Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Summer's Coming

That's right folks!

It may be winter now, but we're getting ready for the biggest and busiest time at Grinder Productions, the summer seasons at the Ennotville Library and The Belwood Hall. I hope you'll be able to come out and join us for a sneak peak - read all about it in the letter we've sent to our tourism partners below!

Greetings!

We would like to invite you to come out to a special "sneak preview" of the shows that Grinder Productions will be producing this summer at the Ennotville Library and the Belwood Hall.

This evening will allow everyone the opportunity to learn more about Grinder Productions and to see a preview of the wonderful shows that will be coming up this summer. We hope you will be able to attend on Saturday February 2nd at 8pm at the Ennotville Library. We will present short dramatic readings of each of the scripts, along with descriptions of the shows, with refreshments to follow, and a chance to mingle with the movers and shakers of Grinder Productions. The library is a charming building rich in history and it's a wonderful location to see a summer show.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our Creative and Executive Director Eric Goudie at 519-780-7593.

We hope to see you on Saturday night.


Sincerely,

The Grinder Productions Team

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Morning is not a good time to make theatre!

Monday morning....

Most people don't like Mondays - it's back to work, to school, to the dreary routines of life. But they've had all weekend to rest up!

In theatre, you're at work until 9 or 10 or 11pm on later Saturday night (worse if there's the dreaded Sunday matinee), so the weekend should just be starting on Monday morning. Unfortunately, since the rest of the world doesn't have its weekend on Monday and Tuesday, if you don't get back to work right away they call you a slacker.

So here I am, staring through a caffeine-boosted fog, back to work after a weekend of performances.

I'll admit, it wasn't as good of a weekend as I wanted. We had an audience for two of the three shows, and we never broke into the double digits. Still, it's a start. Something to build upon.

And the chance to build is coming right up. This Saturday we'll be producing "Summer's Coming" at the Ennotville Library. This will be a preview of all the shows we have coming up this summer in both Ennotville and at The Belwood Hall. I'm going to set a goal of 20 people for this performance. Twenty people. I think that's attainable. Of course, I thought 20 people was attainable last weekend, and evidently it wasn't. But if I've learned anything in this business it's that you can't give up, and I have no intention of throwing in the towel just yet. So tune in tomorrow, when I'll have all the details about Summer's Coming listed here. Take that info and spread the word - it will sound much better coming from you than from me - and if you're not doing anything this Saturday night and you want a taste of what's coming down the pipe this summer, then come on out and join us.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quick Update

Sorry I missed you yesterday! I've been very busy getting these shows ready. I'll maybe talk to you on Thursday quickly again, but if I don't manage to get a minute I'll make my plug now - please come to one of the shows this weekend! I am trying to get as many people out as I can - help me bring this company back to life!

Eric

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Week Ahead

Good Monday morning, everyone (hey it's a stretch for me too).

Well here we are, production week for Resurrection, and just under two weeks away from Summer's Coming, on the cusp of starting rehearsals for The Hollow, and I'm starting to get the ball rolling on our February events as well.

Whatever am I going to do with all the free time on my hands?

Here's the information for Resurrection - just in case you missed it the first time around.



I've been hearing some nice things about this show (Thank you Wellington Advertiser!) so we might actually get a few people out to see these shows. I certainly hope so. If you're sitting on the fence right now, what are you waiting for!

As the week progresses I'll keep letting you know how these shows are going, but I'll also talk a lot more about our other upcoming events as well. Resurrection is the first programming of the "re-start" here at Grinder Productions, the first of many more to come. I hope you'll be able to join us for this amazing adventure.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Foibles

Yesterday was a slow day on the preparation front. Got a bit more material pulled together for Bad Words, but I was unable to get much done on the Come Play With Us front. This is only mildly distressing (children's theatre isn't my strong suit) but fortunately I have the weekend to sort it all out. Got lots accomplished on The Hollow, though, which is a good thing seeing as we're going to be going into rehearsals in just 9 more days.

What I did get done yesterday was thinking. I used to worry that all the time I spent thinking about things was mere procrastination, and back in the day sometimes it was, but not any more. I am older and wiser now, and more intellectual in the ways I approach things. Now, rather than just wasting time when I am thinking over a problem, I am dissecting it, understanding it, finding its weakness and, ultimately, the most effective way to turn it from a problem into an opportunity and, eventually, a success. Of course, I still have a ways to go with a lot of this, but ever since my "sabbatical" back before Christmas I have been able to think about things once again in a meaningful, productive manner. Yesterday's burning question? Will this company ever be able to afford it's own space? Well, after much speculation and crunching of numbers, yes we can, though it won't be right away, and it won't be the Taj Mahal. So watch for more postings on that as we go forward - I may make it a major goal for the company in the coming months, because in many ways its the next logical step, and the biggest obstacle between us and lasting success.

