Monday, December 19, 2011

I Got a Part in BMT's 'Guys & Dolls'!

I will be returning to the stage in one of my most favouritest musicals of all time with Brampton Music Theatre's Guys & Dolls!  YAAAAAH!

I'm very grateful to be in the cast as part of the ensemble and carry on a 'tradition' of sorts that began with my father about twenty years ago when he played Benny Southstreet with the same production company.  Many of the production members remember Dad fondly from those days, and many others they had performed in together, and I was happy to make him proud and be a part of the G&D magic!

The audition process was a real learning experience for me - but let's face it, hindsight is always 20/20.  Y'know the moment when you walk away from a conversation with a wittier retort than what you said?  I walked out of my audition for this production realizing the 'error of my ways' when reading for Sister Sarah Brown, the female lead.  Cassandra the Actor thinks evangelicals, 'bible-thumpers' and the hardcore-preaching-type can get overly theatrical and exhuberant, and my nerves went down that road when I started reading, and I couldn't stop.  Sister Sarah Brown in G&D isn't 'theatrical' but more passionate about the idea of fixing these broken people that surround her in such a cesspool of sin, as portrayed in Runyon's version of New York City.  She's a woman with a big heart, who has the desire to leave a light burning in a place of darkness, to save a few souls from the self-destruction of drink and gambling.  She's soft, and she wishes she were big enough to hug the whole world, lean its sobbing head on her shoulder, stroke the hair away from those tear-streamed eyes and say, "It's alright, let me help you."

I read the monologue like a panicked tele-evangelical on her third cup of coffee.  I walked out of there thinking, "Ah, crap.  Well, at least the song choice saved me."  I sang 'Fly Me To The Moon' a la Frank Sinatra, ol' Blue Eyes himself.  My voice suits the cheese and makes it work.  I know this because I love this stuff.  I'm so glad to be in this show!  I'm especially excited because it means I'll get a chance to perform on the Rose Theatre stage!

The musical stylings of G&D are incredibly unique within its genre.  You've heard Frank Sinatra sing 'Luck Be A Lady', yeah?  A huge standard in his day, and everyone knows it, even if it's a few bars.  It's from this musical!  I often tend to think I was born in the wrong era because of my extreme love for 'big band music' and ol' time jazz (Billie, Ella, Chet, Glenn, those guys), and a lot of these songs became jazz and torch song standards that were hits outside of the musical theatre genre.  As much as I appreciate Marlon Brando's take on 'Luck Be A Lady' from the 1955 movie, I really like Frank's more.

Oh, rehearsals are gonna be amazing, I'm so excited to make new friends and work with old ones again.  In fact, guess who else is here - Abi "Yellow Girl" Adekoya is playing General Cartwright!  I've got my trusty iPod Touch with the Voice Memo recorder that I'll be sure to take advantage of.  I'll be posting more about the production as we get further into rehearsals, including recordings, photos and other fun stuff, like where to get your tickets, yeah?

I'd love you to come ... you are coming, right? (Imagine me with puppy dog eyes ... you can't resist!)

Friday, November 25, 2011

GetUp! Australia: A Moving Video to 'End Marriage Discrimination'

I don't think there is anything I could possibly say that would prepare you for the story you're about to embark. It's really something you need to see.

I can't stop crying, this will stay with me for a long time.  I just need to do my part to get as many people as possible to see this video.  You can share this video below on Facebook or Twitter.

BMT Youth Troupe: 'Steal Your Rock n' Roll' Piano Accompaniment

Alright, kids.  I'm talking to you.

Technology sucks, especially when you need it to work really badly.  Albeit, the piano accompaniment for your performance is finished and ready to go!  Many thanks to Josh Priess, music director extraordinaire, for the beautiful playing on such an epic song.

Find the lyrics after the video!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Know Thyself: Fear

I've always wanted to write characters and stories, and the writer's cliche of 'writing what you know' does hold true.  I think the reason why I don't write as often anymore is because I'm afraid of what I know.  I've had some interesting experiences in life - both pleasant and never-to-be-repeated - that culminate to who I am today and what I have to offer.  I've got loads of anecdotes and stories I can turn into monologues and characters with depth, but it's a personal fear that holds me back.  I'm comfortable with what's in my past.  I'm not too sure if I'm comfortable with sharing.

It goes without saying that time has a way of healing certain wounds.  You don't forget completely, but you don't consistently dwell on it.  These are events to be reflected on, culminating into the person you are today and will shape out to be.  I've rarely met a person without regret, and I know I have a few of my own.  My regrets shape out into situations in my mind like 20/20 hindsight, finally thinking of those right words that would fix everything, choosing the left fork in the road instead of the right, taking a chance instead of passing.

