extra dossier: Guy Doucette and Katrina Carey for WAYDUT

Today’s dossier is an extension of dossier #5 with Natalie Frijia. After re-connecting with Guy Doucette, a peer from theatre-school days, and talking about the What Are You Doing Up There? festival I’ve become awed at the scope of it. Around 30 acts across 3 evenings, each one different. It stands aside from other festivals because the performers hang about throughout the event to meet people and just have a good time instead of disappearing behind the curtain after their 10-minute slot. It is quite remarkable. 

After this, I got in touch with Katrina Carey through an absolutely lovely “over-the-phone-coffee-date.” We also connected over the simplicity and fun this festival is all about. I’ve transcribed the majority of it below.

So, without any more possible ado, I present dossier #5.1:

Who are we talking with?

Guy Doucette and Katrina Carey – 2013 WAYDUT Festival Coordinators

What drew you to this? (to theatre, to WAYDUT, to each other, to wherever you are right now?)

Guy: Working in the arts has been something I’ve been drawn to since I was in elementary school. I got into public speaking and choir in grade 4, and then later a school musical. It snowballed from there. SO the road that brought me to meet Katrina Carey and Natalie Frijia started a little over 20 years ago. The traveling companionship has never been better!

Katrina: My mother would tell you that I came out of her womb singing and performing. It was just always a part of who I was. I was the black sheep of the family in that way. At Christmastime I wanted to dance and sing carols where everyone else wanted to sit around and watch Christmas movies. I grew up in B.C. in a small town called Port Coquitlam, and when I moved to Toronto I started finding people like me, that loved to perform, that just loved everything about theatre and that moving people to think things and feel things through art. That’s what really drew me to it: finding kindred spirits in the arts, I guess.

Guy, why What Are You Doing Up There? Haven’t I heard of this festival before, but with a slightly different name?

Guy: This is the festival’s third venue. The first was an open concept basement apartment that was converted into a theatre space several times throughout the year – people used to walk by and crane their heads and sometimes peek in through the window when they heard music or actors shouting. When you keep seeing people coming to or leaving a house in costume you can’t help but wander over to see “what is going on”. So, since it was in the basement we called the festival “What Are You Doing DOWN There?!”. Our next venue took us to the back space of the Queen on Dominion Bar, transforming to ‘BACK There!?’ and now… you guessed it, Siren Rock Studios is UP on the second floor of a multi-studio building on Sterling Avenue.

Katrina, what drew you to this festival? Is there something about it that really excites you?

Katrina: Oh yeah. It’s the bringing together of any and all facets of art that really appeals to me. I dabble in a little bit of painting myself, I play the guitar, I sing, I act, I do a little bit of everything, I puppeteer, and to be able to bring all of that into one festival that’s not specific to one medium really speaks to me. The first festival that I was involved in, I believe it was the maybe the first or second year that they were going, and I was an emerging artist myself, and had nowhere to go to perform, um, out of fear. I didn’t want to go to an open mic. I didn’t want to do anything above my artistic level at that time and that festival really opened the doors for me to start showcasing my work.

Back Burner has humble and quite charming origins. Tell us your favourite story from the house.

Guy: Living at 11 Lonsdale and converting it into the In House Theatre for four seasons certainly created many a story – so it’s hard to choose any one singular moment as my favorite. Certainly holding rehearsals on the front lawn in summer time as people passed by and watched will be some of my favorite moments. Teaching other artists (and even some neighbours!) how to stilt in the back parking lot and up and down the street is ranked very high , not to mention the community meals, the after-hours jams and once even doing a recording of a special kitchen object musical symphony as part of weekend project called “The Kitchen Collectives”. [Also,] dancing and then joining in singing with the great punk-grass band The Stables from Oshawa back in 2008. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of meeting them and hearing their music can agree that that not only are they terrific people, they make phenomenal toe-tapping, get you up and dancing music!

Katrina: Do I have a favourite story from the house? God. Not at the moment. I think what I really loved about the festival in the house, and especially when I was living there, was how we transformed the main floor of the house, or the basement into a theatre and getting up in the morning and going downstairs into an art gallery, into a theatre was so inspiring. I could totally be one of those eccentric old ladies that lives in a loft above a theatre in the abbey. I think that probably for me, personally, that was one of things that I really enjoyed. And the energy that always just stayed after the shows.

What is the earliest memory you have of wanting, or needing to do this?

