#391 – Alicia Richardson & Amaka Umeh

Join host Phil Rickaby as he talks with the playwright of Sweeter, Alicia Richardson and Assistant Director Amaka Umeh who enlighten us on the creative process behind the play. Set in 1887 Florida, this magical and surreal tale of a talking mango tree and a 7-year-old black girl tackles themes of black womanhood and growing up black. The origins of Sweeter trace back to an ambitious exercise where Alicia penned seven plays in seven days, with many forming the foundation for her other work, Articulation.

We also talk about Amaka’s journey to joining the production as assistant director, and the thrill and challenge of bringing a theatre production to life. From a short piece to a full-scale production, the evolution of a play is indeed a labor of love. The value of versatility and embracing multiple passions in the theatre world are also discussed. Our conversation takes an intriguing turn as we explore the art of creating distinct character voices in a new play, and the significance of representation and diversity in theatre. Hear how theatre provides a platform for young children of colour to explore their identities and see themselves represented on stage.

Finally, Alicia and Amaka share their journeys in the theatre world. Amaka shares her passion for movement, and Alicia, her interest in voice training and dialect coaching. They also discuss the importance of storytelling and representation in the theatre world, especially for Black individuals. Hear about the Alicia and Amaka’s early encounters with theatre, the power of storytelling in shaping our identities, and the role of education in promoting diversity and inclusivity in theatre.

Bio

Alicia Richardson is an African-American actor/writer and voice coach originally from Boynton Beach, Florida. She came to Canada for the affordable tuition, then she got health care and figured…why fight it? Now she’s a Permanent Resident livin’ that sweet (but sometimes sour) artist’s life in Toronto. Her body of work spans television, film, theatre, and voice-over. Alicia is PUMPED to have the world premiere of her Theatre for Young Audiences play, Sweeter, a co-pro from Cahoots Theatre and Roseneath Theatre slated for production in December 2023 in Toronto.

Instagram: @leesheelovesyou

Amaka Umeh is an award-winning English theatre performing artist of Nigerian descent who enjoys puns, sweets, and adventures. A graduate of the Musical Theatre Performance Program at the Randolph Academy for Performing Arts, she explores the provocative, liberatory, and transformative powers of investigating truth through imagination and pretense while wrestling with the limitations of the spoken word as a vehicle for communication and understanding. Their work has been generously recognized with a Dora Mavor Moore Award, a Toronto Theatre Critics Association Award, and two MyEntertainmentWorld Critics’ Pick Award nominations.

Instagram: @yesamaka

Tickets and Info for Sweeter: https://www.cahoots.ca/production/sweeter

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#390 – Emily Hughes

From an early encounter with a circus camp as a child, Emily Hughes delved into the world of theatre and circus, fusing both worlds in her performances and creations. As an introverted artist with an electrifying presence on stage, Emily tells us about her upcoming solo performance, Goodbye Esther, a production that brilliantly captures complex emotions associated with mortality. We get close and personal, exploring the roots of this enchanting play and how Emily has navigated the exhilarating yet daunting world of solo performance.

Emily’s story is not just about her. It’s about the compelling fusion of circus and theatre, and how this marriage of disciplines has culminated in her solo show. This episode is an exciting journey through the world of multidisciplinary art, where reality seems to merge with magic, embracing the weird and the unique. We also discuss the liberating world of clowning and its transformative impact, offering an escape into a realm filled with laughter and freedom.

As we move deeper into the world of theatre, we discuss the challenging balance between production and performance, particularly as artists age. Emily, a circus performer on the verge of turning 40, shares her insight on this matter, defying ageist norms and emphasizing the importance of diversity and opportunities for all artists, regardless of age. Additionally, we shed light on the creative process of crafting a theatrical production. We dive into how audience feedback shapes a show, and the delicate balance between artist intention and viewer interpretation. Join us as we uncover the power of empathy in art and its ability to create a powerful, visceral experience for the audience.

