Tag Archives: Toronto theatre


I’d like to introduce you to my newest client, author GEORDIE TELFER and I’m excited to put all my publicity skills into marketing and promoting his thrilling new book, HOGTOWN EMPIRE, due for release later in the fall, just in time for seasonal gift-giving. Geordie explores all the urban myths and mysteries surrounding the infamous disappearance of Toronto theatre impresario Ambrose Small 100 years ago after he completed a million dollar transaction for the sale of his  theatre and opera house properties…and then disappeared into the chilly night, never to be seen again.thumbnail BanksMillionVanishes_Jan51920 copyGeordie is a seasoned writer with numerous books on various subjects published by the same publishing house as my own NASCAR & Formula One books, Folklore Books, so it was synchronistic when I received his email asking for promotional assistance with his new book – but I’ll let him tell you about his literary background in his own words…

Found on Amazon.ca, some of Geordie’s previous books include…th (7) th (3) th (1) thWith a forward by Toronto’s official historian and respected author Bruce Bell, Hogtown Empire will launch on Oct. 22nd at The Dominion on Queen St East in Toronto, so watch Fordham PR’s social media for news and invitations.65623916_426252168022775_7484804073259008000_nThen on the actual date of the 100th anniversary of Small’s disappearance (December 2nd) Geordie will be hosting a VIP reception in the Vault lounge in the basement of 1 King West Hotel & Condos – the original location of The Dominion Bank where Ambrose Small conducted his final business transaction.  20190610_201111 20190610_200721The original bank vault is still there (see title photo) and as you can see, it has a mighty big and impenetrable door!

For more news on this tantalizing true-crime book, visit the official website: www.HogtownEmpire.comambrose_small WhatHappenedMystery copy


Award-winning Toronto theatre director Dan Spurgeon brings Wallace Shawn’s Obie Award-winning play Aunt Dan and Lemon to Toronto audiences next month at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. The play takes us into the disquieting world of Lemon, a reclusive British invalid who fills her days reading and remembering. She recounts the overwhelming influence on her life of her parents’ friend Aunt Dan, a sophisticated, passionate American scholar whose colourful stories and seductive opinions provide Lemon an escape from her unhappy family life.  Her deepening influence on the young Lemon shapes this exploration of the superficial nature of political orientation and the allure of hardening one’s heart. A forceful morality tale that is both an exquisitely painful horror story and the blackest of black comedies, Aunt Dan and Lemon examines the ease with which good and evil become reconciled in the human mind.

Program from original NY production

Program from original NY production

Shadowtime Productions is proud to present the first professional production of this poetic, deeply unsettling play in Toronto in almost 30 years. With racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism on the rise around the world, Aunt Dan and Lemon is an uncannily timely study of how even the most literate, civilized individuals can drift en masse into depravity and justify the most obscene acts of history.

What the critics said about Aunt Dan and Lemon:

A provocative, disquieting play that slyly raises questions about the unseen links between the personal ethics of citizens and the policies of their leaders. Variety

Stimulating and demanding – the most dangerous play in town. I can’t remember the last time I saw a play make an audience so uncomfortable, and I mean that as high praise. NY Times

 Arresting and disturbing. Shawn uses shock tactics to propose unpalatable arguments. London Times

 A wondrously subversive, cataclysmic morality tale that is entertaining, infuriating, and determined to provoke its audience. Newsday

 One of the most significant plays since the end of World War II, a powerful challenge to our collective responsibility.  Daily Mail

The cast features award-winning and popular actors Joanne Latimer and Helen Juvonen in the title roles (pictured below) with Philip Cairns, Jane Hailes, Daniel Cristofori, Daniel Carter and Breton Lalama. Produced by Drew Blakeman with Set & Scenic Design by Elizabeth Traicus and Costume Design by Jenni Lee Pickett.

