Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Greetings from Grinder Productions!

On behalf of Julie and myself I want to wish all of you all the best this holiday season, and to say thank-you for all that you have done to help us make Grinder Productions such a glowing success over the past year. We've come a very long way, with 16 productions in 2008, over four venues. The next year promises to bring even more productions, with new and exciting challenges, including our newest division, Hopeless Romantics. I hope you'll join us again in 2009, be it onstage, backstage or in the audience.

Thanks again, and Happy Holidays,

Eric Goudie
Creative and Executive Director
Grinder Productions

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hans Brinker Wrap-up

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this show a success!

We played to one of the largest total audiences Grinder has enjoyed in a run at the Grand in quite a while, and that was due to the hard work and dedication of the cast and crew, who went above and beyond both onstage and off, and ensured that busy schedules, a fridgid rehearsal hall, no production budget and chronic casting maladies didn't get the show off-track. Everyone worked hard to get the word out about the show, sell tickets, and they were well-rewarded for their efforts. On behalf of myself and the world's greatest fiance, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you everyone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Need some last-minute gifts?

Just a quick reminder - you can get Gift Certificates and Grinder Cards directly from me, and books and plays at our online storefront on lulu.com. Also, I'll be offering up Acting Lessons in the new year to anyone who's interested, as well as teaching an improv course at the Elora Centre for the Arts.

Give the gift of Grinder this Christmas, and let someone else know how great it to dare to be different!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hans Brinker Opens Tonight

Just a quick note to let you know that Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates, opens this evening at 8pm at the Fergus Grand Theatre, and runs Friday and Saturday at 8pm, with a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets are $15 adult, and $5 for children, and are available by calling the Fergus Grand Theatre box office at 519-787-1981. This is a show the entire family can enjoy, so come one, come all and take in a little bit of holiday magic.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We're back!

Never let it be said the Canadian Theatre business is as backwards as the Canadian Telecommunications business!

After many days of wrangling with the powers that be Grinder Productions is now connected to the outside world once again.

We're now comfortably ensconced in the tiny 19th century farmhouse on the property, and it is from here that I will endure the painfully slow speed of dial-up to bring you most of my posts from now on (sorry, the vblogging is going to have to wait until they get DSL out here).

While I've been offline the company has been very, very active, getting ready for Hans Brinker, our holiday family production. Tickets are moving quite well for this show, but please, please do try to make it out to see it at some point this weekend if you are able. The cast and crew have really worked hard on this one, and we've gained a lot of fresh faces to the company that I hope we can work with again on future shows. On top of that, the show itself is a lot of fun, and I'm sure you and your family will enjoy it.

That's all for today - I've got a lot of catching up to do - but if you're still here, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope we'll see you this weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who said life was fair?

I've been reading Benjamin Johnson's What's the Deal with being an actor? posts over on the Theatre is Territory blog, where he tries to give professional English-speaking thespians some tips on taking their chances on the Tokyo theatre scene. He is quick to point out the "culture shock" that us over-coddled Westerners should brace ourselves for, and there's definitely a twinge or two of dismay in his voice when he talks about some of the working conditions over there, and how ordinary Japanese, for the most part, simply seem to sit there and take it. He takes particular issue with the "the culture of unfair business practices towards artists (and employees in general)" and that particular phrase was enough to toast my cookies (as the world's greatest fiance is so fond of saying).

As my Grade 8 French teacher, an immigrant who had escaped the poverty and political oppression of his native Haiti, was so fond of saying to us - Who said life was fair! You could be putting on a play in Tokyo, Toronto or Tukiaki Fails and there would still be people and politics unfairly standing in your way. Just because you should be treated with respect and decency doesn't mean you should be surprised when it isn't there. In Canada we have a repressive, regressive arts granting and funding system, heavy-handed censorship (or at least we will if they ever get the bill passed) and a hopelessly disconnected academia that refuses to teach our aspiring actors, producers, directors and designers any of the skills they actually need to earn a living wage. Not fair! Damn right! Will complaining about it or moving to Tokyo fix things? Hell no!

I write extensively on this blog about what I think are the problems of Canadian theatre, and I guess Mr. Johnson's experiences suggest that many of the challenges we face manifest themselves in similar ways around the world. However, I take issue with leaving things at a simple "poor us" whine-without-the-cheese party. As theatre people we have an obligation to change things, to make them better, for ourselves and others. So please, to all the bloggers out there, stop with the whining already. Let's hear some actual solutions to empty theatres, ballooning costs and the inability to feed a family of four on a theatre person's income.

It might not be easy, but if we want to survive, it's necessary. In Japan, much of the willingness to log countless hours of unpaid overtime, forego luxuries like theatre tickets and put up with unscrupulous business practices in order to work comes from the tragedy of Japanese history, where a once-proud, never-defeated people were obliterated, immasculated and forced to endure occupation and rule by a foreign govenment. Lacking economic, political or moral authority, Japan still rebuilt from the ashes to become a leading power in less than two generations. Perhaps we theatre people, relegated to the cultural margins by TV, Movies and the Internet, could learn a thing or two about rising above what's fair and unfair, and turning what we have into something amazing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Just a quick note to say thank-you to everyone who came out to help us with this year's Santa Claus Parades, and a big thank-you to everyone who came out hear Poverty Anonymous at the Elora Centre for the Arts this past weekend. Every little bit truly helps!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gift Ideas from Grinder Productions

The Grinder Card – A Great Gift Idea for the Theatre Lover on Your List!

The Grinder Card is a perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list, and for anyone who simply loves live theatre. It works just like a season ticket, but instead of being tied to a specific venue or series of shows it is tied only to the person holding the card. The $100 card is good for ten admissions to any Grinder show, in any venue, at any time.

You only come to the shows you want, when you want, where you want. Come alone and use one admission, or bring a date and use two, it’s up to you.

The Grinder Card. It’s fast, easy and it never expires. Available by phone at 519-780-7593 or via e-mail at grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Gift Certificates – Yes, we still do gift certificates! Available for a pair of tickets (or more) to a show, event or season these start as low as $30. Available by phone at 519-780-7593 or via e-mail at grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Scripts and Books – Grinder maintains an account at lulu.com, the online publishing service, where you can purchase digital and bound copies of the original plays we’ve produced at Grinder Productions over the years. Plays such as Home Farm, Muzzle Blast and All My Sins Remembered are available at very reasonable prices. Also available is Tech Theatre 101, a comprehensive guide to managing the technical side of theatre production – a valuable resource for anyone jumping into the whirlpool of producing, stage managing or production management. Visit www.lulu.com to see our store.

Acting Lessons – Starting in January, Eric will be pleased to offer one-on-one acting lessons to anyone who is interested, either on a “one-time” basis, or as part of a multi-week program. Lessons can be tailored to anyone ages 8 through adult, and students will have plenty of opportunities to tailor lessons to their particular needs, be it preparing an audition piece, building characters, voice, movement, scene study, or simply learning more about the craft of acting. All lessons will be $30 per hour, and will be held in the warmth and comfort of Eric’s new digs, with both daytime, afterschool and evening timeslots available. This is a perfect gift for an active youngster, a shy teen, or an adult or senior who “needs to get out more.” Call 519-780-7593 or e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org to for more information or to book.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hans Brinker - Rehearsal Update

I'm starting off this week with the most important news of all - Hans Brinker is going great! The cast are getting their lines memorised, the technical apsects are finally starting to come together, and best of all, wait for it... tickets are starting to sell!

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have a show that makes lots of advance sales. Even when it's just orders waiting in the drawer it's a great boost to the confidence and enthusiasm of the cast and crew (not to mention yours truly) to know that there are people out there who've made a choice to take time out of their lives to come and see the show that we are working so, so hard on. Thank-you to everyone who has purchased their tickets already.

But if you haven't gotten the tickets yet, what are you waiting for!

Why put up with the rush at the box office at ten minutes to curtain, when you can phone in your order to the box office at any time (the phone number is 519-787-1981).

Walk-in hours at the Grand are 11:30 - 2:30 Monday to Friday, so if you work in town you can drop-in on your lunch hour and the box office staff at the theatre will be happy to process your order in person, and you can leave with tickets in hand.

Do you know someone in the cast? Then they can get the tickets for you! Each cast member has been given a ticket order sheet, on which you can fill in all the info we'll need to process your order. As long as you send in payment (by cash or check) we can take the order to the box office for you, process it, and then give the tickets to the cast member who placed the order at our next rehearsal, and they can then get the tickets to you.

So there's lots of ways to get to the show, but there's only thing that really matters - that you be there! This is a great family show, and one that will fit well with the holiday season. For us here at Grinder it also represents major step: the final show of what has been a rebuilding year in 2008, and the first show in our quest to return to long-term sustainability in 2009.

Please join us for this adventure that begins on the frozen canals of Holland.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Auditions Announcement - Preliminary Information

Audition Information

As promised, January will bring another round of Open Auditions for the company. The next newsletter will have more comprehensive information on times and places (we’re still trying to confirm availability), but nonetheless I would like to toss out the information to you here and now so that you can begin to think about taking the plunge with us in 2009.

