Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  April 14, 2020  

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Issue #2

Wow! The response from our first issue of Meanwhile sent last week has been staggering. We received over 3,300 responses to our Marquee Contest and had dozens of meaningful theatre stories shared with us.

This week, we invite you to participate in a 5-day theatre trivia challenge, we share our first winner from our Marquee Contest as well as the selected story from our Patron's Corner! There's links to experience free theatre, a fantastic story about the Ghost Light at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, plus a new song written by Ron Jacobson, the General Manager of the Mirvish Theatres!

We look forward to the time we can all return to the theatre, take our seat and see the curtain rise. In the meanwhile, be well, stay safe and stay strong.


GET IN ON THE ACT

Did you ever think knowing that it was the trolley that went clang clang clang would pay off? Well now it can! Participate in our 5-day trivia challenge and you could win a $100 Mirvish Gift Card. No purchase necessary to participate! Begin today by answering the first question in the challenge then look for the next question in your inbox tomorrow. Challenge your friends and family to see who reigns supreme.

PLAY THE TRIVIA CHALLENGE!


SLOGAN CAMPAIGN WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

3 winning slogans

Congratulations to the first two winners in our Keep Calm Slogan campaign:


 A GREAT ACT TWO DEPENDS ON YOU by Katrina Roberts
 OUR STAGE IS BARE BECAUSE WE CARE by Darlene Treen

These two slogans, both of which use rhyme to get their message across, were selected from over 3,300 entries. Katrina and Darlene have each won a $100 Mirvish Gift Card and their slogans and names will go up in lights on the marquees of our theatres.

Also this week, we have a special additional winning slogan: WEAR A MASK THAT'S ALL I ASK OF YOU by actors Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson, who have both graced many Mirvish stages in many shows over the years. Most recently they starred in Piaf/Dietrich for four months at the CAA Theatre. They also happen to be a married couple. Their slogan is a timely reworking of the famous lyric from The Phantom of the Opera song, "All I Ask of You."

Meanwhile, we're still accepting new entries!  We will choose two winners every week in April.

Remember, they must be short, instructive and inspirational.

ENTER YOUR SLOGAN HERE!


THE ARCHIVES

Western theatre began in Greece 2,500 years ago as part of religious ceremonies. Ever since, theatre has had spiritual connections. The ghost light is a tradition that has both practical, spiritual and superstitious roots.

Practically, it is nothing more than a bare lightbulb on a staff or tripod that is kept lit at centre stage when the rest of the theatre is dark and empty. It is there so that anyone entering the stage won't trip in the dark and end up falling into the orchestra pit, which is usually 10 feet below. Another practical theory is that the tradition began in the 19th century when theatres were lit by gas. Overnight, a dim light was kept on stage to relieve the pressure on gas valves.

Spiritually, it is a light that may attract the spirits of deceased actors and other denizens of the theatre, because that is their soul's natural and spiritual home.

Interior of Royal Alexandra Theatre with light on stage

As a superstition, a ghost light is said to keep away belligerent spirits so that they don't take up residence in a theatre when it is dark.

Whichever of these you believe, the ghost light is a treasured tradition in an art form that is built on millennia-old traditions.

Many older theatres have ghost lights. A ghost light in a theatre built during Victorian or Edwardian times, which is when most of the theatres operational today were built, is especially appropriate.

The ghost light of the Royal Alexandra Theatre -- the only theatre in Toronto to still have one -- has been burning since 1907. Even in this time of the coronavirus when all theatres are closed, the ghost light illuminates the otherwise dark Royal Alex, making sure it is ready for the time when it will be safe enough for performances to resume.

This photo of the ghost light on the set of Come From Away was taken from the back of the balcony on the night of April 7, 2020 by theatre manager Ron Jacobson. He had returned to the shuttered theatre on that night for another long-held theatre tradition: the dimming of the marquee lights in honour of the life of a great theatre artist. In this instance, it was for Shirley Douglas, one of the grand dames of Canadian theatre who died on April 5.

Sadly, Ron is scheduled to return to the Royal Alex to dim the marquee lights once again, this time for the passing of Victor A. Young, another stalwart of Canadian theatre who died on April 8. A Dora Award-winning and busy actor who worked in theatre, TV and film, Victor starred in three major musicals at Mirvish theatres: Crazy For You (1993-95 at the Royal Alex), Lord of the Rings (2006 at the Princess of Wales) and Dirty Dancing (2007-08 at the Royal Alex).


