'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? In our final instalment of the series, Jacquelyn Redmond (Festival Fiddler) serves us a Friday Feature on the sound of Newfoundland.
How does one infuse Newfoundland spirit in a show with songs and tunes that have been played a thousand times over without it feeling overdone, or being a forgettable experience? Renate and myself took the challenge and ran with it and, well, let me tell you, after you’ve seen our shows, they will be nothing but memorable.
I will admit, at first glance, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of ‘The Codfather,’ and I didn’t know what to expect in regards to my role, as the resident fiddle player. Bernardine kept saying, “everyone knows Gordon," but as someone who grew up in the mid 1990’s & early 2000’s in around St. John’s, I didn’t think I knew him at all. I knew the name, but I had no point of reference to who he was or what he did, and in this case, why was he so dang memorable that he was getting a whole tribute show! Colour me confused! But after listening to Bernardine talk about Gordon, and watching the cast become all the different facets of Gordon and the people he portrayed, I have nothing but respect and admiration for this man. Gordon is a Canadian Icon, sure, but he is a Newfoundlander, first and foremost.
His determination, as seen through his journey off the island and into Canada - you’ll for sure knot yourself in good laughter in Amelia’s portrayal of Gordon here - the desire to bring a production back to Newfoundland, and willingness to include as many Newfoundlanders in the production (a strong call to what Bernardine and Nicole have created with the KPTF) and lastly, the people’s willingness to assist when necessary are traits we, as modern Newfoundlanders, all advocate for and celebrate. Everywhere you turn, there are people saying “Buy locally, produce locally, stay home to work!” It’s an easy thing to say, much harder to do.
But Gordon did it, the first advocate of “artisan movie” I spose. Gordon became an example to both residents, government and Mainlanders that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had more to offer than just harnessing oil, fish and seal. Creative art has always been at the helm of the ‘culture’ of Newfoundland and Labrador, but rarely was it portrayed as a viable job to the public. Think of the Grenfell mission, one of the first to introduce the concept of selling your handicrafted goods - such as hooked rugs - for income. Music and dance as a nightly adventure, always in the forefront and yet not advocated to young people in lieu of life as a fisherman, logger or a maid. Bringing The Rowdyman to NL most likely introduced many residents in central NL to the working side of the Film and TV world, as it was still a very new commodity, only 20-30 years old. From there, a whole generation of young creative minds influenced, sparked at the possibility of being able to create something the whole nation could see. I like to think we’ve come at least a partial circle from there, as we, the KPTF, are now introducing a whole new generation to a piece of Newfoundland history, resilience and worth, in the musical Girls From Away.
I think my favourite line from The Codfather is: “They’ll say Will’s coming, and he’s clean!” Gwen’s adaptation of Will Cole’s mother from The Rowdyman is truly hilarious. But, in the beauty of hiring all onstage cast from NL, the dialect is authentic and Gwen does embody a busy but compassionate NL woman. Truly, her onstage demeanor for this character lends itself to many of my own relatives. When producing things specific to Newfoundland and Labrador, one can manufacture many things. Buoys, reproductions of photos showing floating houses, even the weathered seamen in the boats, and especially the accent. But you can’t manufacture the joy of Newfoundlanders getting to show their work, or the true boisterous energy of a group of Newfoundlanders together, such as you’d find at a kitchen party, or even the serene calm we find when you can hear the waves, taste the salt, and see the boats in the bay. Their rhythmic, motions of fisherman jigging for cod in the summer hypnotizing you as you sit on the beach.
In both Girls from Away and The Codfather, there’s no trouble to identify the resonance of the voices, as they aren’t new voices, or old. They are the voices that keep wanting to be heard and have yet to be realized. Bernardine, Nicole, Tim, and Kiersten have created the building blocks for those voices to be heard anew, and the entire company of the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival has risen to the challenge.
