What makes the best…?(Part 8)



Lots of things, really, but we’ll just mention a few. A few vital things like, vision, planning, creativity and an ability to inspire others. The best directors I’ve worked with were able to see potential in others and bring it out of them. They could see the future character, or the singing ability or dancing ability or comedic/dramatic ability and they knew the performer could deliver. They knew it so intensely that could even give confidence to the entire team that some crazy difficult show or scene was possible – sometimes during supposedly insurmountable odds. Their vision and confidence carried the entire team to the finish line and even if there might have been some doubt or hesitation along the way, they wouldn’t let that stop the progress of the show.

The best directors have a plan for success. They get down to the business of planning their rehearsal process for success and they share that plan with the entire team. They are also open to suggestions from the team. No one is excluded and no idea is too small to be ignored. The best directors seek out ideas from their team and make sure all those contributions feel valued and honoured. You never know when brilliance will strike and you can’t possibly be the only person with good ideas. But if you’ve explained your vision and you’ve inspired your team, then you’ll definitely be setting the stage for great ideas and they’ll come your way. Be ready for them.

Creativity goes with the entire job – and is vital to every aspect of being a director. You’ve got to be creative in your casting, in your scheduling, in your promotion, in your staging, your design of your show and even in how you end your project. Always be on the lookout for new ideas, new ways of approaching your work and new ways to challenge your creativity as a director. It is taxing, for sure, but it is also very rewarding.

Choose a new project – get out there and plan for new challenges, it’s truly rewarding.

What makes the best…?(Part 5)

Lighting Designer????


Seriously? What does make the best Lighting Designer? I don’t know, exactly… even though I may have tried my hand at some Lighting Design, I still don’t know what makes the BEST Lighting Designer because this can be a really elusive section of the entire design process – and yet, so VERY integral.

For example, when great stage design ends, great lighting design should take over. Lighting can create and add so much to every production. Lighting, in theatre is the CGI of live entertainment. That sounds like a really loaded statement, and it is… but it is also true. Ask any really experienced Lighting Designer if the theatre they are working in has enough equipment and they’ll tell you – “there’s never enough equipment”. Another lamp, another dimmer pack, a hazer… there’s always room for more and it will give you more – almost exponentially more, especially in the hands of a pro-lighting designer. More than CGI would, I wager.

A pro will read the script. And read it again, and again, and probably again. Their medium is very, very visual and ephemerally so… Mood, sense, time, place – lighting design will give you all of these things. Lighting can scare you, inspire you or feel barely noticeable at all, but it will totally affect your sense of appreciation of the production! Totally!

Once they’ve read it… they’ll probably make a few strong decisions and then come to the director for some vision. Lighting Designers know how to interpret the strange language that Directors speak and they’ll translate that into colour and make it fit with the palate of the Stage Designer and the Costume Designer and they’ll use their skills and talents to make other people’s work look extra good.

They will also spend countless hours above the stage with heavy objects arranging them to face in just the right area with just the right colour and texture to create some ephemeral existence for us to enjoy. And then… they’ll go home, very, very, very late at night. They create entirely in the dark and they disappear once the work is done. Often, if you notice their work… they are sad that attention was brought away from the action on stage. But for me.. the beauty of light is something worth noting. I certainly take time to note it. Do you? Take note at your next production. I think it’s worth it.

What makes the best…? (Part 4)

Costume Designer??? Lots of passion for fashion – that’s for sure. But a passion for fashion isn’t enough. You may enjoy dressing yourself, but do you enjoy dressing others? In different time periods – perhaps real or imagined? Do you love thrift shopping? And sewing? Because all of these desires and skills are a must for a great Costume Designer.


The best are creative and usually on ridiculously small budgets. Sure, Broadway and Stratford designers can buy the finest silks for their gowns, but for the regular theatre folk, scrounging,  repurposing and borrowing is essential to costume a show on a simple budget.

The passion for fashion will allow the great Costume Designers the opportunity to find and sew amazing outfits for men, women, children and sometimes creatures that you could barely imagine. They’ll make them in a variety of sizes to match a large chorus of dancing boys and girls and they’ll find designer gowns abandoned in Value Village and scurry them home to their personal storage for some future use – because they are certain that they’ll be able to use them in the future… for something.

