Thursday, June 17, 2010

An important announcement from Grinder Productions

Hello everyone,

It is with the deepest sadness that I must announce today that Grinder Productions has suspended operations, effective immediately.

The reason for this is simple: I cannot find and keep enough male actors to do any shows this season. This is not a temporary problem, but one that has plagued me for years. It is not fair to ask the few men and many women who have agreed to do shows this year to rehearse without full casts.

I am deeply sorry for doing this to all of you. If you are receiving this email it is because you have some stake in our company, as an actor, community partner, or friend, and I would like to apologize to anyone who is hurt, upset, disappointed or otherwise inconvenienced by this decision. I would like to extend a special apology to Tim and Sade, the two extremely talented, enthusiastic young people who were to run our summer camps who are now unemployed. If you know of anyone looking for two great camp counsellors this summer I highly recommend them.

Bronwyn, please accept my resignation from the Trillium Grant Committee, both in my capacity as chair and Grinder Productions as a member of the collaborative. I will personally still be happy to act as a consultant to the collaborative if my expertise is required, and I will also be available in the fall to conduct the technical workshops if the committee would like to hire me for those.

Kasey, please cancel our contract for the Belwood Hall this summer, and advise me if any money must be paid.

Believe me everyone, if there were any possible way for me to carry on I would – theatre is my lifeblood, and it defines every aspect of who I am. But I’ve carried on in futility for years now, even in the face of overwhelming rejection. I’ve never been able to interest enough actors in my shows. I’ve never really found the inner peace I need to sit down and properly prepare a show for the stage. And I’ve never heard the applause from a sold-out house at one of my shows. I may have given a few people a good start, and helped others on the road to their dreams, or so I hope. But personal success has always eluded me – the emptiness in my soul that made me start Grinder Productions has never been filled, and I must live with the fact that it possibly never will.

Jules has insisted that I leave the door open for Grinder’s return in the future. Though I don’t know how I will ever find the faith and trust in others that it takes to put on a show, Jules’ eternal optimism for a brighter tomorrow gives me hope that one day I will put on plays again.

I’ll keep the grinder@grinderproductions.org email address active as long as I can afford to, though the website and blog may fade away, or be changed to offer different content. I will keep the phone going as long as I can as well.

I will keep my Facebook page, and I will continue to write on Helium.com. I encourage all of you to visit Helium, and read my articles and How-to Guides. Though small, this will be my sole source of income for the time being.

I’m going to take some time off this summer to write, to farm, and decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.

I wish all of you the best of luck in your future endeavours, and once again, I am truly sorry for doing this to you, and for all the inconveniences you’ve ever had to endure for the sake of Grinder Productions. I am deeply thankful and deeply grateful to you all.

So good-bye for now, but maybe not forever.

Eric Goudie
Julie Goudie

Thanks for the comments, everyone...

Good, bad and ugly, it's been nice to get some comments this past week here on the blog. When you blog and blog and blog and blog and you're not sure whether or not anyone's actually reading it can get a bit disconcerting once in a while if you don't get the odd bit of feedback.

(Luckily for me blogging fulfills the natural need within me to write, with a minimum of structural constraints and little or no censorship)

Please don't hesitate to keep the comments coming, even if you're a hater - I do appreciate people's ideas and feedback, but I especially like to hear about constructive, pragmatic things that make things better here at Grinder.

And if have any ideas about topics you think I should include in future posts feel free to let me know about that too!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Guest Post from The World's Greatest Wife

I was going to simply make a comment in response to the recent comment Grinder received but I have been allowed to do a guest post instead.

When I read the comment I was disgusted that someone would say such terrible things and not express their feelings directly. If someone has a problem with someone or something the only decent and adult thing to do is discuss them openly so the problems may be resolved.

I have worked with Grinder for many years now and am thrilled to say that it got me back into theatre after many years away from it and I love it again. The fact that I love it means that I would rehearse almost anywhere, just so that I can do it.

Grinder is not a big company with lots of money to throw around, yet it works hard to allow local people to get on stage and show off what they can do. It’s a company that has been in the community for years and struggles to keep going in these hard economic times.

Eric runs Grinder out of a love for theatre and his love for allowing others to get on stage or back stage and do what makes them come alive.

He puts up with people backing out at the last minute, people not learning their lines as they have committed to and trying to run a company during hard times. I have always felt that if I commit to something I should see it through; I guess the joke is on me because that does not seem to be the way things work anymore.

Perhaps what Grinder should do is just stop producing plays, forget about trying to produce local theatre and forget about giving kids and adults the chance to be on stage. I’m sure that’s what our commenter would like to see happen, but when someone has a passion that drives them to do what they love, I’m guessing it will take more than some hard words to make them give up on their dream.

