Tag Archive: Ride the Cyclone

2013: Work & Other Adventures

The quote I chose to write on the wall in Calgary on our first tour stop.

The quote I chose to write on the wall in Calgary on our first tour stop.

2013 was a big year for me on the work front. It was also the first year that I had multiple confirmed projects (3!) get cancelled with only a few months notice. This certainly changed my year from going as I thought, but it also opened the door to some new opportunities.

I rang in 2013 with Atomic Vaudeville as I prepped to head out on the national tour of Ride The Cyclone. I can honestly say that I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when I signed up to stage manage that show, but it led to an amazing four months that took me to Victoria, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto (on hiatus), Winnipeg, Vernon (on hiatus), Saskatoon & Nanaimo. There are people from that tour that I miss on a daily basis.

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

That tour (with the help of my parents) also afforded me the opportunity to buy a condo. So when the tour ended at the end of April, I took possession of my lovely new home. I spent a week doing all the renos: new fixtures, new paint, tile on the kitchen walls, and so on and then celebrated my 27th birthday with a big ol’ party in my new home.

The wreckage that remained at the end of the show.

The wreckage that remained at the end of the show.

May ended with a trip over to Robert’s Creek on the Sunshine coast to work with The Only Animal for their part of the Obstructions series: Stupid Is As Stupid Does. My role on that show became unique from all other Stage Management I’ve done when I was asked to create a three-tiered wedding cake covered in red, white and blue roses that would be cut up with a chainsaw before being eaten. But it was a creative challenge I was excited about and I spent my evenings after rehearsal baking cakes. Our rehearsal of the cake cutting (with a practice cake) yielded hilarious results, including me covered in cake crumbs from head to toe. There may be some video of that kicking around, but sadly I do not have any of it.

Once that show was over, I jumped head first into working with the Vancouver Board of Parks & Rec on the annual Arts, Health & Seniors Gala that I’ve been coordinating for the past couple of years at the Roundhouse. This year the performances included a choir, puppets, and lots of video projects. But the funnest part of the event is always helping to serve the luncheon – especially the dessert. Everyone in the room gets so excited about dessert!

Summer was a time where two projects fell through. The way I looked at my remaining options was this: “I can stay in Vancouver and make no money sitting on my ass while my friends all work, or I can make no money going to Toronto and working my ass off with my friends and with other new connections.”  For me this was a no brainer, so I jumped on an airplane and made a temporary move to Toronto. Temporary contracts with Toronto Pride and Fringe Toronto got me off to a great start and opened the doors to all sorts of opportunities to both make friends and see shows.

The chorus of Paradises Lost.

The chorus of Paradises Lost.

And then the work started in earnest with two shows at SummerWorks Eating Pomegranates Naked and Paradises Lost. The first was the project that took me to Toronto in the first place, and the second was a glorious surprise that I didn’t expect, but I so enjoyed another opportunity to work on opera. I was frequently rehearsing seven days a week, but it was a blast. On my days away from rehearsals I was adventuring around Ontario to see friends but also associate producing Aim for the Tangent’s Mature Young Adults. In fact, I attended a rehearsal of MYA with suitcase in hand on my way to the airport to fly back to Vancouver.

My favourite photo from the circus this year.

My favourite photo from the circus this year.

12 hours after arriving in Vancouver I was on my way back out-of-town – on a ferry headed for the Sunshine Coast. I joined up with Deer Crossing The Art Farm to be the circus manager for the 2013 edition of the Rainforest Circus: Circus of Chance. That show was probably the most exercise I’ve ever gotten on a show, running through the rainforest from station to station.

Then it was a ferry back to Vancouver and straight to a production meeting and my first day of prep for Rumble Theatre’s Penelope. That show was a fantastic experience and truly disgusting – mostly because of the amount of junk food we went through every night. It also had a flaming BBQ. Which was fantastic when it worked (though sadly it didn’t always work – especially in week 2).

Next came NYET with Zee Zee Theatre and artists from across the country standing up and having a conversation about Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Such a fantastic night with an amazing group of artists.

