Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tabia Lau discusses with us her inspirations for Indefinitely

Tabia LauWhere do you live?
I’m currently in New York City studying Playwriting at Columbia University.

Where are you from? Hometown?
Montreal, Canada.

What inspires you? What inspired this play?
What’s inspired me has always been the same but I’ve found my bravery has needed to develop as I’ve grown as a writer. I like to write about things I find are important and under-represented in public discussion: Issues of familial violence and loss, the conflict of duty and responsibility, questions of identity and feelings of belonging.  Indefinitely was the start of ideas I wanted to take further, but place out there. I think theatre is a vehicle for change, but it’s also a vehicle for comfort. I find myself inspired by events which change us, force us to think, force us to be. I wanted to write a play that explored the relationship between siblings and ultimately explore how many different kinds of abandonment issues can exist within the family circle.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?
I think the greatest challenge facing all writers today is themselves. The internet has become a main and most popular medium for people to find art, to find ideas, and everything is free. Additionally, getting published is continually pressed into our minds as the finish line and top of the pyramid we should aim for, for our ideas are only validated once we can place it in our resumes. Broadway and the public theatre scene is stressing types of plays, or searching for something fresh, new, entertaining, bold, challenging, pertinent, baffling, subtly awesome, touching. Finally, critics now existing in print and online being distributed faster than the blink of an eye, and it’s truly impossible to hone your craft without acknowledging their reviews, and trying to extrapolate the constructive criticism. I think writers these days are filled with so many voices and expectations we place on ourselves, the most important thing is to stay true to your voice and keep developing it, keep working, and never stop improving.

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Jump Reviewed: What did you think?

Dear C’est La Vie Listeners,
Christian Baines at The Charlebois Post has reviewed our podcast Jump. I have reposted his review below for you to read. He was pretty critical of the writing and performance. We want to know what you thought. Did you like the play? Or hate it? Do you agree with Christian? Are there parts you liked and other sections you did not? Please put your comments in the comments section below. (Comments are approved only to filter out spam, all respectful comments that relate to Jump will be posted whether they are positive or negative.) We want to know what you think.
Did you like the dialog?
Natalie suggested in her article that she tried to base Jerry off of her grandfather and then create a situation for him to react within. I feel that I get to know Jerry throughout this play. I can imagine her grandfather. What do you think?
Did the characters seem convincing to you?
How about the pacing? Were you bored?
Did you like the voices of the actors?
Here is the review:

Multi-Media, January 18, 2013

The Abyss
C’Est la Vie begins its new season of podcasts
by Christian Baines
Sam is a young, newly single man on the brink of suicide. Jerry is a much older, long-married Ukrainian ex-pat who first urges him not to jump, but is soon tempted to follow. From their opposite ends of the spectrum, both are locked in a struggle to survive. Men teetering on the edge… get it? And that tagline is pretty indicative of the play itself. Long on familiar, ham-fisted clichés and short on emotional gravitas – and mercifully, duration.
C’Est La Vie Theatre has set itself an interesting challenge in podcasting plays without the aid of visuals. Such a task demands scripts that are absolutely clear in their setting and intent, with nary a line wasted. Jump is not one such script. In fact, it takes some time for it to become clear in this format exactly what Sam intends to do. By the time this emerges, Jerry is threatening to join him, and in truth, it’s hard to take either of their threats seriously.  The commitment and weight just isn’t there in either actor’s voice.

Perhaps we just aren’t given enough time to connect with either of these characters. Sam sounds more like a whiny teenager than someone seriously considering self-harm, while Jerry’s explanation for not telling his wife he has cancer feels like a cheap contrivance wedged in because writer Natalie Gershtien needed such a device to get him standing alongside Sam. The dialogue isn’t witty enough to play the piece as comedy either.

@XtianBaines
One gets the impression that Gershtien is going for some insight into two people from opposite worlds both confronting the inevitable disappointments and shortcomings of their lives. But the characters aren’t interesting and the dialogue ranges from merely serviceable to truly asinine.
By the time we roll around to Sam imploring Jerry that he shouldn’t jump because he’d never again taste his wife’s delicious sandwiches, we’re ready to get behind both men and push.

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Liz Truchanowicz: Talks to us about Theatre & Beauty

Liz TruchanowiczWhere do you live? Where are you from? Hometown?

