Monday, May 31, 2010

Living the Dream

Charles Dickens said it best - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

We're now well into rehearsals for our summer season, with several shows on the go right now, and many more just on the verge of getting started. As the world's greatest wife has been reminding me, we're doing much better at this point this year than we were last year, and she's right - I'm very pleased to see how well a show like Chaucer Uncensored is coming along, and how we're already mostly cast for shows later in the season like Wild Angels and The 18 Carat Boob.

But of course it can't all be roses - we have our challenges, just like every other year. It seems the Grinder "casting curse" is still alive and well - getting and retaining actors remains our largest stumbling block this season, and it's been the cause of more hair-pulling and sleepless nights on my part than anything else. Particularly frustrating to me is losing someone for a role once rehearsals have already begun, something that the folks at Chaucer have had to face not once, but twice - for the exact same role!

Now don't get me wrong, I don't blame anyone who is forced to drop out of a show - people have their reasons, and who am I to judge. But even so, most people have exceptionally good reasons for not continuing, usually work or family commitments, and I agree those have to come first.

But it's still frustrating.

It's frustrating to feel like everyone else's well-being takes priority over your own. It's frustrating to feel like your passion, your livelihood, your raison d'etre depend on the whims of others. It's frustrating to be turned down time and time and time again by people with better things to do. It's frustrating to feel like you're that hobby people have that they can just never seem to find the time to get around to.

So that's my venting for today - yesterday was a particularly busy day at Grinder, hence my feelings this morning. I really do love what I do - I get up every morning living the dream. I get to put on plays while everyone else is stuck in an office, a classroom or a shop and I'm very, very grateful for it. As I embark on another week I'd like to put the difficulties of the weekend behind me, and look forward to the wonderful adventures that lay before me, the world's greatest wife and the many, many people who love to make magic with us here at Grinder Productions.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Actors still needed

We still have some roles available for this summer for interested actors.

Now that shows are getting into rehearsals the opportunities are diminishing, but there are still some spots left.

In the Belwood season there are still some very juicy roles up for grabs in William Shakespeare's Cymbeline, some of the best roles of the season in George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, and even a couple of roles left in The 18 Carat Boob.

In Ennotville things are moving too fast to give you an accurate break-down, but there are both main stage, lunch and after-hours roles still open. Our greatest need is for people to appear in the After Hours series.

I hope this whets a few appetites. If you've been thinking of joining us this summer I encourage you to come on out. All it takes is a few hours of your time every week, and you get to be a part of something incredible. And feel free to spread the word - Grinder is not an exclusive club, and anyone who has the desire to perform with us is welcome to come on out.

Call 519-780-7593 or email grinder@grinderproductions.org to get involved today!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Leave the Horse at Home

Last night was our first rehearsal for Godiva's Children, the second Main Stage Show at the Ennotville Library. While I'm always happy to get a show into rehearsals, I'm also always a bit nervous about hearing a new script read aloud for the first time. Godiva is an original - it has never been done before, and it's never been given a workshop or reading.

As for the story of Godiva's Children, well, that might just be this production's little secret. After all, everyone knows the story of the original Lady Godiva, right?

Godiva's Children opens Thursday, July 8th at the Ennotville Library and runs to July 17th. For tickets and information please call 519-780-7593 or visit the website at www.grinderproductions.org.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Have a great long weekend everyone...

... and I'll talk to you all again on Tuesday. Please raise a glass with me this weekend for our summer 2010 season!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Actor's Toolbox

We've got a lot of new faces this season at Grinder, so I thought today I'd point some of our newbies (as well as some of our veterans) to the resources we've assembled for you in The Actor's Toolbox.

Just head on over to www.grinderproductions.org and click on the "Toolboxes" link. There you'll find a number of pages devoted to actors, directors and production personnel. Many of these pages are still under development, but the actors pages are largely complete. There's info on learning lines, creating characters, proper theatre etiquette for rehearsals and performances and so much more. You can also suggest favourite resources of your own for inclusion in a future update.

Knowledge is power! And this information isn't just specific to Grinder. Theatre is theatre no matter where you go and this collection of tips will help you prepare for almost any play. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Welcome to Canterbury

Our 1st main stage show at the Ennotville Library is now into rehearsals. It's called Chaucer Uncensored.

Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales were completed in the final few years of the 14th century. They are a collection of stories being told by a group of pilgrims on their way to the Thomas Becket shrine in Canterbury, England. What makes the stories unique is that they are told largely by and about the common people of the time, not just the usual kings and queens.

We've taken three of the most-loved and funniest tales and rewritten them for the stage, in thoroughly modern English - this play is just as easy to understand as a typical bedroom farce (and we even have beds).

The play is directed by Alan Quinn, who has also co-written the show, adding the British colloquialism that give it an even more farcical flavour.

Chaucer Uncensored open June 24th and runs to July 3rd at the Ennotville Library. Call 519-780-7593 or visit www.grinderproductions.org for tickets and information!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Heart of Eden

This show is the first in our "Mostly Music" lunchtime series at the Ennotville Library. You may remember it from a couple of stage readings we gave last summer - this is the first full-blown production (and I hope it won't be the last).

It's a feel-good romantic comedy about two young strangers who meet by accident in the park one sunny day. It's also a musical, filled with funny, feel-good tunes.

The Heart of Eden stars Andrew Simmons as Mike, a more hapless than hopeless romantic and Danielle Cranston as Eden, a girl who's irrepressible spirit is the sole driving force in her life.

The show runs for one performance only, Saturday, June 24th at noon at the Library. Bring your lunch and stick around for our 2pm matinee of the hilarious farce, Chaucer Uncensored.

Call 519-780-7593 or visit www.grinderproductions.org to book your seats or for more information!

Monday, May 17, 2010

And we're off!

The Grinder 2010 season is officially underway.

Last night I attended the first rehearsal at the farm of Chaucer Uncensored, and today I'll be holding the first rehearsal of Heart of Eden. With these two shows now into rehearsals the pre-production period of our season has come to an end. Now it's a race to opening night, June 24th at the Library.

I can't help but feel excited, be it very professional of my to say so or not. Theatre is what I do, it's what I love, it's who I am, and having the chance to make theatre once again is a wonderful feeling. After not having rehearsed a show all winter I've sorely missed the give and take of a good rehearsal, and while I was just an observer last night it still got me revved up for what's to come.

And there's a lot of shows coming down the pipe. By this time next week no fewer than five shows will be into rehearsals, so expect the reports to come fast and furious about our progress. The box office should be up and running by the end of this week, so ticket sales will be starting again soon as well.

I'd like to thank everyone who's agreed to come on board with us this season, and to encourage anyone else who would like to come on board to get in touch with me, as we've still got plenty of room left for people to get involved.

Have a great summer, and I'll see you at the theatre.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My letter to the editor in the Wellington Advertiser

If you're interested. The title is "Lots of Theatre."

Lots of theatre

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dare to be Different - Speak!

Our motto is Theatre that Dares to be Different - much maligned, much over-interpreted, for better or worse that is our calling.

Today, I'm asking you to be different, and instead of just reading this, I would like you to leave a comment, or at the very least get connected as a follower of the blog.

Some days it feels like I'm working in a vaccuum, that there's no one out there who's actually hearing me. On the blog it's not really so bad, as I don't require a response, but to all the people out there to whom I have sent casting offers and you have not responded back to me, yes, that is a bit hard to take.

So, purely in the interests of my own sanity, I'm soliciting your feedback, on anything and everything Grinder. Maybe it's a show you saw, an event we participated in, or something you've seen here on the blog. I want to know what, if anything, has struck you about what we do.

Some ideas:
What do you think of Grinder?
What do you like, what do you dislike, and why?
What's your great idea for putting bums in seats?

Or anything else you'd like to spout off about - no restrictions, just looking for thoughts. Maybe the fodder of future blog posts?

Datre to be Different!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stanby, Mackenzie - Chapter 5

Day two of rehearsals was much like the afternoon of day 1 – long and boring. The monotony of running the same parts of the play over and over and over again made it hard to stay awake, and Mackenzie found herself caught asleep on her feet a couple of times, forgetting to reset the props, having the scene start, and then the actors having to mime their actions, with Frank glaring her down.

Bret had been right about the costumes. At lunch Mackenzie raided the costume shop for a cloth tape measure and a couple of old measurement sheets that some costumer had left long ago, and she was managed to fake her way through some of the rudimentary measurements required.

