“EQUITY RULES”

A young woman’s audition takes a dark turn, when the director demands that she strip down for the role. The production explores the question, is fiction stranger than truth? Find out thirty years later, in this sadly still relevant to our current life, theatrical exploration of misogyny, and sexual harassment, in this the era of #metoo.

“EQUITY RULES” is an original play by Jason Sherman, the Governor General’s Award winning playwright of “THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD.” According to the playwright, the play, which was written in 1993, is a personal story. “Many years ago a friend of mine told me about a recent audition experience of hers: she had been asked by a director to prove her mettle for a particular role by exposing her breasts. My friend declined the invitation, pointing out that there were union rules around such things, and that asking her to remove her shirt and bra on the spot (and with only her and the director in the room) ran counter to those rules. Rumours soon began to circulate that the director was at it again, only this time with non-union women, to whom the written code of conduct did not apply. I wrote the play, in one outrage-fuelled session. It came out whole cloth, and I haven’t changed a word since. Sadly, I haven’t needed to.”

Jason Sherman, is a multi-award winning playwright and screenwriter. His television credits include the mini-series “THE BEST LAID PLANS” (CBC), “BLOODLETTING & MIRACULOUS CURES” (TMN) and “ZOS: ZONE OF SEPARATION” (TMN), as well as lauded docudramas “JONESTOWN” and “WE WERE CHILDREN”. He executive produced “THE LISTENER” (CTV) and “BLOODLETTING”, and wrote for “MURDOCH MYSTERIES” and “RE-GENESIS”, which he also co-developed. He created a number of CBC radio dramas, including two long running shows, “NATIONAL AFFAIRS”, and “AFGHANADA”. Among his plays are “PATIENCE”, “READING HEBRON”, “THE LEAGUE OF NATHANS”, and “THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD”, which won the Governor General’s Award for Drama. His most recent play “THE MESSAGE”, premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in November 2018.

The Theatre Erebus production of “EQUITY RULES”, features Cortnee Pope, and Joshua Perry Fleming in its cast. It is produced and directed by Brian Morton, the winner of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre; it will be stage-managed by Larry Smith.

Incorporated in 1991 as a non-profit charitable foundation; Theatre Erebus Inc. is the brainchild of Artistic Director Brian Morton to fill a need in Hamilton for a company that entertains, but also provokes thought, explores contemporary Canadian realities, and is unafraid to challenge its audience’s perceptions.

Past projects have included David B. Fraser’s play “MARY, I HAVE HIS PANTS!” which was part of the Hamilton Fringe in 2016. The company is perhaps, best known for, “NEW TALENT” by Brian Morton, which was the highest grossing show at the 2008 Hamilton Fringe and in 2010 toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals.   The most recent, featured in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival. Brian Morton’s original musical, “UNDER THE APPLE TREE”, about a shooting that happened backstage, at the Lyric theatre on Mary street in November 1921, debuted in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and was presented at the 300-seat Zoetic Theatre; it got a second run at the Pearl Company, this past November.

In 1988, Brian Morton was the founder and first Artistic Director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street, and in 1990 he was a partner in the Evelyn Group which reopened the historic Tivoli Theatre as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play “HOW COULD YOU, MRS DICK?”, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. His other plays, include his stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s “MY FATHER’S HOUSE”, which has had five productions to date, most recently at the Pearl Company Theatre this past June, in a production that starred Hamilton film star Lisa Langlois.

“EQUITY RULES”, is one of fifty-eight productions featured in the 2019 Hamilton Fringe Festival.  The play will be presented at Tourism Hamilton, 28 James Street North. The performance schedule is:

Thursday July 18 @ 9:00 pm
Friday July 19 @ 7:00 pm
Saturday July 20 @ 8:00 pm
Sunday July 21 @ 3:00 pm
Thursday July 25 @ 6:00 pm
Saturday July 27 @ 2:00 pm
Sunday July 28 @ 8:00 pm

All tickets are $9 at the door, (a $5 Fringe Backer button is required in order to purchase a ticket). Book in advance by calling the Fringe Info Line at 289-698-2234 or online at http://www.hamiltonfringe.ca, For show information please visit http://www.theatre-erebus.ca

EQUITY RULES, contains mature content, and adult language:

As per Hamilton Fringe Festival rules – Latecomers will not be admitted to any performance. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

97th Anniversary of the backstage shooting at the Lyric Theatre

Sunday November 25, 2018, is the 97th anniversary, of a real life incident, that happened backstage, at the Lyric Theatre, at 12 Mary Street, in Hamilton, Ontario.

In 1940, the Lyric Theatre, was renamed the Century Theatre, when it was bought out by 20th Century Theatres Inc.   It operated as a cinema, until it was closed, by Famous Players, in September 1989.  After thirty years, of sitting empty, it was demolished in January 2010.

The Lyric Theatre, in 1921, was leased by the Keith / Albee circuit, and had a mixed bill of eight live acts of vaudeville, followed by a Hollywood feature film. The three hour long program was repeated twice daily at 2pm and 7pm.

The week of November 21, the film was “The Servant In The House” starring Jean Hershel, John Gilbert, and Jack Curtis, and the top vaudeville act was “Under The Apple Tree”, a musical comedy, written by Darl MacBoyle, and featuring music composed by Walter L. Rosemont. The production featured a cast of fourteen, and starred Loring Smith, who later went on to have a notable career on Broadway. He was part of the original Broadway production of “Hello Dolly”.

