Thursday, August 27, 2009

Looking forward

Yesterday was a day of quiet reflection. The world's greatest wife was home with a headache, so I spent most of the day tending to her and trying to keep the flood of worried callers pacified (she has quite a loyal fan base). I didn't really want to do too much work for fear of disturbing her, so it wound up being a day for some forward-thinking about where I'd like to go from here.

And think I did. I'll spare you the fantasies - they were fun to indulge in, but ultimately well over the line into technically impossible. But once I got that out of my system I did manage to come to some fruitful conclusions:

  1. It's been a rough year. I can't stand it when other people blame the economy for their woes, and I don't feel right in saying the Great Depression of the 21st Century has been the cause of our malaise these past few months. Nonetheless, I am forced to admit that it has played a part, if only in people's mindsets. In 2010 though I don't think this will weigh so heavily upon so many people, including me.
  2. Next year will be better. I'm already further ahead on many of the shows this year than I was on some of the shows this summer. The 2010 season has been selected, and now I'm working on securing venues, directors and rehearsal drafts of scripts. By the time our open auditions roll around in January we'll have the people and the resources in place to cast every show in the coming year.
  3. It's time for a fresh approach. Between now and January 1st I'll be working on an overhaul of our operating procedures here a Grinder. It's a process that I've already had underway for some time now, as soon as it became clear that I was doing too much of the "rescuing" of shows that had been abandoned by other people. I'm in the process of compiling a step-by-step "workbook" for myself and other directors to use as production aides on shows, a move that will hopefully help keep us all on the same page and ensure each show is a quality production that reflects the best efforts of everyone involved in the company.
  4. We can do this. I'm sure that somewhere out there someone has written Grinder off for dead, or at the very least a lost cause. In fact, there are probably legions of people who have long since given us up for dead. But we're not dead. The beauty of such a large, diverse group of people involved in a large, diverse group of projects is that when one falls down there are many more in place to help pick things back up. So this summer wasn't so hot - the fall shows are already starting to pick up steam. So someone might think we're a joke - not two weeks ago an actor told me it was an honour to be working with this company.
I thought about a lot of other things yesterday, and I'm still thinking today about where this company needs to go in the next six months, the next 9 months, the next year, the next ten years and the next 30 years. We're still at the beginning of what I hope will be a very, very long journey, and while I won't be able to spend all my time looking forward, it will sure beat the wondering "what if" that I'd be doing if I spent all my time looking back.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Grinder's Fall Line-up

Fall Line-up

I’m pleased to introduce our fall line-up of shows here at Grinder Productions. While perhaps not as ambitious as some of our previous seasons, the three projects that we’ll be bringing to the stage between now and the New Year are key components in our economic survival and recovery plan.

Philemon and Baucis

By Audrey Haggard, based on a passage from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a part of Sensational Elora

Directed by Eric Goudie

One show only October 6th at the Elora Centre for the Arts

Marriage is Murder

A murder-mystery comedy by Nick Hall

Featuring Eric and Julie Goudie

October 15th, 16th and 17th at the Ennotville Library

Grinder and Friends

A Holiday Celebration

December 3rd, 4th and 5th at the Ennotville Library

Monday, August 24, 2009

Seasons Changing

I wrote this in a darkened Belwood Hall during Act 2 of Dress Code on Saturday night, the capping performance in our summer season:

What a summer. I don't think I'll go into all the gory deatils - if you read this blog you're probably well enough aware of them. I keep looking for a fresh start here at Grinder, a new beginning, a Phoenix just waiting to rise from the ashes of this season.

But it's on nights like this that I seem to understand that we're not on a simple yes/no track here - there are no fresh starts, just a single, multi-faceted, bifurcated world that is my life and the history of this comppany.

A lot of old frineds came out of the woodwork to see Dress Code, but it wasn't like it was old-home week in Belwood. Things have changed. People have changed. I have changed, and as the run progressed I found myself filled with a pround sadness, an understanding that the shows that brought us all these old friends are now long gone, and with them the things that made us friends in the first place. While we're still friends today the nature of our frienship is profoundly different - it's more distant, sometimes awkward, sometimes even painful.

In the early of dawn of Monday morning my henscratch is a little hard to make out, and I've had to make a few changes to the syntax, but I hope at least you understand the essence of what I'm trying to say.

