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 BroadwayWorld.com 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!

Tim

Company Profile: JOEL MACMEEKIN!

Over the course of the coming year I would like to take several post opportunities to highlight members of our company who have been with us for a while, and who have contributed significantly to the development of this company.  To our vision, our mission and our mandate.  Joel MacMeekin is one of these people.

Joel was actually one of the first people to work for IANA in any way, and has actually worked for us in almost every way.  Depending on how much you know about IANA, you might know that we like to work in an ensemble style, and we like to utilize and explore the many talents of our casts and crew, and give everyone the opportunities they deserve.  Joel is the epitome of this concept.

Joel’s first interaction with IANA was at the very inception of the company.  True, there was a foray into producing before Joel’s involvement, before we were technically a company, but since we’ve had our papers, he has been on that journey with us.  Our first ever anything was a staged reading of Joel’s play ‘Missing in Action’.  Joel and I went to college together, and sometimes we would get to hear or read Joel’s written work, and I was always moved, inspired, and entertained by it.  I asked Joel to pitch me a couple of his scripts, and see if we might produce one as a staged reading.  He readily agreed, and after perusing a couple, we chose ‘Missing in Action’.  This hilarious play was a lot of fun, and a great experience with a group of eight very funny and very talented people.

The next production IANA did was ‘The Last Five Years’.  Now, although this is a two hander, we decided to include video elements to stitch the show together, and make the transitions from song to song more relatable and easier to follow.  Joel is also an incredibly skilled videographer, so I asked him if he would be willing to direct and produce these videos.  Again, he agreed to come along for the ride, and the result was overwhelming.  The videos were one of the most talked about elements of the production, and really put the professional touch on what was already a very satisfying show for us.

The next year, when we decided to produce our first ever full season in Tweed, ON, I asked Joel to come on board yet again, and in another whole new light.  This time, as a performer.  Joel is a talented actor, beautiful singer, and riotous comedian.  He played the Priest and Pomeroy in our production of ‘TWEED! A New Canadian Musical’ and reprised his role in that production again this past August.

And then came what is quite possibly Joel’s greatest contribution to the company to date.  I had decided last fall that I wanted to create an original production based on the life of Alexander Graham Bell, I had a concept all ready, and songs picked out in my brain.  However, I knew that with my time constraints for the year, and my already fairly full plate, I wouldn’t be able to pull off this project alone.  I knew Joel to be a very talented writer, and so I asked him if he would help me create the show.  Not only did Joel gladly accept the opportunity, but he brought a passion, a dedication and a talent to the task that I couldn’t have found anywhere else, and that led to the production of my proudest moment to date.  Joel wrote the book for ALECK BELL, and it is truly remarkable.  His timing, sense of character and his integrity have made this show a truly amazing thing, and something that I think will have a life and legs long after I originally planned for.  For those of you who don’t know, Joel was also the assistant director on the show.

And all of this is not even what makes Joel so great.  He does all of this, and has all of this talent, but what makes him truly stand out is his incredible personality, his love for his fellow creators, his personal passion and his absolute willingness.  Joel is ‘it’ when it comes to kind, caring and dedicated professionals, and I count myself lucky every day that I get the honour and the privilege of working with him on a regular basis.  I love this man, and I can’t wait to keep working and creating with him in future.

Watch for Joel this season as active as ever in most of our productions.  Joel is creating all of the original Audio-Visual elements for STALKYARD HURTS, and will be back this year as writer and co-director of our tour of ALECK BELL.  Joel has also designed several of the pages and elements of our website.  And who knows what else the season might have in store…stay tuned…

How we’re doing things differently…and how that involves you…

As 2011 winds down, I thought we would take a little retrospective on our season, and look at how we’ve changed, where we’re headed, and new things that we’re trying in 2012.

2011 was a massive year for us.  We produced our second full length original Canadian Musical ‘ALECK BELL: A Canadian Pop Rock Musical’ which received much critically acclaim, and is going on to tour the province next year.  As I have already said in a previous blog post, it is my proudest accomplishment to date.  Then, we took a huge leap, and brought our production of ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’ to the Papermill Theatre in Toronto.  This show has meant so much to me over the last four years, and I can’t even describe how it felt to bring the show to the city.  Huge.  It felt amazing, and I loved every minute of it.

