When an Ambitious Little Theatre Company Tries to Be BIG…

MABEL

For the first time in months I am sitting in my home in Toronto with a tiny bit of down time.  I can’t really recall the last time I had consecutive days off, and now I find myself with several, which I could not be more thrilled about.  Besides giving me the opportunity to go to New York for a much needed dose of inspiration, I also have a few hours today to it down and write, and do some housekeeping.  I decided this morning while I read my paper that some of that housekeeping should be checking in on this blog, writing a little piece about our year off, and just keeping up to date.  When I logged onto the blog this afternoon, I realized that I somehow massively ignored it for the past year almost.  I DIDN’T EVEN DO A BLOG ABOUT ALECK BELL!!!  I feel tremendously saddened that in all the stress and pressure of last season I didn’t even take time to write a blog about the show before it happened, and then even worse, I didn’t write a blog afterword to sum it up.

We as a company have acknowledged that we maybe tried to go a bit too big, a bit soon last season, and while putting all of our time towards quality of production and struggling to keep up with basic bookkeeping and planning, we were left with very little time for that all important aspect of promotion and putting butts in seats.  And there’s the rub.  Rub a dub dub.  I fully intend to write a much more in depth article about what we are doing now, what happened all of last year, what our plans are for the future, etc, but that is not what this blog will be about.  Instead, I want to pay a little love to our best show to date, ‘ALECK BELL: A Canadian Pop Rock Musical’.

Then, before I started writing this article, as I searched through my laptop today ( Something I also haven’t done in a while), I discovered that I had actually written a post during rehearsals for BELL, and had never finished it, and also neglected to post it.  I skimmed through it, and although most of it is irrelevant now, it features some very important thoughts to me, so I have decided to post it in its entirety here.  Unfinished and all.

It is important to point out of course that this tour proved very difficult for a company of our size.  While I remain confident that this is the best show we have ever done, we simply didn’t have the manpower or the money to fill the venues, and when push came to shove we had to cancel our Toronto dates.  It was the hardest decision of my life, but turned out to be the right one.  I am also confident that this show has not yet seen the last of the Canadian Musical Theatre Stage.

We are still building back up from the ashes of last season, and most of that fault lies with me and my overly ambitious nature, but here is some food for thought before I enter into future posts about our introspective season this year, and my hopes and dreams for the future.  I promise I will try to be more adamant about my blogging, and keep you all up to date with what is happening in this very exciting transition year for IANA.

READ ON past this little ALECK BELL post for reviews from the Stirling production, and come back soon to check in!!!  Happy winter Canada!!!

-Tim

AMERICAN PSYCHO

ALECK BELL THE MUSICAL!!!  This show has been a crazy, wild ride, and the excitement seems to be never ending.  With a week of rehearsals now under our belt, the 2012 production is really shaping up to be something special.  It’s a terrifying thing really, remounting a show.  There is so much work to be done, so much to consider, so much that could be different, and so much that could change.  And what would that change bring?

Well, with ALECK BELL it has brought inspiration to our staging, it has brought brilliant and passionate new cast members, and it has brought a renewed sense of urgency and life to our production.  It’s so easy to second guess your choices leading into a season, and it’s a very difficult thing to predict the outcome of a product in an endeavor you have never attempted before, and I have to say, we at IANA are being truly blessed to create this production.

It began with a call from the Stirling Festival Theatre.  The folks over there saw our production of ALECK BELL in 2011, and in the fall of that year I got a call from the GM asking if we would be interested in bringing the show to Stirling.  Of course, we were thrilled.  For those of you who don’t know, I grew up at the Stirling Festival Theatre.  I worked there for six fantastic seasons, starting in the young company and slowing working my way up as an apprentice and finally into the professional company.  It is a very special place to me, and really, it is home.  The fact that I now get to return to my home as a director and producer is one of the most thrilling points of my career thus far.  This show is going to blow the roof off the Stirling Festival, I really can’t wait.  It’s been a little while since a cast this size and a production this big has taken to the stage there, and it is an experience that the people of Stirling and surrounding area will not want to miss.  And not just because the show features Stirling favourite Allan Gillespie.

This tour also features another very important spot to me.  Every young actor with a dream of a life in theatre starts their career at a professional training program.  My dream began at St. Lawrence College in Brockville, Ontario.  I had auditioned for most of the major programs, and with about an even number of acceptances and rejections, I went into my audition for St. Lawrence.  I immediately felt involved, alive and a part of something.  I was welcomed into St. Lawrence with open arms, and Brockville soon became my second home.  We were incredibly lucky at St. Lawrence to have the privilege of doing our shows at the beautiful Brockville Arts Centre.  This state of the art professional theatre has seen major musical productions for decades past, and you can feel the history and the past of the building breathing as you walk that stage.  Once we had decided we would be remounting the production, I thought what a huge shame it would be to only do it in one place.  So, we made a list of a couple cities we would like to go to, one of which was Brockville.  I approached the Arts Centre and they again welcomed us with open arms.  There is a fantastic appreciation for musical theatre in Brockville that is unrivaled in most other Canadian cities, and we are again lucky to be performing in this fantastic venue.  We have built our set to thrive in this stunning venue, and I can’t wait for the audience to experience the epic beauty of Alexander Graham Bell’s attic laboratory in all its glory.