Bret’s props were bang on as well, and Mackenzie wasn’t sure how she felt about taking credit for something that she’d only partially done, but Frank and the actors barely seemed to give the props a second look. Instead they just picked them up and started working with them like they’d always been there.

Now sound? How was Mackenzie supposed to know that by the start of rehearsals tomorrow that Frank wanted the sound track finished and ready to go? Mackenzie knew a very little bit about costuming from her community theatre shows, and she had learnt a lot on the last show about props, but she didn’t know the first thing about the sound system. She had called sound cues before, and she’d heard Marvin calling sound cues, but beyond that she didn’t even know how to turn the sound board off and on!

When Day 2 mercifully came to an end all Mackenzie wanted to do was hit the bar with Frank and the actors, or better yet without them, but she knew that was a luxury she couldn’t afford, so she reset the props for the morning, pulled costumes for the fitting, wrote up a schedule and posted it for the day and had just finished sweeping up the stage when Bret strolled in.

“Are you ready to do some sound, Macky?”
“I’m starving.”
“Then let’s get started over at Sammy’s. Bring your prompt book and a notepad.”

Sammy’s was the greasy spoon next to the theatre that was run by a Polish Immigrant family. It was always open late, and it was about the only place in town where you could order a banquet burger and large poutine at 11pm and nobody would judge you for it. While they were waiting for their food Bret and Mackenzie went through the script, making a list of all the sound effects.

“You’re also going to need scene change music for in between each scene, and for the tops and tails of each act,” said Bret.
“How do you know –“
“Let’s just keep our eyes on the ball here, Macky. You see that line there, where Dan says ‘Hear that one old girl mooing away last night?’ That means Frank will probably want the sound of cow mooing to start long before he says that line, like right from the half when the house opens.”

After supper they went back to the theatre, up to the booth and sat down at the computer, where the two of them searched the internet for the sound effects, and the theatre’s library of music for scene change and other material.

“Did Frank say anything about underscores anywhere?”
“Frank hasn’t said anything to me about sound. How do you know this is even what he wants?”
“Well, actually, I don’t know what he wants. In fact even he probably doesn’t know what we wants for the show yet. But what he needs right now is a CD that you can use in rehearsal so the actors can hear the sound effects and music and get used to them. Later on he’ll probably want to change a bunch of stuff, which is why I’ve put it all into a neat little folder on the desktop of this computer so that next week Juan can quickly find it and be half done instead of starting all over from scratch.”

After a couple of hours of cutting and pasting they had a CD burned and labelled and ready to go for the next day’s rehearsal.

“I wonder how the set is coming,” Mackenzie asked. “Do you think we should go over and check on the guys before we go home?”
“No,” said Bret. “The guys won’t still be working this late. You should get some sleep, because tomorrow Frank is going to hit the roof when he finds out how much work is still left to be done on the set.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hallelujah

We are all like icebergs, aren't we?

The part of us that rises above the surface, the part of us that everyone else can easily see is but a small tip of what lies beneath.

Some of us think of the hidden part of ourselves as the private, others as the keeper of our true selves. For some it is a refuge of secrets, delusions and lies, while for others its a well of inspiration, strength and, when necessary, refuge.

Few people try to understand the hidden parts of others, and most of us don't really and completely understand our own hidden parts, if we're really honest with ourselves.

So what the heck does this have to do with the never-ending roller-coaster of Grinder?

Well, for the sake of extending hackney-ed metaphors consider the hidden parts of me, you and everyone who has a stake in this company or has ever been invited to have a stake in this company as the rails of the roller-coaster, constantly being laid a split second before they are rushed over in a constantly changing, non-stop, never-repeating ride.

I write this because after 25 years I decided that keeping all of the hidden parts of myself hidden were doing me more harm than good, and as I now sit on the precipice of middle age I've seen some positive payoff from that decision. Sharing something, however small, of yourself, something you normally wouldn't, is cathartic. Yes, a release.

I didn't call this blog "Grinder's Grumblings" for the sake of cute-sy alliteration. As much as it is the megaphone through which I gleefully proclaim the ongoing triumphs of Grinder Productions it must be more than that. It must be a true reflection of the journey. As much as I cheer the highs I need to also acknowledge the lows, and release them.

