DORA REHEARSAL

Hey guys,

Sharron and I had rehearsal for the Doras yesterday.  It was fantastic.  It’s going to be a great night, everyone.  Apparently there are 20-30 tickets left if anyone wants to come.  It’s at the Winter Garden Theatre.  Sharron is going to be hilarious, of course.  The songs are really fun.  The band is hot.  It’s a four piece.  And plus, it’s beautiful and summer and life is pretty fun, y’all.  That’s it

Monday June 30, 2008
6pm VIP Star Patrons Reception at Rosewater Supper Club, 19 Toronto Street
8pm Dora Awards Show, 10:30pm After-Party
at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, 189 Yonge St

Tickets on sale as of June 6, 2008

Regular Tickets: $60 – includes Dora Show and After-Party.
To order, contact Ticketmaster 416-872-5555 or http://www.ticketmaster.ca or in person at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Box Centre Office.

VIP Tickets: $160 – includes pre-show VIP Reception at Rosewater Supper Club, priority seating, After-Party and a charitable tax receipt for $100.
To order, call 416-536-6468 ext. 27

For more information visit http://www.tapa.ca/doras

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Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

THEATRE ETIQUETTE

It’s sometimes astonishing how people come to the theatre and (as my grandmother used to say) “don’t have the sense God gave a goose.” Last night during A Little Night Music, a man sitting in the front row fidgetted and fussed through my whole first scene and song. Apparently he was noticed earlier but he really got fussy for me. Don’t I feel special? He would make a big deal of leaning over on his knees, then straighten up and fold his arms, then fuss with his hat and make sighing sounds. Clearly he had been dragged to the show by his wife. And he wasn’t having it but lucky me, he REALLY didn’t seem to want to listen to me. Awesome. Okay, you’re in the front row and tall (so when he leaned forward, he was basically onstage with us) and wearing a bright orange shirt. Do you really think I can’t see you? It was insane. It was like being in a bad sitcom.

Which reminded me of another incident. Nothing makes an actor madder or crazier than when someone comes to see your show, sticks around to see you afterwards and then says nothing to you about the show when you come out the stage door. They stand there and talk to you about other stuff after you’ve just worked your ass off for them and 200 to 2000 people and don’t say a word about what you just did. And it’s especially mind-boggling when it’s someone in or near the business who should know better. When I was doing The Wizard of Oz this past christmas, a friend in the business and his girlfriend came to see the show. They stuck around after the show to say hi to myself and Sharron (Matthews who played the which – and is nominated for a Dora Award for her performance by the way). I was playing Hickory the farmhand who then becomes the Tinman. They were both very friendly and talkative. But he didn’t mention the show at all. And after about 6 minutes into the conversation, his girlfriend says to me, “I loved your farmhand.” . . . . . . .I waited for the punchline . . . . . nothing . . . . . I LOVED YOUR FARMHAND!!!!!!!!!!! I just worked my ass off for 85 minutes in a soup can that I couldn’t sit in, with no intermission, with an audience full of kids, sweating like a mo-fo and all you can say to me is I LOVED YOUR FARMHAND!!!!! Come on, people!!! Is it rocket science? Needless to say, the conversation didn’t last much longer. And it’s not that she’s not a really nice person but REALLY!??? MY FARMHAND????!!!! hahaaha Sharron and I had many laughs about that but not before some choice words of condemnation over lunch that day.

Yes, we are a sensitive people post performance. By we, I mean actors, singers, musicians, live performers in general I’m speaking of at this moment. I think it’s because we work so hard at what we do. And part of what we do is walk out on stage or in front of a camera and we open ourselves up and lay ourselves bare. Vulnerable, we are naked emotionally. And so after a performance, it’s just bizarre and means something if someone hangs out and doesn’t say a thing about what you just spent the last 1 1/2 – 3 hours bleeding out for them. It’s not like they can pretend they didn’t see it.

