Saint Aggie's '84

The history of a new musical as it comes to be…

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Adventures in North Carolina

Last week I ventured to the state of North Carolina to witness the opening of the premiere of the two-act version of SAINT AGGIE’S ’84 at the Weaver Academy in Greensboro. I flew in on Tuesday night (it was supposed to be Tuesday afternoon – thanks United Airlines) caught the dress rehearsal and watched the first two performances, which continue on through this weekend.

It was my first time to this part of the USA and I have to say I will definitely be back…if they’ll have me. The people are really generous and warm (thanks to the booster club I was want for nothing and was taken out for some tasty meals (and picnics) in some fine restaurants (and grassy patches)), not to mention they are passionate and talented in the business of theatre…and the weather doesn’t suck, either. Too bad I didn’t pack appropriately.

Much thanks to Keith Taylor (director) Jason Kraak (musical director) and Lindsey Clinton-Kraak (choreographer), who all did an amazing job in pulling this crazy show together and making it look and sound fantastic.

In the days leading up to the opening I got to hang around the school, meeting with classes, checking out what they were up to and talking about a life in the arts. It was a busy time but I met some exceptional young people and found myself quite inspired by the place. I was interviewed by Mr. Tyler Hardin, a sophomore (I love US school terms) with his own local TV show. I’m guessing this kid will be on CNN in few years!

The show had a distinct visual style, entirely plaid, well represented in the program, setting the play in a conceptual West-Coast-of-Canada-in-the-fall-of-1983 boarding school. I thought it worked really well.

Also of note, the score was not performed by a live band. Instead, music production students at the school created backing tracks from midi files exported from my score writing software, SIBELIUS. Very interesting to hear.

Here are some photos from the show that I stole from the Saint Aggie’s ’84 Facebook page. Thanks to the photographer. I will credit you. I promise.

For the record, here’s an entire cast list. Over 60 in the company. Amazing.

Hattie Navarre: Katie Sessoms
Emily Berowne: Bonnie Flannery
Grace Longaville: Rebecca Evans
Alexis Dumaine: Cara Farlow
Adriana De Armado: Peggy Wasmund
Dull: Zina Card
Costard: Bridget Lavender
Boyet: Taylor Beyrer
Theresa Moth: Annanoa Kaufmann
Jennifer: Laura Peterson
Christine: Jenna Caporossi

James Prince: Isaac Powell
Keith Smithers-Jones: Kyle Kite
Marcus Sellar: Nick Relos
Ross McDonald: DJ Gayles
Holofernes: Caleb Taylor
Juan Gonzales: Isaac Powell

Company Females:
Giselle Abreu
Brittney Bailey
Sara Bedingfield
Joy Ben-Israel
Sarah Bernstein
Sarah Broyhill
Jada Castillo
Sydney Champion
Rachel Cumberland
Stephanie Dawson
Samantha Gates
Katy Fields
Emily Franks-North
Kyla Garland
Aliya Graves
Emma Hamel
Sarah Harrill
Kestyn Harris
Chappell Hartsell
Spencer Hodges
Juli Jackson
Ines Kaushe
Caroline Knisley
Abi Lambert
Tess League
Mariana Lehoucq
*Sarah Catherine Lucus
Emily Madden
Shannon Mann
Ellen Marion
Kerrington Misher
Zoe Murran
Taylor Neese
Kathryn Nieri
*Hannah Marshall
Cameron McClellan
Meagan McFarland
Logan Pace
Autumn Rainey
Tehya Ramey
Zoe Shirk
Suramie Slay
Roxanne Snider
Cecelia Swayne
*Carmel Tajeddini
*Hayley Turner

Company Males:
TJ Bossier
Tyler Hardin
Web Farabow
Grayson Frazier
Smith McLean
Hayden Moses
Phillip Wells
Jaevon Williams

I had a chance to look around the wonderful historic Carolina Theater (sic). Just fascinating.

