This Is All Very New

I must be completely honest with all of you, I have never blogged before…please bare with me. Nothing I have ever written has been professionally published, so it always makes me nervous when I put my writing out there to the public eye. The only proof of my writing being close to successful is found in IANA Theatre Company’s 2011-2012 season.

I am an actor, singer and writer happily living in the busy GTA of Toronto. I can safely say I am currently working as an actor more than anything else, which makes my parents happy and relieved. A huge reason for my resume’s growth the past few years is because of IANA’s Artistic Director, Tim Porter. Or as I humourously call him…Timberly! He hates it when I call him that, so of course I continue to do so. Tim and I went to theatre school together. This is where I first got the chance to work with Tim and notice his strong understanding, and passion for Canadian theatre. Little did I know that we would continue working together as much as we have after college. I am so proud of Tim’s success with becoming the founder of IANA. IANA is a non-for-profit theatre company that proudly showcases new strong Canadian talent with brilliant new Canadian work. Tim has also given me many opportunities to work in the theatre, and in many different ways. Lets just say, me giving Tim an IOU note won’t cut it in my opinion.

I’ll never forget the Jack Astor’s lunch me and Tim had when he popped the question, if I would help write Aleck Bell. Of course I said ‘YES’ with excitement. However, in my head I felt worried. I didn’t feel worried about the idea. Even though his idea was pretty out there with turning the life story of Alexander Graham Bell into a staged Pop/Rock Musical. Believe me when I say I really thought Tim’s concept was interesting and a hit. I mostly was worried about myself writing the book for this epic musical. This was the challenge put upon me that day. Before then, I had written more than six plays. One of which was part of IANA’s 2008 season as a staged reading. As theatre playwrights know – the writing structure of a musical is much different from a standard 1-2 act play. I took on the challenge with an open mind and an open heart. Having gone through meeting after meeting with Tim, and several months of writer’s block, the show came to me as a clear vision. For four months straight, my laptop never left my lap. No one heard from me (sometimes for weeks). I knew this was going to be a big deal for IANA. I also knew this may be a big deal for my career.

Skip to May 26, 2011! Opening Night was quite insane – for me and everone else I believe. Besides my nerves, the night could not have gone better. The community loved the show, and so did the local press. This was a load of my back. But, [drum role] now comes the most exciting part of this whole process. Because of the huge success of IANA and the show in general, we are able to take this Canadian gem on a province wide tour. I get goosebumps just thinking about the Aleck Bell tour and what it will look like. What I’ve been told so far by Tim is that the show will be unbelievable. ‘Bigger and better’ is what is to be expected this August. I also think of how many people we will be reaching with this show. Not only is this show entertaining but it’s for all ages. I can’t wait for when my nephews get to observe from the audience, so they can tell me how much they learned. Oh, who am I kidding…they’re 7 and 10. Mostly they’ll just enjoy rocking out to a character from the 1800s singing a Hedley Medley!

I don’t really know how this has all happened. Since the opening I have had many people write me or openly tell me that the writing was wonderfully done and that Aleck Bell: A Canadian Pop Rock Musical has “comfortably found it’s room” in the Canadian Musical Theatre house. I feel very proud of myself, but more importantly the Bell team. I don’t think this show could have grown to what it is, without of course the IANA team, and the cast. The cast is what will make you stand up at the end of the show every night. What this cast can do in two acts is nothing short of brilliant. Tim has done it again and I for one feel blessed just to be a part of it all. My hope is that this show continues to grow, entertain, and teach. What the future has in store for me…who knows!? One thing is for sure, I can look back and say I did something great that will hopefully live on forever. I know that last sentence sounds like something Aleck Bell would say…. but it’s true.

~ Joel MacMeekin


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