Guy: People have the capacity to bring great change into the world through creativity – if they are only given the chance. Coming out of York University in 2006, I saw many emerging and mature artists of all kinds, but rarely did I find events where they all converged to share their works. Festivals have always been a great way to bring people together in celebration. My knowledge had at first been primarily with theatre festivals and indeed the first winter festival in 2007, was comprised of 5 theatre shorts, but it soon grew as the festival opened to artists to all walks of life. It was during those early months out of University that I really became aware of needing to help create the festival.

Katrina: My parents always tried to get me into sports, and all the, you know, the regular piano lessons and things that you do just ’cause you do, and I had a good friend who was in dance classes, and her mother was my babysitter, and I had to sit in on one of her dance classes one day, just ’cause there was nowhere else for me to go, and I watched it go down, and I was probably about 6 years old, and something just hit into my spirit and said, This is what I want to do, and I remember going home to my mom and going, “I want to do dance lessons. I want to do that.”

In a sentence, tell us what to expect from WAYDUT.

Guy: Expect to see the arts through a kaleidoscope – dance, theatre, music… they all spin into one another to create a spectacular festival experience you won’t ever forget!

Katrina: Expect the unexpected.

Describe the event in three adjectives or phrases.

Guy: Welcoming, Vibrant and Unforgettable.

There’s something for everybody.

Katrina: Ugh. You’re asking the girl that can never find the right word at the right moment. Um. What’s the word for when people… oh god. Ecclectic… it’s kind of like Cheers. Anybody can come in there and have a good time. Any walk of life, there’s something for everybody. There’s one: there’s something for everybody.

Do you have anything you want to share with us? A story? A photo? A song? A video?

Guy: Here is a video from one of our past arts festivals! It features Lane Argue from the Living Art on guitar. Shadow puppets and performance by Craig Morrison, Krista Dalby and myself (Guy Doucette)

And of my own accord, because they just posted this video today of what happened last night at WAYDUT, I’ll embed this video featuring SideBoxNation, Jeff Giles and Princess Penelope Pamplemousse:

Back Burner Productions

dossier: Natalie Frijia for WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?

The last time this year I did something truly wintery I was skating with some friends over at Christie Pits. This is where I glided into Natalie, someone I haven’t seen probably since our days in University together. I directed a show of Natalie’s in my fourth year, an experience that really helped shape how I would approach directing and general theatre-making for years after. So, while we were out on the ice, me stumbling, her stumbling more gracefully, we chatted about the upcoming WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE? festival her company Back Burner produces and curates. Seeing as how today I’m doing another truly wintery thing, having no place of work to go to because of bus cancellations and instead deciding to stay in my pyjamas and watch the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, I decided it would be fitting to share this now.

So, without any ado, on to dossier # 5:

natalie frijia

Who are we talking with?

Natalie Frijia, one of the coordinators of the What Are You Doing Up There?! Festival with Back Burner Productions!

What drew you to this? (to theatre, to WAYDUT, to each other, to wherever you are right now?)

One day, I presented a playwriting exercise in front of an audience. I hated speaking in front of people. The result: not great. Mortifying, actually. One member of the audience told me it was the worst piece of theatre they have ever seen. Ouch. As I was walking out, contemplating my decision to be in theatre, someone ran up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. I vaguely recognized the person, having seen him around the school halls, and I knew his name, but I was also fairly sure he didn’t know me. He said, “I really liked what you did. I run a theatre company, and we’re organizing a theatre festival. We want to reach out to more emerging female playwrights. Would you be interested in bringing a show there?” Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

And then, he filled in the details. The festival would be in the basement of his house.

Right. A festival in the basement of a house. Sure, that’s a real thing. I had images in my head of walking into a horror story, all because I was excited that someone didn’t hate my work – or, more specifically, the idea that I could have a second chance in front of an audience.

But I asked around school. This guy – Guy Doucette, in fact – people said good things about him. People said, “If Guy says he’s having a theatre festival, then he’s having a theatre festival.”

Curiosity got the better of me. I went to check it out.

And LOVED it. The mix of emerging and more established artists, the air of collaboration and constructive criticism between artists, the sheer joy of just sharing your work in front of an excited and accepting audience. It was a great space to both develop work, connect with fellow artists, and grow in a theatrical community.

In 2009, Guy asked if I’d want to help him out with some festival organizing.