People are funny. When it’s Joe-Public, then you just have to suck it up. But when it’s people in the business, they should know better and they need an ass-whoopin’. That’s right, I said, whoopin’ and I’m not sorry. 😉

I just realized those two stories are about people who didn’t like me. But I said I’d give you the straight goods, y’all and being Thom Allison is far from always being gravy. And I just referred to myself in the 3rd person. It must be a sign of my trying to distance myself from the emotional shame of being dissed in two shows in the same 6 month period. Ah, show biz!

Published in: on June 22, 2008 at 2:52 pm  Comments (2)  

FOLLIES

Okay, y’all. The concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s FOLLIES starts rehearsals today here at the Shaw Festival. Very excited. We are doing a reading of the script today. No music. I’m looking forward to just hearing the show. And then off we go. I believe we start music rehearsals on Sunday.

On other fronts, it’s really beautiful here in NOTL. The sun is shining. It’s pretty quiet out there. I love my place here. I’m about to do some dishes and then go to the gym. I’m going to enjoy being here for the summer. There are some great bike trails. Great people. I wish there were more patios but that’s okay.

And it’s also that time when things start to bubble about what happens after this season here, which I always like. You know, it’s the whole what do I do for christmas – in terms of work. Who’s doing what? Is there a show to do? And what about next year. They haven’t announced the season for next year for here at Shaw or at Stratford. But I’m starting to here a bit of buzz of possibilities for myself in some other places which is nice to know you’re being thought of for stuff. Nothing definite, just talking. I love that exciting feeling of setting up work that connects – finish one job, and go right into the next. I love change. I love new adventures. I’m really loving my life today. I love where I am. I feel like I’m on the verge of something really great – in terms of personal discovery. I want to write more. I used to write as a youngster (youngster??? – what am I, 100) but somewhere along the way, I got self-conscious and scared. I feel it’s time. I want to explore more of what I’m capable of that I didn’t think I was capable of.

That also applies to work. It’s become very clear to me that I don’t just want to work anymore. I want to really do work that is going to be really fun and/or challenge me. And that means I have to be ready to fail, and sometimes rather publicly. Fine. You have to risk big to gain big. I don’t want to do roles that roles that waste my talents. I don’t want to take work just because I need work. Now, in all honesty, I haven’t taken work just because I need it for a long time. Thank God. I realized a while ago that that just made me angry and it makes me unavailable for the good stuff. (Good for me, that is) So I’m really interested to know what shapes up for after this season. What am I going to do.

I know I’m doing Fred/Petruchio in the concert version of KISS ME, KATE for Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie. That will be really fun. That’s in Nov. After that . . . who knows. Wheeeeeeee

Published in: on June 20, 2008 at 3:00 pm  Comments (1)  

AFTERMATH

Okay, “aftermath” sounds rather dramatic.

I’ve gotten such amazing response to the “Musical Slamming” blog. Thank you all for your incredible generosity of words and spirit. The best part of all is people are talking. I hearing about discussions occurring all over the place. That is great. That’s what creates change. So bravo to all of you for reading and spreading the word.

The kind of cool thing is having written that blog and getting the response makes me want to write more. Not because I think I’m a particularly great writer but because I like that ideas can be expressed that are shared by several, if not many, people and those ideas might be left unsaid otherwise. There is something so comforting about knowing you are not alone.

On other fronts, the shows here are going well. We are well into previews for A Little Night Music. The response has been really positive. We’ve been and, apparently, will continue to be sold out for previews, and the crowds have been really enjoying it from what we’ve heard. I feel like I’m starting to find where Carl-Magnus sits. It’s an easy role to just get ‘barky’ in. He’s so bombastic and I find if I start to bark, it’s hard to sing his first song. I have to really work to keep the breath, thought, intention and sound streaming out. But it’s a welcome challenge. Seriously – I don’t just write that and then in actuality come off stage and say “Damn Sondheim, this sucks. I don’t know why took this part.” LOL One of the things I love about Sondheim is the fact that no one can rest on their laurels. (What are laurels, anyway. And is it comfortable to rest on them? Do they give support if you are on them for a long time?) The cast, musicians and audience all share responsibilities in participating in the story-telling so it can end up so much more fulfilling for everyone.

