dossier: Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee for MORRO AND JASP: GO BAKE YOURSELF

As a fellow clown, albeit a new one who really has no experience clowning with or around these two, and York alumnae (it’s about time I shamelessly showed pride of my roots on this site – I realize that sounds like I harbour problems with York’s training. Really, I don’t; I had an excellent time there and think the training I received was exactly what I needed. I just don’t talk about it much anymore. Gotta move forward, amiright?) I am greatly excited to bring both Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis by today to chat a little about the reprise of their hit, GO BAKE YOURSELF! That’s right, Morro and Jasp are in the field to chat about what got them started.

Amy, Heather and I mostly just missed each other at York University. I had seen them around, and I think Amy had seen me, or at least knew my face, but it wasn’t until, maybe three Fringes ago that we actually met and had a conversation. It’s funny because I think I’ve actually seen these two perform more frequently out of nose than I have in nose (if you haven’t seen these two bust out their acting chops, do yourself a favour and keep your ear to the ground for what they’re up to next; usually they come as a pair, but individually they are their own unique forces of theatre-nature. It’s quite refreshing).

I know Fringe is well underway, but if you need to fill a hole in your roster and you’re just hearing about this show right now (which you probably aren’t), there’s still time to catch it! You’ll just have to line up a bit early…

dossier #18:

morro and jasp ii copy

Who are we talking with?

Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (sometimes known as Morro and Jasp).

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

We were in theatre school at York and discovered that we really loved working together. Byron Laviolette (our director and co-collaborator) had studied Pochinko clown and after he saw us in a physical piece together, asked us if we’d be interested in playing around with clown. We said yes, having no idea what to expect, and then we kept saying yes to every opportunity to experiment with/perform clown.

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

Amy decided when she was 6. Heather decided in high school. Although that was acting, not clown. Clown was a bit of a surprise love for both of us.


We both love cooking, baking, and food in a serious way. When we were roommates we would experiment with new recipes and they would almost always turn out disastrously (even though on our own, we are pretty kitchen saavy). We thought, “What could be more fun than letting our clowns play in the kitchen?” We also wanted to look at our relationship with food and how food helps us relate to one another. And we have a whole lotta fun doing it…

What kind of atmosphere do you intend to set up, or can someone expect from MORRO AND JASP: GO BAKE YOURSELF?

Fun, delicious, and full of love.

You’ve done the Canadian Fringe circuit often in the past. What do you look forward to the most when touring a new show to a new city?

Every audience is difference. And because we interact with our audiences so much, that really impacts us and the show. It is always really exciting to see how the space, city and people will affect the show and how we can play with that.

What is your favourite memory from a past Fringe circuit show?

Ah! Too many to pick one! Although, if we have to…We created a very audience-dependent ending to our show last year and we had no idea whether it would actually work, so on opening, when it did, we cried so many tears of joy!

Describe MORRO AND JASP: GO BAKE YOURSELF in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.


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

Here is our trailer for it:

We are sold out of our advance tickets for the run, but there are still tickets at the door every show!

We want to wish every Fringer out there, whether you’re performing or watching, so much love, so much gratitude, and may the Force be with you!

morro and jasp - fringe13 go bake yourself 2013 11x17 textured draft 2

dossier: The Boys of Living Room Theatre for NEW ART NIGHT

I met these fellas last year through a series of events, parties and a writer’s circle. Andrew Thomas McKechnie, Jesse Byiers and Alexi Pedneault make up Living Room Theatre. My first experience with their event New Art Night was when Andrew called me at about 6pm on May 29th, 2012 – two hours before the show – and told me one of their acts had cancelled and if I’d like to perform. I missed the call, so it landed in my voicemail. When I listened to it, my reaction was, “Uh, buh, guh, muh, hubba,” and after, maybe half an hour of making strange sounds to myself, I called him back and said, “Yeah. Sure.” He asked me if I needed any actors. I said, “Sure, a woman would be fine.” I arrived at about 7:40, was introduced to said actress who would read the excerpt of the play I was working on, and that is that. It’s like an improv exercise: just say yes, because, really, you won’t regret it. I met many people I now spend a lot of my time with that night.  

On the eve of the third Toronto-instalment of New Art Night, I came to the boys to make a dossier for them.

And this is what happened.

