And Now for Something Completely Different…

I suppose the time has come to write about my current situation, if for no other reason than a multitude of individuals who have said to me in the last few days, “I expect much blogging while you are laid up the next few weeks.”

I think that was one of the things that made me take an hiatus from blogging – the sense of having to meet expectations. I started it because I just wanted to get things down for myself, but soon I was writing for everyone but me. But that is of course the dilemma every creative thinker faces, is it not? Do I write, paint, play, sing, sculpt, or whatever else it is I consider my raison d’etre for my own satisfaction, or do I do it for those whose opinions I hold in even higher regard – my audience, though I may be loath to admit it. I suspect, like most things in my experience, the truth lies somewhere in between, consisting of x parts one and truth – x parts the other.

But to return to the subject at hand: on Friday morning (Jan 9/08) I shall report to Guelph General Hospital’s Day Surgery ward to undergo a procedure to repair the Achilles tendon on my left foot. It seems I have a knack for putting my foot in it (as my wife Roberta will confirm) and this time what I put my foot in was a hole in the floor backstage at Guelph Little Theatre. The details of exactly how it happened are largely unimportant. Let it suffice to say,”Black floor + black hole x large differential bifocals = Ouch!” If you have no idea what the bifocals have to do with it, ask someone who wears them.

And so I find myself faced with the prospect of surgery, followed by several weeks in a cast, then more time in a walking cast, and who knows how many sessions of excruciating physio-therapy. Oooh! – what fun! But then I suppose it could always be worse. There will be time to think, to write, to sort, to meditate, to vegetate, and of course, to blog.

I strongly suspect that this may well be one of those, be careful what you pray for scenarios. As the New Year unfolded I found myself offhandedly praying for more time to engage in all of the above – especially the writing. Then this happens. Powerful stuff prayer. Use at own risk!

So there you have it, the back story to where these ramblings will be coming from for the next little while. If you would like to support me in some way during my period of recovery then I ask you to click your way over to the Guelph Little Theatre website and book a few tickets for “The Curious Savage“. It is the delightful little comedy I was working on the preparation for when this happened. Yes I know, it’s a shameless plug; but if it sells out in a stampede of sympathetic consumerism it shall serve to bolster my self-esteem as I will have ‘taken one for the team.’

What is “The Curious Savage“? It is the story of three siblings, five friends, two attendants, and a woman and her bear; all drawn together by means of foolish expectations and not so foolish dreams. Yes, it is a rather cryptic description I know, but then, where’s your curiosity?

Until next time then, I covet your prayers, your well-wishes, and your contributions to the box office.

Shalom

If You Can’t Stand the Laughter, Get Out of the Kitchen

Okay so here’s the situation… You are the producer/director of your mother’s cable-access cooking show. You get the word that the show has been cancelled and during the final episode, your mom’s chief rival shows up to disrupt things. After all, her show’s been cancelled too, and with the history that exists between her and your mom, she’s not going down without settling a few things first. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this is the week you’ve chosen to stop smoking!

Such is the starting point of “Kitchen Witches”, Caroline Smith’s hilarious comedy. Directed by Denise Gismondi and produced by Jim Monaghan it is the latest offering by Elora Community Theatre. Performances are being held at the Fergus Grand Theatre, 8pm each evening (Sunday Matinee – 2 pm), April 25 – 27 and May 1 – 3, 2008.


Yes, it’s shameless self promotion time again, and once more I make no apologies. “Kitchen Witches” is my latest adventure as a soundscape designer. The unique challenge to face this time around is the production of some original music for the show. The play centers around a cable access cooking show and like any good TV program it needs a theme. And simply re-cycling the music from the Galloping Gourmet or even Bewitched isn’t going to cut it. Besides somebody, somewhere likely still holds the copyright and they’d want their piece of the action.

Fortunately, I had the assistance of a very talented young man by the name of Ben Leibovitz. He came up with a great theme and with the help of some local singers and my friend Brian’s in-home recording studio we’re getting the job done. The final mix should be ready some time next week.

The show is also giving me an opportunity to work once more with Ken Cameron. I was privileged to work with Ken on “Death of a Salesman” at Guelph Little Theatre a while back, and in “The Missing Piece/Peace” with In the Light Productions this past Christmas. This time around Ken plays the role of the producer/director in “Kitchen Witches” and has to referee the tussles between the troublesome twosome. I have really come to admire Ken’s talent and professionalism and I’ll tell you, if I wasn’t already involved with the show, I’d be coming out to see it anyway just to enjoy watching Ken do what he does so well.