These auditions are divided into several categories, based on age, past experience with Grinder Productions, and the sort of shows you are interested in auditioning for.

General Auditions – These are open to newcomers to Grinder Productions of any age who have not auditioned for us before, or worked with us on a show. We will audition in age-divided groups of about ten people at a time, and these will be “cold-read” auditions – ie you will be given a monologue or partnered with someone else for a short scene and asked to deliver it. We’ll also play some theatre games to break the ice, and maybe an improvisation or two, so don’t worry if you don’t read well – there’s plenty of chances to show us what you can do! You will be auditioning for shows in the Fergus, Elora, Ennotville and Belwood 2009 – 2010 seasons.

Members Auditions – If you have auditioned for us before, or have been in a show with us then you can skip the open auditions and head straight to the members’ auditions. Again, we’ll be doing cold reads but anyone who wishes to do so can also bring a prepared piece, or bring a friend and present a short prepared scene. You will be auditioning for shows in the Fergus, Elora, Ennotville and Belwood 2009 – 2010 seasons.

Hopeless Romantics Auditions – For those of you looking for a greater challenge we will also be auditioning actors for the Hopeless Romantics touring shows. Now this is semi-professional work, you will be paid a small honourarium for each performance, so we’re going to expect more effort than at a typical Grinder audition. Participants must be at least 16 years of age, and have ready a 1-to-2 minute prepared monologue, preferably comedic and contemporary in nature. Musical theatre actors will be given the chance to sing and/or dance, so please bring any audition music on CD.

For all auditions, it is paramount for us to know your availability. The more clearly we understand when you are available the better the chances of us being able to find a way to get you involved.

More information to follow January, but anyone with specific questions can call 519-780-7593 or e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sneak Peak 2009 #2

Winter 1-Acts

As many of you are likely aware, rehearsing in the wintertime presents a few challenges for us at Grinder. Without a year-round rehearsal facility it’s very difficult to put on large plays over the winter months. In response to that this January we’re going to put on several smaller “1-Act” plays that can be rehearsed in smaller locales and then brought together the week of the performance.

One-act plays are unique shows unto themselves, and are often a chance for new actors or directors to sharpen their skills. It is a chance to bring some rarely-performed works to the stage, ones that we normally couldn’t consider for production. Things are still early, so watch for more coming soon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Poverty Anonymous - Here at Last!

I've had a just a few "issues" pulling this one together, but it is finally ready. It's changed quite a lot from what the format I originally set out to do - it's gone from a spiritual meeting to a Toni Robbins-type personal power tape: a one-act radio drama. What hasn't changed, though, is the substance of the piece. It's full of gentle satire and my very weird vocal characterisations, and will hopefully make us all a little more thankful for our relative financial good fortune, even in these difficult times. It runs this weekend at the Elora Centre for the Arts, admission is by donation, and the whole show should only last about 30 minutes, so it's a real "quickie." I hope to see you there!

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Newsletter - for real this time!

Here's the December newsletter. Don't worry, this is the real deal this time - we've fixed the bug in website that was causing you to get the page with last month's newsletter on it. This month's edition is chock-full of information about shows near and far - and some audition information as well, so make sure you check it out!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rehearsal Update - Hans Brinker - and come to the parade!

Just a quick note to let you know that Hans Brinker is now well into rehearsals. The set is up, the actors are learning lines, and we're all looking forward to getting onstage in just a few short weeks.

The director seems to have a good hold of things too... which is a welcome relief for me - I'm getting a much-needed break from the Director's chair while we tool up for the winter season.

Also, if you're going to be coming to the Elora Santa Claus Parade tomorrow night watch for the Grinder float! The cast and crew will be there, handing out information on the show and spreading some Christmas cheer. Feel free to come out and join us!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Casting - A Midsummer Nights Dream

I thought today I would give you some more information about the characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and what I am thinking of in terms of casting for them. If you or someone you know might be interested in getting involved in this show, please e-mail me at grinder@grinderproductions.org.

The Athenians: These are the upper-class characters in the play.

Theseus - The Duke of Athens, a middle-aged, battle-hardened warrior-ruler.
Hippolyta - Theseus' bride, whom he fought in battle to win her over. She is a Queen of the "Amazons" - an all-female tribe of warriors.
Egeus - Helena's father, a bit old-fashioned - either his daughter wed's the man of his choice or she is banished - or killed.
Lysander - A young man of Athens
Demetrius - A young man of Athens
Helena - A young woman of Athens
Hermia - A young woman of Athens
Philostrate - Theseus' Master of the Revels, a civil servant responsible for gathering entertainment for the Duke's wedding. A good small part for a newbie.

The Mechanicals: These are the workers of Athens, who rehearse and perform a play for the Duke's wedding. They are simple, rustic characters, who make their tragedy "Pyramus and Thisbe" into one of the funniest parts of the play through their very, very bad acting. These roles can be played by either men or women.

Peter Quince - the director of the players
Nick Bottom - a weaver, and great amateur actor
Flute - a bellows mender
Snug - a joiner
Snout - a tinker
Starveling - a tailor

The fairies: These are the mythical creatures who inhabit the forests outside of Athens (though they are actually a reflection of the creatures found in English folk and fairy tales). These roles are for young people.

Oberon - King of the fairies
Titania - Queen of the Fairies
Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed and Cobweb - Fairies who attend on Titania
Puck - aka Robin Goodfellow, he is a sort of "super-fairy" who does things for Oberon, and in many ways serves as the catalyst for action in the play. You wonder whether if it is in fact he who is the one controlling the action.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Laments for the content

I've been a little inattentive to the goings-on of the "theatrosphere" lately, so I've missed this big brouhaha that is apparently going on among theatre bloggers. I guess we're talking so much about the practical side of putting on plays (business models, rehearsal techniques, etc) that the people who are focused on the content of theatre are feeling left out. "The play's the thing" after all, isn't it?

For my two cents worth, I don't think you can separate form and content in theatre. One of the things I noticed many years ago when I was an over-worked, under-paid, borderline-slave of a Production Assistant, was that the conditions of production became the production. If we had to spend all night working onstage for four days straight then the show looked like crap. If we were able to go home and get a good night's sleep it meant that things were going well enough that the show generally looked pretty good. The harder you have to work, the dumber you are working, so it then follows that the quality of your work is directly related to the conditions, experience and assumptions under which you are working.

One of my profs told me one time (in a rare moment of agreement with me) that in theatre we are not "artists," but "artisans." We do not make theatre solely for personal reasons (though there may be a personal motivation to it) - we can only make theatre in a collaborative environment with our audience. I think it's up to them to dictate the content - what they see, like and understand is ultimately what puts food on the actor's/director's/producer's table, not some brilliant new business model for a theatre company. Our job is to fulfill our obligation in this partnership - to create content, yes, but not to judge it, except to improve it, and we can't do that without the feedback of the audience, who in giving back to us (be it through comments, critiques, or simply voting with their feet) are fulfilling their half of the partnership. Through this sybiotic relationship we collectively create the content as two equal players, rather than dictating content from a "master-apprentice" relationship, an idea that many of us seem to cling so desperately to in this business.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sneak peak: 2009

I'm happy to report that both of our final shows in 2008 are now into rehearsal/preparations, and the company is still in strong enough financial shape that we can now begin to look ahead just a little be to the start of 2009.

Now January is one of the most difficult months of the year to put on plays - the weather is terrible, it's hard to get out to rehearsals and shows, people have usually had enough "social time" over the holidays and are staying at home, and money is at its tightest as the holiday bills come in. So usually there isn't much going on in theatres at this time of year: it's often the time to re-group, do some maintenance, and get caught up on chores, and perhaps even take some badly-needed vacation in a sunnier climate.

At Grinder we don't quite have the luxury of a week in Bora Bora (not that the thought hasn't crossed my mind), and we will have programming January, as well as programming in February and March, so as to ensure that the company has more time to build actors, audiences and production experience before we embark on the 2009 summer season, which will be our most ambitious to date (more to follow on that a few more blog posts down the road).

While I'm not ready to reveal all our secrets just yet, I thought I would let you know about the first show that we will be bringing you in 2009, a show that will open up a new frontier for the company.

We are going to tackle a play written by the greatest writer in the English language: William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

They call this play "Shakespeare's happiest comedy," and I couldn't agree more. It's story of young lovers, an impromptu group of amateur thespians, and the fairies of English folklore, all coming together to bicker, threaten, make mistakes, and then reconcile with each other, and end up doing each other great acts of kindness.

I've wanted to dive into the world of classical theatre for a long time, and "The Dream" is the perfect chance to do it. Its language isn't hard to understand, and its themes are still just as relevant today as when the play was written. I don't think any actor or audience member who is willing to listen closely to Shakespeare's words will have any trouble understanding what is going on. In fact, this play has ample opportunity to use actors of every age, and I'm looking forward to asking some of the youngest talents we have a Grinder to join us this show.