Todays "lows" are nothing in particular - there are no crises that weren't there before, no earth-shattering news, not even much self-pity to wallow in (another thing that's rapidly drying up on the precipice of middle age). They aren't even all that specific, just the weight of a week of sleep-deprivation and rejected acting invitations turning a rainy Friday afternoon into Monday morning's blog post, a frantic attempt to work through bleary eyes and do something, anything, that could count as productive.

Yeah, I'm a little annoyed at all the people who've let me down and not responded to my offers to be in shows this summer - I will admit that. But annoyed enough to never want to hear from them again? - NO!

Sometimes the silence of unanswered emails is deafening. I don't know if everyone realizes that - good or bad, either is better than not knowing, both on the business level and on the personal level. Yes, rejection hurts, but I really do need to know one way or the other, or at least that you're still thinking it over.

Knowing means I can move on to the next iceberg, hoping and praying that what I see above the water is a true indication of what lies beneath.

There. Catharsis. Release. Hallelujah.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Roles Still Available for the summer

E-mail me or call 519-780-7593 if you're interested! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Job Posting - Director of Children's Programming

Summer Job Posting: Director of Children’s Programming

Grinder Productions is Centre Wellington’s most diverse live theatre company. We are seeking an energetic, positive, out-going person to assist us with our Children and Youth programs this summer. Most of the work involved in this position will be conducted at our signature summer venue, the Ennotville Historical Library, a 19th century community hall located in the tiny Hamlet of Ennotville, Ontario, between the town of Fergus and the city of Guelph.

This position will have two areas of responsibility.
1. Cast, direct, design, produce and assist with the promotion of our Children’s Series, 10 one-act Children’s plays, one each Saturday from June 26th – August 28th.
2. Conduct two drama camps for kids ages 8-12, one in July and one in August. Each camp will be four weeks long, and cover the basics of theatre/performance. May conclude with a small show.

The Ideal candidate for this position will have:
• An exceptionally positive attitude
• The ability to keep track of a large number of projects at one time
• Previous experience in Children’s theatre
• Previous experience in theatre production
• Previous directing experience
• A Police check (PRC) may also be required (we’re looking into this)

Start Date: The week of May 23rd
End Date: The week of August 22nd
Remuneration: This position will pay $200 per week.

You will need to attend auditions on Saturday, May 29th in order to cast the shows. One or more meetings will also be required for production planning and curriculum development.

Please e-mail your resume and/or portfolio no later than May 10th to:

Eric and Julie Goudie
Creative and Executive Co-Directors
Grinder Productions
Telephone: 519-780-7593
E-mail: grinder@grinderproductions.org

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Where Corn Don't Grow Sample - Comments Welcome

Where Corn Don’t Grow
A drama in 1 act
By Eric Goudie
2nd Draft © April 2010

Time: The present. An afternoon in winter.
Place: The kitchen of a farmhouse in rural Ontario.

The Smyth family’s kitchen is old, poorly cleaned and heavily used. A door at right leads out to the barn, and an opening left leads to the rest of the house. There is a table and chairs pushed up against a wall, with seating for three. The floor is peeling linoleum, and a large window offers a view of the barnyard beyond.

At rise, Samuel is sitting at the kitchen table drinking a beer and reading the newspaper, while in the background the Travis Tritt song “Where Corn Don’t Grow” is playing. Samuel is about 50, unshaven, and wears dirty, faded overalls, a ball cap, and work boots.

After a moment we hear the sound of a car pulling up, and then a moment later Cedric and Michaela enter. Both are high school students, with Cedric in Grade 12 and Michaela in Grade 11. They drop their school bags and remove their coats and boots in silence, then Cedric picks up his bag and exits to the rest of the house, barely casting a glance at Samuel. Michaela goes over to the sink and starts doing the dishes.

After a moment, Samuel looks up at her, then turns off the radio.