JACQUELYN REDMOND (she/her)
Festival Fiddler (Girls From Away, The Codfather)
Jacquelyn Redmond is a violinist and fiddler from Portugal Cove. Jacquelyn holds a Master of Music in Violin Performance/Pedagogy from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is headed to Waterloo, ON in September to study with the Penderecki Quartet. Ms. Redmond has strong roots in traditional newfoundland folk music and has maintained a balance between her western classical training and her folk music identity. From a young age, she was a part of the Suzuki Talent Education Program (S.T.E.P.) Fiddlers, collaborating with with her cousin, Daniel Payne, and participated in the Young Folk At The Hall (YFATH). Throughout both her university degrees, Jacquelyn continued to collaborate with local folk musicians, and was a regular mentor for the YFATH program. In 2018, Jacquelyn was a cast member of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival as an actress and fiddler, collaborating with local musicians including Stephanie Payne and Allison Crowe. Ms. Redmond was a featured artist in both Neddy Norris Night and Newfoundland Vinyl.
'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? Today, company actor and production apprentice, Gwendolyn Adams, shares some Wednesday Wisdom about her decision to take silliness seriously.
When I was in 10th grade career class, I was asked to make a chart of a few jobs I was interested in pursuing, and how I could obtain those. Talking about the future was one of my absolute least favorite topics. It always sent me into a frenzy and made me so frustrated because it seemed I was the only teen on the planet who hadn’t had the rest of their life figured out. (What an original feeling!) So I’m sitting there in that class, trying so hard to figure out my entire life in 45 minutes, destroying my brain trying to think of SOMETHING to put down. In reality, my heart knew. And it had for a long time. I just wasn’t quite ready to admit it yet. I grab my pencil.
Acting. Directing. Writing.
The person next to me writes, brain surgeon.
Gasp. How foolish am I? The teacher is going to be mortified to see that I just want to be a silly actor! A director?! A scriptwriter?! But why was I feeling this way?
Ever since I was young, I’ve loved to act, make music videos, play dress up, and everything of the sort. I had always been excited to show others what I’d been creating. The jump from 6th grade to 7th would involve changing schools, which was absolutely terrifying to me, but the fact that this new school would actually have a drama club eased my apprehension. In 9th grade, after watching Romeo + Juilet (1996), I fell head over heels for Leonardo DiCaprio, (we’ve all been there) and I increasingly realized how bad I wanted to be doing what he was doing.
Why was I now suddenly embarrassed when I wanted to take my hobbies further and make a career out of them? To tell you the truth, I have anxiety, which I know plays a huge factor into that. But after speaking to other aspiring artists, I realized this was a common thought. The fear of not being good enough, or taken seriously, or the notion that it could in some way “disappoint” those around you, is real.
There came a point when I discovered that for something I was so passionate about, I wasn’t taking much initiative to get to where I want to be. The anxiety of fearing I wouldn’t get anywhere or be good enough had consumed me, which is a terrible place to be. You get stuck. It was only when I decided to take my career seriously, and not view it as something to be somehow ashamed of, that I started to take steps to get where I want to be. I remember hearing someone say that being embarrassed about what you want to do will never ever help you get there, and I heard it at the perfect time. And thinking about the time you may have “wasted” (which I am 100% guilty of) will also get you nowhere. I decided I need to work on myself now, and realize the past is in the…past! No matter how cliche it may sound.
Cinema and theatre have been such important forms of art to me for so long, and something I knew I greatly appreciated in all aspects. However, when the pandemic hit, I think many people just began to realize how important those things are for them. Many of us turned to movies and television for entertainment, stress relieving purposes, and to feel like we still had a sense of normality. And theaters were closed, so the world realized how much they missed live entertainment. Of course, none of these can happen without actors, directors, writers, etc. They are all immensely important.
My teacher was in fact thrilled to hear about my plans.
I know people in all professions go through periods of wondering if they’re making the right decision, this is just being human. I do however think this especially rings true for those in the arts. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have moments where I am backstage, minutes before appearing in front of an audience, nauseated, and thinking, Why am I putting myself through this? Is this really what I want to be doing? Only to immediately step foot into the hazy view of people and have it all melt away. And all the hard work it took to get there is so worth it.
I am now so proud to tell people what I am doing and what I hope to pursue.
I never feel embarrassed on the stage.