So now I'm gone until Monday, cloistering myself away to finish preparations for Resurrection. I'll be sure to let you know how it all went down.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hollow

Going to take a bit of a departure today from my musings on the trials and tribulations of preparing for Resurrection at the Elora Centre for the Arts next weekend and let you know a bit about what I'm doing with all my free time, getting ready to direct Agatha Christie's The Hollow, going up this March 27th - 29th at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

You may remember me talking about the audition process last week in preparations for this past Saturday's "Cattle Call," as those in the business facetiously refer to mass auditions as. It was, contrary to the stereotype, a very pleasant (though oddly draining) experience, and I'm pleased to report that we have been able to cast the show with much less and pain and suffering than is always entirely possible when working with such a large cast (6 men and 6 women).

We have a nice mix of people too, from experienced veterans of many shows (with Grinder and others), to newcomers who are trying this theatre thing for the very first time. I noticed we had a lot of "born again" theatre people come out to audition - those who hadn't done anything since their teens and 20's and who were now in their 50's and 60's and looking for something to do with all their free time. I'm sure there's a sociology thesis in there somewhere for some university student with community theatre parents.

Tonight I'll be meeting with my design and technical people to go over that aspect of the show. Far more than simply conducting rehearsals, there's a whole host of time, money and human resources that go into making even a small show a reality. In fact, if you were to assign the actors as simply one "department" in the entire structure of production, they would only take up about 5% of the total space, and that's if the show doesn't have complex technical requirements. As a director, it's important that I give a reasonable amount of my time to considering the other 95% of the show that has little to do with what's going on in rehearsals. I ignore that 95% at my peril, for in that lies the base of the production, the environment in which it will take place, the mechanisms that will ensure someone actually buys a ticket to see it, and the people who will take my thoughts, combine them with their own and those of others, and make it a reality.

I started out in this business, like so many others, in production, working as an unpaid, badly treated lackey. They were the best of times and the worst of times, certainly. To be a part of something that impressive (and when you're putting on plays for the first time it doesn't take much to be impressed), to struggle through the stress and pain of long hours, little sleep and being screamed at by the director and then see it all come together on opening nights, that was something unlike anything I'd ever imagined. It's probably that high that hooked me on theatre in the first place. I could look up onstage and say "I did THAT. Cool." And it is cool. To this day I get a great feeling of accomplishment when I see a full box set go up onstage and look marvelous. When I hear a beautiful soundscape that fills the theatre and transforms it into someplace else. Even when an actor walks onstage with an letter in his hand and I see that someone has taken the time make it look like the letter has been through the postal system of whatever time and place the play is set, that is something cool for me.

I don't begrudge people their acting. If that's what does it for you, if that's why you want to be involved in the theatre then who am I to say it's not right. But I think that for every actor biting their nails, feverishly cramming lines before they go on, there's a techie out there somewhere too, have the time of their lives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Scripting 101

It's been a while since I created shows like this. When I started out with Grinder Productions it was my intention to produce exclusively my own work, and to entertain any outside scripts only if others brought them to me, and I would conisder those projects on a case-by-case basis.

Then reality hit me like a ton of bricks and I realised that no one cared about a writer they'd never heard of telling them stories they didn't really want to acknowledge even existed. So I started buying scripts and paying royalties and doing shows that were well known and loved. Sometimes this had the desired effect, and the shows were successful, and sometimes they weren't, but at least we had a basis to work from that had at least once worked well enough for someone else to get a production out of it, so theoretically it made life easier. Now dealing with the companies that grant amateur royalties isn't much fun, especially when you haven't really got enough money to afford what they consider their very modest rates. Worst of all, they want their money before the show, not after, so you can't use the money from the show to pay for the royalties, you have to have it already. And they can be very mean too, they hold the monopoly for whatever play it is you're interested in, so if you want to do the play their job is done and they don't have to be nice to you to make the sale.

Okay, so they're not always mean - I've had good experiences, and some of the people I've dealt with over the years have actually been very pleasant to deal with, and have gone the extra mile for me. All the same, I'll be much happier when I have enough money that paying for scripts and royalties (and no, they won't let you make photocopies).

But the economics of a successful rebuild dictates that we can't afford to be buying any shows at the moment. Even if there were a way to somehow defer the costs until after the event I still couldn't justify taking on any extra risk beyond the cost of venue rental. They say you have to spend it to make it, I know, but paying for the privilege of having a place to put on a show is spending enough for the moment, thank you very much, without having to pay for the privilege of producing the show itself.