And as for the Dora Awards, two weeks away as of today. Woohoo. Sharron and I go into Toronto to rehearse next monday. I more or less know the songs. I just need to do a little more work this week. So that’s good. No stress. It’s now about what to wear. Woohoo.

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 2:15 pm  Comments (1)  

MY RECOVERY

I realized I didn’t let you guys know that I’m fine now. The labyrinthitis is gone. Just like the doctor said, it was like a cold. It’s took 10 days. On the eleventh day, the inner “I’m on a ship” feeling was gone and it’s been fine since. Very bizarre feeling.

Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

OKAY, HERE WE GO

Alright, here we go. This is going to be long, I can feel it.

I’m going to try really hard to make this clear. There is an attitude that is shockingly prevalent in the theatre world. It’s an attitude that comes from some – and I repeat SOME – actors and theatre professionals who only do ‘straight’ theatre. {Straight theatre being non-musical shows.} There is this bizarre opinion that musicals are some sort of lower art-form, that it somehow requires less skill or less talent. I don’t know how it started but this needs to be discussed. It’s turning into a bit of a disease in Canada. It is not the same in the States or in Europe. And it seems to come from the smallest, most frightened people in the business. Unfortunately, some of those people are in charge of some theatres or are rather prominent performers in the business. WHERE . . . DO . . . I . . . BEGIN . . . ?

This issue has several facets. I’m going to try to be diplomatic but honest about them as I see it and certainly, it is only my opinion. One, musicals are always a good way to make money for a theatre. Why? People enjoy music. Think about how you feel about your favorite kind of music – it can lift you, calm you, excite you. Well, musicals do just that, they elevate your emotional state. Even darker ones (emotions and musicals). Unfortunately, I think that gets mistaken for lack of depth. And therefore, musicals get passed off as not having emotional truth or validity. On the contrary, music can be a divining rod of truth when well written. This leads to my biggest problem. How any persons who are privileged enough (yes, being an artist is a privilege that must be earned) to call themselves artists can feel they have the right to decide what is art and what isn’t is beyond me. THE MOMENT YOU DECIDE THAT YOUR ART IS BETTER OR MORE VALID THAN SOMEONE ELSE’S IS THE MOMENT YOU STOP BEING AN ARTIST. When you close a door on someone else’s form of expression, you shut a door in your heart, in your soul, in your creativity and it begins a rotting in your artist’s core.

Great people know this truth. Nicholas Hytner, who ran the Royal Shakespeare Company in England and directed Miss Saigon and the wildly successful revival of Carousel on Broadway, knew it. Trevor Nunn, who also ran the Royal Shakespeare Company, and directed Les Miserables, knew it. Tyrone Guthrie, who was the first director at the Stratford Festival of Canada and helped marshall in the first few years there and used musical productions as an integral and respected part of the seasons, knew it. Mr. William Shakespeare, himself, frequently used musical numbers in his plays. He knew the power of music. He knew the stories it helped to tell. These great artistic minds understood how much could be told through the musical form and had the insight and respect for the genre to make theatrical magic happen.

I have to say, a HUGE pet peeve of mine is when individuals who don’t get it, refer to all musicals as ‘MUSICAL COMEDIES’. Musical comedies were basically over in 1957 but thanks for paying attention. Musicals come in every shape and size. To lump Anything Goes (a beautiful, sparkling musical comedy) in with Les Miserables (starving peasants – Hmm not so funny) or The Who’s Tommy (catatonic little boy raped by his uncle – yes, that’s hilarious) as ‘Musical Comedies’ is not just asinine, but it’s lazy and takes huge artistic egotism. It’s belittling and disrespectful.

