2016: The Year in Review

2016: The Year in Review

It’s that time again… time to look back over the previous year and reflect on everything that has happened. 2016 has been a year of ups and downs, successes and challenges. I think we can all agree that it’s time to move ahead and focus on the good things to come. But for a short while, I’m looking back over the things that happened throughout the year. Thanks for sticking with me!

If you’re curious, check out my reviews of 20152014 and 2013.

January started with archery tag, recording a podcast, visiting Toronto and seeing Kinky Boots, and going to the Brickenden Awards.

February saw the start of Tarzan rehearsals (which basically consumed my life until May), celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Original Kids Theatre Company in the midst of a snowstorm, visiting the London RV show and dreaming of buying a trailer, enjoying my cousin Jacalyn’s baby shower, and celebrating my stepdad’s 60th birthday.

March was a busy month! I saw The Great All-American Musical Disaster at Lucas Secondary School, and then was off to New York City with the Original Kids (my third time with OKTC but my fifth time to the city). I saw nine shows (including Something Rotten twice!), met Christian Borle, Adam Pascal, and Tavi Gevinson, hung out backstage at the Slipper Room with the lovely Veronica Varlow, experienced the madness of Sleep No More, took a longsword class taught by my pal Jared Kirby, and overall had an amazing time. Ceris and I recorded another podcast, and created an Instagram challenge for April. I celebrated my 33rd birthday by winning tickets to see Metric in concert and enjoyed the show with my friend Kate. Shawn and I also squeezed in an impromptu roadtrip to Toronto.

2016: The Year in Review

In April, Brock and I taught a swordfighting combination to two grade six classes, I recorded a course for the Drama Teacher Academy, created violence for Musical Theatre Productions’ Heathers the Musical, started a five-week yoga course, and saw a Blue Jays game.

In May I got to host the 2016 OKTC Playfest Awards Ceremony, and my mom and I made enough mac & cheese to feed an army (the secret ingredient was cauliflower). The rest of the month was consumed by Tarzan, which sold out the entire run before it even opened. I also got a mole on my shoulder removed, which turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma. For the record, I am absolutely fine, the doctor got it all out, and my scar is healing really well. But PLEASE avoid tanning beds and always wear sunscreen! I will keep bugging everyone about that!!! I finished out the month celebrating at the OKTC Grad Gala, which is always a bit of a tearjerker.

2016: The Year in Review

June started out with me appearing on Xandra‘s Heroine Training webinar, which was a lot of fun! I also appeared in a one-night-only performance of Campus Martius with a bunch of fun theatre friends in the London Fringe Festival, and went to the Oxford Renaissance Festival with my friend Cole. Shawn and his cousin Justin also built me a garden in the backyard.

My mom, my aunt, and I flew out to Sault Ste. Marie over the Canada Day weekend in July to visit my cousin Jennifer, which was a lot of fun. We went shopping across the border, played Cards Against Humanity, and ate tons of delicious food! My friend Lizz introduced me to the fun of geocaching (we also had a lovely outdoor adventure with Nicole), and Shawn and I went to see a WWE house show at Budweiser Gardens.

2016: The Year in Review

August started out with a visit to Rib-fest (and the largest cherry lemonade I’ve ever experienced), and consisted of gardening, reading, and a visit to my in-laws’ trailer.

September also began with a visit to the in-laws’ trailer. I started teaching OKTC’s T.A.G. (The Actor Grows) classes again, as well as started rehearsals as fight director for OKTC’s production of She Kills Monsters. I appeared on Theatrefolk’s podcast, chatting about theatre etiquette. I went to the London Psychic Expo, which was very enlightening! I also went with my mom to see Macbeth at the Stratford Festival.

In October, I received my first introduction to Thirty-One Gifts with a party at Kendryth’s, and received first-aid training with the rest of the OKTC staff. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Shawn and I travelled with Justin and Amanda to Pittsburgh for the first time. They went to see the Pittsburgh Steelers and I saw The Toxic Avenger. We also visited the Andy Warhol Museum, went up the Monongahela Incline and gorged ourselves with amazing Mexican food. At the end of the month, Shawn and I saw I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace in concert, and had fun at Justin’s Halloween party. I also started loom knitting! (I’m obsessed.)

