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It has been a hell of a week! With so much of our attention drawn south of the border, we think a breather is in order. SnL celebrate World Kindness Day with a look at the Pay it Forward annual 9/11 tradition that was created by one of the real-life “come from aways.” And speaking of kindness, there’s the heartwarming story of how one of our staff members was reunited with her childhood stuffed animal that was lost during a flight over Hamilton, the city not the musical. We have a new video trailer for Blindness. There’s a very personal dance video created specifically for Meanwhile by Dayna Tekatch. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t take some time to acknowledge Remembrance Day. Let’s do this!
Blindness is a unique experience that is almost impossible to describe in words. Luckily we don’t have to. Here’s a trailer that captures what the experience on the stage of The Princess of Wales Theatre will be like. Notice we wrote “on the stage of,” that’s because for Blindness the audience will not be in the auditorium of the 2,000-seat Princess of Wales, but will be seated on the enormous stage of this state-of-the-art facility. At each presentation only 50 people will be allowed to attend, everyone socially distanced and masked for the duration of the approximately 75-minute event. More details about dates and tickets will be announced soon.
Dayna Tekatch is the Resident Director of Come From Away. A director, choreographer and actor, she has worked across Canada, including nine seasons at the Stratford Festival. Like all artists, she has needed an outlet for expression, but with theatres closed she has had to “pivot” (a word that has become ubiquitous during this pandemic) and find a new “stage” to work on. Collaborating with colleagues, she has created a dance piece for video about life and hope during Covid. We share her video, which she has appropriately entitled Intermission Thoughts, but first a few words from her about it:
In April and May, I would go for walks to clear my head, navigating the new sidewalk dance to which no one knew the rules, and trying to make sense of a Toronto without theatre.
I discovered a song called "Found/Tonight" that made me feel everything — sorrow, connection, heartbreak, hope, and inspiration from the exceptional talents of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. The true power of the theatre coming through my earbuds.
As the summer progressed I began to think about how important the words are that we choose to navigate this intense time in history. With two small kids at home it became a daily exercise to try to focus on the gifts and the gratitude, and steer away from the fear and anxiety.
I knew the piece wasn’t for me to dance and when Hailey Lewis came into my mind everything fell into place. With Hailey's extraordinary grace and talent, the fierce stewardship of Lisa Humber, and the skill and patience of videographer Tristan Gough, we collaborated to create something that would connect us to our — for the time being — empty theatres.
Ultimately the video became a love letter to the performing arts and all who love them, and a stretch towards light and hope as we head into the winter.
The Musical Stage Company, with whom we’ve co-produced two Dora Award-winning shows, Fun Home and Next to Normal, has produced a real musical treat that can be enjoyed at home.
The company's signature fall concert series, UnCovered, is well-known for its inventive renditions of popular cover songs from leading contemporary artists. This year’s edition will be done digitally. UnCovered: Notes From the Heart will feature iconic songs of hope by Bob Dylan, Carole King, Bob Marley, Elton John, and more, reimagined and performed by leading Canadian musical theatre stars and captured in 65 minutes of an exquisitely produced film.
Here’s your chance to enjoy performers you will have seen in many Mirvish musicals over the years in an ‘unmissable’ viewing experience that will be streamed from November 11 to December 6.
Here's a taste of what awaits you!
When Victoria Maginnis, our Data Intelligence Manager, first arrived in Toronto from Northern Ireland in 2017 she never could have imagined the events that would transpire just two years later. Here, she recounts the almost tragic loss of her beloved “Bunny”.
Who is Bunny?
I can’t really remember not having Bunny (or ‘Bun’ as my dad insists on calling her); my parents believe that I’ve had her since I was less than six months old. She’s been with me at all the milestones in my life; including in 2017 when I moved to Toronto.
Bunny is also one of the best-travelled cuddly toys in the world. She always came with us on holidays and joined my dad when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. My dad also took Bunny with him on jets that would regularly fly between 480 and 630 MPH at 100 feet over the sea!
My dad is a Squadron Leader Navigator in the Royal Air Force. He has operated in Buccaneer Maritime Strike fast-jets and Wessex Support Helicopters, and ever since my Dad did his navigator training, he’s been very interested in RAF Bomber Command, their personnel, aircraft and operations.
When he came to visit last November, I suggested that we visit the Canadian Warbird Heritage Museum in Hamilton. And then, almost as a ‘throwaway line’, I said to him that you could pay to fly in the Lancaster there. With only two left flying in the world, out of 7377 built, this wasn’t an opportunity to miss! So, long story short, he sent a few emails and managed to secure a flight on November 9th 2019.