Bio

Emily Hughes is a multidisciplinary artist/creator using circus as a physical language to communicate through theatre, film, dance and installation. She is a classically trained actor, Pochinko clown, baby hand balancer, and has been performing as a professional aerialist for over 20 years. Parallel and intersecting with her solo work, she is also the co-Artistic Director of Hercinia Arts Collective, a non-profit performance company dedicated to collaboratively created circus through a multidisciplinary lens.

http://www.emilyhughes.ca
Instagram: @inverted.traveller

Goodbye, Esther: https://www.emilyhughes.ca/projects/goodbye-esther

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#389 – Tara Travis & Christine Lesiak

Join us as we journey into the realm of theatre with our guests, Christine and Tara, known for their captivating portrayal of Cinderella’s Stepsisters. Listen as they share the fascinating inception of their theatre piece, from a casual suggestion by Christine’s partner, Ian, to the full-fledged, unique production it is today. Get a sneak peek into the process of creating their otherworldly costumes, described as a “mobile set in and of itself”, and discover the backstory of the Stepsisters that breathes life into their performance.

Immerse yourself in the challenges and triumphs of transitioning from fringe to large-scale theatre productions. Christine and Tara share their experiences of developing their characters and the evolving dynamics of their roles. Discover the crucial role of imagery in theatre, particularly how it captures audience attention, and the differences they’ve experienced working with larger teams and funding.

Lastly, we talk about their mentoring experiences in the French theatre circuit and their exciting new project, the Lost Sock Rescue Society. This innovative project aims to challenge our culture’s bias against unmatched socks by creating an immersive and interactive experience. Plus, get a glimpse of their upcoming play, the Stepsisters, and their aspirations for its future. Tune in for a rollercoaster of emotions, a dash of humour, and a healthy dose of inspiration.

Bio

Christine Lesiak is an Edmonton / amiskwacîwâskahikan-based theatre artist, teacher, director, and artistic director of Small Matters Productions. She holds a BSc in Physics, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Drama. She specializes in integrated & collaborative creation, audience experience design, interactive comedy, and physical storytelling. She is co-creator of and performer in Small Matters’ nine full-length shows, including the interactive comedy hit, “For Science!” (2018-23), she premiered her new show “The Space Between Stars”, a radical adaption of “The Little Prince” in February 2023. “The Spinsters” premières November 2023 at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby B.C. She is a frequent collaborator with the Edmonton-based companies Catch the Keys Productions, artistic associate with Toy Guns Dance Theatre, and director of the Play the Fool Festival of clown-theatre and physical comedy.

smallmatters.ca
Instagram: @smallmattersp

Tara Travis is an Actor, Voice Actor and Puppeteer known largely for her work on stage, notably solo works Til Death: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Who Killed Gertrude Crump? (with Monster Theatre) The Unfortunate Ruth, and Searching for Dick: A Paranormal Comedy. Voice actor on comedy podcast Phantom Signal, narrator of numerous audiobooks, and voice maker for video games, animation, web series and YouTube-ey things galore. She wiggles dollies, and likes to make art.

http://www.taratravis.com
Instagram: @taratravisartist

The Spinsters dates and tickets: https://smallmatters.ca/shows/the-spinsters/

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#388 – Stephen Near & Aaron Joel Craig

Ever wondered about the journey of a play from its birth to the stage? Join us as we chat with Stephen Near and Aaron Joel Craig from Same Boat Theatre about their play, Whale Fall. Listen to their insights on the evolution of Whale Fall, from its inception to performances at Hamilton Fringe and then Vancouver Fringe. Discover the story behind their Critics Pick Award and the successful Kickstarter campaign that propelled their show to Vancouver. Get a glimpse into the emotional response Whale Fall elicited from audiences and the team’s thoughts on its future.

Fasten your seat belts as we journey with Stephen and Aaron to their Vancouver Fringe Festival experience. Hear firsthand about their adventures as a performing duo on a fringe that’s not home and how it exposed them to new ideas and performers. Tag along as they explore Vancouver and the thrill they felt in discovering they’ve nailed the city’s details in their play.

As we wrap up, prepare for an enlightening discussion on the insights they’ve gathered from performing their play, the significance of feedback, and how their bond has shaped Whale Fall. Learn how Vancouver has influenced their play and how sound is used as a tool to connect with audiences. Lastly, we reflect on Whale Fall’s themes and its transformation into a cautionary tale. This episode offers a captivating journey of creativity, teamwork, and transformation that promises to leave you inspired.Bio, and socials go here

