Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Double-bill at the Ennotville Library

On May 15th and 16th we'll be presenting a double-bill of two very special shows at the Ennotville Library.

The first show is called "The Heart of Eden." It's a romantic musical comedy about a delightful young girl who meets a charismatic young boy one morning in Central Park. After a very awkward introduction they slowly, shyly, begin to talk to one another, and each find's out very quickly that there's more to the other than meets the eye. The also both learn that the other person is perhaps just a little bit too perceptive when it comes to understanding their inner souls...

This play is meant to cheer you up and put a smile on your face. It's the first show from our "Hopeless Romantics" division of touring shows, and we'll be re-mounting this show for performances at weddings and other special events througout the summer and beyond. If you or someone you know is getting married this might just be the perfect thing to entertain your guests with while you're off getting pictures done, or you're waiting for the reception to begin.

The second half of the evening is taken up by a show called "Yes, Your Worship." This is a very, very silly little off-the-wall comedy about life in the mayor's office of a small town. While the motley crew of colourful characters all come running in, eager to get a chance to meet with they mayor none of them are successful - the newly-elected playboy mayor isn't in yet. Just when it seems like it's going to be just another boring day in municipal politics, the terrorists attack!

But of course, the terrorist isn't really a terrorist, and the mayor finally does make an appearance. Quite possibly the silliest play I've ever written, this show is sure to be a delight to all, whether or not you are interested in small-town politics.

Tickets are available by phone at 519-780-7593 or at the door.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Employment Opportunities with Grinder Productions

[I posted these two positions in the newsletter and on Craigslist, but I'll post them here again, just in case anyone is interested. Please feel free to forward this info along to anyone you can think of who's currently looking for work in either of these areas!]

Ticket Sellers

Grinder Productions is Centre Wellington's largest live theatre company, and our summer season is coming up fast! We are looking for one or more people to sell tickets for our shows. This is strictly a contract position, and you will earn a $1 commission on every ticket you sell, (based on final house counts). We are seeking individuals who enjoy a challenge, have excellent people skills, and are willing and able to think outside the box to sell tickets to a wide variety of audiences with little or no advertising budget. A positive attitude and “can-do” spirit is a must!

Please check out www.grinderproductions.org for more information about our company and the shows we're doing this summer. Please forward your resumes with the words "Ticket Sellers" somewhere in the subject line.

  • Location: Fergus and area
  • Compensation: $1 per ticket sold, based on final house counts (people have to actually show up)
  • This is a contract job.

Temporary Production Manager

Grinder Productions is Centre Wellington's largest live theatre company, and our summer season is coming up fast! We are seeking an independent, skilled individual to work as a temporary Production Manager to cover the owner's vacation leave, with the possibility of occasional day labour on turnovers or even continued employment throughout the summer: The guaranteed period of this contract begins on Monday, June 1st and ends on Saturday, June 20th.

Duties will be similar to that of a technical director, production manager or production stage manager in a summer theatre setting, with a slightly larger range work. You will be responsible for technical production, as well as some marketing duties, and administrative work processing ticket orders and maintaining our online and "at-venue" box offices. Prior knowledge of technical theatre or concert production is a must, including familiarity with production schedules, technical stagecraft and box office management.

Tasks will vary greatly depending on the shows, as you will be responsible for meeting the needs of seven different shows that are all at different stages of pre-production, production, rehearsal and performance. Meeting the unique needs of each show so that it may smoothly rehearse and perform is a top priority.

The ability to work independently is a must, as for a portion of this contract you will have to work without any supervision whatsoever. There are also no other technical or administrative people on staff, so none of your duties can be delegeted to others, except interested volunteers who may or may not be available for every task.

The successful applicant will have an open-mind, a positive attitude, the willingness and patience to teach and guide volunteers, and understand the importance of customer relations and good corporate citizenship. While familiarity and comfort with live theatre production is essential we will train the candidate who lacks skills in a given area but displays the proper attitude.

Please visit www.grinderproductions.org for more information on the shows we have coming up this season, and please forward your resumes via e-mail with the words "Production Manager" somewhere in the subject line

  • Location: Fergus and area
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: $300 per week for contract period, TBA after that

Monday, April 27, 2009

School Shooting opens this week!


One of the shows that's been flying a bit under the radar at Grinder Productions is the one that hits the stage at the Elora Centre for the Arts this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

School Shooting is an original play, one that's been waiting to come to the stage for years. I have to admit, it took a long time for this show to come to life for me - the story kept slipping out of my grasp every time I would sit down to tackle another rewrite. It wasn't until just before rehearsals began that the story finally crystalized in my mind.

