News From Around the Barrio

June is already jumping with theatrical activity here in balmy Toronto, and across our glorious country, as we ready ourselves for a whole summer’s worth of festivals and frivolity. Here are two incredible opportunities that promise to be incredible, that you should absolutely take advantage of if you are at all able.
The first comes to all you musical theatre performers in Toronto, especially the young and eager to continue to learn and to develop their skills. Here is a terrific lab series brought to you by one of Toronto’s most accomplished performers Tracy Michailidis and accompanist James Smith. Here are the details!
tracy michailidis
songbook: the lab
The songbook lab is a six week session with a limited class size and a most excellent accompanist. Whether it’s a new piece you want to try out, an old piece that needs new life or direction, or material you’d like to prep for an upcoming audition, this is the place to work on it. Students choose new material to work on every class. By the third week, each student will be given five personalized suggestions for new songs to add to their repertoire. please note: Because of limited class space, there will be an interview for enrolment.
dates: monday nights: july 12, 19, 26, august 2, 16, 23rd. $360
songbook: the session.
We spend an initial half-hour together, where you’ll sing a few contrasting songs from your repertoire. I’ll look through your entire book, and ask you questions about the kinds of work you’ve done or been seen for, and the kinds of roles you’d like to play. Based on this information, and having gotten a sense of who you are and what you do, I’ll choose fifteen new songs to add to your book. Uptempos, ballads, pop, rock, light opera—whatever needs ‘filling.’ You will be provided with sheet music to all songs, and mp3’s of piano recordings for your rehearsals. $200
other important info:
deadline to submit for the lab: june 23rd interview dates: june 29-july 1st classes held at The Pia Bouman Dance Centre, 6 Noble Street. for more information, contact: (416) 885-8284
A bit about us:
TRACY MICHAILIDIS’ first theatre memory is of seeing Annie, at the O’Keefe Center with her mom. She bought the album and screamed her head off in her locked bedroom for months, much to the chagrin of her brothers and parents. But she persevered. She made her professional debut thanks to an audition she crashed for the Charlottetown Festival’s Anne of Green Gables. After three summers in P.E.I., she graduated Queen’s University, and traveled on the U.S. National Tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Other favourite credits include: Fiddler on the Roof and The Fellini Radio Plays(Stratford Festival), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Shaw Festival), The Secret Garden (Globe Theatre), Into the Woods and Three Sisters (Atlantic Theatre Festival), Mary’s Wedding (Magnus Theatre), Anything that Moves (Belfry Theatre), Lost in Yonkers (Theatre Northwest), Aladdin (Petty Productions), The Mikado and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Weston Playhouse), The Princess and the Handmaiden (LKTYP), and The Light in the Piazza (Acting UpStage Theatre Company). While a student at Queen’s, Tracy co-founded Colour and Light Productions, where she produced and performed in Sondheim’s You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, and Merrily We Roll Along. Colour and Light presented the Canadian Premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World in Toronto in both 2000, and 2006. Tracy is spearheading a new initiative for the development and presentation of new Canadian musicals, which will premiere at Toronto’s Summerworks Festival this August.
JAMES SMITH’s first interaction with a piano took place when he was 3 years old, on his aunt’s tiny Casio keyboard that had a killer Bossa Nova beat. He immediately took a 4 year hiatus from the instrument to meditate and reflect, and at the ripe age of 7, he felt ready to dive into his musical studies. He is a graduate of the Queen’s University’s Bachelor of Music program, where he specialized in piano and composition. He now makes his living in Toronto as a musical director, accompanist, and piano/vocal coach. Recent Toronto credits include: co-musical director/guitarist/accordionist/pianist/singer for Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (Open Corps), assistant musical director/bass/synth in The Wizard of Oz (Fallen Rock), second keys and accordion in Assassins (Talk is Free Theatre/Birdland Productions), Musical Director for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Fallen Rock) and can next be seen acting in Open Corps production of The Soldier’s Tale. He can also be seen musical directing cabarets around the city, and performing sketch comedy in venues such as the Rivoli, The Comedy Bar and the Hard Rock Lounge.
When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, “We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world.” If you’re not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that- DAVID MAMET
Also- for my dear Edmontonian readers, you are in for much delight and a supreme treat with Rapid Fire Theatre’s 10th Anniversary Edition of IMPROVAGANZA, the yearly comedy festival at the Varscona Theatre! It is June 16-26, 2010 and holy Hannah, check out this sweet sweet lineup!!



