Tag Archives: Sharon Pollock

Last dance tonight for “Blood Relations”

Lizzie Borden (Marisa King) and her friendThe Actress (Andrea Irwin Brown) do their last dance tonight in Sharon Pollock’s Blood Relations at Alumnae Theatre.  The show is at 8pm;  Box Office opens at 7.

Marisa King as Lizzie Borden; Andrea Irwin Brown as The Actress in BLOOD RELATIONS at Alumnae Theatre.  Directed by Barbara Larose. Photo:  Dahlia Katz

Marisa King as Lizzie Borden; Andrea Irwin Brown as The Actress in BLOOD RELATIONS at Alumnae Theatre. Directed by Barbara Larose.
Photo: Dahlia Katz

Tickets only $20; walk-ins welcome if you don’t already have a reservation.  70 Berkeley St.  (east of Sherbourne, at Adelaide)

reservations@alumnaetheatre.com    416-364-4170, box 1.


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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” opens tomorrow!

Lizzie Borden starts swinging her axe in Blood Relations on Friday, Jan 23 at Alumnae Theatre.

The show runs to February 7, with performances Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.

You can buy individual tickets or multiple-ticket passes on our website www.alumnaetheatre.com, or book seats at reservations@alumnaetheatre.com and pay cash at the door.

PRICES: Wed = 2-for-1; Thu /Fr /Sat = $20; Sun = PWYC.

Note: no reservations taken or online tickets sold for Sunday performances.


Blood Relations is our “Countdown to 100” Retrospective Choice, originally produced in the Alumnae Theatre Company’s 1994/95 season. Materials from that production are on display in the lobby – have a look!

This sign posted above the staircase at the Borden house in Fall River, Mass. - now a bed and breakfast establishment.  Photo: Jason H. Bratton

This sign posted above the staircase at the Borden house in Fall River, Mass. – now a bed & breakfast establishment. Photo: Jason H. Bratton

And check out this very interesting blog post, which contains a review of a TV series about Lizzie Borden, as well as photos of the house in Fall River, Massachusetts where the murders took place in 1892.

Thanks to cast member Rob Candy for passing it along! https://jasonhbratton76.wordpress.com/tag/lizzie-borden-bed-breakfast/


Blood Relations written by Sharon Pollock

Directed by Barbara Larose

Kathleen Jackson Allamby

Andrea Irwin Brown

Steven Burley

Rob Candy
Thomas Gough

Marisa King

Sheila Russell

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


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Treading the Boards with “Blood Relations”

From the Alumnae Theatre Company members’ newsletter:
Blood Relations posterRehearsals for Blood Relations, Alumnae’s next production (Mainstage, January 23 – February 7, 2015) are in full (axe)swing! Here’s a peek into the latest goings-on from director Barbara Larose.

We have moved onto the mainstage and are just about to start set construction. It’s an exciting time when all the design ideas start to become “real” and we explore the space of our play.  Set Designer Ed Rosing and Master Carpenter Sandy Thorburn are embarking on their busiest time.

The cast is amazing and includes three Alumnae Theatre members – Andrea Brown, Kathleen Allamby and Sheila Russell.  Rounding out the cast are Marisa King, Thomas Gough, Rob Candy and Steven Burley.  They are working hard at the moment getting “off book”  and prepping for our Stumblethrough before the holiday break.

Recent rehearsals have included an evening of stage combat with movement specialist, Paul Babiak; a wonderful period dance review with our consultant Rick Jones (who is also our Sound Designer), while our fabulous Stage Manager Margot Devlin, tried valiantly to record every, step, hop, kick and turn; and a thrilling Laban and movement workshop for the cast conducted by Alumnae member Ginette Mohr.   Several cast members are also busily working away outside rehearsal with our Irish dialogue coach Michael Armstrong.  The wonderful Ellen Green is the Assistant Director – she doesn’t let me miss anything and provides so much valued insight and assistance in working with cast and design.  As the Director, it seems I need to be several places at one time and Ellen’s assistance makes that possible!!

Alumnae design star Margaret Spence, who we are so lucky to have as our Costume Designer, has fitted everyone for their period costumes and the women are all rehearsing in their corsets and rehearsal skirts.  On props, we have the indomitable and lovely Razie Brownstone.   She is out there right now looking for just the right hatchet for the job, among a myriad of other period props  [Ed. note: Sharon Pollock’s award-winning play is set in 1902 – 10 years after Lizzie Borden’s infamous acquittal for the axe murders of her father and stepmother ].

On December 20, we are conducting a test of some of the material we are using on the set  – with Ed and our Lighting Designer, Gabriel Cropley.   And I’m looking forward to finding out how the concept will translate and what it will actually look like under the lights!