Once we hit the ground in rehearsals, though, my insecurities were quickly left behind, as right from the first read-through the cast of six plucky actors all dove head-first into the story and through five weeks of rehearsals they haven't looked back. I'm blessed to be truly working with a great group of young people on this show.

Now granted, this show isn't for everyone. It's title is quite literally what it's about, and since it features teenagers in some pretty stressful situations there's more than a few profanities, and some crude, macabre teen humor, so it's definitely at 14A-rated show. Use your discretion about bringing the younger kids.

But as long as you don't mind the language, please do consider checking this one out, as it really does feature some top-notch performances, from some of Grinder's brightest up-and-coming talents.

April 30th, May 1st and 2nd at 8pm, matinee May 2nd at 2pm. Elora Centre for the Arts. All tickets $10, available by calling 519-780-7593 or at the door.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yes, I won the pasta bowl...

[Well after three years of being nominated my number finally came up. Last night I was humbled to accept the "Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award" at the annual Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce Awards of Excellence ceremony. Here's the extended version of my acceptance speech - I had to cut a bit to stay under the time limit, and I really hate when people make long speeches anyways. While I don't often like to toot my own horn, I do like to toot Grinder's, and last evening was no exception:]

Thank-you.


Grinder Productions produces over 20 shows every year, in four venues throughout Centre Wellington: The Fergus Grand Theatre, The Ennotville Library, The Belwood Hall and the Elora Centre for the Arts, so obviously, we’re still a very small company.


I've been doing some research on the economic impact of live theatre in communities such as ours. The numbers vary, but on average the conservative consensus seems to be that for every dollar that is spent on a theatre ticket at least another 5 dollars are spent in the community, whether or dining, accommodations, or other pre and post show activities. Every single dollar. That means that even at our lowest ticket price of $10 another $50 in economic activity is being generated every time we sell a ticket. Given our median ticket price and the number of patrons who come to our shows that translates into over $100,000 of positive economic spin-offs from Grinder Productions events every year. And we're just getting started.


But obviously it's not just about dollars and cents. It's the members of Grinder Productions who truly form the heart and soul of our company, in partnership with you, our audience. We enjoy an active membership of over 200 actors, directors, designers, musicians and technical craftspeople, who come from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. We have seasoned veterans who have been doing plays for years rehearsing alongside fresh-faced newcomers working on their very first show. Some of our younger members have gone on to earn a living in the arts, and already boast thriving careers as models, fashion designers and stage managers, to say nothing of our actors, a few of whom have already gone on to leading roles in professional theatre, independent film, and major motion pictures.


Fergus, Elora, and the surrounding area have made many contributions to Canada’s rich theatrical heritage over the years, including Dr. Norman Craig's World War One epic You're Lucky if you're Killed in 1933, and several world-premieres that Norm Foster, Canada's most-produced playwright, chose to stage in this community about a decade ago. Grinder Productions is proud to continue this tradition, contributing plays like Home Farm, a study of life on the family farm after Mad Cow Disease, and All My Sins Remembered, one of Centre Wellington's contributions to the Shakespeare: Made in Canada festival, to the Canadian dramatic canon.


I’m inviting each and every one of you here tonight to experience the magic of live theatre. On May 15th and 16th we’re presenting a double bill at the Ennotville Library. The first show, “The Heart of Eden,” is the first production from Hopeless Romantics, our new weddings-based touring division. The second show is a hilarious comedy entitled “Yes, Your Worship,” and it pokes some good clean fun at the foibles of small-town politics – something I’m sure you know all about. Beyond that our summer season starts June 11th, with four shows at the Ennotville Library and three at the Belwood Hall. Full details and advance tickets are available on our website, www.grinderproductions.org.


I’ll sum up by quoting the Polish theatre director Jerry Grotowski, who said “all you really need for theatre to happen is an actor and an audience.” Well believe me, Grinder Productions has some actors, and all of them are eager to greet all of you with open arms.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Emergence

I have to admit, things have been a bit foggy around here lately - the Impressario just wasn't engineered to begin each day at 5:30am. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to keep this up - the world's greatest fiancee may have to eat her porridge alone.

I miss things now that I wasn't missing before. I don't always make the mental connections as quickly as I should, and after rising so early in the morning I find that by the time rehearsal rolls around at 7pm I'm functioning on autopilot, rather than at my absolute peak, which is where I usually am at that time of the day (and rehearsing usually gets me even more fired up and ready to go - effectively I'm wide awake by the time rehearsal ends and I have to get straight to sleep).