GWENDOLYN ADAMS (she/her)
Mainstage Performer (The Codfather), Festival Production Apprentice
Gwendolyn O. Adams hails from Central Newfoundland. A veteran of regional and provincial drama festivals across the island, she is excited to be returning to the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival for her second year. Gwen is a passionate film buff who absolutely loves animals. When not happily immersed in her stage or screen craft, she can be found lost in a movie, chatting about her favourite actors, feeding squirrels, and caring for her pet rooster, Ralfie.
'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? Today, company actor Josie Sheppard tells us all about who motivates her.
It’s funny - all my life I’ve wanted to be on stage. From the moment I knew what acting even was, I was completely drawn to it. Something about delving into a character, being able to tell their story and understand the world through another perspective that might not be your own was just always so special to me.
And there have always been people in my life who’ve supported me, who saw something in me, even at the times I couldn’t see it in myself. My first director, who gave me the opportunity to go to Drama Fest in middle school, to the wonderful people I worked with in highschool, who took me out of comfort zone by making me the lead in a musical (also the first time I had ever sang on stage), to Bernardine and Nicole, who graciously allowed me to work alongside them the past four years as I honed in and developed my skills. Thanks to all of these people, I wouldn’t be half the actor I am today. However, who inspires me everyday to work hard and reach for the top, is my parents (as cliche as that sounds!).
Even though they didn’t quite understand my desire to act, and might’ve thought it was quite a strange thing for their 9 year old daughter to be writing skits that absolutely none of the neighborhood kids she would attempt to coerce into starring were interested in. But, they rolled with it. I remember when they enrolled me into drama camp (which, to my chagrin, ended up being more of a dancing camp!) and they were so happy to see how excited I was to perform for the first time. They’ve always been front row at every single show I’ve ever done, cheering me on. Even when I get a bit embarrassed when they ask me to randomly perform monologues for guests, it makes my heart warm that they care so much that I’m doing what I love.
They’ve always made sure to let me know how proud they are of me, and to do whatever makes me happy. And, of course, they introduced me to my second biggest inspiration, Audrey Hepburn, whose movies I’ve made them watch over and over, always telling them when I was younger that “I wanna be as big a star as her one day!”
JOSIE SHEPPARD (she/her)
Mainstage Performer (The Codfather), Stand-in/Swing (Girls From Away)
Josie made her debut with the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival in 2021, having been part of The Rowdies cast. She's been performing since middle school, having been a part of a variety of musicals and plays, most notably as Lonny in Rock of Ages. She also read the part of Boots in the play, Brass Rubbings. Off stage, Josie loves to cycle reading through her same favorite books over and over, and watching Netflix snuggled up with her adorable feline companion, Zeus.
'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? Today we have a Friday Feature on 'Girls From Away' character Betsy Bechtel, by company actor, Lauren Upshall.
It has been such a delight throughout this entire show process to learn about my character, Betsy Bechtel, and discover the little things that make her who she is. It’s always a challenge and a privilege to take a character who hasn’t existed previously and bring them to life on the stage.
So, who is Betsy Bechtel? Figuring out who Betsy is, and how she feels about the people around her has been quite the journey. I believe she is a hard worker at the mill, and is fairly confident in her abilities – both at work and out on the baseball field. Betsy is a supportive friend, and always has her best friend, Bitsy, by her side. She’s also highly impressionable, though not always in the best way. Being a people pleaser (something I can personally relate to when I am off of the stage), she continuously seeks approval from Henny, even if it means going against her personal morals. When Bridey Butler – the new girl – arrives at the mill, Betsy first responds the same way Henny would, but truthfully, she is intrigued by Bridey’s personality. I think Betsy, along with the other girls, is simply captivated by Bridey’s opinions on how strong the women are.
I love Betsy because she is very observant as to what’s going on at all times – whether it be how Eleanora is being treated or what’s going on between Bridey and Baz; she is genuinely interested in those around her, even if she doesn’t always appear to be. She is very smart when she’s not heavily influenced by others, and she has a lot to offer. I hope the audience will love Betsy as much as I love portraying her on stage!
