Monday, June 30, 2008

It's time to let the cat out of the bag (or is it the sock?)

I'd like to announce today, in case you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, that yes, Grinder Productions is planning a triumphant return to the Fergus Grand Theatre this September 4th, 5th and 6th with Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in, an evening of laughs written by Dan and Dick, featuring some of the most treasured gags from the original TV show. I'm still looking for a few cast members for this event, so if you think you're a comedian of any standing please let me know - I just might agree with you, but space is limited, and your acceptance is by no means guaranteed - so convince me you belong in the sock-it-to-me world!

Friday, June 27, 2008

July Newsletter

July Newsletter is now out. Get it in the sidebar.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let's hear it for the Fergus Grand Volunteers!

Today I'd like to shine a light (a new, bright light, at that) on the efforts of the Fergus Grand Theatre Volunteers.

This is the small committe of people who are responsible for getting house managers, ushers and concession staff for the various events at the theatre, as well as covering some box office hours so Alan can get work done outside of the building. They also are raising money for the purchase of new technical equipment for the use of everyone in the building, and have also engaged in many renovation, repair, clean-up and restoration projects over the past few years.

This is no small feat. In just over two years they have replaced our entire antiquated front-of-house lighting inventory, one and two instruments at a time. They have also purchased speakers, microphones and a whole host of other purchases, most of them fairly mundane and not "sexy" enough to make the local papers, but essential nonetheless to improving the quality of productions at the theatre.

And quality has improved. As the technician who has advised upon and overseen these purchases I can assure you - we are now capable of putting on better plays because of the efforts of this group.

In addition to these activities the group has also been instrumental in securing donations, both cash and in-kind, for items that the theatre needs, both on the technical side of things, and for the building in general, such as a new refridgerator, lobby furniture and computer equipment.

On top of all that the committee members have been working especially hard in the last few months to build console desks and cabinets for the booth, assisting me with technical upgrades and installations, and a whole host of other minor repairs and odd jobs.

The next season promises to be a great one at FGT, and that's due in no small part to the efforts of Paul, Judy, Don and Sarah - your Fergus Grand Theatre Volunteer Committee.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Doors Open at the Fergus Grand Theatre

Just a quick note if you're looking for something to do this weekend: the Fergus Grand Theatre is participating in the "Doors Open" building tour this Saturday. Come on down for some cake and help celebrate 80 years of "the Grand old Gal" entertaining people in this community. You'll get a chance to tour the building and hear about some of it's history.

And after you're done there, why not come down to the Ennotville Library, a building that is more than twice the age of the Fergus Grand Theatre, and take in Farmer's Daughters. It's a good show, but now you can stop taking my word for it - I was informed this morning by one of our other directors this summer that she had received a glowing recommendation about the show, and that it is clear that we have "raised the bar" on our productions at the Ennotville Library.

Way to go girls!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No post today

Nothing to say today. Was going to tell you all about The Middle Ages which went into rehearsal last night, but due to some last-second cast cancellations we've been left to regroup once again. Looks like the Grinder himself will take to the stage after all this summer. Still looking for an older man, about 60-ish.

Really, people, we don't bite. It's a great time and yes, you can learn all those lines.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Last Chance! Farmer's Daughter's Closes this Saturday!

How could you not want to come and see this?

Featuring three amazing ladies and some of the best production values in the history of the Ennotville Summer Theatre.

And some very fine performances from Ashley, Joanne and Zoe.

Get your tickets now - last Saturday night the crowd was so big that we had people complaining they couldn't get a good seat!

Call the box office: 519-780-7593, or get your tickets online at

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rehearsal Update: The Belle of Amherst

I took a short drive to the Ennotville Swamps yesterday to take in a rehearsal of the Belle of Amherst, the next show in our summer season at the library.

You know it's going to be a good time when they serve you tea and cookies with your rehearsal. As expected, with only a couple of weeks remaining until the show opens the triumvirate of women making this show happen have things well in hand. Rachel, the director, is carefully fine-tuning blocking and bringing out all the nuances of the text, as she should be at this point. Sara, the actor, has almost conquered the mammoth task of memorizing lines and one can see in her delivery the beginnings of a very moving, inspiring performance. Tying it all together is Pam, the Stage Manager, calmly giving line prompts and encouragement.

What struck me as the afternoon went on was that I wasn't getting lost or baffled in the text. By my own admission, I am no expert on Dickinson, or even the greater canon of American Literature, yet I understood every word that was spoken. I was able to grasp meanings behind the lines, and the seamless flow from text to poetry (symbolic of Emily's character, I suppose) made the whole thing not so much a play as an experience. This is not something you go to watch, it is something you go to be a part of.