I also managed to venture down the I-40 to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to meet the affable Mr. Bland Simpso, one of the creators of the musicals, DIAMOND STUDS and KING MACKEREL AND THE BLUES ARE RUNNING (among others), two shows I’ve happened to work on as an actor. As it turned out Bland was entertaining South African playwright, Althol Fugard (ROAD TO MECCA, MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS, MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA!) who was doing an artist in residence at the university. He was a delight to meet and I even got to sit with him as some playwriting students read his short play, THE COAT. It was quite an incredible experience to say the least.

SAINT AGGIE’S ’84 runs tonight through Saturday so if you happen to be in the western North Carolina you should drop by. There will be a cast recording at some point, which will be made available…and also a good quality video, which is exciting.

Well, I’m home now. Getting back to work on my new Edinburgh Fringe bound musical, MEASURES TO MEASURES, in production right now at LORD BEAVERBROOK SCHOOL in Calgary. But before I get completely submerged back into that, there’s still one more NORTH CAROLINA experience to take in: Ben Folds with the ESO!! Tonight!!


A photo from another world…


Here it is. The first glimpse of the next cast of Saint Aggie’s ’84. Yes, the photo is bit grainy and slightly unclear, reminding me a little of a photo from early space exploration, an early moon probe, transmitted back to earth slowly via radio waves and taking hours to receive, decipher and print. Of course, this picture was emailed to me by one Heather Foley, the stage manager of the production, using radically more advanced technology from a point very much located here on planet earth. Earth or not, however, there is still something other worldly about this picture for me, and these awesome young people who will embody the words and become the characters in my play. The picture is as exciting to me as those firsts glimpses of the moon probably were to those NASA folks back in the 1960s.

More will follow in the days to come. But enjoy this first look!

SA84 – Edinburgh Fringe Cast Recording

Only a few months later than I’d hoped, but here it is. Please download it. Burn copies. Post it wherever you feel like it. Do with it what you will. I’d really like as many people to hear this recording as possible.

I’d like to thank all of you who were involved in this project for all of your hard work and energy. It’s been an honour to work with you, and I hope we get a chance to work together again.

I’ve already started attacking the next version of Saint Aggie’s ’84, the two act version. Many of these songs won’t be the same next time. Actually I can’t wait to get fixing some of them (completely overhauling a few). In any case there will be some big changes.  I guess that what I’ve realized is that this recording is really just a snapshot of the work we did. That is not say that it is inferior in any way, just that this play is still such a work in progress that this recording can only be considered a snapshot of a point in a process and not something that is a final product. But it’s a great thing to have though, a snapshot…nothing like a good snapshot. Stick it to the fridge with a couple of Quadrophenia magnets that you got at that cool novelty shop. I hope you all feel really good about the work you did. You all looked and sounded great! I couldn’t have asked for more.

I will continue to keep you all informed as to what is happening with the show. I’ll post demos here as new songs get written and I’ll keep everyone informed of upcoming productions.

So here’s the link to download. Let me know what you think!

“All of us off in our own directions will cherish this time we stood on common ground.”


Recording Continues

If it was 1984, this is the machine that we would most likely have been using to record the show. It’s about the size of a washing machine but weighs 10 times as much and probably cost around a quarter of a million dollars when it first hit the market. You do still find them around (we had a big MCI deck in our studio for a while) and they have a certain something in the way that they sound…but they are just so clunky and expensive to operate. (Not to mention $270 for a roll of tape that gives you only 20 minutes of record time – you try telling a young rock band that the tape costs alone will be 3 grand if they want to use the tape deck!)

Tonight we will be finishing the vocals (for most part) and I will only have the strings left to record. I’m hoping to have the whole thing mixed by the middle of November.

Final Show.

Well, it did have to happen at some point, and now it has…happened. The final performance of Saint Aggie’s ’84 has come and gone. Tomorrow I will be on my way home to Canada with some fond memories and a great sense of accomplishment…not to mention a little sadness, I suppose. We will be doing some recording in a week or two and there will be productions of Saint Aggie’s in the future, some might even involve some of the performers from this production, but the truth is that this incarnation of this play will never happen again…ever.

I’m not trying to be a downer, but it is the truth. It’s the one thing that I’ve never fully been able to get used to in my 20 years of working in this business, the fact that every time you do one of these things you come together as a group, share a common experience, become a family and then right in the middle of it all feeling really good, you go your separate ways. “You go this way, I’ll go that way”. You just never get used to it. That’s all there is to say.