There's much more that holds me back instead of fear, these invisible shackles that hold me back inches from the keys to unlock me.  I can only wish some days I have the stones to dislocate my shoulder and give that push to reach.  Metaphorically, that could be as slight as just getting out of bed in the morning.  Days where your past comes to haunt you, fear and anxiety rising that you've failed before, and you're barely prepared, despite everything you've done to steady yourself and your self-esteem for a new challenge.  It's a tightrope walk without the net, it seems.  There's no way I'm going out there, I can't risk it.  I'll fall, I'll die, or I'll make it and I'll have to do it all over again.

It's a raging battle.  To appear confident in the face of a past that has shaped most into worst conditions at any point in time.  To keep a strong mind and body, diligently keeping discipline over your thoughts so they won't stray into darker territory.  Even more frustrating is the existence of these dark thoughts themselves, how they overwhelm and accuse you of not succumbing to the grief of past mistakes.  It's hard to ignore, like a mosquito in the room at night.

How to cope with all this?  I use the mosquito's buzz and turn it into a sonnet.  The only force that makes me stronger is creation.  It's where I feel the strongest, where I feel I can make a difference.  It's also where I feel I can tell my own story in a safe way; characters representing ideas, fears and hopes.

First, let's get rid of these vampires.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flashback: Brampton Music Society's 'Evita', Fall 1991

Company: Brampton Musical Society (currently Brampton Music Theatre)
Production: Evita, Fall 1991

This was my very first musical at the impressionable age of eleven - and what subject matter!  This community theatre production ran a full two weeks, if I remember correctly, at the Lester B. Pearson Theatre in Brampton - this was pre-Rose Theatre days, before the idea was even conceived at the time.  My father - in the General's Chorus, to the left of the nun - managed to get us auditions for the orphaned children's chorus that sing to Evita in thanks for her charity and goodness and all that good stuff orphans appreciate.  My brother, D'Arcy - he's inspecting his toes, front row left - was the smallest of the group, earning him the opportunity to present 'Santa Evita' with a bouquet of flowers.  I remember one performance him turning to the audience and waving, 'hello!'.  He was only six or so at the time, so it's forgivable, I guess.  Adds to the cute factor, no?

Evita Comes Back To Broadway!

Forgive me while I do a little Broadway geek-out for a moment.

Evita was my first exposure to performing musical theatre.  My father had a part in the Generals Chorus in a community theatre production when I was eleven, and had managed to score my brother and I auditions for the childrens chorus.  We were excited to learn we had received parts, not just because it was just a big cast and we met so many new friends, mainly because we'd be sharing the stage with our father.  Oh boy, were we little hams on stage.

I was so intrigued by the story of this woman at such a young age and remembered doing research on my own about Eva Perón, wife of Argentinian president Juan Perón and champion of the labour movement, women's rights and the salvation of the poor.  Her story is told in this lyrical opera written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, also known for his works on Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Cats.   (I don't care what you say, he's one of my favourites.  Mr. Webber is an acquired taste for some, but I doubt there's anyone who doesn't know at least a portion of the duet between Christine Daae and the Phantom on the river.  I didn't care for Cats, though.)

My awesome Broadway-bestie Jenna and I had a chance to see Evita play in the Princess of Wales in Toronto, but after being part of so many community theatre productions and knowing this music nearly inside and out, we felt a little weird being so judgmental about it. 

I think the only way to redeem myself is another trip to New York City to see this one.  Evita returns to Broadway in an incredible all-star cast featuring Ricky Martin as Che, Michael Cerveris as Juan Perón and Elena Roger in her Broadway debut as Eva Perón, a small-town girl who became one of Argentina's most celebrated icons for the people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Congrats to BMT's 'Sound of Music'!

I'm so very proud of my boyfriend!  Nick has just finished wrapping up playing classical guitar and mandolin for Brampton Music Theatre's The Sound of Music on November 12, and he played magically.  Nick comes from a progressive rock background with his guitar playing, so tackling something like Rodgers and Hammerstein is no small feat.  He did so well!

I also had the chance to see a few of my BMT Youth Troupe students on stage as members of the chorus, consisting mainly of nuns, Nazis and Austrian nobility.  I had audibly gasped at the opening number of the nuns singing "Preludium" in beautiful harmonious a cappella.  I think, without obvious bias, the nuns had to be my favourite part of the show.

A heart-felt congrats, as well, to my dearest friend and music mentor Josh Priess for an incredible job as music director!  As mentioned before, Rodgers and Hammerstein ain't easy - but the man sure did make it look that way!

