Monday, June 29, 2009

5 Women Rehearsal Pictures

A rehearsal shot from Stacey for 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress, July 16th - 18th at the Belwood Hall.

Cast List (in order of appearance):
Frances - Alexena Whiting
Meredith - Allison Espina
Trisha - Alyssa Wright
Georgeanne - Kelly Taylor
Mindy - Ashley Goldsmith
Tripp - Aaron Wright

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hey there - You with the stars in your eyes...

I often wonder what reasons people have for getting involved with theatre in general, and Grinder Productions in particular. There must be countless stories behind everyone's reason why they choose to get involved in a play. While I think it's rude to pry and outright ask people what has drove them to leave behind the TV, the computer, the comforts of home and the people they love in order to come to rehearsal I have managed to pick up a few comments and some general trends over the years: Responses can include the "I just need to get out of the house" to "I need to get the kids up off the couch and out of the house" to other, more cerebral meanings.

For some people, I'm afraid, the only reason they are coming out is because they have bought into the fantasy of fame and fortune that has somehow become attached to life in the entertainment industry. These are the people we commonly refer to as the ones with the stars in their eyes, who see getting onstage as a stepping stone to Hollywood, or something else.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with Hollywood, and I even brag from time to time about the success some of our members go on to have in the industry.

The problem arises the moment someone who's trying to get into the industry buys into the publicity machine's version of the industry. The images of glitz, glamour and high-society living that grace TV shows, magazines and websites are all components of carefully-constructed advertising campaigns, created by some of the best staffed, best funded marketing departments in the world. Those campaigns are designed to get fans interested in a given product, and they are astonishingly effective at producing results.

But if you want to make a career in "show biz" you can't let yourself be deluded by a slick marketing campaign! The reality of life in the entertainment industry, no matter what part of it you finally wind up in, is much, much different from the inside than it is from the outside. It could be good, it could be bad - like everything else your eventual success or failure will only be what you make of it, but it is NOT what Entertainment Tonight makes it out to be.

I'm sorry if I've went on too much about this. I know I've gone on at length about it before, and I probably will again. It's just so frustrating watching so many people doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons. Believe me, the joy and fulfillment that comes from the craft of entertaining (be it acting, writing, directing, or so forth) far outstrips any passing adoration in anyone's response to it.

Here are a couple of articles I wrote on this subject at Helium, that may explain my position far better than I can at 7am on a Monday morning.

The Impressario’s climb back onto his high horse

I’ve been talking a lot this week about all the shows we have coming up at Grinder, and while I haven’t gotten to all of them yet I have put a few of them out there for you to start thinking about. But my flurry of show announcements hasn’t been by design,- it’s been more about catching up than anything else. I have been hopelessly behind these past few weeks, - in fact I’ve been behind schedule for quite a few of the past weeks now. Some people just say that I’ve got too much on my plate, and a few just call me lazy.

Personally, I’m not too sure exactly what has put me behind (can't help but think the wedding had something to do with it) but whatever the case I'm determined to keep up the spectacular progress I've made since getting back from the honeymoon and get bak on track once and for all. I’m determined to rectify this situation, and fast. It’s costing me time and money, and there’s no good coming from it.

I don’t ever want to fall this far behind again. No matter what the reason – falling behind is bad for business, and it's an easy way to piss people off. It’s meant a lot of let-downs so far this year (both for me and for others). I am sorry for all the suffering that my falling behind has caused.

I said in a previous posting that things were going to change around here, and I meant it.

I heard the following phrase on an old cop show on TV one time: “Excuses are like butts – everyone’s got’em, and all of 'em stink.”

I think it's time to clear the air.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


The final show announcement for this week is all about Vaudeville, our fourth and final show in the Ennotville Summer season.

Vaudeville isn’t an original show but rather an anthology of all the best and brightest from the Golden Age of popular entertainment in North America.

Before television, before radio, but after the whole continent was made easily accessible by railway, there was vaudeville. It was popular entertainment, of course, and no attempt was ever made to pass it off as high art (though the touring “star system” that formed the high art of the day was itself of highly questionable aesthetic value). Shows were a medley of singing, dancing, stand-up, sketches and novelty acts, all intended to make the audience laugh. There was plenty of room for individual talents to shine, and since the focus was purely on making a profit shows were thrust onto the stage with little or no rehearsal time, and the performers had to generate a fair amount of their performance on the spur of the moment.

