Monday, August 26, 2013

News on the Lake

Here at the Shaw, the company cabarets are called a SNAG, which stands for Saturday Night at the George. You can probably guess that they are held on Saturdays at the Royal George Theatre. The SNAGs are meant to be a fun night by and for company members to laugh, enjoy each other's talents, and hang out. Even though Niagara-on-the-Lake is a small community, it can be difficult to see some of your friends who are in different shows, so the SNAGs provide a perfect opportunity to catch up and have a night out.

My Theatre Award winner Ben Sanders headed up the first SNAG early in the season and I decided I'd take a risk and try out something different: a newscast. On a road trip to Stratford, I was listening to a lot of CBC's This is That and got inspired. I dubbed my skit "News on the Lake" and told a bunch of This Hour Has 22 Minutes-style jokes about current events. Much to my delight, the skit went over really well.

There have now been four SNAGs this season and I've done a "News on the Lake" segment at every one, so I've written probably about fifty to sixty jokes, forty of which have made it into the actual skits. I've been having a lot of fun doing it and am pretty proud of some of the bits I've concocted. It's been a fun challenge to write ten new jokes for every SNAG and to also look at the news and see how it could be twisted or poked at to make people smile. 

Since I've enjoyed it so much - and the people seem to like it too - I thought I'd share some of my favourite jokes on here. A lot of the bits tend to be 'in-house' roasts or the like, so I've excluded those from the mix and just chosen a few gems that went over nicely or, at the very least, make me giggle.

So, here are this summer's top stories from around the lake, the country, and the globe:

Take Me Out to the Ballgame
49-year-old Wesley Warren has been much talked about lately due to his oversized scrotum, a condition known as “scrotal lymphedema”. American network TLC is covering Warren’s condition on a program entitled “The Man with the 132-Pound Scrotum”. He’s not the only one to profit from this situation, however. The surgeon who removed the excess tissue from his groin has just been cast as the title role in ABT’s The Nutcracker.

Royal Pain
Prince William revealed this week that his son Prince George is a bit of a rascal. Apparently the young prince has trouble sleeping through the night and constantly soils his diaper. Grandmother Camilla Parker-Bowles sympathized, saying it’s much the same way with Prince Charles.

Veneration Next
Pope John Paul II is on track to be the fastest canonized saint in modern history, beating Mother Theresa’s record of five years. Catholics looking to set their own canonization records should look to other categories such as: most inventive exit from a dragon; most body parts hacked off; and most days untouched in a brothel. 

It’s My Parti and I’ll Decry If I Want To
The Parti Quebecois is under fire this week for trying to ban religious paraphernalia in the public sector. The attack comes mainly on headgear, such as hijabs and veils, but an “ostentatious crucifix” would also be banned. This is clearly a thinly-disguised attack on Muslims and Madonna. 

Tweet Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Vatican officials have stated that Catholics may be offered time off of purgatory if they follow the twitter play-by-play of World Youth Day events in Rio de Janeiro. Critics have slammed the offer, stating that when Jesus said “Come follow me”, he probably didn’t mean on twitter.

Daydream Belieber
Justin Bieber made headlines this week at the house of Anne Frank in Amsterdam. Signing the guest book, he wrote that he thought Anne “would have been a Belieber”. Canadian historian Charlotte Gray speculates that other potential posthumous Beliebers include L M Montgomery, Joey Smallwood, and Tecumseh. 

If I Could Turn Back Time
Britain is in mourning for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thousands took to Twitter to express their thoughts using the hashtag “now Thatcher’s dead”. Unfortunately, hundreds misread this as “now that Cher’s dead” causing a panic that some have dubbed “The Gay Inhale Heard ‘Round the World”. Cher tweeted assurance to her fans that she is very much alive, despite the fact that her real face died in the mid-to-late ‘90s. 

Cialis Through the Looking Glass
A New Jersey man sued his doctor for a penile implant gone wrong. Daniel Metzgar sued after he was left with an erection that lasted for EIGHT MONTHS. He stated that he couldn’t dance with a partner, ride his motorcycle, or wear normal clothes. On the bright side, he did win his office’s Hallowe’en costume contest, going as Gepetto and Pinnochio at the same time.

Jump Into the Donor Pool
A recent ruling from Health Canada has broadened the donor pool at Canadian Blood Services. The controversial ban on men-who-sleep-with-men has been adjusted in a move that some have deemed "ground-breaking". The new ruling allows men-who-sleep-with-men to donate if they have not had sexual contact in five years. Health Canada is celebrating the move as it opens up the blood pool to literally tens of new donors.

For "News on the Lake", I'm Kyle Golemba reminding you to keep it sharp, keep it shimmering, and keep it Shavian!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

This Is Canada To Me!