The play, which was a rewritten version of an earlier sketch from 1916, called “Oh Please, Mr Detective”, concerned a stolen wallet, and the comedian who had stolen it, being unable to get rid of it, with it always making its way back to him, like the proverbial “cat with nine lives”.

The short play was produced by a man called George Choos, who also had a number of similar productions, touring the Keith, Orpheum, and Pantages Vaudeville circuits. By the time, “Under The Apple Tree”, got to Hamilton, the production had been on the road for more than twenty months.

Cecile Bartley, was a twenty-one year old chorus girl, she joined the “Under The Apple Tree” company in Indiana, in March of 1921. She was the daughter of an Irish Catholic railroad engineer, who worked on Chicago’s elevated railway. Before joining the play, she had spent a year touring in a production called “Tickle Me”, that starred Frank Tinney.

John “Jack” Grubb, was a 45 year old, overweight, stage carpenter originally from Baltimore, Maryland. He had been with “Under The Apple Tree”, since the production had opened in January 1920, in Chester, Pennsylvania. He had a small speaking part in the play, but his main role was as an IATSE stage hand, being responsible for getting forty steamer trunks, full of wardrobe and scenery, on and off the trains, which was how the production got from town to town.

During the latter part of 1921, Grubb became obsessed with Bartley, and even though he was not a Catholic, had asked her to marry him. Things came to head, when “Under The Apple Tree”, arrived in Hamilton, Ontario, as Bartley, had at last complained to the manager of the act, about Grubb’s harassment of her. Grubb, was ordered to refrain from bothering her further, otherwise he would be fired.

On the afternoon of Friday November 25, 1921, the matinee performance went on without incident. Cecile Bartley, and another chorus girl, Helen Campbell, remained in their dressing room, below the stage, to do some sewing. The rest of the company, and the local stage hands, all went for their dinner break. At around 5:30pm, with the theatre empty, except for an usher turning back seats, Bartley, and Campbell, climbed the stairs, and were confronted by Grubb, on the empty stage. Being rebuffed once again, he pulled out a revolver, and fired three shots into Bartley. In terror, she ran down the stairs, before collapsing. Grubb, then fired two shots into his own heart.

Local police officers, who were directly across the street, at Central Station, were on the scene in minutes. The only direct witness, who could tell them what happened was Helen Campbell, as Bartley remained unconscious for several days. The Chief of Police, and the local coroner, saw no need for an inquest.

Astonishingly, there was one final performance of “Under The Apple Tree”, on the evening of November 25, even though the act was now missing two members of the company. The news broke across North America, on Saturday November 26, by which time most of the actors, had caught the early train, back to New York.

Early newspaper reports about the shooting, reported that the event had happened on stage in the middle of a performance, in front of two thousand people. Also that, as Bartley, was not expected to survive, it was described incorrectly, as a murder and suicide. Those early wire stories, were not corrected, leaving a “legend”, about what happened, in popular memory. “Variety”, and the “New York Dramatic Mirror”, and the local papers, reported the story accurately. Dozens, of other newspapers, reported it incorrectly, and then never wrote about it again.

Grubb’s body, was sent to Baltimore by train, after it was embalmed at the Dwyer Brothers Funeral Home at James and Cannon. He was buried at Louden Park Cemetery, with his only mourners being members of the Baltimore local of IATSE. His grave has no headstone.

Cecile Bartley, was very fortunate, to have surgeons, who had served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, during the First World War.   After spending seven weeks at the City Hospital, at Victoria and Barton, she was discharged, and returned to Chicago, with her mother. A report in the “Hamilton Herald”, in late 1922, noted that her bill, for her hospital stay, had not been paid by the “Actor’s Fund”.

As near as can be determined, Cecile Bartley, left the theatre, and never acted again. In 1923, she married an Italian man named Costello, and by 1930, she is in US Census data, as living as a widow, with a six year old daughter.  Chicago, during Prohibition, was a dangerous place to live it seems.

This theatrical history, is the subject matter, for my musical, “Under The Apple Tree”, which runs at the Pearl Company Theatre, in Hamilton, until December 2.

As a special event, tomorrow, I will be doing a talk, and sharing my research, after the 5:00pm performance of the play, at the Pearl Company Theatre. The play, has an admission charge, but the talk afterwards at 6:30, is free and open to anyone. If you have read all the way through this, then I invite you to join me! www.pearlcompany.ca

BRIAN MORTON’S MUSICAL “UNDER THE APPLE TREE” TO BE REMOUNTED AT THE PEARL COMPANY ARTS CENTRE

For Immediate Release: October 15, 2018
Please add to all Theatre and Calendar Listings
November 1921, in downtown Hamilton! At the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, a shooting occurred backstage during the run of a touring musical comedy vaudeville “girlie” act. A brand new musical, that explores a bit of bygone real life local history. A ‘jazz era’ Hamilton, that is gone but not forgotten.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE is partly, a recreation of an actual musical comedy vaudeville act, that toured the Keith/Albee and Orpheum vaudeville circuits, in 1920 and 1921. During its week long run in Hamilton, in late November of 1921, a tragedy occurred, when stage hand Jack Grubb, shot chorus girl Cecile Bartley, before turning the gun on himself.

The 2000 seat, Lyric Theatre, later known after 1940, as the Century Theatre, stood at 14 Mary Street, in Hamilton, from 1913 to 2010. It closed as a cinema in September 1989, and was for 31 years, an abandoned shell of its former glory. In the final weeks, that the building stood, Brian Morton, led an eleventh hour campaign, to see it preserved. Part of that work was sharing his extensive research on the history of the building, which included the story of the shooting, and the details of when the Marx Brothers, had once performed at the theatre.