Joanne Latimer

Joanne Latimer

Helen Juvonen

Helen Juvonen

The world premiere of Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival (Joseph Papp, producer) at the Royal Court Theatre in London, England in August 1985, with Linda Hunt and Kathryn Pogson in the title roles and Shawn in the ensemble cast. This production opened in New York at The Public Theater in October 1985, winning that year’s Obie Award for Playwriting. The play was revived off-Broadway at the Acorn Theatre in 2004 with Kristen Johnston and Lili Taylor, and returned for a West End revival in 2009 at the Royal Court starring Lorraine Ashbourne and Jane Horrocks. Aunt Dan and Lemon has received major regional productions through the years, including at Steppenwolf (Chicago), Mark Taper Forum (LA), and Woolly Mammoth (Washington, DC). The 1987 Dora-nominated production at Tarragon Theatre was the most recent Toronto production.

Wallace Shawn

Wallace Shawn

AUNT DAN AND LEMON runs September 14th through 25th – space is limited so get your tickets NOW!!

Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto
Showtimes: Wed thru Sat @ 7:30pm, Sat & Sun matinees @ 2:00pm
Tickets available from www.passemuraille.ca
Media night: Thurs. Sept. 15th 


Toronto-based SHADOWTIME PRODUCTIONS is thrilled to bring actor/playwright Wallace Shawn’s dark, provocative and polarizing play AUNT DAN & LEMON to local audiences for the first time in nearly 3 decades when they raise the curtain at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace on September 14th for a 2 week run.Aunt D & l posterAunt Dan & Lemon takes us into the world of a young recluse named Lemon (alias Leonora) who spends her nights reading chronicles of Nazi atrocities. Lemon tells the audience about the overwhelming influence in her life of her parents’ friend “Aunt Dan,” an eccentric, passionate professor whose stories and seductive opinions enthrall Lemon from the time she is a young girl. The relationship that develops between Lemon and Aunt Dan and the conversations that went on in a small house on the bottom of an English garden form the focus of this play about political orientation and the allure of certain ideas-even if they lead to murder. A forceful play exposing the banality of society’s evil, Aunt Dan & Lemon explores the ease with which good and bad become reconciled in the human mind.

Director DAN SPURGEON recently told me… Although the play premiered over thirty years ago and has seen prominent revivals both in New York and the West End, its messages may be more relevant now than ever before. The Trump candidacy and the Brexit vote have revealed a disturbing trend towards racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism, and Shawn’s script brilliantly examines how such abhorrent mindsets can come from even the most benign sources and banal experiences. Considering it hasn’t been seen in Toronto since Tarragon Theatre’s Dora-nominated 1987 production, the time is absolutely right for revisiting this intelligent, uncanny and frightening work.

The world premiere of Aunt Dan & Lemon was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival (Joseph Papp, producer) at the Royal Court Theatre in London, England on August 27, 1985. Wallace Shawn (Princess Bride – pictured below) played Lemon’s father plus various ensemble roles in this original production. Wallace ShawnThis production opened off-Broadway at The Public Theater on October 21, 1985 with Academy Award winning actress Linda Hunt (Year of Living Dangerously – below) portraying Aunt Lemon. linda huntNearly 20 years later, the play received a New York revival off-Broadway in 2004 at the Acorn Theatre with TV’s Kristen Johnston (Third Rock From the Sun & Sex in the City) playing Aunt Dan and Lili Taylor (The Conjuring, Blood Ties) playing Lemon (pictured below L & R respectively)Kristen & LiliDirector Spurgeon went on to explain…. One of the most interesting things about this play is the playwright’s forcing the audience out of their comfort zone, by refusing to acknowledge the standard storytelling tropes we’re used to – there is no hero or villain, no separation of “the good guys” from “the bad guys.” The main conflict occurs between the playwright and a complacent audience, with the revelation of uncomfortable truths and questions about the modern world.

