Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  May 18, 2021  

Meanwhile Issue 8

Last week, the government of New York state announced that Broadway theatres would be allowed to open at full capacity in September. This is wonderful news and is possible because of the successful vaccination campaign in that state.

And speaking of wonderful news, yesterday theatres in London reopened with social distancing protocols and are scheduled to increase to full capacity on June 21. Again, the result of the UK’s efficient and powerful vaccination rollout.

All this bodes well for us in Ontario as our government is on track to have the vast majority of adults vaccinated by the end of September. Being able to safely return to the theatre sometime this fall is becoming more and more a reality. All of us have been very patient and have done our part to keep our society safe and healthy. We just need to be a little more patient.

Meanwhile, we have another issue of great stories, videos and information to keep you entertained at home.


While We Wait …

By Desiree Proveau

Spring is finally here! The pandemic may still be going strong but it hasn’t stopped the flowers from blooming or the birds from returning.

Before life came back I was collecting dried plants from around the neighbourhood on our daily walks to nowhere. It was a nice activity for a dark winter day and it helped our moods to find the beauty in an otherwise abysmal environment. Finding a perfectly intact dried hydrangea really took the attention away from all the littered masks, rubber gloves, and dog poop that was the aesthetic of winter 2021 in Toronto. We brought snips and paper bags to collect our findings, and when we returned home we’d make little arrangements.

I loved how these looked but they were missing something. At first, I wanted to dry more flowers but buying a bouquet didn’t feel essential enough to warrant a trip out and I’m also leery about the environmentally questionable origins of many cut flowers.

As I was perusing Pinterest for inspiration over my morning coffee I was struck by the beauty of paper flowers and I thought: aha, finally a use for the discarded tissue paper I have been hoarding. We have a ton that my husband salvaged from his now-closed office, so I was pretty much set. As I’ve written previously, my craft style is ecologically centered — I want to create out of discarded materials — so even though paper flowers can be achieved beautifully using special crepe papers and ribbons, I avoid buying new as much as possible; if I can’t make it with something I have, I don’t bother.

My recycling bin is usually the first place I look for materials and after my initial tissue paper flower success I hit the jackpot of floral crafts with paper bag palm leaves! I loved how these turned out and with all the curbside shopping going on I’m going to guess I’m not the only one with a collection of paper bags lying around.

Here are some of my creations and if you want to make a faux palm leaf it’s as easy as the fans you made in preschool.

Crafts have been a huge part of how I’ve coped this past year but movement and music are also what keeps me from completely losing my mind. Daily exercise is a must and music fills our home at all times but it wasn’t until I watched a YouTube video of William & Polly, a local band with a special connection to Mirvish, that I realised how much I missed live music! I found myself in tears! Sure, I may be emotionally unstable after the year we’ve had, and perhaps generally, but I think I was moved by the missed connection of live performance.

Shortly after watching the video Denise, aka Polly, emailed the staff offering to host a Groove class via Zoom. She described it as a healing dance party. I was sold. Who doesn’t need that?

When it started I had my daughter (7) with me but as the music started my son (3), to my surprise, left the coveted iPad to join us! He had never really danced before so this was a very sweet moment and as the three of us danced around our living room I really did feel a sense of healing, a moment of connectivity through music that I had been sorely missing.

I asked Denise to tell us more about her pandemic story and how she’s used movement and music to get through it but also how she’s used it to connect with other people at a time when connections are so difficult to find.


hand crafted sock monkey wearing a face mask

Denise: Like Desiree, I am a crafter. When we were sent home last March, with no idea of when we’d return, I immediately soothed my nerves by making a sock monkey with its own crocheted face mask. It helped a bit. But the looming question still remained: What now? I knew I wanted to try and use this time to focus on something meaningful. And for me, music and dancing have always been that.

They have been my constant companions through good times and bad, so I knew that I’d be leaning on them heavily to help me get through. I’m so lucky that my partner in music is also my partner in life. Andrew and I (aka the roots music duo William & Polly) sing and play music at home every day. Within a week or so of being home Andrew told me about this thing called “Zoom” he’d started learning about. We’d done house concerts before, so why not try this out? On March 28, 2020 we scheduled a time for our concert and were amazed to see friends and family from all over — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, California, Japan — show up on our Zoom screen. It was apparent how much it meant to people to connect and enjoy music together, especially in those early days that were so uncertain and strange. We were invited to join the roster at Ask Me And I’ll Sing Canada (a program that connects musicians with residents in long-term and hospice care who can request a song and be serenaded with it via video). This has been a truly rewarding experience, and we’ve also discovered that seniors really love Johnny Cash and George Jones (which, lucky for us, is right in our musical wheelhouse). 