This year saw our highest attendance ever, it started the great tradition of our GALA opening nights, another great tradition that we will hopefully see in many future seasons our Dark Night Cabaret series, the addition of a stage, dressing rooms and bar to the Marble Church Arts Centre, Our first foray into the world of Toronto theatre, the most actors/creative/crew we have ever employed, and our nomination for 20 BroadwayWorld.com awards.

And now, before the year even begins, our preparation for the 2012 season has already seen another round of drastic changes and accomplishments.  We now have a huge social media presence (Check out our blog-obviously you are, our twitter, our facebook group and fan page, our YouTube channel, our wicked new website, and our presence on hundreds of tourism sites and event listings).  We have also started partnerships with the Stirling Festival Theatre, the Brockville Arts Centre, and the Sanderson Centre in Brantford, all of which will hopefully lead to lasting lifelong associations.  We are also working on our third full-scale original Canadian Musical which is so exciting.  Every time we get to work with hilarious, dedicated, incredibly talented new teams I get overwhelmingly excited.  We are also so happy and so fortunate to have Jon Deighan join us as a permanent member of our team.  This Communications wiz, and awesome guy(seriously, he’s the best), will make all the difference in our continued success.  And, we are so happy to be working closely with the municipality of Tweed this season to take things to the next level, and ensure the success of our community and our company.

And possibly even more important is our good fortune to be able to continue to work with our fabulous team, members, sponsors and friends who will be joining us again this year.  We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our patrons, and of our fabulous General Manager Emily Mewett, our incredible ensemble of actors and creators, and our amazing volunteers!  We consider ourselves so lucky that we will once again have the assistance of so many incredible people in putting together an incredible season of Canadian Theatrical Entertainment!

We have a lot of really cool new initiatives starting this year, and I’m going to fill you in on one of the things I’m most excited about.  This year we are introducing a new way of supporting IANA, and a fun new opportunity to be involved in our productions.  It’s called a Show Sponsorship, but it is so much more than that.  We wanted to find a way this season to really get our patrons in on the action, and we came up with a real cool idea, that I can’t wait to continue to build on and grow in the future.  We are the only company that I know of that does this, and I think it is the most fun!  This year, for very small amounts of money, you can sponsor a specific element of a production.  SO say you have always been fascinated with the sets of plays, and say you are so excited for our brand new Canadian Musical STALKYARD HURTS.  I know I am.  Well, for $350 you can become the set sponsor for Stalkyard.  That means that you can take sole credit for the amazing new pieces we are creating for that production, and you can tell your friends, ‘Hey, that set?  Yeah, I sponsored it.’  Or something along those lines, how you gloat is up to you.  And then, the coolest part.  IANA will find some way to incorporate your name or something about you or your personality into the element you sponsor.  For example, part of the STALKYARD HURTS set is going to be the addition of several of the bands old show posters, maybe one of those posters features you as a model?  Maybe the title of that album just happens to be your full name?  Possibilities are endless, and you literally get to see you name up in lights!  AND..yes, there’s more…every single one of our show sponsors will receive a poster signed by the cast.

There is a lot of cool and exciting stuff happening right now, much of which I can’t discuss at the moment, but that is going to take this company to the next level yet again, and bring Canadian Musical Theatre right along with it.  We hope you’ll join us this season as we continue to build, grab life by the horns, and put it on stage!  Happy holidays, have a fun and safe New Years, and..we’ll see you at the show!!!!

Tim

YAY Canadian Musical Theatre!!!

