So Much is Happening!

IANA has a big meeting tonight, and as I sit in my office, reviewing things to go over, I realize that because they may not constitute a whole blog post, there are a huge number of things that I have not talked about!  So, heres whats been going on!!!

First off, we were so excited to learn earlier this month that IANA Theatre Company had won the Best Independent Production of 2011 at the awards!  We are incredibly honoured to have won, and would like to thank everyone who came out and supported original Canadian Theatre this year, and we would also like to thank our fantastic sponsors who made all of this possible.  We couldn’t have done it without you!  Thank you so much! (Music starts playing, Tim is ushered offstage).  And congratulations to all the other winners, especially former IANA performers Melissa O’Neil for her Jesus Christ Superstar win, and David Light for his nomination as part of Billy Elliot.

The award has helped us get a lot of press coverage, you can read some of the articles here, and here, or you can check out the Municipality of Tweed’s website here, where we are currently the homepage story!

We are getting ever closer to our production of STALKYARD HURTS, and preparations are well underway.  Starting soon we will be looking for willing participants from Hastings County to be a part of the audio-visual elements of this production, watch out for that!  We are going to be including a lot of local talent in these videos, so watch out for your favorite area celebrities!

We will also be holding auditions in the next couple of months for our upcoming season.  We are always thrilled to meet and work with new talent, and we are so excited to add even more fantastic performers to our already incredible ensemble.  Here’s to 2012!

I also have a meeting tomorrow with our ALECK BELL set designer, the amazing David Butler, who has some colour renderings for me that I can’t wait to check out!  Maybe he’ll let me take a teaser photo…who knows.

And coming very soon we will be announcing our final production dates and venue for ALECK BELL in Toronto!  We are so excited to be bringing this show around the province.  If you are in any of the cities we are coming to, let us hear from you!  We are going to be doing quite a bit of promotion in Brockville, Stirling, Brantford and Toronto, and would love for you to be involved.  There are lots of great surprises in store for this year’s tour, it’s gonna be the best!

IANA will also be taking over the Canadians for Canadian Musical site on facebook and carrying on the great work that Robert Missen started over there.  Robert has been growing busier and busier (which is fantastic considering he represents all Canadian work!) and we are very excited to be continuing this great group.  Watch for lots more to come with that!

It is a great time for theatre in Ontario right now, with a tonne of shows extending and selling out, theatres announcing their very exciting seasons, and people gearing up for a great summer of theatre adventure!  And on that note, we are also incredibly excited to be members of ASTRO for the first time in 2012!  ASTRO is the Association of Summer Theatres Round Ontario and they do amazing work to promote regional theatre in the province.  We could not be more excited to be joining them.

What else, what else…I’m sure there is so much more, but it will have to wait for another time!  I’ve got to get back to work, and this is getting long-winded!  Check in at our website for loads more info about our upcoming season, and be sure to head out and take in some Canadian Theatre this month!

See you at the show!


IANA on Tour: ALECK BELL Takes to the Road

In 2012, ALECK BELL: A Canadian Pop Rock Musical is going on tour.  Here’s where it all began…

At the end of 2010, when I sat down to plan our next season, I knew it had to be big.  We were coming off a really amazing year, with our first full season of production in Tweed, and our first full-scale original Canadian Musical.  We had already decided that we would be bringing our musical ‘TWEED!’ to Toronto, and we wanted to create another new show for our season in Tweed.

I had been wanting to do a musical using Canadian pop rock music, but as of yet had not found the right subject.  As it got closer and closer to the time to settle on a season, I still hadn’t really come up with much.  I was scanning through a list of famous Canadians one afternoon, and stumbled upon Alexander Graham Bell.  For some reason, out of all of the amazing people on that list, Aleck Bell jumped out at me.  The next day I went out and bought a biography of Mr. Bell.  What I found there was amazing.

Alexander Graham Bell led a fascinating and incredible life.  He was an incredible man with a brilliant mind, and his story was meant to be told.  I decided that this was the show I wanted to do.  I began to make notes about what we would want in the production, and almost immediately approached my good friend Joel MacMeekin to help me write the show.  We sat down shortly after and started to figure out a plot line, and choose music from the huge Canadian Pop Rock Cannon.  Before we knew it we had a solid story line, some great tunes, and a beautiful story.

Joel took that away, and over the course of the next couple months wrote a brilliant show.  We sat down a few more times, figured out some details, polished the show, and finally had something that we were ready to put on stage.  We had our auditions, we booked our dates, we rented the instruments, and we were ready to start.