Think you've got what it takes? Maybe you've wanted to try your hand at Shakespeare but have been a bit nervous - this is the play for you.

Let me know if you are interested, and I'll see what I can do to get you on board.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hans Brinker - Enough posts already!

I know you're likely getting sick of seeing Hans Brinker posts - don't despair!

There are other things going on at the company, and we will have more to tell you about them next week.

But we lost a couple of actors at the last second and are still looking for some cast members for this show. If you or someone you know might be interested, please have them e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org or call 519-780-7593 ASAP.

This show is open-ended enough that we can take either boys or girls in their teenage years, and possibly a couple of adults as well.

Please pass this along to anyone you know who might be able to help us out.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hans Brinker - For Immediate Release

Dutch Christmas Classic at the Fergus Grand Theatre

For Immediate Release

Grinder Productions is pleased to present Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates, a Christmas show for the entire family, December 18th, 19th and 20th at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

This classic Dutch Christmas story is known to many, about a poor but noble family, a deep secret, and an incredible act of kindness, but for those who aren’t familiar with the events this story the play will serve as a wonderful introduction. Written in a light-hearted, easy-to-understand manner, this show is perfect for children and families. Its large cast of performers young and old features some of the best and brightest at Grinder Productions, as well as some new faces coming to our stage for the first time ever.

Grinder Productions Creative and Executive Director Eric Goudie is very happy to see this show coming together this Holiday season.

“When I first chose the show, the economy was doing fine,” he says. “Since then, things have gotten a lot worse, and there are now going to be a lot more people right here in Centre Wellington who will face many of the same hardships as the Brinker Family this Christmas. While I wish the company itself was financially able to give back directly to the community, at least we can bring you a fun, uplifting, family-friendly show that even brought a smile to my often cynical face!”

Tickets for the show are $15 each, with a group rate of $12 each for groups of ten or more. But most importantly for this show, children (and teens participating in the Eyego program) can get their tickets for just $5. Goudie hopes that this will make it possible for young people to come to the show who would not have otherwise been able to.

“I’m so happy when I see young people coming through the doors of the theatre. Coming to a play can be such a rewarding, beneficial experience for a child, and it helps to instill in them a lifelong love of the arts.”

Tickets are available by calling the Fergus Grand Theatre box office at 519-787-1981, or visiting the theatre at 244 St. Andrew St. West in Fergus. For more infomation on Hans Brinker or any other Grinder event please visit the website, www.grinderproductions.org.

For interviews, photo opportunities and other information please contact Eric Goudie at girnder@grinderproductions.org or by calling 519-780-8593.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where else am I blowing hot air these days?

Just thought everyone might like to look at my burgeoning portfolio on Helium. I know I've referenced individual articles in the past, and I'll be putting as much time and effort into writing more articles in the days and weeks ahead (so as to have my efforts rewarded with lunch money), so I encourage you to check out my thoughts on such riveting titles as:

Why it is important to introduce children to theatre
The Best Elizabethan Plays and Playwrights
Technical Theatre Appreciation

or other non-theatre titles such as...
Home Electricity 101
Why training in trades might be better than colleges for most
Small Business Ownership: Trials and Joys

That, plus a few titles I've written for surrounding political topics (that are actually in the "marketplace" on the site and are in consideration for wider publication) makes up my current portfolio, but I'm still very early in this new process and will be adding more articles every day.

Click here for the link. Thanks for your support.

Still an ink-stained hack

I apologize for not posting this yesterday - I was "kickin' it old school" and working offline. The following was written over a cup of coffee, surrounded by madness, just like in the old days before I could afford a laptop:

I've finished an article recently at Helium.com about "Discouraging Trends in today's Theatre." (click here for the link)

I encourage you to read the article, but if you've been in this business for any length of time at all you can probably come up with your own laundry list of complaints about the state of the theatre business as easily as I did.

There's so much we don't have to be proud of. Like George Bush's America, theatre is a waning superpower, but without the mixed-race messiah. I ended my article asking why we, as a community, were simplly lamenting the situation, instead of actually doing something about it.

So why aren't we? Why are we letting things get so far away rom us that Time Magazine claims that "You" are now the person of the year? Surely we have something of value still to contribute to society at large, and by contribute I mean more than a never-ending string of cheap sex farces.

I don't think it's a case of needing to simply dig a little deeper. It's a case of getting outside our collective boxes, and not asking how we can make theatre better, but how we can make the world better through that thing we call theatre, whatever it may be.

There are no sacred cows left to slaughter. Maybe we can't even call it theatre anymore, or "art" or whatever it is you choose to call it.

Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Holiday Season Programming at Grinder - Part 2

Hans Brinker

Those of you who have been around Grinder for a while may be familiar with the “Christmas curse.” Every year since the company’s inception we have chosen to bring our patrons some holiday programming. But every year Fate has gotten in the way. Let’s not let that happen again this year!

Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates, is the stage adaptation of the classic Dutch children’s Christmas story. It has all the excitement and high drama you would expect of any Christmas story, with a moral heart and beautiful story woven in. It is the perfect holiday entertainment for the entire family, and with our children’s price of $5 remaining intact it’s still an economical choice in these difficult times. The show will go up December 18th, 19th and 20th at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

We are still looking for a few boys ages 13 to 16 to help us out with this show. If you or anyone you know of would fill the bill, please have them get in touch with us at grinder@grinderproductions.org.

But most importantly, come out and see the play! When we say we need your support, this is the single best way you can give it – by being one of those much coveted “bums in seats.” Nothing will help us more! Call the Fergus Grand Box Office at 519-787-1981 and get your tickets!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Holiday Season Programming at Grinder - Part 1

Poverty Anonymous

Somewhat ironically, we are a company in financial distress that has a play coming up about being in financial distress. This show is a presentation of several individual stories, none of them true but all of them plausible, by people who are at a “poverty anonymous” meeting, where the format is similar to any other “anonymous” meeting. June, the plucky, determined moderator, is steadfast in her belief that poverty is a crime, and that only through showing these poor, unfortunate souls the errors of their ways can she make them productive, prosperous members of society once again. Little does she realize, however, that just maybe the “criminals” that have come out to this particular meeting have a thing or two to show her…

This is a light-hearted, very satirical look at how the rich and poor get along. I’ve at a ringside seat to this for several years now to this subtle farce, so I thought it would be interesting to bring it to the stage.

But, we need your help…

We need actors for this event! No rehearsals (I’ll e-mail you your script and you just memorize your bit) – just show up on December 4th, 5th and 6th at the Elora Centre for the Arts, and bring as many friends as you can possibly find.

To become involved please e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Improv Course Information

Here, as promised, is all the information you'll need to register for the 8 week course I'll be co-facilitating this winter at the Elora Centre for the Arts. It's going to be a fast, fun, funny experience, and one you don't need any special skills or training to be good at - just an open mind and your imagination. I really would love to see you there.

Click here to go to the ECFTA Website for more information.

Improv Group Ages 16 & up
Mondays, January 19 – March 9
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
$60 Member / $75 Non-member

An eight week course that can change your life! You don’t have to be funny to take part in this group, nor do you need to have experience in acting. A willingness to think outside of the box would be a great asset! You will enjoy 8 weeks of theatre games, team building exercises and trust exercises, as well as, situational and improvised games and activities, all within a relaxed and supportive environment. Please wear comfortable clothing & shoes – we’ll be getting dirty!
Instructors: Eric Goudie, Jennifer Merry

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Magic is Back

Good Monday morning to you all,

You may have noticed that over the past couple of weeks things have been a bit choppy here on the blog, and those of you who have any insights into my personal life will know why. The past two weeks have been filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for me and for the company. I'll spare you all the sordid details, such as they are, but suffice it to say that I've been a bit of a mess this past little while, and it has shown itself here and in other places. I am now in the process of cobbling things back together, and you, gentle reader, are only one of a great many people I would like to apologize to, and to thank for putting up with me over the past couple of weeks.

We have a lot of work ahead of us here at Grinder. Just like last year, we've had some pretty un-spectacular box office returns this fall, and we are once again in some pretty dire financial straights. So, in an attempt to improve the bottom line I have returned to the world of freelance writing to try and make a little bit of extra cash to tide the company over until the spring. If there's anyone out there who needs blogging, copywrighting or any other writing, simple web design or graphics work done please don't hesitate to e-mail me at grinder@grinderproductions.org and I'll be eager to take on any reasonable project for a reasonable fee. I've started my journey over at Helium.com, an online writer's market of sorts, where there is a lively atmosphere of debates, freelance jobs and even some writing contests. Click here to view some of my work over there (and feel free to rate or even contribute some articles on there yourself!)

Now there's also something else that's coming down the pipe at Grinder, something that I can't tell you too much about today, but that we will be launching January 1st. It's something that's going to add a whole new dimension to the company, and just maybe add a whole new dimension to the theatre business while we're at it.