2016: The Year in Review

In November, Shawn and I travelled to Toronto to see Pentatonix in concert (SO GOOD). Shawn also got to meet Wendel Clark (his favourite Toronto Maple Leaf player of all time). Both She Kills Monsters and the T.A.G. showcases had fabulous performances as well.

And it all comes back around to December. I started out the month hosting my own Thirty-One Gifts party (and my mom and I cooked our brains out). OKTC announced their Spring 2017 season lineup, including my two upcoming productions: Peter and the Starcatcher and Disney’s High School Musical 2 Jr.

2016: The Year in Review

It’s been a really busy year. You may have noticed that my blogging here has become fairly sporadic and for that, I apologize. I have been blogging for the past year for the Theatrefolk blog, which I am thrilled to continue to do in 2017. One of my 2017 goals is to get back to posting here more regularly, but it will be at a reduced rate. I have been working hard on balancing my time, and I think it has been working.

I am looking forward to a fresh start in 2017. I hope you’ll join me!

Favourite Posts of 2016

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Travel Diary: New York City, March 10 & 11, 2016

Travel Diary: New York City, March 10 & 11, 2016

Hello lovely people! My posting schedule kind of went all sideways because I was busy getting ready to go to New York City with the Original Kids Theatre Company! I’m currently writing this post from a Starbucks on 43rd and 8th, and I am just basking in the gloriousness that is NYC! I’m going to try and take a few minutes every couple of days and share the highlights of what I’ve been up to.

We arrived in NYC on the morning of Thursday March 10 and went on a scavenger hunt around Times Square, getting re-acquainted (or in some cases, introduced!) to the Theatre District. The weather was insanely gorgeous, and we were all running around in t-shirts and tank tops! We were able to get into our hotel rooms around 3 pm, where we freshened up, hit up Shake Shack for dinner, and then went to our first show of the trip: School of Rock, based on the Jack Black film, playing at the Winter Garden Theatre. It was a fun show, with great music and an insanely talented group of kid actors who played all their own instruments in the band! It was a great way to start off this NYC adventure.

Travel Diary: New York City, March 10 & 11, 2016

Friday was our first full day in the city, and it was a busy day! I started out the day getting rush tickets for Something Rotten with Cole, Brenton and Lia (warning: you will be hearing a LOT about Something Rotten below!). After snagging those tickets (front row, only $35!), we took the subway to Fifth Avenue, picked up J.P. and dropped off Lia, and had a leisurely stroll up Fifth Avenue. We dropped off J.P. at Rockefeller Center (it’s weird spelling it with an ER) and had fun exploring the Lego store and Nintendo World. We checked out the New York Public Library and then ran back to Rockefeller Center to meet up with a whole bunch of OKids to experience Top of the Rock. It’s an absolutely gorgeous view. It was also incredibly windy! I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building but this was my first time checking out Top of the Rock.

Travel Diary: New York City, March 10 & 11, 2016

We met back up with Lia and were joined by a couple other OKids for a nice dinner at Scarlatto, an Italian restaurant just steps away from our hotel. The gnocchi was fantastic. Zach and Nic headed off to The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time, which was just across the street. The rest of us were cutting it pretty close to our show though, and Cole, Brenton, Lia and I had to sprint to 44th street to get to Something Rotten on time!

Travel Diary: New York City, March 10 & 11, 2016

Our sprint was TOTALLY worth it though. Something Rotten was ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE AND I AM OFFICIALLY OBSESSED WITH THIS SHOW. It’s side-splittingly hilarious and so cleverly written, and I am going back to see it again before the end of the trip. Seriously, it was that good. I’ve already bought the album on iTunes and I plan to have the score memorized by the end of the trip. When can I get the rights to this show?!?!

We stayed to get autographs at the stagedoor after the show and I got to meet Christian Borle… witness the awesome:

Travel Diary: New York City, March 10 & 11, 2016

I only fangirled a little bit. 😉

Anyway — it’s been an amazing trip so far, and the trip has barely begun! I’m about to sign off to go catch a matinee of Shear Madness, and there is so much more that I’m looking forward to — Sleep No More on Monday night, a fight workshop with Jared Kirby on Tuesday, The Crucible on Wednesday afternoon, and of course I’m going to see Something Rotten again. I love this city!

