Actress/Lizzie) in "Blood Relations" at Alumnae Theatre.  Photo:  Paul Murton, http://theater-reviewed.com/alumnae-theatre-blood-relations/

Marisa King (Lizzie Borden) and Andrea Irwin Brown (The Actress/Lizzie) in “Blood Relations” at Alumnae Theatre. Photo: Paul Murton, http://theater-reviewed.com/alumnae-theatre-blood-relations/

After a bloody good opening weekend, the cast and crew of Blood Relations had a well-deserved couple days off. They return to the stage tomorrow night (Wednesday). Wanna come see the show? Tickets are 2-for-1 (regularly $20 each) …

And did you know that Blood Relations is this season’s ‘Retrospective Choice’ in Alumnae Theatre Company’s ‘Countdown to 100’?   As we approach our 100th anniversary in February 2018 – which makes us almost 97 now! – each season our Programming Committee selects one play that was previously produced here, to be re remounted.


Blood Relation was previously performed at Alumnae Theatre in September of 1994, directed by Lynda Hill (currently Artistic Director of Theatre Direct; formerly with Nightwood Theatre and Cahoots Theatre Projects).  The cast was Lynn Woodman (as the Actress), Kate Johnston (as Lizzie), Ilene Cummings (as Emma), Joel Rinzler (as Dr. Patrick/Defense), Mark Hondroyanis (as Harry), Esther Hockin (as Abigail Borden), and Don Ciaschini (as Andrew Borden).  When you come to see the show, check out the program, photos, and costume designer’s sketches from that production – they’re displayed on the corkboard in the lobby, beside the Box Office desk.


Sunday’s matinee at 2:00pm (tickets are PWYC; no reservations; no online sales) will be followed by a Talkback with [current] director Barbara Larose, the cast, and some of the designers.


Here are a couple of reviews to whet your appetite:

Life With More Cowbell: https://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/a-darkly-funny-eerie-look-into-the-mind-of-lizzie-borden-in-blood-relations/

Mooney On Theatre: http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/2015/01/26/review-blood-relations-alumnae-theatre-company/#more-23308


Online ticket purchases: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html, or book seats via e-mail (reservations@alumnaetheatre.com) or phone (416-364-4170, box 1) and pay cash at the door.


Blood Relations : Part drama, part mystery, all compelling. “Did you, Lizzie?  Lizzie, did you?”


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Filed under 2014/15 Season, Blood Relations