So I'm back to writing my own shows. Now yes, in the case of Bad Words I'm not so much a writer as an elocutionist, and I may not have a script per se as much as some working notes, and I'll be making frequent use of works by people long dead, which is thankfully in the public domain. All the same, as anyone who's ever sat through endless boring university lectures will know, in order for this type of material to be entertaining it must be presented in an interesting fashion. In other words, it's gotta be sexy. And since I don't have the money (there's that word again) for fancy multi-media effects or even a decent stage design I'll have to rely on written words, a story that I will essentially write to make sense of this material.

When it comes to Come Play With Us, on the other hand, I won't be able to refer to very many notes. For that I will have to write several "scenarios" - detailed descriptions of what it is I would like to do at each point in the show. If it's a game, this is how we play it. If it's a song, it goes like this. If it's a story, here are the key points. I'll be relying on my skill in improvisation to pull these elements off in performance, but the more comfortable I am with them to begin with the better I will do so again scripting, even in this loose sense, is essential.

Love Notes will be the most interesting one of the bunch. There's not a word of dialog spoken onstage (though voice-overs are a definite possibility), yet I will still be following a script. Every movement will have to be worked out beforehand, and then the purpose of rehearsal will be to patiently drill these movements until they stick. This will be the hardest of the three shows to put together, but it's the one I'm most looking forward to.

So that's some insight on the process that is going into creating these three shows. It's not quite the same as traditional playwrighting, which I am more accustomed to, but it's also not quite the same as collective creation, that much-maligned, over-stereotyped method of creating shows that brings together a bunch of performer-writers, with or without a director, to generate and then refine the material for a show.

Back to the grind it is.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Responsibility

Well I've changed my mind... again... about the 4th show this summer.

Programming is tough!

It's the one thing that most "Artistic Directors" (I use that word to describe myself with more than a little trepidation) are very eager NOT to talk about, the process that goes into the selection of material for their seasons. It is among the greatest responsibilities they have, and for many the source of their greatest power and influence. For those who are in the business for power and influence then, (and that's a lot of AD's) it is antithetical that they would ever divulge their "secrets" for picking shows.

Well I've learned that power and influence in the live theatre business is fleeting at best, a mirage at worst, and nearly impossible to attain. It is even undesireable, in most cases, as when you're "Herr Director" everyone expects you to be able to snap your fingers and instantly make their problems go away, problems which may or may not have anything to do with the play you're working on at the moment (I'm talking about things like needy boyfriends, moody teenagers, or the fact that your mother-in-law won't let you borrow her antique mantle clock to use as a prop onstage).

So safe in the knowledge that it will cost me nothing, here's some of the things that go through my head when I pick shows.

1. YOU. Just like Time Magazine, I realize that it's all about YOU. Whether or not I like the show is irrelevant (at least for now) - the question is will YOU, the audience, like the show. More specifically, will enough people like the show well enough to notice and care about the marketing efforts and actually buy a ticket to come and see it. Are there enough of YOU who are members of the company (especially men!) who would actually be able to perform this play? Is there someone who can direct it? What about designing the set, making the costumes? Will one of our theatres hold it? If we don't have the people in the company who can or will do this, can we bring in new people? Bear in mind, they have to be able to work for free, and what if they can't cut it and we have to go further afield again? How deep is the talent pool?

2. Second, yes, it is about me, at least up to a point. Do I like the show at all? Can I stand having my name put next to it? What is it going to do to the image of the company, and will anyone actually notice or even care? If the director, designer and leading actor all quit two weeks before opening night (hey, it's happened before) could I step in and see the project through?

I think the part of the job that most people don't notice is the responsibility factor. It's important to keep things light and fun in rehearsals, especially when you're working with people who don't have a paycheck to keep them motivated. I've found that one of the side effects of this is that sometimes some people do not appreciate the scope of what they have gotten involved in. We have a responsibility to everyone who works on a show, as well as to everyone who purchases a ticket to that show. We have responsibilities to the theatre we have booked that is counting on our rental revenue to stay alive, responsibilities to the media who have a reputation of truthful reporting to uphold, responsibilites to corporate sponsors, the people who buy advertising in the program, the service club running the concession at intermission, the house crew who have volunteered their time to work as ushers. We have a responsibility to everyone who's ever believed in the show and the company. Our responsibility is not to produce "masterpiece theatre." It is not even to produce "good" theatre - let the audience be the judge of what is and is not good theatre - our responsibility is to produce the show, to the best of our ability. Period. It is that simple, but that crucial. We are not the masters of some great machine, we are only one tiny piece, the one piece that if it fails will cause the entire machine to self-destruct.