To all the cast, crew and musicians - congratulations on your vision of a family classic!  It was enjoyed immensely!

(Nick had snapped a couple of photos from backstage I thought I'd post, as well.  Enjoy!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inception: The App

So, I need to geek out about something.  So, everyone reading this with an iPhone or iTouch, get it now.  You'll thank me later.  This app is genius.

I'm a huge appreciator of Christopher Nolan's work, and the idea of Inception intrigued me: a sci-fi action heist film based on the concept of dreams-within-dreams and planting original ideas into someone else's subconscious.

In a world where 'shared dreaming' technology exists, Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is an expert 'corporate extractor'; a man who can enter into your subconscious through your dreams and steal your secrets - for a price.  Wrongly accused of his wife's murder and separated from his children, his most recent target, a wealthy Japanese businessman, gives Cobb an opportunity to be reunited with them - for a price of his own: perform the act of 'inception' to convince the son of an ailing wealthy tycoon to break up his vast energy conglomerate at his inheritance.

It's not as easy as you think.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Arthur, Cobb's right-hand man, explaining the difficult concept to Ken Watanabe playing Mr. Saito, the Japanese business man proposing 'inception'.  He's got a great moment that clarifies the difficulty:

Betcha you'll be thinking about elephants for a while.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BMT Youth Troupe Sings 'Seasons of Love'

I'm a lucky lady, y'know.  It's not every day you get to work with awesome kids who are dedicated to their work like this.

I've been teaching kids on Saturday mornings for Brampton Musical Theatre's Youth Troupe.  This particular group has the honour of singing 'Seasons of Love' from the popular rock opera Rent.  Since everybody and their monkey's uncle knows this song, I had put on the backing track to see what the kids could do, where they felt comfortable vocally, who would break out in dance and all that.  The kids are also working with Melissa, a dance teacher and choreographer, for some fancy footwork to go with the song.

We'll be performing in a couple of weeks, and the kids are sounding amazing.  Check it out for yourself in the video here, taken by Brittany, one of the students in this group.  (I'm in the green scarf and the black 'STAFF' shirt.) I'd like to point out this is all before I had officially taught them the harmonies - they all gravitated towards what they felt comfortable, which helped me out immensely.  Kudos to Madison and Leah for taking on the solos!

(To quote Hermione Granger, "Does my hair really look like that from the back?!")

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toronto Zombie Walk 2011: Working the Camera for

To any photographers that got in my face, I'd like to give a little apology from the actor-in-charge, so to speak - zombie Cassandra doesn't like lingering cameras, so if I started screaming and/or was incredibly violent to you, I'm so sorry, it was all in good fun!  I did find a couple of really awesome shots from some folk who have been kind enough to forward links - check these out!

Photo by Chris Cheung

Photo by Konstantina Photography
Photo by Chris Cheung
Photo by Jeff Currey

There was a particular memorable moment with a few handsome zombies and their tripod-and-camera setup.  They had the camera pointed at me, looking at the viewscreen while I was sitting on the ground, 'shackled' to Nick, trying to rip open my brain-and-Jell-O package.  I had noticed the camera focused on me and figure I'd have a little fun.  I had mentioned earlier that zombie Cassandra doesn't enjoy lingering cameras, and this one lingered for quite some time.  I had built up the zombie frustration to a point where I threw the brain aside and began to scream like a maniac at the camera, telling them in my best zombie-speak to F@#! OFF AND GET THAT CAMERA OUTTA MY FACE!!!  My message was lost in translation because handsome zombie man and friends started to applaud my 'demonstration' while Nick 'dragged' me away.  Nick had later discovered they were a couple of bloggers from, capturing images from this year's Zombie Walk - and they had included my zombie tantrum in their short video!  You can check it out here, it's a really impressive video - you'll find me and Nick's big gun at the 1:08 mark. 

Thanks to everyone who's been forwarding me links and pictures they snapped of me at the Zombie Walk!  Lemme know if you happen to come across any more!

'GunCam' Photos: Toronto Zombie Walk 2011

Nick had some fun taking pictures from his gun's point of view, and we had some awesome people playing along with the zombie-slaying madness.  Here are a few shots we had taken from about 5 pm and later, just in case you're looking for a time frame to see if you might be here!  You'll potentially recognize the moment by remembering a black cassette tape with a red stripe pointed at you - that's Nick's iPhone cover.  (We've seen a few versions floating around - I especially enjoyed the off-white with blue stripes we were shown by another fellow zombie!)