Recent events, like the April 2018 van attack in Toronto by Alek Minnasian, which resulted in the deaths of ten women, and the controversy around the misogynist “Incel Movement”, have given UNDER THE APPLE TREE, which is based upon events that occurred in Hamilton over 96 years ago, a remarkable contemporary relevance. The play, is thus intended, to speak directly to an audience of here and now.

The production, features Susan Robinson, Chris Cracknell, Michelle LaHaise, Claire Shingleton-Smith, Erynn Garland, and Larry Smith, in its cast. The music and songs in the play, are all “tin pan alley” compositions circa 1918-1920, and were written by Darl MacBoyle and Walter L. Rosemont, who created the music, for the original UNDER THE APPLE TREE, vaudeville sketch in 1920. It is produced and directed by Brian Morton, the winner of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre.

Incorporated in 1991 as a non-profit charitable foundation; Theatre Erebus Inc. is the brainchild of Artistic Director Brian Morton to fill a need in Hamilton for a company that entertains, but also provokes thought, explores contemporary Canadian realities, and is unafraid to challenge its audience’s perceptions. Past projects have included David Demchuk’s SUMMER OFFENSIVE (Hamilton Fringe 2007), FUGUE by Rona Munro (Downtown Arts Centre 2007), KRAPP’S LAST TAPE by Samuel Beckett (Hamilton Fringe 2006), ODD JOBS by Frank Moher (Waterdown Memorial Hall Theatre), ETTA JENKS by Marlene Meyer (Hamilton Place Studio Theatre/Tarragon Main-stage), and MY FATHER’S HOUSE by Sylvia Fraser (Dundas Centre for the Arts/Toronto Centre for the Arts). Theatre Erebus also produced a festival of Canadian plays at the 1990 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the plays included the British premieres of: IF BETTY SHOULD RISE by David Demchuk, SCIENTIFIC AMERICANS by John Mighton, THE OCCUPATION OF HEATHER ROSE by Wendy Lill and THE WORKINGMAN by Tom Walmsley.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE, debuted as part of the 2018 Hamilton Fringe, this past July. Other productions include, David B. Fraser’s play MARY, I HAVE HIS PANTS!, which was part of the Hamilton Fringe in 2016. The company, is perhaps best known for, NEW TALENT by Brian Morton, which was the highest grossing show at the 2008 Hamilton Fringe and in 2010 toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals.

In 1988, Brian Morton was the founder and first Artistic Director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street, and in 1990 he was a partner in the Evelyn Group which reopened the historic Tivoli Theatre as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play HOW COULD YOU, MRS DICK?, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. His other plays, include his stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s MY FATHER’S HOUSE, which has had four productions to date.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE will be presented at The Pearl Company Theatre, 17 Steven Street. The performance schedule is:

Thursday November 22 @ 8:00 pm
Friday November 23 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday November 24 @ 8:00 pm
Sunday November 25 @ 5:00 pm *Special 97th Anniversary Show
Thursday November 29 @ 8:00 pm
Friday November 30 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday December 1 @ 8:00 pm
Sunday December 2 @ 2:00 pm

Tickets are $20 at the door, (with a $15 concession price for seniors, students and unwaged patrons). The performance on Wednesday November, 28, is PWYC (Pay What You Can). Please book in advance, by calling the Pearl Company Theatre at 905-524-0606. For show information please visit http://www.theatre-erebus.ca.

There will be a special talkback event after the 5pm performance on Sunday November 25th, which is the 97th anniversary of the actual shooting, of Cecile Bartley, by Jack Grubb, at the Lyric Theatre in 1921.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE contains mature content, simulated violence and loud gun shots:

Latecomers will not be admitted to any performance. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

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Media Contacts:
Brian Morton: info@theatre-erebus.ca 905-543-8718
Gary Santucci 905-524-0606
“Jack Grubb was not jealous of a man, but of a million men. His rival was Broadway, the world, and every hated audience whose applause spurred Cecile Bartley’s ambitions onward. And this baffled Jack Grubb and turned his love madness, into murder madness…” – UNDER THE APPLE TREE

BRIAN MORTON’S MUSICAL “UNDER THE APPLE TREE” TO PREMIERE AT THE 2018 HAMILTON FRINGE FESTIVAL

November 1921, in downtown Hamilton! At the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, a shooting occurred backstage during the run of a touring musical comedy vaudeville “girlie” act. A brand new musical, that explores a bit of bygone real life local history. A ‘jazz era’ Hamilton, that is gone but not forgotten.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE is partly, a recreation of an actual musical comedy vaudeville act, that toured the Keith/Albee and Orpheum vaudeville circuits, in 1920 and 1921. During its week long run in Hamilton, in late November of 1921, a tragedy occurred, when stage hand Jack Grubb, shot chorus girl Cecile Bartley, before turning the gun on himself.

The 2000 seat, Lyric Theatre, later known after 1940, as the Century Theatre, stood at 14 Mary Street, in Hamilton, from 1913 to 2010. It closed as a cinema in September 1989, and was for 31 years, an abandoned shell of its former glory. In the final weeks, that the building stood, Brian Morton, led an eleventh hour campaign, to see it preserved. Part of that work was sharing his extensive research on the history of the building, which included the story of the shooting, and the details of when the Marx Brothers, had once performed at the theatre.