We’ve joined neighbors for socially distanced front yard jams, and recorded loads of “Happy Birthday” music videos for loved ones. We were guest artists at Lawrence Park Community Church, recording songs for a series of movie-themed sermons in January. Some of our song videos have been shared on Facebook too — something we had never even thought of doing before Covid — and it has been touching (and surprising) to discover how something so simple can make a difference in somebody’s day.

(L) Interior of home music studio (R) Couple smiling with man holding a guitar

(L) Home studio; (R) Ring of Fire (June Carter) by William & Polly

So that was music taken care of. But what about dancing? When theatres shut down last March, so did all the dance studios and gyms. I had recently begun teaching classes in the Nia Technique , a holistic movement practice (blending dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts) that has been an important personal practice of mine for many years. All of my upcoming classes were cancelled, along with a special training event I was registered for in April. I had a strong sense that I wanted to further my education as a movement facilitator but with everything shut down, I didn’t know how.

And just like that, a friend tipped me off to a new opportunity — online training in The Groove Method. This is a dance fitness modality that I had taken a couple of classes in a year before and which had struck me as something that I’d love to be able to teach someday. This was the first ever online Groove Facilitator training, delivered via Zoom over eight weeks in April/May 2020. Almost one hundred people from all over the world participated. It was amazing. And it was so much fun! All of us, including the trainers, were surprised to discover how well the Zoom platform worked. From there, more and more opportunities to train online started popping up as everyone began to pivot to this new medium. While so many other things in my life were closed down, my chances to learn and dance opened up more widely than ever. Along with online classes, I participated in the “ONE Around The World Video Project”  that brought together Nia teachers from all over the globe. I’ve just embarked on my fourth round of online training since last March (along with my best friend, Felicia, who lives in Montreal — another bonus). This training looks at how trauma impacts the body, and how movement can help us to heal. I understand and appreciate, even more deeply, how meaningful dance is. Now, more than ever, we all need to move.

The last step in my Groove training was my practicum: I had to teach at least six classes and had one year to complete that process. I waited for dance studios to open up but Toronto remained in lockdown. Once again, it was Zoom to the rescue! Setting up proper sound online is not exactly easy, but after much trial and error, helpful advice from fellow teachers and some new equipment, my tiny home studio was born. I held online Groove classes last month and, much like our house concert a year ago, friends and family from near and far showed up — this time to unite through dance. Some Mirvish colleagues (and their kids) joined in too. After so much time apart, it was amazing to let loose and share some joy and laughter together on the virtual dance floor.

Nothing will replace live theatre, or the magic of sharing music and dancing in person. While we wait for the world to reopen, I am so grateful for all of the ways I’ve been able to stay connected to the things that are meaningful to me, and for the new avenues I’ve discovered to share them with others. The question before me is no longer, what now? The question I find myself asking these days is, what’s next?

Desiree: Well Denise, I can’t wait to see what you do next and I thank you for sharing this inspiring story.

You can find William & Polly on Bandcamp.com or Spotify


Have you turned to arts and crafts during this pandemic? We’d love to hear from you. We’d especially like to see photos of your creations. Don’t be shy. It’s time you blew your own horn and shared your work with others. If we feature your work in future issues of Meanwhile, we’ll reward you a $100 Mirvish gift card. Email us at creations@mirvish.com.


Check In From Away

SnL’s guests are actor Ali Momen and musician and actor Torquil Campbell. Ali you will remember as one of the stars of Come From Away and the person behind the Arts New Deal, a movement modelled on the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal in the United States during the 1930s. He is also an aspiring politician, running to win the Liberal nomination in Parkdale-High Park. Torquil is the co-lead singer and a songwriter for the indie rock band Stars. His theatre work most recently includes writing and starring in True Crime, produced at Crow's Theatre.

When the pandemic struck Ali and Torquil created a weekly podcast to make sense of it all. Called Soft Revolution, the podcast features conversations with artists, scientists, doctors, academics and journalists about the latest in the world of art, society, culture and politics. The conversations are described as "lively, free of crap, and with a unique perspective that only these two guys can bring".

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT


FREE One Month Membership to Hot Docs at Home

Hot Docs @Home Film Festival

Discover Hot Docs at Home from anywhere in Canada with Hot Docs’ new monthly digital membership. Meanwhile readers can enjoy a free 30-day trial membership with the promo code: MIRVISH.  This includes premium access to stream a growing selection of great docs, live talks and curated screenings, plus membership savings on new releases and Hot Docs’ signature Curious Minds lecture series.