So all is quiet on the "Belle" front. A welcome relief for me (just try having eight productions in the works at one time - it can get a little exasperating!), but more importantly a treat for you, the audience. This is going to be a great show. Something special. Something I think we'll be talking about for a long time to come.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rehearsal Update: Relatively Speaking

Got a chance to see Relatively Speaking last night, the first show in our Belwood Season. Director RD Branton has been working in obscurity out in Salem for a few weeks now, so I was very anxious to see what had been accomplished, for this show which is under a month away from going up.

The first thing I noticed was a laid-back, relaxed rehearsal atmosphere, everyone laughing and talking prior to getting started. No "divas" here, just a group of people who seem to be getting along quite well despite being together just a short time.

Once we got into the rehearsal it became apparent that everyone understood this deceptively simple little play, and they weren't shy to play up the sub-text and hidden innuendos that are inherent in the script. I'm sure as time goes on they will discover even more of these comedic gems.

The key to good farce is great timing, and Branton clearly understands this, directing his actors to keep the dialogue crisp, brisk, and without ponderous pauses. The actors are still in the process of memorizing lines, so some of those "ponderous pauses" are to be expected, but by keeping on top of things and making sure the timing stays on track I'm quite confident that by opening night this show will fly along at a breakneck pace.

So I left Salem for the long drive home feeling pretty good about where that show is at. This afternoon I'm off to see The Belle of Amherst, so tomorrow I'll have something to report on that show, and next week I will be able to give you an update on The Middle Ages, our second Belwood show, which is finally getting underway too.

Rehearsals, rehearsals, everywhere.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rehearsal Update: First Kisses

Now that Farmer's Daughters is open I'm finally getting around to see all the other rehearsals that are currently underway. All week I'll be reporting on how things are going. Last night I was fortunate enough to visit Stacey and the gang rehearsing the 3rd show in the Ennotville Season, First Kisses.

It was a dark and stormy night south of Fergus at the secondary rehearsal hall. The rain was just barely holding off as the van pulled in, with a trailer carrying the set.

Putting up the set was an adventure in and of itself, with lots of wooden pegs and modular construction - this should be a snap to load-in and set up. And it's completely painted too - another bonus.

When the actors arrived there was much rejoicing - one of them was there for the first time. Like many shows this summer, we have had difficulty finding the men, but now all seems to be set to rights with this show, and I watched quietly as they launched into blocking the second act of the play. I noticed how the actors seemed to jump seamlessly from their daily personalities into the characters - even though they were playing characters much older than themselves (by the end of the play the two characters are in their 70's). I have to admit that I was a little nervous about this one - a young cast, a young director, a young stage manager - no one involved in this show is over 25 except the set designer, and, much to my chagrin, now even me.

As it turned out I needn't have worried. Stacey has a great directorial insight, especially for a rookie director. She knows what needs to be done and isn't afraid to push the actors where they need to go to get it, yet she does it in her usual pleasant tone and manner. On top of that she's blessed with some great material - this script is a real undiscovered treasure of comedy and charm. And these young people, while they were clearly having a lot of fun (despite the cold weather!) were taking what they were doing very seriously, and had a great level of commitment to the play, something you don't always see even in plays with much older people.

People - you've got to come out and see this show! It opens July 24th at the library, and will run for three weeks. I think it could be the "sleeper hit" of the 2008 summer season. It certainly has the ingredients.

Tonight, I'm off to Salem to visit the Relatively Speaking rehearsals. The tour continues!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Audition Reminder - ECT

Just a reminder that auditions for ECT's production of Dr. Norman Craig's WW1 play You'r Lucky if You're Killed will be next Sunday afternoon and the following Tuesday evening at St. James Anglican church in Fergus. The show will be go up in November, and Directors Bronwyn Hill and Gary Bryant are looking for several young men ages 18 - 25 to play the roles of the young soldiers. (there are also a couple of small parts for young women of the same age).

For more information please give Bronwyn a call at 519-846-9612.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Welcome to the Middle Ages

Today I'd like to introduce you to the 2nd show in our Belwood Season, AR Gurney's The Middle Ages.

As a playwright, AR Gurney came to fame with The Dining Room, a play about the same room over several decades in the Eastern United States. Gurney's favourite target is the WASP - White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and the priviledged lifestyle many of them lead (or still believe they lead). In plays like The Cocktail Hour and Love Letters he comically lampoons the elitist, narrow-minded, sometimes racist attitudes of a generation of wealthy people, made richer by war, Cold War and faith (when it was convenient), and who were oblivious to the hardships of those who made possible their good fortune (both in terms of the sacrifices of previous generations and the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised that was necessary for the maintenance of thier lifestyle).