What follows is a rather untraditional entry. Instead of simply responding to the questions I sent via email, or of me actually being there to ask the questions, the boys took it upon themselves to interview each other using the questions I had provided. They recorded it during some sort of electrical storm, or while being attacked by an assassin with Metal Gear Solid-style chaff grenades (this is the only thing I can imagine that can explain the overpowering static in the recording). So as we read the following, just imagine these three guys sitting, probably in the dark of their kitchen, sitting around a many-candled and knife-scarred table. Imagine three men who made the journey from Red Deer to Toronto where they immediately began inspiring everyone they came in contact with. 

Are you ready? 

Here we go, dossier #8:

Alexi Andrew Jesse

[begin transmission]

(Andrew) Thomas: Who’re we talking with?

Jesse: Is it recording?

Thomas: Yep. We’re gonna send him this whole file. It’s gonna be great, “This is like an hour long. You guys are assholes”

(sounds of coffee being sipped)

Alexi: So… who’re we talking with?

Jesse: Jesse Byiers.

Alexi: Alexi Pedneault.

Thomas: Andrew Thomas McKechnie.

Alexi: Whoa… Thomas.

Thomas: Shut the fuck up!


Jesse: It’s your Soulpepper name.

Alexi: Should we say our middle names too now?

Jesse: I should just go, like, James? I should make up a stage name too?

Thomas: Yeah.

Alexi: My name’s Luis.

Thomas: That’s not bad except we already know a Luis. We don’t know any James’ though so you’re okay with James.

Alexi: Fuck you.

Thomas: Fuck you.

Jesse: Woo.

(sounds of coffee being sipped)

Thomas: What draws you to do what you do?


Jesse: What do I do?

Thomas: I don’know, what do you do?

Jesse: (reading) Oh, playwright, visual arts, acting…

Thomas: I-I-I don’t think it’s, like, I don’t think that’s like Andrew, Jesse, Alexi, it’s just like – like – what are the things – what are the things that you do, Jesse? And why do you do them?

Jesse: Oh, I see.

(sounds of coffee being sipped)

Jesse: Aaaahm…

(sounds of coffee being sipped)

Jesse: I-uhhh ok, I act which is my main focus. Um, I also, I also, do devised theatre, uhhh, I am a… man… I don’t know, what else do I do?


Thomas: Just think of what you get fired up about.

Alexi: What fires you up?

Jesse: Okay, someone – Andrew, you answer this first because you obviously have a better grip on this question.

Thomas: I write, predominantly. Um, I produce because there’s a lot of good things happening and I wanna support them and encourage them; I direct because it’s exciting to be sitting in the room seeing those little sparks in people and being like, “Yeah, yeah! Yeah! Go with that!” and being able to sit back and that’s very much why I like to create work because you get to do that in a lot of different roles and you get to be in a group of people and just follow impulses and try things. But, predominantly, I write and I write because I’ve always just communicated, um, received and shared information most effectively through written word. So I write plays and screenplays and poems and books and things like that.

Alexi: (to Jesse) Do you want to think on yours first?

Jesse: Well, k, I – k – I – predominantly, I act. I also study devised theatre and work in collaborative work efforts, so I suppose that involves a little bit of directing and puppetry and all that fun stuff but mostly I – mostly, I guess – mostly devised theatre: creating a piece – creating pieces – in a group environment and a shared work environment. I also do music. (laughs) I perform music? I write music? And –

Thomas: Fills our house with music.

Jesse: – fills our house with music and – and – and amateur poetry.

Thomas: I like your poetry.

Jesse: Thank you. Um… the reason why I do what I do is because I do a lot of things okay. But I’m not really good at one thing and maybe acting isn’t what I’ve always wanted to do but there’s nothing else I’ve spent as much money on in education and as much time and endeavoured my entire life towards so it has to mean something.

Alexi: Ah, well my first passion was visual arts so in a way the reason why I did visual arts was more because I felt like it was more like a therapy, but, like, not just therapy. It was just a way to have my own way of expressing myself without being just loud and obnoxious and then I went into theatre where I could be loud and obnoxious and be art-feely with my little small world which is visual arts. So I got the best of both worlds. Um. But it’s just about creating. I just – I just loved creating and loved collaborating. I loved talking with people, building on what their ideas are and that’s what got me into art in general. It’s just – it’s just so much love and passion. I want to keep building it, not just in one field, because I went to school for theatre-acting, but just that wasn’t enough. I wanted to do everything, I wanted to try everything else. I didn’t want to just limit myself to one title. What draws me to do what I do is a most pure love and adoration for the arts.