Monday, October 24, 2011

Toronto Zombie Walk 2011: Your Not-So-Normal Acting Exercise

It's not every day you get to act out your zombie apocalypse fantasies.  I think it's a great idea to celebrate a birthday, too.  It's actually on October 25th, but everyone's always doing something on the weekend after my birthday, and they've usually planned it months in advance, y'know?  I figure I just join a party already happening this year with Nick and a couple of our friends.  And believe it or not, I took this in as a great acting exercise, since I had decided I wasn't going to break character during the entire event.  Preparations abound!

L-R: Tony and Nick as 'survivors' and me as their 'zombie captive'.  Check out the Nerf firepower!

Nick has an awesome collection of Nerf guns, some he's repainted to look like some heavy-duty artillery.  He's been waiting for an opportunity like this to put them to 'good use' in a costume or roleplay, so he and his friend, Tony, picked up a couple of 'em and dressed up as 'survivors'.  Tony's holding the Nerf Vulcan automatic machine gun with ammo belt, while Nick proudly shows his Nerf LongShot painted in grey and tan.  We kept teasing Tony that he looked like Jesse Ventura from Predator (pictured left), especially with the hat!  Tony's friend, Daniel, came as a companion zombie - the only time a man would ever let me put makeup on his face outside of a theatre.

The bathroom looked like Dexter's killroom when we were done.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Synergy Grand Opening in Snap! Brampton

Add the 'event planner hat' to the collection, I guess.

I had a hand in planning the grand opening of Synergy Performing Arts Academy's second location in September.  I had learned quite a bit from the whole experience, and I have to say it was a relative success from all accounts.  We had a fairly decent turnout with help from attractions like magician Gord Cadabra and string quartet Paganini Strings.  We had great support from local Brampton businesses like Green Cup Roastery, ROCK-IT Designer Clothing and The Dress People and more who donated some stellar raffle prizes.  I was crossing my fingers for the Green Cup Roastery gift basket ... alas, not meant to be.

SNAP! Brampton was by to photograph the event - and I got an email today that we're in the latest edition!  I snagged a few copies from the local library and snipped out a copy of the article for myself.  Check it out!

Find me in a sea of burgundy!

Pick up your copy of SNAP! Brampton in most local businesses and community centres!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Extras On Set: Total Recall 2012

Wow, whadda couple of days.  We are both dead tired, but so ecstatic about it.  We couldn't have asked for a better experience.  The people from the studio were so professional, the other extras we met were amazing, and Colin Farrell was such a gentleman - even when I nearly broke his nose.  I'm not kidding.

Loads to tell you, and a few pictures - but we signed confidentiality agreements, so I have to keep mum on certain things.  And keep certain pictures from you.  It's not fair, I know, but I'd like to potentially work in this business.  I'd like to keep a trustworthy presence here, y'know? *wink* 

Our call time for the first day of shooting was 7:45 am.  My mum was kind enough to dogsit for us and drive us closer to the city to catch public transit to Pinewood Studios.  Arriving just in time, we didn't have to worry about the kufuffle happening in wardrobe, so we headed straight to hair and makeup.  There was about 250 of us all getting ready for the shoot!  My hair was blowdried, nothing fancy, my own makeup done with a neutral look.  Lynda, a wonderful hair stylist, grabbed me and asked me how I felt about beehives.  Well, let me tell you ...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Extra Work on Total Recall 2012

Everyone's career in film starts somewhere, right?  Looks like Nick and I are off to a potentially good start - with background acting work on the set of Total Recall starring Colin Farrell at Pinewood Studios in Toronto!

Nick and I had answered a Craigslist ad looking for "clubby/seedy/funky people" to fill a street scene in New Asia, where it's "always raining in this part of the world".  We were asked to bring our own clothes in rust and earth green tones - about two thirds of my own wardrobe - for the costume folks to take a look at and see if there's anything to use.  They liked just about everything I brought, which I'm told makes the process a whole lot easier on shoot day.  Here's what we got:

:: khaki green three-quarter length sleeve jacket, H&M (gift) :: Mandarin-collar olive green button-up shirt, Alfred Sung :: rust brown dress pants, Ricki's :: paisley pashmina scarf with gold thread detail, gift :: knee-high brown 'leather' wedge-heel boots, gift (not pictured) ::

Funny enough, this is stuff I wear on the regular, so I'm just gonna look like myself!