They’ll deal with Diva actresses and actors who don’t want to wear what has been chosen for them. They’ll deal with directors who know exactly what they want and others who have no idea what people should wear in 1950, Victorian times or even today. They’ll deal with deadlines and schedule changes, missing actors and torn or soiled items and do it all with a smile. And when the show is over… they’ll take all the costumes home and clean them, fix them, sort them and store them lovingly away for the next time they are called into use.

Then… they’ll start again – on the next show!

What makes the best…? (Part 3)

Set Designers are crucial the a show’s success. They are also crucial to the creative process of the director – at least they are to my creative process. No matter what the play or musical is about, if I don’t have a set design, then I can’t see the show coming to life in my head and in turn I will have difficulty in bringing that vision to the cast for them to give it life.


I’m a pretty visual person, but I work kinetically on a play. This means that I need to be able to feel in my gut what is the crux of a scene and give it some truth in the physical relationships of the characters involved. That holds true if it is a musical number or a dramatic, tension filled scene and the spatial relationships of the players can really affect the kinetic feeling of the scene.

A great Set Designer will read the play. Then they’ll read it again and then they’ll talk with the director and eventually be able to give them some plans, either 2D or 3D – preferably both –  to help them show the entire team the world that they will be living and working in for the life of the show. The sooner a Set Designer can provide this, the better. If you don’t know the layout of your apartment, for example, how can you go shopping for furniture?

A superb Set Designer will solve script problems. Sometimes problems that you didn’t even realize were there. They’ll be able to give you solutions to scripts that read more like movies – many authors seem to forget that it is hard to transition from the dining room of a tavern to a seaside in a matter of seconds. Your Set Designer can have creative tools up their sleeve to help to tell the story in a seamless manner. They will also help to tie in the colour palate of your show and give the whole world a real sense of belonging.

Aside from knowledge of building and a good aesthetic sense, a flexible personality is necessary for a great Set Designer. They need to be able to take their artistic sensibilities and skills and apply them to the whole vision of the show. They will consider the movement of the actors, the potential difficulties of costumes and the location and operations of lighting and sound equipment. They can give a director levels to play on and moveable pieces to bring an imaginary world to an audience. And they will probably finish their design long before the other members of the crew will finish theirs. A good set design will inform the whole production – and the whole production’s process.

It’s a big job. And we always need someone to do it. Could that someone be you?

The Stages of Theatre – Part 2

So, auditions are complete and rehearsals are beginning. All that trepidation, all those questions that pile up at every rehearsal, “what’s my character?” “what will the set be like?” “when will we be learning this number/blocking that scene?” “who’s looking after this?!?!” It never ends and it never ceases to amaze.

By a few weeks in to rehearsals, hopefully, you are hitting your stride. As a cast or crew member, you’ve found your place in the production, there’s a vibe going through the rehearsals and things are humming along. It really is one of the best parts, isn’t it? The process – the creation… hopefully one of the main reasons you’ve taken on the project. Otherwise why not go make something else, right?

We are still in the beginning of our theatre year – the “Dark Monday” of our theatrical run and a pile of great shows are just, or almost about to, burst onto the London scene. It’s impossible to fit them all in to your schedule, (even though some with Beat Magazing and the Brickendens give it a good go!), but it sure is exciting to be part of the whole creative potpourri.

Nerdist and Inspirationalist

Being a nerd used to be a bad thing. It isn’t anymore. The question now is, how do you share your nerd-iness?

The Nerdist Channel, (www.nerdist.com) has exploded in the last few years with celebrations of all things nerdy. Comics, theatre, music, gaming, Muppets, – you name it and they’ll celebrate it. And that’s wonderful.

I find the celebration of something you are passionate about always leads to something good. Maybe not right away, but if you are a dedicated nerd, then that dedication will pay off. Your audience, whomever they may be, will appreciate your passion, your attention to detail. It’s a great thing.

So, what are you a nerd about? Doesn’t really matter, does it? So long as you share it.