LAUREN UPSHALL (she/her)
Betsy/Linda (Girls From Away), Mainstage Performer (The Codfather)
Lauren Upshall is a 22-year-old who moved to Newfoundland in the summer of 2021, after living in the United States for ten years. She is so thrilled to be in her favourite place in the world, and even more thrilled to be a part of the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival! During her time in the US, she worked as a theatre teacher at Christian Youth Theatre, and has performed in several productions including, “Heathers the Musical” (Veronica Sawyer), and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (Olive Ostrovsky). She currently works as a nanny for a wonderful family, and spends her free time going on walks, writing, and exploring the island.
'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? Today, 'Girls From Away' Co-Director & Lyricist/Composer Timothy Matson shares some Wednesday Wisdom about the development of new theatre & the magic that comes from working together.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler
The most magical thing for me about making theatre is that baked into the very idea of this art form is collaboration. Working with other individuals to create a common goal. Taking a group of creative and clever minds and pointing them all at the same thing – how do we tell this story or create this event or explore this idea?
There’s some magic in there, don’t you think? That we take a group of artists, we take a written piece (finished or unfinished), we gather together in a room (or even online, as we’ve discovered in the past couple of years), and then we look at it together, and slowly work and chip and shift and explore and discuss and divine, and we end up with a piece of theatre. And all of us in that rehearsal room have our artistry revealed in that final product.
Like in the kitchen, when we take a bunch of ingredients, mix them together, stir them up, put them in the oven, and something wonderful comes out.
I’ve been lucky to work on a handful of brand-new musicals in that past several years, with Best Kind Productions, with Ghostlight Theater Camp, and now with Kitchen Party Theatre Festival. And for me, there really is no greater excitement than having creators, a cast, and a creative team, all together in a room, making a new musical.
One of the first new musicals I worked on was Kyle McDavid’s Impresario, which premiered at the LSPU Hall in May of 2017. When I look at the archival video of that show, or even just the written script and score, I remember little things from rehearsal, from our collaborative process, that now make up the fabric of the piece for any future iterations. Jeff flying across the stage as Laura the parrot and rakishly swishing his father boa; Pete pulling his fake beard with a wink to the audience during the song “Old Gear”; Dan’s ridiculous coke-bottle glasses for Frederick the Philatelist combined with his perfect physical comedy; Kiersten dragging a chair across the stage as slowly as possible while wearing a shower cap.
Or a year later with Dan Lasby and Kyle’s new musical Red Rock, with the comedic combat between Pete and Andrew as the two thugs; Sabrina precisely cutting an apple with a knife as Natasha; or the perfect Marvel-esque ending post-curtain call of Zac as Volkov, sitting centre stage in a little tiny boat, holding a pet guinea pig.
All of those little things that so perfectly capture the tone and joy and ridiculousness of those pieces were all developed and created in the rehearsal room, not by me as one of the directors, but by all of us wondering and exploring together. That’s magic.
The magic takes on a new level when a piece is presented publicly, and the collaboration opens up to include an audience, as well. I remember being in university and seeing Blue Man Group in Chicago. I saw a matinee and though it may have been just another performance in an eight or ten show week for the performers, it was truly transformative for me. If you aren’t familiar with the piece, it’s performance art, and theatre, and improv, and music, all combined and hosted by, well, Blue Men. But that afternoon, as the show reached its tremendous, triumphant, and messy conclusion, I looked around the audience of the theatre and remember thinking “this was unique. This can’t happen again. How can they do this again tonight? This was something special.” We, as an audience, collaborated with those Blue Men and their jello and marshmallows and PVC pipe instruments, to create a unique moment. A moment that has stuck with me for almost twenty years.
I did a lot of improv growing up, and Amy Poehler is certainly a hero of mine. For me, her quote above is about collaboration. That if you are lucky enough (and I so hope we all are) to find a group of people who are inspiring, who challenge you and push you and explore and discover with you, and you commit time and creativity and imagination and joy to them, it will change not only the art you make, but the artist you are, the person you are, and your life as a whole.
I’m so grateful that all of the collaborators I’ve been working with this summer at Kitchen Party have been exactly those kinds of people. Come see what we’ve cooked up, with all of these amazing ingredients, all working together.