Where Gurney differs from the masses, though, is that there isn't a tone of revolutionary fervour in his plays - they are not calls to rise up and overthrow the bourgeoisie (it's not socialist agit-prop in the slightest), rather they suggest that the time for change has come and gone - and has been successful. The world has moved on, the WASP has not, and the result is comic, not tragic.

The Middle Ages is set in the "trophy room" of a social club - that should be tip-off enough as to what's to come. The play moves seamlessly between the 1940's and the 1970's against the backdrop of a changing America, as one family's "black sheep" tries to come to terms with his past, present and future.

Rehearsals are set to start this week. Next week I'll have more to say about this great little piece of theatre.

Friday, June 13, 2008

No post today

No post today - it's the day after opening! Get your tickets to Farmer's Daughters. You know how to do it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another Opening, Another Show

No, don't start singing.

Well, here we are folks. Opening night of Farmer's Daughters, opening night of the 2008 summer season at Grinder Productions. This is truly a monumental event. Six months ago everyone had given this company up for dead. You couldn't give tickets away, and not a single person was coming out to our events. Look how times have changed. Come to the show tonight or this weekend or any day or night this summer and you will see an audience. No, perhaps we won't sell out ever performance (wouldn't that be nice!) but we will be there. I'm pleased to say I've made my bet with The Cat Whisperer (if the ticker above isn't updated yet it will be soon - refresh your browser), so I won't be flipping burgers anytime too soon. Certainly we aren't out of the woods yet, of course, not by a long shot in fact, but at least we are back on track. We are doing shows right now and we plan on doing more shows in the future. In fact, just this week I have begun working on our first show of the fall season, and I'll announce that to you in an upcoming post (better yet though - come to the shows this summer! The fall line-up is listed on the back page of the program.

Ladies and gentlemen, Grinder Productions is back.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

First Kisses

This week the fourth show in our summer season is going into rehearsal. It is a delightful little romantic comedy called First Kisses, and it will open at the Ennotville Library on July 24th.

First Kisses is the story of John, a boy who becomes a man, and Mary, a girl who becomes a woman. It is told as a series of vignettes, from the time the two of them meet as young children, up through scenes as awkward teenagers, confused twenty-somethings, newlyweds, parents, parents of teens, grandparents, and finally into old age.

I fell in love with this story when I first read it, and I knew that I had to include it in our summer season. It's everything a romantic comedy should be. First and foremost, it is hilarious. The antics that the two characters get into are ridiculous, but the sort of thing that could easily happen to you and me. Their sincerity about who they are and why they do what they do is something that's missing in a lot of plays these days, and it's that honesty that makes for such funny, engaging theatre. And when they do have a serious moment it never drags you down, never kills the buzz of the comedy, but seems to flow naturally from it. It's like a complex series of puzzle pieces that come together to form a simple, beautiful picture.

Anyone and everyone will love this show. People young and old will enjoy it, and it's a perfect night out for you and that someone special in your life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rehearsal Update: Relatively Speaking

The third show in our summer season has finally gotten underway. Director RD Branton has already been very hard at work securing a cast and crew, and rehearsals are now proceeding well.

There's something special going on with this show. A secret word. Something to do with the production itself. This secret word is a code that you can use, both over the phone and on the website, to save yourself $3 off of regularly priced single tickets. And where can you find this code? It can be seen only on the show flyer, and it can only be found throughout various locations in the Greater Belwood area. This is our way of saying "Thank-you" to all those people in Belwood who were so supportive to Grinder Productions in our inaugural Belwood season in 2007.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rehearsal Update: The Belle of Amherst

Things are going well as the "Belle" begins to take shape (you know a show is coming along when people start refering to it in shorthand). Sara Dunbar, the actress taking on the challenge of bringing Emily Dickinson to life, is said to be well on her way to memorizing the lines for the show, a considerable feat for anyone in a mono-drama. Director Rachel Behling has informed me that things are also moving along briskly on the technical side of things. Given Behling's past technical prowess as a props person and set decorator it's a safe bet that the set and props for this show will continue to raise the bar ever higher on the quality of production values at the Ennotville Library, something that the company has made a priority for this season. And given her past academic prowess it's a safe bet that this show will be a true theatrical tour de force for the audience - a two-hour whirlwind tour into the life of one of literature's most famous, least understood female scribes.

