Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
Yesterday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day (IWD). It has been held on the same day for more than a century — although the idea of celebrating women on a certain day had been in practice from the very beginning of the 20th century, it wasn’t until 1914 that March 8th was officially chosen as the day. Canada did not adopt this date until 1975. Does that mean nobody cared enough about women until then? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Well, we at Meanwhile care. In this issue one member of our team, Jennifer Jenkins, shares memories of her feisty, loyal, proud and community-minded mother, who walked in the very first IWD march in Canada. In her honour and in solidarity with women everywhere our masthead for this issue is purple, the colour of IWD.
Women's History Month: Celebrating Gwen Jenkins
March 4th marked the 25th anniversary of my mother’s passing. Her celebration of life ceremony was fittingly held on International Women’s Day, Friday, March 8, 1996.
Gwen (Barton) Jenkins was born in Halifax, NS and after graduating in nursing from Halifax Children’s Hospital in 1948, she accepted a position at London, Ontario’s Victoria Hospital. She met my dad in London soon after she arrived and they married six months later.
As a child I thought my mom’s dedication to service was, well, just mom. She worked full-time, bowled in a league on Wednesday nights, attended bi-weekly meetings at the Lions Club, sang in the church choir on Sundays (she was a soprano), volunteered at “Womanpower” (career counselling and coaching), participated in the occasional march (well WHY NOT! 1975 was International Women’s Year after all) and was instrumental in founding London’s Sexual Assault Centre, participating in every capacity from fundraising and public speaking to 24 hour on call counselling. Oh, and all the while she was a loving, devoted and present wife and mother.
After her nursing career ended in 1988 due to a back injury, she continued to work in the community and helped to start the Canadian Congress of Black Women London Chapter. Her focus was twofold: encouraging Caribbean, African and Canadian Black women in London to unite and work together as one community; and supporting Black youth through education. She continued to volunteer her time by participating in many workshops and symposiums and sitting on various boards and committees.
My mom had an unparalleled enthusiasm, loyalty and dedication to all she embarked upon. She often said that her motivation was an, “interest in people and more than a dash of feminist perspective”. I am immensely proud of my mother for being a leader and passionate advocate for equal rights.
Happy International Women’s Day, Mom. I celebrate your life today and everyday.
Jennifer Jenkins manages the web content and design at Mirvish Productions.
Play Our New Game: What’s My Wig?
Hairstyles are very important in telling a story on stage. They can easily and quickly help to create a character and set the era in which the action takes places. That’s why wigs have been an important and essential tool in theatre.
We'll give you ten wigs/headpieces from ten well-known characters in popular shows including a clue for each. Guess the names of the characters and the shows and you will be entered to win our great prize: A $50 Mirvish gift certificate, an I ❤️ THEATRE mask and a set of four Mirvish Theatre Collection totes.
Deadline to enter is March 15 at 11:59 PM.
Check In From Away: War Horse
If you ask many Mirvish staff members for their favourite shows of the last decade, War Horse would be high on the list. It is a show that defines the concept of “total theatre” – a work that uses every theatrical element to tell a story, but still relies on the audience’s imagination as its guiding force. It played February 10, 2012 to January 6, 2013 at the Princess of Wales Theatre.
War Horse is an epic, a story both intimate and mammoth, about individuals and nations, people and animals. It has drama, comedy, music, dance, puppetry, spectacular sets and lighting effects. It showcases the talents of a large cast of actors. It is an immersive event that can only be experienced live.
In this week’s Check In From Away, Steffi and Lisa speak with four War Horse company members: Alex Furber, Patrick Kwok Choon, Tommy Luther and Dayna Tietzen about their memories of that magical production and what they are up to now.
Reelin’ in the Years: The Last Ship
Let’s take you back a few couple of years, to 2019. That’s when singer, songwriter, composer and actor Sting came to town with his musical The Last Ship, the story of a community coming together to save the shipyard that had employed them and their ancestors for more than two centuries.
The musical asks the age-old question: what happens when economic forces destroy an entire community? It’s a question many of us are asking these days when many sectors of our economy have been decimated by the pandemic. Of course, the answer is never simple because no economy stands on its own. After all, without a community of people, no economy can exist.
The Last Ship was a resounding success. The city flipped its wig for Sting. Toronto Life even had a weekly online column featuring the latest Sting sightings. He enjoyed all the city had to offer for the two months he was here. Friends flew in from all over the world to see him in The Last Ship and he showed them Toronto.
Save Our Community: Sting to the Rescue
On November 26, 2018, GM announced the closure of its Oshawa plant, ending a century of automobile and related manufacturing operations in the city. The worker’s union, Unifor, and its tireless president, Jerry Dias, began an information campaign to convince GM to rethink its decision.
When The Last Ship company of actors, including Sting, arrived in Toronto in late January 2019, it was only natural that they would want to offer their support to the GM workers.