THE GENERAL MANAGER OF ALL MIRVISH THEATRES ENTERTAINS YOU FOR FREE

Ron Jacobson is the general manager of all four Mirvish Theatres. This means he is responsible for everything that goes on in each building, from the front-of-house staff to the food and beverage operations to the maintenance. For instance, he was the man who oversaw the recent renovation of the Royal Alexandra. His job isn't easy, but Ron never lets anyone see him sweat. He is always even-keeled and friendly even in the most stressful situations.

Ron is also a songwriter and composer with extensive professional experience. While he's been working from home for the last month he has found the time to write this wonderful new song called The Covid-19 Blues. He even performed it and recorded it at his home for our enjoyment.

Have a look and a listen.

Ron Jacobson plays guitar


PATRON'S CORNER

Thanks to everyone who took us up on our request and submitted a story about attending a theatre performance. We have included some of your stories in this issue of Meanwhile.

We lead with this sweet and lovely story from Stephen Johns:

On Saturday, December 14, 2013, I took a Samantha Read to see Les Misérables at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It was our first date.

Three people stand in the lobby of the Princess of Wales Theatre

I was living in Calgary at the time, and I'd flown in that same afternoon in the midst of a full-on blizzard. When we got to theatre, however, we discovered I'd ordered tickets for the following Saturday -- when Samantha was going to be out west. The box office attendant, sensing our (or at least my) panic, saved the day: she exchanged our tickets for better seats to that evening's performance. Her name was Susan.

Years later, having relocated to Toronto, I was attending a performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Princess of Wales when I saw Susan at the box office. I said hi, and told her that while she probably wouldn't remember my story she had played an integral role in what was now a two-year relationship.

And three years after that, on Friday, December 14, 2018, I took Samantha -- now my wife -- back to the Princess of Wales on our fifth-year dating anniversary. Susan was working that night, as well, and after a tiny bit of persuasion we convinced her to take a picture with us.

Susan probably wasn't trying to play matchmaker on that snowy night in 2013, but my wife and I are eternally grateful that she did!

Steve

Follow-up:

Steve and Samantha have become regular theatregoers. When we contacted him to ask for the photo he refers to in his letter, he added a few more details: "Thanks for all you're doing in these strange, strange days. I can't imagine what you and your team are dealing with, particularly in light of the Hamilton cancellation. (I missed out on two performances of that show; that said, I also saw two performances, including what turned out to be the final one, so I can't complain!) The forthcoming season is a beacon of light in our house, and we can't wait to be back in the theatres as soon as they reopen. I hope you and your family are keeping well and staying safe."

And what about Susan, the accidental box-office matchmaker?

Susan Parmenter began working with Mirvish as an usher at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. When the Princess of Wales Theatre was being built and box office staff would be needed for it, Susan put up her hand and joined the box office staff there. But before she took up her new post, because Susan is a visual artist, she helped paint some of the murals in the theatre as a member of the Frank Stella crew.

As Steve's letter demonstrates, Susan is fiercely friendly and happily helpful. She goes out of her way to help patrons, and she does so with patience and kindness. The fact that she will celebrate 30 years of working at Mirvish theatres on May 14, 2020 is a statement to how much she loves her job.

In fact, most of the box office and front-of-house staff have been at their jobs for decades. We are sure they miss the camaraderie of their work and especially the shows they all work to make happen.

Next time you're at the Princess of Wales stop by and say hi to Susan.

Like many Torontonians, I have very fond memories of Mirvish Productions. I was raised by the most amazing woman. It was just the two of us. That made things tough but we had so much love.

We struggled financially but mom did her best to save up money every year to take me to see a show downtown. We would get dressed up, take the Go train, walk towards the theatre and get so excited. 

I have the fondest memories of sitting next to her while watching Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King or so many others, and watching how excited she was to see me happy. I knew it brought her so much pride and happiness that she was able to do this for me.

My mom passed away 11 years ago. My husband and I have been subscribers for two years and I cannot wait until I can take my daughter to her first show.

We miss you the theatres, but we know they will be reopened as soon as it is safe for all of us to attend again.


When I first heard about Hamilton, a musical about the American Revolution and the founding of the Unites States, I didn’t know that it would appeal to me. Why would a typical Canadian be interested in that? 

Then I heard the recording of the cast album. Well, aside from the amazing music and storytelling, Hamilton quite literally saved me.

