Friday, May 29, 2009

Wingfield on Ice

I'm handling the tech this weekend for Wingfield on Ice, the 5th installment in the Wingfield Farm series of plays.

These plays feature Rod Beattie as Walt Wingfield, the Bay Street stock broker turned farmer. Directed by his brother Doug, Rod plays a multitude of characters in this one-man show, written by Dan Needles (of Harrowsmith's Country Living, for those of you familiar with the magazine).

This is some top-notch Canadian theatre, right in our very own Fergus Grand Theatre. The Wingfield shows have over 3500 performances to their credit - all with same actor - and they have played in Canada and the US, as well as been adapted for television by CBC.

I can't think of a better example of "getting it right" when it comes to theatre than these plays. Click here for info and tickets. May 29th and 30th at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Grinder Card

Here it is again, in case you haven't seen it already - the best season subscription packadge in summer theatre - $10 per show!

The Grinder Card works just like a season ticket, but instead of being tied to a specific venue or series of shows it is tied only to you. Your $100 card is good for ten admissions to any Grinder show, in any venue, at any time. You only come to the shows you want, when you want, where you want. Come alone and use one admission, or bring a date and use two, it’s up to you.

The Grinder Card. It’s fast, easy and even makes a great gift. Get yours by calling 519-780-7593, via e-mail at grinder@grinderproductions.org, or better yet, just see me after the show and I’ll sell you one on the spot!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Would you like fries with that?

I was talking with a fellow member of Grinder Productions the other night, and we got to talking about all the Grinder people that we knew who had gone on to "bigger and better things" - be it careers in film, modelling, Broadway, etc - Grinder has been the starting place for people who have wound up in these and other places. We then lamented our own lack of advancement "in the biz," but then quickly recanted, realizing how much satisfaction we had both taken from the years of working on shows in our simple journeyman's existence. We are the cottage industry of theatre, the grass-roots of a creative force that ends, not begins, on the stages of New York, Stratford and the West End, to say nothing of Hollywood.

I told my fellow member that there weren't a lot of people who would do what I do - many producers would leave what we're doing to community theatre and high school drama departments, choosing instead to pursue more lucrative endeavours. I remarked that I could easily earn a better living flipping burgers than I could doing what I do now.

She turned to me and said, "I'm glad you don't."

Words that taste like a glass of cool clear water to a man dying of thirst if ever I've heard them.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Waking up while the kitten purrs

It's been a leisurely weekend at the Grinder estate. The world's greatest girlfriend was off sick Thursday and Friday, so I was spared my weekly insomniac's coma that usually settles in on about Wednesday (we already had the Monday off) and stays with me until the weekend brings a reprieve. But with her at home for four days, and a weekend spent on pre-matrimonial celebrations (ones organized by other people, a welcome relief from our task of organizing the main event) made for a good time on Saturday and Sunday. We caught up with some old friends, worked hard to recall the names of just-introduced relatives (and those that we've known for years but have completely forgotten who they are), and we ate cake two days in a row. All in all, not too shabby.

So here it is, 6:30am on Monday morning, and I'm all alone again, save for a computer screen, and a loudly purring ring-tailed kitten who's just gorged himself on kibble for the third time in an hour settling down for a day's rest beside me. Time to turn once again to Grinder.

Ladies and gentlemen, this company needs your help. We are desperately short on acting talent right now. Men and women, young and old, experienced or not, there's an opportunity for you to be onstage now with Grinder Productions, in one of several shows we have coming up. Time is running out for us to adequately mount these productions - we need your help today!

Please call 519-780-7593 or e-mail grinder@grinderproductions.org if you or anyone you know would like to be an actor with Grinder Productions this summer.

Feel free to pass the word on to anyone you think might be interested as well!

Friday, May 22, 2009

In search of a voice

I sometimes wonder why I write this blog. It's certainly not a vibrant, two-way discussion like some of them are. Yes, it does help get the word out about the company, but only to the people who care to know, and many of them know what's going on already. I think though, that one of the best reasons I write this blog is that it helps me find the narrative of Grinder Productions. It is what gives me a voice.

For a writer, finding a voice is critical. Being able to express my thoughts in such an open platform allows me to clear a lot of the rubbish out of my head, get down on the screen that which is filling my head with nonsense, long before I ever get to the day's writing that demands an impeccable command of language, spelling, grammar and rhetoric.