I enjoyed Dress Code. Jules really enjoyed Dress Code. While I don't personally think it's the best play I've ever written (that one doesn't exist yet) it seemed to strike a chord with the people who came to see it. Judging from the revelry at the cast party (captured in pictures and posted on Facebook) I think it's safe to say that the cast and crew enjoyed themselves as well. It was the perfect end to a far less-than-perfect season.

But now all the highs and lows of the summer season are past us. I'll celebrate, cherish and remember the highs: the impassioned "Come on Eileen" from Dulcitus, the held-over run of 5 Women wearing the Same Dress, performing a one-man version of Commedia D'ell Arte and of course Melanie's big moment in Dress Code (with an honourable mention to Darth Vader).

I'll also see what I can do to learn from the mistakes of this past season, to sort out the mistakes from the whims of fate and a bad economy, and ensure that next summer things go better, no matter what the unemployment rate.

Most importantly, Grinder lives to fight another day.

And as for all those old friendships, I admit I haven't got that one figured out yet. Reconciling past and present isn't easy, especially when both they and I have changed in such profound ways, to say nothing of the changing "realities on the ground" from when I was doing shows with them to now. I realize that there's a certain amount of letting go that you have to do - you can't live in the past - but at the same time the bonds that were formed during those shows were so profound, so powerful - just like the bonds that I saw forming this season, on Dress Code and other shows, that I can't simply ignore them.

Like I said, I haven`t got it figured out. A few months ago I wrote about reaching out, about non-invasively inviting the good people from my past to play a role in my life once again. I think I'll keep on trying to do that, even though I've now been at it long enough to know that reaching out can be a painful experience. In time I think I can find a balance that works, and I'm sure that my "realities on the ground" will change in the coming weeks and months in ways that will make what I have to do become much more clear to me.

So congrats to Becky and her gang for all their great work on Dress Code, and thanks to everyone who played a part in our 2009 season, onstage, backstage or in the audience. You are all still my friends, new or old, and while it make take a few more seasons changing, sooner or later I'll find a way to re-connect with all of you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fergus Grand Theatre User Groups Receive Grant from Ontario Trillium Foundation

The lights might shine a little brighter from now on at the Fergus Grand Theatre, thanks to a $41, 500 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The funding will be used over the next two years to address health and safety issues at the theatre through the delivery of workshops and volunteer training programs, as well as the replacement of aging stage draperies and hardware. Funds will also be awarded for marketing to support the development of a vibrant theatre community in Centre Wellington.

This grant will be administered by a newly-formed collaborative, the User Groups of the Fergus Grand Theatre. The group, comprised of many of the Grand Theatre’s largest users, has come together in a spirit of cooperation, and seeks to improve not only the quality of the theatre itself but also the quality of the individual shows each group puts on stage.

At this time, the members of the collaborative are the Elora Community Theatre, Wellington-Waterloo Playhouse, the Not So Grand Players, the Fergus Grand Theatre Volunteer Committee, Vision Theatre Productions, On the Spot Productions, Grinder Productions, Centre Wellington Children’s Drama and Climbing Vine Productions. Other local theatre groups have also expressed an interest in joining the collaborative to assist in their efforts to effectively deliver this grant.

The grant’s benefits will not be limited to Centre Wellington. Theatre groups throughout Wellington, Waterloo and Dufferin counties will be encouraged and invited to send representatives to join the members of local groups in the workshops and training programs that will be offered in the months ahead.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the Government of Ontario. The Foundation allocates grants to eligible charitable and not-for-profit organizations in the arts and culture, environment, human and social services and sports and recreation sectors.

For interviews, photo opportunities or more information please contact:
Alan Argue at 519-787-1981 or, or
Eric Goudie at 519-780-7593 or

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Friday...

...and I've got nothing. Enjoy your weekend everyone. I'll be back on Monday with more witty and important information, including:

-news about what's happening at the Fergus Grand Theatre
-more articles currently entered in the drama contest on Helium
-all the information you'll need to enjoy Dress Code, our 3rd and final show in Belwood this year
-and much, much more

Hopefully I'll also be somewhat more conscious by next Monday too....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Helium Drama Contest - The Grinder Sampler

From time to time Helium runs writing contests.

Much to my astonishment, Helium is currently running a contest in drama!

In the past few days I have submitted portions of several of my plays for the various titles in this contest. This is an excellent opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the best produced (and un-produced) drama that's ever been created here at Grinder.