And in the same vein. I worked on a musical once where the director had never directed a musical before. This director made it very clear that he did not like musicals and he was going to “fix” the genre. He would constantly insult musicals and if someone made a bad acting choice, he would say as a general note, “I don’t want any of that bad musical comedy acting”. Now allow me to paint a picture for you. We weren’t even remotely in a “funny” musical. We were at a relatively well-known theatre. And the cast was comprised of some of the best singing actors in this country. It was constantly shocking and insulting on a daily basis. I was so shocked by what came out of his mouth and so shocked that the more experienced performers didn’t speak up. Needless to say, the show was a disaster and a flop. To this day, it’s a regret of mine I didn’t call him on some of the things he said in the moment. I let myself get overwhelmed. (I was younger then)

I wish I could say this director was the only one I’ve worked with who felt they needed to “fix” the musical. But I think it opens up another issue. The fact that these directors and these other individuals don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ve maybe seen a couple of musicals, done badly, and they’ve decided (because they clearly don’t understand the genre) they don’t like musicals – which is their right – and that musicals aren’t “REAL” theatre -which is not their right. And so they feel the musical has been waiting for their help for the last 100 years. Yes, that’s right, this thriving theatrical genre that is paying the bills of most theatres in North America needs your help to . . . . . . yeah, get back to me on that one.

Now in all fairness, we have a real lack of great musical directors in Canada. (Not that there aren’t any – relax everyone) I don’t pretend to know why that is. I think one of the reasons is as a friend said (could have been Sharron – and I’m definitely paraphrasing) “Musicals are one of the easiest things to do badly but because of the music, it can still be watchable unlike when a play is badly acted” (That was a terrible paraphrase) The point is, because theatres know musicals will bring them money, they don’t always bother to make sure it’s spectacular and just get anyone to do them. Then you have a mediocre show. Then you get people seeing it who don’t like musicals and they see a mediocre show and they decide musicals are no good and then they decide musicals aren’t valid and . . . . ahhh you see a cycle? Also, because someone can have a great voice and not be a great actor, they will often get work in musicals and that can also give musical theatre actors the reputation of not being good actors. So I get that there is that side to it. But I’ve seen my fair share of TEEEERRRRRRRIIIBBBBLLLLLLLEEE non-singing actors but I’ve never just decided all non-singing actors are terrible. And there are so many singing actors in this country who are fantastic. It’s just the terrible ones who get talked about. News Flash: BAD ACTING IS BAD ACTING, Y’ALL!!!

And then there is the patronization of musical performers by non-musical performers. The talking down, the belittling of ideas and input. You see it at the larger festivals by some – I repeat SOME – performers. You will often have musical performers cross-cast into straight plays. I’ve witnessed some appalling treatment of musical performers at the hands of some of the non-musical company. Now I say ‘some’ and I mean ‘some’. I’m happy to say that there are many who do not indulge in that abhorrent, juvenile behaviour. There are amazing, experienced actors and actresses who not only appreciate the skill and technique involved in doing musicals but, in fact are in awe of ‘how many balls you have to keep in the air’ in a musical.

In the States, they understand how talented you have to be to do musicals. And I don’t mean actors who do musicals are more talented than those who do straight plays. It’s just that musical theatre performers have to have a broader skill set. As you have to sing well and sometimes dance well . . .as well. But there are bad singing actors just as there are bad non-singing actors. But somehow, in Canada in particular, a bad non-singing actor is more ‘palatable’. Now, I have to say I’ve been so blessed by the universe in my career. I’ve been in plays and I’ve been in musicals. I love them both and I’m so honoured to have had a career in both with a certain amount of success. But it is very hard to cross over. And even having said that, it is much harder to cross from doing musicals into doing straight plays.

I often check out Playbill Online to see what new plays and musicals are being written, who the performers are who are out there right now; you know, just keeping informed. I’m always thrilled to see how much cross-over there is in the U.S. And we wonder why our performers run away. Canada has a hard time celebrating it’s own. We’re a shy country. And when it’s already hard enough, why make it any harder . . . and on each other? That’s the part that kills me, it’s performer denigrating performer. It’s like devouring your own family.

Okay, so I’m at the end of my rant. It’s not very well written but I was more interested in getting it out. So what I want from all of you is this. Whether you are a performer or not, don’t let trash-talk go unchecked. I encourage all of you to call people on their ‘off-hand’ comments – ie. “It’s only a musical”, “Well, it is a musical”, “I prefer REAL theatre”, etc. Ask individuals to explain their comments. I think if they heard themselves, it would make them rethink their own ideas.