I've been reading up on the movie itself, being it a remake of one of my favourite Arnie movies.  The original concept of Total Recall came from the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, written by Phillip K. Dick.  The story is a mesh of reality, false memory and real memory, all in the mind of Douglas Quail, a simple and ordinary man who would one day like to visit Mars, a plausible vacation destination of the future.  Since he is, however, a simple and ordinary man, he can't afford it, so he gets the next best thing - a mental vacation courtesy of Rekal Incorporated, offering "extra-factual memory" to fulfill his dream.  As the "Mars memory" implantation proceeds, the staff at Rekal reveal that Quail is an actual government agent with a brain full of dangerous secrets.  Frightened by what they may have stumbled across, the staff at Rekal hurry him out of the office, where Quail finds more physical evidence to support that his Mars 'memories' are actually real.  The government puts a bounty on his head, but he manages to make a deal: he returns to Rekal to have his memories of Mars suppressed and replaced with "heroic wish-fulfillment" false memories as compensation.  As the Rekal staff prepare to implant the memories, they uncover an older and different set of suppressed memories that reveal the unbelievable events they're about to implant to be actually true.  

In Mr. Dick's story, Quail doesn't go to Mars.  Arnie's "Quaid" does in the 1990 film.  I don't think Colin will be going, though.  From what I understand, this remake will be closer to the short story than a frame-for-frame remake of Arnie's sci-fi action adventure.  I've always been into this stuff, and I'm crazy excited to be a part of this.  Hopefully, I won't be on the cutting room floor when this is all said and done.  

But if we're going to remake this film again, maybe we can see something along the lines of this:

Source material from  Those guys are the best, yeah?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Synergy Magic!

I'm especially excited about this week.  I've loved magic tricks since I was a kid.  I remember Dad getting me a magic kit for my ninth birthday, I perfected each and every one of them in that kit.  I couldn't get enough.  There was a novelty & joke store in the local mall I used to get a bunch of pocket tricks from and carry them around to practice.  I even made up stage names and costumes from Dad's suit jackets and hat collection, performed little shows in the living room every Sunday.  I had so much fun!

I'm excited to pass on the same fun I had to the camp kids this week - three older girls with a passion for dance and fantastic attitudes all around - a perfect way to end the summer!

I had put together a basic Magician's Glossary and a few simple tricks for the kids to perform, each needing props and plenty of practice: the   I had also thrown in a 'bonus trick' from my early years of pocket tricks, and something that they could do at home.

I can't believe I'm doing this - some of you stage magicians might be a little upset with me, but consider it for the love of art and passing on the craft, so to speak.  Take a look at these fantastic and simple tricks - and how you can do them yourself!

Magic Trick Manual

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Pirate Adventure!

Everyone loves pirates.  Who doesn't love a good swashbuckling adventure?  We couldn't resist ourselves when it came to our love of the original rebels and decided to school our campers this week with a little bit of the seafarin' life!

The kids made their own pirate hats, eyepatches and swords as part of their costumes, and we've been working on a bit of pirate speak, courtesy of International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Alessandra will have the kids decorate their very own treasure chests to participate in a scavenger hunt!  We're looking forward to that on Friday.  In the meantime, have a read of our Pirate Adventure!

Pirates are celebrating and feasting on fruits and veggies to make sure they don’t get scurvy on their sea journey – they’ve found a treasure map in a bottle!  The map leads to a mysterious island in the middle of the ocean and the legend of the buried treasure of Captain Bluenose!  They’ll have to be brave pirates to battle a sea monster and overcome a terrible storm – and finally find the mysterious island!  They follow the map and dig at the ‘X’, where they find a chest full of pieces of eight, doubloons, precious gems and pearls – and they wondrous treasure of the Magical Invisible Ever-Changing Whirly-Burly Ball – changing into any round object the holder desires!  With their bountiful booty, they sail back home to the Caribbean, where they become the most famous pirates of all for revealing the legend of Captain Bluenose!

Scene:  The pirates are feasting on their favourite fruits and vegetables as they prepare to take a sea journey.  They sing heartily and dance a jig and practice their ‘sword fighting’ until the pirate Captain Sassypants enters with her parrot, Peggy.   The pirates all cheer when the captain holds up a bottle with a message inside.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: King of the Jungle Script!

After learning about our animal characters and starting on our puppets, we've got our story line all mapped out - now it's just up to me to put it into a script!  And here it is - enjoy!

Welcome to our jungle adventure, where we’re on the search for the elusive and rare pink dragonfly!   I’ve been studying about this rare insect for years, and I’ve come to this very jungle – the only jungle where it lives in the world! – to snap a photograph.  When I’m all done, I’ll just get back in my boat and float up the river to the local village, safely back to civilization.  I even have this map with me to help remember the way!  (Pulls out a thick folded piece of paper.)  I’m very glad you’re all here – maybe we can find some other animals on our adventures! 

Like that parrot!  Oh my!

(PARROT puppet flies onto the stage.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: King of the Jungle!