Why new projects can help you get through the dark days…

Have you ever felt blue, you know, a little anxious for no particular reason? A little sad, a little self-conscious or perhaps even really sad during those long dark times that take us from the beautiful colourful days of fall into the bright sparkling days of rebirth in spring? How do you combat that? What keeps you going?

Let’s face it, it can be difficult to get up in what seems like the dead of night to face whatever challenges your day may bring, but we’ve got to do it, right? We’ve got bills to pay and houses to clean and all manner of other commitments that make us get out of that comfy cozy spot where we’d much rather stay until April. So what keeps you going?

For me, it’s the promise of creative projects. This fall, I have less on my plate than normal, but that’s quite alright as the new year will bring several exciting shows my way and stocking up energy now is vital for all that I’ll need to keep organized.

Of course the podcast and blog will continue, but then there’s also a production of Sullivan & Gilbert with LCP at The Palace Theatre, a staged reading of Under Milk Wood again with LCP, two Original Kids Productions – one which will see me working with one of my favourite things (PUPPETS!) – that’s of course Avenue Q, the alumni show in June of next year and finally just today we received word that our submission to the London Fringe – [THEY FIGHT!] was accepted for this year! It’s going to be a busy six months for sure.

So, while I may be feeling a little non-specific sadness in these months as the days get darker, I know there’s some real creative buzz coming in the new year and that will certainly speed the time towards the longer sunnier days. And that’s my advice, find something exciting that will keep you going and make you want to get up, regardless of the light. Then, share it with others. They may benefit from your creativity as well.

Relaxation & Inspiration…

Taking time away from the hustle and bustle can really help you to re-fire your creative juices. It can also lead to wiping away all concerns and in the process, your creativity.

We’ve spent the past few days up at the family cottage. It’s a wonderful site and we haven’t been here in three years, so we were really looking forward to a good cottage getaway. Mother nature has decided to take this time to end the drought summer we’d been experiencing, but that is not central to my story.

We come to the cottage to unwind. To forget any worries – they will still be there when we get home, and to refuel the body, mind and soul. This time around, the relaxation has really worked. It has worked so well that I am having a difficult time even remembering some of the creative projects I’ve got on the go, let alone thinking about new ones.

I’ve brought my drawing tools and I have used them. Gotta give myself some credit there. Not quite daily, but almost. But sun, (when we’ve seen it), wind and the lullaby of the lake has nearly drowned away all other thoughts.

One event that did spark some creative juices was the Puppets Up! Festival in Almonte. This is the first time I’ve ever attended this event and thank the heavens the weather agreed with our decision to drive the distance. It was a lovely day. Filled with puppets, music, nature and art. Wonderful vendors had their creations on display, many which tempted me to open my wallet, and the puppet shows were fun and informative. I went to gather tales to tell my students for the fall. I went to see what could be done with different puppets and spaces and audiences. I saw a lot of wonderful work. One artist in particular was most impressive. His new piece Adrift was beautiful, thought provoking and definitely inspirational. If this was a ‘work in progress’, (as we were told), I would love to see the final piece. His name is Zach Fraser and he’s studying to obtain a Masters in Contemporary Puppetry in Quebec. Based on the work I saw this weekend, he is one artist to watch.

So, relaxed and somewhat inspired… I’ll head back to reality and the very fast approach of fall with some new ideas, and at the very least, be a little more rested.

Why am I here? Why are you here?

Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending…..

I lead a pretty creative life. I regularly make things that have music, drama or dance involved in them. I teach the arts. I am surrounded by creative folks all the time. And I’m privileged to work with them. But I felt Ike something was somehow missing. I felt I needed a forum for my own creative impulses to take shape and a place where I could explore the creative impulses of my own work and my colleagues. I’ve been creating and staging work that others have written and I felt it was time to write something of my own.

I’ve been thinking about creativity, inspiration and leadership and wondering where that all comes from and how you can cultivate creativity and inspiration. This year I was reminded of one of my greatest sources of inspiration and I began to explore his philosophy of creativity and leadership. Mr. Jim Henson.

This is the source of my inspiration for this podcast and website. I want to explore creativity and the different ways that people are inspired to fulfill their dreams. I hope to to uncover some interesting stories and philosophies during the life of this blog, website and podcast. I hope that you will join me on this exploration and participate in the discussion.