We work so hard as performers and give up so much. We have 6 day weeks, no real holidays other than Christmas, we miss family weddings, vacations, reunions, just to do what we . . .LOVE. And all we can ask for is some respect for what we are putting out there. We can’t do anything about the public opinion, but as artist to artist, we can sure as hell be more supportive than that. We all work too hard.

Whew! I may add on to this or edit in the days to come but for now, I just had to get it out.

Take care of each other, y’all.

Published in: on June 12, 2008 at 11:46 pm  Comments (13)  

MORE TO COME

Okay people, I have a little something to say about an insidious (that’s right, I’m pullin’ out the 5 dollar words)  brand of theatrical snobbery but I haven’t had the chance to sit down and formulate the thoughts.  It’s almost done but check back often cause it’s something I feel needs to be said and people need to know about/thinking about/call people on.

Coming soon . . . . .

Published in: on June 12, 2008 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

DORA NOMINATIONS

No not for me but from some very dear friends.  My BBF Sharron Matthews was nominated for her uber-fabulous re-inventing of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz that we did at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre For Young People last christmas.  And Patty Jamieson who is playing my wife in A Little Night Music was nominated for A Man Of No Importance. (She was awesome – yes I’m still stuck on using awesome)  And I so want to congratulate another pal, Avery Saltzman, co-founder and artistic director of the Harold Green Jewish Theatre, for getting 5 nominations in their fledgling year.  Woohoo.  Go Ave!!!!!  Very exciting.  I’m actually really looking forward to the Doras.  They’re going to be exciting.  For a full list, you can check out this link.

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/118393.htm

Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

HUMAN AGAIN

My children, this is the first day since 2 sundays ago that I’ve felt like myself. It was the first day since the infection that I haven’t had the faintest feeling that I’m on a ship. (That slight rocking feeling internally) I felt like myself and we had two shows today – Wonderful Town then A Little Night Music. And I was fine. I did both shows. Didn’t come offstage and have to use a wall. It was awesome. Now, having said that is was our second preview of Night Music and I felt my Carl-Magnus was tad fussy tonight. To many little things because I wasn’t trusting that I was enough. Not shocking but I need to trust that I’m big enough to hold a moment. I know, for those of you who know me it’s hard to imagine me not thinking I’m big enough. But it’s hard to trust yourself sometimes. And the audience was not as vocal as the first preview. They also seemed rather . . . um . . . mature. Reeeeeaaaaaaalllllllyyyyyyyy mature! Which makes a difference in how things get ‘heard’. But still a lovely group. And it was fun to do it and find more things in front of people.

It’s a heavy week. We have 9 shows this week plus an onstage rehearsal for Night Music tomorrow night. So I’m heading to bed. I also need to get eating healthy and regularly while I’m trying to get myself back on track. Even though I’m feeling better, I’m not going to push it because it’s such a long week. I’m not going to do any extra-curricular things this week – ie. gym, classes, chiro. I’ll just let me head readjust and next week I’ll gradually ease myself back in. I really want to start running/jogging. I think my body would do well in it. I’m so bottom-heavy . . . well, that’s not really right. My weight tends to centre in my lower body (yes, that sounds more humane) and I hear that can be good for runners. It keeps the centre of gravity near the ground.

I also feel like I need to get these shows up so I can focus on myself and my own projects. I have ideas for two cabarets that I might do while I’m here. Well I may do one of them. Plus I want to work on the bod and mind. And I want to enjoy the summer in the beautiful town with the great bike trails and wine tours. Woohoo.

More later.

Published in: on June 5, 2008 at 4:16 am  Leave a Comment  

INTERVIEW

Hey Kids,
So an interview I did a while ago came out last week.  Take a look if you’re interested.

http://moderntheatre.suite101.com/article.cfm/seven_questions_with_thom_allison

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 2:26 pm  Comments (1)