I don't have a lot of faith or confidence in my abilities at the moment. I know that I've still got the skills to get done what needs to get done, and I'm even getting it done in a more timely fashion than I often do (an unintended benefit of my 14 hour workday), but the capacity for greatness? Not so much. I don't feel like I'm making the brilliant connections in rehearsal, and opening up new vistas for my actors as well as I should. I feel like I'm letting them down, to a degree, and not giving them the support they need to turn average performances into performances that will bring the house down.

Imagine my surprise then, as I have finally caught up enough on my sleep this morning to realize that I all this week in rehearsal I have been witnessing something amazing. The shows are coming to life. Not only that, they are doing so in ways that I hadn't dared to hope for, ways that will mean, as I often say, "we don't have to settle for just being good - we can be great."

I think about the shy actress who's been holding back all through rehearsals who finally found the inner strength to embrace her character, driving her to the brink of tears only to have her channel her emotions into a truly moving performance. I think about the intellectual who managed to stop approaching his character as an intellectual, but rather as a person. I think about the neophyte who discovered the joy and satisfaction of watching a character grow from one rehearsal to the next. I think about how the casts of two shows that couldn't be more different both found the same exhilaration in rehearsal this week, and how, despite the cold, the rain and even the raccoons, they all left smiling, even if they didn't all know they were doing it.

These are the things I have seen, in my emergence from the haze. I know that this period of sleep deprivation and greeting the rising sun will not last forever (we're counting down the number of days), and I can't say it's going to go down as one of the most pleasant times of my life. But I'm so pleased and relieved to know that while I'm a bit down everyone else is still coming up, and by the time I am back to the top of my game Grinder Productions will have stayed on course, continuing out of the haze towards its own emergence.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Long Weekend

It was very nice having three days off, nicer still having three days off without anything huge hanging over my head on the to do list. I got to spend the time getting so much-needed outside work done, some non-production work tasks that kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list, and had a chance for some badly-needed catching-up time with the world's greatest fiancee.

But now it's back to the grind (or back to the Grinder, as people say to me when they think they're being clever) and with just under two months to go now until the opening of the summer season there's much, much, much to be done.

First and foremost, this week I'd like to talk to you about our 5th and final show this season at the Elora Centre for the Arts, School Shooting. Watchin in the coming days for the press release here on the blog, but the show is going up April 30th, May 1st and May 2nd, with 8pm shows and a 2pm Saturday matinee. Since this show features a cast of teenagers we're going to have a flat rate - all tickets for this show only just $10. We're having a lot of fun in rehearsals with this one, and JP and the girls are putting together a great little show. Now if only I could finish those rewrites...

For those of you looking for something different, we have a special project coming on May 15th and 16th at the Ennotville Library, with a double-bill of two great shows. The first show is called "Yes, Your Worship" and it's a very, very silly comedy about life in the office of a small-town mayor, complete with all the weird and whacky characters that run crashing into each other in the world of small-town politics.

The second show is a romantic musical comedy entitled "The Heart of Eden." It concerns a lovely-but-hapless young girl and a sincere-but-shy young boy who meet by chance one day in Central Park. This show is the first project from our "Hopeless Romantics" division, and we will be looking for plenty of audience feedback as we tweak the show for touring to weddings and other events later this summer, so bring your critical eye! And if you or someone you know is tying the knot in the months ahead please send them our way, and if they'd like to know more about the show and Hopeless Romantics we'll be happy to give them a couple of free tickets.

On top of those shows the preparations for the summer season are well underway, with directors coming on board in the next few weeks, and rehearsals for the first show starting in less than a month, so things are getting busy. Watch for more promotional info on our summer shows here on the blog very soon.

It was a nice weekend....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Feeling Poorly

I'm not feeling very well this morning. Two days of getting up at an ungodly hour has brought about the usual Wednesday morning headache and inability to function. As much as I want to keep getting up at 5:30am for the sake of the world's greatest fiancee she may have find herself heading out the door alone one or two days a week in the near future, because I can't afford too many more days like this.

Everything is blur, save for the dull pain in my forehead, like a slow drill working its way along just above my left eye. My ability to concentrate is severely compromised, and the only solace I can take is that with an 11 hour workday sooner or later I'll be able to come up with something more productive.

Fortunately, the company is still chugging along. We still need more actors for Yes, Your Worship, people are learning lines and looking over scripts for the summer as we speak, and I'll have some publicity stuff up tomorrow for School Shooting.

Hopefully by then I'll also have something more witty and informative to say as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I accept...