This week we're gonna have some fun in the jungle - puppet style!

Puppets are a great way for shy kids to express themselves if they've got terrible stage fright.  It's also a great acting exercise to have a sense of bodily presence outside of yourself, and also learning how to focus on different elements of performance other than physical stage presence.  That, and puppets are just so darn fun.

Welcome to Synergy Arts Camp King of the Jungle Week! 

We’ll be exploring our ‘inner animals’ and learning how to ‘move’ and ‘act’ like our favourite exotic animals in the jungle – lions, monkeys and lizards, oh my!  This week, we’ll play theatre games that will focus on how we can move different parts of our body to ‘become’ these animals, give them personalities and help solve a crisis!

Our explorer is lost in the jungle after being chased by a ferocious tiger and other sneaky fiends, but with the help of a few animal friends – and the protection of the ‘king of the jungle’ himself, Brave Lion! – our explorer finds the boat on the river that leads back to a local village. 

Each animal in the jungle has a unique ability to help our explorer reach her boat and return to civilization.  Animals can do many things that our explorer cannot do, as well – breath underwater, fly in the sky and many more!  What can our animal friends do to help the explorer find the river – and how can they protect her from the predators of the wild? 

Get ready to release your inner animal – the fun’s about to begin! 

Our first day focused on theatre games that helped the kids become uninhibited with their body movements, forming them into animal shapes, taking turns walking and behaving like the animals above after we completed a writing exercise describing them.  Consider how differently you would move when you're a hovering dragonfly, or a slithering snake, or a limber monkey!

The kids will start making their puppets during the art portion today.  Because we've got a number of younger kids this week, we're sticking to the regular 'popsicle stick' puppets.  The older one will be making their puppets out of paper bags.  The lesson plans were inspired by something I found on, with more puppet projects I hope to use with future students, such as the Japanese Doll Theatre or shadow puppets.  Puppetry work is a great tool to have in an actor's kit.

After the kids get a sense of 'character' with their assigned animals, we'll go through a scenario to decide whether they'll help or hinder a lost explorer in their jungle.  That's tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Synergy Superhero Mission: "What? No Milk?!"

Here it is, friend of friends!  The script to be performed on Friday for Synergy Superheroes week, based on the kids' superhero characters and guided suggestions to solve the mission!  The characters and their abilities are all named after the kids, and they were rather pleased with the outcome.  We'll be rehearsing this skit for the rest of the week to perform on Friday!

 Script for Mission: “What? No Milk?!”   

The last we left our heroes, they’ve ready to enjoy their delicious treat of their favourite cookies

(Simran pretends to take cookies out of the oven, while the other heroes are around a table, waiting eagerly.  She pretends the cookie pan is hot, and carefully brings the “pan” over to the table without dropping any cookies.  The heroes at the table cheer!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Synergy Superhero Missions!

The kids had a great time yesterday creating their superhero characters, creating backstories and even a chance to design costumes and 'fighting weapons'.  I had one rule for that - they had to distract the villian, not wound or harm him/her.  One kid had a ray gun that turned everything into frosting.  Pretty nifty!

I had created three 'mission' scenarios that allowed the kids to use problem-solving skills in a group setting, with their selected powers.  It's also a great version of the improv game 'Stunt Double', where you call another actor in to perform a 'dangerous stunt'; example, turning on the hose to wash the car.  The 'missions' themselves are all based on common situations: What? No Milk?! has the superheroes out of milk, thus not being able to fully enjoy their freshly baked treats until they procure some; It's My Party! has the heroes prepare for a friends' birthday and making sure everything is perfect to the last detail; A Clean Room has the heroes performing an important task before they can enjoy the day's crime-fighting.

We had agreed to perform their favourite mission, What? No Milk?!, at the end of the week for the parents - which is perfect, because we've got a delicious surprise for them at the end of the week! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Synergy Superheroes!

It's a week to make heroes!

I was really inspired by the 'fill-in-the-blank' script format that helped me create the script for this week's theme, Synergy Superheroes!  I'll be giving the kids a questionnaire first to help create their superhero identity, followed by a few 'missions' that they'll have to use their superpowers for.

I figure since we only had a week, and kids' imaginations can really turn to the weird and ridiculous, I controlled the options while still making them weird and ridiculous.  Have a look-see!

Welcome to Synergy Superheroes Week!  Although we live our everyday lives in our ‘mild-mannered alter-egos’, there are ‘superhero’ potential and qualities inside each and every one of us – and we’ll be discovering them with each other this week!  Here’s a character-building writing exercise to help discover your superhero name and powers, even your superhero costume!  