On February 20, 2019, the actors got on a bus and drove to the arena in Oshawa to perform a concert version of The Last Ship at a rally in solidarity with the GM workers. It was a very moving event: an arena full of workers fighting to keep their jobs were entertained and encouraged by a company of actors playing workers who in turn were fighting for their jobs. Sting told the crowd, “Canada needs to get behind you!” The rally made news around the world.
Did the event make any difference? It would be easy to be cynical and say it was a lost cause from the very beginning, but maybe some hearts and minds were changed.
It didn’t happen right away, but 20 months later, on November 5, 2020, GM announced the retooling and reopening of its Oshawa plant to produce GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks, hiring up to 2,500 workers. As soon as the deal was done, Jerry Dias texted the news to Sting, with whom he had become good friends during The Last Ship’s Toronto engagement.
Ali Momen for Toronto-St. Paul’s
If you read about Ali Momen’s Arts New Deal initiative in the June 30, 2020 issue of Meanwhile, you may not be surprised to learn that the enterprising and community-minded actor has taken his passion for public service one step further. Momen is now seeking the Liberal party nomination for the riding of Toronto-St. Paul’s in the provincial parliament.
Momen launched a petition for the federal government to take a page out of the Works Progress Administration, a program created by the Roosevelt administration after the Great Depression. It put artists to work to achieve, according to George Biddle, the man credited with the program’s conception, “a picture of democratic justice and spiritual beauty.” Momen’s idea is to do the same in Canada with all the artists who have lost their livelihood during the Covid pandemic.
Although it’s not rare for actors to enter politics — Glenda Jackson was a member of parliament in the UK for 23 years after an acting career of 35 years; Ronald Reagan was President of the US for two terms — it isn’t a road that many actors would gladly follow.
Acting is hard work and it’s precarious employment, always being at the mercy of others for roles and being forced to compete with friends and colleagues for the few jobs that exist. Politics may be even harder work, and getting elected may be even more difficult than landing a role in a hit show.
But Momen isn’t frightened of hard work. He’s a risk taker and he follows his heart. He said that when he graduated high school, he thought he would be a lawyer. He studied philosophy and political science, but after examining the teachings of Socrates who asked him to “know thyself,” he knew that he must pursue his passion. He then applied to Sheridan College and studied Music Theatre Performance.
Check out Momen’s website and watch his campaign video.
The Other Family Singing Parody Songs During the Pandemic
Last issue we introduced you to the Marsh family from Kent, UK, an adorable family of singers and music makers who have created a catalogue of clever parody songs about life during the pandemic. The Marsh family have caused quite a stir, even scoring a big story in The New York Times.
One Meanwhile reader let us know about another family of singers — the Holderness family.
They too are very talented and have made a lot of parody song videos about the pandemic. But that’s where the similarities end. This family is from Raleigh, NC, and they have turned their singing into a full-time business. It helps that both mom and dad, Kim and Penn, began as professional broadcasters. In 2013 they made “XMAS Jammies” – a seemingly innocent video Christmas card intended for their immediate family. Overnight, their video went viral on YouTube and they’ve been making goofy videos with their family ever since.
Seven years later, their videos have resulted in over a billion views and 4.5 million followers across social media. They now make their living from their online videos, from creating content for commercial brands and from being influencers on social media for all sorts of products.
That doesn’t mean their song parodies are any less entertaining. In fact, with their wealth of professional experience and their skill at using technology, the Holdernesses make excellent videos. They also write some original songs. Enjoy!
New Song & Music Video from Lisa Humber: “And I Know”
You know Lisa Humber as the co-host of Check In From Away which she created with her friend and colleague Steffi DiDomenicantonio. Lisa’s day job (it’s actually mostly done at night) is being the stage manager of Come From Away. She’s one of Canada’s best stage managers, having worked across the country and abroad. For Mirvish she has stage-managed Strictly Ballroom, The Heart of Robin Hood, Les Misérables, War Horse, Ghost Stories, The Sound of Music and Dirty Dancing.
But Lisa is also a singer and songwriter. During the pandemic, while Come From Away is on hiatus, she’s had the opportunity to write some new songs. You may have seen her perform one of them in our Holiday Spectacular video concert — “Boxing Day.”
Lisa’s newest song is called “And I Know.” It’s a beautiful love song with a very catchy melody that Lisa co-wrote with Justin Abedin, a musician who played guitar in the Dear Evan Hansen band and has often subbed in for band members in Come From Away.
Quick Change: Even Spiders Have to Rehearse
This week’s comic strip by Chen Hascalovitz reminds us that life goes on backstage even when humans aren’t around.
Mirvish Merch Shop
Don't forget to visit the Mirvish merch shop to get your canvas totes, mugs, masks, t-shirts and more!
Each item is only $15. Choose shipping by Canada Post (extra fee) or free curbside pickup from the Princess of Wales Theatre.