Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  June 1, 2021  

Meanwhile Issue 9 masthead

In this issue we bring you some good news. Ontario has announced reopening plans that will see theatres reopen with limited capacity as early as July. It’s an important first step as the vaccines are making public life a reality. Soon, we will be as secure in health and safety as the UK is now. Speaking of which, we have a letter from a colleague in London which describes the euphoria of being at a live theatre performance again.

Not to be outdone, from NYC there’s news of the reopening of Girl From the North Country and many other Broadway shows. But perhaps the best news for theatregoers is the announcement of performance dates for Blindness at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It will finally be staged here beginning August 4.

Happy Pride!Today is also the beginning of Pride. Since the Stonewall riots in 1969, which occurred at the end of June, this month has commemorated resistance to prejudice, and pride in all the colours of the LGBT+ community. (Look for more on Pride in the next issue!)

Sadly we end this with tragic news. Last week we learned of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. At a time when so many have experienced loss, our collective grief must swell to include these children, their families and their communities. This is a devastating reminder of a history that is not as far in the past as we would like to think and our national shame must guide us to be better.

June is National Indigenous History Month — when we celebrate the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.

In the next issue of Meanwhile we speak with Tomson Highway, whose seminal play, Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing, had a triumphant run at the Royal Alex in 1991. We will also take some time to look at Canada's history with Indigenous peoples, how much work there is to be done and how we can help.


Announcing Dates for Blindness

Last fall, we were excited to announce the North American premiere of a unique theatrical experience that was a hit in London in August of 2020. Blindness, an adaptation of the famous novel by Nobel Laureate José Saramago, was created at the prestigious and innovative Donmar Warehouse in the Covent Garden district.

Alas, Blindness did not happen here in November and December 2020 as originally planned because of health and safety concerns. (And we missed out on having its North American premiere. That happened in April when theatres were allowed to reopen for limited audiences in New York City. The show is a massive hit there, as it was in London. It’s still playing in NYC at the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square.)

Now, with the Ontario government's reopening plan newly announced, it looks as if by the last week of July, when we are in Step Three of the plan, theatres in Ontario will be allowed to do what theatres in London and New York have been doing: open with limited capacity and social distanced seating. That means Blindness will play August 4 to 28 on the stage of the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Blindness is not what you are used to seeing at the Princess of Wales, but it is an incredibly moving and arresting theatrical experience. 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 just 50 people; 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 to provide a very safe and clean environment. At each presentation everyone attending will need to be masked for the duration of the approximately 75-minute event.

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 it will be like on the stage of the Princess of Wales Theatre.

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Tickets to Blindness will go on sale in a few weeks. Meanwhile readers will be sent details about a priority window for booking before the general public. Watch your inbox.

find out more about Blindness


Letter from London: Theatres are Open, It’s Time to Celebrate

Nicola Seed is a London-based theatre producer. She works with Paul Elliott, one of London’s preeminent producers whose career spans 50 years. Mirvish theatregoers will recognize his name from the hundreds of productions he has brought to Toronto since the early 1970s. Nicola writes to us about her experience with theatre during the pandemic.

collage of woman and dog on beach

(Centre photo) Nicola Seed is backstage at the 2018 Oliver Awards ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall leading presenter Cuba Gooding Jr. as they make their way to the stage.

Friday March 13th, 2020 was the last day I had the opportunity of being in a rehearsal room. Unfortunately, it was to tell the actors of The Boy Friend — who were in the final weeks of preparations for the production that would be playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre — that the production was cancelled and they would not be flying to Toronto to perform it.

(For that matter, nor would they be coming back into this rehearsal room or any theatre for the foreseeable future because public life as we knew it had been paused. “And please make sure you take all of your belongings with you …”)

Fast forward 14 months. After a couple of false starts in 2020, theatres in the UK began reopening on May17th. This truly is an exciting moment, especially as we had suffered devastatingly high infection rates throughout 2020, which resulted in severe and very long lockdowns. Thankfully, an extensive and very well organized vaccination programme turned everything around.

Almost all sectors of our society and economy have now reopened, albeit with reduced capacities, social distancing and masks. But everything is going very well and we are well on our way to being allowed full capacity by June 21st.

But it’s been a long road that we’ve been on, especially those of us who work in theatre because of our enduring love of it.

Theatre has had so many punches over the last year — who knew having a business that relies on people being able to congregate together indoors would be a risky model? — that to now be on the cusp of our world returning to full health feels like a miracle, a prayer answered.

At the beginning of the lockdown, it was important to be poised and ready for the ‘theatre switch’ to be turned back on. I am reminded of the many months when we worked in isolation and in darkness because of the lack of clarity and certainty. We had to keep reworking contracts, renaming and adjusting schedules, re-budgeting, re-evaluating the Covid protocols. And then we had to do it all over again as the dates we thought we could reopen theatres turned out to be nothing but a false hope.

Freelance friends who are specialists in costume and wigs — and who pre-Covid looked after seven or eight West End shows — suddenly found themselves unemployed and without any income. That was very tough on them and their families — and it lasted for 14 months!