Despite the challenges, Vaudeville thrived until it was driven out of the theatres by cinema, though for a time both genres could be found in a single evening’s entertainment, a rare marrying of film and live action that has only tentatively been explored by contemporary producers.

Our show will attempt to recapture some of the magic of the Vaudeville era. We’ll have some old-fashioned songs and dances, as well as a generous dose of the comedy that formed the backbone of this art form. If we can we’ll even through in a magic trick or two, or some other “one-trick pony” from the era.

Tickets? You know what do to (I’ve been writing the info down all week! - check my previous posts!).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The cavalcade of show announcements continues with news about the 3rd show in our Ennotivlle Season, Commedia!

This play is a free re-telling of a classic scenario of the Commedia D’ell Arte, an Italian form of Improv-based entertainment that was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is still performed today by various companies around the world.

All Commedia D’ell Arte scenes are built around stock characters – usually heroic-but-foolish heroes, innocent virgins, dirty old men, bumbling fathers, etc. Many of the comedic “tropes” that form the basis for today’s TV sitcoms were first codified in the Commedia, from the “life lessons” of The Cosby Show to the buffoonery of Homer Simpson and the “show about nothing” devices of Seinfeld.

So you might think that this play will be about strange places and far-out people, but it will actually have a lot in common with today. If you like comedy this is definitely the show for you.

Commedia opens July 23rd and runs to August 8th. Call 519-780-7593 for tickets, or visit

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

5 Women Wearing the Same Dress

One of the most talked about shows this season has been our first Belwood show, 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress. The title alone has sparked a lot of conversations in theatre lobbies, over dinner tables and in casual talk over the winter and spring. But the play is more than just a quirky one-line gag – it’s something much more.

I don’t want to give too much away about this play – keeping people guessing about the times and places when five women would be caught dead wearing the exact same dress is half the fun. But the other half is what’s taking shape in rehearsals, and on that front I can let you in on just a few of this show’s secrets.

The show is being directed by Stacey Ingham, whom some of you may remember from last year’s sleeper hit at the Ennotville Library, First Kisses. Last year marked Stacey’s directorial debut, and in the off-season she’s been studying theatre arts at Sheridan college in Toronto, so for her second season she has come equipped with a wealth of new knowledge about technical stagecraft and even a previous understanding of this play, having worked on the musical version of it at school.

Working on a larger stage and with a bigger cast aren’t the only challenges she faces. While 5 Women is a very, very funny play, it doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the humour, so there’s a bit of coarse language and mature content that must be handled very carefully in order to remain both tasteful and true to the intentions of the playwright.

5 Women Wearing the Same Dress opens on Thursday, July 16th and runs for just four performances – Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and a 2pm Saturday matinee. Call 519-780-7593 for tickets, or visit

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Birth of Merlin

I’m pleased to report that after much soul-searching, hand-wringing and other consternations I have finally found a work-able forumla for our second show of the Ennotville summer season, William Rowley’s the Birth of Merlin.

The Birth of Merlin is a Jacobean play, erroneously (or purposefully) attributed to William Shakespeare, though even a cursory examination of the text is enough to dispel his hand in the authorship. It concerns several facets of the Arthurian legend – the battles between the English and the Welsh, the trials of Uther Pendragon, and of course Merlin. It takes a fanciful turn in imagining Merlin’s Birth as a fully-grown man, fathered by the devil himself and brought into the world by one “Joan Go t’oot” a lovely but somewhat gullible lass with a clown for a brother.

As I said, it’s not Shakespeare. Rowley’s command of the English language, while potent enough, pales next to the richness and daring of The Bard. And the plot relies more on mysticism and enchanted diversions that come across as slightly archaic to make its point, rather than the visceral, timeless universal themes employed by Shakespeare.

So the challenge with a play such as this (and with an audience used to a steady diet of the porterhouse steak of Renaissance drama) lies in its presentation. How can we make this outrageous, far-flung story palatable today, and how do we sandwich a show with over forty speaking roles (and countless supernumaries) into the cozy confines of the Ennotville Library?

Finding a simple, elegant solution to this challenge hasn’t been easy. Neither have the mitigating factors of lost rehearsal time, limited cast availabilities and the other projects in our season. But what we have come up with presents the show in a format that I believe our patrons will find both accessible and entertaining.

