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Fall is officially here in all its pumpkin-spice-scented glory. It’s a bittersweet time and we are taking some time to ruminate and celebrate. SnL take us on a fall themed journey, we relive some of our favourite memories and reflect on what we miss most about live theatre, and we have a loving tribute to some of the theatre stars we’ve lost this year. It all comes together like a warm virtual hug as the weather starts to cool.
Last week, the Toronto theatre community, lead by TAPA, invited audiences to share their favourite live entertainment moments. TAPA also invited theatre artists to participate, because they, too, are audience members. The #iMissLiveTheatreTO campaign showed us how many of you miss being in our theatres, just as much as we miss having you there. We put together a short video with the most creative responses shared with us — we hope you enjoy!
Last issue we introduced you to some of the dynamic, enthusiastic and loyal group leaders who organize like-minded theatregoers in group trips to the theatre. This issue we continue with a young man who in five short years has made a big difference in the cultural life of his clients. This is Byron Elzinga's story.
The year was 2015, and I was on my first trip ever to New York City. I knew while I was in the city, I needed to see some theatre but travelling solo, I didn’t want to stand in line at the TKTS booth, so I went to the box offices. Friends recommended Kinky Boots, so after breakfast with a friend, and wishing them a good day at work, I headed over to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre box office, to see how much tickets would be, and to enter the lottery (this was back when ticket lotteries were mostly still in person). Sadly, I did not win the lottery, but $95CAD later, I had my ticket for seat R12 in the orchestra to the matinee performance – my first Broadway show in NYC (sixth show ever, having seen five others in Toronto already).
Upon my return back home to Toronto, Mirvish and AMEX sneakily sent me an email offer for a dinner package… they must have known I fell in love with the show in NYC and wouldn’t be able to say no, so I checked with a few friends and found a friend to join me, and off we went. Enjoyed an incredible dinner on King Street followed by a great time seeing the Canadian cast of Kinky Boots at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Orchestra M23/24. Walking out my friend and I couldn’t stop talking about how great the show was, and how so many more of our friends would love to see it. So I did some research and found out about the group sales office, made a few phone calls and connected with Tiffany who helped me coordinate my first ever group sales order. 16 tickets, the group minimum for that show, and we sat at the very back left corner of the pre-renovated upper balcony (F G 32 to 39). At this point, I was hooked, it was so much fun going to a show with a group of friends and family like that, and so many of them enjoyed it too, so I knew I had to do it again.
Fast forward two years to 2017, I have seen about a dozen different shows, always with friends, sometimes through group sales, and sometimes just a regular order. I remember I was sitting at my desk, and I heard about this new Canadian musical that was making waves in the theatre world, so I went to the iTunes store and listened to the preview for the Come From Away soundtrack. I only got as far as the preview for the “Blankets and Bedding” track and I knew then I had to see the show when it returned to Toronto.
That is when I booked my first ever Mirvish subscription, and I knew this was the perfect show for my next group sales event, so I called Tiffany and I booked 60 tickets across various price points. I remember telling Tiffany I wouldn’t need them all, but she encouraged me to hold a bit of variety in price points so that my friends and family could enjoy the show from a seat that fit their financial situation. Little did I know, that I would end up selling out of all 60 tickets, and calling Tiffany desperately hoping she could find two more tickets (even if they were singles!) for my aunt and uncle who wanted to join too!
Every time I go, I sing along (quietly in my head) to the entire show, feel happy and sad, laughing and crying, proud and angry, and, of course, clapping during “Screech Out” until my hands are raw. I jump at every opportunity to introduce friends to it; I’ve not yet reached double digits like some of my CFA friends (*cough* Ryan), but when I go, I go big, bringing a group of 20+.
Fast forward now to 2020, and I have seen over 50 shows (Come From Away eight times, Kinky Boots four times, and Dear Evan Hansen, The Lorax, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Wicked, each twice), and I’m getting ready for Hamilton. I coordinated six different group events for Hamilton, with almost 200 tickets. My friends and I were super excited, but sadly only two of my groups managed to see their performances before COVID shut down the theatres, including cancelling my annual birthday dinner and show event. I now had the task of processing refunds for over 150 tickets, a task which was incredibly time-consuming, and I cannot imagine the amount of work Mirvish had coordinating many times more than that for all their theatres and all the productions.
With COVID-19 shutting down Mirvish theatres, I started watching a lot of Disney+ and Netflix, but there is only so much streaming one can handle, so I started baking… like everyone else (thankfully we stocked up on yeast for our home bread maker before the pandemic!).
Finally, some streaming shows I’d recommend checking out while we continue to work our way through this pandemic would be:
The Imagineering Story – A behind the scenes view of the Disney Parks dream. It is really cool to see Walt’s dream come to life, and what goes on behind the scenes of park attractions.
Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II – In case the earlier suggestion didn’t tell you, I like peeking behind the scenes, and in this series, you have the opportunity to follow the cast and crew behind the scenes of the creation of Frozen II. From the music, to the animation, to the recording of the voices.
Prop Culture – Similar to the earlier behind the scenes, here you get to see props from some of your favourite Disney shows like the magical carpet bag Mary Poppins carries or some of the incredible pieces created by WETA Workshops for Narnia.
By Tiffany Tobias
Favourite Local Spot
This little franchise began in Berlin in 1919 but eventually settled its roots as the first coffee house in Tel Aviv, Israel in the 1960's. From there, the brand exploded across the country and eventually expanded into North America in 2018. Lucky for us, we've got a few branches in Toronto now, with my local spot being right on Yonge St. just south of the North York Central Library. With a robust menu and relaxed atmosphere, they also include an array of plant based options as well as many teas, juices and, of course, caffeinated beverages. My favourite go-to appetizer is from their "Fancy Hummus Bowls" section. The "Mexico" option offers up deep-fried crispy avocado and pico de gallo, with every bowl being served up with Landwer's homemade pita and pickles. It's actually quite filling! If you have a sweet craving, do yourself a favour and give yourself the gift of the Outrageous Belgian Waffles — which includes vanilla and fudge ice cream, bananas and nutella — what's not to love!?
An American in Paris
After watching the film Funny Face starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn at the age of twelve, I've been an admirer of the Gershwin brothers and their timeless music over the years. Having the opportunity to witness the beauty of this production come to life on stage was such a gift! From the set design, creative use of LED screen projections, beautiful costuming and, of course, the impeccable choreography and direction, this show was a musical feast for my eyes and heart. I also appreciated the variation of classical ballet and jazz movements within the show, juxtaposed perfectly against the story of the American and French characters (primarily, Jerry and Lise). A story of love and identity, it’s traditional musical theatre at its best with the Gershwin hits to boot! Cue, S'wonderful...
Favourite Arts Organization
Canadian Opera Company
With an insatiable appetite for the performing arts, I've been regularly enthralled by the talent and mesmerizing productions that the Canadian Opera Company pulls off each season and their creative ingenuity to reinvent operas that have existed for many years. Even if you're not a traditional opera lover, I urge everyone to give it a try, if only to appreciate the beauty of its five tiered auditorium and the incredible acoustics it boasts (the auditorium sits on two-foot-square rubber pads that isolate it from the building itself and the foundations underneath). Some of my past favourite productions include: Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck), Semele (Handel), La Traviata (Verdi) and The Nightingale and Other Short Fables ( Stravinsky). I even had the pleasure of working as a supernumerary in the production of Falstaff (Verdi) in 2014 and witnessed first-hand the magic and backstage precision that goes into making it all possible. Since they, too, have been halted due to the pandemic, I eagerly await its the COC’s return to enjoy these productions again, as I'm sure many others in the city do too.
Paul Alexander Nolan is a young Canadian actor who has been a fixture on Broadway since his debut there in the Stratford Festival production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2012. Recently he recorded a beautiful rendition of “Try to Remember,” the classic song of love and loss from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks. "Try to remember the kind of September / When life was slow and oh so mellow / When grass was green and grain so yellow,” so go the song’s lyrics. "Try to remember when life was so tender / That love was an ember about to billow / Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”
Paul recorded the song to honour the life of Brent Carver, who passed away on August 4. Paul explains:
"I dedicated the performance to Brent because he has influenced so many of my own performances, been constantly on my mind since August 4th, and I wanted to thank him for the shift he affected in my artistry.
"Watching him over and over do what he did best — which was to expose his humanity in such personal, mysterious, and irrationally emotional ways — always hit me straight in the heart, and made me want to aim for the same target when I dare to perform. I don’t know how Brent did what he did and no one ever will, but his courage made me set my sights so much higher on what was possible, nay, essential for me to aim toward. When I then came to be acting with him in Stratford, once I got over my fear of inadequacy, I saw that courage and vulnerability up close. Not everyone wants to or can live in that state as Brent did, especially for so long a career as he had, and for that reason I think he is a superhero. He stopped time and made everyone on stage with him better.
"I chose the song because we are going into Fall, and eventually onto December, and the metaphors in the lyrics discuss loss and acceptance and pursuing despite knowing hurt may follow. Our relationships, especially to ourselves, are being challenged through the total isolation we are all facing, especially as theatre artists. I wanted to remind myself and others that our hearts will be full again.”
Brent is but one of the luminaries we have lost in the last six months. There is a great tradition in the theatre of honouring those who have passed by dimming the marquee lights. Metaphorically, this action says we have lost yet another star.
