Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Brochures Are Coming! The Brochures Are Coming!

Well, it's not as sexy as The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (does anybody remember that movie? I loved it!) but it's the truth.

Boxes & boxes of brochures showed up on Friday, and trays & trays of them are either at the post office or headed there tomorrow. My, but they is purty.

Denis Langlois is a great designer - and very patient with a client who says things like "can it just be shmooshed a little to the left?" So, thank you, Denis, we love the look of this brochure.

And the work that Kim & Fay and Bev & Charlotte have put into getting these lovely things into the mail. You will rarely find me complaining about Canada Post - I think for the most part they really do do a pretty good job - but honestly, they need to re-think their policy of changing their mass mailing policy(cies) every 36 days. It does make it difficult for businesses like ours - like many cultural institutions - who still rely on snail mail for much of our marketing when the process changes, when the process becomes more complicated, when the process stops making sense from what we, the customer, are trying to do.

We try to make things easier for our customers; I do wish all our suppliers and vendors felt the same way.

My first News Director in radio told me that the smartest thing I could do for my career was to remember one simple word: KISS. Maybe the post office could try it too.

Anyway, watch for your brochure in the mail in the next few days; they've been sent to all our Members, Sponsors, and patrons who have purchased tickets any time since 2007 up to today. Sometime next week, we'll start putting them on display in all tourist and retail locations that would like to have them. If that includes you... let me know who & where you are!

Tickets for all events up to 31st August 2010 are on sale NOW!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Theatre

We held our first rehearsal for the Youth Theatre Experience last Saturday. Thank goodness for Brittney & Richard - they really stepped up to the plate for me, allowing me to attend an SFT staff function at the same time.

Our young actors got to play some theatre games, and wear off a little energy, with Brittney before they sat down with Richard and worked on their script reading and writing skills. Most people don't know there is a real skill to reading scripts - and I think it's one that should be taught/learned as early as possible in an actor's career. Richard Turtle is a published & produced playwright, so I reckoned he would be an excellent teacher of this skill - and I was right! The kids really seemed to enjoy the experience, and so did he.

I can only hope that they took those skills home with them when they read the script for the first time!

Choosing a play to produce that will be acted by kids, for kids, is a very difficult task. You have to think about the people you don't know yet who will be acting out the story. You have to think about the audiences who are expected to come (based on previous experience). You have to think about the stories that you, as a creative & thinking person, want to see told. I must have read a dozen plays for young actors & audiences before latching on to The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon, and even then I had some reservations.

Yes, it's funny. Yes, it moves incredibly fast so it will be fun for the actors to play. But yes, there were - and are - some issues with dated jokes (who in the general public even remembers O.J., never mind a kid who's 11 today?) and some issues with language (which I think Brittney & I cleared up, but will be sure to double check as we rehearse). But there is also the fact that the Brothers Grimm more than lived up to their name - their fairy tales are pretty grim!

We live in a Disney-fied world these days; in fact, the play even pokes fun at The Mouse, as they say. As a society, we have smoothed out the scary parts of old fairy tales and removed the ones that some people can find offensive. We want life to be easier and happier for our children, and we want them to know personal safety and comfort in their everyday lives.

I personally like the scary stories, even without the "happily ever after" endings. And if you know the time in which the Brothers Grimm collected the folk tales and stories that become 'their' stories, you know that talk of enchantresses and devils and witches who tricked children into a dark & forbidding forest was part of the daily life of people who were very uneducated, very superstitious.

What these tales are about - whether in their original version, in the 'smoothed out' version, or even in this farcical version we are presenting - is the story of good and evil. And if it uses slapstick and irony to make the point that good triumphs, evil is vanquished, perhaps that can be considered a way to reach an audience that may not have had a chance to think too much about these things.

As we rehearse our play, while we're having fun, I hope that my discussions with the actors will help them see that these stories we're telling are encouraging strong, good, personal values that I hope everyone can believe in, and not a world in which evil wins, even for a moment. Can you do all that and still get laughs? I think so... if you're open for the experience. We'll see as the weeks unfold.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Working With Young People

I have a 26 year old mind in middle-aged body. I love working with teenagers and people in their early 20s because sometimes I don't think I'm that much older than they are.

Until my knees creak, of course.

Anyway, Brittney & I were going over the script we're using for the Youth Theatre Experience in March, and I made a pop culture reference that I didn't think was that old. Apparently it was. And then, trying to make me feel better about being reminded of my quickly passing years, Brittney said, "Do you know, I'm part of the last generation to know what life is like without everyone in the family having a computer?"