How we found the cast that we did, and how they all agreed to do the production will forever be beyond me.  This group of people is really better than we could have ever imagined, and we were instantly, and continue to be, in love with them.  They took every little bit of this story to heart, and told it with a truth, talent and integrity like I have never seen before.  The brilliant Emilee Nimetz agreed to choreograph the show, and exceeded our expectations.  All around, this production is my proudest moment to date.  The show came together like magic, and blew Joel and I away.  We knew instantly that this show would be going places.

Over the course of our run, several members of the Stirling Festival Theatre’s board and staff came to see the production.  We are lucky to count Stirling Theatre as our friends, and shortly after our production had closed, Stirling approached us to include BELL as part of their 2012 season.  We were honoured and excited and of course ecstatically agreed!

We then began the process of booking other venues and planning where else we would like to take the show.  We already knew we wanted to bring the show to Toronto after our success there with TWEED, so that was an easy one.  We then sat down to think where else the show would fit, and where else we would like to take it.

The next easiest choice was the beautiful city of Brockville.  Joel and I both attended St. Lawrence College and had done all of our productions there at the Brockville Arts Centre.  The BAC was like a second home to us, and we were so excited when the whole team there jumped on board with us.  We are thrilled to be spending four days at the beautifully renovated Brockville Arts Centre.  I think this show is really going to hit home there, and I literally can’t wait to show it to them.

Next, came our last stop, and again, a fairly obvious choice.  When the Bell’s first crossed the Atlantic and came to Canada, they settled in a beautiful little town in regional Ontario.  That town was Brantford.  I have performed at the Sanderson Centre in Brantford on numerous occasions, and it has got to be one of the most stunning, well maintained, kindest venues in the country.  We pitched the show to them, and again, they were very excited to welcome us in.  We set the dates, and confirmed the production there.  I can’t wait to bring this show to the city of Brantford, and tell the story of this remarkable man in his Ontario home.  I think it is going to be a really magical experience.

So the tour was set, and now it’s time to get the show ready!  We are incredibly lucky and excited to be welcoming back most of our original cast, with a few new people who are sure to blow your mind.  We also have a really exciting new set designed by Mr. David Butler.  Dave has created something that is really going to be the perfect home for this production, with lots of surprises and stunning inclusions.

And there’s lots more in store as well.  We have already purchased our first beautiful antique piano that will be touring with us, we have our wicked new drum kit, and there is loads more in the works!  New lighting effects, microphones, additional costumes, this show is going to be huge!  The biggest we have ever produced!

We are so excited about everything that is happening this season, and we are insanely excited for this tour.  We are going to four theatres that we love, four towns that we love, with a show that we couldn’t love more.  This production means the world to me, and hopefully you will have an opportunity to come and experience it with us.  See you at the show!!

2012: A Season Odyssey

To produce a show, or not to produce a show?  That is the question… Well, not really, I always want to produce a show.  But what show?  And when?  Isn’t it so fascinating and telling what theatre companies pick what shows, and why?  I think so.  In our case, it’s pretty simple actually.  First and foremost, we love creating new shows, so we produce them quite frequently.  And that doesn’t involve choosing a show at all.  But this year, for the first time, we found ourselves in the situation of wanting to do someone else’s show, and also, wanting for an additional show.

We decided fairly early on when choosing what we were going to do in 2012 that we would like to do a ‘season’ at the Marble Church Arts Centre in Tweed.  The venue and the town have definitely situated themselves in our hearts as our home venue.  And we couldn’t be happier.  We also decided early on, or knew from the get-go, that we wanted to do more with our production of ALECK BELL.  This problem solved itself relatively easily, when the Stirling Festival approached us to do a co-production, and the rest of the venues kind of fell into place after that.  The Brockville Arts Centre is really like my second home as a performer (after the Stirling Festival) having spent a large chunk of three years in that building while I was attending St. Lawrence College.  We are incredibly grateful to Peter Dunn for all of his help and encouragement in booking our show there.  And then, the next obvious choice seemed to be to bring the show to the Bell’s Canadian home, Brantford, Ontario.  It is in Western Canada, which is a new and exciting frontier for us as a company, but a place I have enjoyed tremendously in the past as a performer.  I was back in Brantford performing with a company earlier this year, and visited the Bell’s homestead site.  I knew instantly that I wanted to bring the show there.  And then of course, we will bring the show to Toronto!  The hub of the Canadian Musical Theatre community, many of our friends and closest connections are in the city, and it is really a proving ground for us, and hopefully a launching pad for future endeavors.  We love the enthusiastic response we get when we tour there, and will go back as often as we can.  And this year in an exciting new venue…