Recent events, like the April 2018 van attack in Toronto by Alek Minnasian, which resulted in the deaths of ten women, and the controversy around the misogynist “Incel Movement”, have given UNDER THE APPLE TREE, which is based upon events that occurred in Hamilton over 96 years ago, a remarkable contemporary relevance. The play, is thus intended, to speak directly to an audience of here and now.

The production, features Susan Robinson, Chris Cracknell, Michelle LaHaise, Claire Shingleton-Smith, Erynn Garland, Brian Morton, and Larry Smith, in its cast. The music and songs in the play, are all “tin pan alley” compositions circa 1918-1920, and were written by Darl MacBoyle and Walter L. Rosemont, who created the music, for the original UNDER THE APPLE TREE, vaudeville sketch in 1920. It is produced, written and directed by Brian Morton, the winner of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre; it will be stage-managed by Valerie Van Landschoot.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE is one of fifty productions featured in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival.  The play will be presented at The Zoetic Theatre, 526 Concession Street.

The performance schedule is:

Friday July 20 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday July 21 @ 10:00 pm
Sunday July 22 @ 7:30 pm
Monday July 23 @ 9:30 pm
Tuesday July 24 @ 8:00 pm
Friday July 27 @ 4:30 pm
Sunday July 29 @ 6:30 pm

All tickets are $10 at the door, (a $5 Fringe Backer button is required in order to purchase a ticket). Book in advance by calling the Fringe Info Line at 289-698-2234 or online at www.hamiltonfringe.ca.  For show information please visit www.theatre-erebus.ca

UNDER THE APPLE TREE contains mature content, simulated violence and loud gun shots:

As per Hamilton Fringe Festival rules – Latecomers will not be admitted to any performance. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

 

Casting Notice:

Theatre Erebus needs one or two female actors/singers, roughly mid 20s, for UNDER THE APPLE TREE, our production in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, at the Zoetic Theatre.

The play, a musical, tells the story of a real life shooting backstage at the Lyric Theatre in Downtown Hamilton in November 1921. Part of revisiting this history, is recreating a vaudeville musical comedy sketch which was a jazz era “girlie” act. The roles still to be cast, are members of the girl chorus of that play.

The script is still developing, and is now in its eighth draft.

Ability to read music is an asset.

The performance schedule for the show is

Friday 20-Jul at 8pm
Saturday 21-Jul at 10pm
Sunday 22-Jul at 7:30pm
Monday 23-Jul at 9:30pm
Tuesday 24-Jul at 8pm
Friday 27-Jul at 4:30pm
Sunday 29-Jul at 6:30pm

Our Tech Rehearsal is:
Monday 16-Jul Start Time: 2:30pm

Being involved in the show, means being able to accommodate this schedule.

The production will be organized as a “profit share”, with equal participation of the box office receipts to all involved.

If this interests you, or you know someone who might be interested, please contact Brian Morton on Facebook, or by email at mortonbg1999@gmail.com, indicating your desire to be involved in the project.

A current draft of the script is available to read upon request.

We will be starting rehearsals two weeks from now in Hamilton.

http://www.theatre-erebus.ca

 

Under The Apple Tree

A New Musical by Brian Morton is part of the 2018 Hamilton Fringe.

 

Theatre Erebus Inc will be presenting Under The Apple Tree, as part of the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival next July.

November 1921, in downtown Hamilton! At the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, a shooting occurred backstage during the run of a touring musical comedy vaudeville “girlie” act. A brand new musical play, that explores a bit of bygone real life local history. A ‘jazz era’ Hamilton, that is gone but not forgotten.

Casting details and specifics on our schedule and venue will be shared here in the coming months.Cast 1921

 

 

REQUIEM by Jean Coley-Hughes

A play-reading of “REQUIEM”
by Jean Coley-Hughes
Presented by Theatre Erebus Inc.
At the Pearl Company Theatre,
16 Steven Street, Hamilton
Saturday, November 19 @ 2:00 PM

Theatre Erebus Inc. is pleased to announce that it will be presenting a series of staged readings of the work of local Hamilton playwrights. The second play to be read will be REQUIEM by Jean Coley-Hughes, a powerful drama about family secrets and emotional abuse. The play won the 1987 Theatre Focus Playwriting Award, and was developed
and workshopped by Theatre Aquarius founding Artistic Director Peter Mandia. It was first produced in May 1988 by Theatre Focus at their third floor theatre space at 18 John Street North in Hamilton.
The cast for the reading includes Jo Skilton, Rose Pye and Ilene Elkaim. REQUIEM will be directed by Liz Inman, a long time friend and colleague of Jean Coley-Hughes. There will be a talkback discussion after the reading and audience participation is welcomed.
Playwright Jean Coley-Hughes was also a talented director who graduated from the Directing Program at Ryerson Theatre School, she directed productions for Theatre Terra Nova, and several local community theatre companies. Plays she directed included JITTERS by David French, THE OCCUPATION OF HEATHER ROSE by Wendy Lill, and STORIES,
an original play by three reporters for THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR, Paul Bennedetti, Kevin Von Appen and Wayne Macphail. Her work as a visual artist led to several exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Hamilton Public Library Gallery in 2004. She was also an educator who taught English and Drama at Hill Park Secondary School. Jean Coley-
Hughes passed away in August of 2016 and this reading is meant as the first step in seeing the play REQUIEM receive a full production some time in the next eighteen months.
Theatre Erebus is seeking plays from local Hamilton Playwrights to be part of this ongoing series of play readings at the Pearl Company. Anyone interested in submitting a play should visit http://www.theatre-erebus.ca for submission guidelines.
Admission to these readings is free, (although any donations will be gratefully appreciated). Reservations can be made though the Pearl Company Box Office at 905-524-0606

Jane Jacobs’ SYSTEMS OF SURVIVAL

 

 

Theatre Erebus has another project starting up – in this case a play of mine that has been sitting in a drawer since 1993.