Tickets for the show are now on sale, both on the blog, on the website and by phone at 519-780-7593.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Season ticket push

There's still time to save me from the scourge of the drive-thru! Unless you want a Big Mac with every rehearsal please tell everyone you know to get their season tickets to the Ennotville and Belwood Summer Theatre by June 12th!

The cats are circling like sharks ready to feed.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Relatively Speaking

Today I'd like to introduce you to the 3rd show in our summer season, and the first offering at the Belwood Summer Theatre, Relatively Speaking.

You may not have heard of this particular play before, but chances are you've heard of the playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, and you've most likely heard of the genre of theatre that he has helped to make famous, The British Farce.

For some reason the Brits are a funny people. You wouldn't think it to look at the stereotypes, but British Farce is a style of theatre that has evolved to be one of the most hilarious evenings of theatre that it is possible to take in. Alan Ayckbourn has taken the witty banter, suggestive situations and social ironies inherent in the genre and has added elements of magical realism, with his trademark being penchant for several scenes overlapping each other, taking place all at once, often on the same set, with the characters oblivious to each other's actions. This has made Ayckbourn an undisputed master, and shows like The Norman Conquests, How the Other Half Loves and Bedroom Farce have become instant classics, beloved by summer and community theatres the world over.

In Relatively Speaking Ayckbourn set out to something he has rarely tried to do - write a "well-made play," one penned according to the "rules" of the stage. What exactly constitutes a "well-made play" and what exactly are the "rules" of the stage has been the subject of much debate since Aristotle opened the can of worms in his Poetics, but it was Ayckbourn's belief that before you go breaking the rules you should understand what they are, and Relatively Speaking is the result of his exploration.

For you theatre hacks out there, upon seeing the play you will notice that it does hold true to the concept of the "three unities" the way that the Enlightenment scholars thought a "well-made play" should be. It holds true to the unity of time in that it takes place over the course of a single day. It holds true to the unity of place by not making the characters travel further or faster in that one day than would be physically possible with the technology of the day. It holds true to the unity of action in that it is only about one idea, starting with a conflict, developing the conflict through rising actions, resolving the conflict at the climax, and ending off with a denoument.

For you theatre fans out there - it's a British Farce!

See you there

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Update: Farmer's Daughters

Farmer's Daughters is almost here! Check out the pictures on Facebook on the Farmer's Daughters event page, and you've probably started noticing some of our posters and flyers around town. Please get your tickets now! I'd like to see a full house on opening night. That's just 50 patrons at the library - well within reach, and it would be so nice to see. And in case you were wondering, I still haven't made my bet with The Cat Whisperer, so if you don't want me to be the guy who comes to fix your plumbing (and trust me, you don't) then I need all the help I can get to reach the goal of 100 subscriptions or equivalent by June 12th.

I can't tell you how hard these three women have worked, putting up with my last-minute re-writes and partially completed sets that keep changing, and this show is going to be something special, an experience, and I would love to have you there to see it.

You know the drill. Call the box office at 519-780-7593 or get the tickets online by clicking on the "Buy Tickets" icon just to your right.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Casting opportunities for men this summer with Grinder Productions


Once again, for the umpteenth time, we're having trouble finding male cast members for our shows this summer. If you are a guy with a pulse or you know anyone who is we would love to have them come out and fill a role in one of the shows. We're looking for men of any age here, really, because on the off-chance we can't find anything for you this summer we'll almost certainly have this problem again in the fall, because we have this problem on an ongoing basis.

I could rant and rave here about the chronic shortage of men in theatre, and wonder aloud why so many men are so reluctant to do plays, but I won't. I don't blame the dearth of men in theatre on the men, I blame it on three millenia of playwrights who have written plays with more men than women! I chose to open our season this year in Ennotville with two shows with all-female casts, but these are few and far between, which is part of the reason why I decided to write one myself. As I have gotten older and wiser I have begun to seek out shows with more women than men, and I would send a heartfelt plea, on behalf of stressed-out producers everywhere, to today's playwrights and urge them to correct this imbalance! A good show with an all-female cast will be done more often once it is well known, and the shows themselves will be better. They have a saying at the professional level: There's ten women for every role and ten roles for every man. While I don't think the imbalance is quite that bad, why not write a show that takes advantage of the infinitely deeper talent pool?

Sorry. I promised I wouldn't rant. If you're a guy who can act give me a call. If you're a guy or a girl who can write a play for me write one with an all-female cast, because from now on I think that's the only kind of play I want to do the majority of the time.

Monday, June 2, 2008


The June newsletter is now available, both on Facebook and on the website. Click here to go there now. Of particular interest to you this month may be the winners of the 2nd annual "Grinder Awards." Congratulations to all the nominees!