dossier: Rob Faust for FALLEN APPLES

I heard of Rob Faust and Faustwork while I was still in university. I’d always been interested in mask work (it being one of the forms I had always been wanting to experiment with but never had the opportunity), but, sadly and probably due to the sheer vastness of acclimatizing to the independent theatre world in Canada after graduation, I never really knew where to find him. It wasn’t until last year, after being successfully and passionately introduced to the world of clown and all its associates, did I see Rob perform a few of his best pieces at Helen Donnelly’s Foolish Cabaret. The audience was in stitches. The full house was on the edge of their seats as he performed his backwards ballerina and introduced us to The Creep.

Rob has that effect on people.

A couple months later, the night of the Great Deluge of Toronto, did we actually meet, in a leaking garage opening onto a flooded stage and an audience that was smaller than the number of performers crammed in the back. After a soggy performance, we all headed to Squirly’s for a much needed pint. 

And the rest, to use a tired cliche, is history.

I couldn’t be happier to be working alongside Rob and this talented bunch as we animate 30-some-odd-years of his masks for an all-new fully-mask cabaret: FALLEN APPLES, happening on March 10th @ Unit 102.

dossier #28:

Rob Faust

Who are we talking to?

You’re talking to born and bred New Orleanian who grew up in a carnival culture that identified with fun, masks, and ritual, but it was after moving away from Mardi Gras that I encountered masks-for-theatre in physical theatre classes.

What gets you going in the morning?

Besides the obvious answer of rich strong coffee and hot milk–the way people in New Orleans have always liked it—what gets me going these days is the work of making masks, coordinating and promoting the biz of Faustwork Mask Theatre, performing, and these days looking forward to the serious fun of pulling together the first (perhaps of many) Mask Cabarets.

What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, I need, or want, to do this with my life?

When I was 9, Grandma gave me and my sister and cousins a silver dollar each for doing a nativity scene at her big family Christmas party. It wasn’t REALLY the money as much as it was having all the adults paying close attention to what we were doing and smiling and laughing. I played Joseph and asked the innkeeper for connecting rooms with an adjoining bath.

Have there been times you seriously question why you pursue this lifestyle/art form? If so, what was it that kept you in it, or brought you back?

Pure and simple: it’s fun. That’s what keeps me coming back. I’m fortunate to earn a living at it and the business owns me. There are of course many days it’s difficult and I want nothing to do with it, but I can’t figure out what else I could do to pay the rent as effectively.

White Head for CK copy


I love the point of view twist on “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This Mask Cabaret is all about family and all the positive and negative that that implies. We 12 co-creators all told family stories to each other and then deconstructed them and turned them into comic and poignant vignettes. Much of the material is cartoony in the best sense of that word… aka, clownish.

Why mask theatre?

I was blown away by their power in a physical theatre class. During those workshop days a fellow student taught me how to make masks and it turned out that i was good at both the performing and the making.

You’ve compiled quite a cast of artists for “FALLEN APPLES”. Can you let us know the roster, or some of the roster?

The cast is amazing!! We are in alphabetical order: Andrew Gaboury, Allan Turner, Christel Bartelse, Dana Fradkin, Eric Double, Helen Donnelly, Neil Muscott, Nicole Arends, Nicole Ratjen, Oliver Georgiou, and Rob Faust.

What’s a favourite memory, or story, from performing in mask in the past?

I performed a beautiful duo mask/dance piece nearly naked with a beast mask on top of my head.”Burden of Paradise”… think elemental dance/theatre version of “Beauty of the Beast”. Critics and audiences loved it, found it very sensual, almost erotic. My partner was friends with Carly Simon and her friends and we performed on a sweeping lawn under a willow tree for 160 swells at a benefit to help elect Mario Cuomo governor of New York. We blew minds! There were many people there who would never have bought tickets to see such a thing as us. We had celebrities–including Mario Cuomo and Charles Grodin (a fav of mine) in our faces gushing afterwards. The topper was that my father-in-law overheard Ethel Kennedy say to one of her grandchildren seated next to her, “Sheer depravity!!” Quite an endorsement if you ask me.