So mark your calendars for when Aunt Dan & Lemon confronts and challenges Toronto audiences once again.  All performances at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace theatre. Ticket information and times will be posted closer to opening. Follow Shadowtime Prods. on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/shadowtimeprodns


Thanks to funny ladies SHANNON McDONOUGH and MAGGIE CASSELLA for inviting me to their final V is for Variety show at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Toronto) last Friday.  Their V shows will return in the fall but for this last laff-fest before their summer hiatus, the audience was treated to some insanely funny (i.e. f*cking hilarious!!) monologues from Shannon (below) and Maggie (lower pic)….11707424_10155686975205018_8005997095153765894_n maggie…..plus emotional and insightful observations on life presented by my old friend from 1980’s Yuk Yuk’s days, writer & producer of TV & film hits like Miss Congeniality, Family Ties, Desperate Housewives, KATIE FORD (below).  A lot of folks were sniffing and wiping eyes after Katie’s gentle reminder about finding beauty and joy in simple everyday things.KatieEngaging young singer and writer Jennifer Walls also shared a few songs accompanied by Chris Tusjiuchi on piano. Jennifer actually performed her own show, Amazing Women, in the theatre right after the V is For Variety show. Whew…that girl has energy to spare!
One of the show-stopping sketches performed by Shannon & Maggie was an updated version of the great 70’s TV show All in the Family, with Archie & Edith discussing their grandson Joey (below) that had the audience squirming with laughter and recognition of the underlying message of acceptance and love (an eerie premonition of what was to happen within 48hrs in Orlando?!).archie & edithMaggie and Katie recently formed a creative alliance, Ford Cassella Productions, that will be bringing us lots more laughs so I encourage you to follow them @FordCassella on Twitter and Facebook, plus Periscope and Instagram.

Thank you to all the entertainers for a fabulous evening of entertainment, and make sure you catch the next V is for Variety show when it relaunches in September.


Award-winning writer/director Dan Spurgeon‘s hilarious homage to 70’s grindhouse movies, THE BABY, debuted live on stage at the Storefront Theatre tonight and if the enthusiastic preview audience is any indication, the play’s gonna be a BIG HIT!20151015_212740The talented cast of local actors bring “high camp” to a whole new level, delivering lines in a manner Benny Hill would envy! New York actor Frank Blocker (below) reprises the role of Mama he made famous in LA when the play premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2013, winning numerous awards as well as critical acclaim. 20151009_222104Jeanie Calleja sparkles as the seemingly good-hearted social worker, Ms. Gentry, but things turn decidedly dark when she meets Baby (below) and the whole Wadsworth family. Jeff Dingle‘s portrayal of Baby the man-child is sweet, hysterically funny and poignant, and he chews up the scenery…including the carpet, the stuffed toys…even his hotsie-totsie babysitter, played by Olivia Marshman!

Photo: John Gundy

Photo: John Gundy

Photo: John Gundy

Photo: John Gundy

Baby’s sisters are over-the-top, wildly funny and played to perfection by Alicia Richardson as Alba, the ultimate wicked yet sexy villainess (below left) and Claire Burns (below right) as Germaine…think Ellie-May Clampett meets Ann Margaret!20151009_213835Winner of Best of Hollywood Fringeand “Top 10 LA Theatre Production” honours in 2013

What the LA Critics said about The Baby:
“Gleefully perverse with a delicious campiness!”  Paul Birchall, LA Weekly
“The most fun I’ve had at a play in a long time!”  Andrew Moore, Mad Theatrics
and my favourite…..   “That was fuckin’ funny!”  Ron Jeremy, adult film legend

But don’t take their word for it….come enjoy this raucous, vulgar, naughty, high camp entertainment yourself.
THE BABY runs now until Nov. 1, 2015 at The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Showtimes: Tues. thru Sat. @ 8pm & Sun. @ 2pm
Tickets: $20-$25 available from www.thebabyliveonstage.com or at the theatre box office.logoCongratulations to the cast and crew…take your well-deserved bows!20151015_212736


Back in the late 70’s, I was cast in the stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show here in Toronto – I made a great Magenta – but due to some differences of opinion between the director and myself (he thought I should be pulling an extra after-show shift…and I didn’t) I withdrew from the show, dignity and virtue in tact! BUT…that first taste of high camp and horror/humour has fueled my appreciation of grindhouse movies and stage shows. A few years back, I saw the production of  Bat Boy at the Bathurst St Theatre and was just as entranced by the audience’s reaction to the play as the actors themselves. All the ooo’s, aaah’s and yikes from the seats were as funny as the action on stage.

