Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
We are so excited, there is so much to discuss this week.
First of all: We’re coming baaaaack! In case you missed it, we have announced our first step back into live productions with a one-of-a-kind sound installation called Blindness.
(In fact, we made the announcement a day before the Ontario government set a 28-day moratorium in Toronto on indoor activities in restaurants, gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues. The moratorium ends November 8. Our plan is to start Blindness on November 17. Rest assured, we will delay if the moratorium is extended. We will not do anything that will compromise the health and safety of our staff and patrons. We will only begin Blindness when public health assures us it is safe to do so. We won’t even put tickets on sale until then. All our decisions will be made with an abundance of caution.)
Blindness is not what you are used to seeing at the Princess of Wales Theatre, but it is an incredibly moving and arresting theatrical experience that took London by storm in August. And it is an opportunity for you to get up on the Princess of Wales stage. That’s right, you...on stage. The massive space on the stage allows us to socially distance the audience, which will be limited to only 50; and the state-of-the-art HVAC system designed to cool the hundreds of lights that hang above the stage will keep the air constantly flowing so as to provide a very safe environment. We’re sure you have a ton of questions and we have some answers for you with a blog review about what it is like to experience the show Blindness in London.
Also in this issue: SnL go Bohemian and check in with the cast of We Will Rock You. We take you for a last visit to one of our favourite restaurants on King Street. With a look forward to the end of the month, we ask you to tell us about your past theatre-themed Halloween costumes. And we bring you a very special livestream performance and conversation with Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.
A time-worn and tattered pair of thin black French doors are nestled in the narrow alcove of a simple storefront on King Street West — a narrow shoebox of a building. But its interior is much more than the façade could ever reveal.
Once inside, a symphony of sound hits the ear — overpowering yet comforting: the sound of an espresso machine whistling away, intertwined with a cacophony of conversation. The building surges with energy and exudes a character so strong, one wonders if the walls — which are picture-laden with scenes and people from the establishment’s fabled past — are alive themselves.
The small entranceway is only the beginning of the experience. Jostling for position in the queue of people waiting to be seated, nestled behind those who are seated on tall stools at the bar, a moment of serenity is found and the entire landscape is now in sight.
The eclectic nature of the space consumes all thought — dazzling, puzzling, confusing, and perfect all at once.
Peering around the bar window, yet another spectacle emerges. A massive living tree sits in the middle of the building, guarding the kitchen and bursting through the roof, scattering the translucent ceiling with its ivy. Through this tree flows the omnipresent energy of the space, becoming the building’s heart.
Seated shoulder to shoulder with strangers, you become friends in no time.
The people who gather here come from near, from far, from east and from west. No matter the location of their departure, here they find a new home with what seems to be a family gathering of unfamiliar souls, but it just feels right.
The atmosphere continually has the mind in high gear, yet the comfort one finds in this unconventional setting calms you.
The food transports you out of the unfamiliar setting to thoughts of meals at home with family and friends.
As the meal comes to a close, you sit back and release a long exhale, reopening your eyes to the consistent hustle and bustle of waiters flying over one another and your ears to the laughs bellowing throughout.
Your visit ended, you retrace the steps you took back to the French doors, this time with a new-found appreciation for the space, and an imagination dancing with vigour.
I have taken these steps countless times, I have stared at these same pictures countless times, and I have had the same meal countless times.
Throughout my life this weird, quirky place has been my home away from home. A safe haven for fun and the thrill of the unknown.
Every single day I was blessed with a new experience in this place — space eleven years my elder, that to me feels like a member of my family — and not once did I take it for granted.
I sit here at my desk with goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes knowing I will never have this experience again. Blindsided with the devastation of a global pandemic in this upside down world I am grateful for this moment to reflect and speak to you about my old friend.
Dear Kit Kat, I will miss you more than words can ever express. There is no possible way to summarize my heartfelt gratitude of being able to come along for the ride.