Except in the Unlikely Event of War

Except in the Unlikely Event of War

Of course, NYET happened while I was in rehearsal for Sean Devine’s latest, Except In The Unlikely Event of War with Pi Theatre Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre. Pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve had actual lines in a play and also the first time that I’ve had an audience cheer for me at the end of the show. Thankfully I didn’t have to memorize my lines as I could read them from my prompt script every night. And every night I cursed Sean just a little bit for writing me into the play.

Mom and I taking selfies up the mountain.

Mom and I taking selfies up the mountain.

After such a busy year, I intentionally took December off to rest and regain some balance. A trip to see family for the holidays and celebrating Christmas with a Doctor Who topped Christmas tree were just a part of it.

Which brings us to today. Today was supposed to be my first day on my next gig, but it was one of the ones that got cancelled this year. Instead, I’m writing this blog, reflecting on the year that has been, and looking forward to what lies ahead.

Five Tour Must-Haves

I’m now into month number three of the Ride the Cyclone tour. Add my five and a half weeks in Europe onto the front of that and that is a long time to be living out of one suitcase and one carry-on. There are some things you know that you are going to need like a computer, comfortable shoes, and enough clothes. But on top of all that, despite limited space, I’m so glad I have these things:

1. Portable Printer
This is the one item on this list that is fairly stage manager/production manager/producer specific, but having a portable printer with me on tour has saved me many hours and dollars. In every city there are new schedules, contact lists, copies of the script, and many other items that need to be printed. With my own printer, I print these things in my hotel room at 1am after Q2Q and don’t have to try to find a 24 hour Kinkos or wait until the next morning to go to staples and pay per page. I bought the HP Office Jet 100 color printer and couldn’t be happier. It takes up only a small amount of my suitcase (both in terms of physical space and weight) and when set to “draft” mode prints very quickly. I did not have my printer with me in Europe, and I wish now that I had. I spent many evenings fighting with the hotel’s printing stations, trying to get schedules to print. Doing it in my room is so much better! Also, having a color printer makes it very easy to make beautiful opening night cards.
2. Talisman

IMG_1667
My on-the-road talisman is my ducky, Cue, who makes every theatre feel like my home base. But bring something with you that makes wherever you are feel like home: framed photos of friends, your own pillow, a teddy bear, fridge magnets, an action figure, etc. A figurine also makes a great travel companion/something to take photos of when you are in places that you can’t always get a good selfie.
3. Spices (in baggies!)
While it is easy to eat out all the time when touring, it is so much healthier and cheaper to do some of your own cooking. We have been really fortunate on this tour to mostly be in hotels where we have suites with kitchens. However, it is not possible to travel with a full kitchen cupboard in one little suitcase. To remedy this, I have four plastic baggies: garlic powder, chili powder, cinnamon, and basil. Between the four of them I can add some flavor to whatever I’m cooking, but it doesn’t take up much extra space.
4. A pleasure item or two
What brings you joy? Figure that out and then bring that with you. Whether its an e-reader stocked full of books, a video game console, an external hard drive full of your favourite movies and tv shows, or a relaxing bubble bath, there will be time off that will need to be filled and having the option to relax while doing something you love can be a welcome break from exploring.
5. Sleep Aids
For me, this is melatonin, but I know that everyone has a different sleep aid preference. On tour you switch beds more frequently than some people change their sheets. You may also find yourself changing time zones and the constant “Oh, I guess we’re back to tech week….again” gets old. I highly recommend having some sort of sleep aid, especially for the first night or two in

Ride the Cyclone Tour Stop #1 – Calgary

All of our travel items have the Cyclone logo spray painted onto them

All of our travel items have the Cyclone logo spray painted onto them

I’ve been in Calgary for four very busy days now and am having a hard time believing that my first week of Ride the Cyclone is coming to an end. It feels like we’ve been in Calgary both longer and shorter than we have. Because our appearance in Calgary is part of a festival, our load-in/tech time was limited and so there was no time to go through and Q2Q the show here. Instead, I got my first chance to ever see the lighting cues, costumes and props in a dress rehearsal as I called the show for the first time on the afternoon of opening. I was nervous and I was stressed about it.