Thomas: Why New Art Night?

Alexi: No. You skipped one.

Jesse: Yeah

Thomas: Oh, shit!

Alexi: You skipped a question, sir.

Thomas: It was – it seemed like a boring question. JUST KIDDING! It sounds like a great question.

Alexi: Andrew, it’s a great question. Gaboury that is. Ummm.

Thomas: Have we…?

Alexi: Let’s read that one.

Thomas: What is the – (beat, laughs) What is the earliest memory you have of wanting or needing to do this?

Alexi: I don’t know.

Jesse: Ok

Alexi: Um, the first thing that comes to my mind is of – of – of – I’ll say theatre. First thing that came to my mind that I always wanted to be in this was the first time I ever saw a play, I guess. It was me being 12 and seeing this live performance of Cinderella which was actually really damn good in high school –


Alexi: Anyways, Cinderella, um, and it’s – and what made it so great is the fact that you shared this room with these people and you saw things live and you saw this story live. And what makes it even more special is that you saw them fuck up live, which was why I love theatre: mistakes. Because you just see the most interesting things come out and I guess that was the first time I [remember. Wanting to] be a part of their fuck-ups.


Thomas: You’ll get plenty of those in Living Room Theatre.

Alexi: Oh, there’s plenty of those.

Jesse: (clears throat) Hi! You are a yummy yummy yummy yummy yummy. Yeah that’s a vocal [warm-up], yeah.

Thomas: Please include that in your interview.

Jesse: Uh, kay: the reason why I got into theatre, I never wanted to do theatre or be an actor until I was 18 / in grade 11… so I guess I was 17. My dad was a cabinet maker and I worked for him for a very long time and the plan was to become a cabinet maker and live out in a shack in the woods. Um, but there was a girl that I had a crush on in my band class and, uh, and, uh, in order to impress her, I don’t know how this was supposed to impress her, I memorize and recited the orchard monologue, “But soft what light through yonder window breaks,” from Romeo and Juliet.

Thomas: Can you still do it? Can you still do it? Can you still do it?

Jesse: I can barely…

Thomas: Do it right now!

Jesse: No, I can remember some of it but I…

Thomas: Go as far as you can go.

Jesse: No!


Jesse: Cause now I’m learning new things and I suck at Shakespeare, so I can’t even talk properly. Um, I memorized the speech for her and recited it for her. She half listened to it and then she ended up dating a rig pig so I stopped talking for a week.

Alexi: What a bitch.

Jesse: But I – then I took the drama program, the one limited drama program my town had, and my friend said I was good and so I don’t really know why or how that was the particular reason that made me audition for Red Deer College’s theatre program but, uh, for some odd reason I did it and then I ended up getting in, so, uh, despite the fact of being offered a free tuition and spot at SAIT for cabinet making. I turned it down and went to acting instead.

Thomas: The rest is history. (beat) I was in like grade seven? And we had this creative writing assignment where we had to write a page and I ended writing this, uh, I was super jacked about it and the teacher forgot that the assignment was due that day but I was so excited that I walked up to the front of the class and put in on her desk and she was like, “Oh yeah! Everyone hand those in!” and my classmates were very angry with me.

Thomas: Why New Art Night?

Jesse: Well I never really got involved, I never really had my own thing in it until we moved to Toronto because Andrew said that instead of doing a full show why don’t we do this thing instead, that we were doing in Alberta?

Alexi: But it started even earlier then that with Love and Time Machines.

Jesse: But I never curated a night until Toronto.

Alexi: Do you remember the night that we all took turns kinda curating it because of one giant fuck up? I think that was the first time I –

Jesse: Where all three of us –

Thomas: You mean the time at the Nickle Studio?

Jesse: Yeah.


Thomas: That was the second – that was the second – waitwaitwaitwait –

Jesse: Ok, start with – start with Love and Time Machines.

Thomas: Yeah, yeah let’s go there. The very first time I did anything like this was in October of ’09 when I was lookin’ to raise a bit of money for a Fringe bid. I got a local theatre space donated to me by the owners who were friends of mine in exchange for some bitch labour around the place and I just got a bunch of my talented friends to put stuff in. I had a couple of musicians a couple of actors, good stuff, and I carried on doing that. We did one in the in October of the next year, which was the first time I worked on a project outside of school with Jesse and Alexi where none of us got cast in – there were 6 people we had an acting class of 18 people and 6 didn’t get cast for a show, so we said, “Fuck it, we’ll make our own show.”

