Monday, July 28, 2014

The Confidential Music Theatre Project

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to be a part of something magical.

It started 6 weeks ago, when I walked into my voice lesson feeling kinda bummed out. It was mostly due to 'a change in direction by the producers'  resulting in me losing a singing gig that I was really excited about. I was also feeling run down in my ongoing hunt for an agent and disappointed that I hadn't gotten times for a couple of auditions that I was stoked about. These are totally normal occurrences and feelings in this industry, but everything had just piled up and I was feeling a bit disheartened. I told my voice teacher about how I was feeling at the start of our lesson. We had a great session together and she mentioned that there was a project she was working on that may need someone like me. SO nice. The offer + the lesson was a definite pick me up, and just what I needed.

The next day I was contacted by Robert, one of the organizers of The Confidential Music Theatre Project. He told me that they were assembling a cast who would learn well-known (but not done often enough) show on their own and then put it on for an audience, who wouldn't know what show they were seeing until they arrived at the theatre. The cast would gather an hour before the show and then perform. It was the very first time they were going to be doing this and were really excited about the show choice. I was intrigued and excited so of course I said yes!

Then I learned what the show was.

I found out that I had agreed to play the Nurse / Harriet in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. Not only was I excited, but now I was mildly terrified. I am confident in my singing and acting abilities, but I had just signed on to learn a show by STEPHEN FUCKING SONDHEIM on my own to be performed with a group of unknown people for the very first time in front of an audience. (For those who aren't musical theatre aficionados, Stephen Sondheim is an amazing composer who has written shows like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd and Follies and writes incredibly difficult (and brilliant!) music and harmonies). I equated it to having sex for the first time - you have an idea of what you're doing before it happens, you've practiced on your own and then you jump in head first with another person not really knowing how it will really go. Except my first time was going to be with a cast of others AND an audience. How's that for pressure?

I slowly started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and had fun keeping the secret of the show's identity. I realized I knew some people in the cast and poured over my script and score as much as I could. In the days leading up to the show, I could hardly believe what we were about to do. Tickets were selling well and it became apparent that this crazy, secret, theatrical experiment was going to be a real thing!

The day of the show arrived and I needed to trust that I knew everything as well as I was going to know everything. My role wasn't huge, but I still had some solo bits and was certainly challenged learning harmonies on my own. The cast met 90 minutes before the show, quickly went through the Act Two finale and that was it! I posted a video that joked that I was distracting myself from puking, when really the whole thing just felt surreal. The Berkeley Street Theatre was pretty much sold out and we learned that the audience wasn't actually going to be told what the show was - we were just going to start after an introduction from Robert. With scripts in hand, we took our seats on stage and James Woods (our George) began.

One of my very favourite moments of the whole night happened as soon as James uttered his first few words, and it was then that I realized the magic of this project. He started, and I watched a gal in the audience visibly LIGHT UP and gasp. I later learned that it was her very favourite show and she was over the moon thrilled to be seeing it onstage.

The cast was incredible. It was beautiful to watch James and Blair Irwin as George and Dot/Marie. There were awesome demonstrations of spontaneity that you often see at first reads for shows, but everyone did an amazing job at building relationships and familiarity without really having met one another previously. As the Nurse in act one, I had a blast playing with Qasim Khan in our few moments together (and hilariously asking backstage, "what's your name again?!") I can identify one noticeable moment where the whole thing went off the rails (somewhere around part 396 of 'Putting it Together). The whole thing went by in a blur, with our audience generously giving us a standing ovation after both act one and act two. When it was all over, we were all exhausted, exhilarated and generally in awe that we had done it.

After a very late night (considering we previewed, opened, closed & cast partied all in one night), I woke up the next day feeling very inspired. The fact that I was a part of something entirely unique and incredibly special was not lost on me and I was so grateful to have had the chance to be onstage with a such a generous, brave and talented group of performers. I was thankful for the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and do something mildly terrifying and mostly thrilling in front of an audience.

And while Sondheim's melodies are complex and his lyrics can be wordy, I can't stop humming the songs and revisiting moments in the show. The music and lyrics resonate pretty deeply and the entire experience has been a reminder that I'm on the right path with so many possibilities to follow.

"White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities..."

- George, Sunday in the Park with George

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Love List - July

Hello sunshine!! I am loving the summer weather and adventures that naturally follow. Here's what's making me extra happy this month.