4TRACK (New York)

TEATRIBU (Milan, Italy)

DAD’s GARAGE (Atlanta)



MANTOWN (Toronto)

HIP.BANG! (Vancouver)





KEN LAWSON (VTSL, Vancouver)

LEE WHITE (Crumbs, Winnipeg)

ROBYN SLADE (Outside Joke, Winnipeg)

SUSIE YOUSSEF (Impro Melbourne, Melbourne)

TAYLOR WHITE (Dunk, New York)

TOBY HUGHES (Outside Joke, Winnipeg)

KORY MATHEWSON (Rapid Fire Theatre, Edmonton)

MIKE ROBERTSON (Rapid Fire Theatre, Edmonton)








Public Workshops!

Kids’ Shows!

Video Sketches!

Free Concerts!

Volunteer Opportunities!

Tickets available right now at! Go! Go! Go!! IMPROVAGANZA! RAH! RAH! RAH!

Face the Picnic: Sketch Genius that is 100% Reliable

There is this apathetic myth that tends to circulate among Haligonians from time to time that I would like squash right now. It is the myth that nothing cool ever comes from Halifax and nothing cool ever happens in Halifax. So frequently it seems like the general public in Halifax looks wistfully toward Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and laments that it has been short sided. This is not necessarily so and I am not talking about the fact that as I type these words Paul McCartney is hanging about our fair city (in the glorious sunshine and mild summer heat) readying for his concert tonight in the park where we have all played Frisbee, walked our dogs, jogged, rode our bikes and sunbathed. No, I am referring to the success of some of Halifax/Dartmouth’s own talents, specifically the popularity of a little video sketch called Powerthirst.
Powerthirst currently has 15, 414, 516 views on youtube (a number of hits that this blogger only dreams about!) and Picnicface, the Halifax-based sketch comedy troupe that has been running like Kenyans since 2006, has garnered fans across North America and around the world. Although Picnicface has reached Internet celebrity and their youtube videos have joined Sidney Crosby and Ellen Page as being household names across HRM, if not throughout the province, what many people don’t seem to realize is that living in Halifax gives you a huge advantage over the hoards of other Picnicface fans living elsewhere, because every second Sunday the Picnicface boys and girls do a live show for just five bucks at the Paragon on Gottigen Street.
On July 5th I found myself at the Old Marquee Club, now known as Paragon, in a slowly gentrified strip of Gottingen Street, surrounded by young hipsters in skinny jeans, sipping soy beverages and seeking Halifax’s small (but mighty) Independent Theatre scene. It became apparent that a large number of the audience that filled Paragon for the newest Picnicface show avidly attended the shows and were familiar with the troupe’s style and their sketches. Although, I was a little surprised by how easy it was to snag a seat in the relatively small venue considering the live shows are biweekly and this troupe is internationally known. I was thrilled, however, that the show boasted of entirely new sketches that you cannot see anywhere else.
The Picnicface Troupe, made up of Andrew Bush, Kyle Dooley, Cheryl Hann, Mark Little, Brian MacQuarrie (who was MIA in the July 5th show), Evany Rosen, Scott Vrooman and Bill Wood, are masters at creating the ultimate succinct, clever, absurdist sketches which always seem to walk the line between sketch and improvisation. There is this laissez-faire ambiance surrounding Picnicface which suggests that at any moment an unexpected hullabaloo could ignite, and Little and Bush would calmly and wryly catapult its hilarious elements into the show. When the sketches are particularly incredible, it seems as though they are being created spontaneously and the audience is prone to wondering whether particular moments emerged organically or were deftly scripted by the troupe.
Highlights from the July 5th show included Kyle Dooley’s remarkable 1940s gangster voice, Andrew Bush’s exuberant shoe/jacket salesman, the sophisticated witty word artistry displayed in Bill Wood and Kyle Dooley’s scamply radio play, the cleverness of the Scott Vrooman/ Mark Little sketch which reflected on the marvel of the evolution process from babyhood to adulthood, Bill Wood’s disgruntled crazy employee, and Mark Little’s cartoon-like Agent Buttburger. There was a clear sense of continuity between the sketches as there were recurring characters sprinkled throughout as well as referential sketches. At the end of the show a multitude of familiar characters crowded into one sketch which provided a clever sense of conclusion. Despite some technical glitches, Bush and Little’s comic timing and sense of confidence turned any hitch into a source of glee rather than irritation.
After an intermission where patrons were encouraged to pay visit to the bartender, the Picnicface gang treated the audience to some Improv, which was quite basic, but ultimately entertaining. The highlight of the Improv was Andrew Bush’s rap about racism. It’s interesting to note that the members of Picnicface have recently returned to Halifax from Edmonton where they were performing at Improvaganza at the Varscona Theatre. This proves to me why I think it is so important for the theatre community in Canada to be aware of the events and the talented performers all across the country, because ultimately we are all connected, and so often our worlds collide and our talents are given opportunities to overlap. Improvaganza is the perfect example, as members of Rapid Fire Theatre (which includes many members of Teatro la Quindicina) played host to Improvisers that I blog about frequently in Toronto as well as Picnicface from Halifax. I love seeing artists from across the country playing and learning from one another and I hope that these opportunities will only increase in the future!
Next Sunday, July 19th, 2009 will be Picnicface’s last show before they go on hiatus for the summer, so I encourage you all to support these talented folks and head over to Paragon (2037 Gottingen Street) at 8:00pm for the show. It costs an incredible mere $5.00 and is well worth its weight in the power of 500 babies.