Bio

Stephen Near is a writer and educator living in Hamilton. He is a graduate of York University (BFA), the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (B. Ed) and the MFA Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph. Stephen is a member of the Playwright’s Guild of Canada and an alumnus of both the Sage Hill Writing Experience and the Banff Centre. Last year, he was named the inaugural Writer-In-Residence for the Cotton Factory in Hamilton. His writing has appeared in a variety of online and print publications and his plays have been produced at a variety theatres and festivals, principally by the company that he co-founded, Same Boat Theatre. He is a proud husband, father and unabashed geek who is (still) obsessed with comic books and role-playing games.
stephennear.com
Twitter: @SNear23
Instagram: @stephenisnear

Aaron Joel Craig (he/him) is a director, dramaturge, designer and performer. His passion for developing new work with artists in Hamilton led to the founding of Same Boat Theatre, alongside playwright Stephen Near. His theatre work focuses on questions of identity, power and how to stay hopeful in a difficult world. Some past projects include Test, Your Own Sons and The Conspiracy of Michael, all with Same Boat, and Henry the Fifth and Waiting for Godot for Redeemer University. He recently completed work on a masters degree at Wycliffe College/University of Toronto, exploring the intersections of spirituality and the arts.. You can find more about that work @saltcellararts. He lives in Hamilton’s East End with his partner, Cath, their two kids, and his probably-too-big record collection.

Instagram: @aaronjoelcraig

Tickets to Whale Fall at the Red Sandcastle: https://www.ticketscene.ca/series/1137/

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#387 – Tatum Lee

This week, we’re talking to actor and director, Tatum Lee. Brace yourself as we plunge into the making of The Drowning Girls, her spine-chilling production at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre. A tale of horror, a timeless exploration of societal issues, and a love letter to the stage, this episode unravels the layers of creativity, challenge, and passion that went into the staging of this eerie play. Tatum’s childhood fascination with Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West and how it fuels her love for the horror genre make for an intriguing discussion you won’t want to miss.

But the drama doesn’t stop there. Join us as we contrast her experience directing The Drowning Girls with The Elephant Man, two riveting productions with starkly different challenges. Discover the importance of dialogue, the dynamics of actor-director relationships, and the delicate art of handling heavy themes from a director’s point of view. Tatum’s insight into theatre as a mirror to society, and a tool to evoke emotion and address difficult themes, is both enlightening and inspiring.

Lastly, we journey into Tatum’s acting world. Drawing from her experience in the movie IT and her memories of Tim Curry’s mini-series, Tatum shares her perspective on acting and its power. Hear about her reprisal of the Wicked Witch of the West in a lost episode of Sesame Street and how her idol, Margaret Hamilton, continues to inspire her. This episode, filled with compelling discussions on theatre, horror, and the transformative power of storytelling, is a masterclass in the art of stagecraft. Buckle up for a fascinating exploration that will leave you spellbound.Bio, and socials go here

http://www.wrentheater.com
Instagram: @tatumlee77

Tickets to The Drowning Girls at Red Sandcastle: https://wren-theatre.ticketleap.com/the-drowning-girls/dates

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#386 – Meghan Greeley

Have you ever wondered how a novel can transform into a theatrical masterpiece? Queer writer, performer, and director, Megan Greeley, joins us to share her fascinating journey of adapting her novel, Jawbone, into a play. We uncover the layers of a young girl navigating platonic and romantic feelings in the absence of queer representation, and challenge the societal taboos around male bonding and physical affection.

We then move on to examine the exhaustion and solitude that comes with writing a solo show and the celebration of rediscovering the supportive theatre community. Megan draws upon her theatre background to breathe life into her narratives, reminding us of the power of storytelling and performance. We also delve into her experiences with the TNL Youth theatre program and how it revealed a creative dimension within her that she hadn’t previously explored.

In the final segment, we explore the realities of pursuing a career in the performing arts, looking at the highs, the lows, and everything in between. From economic constraints to the priceless support of her parents, Megan reflects on how these factors have influenced her journey. We highlight the significant role of Ruth Lawrence in the Newfoundland theatre scene and Megan’s career, discussing mentorship, career progression, and the art of infusing humour into darker subject matter. Join us for a refreshing conversation that bridges theatre, storytelling, and queer identity.