That was Wednesday. Now it’s Friday (well, Saturday really….) and I have three performances under my belt and I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a handle on what is going on. Which of course means that it must be almost time to head to the next city and start over. But there’s also something exciting about that, especially this time because we have things technically that we just didn’t have time to really look at here in Calgary that I know we want to fix in Vancouver.

All bundled up for the cold Calgary nights.

All bundled up for the cold Calgary nights.

Calgary has been really beautiful and really cold while we’ve been here.  Today was down around -20 for a good portion of the day, and while my prairie relatives would think I’m weak for being cold in that, this Vancouverite is finding the cold to take some getting used to.  I am getting good use out of the winter hat I picked up in Zurich and have good memories of exploring the city in search of something to keep my head warm! Sadly the picture on the right is a bit grainy from my iPhone camera so you can’t tell that I am covered in snow in it.When I snapped the photo yesterday it was snowing quite hard outside.

In addition to the cold we’ve been battling the dry air, higher altitude, and a nasty cold that has hit many of us working on the show – myself included. For me this is a show where I barely stop talking for an hour and a half, and I’m definitely not used to being the one worried about my voice, but Thursday night I nearly lost my voice and ever since I’ve been following all the advice the singers want to give me about keeping my voice healthy.

Rielle & Sarah with the Amazing Karnak in the background

Rielle & Sarah with the Amazing Karnak in the background

The show itself continues to be wonderful. It’s a great joy to get to listen to a new audience discover it every night. Tonight someone snuck a photo during the show on their iPhone and then tweeted it. I figure that makes it fair game, so the first production still of the 2013 tour is to the left of this text.

Tomorrow my parents are coming to see the show since they are in Calgary on their way to vacation and then Sunday we head to Vancouver where our lighting designer is already busy supervising the lighting install and getting ready for our arrival. Vancouver is the only city on the tour that has seen a previous version of the show. I can’t wait to see how they respond to the new and improved version!

I mean, the Calgary Herald really liked it. They called it “an exhilarating blast of theatre with bite” and “ a wild ride, offering everything from emotional resonance to laugh-out-loud moments to hummable tunes that will have you singing the raunchy lyrics the next day.”

“Soft” Work Pays Off

A couple of months ago I got an out of the blue Facebook message from a friend of a friend.  She was producing a show and looking for an Equity SM and she figured I was probably busy but could I maybe help her come up with some names. I responded right away looking for more information: dates, responsibilities, etc.  I could certainly help come up with some names, but you never know – maybe it would work with my own schedule. Facebook turned to email and phone calls. Turns out I’d been recommended by a couple of cast members and she remembered my support of her show from a previous incarnation. Yesterday we confirmed things, and in December I’ll be joining the Atomic Vaudeville team as the Stage Manager for the national tour of Ride the Cyclone (please see the dates at the bottom of this post).

The cast of Ride the Cyclone at the Arts Club Review Stage, fall 2011.

Yup.  That Ride the Cyclone. The one I listed in my 2011 Year in Review: Theatrical Excellence post as “The Best Show that Everyone Agrees is the Best.” The one that Kelly Nestruck at The Globe and Mail called, “probably the most uproarious and outrageous piece of musical theatre Canada has ever produced” One of the things that excites me about this contract is that I will have the privilege of seeing this amazing show eight times a week for four months.

This is just the latest in a series of gigs that have come not from job postings or even resumes that I’ve sent cold to companies but rather from the network of relationships that I’ve spent the last seven years building. And to be honest, it’s a beautiful place to be. I’m booked from now until next spring with really cool gigs, have couple projects up my sleeve for fall 2013 and even a reservation on my calendar for spring of 2014. And I am starting think that this is really how it should work: it shouldn’t always have to be a struggle. And it is so gratifying to see all the “soft” work pay off.