Words to live by. It's great to be back.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Holiday Season at Grinder

Just a quick note today to let you know that next week we will be launching our extensive holiday season promotional and goodwill campaigns. Please see next Thursday's posting for all the details. I want the next six weeks to be a very special time for our company and its membership, a chance for us to share with others the very best of what makes Grinder Productions what it is - you and your talents.

Season's Greetings from Grinder Productions

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ECT's You're Lucky if You're Killed Opens this Friday

Come on down to the grand and check out this important show!

See info here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Improv Class at the Elora Centre for the Arts

I'm teaching a class this winter!

The Elora Centre for the Arts is offering a class in Improv that will begin in January and run for 8 weeks, concluding with a small performance. We'll cover all the basics of improv, through games, trust exercises and other activities. Please check out the ECA website for all the details.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Doom and Gloom

In case you hadn't heard, the economy has gone to pot.

The stock market is in shambles, unemployment is rising, credit is "crunched" and the world appears headed for a significant recession. A few of the darkest prophets of death are almost ready to utter the d-word. No, not deficit: depression.

It won't be long before we begin to hear more and more people make comparisons between the 1930's and the present calamities. Perhaps these claims are overstated or perhaps they are justified - I don't claim to have the head for figures necessary to say with any certainty just how bad the coming months and possibly years will be.

I do know that through all the doom and gloom there will continue to be live theatre. Wherever you can find "two planks and a passion" you will find theatre. So don't despair theatre lovers - the sets may be a little shabbier, the plays a little more obsucre and the venues a little more rudimentary (maybe next summer will see a growth in the number of outdoor productions), but we theatre people are far too addicted to this to ever give it up. We may go hungry, but we will not go away from our theatres.

And you can take that to the bank.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Newsletter now available

Get your copy of the November Newsletter right here, folks. Enjoy!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Updated: Scripts for sale on Lulu.com

Just a quick reminder that you too can own copies of the original scripts that have been produced at Grinder Productions over the years. Just click here to go to our storefront at Lulu.com, where you can purchase both downloadable and paperback versions of such works as Home Farm, Muzzle Blast, and All My Sins Remembered, as well as our newest addition - Farmer's Daughters. It's also the place where you'll find Tech Theatre 101, a comprehensive technical manual for production managers and anyone else charged with the task of making incredible theatre on incredulous budgets. As time goes by I'll add more and more scripts to the store, including some that we have never produced at Grinder, but are great shows nonetheless.

Just one more way we make theatre that dares to be different.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Living the Dream

I haven't been linking you to as much stuff as I was before (shady copyright laws, and after all, isn't this blog supposed to be where I spout witticisms?), but some people in the theatrosphere (blogosphere of theatre blogs, for the uninitiated) seem to think this guy has a point.

Do you think so? Personally, I think he's oversimplifying things a bit - it's not just about making art or making money, and there are several ways that the creative process can be monetized. Nonetheless, it's given me some food for thought.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Confession

I have a confession to make.

I was at a show (the title of which shall remain anonymous) a little while ago, and when I was there I did something that I've never done before - I went home at intermission. Yes, that's right, I did the rudest, most inconiderate thing you can do when you come to a show. It may look like a victimless crime (you've already bought your ticket, and really, who's going to notice one empty seat after intermission), but the fact that you can insult the production without the production even knowing about it is, in my estimation, one of the most cowardly, uncouth insults you can hurl at a given show. It means that you've formed an opinion of the show without even giving it a chance to play out (who knows, maybe the second act was much better than the first), and since there's little time to count how many seats are still full after intermission the producers of the show will likely never realize that you were disappointed enough to leave.

I don't know how rampant the desertion runs at Grinder Productions. I know there have been a few, but most of these losses slip by me.

I'm quite ashamed of myself for what I have done. But now, at least I know how the people who leave my shows feel, and I have some idea of what it takes to drive them to that point.

There, I've confessed. Now when am I supposed to start feeling better?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Historic Discovery has been made!

Check this out, click here. Very, very cool indeed. It seems they have discovered Shakespeare's original playhouse. Not the more famous Globe Theatre, but the original building, simply called the "Theatre," Thus establishing the name "theatre" as a place to put on plays (the word itself is from the Greek, Theatron, which simply means "seeing place."

Now, if only they could un-earth a copy of the Mauritanian King Juba's multi-volume history of Greco-Roman theatre that would be something spectacular indeed!

ECT presents You're Lucky If You're Killed

It's not a Grinder show, but we're helping out on it! An important show for Remembrance Day. Check it out.


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Week that Was

Well, I'm back.

It was a very long week, with two shows in production simultaneously. I'm proud to say that we came through both shows relatively hassle-free: kudos to all the people working on both shows who put in the time, effort and professionalism required to make these two events happen. While neither The Innocents nor A Bench in the Sun played to packed houses I'm happy to report that the combined box office returns of these shows means that Grinder will continue to live to bring another show to the stage. I'll have more to say on our upcoming shows in the days and weeks ahead, so stay tuned - the Grinder odyssey continues - and there's something even bigger coming around the corner...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Coming Events - No Postings Next Week!

I won't have a chance to get online to post next week because things are so busy, so I thought I should let you know now what's coming up:

A Bench in the Sun: October 23rd, 24th and 25th at 8pm, 2pm matinee October 25th.
Elora Centre for the Arts
Tickets available by calling 519-780-7593, or clicking on the "Buy Tickets" link here on the blog.

The Innocents: October 23rd, 24th and 25th at 8pm, 2pm matinee October 25th.
Fergus Grand Theatre
Tickets available by calling the box office at 519-787-1981.

Note that both shows go up at the exact same times! That's why I'll be too busy to write blog posts.

I hope to see you at both - but how can I be in two places at once!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I'm used to melancholy. I have no problem admitting that my life has been more failure than success, and that my early years were a very uneven time in my life - the usual joys of childhood coupled with inexplicable despair. I'm sure that were I child today I'd be quickly jacked up on ritalin or whatever other quick-fix pharmaceutical they are throwing at whatever I might have. In any case, if I did suffer from any ailment (a good chance of it - apparently over 70% of people working in the arts have a diagnosable mental condition - go figure) then I was left to suffer through it as best I could. Hence, I got used to melancholy.

Fast-forward to adulthood (whatever that is) and suddenly I find that I can move beyond the things that made me unhappy when I was younger. Indeed, I have accomplished much: an education, published works, a career (albeit not a lucrative one as of yet), and I wake up every morning with no one to answer to save for my audience. All that, and the world's greatest girlfriend. It's true, I do have much to worry about - just ask anyone running their own business and you'll get a laundry list of concerns, almost all of them about how much money is going in and how much money is going out, and I do worry about these things. But for all my concerns, things aren't nearly as bad now as they used to be. In fact, most days I have no reason not to be downright happy with myself and all that I have.

But I'm used to melancholy. Being sad is an excuse to procrastinate, a place to hide from the world, a way to overlook the obvious flaws one could remove to improve oneself. It is an easy place to get comfortable in.

I wrote this post today because I was feeling melancholy for no apparent reason. Yes, I have much to be sad about - two shows with no marketing budgets would be a good start - but I also have much, much more to be happy about, to take pleasure in. Writing this posting, working on my company, that's the easy part, and it makes me feel good while doing it. It's just the forcing myself to start down that road of productivity that is hard. Thanks for your indulgence while I made that leap.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Update - A Bench in the Sun

For Immediate Release

The Grinder Productions/Stage 4 season at the Elora Centre for the Arts is back for another year, this time with a delightful romantic comedy about falling in love and aging gracefully—or something like it.

A Bench in the Sun opens October 23rd at the Centre, and runs to October 25th. It features two “grumpy old men” Burt and Harold, living at Valley View Gardens, a retirement home with “No valley, no view, and a lousy garden.” Burt is the loveable curmudgeon, quiet, moody, dressed in pajamas, and happy to be simply left alone to read his newspaper. Harold, on the other hand, is flamboyant, impeccably dressed and can’t go a minute without doing or saying something to get Burt’s goat.

The two men both have a history behind them, something in their past that they have to get cleared up, but neither one of them is quite ready to confront the other just yet. Luckily, into the picture comes Adrienne, a once very famous actress, now retired, but still very attractive. Burt and Harold fall for her instantly, and the battle to win her favour ensues, with plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to sabotage each other’s efforts.

In the end, the result is hilarity for the audience, with an undertone of charm and sincerity that will warm your heart, the perfect night out for lovers of all ages. Tickets are $15 each, and are available by calling 519-780-7593 or by clicking on the "Buy tickets" button right here on the blog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

It's a bit of a stretch to make it through the week these days. You see, the world's greatest girlfriend works a fair distance away, so the only time I really get to see her is on the weekends. We tend to charge each other's batteries, and I'm always feeling pretty good by Sunday night. But then she's gone for another 5 days, our contact reduced to strictly professional (rehearsals) or just a brief phone call, so as not to use up too many minutes on the cell phone. Usually by Friday I'm not a pretty sight.

