Dora Awards

Today, I got to write a news post over at the Belle of Winnipeg site that makes me incredibly happy.  Its short, so I’ll just reproduce that here:

The Belle of Winnipeg picked up 3 Dora Award nominations today in the Independent Theatre Production Division, with Ginette Mohr nominated for Outstanding performance by a Female, Lorie Brown nominated for Outstanding Original Costume Design, and David Atkinson for Outstanding Original Sound Design/Composition.

This is great news for the show, and I just wanted to share it.  I’m just busting with pride for Ginette, David and Lorie.

Want to check out other posts about the Belle of Winnipeg?  Go here.

Belle of Winnipeg experience

I’ve been staring at this blank entry screen for a while now.  It took four years to bring the Belle of Winnipeg to the stage.  Four years from the day that Dana Fradkin had lunch with Richard Beaune and they first discussed the concept of bringing a silent film to the live stage.  Four years since a team of actors was first assembled, and began trying to figure out how we could possibly do this thing.  We watched silent films, got a sense of their style and found archetypes and ideas that stood out.  We experimented with clown techniques, with laban, played with stage combat, and movement and improv.  We played.  We created a number of characters, we built scenes, and we started to play with various stories. After a while we added some more actors to the group, finding that we needed to round out the cast with more men.  We added four very talented guys to the group, and continued to play and create and build scenes.  And we added David Atkinson as our music director/piano player. How lucky we were as a group to find such a talented musician, who could take a scene that was just created and add what sounded like music he’d spent weeks composing.  His music, brought the scenes to life.  He was not just musical accompaniment, he was a part of the cast, his music was a character in the play.

Then we needed to get to work, and so we had to switch our focus from play to work, as we began to focus on putting together our stories and characters into a narrative, which we would present to an invited group as a workshop performance.  Presenting this was a great learning experience.  We learned how easy it was to confuse and audience, and that for the style of play we were attempting to create, simplicity was best.  And so a script was built by Richard Beaune and our dramaturg Jordan Hall, and once that was done, we set to work.

A script for a silent film play is, when compared with the script for a traditional play, a slip of a thing.  More of an outline of the scenes and story, giving the major points, and then the actors, in rehearsal take the story, put the characters into the scenes and see what happens.  The scenes are honed to find the balance between moments that are amusing and moments that drive the story forward.  And then, after a lot of hard work: you have a play.

Before we opened, I was nervous.  Here we had a play that was something that none of us had ever seen before.  We thought it was funny, but we didn’t know if other people would like it.  Fortunately, they did.  Audiences laughed, applauded and cheered.  And we, the actors, enjoyed performing it every night.  More than that, we enjoyed watching it. Every night, the actors were watching the scenes they were not in, taking in the scenes as they played out onstage, seeing what was working and what new things were happening.  And we were enjoying David’s music that played as a part of the scenes.

And now, the play is over.  We ran our two weeks, and consider the play a success.  But I think we all agree that the play needs more.  It would be so simple to tour the show.  It could go anywhere and play to any audience, with a simple adjustment of the title cards, it could play in any language. I hope that this is not the end of the Belle of Winnipeg, and that in time, we find a way to keep the show alive and to keep performing it for audiences who will continue to enjoy it.

Its been a great trip, and one that I hope is not over yet.

Belle of Winnipeg Reviewed: Toronto Stage

Today the first review of The Belle of Winnipeg was postedby, providing some great praise for the show.

It’s almost as if the company set out to prove that actions speak louder than words with a low budget, motion infused farce that boasts high end innovation due to smart composition and fluid scene transitions.


only once in a long spell does a creation come along capable of snubbing conventional theatre. Hurray for grassroots art, Keystone Theatre knows how to seed the foundation.

Read the full review here.

There are still five performances left!  Buy tickets at or at the door.

Belle: Preview Down, Now an Opening

Last night’s Preview of the Belle of Winnipeg went quite well.  The audience was very responsive and was laughing out of the gate.  I had expected that an audience would need some time to figure out the "language" of the play before reacting to much of the "funny", but last night’s group seemed to get it right away.  I don’t think we can rely on that to happen every time, but it was good to get such great reactions the first time the play was put in front of an audience.

The great thing about last night, is that we were able to see that all the work we’ve been putting in for the last (almost) four years has resulted in a show – an honest to goodness show.  Its a show that only exists because of the people who made it.  Each of the people involved in the creation of this play contributed so much that if you were to change a single person, the show would be completely different, and (I think) would be diminished because of it.  The ensemble is this show, and it cannot exist without every single one of them (er…us).

Tonight is the big night: Opening Night.  There’s a bunch of reviewers, industry types, and hopefully a lot of other people coming.  Reception after the show, which I can only stay a short time for, since tomorrow I’m back to the daily work "grind".  Its been great having this time off, but if I want to keep a roof over my head…I’ve got to go back to the day job.  Sure, I’ll be tired tomorrow, but its worth it to be doing this show.

Here’s hoping for broken legs (as they say) tonight.