The first time I met Albert Schultz, Street Legal had been off the air for a bit BUT he was still all famous from it....I think it was....be still my heart....1993.
I was doing a workshop for Mirvish of a musical called “Once Around the City” with him....oh and Ellie Ray Hennessy....it was the first time I had worked with her too....she came in the first day all dressed in pink with a HUGE pink straw hat that she never took off all day.
I had a great time and ate lunch a number of times with Ellie and Albert...she called him Albie...and I, filled with a new hubris....did as well. Oh, my early twenties.
Anyhow...that show ended up at Second Stage in New York a number of years later, without us of course, and the next time I sat with Albert I was playing a small part...read EXTRA...on a John Woo film that Albert had a big part in...and though I was an EXTRA he came over and sat with me between takes...UHEARD OF on a film set...principals mixing with the peasants...he asked me what my goals for the future were...not all judgie or anything...but I told him about how I wanted to be a cabaret performer and was trying to find a place to work. I asked him what was going on with him and he told me how he was raising money to start a theatre company...they were gonna do a production of “Our Town” at the Royal Alex to kick it all off.
I remember it like it was yesterday....we both had our own version of a curly mullet. Classy.
They sounded like such huge dreams...a freaking theatre company...and cabaret in Toronto....okay...all dreams are relative people.
One of the things I have always dug is that the first time I met Albert he was in a musical....so forever in my head he is a musical performer before anything else.
First of all, to catch those of you up if you live outside of Canada or don’t know Albert at all...he, with a group of like minded artists founded “Soulpepper”... One of the most successful classical theatre companies in the land. He is the artistic director of it...and the general manager of the Young Centre, the theatre he helped to build for his theatre company. And it also works in conjunction with a theatre school, George Brown. Also...as if we need an also...Soulpepper now has it’s own academy that trains classical actors, writers and directors.
I mean, dream big, right?
What is it that Oprah said to the woman on her ‘Biggest Dreams’ shows?
The woman dreamt that she would like to take her family to Disneyland....GRANTED (said in that weird Tarzan Oprah voice)....and the next woman dreamt of owning a home....GRANTED...the first woman said, “Wow...I coulda used a house...I never would have dreamed to ask for one”....and in a classic BURN Oprah said, “I guess you didn’t dream big enough.”
A hard lesson to learn on national TV...but a lesson all the same.
Albert dreams big...the difference....he see his dreams as goals...some of us see our dreams as...just dreams.
I have always found him incredibly inspiring...and I did have a moment on that film set when I ate my crappy EXTRA meal and thought, “Well, if he can start a theatre company, why can’t I do cabaret for a living?”
This weekend I had the pleasure, for the third year in a row, to be a part of the Young Centre’s Global Cabaret Festival (the network that sponsors it was Canwest till it merged with Global, so for the first two years it was called the Canwest Cabaret Festival). My involvement has increased every year.
This year I did my own feature cabaret show twice....I was also asked to do a Tom Waits Songbook, a Sondheim Songbook and a....Bach Salon...I know...if you know me at all, I was as surprised as you!!
I was very excited and scared about all of it (yes, Sondheim freaks...that was for you.) I know some of Tom Waits songs....but am by no means a huge fan....I love Sondheim but have never been paid to sing his songs...AND I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BACH....NOTHING......But, of course, said a HUGE YES to everything.....
Working with the amazing Paul Sportelli (the MD of the Shaw Festival and an award winning Composer, not to mention a FIERCE piano dude) on this was fantastic...he was my first rehearsal for the festival...he was open to all ideas and when I said I would love to do a mash up of Pretty Women, Johanna and Pretty Lady he was all ears...he wrote the most amazing arrangement after he, the fabulously talented and kind Patricia O’Callahan and I got together and figured it out....Paul said he resisted the urge to come with something prepared...that he wanted us to create it together....and this my friends...at the risk of sounding lordy....is the heart of what this festival is....yes....reading that back it does sound lordy....but it is true.
Lordy and true.
Then I met with the incomparable and amazing Mike Ross (don’t tell him I said that...I have realized he is the younger brother I never had, yet, kinda wanted...and we like to keep younger brothers a bit in their places....right?) who was the MD of Tom Waits. I listened to some songs on Youtube...he had some suggestions that he sent me...I ended up learning four songs I had never sung before....including a duet....a jazz duet...lord help me...what do I know about jazz...with Don Franks...again a bit nervous...with five players and four singers (most who also played)....all boys...sorry, men...and me. We got together one night to put the show together and when everyone was setting up their instruments and chatting with each other...I just sat there praying... “Please let me be cool enough...oh universe....let me be cool enough”...holy fuck....I have NEVER had that much fun...Denzal Sinclaire, Andrew Penner....the players....Don Franks.... holy fucking doodle...the talent was just...I felt...it really was stunning. I felt like a rock chick...which you all know is all I really want to be...really.
