My favourite part of watching this evening’s performance was watching the audience…

I sat in the balcony, as I am wont to do at The Cultch, and what I saw was wonderful…:people leaning forward in their seats, and turning to one another to whisper, perhaps, “will he ever kiss her?”…”Will Vanya ever know….?”

It was quite remarkable.  The cast is filled with my friends and collegues as well.  What did Anthony, who played Uncle Vanya himself, say after tonight?  Well, after the show he was so innundated with admirerers that though we kept promising to talk, we never did get to…but I knew, and I hope that he did as well, that such a performance needn’t be really spoken about.  I wanted to share a cigarette and a wink of sorts and a hug or pat on the shoulder…just to say…”I know…”

I watched the audience this evening lean towards one another and then forward.  I watched them, from my place above, whisper and laugh and wish for their favourite(could one choose a favourite?) characters…for Astrov and Yelena…foolish and passionate and foolish still…and then desperately, heartbreakingly, what-does-it-speak-to-you sad Uncle Vanya?  Look and listen closer…These people, that Chekhov wrote so long ago, they are us.  They could be us.  I watched our audience connect to them tonight, and laugh, and be uncomfortable, and struggle, and dislike it all.  And, also, love it all.  At the end, “we will find peace…”  It is up to us to realise whether we believe Sonya’s declaration.  I do.  I believe in Sonya.  I believe in Vanya.  I believe in theatre posing this to all of us.  I believe in the truth that theatre asks us to decide for ourselves.  For Uncle Vanya: I believe in Sonya.   It’s been a journey… Thank you, John Wright and Blackbird Theatre, my home and family…

Chekhov said: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”  In technical rehearsals and the final stages of acting rehearsals, we are all working to focus moments, to highlight the smaller details of the bigger picture for a character, an arc of story as it fits into the whole story.  A drop of music, a pool or focus of light, the timing of an entrance, the minute moment of a character picking up a pen or pouring a cup of tea or fiddling with a locket; carefully chosen moments which are given their own music or silence, light or darkness, that serve to bring us into the world of the play and hint, as pieces of a puzzle, at the final picture.  As a musician in an orchestra or choir sings and plays their own part, when brought in with the other instruments or voices, the symphony comes to life, in harmony or dissonance as the score requires.  It is, in my opinion, magic.  In “tech”, we are fine tuning our individual scores, and finding our harmonies with the new players, which are light and sound.  The technical peoples have their own notes to play to complete the symphony that is the story.  The timing of a blackout, a fade of light, the sounds of rainfall all contribute to the story as much as the author’s words and the actor’s realization of them.  To the layman, “tech” would probably be tedious.  To us, it is a necessary choreography.  And in the final production, it will seem to the audience that hours spent on it did not happen, because it will seem to them seamless.  A costume does not appear fully realized; it is measured and fitted to the actors’ bodies, it is adjusted, it is stitched, it has tiny details added, like a flit of lace here or a carved button there, and all of this takes time and focus and patience.  In “tech” were are making the final adjustments and adding those buttons and lace details.  When we are finally in front of an audience, if we have done it right, they will see the glint of light on broken glass in the many places that will, in the end, tell them that the moon has been shining this whole time…

~Mia K. Ingimundson

This is my first experience as an Assistant Director, and I can think of no one better to begin my mentorship than Director John Wright.  Having worked with him as an actress on HECUBA and GREAT EXPECTATIONS, he has shown me great faith and trust and I have grown as a performer under his direction. particularly in learning to better trust myself.  I put my faith in him once more as I embark on this new journey of my career.  He welcomes my feedback, and loves to ask “tell me what you see”.  We share insights and I am learning to look at the pictures, if you will, that the actors make.  Working in the round, I move about to get different perspectives and to give the actors the sense of sightlines.  The audience is to be treated to various profiles, and pulled in to seeing all that happens in the actors’ eyes, which is a lovely experience.  As a performer, I love to work in more intimate configurations, and as an audience it is a cool experience to see across to the other watchers.  I like to think of the audience as another character in the story.  A circle brings us, audience and actors, together as one.

I went to theatre school in a hundred and fifty year-old former church where our voice teacher the very first day advised us all to buy long johns and to never complain about the lack of heat.  I feel like I am back there, as our rehearsal space is cavernous and chilly.  We are snuggled in our wraps, cardigans, scarves and coats, and huddled next to space heaters.  I think of such things when I meet people who think that working in theatre must be glamourous.  The thing is, no one of us utters a complaint, because as theatre folk it is par for the course.  We pride ourselves on it, I think.  We do what must be done to do our work.  And we have learned that Chekhov’s work ethic was very great indeed!

