Next Stage

undercurrents theatre festival: Just Go!

It's only it's opening weekend, but I'm going to call it right now: Best. undercurrents. Ever. It's been a long time since I could gush about a whole slew of shows in one sitting. Major kudos and congratulations go out to festival organizer, Patrick Gauthier, for assembling a stellar line-up of shows that practically scream upgradeyoursingletickettoasixshowpassrightnowZOMGWHYAREYOUSTILLSITTINGTHERE!

On Friday night, my adventure began with Little Iliad (which also played at World Stage Toronto). I loved it and later on a friend asked me why they should see it. I spent about five minutes ranting about my joy at seeing the incorporation of theatre and new media/multi-media done well (and seriously, most of the time I just kept wondering how they were doing that), the solid acting, the story, feeling like I wasn't actually watching theatre, but creeping in on someone's conversation, the fact that it's a super short show, so why not take the chance? By the time I was done, I think I had convinced two other people to see it.

Then it was off to Bread. Another super short show, but what it lacked in length it definitely made up for in sweetness. Ruby and Seth are moving out of the neighbourhood, but they've invited us over to teach us to bake bread before they go. I shouldn't have been surprised that this show goes straight to your heart and stomach since it was directed by the queen of whimsy herself, the most divine Emily Pearlman. Only ten people get to make bread with them at the time and the spots fill up super quickly so make sure you reserve in advance.

And your yummy bread will be waiting for you when you return from your next show.

I ended the night with Little Orange Man, a show I had seen almost three years ago at the Calgary Fringe Festival when it was called Gnomeward Bound. I was super excited to see the updated version since the original was a real sucker-punch to my heart and a reminder of the kind of theatre I like to see and create. It definitely did not disappoint. For those of you who saw the show, all I have to say is: coatrack, amitrite?

So that was day one. Started day two with Ladies of the Lake. Patrick Gauthier stated at the post-show talkbalk that this was probably the prettiest show to ever fill the studio space. He's not wrong. The design team have done an absolutely brilliant and seamless job. This is also probably one of the most polished shows I've ever seen at the undercurrents festival.

Then it was off to SKIN. To be honest, I was worried about this one. With a program description that starts with "What if you don't feel comfortable in your own skin?" I thought it might be a very heavy show, but I was wrong. It was incredibly funny, honest and featured an ensemble of multi-talented women that work so cohesively together... SKIN is a very special show that struck a chord.

Ended this night with The Public Servant, probably my favorite show at a festival already filled with favorites. But I may be a bit biased since I've worked in the public service in the past and so has my mom. The show was so funny and true to life. Opening monologue aside, the main character was me. The first day excitement, the clothes, the projects, the cutbacks, the voice mail... I laughed until I wanted to cry. The cast is so good! It's some of the best work I've seen Sarah McVie do. And my arts crush on Jennifer Brewin, which started at the Next Stage Theatre Festival (The Peace Maker was my favorite show at that festival too) just keeps getting stronger. I'm going to have to see more from Theatre Columbus.

Oh, I guess that wasn't the end of my night, since the festival had a great little party for everyone set up in the lobby. There was food, dancing and the return of Two Little Birds Theatre with Recess.

Another show in the works?

Last but not least, ended the entire festival on a high note with Hip-Hop Shakespeare:Live Music Videos! I missed it at the Ottawa Fringe last year and man, oh man, was I glad to correct that mistake. It's absolutely phenomenal. Personal favorites included Melanie's Lady M and David's Rich 3. Go see it! Go see it! Go see it!

Seriously though, why are you still here? Get your butt down to the Great Canadian Theatre Company RIGHT NOW (unless you're reading this on Monday, then wait a day) before all the good theatre is gone.

