In memoriam: Ed Rosing

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Ed Rosing – during a break in scenic painting on The Lady’s Not For Burning at Alumnae Theatre

Ed Rosing

March 11, 1929 – September 12, 2016

Ed Rosing (aka Eddie, Eduardo) was a creative soul with a quick, sharp wit, and a great love of classical music, opera and theatre. He played piano, was an original founding member of Cabbagetown Theatre, and worked as a respected interior decorator (into his late 80s, he still had two clients!), as well as a theatre set and lighting designer, scenic artist and director.

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Ed and Cody Boyd, working on the lighting for The Lady’s Not For Burning at Alumnae Theatre

I met Ed at Alumnae Theatre and got to know him during a production of Lady Windermere’s Fan, where he was the lighting designer and I was playing Cecil Graham. His gorgeous lighting plot included a gradual sunset during the opening scenes and a lovely fireplace lit room for Lord Darlington’s apartment (a cast and audience favourite). After that, I had the pleasure of painting sets he and others designed, as well as his apartment at PAL Toronto, and being directed by him in a New Ideas Festival reading of Jamie Johnson’s Falling.

He was a good friend, and a generous and knowledgeable mentor – and I will miss him.

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Ed & Bailey at Kensington Hospice – photo by Brett Guenther

Memorial donations can be made to Kensington Hospice, where Ed spent his final days, surrounded by loving friends and family (and even a dog or two), and caring staff and volunteers. A home away from home, Ed appreciated the comfortable and beautiful surroundings – and especially enjoyed the food – listening to classical music and watching movies and TV shows on Netflix (Murdoch Mysteries was a favourite).

Wherever he is, I’m sure he’s already coming up with ideas to make it even more startlingly beautiful.

Below are some snaps I took of some of his Alumnae Theatre sets: Cosi, The Drowning Girls, The Lady’s Not For Burning and Blood Relations:

 

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Alumnae Theatre – Così final week, Big Ideas & the 2012-13 season

Hey, kids! If you’re in Toronto and haven’t been out to see Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così, you have a few more chances this week. The run continues tonight and the show closes on Saturday night (Apr 28). For info and reservations, visit here: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

Coming up: the New Play Development (NPD) group at Alumnae have expanded Big Ideas, their annual spring presentation of readings of new plays/plays in development, to cover several days (May 2-6). For the full scoop on that, visit the NPD page: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/npd.html

And, lastly, check out what’ s in store for Alumnae’s 2012-13 season here: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1213season.html

I’ll be off to see Wonder Women IV at The Central tonight – back with the scoop on that, as well as some pics from the event, tomorrow. Have a great day/evening, all!

Così post-matinée talkback

One of my fave things about theatre is the up-close-and-personal immediacy of the characters and the story, and the give and take between audience and actors – and this becomes even more the case when the audience gets a chance to interact with the actors and creative team in a post-performance Q&A (aka talkback). One of the newer, and popular features of Alumnae’s season is the Sunday matinée talkback, held on the second Sunday of the run for each play – and the Q&A for Così happened yesterday. (Photo: Tina McCulloch, as Ruth, and Laura Vincent, as Julie, in a scene from the opera within the play – photo by Dahlia Katz: www.dahliakatz.com)

Moderated by co-producer Barbara Larose, the onstage Q&A featured the Così cast, director Jane Carnwath, assistant director Seema Lakhani, and designers Ed Rosing (set/lights), Margaret Spence (costumes) and Rick Jones (sound), as well as special guest Jennifer Chambers (Coordinator, CAMH Empowerment Council).

Carnwath and Lakhani toured CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) as part of their research for the play, wanting to go beyond what they could learn from reading to get a sense of the environment of a mental health facility: how people cope with being institutionalized, connect with folks who worked there – and go beyond the behaviours associated with the various mental health conditions to find out what that world looks like and how people navigate it. Sane or not, how are people motivated?