About a year and a half ago, my best friend Adam and I started a Rocket Hub campaign to fund our first album: a recording of our all-Canadian revue, Making Love in a Canoe. We raised our budget in a matter of weeks thanks to the generosity of family, friends, and fans and set out to create the album.

As the astute among you can guess, we hit a few road blocks along the way. I had written here about the fact that we decided to wait until after our run at The Golden Apple Theatre to record. A smart idea as the two intense weeks in Regina really helped us to get the show in our bones and mine the material. However, it then took us eight months to find a time when Adam, myself, and our engineer, Mark Camilleri could get into the same studio together. Making three schedules intersect proved difficult.

In the meanwhile, we chipped away at getting the right organized, putting the album artwork together, and all of the many (MANY) bits and bobs that were required. Let me tell you, self-producing an album is no easy feat. And, in some ways, an album of all-Canadian musical theatre is even more challenging. With many of the songs unpublished, the process of getting rights falls into a grey area but there isn't a lot of help to facilitate what to do. Challenging.

(On that note, I would like to say that our Artist Reps at Indie Pool, Jenn Martin and Lisa Lorenz, were extremely helpful, as were Adam and Natacha from the CMRRA.)

We recorded in a whirlwind two days and had a blast. I think Adam and I felt pretty prepared and had a solid game plan for getting the songs recorded efficiently. Mark gave us excellent guidance and did his best to make the process easier for us. We had a few good laughs, particularly as we got later and later into the night. I think I was hallucinating through the last few songs because I was so tired. But it was worth it!

A few more months went by filled with editing, mixing, adjusting artwork, then checking the edits, checking the mixes, checking the artwork, etc. A couple of rights hiccups - resolved those - and finally we received the finished albums at the beginning of July.

I have to say, we are very pleased with the result. The artwork and design look great thanks to Wendy Tancock (artist) and Heidi Schlitt (graphic designer). The artwork came out beautifully, despite the fact that the cover is printed on 100% recycled paper which can alter the colours slightly. So not only is it oh-so-pleasing to look at it, but it's completely recyclable too. Love that.

The CD itself also turned out really well. Mark mixed the songs really well and managed to capture the feel of the cabaret nicely. Of course Adam and I both have our quibbles with our own work, but I think it represents well what we do. (I can almost listen to the whole thing without wincing, which I think is pretty swell.)

So now we go about promoting it! Feel free to check out our new Facebook page, as well as the album itself on CD Baby and iTunes. We're planning a CD release party for the fall which I'm sure will be a blast. We are going to go back to an older format so we can have some guests join in the party and make the event a celebration of the album, but also Canadian musical theatre. I will, of course, post the details here as they become available.

In the end, after two years, it was quite the learning curve but one I'm happy we tackled. Who knows? Perhaps one day we'll have Canoe Volume Two?!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Guettel Superstar

Today I attended  a conversation with Adam Guettel here at the Shaw. Paul Sportelli (our music director) led the conversation with a very well-prepared and stimulating set of questions. What followed was an inspiring, interesting hour of insight and song.

One of the things that struck me most about Guettel was his integrity: his dedication to a craft that is wholly in tune (no pun intended) with his true artistic voice. He spoke of taking time at the beginning of a process to really find the musical language of a piece (his toolkit, as he called it), sometimes taking a year to write the first piece of music. Having been reading Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat lately, I was reminded of his Golden Rules, one of which is "Content dictates form". Clearly, Guettel is a proponent of the same idea.

He also spoke of only working on a piece of music if he was in the space to connect with its heart, to be truly connected to that place in himself that tied to the character.

As someone who would like to do more writing, I am so turned on by this insatiable need to find the "why" and "how" of telling a story. There is an example of commitment to craft that inspires me to dig deeper into my own toolkits: whether it be in writing or acting.

Of course, the other excitement of the hour was hearing Guettel sing. Anyone who has heard his recordings knows what a truly singular voice he possesses - and he was in fine form. Hearing him sing "How Glory Goes" (one of my favourites) was breath-taking. Even cooler was getting a sneak preview of some of the new material he's working on at the moment. Hearing these beautiful songs after gaining a little more insight into his process was illuminating, to say the least.

After the chat, I popped Floyd Collins into my iPhone and headed out for a long walk with Gypsy. The melodies, lyrics, and orchestrations blew my heart wide open.

I am grateful for the experience of having gotten a little glimpse into Guettel's world and for the fire for what we do that it rekindled.