Please check out these aptly-named titles (the titles are Helium's creation, not mine):

Drama: Despair (from Poverty Anonymous)
Drama: A rainy day (from Muzzle Blast - toned down to make it family-friendly)
Drama: A hope and a prayer (from Yes, Your Worship)
Drama: Survival (from Living)
Drama: Detective Stories (from All My Sins Remembered - again, the family-friendly version)
Drama: Dancing (from Farmer's Daughters)
Drama: Her Heart's Desire
(from Home Farm)

I hope you enjoy this sampling of some of the best of Grinder. The contest runs to August 18th, and with 20 titles to write to I'll probably be submitting even more articles, so stay tuned and I'll share you with those at some point soon.

And if any of you out there would like to join the writing community at Helium, please do get in touch with me and I'll be happy to send you a personal invitation!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Wednesday morning coma blues

Ten years from now the world's greatest wife and I will likely look back and laugh at ourselves during these days. We're both staggering out of bed at 5:30am, and she's out the door by 6:30. I get online to start my work, and take a quick peek at what's happening on Facebook.

Do you know what's happening on Facebook at 6:39am? Absolutely nothing! Since I don't have a lot of friends in different time zones most of my world is still fast asleep by the time I get up, eat breakfast, check my e-mail, and get started work for the day. By the time I log off at around 9am to go and feed the chickens I've already almost put in an entire half-day's work.

Sadly, this nearly three-hours of "bonus time" isn't exactly my most productive. After a lifetime of being a nightowl these un-godly hours are really taking a toll on me. I don't even try to schedule any important jobs for later in the week any more - I'm pretty much useless on Fridays. Even on a Wednesday morning I'm finding it very hard to focus, and impossible to think more than a few moments ahead of me about what I should be doing.

One day all this madness will be behind us, and we'll be able to re-join the rest of the world once again, getting up and going to bed at reasonable hours, not cutting ourselves off from life just because we've got to be asleep by 9pm, and being able to get through the work week without the headaches, heartburn or tears of exhaustion.

The world's greatest wife deserves that much, at least - she's been doing it for so long that she's more than paid her dues. As for me, I'm not so sure. She continually reminds me that I don't have to get up with her, that it would be all right for me to stay on my own routine, but I know that if I did that I wouldn't feel right, somehow, like I was shirking my responsibility to her and to us. So, until that wonderful day dawns when the alarm clock goes off at 7:30 instead of 5:30 I'll keep stumbling groggily onwards, hoping I never, ever get accustomed to life with the Wednesday morning coma blues.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dress Code Comes to the Belwood Hall

It's finally here folks!

The 3rd and final play this summer at the Belwood Hall is a Grinder Productions world premiere. Join us for this slightly spooky, very quirky look into a future where fashion truly is a crime. See how a plucky group of teenagers defy the odds and triumph over the totalitarian forces in their society. It's a lesson for us all in tolerance, and the need to celebrate what makes each of us unique.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sick and tired

It's been a lousy past seven days here at Grinder. 7am Monday morning and my head is aching, so the prospects of the next seven days being much better aren't looking all that promising. I'm so tired I can't think straight, see straight or even stay on my feet for very long. I'll try and get through today as best I can, but I don't know if I'll have the energy to say everything I want to say in the post today.

So I had better cut to the chase - we're dumping the last two shows in Ennotville this summer - Vaudeville and Hitchin' at the Junction/Heart of Eden. After an entire summer of losing my shirt I just can't afford to keep doing shows if no one will come to them, and no one wants to be in them. Our marketing and casting problems this summer have left me broke, sick and frustrated, and I'm not going to put myself through any more agony.

We'll be back in Ennotville in October with Marriage is Murder, a great myster-comedy by Nick Hall that Jules and I will be appearing together in. The next chance for the membership to get involved will be our Christmas show, Grinder and Friends, December 3rd, 4th and 5th.

In the meantime, Dress Code continues at the Belwood Hall August 20th, 21st and 22nd, so please come out and see that one - I've never had one of my premiers directed by someone else, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how this show is going to turn out.

I'm too out of it today to go on. I feel like absolute crap. More witticisms to follow this week, if I am able to get out of bed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dress Code is Coming....

... and this time I actually have some info!

(Inside joke for anyone who caught last week's post on the show)

Dress Code is a play set in a totalitarian future, where all forms of personal expression through fashion have been banned, and everyone is forced to wear the same generic, government-approved clothing. A few teenagers form an underground resistance to the Draconian dress laws, staging fashion shows in secret, learning from each other about the clothing of days gone by, and guessing at what uses these strange garments might have had to the people of the early 21st century. Hanging over their every movement is the threat that The Fashion Police, the armed gangs of thugs who brutally enforce the Dress Code, will come barging through the door and arrest them at any minute.

