Toronto Event, September 24

The Pictures: Rehearsing in my backyard; Susan Coyne,

with Ashley in the background; singers thrashing it out with Orville Stoeber in the dining room; actor & director read-through in the living room; Alisa rehearsing in the church; young fan with self-made T-shirt (quail, politicians!); the amazing Maria Popoff, saver of days; full cast backstage; the post-apocalyptic edible floral arrangements; Ben McNally the Bookseller; me with my baby sister Ruth, author of Ode to a Giant Zucchini, see it earlier in this blog; Nature Canada bookmark, need smaller head for better result.

______

On September 24 we took the train from Kingston to Toronto. Ron and John, the dauntless documentary filmers, were in the train car too, and I’m sorry to say they rearranged a few people so they could get a better camera angle. I thought we might get defenestrated by annoyed travelers, but all were good sports.

The closer we got to Toronto, the more nervous I became. It’s always in your hometown where you expect the tomato sailing through the air, the knifelet in the back, the nightmare audience composed of nothing but snarky gossip columnists trashing your wardrobe. “But it’s not really my hometown,” I recited to myself, mantra-like. “I have others! I just kind of, like, live in it at the moment, eh?”  But Toronto was having none of this. As I was descending the train steps at Union Station I dropped my MacBook Air, whang! right on the cement. “Rats! There goes my cyberlife,” I thought. At this moment – just to reinforce its point — Toronto struck me with a crashing headache.

But, having located a Starbucks with organic-ish Pike Place, and having guzzled down some caffeine, I opened my Airbook to find that its innards were intact, though its case now had an overbite. Then I uttered a prayer to Saint Ibuprofen the Greengeltab of Rexall, gathered myself together, and wheeled off to the rehearsal, stopping only to purchase an album from Valu David, who was singing a catchy song about global warming right outside the Starbucks. Not sorry about that purchase — check it out: (http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/valu-david-the-next-big-thing-in-music.)

The Toronto Event story began way back in the spring, when I confided my strange idea to Ben McNally, of Ben McNally Books. Being a pony-tailed person, he thought it was terrific. And Harbourfront (www.readings.org) also agreed to participate, along with McClelland and Stewart, who supplied Operation Central Ashley Dunn to connect with all the Canadian venues, and who designed the template for the programs.

Then I visited Susan Coyne, the very gifted actress and extra-talented writer (charming book and play, Kingfisher Days, excellent & hilarious TV & DVD series, Slings and Arrows). As we settled down to talk on her back porch, she wondered aloud: “Is that a weed, or is it a flower?” Perfect, I thought. A reluctant Gardener. For of course I wanted Susan to play Toby, a woman who comes to gardening from an unexpected and indeed an unintended angle.

Not put off by the nuttiness of the scheme, Susan declared herself In. (Me:“This is crazy.” Susan: “I love crazy.”)This made it much easier for me to convince superdirector Alisa Palmer, who then brought together the rest of the cast: David Ferry as Adam One, Michelle Monteith as Ren (and several other voices), and singers Andrew Kushnir, Eliza Jane Scott, John Millard, Karin Randoja, Lilly Ross-Millard, Michah Barnes, and Taylor Lazazzera (I knew Taylor through the Espresso Bar Mercurio; she has her own band, which usually plays in less saintly places. Will her friends make fun of her for being a Gardener? They’d better not, or Saint Ibuprofen will withdraw his favours). Orville Stoeber, the composer and the singer on the CD, came to Toronto to sing and play.

Also on hand was invaluable assistant Maria Popoff, who – when it was discovered during rehearsal that the actors’ mikes were feedbacking into one another —  took to the control box –“I haven’t done this for a while” – and deftly manipulated the On-Off buttons so that only the actor speaking was On. She solved a million other things as well—the missing script pages, my mic magnet falling into someone’s empty shoe just before we went on – lucky us.

The motley crew met for rehearsal on Monday in my back yard, then inside when it started to rain. Phoebe Larmore went to Whole Foods – always dangerous to let her loose in there – and brought back an astonishing pile of lunch snacks, which disappeared like magic. Then, on Thursday, we all rehearsed in the actual venue, the venerable Saint James Cathedral on Queen Street, which is said to have 19th C. educational reformer Bishop John Strachan in the crypt, sometimes in spirit form. What does he think of our goings-on? In favour, I’m guessing. After all, he was an innovator.

The Event itself went off in great style, despite the backstage saved-at-the-last-minute frenzy. The stage was ornamented by florist Jackie O  (http://www.jackieo.ca/), whose owner, Todd, donated arrangements “that say post-apocalyptic.” (I couldn’t quite picture this ahead of time – something scorched? – but it turned out that everything in them was edible!) David Ferry was a powerful (and barefooted) Adam One, and is now well positioned to start his own cult. Susan Coyne was an initially subdued Toby — spaced out by living alone in a pink spa – then building to a supercharged final scene; Michelle Monteith was frankly adorable as Ren, and very versatile as the other voices she performed. The Gardener singers filled the space with joyful (and appropriately chapeau-ed) song.

Nature Canada was present with leaflets and bookmarks – the owl on them makes a good mask if you have a small head – and Birds and Beans donated their bird-friendly coffee (www.birdsandbeans.ca). They also sell certified, Rainforest-Alliance, bird-friendly chocolate – Vintage Plantations, delicious – and have a lot of information about bird-killer kinds of coffees and their opposites.

See also the Smithsonian website at:  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MigratoryBirds/Coffee/roaster.cfm.

“How was that?” I asked Ben the Bookseller, after the whole thing was over. “(Hippy expletive” great!” said the Benster. He never lies.

Yay, Toronto! You didn’t throw tomatoes after all. Or not yet.

More: For AmberMac’s interview about writing & tech, done in the garden, see: http://www.discoverychannel.ca/showpage.aspx?sid=20743&vid=20930.

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