Now, with the UK reopening roadmap progressing, with even less prep time than ever, my friends are working again. Every one of the shows that closed due to Covid has reopened or is due to do so very soon. To say that my friends are busy is an understatement! They would not dare to complain, but it is quite a feat switching theatres back on!

During the pandemic, there were some bright spots in the theatre. Some companies managed to create shows that could be safely produced and attended. I was lucky to attend two theatrical experiences: Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse and A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic.

Blindness was an absolute treat for the senses last summer, the first theatre event after a prolonged initial lockdown. I saw the final preview of A Christmas Carol in December. Sadly it turned out to be the show’s last performance. The next day, the government announced a new lockdown which didn’t end until recently.

What I enjoyed most at both shows — something I had always taken for granted — was the importance of the shared experience of entertainment. My theatregoing during the pandemic was mostly limited to watching drama and musicals on screens alone or with just one other person. At Blindness and A Christmas Carol, being in a room alive with real people simultaneously watching and reacting to the same thing is a brilliant reminder to what we have been missing!

Last week I made my first visit back to a theatre to see the new musical version of the French film Amelie, which is playing at the Criterion, a jewel of a theatre built in 1847. I’ve had both jabs and the Criterion, like all theatres in London, has all health measures in place, so I felt perfectly safe. I cannot begin to tell you how moved I was to have watched a company of excellent actors on stage bring me to laughter and tears (Amelie is the kind of story that, in turns, is both funny and sad). Sitting appropriately distanced in an auditorium of fellow theatregoers, I felt for the first time in over a year joy and hope and community — even with my mask on.

I’m confident this will be the beginning of many more visits to the theatre as we put this pandemic behind us, leave the isolation we’ve all lived with for so long, and once again embrace social life. It’s truly time to celebrate.


While We Wait …

By Desiree Proveau

May flowers have arrived in abundance and our daily walks have become far more vibrant. I love the spring foliage around our neighbourhood and, with summer fast approaching, now is the perfect time to preserve some of this beauty. I have a microwave flower press that has been in high rotation over the last few weeks, pressing our favourite finds within a few minutes. We collect blossoms from the nearby church grounds and imagine all the weddings and other events that have taken place there over the last 100 years and how many of these flowering trees and wildflowers might still be here from that time.

There are a number of crafts you can use pressed flowers for, but lately my favourite way to use them is in photographs. Inspired by the long history of our local church grounds, I started by adding colourful pressings to vintage wedding photographs of my grandparents and parents. I love how these dusty forgotten memories packed away in photo albums upon rarely explored shelves are given a new, colourful life in a digital format that can be shared widely. I also adorned old advertisements with pressings including an antique program from our very own Royal Alexandra Theatre!

Now that I’ve made a run for it — out of the city to take refuge at my family’s farm for the foreseeable future — my crafting materials have become even more abundant. Regrettably, my microwave press stayed at home. But no matter; fortunately, I had collected wild flowers from around the property last year and left them in a large book, where they have awaited my return for the past eight months. I am now using them to decorate old photographs from the many generations that have lived on this farm. What makes these images extra special to me is that the plants decorating these photos are the same plants that have been growing around here since the photos were taken. I even found an old pressing from my grandmother’s log book from the ’50s! How cool is that? I have also uncovered some log/sales books that date back to the late 1800s, written by my great, great, great grandmother. Adding pressings to these images makes me feel very connected to this place and preserving some of these native plants might be a history lesson to another generation down the line, especially if our rapidly changing climate affects the plants that are found here.

If you’d like to press flowers all you really need is a book but here's a link that gives instructions on how to make your own microwave press. The one I have was purchased from Lee Valley. 

collage art with the words go aheadMy guest sharers this week have given me so much inspiration I can hardly wait to pass the mic. Laurel Purvis and Eleanor Johnston are two women with such style and creativity I am not surprised that they have found the coolest artistic outlet to pass these crazy days. Laurel is here to tell us all about it!

Pre-Covid, I would make collage birthday cards once in a while for friends but living through a pandemic has ramped up my production considerably. With more time on my hands and proper birthday parties not possible, it’s a nice personalized way to let someone know you love them and spent time thinking about them.

I aim to be humorous with my cards. This pursuit makes me happy as I search and then come upon appropriate images and/or text for the friend I’m celebrating. The cards tend to end up silly and surreal enough to incite a laugh from the recipient.

Whether for example: the art historian/dressmaker/Bieber-lover; the fashionable friend studying to be a psychotherapist; or the X Files fan who just bought a cottage, putting the various elements together as you look through your materials can be very satisfying.

Those materials have greatly diminished during Covid so I long for the thrift stores to open again (although friends just cleaned out their garage and loaded me up with a pile of old books and magazines to feed my need).

Making collage is a freeing and creative way to spend time, costs very little, repurposes paper that would otherwise be discarded — and it’s therapeutic!

My colleague at Mirvish, Eleanor Johnston, makes very elegant, more fine art-based collages. A couple of those featured here have theatrical elements but Eleanor says that generally she is led by a colour or an image or how she feels in the moment.

Like me, she started by making cards but during Covid has found it a relaxing way to spend time, and has made a couple of hundred collages over the last year.