News From Around the Barrio

It has been a horrendously difficult time to be away from Toronto due to the sheer amount of awesomeness that has been emanating from that city as of late. With that in mind, how exciting for all of you who *are* in Toronto! I’m sorry I have been neglecting my blog duties, I am currently swamped under the weight of (originally four now) three papers that need to be finished in order for me to hope to graduate in November as a Master of Drama Studies. That being said, let’s do a fun recap and see what exciting, fantastic things have been rocking the socks off the Canadian theatre community!

First of all, of course, the Luminato Festival dominated the theatre scene, between June 5th-14th, making my heart ache with all the innovative, amazing, Canadian new work that was being showcased and that I was missing. The buzz I heard from Halifax was on Catalyst Theatre’s production of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. “Hot on the heels of its June debut at Ottawa’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival came the Toronto premiere of a uniquely compelling theatrical experience. Delightfully dark and heartbreakingly comic, this amazing new creation by Edmonton’s award-winning Catalyst Theatre is a musical-gothic fairy tale for adults, an irreverent and affectionate homage to an iconic literary misfit.” Sounds amazing, huh? All I can say is that I wholeheartedly hope that this show will find another home in Toronto for a longer run, and soon, because it sounds like a theatrical experience not to be missed! Also, keep in mind that Catalyst Theatre’s production of Frankenstein will play at the Canadian Stage Company from May 3-29th, 2010. This winner of eight Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards stars the world premiere cast: Nick Green, Andrew Kushnir, Tim Machin, Sarah Machin Gale, Nancy McAlear, Tracy Penner and George Szilagyi.