Describe “FALLEN APPLES” in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.


Do you have anything you’d like to share with us?

FB page: Faustwork Mask Theatre


YouTube clips: Faustwork Mask Theatre

Rob talking about his process and some of his favourite masks:

snippets of some of the first pieces I ever saw Rob perform:

and a fun bilingual interview:

Faustwork Mask Theatre presents “FALLEN APPLES”

Rob Faust directs a series of comic, poignant, and bizarre vignettes based on the dark and the light side of family dynamics. The show was created collaboratively by Rob and the following cast.

Allan Turner, Andrew Gaboury, Christel Bartelse, Dana Fradkin, Eric Double, Helen Donnelly, Neil Muscott, Nicole Arends, Nicole Ratjen, Oliver Georgiou, Rob Faust.

Tickets: $20, CASH ONLY


VENUE: Unit 102, 376 DUFFERIN STREET just south of Queen

Arizona High School students masked

dossier: James Wallis of Shakespeare BASH’d for MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

I’m happy to bring James Wallis to a field of crowns to talk about his company, Shakespeare BASH’d, as well as our upcoming Toronto Fringe show MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. I’m very proud to have my first Fringe performance with this company. I’ve written briefly about it before, and now am happy to report that the entire rehearsal process has been as enjoyable as that initial read-through all those weeks ago at TIFF. The people that surround this company just love what they do. And they want you to love it too. It’s been quite a ride so far, and we haven’t even moved into the bar yet! I’m excited to see what happens when we do.

So, without further ado (a-ha!) I give you dossier #17:

beatrice and benedick

Who are we talking with?

James Wallis, founder of Shakespeare BASH’d and currently playing Benedick in their 2013 Toronto Fringe Production of Much Ado About Nothing.

What drew you down this path? (to theatre, to Shakespeare, to beer, to wherever the hell you are in life)

It’s so hard to say where it all began, but I’m sure there was a catalyst. I remember reading Shakespeare when I was very young and, despite not really understanding it, I was enthralled by it. I worked on Shakespeare with a company in Newmarket called Resurgence Theatre Company and that really inspired me. Throughout university I obviously was exposed to a lot of different work but I really gravitated towards Shakespeare. The work was extremely fulfilling for me. After university, I did some shows again with Resurgence and with Theatre By the Bay in Barrie, which were confidence builders for me. All in all, Shakespeare has always been there as a driving force for me.

What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, this is what I’m going to do with my life?

Really it was a high school production of “Bye Bye Birdie” where I just felt comfortable. I liked what I was doing. The long hours, the stressful and competitive environment were challenges that I knew I could undertake. I knew that I wanted to work in the theatre. It just clicked.

How did Shakespeare BASH’d come to be?

Shakespeare BASH’d came out of my frustration over how Shakespeare is often presented these days. I wanted to produce Shakespeare’s plays with a bare bones approach to the work, where the text is the most important thing, revealing as much about character as possible in order to tell the story. It was actually my wife, Julia, who told me “you keep talking about wanting to do something, well do it!!” She motivated me to take responsibility for my creativity, which I thank her for.

Why Shakespeare in a bar? I knew that I wanted to do Shakespeare in a fun, social environment where people could relax, enjoy, and be affected by the play. People go to bars to be social, so why not play something for them and see how it lands? It’s about engaging the audience so that they become an active audience member rather than passive. Theatre is entertainment that should be both engaging and fun.


