Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why Produce?

Hey All,
I am back and I got something to say!!!!!
If you are Tracy, Thom or Jason read no farther.....or at least wait till December 18th cause I know you don't read reviews.
So I will mumble here for a moment so you don't see any of this.........
Alright my blog friends....I have never publicly responded to reviews because they are really one person's opinion of something and what other people think of me.....
But as a producer I have had to begin the horrifying task of reading what people think of my performances.
There is nothing worse.
I think that performance in the theatre and on the stage are a living thing and that they change with the audience, present state of mind and new discoveries in the moment.
For myself for alot of years I found that daunting and searched for perfection every night.
Who cares if you remember all the lyrics if your performance is cemented in ...........well....cement.
(Sharron has a moment of laughter here)
Here is the background.
J, Trace and Thom-ie and I did "Songs For A New World" 8 years ago and had a great experience. We recieved awesome reviews and the community was hugely supportive.
We did it as a co-op and rehearsed in Noreen Waibel's basement for two weeks .
We didn't make a red cent and felt great about the endevour.
Then we did 3 benifit concerts.
The response was so overwhelming that we sat down and talked about doing a real run of it.
There were dangers, of course.
People might not like it.
We didn't want to do it as we did before .....if we did it ....we were gonna try something new.
We were 8 years older, Jason had two kids and was going into casting, Tracy was doing more straight plays and TV, Thom had many successful seasons at Stratford and I was doing my Party and TV and Film more than theatre....we all had evolved and felt that the show should reflect our lives and new choices.
We decided that it was worth the risk.
We wanted a director with a fresh vision.
Tim Forte, our first director, was very supportive of our choice to go another way and we thanked him for that.
The point is.....why do something twice ?
Do it if you wanna explore something different.
We wanted to produce a commercial venture independently and we did thanks to the get-up-and-go of Jason Knight, Clyde Wagner and Tracy Michialidis.
We knew that we might suffer slings and arrows.
(Tell everyone you know that I kinda quoted Shakespeare here.)
Chris Abraham is an excellent, supportive, respectful and inspiring director.....I don't trust easily in that department.....because I know everything.....don't ya know...but I trust and trusted him.
He had us work and look into these people that we were singing about and not just create an evening of pleasant cabaret.
Instead, we all wanted an journey of people on the edge of huge choices and decisions.
That is the show that was written and we celebrate that.
I am proud as hell of the show that we have.
The thing that really got me, my friends, was reading the review in the Globe and Mail by Kamal Al-Solaylee.
You don't have to like the show.
I wish that he had but.....he clearly didn't.
Ah well.
I have chatted with Kamal in the past and he was very supportive and said that he loved musical theatre. are a couple things that just made me sad.
We need good directors in musical theatre.
As musical theatre performers we want to stretch our muscles and not just sing "Ok-la-homa"( not that there is anything wrong with that) but if Chris Abraham is told that
"His foray into musical theatre is probably more of a palette cleanser--or a temporary lapse---"
we may have a problem getting him to do another music theatre piece.
Don't ya think?
In our city we used to have 5 or 6 musicals running at the same time filled with Canadians........self produced and Mirvish or Garth produced.
Now, we have road shows from the states that sit in our big theatres with one or two Canadians if you are lucky.
Anything that we try to do has been horribly shot down in the last two or three years....all culminating in the massive-media-hate fest that was of Lord of the Rings.
So, in this environment, we wanted to create work where there was none and challenge ourselves.
And this was the part that most bothered me....
"If you don't have much tolerance for live and over-amplified excess, Songs for a New World is not their shining hour but their moment of shame"
Holy shit.
"Moment of shame"????????????
I mean, really.
That just brought water to my eyes, truly.
How does one respond to that?
At the risk of sounding ......I don't know ........pissed......
I think he is a little bit overwrought himself.
Here are some of the words he uses to describe our evening.
"Case of collective histrionics from the four person cast.......who sing every note as if to prove their existence to an oblivious god"
"Eardrum-puncturing and downright deafening"
"I doubt this production will completely recover from it's endemic excesses, but here's to hoping..."
That is pretty dramatic stuff.
What does endemic mean?
-In biology and ecology endemic means exclusively native to a place or biota, in contrast to cosmopolitan or introduced. However, it is also differentiated from indigenous: A species that is endemic is unique to a defined place or region.-
Well....I still kinda don't get it. I am.......I am trying to find a source of humour to turn this into something positive.
I was saddened and shocked by alot of what he said.....and oddly enough......I expected the overwrought .....from Kamal and Richard ( Ouzounian who, in the interest of total discloser, didn't like it either but beside this review his is kinda a rave) was the "Shame" part and the mention of Chris Abraham's foray that really bothered me.
Like I said you don't have to like it......but it is already hard as hell to work in or produce theatre in Canada.....and with words and expressions such as this it will only get harder. friends ...if you wanna come see us in the Distillery.....please do......we would love your support.....people do seem to really enjoy it.
It may be loud......
We may be earnest.....
But I think we rock out.........
I STILL think it was AND IS worth the risk......
It would be a shame for you not to come!


Karen said...

Oh, I agree with you on so much of this, and I'll probably come up with lots to say after I post this, but just quickly for now:

That review is ridiculous. You guys were effing amazing and I am so glad this production is happening. I cannot wait to come back and see it again, and I'm telling everyone I know to check it out. Small, great, Canadian productions of shows in this city need more attention and deserve more praise. We had SUCH a good time last night and you are all SO talented. The production is great and several of the songs were some of the most moving things I've seen on stage before. Sure, it's different than the other incarnations of it that have happened in Toronto, but it's different in a great way. I noticed new things and looked at songs in a different way.

Long story short: it was fantastic and I can't wait to come back and I hope I can manage to get lots of other people to come and check it out, too. You guys are amazing and thanks for doing this show.

Paul B. said...

Here's my letter to the editor to the Globe in response to Kamal's review: and tomorrow I'll do a detailed review of one of the best shows I have seen in a long long time!
I think Kamal must have taken a nasty pill on Tuesday morning. Although I usually like his reviews of straight plays, the performance he described in this morning's paper has nothing in common with the one I saw at the Young Centre last night. In fact, I saw it with 4 friends, and collectively we see in excess of 200 plays a year. We all thought it was nothing short of sensational. At the interval, we laughed as we felt sorry for the people who were coming out of The Caretaker (which we had seen 1/3 of the previous Friday) and thought about inviting them to second act and enjoy at least half of "Songs for a New World." Unfortunately, thanks to reviewers like Kamal, people will likely miss the opportunity...and we continue to wonder why musical theater is dying in Toronto. I think it is time for Kamal to come out of the closet, admit he doesn't like the genre, and stick to critiquing straight plays.

Sharron Matthews said...

Oh you guys....I am all teary and thankful....your words go straight to my this show does mean alot to me.....thanks for the support!
And thanks for spreading the good word!

Sharron Matthews said...

By the way.......I am sad that I didn't get to see you last night Paul. But I am glad you liked the show...oddly enough I had the most fun I have ever had doing the Santa song last I am glad that you were there!
Thanks again.