Bio

Meghan Greeley is a queer writer, editor, performer, and director originally from Corner Brook, NL. Her poetry, prose, and scripts have been published in The Stockholm Review of Literature, Ephemera, Metatron’s ÖMËGÄ project, Riddle Fence, Humber Mouths 2, The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Drama (Vol. 1), and the Playwrights Canada Press anthology Long Story Short. As a playwright, she was a 2016 nominee for the RBC Tarragon Emerging Playwrights Prize and was later a resident of both the Tarragon Playwrights Unit and Nightwood Theatre’s Write from the Hip program. Her stage plays have been produced across Canada. Her play Hunger, published by Breakwater Books, was shortlisted for the BMO Winterset Award. Her short novel Jawbone is forthcoming from Radiant Press in Fall 2023. She is currently the Artistic Director of White Rooster Theatre.

Twitter: @meghangreeley
Instagram: @meghan_greeley

Jawbone: https://radiantpress.ca/shop/p/jawbone

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#385 – S. E. Grummett

Step into the spotlight with Grumms, a queer, transgender artist, as we traverse the stages of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and navigate the world of theatre and performance. Join us on a journey that’s as captivating as it is insightful. Grums pulls back the curtain on their award-winning season at the festival and shares the emotional roller coaster that is the month-long experience. They illuminate the mental toll and the comparative nature of the festival, offering a glimpse into a performer’s psyche during what’s considered the most competitive of the Fringe Circuits.

We then pivot our spotlight to the importance of queer stories and how comedy can be an influential tool for expressing significant themes and messages. Grums expounds on their play, ‘Scum & Manifesto’, and how it strives to challenge the gender binary and empower its audience. As we delve deeper into the conversation, we also touch on the rise of anti-trans and anti-queer rhetoric, emphasizing the crucial need for representation and understanding in our current socio-political climate.

Our compelling chat doesn’t stop there. Grums opens up about their personal journey, from understanding their gender identity to coming out as trans. They share intimate details about their ‘found family’ from the fringe tour and the solace they found within these relationships. We also discuss the necessity to educate children on gender diversity, challenging traditional ‘sex ed’ narratives. So, get ready for an engaging conversation that explores theatre, queer stories, and the power of self-identity. All the world’s a stage, and we invite you to share ours in this episode.

Bio

Grumms (they/them) is a queer, transgender theatre artist from Treaty 6 Territory. Over the past decade, Grumms has created a body of original queer work and toured it around the world, including across Canada, US, UK, Europe, and Australia. They are the co-creator of SCUM: a manifesto, Girl in the Box, Pack Animals, and Creepy Boys. With Something in the Water, Grumms has toured around the world performing to queer audiences young and old. Grumms is the recipient of the 2022 RBC Outstanding Award in recognition for their contribution to the queer and trans community across Saskatchewan. Outside of self-creation, Grumms also works as a director, puppeteer, and video artist. Next up, Grumms is writing a new TYA puppet musical in collaboration with indie music icon, Rae Spoon, premiering and touring across the prairies in early 2024.

http://www.scantilygladtheatre.com
Twitter: @scantilygladsk
Instagram: @scantilygladsk

Something in the Water at Next Stage: https://fringetoronto.com/next-stage/show/something-water

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#384 – liza paul

Ever wondered about the hidden journey a joke takes before it lands with roaring laughter? Join us, as we, together with our exceptional guest liza paul, peel back the curtain on the world of Canadian comedy – an art form celebrated as a societal equalizer yet struggling against underfunding. We delve into the grit and dedication it takes for a comedian to craft a joke, ensuring it not only elicits a laugh but resonates with audiences far and wide.

Thriving in the world of performing arts is no easy feat, a truth we uncover as we draw intriguing parallels between the theatre and stand-up comedy. Liza enlightens us about the ephemeral nature of these arts, and the fascinating process comedians undertake – rehearsing, refining, and reworking a joke until it achieves its full comedic potential. This process mirrors the artistry in theatre, where resources are meticulously combined to create something truly captivating.

We also discuss Liza’s inspiring journey from Associate Producer at Soulpepper, to the Curator and Manager at Theatre Centre Cafe Bar to an Associate Artistic Director at the Theatre Centre, underscoring the significance of creating inviting spaces and adapting creatively during challenging times like the current pandemic. We also highlight the upcoming Comedy is Art Festival at The Theatre Centre. So, come along on this riveting journey that takes you behind the scenes – into the heart and soul of art, laughter, and authentic human connection.

