news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Beautiful View Rehearsal Journal

An update from the rehearsal studio, by Assistant Director Clare Preuss...

The joys of remounting a great play with wonderful artists are in effect as Volcano prepares to bring Daniel MacIvor's insightful and touching play, A Beautiful View, to the Factory Studio theatre. In the fall of 2012, director Ross Manson, actors Amy Rutherford and Becky Johnson, and I (as assistant director) gathered at the Goethe Institute in Toronto to rehearse this production, which was a part of BeMe Theatre's season in Munich, Germany.

We worked at break neck speed that first time around as we had a short rehearsal period in Toronto and then flew to Munich for tech rehearsal and performance. From the start, we were enthusiastic about Ross' physical, simple, esoteric directorial vision for the piece and dove in with vigour. Our time in Toronto allowed us to set the bones of the production and when we arrived in Munich, we had the opportunity to work with the delightful BeMe team.

Our time in Munich was also filled with great bonding experiences! We happened to be rehearsing during Oktoberfest, which meant the city was enveloped by a communal sense of jovial theatricality as streets were filled with citizens clad in lederhosen and dirndls (traditional Oktoberfest costume) and the city was overflowing with traditional Bavarian music, beer, and sausages. Also, BeMe lent us bikes for our time there, which meant beautiful commutes to and from rehearsal on Munich's many gorgeous bike paths.

All this to say that, after our time in Munich, Ross, Amy, Becky, and I were bonded in a way that I have only experienced in this kind of international theatre creation environment. Now, we come to this Volcano remount of A Beautiful View filled with our communal Munich experience.

A Beautiful View centres on two women who share a deep, undefinable, long-term connection. As we gather to remount this show, Amy and Becky's BeMe experience has given them a deeper connection to the text and to each other as people - this dynamic is incredibly useful for Daniel's piece about truly complex and beautiful friendship and love. Plus, Ross and I have also been jamming on projects ever since our first collaboration on this piece in 2012, and we have a grounded understanding of each other as artists. It is such a pleasure to continue to work with Ross and get to know him more as a director. His thoughtful, playful, irreverent approach is just what Canadian theatre needs, and I feel honoured that he trusts my opinion as his assistant as we remount this gem of a play.

It is also a pleasure to have AJ Laflamme on board as our Stage Manager. She is great at her job and has been so detailed in her study of the original production that she knows the piece inside and out, and is able to be of great help as we continue to deepen the work during this remount while maintaining key choices made during the first production in Munich.

This past week, all artists in the room found ways to get more in-depth with choices, to expand the piece physically, and to continue to excavate the richness embedded in this truth-filled play.

I'm particularly excited by Ross' continual encouragement for us all to delve into the nuances of the play with courage to make new choices or allow previous choices to become fresh again by posing new questions and applying our current understanding of each other and the play to this innovative production.

I continue to find more reasons to love A Beautiful View. Daniel has been one of my favourite playwrights for a long time and I find the honest humanity in the piece powerfully reassuring. Our team continues to find dynamic ways of expressing his words with imagination and clarity. Now, today, we all have a day "off" and tomorrow, we will dive into tech rehearsal in preparation for our opening this Thursday!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

At City Hall: arts funding results are in...

There has been no shortage of conversation about Toronto's municipal politics in the past few months, but it isn't often that arts and culture policy are a big part of that.