New Year - Next Stage

NSTF-Brochure-front-cover-cropped-small1-578x583 I was all set to write a blog post on how things went last year and what my goals are for 2013, but I've had to put that on hold for a little bit because ZOMGYOUGUYS! The Next Stage Festival starts back up today! It feels a little early in the new year, but after spending almost two weeks home for the holidays, I think some theatre is just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, I had a really amazing time there last year and I'm even better prepared this time around having just bought myself an 8 show pass. So without further ado, here's the stuff I plan on checking out and why you should too. (Please note this is solely my personal opinion based on knowing practically nothing about the shows being presented - because research is for people who hate surprises.)


Unfortunately, I probably won't be seeing this show, but only because I had the privilege of seeing it at the Toronto Fringe Festival already, but I wanted to mention it because it's a wonderful show and Laura Anne Harris is absolutely delightful in it. I'd be curious to see what she does with it in the Antechamber, which is a very different space from the Tarragon Theatre stage I had seen it on and, at a shortened running time of 30 min, I'd love to know what she kept in. You should definitely check this show out and buy your tickets fast because the performance, as I remember it from last year, is very small and will in all likelihood sell-out. Besides, how often will you get the chance to get this up close and personal with a Hollywood legend?


I love Game of Thrones SO MUCH and Throne of Games really does something to satisfy the inner fantasy geek in me. Every performance will consist of a brand spanking new improvised episode based on the series and I am still trying to figure out how I could possibly attend every single one without going back into debt. I'll be checking out the first episode tonight, but if anyone has extra tickets and would like a date, please feel free to call me.


I wanted to see this one at the Toronto Fringe last year, but it sold out, so I'm glad to have the chance to go now. I took a workshop with Martha Ross a few years ago and had an absolute blast. Really looking forward to seeing her on stage.


Planning my own memorial before I die to hear all the awesome things people will say about me? The narcissistic control freak that I am loves the premise for this show (Note to self: potential activity for 2013) and it also features my friend, the very talented Pierre Simpson.


At the other end of the spectrum, I'm not usually a big fan of political theatre, but Natasha Greenblatt's name has been bounced around me a lot lately and she's got a really great director & cast backing her up, so I will be giving this one a shot.


Speaking of names that get bounced around a lot: Jordan Tannahill. This guy is probably one of the hardest working indie producers in town and I can't believe I've yet to see one of his full-scale productions. Especially since I am a big fan of the use of multi-media and theatre. Thank you, Next Stage for helping me rectify that situation.

This is what I've got on the schedule so far, but it doesn't mean I won't be seeing anything else. I just haven't really heard much about the other shows yet, but I'm sure a few trips to the beer tent will change all that.  Feel free to let me know what you will be seeing and why in the comment section below. In the meantime, if you don't catch me at the tent in between shows, I'm probably at Sadie's Diner down the street indulging in some gluten-free chocolate chip pancakes.

As always, I'll be seeing you at the theatre.

Cool People Doing Cool Things

Though I obviously haven't managed to make this a regular weekly feature, I'll still be throwing around some more Cool People Doing Cool Things, you know, for your own good. So this time around, meet Patrick Gauthier.

Among many many job titles to his name, Patrick is the Festival Producer of the undercurrents "theatre below the mainstream" Festival.  Tonight marks the opening night of the festival, now entering it's sophomore year and recently called one of the most 'promising developments in the (Ottawa) theatre scene in the past few years.'  The festival serves a much needed purpose for indie theatre companies looking to go beyond that 'Fringe Festival' status, but who don't have the resources (audience, funds, ect.) to fill one of those big fancy-schmancy places like the Oiving Greenberg (TM - The Visitorium).  In fact, one of the ideas behind the undercurrents Festival was to give these indie performers access to the Great Canadian Theatre Company's regular audience base.  And it seems to be working: in it's inaugural year, the festival had a whopping 86% attendance rate!

(ed. note - after posting this blog update, I learned that one show is already completely sold out - Live from the Belly of a Whale - which was also directed by Patrick Gauthier. It seems the festival is well on its way to beat last years attendance records and it hasn't even opened yet. Better get your tickets now for all the other great productions. Congratulations, Pat!)