There have been times, in the history of this company, when we have failed to produce, when I have failed to see to it that we produce, and the machine has been destroyed. We have been hurt, we have hurt many people. For all our successes, for all the times that we have gotten to opening night, however imperfectly, in the face of seemingly impossible odds, for all that I will encourage the celebration of our triumphs, I will never forget our failures, and I will never forget the hardship our failures have caused, because when history is forgotten it is doomed to be repeated.

So on that note, I have a responsibility to get back to rehearsals.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Resurrection

It's here.

Grinder Productions is pleased to present Resurrection, a weekend of three unique shows at the Elora Centre for the Arts January 25th and 26th.

As you can see, this is going to be quite a weekend. And I'm trying something that to the best of my knowledge no one has done before in this business of theatre. I'm making a one-time offer to anyone and everyone who comes to any of these shows: I will offer you a part onstage in a future Grinder Productions event, regardless of age, experience, or any other factor.

Undoubtedly, there are those who will say I've finally gone crazy. They may be right. But I think that theatre is something that everyone can do, no matter who they are or what their background is. It doesn't take any special skills, just enthusiasm and a willingness to take a chance now and then. I've seen so many people "come out of their shells" over the years, as they discover a passion they never knew they had. We've only just scratched the surface of the creative potential in Centre Wellington, and I hope that in our own small way Grinder Productions can help more people discover the joy that comes with entertaining their community. So yes, this is the Resurrection of Grinder Productions - I'll be giving you daily rehearsal updates on this blog to let you know how things aregoing - but it's so much more than that. It's the start of something new, something special, something amazing.

Our door is open. This is your chance to be a star.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Road Back

Every month I make a "to do" list of the shows, events, appointments and other activities I need to accomplish. For the month of January I decided to entitle that list "The Road Back" because this month is all about the road back at Grinder Productions.

The Road Back is not an easy one. Already this month I have started this blog, as well as made extensive changes in how the company operates and promotes itself. The business and marketing plans have undergone massive changes, and while it's still too early to accurately gauge the results of these changes on our bottom line it has produced, at least within me, a new-found optimism - I'm feeling better about the company now than I have in many months. Along with these highs there have also been lows, to be sure - trying to run a company with no staff and no budget isn't easy, even if it's only for the short term. I've thought and re-thought through a lot of my ideas, abadoning others and embracing new ones, often accompanied by pain and uncertainty.

Tomorrow I will launch on this blog the marketing campaign for the set of shows that will mark Grinder's return. On Saturday I will be holding auditions for The Hollow and we'll be into the Agatha Christie production once again. On Monday I will sit down and lay out the events that I would like Grinder to pursue over the month of February (you'll finally get to hear about this whole "Dating Disasters" idea!). So by this time next week I should have a very good idea about how things are going. Are people willing to embrace the new Grinder? In what ways? How have I been able to reform my own processes over the past month and a half? Can I predict with confidence that the horrors of 2007 will not be repeated, and that these shows will go up on time, on budget and be worthy of the price of admission?

Time will tell, of course, but if nothing else I do have a certain degree of confidence in my abilities this time around, though I'm not about going to get cocky about it. The mere fact that I can express my thoughts on the screen is testament to a change in my outlook: gone is the automaton of production that I was last summer, churning out show after show after show with no other motive than to get it done and carry on to the next. Now I see with a more critical eye, I listen receptive ear, and I work with a more open, intellectual, creative mind.

Better or worse is anyone's guess. Different? You can take that to the bank.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The night of the living auditioners

I've been trolling around the net the past few days looking for other like-minded theatre bloggers, and I can't seem to find very many. Sure, there are a few blogs that have existed about specific shows and are long out of date, and there are many actors/artists who proclaim a passing interest in theatre, but no dedicated theatre blogs. When I went to list my blog with this blog catalog thingy they didn't even have a theatre category! I even read a blog by someone (presumably an actor) lamenting that there weren't any really good theatre blogs out there. One thing that specifically tripped with me is that he was looking for insights not from the actor's point of view, but rather of the director, the producer, the people who run the business, not just work in it. He wanted to know the inner workings of a director's brain as he or she goes through a script, or how directors survive a casting call.

So, in the knowledget that there's at least one person out there (whom I forgot to leave a comment with, so he'll likely never read this) who wants to know, I decided that today I'd offer up some thoughts on how I prepare for and cope with auditions. Incidentally I will be holding some auditions this weekend...

The first thing to clear up is the common misconception that auditions somehow are or at least should be somewhat stressful. What is there to stress over? As actors you simply come in and get to entertain an audience (even though it's most often just one person and maybe the stage manager), who then will thank you for performing for them, and will consider having you entertain them for the next two weeks to 12 months (depending on whether you're summer stock, the Moscow Art Theatre, the shortest and longest rehearsal periods I know of - most theatres are in between). As a director you simply get to be entertained and then decide who would be the most entertaining group of people to spend the next part of your life working with.