But, back to Tweed.  Last year really solidified the fact that we are part of the community, and we are looking forward to a long and happy life there.  So, we knew we wanted to do a season at the Marble Church.  Now, we have also known that although our mandate is the creation and production of original Canadian Musical Theatre, for our experiences, our audiences, and our creative juices we want to produce some big Broadway shows!  We have been talking about it more and more over the past few months, and I finally decided it was high time we do a Broadway show.  So, one that I have always wanted to play with, is Stephen Schwartz’s GODSPELL.  Long before he penned wicked, Mr. Schwartz wrote this beautiful, hysterical musical, that has had a long history in our country, and a fantastic following to boot.  This show fell into place.

But then, our planning hit a bit of a snag.  We were not planning to write a show this season.  Instead, we were going to do the fantastic Canadian Musical ‘Billy Bishop Goes To War’, and well I’m sure we will produce this show someday in future, it was not to be this season.  So at this point, this is where we were at.  We knew that ALECK BELL would be touring, great.  We knew we were doing GODSPELL in Tweed, great.  We wanted a season in Tweed, hmmm.  At this point you could find me locked in the reference library for hours, reading Canadian plays, and actively discussing with all of my comrades in the industry what they would like to see on our stage.

Then, I went on a little trip out to New Brunswick.  I spent the past month in the really amazing, and ridiculously fun FLINT improv house in Sackville, NB.  My good friend Justin Collette, who many of you will recognize from our production of ALECK BELL as Mark Twain, etc, had invited me to come out and take part in this project he was doing.  We were doing TWEED the musical at the time, and I had mentioned to Justin that I planned to take November off to work on the company, plan the season, etc, and Justin invited me out to the house.  I gladly agreed, and when November rolled around I hopped on a flight to the coast.  Little did I know what an amazing and necessary experience this trip would be. 

It was only a few minutes after I had stepped off the plane when I mentioned my conundrum to Justin and asked if he had any suggestions for what other show we should do in Tweed this season.  Almost immediately Justin said, ‘Well, let’s write one’.  Knowing the man’s talent, and the talent that I was about to spend the month with, I of course replied with a triumphant YES!  We went straight to a restaurant in Moncton, sat down, had a bite, and started to come up with ideas.  It was here that Justin had the stroke of Genius.  About mid way through our meal, after boycotting a couple of earlier suggestions, and having been silent for several minutes, Justin pitched ‘STALKYARD HURTS’.  I loved the idea immediately, and the more he explained, the more excited I got.  The show leapt from Justin’s mouth, and by the time we finally got to the house that night, a good portion of it had already written itself.

The next day we told the idea to our good friend Danielle Leger, who eagerly agreed to help us write the show, and gave us many great ideas of her own.  Over the next few weeks, we locked ourselves in ‘the writing room’ on several occasions, and wrote and wrote, played and played, and STALKYARD HURTS was slowly born.

I could not be more excited about this show, and should also mention some of the other amazing cast members who joined us in Sackville, miss Tricia Black and miss Karine Berube.  Tricia trained with Justin at second city Chicago, and after seeing her on stage with FLINT several times, I am so excited to have her as a part of this show.  The girl is FUUUNNY.  Just wait… And of course, the beautiful and talented Karine Berube who played Mrs. Mabel Bell in ALECK BELL last season, and will be reprising her role this year.  Karine is an exceptionally talented performer, and we count ourselves lucky to have her as part of our team.

FLINT was an amazing experience all around.  Basically, Justin and his friends Luke and Scott, two other hysterically funny people, have collected the best improv performers and stand up comedians from across the country, put them all in a huge house together, and all day every day they create great comedy, and perform two to three shows a week at the local theatre.  It is an amazing place, and if you get a chance to check out one of their shows…DO IT!  I am so happy to have met and worked and played with all of those people, and I hope very much to do it again soon.

But wait!  I will!  When we mount a fully realised production of ‘STALKYARD HURTS: The 2012 End of the World Reunion Tour’ this May.

So that, my friends, is how IANA Theatre Company plans their seasons.  At least it’s how we planned this one, but I can assure you, next year will be totally different.  Oh, and by the way, an odyssey is defined as a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc.  I think the perfect way to define the planning of our 2012 season.  But boy, I couldn’t be happier.  See you at the show!