~Mia K Ingimundson

A warm greeting session was had as the cast, crew and designers gathered for our first day of rehearsals.  Some new faces, and many familiar ones.  It was for GREAT EXPECTATIONS that I last had the pleasure of sitting around the table with John Wright, designer Marti Wright, and actors Anthony F. Ingram and Robert Moloney.  Blackbird is a family to me, and once again a wonderful cast has been assembled.

We were fortunate to be joined by Peter Petro ~ who translated Uncle Vanya from the original Russian for Blackbird ~ present to answer our questions about Imperial Russian life, art, class and society, and Chekhov himself.  Working in theatre has given me many a fascinating history lesson, and continues to still as the company brings to life the various aspects of country life in 19th Century Russia.

Marti Wright’s costume sketches are, as usual, works of art in themselves.  She thinks in beautiful palates and textures, right down to the colour and feel of a character’s knitting wool.

Vanya colour copy



As I cast on and knit the first few rows for Mary Black, who is playing Marina, Stephen Arberle who is playing Telyegin quietly noodled on his guitar and the company lifted the text from the page.  First read-throughs are an exciting time.   It has been a fun week of discovery, and there is much more to look forward to.

Peter and Simon

December 26th, 2012

You’ve worked many times with Blackbird Theatre, and have developed a successful professional relationship with director John Wright. What are the advantages of working with the same director and company?

I’m honoured by his trust and respect, and have an abundance of both for him. Neither of us ever really know what will happen, which is a delightful state for an artist in any discipline.

Moliere wrote the part of Sganarelle for himself to perform in his play Don Juan. How does this inform your choices as an actor? (Or does it?)

The play was written in anger, really giving the finger to the King’s court. There’s obviously something going on in his head – the question is – What? read more

For the past three days the designers and crew have been busy hanging lights, putting in the floor and columns, and in general getting the stage and theatre ready for the actors to start working on. Before taking a much needed break over Christmas, the cast and crew will work through the technical details of the show so they are ready to preview after the break. Costumes have been fitted and last minute changes are worked out, and finally the actors and directors will be able to see the production with all the elements of design integrated into the performance. Three long days of technical rehearsals are ahead of the company, but despite the long hours it’s a magical time when new discoveries are made. Actors find new aspects of their characters by finally getting to work in costume, and stage pictures are no longer imagined but realized.

Peter Jorgensen

December 19, 2012

Peter Jorgensen is a Vancouver based actor, singer, director, writer, choreographer, instructor and general musical theatre aficionado. Peter is also an Artistic Producer with Patrick Street Productions – a theatre company he founded with his wife, Katey Wright.

You are one of the Artistic Producers of Patrick Street Productions, and are returning to the stage after two years of working as a director. What’s it like to walk the boards again?

It feels like home. I’ve always loved being in a rehearsal hall working out a show. The process is definitely different – and despite the fact that it’s a pretty large and complex role it doesn’t come close to the complexity of directing. As I often joke, “Oh… you mean I only have to worry about ME!?” Read the rest of this entry »


Ted Cole plays the Commander in Don Juan, who – well, let’s not give away the entire plot here. Suffice it to say it’s an important role, even if it is a statue. Marti Wright and Heidi Wilkenson created the costume and mask for this part, and this is a sneak peak at the result.

The company moved from the rehearsal hall to the studio at The Cultch over the weekend, and before they move into the theatre proper I thought I would leave you some final rehearsal shots. It was a busy week of costume fittings, interviews, working out bits of physical business, learning lines, and polishing accents.

photo (9)

Don Juan (Peter Jorgensen) works out his moves
on Charlotte (Pippa Mackie)

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For all Don Juan’s seducing, we really only see him in action on stage with two peasant women. The challenge he faces is not only to seduce them both, but to seduce them both at the same time, which he manages to do quite successfully. Moliere writes a very funny scene here, and the physicality of the staging lives up to it. There is one other woman, Dona Elvira, who has been seduced by Don Juan and subsequently abandoned at the start of the play, and we discover that not only did Don Juan manage to make her fall in love with him, he coaxed her out of a convent to do it. Barbara Kozicki plays Dona Elvira, and this fact drew her to the discovery of an online article regarding women and nunneries during the late 16th century onward. One of the most relevant discussions in this paper in regard to Dona Elvira and Don Juan was that very often a family would place their daughter into a convent rather than marry her off, as they would only be required to pay a small dowry to the church to do so. There was a period when marriage dowries became so excessive that this would be a respectable way of avoiding the steep costs of marrying her off. As a result, the convents would get filled with young women of marriageable age, and a man looking for a wife might look to a convent to find one who wasn’t interested in dedicating her life to the church.

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