It's had an effect on the company operations too - I find I now tend to be at my most productive earlier in the week, and after about noon on Wednesday (which it is as I write this) I don't find I come up with anything particularly profound, and I'm better served by tackling the more mind-numbing aspects of this job (re-arranging the office drawing is likely next on the list).

This has been one of those phone call only weeks. It reminded me of just how far we have come in five years at Grinder Productions, how much the company has grown. For while I may have a mountain of tasks in front of me that are none-too-pleasant, and while I may only be at my best when I'm feeling good, the fact that we're even at the point where these things can happen says a lot. Five years ago I didn't know how I should be spending my time, or what jobs were going to be more difficult than others. I certainly didn't know how much certain things were going to cost (both in terms of dollars, social capital and personal friendships).

I don't pretend now that I know everything, or that I know less now than I thought I knew then. I have learned. I have grown, and so has the company. Grinder is now more than just one man with a crazy idea. It's a fun, exciting movement that gives meaning to dozens of lives, and the numbers are growing every day.

If that doesn't keep me going until Friday night then I don't know what will.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An interesting read

I found this posting on the Theatre Ideas blog out of the US. A must-read for anyone who thinks that the only reason to be in theatre is to become a famous star. Politically, it's a little too far to the left for me, but still, please check it out - this is a much more reasonable, rational post than some of the other diatribes I've been reading lately.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Call for Volunteers - Set Building

Grinder Productions is assisting with the Elora Community Theatre production of Dr. Norman Craig's You're Lucky if You're Killed this November at the Fergus Grand Theatre. On Saturday, October 18th at 1pm we are have a set building and painting day at the barn. I would love to have as many Grinder people as possible out to this event, as well as several ECT people from the cast, as this is a great opportunity for members of each group (and some people are members of both groups) to get together, get their hands dirty and build a cool set for a very important community project. No experience necessary of course, but if you have power tools feel free to bring them along. There'll be plenty to do, don't be shy.

Saturday, October 18th. At the barn. 1pm. E-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org for more info if necessary.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Forging ahead - How Grinder will survive the Armaggeddon

There's days I wish I were wealthy enough to play the stock market. These are not those days.

No matter where you look, there's more and more doom and gloom about our immediate collective financial future. Now I'm not a financial expert, and I don't know exactly how bad things are going to get, or what outcomes we can expect from a prolonged recession. I do know that we have a business to run, one that is, at least on the surface, particularly at risk of falling through the cracks of a crumbling economy. I thought it would be a good idea to let all of you know that we do have a plan for ensuring Grinder Productions can weather the financial storm, and to tell you a bit about the strategies we are undertaking to ensure we continue down our path.

Our plan consists of many things that we have already been working on. We'll continue to look for ways to reduce the number of male roles in our shows, so as to capitalize on the substantially larger talent pool of women at our disposal. With fewer people being able to afford to have the time to act, male and female talent pools are likely to shrink even further, so it makes sense to draw more heavily from where we have the best chance of casting our shows in a timely fashion. This may also extend to more onstage opportunities for youth and children as well: we're a heckuva lot cheaper than playing hockey.

We'll also continue to reduce the number of "purchased" shows that we do. As this past summer demonstrated all too clearly, name recognition counts for little or nothing anymore. It's what a play is about and who is in it that puts bums in seats, not the name of the author. While we won't eliminate previously-produced works from the canon completely (that would drive even the most hardened of TV sit-com staff writers off the deep end) it's clear that original works are a viable option at Grinder, and that these shows can make money.

We're also reducing technical rehearsal time, working closer to acheiving two tech days for every show in each of our venues. I'm not entirely thrilled by that (especially as regards the Grand in Fergus, where the tech is much more elaborate), but with rental costs well over 50% of our budget (over 80% if there are no royalties costs) it is essential that we are only in the theatres as long as is absolutely necessary.

We're going to continue to ramp up marketing efforts, a process that has been going on for quite a while now, but will become more and more focal, especially over the winter months.

These are some of the things that we are going to do. Notice that I do say "we." Grinder Productions is not the extension of one man. It is the cumulative efforts of over 300 actors, directors, production people and volunteers, not to mention thousands of patrons over the years. The people of Grinder come from all ages, backgrounds and walks of life, and our greatest successes have only come when we have worked together. Our greatest failures have only come when I have worked alone. We're going to have to work together to keep Grinder afloat in the months ahead. So talk up the company, tell everyone you know how much fun you had at your last show, and how much you're looking forward to your next one. Come on out and see shows yourself, and bring your friends. If there's a night where you're the only people in the audience you'll know just how badly we need your support. And most of all, do not give in to the doom and gloom surrounding us - things will improve over time.

These are the days when we show what we are truly made of.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Art Wars: Declaration of Neutrality

There's an election going on in Canada right now, in case you hadn't heard (I don't know how its possible not to see it, but I guess some people miss it). Somehow, in an odd twist of events, the arts community (and its funding) is on the political radar this time around.

All I want to do is to make sure that you are aware that funding for arts and culture is a significant component of this election, and I want you to examine for yourself the policies proposed by the various parties. Each party has different views and ideas, and this election represents a choice for those of us involved in all levels of the creative industry, about not just what we will receive in the way government support in the months and years ahead, but also the exact framework that such support will be delivered in.

It is not now, and has never been, my perogative to use this blog as a forum for political discourse. If I want to espouse a political viewpoint, I'll start a political blog. So I'm not going to tell you who you should vote for in this election, nor will I even go so far as to tell you who's policy on funding the arts has gotten my vote. I will simply tell you to get yourself informed, and to vote.

As my father once said, if you don't vote, you can't complain about who gets elected. I, for one, intend to make sure that I reserve the right to complain.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Undressing the Aging Ballerina - Marketing and Naked Theatre

Some years ago I read a review of a one woman show, the name of which long escaped me, about a ballet dancer and the incredible physical toll a career on pointe took on her body. Act 1 featured the writer/performer in her tutu, and her tales of a life in ballet seemed genuine enough. In Act 2, however, the costume was removed, and the audience was confronted with the naked form of a woman who had given her life to her art, and was able to see, in horrific, graphic detail, the scarring, the deformities, the anorexia and many of the other quite disturbing health problems this particular form of dance can give rise to.

(I don't know whether or not this particular ballerina's experience is the exception or the rule, so please don't colour your view of the ballet based on my admittedly limited experience with it - perhaps the sort of issues that were allowed to develop twenty years ago are no longer tolerated today)

Theatre is much like that poor dancer. She is old (older than ballet, opera, the printing press - predating almost every entertainment medium) and there are plenty of scars all over her body, of conventions forced upon her over the centuries.

Did Shakespeare wish that the women in his plays could actually be played by women, not pre-pubescent boys? Or did the knowledge that a few boys with little experience was all he had to work with lead The Bard to craft works where the majority of roles were for men?

What effect did the 18th century theatre manager's desire to make a few extra bucks by selling "premium" seating on the stage have? These seats were often so numerous as to make significant encroachments on the playing area (and in those days the casts tended to be much larger as well), so one can't help but feel the quality of the performance was adversely affected.

Did the rise of cinema in the early 20th century (with radio and television following close behind) serve to make theatre better by enabling creative visions made possible by the new media, or rip the heart out of it by drastically draining the pool of actors, production people and audiences?

Like the ballet dancer's tutu and pointe shoes, these developments have been external to the theatre, imposed from above (either by religion, politics, science or the almighty dollar) and have been intended to reconcile performers and performances with socially acceptable, socially possible, socially profitable circumstances of the given time.

Well here we are now in the 21st century, in a time of unprecedented social, economic and ecological awareness and upheaval. In the 21st century the aging ballerina has been undressed - the craft of production being reduced to "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amateur Theatricals" (no kidding - look it up!) and the act of production now no more complicated than pressing record on your camera phone and uploading it to the net. Pretty much anybody who wants to can make all the theatre they want.

Okay, now here's the part you're not going to like: I don't think this development is a bad thing.

I don't think I have a problem with every Tom, Dick and Jane in this world wanting their 15 seconds of fame. I think we've got enough problems (war, poverty, disease - I could go on) that there seems no point in saying that we, the people who make theatre for a living (or try to!) are any more entitled to drink from the cup as anyone else. After all, isn't theatre, at its core, an excercise in inclusivity, a way for a community to be formed around a common vision, a vision which, while it may be led by one or more individuals, is an expression of collective will?

So thanks to YouTube, pretty much anything goes in the way of performance, and pretty much anyone who wants to badly enough can perform. Thus, theatre is socially acceptable (finally, ironically), and socially possible.

It is that third pillar, profitability, where we run into difficulty.

Sadly, you can dress up the ballerina all you want - she's still too old to dance, at least not in a way that will make people come out in droves to see her. Theatre, with all its historical trappings and misappropriations for the gains of others, cannot continue to thrive as it exists today.