I have struggled with anxiety for the better part of my adult and teenage years. When Hamilton first came on the scene, I was going through one of my most difficult moments of anxiety. I would turn the soundtrack on everyday and it would bring me so much joy. It would make me laugh and cry, and it helped me to breathe again.

So when I heard it was coming here, I knew that we had to go. We bought our Mirvish subscription a full year in advance so that we could make sure we had access to this amazing work.

We were very lucky that we were able to see the show on February 14th. I never thought I would be turning to the soundtrack yet again to help get me through this very stressful time in our world.

Thank you to Mirvish and to Hamilton for being such a source of comfort. Stay safe everyone!  


On February 26th I attended  Come From Away. What a wonderful performance! I laughed, cried, laughed and cried again. I thought a lot that day about 9/11. 

Just two weeks later the virus started to effect Toronto and the GTA. 

Once again I find myself crying and sometimes laughing to get through these long days of self-isolation and social distancing. And I find myself thinking again about Come From Away and its story about another crisis that brought people together.


When the doors of this city’s most acclaimed theatres are opened wide to children, youth and families from every background, everyone benefits. 

By welcoming Kids Up Front kids, Mirvish Productions makes exceptional theatre more accessible, audiences more diverse and communities even stronger. 

Here's the proof from Sydney and Ella – Big Sister and Little Sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto. They received two tickets to Hamilton through Kids Up Front from a generous Mirvish suscriber who donated them. 

This is what Sydney writes about their experience: Thank you SO much for the tickets to Hamilton. We had an amazing time! Nothing better than a Girls Night Out at the theatre :)

The talent was outstanding and the score was so catchy and fun. Ella was captivated by the music and I could tell how much she enjoyed watching the story unfold through hip-hop. Even though the themes of the play were a little outside her comfort zone, the delivery of the message through rap music was something she understood and really connected with.

Ella was very interested in the storyline and while it was unfamiliar to her, it was an opportunity to learn about the past. The experience definitely sparked her interest in history. She even said, “Who knew history could be so cool?”

So thank you again for an incredible evening and opportunity. We would have never been able to share this experience together if it wasn’t for Kids Up Front and your very generous donor.


Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share this story with other theatre fans.

In 2012 I had the distinct pleasure of seeing War Horse on three different occasions. During the run of the production, some people were invited to attend a noon hour presentation on how the puppets were able to perform on stage. It was a great insight into behind the scenes of a theatrical production.

After the presentation, another lady and myself were outside the front entrance of the theatre looking at photographs from the play. While we were doing this, another woman came out of the theatre with her young daughter.

I can't remember who spoke first, but we learned it was Tamara Bernier-Evans, who played Rose Narracott in the play. She took about 10 minutes of her time to talk to us. She explained the reason she came to the theatre that day was to show her daughter where she worked.

I found the play to be one of the greatest that I've attended in my 20 years of going to the theatre. It moved me every time I saw it. Then to meet one of the show’s stars was truly exhilarating!

In these tough times we are going through now, it is great to look back and remember enjoyable times.

Do you have a theatre story or memory that you want to share with the world? Share it with us and you could be included in the next edition!

SEND US YOUR STORY


YES, FOR A LIMITED TIME YOU CAN ENJOY THEATRE AT HOME!

It does sound oxymoronic to say you can enjoy theatre at home, because the real magic of theatre is the connection between a group of spectators and a group of performing artists. It's that energy which cannot be replicated, no matter how advanced technology is, that makes theatre so special.

Nevertheless, in this strange time we find ourselves, where home is a sort of prison, you can still partake of live performances in your pjs. All the world's a stage, but for the next little while it's in your living room via your TV, tablet, computer or phone.

There's lots to of great performances to choose from - some free, some for a small fee.

FREE Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
These filmed performances at the rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe on London's Southbank give you a great sense of what's unique about watching a play there.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwN-jwNNNQN-8sfKG-qg8uA

FREE National Theatre at Home
The amazing National Theatre of Great Britain has been filming their productions and broadcasting them internationally on cinema screens for more than a decade now. They've taken some of their most popular titles and are making them free for a week each in April.