Last week I sent out my directing offers for the summer season, to a group of people that I would like to eventually become my circle of "artistic associates," an ever-growing pool of experienced, dependable directors that I can call on to take over the bulk of the directing work from me. As the company grows the quality time I have to devote to preparing to direct is decreasing, and the more shows we do the more hours of marketing and production they demand, so it is imperative that I delegate more and more of the directing projects as time goes by. While I could never abandon directing completely I could certainly get by doing just one or two projects a year, and even that would likely take away all the promotion and production time I could spare.

The people I have chosen to be in this circle have not been drawn out of a hat. They are people I trust, whom I have worked with enough to know that they at least deserve the chance to direct a show with Grinder Productions, if they haven't already. Handing out directing jobs is the theatre manager's equivalent of giving the bride away - it's not something I do easily, especially if it's a first-time director.

Now I knew not everyone would be interested in directing this summer - some had already mentioned they had conflicts - and I was okay with that, prepared to take rejections politely and professionally. But when I received the terse, two-line, "No, I'm likely never going to direct for you again. Good-bye" e-mail I was greatly saddened. In the normal, day-to-day course of operations her at Grinder Productions, someone's feelings had been hurt.

That's something I don't easily shrug off, nor do I want to be the sort of person who can easily shrug off something like that. I know, you're supposed to be a bit thick-skinned in this business, and I've certainly put up with a lot of garbage over the years, but when someone at my company is hurt, I will always take it personally.

Physical injuries we can protect against, and we do. And if anything ever does happen I've always got my First-Aid kit nearby. But there's no First-Aid kit for when someone's feelings are hurt.

The least I can do is to share in their pain, to accept without hesitation my own culpability for their injustice. Sometimes, yes, the fault is entirely mine, when I have to let a cast member go, or blacklist a member from the company. On the very, very rare occasions where I've actually lost my temper and screamed at an actor I've always felt far worse afterwards then they ever did.

But sometimes our members do things over which I have no direct control, and sometimes I don't even discover it until the damage has been done. In some of these cases I obviously should have been paying more attention, but in others there was no way to see trouble coming. No matter what though, I accept responsibility.

When I can't motivate an actor to learn his lines, I accept responsibility.

When a teenager pulls an all-nighter to finish the projects she would have been doing if not for rehearsing, I accept responsibility.

When a mom isn't there to see her child off to her first slumber party, I accept responsibility.

When I hear all the complaints about people never seeing their families because they're always at rehearsal, I accept responsibility.

When a director never wants to work with Grinder again, I accept responsibility.

When another marriage falls apart because of my casting choices, I accept responsibility.

I don't name names on this blog to protect the privacy of our members (except when I'm promoting a show, in which case we want to know who you are). Some of the experiences I've detailed here have happened when I was with other companies. All the same, I apologize to anyone who thinks they may recognize themselves in what I've described (though you're probably wrong - I have been through all the situations I have described above many, many times - it's very unlikely you are the first).

While I apologize for my candour I can't apologize for a moral compass that demands I share in any and all pain and suffering that takes place here at Grinder Productions. How can I share in the joys of this life - the thrill of an opening night, the exhilariting moments of self-discovery in rehearsal, or the life-long friendships that begin on a day of set-building - if I don't also share in the despair and heartache that comes when things don't go so well?

I wish we didn't have problems like this. I wish it would all just work out and everyone would be happy all the time, but it's just foolish to pretend that's how the world works. I know I don't usually talk about the darker side of Grinder here on the blog, but did anyone ever really doubt its existence?

Now don't get me wrong. We have much, much, much to celebrate, and stories of personal triumph are coming to my inbox almost daily now, filling me with joy for the present and confident hope for the future.

But I think it's important for us all to remember that in our joys may be another's pain, and for all the triumphs we are not without our tragedies. In all our excitement and personal growth let's not forget about our fellow members, and the quality of their experiences here at Grinder Productions too.

I accept.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I think I'm getting older...

I think I'm getting older.

I know, I know, being in the "under 30" set doesn't make me old in the minds of all but the most naive tweens out there, but all the same, the signs are beginning to mount.

I'm sitting in the internet cafe, looking out at the rain through the eyeglasses I now can't live without. I'm suddenly concerned enough about my physical well-being to be thankful for the cheap, tacky umbrella that I wouldn't have been caught dead with ten years ago, and more than a little worried that I forget my Gaviscon when I left the house this morning.

I'm thinking about getting the rest of the house painted this weekend, and working some more on cleaning up the property, maybe even getting in the garden, rather than getting ready for the 3-shows-in-36-hours marathon that used to be my usual weekend plans.

I'm listening to internet radio (the joys of high-speed), so I thought I'd do a little research on an upcoming show by listening to some "classic country," but all the songs they're playing are the ones I grew up listening to! (seriously, I can still even remember most of the words...)