Five years later, here I am, excited to keep creating opportunities for artists to put their ideas on stage, just like the festival once did for me.

Why What Are You Doing Up There? Haven’t I heard of this festival before, but with a slightly different name?

This festival has had more than a few names. We started out at the What Are You Doing DOWN There?! Festival back in 2007, in the basement of Guy’s house. After four years there, and more than a few festival nights filled with audience members making each other’s acquaintances by sitting almost directly on a stranger’s lap, we moved into the back space of the Dominion on Queen – and became the What Are You Doing Back There?! Festival. As we want the festival to keep growing, keep reaching out to emerging artists and developing our connections with artists we’ve worked with in the past, we wanted to move UP to a new space – at Siren Rock Studios. And, as fun Back Burner history connection: Andrew Cromey, one of the owners of Siren Rock Studios, was Guy’s old housemate, and used to be a part of running Back Burner Productions when it was still down there in the basement.

Back Burner has humble and quite charming origins. Tell us your favourite story from the house.

February 20th, 2010. We had twelve acts scheduled that night, plus an MC, and at 7:45pm, the basement was full.

Not just full.


I was squished into the “tech booth” (which, at this point, was little more than a corner of the basement, covered by a curtain, that was already being pushed in by audience members sitting up against it) with Guy, our technical, Alyksandra Ackerman, and the MC for the evening, Kristian Reimer. We debated our options. We could close the doors to incoming audience members, ask any participating artists to sit outside… Or, we could dismantle the tech booth, stack up a few rows of chairs, put some pillows on the ground, and ask people to get cozy and make friends with their neighbours.

We opted for the latter.

Our stage went from an already tiny space – maybe a 5′ or 6′ by 4′, if that, to a square, two steps across, right up against the back wall. Our opening act for that evening was musician Corrina Keeling. She walked out on stage, stepping over audience members, took a look around, sat down on the floor, and just played.

At one count, we had about 80 people in the basement. Plus Luna, the house cat, Spanky, the dog, both of whom made frequent and unannounced appearances in the acts. We may have been squished, but there was a fantastic sense of community there that night.

What is the earliest memory you have of wanting, or needing to do this?

The idea of the What Are You Doing Down/Back/Up There?! Festival is to get those projects we’re working on, off our back burners, and onto the stage. I think a lot of times, we wait for perfect moments to show our work to an audience – when the script is just right, or when the opportunity arises, and it’s hard to develop as an artist if you don’t show your work to an audience. We want to make that opportunity.

Personally though, I was drawn to the festival because it was an opportunity to do something and connect emerging and established artists NOW.

Years before I even heard of Back Burner, I schemed with a good friend about starting up an arts festival. He was a musician and filmmaker. I was a playwright and working in scenic art. We wanted to pool our resources and create a gigantic, magical arts festival… someday. After we graduated, and made a bit of money, and got a name for ourselves in the art community, etc. There was a lot of scheming, and a lot of saying “someday”.

To make a long story short, he died, and we never followed through on any of those ideas we had on the back burner. And we had some GREAT ideas.

So the earliest memory I have of wanting or needing to do a festival like this is that: you can’t wait for great opportunities to develop your work, connect with fellow artists, and get your ideas on stage, to just pop up, fully formed and fantastic. You have to make opportunities, and the more you work on them, the better they’ll become.

Which is what we hope for the festival: that every year is going to be bigger and more fantastic than the last, and that the artists who participate will grow from their experience.

In a sentence, tell us what to expect from WAYDUT.

An eclectic, eccentric and exciting mix of emerging and established artists in a celebration of the arts, where every night will bring you something very different.

Describe the event in three adjectives or phrases.



Artistic exploration

Do you have anything you want to share with us? A story? A photo? A song? A video?

I attached a photo of the really crowded night at the festival. It’s of performer, Jeff Giles (who’s in the festival this year as well), surrounded by audience members.

Back Burner Feb 20-2010 Jeff Giles

Check out Back Burner’s Facebook page for the WAYDUT Festival. The line-up is impressive and multi-faceted each night. It’s guaranteed to be an enjoyable time. Nicole Ratjen, a good friend of mine, will be MCing the first night as her clown Princess Penelope Pamplemousse as she searches for her wayward Prince Charming on Valentine’s Day. On Saturday, the 16th, come on out and see me in a staged reading of a new play by Michael Bedford, tentatively called [play]. 

Back Burner Productions