I’m sure I should be writing this when I have calmed down from reading our other commenter’s remarks but I decided that I needed to share my feelings on the matter honestly and as I was feeling them.

Perhaps our commenter would like to try following his or her dream without the support or funding of a big company.

I’m impressed to see that Grinder is taking the comments in a professional manner and using the hurtful things said to grow and make the company stronger.


I wrote this about a week ago after reading the now famous comment and I have since calmed down and Eric is now allowing me to post my remarks. I'm sure everyone will say that I'm biased because I'm married to Eric but I want everyone to know that I have more than once told Eric that maybe he needs to give it all up because of what he has to put up with. Yet each time he comes back fighting and refuses to give up on what he believes to be a great company. Maybe we all need to stop and think about what we would do for a job we love. I get up each morning, drive an hour to work, work in an office doing stuff I don't really like and each day I wonder why there isn't a better way to spend three quarters of my life. I sure don't love my job but I sure wish I could say I did. Maybe then I would be more willing to put up with bull****!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not to prosyletise, but...

Here's an article on Helium on a subject that's near and dear to me and the world's greatest wife.

Understanding in vitro fertilziation (IVF)

FYI, there's no news right now, nothing to report whatsoever. I won't say "stay tuned" because I can't promise that there would be anything to report much before the first day of kindergarten - that's the nature of these things. We've decided that being open about the process is an important step though, because too many people aren't aware of the extent of couples who deal with fertility issues, and it isn't talked about enough, even amongst fellow patients.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Standby, Mackenzie - Chapter 6

Day four of rehearsals dawned bright and sunny, as had been the norm all week long. By 9am the Main Street in Sheridan’s Falls was already filling up with tourists and teenagers, all of the scantily dressed for the hot day to come. Dressed in her “show blacks” because Trudy was taking her picture today for the front-of-house photos, Mackenzie attracted more than a few quizzical stares as she walked down the main street towards the theatre, coffee in one hand, her stage management toolkit in the other.

“You’re a smoke short of finally looking like a real techie,” joked Steven, who was sitting on the front steps of the theatre having a smoke. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, both covered with dirt and paint from the shop.

“So how’s the stage managing workin’ out for you?”

“It’s okay, I guess. I never know what the next thing will be that I’m supposed to already know, but I think I’m staying ahead of things.

“That’s good. That’s very good. And you’re sure you’ll be needed today?”

“According to this CTA thing I’m technically not allowed to not be here.”

“Damn.”

And with that Steven tossed the rest of his smoke onto the street and went inside. Mackenzie followed, but went straight into the auditorium to get ready for the day. She double-checked her preset from the night before, set the running props and food props that couldn’t be put out beforehand, made the coffee, changed the jug on the water cooler and had just finished tidying up the production desk when the actors walked in. They made some small talk, and then some more.

Mackenzie looked down at her watch. Ten after. Where was Frank?

The actors began to look concerned.

“I’ll go and see if I can find him. Marlene probably needs something signed.”

Mackenzie went out to the box office, and found Marlene busily working alone, processing the online ticket orders while marking off a section of the auditorium for a large bus tour audience.

“Trudy will be in to do pictures at 2pm, just like you scheduled,” she said without looking up. “I don’t want another fiasco with the union like last time.

“Actually I’m looking for Frank. It’s ten after and I haven’t seen him since I got here this morning. The actors are starting to wonder where he is.”

“He’s in a meeting with Steven. Probably forgot the time. Just go and knock on his –

At that moment Frank’s voice rumbled through the entire theatre. It was muffled, but unmistakably his. Just then the door to Frank’s office upstairs opened, and Steven came out, almost running. Frank came after him.

“And I don’t want any more *#!$ing excuses! This is un-professional! You and Juan had better get your )*&^%^ together and get this $#@*ing thing built before Sunday or I’m going to cut you a new *&^%*^%%&!!!!”

By now Steven was at the door, and almost ran over Trudy as she walked in. Frank came down the stairs.

“What!” he screamed at Mackenzie as she came over to him.

“Uh, we’re ready. Everyone’s here.”

“Tell the kids I’ll be right in.”

Mackenzie was shaking as she made her way back to the auditorium. She’d never seen Frank that mad before. It was a different kind of angry, not the usual surly growling but a more dangerous, explosive sort of rage. Yet, it sounded to her as if it were a controlled rage, as if he was calculating just how mad to get. Luckily the actors had heard his outburst too, so Mackenzie didn’t have to explain anything.

It wasn’t until after lunch when Trudy was taking pictures that Frank told the cast what had happened.

“Steven and Juan are having some trouble finishing the set.”

The actors wanted to know what kind of trouble – Frank replied the kind of trouble that gets fixed by a good swift kick in the butt, which is exactly what Steven had gotten this morning. The actors thought this was funny, and nothing more was said about it.