Now go and find the recording of Guettel singing the demo of "Dividing Day" or his "Hero and Leander" from Myths and Hymns and let your heart crack open too.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A Midsummer Afternoon's Update

Clearly we are in the time of year where everything explodes. I have only written about once in the past month. And I was doing so well! Alas.... For anyone who's wondering, this is what's been happening:

Shows! Now that Henry V and A Word or Two have opened, we are up to our full eight shows a week. Lots of double-show days, as well as double-doubles (two two-show days back-to-back). So far, so good, but it has been exhausting. I must admit this was all a little bit easier when I didn't have Gypsy to walk in the mornings and in between shows, but I also didn't have her to pet when I got stressed so I suppose it all balances. Audiences have been awesome; friends have been visiting; it's Stratford summer at its finest.

Cricket! We have our first real match on Monday against a team in Inverhaugh. I have only played scrimmages so far, so I'm quite curious as to how this will go. My fielding is pretty good, but my batting leaves something to be desired. That something would be the thwack of the willow against leather.

Canoe Recording! Technically this is more of an update on what hasn't happened. Naturally I got the flu right before we were supposed to go in for our first day of recording. With a double-double and auditions all rolled into that same weekend, it just didn't make sense to go in. We are hoping to actually start in two weeks. Fingers crossed so hard. On the business side of the album project, however, we are making advances. For any of our Fuelers who invested $100 or more, your personal YouTube videos are being uploaded as I type. That will be the last reward to be given out before the actual albums themselves are pressed. Success!

2013! Stratford's season announcement came out a few weeks ago and it looks like a really great line-up. I really dig the in-depth video on each production that Antoni filmed. Auditions have started for the season as well as a few other things in Toronto and beyond, so that's been busy too. As always, we cast a wide net and see where life takes us.

Music! We went to see Coldplay in Toronto which was awesome! I've never been to a huge concert before and I was not disappointed. I did feel a bit curmudgeonly because I had ear plugs in and I only talked via text so I wouldn't lose my voice. But we had a matinee the next day! Also in music news, the creators of [title of show] have started a Kickstarter campaign to create an original cast recording of their latest creation, Now. Here. This. I am super excited to have another cast album from these folks and sent in a little support. Click here to check it out and perhaps support them yourself!

So with all of that in mind, this weekend....

I am trusting that all will work out as it should. Every day I do my best and see what happens.

I am grateful for being in two really fun shows. Making people laugh every day is awesome.

I am inspired by Brené Brown and her work on daring greatly.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rocket Rewards

Some of you may remember that last fall we did a campaign on Rocket Hub to raise money for the album of Making Love in a Canoe. It was extremely successful thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and fans, as well as the great set-up provided by Rocket Hub.

As with a lot of crowdfunding sites, Rocket Hub allows for you to create rewards for various levels of investment as incentive for people to donate to your project. One of the rewards that we offered for our "Fuelers" was to write a new verse of our opening song "This is Home". We had three Fuelers who met this reward level (Andorlie Hillstrom, Stephen Greig, and Judy White) and so we made a YouTube video debuting our new lyrics. Check it out:



Each Fueler also received sheet music of their verse to commemorate their kindness. We really couldn't do this without the support (emotional as well as financial!) of these three awesome folks.

In exciting and related news, we start recording in two weeks! It has been pretty tricky trying to get myself, Adam, and our engineer in the same room but we've finally found a day that works for us all. Huzzah! Adam and I have been rehearsing a little bit over the last few weeks in anticipation and we're both pretty jazzed about the undertaking.

In the same breath, I will also admit that there is a lot of fear for me going into this. It's pretty scary to think that what we do will be on a CD forever; however, I love this music and want it out there. And making a CD has been in my goals for years, so I really don't want to let the vampires get to me. I'm glad I still have some time to prepare and something to look forward to!

I'll make sure to post updates here as well as some photos of us in the studio. With fingers crossed I say that I hope the album will be out by the fall.

I might pass out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

La La La La Life Goes On

As always, time seems to just be flying by. Every Friday seems to take me by surprise, but here I am again taking a moment to reflect and fill out this week's TGIF installment.

Last week ended with one of my favourite events of the year: the Tony Awards! It's always fun to fill out ballots with your friends to see who can anticipate the most winners (I only got 12 out of 26 this year) and see numbers from the current slate of shows.