I am very inspired, excited and happy right now.  Tonight, myself and general manager Emily Mewett went to see RIDE THE CYCLONE, and we absolutely loved it!  What an incredible show, incredible performances, and terrific staging.  Even with all the huge hype, and great press, the show totally lived up to its great reputation.  It is so exciting to see a great new show, and more than that to know that it is getting the respect and attention it deserves.  My only question is, WHY ISN’T IT RUNNING FOREVER?  Maybe there are forces behind the scenes, or things we don’t yet know about, but when a show this good comes along, that sold out its run, still has a huge demand for tickets, and is this good, why don’t we sit it down in a downtown theatre??  Eh Canada?  WHY!  I, for one, want to go again, my roommates and friends all want to go see it, and I’m sure countless strangers are dying for it as well, so why are we depriving them of the pleasure?  Get more people out to see live theatre in the city.  This show is good enough to go for a long time, and I am very sad to see it go.  And if it does come back, I recommend that everyone go and see it, and have a fantastic night!  Good luck RIDE THE CYCLONE, hope to see you again soon!!!

Hello Canada! And Welcome to IANA!

Hello everyone.

Tim Porter here, Artistic Director of IANA Theatre Company.  For those who are new to us, and for those who just don’t know us that well, I will tell you what we are all about.

IANA started in 2007, because it was Christmas, I was most of the way through my college Musical Theatre Performance Program, and I wanted to put on a show.  More specifically, I wanted to be creative, and have fun with my friends, and bring live theatre to the town of Tweed, ON.  We did a small christmas show with a bunch of young local performers at the St. Edmund’s Parish Hall.  I then graduated from college, went out into the musical theatre world (very different from ‘the real world’) and started to gain experience around the province.  I came back to producing after my stint in ‘Evil Dead: the Musical’ in Toronto.  I found myself out of a job after 8 months of performing in one of my favorite shows, when it finally closed so they could build a condo where the theatre was.  Surprise surprise.  So, with a little extra time on my hands, we produced a reading of a play in Belleville, ON, by our lovely and talented, and still very active in IANA friend, Joel MacMeekin.

Joel’s show was enough of an impetus for me to want to continue producing, so after spending another several months performing (A stint in Stirling, my first tour as a Doodlebop) we got back at it with a production of ‘The Last Five Years’.  I plan on writing blog posts about all of our past productions, why we did them, how we did them, what they mean to where we are now, so for now, I will just say it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I will say that a lot.  We took that show to Belleville, Brockville, and Toronto, and to this day, if I ever have the opportunity to work with the amazing Amanda Struthmann, I never say no.  And I don’t think I ever will.

Our Toronto production of ‘The Last Five Years’ is when another very important part of this company came into being.  And that is the addition of the amazing miss Emily Mewett to our team.  Emily came on to assistant Stage Manage the show, and after that point we never let her go.

I asked Emily to come on as the General Manager, at that time the only other permanent member of the staff.  Emily was ecstatic, and has made this company what it is today.  Without Emily’s help, guidance, and hard work, most of what we do would never get off the ground.  She is our rock.

Emily and I decided that in the following year, 2010, we should do our first full season of production.  From that was born some amazing, amazing experiences.  We programmed three shows, ‘A Taste of Broadway’, ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’, and ‘Cocktails for two hundred’.

At this point, I had read a book called ‘Broadway North’, a book about Canadian Musical Theatre I highly suggest.  I became saddened and frustrated by the lack of Canadian Musicals being produced across the country, and the loss of some of our good ones.  IANA was founded to meet this need, and to at least be a small part of the solution in getting more Canadian Musical Theatre out there.

At this point, I will go off on a bit of a tangent, to tell you about another amazing person who has really shaped, defined, and inspired this company.  I met Andre Morin in the young company of the Stirling Festival Theatre.  We were doing a production of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ led by the one and only Caroline Smith, and we were having the time of our lives.  Andre and I went on to cultivate a great friendship, spending many more summers in Stirling together, and winters in all kinds of other crazy theatrical ventures.  It is one friendship that I hope will never fade.  In the early winter of 2008, Andre and I were in the Stirling Actor house between rehearsals, and we started talking about writing a musical together.  It was a discussion we had had in the past, but something we had never had the time to sit down and start on, or the idea to begin with.  We went out and started looking for source material.  I had recently read a book about the town of Tweed (my hometown) and I gave Andre the cole’s notes of the fascinating things that had happened there, and how I invisioned a musical of the town’s history.  He took my scribbled beginnings of a song, and short scene I had typed out on my laptop, went up to his room, and didn’t come out for several hours.  When he did, it was with a beautiful song about the two lead characters falling in love, a song that started our long and wonderful process of writing TWEED, and a song that remains in the show today, in much it’s original form.  With a few changes of course.