So how much of that nonsense is allowed to stay and thrive online, and how much of it is consigned to the Recycle Bin? I'll never tell. But in the stuff that does make the cut I still find value, in that it helps me to form a narrative about who I am, who Grinder Productions is, and what forces, events and people are shaping our collective existence. For a writer, that's also something very powerful - a real-life validation of the words inside their head.

But enough getting my thoughts out for one day - perhaps I've betrayed too much of myself already. Tune in next week for more witticisms, and some important information on what's coming down the pipe in the next two weeks!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Send me your plays

Did you know that Grinder Productions is looking for new plays to produce?

I'll gladly read submissions of plays from members and non-members alike to consider for upcoming seasons.

Original scripts only please, and no, this isn't a professional company, so you won't be paid anything except the satisfaction of seeing your work come to life on the stage.

In the coming months I'd like to develop a "Playwright's Circle" within the company to encourage the development of new plays, both for active consideration for production with Grinder, and for aspiring playwrights to have materials with which to pursue a professional career.

Please get in touch with me if you have a script you'd like to see brought to life, or if you know of someone who does!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If you're looking for something a little different...

... then just click on the title of this post. You'll be taken to a Craigslist posting that I've submitted looking for new talent for Stage 4, our Elora Division of Grinder Productions.

This isn't a standard casting call, which is why I haven't put it out in the newsletter or been in touch with any of you directly. I'd like to take Stage 4 in a new, more contemporary direction next season, and most of the Stage 4 shows will feature some sort of "discretionary content," so they won't have the broad appeal as some of our regular Grinder shows.

Take a look at the posting, and if you're over 18 and you think it might be something you are interested in, please get in touch with me. Not that it would be a lot, but if we can cast these shows and combine them with a marketing strategy that works for their particular set of circumstances we could offer actors and crew a small honourarium in exchange for their efforts on Stage 4 projects next season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thinking about things

This past weekend marked the official close of the Fall-Winter-Spring season at Grinder, and the official beginning of summer programming. Though summer preparations have been underway for some time now they will now begin in earnest, and we'll embark on a whirlwind journey that won't ease up until Labour Day.

I've had a lot to think about the past winter, both onstage and off. I've thought about how to keep the company going through the winter. I've thought about how to find ever more actors for ever more shows. I've thought about the great shows and the not so great shows, the great audiences and the not so great audiences. I've thought long and hard about our company's survival through this persistent econcomic downturn, and about the things we can do now to make sure that we're in the best possible position to make the most of the recovery.

So yes, I've thought about a lot of things. But what struck me this morning as I groggily fumbled my way to the computer after a fitful night's slumber (owing to an aching back brought on by lifting stuff for other people) was that what I haven't been thinking about are all the accomplishments that we've managed here at Grinder over the past few months.

To recap:
  • We have successfully produced Shakespeare
  • We've started a new touring division, Hopeless Romantics
  • We have managed to get through the winter season without losing too many shows
  • We have a re-invigorated website
  • Through Helium.com, our production experiences are helping to teach the world about how to create quality theatre on a limited budget
  • We have partnered with the other users of the Fergus Grand Theatre to apply for capital grants for the building, as well as advocate on behalf of the user groups to the township
  • We have collaborated with the Elora Community Theatre on their production of You're Lucky if You're Killed
  • We have substantially cleaned up the rehearsal and storage spaces (though there's more work still to be done)
  • We have begun "The Directors Circle," a loose grouping of artistic associates who will begin to take on more and more of the directing projects in the months ahead
  • We are in the process of hiring marketing and production personnell to help us with the summer season (maybe some more on that for you next week)
And many, many other things!

That doesn't include the pasta bowl, or any of the personal victories that I've had over the winter (and there have been a great many).

Obviously, challenges remain, and they are substantial. We STILL need actors and stage managers for this summer, so I URGE anyone who's interested to contact me immediately. We desperately need to put some bums in seats, as well as sell our season pass, The Grinder Card, to as many of our regular patrons as we possibly can.

But in the final analysis this company embarks on its 2009 summer season leaps and bounds from where it was in 2008, with more momentum, members and creative muscle than ever before. I still say our best days are yet to come, but perhaps they're getting closer than I or anyone else might think.

See you at the theatre, if I'm not lost in thought.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Quick Note 5: Come to the show!

No post today, as I'm setting up for the weekend... please come on out and see Yes, Your Worship and The Heart of Eden. These are two great little shows, with casts that have put in so much time and effort - show your fellow Grinder members your support!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quick Note 4: Employment Opportunities

We still have employment opportunities available! We are looking for more Ticket Sellers and a Temporary Production Manager. Click on the links to go directly to the Craigslist postings for more information on either of these two exciting jobs at Grinder Productions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quick Note 3: Summer Update

Just letting you know that summer is almost here!