Brett Coles is yet another member of the Mirvish team who makes collage and he has sent us a beautiful example of his work which appears in the gallery above.

We also have two readers who submitted collages featured previously in Meanwhile, so there’s lots of us out there snipping and glueing.

As luck would have it, an artist friend who has been doing collage for over 30 years, and makes great work, has just released a one-hour on-demand video collage tutorial with many tips and much insight.

I watched the class and it got me excited to go beyond birthday cards. With no particular idea in mind, collage can be anything. Just “Go Ahead!”

And when we can all be together again — collage party!

B.A. Lampman’s collage class is on Vimeo ($30 USD, around $36 CAD). If you sign up for the class, email her and she will provide 11 pages of useful notes.  To see B.A.’s work, check out her website. www.balampman.com

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

Steffi and Lisa check in with Toronto actor and comedian Ennis Esmer to find out what he’s been up to during the pandemic. You’ll know Ennis from his starring role in the NBC crime drama Blindspot, the Global comedy-drama Private Eyes and many other TV series and films. But Ennis began his career on the stage and it is still his first love.

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT


From Our Patrons: My Pandemic Creation

Here are the pandemic creations of four more Meanwhile readers.

Hi there!

I’m so grateful that I can show this off!!!! I am so proud of this book!!! I made it straight through a two week period right when the pandemic started. I would make a Volume two but haven’t seen anymore shows to be able to add to this. 😭😭

Various art collages of show memorabilia
It’s a HUGE coffee table book filled with all of the shows we’ve been to, my sister and I.

Linh H. Tran

Hope you love it as much as I do.


Dear Mirvish,

The last performance that I attended was Come From Away at the Royal Alex. It was outstanding! I’ve certainly missed live theatre, to say the least.

As I constantly question and try to make sense of the world I live in, I realize that theatre does the same with its depictions of the alienated, the undervalued and the misunderstood.

This pandemic has allowed me more time to be creative and to focus on my mixed media collages. By using the theme of theatre in my artwork, I am provided with a platform to express my affinity to many of the thoughts and feelings I’ve seen presented on stage.

theatre inspired collage

Sincerely,
Chery Holmes


Dear Mirvish Theatre Family:

In addition to hand-knitting several shawls for future theatre audience wear, I have completed two art quilts.

Pandemic Roulette (COVID-19 #1)

Quilt art collageCreated early in 2020, when we were introduced to the language and concepts of an unprecedented global pandemic, “Pandemic Roulette” is an appliquéd quilt. It is machine quilted with various messages from news reports, moving from “Everything is normal” to “Nothing is the same”. The larger black and white squares, which fall and rise across the quilt, represent the initial awareness and the ongoing waves of the pandemic, with variants represented by smaller checkerboard fabric. The chicken wire fabric represents the attempts to quell and contain the virus, even as it mutates.

Chicken Little Was Right (COVID-19 #2)

Quilt art collage“Chicken Little Was Right” references a traditional children’s story in which Chicken Little attempts to convince her friends, including Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and Turkey Lurkey, that the sky is falling. In the story’s reality, the “sky” is a fallen acorn. Here, falling virus squares are superimposed on a city skyline, with the first one to “land” being closely examined by one of our fowl friends. It is machine pieced, appliqued and quilted.

Until I can applaud live performances again, I'll try to keep my hands busy creating.

Cheers,
Karen Wold


room full of theatre memorabilia After moving into a new home, I created a theatre corner that features all the glorious times I’ve had watching amazing shows in Toronto and New York.

Memorabilia! Playbills! Cast Recordings! Autographs!

(Did I mention the walls are also lined with framed theatre posters?)

It’s my slice of theatre at home, especially as we can’t attend theatre in person right now. I can’t wait to actually see a live theatre show again.

Melissa Fields

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

Last week, the Broadway production of Girl From the North Country announced it would resume performances at the historic Belasco Theatre on October 13. The musical had opened to ecstatic reviews on March 5, 2020 but the following week the pandemic shut down all of Broadway. To remind you of how special this production truly is, we offer you scenes from the production that played Toronto September 28 to November 24, 2019 at the Royal Alex.

Also this week, we reel in another excellent production: Seminar, starring Tom McCamus. It was part of the Off Mirvish season and played November 14 to December 6, 2015 at the CAA Theatre.

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

VIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPT


The Stay At Home Show Raises Over $30,000 for The AFC

A few issues back, inspired by the latest stay-at-home order by the provincial government, we launched a virtual non-show event called The Stay At Home Show. We thought it would be a fun way to solicit small donations ($10) for The AFC (The Actors’ Fund of Canada), which provides financial support for members of the entertainment industry who are having a difficult time making ends meet. The need is greater than ever during the pandemic, as almost all work has dried up. Many Meanwhile readers participated and bought a ticket to The Stay At Home Show, which was simply an old-fashioned paper theatre ticket that can be used as a memento of these usual times. More than $30,000 was raised. Donations came from as far away as Germany. Thank you for your kindness and generosity.

It’s not too late to buy a ticket to The Stay At Home Show.

BUY TICKETS TO THE STAY AT HOME SHOW