The buzz was also on the North American premiere of Robert Lepage’s newest epic Lipsynch also at Luminato. Fresh from critically acclaimed presentations in London, Madrid and Sydney, Australia, this nine-hour multimedia extravaganza that weaves together the stories of nine interconnected lives over the span of seventy years, proved to be one of the theatrical events of the year. Co-written by Frédéike Bédard, Carlos Belda, Rebecca Blankenship, Lise Castonguay, John Cobb, Nuria Garcia, Marie Gignac, Sarah Kemp, Robert Lepage, Rick Miller, and Hans Piesbergen, Lipsynch was presented by Ex Machina/ Théâtre Sans Frontières. For such a gigantic, theatrical epic, Lipsynch only ran for five performers in Toronto, so one would hope that this is not the last we have seen of such a once in a lifetime epic from Canadian legend Robert Lepage. Especially since, I have yet to see a Robert Lepage show, and this is something I feel must be rectified as soon as humanly possible.
The Canadian Stage Company’s Festival of New Ideas and Creation that I mentioned before is finishing up its second and final week at the Berkeley Street Theatre. I hope that you have been able to catch some of the incredible opportunities that have been offered through this exciting venture. Again, it hurts my soul that I have been missing it, it sounds like an incredible experience. Here are some events that are still coming up as part of the festival!
Investigation: Dance / Theatre in Practice
Free Public Forum: Friday, June 19 at 3 p.m.
Dubbed a ‘contrived collaboration’ led by theatre director Weyni Mengesha (‘da Kink In My Hair, blood.claat) and choreographer Kate Alton (The Four Horsemen Project, Appetite), this investigative workshop pairs two acclaimed artists together with a selected group of performers from various disciplines to explore some of the ways in which dance and theatre can intersect. Using a performance laboratory model, the group will spend three days developing and expanding a practice that aims to integrate these forms in hybrid creation work evolving out of questions posed and ideas put forth by Mengesha and Alton. On the final day findings will be shared with artists and the public.
Forum: Right Here, Right Now: an Un-Conference on The Future(s) of Toronto Performance
Facilitated by Misha Glouberman
In partnership with Small Wooden Shoe and Dancemakers
Saturday June 20, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., reception to follow
$10 (includes lunch)
A one day meeting of Toronto’s groundbreaking professional artists, arts workers and arts leaders to talk about the future(s) of performance practice and our city’s stages. Facilitated by Trampoline Hall’s Misha Glouberman using techniques drawing from open-space technology and world cafes (the “Un-” denotes a conference with no panels, guest-speakers or pre-determined outcomes), the agenda is crafted by participants and the issues on the table are the ones of most relevant as they most specifically impact practice and craft. All who have stake in the evolution of performance are encouraged to attend to strategize, explore and identify what we can do right now to address our most challenging and exciting opportunities RSVP at:
101 Series:
Video Editing with Blair Francey
Thursday June 18, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., $15
Video is playing a greater role in both how we create for the stage, as well as how we share our creative process with our audiences through the web. This workshop will cover the basics of using video as creative and communication tool. The session will take participants through the process of how to get from your camera phone to YouTube, with topics covered to include essential gear, software, hardware, what to consider before you begin shooting (ie. theme, message, how it will be distributed), and various ways of distributing the video across the net.

One of the most exciting events, in my opinion, is a co-production between The Canadian Stage Company and the Festival of New Ideas and Creation and Acting Up Stage Theatre Company which brings Tony Award winning composer William Finn (Elegies, A New Brain, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos) to Toronto! On Monday June 22nd at 7pm, William Finn will sit down at the Berkeley Street Theatre with Richard Ouzounian and talk about his life and his work, as well as hear performances by Thom Allison, Barbara Barsky, Steven Gallagher and Eliza-Jane Scott accompanied by Wayne Gwillim. Tickets are $25.00 or $50.00 and available by calling 416 368-3110. There are discounts available for CAEA members and 2 for 1 deals for students.
Also, check this out! Thom Allison, Maja Ardal, Damien Atkins, Maev Beaty, Christine Brubaker, Marjorie Chan, Benjamin Clost, Sasha Cole, Melissa D’Agostino, Julian DeZotti, Diana Donnelly, Monica Dottor, Rosemary Dunsmore, Paul Fateaux, Tracey Ferencz, Cara Gee, Michele George, Dean Gilmour, Allan Gillespie, Maggie Huculak, Tanja Jacobs, Melody Johnson, Daniel Karasik, Rob Kempson, Andrew Kushnir, Rosa Laborde, Richard Lee, Trish Lindstrom, Matthew MacFadzean, Jordi Mand, Richard McMillan, Jeff Meadows, Andrew Moodie, Natalia Naranjo, Sarena Parmar, Jordan Pettle, Michelle Polak, Gregory Prest, Philip Riccio, Brenda Robins, Anusree Roy, Sarah Sherman, Erin Shields, Michele Smith, Birgitte Solem, Chy Ryan Spain, Jamie Spillchick, RH Thomson, Severn Thompson, Adam Underwood, Nigel Shawn Williams, Sarah Wilson, d’bi.young anitafrika and members of The Canadian Stage Company Young Company. Holy Hannica! What are all these Toronto theatre stars doing tonight and tomorrow night, you ask? Well, the answer is that they are all appearing in a part of a staged reading of Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia which started last night with Voyage, but continues tonight (Thursday) at 7pm and tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Each play tells a complete story, so it is possible to attend just one evening. The trilogy has been called Stoppard’s “crowning achievement,” which speaks volumes since Stoppard has written a number of remarkable plays. The Coast of Utopia made Tony Award history when it won nine of the awards in 2007. Tickets are $15.00 and can be reserved by calling 416 368-3110. Sounds like another event not to be missed!
Here’s some news from Monkey Toast! Monkey Toast: The Improvised Talk Show. David Shore and The Gladstone Hotel present the biweekly Improv comedy inspired by guest interviews. This week with special guests, Gladstone bartender, Nathan Stevens, and author/musician, Dave Bidini. This show’s improvisers: Colin Mochrie, Jan Caruana, Paul Constable and Herbie Barnes. Music by Kevin Baker. Sunday, June 28th. 9pm. PAY WHAT YOU THINK. The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom 1214 Queen St. West. And, if you’re toasting for more monkeys—there is a NEW SHOW! Check this out! The Panel Show! Monkey Toast presents a new show featuring a panel discussion on current events with real guests and improvisers portraying famous people. This week’s panellists are: Andrew Coyne (Maclean’s), Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (aka, Sam Kalilieh), Mrs. Karlheinz Schreiber (aka, Jan Caruana) and more. Hosted and moderated by David Shore. Thursday, June 25. 8pm. $5. The Comedy Bar. 945 Bloor St. West.

