This show was a wild ride to finally put together. I had the original idea five years ago, after working on a separate show, Alice From Wonderland, as a SATCo performance (Student Alternative Theatre Company at UVic). A director asked myself and another writer to put together a show with multiple endings and music, based on Alice returning to Wonderland as a professional woman.
Not THAT kind of professional woman.
Anyway, after working on that, I saw how much fun the Mad Hatter could be, as a character. As evidently Johnny Depp agrees. That said, for such a long genesis, I can’t say I had much of a script until… three days ago?
Yeah, this show was put together slowly and quickly. Props, costume pieces, and ideas accumulated over the past few months, but the actual words and depth, I hadn’t had time for during the Victoria Fringe crunch of performing William vs The World, directing BFA: The Musical!, and stage managing Sonnets for an Old Century.
So, we came to tonight, to the first ever performance of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A show designed to be an experiment with everything I’ve ever wanted to put into a show – audience interaction, a fight sequence, sing-along songs, an improvised song, friendly semi-forcing-the-audience-to-be-involved-in-the-show… silliness abounds! And all with a heart to it. A core.
A core I discovered at about noon today. The show went up at 10:15pm. Yeah, it was tight. Oh, and we finished making the large hat timeline backdrop prop half an hour before the show began. Wow.
Admittedly, the show is highly improvised and includes a lot of audience interaction, so I can’t guarantee all performances will go as swimmingly as tonight’s did. But it was well attended, the audience dove in and got involved without resentment, and I had two strangers make a point of seeking me out on facebook afterwards to say how much they liked it, saying:
I saw “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, this evening and just wanted to say thank-you for the great show, and that you’re an incredible performer.
Wicked show – loved it from start to finish. And I had two cups and they were delicious.
Well, doesn’t that just make me all peachy inside!
If you would like to come, I have five more performances! Free tea and a chance to BE the Jabberwocky!
Fri, Sept 09 – 10:15pm – Portion of ticket sales go to the Food Bank
Sat, Sept 10 – 4:30pm
Sun, Sept 11 – 1:00pm – Half Price Show
Mon, Sept 12 – 6:45pm
Thu, Sept 15 – 8:30pm
Sat, Sept 17 – 8:00pm
With a future move to Vancouver on the horizon (without a job or a place to stay yet in place), my needing to leave the house I’m currently living in right in the middle of Victoria Fringe, my pushing to spend valuable time with people in Victoria before my soft exit, and all my many theatrical ventures, life is full and busy and excellent.
Here’s what I have on my plate:
BFA: The Musical! – I am directing this show as part of the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. It is a fun, silly musical surrounding graduates with shiny new Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees coming to terms with the fact that having a degree does not make you immediately a ‘local celebrity’. The show comes complete with a brilliant seven person cast, a fine tech crew, original and local music, dancing, large props, and much silliness. It is a blast to work on.
William vs. The World is a hilarious, geeky adventure surrounding that narcissistic guy at the hobbies store who knows the world revolves around him. With Chuck, his trusty cactus, at his side, William is happy… until – to his horror – a woman falls for him, the All-Spark fails him, his life falls apart, and William loses himself in Bat Country. Through it all, he may become a better person. Maybe.
Previously work-shopped through UVic‘s Festival for Innovative and New Drama (FIND) and performed at this year’s UFV Director’s Festival, William vs. The World layers references to He-Man, Transformers, Spider-man, Serenity, The Ghost-busters, and pop culture with a frantic, manic character study of a man desperately clinging on to a life that may not be as grand as he suggests it is.
Venue:Venue 12 – Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA) – 1701 Elgin Road, Victoria, BC
Sonnets for an Old Century – Completing my triumvirate of Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival shows, as of a few days ago, I am Stage Managing this show, written by José Rivera, a two-time Obie Award-winning playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenplay writer. Which is pretty darn sweet.
I am delighted to get to work again with so many great people in Victoria’s acting community, from Holly Jonson, to Mily Mumford, to Shaan Rahman, to Bill Nance, to Alan Penty (who also features in BFA: The Musical!).