Your superheroes will represent some of your actual personality traits, your talents and ‘superpowers’ you would love to have as a hero!  The Camp Teacher will divide you into groups to create your very own Synergy Super Team, where you’ll share you superhero identities to each other.  You’ll then be given a ‘world crisis’ by the Camp Teacher and an opportunity to use each of your teams’ powers to solve the crisis and save the day! 

Remember, heroes – it’s all about teamwork, because no one could solve a crisis alone, big or small!  Let’s get started in designing your superhero!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Rapunzel Remixed!

Well, we surrender this week, most definitely.  And Alessandra and I were more than happy to oblige.  It makes our jobs much easier, too!

Simran, a little lady who will be spending a good deal of the summer with us, has clearly stated her healthy obsession of Tangled by means of her backpack, wardrobe, toys and books, even convincing us to play her copy of the movie once a week to watch.  I don't blame her; I had Beauty and the Beast when I was a kid.  I wore out my VHS copy in a matter of a few months or so. 

Thanks to, I think we can give Simran and the rest of the campers next week some unique fun with her favourite story.  I've found a 'fill-in-the-blank' version of the story that will give some unique takes on the classic tale.  I'll be revisiting now and again for some more class activities when I start in September.  They've got great stuff like theatre warm-up games, unique scripts and monologues for all ages and suggestions for class productions.  I've already a few things bookmarked!

Can't wait to see what the kids come up with!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Hip Hop Dance

Thursday is Hip Hop day at Synergy Arts Camp!  Hip hop culture is rather young in comparison to the history of the other dances we've reviewed this week, and it's also the most popular!  We gave some of the original and classic moves like The Running Man and The Robot - old school, for sho!  Check out the handouts I've made for the kids to enjoy!

Hip hop began as a form of musical expression and artistic culture in the South Bronx neighbourhoods of New York City in the 1970s.  There are four major elements of hip hop culture: MCing and rapping, DJing technique, graffiti art and hip hop dance.  Over the years, hip hop has crossed borders and cultures from its humble beginnings in Harlem and Brooklyn, becoming the most popular form of dance performance in the world – almost every country in the world has its own local hip hop scene, from music artists to dance crews!

There are many dance moves and techniques used in hip hop dance that borrow from other dance forms, such as tap and jazz dance.   Hip hop dance also has unique dance styles such as breaking, locking and popping, which were developed by African- and Latino-American communities in the 1970s.  Hip hop dance is also unique because of its often improvisational dance performances, or freestyle, where dancers occasionally perform in formal or informal dance competitions, usually known as battles.  

Hip hop dance was recognized as a performance dance form more than 30 years ago during the presence of professional breaking, locking and popping crews formed at the time.  Some of the most influential dance crews were the Rock Steady Crew, The Lockers and the Electric Boogaloos, who were responsible for spreading the art of hip hop dance respectively.  

As hip hop music began to evolve, the dance element evolved with it to include new moves, new styles and new expressions.   Dance styles such as new style, jazz funk, lyrical hip hop and krumping have all developed in the last ten years.  Hip hop dance movies have been popular since the 1980s, with titles such as Beat Street, Wild Style, Breakin’, You Got Served, Step Up, Honey and Save the Last Dance, and has also been featured in many reality television shows such as America’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance.  Hip hop culture now has a presence in theatre performance, featuring spoken word and hip hop dance and music combined in the production.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Jazz Dance

Wednesday - we jazz it up!  I'm most excited about this handout because of my personal background in jazz dance with musical theatre performance.  It's energetic, it's full of expression, it's fun and exciting to watch!  My informal jazz training has come from years of musical theatre choreography, and I've got a handle on some of the basic stuff to know about jazz.  We tried a couple of moves in the Bob Fosse page - Sinead and I gave the Crane a try, both as a pose and a jump.  Our Stack looked pretty nifty, and especially cute with all those different sized arms!  Take a look at the rest of the Bob Fosse poses, as well as some jazz stretches, isolations and dancewear - all in the handouts!  Enjoy!

Jazz dance has its roots in African American free-form dance styles of the late 1800s to mid-1900s.  Tap dance was considered part of the jazz dance form in the mid-1950s, being the main performance dance at the time, and it was also choreographed to jazz music.  Tap and jazz began to evolve into separate dance forms, and many different jazz steps became popular.  Everything from swing dancing to the Charleston, boogie woogie to the Lindy Hop all became forms of jazz being danced everywhere! 

