Remembering Nonnie Griffin

Photo from Bluffs Monitor.

 

Nonnie Griffin and I became mutual fans, from opposite sides of the stage, while working on two different productions at Alumnae Theatre in 2008: she as the formidable Irish matriarch in Lucy Brennan’s Daughter of the House and I as the compassionate, no-nonsense oncology nurse in Margaret Edson’s Wit.

I had the pleasure of seeing and reviewing Nonnie’s work in the years that followed; and particularly enjoyed her own one-woman shows Sister Annunciata’s Secret and Marilyn—After, both brave, resonant portraits of older women navigating life’s joys and heartbreaks. And she came out with two friends to see me perform in The Sad Blisters this past April (on Easter Sunday); she enjoyed the show very much and sent me a lovely email, along with a big virtual hug.

Nonnie was to launch her new one-woman show, Before Scarlett—about the creation of Gone with the Wind, told from the perspective of author Margaret Mitchell—for one performance at the Heliconian Hall on June 19. Now that she’s gone, we’ll be celebrating her life and work instead.

She was a classy, brave and frank professional; funny and insightful—and supportive of fellow artists. Her candid, creative spirit will be missed.

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A funny & moving journey that entertains & inspires – Alison Wearing’s Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

Fairy's DaughterPlaywright/actor/author Alison Wearing’s one-woman show Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, expanded and published as a full-length book last year, is currently running at U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre as part of World Pride 2014 Toronto. And I was so happy to be able to catch it last night!

Co-created by Wearing and director Stuart Cox, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter has been re-imagined for this Pride run, with the assistance of Calvin B. Grant’s multimedia and sound design – together creating a magical experience of memoir and storytelling.

Taking us on a journey through her ‘normal’ childhood in Peterborough, Wearing shares memories and events around her Dad coming out when she was 12 – and the subsequent emotional fall-out, and reorganization of family and home life when her parents divorced. Each scene is accompanied by projected images of family photos, and a soundtrack of both her and father’s favourite music, creating a sense of familiarity as we get to know Wearing and the world and people she grew up with.

Wearing is a highly engaging storyteller, shifting with ease through each vignette, and moving in and out of the various characters in her story, deftly performing childhood variations of herself and her friend Jessica, as well as both her parents. And as she progresses into young adulthood, we get the sense that this journey has been as much about self-discovery for her as it was for her father.

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is a funny, moving journey of revelation and discovery – and ultimately understanding and acceptance – that both entertains and inspires.

You have two more chances to see Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: today (Sat, June 28) at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wearing is available after performances for book signings or just to say “hi.” Go see this.

In the meantime, check out Shelagh Rogers’ interview with Wearing and her dad on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter.

And have a peek at the trailer for Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter:

 

World Pride 2014 Toronto event teaser: Alison Wearing’s Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

Fairy's DaughterPlaywright/actor/author Alison Wearing adapted her memoir Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad into the award-winning one-woman show Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter, which will be featured during World Pride 2014 Toronto at U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre (June 25-28).

Written as a comic monologue, Wearing takes us along on her journey of discovery and coming to grips with her father coming out when she was 12.

“Balancing intimacy, history and downright hilarity, this is a story of birthday parties and bath house raids, confusion and closets, scandals and soufflés, disco and opera, and the triumphant music of love.”

This is a show you will not want to miss – so best reserve your tickets for Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter now.

In the meantime, check out Shelagh Rogers’ interview with Wearing and her dad on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter.

And have a peek at the trailer for Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter:

 

A brave & vulnerable hero’s journey – Just Lift Your Feet

Twitter JLYF header DSCF0736-editfinl_1Actor/playwright Heather Allin’s one-woman fable Just Lift Your Feet had its  Toronto Fringe Festival opening at the Robert Gill Theatre last night, playing in a late-night time slot to a small but engaged audience.

Directed by Dennis Hayes, Just Lift Your Feet has its origins in a SoulOTheatre solo show workshop intensive with Tracey Erin Smith. Drawing on archetypal characters, spiritualism and personal storytelling, the play examines fear, creativity and being true to oneself.

Lost and struggling to find her voice, Morgan’s trek to the forest in an attempt to regain her creative mojo becomes an unexpected hero’s journey – one in which the shadow self (the goddess Morgaine) and wise self (the Doe) battle for her allegiance. As Morgan tends to the injured doe, protecting her from Morgaine even as she protects her creativity from the bitch goddess, she finds strength in fragility.

Allin does a lovely job of using specific physical and vocal characteristics to draw and differentiate each character – and the one-person sword versus dagger fight between Morgaine and Morgan is masterfully choreographed and executed. The set, props and sound transport us to a world of magic realism: the music wondrous and twinkling, the wood and rock of the forest with its luminous birch trees and blue/black fabric river, the warrior’s breastplate, sword and dagger – and the red fabric that represents the severely injured animal.

The performance was followed by a brief talkback Q&A session, where Allin, Hayes and the audience discussed character delineation, and the process of finding and writing the story. The possibility of a version with multiple actors came up too, but one audience member noted how the piece is especially powerful as a one-woman show. I have to agree with the latter assessment – the play’s themes of personal journey, and the inner struggle against fear and striving to find a true voice, are well-suited to a one-person format.

Universal in its depiction of the longing to find one’s place – one’s self – in the world, Just Lift Your Feet is a brave and vulnerable piece of storytelling that touches, teaches and tickles.

Just Lift Your Feet runs at the Robert Gill Theatre until Saturday, July 13. Click here for complete show date/time details.