If George Orwell had a sense of humour, this is the play he would write. It's light-hearted and, at least by today's standards, incredibly innocent, but it carries some important messages about tolerance, diversity, and the importance of self-expression. If nothing else, there's plenty to laugh at.

Dress Code runs August 20th to 22nd at the Belwood Hall. Please call 519-780-7593 for tickets, or get them online at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back to the Grinder

I'm casting again.

After a reprieve of a few weeks while I had a staff member handling things, it seems as if my dream of a casting director for the company will have to be put on hold yet again. Oh well, the best-laid plans, I guess.

Hopefully this round of casting won't leave me as depressed as the last. This time I'm casting for every show from Vaudeville until Christmas, so there are a lot of offers out there right now (check your e-mail!). So far I haven't gotten too many responses back, and my ratio of 3 "no's" for every "yes" still seems to be holding true. I haven't exhausted my lists of people just yet, though in some categories we're dangerously short on talent to start with (ie men of any age).

I sincerely hope I can find casts for all of our upcoming shows in a timely fashion this time around, if only so that we can close out 2009 on the right note. Having a full cast, in place and ready to go, so that rehearsals can start in earnest on the day they are supposed to start, gives me immense joy and a sense of utter relief that is indescribable. Life is so much easier, and the chances of a successful production go through the roof.

I can build flats. I can build risers. I can paint, prop, engineer soundscapes, stretch rudimentary lighting equipment to incongruous ends and even alter a hem line. The one and only thing I can't do is play someone else's role onstage, which is why I have so much riding on getting these shows cast.

We're still looking for people to join us. E-mail me at if you're interested. I can guarantee you there'll be an opportunity for you to get on board.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Green Shoots

Have we turned the corner on this recession?

Definitely-maybe, according to the economists and politicians, both groups wary of actually making a concrete prediction for fear that yet again they will be proven wrong (I heard somewhere that none of the last ten or so recessions were actually predicted - they just happened without anyone seeing them coming).

I'm no economist, but I too seem to find myself twinged with a note of cautious optimism myself. It's got nothing to do with the evidence on the ground, (audiences are still staying away in droves) but in the last few days and weeks I've noticed just a little less bitterness in the world around me, a little less looking inwards and backwards and just a little bit of looking outwards and into the future. People don't seem to have quite the look of despair about them now, no more feigned smiles and off-the-cuff remarks masking an all-too-real panic lying beneath. Something has changed.

Though perhaps not for everyone. I talked to someone, a fellow entrepreneur, just the other day about the hardships we've been facing here at Grinder over the past few months. He had little to say, but the few words he did speak and the tone of his voice told me that he and I were living the same nightmare, at that quite possibly he was playing a game with much larger stakes than myself.

I've heard of men in their 60's working at Tim Hortons. Of women in the 70's pushing their walkers into the employment offices looking for a part-time job. And now this Earl Jones fellow (is that even his real name?) is alleged to have engaged in a mass deception so vast and so devastating as to deprive many people who are in or near retirement of not only their life savings, but their sole source of income.

Make no mistake about it: this recession has hurt a lot of people. We all thought that terrorism, bird flu (remember that?) or natural disasters would be the things that would wipe out Western Civilization. Who knew it would be anything as unglamourous as the default rates on sub-prime mortgages and their subsequent effects on bonds, derivatives and hedge-fund trading markets?

At Grinder Productions, we had very little left to lose when the bottom fell out of the economy. In many ways I think that protected us from a lot of the pain, and kept us going a lot longer and a lot better than we might otherwise have hoped. We put in place a recession-survival plan as soon as the markets tanked, designed to keep costs at an absolute bare minimum and leverage what little cash flow that was coming in to our best advantage.

Again, it's not exactly sexy stuff, but it has worked. Grinder Productions is still here: bruised and battered and still in desperate need of patrons, actors and all the people who are needed to make theatre happen. But at least we're still here. We have lived to fight another day.

The Great Depression went through a similar period of "Green Shoots" growth in the early 30's, after the stock market settled down and some ofthe paranoia passed. Those Green Shoots soon turned to brown though, as grim reality replaced panic and fear, and the world was forced to embark on the long, slow path to recovery. I don't know if we'll face the same kind of false hope again, but I think that no matter what happens the Green Shoots that have sprouted here at Grinder will continue to grow for some time yet.