By Miriam Cummings, Hopegrown Productions
Getting to London, Ontario was the first true “people piled in a car road trip” leg of the tour. At 5:00am on July 2, Hopegrown (and Around Miss Julie) piled into two cars. Norah and Tariq (Sam’s boyfriend and arguably Hopegrown’s #1 Fan) got us safely into London with half an hour to spare before our load-in/technical rehearsal time at The Arts Project.
Oh, The Arts Project! A lovely, artist-driven gallery/theatre/studio space in the heart of downtown London. A blackbox that is actually black, with a full grid, wonderful acoustics and more stage space than Around Miss Julie had ever experienced. It felt great to come back to a space that I’d worked so much in as a teenager. With the help of Passionfool’s chairs, Richard’s tech savvy and photography skills and Sandra’s trouble-shooting, Around Miss Julie came to life in 9 hours. The cast and crew however? We needed sleep – STAT!
Speaking of sleep… Bloody Underrated readers may or may not know that the Hopegrown crew has been staying with family and friends in each city we travel to. This is part of what makes our tour financially feasible. I can’t thank our accommodating families enough. In so many ways, this summer wouldn’t have been possible without you.
Our run at The Arts Project was a like a luxurious bubble bath. We were the only company in this space, which meant that we were able to have a technical rehearsal, a dress rehearsal and at the end of the night, we could leave our set on the stage. We were also able to feature local artists before each performance and host a talk-back session afterward. I was inspired to invite young artists to open for us in London when I ran into Elsie Richmond on the street a couple of months ago. I thought, we have the venue and you have the talent, let’s work together! I absolutely love the energy that these musicians brought to The Arts Project and would work with them again in a heartbeat. To learn more about these artists, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.
I was disappointed that audiences were smaller in London than in other cities. It isn’t surprising when you consider that we weren’t part of a Fringe Festival, we put the least amount of time into advertising in London and also had our shortest run. However, we did have two great reviews from The Beat Magazine and Theatre in London and though our audiences were small-ish, they were mighty. These are all things to learn from and consider for next time. The least amount of people saw arguably our most beautiful show but the brilliant part is that our tour does not end here and we take all that we’ve learned from London into the next venue. As always, my most missed audience member is my Dad, who passed away almost three years ago. I suspect he would have rivaled Tariq for Hopegrown’s #1 Fan position. The last performance he saw me in was The Real Inspector Hound (Passionfool Theatre Company) at The Arts Project. Felicity Cunningham is not unlike Julie in some ways. I think he would have loved Julie as well. My tour is dedicated to my Dad.
Due to our (relatively) less hectic schedule in London, I had some time to reflect on our journey thus far. At our talk-backs, lots of audience members were interested in how Hopegrown got started in the Fall, where the inspiration for Around Miss Julie came from and what our plans for the future are. We also faced the fact that London was the last city of the tour for Graham, who played Lyle. Saying goodbye to Graham made London a bittersweet time.
I came away from our time in London with an overwhelming feeling of love and respect for the entire Around Miss Julie team – those on tour and those at home. We proved to ourselves that we are flexible enough to animate these different spaces, work through problems while maintaining a professional working candor and still be friends first at the end of the day. And that’s pretty special.