TIMOTHY MATSON (he/him)
Girls From Away Lyricist/Composer, Girls From Away Co-Director
Timothy Matson is thrilled to be spending the summer in Grand Falls-Windsor with Kitchen Party Theatre Festival. Some recent directing credits include Be More Chill, Fun Home, Impresario (premiere), next to normal (Best Kind Productions), Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, All Shook Up (Rennie’s Fall Musical), Almost Maine, Happy Days – the Musical, (Mount Pearl Senior High), Promnado (premiere), Pippin, She Loves Me, The Diviners (Acting Manitou Theatre Camp). He is a dedicated teaching artist and educator and has worked with Achieva Educational Services, Ghostlight Theater Camp, and he is the Drama teacher at Mount Pearl Senior High School. He is also Co-Artistic Director of Best Kind Productions. Recent writing credits include Second Shot – the Curling Musical (with Kiersten Noel – premier coming soon!), Isobel Gunn – a New Musical (with Kyle McDavid), The Stars Are Always Brighter When the Lights Go Out, and a new adaptation of Pirates and Penzance. Grateful to be a part of this magical story and season!
'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? Today, company actor Kennedy Toms tells us all about who motivates her in our first Monday Muse column of the series.
Throughout my life, I have always sought influence from wherever I could. I wanted to be as funny as the characters in my favourite tv shows, be as kind and selfless as the heroes I read about in books, to follow the guidelines set by my family and exceed their expectations so that they were proud of who I was. So, when I decided I wanted to be an actor, finding someone to motivate me was not something I had to go searching for.
I have been fortunate in my short career to have worked with many talented and extraordinary human beings who have pushed me to be the best artist I can be. As cheesy as it may sound, two influential people in my life are Nicole Smith and Bernardine Stapleton, the Co-Writers and Co-Founders of KPTF. They saw something in me and graciously allowed me to be a part of this amazing experience, something I will forever be grateful for. Combined, they have decades worth of experience and knowledge to offer me that I am always eager to hear and soak up. From the moment I met them I have strived to make them proud and to not regret the chance they took on me back in 2021 – a fresh 19-year-old actor from Bishop’s Falls who had no professional experience under her belt.
However, there is one person who is my main motivater as an actor and is the reason why I want to work hard and not stop until I have surpassed my talent threshold and am the best version of myself as possible – My Poppy Pat. Some of my earliest memories with him are of watching movies. Whenever I would sleep over, we would adventure to the small convenience store near his house and rent a movie (yes, I’m old enough to remember a time where you could go to a store and rent a movie). Together, we would browse the different movie sections and try to find something interesting. And if nothing caught our eye we would go back to his house and see what was “on demand” (I remember how cool it was to realize that there were thousands of movies we could access with the small click of our remotes). He was one of the first people to introduce me to the world of acting, and when I had an epiphany that I wanted to be an actor at 12 years old, I knew that I wanted to be in a movie on my grandfather’s television. I wanted him to be able to flick through his channels and see his granddaughter on his screen, acting in the movies he had loved all his life. I’m not sure if he knows how much he has impacted me regarding my career path, but this man – unbeknownst to him – remains my #1 motivator when it comes to perusing my passion. I owe it to him, and the many incredible people I have had the pleasure of working with, who inspire me as an actor. From my high school drama teachers Mrs. Smith and Ms. Tucker to those in my professional circle such as Bernardine and Nicole, I am surrounded by people who continue to influence me to reach in deep and achieve everything, and more, that I am capable of as an actor. My main goal is to continue to make them, and my grandfather, proud of me and the actor I hope to become.
KENNEDY TOMS (she/her)
Bitsy/ Valerie/Madonna (Girls From Away), Mainstage Performer (The Codfather)
Kennedy Toms is an actor from Bishop’s Falls, NL, currently completing her Bachelor's of Fine Arts at Grenfell Campus. Some of Kennedy’s latest acting works include Thérèse Dubuc in Les Belles Soeurs, Annabel Carew in Bedlam, Mildred/Marvelena in a previous edition of Girls From Away, and Darcy in the short film BOUNCE. Kennedy is so excited to be back for her second year at the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival playing Bitsy in Girls From Away, and you can also find her in The Codfather this summer.