I currently live in Montreal, but I’m originally from Mississauga, in the suburbs of Toronto. I was born in Poland, but Mississauga and Toronto have always felt like my hometown.  I moved here in the mid-90s to come to McGill to study archaeology.  Which I completed and worked in Toronto for a bit as an archaeologist. I then returned to Montreal to do a theatre degree as well. I was in my early-mid 20s and realized I didn’t want to wonder if..I didn’t want to wake up when I was 40 or 50 and wonder why I never tried. So I picked up and went back to school. Can’t say I’ve looked back. I ended getting my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Directing and have been working pretty continuously since then.  So for now I live in Montreal, I tend to take it year by year.  Depending on the work I have here. So far Montreal has treated me well.

When did you start directing?

I started directing when I came back to Montreal to pursue my theatre degree. I hadn’t really directed before, but I had participated in theatre since my elementary school days.  I did, however, learn in grade 10 that I should never act again, and short of some small collaborations, I have kept true to that. I prefer to remain behind the scenes.

Why did you start directing theatre?

I’ll be honest and say I don’t know. When I came back to school, even though I hadn’t directed before I knew that was what I wanted to do. There is something very appealing to me about guiding the entirety of the vision of a production. I enjoy that the director is involved in every aspect of a production and ultimately, with a team, creates a whole. I want to tell beautiful stories on stage.

What inspires you?

Beauty. I am a very visual person and striking visual images inspire me more so than stories do, which I suppose is  bit ironic as theatre is about telling stories.  I am especially drawn to sharp contrasts – either black & white or colour, seemingly unnatural nature, hard lines, haute couture,  Alexander McQueen, Piet Mondrian, pop art, retro, specks of light bound by darkness.

Currently I am obsessed with the colour blue (vibrant cobalt) dismembered branches, lighting installations, silhouettes, and lace. I’m not exactly sure what that all means, but it’s to what my mind and my eye is currently drawn.

I took this picture a while ago, and I find it very intriguing and is very emblematic of what types of images draw me in.

Blue Edit

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than directing?

I guess I do, but I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had a day job outside of theatre for a long time. I am also an administrator and currently work for the Magnetic North Theatre Festival as the Compass Points Curator (which is a program for theatre students and emerging artists). I am also expanding my skill set and have in the last year begun working on television and film projects in production. Though I don’t have an interest (at the moment! Never say never…!) in directing for that medium, I am interested in learning how it all works from a production point of view.

How long did it take you to direct this play?

I did director’s homework over a few weeks  and then had two rehearsals with my actors. I haven’t directed a radio play, which ultimately is what this is, in a long time and it is not my forte, I found it be an interesting challenge. I would probably have prepared differently knowing what I know now. Looking back on it, I think I would have liked to have been the editor, I wonder, a director’s cut of a podcast play! Could such a thing work?!  Given a future opportunity I would probably approach it more like a film than theatre actually. I think with podcast plays the emphasis needs to move away from the rehearsal time to the post-production time.

What do you like best about directing theatre compared to other mediums or other theatre work?

What I like the best is the artistic freedom. Now some would disagree with me, but I think that in the theatre, you have the greatest freedom. I think the theatre can equally be a place of discourse and of entertainment . It is the place of shared, ephemeral experience. Everyone in the room experiences the same story (whether narrative in nature or not), but no two people experience the same event.

I also believe that theatre can never replicate the realism of television and film and needs to stop trying. I believe once you accept this, there is immense freedom in theatrical expression.

What is the greatest challenge you think directors/thespians face today?

 I think the greatest challenge facing young theatre artists today is mediocrity. I think that sometimes in fear of not selling tickets or of not challenging  ourselves we tend toward the safe and the sellable. I think we need to not be afraid of new and original work, not be afraid of failing spectacularly, not be afraid of rigor. In all your work. I think trying to create something palatable is the death of art. Some people’s work is undeniably more popular in nature, but that equally is nothing to fear.   I understand it’s hard when it’s your own money on the line, but I think young artists should strive to create the art that is inside of them, rather than what they think the audience wants. You may not find your audience right away, but they are out there. I believe that great, not just good, but great work comes from knowing the rules first – and then choosing which ones to break and from unfaltering rigor.

I also think that comparison is horrible. Comparing yourself to your peers or friends will only get you in trouble. Everyone moves at their own pace through life, through art. Comparing where you are at to where others are at is a great way to end your creative drive and yet it is so easy to do.