Chambers commented that, in the institutional setting, people tend to drop pretense – and seeing Così, it struck her that playwright Louis Nowra was familiar with life inside a mental hospital – and Carnwath mentioned that Così has an autobiographical trigger. And that mention of shedding pretense brought up the interesting question of the behaviours people exhibit to appear “normal” in their day-to-day lives. A point that came up several times during discussion was how real the situation in the play appeared to the audience, and how genuine the characters were – a testament to both playwright and actors for accurate and respectful portrayals of this world and the people who inhabit it.

A question from the audience came up for the actors regarding the challenges presented in playing these characters. PJ Hammond (who played Cherry) said that her initial impression was: “That’s fun!” but as she delved deeper into character, it became “That’s scary!” – and was challenged, and freed at the same time, to be outside the box every day and see how far she could push the character. Matt Brioux (who made his acting debut as pyromaniac Doug) admitted being new to the theatre scene, but dove into research about Doug’s condition to go beyond Doug’s actions to get to what/how he was thinking – the stress, the sexual tension underlying the condition. For Chris Kelk, Henry’s condition wasn’t specifically defined, so he focused on the character’s back-story and how that informed his illness. Mike Vitorovitch (the manic Roy) connected with his character through a “constant bubbling,” with Roy always being at the edge, and always having something to think about or do. An audience member later commented on how still Mike was during the talkback – and this was because playing Roy is pretty exhausting.

A question came up regarding the characters’ movements: did the actors come up with these themselves or were they coached? Carnwath described this portion of character development as organic. The actors came up with movements themselves, and these were honed and focused by movement coach Jen Johnson. Chambers pointed out that this was one of the period-related aspects of the play (set in the early 70s) – patients are more medicated now, so their movement and physical behaviours are less defined and less active than the characters in the play, with patients moving less or movement being triggered by their meds.

One audience member wondered if any mental institution patients had seen the play and what their response was – and also commented on how the play was about hope and inspiration, and how a creative activity can bring meaning. Chambers noted the CAMH work at Workman Theatre, where patients work with professional actors to produce theatre works – usually works about their lives – and cited Angels of 999 as an example of a patient-written play. There was a young woman in the audience who responded as well, from personal experience of being in an institution in her teens, and as a result of being exposed to theatre while she was there, subsequently went on to work in theatre. She also added to the discussion about the differences of time period: people were institutionalized in the 70s for things that they wouldn’t be committed for now (either there are other facilities or social mores have changed on issues like sexuality) – but applauded the play’s and the cast’s realistic and respectful portrayal of their characters.

A discussion of the political placement of the play came up – most audience didn’t know of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war and anti-war protests – and Carnwath pointed out that the graffiti was all authentic Australian graffiti writing of the period. A question came up with how the political views of the characters informed costume design. Spence mentioned that, for politically active characters like Nick, she needed to find clothing that was immediately identifiable (like his beret, Che t-shirt and army jacket), while for Lucy, whose activism was emerging, taking her from a more flower child, girly look to militant protester later in the play.

The opera costumes were the most fun, as they had to be constructed as if they were made by the occupational therapy patients – resulting in wigs made with toilet paper rolls and cotton balls, and the hooped skirts of the dresses done with hula hoops, etc. Set designer Rosing also pointed out that the divider screens used in the opera scene were created in much the same way – getting a few painters to add colour and images to the framework as if they were patients creating the set. This led to a discussion of the use of the bare stage as the set. The burnt-out theatre set of the play had to be cold, empty, deserted and unhappy – so the black walls were used and lighting was set away from the walls to create the illusion of a larger space, and both the lobby entrances were used, as well as one of the back row seats, to create the feel that the theatre the audience was sitting watching the play in was also the theatre in the world of the play. A bit mind-blowing, actually.

Sound design incorporated both music of the period and from the operas referenced in the play (mainly Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, but Don Giovanni is also mentioned at the end), the opera music playing not only during the performance of the opera within the play, but also during moments of Roy’s creative reverie, so the audience could hear what Roy has going on inside his head.