And the Bach Salon...well, what the hell do I do with that????
Suba Sankaran, resident artist at the Young Centre, and MD of this Salon...and all round genious...really...sent me a happy email...asking what songs I knew...and wanted to perform...I sent her the following...
I hope this finds you well and I look forward to meeting you!I am going to start this with honesty...I am a bit stumped!
I am not very familiar (I am embarrassed to say) with Bach's work, as I am sure all of the people attached to this are....
I mean, of course, his melodies are familiar but I never studied them, worked with them or performed them.
Can you believe it?
This is either an insane or inspired place to come from.
In a mad dash I listened to a number of pieces last night and find myself at a bit of a loss for what to suggest...I find this exciting and terrifying at the same time...Are you horrified?
Are you terrified?
I am a tad nervous but I am open...always eager...always up to create...I don't play an instrument, aside from my voice...but I do storytell and write and sing...
I find pieces that are interesting to be Toccata and Fugue in D minor (reminds me of a scary....very scary story that hasn't been written yet) ,Bach's Prelude and Fugue in F Minor (which sounds a lot like SOS by Abba, oddly enough...also an artist named Jem wrote a song based on this)...So, as you can see I am a bit at a loss...when they asked me....of course I said yes....I say yes to anything that scares the hell outta me....”
Instead of being terrified she is so positive that I wrote the aforementioned Scary Story to the Fugue and the Jem song...it was very scary....but exciting...then at the end of the second showing of the Salon...which went awesome, by the by...Suba had all of us standing onstage...Mike Ross (who was also in it...and Sondheim as well), Waleed Abdulhamid (also a resident artist) and Dylan Bell (amazing multitalented musician) and Retrocity the kick ass acapella group...and told us and the audience that we were now going to improvise the ending of a Bach piece that he left unfinished...I just about shit my pants...I did...but you know what...I had that moment of truth where I thought...BE FUCKING BRAVE, MATTHEWS....this is what this shit is all about...
I did it... it wasn’t stunning...but I did it.I have to say, I have NEVER felt more creative...or worked in a place where creation was so....abounding...I know, again...that I sound TOTALLY lordy....but it is true.
I got the chance to work with artists I would have never worked with. I am so glad...I am so very thankful...and not a bit tired.
I was there a lot...as you can imagine...and I watched Albert run from show to show...he sang in the Tom Waits...he announced people...he was there at the end to congratulate people...he loves this festival.
I ran from show to show watching other artists...It is the only cabaret festival in Canada and it consists of ALL CANADIAN artists.
Thank you to Albert, Claire Sakaki, Leslie Lester, T.J. Tasker, Noora Sangarwala, Michael Murphy, Lisa Li, Qasim Khan, Sarah Mackie, J.B. (the awesome soundman in the Baillie theatre), and all the tech and room managers...Ian, Grant, Stephanie, Molly, Kevin, Ky....so many, please forgive me if I forget...the security team...I spent a lot of time there...THANK YOU ALL!!!
Mostly, for a gal who spends a lot of her time working alone or with one other person...it was so great to feel like part of a community. I also felt like my work was being seen by a whole group of new people!
My solo show in the Garland was sold out...THANK YOU JESUS...and my Baillie show was packed...at 3:15pm in the afternoon on a Sunday! Tony Sheldon of Priscilla Queen of the Desert fame came...thanks to Thom...dear Thom who brought Nathan and Tony to the show...and there were reviewers...WHAT?!?!?
The ever supportive Glenn Sumi from Now Magazine and CTV wrote this on twitter after my show... (I am a bit embarrassed....but not embarrassed enough that a gal won’t promote herself...let us just be honest here, people!)
“So here's the thing. @SharronMatthews transforms cabaret into musical/dramatic crack. You can't get enough. Unbe-fucking-lievable.”
Two words...YAY YAY.
So, I know I went on.
I know I talked a lot.But what a time I had.
World Domination continues one day at a time...one place at a time.
Thank you, Albert...you big dreaming son of a bitch!!!!