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – Come drink tea with the Mad Hatter!
Share his journey into Wonderland – and his descent into madness – in an overly, underly, and aroundly eager show full of storytelling, songs, audience participation, improv, silliness, gravitas, and grins. Whether it’s your unbirthday or your actual one, this is one show it would be mad to miss!
Tea is provided, but if you can, please bring your own cup.
Show Dates: The first episode should go up by the end of the year.
PirateAdventures.ca – Acting and improvising as a pirate, leading children and adults on a pirate adventure based out of Fisherman’s Wharf. Currently only for one or two days per week.
Venue: Fisherman’s Wharf
Show Dates: Intermittent shifts until I leave town in early September.
Unsound Innocence – Acting as a lawyer in a shortish film by HTVBC– excellent and crazy Hungarians who run a non-profit film company in their spare time. We wrap shooting on Saturday, hopefully.
Venue: Film Festivals
Show Dates: Unknown!
Steinway Grand – Also with HTVBC, this one will be a huge and exciting acting challenge for me – acting in a two-hander film.
Venue: Film Festivals
Show Dates: Should start filming whenever I can jump back to Victoria in Sept/October, I assume!
Vancouver Young Playwrights Competiton / IGNITE! 2012, for The Romantics – I won 1st prize with my play, The Romantics. The prize comes with mentorship by a Vancouver playwright from November through March, and a performance in the festival come May.
Venue: Probably The Cultch.
Show Dates: Performs in May of 2012.
Auditions, auditions, auditions! – Auditioning throughout Vancouver and Victoria. Many ferry rides, trying to secure something, acting-wise, for beyond September. No luck thus far. Which is to be expected. I need to work more on my auditioning prowess.
Venue: Mostly Vancouver.
Show Dates: Never ends. NEVER, EVER, EVER.
The future beyond September is a blank slate, but the next month and a half will be a wild, exciting adventure! Writing, acting, directing, and stage managing for Victoria Fringe (spread over three shows)! Performing a DIFFERENT show for Vancouver Fringe (why, Andrew, why?)! Looking for work and a place to live in Vancouver!
This summer, I have been blessed with the opportunity to direct a show for the Victoria Fringe. And not just any show. A seven-person show. And not just that – it’s a musical. An original musical. What. A. Treat.
I am, of course, talking about BFA: The Musical! Cue blurb:
Phil has the tools to become a novelist; he has a freshly awarded Bachelor of Fine Arts from UVic, an artist girlfriend, and a penchant for boxed wine. Under family pressures to attend law school, he questions what BFA really stands for – through the majesty of song. Features music by local artists, including The Chris Ho Show and Immaculate Machine!
It is proving to be quite the marvelous adventure.
First, some background: I was not a directing student at UVic. I wanted to take the class, but I couldn’t fit it in with the two degrees I was already pursuing (and just this April, finished – a BFA in Acting and a BA in Writing).
The last show I directed happened two years ago, at my church. 30+ children from age 3 to 14 or so in a self-written play based on stories from the book of Luke. With that play, I learned the importance of identifying and highlighting what parts of the script the actors will really enjoy: Ten year old boys love to yell at their parents while pretending to be possessed by demons. Five year olds have great fun pretending to be pigs, then squealing, running offstage, and making whatever adorable noises they think drowning pigs would make. Oh, and everyone can enjoy the meditative edge of a good group storm-making scene with claps and slaps and snapping fingers. I learned I could manage a large group by trusting my instincts, which in this case meant dealing with large groups of children as though they were individual characters (so that a group of actors became a ‘crowd’ character for several scenes, as well as the storm, and so forth). Blocking them as a single character meant visualizing them like they were a school of fish.