Ride the Cyclone will be playing the following cities/dates in 2013:

Calgary, T.B.A. Jan 9-12
Vancouver, PUSH Festival/Arts Club, Jan 17-Feb 16
Edmonton, Citadel Theatre, Feb 22-Mar 10
Winnipeg, MTC Warehouse, Mar 21-Apr 6
Saskatoon, Persephone Theatre, Apr 17-21

Hope to see you at the show!

2011 in Review: Theatrical Excellence

I’m not a critic or reviewer.  That has never been my goal in writing this blog. If you’re looking for some of the critics 2011 lists, I’ve found the one for The Georgia Straight, The Globe and Mail, Gay Vancouver and The Vancouver Courier.

Each year I wonder how to recognize the truly excellent work I see each year. I’ve tried a top ten list (2009). I’ve tried a top six list (2010). Neither felt quite right for what I wanted to say. So now I try again. Another year. Another format. Let’s see if I can’t take some inspiration for the annual “Best of Vancouver” and make my own “Best of Vancouver Theatre” list.

The cast of Ride the Cyclone. Photo from the official Ride the Cyclone blog

Best Show that Everyone Agrees is the BestRide the Cyclone (Atomic Vaudeville)
I am a stingy standing ovation giver, but this show had me on my feet before the curtain call lights even came up. Why is this little show from Victoria topping critics list across the country? Biting humor. Vivid characters. Song and dance numbers so varied in tone/style/content that you never know where you’ll be next. The best “turn your cell phones off” speech ever. EVER. A cast that takes the quirky and makes it both heart-breaking and hilarious, all the while singing and dancing. The show uses low-tech/budget tricks to great result and the indie feel is definitely part of its charm. I went into this show having been told that it was fantastic, but I remember saying to myself, “Okay.  Now you know it might not be everything you’ve been told it is.  Let go of your expectations.”  And the best part was that it exceeded every one of those expectations.

The Best “Theatrical Experience” - La Marea (Boca del Lupo with Mariano Pensotti for the PuSh Festival)
Walking into the zero-block of water street for that week in January was like nothing else I have experienced in going to the theatre. Both ends of the busy street closed down. People everywhere. Giant flood lights light the street and then like the flip of a breaker the flood lights go out and music begins, theatre lights pop on to unexpected places, and projected surtitles appear. Each of the nine scenes were only 10 minutes long, but you had to walk the whole block to see them, and depending which end of the street you started at you had a different experience.  I’m sure it was a logistical challenge (kudos to the stage management/production management team for pulling it off!) but the effect was so stunning I went back down to the block two more nights just to watch people interact with the piece. My favourite thing was seeing people who had no idea that their favourite restaurant’s patio was now playing home to a play and that by eating there they had inadvertently become extras. Or people who just happened to be out walking in the Gastown neighbourhood asking a volunteer what exactly was going on and deciding to stay and see what all the fuss was. Most of the nights the block was wall-to-wall people and when it threatened to rain they were ready – volunteers were standing by handing out branded umbrellas. Free. Outdoors. Huge. La Marea redefined the possibilities for me.

Honorable Mention – Party This Weekend (The House Party Collective) – Was it a show or a house party? It was really a bit of both. With four intertwining story lines, a house and its yard for the set, and lots of audience interaction it was a fantastic experience!

Circa. Image provided.

Best Show I Still Can’t Categorize - Circa (Circa at PuSh Festival)
This wasn’t my first time seeing Circa perform as a part of the PuSh festival, but as always they defy being easily labelled.  The Australian company defines themselves as “circus that moves the heart and soul” but their performance lends itself to comparisons to both theatre and dance.  No matter what you call it though,  it elicited an audible response from myself and from others in the audience as the performers flung themselves through the air at each other or moved a single muscle so specifically that it could be noticed from the back of the theatre. It was an absolutely stunning night.

Honorable Mention – Dress Me Up In Your Love – Theatre Replacement – Part story-telling, part fashion show, part music, I found this show at times hilarious, at times moving and I never need to see Andrew McNee in a tight dress again.