Jane Jacobs’ SYSTEMS OF SURVIVAL, adapted for the stage by Brian Morton.

Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics, was written by Jane Jacobs in 1992,  The book describes two fundamental and distinct ethical systems, or syndromes as she calls them, that of the Guardian and that of Commerce. They supply direction for the conduct of human life within societies.

We will be doing a public reading of it at the Pearl Company, (16 Steven Street in Hamilton),  on Saturday October 1st at 2:00pm.

It would be great, if you could come listen, and give us some feedback. Theatre Erebus is planning a full production of the play in 2017.

Admission to the reading is free.

This stage adaptation was prepared in the spring of 1993 for a reading at McMaster University, and was created with Jacobs permission and cooperation.

There will be a talk back and discussion after the reading.

2016 Hamilton Fringe, part 5

This is likely the last of the writing I will get to do on productions I have seen in the 2016 Hamilton Fringe.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to see so many very fine productions, as well as the chance to share my thoughts on them.  My thanks to Allison Jones, for re-sharing them beyond my own web-page.

My intention in writing these has been to help direct audience towards productions that they might not have considered seeing, and to find ideas in them that I responded to.   As I am a director and a playwright myself, I have an opinion on the work I see.  Where that opinion has been constructive and might help some future version of the play, I have tried to share that in the hope that it improves the quality of the script.

So that being said we come to

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
Written and directed by Olivia Fasullo
Referendum Productions
at The Player’s Guild.

This production, which was the very first one I saw in the festival, presents an original play written by a current McMaster Poly-Sci student Olivia Fasullo.
The story it relates is of a young woman (Emily Wicks) who finds herself as the secretary – (Executive Assistant!) – to the Devil himself, the Dark Archangel, Evil Incarnate, and the demon Beelzebub, most unholy of the unholiest, Lucifer, to give him his full title.

But in this play at least, The Devil prefers being called “Lucy” – and as played by the affable Jack Preston,  he is a reasonable fellow who is tired of an eternity of making sinners suffer.  The Devil is “damned to torment the Damned” so to speak – he is tired of the job of dishing out agony and is looking for a way out of the situation.  As it turns out, Hell is a corporation with a board of directors, and a number of notable sinners are there including Lilith, Charles Ponzi and a gaggle of Lawyers all of whom drive the poor man (poor demon?) crazy.

A tangent – Many years ago I worked on a Theatre Aquarius production of W.O. Mitchell’s THE BLACK BONSPIEL OF WULLIE MACRIMMON.  In that play Macbeth, Judas Iscariot and Guy Fawkes. were the damned that the devil dragged along in tow.  That kind of cultural joke is fun to devise, but can be dated quickly.  A current and more topical list of the damned might have included Ted Cruz, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump, with a few suicide bombers thrown in for good measure.   But I digress, so back to the production in hand.

Wicks, Preston and Lisa Weeks are the standouts in what is a strong ensemble. I also greatly appreciated the two lawyers, (from Hell!) played by Daniel Hewko and Chanelle Berlingeri, dressed to the nines they represent the slimy excesses of Wall Street.   It has been said that “Hell is other people” – but in this case Hell is contracts, corporate takeovers and being stuck at a desk for all eternity.

Don’t get me wrong – Forsullo’s play is clever and structurally works quite well in the story it tells.  There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but to have made it more to my taste, I would have liked more specific allusions to Dante, Sartre, and the place of the Devil in popular culture.  The Devil, after all, is one of the most written about icons of all time, in history and religion – only his relatives, “up above” had better press agents.  Twelve of them in fact.

12 press agents = 12 Disciples, 12 apostles…  12 Jewish press agents… Get it now??  It also explains why Jesus Christ was bigger then the Beatles – The Beatles only had one Jewish Press agent! (rimshot).  This kind of humour is slightly offensive – off colour – and is not politically correct, but it can be funny nonetheless…  I really wished some of it was in this play.

The balance between trying to make a specific point about religion and gender politics, about a woman trying to make it in a man’s world, were all hit and that part of the play works.  But I wanted more basic humour in the mix to make the balance perfect.  Perhaps it was just the performance I saw, which admittedly was an early one in the run, but I felt that I wanted more of a connection to the action onstage.  Humour is a good tool to accomplish that.  It is a good rule of thumb, that we tend to like characters that make us laugh – this would also have had us rooting for Lucy and Emily a bit more, which raises the stakes, and pulls us into the performance.

Monty Python, the British comedy troupe from the late 1960s/early 1970s, famously mixed intellectual thought – on society, history and politics – with juvenile school boy toilet humour.  The mix between the two – which don’t really belong together – was what made them so brilliant.  (And I have actually answered exam questions in European History, using the information from Python’s Quiz Show Sketch – the info is academically accurate).

Please add some “Al Pacino”, “Hotel California”, “Spanish Train” and “Linda Blair in The Exorcist” jokes  – indeed a few one liners of almost any kind thrown about every few minutes would have been an improvement in the proceedings.  The play, as it now stands, gives the impression, I think, of taking itself a tad too seriously.   I get that this production is trying to intellectually engage us – which it does – but I wanted to piss myself laughing at the same time.

