Tag Archives: Rick Jones

A darkly funny & eerie look into the mind of Lizzie Borden in Blood Relations

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

life with more cowbell

Blood RelationsSo, first, a confession: I’d never read or seen Sharon Pollack’s Blood Relations. Not until last night, that is, at Alumnae Theatre Company’s opening night, directed by Barbara Larose, assisted by Ellen Green.

We are in the Borden home in Fall River, Massachusetts, 10 years after Lizzie Borden’s acquittal of the brutal double murder of her stepmother and father. Ragtime music fills the theatre and, in the dim pre-show lighting onstage, you can make out the main floor of the home: dining room and parlour, separated by a dark wood finish staircase. Down stage right is a pigeon coop; down left is a garden with a stone bench.

The ever present question: “Did you, Lizzie? Lizzie, did you?” sets the scene for a memory game of storytelling, played by Lizzie (Marisa King) and her friend/lover The Actress (Andrea Brown), taking the audience back in time to the circumstances leading…

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Filed under 2014/15 Season, Blood Relations

“The Killdeer” Talkback, Sunday Apr 21

After the matinee last Sunday, the audience was invited to stay, and make comments or ask questions of The Killdeer director, designers and cast – and about half the audience stuck around to do so.

Producer Lynne Patterson had everyone introduce themselves – in addition  to the actors, onstage were director Barbara Larose; assistant director Ellen Green; sound designer Rick Jones; and sitting in the audience, set designer Marysia Bucholc and props designers Tess Hendaoui and Deborah Roed.  Here is what I transcribed  of the Q and A.  Unless otherwise specified, the responses are from director Barbara Larose.

Q:  The play is written in blank verse?

A:  Yes, and it was also one of the first plays to be performed in Toronto with the local accent and colloquialisms.

Q:  Would like to compliment the cast on their physical language – the way Eli and Harry in particular grew up before our eyes was very impressive.

Q:  What was the significance of the tree in the room?

A:   The tree was something that [playwright James] Reaney envisioned, but in discussing the set design with Marysia, we tried to show the battle between the natural world and civilization.  The tree is in the middle of the room, painted purple with gold tips and covered with Mrs. Gardner’s knick-knacks, representative of her attempt to control her son.

Marysia adds:   I was influenced by the pockets of nature in southern Ontario (wild growth) and the imposition of order (cultivated fields, houses) on it.

Q:   Did anyone involved in this production  see the previous production?

A:  The original production was in 1960, and most of the present cast were not yet born! Reaney revised the script significantly after that – fewer characters, no courtroom scene (play ends with a birthday), etc.

Marysia adds:  “I saw a production of the revised script in Ottawa around 1975.  It was too earnest; there was no humour.”

Barbara:  “I much prefer the original script – the myth, fairytale, crazy journey that’s somehow more real.  It’s got poetry, magic and imagination that drew me in.”

Q:  What’s the significance of Rebecca telling Madam Fay “I know what you want”?

A (Blythe Haynes, who plays Rebecca):  I see Madam Fay as being like the Evil Queen, who just wants to belong and never has.  So Rebecca helps her to play – go back to childhood; turn back the clock.

Barbara adds:  James Reaney said this play was about “two girls and a bird”!

In response to a question about the music used in this production, sound designer Rick Jones mentioned that he was lucky enough to hear John Beckwith‘s music (on cassette!) which he composed for the 1960 production.  Had hoped to use it, but it wasn’t possible due to sound differences that would have been impossible to match: the original was recorded in Beckwith’s kitchen on an upright piano, using a handheld microphone.  Instead, Jones re-recorded new arrangements and composed new pieces to fill  the gaps.  For example, a  viola represents Madam Fay – gives her the sense of being an outsider; it contrasts with the “town band” feeling of the other residents.

Q:  Is the revised script published?

A:  Yes, and it has been produced much more often than the original.  James Reaney’s work is dense and delicious, and asks a lot of audience: to accept things on emotion and without logic.


Three more chances to catch The Killdeer before it flies away – Thursday, Friday and Saturday (April 25 – 27) at 8pm.   Tickets are $20, and can be purchased online at http://alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html, or e-mail reservations@alumnaetheatre.com to reserve seats, and pay cash on arrival.

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Filed under 2012/13 Season, The Killdeer

“The Killdeer” opens on Friday! Interesting facts…

Last night’s rehearsal changed from what was supposed to be an on-our-feet Italian run with props (yikes!) to a regular sit-down Italian – phew.  While lighting designer  Ed Rosing tweaked the lighting plot and conferred  with stage manager Margot Devlin about programming the new cues, the cast gathered in the theatre lobby with director Barbara Larose and assistant director Ellen Green to do an Italian run of the play.  In theatre lingo, that means to speakquicklyandwithoutpauses.

It was an interesting exercise, especially for a play like The Killdeer, with such a convoluted plot.   Listening to lines spoken this way really brought home such things as the sequence of events;  who knew what and when; who was lying and who was telling the truth.  The acid test will be to see if the audience can understand it on their first (only) viewing!


In 1960, Alumnae Theatre’s Pamela Terry (1926-2006) directed the first play written by esteemed Canadian poet James Reaney (1926-2008) – The Killdeer. She continued to direct several other of Reaney’s plays, including One-man Masque, Night Blooming Cereus, and The Easter Egg.  In recent years Terry promoted Alumnae Theatre’s participation in cultural festivals such as Doors Open Toronto, and took charge of the company’s participation in Toronto’s first Nuit Blanche in 2006.

Mr. Manatee the hangman (played by Mike Vitorovich) spouts some unusual words – here are some:
BURDOCK:  coarse herb with globular flower heads and prickly bracts.
CAMPION:  plant of the pink family. Herb with white flowers.
FREEMARTIN:  sexually imperfect, usually sterile female calf, twinborn with a male.
SHRIKE: thrush; grey or brownish bird with strong notched bill hooked at the tip. Feeds chiefly on insects which it impales on its bill.

From the website www.jamesreaney.com/:
Pamela Terry … and her husband, composer John Beckwith, were friends of James Reaney’s, and she encouraged him to write The Killdeer and persuaded the Alumnae Theatre to produce it. John Beckwith put together a background score for The Killdeer, and in his book, Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer, he describes how he composed the score: “… following Pamela’s directorial suggestions, I improvised musical cues at the piano, as she and I devised various muting devices after the model of John Cage’s ‘prepared piano’…”
 I checked with current sound designer Rick Jones, who tells me that ‘prepared piano’ is a term for effects created on the piano, other than by the normal use  of the keyboard – striking the strings inside, for example.  This was “something that musicians were “playing around with” in the 50’s and 60’s but has since fallen out of vogue.   Rick also pointed out an interesting coincidence:  in both the original and current productions of The Killdeer, the sound designer and director were husband and wife!
 Playwright James Reaney’s son has blogged about our upcoming production: http://blogs.canoe.ca/brandnewblog/general/the-killdeer-flies-back-to-alumnae-theatre/


The show opens on Friday April 12 and runs to April 27.  Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html, or you can reserve seats by phone (416-364-4170, box 1), then pay in cash (sorry, no credit or debit cards accepted at Box Office) on arrival.

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Filed under 2012/13 Season, The Killdeer