The pioneers of jazz dance start with the vaudeville star Joe Frisco, who, in the 1910s, danced in a loose-limbed style close to the ground while juggling his derby, hat and cigar.  Much of the musical theatre and modern jazz style can be credited to famous choreographer Bob Fosse, who's work can be defined in such musical theatre productions such as Chicago, Cabaret, Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game.   Other artists famous for their work in jazz dance are Jack Cole and Gus Giordano, who’s techniques are still used in modern jazz!

You'll find jazz everywhere nowadays!  It's the backbone of musical theatre choreography and it's all over television, movies, music videos and pop concerts.  Teen favourites such as Hairspray, High School Musical, So You Think You Can Dance and Glee are all great examples of some of the best modern and musical theatre jazz dance!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Tap Dance

Tuesday is Tap Day at Synergy Arts Camp!  Tap dance is one of my favourite dance forms, I've been an appreciator of tap for some time, recently purchasing my very first pair of tap shoes from Synergy!  (We've got all sorts of dancewear here!)  I've been practicing with them on my balcony and some spare time in the Grand Ballroom at the academy.  I'm rather elated, actually, and will be considering proper tap lessons in the future.  I've had some basic lessons a few years ago and remember the steps, and have also looked up a few basic moves that are really good for balance and weight transfer for young kids to try.  Here's the handout for tap dance, as well as an activity sheet for the kids to fill out on the parts of a ballet pointe shoe.  (First one to finish got their choice of sticker!)  Enjoy!

Tap dance was developed in the United States during the nineteenth century and has gained popularity around the world!  The name 'tap' comes from the sound of the small metal plates on the soles of a tap dancers' shoes when they touch a hard floor.  This dance form uses precise and quick foot patterns in rhythms, choreographed to a pace in the music very much like a drummer in a band.  American composer Morton Gould has composed concertos for tap dancer and orchestra - using the dancer as the rhythm section!

A history of tap can be seen in traditional clog dances in the Netherlands, Irish and Scottish jigs, as well as the rhythmic foot stamping of African dances.  North American tap dancing has two modern techniques: classical tap and hoofersClassical tap blends elements of ballet or jazz dance into the upper body movements into the tap choreography, and tend to stay on their toes.  Dancers like Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire and Julie Andrews are great examples of classical tapHoofers use every part of the shoes to make their feet sound like drums – a great example is the Broadway show Stomp!, where the dancers also incorporate objects like trash cans and broomsticks into their rhythmic choreography!

Tap dance is also a regular part of musical theatre choreography, with many shows specifically composed for ‘tap dancer accompaniment’.  Busby Berkeley started the trend of ‘movie musicals’ with hundreds of dancers tap dancing at once!  Other popular musicals featuring tap dance are Anything Goes, 42nd Street, Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins and many more!

Basic Tap Dance Warm-ups and Stretches

Arm Circles
Holding your arms straight and out to the sides, gently circle your arms about 20 times; 10 to the front and 10 to the back.   (A tap dancers uses the arms and shoulders for balance, so these will need to be nice and loose!)

Ankle Rolls
Standing with your weight on one foot, point the toe of your other foot into the floor.  Gently roll the heel of your foot around your toe.  Perform 20 turns on each foot, 10 to the front and 10 to the back.  (This helps stretch the muscles and tendons in your legs and feet!)

Point and Flex
Stand with your weight on one foot.  Point your other leg to the front, keeping your knee straight.  Change from one foot to the other until each foot has had 20 turns.  (This helps stretch your calf muscles in the back of your legs!)

Runner’s Lunge
To perform a runner's lunge, lunge forward on one knee, straightening the other leg behind.  Place your hands on your lunged knee.  Push the heel of your back leg into the ground, feeling the stretch through your entire calf area.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds on each leg.  (A tap dancers’ lower legs work very hard – this stretch helps stretch those out a little more!)

Hamstring Stretch
Stand with one leg in front with your foot flexed.  Place your hands on your thighs to support your body weight.  Lower your upper body towards your leg.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds on each leg.  (This will help stretch the back of your thighs!)

Tap Dance Shoes

Here are some great tap dance videos to inspire!

Gene Kelly and Julie Andrews are two of the most popular classical tap dancers, having entertained in movies and musicals together with their singing voices and tap dancing.  This clip features a very interesting way you could practice your tap moves!

Ms. Sutton Foster stars in the Broadway revival of the musical Anything Goes, full of romantic antics aboard a steamer cruise ship across the Atlantic.  This tap dance number, as performed at the 65th Annual Tony Awards celebrating Broadway theatre, is of the title song 'Anything Goes' that closes the first act.  And for an added surprise ...

The opening credits from one of my favourite movies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!  Here's Kate Capshaw peforming 'Anything Goes' in Mandarin - and a Busby Berkley tribute to tap dance!
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