Just Lift Your Feet – interview with actor/playwright Heather Allin

S3lgwNs8bmvaHRI5RnMpjysm3SA20iBRu2--D1NuG5kJust one week away from the opening of the Toronto Fringe Festival, my friends, and I had the pleasure of interviewing actor/playwright Heather Allin, who took some time amidst a super busy pre-Fringe schedule to answer some questions over email about her upcoming one-woman Fringe play Just Lift Your Feet.

LWMC: Hi, Heather. Thanks for taking the time to speak about Just Lift Your Feet. What is Just Lift Your Feet about?

HA: It’s the story of a woman, a creative woman, who has lost her connection with herself. Fear, loss and failure have arisen. She heads off to the forest, hoping to leave the judgments behind to try to reconnect. She fails miserably. In so doing she “gives up,” opening her world to the non-ordinary experience. There she meets a Goddess and a Doe who vie for her creativity, one who wants to consume it, while the other wants to help her reconnect. In the format of the traditional Hero’s journey, Morgan, the lead, is shown the path she took and relearns how to be connected with what matters, and at the end of her fantastical journey, she reconnects with those two sides of herself, goddess and wise woman, to be able to create again, for the joy of creating.

LWMC: Just Lift Your Feet had its genesis in a SoulOTheatre solo show workshop intensive with Tracey Erin Smith. Can you tell us a bit about that process and how you came to find this story?

HA: I loved that workshop. In it there were four other fantastic women, each of us with stories to tell. Tracey was like a guide in the dark helping us to find creative impulses and stories that were meaningful to us, that she would hear, spell bound. Presenting that piece to an audience gave me a focus to craft a play and the opportunity to see if it was of interest to friends and strangers. From that I decided I wanted to continue to develop it. This version is very different that that one. Yet the threads of what I wanted to talk about: fear, and how debilitating fear can be; the power we all have inside ourselves to be creative and contributing and connected humans with self, others and everything around us. I was fortunate to have my friend and dramaturge Jani Lauzon to help guide me along the path as a writer of a play. SoulOTheatre was the kick-starter to this play. Tracey helped to inspire me and to keep me going when the fear of failure arose – as it still does.

LWMC: Had you written anything before?

HA: I have written many an essay, speeches, president’s messages, scenes and a short play, but this is my first full-length play.

LWMC: How did you manage to navigate your dual writer/actor role during the dramaturgical and rehearsal process? Did you find one hat more challenging to wear than the other?

HA: I feel like I’m wearing about 15 hats. Letting go of ‘writer’ was probably the hardest, because it’s also the newest. If I’d known how much work it all is, I might have thought twice, but probably still chosen to do the show. I had to learn to triage, to delegate, and when that didn’t work, I had to let some things not get done, and be okay with it.

LWMC: You also have scenes where you’re playing multiple characters in various relationships to each other. What’s that like? What helps you ground yourself in each character throughout as you shift back and forth?

HA: I’ve put together a fantastic team: voice, movement, fight and of course my director and stage manager who can be that outer eye, and help me figure out the gesture, the voice, the breath, the stance and the power. All of which went put together, create characters on stage being played by one woman. My set, lighting and sound designers support the story, and my performance. My communications team have put together a beautiful and integrated branding of the show that evokes the play.

LWMC: Dennis Hayes is your director for the Toronto Fringe production. How did you find each other? Did he also assist with dramaturgy?

HA: Dennis is incredible to work with. He knew my two co-producers and they recommended he be the right person for this script. Jani Lauzon has been working on the dramaturge of the script with me since last summer. She’s helped me learn how to tell a story dramatically and theatrically. Dennis has helped to sculpt those intricate moments.

LWMC: Any revelations – personal or professional – that came about during your time writing, editing and rehearsing that you care to share?

HA: When I began thinking of writing, I thought I didn’t have anything to say. Then I realized I had so much to say I couldn’t begin. And so I followed my heart, and at each step of my journey the right people arose to help me get to the next step. There are stories in each of us. It takes a lot of bravery to start and even more to finish, but step by step you move forward. If it calls to you, follow your heart.

LWMC: At this point, do you have any plans for Just Lift Your Feet beyond the Toronto Fringe run?

HA: Well, we frequently refer to “in the Mirvish production,” while recognizing we’re in the Fringe Festival. In my quiet moments, I hope I can develop the play to its next level, and that it will find spots in a theatre company’s season. I also think it could travel. So yes, but right now I’m focused on this stage, and this time.

LWMC: Do you have any other projects in the works?

HA: Right now, this is my focus.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share with folks?

HA: I encourage everyone to find your own creativity. I ask you all to support the arts and, in particular, artists. Watch us, so that theatre lives vibrantly. Pay us, so we can afford to bring you new stories. Enjoy theatre, and what it offers. I am fortunate to have some very talented and dedicated artists working with me on this project. The team that surrounds me and supports the creation of Just Lift Your Feet are amazing to work with. I thank them.

Thanks, Heather!

For those of you on Facebook, check out the mention of Just Lift Your Feet in 2013 Toronto Fringe Picks by Derrick Chua.

Just Lift Your Feet runs July 3-13 at the Robert Gill Theatre:

Show Code

Length

Show Time

Venue

903

90

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 – 10:30pm – Thursday, July 4, 2013 – 12:00am

Robert Gill

909

90

Friday, July 5, 2013 – 5:15pm – 6:45pm

Robert Gill

917

90

Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Robert Gill

928

90

Monday, July 8, 2013 – 3:00pm – 4:30pm

Robert Gill

937

90

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 – 8:30pm – 10:00pm

Robert Gill

940

90

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 – 2:00pm – 3:30pm

Robert Gill

966

90

Saturday, July 13, 2013 – 10:30pm – Sunday, July 14, 2013 – 12:00am

Robert Gill