Okay, I know that's an oversimplification - actors and directors put a lot of time and effort into preparing for auditions, because they do have a lot riding on them - for actors its the possibility of paid employment (or in the case of community theatre, getting out of the house more) - and for directors their casting choices are the most important acting-related decisions they have to make, and getting it right can mean the difference between a critical and box office hit or artistic and financial ruin. So yes, there's a lot riding on auditons, which is why there is so much time and effort put into them by everyone involved. And since everyone is prepared, no one should have anything to be worried about. The actors will give their best performances, the directors will make their best decisions, and the only reason why anyone should worry is because they haven't put the time and effort into their preparations that they should have, and are flying by the seat of their pants. While there are a very few people who thrive under these conditions, most of them have long since burnt out of the theatre scene and have moved on to other things.

As for how I "endure" the process as a director, I don't really see it as something tiresome. On the contrary, if I'm auditioning people I've never worked with before I can get very excited about an audition, as my mind has all sorts of new directions that it can race in. Before the auditions the characters in the script exist only in your head, but once I start seeing and hearing actors, even if they aren't doing material from the play, I start to make connections between characters in my head and bodies on the stage. And yes, it's sad but true, but some of the people I see this weekend will be cast in my head the moment they walk in the door - it just happens that the person is exactly how you picture a certain character, or there's something about them you just can't ignore. As actors, there's no way you can engineer this (coffee and donuts won't be refused, but it won't help), and as a director there's no way you can avoid this. Remember that "artistic and financial ruin" I talked about earlier? This is often the exact moment you start down that hill. You fall in love with an actor for a certain role and everything else they say and do (and sometimes the production itself) becomes mere background noise as you construct this perfect fantasy in your head of this one person's embodiment of your so-called "vision." (I hate that word, but that's for another posting)

I've seen it happen time and time again, and yes, I've been guilty of it myself. You get an actor who is just perfect for the part, but who can't learn lines, remember blocking, doesn't get along with the rest of the cast, is disruptive at rehearsals, has a torrid love affair with the Stage Manager, makes a fool of themselves with the cast after rehearsal at the bar, stops for a pee break in the middle of a scene, spills the director's coffee, swears in front the kids, laughs at inappropriate moments, fights with the costume department, won't help move the set in, breaks an expensive prop, eats the props...

I could go on for days, but you get the idea. So what's a smitten director to do? Well thank God for stage managers. They are largely immune to this disease, and can provide a valuable second opinion. As the director it's still ultimately my call, but you can be sure that this weekend I'll be turning to my stage manager a few times, if only to see the look on her face, and get some perspective. I think I'll also call upon my "inner" stage manager, that little voice inside of me that has been silent far too long. That little voice that you hear before you cross a busy road: "Stop, look and listen. Look again."

Bring out your dead.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Understanding

Yesterday was a long day. Lots of stuff to do, lots of stuff done, but at the end of the day I was still left with this great nagging feeling of unfulfillment, like I hadn't been able to get as much done as I should.

Today isn't shaping up to be much better, but I'm going to try and change that.

I feel like I am finally starting to gain some understanding about life, the universe and the direction of this company. For the first time in a long time I can see once again a future in which Grinder Productions is not a mere punch line, but the main event for a lot of people, bringing them experiences that will last a lifetime. I can see a great many events in a great many venues put on by a great many people. I know that this will take a lot of work, but we'll be up to the task because, rather than a being a chore, putting on plays will be the joy it has always been meant to be.

In the coming days I'll be laying out a lot of the "nuts and bolts" of our promotional and production work on the shows slated for January 24th - 26th, and starting to ask for your help with some of them. So as we go forward let's not forget about the long-term, and where all this is going. I wouldn't want to wind up at the finish line without you.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Back to the Grinder

So here we are, Monday morning, back at the grinder. It's been a very busy weekend, but a lot of stuff has gotten accomplished.

First off, the Agatha Christie still has a few audition spaces left. Please e-mail me very soon if you would like to book a time.

Bad Words is coming along very well too. I'm starting to wonder if anyone might be interested in an exclusive performance for their group or organization. It's going to be a very simple little show to do, and we'll have the Elora Centre for the Arts from Thursday, January 24th all the way to Sunday the 27th, so we could do it anywhere in there during the day (except Saturday), and Thursday or Sunday evening. I'm also thinking of offering the content for Love Notes, (our single's party) as a matinee as well during the day. It might be a great "Moms and Tots" type of show, like they do with the movies. Thoughts and suggestions welcome on either of those crazy ideas.