So if you’re going to be in the Fergus/Elora area during the run of the play (again that’s April 25 – 27 and May 1 – 3, 2008 at the Fergus Grand Theatre) do yourself a favour and come out for an evening of fun and laughter with Community Theatre at It’s Best.

Tickets are available in advance by calling Ralph Basset Associates @ (519) 843-4852 -or- Long Distance (866) 500-6652. The box office open one hour before each performance.

 

Thank You All for Your Support

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I want to thank all of you who attended our Christmas production, “The Missing Piece/Peace”. It was a great run and in tickets sales, donations received and raising awareness of the work that iProjects.ca does in the third world – it was a tremendous success! Thank you and may God bless you all!

I’m always of two hearts when a show ends; on one hand I’m glad the work is over and there are no more ghost glitches to track down, on the other hand after three months working with some great people there is a hole left by their absence. I know I’ll see many of them again but I miss the camaraderie.

I particularly want to express my thanks to Marion, Julie, Katura, Faith, Verese, Michael, Alan, Mike, Mark, Laural, and Adam. I have mixed a number of bands and chorus in my time, but this is the most fun I’ve had in years. No matter how tired I might have been when I arrived at rehearsal, no matter how much the day may have worn me down, listening to these talented singers and musicians work their craft always brought me back to life. Bless you all.

So… with the show over, and Christmas 2007 all but out of the way, life will soon fall back into it’s usual routine. But there will be new projects I’m sure, and I look forward to the adventure.

Merry Christmas Everyone! And may God bless you richly!

— Dennis Gray —

The Cast and Crew of “The Missing Piece/Peace” (click for larger image)


The Missing (Piece) Peace

Every year I find myself taking on at least one major theatrical effort. For many years it was either with road companies or in church groups, but the last two years I find myself working in community theatre. Last year, as some of you may remember, I was priveledged to work with some great people on a production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Saleman.” This year I find myself doing soundscape design once again on a new production called “The Missing Piece Peace.”

Written by Deborah Briggs and Alan Garrett “The Missing Piece Peace” is a Christmas production with a difference. I can’t go into a lot of detail without spoiling the experience, but trust me this is not your parent’s Sunday School Christmas play.Taking place in different dimensions and different time zones, it chronicles one man’s struggle to make sense of it all. I’ll leave it at that. The play features a great cast under the direction of Deborah Briggs; and Alan Garrett as Musical Director adds his own touch to the proceedings with a live 7-voice chorus accompanied by a five-piece ensemble. All in all it promises to be a wonderful dramatic and musical experience.

But if that isn’t enough, there’s an even more compelling reason to take in “The Missing Piece Peace” this holiday season. All of the proceeds from the ticket sales will be going to assist iProjects.ca in funding the building of an orphange in Peru. The land for the project has already been acquired and they are now looking to build the needed buildings.

iProjects.ca (Isaiah Projects) is a Christ centered charitable organization, working in partnership with local leaders in third world countries to help fund infrastructural development projects that will significantly impact the lives of the local people. Projects are selected on the basis of how they will offer hope and improve the quality of life for individuals with a bias towards helping the young and most needy in society. Iprojects funds the construction of schools, orphanages, youth centres and other projects which empower youth to become leaders in their own communities therefore enabling them to have a positive influence in the area where they live.

In addition, we are also asking patrons to bring Canadian Tire money and/or pop cans to be donated to Habitat for Humanity to help them in their efforts.

So if you are going to be in the Guelph area this holiday season I would ask you to contribute to two great causes and enjoy a great show by attending “The Missing Piece Peace.” Performances are being presented at Guelph Little Theatre, on the following dates:

Saturday, December 15, 2007 @ 2pm & 8pm

Sunday, December 16, 2007 @ 2pm

Thursday, December 20, 2007 @ 8pm

Friday, December 21, 2007 @ 8pm

Saturday, December 22, 2007 @ 2pm & 8pm

 

All seats are $17 and available through the Guelph Little Theatre box office by calling 519-821-0270 or through their website at www.guelphlittletheatre.com

Thanks everyone… and see you at the show!!

—–

WE’RE GOING TO FESTIVAL

The Guelph Little Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is has been selected for the Western Ontario Drama League‘s Festival during March Break!!

This has been an amazing experience. I have to admit, when Lloyd Lindsay (our director) first asked me to be a part of this production, I was a little reluctant. But I am so glad I said , “Yes.”

I have long wanted to be a part of a production of “Death of a Salesman.” I think I was one of only a handful of kids back in high school who ‘got it’ when the teacher tried to explain it’s significance. There are some plays that just define what theatre is all about and what it accomplishes beyond mere entertainment. “Death of a Salesman” is one such play.