Before that, my last directorial stint came in grade 12 when I directed a show called ‘Opening Night’. In retrospect, casting a nervous, uncertain-of-her-own-abilities actor as the starring role character, who happened to be a nervous, uncertain-of-her-own-abilities actor, was perhaps compounding problems upon problems, but I thought the end result went well enough for high school theatre. Well, for one performance, anyway. And we only had two. For the second, well… our high school theatre shared a wall with the gym, and there happened to be a basketball game that evening. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. I don’t know how so many basketballs can bounce off one wall throughout a single game, and the buzzer was none too friendly. And the sound kid used the wrong CD, so we had birds chirping in the living room instead of a doorbell. Several times. Oh, and part of the set fell down. A large part. And I believe a prop broke. And people came in rather late, through doors very visible (and blinding) to the audience.
Okay, so that performance was a gongshow.
But I learned more than a few things from that rehearsal process. First, I learned how crucial it is for actors to have confidence in their work. Or at least in the production. And I learned how dear and darling and valuable it is to cast actors who put their all into making a show work. I also learned the importance of casting wisely, and with some caution – I like to give an actor a challenge, but I need to make sure it’s one I know I can help them conquer. And my wonderful drama teacher, Ms. JudyAnn McCarthy, showed me how to read a comedic text and find the physical comedy that may not be immediately apparent on the stage. (The show had a bumbling maid.)
Then, this January, came the day of submissions for the Victoria Fringe Festival. The Vic Fringe, while mostly sticking to a lottery draw as all Fringe Festivals do (where the performing companies are chosen, essentially, out of a hat from all the submitters), also features an early bird draw, where the first 10 people to show up at their door on the final day of submissions get in automatically.
I wanted to perform a one man show of my own, for the first time ever. So I planned. I set an early, early alarm clock so I could get on my bike and ride over there, to arrive at around 5:30am. Their doors open at 10am. I figured that would be early enough. But as I slept, it snowed. One of the three snowfalls Victoria experienced all winter. My bike isn’t equipped for snow, and I don’t have another vehicle, so I was stuck waiting for the first bus of the morning, and when I arrived at 6:30am… there were at least 15 people already in line. My hopes were seemingly dashed. But hey, it’s a line of dedicated theatre practitioners, so I decided to network, to say hello to old friends, and to meet new ones, and as I was doing so, two fellow writing students, Meghan Bell and Natalie North, shouted out to me. They were seventh in line. They had an idea for an as-of-yet unwritten show. A musical. Built around characters newly graduating with potentially useless BFA degrees (as we were). They knew I was in the theatre department. They needed a director. They asked.
How could I say no? Why would I?
So from one closed door (not arriving early enough), another opened, and I was given the opportunity to cast, co-design, and direct a bright, fun, silly, vibrant musical. Heck, and even that other door opened up, when new Fringe spots became available, so I now have a one-man-show, William Vs The World, performing in Fringe at CCPA. 🙂
But back to BFA. This is the first opportunity I have had to direct trained actors (from both CCPA and from UVic’s theatre program). My first chance to really work with a production team, including Jess Shead, who is an excellent choreographer and actress. And the experience has been SO intellectually rewarding, figuring out how to use my repertoire of acting tricks and improv games to help my cast understand and build their characters, how to use my own prior acting experiences as fodder for successfully staging certain scenes and for keeping the audience’s attention trained in the right locations… and I love it. I truly do. It is a truly collaborative atmosphere, and I treasure it dearly. But what I’ve enjoyed most, are the epiphanies.
The moments where the right idea seems to just happen, to conjure itself in the mind. I can see where I’ve learned this or that from prior experiences, and it’s rewarding and satisfying in its own way to put my training and gained knowledge into practice, but that satisfaction grows to a new level when those sparks of inspiration just seem to happen of their own accord.
It can be as simple as adding a character into a scene or switching a prop, to as grand as demanding a specific scene be added, that seem to make all the difference. Why I’m so struck by these moments is because I can’t identify why I thought to try these things. And THAT is what is so exhilarating, because if I can help build this play with inspired thoughts whose roots I can’t determine, then that gives me a renewed confidence in myself, that I can trust I WILL have the right solution to whatever hiccup we come across.
I believe in this show. It will be funny, fantastic, marvelous, and unlike anything I have ever been a part of. And though my directing resume may be slight, I know I can be up for the task.