We're pulling cast together for our first two shows at the Ennotville Library, Dulcitus and The Birth of Merlin. Both are shaping up to be great projects!

Please get in touch with me if you would like to be involved in any way in either of these two shows.

And if you're more the type who likes to watch shows rather than be in them just a reminder that Grinder Cards are now on sale. This is by far your most flexible, most economical way to see a lot of great theatre this summer and beyond. You only come to the shows you want to, you can come whenever you feel like, and you don't have to come with just one guest! See me at the shows, or call 519-780-7593 and I'll get you set up with this great season pass.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quick Note 2: The Heart of Eden

Help us launch the newest division of Grinder Productions this weekend at the Ennotville Library!

The Heart of Eden is a one-act romantic musical comedy, and it will be given a demo production this weekend as half of a double bill, in conjunction with Yes, Your Worship.

This story is simple enough. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy. But both of the characters are trapped behind their own insecurities, and finding their way to each other's heart's isn't going to be as easy as things might have first seemed.

The show is our inauguaral offering from the "Hopeless Romantics" touring division. After this production the show will go back to rehearsals for some more tweaking, and then be remounted thorughout the summer as entertainment for weddings and other special events (including a little event on the 6th of June....)

Come on out and let us know what you think, as the show is still very much a work-in-progress, and we're definitely interested in refining it further as time goes on.

Tickets are $15 each, and are available at the door, or by calling 519-780-7593. The show opens Friday at 8pm, and runs 2pm and 8pm on Saturday. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Quick Post 1: Yes, Your Worship

Just letting you know that Yes, Your Worship opens as half of a double bill with The Heart of Eden this Friday and Saturday at the Ennotville Library. Quite possibly the silliest play I've ever written, Yes, Your Worship is a fun romp through the foibles of one small town's politics (the town of Lesser Fergundia, in case you were wondering). Will the town's new mayor Jimmy Clueless be able to deal with raging Hockey Moms, meddling councillors, teenagers, the clergy and his two completely opposing secretaries? You'll have to come on out and see for yourself!

The show starts a 8pm on Friday, and runs 2pm and 8pm on Saturday. Tickets are $15 and are available at the door, or in advance from any cast member, or by phone at 519-780-7593.

Friday, May 8, 2009

It's Friday... and we've had enough potpurri

I've been cleaning up around the farm this past little while, getting a lot of the accumulated junk off of the property (thank-you Great Refrigerator Round-up! Click here to get rid of your old fridge for free), and I've also been trying to clean up the rehearsal hall, props storage and production spaces as well.

Part of my goal in all of this is simply to be able to find things - I'm uncovering so much stuff that I had completely forgotten that I had, or knew I had but was never able to find - but part of it is also a new-found satisfaction in simply getting things cleaned up.

It's starting to look like a farm around here again. After years of nothing more lively than several generations of raccoons getting busy in the grainery there's now horses grazing in the pasture, cows in the stable, and somewhere in there I think there's a goat too. Even though these are just the tenant's stock, it's nice to see and hear the barn being used again. And our animals, the chickens, are on their way in mid-June.

A lot of garbage has gone out this winter. If you were here in the early days of the rehearsal hall you probably wouldn't recognize it now. Now that we have the house there's no need to store anything that's not weather-proof in the barn, so we now have the luxury of actuallying having things like a costume stock. As much as I am trying to get rid of stuff (and I'm being as merciless as I dare on that) the biggest part of all this is simply being able to re-organize, after the benefit of a few years of working with it, all the elements of our space so that it's easier to get at the things we need, and easier to keep everything clean and clear.

As time goes by we'll get this ship even tighter, I expect, as we create new and better stock, increase our available rehearsal venues (especially for the winter months) and bring in more people.

But for now things are looking much, much brighter!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday Potpurri

(Are you sensing a pattern yet?)