What kind of support do you have for your directing? 

I suppose I don’t have any support in terms of financial or an established theatre where I am in residence at . However I do feel like I have a wonderful support system in that I have a variety of amazing artists I have worked with over the years that want to collaborate with me again on future projects. That support money can’t buy. Well I suppose it can, but you know what I mean.

Are you on FB, Twitter, Flicker? Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you? 

I am on Facebook, but I limit it to people I’ve met in real life! You can, however, check out my website at http://www.theatreinactu.com and contact me through there and I promise to always respond! I am also on Pinterest and you can follow me there  – http://pinterest.com/liztruch/ – aside from a plethora of baking and cooking ideas I also pin images and design I find striking and inspirational.

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Jump

Dear C’est La Vie Listeners,

Today we have Jump by Natalie Gershtien directed by Liz Truchanowicz.

Actors:
Sam – Bryan Libero
Jerry – Bill Fletcher

A play about two men on opposite ends of the spectrum, Jump follows Sam and Jerry as they teeter on the edge. What unfolds is a relationship that reveals each man’s inner struggle to survive, and their journey to find common ground and solid footing.

Enjoy.

 

PS. We are having difficulty getting our podcast into the iTunes directory. However, you can still subscribe to the podcast within iTunes. To do so follow these instructions:

File -> Subscribe to Podcast-> then type http://www.cestlavietheatre.ca into the ULR box.

If you have any difficulties with this please let us know in the comments section.

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Community Corner: Natalie Gershtein talks to us about Jump

Hello and welcome to your backstage pass to what’s going on at C’est La Vie Theatre, the CLV Community Corner. In this space we’ll be having interviews with the writers and actors of this season’s plays, competitions, local play happenings, and your own submissions to us. So stay tuned for bonus material.

This is a space for completely open discussion and it will be your best resource to find out what’s new with CLV. We are looking forward to engaging conversations with CLV collaborators and audiences. We encourage you to comment on all of our posts – don’t be shy now!

We look forward to some great times ahead with the community and without further ado let’s start off this new season with our first of many interviews!


Natalie Gershtein
We sat down with Natalie, the author of Jump (which we will be airing next week)  and talked to her about herself and her inspirations.

Where do you live?

I currently live in New York City. However, when I wrote Jump, I lived in Montreal. Ironically, when I lived in Montreal Jump was produced in New York, and now that I live in New York, it is being produced in Montreal. These two cities are always tugging at my heart.

Where are you from? Hometown?

I am from Toronto (or more specifically, Richmond Hill, which is north of Toronto).

When did you start writing?

Rummaging through old boxes while moving, I found old journals and stories that I wrote when I was as young as 8. I convinced my 8-year-old self that I wanted to write a children’s book, and found the first three chapters in a notebook, stowed away in an old hat box. I think it’s safe to say I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil.

Why did you start writing?

I have always loved to write. Journal writing is incredibly important to me, both as a documentation of my life and as a way to get my thoughts down on the page. I feel like once they are down on paper, I can stop holding on to them in my brain.

What inspires you?

Writing, as an act, inspires me. It has always played a therapeutic role in my life, and has provided a creative outlet for my thoughts. I hold many idyllic memories in my mind and heart of dimly-lit cafes, balconies overlooking the ocean or my room at twilight, where I can see myself scribbling away in a notebook that calls to me for some reason or other. Writing in cursive inspires me (however, I always type my plays out on a computer, despite my strict rule to journal write with a notebook and a pen). I am inspired by human interaction and interpersonal relationships. I tend to write dialogue-centered work, rather than plot driven writing. My family inspires me. Similarly, cultural backgrounds are interesting to me, and I have come to accept my Russian heritage more and more as I grow older. I realized this after reading Chekhov in undergrad. I had a different reading of his plays than most of my non-Russian peers, and it hit me in that moment that you can’t escape your upbringing.

What inspired this play?

My grandfather inspired the conception of Jump. It developed out of an experiment to base characters off of real people that I can know and understand, as well as imagine, and see how they do pinned up against one another. These two characters developed symbiotically, as I tried to create a situation where each would be forced to interact and change because of the other.

How long did it take you to write this play?