SAMUEL: What are you doing?
MICHAELA: The dishes.
SAMUEL: Why are you doing the dishes?
MICHAELA: Can’t I do the dishes?
SAMUEL: You sure as hell can, hon. How was school today?
MICHAELA: It was fine Dad. And don’t call me hon.
SAMUEL: Why not, Michaela?
MICHAELA: Because you used to call Mom that.
SAMUEL: So?
MICHAELA: So I’m not Mom.
SAMUEL: You look a lot like her, you know, hon.
MICHAELA: Dad…
SAMUEL: Oh, okay – hon.
MICHAELA: Dad! Knock it off!
SAMUEL: Can’t you take a goddamn joke?
MICHAELA: Who asked you to try and be funny.

A pause. Eventually Michaela goes back to doing the dishes.

SAMUEL: Why are you doing the dishes, Michaela?
MICHAELA: Since when do you care about dishes?
SAMUEL: I’m usually the one who does them, so I’m wondering why you’re feeling so generous today.
MICHAELA: Maybe I felt like doing them.
SAMUEL: Bullshit.
MICHAELA: Fine then, don’t believe me.
SAMUEL: I don’t. And what’s up with Cedric?
MICHAELA: What about him?
SAMUEL: He just waltzed in here and walked through without saying a word to me.
MICHAELA: And that’s different from every other day how?
SAMUEL: He wasn’t saying anything to you either.
MICHAELA: Maybe he’ll have something to say to the both of us later. After supper.
SAMUEL: After supper?
MICHAELA: I don’t know. I’m just saying he might.
SAMUEL: Okay, what the hell is going on here?
MICHAELA: What do you mean?
SAMUEL: You’re hiding something from me. So is Cedric. It’s something bad. Something bad happened today at school, didn’t it? One of you did something. Which one of you was it? Am I gonna get a phone call? Did they get the cops out?
MICHAELA: Dad, it’s nothing like that. Nothing like that at all.
SAMUEL: No cops?
MICHAELA: No Dad, nobody called the cops.
SAMUEL: Then which one of you is in trouble?
MICHAELA: Why do you think one of us is in trouble?
SAMUEL: Because you’re always getting into trouble, both of you, and usually they have to call the cops.
MICHAELA: We’re not always getting into trouble, and they only called the cops a couple of time because a couple of people over-reacted.
SAMUEL: Your brother was dealing drugs. And he set that fire in the girls change room, remember? They called the cops both times.
MICHAELA: That was a long time ago. He was in Grade 9.
SAMUEL: Well you’ve been in hot water since then. Remember when you got caught cheating on that exam?
MICHAELA: They didn’t call the cops.
SAMUEL: But they did when you beat the shit out of the girl who ratted you out. You damn near killed the little bitch.
MICHAELA: Now you’re over-reacting.
SAMUEL: And now one of you has gone and done something else bone-headed. Come on, no more stalling – I want to know what happened, and which one of you needs their ass kicked.
MICHAELA: I’m telling you the truth Dad – we’re not in trouble. It’s… it’s… it’s something different. I’m going to go up to my room now – until dinnertime. I have a lot of homework to do.
SAMUEL: Like hell you do. Sit down and tell me what happened.
MICHAELA: I really should get to work. I may not even have the time to come down for dinner.
SAMUEL: Sit, down, Michaela…
MICHAELA: Dad, I –
SAMUEL: (violently) SIT DOWN!
MICHAELA: Yes sir.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jobs this week

It's going to be a busy week here at Grinder.

I've compiled a to-do list of everything that I'd like to get done before Friday: write a bunch of stuff, work on Helium for several hours, finalize a couple of scripts, get a whole whack of people committed to being in shows this summer and oh yeah, start working on actually selling the season with the marketing kick-off. That, a children's series and don't forget the baby goats (actually that made me stop and add a whole bunch more things to the list).

You would think that with a list this long I'd be depressed about my prospects of getting it all done this week. I'm oddly confident, though. Perhaps it's my foolishness to even attempt to get so much done (I've been called foolish by a good many people a good many times), and of course no one can say what unforeseen events might crop up and throw a wrench into this week's plans (see the aforementioned goats, for example). But I can't help but have a good feeling, because when I look at the list while I see it's quite long I also see that the tasks on it are quite pragmatic and, most importantly, quite do-able. There is a lot less dreaming and a lot more reality in my to-do lists these days (for whatever reason, likely associated with the rapid onset of middle age).

If all goes well this week there won't be nearly as much to do next week, and we'll be well on our way to a spectacular summer season.