Jump forward two years, and I pitched the idea to Andre that we do the show in our 2010 season.  It was a huge risk for us, neither of us having ever created a new Canadian Musical from scratch on this large of a scale, and the show not even being fully completed at the time of season announcement, or for that matter at the time of casting.  But we’ll get to all that later on.

The previous year (This blog is the best!  I had forgotten much of what I am writing, and am having an amazing time going back to it) a group of the most beautiful souls had gotten together to produce a concert in Kingston in support of IANA Theatre.  Entirely unbeknownst to me, I had gotten a call one day that I was going to get a cheque in the mail from these three ladies, and I was to use it to continue to produce Canadian Theatre!  I have never even really talked to these girls about it, but it was one of the most inspiring and beautiful moments of my life, and could very well be the only reason we continued to produce at all. Who knows.  Having looked at the program after the fact for this surprise show, I realized it was a show that I would very much like to see, and so, we programmed the show ‘A Taste of Broadway’ into our next season.  Those three lovely ladies, Heather Mastromarco, Julie Kevan, and Amanda Struthmann, were not all available, so Sarah Strange, Julie Kevan and myself did the show.

We then did the original workshop production of ‘TWEED!  A New Canadian Musical’.  At the end of this production in Tweed, the only word I can use to describe my emotions (And I would say Andre’s as well) is overwhelmed.  It had been the most magical experience I had ever had, with a cast of the most beautifully talented people in Canadian Musical Theatre, and a behind the scenes group that was just as overwhelming.  I will write a book about TWEED the Musical later, so I’ll save the good stuff for that.

Next came ‘Cocktails for Two Hundred’.  Cocktails is an original Canadian Musical that premiered at the Charlottetown festival in the 80’s.  It was great fun to bring the show back to life with the hilarious Ashley Keefer, and hopefully we will get to do more of this kind of project in the future.

Then came our most recent season.  ‘ALECK BELL: A Canadian Pop Rock Musical’ and ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’ in Toronto.  We were looking for a show to do for our next season, and I searched through a Wikipedia list of famous Canadians.  Alexander Graham Bell, for whatever reason, stood out from that list, and I started reading a biography of his life.  It was fascinating, and to me, his life seemed to be meant to be a musical.  I found out early on in that book that he was never even a Canadian Citizen, although he did live here for a portion of his life, but at that point, it didn’t matter much to me, I wanted to do this show.

I approached my good friend, and great writer Joel MacMeekin to help write the script.  Joel and I spent countless hours going through his life, figuring out exactly how to shape the show, finding the perfect music, and building the show.  Joel then took that away and wrote one of the most impressive shows I’ve ever read.  He is a genius.

This year also saw our first major forray into the Toronto Theatre Community with our production of ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’ in Toronto.  In my opinion it could not have gone better, and I am excited to see where that will lead.

During BELL, we met an amazing person by the name of Jon Deighan.  Jon helped us out at the production in Tweed for a few performances, and then we asked him if he would be willing to come on ‘TWEED’ as an independant producer.  Jon did amazing things for us, and was so wonderful, that this year he has joined the company as our third permanent member.  Jon is the perfect addition to our team to bring us to the next level, and we can’t wait to see where that relationship leads.

So, now you are all caught up!  That is who we are, it’s where we came from, and it’s where we intend to go, and we’re glad you’re coming with us.  I am really looking forward to sharing more about the company’s past, how our shows came to be, and what they mean to us, and hopefully, what they mean to you!  Feel free to send us a quick note at any point, and let us know what you would like us to tell you about.

Thanks for reading!  Looking forward to writing the next one.

Tim