Toronto Fringe
Over the last week my world has been flipped over by Fringe and I feel like it's actor Christmas once again. While I'm not in a show this year, it's been a ton of fun to see all sorts of shows, run into everyone I know and hang out at the Fringe tent. So far I've seen 7 shows with my favorites being Toronto I Love You (hilarious improv all about Toronto and such a stellar line up from Bad Dog Theatre. We saw it on opening and our show focused on Wychwood Barns, Sushi on Roncy and the Downsview airport hangar / concert venue), Punch Up (brilliant comedy from Writer, Director and Fringe regular, Kat Sandler with a stellar cast), Potosi (winner of the new play contest with a fantastic script & cast), Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl (by my ridiculously talented friend Rebecca Perry) and Roller Derby Saved my Soul (which kinda made me want to pick up roller derby...) The Fringe runs until Sunday night and I plan to see even more shows and spend way too much time socializing in the Fringe tent. Like I said, it's basically Christmas. Check out this great list from Torontoist with even more recommendations. 

Roadtrip Adventures
Corbin and I took a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake over the long weekend to visit the Shaw Festival to see Cabaret. Not only did we get to see Cabaret, but we got to see my dear friend Tara CONDUCT Cabaret. She is the Musical Directing intern at Shaw this year and I was so proud to see her in the pit conducting the orchestra and cast! The show was great. I loved the set (which included a giant, rotating staircase in the centre of the stage), the costumes and the performances from the cast were mesmerizing. Corbin and I really enjoyed our day in the city including a lovely little picnic and some gelato following the show. The drive was gorgeous and it was a really incredible day all around. Bravo, Tara!

Feeling Inspired
I had a moment during the opening of Cabaret (Willkommen, bienvenue...) where I got really teary as I thought to myself "Yes, THAT is what I want to be doing". To make matters worse, Corbin leaned over and said "You need to be up on that stage" (cue even more tears).

This year has been quite the ride, but there have been a few moments where I've doubted myself and wondered if I was on the right path. Performing is all that I've wanted to do for my entire life and for a long time I made it a side project and not the thing I gave all of my attention to. Those days are over, and I'm working to do everything in my power to make my dream a reality and seeing Cabaret at Shaw really solidified that for me. Seeing some great Fringe and networking has reinforced that as well. I've got a couple neat projects coming up this summer including The Confidential Musical Theatre Project and shooting a very fun pilot for a sitcom called Mythfits. There's some other stuff in the works, but I just need to keep this feeling of inspiration going. I'm excited.

What's making you happy this month? What's on your Fringe must-see list?!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NXNE 2014 favourites

Since NXNE ended on Sunday, I've seen a lot of posts about what people liked / didn't like / thought could be better / the end of the short-lived radius clause. I was lucky to win some wristbands from My Apollo (thank you!) and wanted to post some of my own highlights from the last week.

NXNE ashley gibson

Donovan Woods
Corbin introduced me to Donovan Woods early in our relationship and I instantly adored Donovan's smooth voice and brilliant storytelling (and Corbin's good taste in music). I saw a tweet from Donovan during the festival saying that he was playing at the Dakota and I was stoked! The Dakota is one of my favourite small venues in the city and I was pleased to be able to see Donovan live finally.

I nabbed a seat right next to the stage and got to enjoy sweet tunes and Donovan's endearing and engaging stage banter including requests to ensure he drank enough water and a story about a song he wrote for a guy who had found out that his ex had gotten engaged through Facebook to try and win the gal back. He played a mix of old and new (mostly sad songs, to his own admission) and I really enjoyed the simplicity of his set: just him, his guitar and harmonica. He didn't play one of my favourites, The Coldest State, so I'll leave the video below because it's charming.

Autre Ne Veut

Autre Ne Veut was actually the artist I was most looking forward to seeing when I got my wristband. I've been a fan of Arthur Ashin's smooth vocals for about a year and have sadly missed his previous visits to Toronto. I had a much-needed giggle before the show after a terrible bicycle ride to the venue (more on that in another post) when the man himself tweeted back at me, making no promises for the show making it up to me for my terrible ride. Thankfully, he delivered! 
I really enjoyed his energy, onstage persona, killer backup singer and vocals. While I worry for the sake of his voice (there was a lotta yelling happening) I was enthralled by his set. Autre Ne Veut was followed by 'secret act' of the night Sleigh Bells and I left after a couple of songs because apparently 'noise pop' is more noise than anything else and I just wasn't into it (and apparently I wasn't alone)