And finally, we decided that we couldn’t re-create this show and not bring it to Toronto.  I have never been prouder of a production, and I have never been more sure of a show needing to play in this city.  ALECK BELL is a story that needs to be told, and it’s a show that needs to be told to Toronto.  We are thrilled to be back at the beautiful Papermill theatre at Todmorden Mills Heritage site, a building straight out of Bell’s own time, and one that I’m sure he would have appreciated the beauty of.

One of the most thrilling things about this production is that we are performing entirely in venues that Bell himself could have toured to.  Two of them wouldn’t have been theatres, but the buildings themselves are as rich with history as this production and this story are.

This show is magic.  It is life and death and joy and pain and love and loss and passion and energy.  It is my proudest moment to date.  This production will be epic and it will be amazing.  We are so passionate about what we do, and so excited to be bringing a Canadian Musical on tour in an expansive and fully produced way.  What we are doing is a rare thing, and we are proud of it, and in love with it, and hope you will come and share that with us.

I can’t even describe the feeling I get every day in rehearsals with this show.  I have goosebumps every day, I can’t sleep at night because I’m so excited to work the next day.

FIRE

REVIEWS FOR ALECK BELL IN STIRLING:

“If You Only See One Show This Year, See Aleck Bell!  If I could say that this team excels in one area in particular, it would be their vocal talents.  I dare you to see any professional production in the city, and pay hundred of dollars, then come and see an IANA production for less than a quarter of the cost.  I can guarantee that they are easily equal in talent.  If you went to see this show for nothing other than the music, you would have gotten your moneys worth.  When the cast sang Fare Thee Well Love, I actually wept, it was beautiful.  The rendition of Hallelujah sent chills up my spine, and set all the hair on my arms and neck on end.  This is an insanely talented group of actors.  I laughed (thanks to the ever dependable Danielle Leger, Tricia Black and James King), I cried, I didn’t want the show to end.  Tim Porter has created a piece that should tour the country to sold out shows!    Christopher and I have done nothing but talk about Aleck Bell.  There was certainly no dead silence on that car ride home.  The word genius was thrown around a lot.  There are not enough nice words to describe our evening out.  We LOVE Aleck Bell.  If we could, we would attend every single show both in Stirling, and then chase them to Toronto’s Papermill Theatre.   I feel like I should be going door to door telling people the good word about Aleck Bell.  I feel like strong arming people and threatening to rough them up, if they don’t go and see this amazing production. You need to go and see this show!  I think our sentiment was best summed up by a fellow patron that we overheard.  He told the person that he was sitting with “I would have gotten my money’s worth, even if I’d left at intermission.  What a fantastic show!””

-Tristan Lindsay, The Middle Aged Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

“A simple outing to the Stirling Festival Theatre between now and Sept. 1 will produce a true Canadian theatrical gem in the pop rock musical, Aleck Bell by the IANA Theatre Company. Give this youthful, talented cast a plot and they’ll act it out; give them a musical instrument and they’ll play it; give them some stage space and they will show you colourful choreography, give them a song and they’ll sing it – often in rich, a cappella, full-bodied harmony. One can’t say enough about the versatility and audience-warmth of this cast in what is a warm, gripping, colourful, often humourous and audience-appealing show. This show more than deserves audiences of all ages. They will be glad they went.”

-Jack Evan, The Trentonian

“I recently attended IANA’s Aleck Bell performance at the Stirling Theatre.  All of us, including the kids, were blown away by the performance. This musical remains one of my favorites for a number of reasons: the historical context of Alexander Graham Bell’s life; the incredible talent displayed by all cast members – singing, dancing, acting; the comedic overtones throughout the play; the fact that it appeals to young and old alike; that it is an original Canadian production; and that it is being staged and directed by one of our own – Tim Porter.”

-Don DeGenova, Tweed Councilor

“With a stellar cast of nine who pull off some stunning versions of iconic Canadian songs, Mac-Meekin and Porter have lucked out in the talent department.  This group proves its onstage flexibility entering into something of a guessing game with the audience over who will play what instrument next.  Neatly choreographed, the show offers a lively, colourful and highly entertaining retelling with more than a ring of truth to it.”

-Richard Turtle, EMC News

SCOTTISH

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