While last week was all about drawing up the roadmap back to success and putting our January projects into action this week's focus will be on launching the promotional campaigns for these and other shows. A key part of the new Grinder is the recognition of the fundamental importance of marketing. While this is not the first time I have vehemently decried the need for a sea change in our promotional activities it is the first time that I am actually looking forward to the challenge. Until very recently my perspective on marketing was very negative, and it was a view that most of the people I've worked with over the years have shared. To the best of my recollection, I have never heard of anyone that I personally know who actually likes marketing. Sure, there have been a few people who've demonstrated a passing interest before, but this has quickly faded when it has become apparent just how difficult it is, in fact, to translate enthusiasm into bums in seats. In fact, I think there's more enthusisasm for the annual Newfoundland seal hunt than there is for traditional marketing practices.

So what's different this time around? Why am I so excited about promoting the company, why do I think that this time around will our marketing efforts will result in success? Well there are a lot of reasons, not the least of which is my new-found enthusiasm about this company and what it can accomplish, but a large part of it has to do with the new way I am approaching the whole concept of marketing.

Truth be told, I don't prefer the old ways of marketing any more than anyone else. I can't stand it. Marketing should be fun, as far as I'm concerned, and from now on that's how I'm going to market from now on. It's going to be fun because I'm going to make it fun. Marketing that is fun to create and fun to give and fun to get. It's almost like creating a show about a the show. From now on I'm going to be much more creative in my process, not the least of which will include this blog. Having a forum to write on a regular basis is helping me re-awaken a narrative voice that I had almost forgotten I had. Here's to that resulting in some really entertaining stuff down the road - this is only the beginning.

Friday, January 4, 2008

TGIF?

Well it's the end of the first real week back at work (New Year's and other holidays aren't much of a distraction when you're self-employed) and I'm happy to report that the ideas are continuing to come, and the process of getting this company back on its feet is well underway.

The biggest news from today is that I'm pretty sure I have a fourth and final show in the Ennotville Season. I have, reluctantly, dropped the one I was going to do, and I am replacing it with... well, that's going to remain a bit of a surprise. If you want to find out what it is (and I guarantee you it's like nothing we've ever brought to the Ennotville Stage before) then you'll just have to come on out to the library on February 2nd and see Summer's Coming, where we'll have a sneak peak at all the shows we're doing this summer in both Ennotville and Belwood. And that's not a disparagement to Summer's Coming - it isn't JUST a sneak peak at the summer season, its also going to be a full-fledged show in its own right, complete with music and laughter and who knows what other summertime adventures we can throw in. More than anything else, Summer's Coming will be a reminder that yes, Summer is coming, even though it may be snowing (and freezing!) outside.

Other highlights include wading through a lot of dry English literature to find the exciting "gems" that are going to make up the show "Bad Words." While I may have to spend a lot more time searching (I was only online enough today to get as far as the Enlightenment, and there's a lot of material I have that only exists as hard copies in my very oblique literary collection), there's certainly no shortage of material for a show such as this. One could make a show out of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales alone. Took a look at John Gay's The Beggar's Opera for some material as well, and that could prove interesting in that The Beggar's Opera is, oddly enough, an Opera, with the pop songs of 1727 rewritten with socially subversive lyrics, which could theoretically be sung. Perhaps I will see if I can find some of the music and see what I can do with it.

Audition spaces for the Agatha Christie are filling up nicely, with two more names added to the list on Thursday. I was also happy to learn that CJOY, the radio station in Guelph had given us some air play, so a big thanks to them, as it has already prompted another auditioner. If you're thinking of coming out for this please don't wait too long - there are only a limited number of spaces available! And if you're nervous, as I know a great many people are, please take a deep breath and relax! I know of so many intelligent, talented, hard-working people who get it into their heads that they aren't good enough, they aren't experienced enough or any number of other excuses, and they don't come out, and by doing so they are missing out on a chance to be a part of what could be the time of their lives. An audition is simply a chance for you and a director to meet, talk a little bit about something you have a mutual interest in, and then you get to entertain them with your audition piece. Whatever happens after that is completely out of your hands, so its best to just have some fun with it all.

I'm going to try and take things a little easier over the weekend, perhaps only in respect to the blogging, so you'll have to wait until Monday for my next update. Till then, comments and feedback are most welcomed, so don't be shy. - Eric

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Second Steps

At the end of day 1 I'm feeling pretty good overall about how the re-start is progressing. I admit I haven't gotten as much accomplished as I had hoped to by this point, but at least things aren't piling up to overwhelming levels right off the bat, and with a few quiet nights in I'm hoping that we can get things completely caught up.