So what can we do?

Enter the naked theatre.

The naked theatre gets rid of all those conventions from the past. It looks beyond what has been done before, asking instead "What can we do now?" Why promote a show if no one is going to care about the publicity? You're just wasting your time. Why not simply ask people who have a vested interest in the show to simply buy a ticket (exactly how I haven't figured out just yet - that's the topic for another posting).

Why buy a show that was a hit somewhere else? What makes you think it will be a hit here? Whatever you think, you're wrong - unless there's more behind your desire to bring a show to the stage than the fact that some critic wrote three words in a review that got reprinted on the back of the acting edition.

Why would you do a show you hate just to bring people out, if you haven't got an ironclad guarantee (and I'd get that in writing - on a piece of paper drawn up by your lawyer) that a large number of people will actually come to it? Wouldn't it be better to do a show you love and have no one come to it than a show you hate and have no one come to it?

Marketing the naked theatre means not marketing. You can't market theatre any more. I don't think you can market anything, really. It's just a matter of time, I believe, before all "traditional" advertising (print, radio, TV, even on the internet) is a thing of the past. I don't know what will replace it (maybe more product placement advertising like in movies, or advertorials, but I don't think either of those work very well either - I'll leave the next big leap up to someone else), but I don't think we need to wait around in the theatre, dropping exhorbitant amounts of money on advertising campaigns that don't put any butts in seats.

I'm going to write a new theatre Marketing manifesto, mostly for myself, but I'll share it with all of you. Like the book Punk Marketing Manifesto (highly entertaining, by the way, I recommend it to anyone), this will make possible the "unmarketing" or "antimarketing" of theatre, in such a way as to be financially successful. I think it's going to take a complete and totaly review of how we do everything around here. I think it's going to take The Naked Theatre.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No post today - just come and see ART!

Come and see Art. Elora Centre for the Arts. Just come. You'll love it. It's Art.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Art Opens Tomorrow Night!

There are still some tickets left for this show, but get them fast! The fickle nature of the festival crowd means this could go viral. $15 each, available at the Elora Centre for the Arts, online at www.sensationalelora.com, or you can try your luck at the door. October 3rd and 4th at 8pm, October 4th at 2pm.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Newsletter

Newsletter now available on website. Get it here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Introducing A Bench in the Sun

Yesterday I told you about the Innocents, our Hallowe'en show at the Fergus Grand Theatre. For those of you who may not be interested in the frightening prospects of a ghost story, we have another show about some people who aren't dead just quite yet.

It's A Bench in the Sun, a play about three seniors living in a retirement home. There's Burt, the curmudgeonly accountant with no regard to fashion who's got a score to settle... with Harold, the dandy-ish "man-about-town" who can barely stand but still comes out of his room every morning looking to impress. In between them comes Adrienne, the former actress, very famous and instantly irresistible to both of the men. Thus a battle for her affection ensues, and alongside it the fate of their lives at the home is played out, when it is revealed that their home is about to be sold to a developer and the residents shipped off somewhere else.

A Bench in the Sun is a charming, funny play that will keep audiences of all ages giggling. It opens October 23rd at the Elora Centre for the Arts and runs the 23rd, 24th and 25th at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on the 25th as well. Tickets are available by calling 519-780-7593, or visiting the Elora Centre for the Arts.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Introducing The Innocents

Just in time for Hallowe'en, we've got an old-fashioned ghost story for you, about a lovely young governess, Miss Giddens, who comes to a country estate in the late 1800's to see to the instruction of two precocious children. With their parents dead, their guardian uncle off in the city and quite uninterested, the children have both come under the influence of two despicable members of the household - one the former governess, the other the former butler. Both of the children have been touched by this evil they do not understand, and it makes them act out in mysterious, terrifying ways.

Though both the governess and the butler are dead long before the play begins, their spirits continue to haunt the house, and possess the children. It is up to Miss Giddens to free them of this terror (for no one else will dare), and save their immortal souls.

Based on The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James this play features many a good fright, and a plot that will keep you guessing until the last moments of the play. The show will run October 23rd, 24th and 25th at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on the 25th as well. Tickets are now on sale at the Fergus Grand Theatre box office, available by calling 519-787-1981.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Poverty Anonymous – Call for actors

I know I've already posted this - but I still need some actors - get in touch with me if you are interested!

In my ongoing quest for profitability, I've decided to write a play about poverty.

I have inserted it into our fall season, as the December show at the Elora Centre for the Arts, rather than the royalties project we had originally penciled in there.

The show is called Poverty Anonymous, and its set up just like any other "anonymous" meeting, except the people you will meet there are all guilty of the crime of poverty. Led by their wealthy, tenacious, ex-poor-person moderator June, this motley crew of losers, low-lifes, and ne'er do wells tries to put their pasts behind them, and assert once and for all the PA motto:

“There is no greater force on Heaven or on Earth than the Almighty Dollar.”

Join them, as they recite the Poverty Anonymous pledge before every meeting:

I am broke, and that’s not ‘oke,
Being a bum is very dumb,
I am a jerk until I go to work,
But cash in hand will make me grand.

I'm looking for several women to help me out in this show. I can make room for pretty much anyone who’s willing to come to the rehearsals and learn their lines, so please e-mail me at grinder@grinderproductions.org if you are female, over the age of 15, and would like to be in this show.

Sarcasm... gotta love it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Art of the Business

Yesterday I referenced Rebecca Coleman's postings on The Next Stage Blog. Today I thought I would give you the link to the first posting in the series, so you could check it out for yourself (just click on the title of this posting). It's some interesting reading, and if you're as concerned as I am about putting butts in seats (and that's paying butts, not freebies, corporate give-aways or any other cop-outs) then I think you will find it invaluable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Breaking a few more rules

I've been thinking about how things are different in theatre now. It plays directly into my "Naked Theatre" concept (no, I haven't forgotten it, I'm just letting it stew around for a while until I arrive at a more succinct definition), and I'm thinking today that nowhere is the new reality more evident than in marketing.

I've been reading with great interest Rebecca Coleman's blog over at The Next Stage about marketing theatre. It's some good stuff, but it's a little scary too - I'm already actually doing most of that stuff, and it's still no guarantee that the people are going to come out.

Her main point, though, that you have to have something about you that makes you unique, is, I think the touchstone of the entire argument. You can argue about the semantics of your Facebook prescence all you want (I have) but it ultimately is no more than just good sense to do all the things you should do - and that's all. It's not that all the things you should do will actually help you, all you can do by doing the things you should do is make sure that you're not hurting yourself by not doing them.

Sound confusing? How about putting it this way - what makes you unique is what makes you successful - the rest is gravy. You have to be unique, and somebody, somewhere, has got to be turned on by your uniqueness. If you want to make a living in this business, whatever makes you unique had better be a turn on to a lot of people. It's why a show without a single poster will play to thousands while a show with a $10,000 marketing budget will play to the crickets.

Now I'm not saying this means you should start doing nothing but Norm Foster plays, just because that's what a lot of people like to see (no offense, Norm!). Somebody else is already being unique by doing Norm Foster plays - namely Norm Foster. At Grinder, we aren't going to be the next Norm Foster. We are going to be the next Grinder Productions. We are unique. We are Theatre that Dares to be Different. It's time we used our uniqueness to turn a few more people on.

Another day, another theatre truism turned on its head. What's next?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Ticketing System Coming to the Fergus Grand Theatre - Now we need some box office Volunteers!

I'm pleased to announce that the Fergus Grand Theatre is in the midst of a transformation to the 21st century. After years of quiet diplomacy, the powers that be have seen fit to allow the theatre its own internet connection. (Leafs fans, you can start planning the Stanley Cup parade now - Hell HAS frozen over!) This, in turn, has paved the way for the introduction of a new, more comprehensive box office and theatre management system, one that will provide users groups like Grinder Productions with a whole host of new resources.

First and foremost, the new system will allow users the freedom to pay by any method they choose - we can now process debit cards and credit cards. It also means that we can now take a payment over the phone when someone calls in to make a reservation - no more unpaid no-shows. This system is fully web-based, so patrons can browse shows and purchase tickets online from the Fergus Grand Theatre website (or through the Grinder site - we'll be linking directly), anytime and anywhere they like. The can even print their tickets at home.

This also will serve to better promote shows online - we can link directly from say, our Facebook page, to the box office, for seamless access to the purchasing process. Since our shows at the Fergus Grand are generally reserved seating, patrons can select exactly the seat they want. There's even a very cool feature where you can click on any given seat and get a snapshop of exactly what your view of the stage will be from that seat!

The program itself has some built-in marketing tools that will allow the Fergus Grand Theatre to complement our online marketing campaign with its own, thus getting the word out to a greater number of people. And since it's a "one-stop shop" for every company that uses the theatre, patrons who come to the site to buy other shows will also be able to view information and purchase tickets to Grinder shows as well.