When we got to Hamilton, I gave Bunny to my dad. He put her in the pocket of his cold weather flying jacket, and when they were airborne he thought that this was a great opportunity to find out what it was like in the Mid Upper Gun Turret…but more than this he thought that Bunny seated between the two guns would make a great photo opportunity.
Unlike a commercial airliner the Lancaster is unpressurised, meaning that the turret isn’t sealed. Just after taking the photo of Bunny, when the pilot put the plane into a banked turn, the slipstream changed and due to a pressure reduction there was a ‘pop’ as Bunny was sucked out. My dad says it was one of the biggest ‘Oh heck!!!’ moments of his life. But I suspect ‘heck’ may not necessarily be the exact word that he used.
When the Lancaster landed, I was so excited for my dad as I knew this really was something off his bucket list. But I could tell from the pained expression on his face that something had gone wrong. He put his arm around my shoulders, led me away from the aircraft and whispered, ‘We’ve lost Bunny’.
To this day, he says that telling me of Bun’s loss was the hardest thing that he’s ever had to do. And the ‘pop’ had occurred seven minutes into the one-hour flight, so I know that he didn’t really enjoy the experience as much as he hoped, as he was trying to work out how to tell me.
Initially, I was skeptical that Bunny could have been sucked out of the plane, and we were allowed back on to search the aircraft in case she had fallen on the floor, but nothing.
Then whilst we were having a cup of tea in the museum café – the true British way of dealing with a crisis – my dad remembered the photos. One of Bunny in the turret and for some reason only known to him my Dad, one of the empty turret after Bunny had gone. Since the photos were geotagged, we could work out the position where the aircraft was when Bunny was in the turret and also the position just after the ‘pop’. My dad, being an ‘Old School’ navigator, plotted the Lancaster’s route prior to and just after Bunny’s leap for freedom and we calculated that she was ‘most likely’ somewhere in the area between Junctions 78 and 74 of Highway 403, in the Burlington area (it’s the purple circle on the map in the photo gallery).
I knew that there were a number of ‘lost and found’ Facebook groups in the Hamilton area so I posted the details there.
I was optimistic (well I had to be…Bunny had been with me for 27 years), but my dad was less positive. He said that if one or two people read the details that would be the height of it! But then again grumpy pessimism is his default setting!! Only joking, Dad!
The response was phenomenal. By the Tuesday my Facebook post had around 1700 shares with people making suggestions where Bunny might be and even saying that they would go out to look.
Our story also saw some media coverage. We were interviewed for local radio stations in Toronto, and articles appeared not only in the local Toronto/Burlington press but also in The Globe and Mail and even The Times (of London) and the Daily Mail. I guess the story of Bunny, who disappeared aboard a WWII bomber rather than mundanely lost on a train struck a chord.
There really were many acts of kindness. People went out to search in the unseasonably heavy snow, checking yards, local parks, and scrubland and sending me pictures to see if what they had found was the same stuffed rabbit. The local councils and golf clubs even instructed their staff to keep their eyes open.
Even more sweetly, a number of people were so touched by Bunny’s provenance that they actually sent me hand-knitted ‘replacement Bunnies’ even though, as they said, Bunny was irreplaceable.
In one of the radio interviews my dad said that he knew it was a cliché to say that Canadians were nice people, but the response to Bun’s ‘bolt to freedom’ proved that they really were!
Click on image to enlarge
Bunny was found on Monday November 25th – two weeks and two days after the Lancaster ‘free fall’ exploits. She was on the roof of the CAMA Woodlands long-term care home in Burlington. The care home is situated just under the 1319 on the map that we constructed from his geotagged photos, and we even passed the facility when we drove back to Toronto.
She was found when two HVAC workers, Kevin Vanderwal and Rob Pearce, were up on the roof during a pre-winter service call. As they turned a corner on the roof Bunny was sitting on the ductwork. Rob Pearce recognised her straight away – “That’s the Lancaster Bunny!”.
Bunny and I were finally reunited on Saturday November 30th. I couldn’t be more grateful to this community for the kindness they showed me so I figured it was most appropriate to gift Kevin and Rob tickets to see Come From Away. And as for my dad, he was back in Northern Ireland. When I rang him to tell him the good news all I can say is …there was a silence, followed by the longest sigh of relief that I have ever heard.