  Watch the official trailer Hot Docs at Home | Thoughtful viewing for trying times

START YOUR MONTHLY MEMBERSHIP!


From Our Patrons: My Pandemic Creation

Here’s another submission from a subscriber about how this pandemic has inspired her to create a magnificent collage.

Homemade crafted collage of show tickets and cast and theatre images

The 2019-2020 theatre season started with a ‘bang’ (bottom of collage) with shows like Piaf/Dietrich and Girl From The North Country and I was so looking forward to Hamilton and The Boy Friend with Kelsey Grammar.

BANG! COVID!

My first foray into the world of collage was created with the Mirvish 2019-2020 calendar with the picture of the original Royal Alex in the background.

All images were gleaned from that calendar. It was great to vent while traversing to the top of the picture where "the memory will live again" in the skies of Miss Saigon.

So looking forward to being in the theatre again.

Sharon Kennedy
London, ON

Have you turned to arts and crafts during this pandemic? We’d love to hear from you. We’d especially like to see photos of your creations. Don’t be shy. It’s time you blew your own horn and shared your work with others. If we feature your work in future issues of Meanwhile, we’ll reward you a $100 Mirvish gift card. Email us at creations@mirvish.com.


Reelin' In The Years

We have video highlights of two superb past productions in this issue, both with tie-ins to new films that you can watch at home.

Oslo, the Tony award-winning play by J. T. Rogers, was part of the 2018-2019 Off-Mirvish season. It told the true-life, previously secret, back channel negotiations in the development of the pivotal 1990s Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The excellent Toronto production, by Studio 180 Theatre, was directed by Joel Greenberg and featured a magnificent cast: Jonas Chernick, Patrick Galligan, Amitai Kedar, Omar Alex Khan, Mark McGrinder, Marla McLean, Sarah Orenstein, Jordan Pettle, Alex Poch-Goldin, Geoffrey Pounsett, Sanjay Talwar, Blair Williams and Anders Yates.

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

The eagerly awaited film adaptation of Oslo premieres on HBO (available on Crave in Canada) on May 29 and stars Andrew Scott and Ruth Wilson. Don’t miss it. 

Also available to stream beginning May 27 is a live-capture film of Louise Pitre’s autobiographical new musical On The Rocks. You can read about it elsewhere in this issue. But we thought we would take this opportunity to remind you of her brilliant performance in Piaf/Dietrich, which played the CAA theatre for most of the autumn in 2019. Her co-star Jayne Lewis was equally brilliant. Enjoy these highlights from this very special production that won the 2020 Dora Award for Best Musical.

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT


Louise Pitre's Autobiographical New Musical On The Rocks

Black & white poster of nude woman laying across rocks

Eight years ago, for five days in May, the great Louise Pitre — Canada’s musical theatre superstar — premiered a show she created about her journey. On The Rocks … stirred not shaken, performed at the intimate Theatre Passe Muraille, was a very personal and courageous look at her life and career. Everyone lucky enough to have gotten a ticket to it was blown away.

One of the performances was filmed and Louise has decided to stream it online during this time when theatres are not allowed to be open. Appropriately enough Louise has chosen to stream her show for five days this May — May 27 to 31, to be exact.

"On The Rocks is a damned impressive piece of work that demands your attention, your respect and your attendance. Pitre isn’t just an actress, she’s a force of nature… a prizefighter who throws herself into her material with sheer bravery and backs it up with real emotion, tons of it. On The Rocks should be required viewing for anyone contemplating a career in the theatre.” — The Toronto Star

"Pitre is one hell of a brave woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, knows what she wants, and goes for it with extreme gusto. She captures the hearts of the audience with her unique storytelling ability and that familiar voice we all know and love. She is a ray of light giving us hope that we can continue to grow, continue to challenge and always strive to fly higher than ever before. Bravo indeed.” — Broadway World

“One of the most fearlessly committed and talented artists around, Pitre doesn’t pull her punches about the highs and lows of the profession. If you love theatre or simply want to see a more personal side of one of Canada’s best artists, you owe it to yourself to see On The Rocks.” — NOW Magazine

"On The Rocks is about Pitre as a person, not the characters she has played. It’s a frank, unsentimental look into the life of one of the greats of Canadian music theatre. Pitre delivers all the songs with the power and truthfulness that are her trademarks.” — Stage Door

ON THE ROCKS.....stirred not shaken
Written, conceived and performed by Louise Pitre
May 27 to 31, 2021
Tickets $10 plus HST

buy tickets

Directed by Jen Shuber • Original Songs by Louise Pitre & W. Joseph Matheson • Musical Direction & Piano by Diane Leah • Dramaturgy: Jen Shuber • Set Design: Robin Fisher • Lighting Design: Lesley Wilkinson • Sound Design & Mixing: Emily Porter • Stage Manager: Dianne Woodrow • Technical Direction: Jacquie Lazar


Win Digital Passes To See The New Canadian Movie Musical Stand!