If you read about how crazy excited I was for the Next Stage Theatre Festival, you can probably imagine how I am feeling about undercurrents.  You guys, this is going to be shitballz fantastic! (somebody quote me on that)

So what makes a successful theatre festival in NancyKenny's book?

  • Keep it small - I hate missing out on things. With only 6 productions at undercurrents, I can easily catch them all.
  • Keep it cheap - I want to see everything! I can't do that if I can't afford it. A $60 Flex pass gives you access to every single show at $10 a pop. Amazing! (Or you can claim blogger status, that sometimes works too...)
  • Keep it central - in this case, one venue means no running around to catch the next production, which means more time to hang around, drink and socialize.  Because to me, theatre is a communal thing. I want to talk to you about what you've seen so far, what was good, and is Pat Gauthier wearing new Converse shoes?
  • Keep it casual and easy - No theatre festival is complete without ample beverage opportunities and undercurrents has pretty much become the greatest theatre festival in the world by allowing drinks inside the theatre.  This means no chugging wine (ew!) at the last minute so that you don't miss your start time.  It's the little things, you know?

This is all so great that I'll be heading up to Ottawa this weekend to marathon my way through all the shows.  I'll talk about individual productions later on in the week, but for now I just want to extend a very big thank you to Pat Gauthier and the Great Canadian Theatre Company for putting together this little gem of a theatre festival.  undercurrents is just what the doctor ordered.

As always, I'll be seeing you at the theatre!

See You Next Year, Next Stage

Dear Toronto Fringe, Listen, we need to talk.  You know how I feel about you, right? You know how I try and love all my Fringe Festivals equally and with an open heart.  But, I've met somebody else and... I'm not really sure how to say this to you, but it's your younger sister, Next Stage.

I am so sorry and I hope we can still be friends.




The Next Stage Theatre Festival has come and gone (sniff) and I had a great time.  I spent closing day catching LOVESEXMONEY and Morro and Japs (because "sold out" is just a suggestion when you're me) and snuggling up in the super warm and cozy beer tent.  I enjoyed both shows a great deal and somehow ended up with an invitation to the cast party for one and an autographed poster for the other.  I'd let you guess which was which, but lets be honest here, if I got to hang out with Morro and Jasp, I'd probably end up like this:


It's better to get a signed picture. You can't disappoint a picture...


Neuroses aside though, damn Next Stage, you done good!

First of all, I applaud the location.  Factory Theatre is a great space and you managed to squeeze in comfortably spread out three venues and a beer tent all in one spot.  I love marathon fringing, but I am a lazy lazy person.  Give me the shortest distance between my wine and my theatre and I am a happy lady.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been getting a piggy-back ride up to the Antechamber while someone read the program bios to me aloud (note for next year?)  One of my issues with the TO Fringe has to do with how spread out everything is.  I got to meet way more people at Next Stage than I ever have at the Fringe because I could focus my time on new conversations instead of trying to figure out where the George Igntieff Theatre is located, how long it would take me to run there, and can I jog on a stomach filled with beer?

(for future reference: 15 Devonshire Place, 15 minutes & yes, yes I can)

Second, Next Stage was just so much easier to manage then the Fringe.  10 shows! I could see all of them if I wanted to.  And I saw about half, which isn't too bad for someone with two full-time jobs.  If I wanted to see half at Fringe, I'd have to catch over 50 productions... The ticketing staff in the super awesome and cozy heated beer tent (have I mentioned it before?) were great and got to know me on a first name basis.  Everything just felt more personable and welcoming.  Not to mention I really appreciated not being asked to "Tip the Fringe" all the damn time (Don't get me wrong, I get that the festival needs money, but if that's the case then make the buttons mandatory like so many other Fringes across the country seem to do).

Next Stage was just an all around really great little festival with some quality shows that broke box office records.  Congratulations to everyone involved and I will gladly do it all over again next year!


Next year?