I now have the pleasure of working with the new master of said “genre” live theatre, DAN SPURGEON, who arrived in Toronto last month after years of helming critically acclaimed productions in LA and New York. He has a wicked glint in his eye, a wry sense of the absurd and he recently sat down with me to share his love of live theatre, his award-winning camp send-ups of 70’s classic cult films and plans for his upcoming production of THE BABY at Toronto’s Storefront Theatre (see end of story for details).

Writer/Director DAN SPURGEON

DAN SPURGEON, writer/director

Welcome to Toronto, Dan. What prompted this move from LA to Toronto?
Actually, I’ve visited many times and had Canadian citizenship since 1989 via my mom. My husband, Drew Blakeman (Exec. Producer of The Baby) and I were considering moving to Toronto from New York a decade ago, but after the US dollar collapsed against the Canadian it wasn’t an option. LA was second choice… it turned out to be a great second choice based on what I was able to accomplish there, but we’ve had our eyes on moving here for a while. As far as why we left LA and the US… well, both are facing enormous problems that appear to be getting worse rather than better, and we decided that it was time to revisit the idea of moving up north. A year later, here we are!

Over the past 5 years, you built a successful theatre company, The Visceral Company, in LA – what challenges did you experience working with stage actors in a film town?
In LA, everyone’s an actor. Or at least, they think they are, despite many having no craft, discipline, training, or talent. There’s a general feeling in that city that theatre is no more than just a film without a camera pointed at it – many people don’t understand that under the surface, they’re very different mediums. I’ve dealt with actors who whispered on stage, who didn’t understand they couldn’t paraphrase a playwright’s words, and one performer who was very upset that her character costume wasn’t something she’d personally wear. If you request a monologue audition, you’d have to specify that it be memorized, and if you don’t mention “previous stage experience required” your inbox will be flooded with folks who may not know what a play even is. Plus it’s a given that if you’re working with pros, you always run the risk of losing them to a better-paying project with higher exposure at any time, and often with little to no notice. Thankfully, we seldom ran into that issue, and were only caught fully off guard by one exit – we were lucky enough to get the real pros most of the time, I guess.

You also worked for some time in New York, a real theatre town. What did you learn from your time working with the Shubert Organization and directing for Cobblestone Productions?
In theatre terms, I’m from the street. I don’t hold a drama degree, I took several years of classes but ultimately got sick of performing before I was allowed to study directing. So I just kind of did it myself. In the final semester of my film degree in San Francisco, I was strongly drawn back towards wanting to create theatre, so my final project was in fact producing and directing a play. We moved to New York shortly after I graduated. My time at Shubert provided me as much guidance as school ever did, both practical and artistic. I got to see the inner business workings of the highest professional level of theatre, and even more importantly, I got to see all kinds of shows – Broadway, off-Broadway, Off-off-Broadway, readings. I also did script coverage for creative projects. Getting to see what worked and what didn’t, what stirred me and other audience members and what left us cold, was absolutely invaluable in figuring out the standards I would set for myself and my work. In the same way, Cobblestone, a tiny nonprofit company, simultaneously taught me practicality, and how to apply these professional standards within time, space and budgetary constraints.