I asked her if she knew what a typewriter was. Her mother has memories of using one...

My point in bringing this up is that theatre can be an ageless cultural touchstone for every generation. We don't need to wireless gadgets to understand the magic in the 19th century gem of a play, PETER PAN. We don't have to know that pumps were the only source of running water in many houses when THE MIRACLE WORKER took place. And we already know that love is eternally painful and dangerous, for Juliettes in 16th century Verona or 21st Vancouver.

Theatre is the ultimate time machine. And yes, I can remember a time when there were party lines for the phone (this was at the cottage, deep in the hinterlands, and I believe we were the last 8 party line customers in Ontario) and telegrams were how urgent messages were sent and people dressed up to fly somewhere (when apparently airlines would prefer we all wear as little clothing as possible these days!).

So if our plays tell stories from those times - hurray, we'll all have something fun to talk about at intermission. But if our plays also talk about the feelings and ideas of those times - hurray, for we'll have something to talk about for days after the final curtain.

It's going to be interesting to see how the Youth Theatre Experience takes their own memories of early childhood and the fairy stories they all learned back then and apply those sensibilities to their production.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


In all the excitement of the Open Theatre, I forgot to post this!

The theatre is changing our approach to kids & theatre a little by trying to open up the experience to just about anyone who thinks that being in a show or coming to a show would be fun! So we've got a new name for all the theatre things we're doing this year - THE YOUTH THEATRE EXPERIENCE - with different activities happening with that whole experience sphere.

First up in March, will be a presentation of the Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon for which we are holding auditions on Saturday, January 16th.

These aren't going to be traditional auditions - no resumes, no headshots, no prepared monologues, 'cause I'm not looking to create great theatre. I'm looking to create a great experience. I hope the kids who come out will learn a lot, have even more fun than that, and in the end will provide our audiences... their audiences... with a wonderful, live theatre performance.

So, if you're a kid between the ages of 10 and 16, and you think that spending the next ten Saturday mornings with friends old & new, having fun, doing some really interesting work, and learning new skills sounds like something you might be interested in... then come see us SATURDAY, JANUARY 16th @ THE STIRLING FESTIVAL THEATRE, 41 WEST FRONT STREET, STIRLING, any time between 10am and 2pm. If for any reason you cannot come that one day, call the theatre at 613.395.2100 and we'll see if we can see you sometime next week.

There is a catch, and it is an important one: We will be presenting this show ever day through March break week; 4 matinees, 1 evening show. If you know now that you cannot do that, then we're not going to be able to put you in the show.

And for all you professionals out there who got excited at the word AUDITIONS... this is strictly community and kids theatre. Professionals are welcome to volunteer their time to coach and teach.

Thanks for supporting SFT.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Open Theatre Success!!

Well, wasn't that a night!

And an afternoon, actually, as well.

The Stirling Festival Theatre First Annual Open Theatre went off extremely well, both afternoon and evening sessions. I have to say that when we chose the times, from 2-4 and 7-9, it felt a little like we were planning a wake! But of course, this was just the opposite. We were celebrating a New Year, a new beginning, for the theatre.

We invited pretty much the entire world to come to the theatre for a chance to tour backstage, learn more about the upcoming year, meet the "new" kids (that would be me & our TD, Dave Vanderlip) and say thanks to the "old" kids (that would be Joanne, Fay, Kim, Charlotte, Bev, Donna and all our many, wonderful volunteers, including a great board), and of course learn about our exciting new season.

Luisa Appolloni, who will be directing THE LAST RESORT, was here, and charmed everyone as only she can do. Unfortunately, other committments & iffy weather kept our other two directors, Ken MacDougall (HANSEL & GRETEL and our murder mystery dinner theatres) and Andrew Lamb (DRIVING MISS DAISY) from joining us, but both sent their regrets & regards, and look forward to meeting people this summer.

The last few months of 2009 were not the happiest of times for the SFT family in many ways. Transition and change are never easy, and when there is a true clash of opinion and belief attached, it makes the idea of change even more difficult. But change does happen, and it can be all for the good.

I'm looking forward to a lot of good stuff coming up in 2010... and well beyond as I'm already putting plans in place for our 15th anniversary coming up in 2011!

Coming up first... dastardly & delicious murder & mayhem Feb 12, 13, 14 and then in March, our Youth Theatre Experience kicks off with some fractured, and funny, fairy tales running in March break week. Call the box office for more details & tickets!!