Dear Toronto Fringe,

Hey you!  How are you doing? Listen, I may have been a bit too hasty before. I'm sorry. And I swear this change of heart has nothing to do with the fact that your kid sister just packed up shop and left town... because really what did I expect from a 5 year old? Right? Right.

Anyway, I know I may have said some things, but I wasn't really in my right frame of mind.  I think Morro & Jasp put some gluten in that desert I ate. You know how I get when I have gluten.

So, we're good right? Because I was wondering... do you have any plans in July?

Call me!



You Are At Work

Ok, this is that part about reviewing that I didn't care for...  Alright, I'm going to get this over as quickly as possible before moving on to me favorite topic ("ME!" she says, a false sens of pretension dripping in her voice.) Last night, I had the chance to see Living with Henry at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.  I was pretty keen to see this one since the subject matter appealed to me.  As the friend accompanying me pointed out, a few years ago there were so many movies and stories about people getting HIV/AIDS and dying from it that it's refreshing to see someone talk about it and where it's at today.  Because the disease isn't gone, but sometimes it seems a bit forgotten.  There are a lot of enjoyable moments in Living with Henry: the lead carries the show well; his Mom is a solid actor and I really enjoyed her singing voice; I love the way they portrayed HIV as a big, tough bald guy; there's an awesome tango number in a bathhouse and OHMYGODSOMUCHPRETTYTOLOOKAT... *ahem* - but as a whole, the show just didn't do it for me.  I think part of it is because the show tries to be too much at one time.  It wants to be funny and serious and musical and dance-y and it has so much potential material to pull from and gets tossed into so many directions that it just can't get really good at one thing.  Again, Living with Henry definitely has something to offer, I'm just not sure I was the right person to receive it.


Ok. Moving on. Yesterday, I also had the privilege of attending a general theatre audition for four different summer stock theatre's in the province.  I thought it was really great they got together for these auditions.  Some people might be intimidated by having more people in a room, but I thrive on it.  Not to mention it's a pretty big time-saver for me.  I was feeling pretty good about the audition and, yes, it did go very well, but that's not what stuck with me at the end of the day.  When I walked into the room, one artistic director apologized because they were ahead of schedule and they didn't want to rush me.  I said it was no problem, it would just get me back to work faster.  And that's when, with good humour, he replied:

"You are at work."

I don't get speechless very often, but that one threw me.  Of course I'm at work!  Auditions are just as much part of the job as the job itself.  Just because you are not getting paid for it, does not mean you don't have to work. These people don't know me. They've never seen me perform before.  I can't coast and save up all the "good stuff" for when they hire me.  No.  I have to prepare.  I go to class, I learn and rehearse a monologue, I print resumes and headshots (all of this on my own dime) so that I can walk into a room and comfortably, for lack of a better word, "work" it.

It's been a while, but I was grateful for the reminder.

Throwing You A Bone

I go and see a lot of plays.  I need to.  It's part of my job.  I also read the program front to back (though a lot of times only after the show, as you will soon see).  I check out names and past projects.  After all, with directors and designers, I start to see a certain style.  For example, one of my favorite shows at the Canadian Stage was Studies in Motion, directed by Kim Collier.  It was one of the most visually appealing and stunning productions I had seen in years (the link I provided does include a promo video of the show, but it really doesn't do the play justice).  Then I went to see Red.  A few hours later, I was raving about CanStage to a friend, talking about how they have such visually appealing shows, like Studies in Motion and Red, without sacrificing story like some other theatre companies I know.  My friend kindly pointed out that it made sense since they were directed by the same person and I, uh, then read my program... Without realizing it, it seems I have gained a pretty substantial arts crush on Kim Collier, which is great because now I know that I really want to work with her.  I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't gone out to the theatre.

And if you are an actor you should be going to.  There is so much happening in Toronto right now all the time that it's really hard to keep up with everything.  I've already talked about Next Stage (and will again some more this week as I check out more shows), but I also wanted to let you know about another production that might be flying below your theatre-going radar.