I dropped into the Elora Centre for the Arts to say hi to Karen Peters, the administrator, who promptly reminded me of the one thing that I left off of my last posting! On Saturday, February 9th I will be teaching a one-day workshop at the ECA on Improv. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of theatre it's where the stories, characters dialogue and sometimes even language are made up on the spot, often in response to some randomly drawn words or ideas, sometimes chosen by the audience, once in a while even set to music! It's a fun, simple, creative form of theatre that anyone with an open mind and a pulse can enjoy. There will be a session in the morning for kids ages 10-16 from 10am to 12pm, and then a session for adults in the afternoon from 1pm to 4pm. The cost to register is $25 for ECA members and $35 for non-members. For more information or to register you can call 519-846-9698 or e-mail programming@eloracentreforthearts.ca.

There! I hope I've made Karen happy with me once again. I will be most likely talking more about my preparations for this workshop as time goes along, so this won't be the final time it shows up here. And while I'm on this cross-promotional bent I should tell you that mine is just one of many workshops for children and adults the Elora Centre for the Arts is offering this winter, in addition to all their other regular programming. The building really is a cultural windfall for all of Centre Wellington, as it acts as a focal point for all the artists in the community, combining visual and performing arts with other community activities, and I encourage you to check out their website (www.eloracentreforthearts.ca) and see what they have to offer this week.

As far as the rest of the Grinder re-start goes, there's still much work to be done. I spent a little time at the library yesterday (remember those places you used to go to find information before the internet?) brainstorming some ideas for material for this "Bad Words" show. This show must be highly entertaining. I don't know how many of you sat through the interminable boredom of university lectures but as someone who has I would never wish to subject my patrons to that level of torture, and that's what this show could easily morph into if I'm not careful. Now by the same token I don't want to "dumb down" the content because I don't think my audience will understand the material, that's just rude, and as far as I'm concerned, if someone doesn't understand you then it's your fault, not theirs (most of the time, anyways). So this won't be a first-year lecture delivered by some pickled old sod from the some wannabe-Ivy League Canadian post-secondary money pit. It will be fun, funny, sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, but always, always entertaining.

I could launch into a diatribe about how the Canadian theatre scene long ago split into the "entertaining" and "enlightened" (or as I like to call it, "grant-receiving") factions, and how the post-secondary institutions in this country have helped to perpetuate this schism, resulting in class after graduating class of highly trained, highly talented waiters and waitresses who make "art" for three weeks a year thanks to the Canada Council, but I won't. Suffice to say that this company continues on thanks to its patrons, not the taxpayers.

The other important development from Day 1 has been the confirmation that we have the Ennotville Library for Saturday, February 2nd for Summer's Coming, our show about all the shows we'll be doing in Ennotville and Belwood this June, July and August. I have been talking to a few people about the shows I'd like to do this summer, but I haven't made a full, formal annoucement as of yet, and I think I'll hold off until then. I'm pretty sure about six out of the seven shows I would like to do, all that remains is for me to settle on the last one (I'm not sure how many times you can say certain four-letter words before the stop being funny and start being annoying - and I know my tastes are often quite different from many of our patrons), and to get the best running order. Oh yeah, and confirm seven directors. Like last summer, I'm really hoping not to direct any of the shows myself and unlike last summer, I think this summer I have a realistic shot at making that happen.

Finally, I have to do some thinking about what sort of things, if any, the company can do between now and the start of the summer. Sure, January is busy, but once we get into February and March the Agatha Christie will be taking up the bulk of my time, and that's also a very good time to get a jump on production and promotion for the summer. By April 1st we'll only have a month before the first summer show goes into rehearsal, and the last thing I want to do is to go into the summer burnt out. Nonetheless, you can't stay in business if you don't make some income, and the company will surely need to do something over that period. I'm already actively mulling over this "Dating Disasters" idea (I keep promising to tell you about that, don't I) for February, but that's just a one-off, and I don't have much concrete planned beyond that. Suggestions welcomed, as always, but no promises. I've learned my lesson when it comes to staging events just because somebody thinks it will be the biggest money-maker since, well, the invention of printed money.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

First Posting of 2008

Happy New Year from Grinder Productions!

I'd like to talk to you today about the many activities we have going on this month. While January is traditionally the slowest time of the year for theatre we still have a lot going on. I would like to list those activities so you're informed about what's going on, but this is also a way for me to stay on track, and remind me of my promise to you, so I'll work hard to sheperd all these projects through to their completion. This is very important to me. As some of you may recall, we were unsuccessful this past fall in our attempt to produce The Gifts of the Magi, our planned Christmas Show. The intended replacement for that show, Holiday Cheer, was also unsuccessful. That's two strikes in a row for the company, so you can understand why I would really like to have some success this month. So without further adieu...