Until April 15 -- Jane Eyre
From April 16 -- Treasure Island

Besides the filmed productions, the National's YouTube channel also offers fascinating tutorials and talks about all kinds of theatrical topics. For instance, the more than a dozen short videos about aspects of Greek theatre are truly entertaining and enriching.
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home

FREE Andre Lloyd Webber's The Show Must Go On
Lord Lloyd Webber is offering filmed productions of some of his stage musicals at this custom website created exclusively for consumption at this time when all of us are stuck at home.
https://www.youtube.com/theshowsmustgoon

FREE Lips Together, Teeth Apart
Playwright Terence McNally was one of the early casualties of Covid-19 in the U.S. A prolific writer of dramas, comedies, musicals and operas, his voice will be sorely missed. This recorded production of his play about the AIDS epidemic is a good example of his work. Although this isn't visual, the recording works well with audio only.
https://latw.org/remembering-terrence-mcnally

FREE Cyprus Avenue
A co-production by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Royal Court in London, Cyprus Avenue looks at "The Troubles" is the very unusual story about a man who may very well have lost his mind due to the endless and senseless fighting. Featuring a brilliant performance by Stephen Rae, this play goes places very few others have dared.
https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/cyprus-avenue-film/

FREE It's True, It's True, It's True: Artemisia on Trial
A gripping dramatization of the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of the young painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Based on surviving court transcripts, Breach Theatre’s award-winning show blends history, myth and contemporary commentary to ask: how much has really changed in the last four centuries? This new film version, shot on location in a former chapel, was specially staged for TV and originally shown on BBC4. The film is produced by Artemisia Films and Breach and was commissioned by The Space for BBC Arts.

FREE Drawing the Line at Hampstead Theatre
The Hampstead Theatre is one of London's leading non-profit theatres devoted to new writing. This play is about the man who, without any knowledge, was charged with drawing the line that would split the Indian sub-continent into two nations: India and Pakistan. This is the chaotic true story of the partition that shaped the modern world.
https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/hampstead-theatre-at-home/drawing-the-line/

FREE Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is offering a free programme of curated online broadcasts as part of their #OurHousetoYourHouse series. This includes full-length productions, musical masterclasses and behind-the-scenes documentaries. This will include the following broadcasts, available on demand, for free, via their Facebook and YouTube channels:
  • The Metamorphosis, The Royal Ballet, 2013 – 17 April 2020, 7pm London UK Time, five hours ahead
  • Gloriana, The Royal Opera, 2013 – 24 April 2020, 7pm London UK Time, five hours ahead
  • The Winter’s Tale, The Royal Ballet, 2014 – 1 May 2020, 7pm London UK Time, five hours ahead
https://www.roh.org.uk/streaming

FREE West End Live Performances
Each year the Society of West End Theatres takes over Traflagar Square to stage mammoth free concerts that feature casts from West End musicals. The YouTube link below has many dozens of these free concerts.
https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialLondonTheatr/search?query=West+End+LIVE

FEE Broadway HD
This subscription service -- which you can sample for free for seven to 30 days -- has a long catalogue of filmed Broadway plays and musicals, including star-studded productions from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
https://www.broadwayhd.com/

FEE Marquee TV
This subscription service has many of the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions. Check out the titles.
https://www.marquee.tv/

FEE Fleabag Live
If you know the Amazon Prime series Fleabag, you should definitely see the play that inspired it. Starring the multi-award-winning Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this was filmed last year when the show played at London's Wyndham Theatre.
https://ondemand.sohotheatre.com/

Note: Fleabag Live is now also available to rent on Amazon Prime https://www.amazon.com/FLEABAG-NT-Live-Phoebe-Waller-Bridge/dp/B086T4C5L3


FEE Curtains
This is a British production of the last musical from Kander and Ebb, the brilliant team who wrote Cabaret and Chicago among many other musicals. Curtains is a spoof of murder mysteries, this time set backstage at the opening night of a musical.
https://page.inplayer.com/curtainsthemusical/

FREE The National Gallery of Great Britain
Finally, here's a link to one of the many YouTube videos from the National Gallery. This one is a talk from one of the gallery's curators of six important paintings in the extensive collection of this treasure trove of art. Once you're in the National Gallery's YouTube channel you will discover a wealth of other videos. Truly an excellent way to spend a few enriching hours.
https://www.youtube.com/user/nationalgalleryuk

FREE A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Members of the Stratford Festival company have made hay of their furlough due to Covid-19 by staging a reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream, each from home. They actually performed the entire play on ZOOM and it is now available on YouTube. These actors call themselves Stratford Pirate Transmission. They are Michael Blake, Adam Campbell, Jakob Ehman, Danny Ghantous, Josue Laboucane, Alexandra Lainfiesta, Hilary McCormack, André Morin, Irene Poole, E.B. Smith, Michael Spencer-Davis and Amaka Umeh.