Much Ado is a really interesting play. It’s a festive comedy that sort turns on a dime and becomes a play about deep betrayal and disloyalty because of misunderstandings. Underneath that there is this great “battle of wits” between Benedick and Beatrice that permeates the play with this great energy. Following our production of The Taming of the Shrew last year, we wanted to do a play that is as complex, if not more. After having seen Much Ado and reading it again I thought it would really work in the bar setting. Also, in any of Shakespeare’s plays, the idea of working with a certain actor, playing a certain part always gets me salivating. I’m fortunate to know some really amazing actors and Much Ado really affords great possibilities for inspired actors.

What kind of atmosphere do yo intend to set up, or can someone expect from MUCH ADO?

Always with Shakespeare you’re going to get a beautiful story, with compelling characters and wonderful dramatic poetry. Much Ado also has some of the most exciting prose in the Canon. It’s almost completely in prose and therefore something quite unique. I think our goal is to create an exciting production that presents the play with simple staging and clear, concise text. Also we’re really trying to play up the aspect of “A Homecoming from War.” What I mean is that the audience is part of the big homecoming party that is going on during the play. We’re trying to create an immersive, fun, passionate experience for the audience.

What is your favourite memory from a past BASH’d show?

So many! Really, I’m so entrenched in every moment of this company that everything is so rewarding. The first reading we did back 2010 of “Romeo and Juliet” was so amazing. I had such a great group of actors and we just read the text as simply as possible with such great intention and clarity. We created such imaginative pictures for the audience and such great relationships despite not having a set, costumes, and having our text in our hands. It reinforced what I knew was so obvious with Shakespeare’s work, that the story can evoke such intense reaction when told with great text by committed actors.

Describe MUCH ADO in Three Adjectives, a phrase or a sound?

The sound I think would be fireworks cracking close to you. Three adjectives? Festive, combative, elusive.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Photos, videos, links, posters, stories, wishes?

I would just like to let everybody know that Shakespeare BASH’d will be producing our 3rd full length production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at The 30/30 Bar, at 3030 Dundas West in the Junction this November 19th to the 23rd. We’re super excited to tackle the greatest love story of all time in one of Toronto’s hottest new bars and restaurants.

I am also so incredibly excited to be at the Fringe again this year and can’t wait to chat with audience members after the show each night (so, please come say hi)!

Also, check out our trailers below:

much ado

dossier: Eric Double and Julia Nish-Lapidus for Theatre Caravel’s SEA CHANGE

Last year, my friend Nicole Ratjen asked me to do a staged reading with her at an event I’d never heard of. It was of her play, a work-in-progress about two polar bears set adrift on an ever-shrinking ice-floe in the middle of the ocean. As the polar bears contemplated their fate, and hunger, they would be ravaged by storms. We’d done this reading before, at a different event, and were curious how it would go over at this one. 

This is when I met Eric and Julia. We asked if Eric would be interested in reading our stage directions. Of course. Nicole told him about the audience participation, that he was to cue the storms and the audience would be involved with making it come alive. No problem. And this is where the real test came in; Are you both cool with us arming the audience with pin-pong balls that they can throw at us when you cue the storm? Not even a hesitation. Eric even helped by throwing the ping-pong balls back into the audience to restock them. That’s the kind of event SEA CHANGE is. And that’s the spirit that Eric and Julia bring to this; they are so excited to see artists try new things and for their nights to be as varied and unique as possible.

I’m excited to have this next dossier focus on such a fun event. The next SEA CHANGE is happening on April 5th, and, along with Haylee McGee, Joel Battle, The Templeton Philharmonic and Freddie Rivas, I’ll be performing some new writing of mine. 

Here we go, dossier #10:

Eric Double and Julia Nish-Lapidus

Who are we talking with?

Eric Double, Artistic Director of Theatre Caravel. I am an actor, director, and mask maker.

Julia Nish-Lapidus, Artistic Producer of Theatre Caravel. I’m an actor and producer.

Theatre Caravel strives to create theatre that is changeable, innovative by necessity, and important by default.

What is it about theatre that really gets you going?