As an artistic director and writer, you specialize in the horror, thriller and sci-fi genres, especially plays with a comedic edge and a touch of the absurd. What attracts you to those dark, macabre and bizarre themes?
I’m drawn towards big, operatic emotions and an intensely heightened sense of reality. After horror and thriller stuff, I’m most fond of musicals and futuristic sci-fi – all these genres share that sensibility. Comedies tend not to share it to the same degree, so the ones I like tend to have a darker, sharper edge that brings out bigger performances. I have a real soft spot for cheaply made, shoddy, “exploitation” films that have a lot of heart. The Baby (LA stage stills, below) is a love letter to the sleazy, grindhouse cinema I devoured on VHS as a teenager. Beyond that, it’s kind of tough to explain my personal aesthetics – it’s like someone asking me why I like sushi more than pizza. I just do, it’s part of what makes me me.mama-wailing-sm charlies-angels-sm judith-axe-smIn Toronto, there is a huge underground “goth” and horror genre cult following – do you anticipate your upcoming production of The Baby (based on the 70’s cult movie classic) will attract these audiences?
The Baby is certainly designed with a certain sensibility, but I’d say it’s less “goth” than “punk rock.” The original film is generally labeled as “horror,” but I think it defies such simple categorization. While the show has elements of horror, drama, and comedy, it’s primarily “camp” – albeit camp done with excellent actors. My biggest inspiration for this project have been the films of John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble), Russ Meyer (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Herschell Gordon Lewis (2000 Maniacs, The Gruesome Twosome) – so any fans of those kinds of “midnight movies” should find plenty to like about The Baby!FasterYou’ve won numerous awards for your stage adaptation and direction of The Baby including the Encore Producers Award/Best of Fringe selection (Hollywood Fringe Festival 2013) and LA Bitter Lemons named The Baby one of the Top 10 LA Theatre productions for 2013 & Best LA Premiere of a Play (honorable mention). Having done research into Toronto’s theatre scene, how do you feel (or hope) the critics as well as the public will receive The Baby?
This show began as an experiment, and I wasn’t even fully convinced it worked until I started seeing the audience reaction. Many of our fans in LA thought it was the best show our company ever did. So, hopefully Canadians aren’t radically different in taste and they enjoy it just as much! As far as critics go, I’ve learned not to listen to them. I hope they like the show, as much as I hope every patron enjoys the show… but I also know that opinions are opinions, no matter how informed they might be, and it’s very rare that you can please everyone. I’ve seen a few reviews that hated Book of Mormon, and even more that hated Kinky Boots. What I’m hoping is that everyone, critics and public audience alike, at least enjoy the uniqueness of The Baby, the general weirdness of the story (including a truly surprising twist ending), and a performance and design aesthetic that one very pleased and enthusiastic Hollywood Fringe attendee referred to as “Technicolor vomit.”
At one of our shows a few years ago, a young woman came up to us afterward and told us that she had never  seen a play before (not uncommon in the US, sadly), and that she liked it so much she had to go see more plays. That’s a better review than any critic could ever give us.Baby-logo-web-bannerYou’re working with the Storefront Theatre (pictured below) who will be staging this latest production of your award-winning play. Do you already have plans for your next production, and if so, can you give us any hints as to what that play will be?
Oh, I always have a bunch of ideas in my pocket – probably more than I’d ever be able to bring to fruition in my lifetime. My original show Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite – a puppetry-laden anthology from the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft – has enjoyed successful runs in New York and LA, and is being produced this October by the Molotov Theatre Group in Washington DC (concurrently with The Baby, so I unfortunately won’t be able to attend). I’ve found some people that are very interested in the idea of that show, so I think Toronto might see it in the next year or two. Beyond that, I try to keep myself open for whatever interesting notion screams to be picked up and run with.

storefront 2I’ll be posting more news on The Baby and it’s cast over the coming weeks but in the interim, please mark your calendars for the run Oct. 15 thru Nov. 1 at Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor St West (between Ossington & Dovercourt). You can buy tickets now from http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2253620
Showtimes: Tuesdays – Saturdays @ 8pm, Sundays @ 2pm
The Baby website will be launched shortly: www.TheBabyLiveOnStage.com