People marching for social justice. Sign reads Stand! is a new Canadian movie musical that makes its video on demand debut today. It is based on a very popular stage musical called Strike! that has had multiple productions in its hometown of Winnipeg since 2005 and in regional theatres across Canada.

Many people describe Strike! as the Canadian Les Misérables. Like that show, it tells an epic story set in a time of societal strife and rebellion, and is based on true historical incidents. Strike! is set during the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. For six weeks, from May 15 to June 26, 30,000 strikers brought Winnipeg (at that time, the country’s third largest city) to a standstill. They were fighting for social justice, diversity and inclusion — issues that have never really gone away and have never been resolved. The strike ended in bloodshed and defeat for the strikers, some of whom were arrested.

In the midst of this monumental event, two Catholic Ukrainian immigrants, a father and son, find themselves on opposite sides of the strike. At the same time, the son falls in love with a passionate Jewish suffragette.

  Watch the trailer for the stage production Strike! The Musical, 2019

The musical became legendary in Winnipeg and was even staged outdoors as a giant street pageant, performed on the very corners where the 1919 strike took place. One of the early fans of the musical was actor Jeff Goldblum, who was in a relationship with the female lead in the show’s inaugural production and after attending the show told its writer, composer and producer, Danny Schur, that Strike! would make a great movie musical.

In the summer of 2018, the dream of adapting the stage musical into a film finally became a reality when Canadian film director Robert Adetuyi (whose Hollywood successes include Stomp the Yard and Bring it On, both compelling movie musicals) assembled a cast of Canadians and Americans and shot the film on location in Winnipeg.

Now Stand! is streaming online through all the usual channels, including Apple, etc.

Meanwhile readers can enter to win one of 10 digital passes to watch Stand! courtesy of Vortex Media.

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your email address
Please confirm email address

Enter by May 20 at 11:59 pm.

  Watch the official trailer for the Stand! Movie Musical

  Lisa Bell sings the title track from the Stand! Movie Musical!


What Happens Backstage, Doesn’t Stay Backstage

The Shenanigans of Mickey Rooney, Part 2

Last issue we shared some stories about Mickey Rooney’s time in Toronto in the fall of 1995 when he starred in Crazy For You at the Royal Alex. He may have been diminutive in height but he was bigger than life in personality. A bundle of wild energy, wit and idiosyncratic habits and interests, he commanded attention with each breath he took. Here are a few more stories. First, a funny fashion interview he did with NOW Magazine that highlights his wacky sense of humour.

Now Magazine • November 9, 1995 • Page 41
WHAT I WEAR
By Deirdre Hanna

Homemade crafted collage of show tickets and cast and theatre images

WHO - Legendary movie star Mickey Rooney, the biggest box office draw of the late 1930s, currently playing Everett Baker in Crazy For You.

WHERE­ - The Royal York Hotel.

WHEN - Thursday, November 2, 1995, 10:30 am.

CLOTHING – “I’ve been in the movie business for 75 years but I'm also a golfer, a painter, a writer and a designer. I'm launching a new line of clothing called Mickey's Mess, with fabric that has the look of ketchup, barbecue sauce, soy sauce — all the things you spill on your shirts because I say, look good in all you eat. What I wear has nothing to do with what I design — I dress in 10 minutes. I got this shirt and these corduroy pants in West Lake, where I live, and this jacket is from a suit I designed for myself. Being short and portly. I have to design suits to suit me. I bought my cap in New Zealand or Ireland, and my Swiss Army watch was one I was given after doing a guest appearance on The Simpsons. I got my Nike walking shoes at the Foot Locker (218 Yonge).”

HAIR - "I'm the only one in my family who’s bald. I like it this way because I can comb it with a sock."

STYLE – "The in thing should be comfort. You need to be eight foot seven to wear designer clothing."

UPCOMING - "I'm performing in Crazy For You at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until December 31. I'm working on a new movie of Heidi, and a talk show with Debbie Reynolds called Let’s Talk Hollywood. I'm also planning to do a show, Maggie And Jugs, in New York.”