Eric: I think I was drawn to the theatre because it’s such an immediate art form. When a piece of theatre works there is a palpable energy around the performance and it becomes otherworldly in a sense. I love that feeling of connection between an audience and a performance, which is both personally intimate and communal at the same time.

Julia: Theatre is alive. That’s always really excited me. It’s never the same twice, so the actors and the audience in that room are the only people who will be able to share that specific experience.

How did you two meet?

Eric: We met through university, but became friends because we were neighbours in our residence. Julia had a mouse problem and was afraid to clean the traps, so she asked me to come over and clean up dead mice. I meet all my best friends cleaning up dead animals.

Julia: It’s true. Dead mice are gross. After university we talked over (a few) drinks and realized that we were both looking for similar experiences and challenges and decided to join forces and bring our voice to the theatre community.

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

Eric: Well, according to my mother I was quoted as saying “I want to be a clown because I want to make everyone laugh” when I was 4, but my actual memory comes from high school. I remember getting hooked on performing when I landed a part in the play in high school and since then there was never any question about what I would be doing. It wasn’t really a need or a want, just a feeling that nothing else was important to me other than being involved in theatre – I never felt more at home than when I was in or involved in the theatre.

Julia: What inspired me to get into theatre is not exactly what people expect, considering the type of work I now do… It was CATS, the musical. When I was four, the touring production came to Halifax (where I was living) and I saw commercials on TV with singing and dancing cats, and I begged my parents to take me for my birthday. What four year old girl wouldn’t? Barely halfway through the show, I turned to my mom and whispered “I want to do that.” And I meant it. The next day I hassled my parents until I was signed up for every dance, voice, and acting class we could find. And I haven’t stopped since then. It was never something I thought about. Being in theatre was just the way life was for me.

Why Sea Change?

Sea Change is a phrase that means “a profound or notable transformation” and was coined by Shakespeare in the Tempest. Our event is about encouraging new works from artists of all types and creating a community around that. It gives artists a chance to experiment and try something different in a really unique mix of like minded people and the audience gets a chance to be a part of a fresh new artistic landscape that is unfolding right in front of their eyes.

What kinds of things can we expect from Sea Change?

Sea Change is a curated event and we’re always accepting submissions from all different types of artists. We’ve had poets, playwrights, puppeteers, and painters; musicians, mask makers, clowns, storytellers and more. We’ve also had a bunch of artists who want to try something different than what they normally practice. So, for example, it’s always a great joy to us when an actor wants to put up their visual art, or when a playwright wants to try out some poetry. Providing a community for artists to push their boundaries is really what Sea Change is about.

Also, there are free baked goods. And we’re talking home-baked yumminess. People come for the art, but stay for the brownies.

What is your favourite memory from a past Sea Change?

Eric: Probably Teodoro Dragonieri performing in masks made from cut-up laundry detergent bottles. I remember the audience didn’t see it coming and he had everyone on the edge of their seats trying to figure out how he brought inanimate objects to life.

Julia: There was one time when a performer needed a bit of extra time to set up, so he told a joke while he was getting ready, but then he still needed more time, so the whole crowd got into it. Eric and I told bad jokes and audience members just kept yelling out more jokes. The performer was ready to go after only a couple of jokes, but everyone was having so much fun, we kept going for a while. That’s what Sea Change is like. It’s not rehearsed and the audience is a part of it. It’s a great community feel and that’s what I love the most.

Describe Sea Change in three adjectives or a phrase.

Supa-fresh – electric – baked goods

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

Our first Sea Change took place in a very small cafe space, where people were crammed in on top of one another. It was raining that night and everyone was dripping wet. The thunder and lightning cracked just as we were getting started and one of our performers, David Calderisi, let us know that in some eastern traditions thunder is a omen for great creativity and we can remember feeling like there was a certain electricity and excitement in the air. That thunder really set the tone for that night, and three years later we still think about it before every new edition of Sea Change gets started.

sea change poster