Got any must-sees that I should check out while I’m in NYC?
Share your tips with me on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

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5 Items You’ll Need For A New York City Theatre Trip

5 Items You'll Need For A New York City Theatre Trip

I’m heading to New York City in less than a week with the Original Kids Theatre Company, and I’m so excited! This will be my fifth trip to NYC, and my third with OKTC. I’ve already got tickets for Sleep No More and School of Rock, and I’ve got a list of other shows and adventures I want to explore while I’m there!

Before any trip, it’s important to get your things packed and ready to go ahead of time so you aren’t all stressed out before you leave! If you’re specifically going on a trip to immerse yourself in theatre, here are five items you won’t want to leave home without!

1.  Sharpie markers.

Easy to stick in your pocket or purse, and great for getting autographs on your program at the stagedoor after a show. I recommend having three different colours: basic black, a metallic (gold or silver) in case your program has a mostly black cover, and one random, bright colour like red, fuchsia or purple. Avoid yellow at all cost!

2.  A small notebook and pen.

Useful for taking notes, giving notes, getting autographs, making tiny origami on the subway (why not?). It’s just really handy to have.

3.  A bunch of Broadway deals.

Theatre tickets can be expensive, so arm yourself with deals. Playbill.com and Broadwaybox.com can email you deals that you can print out and take to the box office. There are also deals at TKTS booths, lots of apps to find deals (TodayTix is a great one!) and various student and general rush policies, so do some research and get the best deal possible! (As a general note, Disney theatrical shows in New York City such as The Lion King, Aladdin or Mary Poppins tend to have very few, if any, deals available.)

4.  Comfortable shoes.

Get ready to max out your Fitbit. Every single packing list for NYC will say to bring comfortable shoes, and I will echo it. You will walk SO much in NYC and you don’t want to be suffering. From early mornings in line for rush tickets, to late nights in an immersive theatre experience such as Sleep No More or The Grand Paradise, you will walk more in NYC than you will anywhere else. However, do NOT wear flip-flops in NYC, ever, no matter how hot it is, and you’ll probably want to avoid white shoes, because they’ll get filthy fast.

5.  Cash

Honestly, just pack light and bring cash. You can buy literally anything in New York City. If you forgot something, you can easily replace it there. Cash is easier to manage for budgeting (swipe your credit card too much and you’ll just end up crying when you get home), and it’s the most convenient way of buying show swag if you want to buy it!

Leave at home:

  • Enormous suitcases. Just pack less. I’d recommend a duffle bag over a rolling suitcase — you don’t want to be struggling with a massive rolling bag on the subway.
  • Selfie sticks. Gross.
  • Cameras with neck straps. Bring the camera, but leave the strap at home or risk looking like a tourist.
  • Big golf umbrellas. Nobody will be able to walk around you on the sidewalk and you’ll annoy people. If you need an umbrella, get one of those tiny folding ones.
  • Fanny packs. Use a small cross-body purse instead.

What would you put on your NYC packing list?
Let me know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

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Theatre Talk With Jared Kirby, Fight Director

Theatre Talk With Jared Kirby, Fight Director

This week’s Theatre Talk features fight director Jared Kirby, based out of New York City. I met and was trained by Jared at the 2011 Art of Combat New York City Intensive workshop, and then came back for more punishment at the 2012 NYC workshop, where Jared introduced me to the joy of blood capsules. From there, Jared offered a special longsword class to my Original Kids during their annual NYC trip, where I got to assist with demonstrations (and subsequently became much cooler due to my association with a a real New York City fight director). I’m very grateful to Jared for the learning opportunities I’ve received from him, and can’t wait to study with him again (hopefully soon!). Want to know more about Jared? Read on!

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Jared Kirby, and I’ve been involved in Western Martial Arts and Combat for Stage & Screen for over 20 years. I teach in New York City (and the metro area) and have choreographed fights Off-Broadway, nationally, in London and Sydney. I’m the president of Art of Combat, a board member for the International Order of the Sword & Pen, and the president of Combat Con in Las Vegas.

I currently teach fencing at SUNY Purchase, Sarah Lawrence College and am a Provost of Arms (Assistant Master) through the Martinez Academy of Arms. I have an ongoing Combat for Stage & Screen class in New York City. I also teach a variety of workshops across the US and around the world including Canada, England, Scotland, Finland, Italy and Australia.