Rather than committing five acts of cumbersome verse to memory we have chosen to present the text of this play as a dramatic reading, with a number of actors each covering the various roles. To illustrate the action of the play we have other actors, using simple costumes and props, playing the action in dumb show as it is being read aloud.

To the best of my knowledge no on has ever attempted a production in this format before. I don’t even know what you would call it – something between a pantomime and a staged reading. I can’t even be sure that our approach will work, to be completely honest, but I encourage all of you to take the chance to come out and see this show, and share your opinions with me for yourself.

The Birth of Merlin opens on Thursday, July 2nd at 8pm at the Ennotville Library and runs for three weekends. Visit or call 519-780-7593 to get your tickets now.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Return

And we're back!

Just a brief note today to let everyone know that we're back from a week of fun in the sun and some much needed R&R. After a very, very hectic and stressful period leading up to the wedding it took all that we had to make it to the airport on Sunday morning - and our contribution to that entailed walking out the door and into the Red Car.

I'll spare you all the blog postings that were running through my head the week we were away. Had it gotten online then (and I had to force myself not to) you would have been subjected to a freewheeling travel narrative about the minutiae of life cruisin' on a soggy boat, loaded up with crazy people. Fortunately my cooler head continually prevailed as the week went on, and now most of the drivel has passed me by.

Now that we've returned it has become apparent just how badly we needed to get away. Gone is the paralysis and overwhelment that punctuated the last few months for me, and while the days and weeks and months ahead certainly won't be easy (you have no idea how far behind schedule I am) they'll certainly be more productive and a lot less stressful.

So on behalf of myself and the world's greatest wife, thank you to everyone for all your kind words, thoughts and gifts. And as for the return of Grinder, there'll be a lot more to follow in the days ahead - stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reminder - Dulcitus opens this weekend!

Just a reminder that our Summer season kicks off tonight!

Click here for tickets.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Darkest Hour

I'm now just under a week away from what I'm sure will be the happiest day of my life so far. This Saturday the world's greatest girlfriend and I will be tying the knot in a small, intimate ceremony that seems to have attracted a lot of attention and well-wishers. We're both really looking forward to the big day, and while we're certainly a little bit nervous we know in our hearts that as impossible as it may seem, this is something that was always meant to be.

So while our wedding, honeymoon and subsequent life together will usher in a time of great happiness, getting there is proving to be a bit more of a pain, and I'm not talking about the actual wedding plans, which thanks to Jules' superior management skills are progressing just fine. The pain I'm talking about comes from that pesky mistress, Grinder Productions. She isn't taking too kindly to me putting her into second place forever, and she's determined to make my life a living hell up until the day of the wedding, and so far she's tried her darndest to even ruin the day itself.

I can't even begin to explain the problem, since it's not one major thing, it's a great many little things, none of which on their own would amount to very much, but when they get piled up, one on top of the other, and more and more and more, they slowly grind down my ability to function.

You could chalk it up to fate, random chance, or some higher power that's trying to teach me a lesson. You could chalk it up to greed, laziness or a disregard for the feelings of others (either on my part or anybody else's). You could blame it on parents, children, the economy, the environment, work, love, or hate. You could blame it on quality, quantity, ticket prices, Drayton Entertainment, local politics, or the search for a missing little girl.

You could blame it on whatever you like - even me - and it still wouldn't change a thing.

I've spent the weekend searching the deepest recesses of my mind for answers - usually when my back is to the wall I shut myself off from the outside world for a few hours, meditate on whatever problem it is I'm facing, and then come up with the answer when I re-emerge. But this time it hasn't happened - we've been so caught up in last-minute preparations that I find myself writing this post at 7:30am on a Monday morning and completely unable to come up with a solution as I shiver in the early-morning chill.

I'm going to go away for a little while now - this will likely be the last posting from me for this week, and I'm hoping that while I'm away Stacey and Shannon will be able to provide some guest posts about what they're doing to keep the company running in my abscence in the days ahead. I am going to spend this week in that dark place inside my head and make sure that somehow, no matter how long it takes or how hard it proves to be, I find the solution to my problems, so that they don't follow my down the aisle, and I want to ensure that when we return from our all-too-brief honeymoon The Darkest Hour will have passed us by, and we can move forward in our lives together with newfound strength, dignity and fulfillment in the multi-faceted potpurri that we all lovingly call Grinder Productions.

Take care, my friends. Break a leg, my thespians.