Alexi: Instead of the praire show.

Thomas: Yeah, yeah fuck that show.


Thomas: But it ended up being this excellent, excellent show that we just made in two weeks for funzies. Uh, called Major Tom’s Last Night on Earth, which involved Jesse playing David Bowie and Alexi and I playing identical twins. This is funnier when you realize that Alexi is a kinda short Philipino guy and I’m a really tall Aryan dude and we’re clearly not twins, but yeah, just a fun, fuck-around kinda show. Essentially what the impetus behind it was is that I have a lot of friends who are good at things and it seems a damn shame that these things are not being consistently and avidly shown. So I started doing New Art Nights. That was the second New Art Night – uh, no, that was the first New Art Night as such. We did the second one in Jan. of 2011..? Yes?

(Jesse looks across the room at a New Art Night poster, with dates saying May 28th, 29th and 30th)

Thomas: No that was the first one in Toronto. We did the one in October that was Major Tom and then the one in January which was Better Worlds.

Jesse: Oh yeah.

Thomas: And then June was The Hangoverture and Brown Toast and –

Jesse: That’s right.

Thomas: The legendary show. Brown Toast I was actually super excited by because it was essentially like two days before the show, uh, the day before the matinee show. We did like a Friday show, a Saturday matinee and a Saturday evening, and the Friday evening I was told that one of the acts for the Saturday matinee was dropping out and I was like, “Yeah! Fuck! Yeah! Fuck!” So then two of the guys who were at New Art Night on Friday, I was like, “Hey do you wanna put something together for like… 2pm tomorrow?” and they were like, “Okay,” and they ended up writing this wonderful little show about two dudes writing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it was super good .

Alexi: And the toast.

Thomas: Yeah, while just, like, making toast constantly –

Alexi: The toast became –

Thomas: The Brown Toast story, very much for me exemplifies what I like about New Art Night. Brown Toast exists because I threw two people into a desperate situation of needing to make a play and ending up being a great play and they ended coming back in the evening and then taking it to Alberta Culture Days in the following Fall and it had a life past that and it was very exciting.

Jesse: Me and Alexi were always in the photo in the paper.

Thomas: Yeah! There was always the photo in the paper. Jesse and Alexi were always in it.

Alexi: What? Really?

Jesse: Yeah.

Thomas: There was the shot from Jordan’s play.

Jesse: The shot of you and me staring at each other doing some sort of Meisner thing.


Alexi: Oh, yeah.

Jesse: And then we did Jordan’s, “Who hates Jordan?” circle.

(laughter – lots of in-jokes apparently)

Jesse: The weird thing.

Thomas: It was a weird day.

Jesse: And then we were in the hallway for Better Worlds.

Alexi: Right, rightrightrightright. I didn’t even realize that

Thomas: And then when Jess and I moved to Toronto we wanted to keep doing it because it’s always been a really wonderous time; we get bring people together and try things and inspire creativity and… and fail boldly. So we kept doing it.

Alexi: What kinds of things can we expect to see at New Art Night?

Thomas: Why don’t you talk about your piece?

Alexi: Uh, I thought it was a question in general about –

Thomas: But as a case study in the kind of stuff, because I think that’s very much the kind of stuff we want to do.

Alexi: Oh, ok. Well I have a piece. It’s an experimental piece. Something that I always love is the dog park and I’m always very happy there and I was also really interested in the idea of not having to have a set theatre space where [the performers] could essentially go anywhere. Anywhere you want to do the show and could have a crowd of people. So for this one I had this dog mask that was specially built by Evan Harkai who does masks. It’s about a man who’s unable to realize the two realms of a soulmate and having a companion, AKA a dog. In order to cope with his dog’s death he becomes his dog by wearing this mask around the dog park. It also involves improv theatre. Where I don’t know how to experiment with improv theatre, so it’s great to be able to try something in front of audience and see how they would react. This would be a first step because I don’t want to act in the show; I want to write it and direct it but this gives me a chance to try it in the meantime.