Thank you, Kit Kat. For everything.
Max Carbone is the son of Al Carbone, the legendary founder and owner of the Kit Kat, a bar and restaurant on King Street, just west of John Street. The Kit Kat opened 31 years ago and almost immediately became the spot to go to on King Street’s restaurant row. Due to COVID-19 it closed its famous French doors on March 16, 2020. Last month, Al made the difficult decision to close permanently.
Here is the note posted on the restaurant's website:
On Monday, March 16th, 2020 we said “Goodbye”, “See you soon!” “Ciao”, “take care and stay safe” to our customers and staff. We thought the mandatory shut down due to COVID-19 would be temporary. We now realize that was our final day as Kit Kat on King St. W. Yes, it is true what you have heard. After many hours, days and weeks of contemplation and conversations it is with heavy hearts we have decided to close Kit Kat permanently after 31 years.
This decision was not an easy one but one we had to make. The restaurant business can be interesting and exciting but it is not an easy business to run and we just found it impossible to stay financially viable after months of being closed unable to generate any income and with the extreme limitations of spatial distancing in our cozy building. It is not lost on us how fortunate we have been to operate for so long. Our longevity is a testament to our customers who have become regulars and feel like family and to all of our amazing staff over the years, many of whom have been with us for decades. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Kit Kat has touched so many people lives as they have touched ours, and our Tree of Heaven that so many have made wishes on and have had come true. We have also been the location of many first dates that often returned to propose and then came with their children to share their story. We have celebrated birthdays, weddings, graduations, family get-togethers and so many other memories and special moments. We will cherish all of these memories and are thankful we have so many pictures to look at and remember all of these special events and the people who helped us make their memories and ours. Our customers came in as friends and left as family. It would be impossible to list all of the people we would like to thank for spending time with us at Kit Kat.
We would like to thank everyone for their support and appreciation felt from near and far. The City has been great to us and has been our home for many years and allowed us to create a remarkable legacy. This is not the way we thought we would end our time on King St. but since our time has come to an end we would like to express our gratitude to everyone who made our epic run possible, customers, staff, suppliers, family and friends. So for now since we do not want to say goodbye we will say “ci vediamo!”.
Love and with great appreciation,
Al, Cathy, John and the entire Kit Kat family
We are hot on the heels of Customer Service Appreciation week, so let’s start some major appreciating! Many of you have had the pleasure of working with our customer service agents, so you already know how delightful and helpful they are. They rarely get the attention and appreciation that they deserve. We can’t introduce you to everyone, but we thought we’d start by introducing you to one of our behind the scenes stars: TicketKing Coordinator Karyn King. Karyn takes care of customer concerns and monitors our customer service email.
Over the last 12 years Karyn has brightened our office with her particular brand of enthusiasm.
“I am definitely a people person and love to help by nature, so it is a perfect fit that I get to work with our amazing patrons, helping to answer their questions,” she said. “All while working with the amazing staff here at Mirvish Productions.”
Like a lot of us, her love of the theatre began when she was young. While she was not interested in performing, the stage certainly influenced her career. “I do remember being mesmerized as a young child when my mother took me to see Peter Pan, and as a result have spent my life working in the arts,” she said.
Over the years she has had many monumental experiences, including helping to organize a final outing for a patron with a terminal illness. Some of her favourite experiences have been acknowledgements that she was able to make a difference for our patrons. One especially memorable thank you card included the message "Mr. Ed Mirvish would be so proud of you."
We are all proud to have Karyn as a member of our team. While the last six months have been difficult, we are all hopeful that the upcoming production of Blindness will be the start of a safe and healthy return to the theatre. As Karyn said, “The world needs more of the magic that only the arts can bring into our lives.”
If you call or email and find yourself in Karyn’s very capable hands, keep in mind that she’s always happy to reminisce about some of her favourite musical moments, like Katie Brayben singing “Like a Rolling Stone” in Girl From The North Country. Or Dirty Dancing, or August Osage County, or Rock of Ages or...