We're looking for new blood! Please let me know if I can entice you into considering helping us out this summer in one or more of the following capacities:

  • Stage Manager. We can never have too many of these brave, capable individuals. Despite some of the negative stereotypes that have become attached to this position in the theatre over the years it's actually quite enjoyable, as long as you know what you're doing. Fortunately, I willing to provide full training to anyone who's interested. If you're good at it, I may even ask you to SM a Hopeless Romantics show, in which case you could even make a little money.
  • House Manager/Host. Help me relieve the burden on the directors this summer by having someone there to take and sell tickets, hand out programs, and ensure everyone is in their seats by the time the show starts. Easy job, and as long as you're okay handling a bit of money and keeping a record of who comes through the door this is something you could do for a single night, an entire run, or several dates interspersed throughout the summer.
  • Designers and Technicians. This is an area where we're really short-handed. Come and help me build sets, paint sets, buy/beg/borrow/build props and costume pieces, and create soundtracks. Help with the load-in and fit-up of shows, creating lighting designs, and if necessary working as "running crew" on shows, either backstage, or out front running lighting, sound or another element. Again, absolutely no experience necessary, and if you prove yourself capable and trustworthy in the technical elements I may ask you to make the leap to designer in future productions, and give you a chance to add your own creativity to a show.
  • Directors and Assistant Directors. Yes, we still need people for this too! By interview and appointment only, as I'm a bit more picky about who I allow complete creative control over a show to. But if you've got what it takes, I'm willing to teach you everything you need to know.
And some handy information:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday Potpurri

Some tidbits about the company...

  • We still have employment opportunities available! We are looking for more Ticket Sellers and a Temporary Production Manager. Click on the links to go directly to the Craigslist postings for more information on either of these two exciting employment opportunities with Grinder Productions.
  • Just had a thought the other day about another job for the summer - the concession. It would be the perfect way for a young person to make a little cash this summer if they were to run a small business selling bottled water, pop, juice, chocolate bars and maybe even some baked goods at the intermissions of our shows in Ennotville and Belwood. It would be one less job for us to do, and it would be an excellent introduction to business for a budding entrepreneur. E-mail me at grinder@grinderproductions.org if you or someone you know might be interested.
... and some tidbits about acting and theatre:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Potpurri

A couple of things on the Grinder front...

  • Congratulations to the cast of "School Shooting" for a great run this past weekend at the Elora Centre for the Arts. You've closed out our second ECA season in style, and your passion, dedication and sense of style were a great help in bringing this show to life, and finally getting School Shooting off of my "Plays I must do" list.
  • Another award! Grinder Productions has just one the first "Hroswitha Challenge Award" from the American feminist theatre company Guerrilla Girls on Tour. This award has been offered to any professional theatre that chooses to produce a Hroswitha play, instead of just another classical tragedy. Even though we're not fully professional they decided to give it to us any ways - a great start to our first production in Ennotville!
...and some news you can use, from Helium.com:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Introducing Dulcitus

What is Dulcitus?

Dulcitus is the first show in our 2009 Ennotville Summer Theatre Season. It is a boisterous little farce, and it was written by the world's first known woman playwright, the abbess Hroswitha of Gandershiem, in or around 960AD (our best guesses for Hroswitha's life and death are c935 - c975), and concerns the fate of three Christian martyrs at the hands of an unscrupulous but comically inept Roman prefect named Dulcitus.

Besides being remarkable as the first female dramatist that we know of, Hroswitha's work is also remarkable in that it provides a very rare glimpse into the world of Medieaval Drama - after the fall of the Roman Empire but before the start of the Rennaissance. While it's true we do have drama from that period (the cycle plays, Everyman, etc), most of it is closer to the end of the period than the start of the period. Hroswitha is closer to Rome. She wrote in Latin, and admittedly copies her style from the Roman playwright Terrence, in who's works she saw the talent but lamented the waywardness, and so sought to copy his style in the hopes of using an accessible format to promote Christian ideals. Unwittingly or not, Hroswitha also seems to have been a very early feminist, with her work portraying women characters as both strong and intelligent, in contrast with the often weak and stereotypical depictions of Roman comedies.

In Dulcitus we have, quite probably, the only one of her seven plays that seems to be designed with audience laughter in mind. Indeed, there is a lot of very funny situations, and plenty of slapstick humor, especially when Dulcitus, blind with passion, lusts after the pots in the kitchen as if they were the Christian martyrs. In the end the Christians meet their deaths, but even in that there is comedy, for while they have been saved Dulcitus has not, and is doomed to continue his own bungling existence, at least for a little while more.

We don't know if this play or any other of her works were performed in Hroswitha's lifetime, let alone whether or not she intended the works to be performed, or if they were performed whether or not she had any hand in the staging and production. The plays leave a few tantalizing clues that hint at a post-production revision, but we can't be sure.

In any case, I hope you'll join us for this special event, the first play in our Ennotville Summer Theatre season, opening June 11th and running for three weekends. Tickets are available online now - just click on the "Buy Tickets" icon right here on the blog.