Of course this year was extra exciting because of the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar appearing on the show. My ladies from last season were killing it up there and Josh did a great job in what is surely a crazily stressful situation. And then of course seeing the whole cast come together at the end was the kicker. That cast is filled with a lot of very good friends, people I've known for a very long time, so that was really cool. And I must say it was cool to see a lot of Canadians on the show outside of the JCS cast too! Overall, it was a fun broadcast with a few really great moments and speeches and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Well, imagine my surprise the next day when a friend tweeted that I had been quoted in a Globe & Mail article regarding Ben Vereen's accidental slip referring to Stratford as the "Stanford Shakespeare Festival". I am always pretty conscientious with what I tweet, but I must say I was still caught off-guard to realize that my twitter post could be quoted in a newspaper. I didn't bother to read the comments section (those things fill me with rage), but I hope no one took my remark as anything but a light-hearted jest. Having never been an awards show presenter myself, I can't imagine the whole being-really-natural-while-reading-off-a-screen-and-trying-to-be-your-infinitely-charming-self thing is all that easy and it's no big deal to have stumbled over a word. But I do wish that someone later on had announced proudly that the show came from Stratford.

After the excitement of the Tonys came the realization that I had to do my understudy run of The Pirates of Penzance this week. Nose back on grindstone. But it went really well! The runs are always really strange because almost everyone is playing a new part so you're never really sure who anyone is, but somehow they always pull together into something really cool. Tuesday's run was no exception.

I remembered Brené Brown's words on daring greatly and decided that being nervous/terrified was okay. I would just go out and do it, knowing that I had done my homework, and see what I could learn. And, for probably the first time ever, I had fun! It was so fun to play with the other actors and get to sing that beautiful music with a full orchestra (led by our associate conductor - props Michael!). And now it's done - I'm ready should the other Kyle ever get sick - and summer is here!

With that weight off of my shoulders, today...

I am trusting that the work I put into the understudy run has created a great foundation should I ever have to go on.

I am grateful for all of the people (Nancy, Eileen, Darcy, Tammy, Michael, Mel, Melissa, Michael, and Matt to name but a few) who helped me on the understudy journey.

I am inspired by the other understudies who have done such great work going on this season! We've had three principal understudies go on as well as swings in both shows and everyone has done tremendously well. It is always so exciting to see people fling themselves into new parts and perform them (seemingly) effortlessly!

Now I'm going to go enjoy this beautiful weather and walk Gypsy. Happy weekend!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Summertime...

...and the living is almost easy. I have one more rehearsal and then it's just our show schedule. And by just, I mean "just" six to eight performances a week of two different high-energy musicals. (Eep!)

Things were incredibly busy around here in the last days before opening week (as evidenced by the fact that I haven't blogged since May Long). We had a lot of previews, understudy rehearsals, and fine-tuning to do before we got to the opening nights. Both openings (42nd Street and The Pirates of Penzance for anyone just tuning in) were really fun and well-received. For someone who can get a lot of anxiety around those events, it was a huge relief.

One of the highlights of the week was the beginning of the 42nd Street opening. I was standing in the vom (a tunnel-like ramp that leads up to the stage) waiting to make my first entrance when the audience cheered for the first tap steps. Let me tell you, when the ensemble gets entrance applause, you know you're in for a fun night. It was magic. What was really great was that everyone on stage managed to contain the excitement and continue to do the show we had rehearsed, rather than let that energy take us somewhere crazy. It was really, really exciting.

And of course now the reviews are out and that's a whole other weird anxiety. I used to read reviews, but I've had a few bad experiences over time (ie. "Kyle Golemba was handsome, but charmless...") so now I usually wait until closer to the end of the run or after closing to read them. It can be hard to explain to friends/Festival fans/family why it can be detrimental to read them (even the good ones!), but I think Des McAnuff has a great handle on it....

On the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar last year, he advised us not to read the reviews, but rather to keep focused on the good work we had put into the show and simply to let that work continue to guide us throughout the run. He said that reading a bad review could cause us to doubt ourselves or re-think our work and that would take us away from continuing to invest in what we'd created. Similarly, he said reading a good review could cause us to ease up on ourselves and think that we're great, which would also take us away from continuing to invest in what we'd created. I really appreciated that talk and I think he was right on the money.

I was reminded of this a while back when I was reading Brené Brown's blog and she posted this amazing quote from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."
At the end of the day (and with all due respect), the critic is reviewing one performance. And given how much anxiety and pressure and everything else that is wrapped up in a night like that, it's a wonder anyone does any good work at all. All we can do, like Des said, is trust in the work we put into it and continue to invest in the project until the closing night.

So that's where I'm at now. The shows are open, I'm proud of the work we've done, and now we get to enjoy playing for the rest of the year in two really cool shows. With that in mind, this weekend...

I am trusting the work that I've put into these shows. I don't need to fall into the trap of all of a sudden needing to do "more" or "better". I can just continue to invest in what we created.

I am grateful for how fun it is to do these two shows. As one of the coaches said to me on opening, at the end of the day, you've helped make over a thousand people laugh and enjoy themselves. That's something of which to be proud.

I am inspired by Brené Brown, whose work on vulnerability and "daring greatly" (see blog link above) is so great.

Have a great weekend!