I am the editor and one of the translators of “Italian Rapier Combat,” the first complete, professional translation of Capo Ferro. I’m also the editor and wrote the introduction for “The School of Fencing” by Domenico Angelo and annotated by Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martínez. Most recently “The Gentleman’s Guide to Duelling” was released in February 2014.


What made you want to do what you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I first fell in love with stage combat when I saw a human chess match at a Renaissance Faire. I was 15 years old and blown away. It looked like so much fun! I told myself “I’m going to do that someday.” Several years later, after I graduated from high school, I moved and auditioned for that very chess match. I got a part, received a lot of training, and ended up performing in the same chess match that inspired me to start learning stage combat. After that I had a voracious appetite for the sword and trained as much as possible with my instructor (Michael Anderson). Through that process I met someone who had moved to Scotland and learned historical sword fighting. When he came home he introduced me to the martial application of sword fighting and I loved it! From that point on I trained in both the stage and screen application as well as the martial art of European sword fighting. Each is a different way of expressing the art and use of a sword. I have never been able to determine which I love more, so I just keep doing both.

Having that dual background was a niche which helped me get roles when I was a professional actor. I can’t say I pursued it for that purpose though. I loved it, so I kept learning. I loved it, so I kept teaching others. I think it’s important to approach life in that way. If you pursue the things that you love, you will find opportunities and ways to bring that into your life.

After years with my first stage combat teacher, I moved to Scotland to study with Maestro Paul Macdonald. Now Maestro Macdonald is well known, but back in the nineties (before the Internet was a big thing) it was a huge deal to find someone who was teaching European swordsmanship. I decided to move to Edinburgh to train with him and a local group called the Dawn Duellist Society. It was at the end of my stay in Edinburgh that I met Maestro Ramon Martinez and after taking an hour and a half seminar with him in Spanish Rapier I was hooked. I remember telling him right after the class that I would be moving to New York to study it with him more (a decision that had solidified for me during that class). He was polite and did not laugh in my face but it was only 3 months later when I had packed up everything, moved to NYC, and found my way to his Academy. I have been studying with him for over 15 years now and during that time I have continued to learn from other great teachers in stage and screen combat from around the world.


Theatre Talk With Jared Kirby, Fight Director

What has been your favourite past project/performance so far, and why?

That’s a hard one. The majority of the projects I get to work on are a blast! If I had to pick one story to tell it would be the Titus Andronicus that just closed at the end of August. It is my favourite Shakespeare play (and not for the obvious reason). Most people assume it’s because the play has 13 deaths, a rape, three hands chopped off, and two kids baked into pies and fed to their mother. All that is great for a fight director, but it’s actually because the play has the most number of characters who portray the most emotional depth in all of the cannon. Take Aaron the Moor for example. Here is the most vicious villain in the cannon and yet we get to see one scene with his lover and how he feels about her, then another scene where he unexpectedly is presented with his newborn baby and we get to see his emotional depth as a new father. This from a man who when facing death for his crimes says:

Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more. 

And that is just one of the characters who gets to show many different levels. But I digress 🙂

In this recent production not only did I get to create the violence, but I was also asked to Assistant Direct the production. It was a dream come true as I had the opportunity to share my insights about the production as well as create the blood and special effects that I think this play demands. We offered ponchos to all those in the front row because they were considered to be in the “splatter zone!” With the help of a great special effects woman, and two of my fighters (who took on the position I called blood boys), we were able to create realistic acts of violence. Each one furthered the story and revealed something about the characters that were dying and the ones doing the killing. It was a wonderful, creative and extremely fulfilling project to work on.

Theatre Talk With Jared Kirby, Fight Director


Do you have a “war story” from your performing past that you’d be willing to share?

The most recent one worth telling is the production of Hamlet I recently did the fights for which starred Peter Sarsgaard. The rehearsal process with Peter and Glenn Fitzgerald (the gentleman playing Laertes) was terrific. Their clarity about their characters made it easy to create choreography which expressed Hamlet & Laertes’ mindset and desires in that final fight.