Bio

liza paul is a storyteller, comedian, curator and producer who loves laughter, life, music, family, stories, all things bashment, impromptu dancehall-flavoured a cappella street jams, and pum-related non sequiturs. she has trained at the second city (improv conservatory + 2017 bob curry fellowship program) and is the co-creator of pomme is french for apple (best of fringe 2012, toronto), which has also played in winnipeg, edinburgh, and new york city. She has worked with Soulpepper theatre company, anitafrika! dub theatre, bCurrent theatre, and the watah theatre, and is Associate Artistic Director at The Theatre Centre.

Comedy is Art tickets: https://theatrecentre.org/event/comedy-is-art-2023/

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#383 – Joshua Chong

Join us on this rich and provocative journey as we unravel the intricacies of the Toronto theatre scene with Joshua Chong, a seasoned reporter and performing arts critic from the Toronto Star. Our dialogue takes us into the heart of Toronto’s performing arts world, uncovering how initiatives like ticket deals and special offers are opening doors for diverse audiences. We look at the struggles and triumphs of prominent companies like the Canadian Stage, Soulpepper, National Ballet, and Mirvish in their quest to broaden their appeal and make theatre more accessible.

In this episode we talk about the challenges theatres faced during the pandemic, the decline in subscription audiences, and the pressing need to attract diverse viewers. With the rise in streaming services, we also discuss how to keep theatre relevant and make it a habit for people. We explore the risks and rewards of programming daring works and the need for the stage to reflect the diversity of the audience. Listen in for an enriching discussion on the future of theatre subscriptions, audience engagement, and a whole lot more!

Bio

Joshua Chong is a Toronto-based general assignment reporter and performing arts critic with the Toronto Star. His work can also be seen in the Globe and Mail, The Whole Note Magazine, The Dance Current, Intermission Magazine and Opera Canada Magazine. Joshua has earned two Youth Journalism International Awards for his criticism and a John H. McDonald Award for his investigative journalism.

Too white, too old, too well-to-do: why Toronto theatre companies need to appeal to broader audiences https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/too-white-too-old-too-well-to-do-why-toronto-theatre-companies-need-to-appeal/article_dee3ddf9-79d5-5b0b-86c1-0017de63b6e3.html

Twitter: @joshualdwchong

Phil’s thoughts on the article: https://philrickaby.substack.com/p/toronto-star-too-white-too-old-too

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#382 – Taylor Marie Graham

This week, host Phil Rickaby chats with award-winning playwright, Taylor Marie Graham. We take a thrilling deep dive into the heart of her play, “Corporate Finch,” dissecting the complexities of its characters’ relationship, the chilling plot within the confines of an abandoned factory, and how a 22-hour writing competition was instrumental in overcoming the writer’s block that initially haunted her creation process. Taylor gives us her unique perspective on horror on stage, bringing to light the innovative ways she employed the physical space of the theatre to heighten suspense and tension.

Our discussion takes a fascinating turn as we explore the potential of horror in theatre, drawing from the traditional presentations of horror in the theatre before film took the reins. Taylor shares her insights on how live audience, coupled with light and sound manipulation, can escalate the thrill of the genre. We also delve into the interesting challenge of staying one step ahead of the genre, and the excitement it brings. On a more academic note, we delve into Taylor’s theatre course at Western University, where she scrutinizes the history of theatre in Toronto, addressing critical questions of representation and identity.

As we navigate towards the tail end of our conversation, we cast the spotlight on Taylor’s doctoral research on the Blythe Festival. We delve into her process of selecting pivotal moments from the theatre’s history to focus on and explore the tragedy of plays that have never seen the light of day. Taylor underscores the importance of ensuring the accessibility of these unpublished plays, shedding light on their often overlooked value. We round off our conversation by addressing the evolution of theatre and its potential to challenge audiences, inviting them to revisit and re-imagine their relationship with this age-old art form. We hope you’ll join us for this enlightening exploration of Canada’s theatre scene, the thrill of horror on stage, and the intriguing intersections of art and academia.

Bio

Taylor Marie Graham is an award winning playwright, librettist, director, theatre scholar and educator from Cambridge Ontario. She joined me to talk about her play Corporate Finch, which rounds out a summer of performances with a run at IMPACT Fest in Kitchener, Ontario. In this conversation we talk about the unusual origin of Corporate Finch, taking the play to festivals around Ontario, and her how her academic practice and her artistic practice compliment each other. Here’s our conversation.

taylormariegraham.com
Twitter: @taylormarie_g
Instagram: @taylormarie.graham

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