The Best Piece of Dance for Sitting on the Edge of Your Seat - Emergence (Crystal Pite for the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour)
My dance knowledge is really very limited, but I take whatever opportunity I can to attend dance. Crystal Pite’s Emergence, the final of four pieces on the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour had me on the edge of my seat the moment it started. Intricate. Precise. Stunning. It was one of those pieces where I didn’t want to blink because I was afraid that I would miss something amazing.

Honorable Mention – Moth (Donald Sales for Ballet BC‘s 25th Anniversary) – A bare bulb dangling on stage. Sign Language and Silent Screams. This ballet exploration of grief was breath-taking.

Ingrid Hansen acting with Celery. Photo by Al Smith.

Best of the Fringe Fest - Little Orange Man (Snafu Dance Theatre)
The Fringe is a funny festival in the sense that it really is a free for all.  Anyone can do a show. You can end up seeing ANYTHING on stage. But when Ingrid walked on stage and began using a piece of bread to tell us a story, I wasn’t prepared for how touching this show would be.  Yes, it had celery sticks as characters and involved Ingrid climbing out of a giant suitcase.  It had some of the funnest low-tech magic that I’ve seen on stage in a while, and its not every day that you watch an audience hold tiny shoes in the air and conjure up small children.  The show left me feeling wistful for childhood and delighted to see what Ingrid will think up next.

Honorable Mention – Peter ‘n’ Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Hotel (Peter ‘n’ Chris) – C’mon….they have flashy jackets, can do a slow motion car crash, and are funny.  What more do you need from your Fringe experience?

Best Show for An Audience of 15 or Less - Tape (Alley Theatre)
Crammed into a small room at the Waldorf Hotel with 11 other audience members plus this cast of three, being in the room as they fought was an exhilarating experience.  It’s what site-specific theatre does when at it’s best – puts you right there with the characters, knowing that there is no other place in which this story would have as much impact.

Honorable Mention – Whale – Kyle Jespersen – In the intimate Anderson Street Space, writer and performer Kyle Jespersen took us door-to-door selling Bibles and waiting for a sign.  I believe it was a show in progress and the note I wrote to myself that night after the show was “I can’t wait to see what this turns into.”

Rumble Productions' Community Dinner. Photo provided.

Best ReInvention of Genre - Community Dinner (Rumble Productions with Boca del LupoElectric Company TheatreNeworld Theatre & MOSAIC)
This was not like any “dinner theatre” you have ever been to before, I would guarantee it. The four companies who share the Progress Lab space teamed up with MOSAIC – an organization that seeks to empower recent immigrants – and for three months prior to the show teams comprised of professional actors and newcomers to Canada met up, learned how to prepare various ethnic recipes, and created a short piece of theatre connected to the recipe.  Each of the four pieces was as diverse as the companies they came from, and at the end of the night the cast and audience sat down to a meal of the food that had been prepared in front of them.

Honorable Mention – Visions of Vancouver – Pi Theatre - Performed for a live audience these radio plays were also recorded for FREE release as podcasts. With a simple staging and at times with script in hand, these four actors performed in a way that worked live and that works in an audio-only medium.

Best Show to Make Me Want New Toys - Wicked (Broadway Across Canada)
I don’t know how, as a person who cares about the technical side of theatre at all, it is possible to see a show like Wicked and NOT want to play with all their toys. The choreography of the set pieces alone was stunning and the costumes were so intricate. The sheer calibre and artistry of all involved made it such a visual feast to go along with such a well loved musical. The whole experience was so lovely.  I enjoy seeing the big broadway shows when they come to town, but this one topped many of them for being so on the ball technically.

Honorable Mention – Penny Plain – Ronnie Burkett at the Cultch – With 24 custom made marionnettes, I don’t think you can see one of Ronnie’s shows and not want to play with them, or at the very least examine the intricate strings that allow the performer to make even a pinky finger move.

Best Show to Give Multiple Standing Ovations – Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Glass City Theatre)
As someone who rarely gives a standing ovation, it is even more rare for me to do so more than once for the same production.  Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train got two or three from me during its three week run. It was a heart-breaking ride that moved me over and over again as I saw it and that continues to challenge my opinions.

 

Other Year In Review Posts:
Hard Work
What I Saw