After an afternoon that Mackenzie thought would never end there wound up being a ton of prop and costume notes for her to do, and it wasn’t until around 8 o’clock that she finally finished cleaning up and getting set for the next day. True to form, Bret strolled in just as she was finishing sweeping the stage, and Mackenzie half-wondered, half-hoped, that he had been waiting for her and watching her in the darkness of the auditorium.

“So was I right about the set, Macky?”

“Yeah, you were right, but I don’t know the details. Frank screamed out Steven this morning, and then told us at lunch that they were “having trouble” with the set, but that Frank’s yelling had fixed it.”

“Well, it might,” Bret conceded. “But I don’t think Steven and Juan will be out of the woods just yet. If I know those two, the ‘trouble’ they were having with the set was probably called a pint of draught, or perhaps Mary Jane.”

“Mary who?”

“Never mind, kiddo. I’d say we should go over there and help them, but maybe it would be better if you got some rest, ‘cause I think tomorrow Steven is going to want you to do some of the painting.”

“Why me?”

“Because he and Juan don’t like painting, and they’re likely going to pull an all-nighter tonight to get this done. Bring a change of clothes with you tomorrow and after rehearsal you and I will go, finish the set, and get it painted.”

“But I don’t know the first thing about set painting! Or set building for that matter.”

“It’s easy, as long as you’re not hung over and you actually stick at it. Tell your folks that you probably won’t be home tomorrow night, or the next, or for the next week for that matter. Once they load-in you’ll probably be here straight through.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcome to Canterbury... again

This was going to be our 1st main stage show at the Ennotville Library. Now it's the our first show at the Belwood Hall. This is 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.

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 runs July 8th, 9th and 10th at the Belwood Hall. Call 519-780-7593 or visit www.grinderproductions.org for tickets and information!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When the Cows Went Berserk

It was a dark and stormy night in late October 2004. The old Grand stood much as she does now, except with far worse lighting. A vast set covered the stage, dwarfed only by the endless vista suggested by the scrim beyond the large bay window upstage centre. Someone said it was one of the biggest, most elaborate sets they'd ever seen on the Fergus stage.

Two young actors huddled in the cramped backstage, waiting for the lights to go down. A young man and a young woman, both playing roles well above their age, but filled with the plucky determination of youth. Alan Jackson's "Remember When" filled the theatre as the lights went to black.

That night Grinder Productions was born. That night it wasn't a staged reading, pieces of paper stuck to a wall, or some pathetic techie's asinine ramblings over his fourth pint of Guinness. That night we performed a play. It was called Home Farm.

I don't think Home Farm is the best play I've ever written (though a few other people do), but it's always held a special place in my heart, and it's one of the few plays that I promised myself that I would bring back when the time was right.

Well the time is now. Since we've been forced to change Chaucer Uncensored to Belwood, move around a couple of other shows, and do nothing less than re-think our entire business model I think it's high time for the most wholesome, honest play I've ever written to make its return.

Home Farm (or life before the cows went berserk) is the story of one day in the life of a modern family farm. It's a "typical" fall day, though of course there's no such thing as a typical day on the farm at any time. Filled with warmth, charm and even a little humour, Home Farm is as much about family, fellowship and love as it is about country living - think Dan Needles "Letter from Wingfield Farm" meets Thorton Wilder's "Our Town."

The show opens on Thursday, June 24th at the Ennotville Library, and runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to July 3rd. For tickets and information please call 519-780-7593 or email grinder@grinderproductions.org.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Directions




I write this as I'm sitting on the dock in Rosseau, whiling away the hours until I can pick up the world's greatest wife (who looks simply ravishing in a poodle skirt, by the way) from her company's annual meeting.

Cottages dot the shoreline. A young family fishes on the next dock over, and then a loon's call echos over the water. You don't get much more Northern Ontario than this.

Even though I'm far from home, noticeably exhausted and have narrowly avoided not one, but two wet and runny bombs from the seagulls periodically swirling overhead I'm oddly enough in a largely peaceful state of mind. Large bodies of open, calm water seem to have that effect on me, as does the quiet majesty of the boreal forest that seems to rise effortlessly out of the granite.

A par of mallards land just behind me, and begin foraging along the shore. A pair of loons surface just a few feet from where I sit. A blue heron glides over the water, disappearing in the instant she lands in the foliage on the opposite shore.

This is a peaceful place, on the dock, and it's made for a peaceful place in my mind. I don't think I've been this tired but still this happy since I walked down the aisle (which if you're keeping score was one year ago this past Sunday).

So what does all this inner and outer tranquility have to do with Grinder? Everything.

Up here in the clear northern air there's nothing but pure, honest truth. The truth about Grinder is that it isn't the runaway success it should be, can be or deserves to be.

In 2010 we've been plagued by people quitting shows, either just before rehearsals begin, or just after, and we've been unable to interest enough actors in being in our shows.

