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Q & A

Q&A with Alex Johnson, Co-Artistic Director of The Playwright Project

I don’t necessarily think that the answer for theatre is to compete with Netflix. I think it’s in offering something different, and marketing it creatively.

Aside from English classes in high school, do we really know our contemporary writers and in particular, our playwrights? The Playwright Project which is running for the second year has put together a week-long festival featuring seven works that rotate each night in seven different neighbourhoods in Toronto, all celebrating one playwright. This year, they have chosen “Urban Cowboy” Sam Shepard (who is also an actor and television and stage director) as their muse.

In this Q&A with Co-Artistic Director Alex Johnson, she shares her perspective and inspiration for creating this festival, and offers some ideas for artists who are caught in the paradox of serving an audience with a demand for the arts while working with limited resources. We at BeMused share the belief that the performing arts community is stronger when we draw closer to each other, and pool our resources together towards the same objectives. It is very invigorating to know that artists feel the same way!

The Festival ends next Tuesday so check out the lineup of theatre companies involved and for the show nearest you. If you know the Cameron House, or need a reason to check it out, there’s also a line-up of live music performances as part of the festival. Read on…

Alameda Theatre’s Chile Con Carne

Toronto is a goldmine of world cultures and international perspectives presented to a local audience. Alameda Theatre is a company that was created to give opportunities to Latin actors and playwrights to engage in and refine their art, and carving out a space for audiences to connect intimately the human experiences that we all share regardless of cultural backgrounds.

They are in the middle of a production run of Carmen Aguirre’s Chile Con Carne at Factory Theatre that is ending this Sunday April 14th. Told through the perspective of a young girl named Manuelita who is growing up in Vancouver in 1975 with her refugee parents. The play like many of Carmen’s works mixes “the highly personal with the political”.

We’re excited to share with you another double Q&A with Carmen Aguirre and Artistic Director Marilo Nunez. Read on to learn more about their passion for theatre and telling the stories that too often go unheard! Read more about their current production!

Q&A with Roseneath Theatre’s Andrew Lamb

It’s very important to reflect their role as young people in our community back to them, so they can consider and reflect. At Roseneath, we see young people as little adults, not kids. They have just as complex an emotional life as any full grown adult, so why treat them any differently?

Roseneath Theatre’s Artistic Director Andrew Lamb. Photo by Cylla von Tiedermann.

The realities of young people today are becoming more and more complex. They are faced with challenges that are difficult to discuss and are often left with more questions than answers. Roseneath Theatre’s latest production of Hannah Moscovitch’s “In This World” directed by Andrew Lamb tackles the issue of how to handle unwanted sexual attention.

In this Q&A, Andrew shares with us his thoughts on the role that theatre can play in guiding our young people, and the unique experience of working in both the world of education and performing arts.

Read on…

Q&A with Maureen Batt and Erin Bardua of Essential Opera

We knew going in that starting an opera company would be a huge challenge, requiring lots of time and resources. I wish someone could have reaffirmed for us from the beginning that we really would be okay to simply trust in strong material, talented performers, and that audiences are smart and curious.

Erin Bardua & Maureen Batt, photo by Katie Cross

Maureen Batt and Erin Bardua are the co-artistic directors of Essential Opera, almost a guerrilla operation. With limited resources, they draw on their experiences in language studies and theatre production to create an experience that speaks to the seasoned opera-goer without alienating a general audience. They translate much of the dialogue into english themselves to convey the story, and create their own english subtitles when they sing in other languages. There are no fancy sets, which offers a creative challenge for an art form that is known for being over-the-top.

Essential Opera offers a very immediate and intimate way to experience an operatic repertoire that is well loved by singers but rarely performed to the public. They are perfect for this budding opera company that does not seem to be daunted by obvious challenge of being both the producers and the performers of their own shows.

Their 5th production next Friday, aptly titled “Two Weddings and a Funeral” featuring two one-act comic operas by Puccini and Donizetti. Check out the trailer to their show at the end of this post. We’ll be running a contest to give away two tickets to their show on Monday, so stay tuned for details!

Read on…

Q&A with Carol Gimbel, Artistic Director of Music In The Barns

Want to win a pair tickets to their concert this Friday? Look for contest details at the end of this post!

When was the last time you were walking by your neighborhood centre and saw a violist practicing, or a string quartet rehearsing, or a child learning the violin? Day in and day out Music in the Barns’ presence remains, as the community watches our comings and goings, getting a true behind the scenes feeling for what classical music is about.

In this Q&A, we showcase both the work of Carol Gimbel and her Music in the Barns storefront-studio and chamber ensemble, as well as the historic Wychwood Barns at St. Clair and Christie where they are based.

What will strike you most is the variety of inspiration and experiences that Carol draws on not only as an artist and teacher, but also as a community builder. Check out their upcoming concert this Friday at The Academy of Lions (a hybrid space that is a crosstraining studio and a storefront), or drop by their studio at Wychwood that is always opened to curious onlookers in the budding and active community hub “at the barn”.