The play is called Four Dogs and a Bone by John Patrick Shanley. It opens tomorrow (January 10th) night and runs until January 21st.

Four Dogs and a Bone is a comedy... scratch a little deeper and it's a tragedy. After John Patrick Shanley had his first taste of Hollywood with Moonstruck and Joe Vs. The Volcano he exposed the film industry for all its insanity, greed and dirty madness. There are four dogs and only one bone. Two ferocious actresses, a sleazy over-the-edge producer and a naive screenwriter from off-off Broadway all fight for control of a film. A sharp satirical tragic comedy that holds no prisoners in this dog-eat-dog world.

I love this play.  I love most of Shanley's work, but I really love this play in particular.  And if you are in anyway involved in the performing arts, you will love this play too.    It's produced by some brilliant artists who really embody what it means to be an actor - if you want to work, don't just wait for someone to hand it to you, go out there and do it yourself.  I highly encourage you to check them out.

See you at the theatre!

So You Want to Be a Reviewer?

No. Nononononononononononononono. NO. After my post on the Next Stage Theatre Festival, I received a tweet from the Toronto Fringe Festival asking to let them know if I wanted to review any other shows.  I didn't catch the message immediately, but I friend of mine did and he said he was looking forward to reading my work.

Uh, what?

Listen, I love going to the theatre, but even more so, I love talking about the theatre.  I love watching plays and then telling people about it.  I know what I like (or didn't like) and I have been working long enough in this field that I have the vocabulary to tell you why.  But there's the rub:  I work in this field and I would like to work in it some more. And unfortunately, saying critical things about a production or performance could rub the people involved the wrong way, no matter how well-intentioned the critique may be.  This could very well have repercussions on my future employ-ability.  I've seen it happen before.  A fellow blogger and actor was working in an education capacity for a theatre company when he wrote a review of their show he had just seen.  The review was intelligent and well-written and, although not negative, it was definitely critical.  And while the director of the show appreciated what he had written, the company administration was all up in arms that one of its employees could say something "bad" about them.  Granted, this was in the much earlier days of social media, but still...

So, from then on, I resolved to not review shows, but simply mention shows that I was looking forward to see.

And having said all that, I can now tell you I am also full of shit because here is my review of Modern Love, now playing at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.  Why?  Because I really enjoyed that show, I want people to see it, and I think that, buzz-wise, it may get overshadowed by the Morro & Jasp's and the Uncalled For's of this festival (because if I had a newspaper and needed a picture to represent the festival, I would use the four shirtless guys in a life-raft too).

Please note: though I work in arts marketing, I am not involved with this production and also paid to see it just like everybody else.


I have a running gag in all my actor bios: "In her spare time, Nancy can be found on the internet." It's not just in my spare time anymore.  It's my day job, my night job, my connection to everyone I know.  I'd rather send you a text than talk to you on the phone. I'd rather write on my blog than tell you what I've been up to lately. If I have to talk to you in person, can I have a drink first?  Those who know me, probably don't realize how much crowds of strangers and acquaintances make me anxious.  The internet, in many ways, was my salvation from all that.  Behind the screen, I have time to think and be witty.  I banter better. Sometimes, I even alliterate more.

So Theatre Caravel's production of Modern Love was not only right up my alley, it struck a very real chord.  A HI-larious chord filled with now obscure internet memes (because something that was popular a few months ago on the internet is like an eternity IRL), blanket forts (BLANKET FORTS! Sidebar: ever since I started watching Community with my roommate, I have been constantly pushing the very real need to build a blanket fort in our apartment) and a whole lot of heart. Gosh, the number of times I've gone trolling for dates on the internet only to get completely overwhelmed by the process and  freak out to the point of actual embarrassment when somebody answered...  Sigh. I'm lonely too.