Jesse: I feel like we never had a mandate for New Art Night. It’s always more like a workshop – it’s not like a workshop were you can get feedback and people are like, “Ah! Yes, I liked this part of but I would have liked more of this” – it’s more so like you’ve put up something you’re working on and creating and you have no idea what it looks like or sounds like and it’s this foetus and you ripped it out of the womb and put it in a jar before it was done growing and then you’re like, “I wonder if this baby’s cute?” And then putting it in front of a crowd of people and asking –

Thomas: This analogy is fucked up!

Jesse: No, then you see if the crowd is like “Awww” or if the crowd is like, “AGH!” and try and step on it.


Thomas: That’s really the heart of New Art Night.


Jesse: And then you will know if your baby is ugly or, y’know, a mutant and you need to destroy this thing and start again or if it’s – if you’re on the right path and you to like, add something, put eyes in to it and add fingers.

(more laughter)

Thomas: Are you clear with how birth works?

Alexi: This is like a Mr. Potato-baby.

Thomas: That’s not – it’s not – that’s not how that works. There’s like a gestation period.


Thomas: You don’t just, like, put eyes on babies.

Jesse: Well, anyways, it’s like – anyways. It doesn’t necessarily have to be just theatre, theatre is the only thing that really needs [something like this].  There’s lots of other stuff where you can write a song and put it up on Soundcloud and have people judge it. From that you can put it on YouTube and have people say whether it’s shit or if it’s good or not, where with Theatre you can’t do that; there’s no opportunity for people to put there stuff up –

Alexi: Unless you’re in school.

Jesse: Yeah, unless you’re in school. You have no chance to put up your piece that you’re working on and hear and audiences laughter or an audience claps or an audience’s silence.

Thomas: Theatre has to be evaluated live.

Jesse: Theatre has to be evaluated live so we have no other option then to just put it up. And of course you can get it work-shopped by professionals or something but that costs money, that costs their time. But this a chance to have an actual audience.

Thomas: What I get really excited about is, since they are these weird little weird, test-tube babies that don’t have eyes – is that the analogy we’re using to describe the art we’re creating?

Jesse: It’s like Frankenstien’s baby.

Thomas: What I like most about that is that so many of these things are sort of odd little Frankenstien creatures that could not stand on their own. So there is no other place to see a young lady reading poetry while projected video plays over her for three and a half minutes. This is sort of the only venue for that sort of stuff and just the sort of weird, interesting assortment of stuff that we have on a night by night basis. That this sort of event is the only one where we can get such an interesting and diverse mix of things. What do we have? What going on for this one? We got, suicide plays, a fairly straight realism piece about a coffee shop, a bit of   pick up artists, and a sketch comedy troop, and then me and a bunch of people are going to go into a room with a bunch of poems and just make something on Monday and we don’t know what that’s going to be but we’ll find out Monday evening when we put it up. SO! So it’s consistently a strange and wonderful evening of literary and theatre art.

Thomas: What’s your favourite memory from a past New Art Night?

Jesse: Oh! Can I take this one! Can I take this one first.

Thomas: Yeah, yeah hit it.

Jesse: Okay, so first my favourite New Art memory, there’s a few good ones, but my top-notch one has to be, yeah, it has to be New Art Night May 28th, 29th, 30th 2012? Yeah, 2012. The first one that ever happened here in Toronto, we didn’t know any body, we had – we had this one professional group come up and there was like two people in the audience so they were super unimpressed but the second night there was about 4 or 5 people in the audience and then half way through it these two drunk guys stumbled in. They had no idea what it was they just accidently stumbled into this place. The guy’s name was Vladimir and he sounded like he was from The Cure almost and he’s just, he’s started talking to Andrew (Thomas) and Andrew’s like, “Hey this guy’s a bit drunk but he wants to do something for the next New Art Night.” And I was like, “Cool!” So I told him to come in a little earlier and we’ll have an audition for him, and thought this was cool: meeting new artists. And he was going to sing some songs with his guitar, put on a little concert. So he came in and we sat and watch him and he wasn’t… awful… but he wasn’t spectacular and me and Andrew decided to take a risk on him. That’s what New Art Night’s about, failing, taking risks; so we’ll take a risk as producers and we’ll just put him up. So like… five minutes before the show starts, he says he’s changing the song, that he’s going to sing a different song than the one he sang before. And we’re like, “Okay!” and at that point were kiiinda worried about it but we’re like, “All right! Okay. You do what you need to do.” He’s like second last or something and me and Andrew are sitting next to each other and he opens the door and comes in with his guitar and as soon as he slams the door behind him you know something bad is going to happen. He then takes his shirt off swings it off stage and then starts playing this 40 minute long song with like 20 different endings and the entire audience was like – this was the one time was actually had a very good crowd for New Art Night as well and everyone just stared at this guy and a couple of our friends came up and said they thought it was a joke, they thought he was going to say, “This is how long I can lead you on this terrible song. Look how long you held on to every single note.” And every time he hit the chord you were like, “Oh good it’s over” and then he’d hit another one and you’d be like, “Okay, it’s over… okay, maybe not… okay, it’s over… okay, maybe not,” and I remember Andrew grabbing my knee and squeezing it and I could feel myself turn red. That was my favourite memory.