Not available right away, though coming soon, will be the ability to purchase gift certificates online, as well as ways in which you can make donations to the theatre or a certain theatre company. The system is also set up to handle subscription sales, so this should mean that you will be able to use your "Grinder Card" to buy tickets as well, but I'm not sure on the logistics of that at this time (What? You haven't heard of the Grinder Card? Then click [here - insert hyperlink] to find out all about it!).

Down the road, there is the possibility for this program to be expanded to other venues - we could be using it to sell our tickets for the Ennotville and Belwood summer seasons, thus allowing us to offer a level of professionalism in these venues we couldn't dream of providing on its own.

The system is designed by a company called TixHub, a Canadian company that has designed box office systems for places like Guelph's River Run Centre and Mississauga's Stage West. They have 24/7 technical support and they are very sensitive to the needs of their customer, and willing to customize their system based on the customer's needs. In the case of the Fergus Grand Theatre, this customization is very important, given the unique challenges we are faced with in this building and this market.

One of the things I like best about this system is that it's not just a box office, but a whole Theatre and Event Administration and Management tool. We'll get comprehensive box office reports for each show, so we'll know how many tickets were bought, at what price, and just about anything else we could need. As I mentioned above, the theatre will be able to help with marketing in more ways than ever before. And when the show is over, our accounting process will be much simpler. The program will take the total revenue, deduct all box office charges, then deduct the rent, and the township will issue us a check for the remainder (or - Heaven forbid! - an invoice for the difference), which will avoid a lot of the inherent delays in the current system, where we've got to sit on a ton of revenue for weeks or months in order to make sure we can pay the rent.

Of course, it's not all roses - there will be increased costs involved. Those "box office charges" that I mentioned above are significant, but even they have some benefits built in.

The Front of House fee, the per-patron seat charge already being collected by the Fergus Grand Theatre Volunteers, will fall under the new system, so a portion of every ticket sold will still be going towards the purchase of new technical equipment for the theatre, as well as other items that will improve the theatre's day-to-day operations.

Another portion of the box office charges will go towards a Capital Replacement Fund, investing in the long-term future viability of the building. Anyone who knows the age and condition of the building will know that a capital fund is a long-overdue necessity, and one that I, along with everyone else who donated to the last capital improvement fund (the one set-up by the building's former tenants and has absolutely no connection whatsoever with this one), will be watching very, very closely to ensure that money is well spent.

Those fees, and the actual cost of operating and maintaining the system itself will be, I believe, a fair price to pay. The theatre should be able to use this program to offer top-notch customer service, comprehensive online marketing, and detailed, accurate attendance information. And on the off-hand chance they don't do those things, we can now better hold the theatre to task for it, since we are paying for it directly.

The end result for Grinder Productions and, indeed, for all the groups who rent the Fergus Grand, should be should more bums in seats, as well as a more viable theatre building now and in the years ahead.

In short, I'm very excited about the possibilities this new system opens up for us at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

Now here's where you come in. The theatre is looking for 10 to 15 people who are willing to become box office volunteers and be trained on this program. Volunteers would be asked to work a shift about once every two weeks during the new regular box office hours of 11am - 2pm, Tuesday through Saturday. In addition, there would also be the opportunity for two-hour stints during actual events (get there 90 minutes before curtain to open the box office an hour before curtain, and to stay and deal with latecomers, then cash out 30 minutes after curtain), so this might be an option for you if you're not available during the day. Volunteers would receive full training in the new system (tentatively scheduled for the last week of October) and begin working the box office as of November 1st.

I'd love to see as many Grinder members a possible become volunteers in this new system. If we're going to be using it in our summer venues down the road we're going to need people who know the system ourselves, and not just yours truly (who will be signing up for the training just like anyone else, by the way).

Interested persons should contact Alan Argue, the Operations Manager at the Fergus Grand Theatre, for more information, or to sign up. Alan is available by phone at 519-787-1981 or now, finally, via email at AArgue@centrewellington.ca.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ain't Really Trying... to confuse you

You may have noticed a couple of very odd postings over the last couple of weeks. Three words, then the word "Art," and some miniscule writing. If it got you scratching your head a bit, that's good. If you managed to figure it out without the aid of a magnifying glass, that's even better.

Of course, those postings were my slightly more entertaining way of introducing our next production to you. It is called Art, and it's an international hit show, written by Yasmina Reza and translated into English by Christopher Hampton. It dares to ask the question "What is Art?" by telling a story about three friends, one of whom has just bought a painting - a white painting, with maybe some bits of non-white in it, for a very, very large sum of money. Marc, Serge and Yvan all have very different ideas about the painting, and come to blows over their disagreements, resulting in bruised egos for them and an evening of hilarity for us. Whether you're an artist, art lover, artists' lover, or think your Elvis-on-velvet is more precious than the Mona Lisa, you'll find something to laugh about in this show.

October 3rd and 4th at 8pm, October 4th at 2pm, at the Elora Centre for the Arts, as part of the Sensational Elora Festival. Tickets are $15 each, and available at the Arts Centre, at the Door, or on the Sensational Elora Website, available here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Programming Update - Poverty Anonymous

In my ongoing quest for profitability, I've decided to write a play about poverty.

I have inserted it into our fall season, as the December show at the Elora Centre for the Arts, rather than the royalties project we had originally penciled in there.

The show is called Poverty Anonymous, and it's set up just like any other "anonymous" meeting, except the people you will meet there are all guilty of the crime of poverty. Led by their wealthy, tenacious, ex-poor-person moderator, June, this motley crew of losers, low-lifes, and ne'er do wells tries to put their pasts behind them, and assert once and for all the PA motto:

“There is no greater force on Heaven or on Earth than the Almighty Dollar.”

Join them, as they recite the Poverty Anonymous pledge before every meeting:

The PA pledge:

I am broke, and that’s not ‘oke,
Being a bum is very dumb,
I am a jerk until I go to work,
But cash in hand will make me grand.

I'm looking for some women to help me out in this show. I'll take pretty much anyone, so please e-mail me at grinder@grinderproductions.org if you are female, over the age of 15, and would like to be in this show.

Sarcasm... gotta love it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Theatre Ideas: Divine Fury

Take a look at this folks: I've linked to this blog before, and while I don't agree with everything they say here (and I sometimes find the bickering a bit childish) they are making a good case for the need for intellingent thought and debate about the future of the performing arts in general and theatre in particular. I think they're right about one thing, at least: something big is coming, we just don't know what it is yet.

Theatre Ideas: Divine Fury

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Times they Are A Changing - Part 2 - Grinder Productions

Yesterday I mused at length about the deplorable state of Canadian Theatre since 9/11. I don't know that it is totally deplorable, or that it can't recover, all I know is that I'm not comfortable with things the way they are, and I can't afford to sit around and wait for things to change.

So am I going to go and work in a bank? No! Like the title line of this blog says, we're smashing all the rules, so somebody hand me my sledgehammer.

The first rule that has to go: Name recognition counts for something. This summer I can only think of one couple who came out to see one of our shows because they had heard of the playwright, and only one other couple who came out to see one of our shows because they had heard of the play. Samuel French, in their infinite wisdom, see fit to charge a premium on plays by Neil Simon, simply because, as a well-known name, he should draw more people. Well, he didn't, and we pushed that show just as hard, if not harder, than all the others.

So what does count for something? So far the only concrete indicator, in this market, that I can find, for getting a patron to come out to a show, is that they have a personal connection to it. They may know an actor, or know me, or know the venue, but whatever it is that connection must be strong and it must be personal.

That's not to say that the product onstage doesn't matter. The product onstage can't be crude, offensive, bawdy, blasphemous (especially blasphemous) or run more than two hours including intermission. And it can't cost too much either, especially if it's your own kid you're paying to see. Rather than looking for reasons to come to a show, today's patrons are looking for reasons not to come to a show. If everything clears their personal checklist, then yes, they'll think about it, if they have that personal connection, but if there's anything amiss then they'll send an apologetic but congratulatory e-mail to their friend after the show is over.

Okay, so you're William Shakespeare. Big deal, nobody cares, or at least they don't care enough to buy a ticket.

So who does care about you enough to buy a ticket? That's a question I ask every actor in every show I do. I give them the following list of people in their lives that they can ask to come to see them in the show. I don't know how many actors actually read this list, much less actually take the time to actively ask each of these individuals and groups of people to come to the show, but if they did it would certainly make my life a lot less stressful.

Here's the list:

Just in case you were stuck for people to ask to come and see our play... who on this list haven't you asked yet?

What can you say to them? How about this:

I'm in a play! It's amazing! It's called _______________, and it runs ______________ at the _____________________. Here, have a flyer!