Aaaaaanyway, not only that, but the humour and heart in the show reminded me a lot of my own one-woman show.  In the very early drafts of Roller Derby Saved My Soul, I had also toyed with including multimedia elements to the piece.  I ended up scrapping that idea when I realized that a) the story really needed to be fleshed out more and b) I didn't know who I could get to do the multimedia work for me.

But I still love the use of mixed-media in theatre pieces when it's done well.  And in Modern Love, it's done very well.  I have to applaud Jessica Moss for making her interactions with the screen elements look so seamless and so tight, because I know for a fact that that shit is not easy to do (you can say 'shit' in a review, right? This guy does it all the time).

So, folks, Jessica Moss was speaking my language.  And if she didn't already have a beer in hand when I briefly had the chance to meet her last night, I would have bought her one myself. (Oh and if that wasn't enough to make me love her, this interview pretty much sealed the deal.)

Did I have some nitpicks about the show? Sure. Sometimes everything felt a bit rushed, there wasn't any breathing room for the gags to land, and I ended up missing many more because people were laughing so hard.  But that's a minor quibble after I realized that this was opening night and therefore probably the first time this show played in front of a full-house in its current incarnation.  That will probably even out with the rest of the run.  Part of me would love to see it again later on, just to see how it develops.  I'd also love to see how it would grow and change with new technologies...

Modern Love was a good night out and you have quite a few more chances to catch it in the Factory Theatre Studio Space. So please, do as I did:  Step away from the screen, put the iPhone on Airplane Mode (because God forbid I actually turn it off), and go have a laugh, will ya?  Jessica Moss, she is good people.  And if you're lucky, you might just catch me in that deliciously heated beer tent in the courtyard next door.



Oh and Jess, I feel that way too.

The Next Stage

Sure, the Fringe is still months away, but the cold winter months have their own little festival gems.  In a couple of weeks, Vancouver and Ottawa will have Push and Undercurrents respectively, Montreal is currently taking a walk on the Wildside, and here in Toronto, well, we take things to the Next Stage. Checking out the Next Stage show list, I wish I could see everything, but my time and, more importantly, my funds are limited.  I have yet to score the number of any theatre  invitations in this city like I used to in Ottawa, but all in good time.  So without further ado, here's what I will be seeing at the Toronto Fringe's big brother festival. (Not to be confused with the Toronto Fringe Big Brother Festival where they put cameras into the homes of your favorite Fringe artists and the footage is streamed online.)

Please note that I know absolutely nothing about these shows and am basing my choices solely on promo blurbs.  Everything presented at the festival is probably pretty good since most of these shows are remounts of favorite fringe shows and/or proven performers.  Really, you can't go wrong with any show; this is just what I want to see.



Great title, cool promo shot, and I was in a student film with one of the actors.  That normally would have been enough to get me out, but then my roommate, whose theatrical opinion I dearly respect, told me this was the best script she'd seen in a long time.  That endorsement took LOVESEXMONEY from a "probably going to see it" to "absolutely must see this."


I sleep in a Morro and Jasp t-shirt so... Listen, I have an unreasonable crush on these clowns and I would sit there as they read through the phone book.  Let's just say I am not going to miss this show.


It's a one-woman show, which I love, and it seems to talk about social media so my interest is piqued.  Plus a friend of mine is seeing it tonight and I told her I'd go with her.  See you there?



The subject matter speaks to me and I'm going to try and catch it if I can.



GO. SEE. THIS. SHOW. Or you are not my friend anymore.  I love Uncalled For and HYPNOGOGIC LOGIC is their best show yet.  I've seen it three times.  I've brought friends to see it.  I was even asked to be a part of it this time around, but I am too swamped with work.  And that makes me sad because I love this show so much.  I love this show so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant and then fall asleep snuggling and wake up and get it pregnant again.  That's love, man and it's all good.  So, you know, go out there and feel the love... what was I talking about again?  Oh yeah. You should totally go see this show.

And if you like, let me know in the comment section if there is something else that I absolutely can't miss and why.  See you at the (Factory) theatre!