Say What?

Jump at the Sun

David Auster was my mentor at the Stratford Festival for three months. I called him up one day in early March of 2017 and asked him if he’d like to be my mentor and, without thinking about it, said yes. He could have said no since he’d only met me a couple of times at various Stratford function. I was pleased at the possibility of learning more about producing in an environment like the Stratford Festival as my only experience had been working on my own plays with budgets not larger than $15,000. I was going to be allowed to look at budgets with several more zeros attached; it was exhilarating!

It’s been a week since I left Stratford on May 19 and what I remember most is the mentoring ‘lessons’ often accompanied food. Specifically, David eating. I made a point of taking a scheduled lunch at 12 every single day but, like most of the executive level individuals at the Festival, David ate at his desk and continued to work. A father to two young daughters, he made a point of leaving every day at 5pm in order to get home at a reasonable hour for supper.

It started with goldfish crackers handed to me on my first day as a wink to the goldfish dream I'd had before arriving. An orange was peeled and consumed as he explained the intricacies and difficulty of producing an original musical in Canada to me and Carson Nattrass. A 2 hour drive to Toronto to attend Musical Stage Company’s Funhome was a tab by tab walk through the exhaustive spreadsheets for the Festival. He stopped talking long enough to eat his dinner, a chocolate bar from a vending machine. He took me out for lunch at Mercer’s Inn to say goodbye but he used to opportunity to explain the hiccups that inevitably occur when a large production hits a snag (creative, financial, or otherwise).  David used every chance he could to educate me on some aspect of producing theatre at an elevated level.

It was especially important that not only did I get the producing education I craved from the Stratford Festival but I was welcomed into meeting rooms as not only an observer but as a participant. If you happened to be at the Festival Theatre or the Avon you might have seen me trailing behind David, walking as fast as I could, clutching a pink ‘Classy & Fabulous’ notebook where I recorded notes on everything. He always introduced me as an award winning playwright who produced her own shows; I always appreciated that little boost.

He checked in on me frequently to make sure that I wasn’t bored, lonely, or, after I rhapsodized over a slice of chocolate chip banana bread, stress eating. He took me grocery shopping and made sure I got to an emergency eye appointment in the middle of the day. This was a pretty lovely and productive mentor/mentee partnership and even though he wished he could have done and taught me more I feel like I am ready and armed to produce a large scale production while being a fair leader who truly listens.

The three month mentorship was an invaluable experience supported by the Ontario Arts Council and Theatre Ontario that would never have happened without the support and encouragement of Bruce Pitkin, Rachel Kennedy, Pat Bradley, Kristina Lemieux, Katie Leamen, Michael Wheeler, and Esther Jun. On the Stratford Festival side of things I can’t say enough to thank Antoni, Anita, Susan, Jason, Bob, Bonnie, Franklin, Joy, Marion, and Beth who made me feel like a part of the Director’s Office team.  I’m used to working alone to get projects completed but this experience required many hands and hearts for me to succeed.  I cannot thank all of these people enough for their generosity, warmth, and kindness.  I jumped at the sun and all of you helped me fly. Thank you.

Source: Jump at the Sun

Spilling Tea

I sip green tea in the morning.

I've been in Stratford for one week. Anxious about how the change to my schedule would affect my mood I had been alternately excited and apprehensive about leaving Toronto for three months. I have left my home for that much time before, when I was on tour with various plays, but that was different. I was on the road in a new place every few days. This would be a complete upheaval of my very regimented routine that, while boring, was familiar. 

A year ago when I came up with the idea of taking a break from Toronto I was aggravated with everything. Stagnating, as well. I became a producer by accident and I seemed to have a knack for it. After producing my third indie show I wanted to learn something new. I figured the best place to learn was outside of my comfort zone and in a new place. My routine of gym-coffee-read-waffle over what to do-see a play-go to bed late was tedious.  

I get up early. 

I sit in my lovely place in Stratford and read the plentiful Facebook and Twitter posts about the plays I just 'have to see': Bang Bang; Jerusalem; Rhubarb; Cottagers & Indians; etc….but I can’t ,because I’m too far away to travel there and back in one evening. I’m learning to stop feeling guilty about missing plays because, try as you might, you're going to miss something. Besides, I’m on the Dora jury for the Indie category; I see plenty. 

I’m trying to drink less alcohol. 

I don’t make new year’s resolutions because I feel that quitting is almost a given. I am someone who cooks almost all of my meals, goes the gym regularly, calls her parents every week, and tries to keep her head above water as a writer/producer. I deserve a glass of wine at 5. But, lately I’ve been looking forward to a glass of wine the way normal people look forward to the weekend. I resolved that Stratford would be the impetus to change my routine; no more drinking. Ridiculous. There’s an LCBO across the street from my condo in Stratford. I bought my favourite: Small Gully Mr. Black’s Little Book Shiraz, and some McClelland that was on sale. No regrets. Then I went out for fried chicken at Laotian hotspot, Lauhaus, on Downie Street, since they would be closing for good the next day. It was delicious. 

Food Poisoning Can Change Your Perspective 

There are a lot of thoughts that run through your mind when you’re hunched over on the subway, traveling west on the Bloor line, covered in a thin coating of sweat, nauseas and trying not to poop yourself. One is: this is too nice a coat to have an accident and the other is, I really hope it wasn’t the fried chicken. Three hours later, prostrate and tired from illness, in my pretty condo all I can consume is tea. The next few days all I put in my body is broth, water, plain crackers, and green tea. I glare at the bottle wine, shudder at the idea of the McClelland, and stay away from all things dairy. When I woke up on Tuesday morning the sun was blazing, it was five degrees, and I felt less burdened than I’d been in months. The pressure I have put on myself is lifting and I think I may be freer than ever.