The Producing Team is working behind the scenes making sure everything happens that is supposed to happen and coordinating the activities and expenditures of all the departments.  The Team is led by our Executive Producer Brenda Darling and includes Krystyna Hunt, Carina Cojeen and Sandra Burley.  Our Marketing Director Chloe Whitehorn is handling the press and marketing materials that will bring in an audience to enjoy the results of our work.

Blood Relations opens January 23. Part drama, part mystery, all compelling.

To purchase tickets online, please visit


You may also e-mail (reservations@alumnaetheatre.com) or phone in (416-364-4170, box 1) your reservations, and pay cash on arrival.

Tickets are 2-for-1 on Wed at 8pm; $20 Thu/Fri/Sat at 8pm; Sun at 2pm is PWYC.

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Auditions for “Blood Relations”

The first show of our season, George F. Walker’s Escape From Happiness, is not even open yet (starts this Friday, Sept 26), and already we’re scheduling auditions for the January show. Bllod Relations image

Blood Relations

By Sharon Pollock

Directed by Barbara Larose

 Performance dates: January 23 – February 7, 2015

 In this Governor General’s Award-winning play, Sharon Pollock takes us on a psychological journey, bringing the past to life in a search for a possible answer, a possible motive for murder. The only suspect, the real Lizzie Borden, was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe, in 1892. But in Blood Relations, set 10 years later, the chilling question still repeats, “Did you, Lizzie?” “ Lizzie, did you?”

Role:                           Age Range     Description

 Miss Lizzie                 30 – 45             Lizzie Borden, 10 years after acquittal; also plays the Irish                  maid, Bridget

Actress                       30 – 45             Glamourous paramour of Miss Lizzie; also plays Lizzie Borden

 Emma                         40 – 50             Lizzie’s older sister

Abigail Borden         50’s – 60’s        Lizzie’s stepmother

Harry                          50’s                  Mrs. Borden’s brother

Andrew Borden       60’s – 70’s        Lizzie’s father

Dr. Patrick/Defense 30’s – 40’s        the Irish doctor; also plays Defense Counsel at Lizzie’s trial


 Evenings of Wednesday, October 8 and Thursday, October 9, 2014


Saturday, October 11, 2014 from 10 am – 5 pm

 Callbacks to be held the following week – October15/16



Please prepare a short (2-3 min.) contemporary monologue. You may also be asked to read from the script, so it is highly recommended that you are familiar with the play.

Reading copies are available at the Toronto Reference Library, 5th floor — Performing Arts desk.



E-mail with headshot and resume to bloodrelationsauditions@gmail.com or leave a message at 416-364-4170 ext 3.

Be sure to include your phone number so we can contact you! Please specify if you are a member of Alumnae Theatre Company.

Auditions will be held at the Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street, Toronto (SW corner of Berkeley and Adelaide).

Alumnae Theatre Company is a non professional company that encourages diversity in its membership and casting.

This is non-paying engagement.


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Next season, Alumnae Theatre Company lineup will be all-Canadian! Wanna Direct?

The Programming Committee of Alumnae Theatre Company, chaired by Chantale Groulx, has selected the lineup for next season, taking into account the member feedback from a short list proposed on October 29.  Drumroll, please:  presenting Alumnae Theatre Company’s 2014-15 season – and all the writers are Canadian!

**Escape From Happiness by George F. Walker • Mainstage: September 26 – October 11, 2014

FireWorks  series  •  Studio: November 12 – 30, 2014

**Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock • Mainstage:  January 23 – February 7, 2015

New Ideas Festival 2015  •  Studio: March 11 – 29, 2015

I Am Marguerite by [company member] Shirley Barrie, directed by [company member/New Ideas co-founder] Molly Thom  • Mainstage:  April 10 – 25, 2015.

Alumnae Theatre photoAlumnae Theatre Company turns 97 years young in February 2015, and since we turned 90, have been counting down to 100 by re-mounting a play each year that was previously produced in an earlier decade.  This season, it’s the Lizzie Borden story Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock, which was originally staged here in September 1994.

**Blood Relations is one of two plays for which we are inviting director applicants.  The other is George F. Walker’s **Escape From Happiness.  If you would like to apply, here’s how:


READ THE SCRIPTS:  Reading copies are available at Theatre Ontario  (401 Richmond Street West, Suite

350 – near Spadina) and at the Toronto Reference Library, 5th floor, Performing Arts Desk.

SUBMIT:  Please send an e-letter of interest to Chantale Groulx at cng.bonjour@sympatico.ca by January 26, 2014.  This should include your résumé and the title of the play for which you’re going to pitch.

At the interview (on January 29 or 30, 2014) you will present a proposal to the Directors’ Selection Committee outlining your ideas for a full production.  A template detailing what a Director’s proposal includes is available from Chantale upon request.  Only non-union directors may apply.


P.S.  If the title I Am Marguerite seems familiar, you might remember it from the Big Ideas staged readings back in May.  It’s the true story of a young Frenchwoman who was abandoned by her brother on a deserted island off Newfoundland in 1542.



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