In 2009 we were plagued by poor attendance. I was very, very hurt when one actor I'd worked with before told me they wouldn't do a show with me again in a different venue because "you don't get enough people there for it to be worth it."

In 2008 we finally gave up trying to do shows at the Fergus Grand Theatre, a building that I've put 15 years of blood, sweat and tears into, because we simply weren't selling enough tickets to be able to risk a contract in Centre Wellington's premiere live performance venue.

In 2007 we ruined some lives.

In spite of our failures, we've had some victories too. We raised a little money for the cancer centre at Groves. We've paid thousands in rent, to the Township of Centre Wellington, to the Elora Centre for the Arts, and perhaps most importantly to the Ennotville Library. We've given many young people their first taste of theatre, be it acting, directing, or in a design/technical capacity, and we've inspired some of these young people to pursue professional careers. A few of these young people have even already found some success on the professional stage, screen, catwalk or behind the scenes.

And yes, two people met, became friends, fell in love and got married. Perhaps that is the most amazing victory of all.

So this is the paradox I've been struggling with: how can our victories (however numerous they may be) justify the shame and hardship of my entrepreneurial failures? I've spent most of the last year grappling with this problem in one form or another, and I'll admit I seriously considered giving it all up, and going and spending the next 40 years of my life making money doing something I hate, like everybody else.

But here on the boat dock it finally starts to make a little sense. I usually take Grinder's failures solely as my own, since on some level, no matter what actions any individual may take, it was ultimately I who agreed to them coming on board. Yet I usually see Grinder's successes as belonging to everyone, because I know that no matter how hard I may work putting on a show is a collaborative effort, and the most successful shows are most often those with real collaborative efforts from all involved.

What I realize now is that my attitude may be politically correst but it is pragmatically flawed. If success is collaborative then so is failure, and if I allow everyone to cherish the victories then I shouldn't wallow alone in the agony of failure and defeat.

I can't do it all alone. But what I can do is change how things are done.

So here's my idea. Grinder Productions is going to move from being a community theatre company to a sem-professional theatre company. What this means is that from now on everyone working on a show (as an actor, director or major production personnel) will sign a contract, and they will be paid a portion of any profits generated by whatever show they are in. They will be paid even more if they meet a series of "qualifying criteria" - basic expectations of professionalism like learning lines and showing up for all rehearsals. How much money each participant makes ultimately depends on how many people are involved in a given show, and how hard they are willing to work to make it a success.

So that's the new plan. We'll try it for the summer and see how it goes. I hope it will solve some of our biggest problems and make our shows more fun to be in. And yes, to be honest, I hope it will finally mean that I can earn a living wage from this, and meaningfully contribute to my family once again. And maybe by the time my 2nd anniversary roles around it won't take Lake Rosseau in all it's splendour to make me feel at peace.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's official... I'm hated

I usually get excited when someone leaves a comment - it means that someone out there is actually reading this thing. But this morning I finally had someone who dared offer more than a platitude.

Apparently I'm a horrible theatre company. I'm disorganized, I don't care about my casts and everyone in the theatre community hates to work with me. I'm supposed to stop complaining and get my act together before I lose what few actors I have left.

The comment was left anonymously, but it was by someone who had done one show with me, and had such a horrible experience that he or she would never be back.

The timing couldn't be worse, as this morning I was planning on telling everyone exactly what we are doing to fix what's wrong with Grinder, which is exactly what the commenter says needs to be done - I've been upstaged on my own blog.

The words hurt - give me sticks and stones any day over this. The only thing that hurts more is that the commenter does have a valid point - I am a screw up, and Grinder is in trouble - it doesn't matter that the fix is on the way. As for not caring about my casts nothing could be further from the truth, but if it's possible to see things that way then it's just further evidence that change needs to come.

After much deliberation, I've decided to allow the comment to be published, for now. I think it's the right thing to do, and I hope that it will prompt more of you to respond as well.

Do you agree with this person? You can hide behind anonymity here, so you might as well be honest.

Do you disagree with this person? Have you had a good experience with Grinder you might like to share (I could really use that right now).

To the person who wrote these words, thank-you. Your points are taken - where I feel you are right I concede, where I feel you are wrong I respectfully disagree. Tomorrow I will tell you and everyone else what we've done to change things at Grinder, a change that was already afoot before you expressed your thoughts but one that I think will address many of your grievances. In the meantime I'd be interested in hearing your ideas for specific ways that we can make Grinder better, perhaps so much better that you would consider coming back and doing a show with us once again.

Today, for the first time, someone has had the guts to tell me I'm hated. I'm sure they're not alone, and I'm sure it won't be the last time I hear such vitriol - both succes and failure come with their detractors, so no matter which way things go I'm going to have to live with this experience and others like it.

And now it's time to pick up the pieces...