The photographer who accompanied writer Deirdre Hanna to the fashion interview, Rick McGinnis, wrote a very insightful blog post about his memories of that unusual occasion many years later, on July 28, 2014, when he was reviewing his photo archives. Among the gems in his story is this very apt description of Rooney: “Getting a decent shot of Rooney was like catching a hailstone in a pan of mercury.”

McGinnis’s portraits of Rooney are astonishingly beautiful. He gave us permission to share his story and photos with you. For more examples of McGinnis’s excellent work, both in words and pictures, visit his two websites: someoldpicturesitook.blogspot.com and rickmcginnisphotographs.wordpress.com. You’ll find a treasure trove of photos of famous, infamous and not-so-famous people.

Some Old Pictures I Took: Mickey Rooney, 1995
By Rick McGinnis

Black and white photos of actor Mickey Rooney

I WASN'T PREPARED FOR JUST HOW SHORT HE WAS. I knew that Mickey Rooney was not a tall man; in heels, Judy Garland almost towered over him, and she didn't top five feet. He was, to be sure, a little fella, and for as long as I was in his hotel room at the Royal York, I was trying to wrap my head around the undeniable fact that this tiny, anxious old man was the biggest movie star in the world several years running.

Here's the thing: Dana Carvey used to do an incredible impersonation of Rooney, based on the time he spent working with him on a failed sitcom in the early '80s, and the whole gag would hang on Rooney's constant assertion that he was once "the biggest star ... in the world." I can attest that, for the two hours I spent with Rooney in that hotel suite in the fall of 1995, he actually said that, exactly that way, several times.


Rooney was in town performing in a revival of Crazy For You at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, and the producers had put him up in the Royal York Hotel, another icon of old-school Toronto glamour. (To the extent that Toronto has, in the sense that we understand it, any glamour.) I was assigned to shoot him for the "What I Wear" fashion spread that was a regular feature at NOW magazine, a semi-regular gig that I did with Deirdre Hanna, the paper's fashion and art editor.

I wouldn't call Rooney a fashion plate, but it didn't matter. And since the whole point of the feature was having Mickey Rooney - Andy Hardy himself! - in the paper, I'd probably decided ahead of time to turn in a collage instead of a single full-length portrait. Languishing in the last flushed pink of print's economic health, NOW was still pretty loose in their layouts at the time, and the photo editor, Irene, actually encouraged us to experiment. Aching to do something more like a photo essay, I'd regularly turn in triptychs, or mosaics of small prints of varying sizes, focusing on details rather than a single portrait of the subject.

It was an outtake from this collage that sat in my 5x7 box for almost twenty years, the only proof I had of my afternoon with Mickey Rooney apart from the contact sheets and negatives that I only just excavated from behind the analog wall last week. I had wanted to kick off this blog with the Rooney pictures when he died earlier this year, but couldn't muster the energy to start digging behind the wall until just recently. At least I remembered that I'd done the shoot.

It was, to be frank, a weirdly memorable shoot. As an honoured guest, Rooney had requested a big-screen TV for his room - back in the day when anything bigger than a 35" screen was a monstrous rear-projection unit the size of a small garden shed. The TV was on the whole two hours Deirdre and I were in the room, blaring out daytime soap operas, while Deirdre gently probed Mickey to talk about his wardrobe, which prompted him to launch into anecdotes from his time as the biggest star - hiss, pop - in the world.

I wish I could say that I remembered those anecdotes - I'm sure there must have been something about Ava Gardner in there - but getting a decent shot of Rooney was like catching a hailstone in a pan of mercury, and I ended up taking two rolls that afternoon, many of the frames tight headshots as he parried Dierdre's questions with scraps of Hollywood lore that I'm sure he'd been sharing for years at that point.

Mickey would answer a few questions, move to a different part of the room, put on and take off a hat or a blazer, and I'd squeeze off a few frames as he moved. As the afternoon wore on, the huge glowing TV in the other room providing a soundtrack of soaps, it occurred to me that Mickey really didn't want us to leave.

He was once the biggest star in the world, and a man who'd blown through nearly $80 million dollars by the time his career cratered after the war. He'd been married eight times, made over 160 feature films and almost as many shorts, in a career that began in the silent era and saw him at his peak the prized player at the biggest studio in Hollywood. And he seemed to me terribly, terribly lonely.


Quick Change Comic Strip

By Chen Hascalovitz

Four panel comic strip about the magical creatures you meet in theatre