I knew as we went through the process we were putting together a fine production. — our selection to Festival confirms it. There is a wealth of talent to be found here that is exceeded only by the dedication that accompanies it.

I want to take the time to thank the entire cast and crew for what has proven to be an incredible learning experience for me. At over 50 years of age I am learning more and more just how much I have yet to learn. My gratitude and admiration goes out especially to the ‘tech support’ team I was so privileged to be a part of..

Gary ChapmanTechnical Director/Master Carpenter – having someone else who spoke ‘my language’ around made being the rookie a lot easier. Gary – you’re the best.

Greg InsleyProducer – This former ‘sound guy’ has certainly found his true calling as a producer. Thanks Greg for your incredible support. (And yes.. I still have two computers.)

Ruth ConnorStage manager – I’ve been away from theatre for nearly two decades, but you made me feel like I never left. Thank you.

Lynn ChapmanSet Decor/Properties – Definitely the hardest working person I have ever met. It tires me out just thinking about how much work you do. Amazing!

Lynn FisherDramaturge/Costume Design – Every night as I came into the theatre, I was met by your lovely smile and a warm greeting that always made me feel like I belonged. Thank you so much.

Anna Graham & Anthony “Pooch” BrownLighting Design – Watching the two of you paint the set with light was a joy to behold. Thanks Pooch for your help as well solving a few technical challenges. You guys are terrific!

Davian HartLighting Operator – I really enjoyed working with you in the booth, Davian. Every time I hear someone of my generation complain about ‘kids these days’ I’m going to point them in your direction. Now we just have to sort out what music we’re playing in the hotel in Sarnia. Jazz vs Heavy metal – tough choice!

Andreen Harwood Costume Design , Kelly InsleyProperties , Deb WoodwardHair & Makeup , Paul CheesmanAssistant Stage Manager – I didn’t work with you folks directly, what with you being backstage and me up in the booth (thought thanks for keeping an eye on the back stage amps Kelly), but I did get to see see the results of your efforts and your dedication to your crafts. It was also great to hear your stories about your experiences in the theatre. You guys are amazing!

Lloyd LindsayDirector/Mentor/Friend – Lloyd, there are those who consider me a fairly articulate person, but somehow I lack the words. It’s been a great ride Lloyd! Thanks ever so much for inviting me along. God bless you!

I could not write about this without saying something to the cast of “Death of a Salesman.” I want the thirteen of you to know that you made my job one of the most difficult times I have ever spent behind a sound board. Take it easy – that’s actually a compliment.

Watching you people perform was amazing! Even after ten shows and I don’t know how many rehearsals you still managed to grab hold of both my mind and my heart and made me want to just sit there and watch. Usually it’s boredom and repetition that gets in the way of my job. Not with you folks! I would have given anything to spend just one performance sitting in the audience enjoying the experience. Thank you so much. You are a credit to your craft.

I’ll avoid the impossible task of picking favorites by thanking you in order of appearance..

Gerry ButtsWillie Loman – You tore my heart out Gerry!

Liz (Stokes) PoultonLinda Loman – More than once Liz — I cried.

Rob Gray ‘Happy’ Loman – (no relation) – Though I’d be proud if you were!

Adam Waxman Biff Loman – Someday, I just know I’ll be turning to someone and saying, “You know, I worked with him once!”

John LicariBernard – Actor and musician, you are a substantial talent John. I’m a fan.

Tracey KenyonThe Woman – The “Other Woman” is an oft underrated role. No one will ever underrate your talent. Well done!

Jim MonaghanCharley – Thanks Jim, you’re sense of humour was quite often just what I needed. – A salesman doing “Salesman” – what a concept.

Paul DuncanUncle Ben – From that first day reading through the script I knew you’d be great ‘Ben’. I wasn’t wrong – well done!

Ken CameronHoward – “Authentic” sounding recordings are one thing Ken, authentic performances are another. Thanks for the authenticity you brought to the stage.

Mary LillicoJenny/Waitress – Some people’s contribution goes well beyond what happens on stage – so it is with you. You often brightened my day, Thanks Mary.

Ryan KotackStanley – Ryan, I know I need unique New York. I also need to see more of your work in future. Great job!

Liz GallagherMiss Forsythe – Will you accept a compliment from a stranger? You ought to be on stage. Oh wait – you have been! Told ya Stanley!

Kimberley YoungLetta – The best dressed cordless power drill operator I’ve ever met. Pretty good actress too! Congrats.

If I’ve missed anyone please understand it wasn’t for lack of trying. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I thanks to you all for your part in it.

See you in Sarnia!!

Dennis Gray