Speaking of monkeys on toast, Matt Baram recently sent me a Facebook invite to a new Canadian film that he’s a part of called Baby Formula. It is being screened starting tomorrow at the AMC at Yonge and Dundas. It stars Angela Vint, Megan Fahlenbock and Rosemary Dunsmore. It plays Friday through Sunday at 12:35pm, 2:45pm, 5:00pm, 7:25pm, 9:50pm and Monday through Thursday 2:45pm, 5;00pm, 7:25pm, 9:50pm. In the words of the ever-quoteable Meghan Hubley, “movies are fun because you can sit still and eat!”
So, by now your schedule may look a little heavier, and your wallet may feel a little lighter, but people, you can’t make plans for Saturday night unless they include the LAST EVER (FOR REALS) SHARRON’S PARTY. SHARRON’S BIG GAY PARTY is going to be so epic it deserves CAPITAL LETTERS! It’s pride, people, and there is no more fun to be had than at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre with Sharron Matthews celebrating the exuberance that was 4 years of the very best in Cabaret. You laughed. You cried. You spittaked. You sang. You choked. You got breast milk squirted at you. Really, what could be better! You need to go out and support Sharron, because you KNOW she’s going to go out with a bang and a really hot dress. Saturday, June 20th. 8pm. Buddies. Jeigh Madjus. Thom Allison. 416 976-8666. Tickets= $20.00. This show= Priceless.
Check out this amazing video! This is the very stuff of champions. Wow
Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards were announced at the Commodore Ballroom on June 15th. You can check out the list of winners here!

Hold on to your guns, Edmonton! Rapid Fire Theatre’s Improvaganza has begun! Since yesterday and for the next nine days, sketch, Improv and stand-up acts from around the world will grace the stages of the Varscona Theatre and B-scene Studios. Tickets are as low as $10.00 and feature amazing comedy acts such as Picnicface, Impromptu Splendor, Pete & Pat, That’s So Weird Cast, 4Track, La Gata from Colombia, Bansai Twins from Japan/Belgium, The Crumbs, Upfront Theatre, General Fools, Vancouver Theatre Sports League, Hawkmail and great local acts from Edmonton, plus live music! You can get more information on their website, and even if you won’t be in Edmonton this week, you should still check out all the cool things that Rapid Fire Theatre has to offer, including CHiMPROV and THEATRESPORTS. Also, there are cool cool people involved with Rapid Fire including Mark Meer and Chris Craddock! But it won’t let me click on their pictures to read more about them on their website. Dear Rapid Fire Theatre, Please look into this, I’d love to see who else is involved with your company and I bet countless other people would too! Love, Amanda.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, I hope that you all have plans to vote for the 1st Annual TWISI Awards! Votes are due June 21st, 2009. All the information you need to vote is at Thanks in advance!
*If you would like your theatrical event to be posted on The Way I See It’s “News From Around the Barrio”- throw me an email at and I’ll see what I can do!*