Your family members?
Your extended family members?
Your step-family members?
Your half-family members?
Your estranged family members?
The people that live at your house and might as well be family members?
Your best friend?
Your worst enemy?
All your friends?
All your enemies?
Your church congregation?
Your students?
Your teachers?
Your professors?
Your doctor?
Your dentist?
Your hair dresser?
The pool boy?
The landscaper?
The contractor?
The house painter?
The person that fixes your car?
The person that reads your meter?
The person you sit next to on the bus?
The person who sets up your cable?
The person who fixes your computer?
The person who rang through your groceries?
The people in your car pool?
The people where you work?
Your boss?
Your boss's bosses?
The board of directors?
Your local member of parliment?
Your local municipal councilor?
The actors in that other play you're doing?
The people in your choir?
The people in your service club?
The people on your sports team?
The people who have kids on your kids team?
The coach of your kids team?
Your neighbours?
Your neighbours where you used to live?
The cute waitress at the bar?
The ugly waitress at the bar?
The policeman who pulled you over for the RIDE check?
The bagel guy?
The people in you professional association?
The people in your union?
The people on your sales list?
The people on your prospective sales list?
The people on your e-mail list?
Your Facebook Friends?
The convenience store clerk who sells you a lottery ticket?
The person who puts gas in your car?
The people you were in your last play with?
Anyone you've ever been in a play with?
People you know that are interested in going to plays?
Your priest or spiritual adviser?
Your roommate?
Your boyfriend/girlfriend?

Okay, so most actors aren't going to invest that kind of time and effort in a play. Heck, if most actors would just invest the time it takes to learn their lines and blocking in a timely fashion ( and not a day before we open) that would also make my life a lot less stressful.

That leads nicely into my next rule that has to be smashed: You can't do your own plays and expect that people will come. That was the rule I lived by for years. I've enthusiastically thrown all the Alan Ayckbourn, Neil Simon and every "stock" play I thought I could produce in front of audiences, hoping that Noises Off would bring out more people than Waiting for Godot. And while in a head-to-head match up in this town Noises Off would likely come out on top (Godot has many of those reasons not to go to a play that I mentioned above built right into it), I think it would be a closer call than you might think, and I think that Godot, could it be orchestrated so as to have a personal connection with enough people, could even come out on top (apparently it was a huge success when performed before inmates at San Quentin, or some other maximum security prison in the US - the murderers, drug dealers and pedophiles thought it spoke directly to their existence).

I'll let you in on a little secret. Do you know which one of our shows did the best this summer? It was Farmer's Daughters. Why? Because we didn't have to cough up $75 a night for Alan Ayckbourn or $125 for Neil Simon. And you know what else? Nobody cared that I had written the show! I, a small-town starving artist with limited talent, few resources and a tight deadline, managed to create something that was, if not a masterpiece, good enough for enough people for me to pay for the hall and a little bit of tech and marketing. Effectively, what was left over became the royalty, and that has gone straight back into the company.

So from now on, you won't be seeing as many well-known plays at Grinder Productions. Yes, there will be some, of course, but if we can produce plays at Grinder why can't we write them as well? When I started Grinder it was to do my own plays, and the only reason I started to look at plays from other sources was because I couldn't afford to do anything else. Oddly enough, the pendulum has swung back the other way, and writing plays is no longer a time-waster it is a money-maker. I think as time goes by new works, both my own and those written by other members of the company, will become more distinct, and eventually it will become the norm here at Grinder.

Well, I think that's enough rule-smashing for one day. I'm sure there's someone out there who thinks I'm full of it when it comes to all this, that I just don't get it, that I should go and get a haircut and a real job and get out of the way of the real theatre people who know what they're doing. I just don't know that those people will take the time to read all of this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Times They Are A Changing

Though this post won't be released until September 16th (with any luck that will be the day you read it, unless the guys at blogger are asleep at the switch), I am writing it on September 11th. Not exactly the cheeriest day of the year, I know, but it is a date that punctuates pretty much every facet of our lives today. So too with theatre.

Jerry Wasserman, editor of the "Modern Canadian Plays" anthology (4th edition), unwittingly hints at the perils that were about to hit the national theatre scene as his work went to press. In his introduction to the second volume of the work he devotes one of the concluding paragraphs to a lament about the collapse of the theatre publishing industry in Canada, and ends on this prophetic note:

"As I write this in the early spring of 2001, the situation is desperate but, as always, hopeful."

(I hope Wasserman will forgive me for not making a correct bibligraphic citation here - I was asleep for that class!)

A year or two later, during the Canadian Drama course that I had bought the anthology for, our professor (the much esteemed Peter Cumming), suggested that Canadian Drama (in English) could be divided, however imperfectly, into two time periods, everything before the Centennial Year of 1967, and everything after, starting with George Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe as a touchstone moment.

It was then that I, the know-it-all with bad eyesight who'd gone back to school, suggested that perhaps September 11th, 2001 represented the start of a 3rd epoch in Canadian Drama. Dutifully Cumming wrote my notion on the blackboard, but we never explored the concept much further. Looking back though, perhaps I was onto something after all, even in my post-adolescent angst.

September 11th is the official reason my former employer, Theatre on the Grand, went belly up. The attacks made for jittery investors, a lot less American Tourists, and a town full of theatregoers who suddenly wanted to stay home and hold onto their children and grandchildren.

I would argue that there has also been a change in the way we make theatre. Gone are the intense debates of a "national drama" that were sparked by plays by people like David French or Judith Thompson or George F Walker (all included in Wasserman's anthology, of course). I can't think of a single play since 9/11 that has fundamentally changed the face of Canadian Theatre. Instead, I see the increasing fragmentation and struggle (like the death agony of Theatre Passe Muraille), a grasping at an ever-vanishing, ever-elusive notion of "our audience," like it was an amorphous mass who did nothing but graze in the fields between showtimes. Certainly people are trying, but is Top Gun: The Musical really the next Salt Water Moon? Is Da Kink in My Hair going to resonate like Verdecchia's Fronteras Americanas? While I don't want to disparage any of these shows (all four I would highly recommend to anyone), and while their creators may have begun them before 9/11, the newer plays have come of age in a much more dangerous world.

Creativity can only flourish where it lives without fear. For the affluent creator (yes, there was a time when Canada Council grants made such a thing possible) to create plays in this country was to be like a child playing in a sandbox - no cares, no worries, and always safe in the knowledge that mom was watching us from nearby and wouldn't let anyone take us away. So it was okay to take chances, to make mistakes, to go places and do things that no one had ever done before.

But on 9/11 our mom got a broken nose for being too mean to the other kid's mommies. All of the sudden things weren't so happy in the sandbox - we realized that at any moment we too could be the ones on the plane, or even rehearsing a play in one of our fabulously designed, scantily defended theatres, and evil could touch us, and do it very easily. As a community, theatre began to fortify, with sandbags of Walt Wingfield, megamusicals (even in places like Drayton and Stratford!) and British Farces, with a steady stream of Norm Foster plays as cover fire. Thus we created Fortress Theatre - where we could be safe, where we could generate enough revenue to keep the home fires burning, and weather the economic storm. Unfortunately this had a bad effect on the creative juices, and we are just now starting to reassert ourselves, to give ourselves the permission to take chances once again.

At least I am. More to follow on that tomorrow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Aimless Rant Tirade

Am Really Trying

Aren't Ready To

Announce Reasoning Today

Are Ruminating, Thou?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fergus Grand Theatre Website

Just thought I'd post the link today to the Fergus Grand Theatre website, since not a lot of people even know it exists. There's upcoming Grinder information on there, as well as other upcoming news and events. Get it here, and add it to your bookmarks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Open-ended question

I'm a little stumped for material today... it seems that the well of inspiration has temporarily run dry, due no doubt to the long, hot summer. So in abscence of a posting, I'd like to pose a question to all of you, and see if you can help me out. Here goes:

What was the last play you attended, and most importantly, why did you go to that particular play?

Just wondering....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Laugh-in Wrap-up

I'd like to send out a big Thank-you to the cast and crew of Laugh-in, our production this past weekend at the Fergus Grand. It was so nice to kick off our fall season with such a wonderful ensemble, who all worked very hard to bring this evening of madness we laughingly called Laugh-in to the stage. Thanks guys.

And if you missed that show, don't depair! We have more shows coming up throughout the fall and winter and spring, at the Grand and at the Elora Centre for the Arts. Stay tuned to the blog for all the latest news!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Introducing... The Grinder Card

We're rolling out something new here at Grinder Productions, something that I hope you will enjoy. It's the Grinder Card.

The Grinder Card is our way of saying thanks to our most devoted fans. It works just like a season subscription, but rather than being tied to a specific series of shows, it is good for admission to any Grinder show, in any venue, at any time. $100 will get you a card that is good for ten admissions to Grinder events. That means you essentially have ten tickets, at ten dollars each, for any Grinder shows you may wish to attend. You can come alone and just use one admission, or come as a couple and use two. Or bring a friend, or two friends, it doesn't matter. The card is simply a way for you to gain ten admittances to any Grinder Productions shows you like.

To get your card please call 519-780-7593, or e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Random Thought

A Random Thought...
A Rollicking Tune/
A Raucous Time!
A Ring Tone?