One Year Later – How is Bunny doing?
Bunny is fully recovered now. She even gets excited when she hears the Lancaster overflying Toronto. When I flew back to the UK at the end of January 2020, I brought Bunny with me and she and my dad had a ‘tearful’ reunion over breakfast. I’ve told him that he can see Bunny again…but all visits must be supervised!
We asked for your help and you did not disappoint! With over 3000 votes, needless to say, the competition was fierce. We are very excited to announce the winners of our Theatre-Themed Halloween Costumes of the Past contest!
- Callandra P. - Elphaba/Glinda
- Shelley L. - Alexander and Eliza Hamilton
- Stefania M. - Oompa Loompas
Congratulations to the winners! They will each receive a $100 Mirvish Gift Card. Thank you to all those who participated and voted. Now it’s time to start planning next year’s costumes!
Take a look through the photo gallery at all the entries we received!
Click on image to enlarge
In celebration of World Kindness Day on November 13th, SnL check in with some of the real-life “come from aways” who inspired the characters in Come From Away! Watch to learn about their experiences in Gander and the acts of kindness that those experiences inspired. And to inspire you, there’s a giveaway for one-of-a-kind Come From Away merch.
By Erin Frey
I am lucky. My life has not been touched by war. I have witnessed the horrors through the safe lens of the evening news and the pages of books. Electronics and paper do not bleed or feel or fear and other than the occasional paper cut they are not going to do any damage to me. I can lose myself in their stories while secure in my own space. Theatre, while still definitely a safe space, removes a bit of that sense of security. It is more immediate. To me, this makes theatre especially important when it comes to remembrance. It gives us a more direct connection to our stories. A direct connection to remembrance feels very urgent to me this year.
At its heart theatre is an expression of our humanity. We tell stories, perform them, ritualize them. The ones that are successful endure because they are important; we continue to learn from them. I thought I’d take a look at some of the shows that have influenced what I remember.
The first show that came to mind was War Horse. It is an obvious place to start, but I learned so much about the human experience of war through that show. For various projects with that show I learned about individual human and animal soldiers. I read first-hand accounts of battles, and watched veterans tell their stories. When I was in the audience I cried (like everyone else) multiple times, but especially when Emilie lost her family. My oldest daughter was two at the time and being separated from her for the length of a play was difficult enough.
The next moment that came to mind was The Sound of Music. When we first announced the show I was not excited for it. It felt like I had nothing left to learn from it. I was so wrong. When the Nazi banners unfurled during the music festival in The Sound of Music and the entire auditorium felt like it was bathed in red I was afraid. Logically I knew I was safe in the theatre, but it felt like a physical blow. And I could tell I wasn’t the only one to feel it. The entire audience was silent, not engaged watching-the-show silent but it was a collective loss of breath. I’ve read books, watched movies and documentaries about Nazi Germany, but I have never felt that kind of palpable impact. It was powerful.
These are just a couple of the moments that have personally affected me and that I have been dwelling on this week. There are so many that I could go on forever. From Ancient Greece to Shakespeare to Hamilton, there have been so many shows that have shaped the nuances of how I feel. History gives us the facts (as they have been recorded by those who are privileged to tell our stories), theatre gives us a window into the humanity that makes the facts important.
A couple of months ago, we shared a little story about a project entitled "Ask Me And I'll Sing". Even though a lot of time has gone by, COVID-19 continues to have an immense impact on our community, especially seniors. For that reason, we thought this would be a good time to give you an update on this wonderful project! Since its inception in July, there have been over 200 videos sent to seniors in dozens of retirement homes across Canada. Today, "Ask Me And I'll Sing" includes over 80 professional singers and musicians on its roster, who share their talents at no cost to bring music and joy to isolated seniors. Watch this video to learn how the project works.
"One resident thought the song Yellowbird was dedicated to her. She started crying saying how nice it was that someone would do that for her!" - Fox Run Retirement Home
"These are amazing! A million thank yous for arranging all these. Your singers did an incredible job!" - Seasons Strathroy Retirement Home
I wish you could all have been here to witness in person the pure delight and joy on the faces of the residents. This touching gesture enabled our residents to escape from the stress of COVID and enjoy the moment!" - Normanna Care Home
If you know of any singers/musicians who would be a good fit to join their roster please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. "Ask Me And I'll Sing" is also looking for more retirement homes to participate in the project, so feel free to share this story with anyone who might be interested in participating!