Read on…

Q&A with Evan Desmarais of I Heart Jokes

This is a really tough industry to crack and there’s a lot of people who give up. The coolest thing, is waking up every morning staring at posters on my walls of shows I’ve been in, thinking, they hey, I’m doing it. I’m on my way to becoming a comedian.

When we think of live performances, comedy might not be the first thing that comes to mind, as it is not particular “serious”. However, it takes no less preparation for the performers, who have the added expectation to write their own materials for their show. How many performing arts do you know in which the artists is responsible for both the creation and performance of their art?

In this Q&A, we’re very lucky to have comic Evan Desmarais share the comic’s perspective with us. He is launching the first annual I Heart Jokes Comedy Festival happening in Toronto starting on Sunday March 3, leading up to the second annual I Heart Jokes Comedy Awards on Saturday March 9.

We’ll be doing a ticket giveaway next week for their Sunday show featuring Joe Derosa. Check out a video of his stand up material at the end of this post and stay tuned for the contest next Monday! Read on…

Q&A with Clay and Paper Theatre’s David Anderson

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Puppetry’s job, like any art, is to take on the biggest and most challenging questions of our age…to see ourselves as citizens who have a responsibility to ourselves, our children, our city, and even our world to make it a better place than how we found it.

Clay and Paper Theatre, 2005 Production of “The Space Between”.

Puppetry can be a powerful medium for civic engagement, often addressing topics that perhaps a live actor could not get away with in the public. Clay and Paper Theatre has lived by this vision since 1995, as they create (often with the help of the public) and put on pageants and plays in public spaces. All of their performances take place in the commons and transforms both the space and the audience in order to inspire them to think, to feel, and to engage.

Artistic Director David Anderson’s tenacity and deep commitment to his art and community can be felt in this Q&A where he shares with us stories of his early start in theatre, and the busy year they’ve got lined up starting with “Puppets on Ice” on February 24th. Check out and join in on the puppet-making workshops happening at their studio on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday until the 21st.

Read on…

Q & A with Festival of Dance Director Melanie Mastronardi

One of the main goals that I have as director of FoD is to build a strong sense of community between the dance groups at U of T, because I think the best way to build support for the dance community is to reach out to people who already share the same passion.

Are you a dancer or part of a dance group? Looking for a place to promote your work, perhaps an opportunity to network with other dancers? Submit your dance piece of any genre and style to the U of T Festival of Dance for a chance to shine, to connect, to celebrate the diversity of the University of Toronto’s dance community. They are accepting audition applications for this year’s festival until February 15.

In this Q & A with the festival’s director, Melanie Mastronardi, who is a dancer but also a PhD candidate at University of Toronto’s chemistry department, she shares with us her experience building a strong dance communities and developing new audiences. Read on…

Q & A with Sarah Thorpe and Pratik Gandhi of Soup Can Theatre

As any independent artist knows, it takes a lot of time, effort, discipline, and sacrifice to live this kind of life. But I keep at it because when a project comes together beautifully and successfully, it’s worth everything I’ve gone through to make it happen.

Sarah Thorpe, artistic director of Soup Can Theatre

Toronto-based Soup Can Theatre provides reinterpretations of older theatrical works as a way to explore contemporary issues for a contemporary audience. In the company’s upcoming double feature of one-act pieces, Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, characters in dysfunctional, even hellish relationships are trapped in the same space for the span of a game of bridge and for all eternity, respectively.

It’s a thought-provoking theme, and fortunately one that is not reflected in the theatre company’s mutually supportive environment. Quite the opposite in fact, as artistic director Sarah Thorpe and music director Pratik Gandhi can attest. Check out this Q & A double-bill as the two team up to share their experiences, perspectives, and advice.  And be sure to catch their Valentine’s themed cabaret fundraiser on February 12!

Read on…

Q&A with Daniel Morphy of TorQ Percussion Quartet

There are a lot of amazing performers out there doing incredible projects, but I find I never hear about them in time or at all. You can’t just expect that people will show up. I think these issues are fairly obvious, but are also easily forgotten when so much preparation is being put into actually practicing the music.

Don’t miss our ticket giveaway to the TorQ concert on Thursday, February 7th, 2013. Details here.

TorQ Percussion Quartet is a classical music ensemble that is full of personality and fun-loving spirit. Founded in 2005, they represent a new generation of performers that no longer take the audience for granted. This is their first year presenting a season of concerts, while also maintaining a busy schedule doing school performances and workshops, guest appearances, and recently completing their debut tour in Atlantic Canada. In this Q&A with founding member Daniel Morphy (appearing third from the left in the photo above), it’s clear that the life of a professional artists never gets slower, as the passion for the art burns brighter.

Check out the video of TorQ in action in this post!

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