The heavy lifting really happened in one night. I had the inspiration, and stayed up all night writing. My computer tells me I created the documented on April 23, 2011 at 12:41am and worked the first draft until 5:24am. Following that night, I sent the play to a select number of friends who I trusted to give me honest feedback. I remember I didn’t come back to the play right away. The editing period took a couple of months before I finally sent it off to be considered by theatre companies.

What do you write other than plays?

Essays. I used to write poems and songs when I was younger. I dabbled with short stories for a time, but the moment I discovered playwriting, that was it. No other medium could complete… Except essays, of course… when you’re a student, nothing can compete with essay writing.

On a more personal level, I am a huge journal writer, and I love to write letters.

What time of day do you write best?

My creative writing brain turns on from around 12am-5am in the morning. I’m a night owl.

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?)

While I have heard that working in bed is “not good for you” (supposedly it disrupts your sleeping place by confusing it with your working place), this is not the case for me. My bed is my sanctuary. I am most creative as I am just about to fall asleep, and tend to stay up late hours when I feel inspired to write. I own a desk, but I use it as a placeholder for the millions of papers and notes I find lying around my apartment. To date, I’ve never sat at it. The first stages of Jump occurred in one all-nighter in Montreal. Subsequently, many cafés were visited during the editing stages. I am a fan of a nice Mocha with a chocolate chip scone.

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

My affinity for dialogue is what draws me to playwriting. Moreover, the possibility that these words could be brought to life is exciting! The first time I heard one of my plays on stage, I was floored. I learned a valuable lesson from that experience that continues to influence my work to this day. I learned that my personality, beliefs and ideas were hidden behind my words. Since then, I’ve worked on shaping my writing. On the one hand, I try to maintain the parts of my work that make them unique to me, but on the other, I have tried to expand my mind to be able to write outside of my own character, to be able to truthfully portray other people.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?

For me, my daytime life gets in the way of my nightly writing-life. However, as someone who enjoys writing as a hobby, I am willing to sacrifice sleep on a particularly inspired night to write. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a writer who wishes to turn his or her writing-life into his or her whole life. It takes daily practice, like working out a muscle, to develop writing skills – not to mention enough diligence and discipline to keep at it. I would have to say that financial stressors are probably the greatest, if not one of the greatest, challenges that writers face: striving to balance a day job with an art that takes daily work and toil.

What kind of support do you have for your writing? Writing centres, groups etc.

My friends provide me with the greatest support system. I am blessed to have a few wonderfully creative and trustworthy friends who I share my writing with. It takes years to develop a relationship where there can be real trust and honesty. It takes even longer to learn the language of the person who you are trusting with your work and vice versa. Everyone has a unique way of expressing themselves. Everyone speaks their own language. It is the responsibility of both the writer and the editor to allow the writer’s language to stay their own, while still working towards improving the work.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

Currently, my “day-job” is being a Graduate Student at Columbia University. I’m working towards my MFA in Theatre Management and Producing.  The program allows me to experience the theatre industry in New York by working in both the commercial and not-for-profit sectors on Broadway, Off-Broadway and beyond. I am also Co-Founder and Producer of a theatre company in Montreal called Beautiful City Theatre. BCT is about to open with its inaugural production, Godspell, at Centaur Theatre on January 24, 2013, running from Jan 24-26 and Jan 31-Feb 2nd.

Are you on FB, Twitter, Flicker? Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

Beautiful City Theatre’s FB page: www.facebook.com/beautifulcitytheatre
(FR) Théâtre Belle Cité FB account: www.facebook.com/theatre.cite
Beautiful City Theatre’s Twitter: @B_CityTheatre
Beautiful City Theatre’s Website: www.beautifulcitytheatre.com
Contact Email: n.gershtein@beautifulcitytheatre.com

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Zip & Wick #72: Endings

Hi C’est La Vie Listners,

Here is Zip & Wick #72: Endings by Tabia Lau.

In the near future, humankind has been destroyed. As the world draws to a close, our superheroes, Zip and Wick, have a chance meeting in Paris. Will our two archenemies find comfort, connection, and acceptance in this final encounter?

Happy Listening!

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Redshift

Dear C’est La Vie Listeners,

Happy New Years!

Here is Redshift by Ed McNamara.

A play about Love & War by Ed McNamara, Redshift explores the ties between Rufus and Syriana. More complicated than it seems, their relationship pushes the audience to consider trust, loyalty, desire, and ultimately, love.

Happy Listening!

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