Hopefully, this Fringe production has a future life.  Writing an original play is not an easy thing to do, I can speak from experience.  I also get that there was some “Millennial” humour here, that perhaps as a Gen X’r I missed.  If so, that is on me.

I really don’t mean to be over critical in writing about this show.  I know for that for director/playwright Olivia Fasullo and her company of performers, that this production is a labour of love for all of them.   I can tell that by their obvious enthusiasm of being part of the festival. I am so very proud that some first time Fringe virgins are at least enjoying themselves so much while performing at the Fringe Festival.  Having met them a few times now, I can also say they are lovely people to have a drink and a conversation with.

Oh and another joke!  Why are opinions like assholes?  Because everyone has one!  Please feel free to ignore mine if you would like.  No malice intended.   And I am sincerely looking forward to your next show.

UNORIGINAL SIN
Carolyn Forbes Productions
At the Player’s Guild.

A different experience was this play, which also springs from the creative energy of McMaster University students.  If John Bandler’s JULI-BEE MOTEL play represents the faculty on campus, then this show full of young, frenetic energy barely contained, represents the student body.

UNORIGINAL SIN, is the work of three playwright/directors, Chanelle Berlingeri, Joel Fleming and Erica Hill, with multimedia from Taylor Caroline.  This production, which also premiered on campus last spring as part of the Honours Performance series, details the experiences of nine twenty-somethings, a mix of men and women, straight, bisexual and gay, and their experiences with “hook up” culture – what we used to call back in my day “getting laid”.   Do they still call it that?

We see a series of short scenes interspersed with some clever dance and multi-media images creating a collage of images and stories about sexuality.  The main story is about a sexually liberated young woman “Kate”, acted by Erica Hill, who enjoys “no strings attached” casual sex, and her latest partner Kyle (played by Tomi Simanie) who after a sexual encounter desires a long term relationship.

Much of the humour in this situation is that it is a reversal of what was expected.  Normally it is young men in university seeking quick and shallow, sexual encounters, and women seeking, what used to be called in my era, an “MRS” degree.

The two other women in the play are more representational of traditional values I think.  We follow Maddie Szlafarski as Brooke, who seeks to lose her virginity within the context of a committed relationship  and Jessica Grossi as Nicole who goes through a succession of boyfriends without finding “the one” that she can commit to.  These women represent a more traditional attitude to sex and this spectrum of response, (see the research of Kinsey for further info on the sexual spectrum), provide the necessary conflict that creates the drama in this show.

Much of the comedy comes from Danny Johnson, as Dylan, who uses apps on his phone like Tinder to find a number of sexual encounters, seeking something in numbers, that he has not been able to find in a single parter.

This is very much an ensemble show, with the entire cast pulling together to transform tiny scenes into a seamless whole;  as a result it is hard to pick out individual performances.  For me, Szlafarski’s vulnerable performance was the most compelling, as I sympathized most with her story, and thought her final decision to get intimate for the first time, without any earth shattering result, felt most authentic to me and true.  It takes practise before you get the hang of it.

Impressive too was the integration of multimedia and video images with the transitional dance sequences.  Of all the shows I have seen in the festival to date, thus production made the best use of the limited repertory lighting plot, in each of the venues.

This production attracted a different audience from any of the other shows I saw in the festival.  Younger, and more curious, perhaps.

Technology has clearly changed the whole seduction experience with apps like Tinder and social media fueling the same old game that is as old as history itself.   It has been said that our time is the most overtly sexual one since the time of Charles the Second of England and the restoration.  I think for young people, the pre-AIDS era of the late 1960s and early 1970s might also vie for the distinction.  The film and and theatre of then seem to reflect that anyway.

I appreciated the program notes for this show, they set the tone for what the show was trying to accomplish.  A very thoughtful show, nicely nuanced with the balance towards drama in the end.

And a few quick mini thoughts about two more…

LOVESPELL
Attic Window Productions
At the Player’s Guild.

This three hander, written and directed by Collin Glavac, turns the traditional “Rom-Com” on its head.

The kind of one liner, laugh out loud humour, was exactly what I was craving in the first show written about above, is to be found in this production in spades.  Not to put anyone down mind you!

This show deservedly was picked as “best in venue” by VIEW on Thursday.  The cast featuring Collin Glavac, Alexandra Li Tomulescu, James Daniel Keating is very strong, and the show strikes just the right balance between articulate thoughts on relationships, and laugh out loud funny business.

The story, ultimately, surprised me too, in where it ended up, a nice final image.

ANYBODY ELSE
written by Ryan M. Sero
directed by Tyler Brent
Make Art Productions
at Theatre Aquarius Studio

In a similar bent to LOVESPELL, in that it was also about relationships as well s populist theatre.

Playwright Ryan M. Sero is a Hamilton Fringe Veteran now, having produced a show in every Fringe since his first play MODICUM OF FREEDOM in 2009.  I look forward to his productions each year, as they are clever, funny and articulate reinterpretations of classical texts, or they are original plays that recall the writing of Woody Allen, in a self deprecating and neurotic, stand up style of narration.

Of all of the plays I saw in the 2016 Hamilton Fringe, ANYBODY ELSE was certainly the best written script.  It was filled with thoughtful insight into relationships, allusions to classical theatre and enough wry humour and wit to fill three fringe venues.