Thank you, Karyn!
Have you ever dressed up as The Phantom of the Opera for Halloween? What about Elphaba or Rum Tum Tugger? Share your past theatre-themed Halloween costumes with us and you will get a chance to be featured in the next edition of Meanwhile. You will also receive a $100 Mirvish gift card if your costume is chosen to be featured.
CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED!
This week, SnL reunite the stars from We Will Rock You! You don’t want to miss this episode as they check in with some of the cast from the Canadian production!
TONIGHT! - Tuesday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Many of you will remember the Toronto engagement of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, the story of the legendary Temptations. It played at the Princess of Wales Theatre for six sold-out weeks in the fall of 2018 prior to transferring to Broadway and becoming a sold-out success there, too.
American Express, our longtime partners and friends, have arranged a livestream event that will feature musical performances and a deeply personal conversation moderated by Whoopi Goldberg with The Temptations founder Otis Williams, Tony®-nominated book writer Dominique Morisseau and members of the show's Broadway cast.
Ain’t Too Proud is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the way things were – and the way things can be – for Black artists in North America. We are delighted to offer you this special opportunity. Don’t miss it.
We are very excited about Blindness, which will be at the Princess of Wales Theatre in late November. (Dependent on the health and safety of the community. Exact dates and ticket details will be announced at the top of November.)
This is truly a one-of-a-kind work of art that is halfway between theatre and an art installation. It’s almost impossible to describe it, but we did find this man-on-the-street review online. The review is written by Alex Gowan-Webster of London UK. He attended Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse in August, when it had its world premiere. His review is also illustrated by photos he took of his visit.
The Donmar Warehouse’s Blindness was billed as “A socially distanced sound installation”. There were no live actors – instead the show consisted of a pre-recorded performance by Juliet Stevenson, accompanied by striking lighting and sound design. The usual seating was removed from the Donmar’s black box auditorium, replaced with pairs of chairs positioned two metres apart. An oblique inscription on the wall above the stage read “if you can see look, if you can look observe”.
The staff at the Donmar Warehouse were brilliant, clearly guiding us through the venue and apologising cheerfully that the hand sanitiser was “the Tequila-y one.” Soon we were safely seated throughout the auditorium with our headphones on, admiring the gridded rig of glowing tubes above our heads.
Photos: From socially distanced queueing outside the Donmar Warehouse, to entered the building, to the audience seating and set design.
The installation/show itself hinged on Juliet Stevenson’s stunning and multifaceted performance. Her spellbinding delivery was enhanced by the subtle but ever present soundscapes created by Ben and Max Ringham. The binaural sound design became increasingly immersive as the lighting gradually dropped and we, like the characters Stevenson performed, were plunged into darkness. Occasionally this darkness was punctuated by flashes of dazzling white light. These flashes, shocking at first, were perhaps leant on a little too much as a narrative device as the show went on.
The story of Blindness is a harrowing tale, told from the centre of a ‘blindness pandemic’. The early sections of the story felt familiar post-Covid, with government officials denying the gravity of the situation before scrambling at the last minute to implement a quarantine. But in Blindness society quickly falls apart completely.
Simon Stephens’ carefully paced script led us through the dark and sometimes challenging elements of Saramago’s original story with craft and tact. The comprehensive source material was broken down into a series of short fragments, punctuated by heightened moments of action, and the most haunting aspects of societal collapse were hinted at but left unsaid. As the darkness persisted our narrator built vivid imagery and characters in our imaginations. So much so that I was almost disappointed at the ever so slightly lit elements of the show – any kind of reality is no match for the power of the imagination.
It felt simultaneously novel, incredibly familiar and totally refreshing to be sitting in a theatre again. And it was genuinely quite moving to applaud at the end with our fellow audience members – a moment of connection and solidarity that’s impossible to recreate via a livestream.
I really hope it isn’t five months until I get to experience that feeling again.