A final question  for the cast came up: How easy was it to get into character and how quickly did they find their characters? Actor Laura Vincent joked, “I just did a lot of heroin.” Her main concern was being authentic. She didn’t know what it was like to be a heroin addict, and found it to be a very gradual process getting into Julie’s groove, solidifying on opening night and growing since then, especially regarding Julie’s relationship with the other characters (example: when she saw that Ruth was feeling frightened, she found she wanted to go hug her). Hammond agreed, that a lot of character stuff was found later in the process and Vitorovitch added that, as actors, they were so focused on getting inside their own characters – and getting it right – early on in the process, that as character was solidified internally, the actors were able to look outside themselves more and discover things through the eyes of the character later on.

This branched off into a discussion of how live theatre requires an audience in order to make a play fully come to life – the audience is a part of the performance in that magical back and forth that happens between them and the actors. Lynne Patterson, Alumnae’s subscriptions manager, had seen the play both before and after it had an audience – and commented that the play was transformed as a result of an audience presence.

Alumnae Theatre’s run of Così continues this week Wed – Sat on the main stage. For more info and reservations, check out their website: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

And for more info on the good folks at CAMH and the work they do there, please visit their site: http://www.camh.net/

Brilliant crazy fun @ Alumnae Theatre’s Così

“Asylums are the most inefficient places on this earth.”

But they can be a very effective place to produce an Italian opera by Mozart.

Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così opened on the main stage last night. Written by Louis Nowra and directed for Alumnae by Jane Carnwath, assisted by Seema Lakhani, Così takes us on a crazy dream of a journey as we follow Lewis on his first job out of university: directing patients in a play at a mental hospital. The rag-tag assortment of patients, all with various conditions, is led by Roy, who conceived the project and is hell-bent on performing Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. Only thing is, no one can sing opera. Or speak Italian.

The play takes place in early 1970s Melbourne, in a burnt-out, graffiti-riddled theatre. Ed Rosing’s set (built by Lionel Boodlal, Doug Specht & Michael Vitorovitch) and lighting design gives just the right atmosphere of grimy, charred destruction and darkness, gradually evolving as the play progresses to the opera performance – exploding into circus-like colour, lights and disco ball stars. Costumes by Margaret “The Costumator” Spence follow the same trajectory, going from somewhat shabby, worn 70s street wear to fantastical period costumes, as envisioned by the hospital’s occupational therapy group. Rick Jones’s sound design complements the physical design, bringing popular music of the time, as well as selections from the opera. Lighting and music combine beautifully – both at the beginning and the end of the play – to accompany the magic that Roy experiences as he dreams of becoming a part of the music of the spheres, book-ending a lovely lyrical fantasy.

Carnwath’s incredible cast includes some familiar faces from previous Alum productions, and the actors playing the patients did some especially nice work committing to their respective characters and their conditions: Joanne Sarazen (Lewis’s girlfriend Lucy), Jamieson Child (Lewis, previously seen in You Are Here), Ryan Kotack (Lewis’s friend Nick), Michael Vitorovitch (the unpredictable and likely bipolar Roy, GuineaPigging & You Are Here), Sean Speake (social worker Justin), Matt Brioux (pyromaniac Doug, stage debut – and he’s a natural), Christopher Kelk (the silent former lawyer Henry, Palace of the End), Patricia Hammond (impulse control-impaired Cherry, A Delicate Balance & The Queens), Tina McCulloch (Ruth, who has OCD, After Mrs. Rochester), Laura Vincent (heroin addict Julie, GuineaPigging, Palace of the End & Closer) and James Warner (pill-popping musician Zac).

Lovely work from this cast, who displayed commitment, passion and respect for characters who refuse to be defined by their conditions and are driven by a desire to rise above the chaos of their lives to create something beautiful. Just a few of the stand-out moments include: Ruth counting her steps as she sorts out her blocking; Cherry’s constant force-feeding of Lewis (her crush) and scary adeptness with a flick knife; Zac in lederhosen, playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries on accordion; and the various hilarious and astute pronouncements (like “Humility can limit you.”) issued by Roy throughout.