Thomas: And now I see him everywhere!


Jesse: Yeah, everywhere

Alexi: Andrew (Thomas) will be like, “That’s the guy!”


Jesse: Alexi?

Alexi: I guess it would go back to the first New Art Night. Not the first one in Toronto but the first one you did in Red Deer. I just loved doing that weird and funny and just collective show of Major Tom’s Last Night on Earth. Just two weeks of talking and talking and talking and then ten days before the show we put up this just really absurd show of David Bowie’s apocalypse circus and it was the silliest thing ever but still to this day I love it. I giggle about it. And his – oh God! There’s another good memory was that fucking monologue that was about nothing! There is no transitions –

Thomas: It’s a page long monologue of non-sequitors.

Alexi: Non-sequeitors, and then Andrew’s (Thomas’s) like, have fun with this and perform it! And I’m like, “Aaandreeew” but it was awesome.

Thomas: Alexi comes to me and he’s cramming in Theatre History, he’s just totally tuned out because we were in school at this time. He just totally tuned out in theatre history and he’s just cramming this monologue and he’s like, “Andrew, we need to cut part of this so I just scan through the non-sequitors and found a place that I can jump it.” And then I just cut the middle of the monologue right out and it’s just a series of non-sequitors so it just jumps to the next one and he’s like, “Good that’s much easier.”

Alexi: And then I was thinking, with that memory, is how did you write a monologue with non-sequitors. Like, where did you pull this shit up? The best! The worst and the best and it turned out to be quiet a fun show and to this day I find myself bragging about that show, like “Half of our class got to do this prairie play by this Canadian playwright, we did a play about David Bowie”

Thomas: I would say – yeah, no, I – you, uh – I want to say: every night I get something different. Every night there’s a second or a line or a moment that’s transcendent and to pick one out would seem to diminish all the others so I’ll say the Brown Toast is a favourite memory because it was created by two of our friends in a morning and an evening and a morning out of total desperation and involved making a loaf of bread’s worth of toast onstage. And Jesse walking on stage without pants on. It was just this insane show, in fact: not only was it good enough to use it was great and they brought it back and they carried on with it.

Jesse: I liked the Nickel Studio because it was a cabaret setting so you couldn’t tell how many people didn’t show up, whereas in Unit 102 it’s all seats so it’s like, “This many people showed up!”

Thomas: But then at the final show of the last New Art Night we had to find chairs to fit more people in. There were so many people.

Thomas: It’s says he wants us to describe New Art Night in three adjectives, what if we each said an adjective and – uh…

Jesse: Can I say a phrase?

Thomas: Yeah

Jesse: Okay, yeah, I can do one adjective. I don’t wanna start, but –


Thomas: Brave.

Jesse: Courageous.

Alexi: Passionate.

Thomas: Do we have anything we want to share with us? With “us?” Andrew, you’re the only person who runs this. Us! Oh, the audeince is us.


Thomas: A story, a photo, a song, a video, these can be plural.

Jesse: Yeah.


Thomas: I suppose we should get the Stop Playing – er, “Stop Praying, Start Playing” recorded we could send that.

Jesse: Why not send him everything? You write him a story, Alexi paints him a photo, I’ll send him a song.

Alexi: WhoooOwww

Jesse: And then the video.

Thomas: Spit roast?

Jesse: Yeah, spit roast.

(indistinct mumbling, i.e. conspiracies)

Alexi: Okay. Okay.

Thomas: That’s not like a thing that you need to –

Jesse: That’s off the record.

Thomas: Yeah, that’s – let’s just not include that bit about spit roasting in the video. Um, that’s not something that needs to be audio recorded, so we’ll stop recording now as we’ve already given you more then half –

[end transmission]

poster NAN

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