January Events

1. Auditions for Agatha Christie's The Hollow: On Saturday, January 12th at the Grand we're going to be holding auditions once again. Unlike past years where they were totally "open" and we were casting for everything that was coming up, this one is strictly for The Hollow. What I really like about this show is that in addition to the great story and traditional Agatha Christie tongue-in-cheek humour the cast is a 50/50 split between men and women, which really helps when there are so few men who traditionally come out for theatre. It also means that a couple more very talented women will get a chance to shine that would otherwise be denied them.

2. Week-end at the Elora Centre for the Arts: We have the ECA booked for a weekend of January 25th - 26th. Originally we were going to produce "The Blue Room" in this time slot, but it's too late to pull that together now (though I am still interested in seeing it done, perhaps in the March time slot). Nonetheless, the place is ours if we want it (as far as I know!) so why not do a show and try and make some money? So instead of one event, we're going to go for three.

On the Friday night, I will stage a one-man show entitle "Bad Words," a compendium of scandalous, sacriligous, scintillating tidbits from the world of English Literature, from the Anglo-Saxon riddles to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Pope, Whitman, as well as a bevy of 20th century writers. Should be fun to create, and I think that will gel nicely with the Elora crowd.

On Saturday (and possibly Sunday) during the morning and afternoon I would like to stage a short variety show for Children, entitled "Come Play with Us." This will be a chance to reach out to a new audience, and I'll be looking for people who would like to participate in this; singers, dancers, actors, acrobats, magicians, musicians, story-tellers, really any sort of act. I would like to bring an improv element into the show, and lots of audience participation.

And finally, on Saturday night, I would like to organize the Grinder Single's Party! Well, not quite, but in anticipation of our "Anti-Valentine's Day" event coming up in February (more on that later) I'd like to do an event that is as much about seeing a show as it is about meeting people. This would also be an excellent opportunity to reach out to a new audience, especially men - the majority of people who come to plays are women, and the majority of people who are active on the singles scene are men (about 3:1, according to plentyoffish.com, an online dating site, but unofficial, unhappy men often put the ration closer to 1,000,000:1). The show itself will be entitled "Love Notes" and will be a movement piece set to music. If you've ever seen Morris Panych/Wendy Gorling's The Overcoat I'm thinking it will be something similar to that, except I'll likely use contemporary songs (their show was set to Shostakovich), and I don't know how many other people I'll involve, maybe just myself, or I'll add one other person. Before and/or after the show I'd like to set up ample opportunity for "mixing," thus the billing as a single's party.

3. Summer's Coming: While not a January event, (this will go up February 2nd, if I can book the venue for that day) we will be spending a lot of time this month working on an event that will be used to kick-off our Summer Programming. The show will feature 5-10 minute dramatic readings of selections from all the shows we have coming up this summer, as well as some other entertainment, perhaps a few songs, some comedy bits, generally anything that will remind people of summer in the dead of winter. I don't know, maybe we'll barbecue. I'm not sure about this part yet, but if I could find a decent backtrack of the right country song (again about summer) then this might be the point where I make my singing debut before a paying audience. Karaoke for the drunken revellers is one thing, but after Gifts of the Magi (where I was preparing to sing) I have realized that this is something I have to do for myself at some point, and actually sing in a situation where it counts for something. I'll never be a musical theatre master (and I have NO intentions of pursuing that) but I would like to have that tool in my repetoire, as I think it's very important to be a well-rounded artisan in this business.

4. The Grinder Store. No, I'm not opening a dress shop! One of the few good things about the past month off is that I've had a lot of time to explore the possibilities of the internet in general, and Facebook in particular. I've found applications on there that will let me do a lot of things, like making and selling products. So I'm going to develop a line of Grinder clothing, mugs, mousepads, pens, etc and sell them through my Facebook page. I have also been able to link my account at lulu.com to Facebook, and there I am selling my Tech Theatre 101 manual, and I'll add in my plays as soon as I can figure out the formatting challenges. Facebook even has a "Ticket Selling" application - we can now have an online box office that doesn't cost us anything! I'm going to get us set up with Paypal too, so that will make buying a ticket even easier for our customers. Finally, I'll be talking to our website guru about getting all this functionality (or at least the links) on our webpage as well, which I would like to give a make-over in its own right this month. I hope that there's also a way to add this blog into the website, and yes, you can already find it on my Facebook page, where you can sign up for the RSS feed.

Well I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but as you can see there's a lot that I would like to get done this month. Will it happen? I don't know, honestly, but I think that's a good thing. If I knew I could do it then it wouldn't mean very much when it was all over. Grinder has been built on doing things that I didn't know if we could do, and before last month we'd been able to do a lot of things that nobody thought we had any business doing, so I'm up for the challenge. I hope you'll join us, it should be a lot of fun!

Talk to you again soon,

Eric