Holding all this together are co-producers Natalya Demberg (who, along with Sandy Schneider, put on a tasty opening night reception spread), Ellen Green and Barbara Larose. And presiding over the run from the booth is SM Margot “Mom” Devlin, who also operates lights, assisted on deck by intrepid ASMs Barbara Blonska, Sandra Burley and Pona Tran, and in the booth by sound op Emily Macnaughton.

Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così runs until April 28, with a talkback with cast and production team after the matinée on Sunday, April 22. Please visit their website for details and reservations: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

p.s. – As promised, I added a few pics from The Beautiful and the Damned to yesterday’s post. Tonight, I’m off to George Brown Theatre School to see the third year class’s production of Orpheus Descending, featuring Tennille Read (who Alumnae Theatre folks/audience will remember from Lady Windermere’s Fan & Pride and Prejudice).

The power of words & music

A few things to tell ya today – all to do with the impact of words and music.

First, coming up this Thursday, April 12 is the next edition of The Beautiful and the Damned. This spoken word/poetry/music cabaret event features host Lizzie Violet, and guests Kat Leonard and Helen Posno – at Zelda’s (692 Yonge Street, Toronto) 7 – 10 p.m. Check their Facebook page for details: https://www.facebook.com/events/207813085992975/?__adt=6

Alumnae Theatre opens its final production of the 2011-12 season, Louis Nowra’s Così, this Friday, April 13 on the Alumnae main stage, running until April 28. In early 1970s Melbourne, Australia, young university grad Lewis gets a job at a mental hospital. His job: bring the patients out of their shells by directing them in a stage play. Lewis wants to do a simple one-act. Roy, a patient who’s taken leadership of the cast, has other ideas. Roy wants to mount Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. For more info and reservations – and some lovely production stills – check out the Alum website: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

And, last but not least a couple of vids. My Twitter pal Maria tweeted this link to a beautiful, moving and inspiring video – the power of music in a seniors home. Thanks, Maria!

And co-worker Brenda sent this one of a two-year-old jiving to Elvis. Thanks, Brenda!

The burnt umber is up, so I guess we’re done – finishing touches on Cosi set

Busy times this week on my staycation. Met up with set designer Ed Rosing early yesterday afternoon to put some finishing touches – and draw a peace sign – on the Così set. Mostly, it was about applying burnt umber to the graffiti and the chair to take down the brightness, and add some distress and grime. And you know what I like to say about the burnt umber on a set…

Così is by playwright Louis Nowra and directed for Alumnae by Jane Carnwath. This final production of the 2011-12 season opens on the Alumnae Theatre main stage in a little over a week, running April 13 to 28.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: In yesterday’s post about Jessica Speziale’s Horseshoe Tavern gig, I incorrectly identified her drummer as Charlie Cooley – it was actually Dave Sufrin (Charlie plays on the EP). This has since been corrected in that post. My apologies for the error.

Before I go, here’s a sneak peek of the Così set (I took these snaps):

Ah, you hi-jinks “Così” guys / graffiti a go-go

Big fun & tomfoolery at Alumnae Theatre’s Cosi rehearsals. See you at the cue-to-cue tomorrow, guys.

The Alumnae Theatre Company's Blog

I love getting submissions for this blog.  Have mentioned several times to the cast and crew of Così that they should send me any thoughts, anecdotes about funny incidents in rehearsal, etc.  The delightful James Warner, who plays drug-addled Zac, has risen to the challenge once again (see previous post about his nipples and accordion…)  Here’s what he sent me this time:

 After break time last night, I came back into the theatre with my shirt completely undone, and, trying to get a laugh (not that I ever do that), loudly announced to all present: “Well, I suppose I have to put some clothes back on”.  At which point poor Margot [stage manager Margot Devlin] scuttled over and started frantically covering up my body. She’s such a nice lady – and an example to us all.

It should be noted that costume designer Margaret Spence has garbed James in one of those…

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