Pamela Gardner, is a perfect foil to Sero, as the fellow artist, writer’s muse, and lover. Sean Emberley, does a lovely double turn as Sigmund Freud, and the ex-boyfriend of Gardiner that completes this love triangle.   And the staging, using a wonderfully selected psychiatrist’s couch to serve as multiple locations, was most inventive and clever.

This production is indeed one of the stand outs of the 2016 Hamilton Fringe, and its large audiences are well deserved.

NOTE:   Tyler Brent, the director of ANYBODY ELSE, is a friend and is cast in my own show in the festival.   I have no other relationships with anyone else involved in any of these four productions.

2016 Hamilton Fringe Reviews, part 4

A few more Hamilton Fringe Shows I caught in the past few days.  These are all thematically what might be called “Thrillers”, so they naturally fit together I think.

BATHTUB GIRLS
Kairos Collective
at Theatre Aquarius Studio
Devised and performed by Nataila Bushnik and Robin Luckwaldt Ross

Inspired by the true life Mississauga murder case of Linda Andersen that dominated the Toronto headlines in 2004, this self devised and yet very intense one act docudrama tells the story of two young teenage girls who are arrested for the homicide of their mother.   In real life the two sisters, due to their young age at the time of the case, remained anonymous.  Their status as Young Offenders, allowed them to fade back into obscurity.

Here the killers are played by two Windsor Performing Arts Alumni Nataila Bushnik and Robin Luckwaldt Ross.  These two women also wrote the thoughtful script which explores the truth of what possibly might have happened the evening of January 18, 2003, into the full light of public scrutiny.

Much of the play, I am sure, is speculation.   I myself have worked on two theatrical projects based upon real life murders, and I can confirm that it is often impossible to know the true circumstances of a homicide.  Evidence is often contradictory, the deceased can’t refute what the killers admit to in a court of law.

Just like the real life detectives on the case, we the audience, have to piece together a narrative of what “might have” happened based upon the story is told to us by those involved – what is true and what is a lie?  It is up to us while watching to decide.  This raises the stakes in performance though as it forces an audience to become actively involved in the play, just by watching it.

On a bare stage, with nothing but a white sheet as a prop, these two young woman draw us deep into a dark and chilling world of conspiracy and murder.   Very effective music was created specifically for this production by Jaroslaw Bester and the Bester Quartet, which added a great deal. Similar to an Edgar Allen Poe short story, this play relies very heavily upon creating a very specific atmosphere of horror, Poe’s TELL TALE HEART immediately came to mind while watching this play.

Their mother, who we only see through the eyes of her daughters, is a self absorbed and abusive recent immigrant to Canada.  The two sisters, 15 and 16 years old in 2003, find the contrast between their unhappy home life and the exciting outside suburban world of school and the mall, intolerable, and so they make their plans murder as if it were some macabre class project.

With a great deal of premeditation, they ply their drunken mother with painkillers, sedatives and alcohol and pour her into a bath tub full of water expecting that she will die on her own.   The horror of the killing though, comes upon discovering that she is still alive, and so one of the two sisters holds her head under water for five minutes until she expires.  It was planned that both of them would take part in the killing,  committing the act together, but in the end it is the younger sister that does the deed, and thus feels more responsible for it.

Flush with $280,000 in life insurance money, the two sisters are very indiscreet about the circumstances of their mother’s death – the younger sister, tormented by guilt, confides the secret at a drug-fueled party. The truth makes its way to the police, who begin an investigation and are able to get a recorded confession using wiretaps, and – no spoilers here as we know this fact walking into the show – the two women are charged and eventually convicted of the crime.

The play only focuses on the events around the killing itself, without getting into the media circus that was the trial and the incarceration and eventual rehabilitation of the two convicted killers.  If the piece is ever expanded to a full length play, hopefully those details will one day become part of the story.

This was a play that I thought about quite a bit in the days following the experience of watching it.  I like that about it a great deal – that it did not give up all of its answers easily.   I hope the audience at Aquarius took as much away from witnessing the production as I did.  Kudos to all involved.

THE FIVE LIVES OF COLBY CARTER
L.M. Magalas Productions
at Hamilton Theatre Inc.

A similar piece to BATHTUB GIRLS, although the case explored here is fictional, is first time playwright L.M. Magalas’ play THE FIVE LIVES OF COLBY CARTER.

This piece too, is an investigation that looks at the circumstances of a crime, in this case the poisoning of a young woman at a party. In this narrative however, the woman at the centre of the piece is Colby Carter, a music agent and promoter.  When the show begins she is in a coma and hovers close to death.

This play’s frame is her friends and family waiting for her to recover in the waiting room of a hospital.  The real meat of this play comes when a police officer named Tyler, wonderfully performed by long time Fringe and Community Theatre veteran Julian Nicholson, arrives on the scene and starts to investigate the circumstances of what happened.

Just like an Agatha Christie “whodunnit”, all of the potential suspects of the poisoning are present in that waiting room, former friends and lovers, and a jealous sister are implicated by each of the characters in turn.

The device that is at the centre of the play are several onstage reenactments of the same events over and over again – (think of the film GROUNDHOG DAY) – a replaying of events at a CD release party for wannabe Rock Star Keith Krocker, that all have been invited to.

Krocker, looking like a larger then life caricature of Irish Rock star Bono, steals the show.  Luis Arrajo plays this part with skill, gusto and sheer evil delight, and as a result gives the most engaging performance of the production.  He is caught out during the course of the party in sexual infidelity and plagiarism, but as he is also “the coolest dude on the planet”, he creates the much needed conflict that leads to a physical altercation.