In an ironic twist, I found out last week that I have been nominated for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce's Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award, but even here I'm getting older -this will be the 3rd time I have been up for it, and I'll be too old to even qualify for it in another couple of years.

And it will be the 5th time I'll have attended the Awards banquet. I've already went twice because of being nominated, been dragged out to fill the table with Theatre on the Grand many years ago (when the tickets were last than half what they are today!) and I'll really feel old when I remember that I attended the awards for the first time 22 years ago, when my Grandmother was Fergus Citizen of the Year.

And now for the kicker: since I've got access to high speed today I can easily upload photos from my webcam, so I've given you a "before and after" look to show you just what ten years of showbusiness can do to you...

This picture is my standard "photo comp" the professional headshot I've been using for the last ten years. As far as I'm concerned it's by far the best photo that anyone has ever taken of me.


The second picture is off of my webcam, and was only taken about ten minutes before I wrote this post.Yes, definitely getting older. Now if I could just get around to the wiser...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Some musings for a Friday morn

I've said it before but I'll say it again - these are heady days at Grinder Productions. So much is going on, there's so much to do, and so many people are coming together to produce plays.

Certainly our pace is going faster than it's ever gone before in the winter season, and we've managed to make it through our "slow-dowm" period with only the briefest of pauses, with every indication that next year we'll continue to thrive throughout the fall, winter and spring, with almost no drop in our activities.

Our membership is growing nicely too. The people who joined us at our open auditions in January have made many excellent contributions to our shows so far, and their continued enthusiasm for new and exciting projects has done a lot to keep us going. But we're also garnering more attention from our veteran members as well, who are finding the acting bug biting them once again.

And all this in the midst of the greatest economic slump since the Depression. Go figure. A few months ago I laid out our stragies for overcoming this period of stagnant growth, job losses and people holding on ever tighter to their hard-earned money. And while Grinder certainly isn't enjoying the high life at the moment (not that it ever was) I'm happy to report that we are holding on, albeit tenously. Much will depend on our success with the few projects we have remaining this sring of course, and on how things go in the summer, but I'm confident that by the time everyone starts to get back on their feet (whenever that might be - we seem to hear a new projection every week) Grinder Productions will be intact and secure, and ready to make the most of the new opportunities that will arise from this period of difficulty and hardships.

Keep your chin up, everyone.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Grinder Card - Your Way to Save this Summer

Over the past two days I've announced our summer line-ups for the Ennotville and Belwood Summer Seasons. Now I'd like to tell you about our best "subscription" packadge ever - The Grinder Card.

I've talked about The Grinder Card before, but in case you missed it this the easiest and most economical way for you to experience our shows this summer and beyond.

Each card is worth $100, and it is good for ten admissions to a show (plus an 11th one on us!). You can come to as few or as many shows as you like in our summer season, and you can either come alone, with your partner, or bring your friends. Your card will simply be punched for each person admitted into the show. You can come to the same show twice, or only come to the shows you want to see. Best of all, it's good for any public performance in the season, so you don't have to pick your dates in advance. The Grinder Card doesn't expire, either - if you haven't used all your admissions by the end of the summer the card will still be good for shows in the fall and winter seasons in any one of our venues - you can even save it and use it again next summer.

You can't get a more flexible summer theatre subscription than that. Cards are on sale now. Reserve yours by emailing grinder@grinderproductions.org or by calling 519-780-7593, or simply see Eric at any one of the shows between now and June 11th!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

T|he 2009 Belwood Summer Season

It's finally here too!

While the 2009 season at the Ennotville Library is all about history, the 2009 season at the Belwood Hall is all about, well, dresses. Yes, dresses.

The first play of the season is entitled 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress. This comedy by Alan Ball runs July 16th, 17th and 18th, and features five young women at the only time and place in their adult lives where they would ever be caught dead wearing exactly the same outfits. Any guesses as to when and where that might be?

Next up is a plays called Our Girls, a cross-dressing Farce by Conrad Seiler, running July 30th, 31st, August 1st. This play concerns is all about family ties, family fortunes and "keeping up appearances," even to the extent of dressing up daughters as sons to fool wealthy relatives, only to have things go hilariously awry.

The final play in our season it this year's world premiere, and it is called Dress Code, and it runs August 20th, 21st and 22nd. This is a light-hearted play with a serious message, about body image, tolerating differences and learning to see what's on the inside.

I don't know exactly how I came up with the idea of a season about clothing and dresses, but I'm glad I did. Put on your favourite summer dress (be you man or woman) and come to Belwood this July and August for some top-notch summer theatre!

All shows, dates and venues subject to change.