I received an email from the stage manager towards the end of the run that Laertes’ voice was in bad shape and the doctor had recommended vocal rest. They were checking with me to see how long it would take to work a new actor in to the fights if necessary. Turns out that Glenn was able to push through the weekend but visited the doctor again and was then ordered to rest his voice. When they emailed again to tell me we would be working in a new Laertes (as soon as they found one) I mentioned that I could jump in if it was easier on them. Having played the role three times in the past helped the lines come back quickly and since half Laertes’ scenes had violence I knew the blocking for them and of course the fight choreography. They put me in and with 48 hours notice I went on as Laertes opposite Peter Sarsgaard’s Hamlet!

I often tell my students that success is opportunity and preparation meeting. This is a perfect example of that. When I arrived Tuesday morning to learn blocking and rehearsing the scenes it was only then that remembered Glenn is left handed. I had choreographed the fights lefty vs. righty. Luckily I can do a sword fight left handed, so I was able to jump right into the fight. The thing is that I would never have had that skill except that ten years ago I hurt my knee and couldn’t practice right-handed for 3-4 months. I discovered that I could still fence left-handed and so instead of stopping my training I decided to work left-handed while I healed. I never could have guessed back then that it would be such an important skill to have.


What’s coming up next for you? Do you have a project on the go, or one coming up in the near future?

I am currently working on choreography for a few upcoming films. You can see some past work at youtube.com/jaredkirby and here are couple clips in particular:

As president of Combat Con, I am already busy at work coordinating the 2016 event in Las Vegas. I am working on another book, coordinating some exciting NYC workshops and I am excited to be traveling to Sydney Australia again this winter to teach a Combat Intensive with Kyle Rowling and John Lennox.


What are your goals for the future?

My overriding goal for the last 6 years has been and will probably remain unchanged. I want to continue doing great work with great people. While I know this is broad, it has served me well. This year alone I have gotten to work with Peter Sarsgaard and Steve Guttenberg, my NYC class was selected by Backstage magazine as 1 of 6 in the nation they recommend for Stage Combat, and I had the opportunity to bring a Titus Andronicus to the stage which has been rolling around in my head for nearly a decade. I’m very happy with all this and we are only 2/3 of the way through the year!


What words of advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do and follow in your footsteps?

Oftentimes actors ask me: how important is stage combat to learn. Others will ask me: how many hours they need to train. I think it’s important to find the skills you are passionate about. Then pursue them with vigour. If you are training in a variety of things which only mildly interest you, it is a disservice to yourself. These may help you succeed as an actor, but I have found it to be less frequently true. The performers who pursue their passions vivaciously end up finding roads to success that they could not have envisioned. Do what you love.
Theatre Talk With Jared Kirby, Fight Director


Thank you so much for sharing, Jared!

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Win Tickets to FUERZA BRUTA in NYC! [Giveaway Closed!]

Win Tickets to FUERZA BRUTA in NYC! [Giveaway!]

That’s right — I’m so excited to be hosting my first giveaway here on the blog! And this is a great prize — two tickets to see FUERZA BRUTA at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York City!

Celebrating 10 years worldwide, FUERZA BRUTA is an uninhibited and unforgettable show you have to see to believe! This theatrical thrill ride combines euphoria-inducing live music and breathtaking aerial displays in a performance that’s as exhilarating as it is addictive. Flood your senses and experience the “sexy, heart-pounding fantasy” (Daily News) of FUERZA BRUTA.

FUERZA BRUTA has visited 50 cities around the world and has had over 5000 performances! Meaning “brute force” in Spanish, the show originated in Buenos Aires and has been running downtown, Off-Broadway in New York at the Daryl Roth Theatre since 2007, and is described as a “360 degree experience.”

Here’s a sneak peek:

[youtube http://youtu.be/X57kSL3kEP4]

Sound like fun? Of course! So… how do you win? Easy peasy! There is a link below that you can click to see lots of different ways to enter to win:

The giveaway is now closed.

Win Tickets to FUERZA BRUTA in NYC! [Giveaway!]

Pretty cool, right? I’m so excited to share this fantastic prize with my readers. I wish I could win this prize myself! I love New York City, and having new theatrical experiences is so fun. So take a chance — Find more about FUERZA BRUTA here (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram) and enter to win!

Just in case you missed it:
The giveaway is now closed.

Terms & Conditions: Open to legal residents of the United States only, who will be in New York City area before October 1, 2015. Winners are selected at random. If chosen, you must provide your own transportation to and from the Daryl Roth Theatre. Tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable. Contest closes August 25, 2015 at 12 AM EST.

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