Much of this play works extremely well, but as a whole, it does go on a bit too long, for my taste at least.  The early scenes in particular, seem like just set up for what follows.  Too much time is spent, I think, in getting us there before the crime scene reenactments start.  Perhaps a fast monologue by Detective Tyler, similar to the voice overs on the old TV show DRAGNET, setting up the circumstances would be a better way to start.

Playwright Magalas, has perhaps, also made the error of directing the show herself, which is not a good idea when producing your own play, unless one also has a great deal of experience as a director and dramaturge.

The late Canadian playwright David French, was great at this – his scripts were famously note perfect on the first day of rehearsal without any workshopping beforehand – but most of us who write for the theatre, don’t have that skill set.

Ironically, already involved in the production is Julian Nicholson, who has an extensive track record of directing new plays, so the outside eye/script editor the production desperately needed was already involved in the show.

As to the rest of the cast, Olivia Prunean as Sara, gives a fine performance, and Paddy Skinner as jilted country singer Adam keeps the action going in fine style as well,  Alex Whorms in a thankless “best buddy” role does nicely.

At the centre of the action, is Jenn Magalas as Colby, we only see her character in a series of flashbacks which are the reenactments at the heart of the play, she also has a lovely moment in an epilogue flashback at the very end, that ties together some of the threads quite satisfactorily.  I liked those final moments of the play, a great deal.

I apologize for perhaps being a tad critical about this production, at least about the script, which I think still needs revision.  I appreciate and acknowledge that this is a first time producer mounting their very first play in their very first Fringe Production, so perhaps this is unfair criticism.   Also, I hear through the grapevine that this production is playing to very good houses, so on one level at least, that of finding an audience, it is doing very well.

Artists getting the opportunity to “do their own thing” and learn along the way is core to the philosophy of the whole Fringe Festival movement.  I applaud L.M. Magalas for seizing the opportunity to get her script from the page to the stage, and for putting up the time, effort and money to do so.

Hopefully, the play will go on to have another production when the script can be developed and be taken to the next level.  I am reminded of the fact one of the hit productions in the 2016 Hamilton Fringe, Michael Kras’ #DIRTY GIRL, is a rewritten and better constructed version of the play FOR KIERA, which told the same story but from an entirely different perspective, and was a gallery show last year.

Art in the end is never finished, merely abandoned, as the old saying goes.

And speaking about remounting older work, we come to John Bandler’s play…

CHRISTMAS EVE AT THE JULI-BEE MOTEL
Bandler Corp,
at Player’s Guild Studio

I saw the first production of this play back in 2010, when we both had original plays in the same Fringe venue, and when it was Playwright John Bandler’s very first production of one of his plays – the very same circumstances as is THE FIVE LIVES OF COLBY CARTER now.

Since then, McMaster Engineering professor John Bandler has produced a number of his original plays at the Hamilton Fringe over the years, including a whole trilogy of fascinating science fiction plays loosely tied together around the character of Naomi Verne.

Although his first play, CHRISTMAS EVE AT THE JULI-BEE MOTEL, is actually his most accessible one.  The script is a film-nourish thriller, heavily influenced by the work of Alfred Hitchcock, that takes place in an out of the way motel lobby in the middle of a blizzard on Christmas Eve.

I was rather fond of the that first production of this play back in 2010, for one thing, it starred a friend of mine Monica Cairney, and while it had a few rough spots, I felt it held up rather well in performance.

I was unsure how I would react to seeing it again in such different circumstances, but I am pleased to report that the show has exceeded my expectations.   This is a tighter and more polished version of the play and features some nicely nuanced work from actors Aimee Kessler Evans (in the role of Cassie) and James Thomas, as multi-millionaire businessman Mick, whose life has collapsed and who finds himself at the end of his tether and stuck in a dead end locale as the Juli-Bee Motel.

Much of the strength of this revival of the play comes from veteran local director Tom Mackan, (who was directing plays here in Hamilton before I was born).   He raises the stakes significantly in this production, and gets sterling technical support from Anne Hogan, Daniel Van Amelsvoort and sound designer Peter Jonasson.

The play at its core relates a number of stories, some of which are true and some of which are not.  It is a play that does not reveal all of its secrets, but leaves some details open ended.  Your guess is as good as mine, as to what happens afterwards to our two characters.

It is also a very sexual play, although it is not an explicit one.  I hope, in the end, that the relationship between the two characters gets, eventually, down and dirty.  Film Noir, which heavily influenced this show, comes from the period in Hollywood when the Hay’s Code of film censorship was fully in effect.  In the Noir thrillers of the 1940/1950s, men and women stare longingly at one another with bated breath, and even married couples slept in two single beds.  I myself, prefer late 1960s films, for their freedom of expression, but I digress…

NOTE:   I have past relationships with Julian Nicholson, and Luis Arrajo in COLBY CARTER, and almost everyone involved in John Bandler’s JULI-BEE MOTEL production, except his two actors.  This obviously colours anything I have written here, and I waffled over I writing anything at all about John’s play because of this.

The idea in writing these articles is to guide you, Gentle Reader, in deciding whether or not to see these productions. If you disagree with anything I have written, then please come up during the Fringe and disagree with me.  I love to hear your thoughts on these shows too.  It is not a one way conversation I trust.

Keep on Fringing Folks – only a few days left now to go, and still so many more productions to see…