So here's our contribution:

At the end of January, Toronto City Council passed the 2014 budget (you can read about it here, here, and many other places). The 2014 Budget includes some important changes that impact the arts community and its supporters:
  • $4.5 million in new funding has been added to the 2014 budget lines for arts and culture
  • this money is in addition to the $6 million increase we saw in the 2013 budget - in total, $10.5 million has been added to the municipal arts budget since 2012
  • Council has begun to phase the Billboard Tax out of the arts and culture lines, opting instead to fund arts and culture through the property tax base (which, in theory, is more stable and less vulnerable to cuts)
  • the target timeline to reach $25 per capita has been extended to a five-year plan, rather than the four-year plan they were working toward last year
(you can read how the motion breaks down here)
The kids at Lakeshore Arts showing their support for
Arts Day at the City 2013
Overall this budget is a positive step forward - and one that is made possible because of your participation in the process. Please keep it up:
  • write to your Councillor about the 2014 budget
  • invite Councillors to your performances / events - show them the impact of this funding
  • VOTE VOTE VOTE in the next municipal election
The 2014 municipal election is on October 27, 2014. It'll be a big one for the arts community - and for our city. Volcano is an active supporter of ArtsVote: we hope you'll get involved too, and help us champion the fine artists of our city. Email ArtsVote for more details on how you can get involved.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Q & A with Amy Rutherford

Toronto actor Amy Rutherford - a longtime Volcano collaborator - answered a few questions for us in anticipation of A Beautiful View opening later this month at the Factory Theatre Studio, and touring southern Ontario. Enjoy!

Favourite rehearsal space in Toronto:
Pia Bouman, because it has windows and is around the corner from my house.

What tunes are on your pre-performance soundtrack?
No pre-performance music...just the sound of my own hum.

What was the most memorable Toronto show you saw last year?
Too many!! The Little Years, Miss Caledonia, A Synonym for Love, How to Disappear Completely was a big one.

Camping: yes or no?

Amy Rutherford in A Beautiful View
Photo by Hilda Lobinger

Can you tell us a little about A Beautiful View, and the character you play?
I play "L" in A Beautiful View. Which can be any name that starts with L, really. Also, as Becky [Johnson]'s character is "M"...I like to think of those two being side by side in the alphabet. And when singing the alphabet, those to letters kind of slide together. H, I, J, K, LM, N, O, P. Not sure if this was MacIvor's intent. But I think that it's a cute idea.

I understand the show involves some improvised performance from you and Becky. Can you tell us a little about that? Was improv a big part of building the show during rehearsals?
We do a little movement improvisation in the show. The text sings without us messing with it. Ross [Manson] is always creative in rehearsal. We do a number of exercises separate from the script to create complexity in our characters as well as a specific history of their relationship together. A lot of our physicality in the show was born out of improvisation. We would break our characters down into archetypes and then find precise movements to express those archetypes. 

What was the original run of A Beautiful View in Munich like? How did German audiences connect with the show?
We performed for a beautiful little English theatre called BeMe, in a venue which was formerly a schnapps distillery and is now called the Einstein Kulturzentrum. They have a passionate audience of theatre-goers. They were fascinated by the Canadian-ness of the play. Germans love bears and the outdoors and both of those things feature prominently in the piece. During our talk-backs, we were amazed at people's deep and thoughtful feedback. While there is a lot of humour in the play, they seemed to take its existential ideas seriously. German audiences also clap more than Canadian ones. Three curtain calls is the standard, and we often had more.

You’ve toured to a number of destinations with Volcano. Tell us one of your fave memories of touring with us:
I have been lucky to work with Volcano a lot over the years. Goodness has had many lives and I've toured with that production to Edinburgh, New York, Rwanda, Vancouver and many more cities. Ross has a talent for hiring fun people and I've definitely enjoyed many wild and crazy nights on tour. And we've met many brilliant artists wherever we've gone. In Rwanda, we met pioneering, visionary artists who were building the foundation for theatre and performance in their country.

Why do you think A Beautiful View is a good show for audiences here in Toronto? What do you hope people take away from it?
All of MacIvor's plays remind us of how brief our time here on earth is and what is important in life. Love and friendship. I first saw this show performed by Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis in 2006 and it lives in me still. I hope that our production will be as enduring and memorable to our audiences and that Becky and I are able to be as beautiful together as Tracy and Caroline were.

Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford in A Beautiful View
Photo by Hilda Lobinger