I read an article about tUnE-yArDs and Merrill Garbus at the beginning of the festival and after getting a recommendation from a friend I decided to check out her set at Massey Hall. I'm so glad that I did because their set ended up being my very favourite thing I saw! Having Massey Hall as a venue is really awesome and provided a wonderful platform for Merrill and her band's energy. She recorded loops live, sang, clapped and drummed with another percussionist, guitarist and two back up singers/dancers alongside her. My new aspiration in life is to be a backup singer for Merrill. I'm not even joking. The whole crowd was standing by the second song, and she commented on everyone's polite Canadian nature when she was recording her loops for each track. It was an incredible performance that I'm so glad I got to witness and very cool to have discovered a stellar new-to-me artist. 

What were you faves from NXNE?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meet Cecily, my new Bobbin Metropole

This is Cecily. 

Pale Rose Bobbin Metropole

Cecily, this is everyone. 

It's been awhile that I've wanted a new bicycle. My first adult city bike was given to me by a friend. It was a Schwinn cruiser and we definitely had some fun over the course of a couple of summers. I didn't ride her regularly because she was pretty heavy and not ideally suited for city riding. Thus, she's been locked up and collecting dust, rust and other debris for awhile now... 

I've been eyeing various brands of cruiser / commuter style bikes for awhile. I wanted a sort of hybrid cruiser / commuter with a looped frame, with at least 3 speeds, likely in a fun colour. There are a few brands that bike shops in Toronto carry that met these specifications, and Corbin and I had also been checking out (and snapping photos) of bikes all over the city. Months ago, I had pinned a Bobbin that I was completely in love with and had in my brain as the 'perfect' bicycle. I compared every bike to this one and when I was finally ready to take the plunge and make my purchase I did a little research to see how much it would cost for me to order my dream bicycle from across the pond. 

Yes, my sweet sweet Cecily came from England. I found a sale on some Bobbins at and after a little investigation discovered it would only cost be a bit more to order her from England (rather than get a similar bicycle from another brand at a shop in Toronto, including shipping and customs). So I pressed purchase, waited and then she arrived just five days later. In many pieces. 

Thankfully my sweet boyfriend is handy and thoughtful and wonderful, and after waiting for her to be delivered for an entire afternoon, he put Cecily together. 

Bobbin Metropole - pale rose pink

Over the last few weeks I've been acclimatizing myself to city riding once again and it's been an absolute blast. The Bobbin Metropoles are super lightweight, easy to ride and outfitted with 6 speeds. Corbin is a big help as he's quite the bicycle commuter, and it's great to ride with someone confident, assertive and mega helpful. I opted out of buying a Metropass this month and 11 days into the month, Cecily and I are doing just fine. I made a stop at Bikes on Wheels last week and they outfitted Cecily with a shiny new basket and now we're ready for a summer of bike rides and fun! 

Bobbin Metropole #BikeTO

Many more stories and photos of our adventures to come.

What is your dream bike? Any tips for bike commuting around a big city?

Thanks to Corbin for the photos and Cecily construction 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Warby Parker launches Karlie Kloss collection

Cute sunglasses and being super helpful? Into it!

Warby Parker (a sweet maker of vintage inspired glasses and sunglasses with a contemporary twist) is launching a new collaboration today with model Karlie Kloss. The three new frames, Julia, Marple and Clara are mega versatile, feminine and all sorts of fun!

glasses, sunglasses, Karlie Kloss

All three frames would be really flattering for most face shapes and would look great with anything casual or you could dress them up as well. It's a tough call, but I think my favourite is the Marple in Gold with the Violet Clover lenses - I love vintage aesthetic and shape of the of the frames with the wire accents.

Warby Parker x Karlie Kloss

The collaboration also continues the company's commitment to giving back, with a donation being made to Edible Schoolyard NYC, an organization which provides low-income schools with kitchens and gardens and programs to teach students about developing healthier habits. And just like their existing collections, for every pair sold Warby Parker will distribute a pair to someone in need through their non-profit partners. To date, they've donated half a million pairs of glasses in 36 countries to people who need them, which I think is awesome!

The Warby Parker x Karlie Kloss frames are available beginning today at $170 ($145 in the US). While located in NYC, they offer flat rate shipping to Canada for $10 which includes shipping, handling customs and tariffs.The remainder of their frames begin at $120 and they pride themselves on quality construction and giving back.

And if glasses or sunglasses aren't really your thing, they've also got a monocle.
No. Really.