Actually there is a lot more to say, but it’s late and I have an early flight. But just in case I didn’t say it before I would like to say, thank-you. Thanks to all of you for all of your hard work. It’s been a pleasure. Here are some shots from before and after tonight’s final show.

One exciting thing that happened today is that it looks like there may very well be an American premiere of Saint Aggie’s ’84 some time soon. It’s a little early to discuss the details but needless to say I am extremely excited about the possibility of an American run. I will keep everyone posted.

Time to get some sleep. I’ve got a lot of writing to do on the plane tomorrow.

Tuesday and the Festival Fringe

When I first looked at the Edinburgh Fringe Program a few months ago when it arrived in the mail, I have to say, I was overwhelmed. It’s a huge thick book with literally thousands of shows listed in it. You see Fringe venues listed up into the four hundreds. It’s ridiculous. Then you arrive here and you walk around this place and it’s even more overwhelming. There are tens of thousands of people in the streets who are here to see shows. They are rabid for shows. Not that they aren’t in Edmonton, but it’s just that there are so many more of them here. Don’t forget that Edinburgh is only half the size of Edmonton and they say that the festival brings in 500 000 people on any given night around the city.

And yes there is the street theatre going on everywhere (much like home) and there are crowds for that, but it’s the fact that all the indoor shows that I’ve been to are very well attended, there are cues everywhere, that makes this whole thing extra special.

Now I’ve said that the program was overwhelming, and it is. But one thing you don’t even realize when you see all of the 400+ venues listed in the program is that some of the venues actually have multiple theatres. And some of them have quite a few theatres. For instance, “C” is a venue. It is spread over six actual locations but it has nineteen performance spaces and 200 shows. That’s nearly as big as the Edmonton Fringe in one venue. And “C” is not even one of the big venues. Overwhelming!

So, I was waiting to see a new musical called “Edges” at the C Soco venue (#348) and who should I see coming out of their show in “C” venue 34, which is right next door, but some of the cast of “Saint Aggie’s ’84”.

One of them (it was Thomas Barnett) had on his new green pants.

I’ve photographed a couple of the other venues I’ve been to tonight. The first is the Roxy Art House (named so because it is on Roxburgh Street) which is on the way form “C” to my now favorite venue…

…the Pleasance Courtyard!

Here are some shots of the courtyard. It’s a wonderful place that houses about a dozen or so theatres. (Maybe more).

I was trying to decide what to see at around 10PM. This is just the program for The Pleasance Courtyard. There was quite a lot on. BTW I chose an Irish Comedian by the name of David O’Doherty. It was brilliant. So funny. Oh, yeah…one more thing. Pleasance has a whole other venue, the Pleasance Dome. It has eight more stages, I believe. Happy Fringing!!!

See you tomorrow!

Monday. Day Off.

I am posting this blog the night after writing it. For some reason when I’d finished writing last night it would not upload to wordpress. So hopefully it will work now – I guess if you are reading this then it did. Here is a view from where I’ve been writing these Edinburgh posts. Out the window beyond the nearby apartment buildings you can see Holyrood Park and the hill/mountain? known as Arthur’s Seat. I’m heading out for a run but here’s what I wrote last night.

“It is now the end of Monday. Actually, technically it’s very much into Tuesday here in Edinburgh. 12:56AM. Monday there was no performance of the show and the cast, crew and all the other members of the delegation went of to wander in the countryside and look at castles and the like. It was very wet here today (…er, yesterday) and the umbrella and raincoat that I packed have suddenly become very handy.

I’m so happy to see that so many people are starting to look at the blog. The numbers have actually doubled every day for the past three days. It’s quite astounding.

It’s been great to have a place to post photos and ramble on about things. Sadly I don’t have anything to post here tonight in the photo department…but hopefully tomorrow.

This evening the cast watched another AHSTF show written by Shel Silverstein that was (in my opinion) very surprising. I’m a big fan of the man and I had no idea that he wrote such crazy short (and perhaps off-colour) plays. I know that many in the cast were running around checking out shows around the city (as was I) and they will be doing the same tomorrow.”