Since the theatres shut down due to the pandemic, the lights of the Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales Theatre have been dimmed for each the following. Please link to obituary by clicking photo.
All of these people contributed to Toronto culture, especially at the Mirvish theatres. But their talent and influence were also felt and shared in many other communities.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we want to remember them and to say “Thank you for all you’ve given us."
Please watch the video of Paul singing “Try to Remember.” It was originally made to raise funds for the Performing Arts Lodge in Stratford, ON.
Photo Credits: Shirley Douglas, Credit: The Canadian Press; Roger Horchow at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. in 1992. (Associated Press / 50280); Brent Carver, Photograph: Design Pics/Alamy.
This article has nothing to do with theatre. This article is about Thanksgiving. I could tie it in to Waitress or Judith Thompson’s Perfect Pie or any other number of theatrical pie associations, but I won’t. I’m going rogue!
This isn’t an easy year to be thankful. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for many things and I’m not trying to be a brat, but this holiday is shaping up to be a stark reminder of what I am missing as opposed to a time to celebrate the gifts I have been granted. The long and the short of it is: I miss my family. Due to distance and travel concerns and quarantines I have no idea when I will be able to see them again, but it certainly will not be Thanksgiving weekend. The thing I’m most thankful for is that the dumpster fire we have called 2020 is almost over! It is naïve for me to think that at the stroke of midnight on December 31st the curse will be broken and the world will be better because of all our toil, but I’m okay with being naïve for the moment.
The idea of having a large Thanksgiving feast without the people I want to share it with feels pretty disheartening, ignoring the day completely feels equally bleak; so this year I’m going to switch things up. No turkey, no stuffing, no cranberries. Though, there is one tradition I cannot and will not jettison: pie. I come from a long line of prairie pie makers and as much as the second Monday in October is about the harvest and counting our blessings, Thanksgiving is ultimately an excuse to make and eat pie. Copious amounts of pie. I will fill the void with flaky, fluted, slightly salty crusts and perfectly gooey and sweet fillings. The pie will see me through.
As for flavours, traditional options run the risk of making me feel nostalgic so apples are out the window. Pumpkin (this is about to get controversial) will stay at the store where it belongs. I hate pumpkin pie. Sorry, pumpkin fans, come at me! Every year I submit to the pumpkin pie lovers, but not this year. This is my Thanksgiving, my rules.
2020 demands something out of the ordinary, something that sets it apart, something so delicious that I will have something exciting to remember. This year my table will feature a spiced plum pie. It has all the warm spice notes you’d find in an apple pie, but a little extra tartness to reflect how not sweet this year has been.
Another controversial point – my recipe has a lard pastry, not butter. I have much respect for the all-butter-pastry cohort, and the vegetarians, but this is the way my grandma did it. She wouldn’t put up with the high-maintenance demands of butter and nor will I! I will mix my pastry with warm hands and roll with an unrefrigerated rolling pin and it will be glorious.
Here it is, my grandma’s pastry recipe. (If I’m being entirely honest, the recipe on the Tenderflake box is remarkably similar to the recipe that has been handed down through my family for generations, but that must be a coincidence… right?) And my spiced-plum filling. I hope it brings you a bit of joy.
YIELDS2-3 double crust pies or 5 single crust pies and freezes very well.
INGREDIENTS FOR PASTRY
1 lb lard
5 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 egg beaten, add
1 Tbsp vinegar
- Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl.
- Cut in the lard.
- Crack the egg into a 1 c measuring cup and beat lightly.
- Add the vinegar then enough water to make 1 cup of liquid.
- Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and mix well. If it is too sticky add a little extra flour.
- Shape in a ball and store in fridge before using.
- Roll out 2 rounds of pastry to about 1/8 of an inch and drape one into a pie plate.
INGREDIENTS FOR Spiced Plum Filling
2 ½ lbs plums, sliced (I use Italian prune plums)
¾ c sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract)
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
Dash ground cardamom
Juice of half a lemon
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Mix all ingredients together. Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste. I don’t love nutmeg so I only use a little, but if you love it, go for it!
- If your plums are very juicy add 1 Tbsp of flour to the mixture.
- Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
- Cut steam vents into your top crust, or slice it into strips to make a lattice top. Either way lay it over your plums then crimp the edges to seal.
- Brush an egg wash over the pie.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 45 minutes. (Or until the crust is golden brown and the plums inside are soft.)
When: Saturday, October 3rd
Where: Dora Keough Irish Pub 141 Danforth Ave.
THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. IT MAY BE RESCHEDULED WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO SO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
The Rowdymen, the band consisting of George Masswohl (Mayor of Gander in Come From Away), Gerry Finn (Killer Dwarfs), and award winning fiddler, Linsey Beckett (Come From Away) want to share the music and stories of Newfoundland with you.