Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
Our theme this week is adaptation. It’s now been more than a year since the pandemic began. How have we all adapted? From a story about Ken Dryden’s famous goalie mask to websites that help you travel virtually to Check In From Away with the cast of the Australian production of Come From Away, we explore how we’ve learnt to live in these unusual times. Also: the winner of the What’s My Wig? contest and your chance to win a digital code to watch the Oscar-nominated film, The Father.
Want to Travel During the Pandemic? No Problem!
Like many other activities we may have taken for granted before the pandemic, travel is good for recharging, recalibrating and relaxing — even during vacations where you are rushing from one activity to the next. Like theatre, it offers a window into another world, providing new ways to look at your own. In essence, it is good for the spirit, that ethereal part of you that must be fed through creative experiences just like the body must be fed good food to sustain it.
So, how can you travel during the pandemic? As with other activities that may be too risky during these times, you can engage in travel virtually through the world wide web.
Here are three websites that can take you places even while you are isolating at home:
Virtual Vacation is exactly as it sounds. Its slogan is: The website that lets you experience the world from home. You can choose to go on walking, driving or flying tours of 100+ cities. Our favourite is the City Guesser, a virtual walking tour of world cities in which you have to guess the location from the images shown by the roving camera.
Drive and Listen is similar to Virtual Vacation, but your only option is a driving tour. This one, though, offers you a live feed of a popular radio station in the city you choose to drive through. If you know the city you choose, it’s fun to revisit it. Even better is visiting a city you’ve always wanted to go to and experiencing both its sounds and sights as if you were there. You can change the radio station too, and decide which one best suits your taste.
Window Swap lets you swap the view from outside your window to one from thousands of locations around the world. It’s a static view, but you can hear the sound of birds chirping, the wind blowing or rain falling, perhaps even neighbourhood kids playing nearby. Each window view is courtesy of the resident of the room behind the window, ordinary people who are happy to share their world with others. You can even join them by offering the view from your window. All you need is a remote computer camera connected to the internet.
Check In From Away: What It’s Like to Reopen Come From Away Down Under
Steffi and Lisa travel more than halfway around the world and then some to get to Melbourne, where Come From Away defied all the odds and was the first large-scale theatre show to open after the local government allowed theatres to begin performances again.
SnL speak to cast members from the Australian production to hear first-hand about the excitement around the restart of cultural life after the virus has been curtailed.
Reelin’ in the Years: Private Lives
Let’s go back almost ten years, to the tenth production at the Royal Alex of one of the twentieth century’s most popular and enduring comedies: Private Lives by Noel Coward.
The play was conceived and written early in 1930 when Coward was in the middle of an extensive Asian trip. In Shanghai he contracted the flu and while convalescing he plotted the action of the play and then completed the actual writing of it in only four days. (Just another example of how people adapt during troubled times.) Starring Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Adrienne Allen and a very young Laurence Olivier, Private Lives had its London premiere in September 1930 at the Phoenix Theatre (coincidently, where Come From Away is playing right now). Since then it has become one of the most produced plays in the English-speaking world. It’s Canadian premiere was at the Royal Alex in December 1931.
The production from which we offer you this video played at the Royal Alex from September 16 to October 31, 2011. It starred Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross as Sibyl and Elyot, the parts made famous by Lawrence and Coward. The other two leading roles were played by Simon Paisley Day and Anna Madeley.
Directed by the great British director Richard Eyre, the production played a sold-out engagement in Toronto before transferring to Broadway.
Win a Digital Code to See the Brilliant New Oscar-Nominated Film The Father
The Father (Le Père) is a multi-award-winning play by French playwright Florian Zeller. It premiered in Paris in 2014, winning the Moliére Award for Best Play, and then went on to be translated into more than two dozen languages and produced in over 45 countries, including productions in London’s West End and on Broadway. The play had its Toronto premiere in February 2019 at the Coal Mine Theatre, a celebrated independent theatre at Danforth and Coxwell in Toronto's east end. The production starred Eric Peterson and was directed by Ted Dykstra.
The Father has now been adapted by its writer into a brilliant new film that has been winning accolades since its Canadian premiere at TIFF 2020 in September. Starring Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman, each of whom has just been nominated for a 2020 Academy Award (two of the six nominations that the film has received, including Best Picture), The Father is a special and intimate film that can be enjoyed in the privacy of your home or in a cinema.
The Father will be available across Canada on digital and all on-demand services this Friday.
We have 10 digital codes to award to Meanwhile readers. Each digital code has a value of $19.99. Digital codes can only be redeemed within Canada.
What is the name of the co-creator and co-star of the smash hit comedy 2 Pianos, 4 Hands who also directed The Father on stage in Toronto? Hint: 2 Pianos, 4 Hands is one of the most successful Canadian plays of all time and has had three sold-out runs at Mirvish theatres. Extra Hint: This person was also a star of the Canadian premiere production of The Who’s Tommy, which was produced by Mirvish at the Elgin Theatre in 1995.Deadline to enter: Sunday March 28 at 11:59 PM.
Contest is now closed! Thank you for participating.
Read More about The Father
The story concerns Anthony, an octogenarian who is mischievous, living defiantly alone and rejecting the carers that his daughter, Anne, encouragingly introduces. Yet help is also becoming a necessity for Anne; she can’t make daily visits anymore and Anthony's grip on reality is unravelling. As we experience the ebb and flow of his memory, how much of his own identity and past can Anthony cling to? How does Anne cope as she grieves the loss of her father, while he still lives and breathes before her? The Father warmly embraces real life, through loving reflection upon the vibrant human condition; heartbreaking and uncompromisingly poignant – a movie that nestles in the truth of our own lives.
“Anthony Hopkins is stunning. Florian Zeller makes his auspicious debut as a feature film director.” – Owen Gleiberman, VARIETY
“Sharp and teasingly diabolical. A stupendous performance from Anthony Hopkins.” – Todd McCarthy, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“Olivia Colman gives an affecting and tender performance.” – Kevin Fallon, DAILY BEAST
“Entrancingly different – brought to life by a handful of brilliant performances and some very impressive sleight-of-hand.” – David Ehrlich, INDIEWIRE
“Anthony Hopkins is unforgettable. A towering piece of acting that is as precise and exacting as it is enveloping.” – Richard Lawson, VANITY FAIR
“Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman are astonishing.” – Donny Sheldon, AWARDS WATCH
“A powerful piece of storytelling.” – Brian Tallerico, ROGEREBERT.COM
Bakery Whisperer Forsyth’s Favourite New Haunts
There are many whisperers of horses and dogs, but there is only one bakery whisperer in Toronto — at least that we know of. That person is Alan Forsyth, the manager of the Mirvish customer service phone agents.
Forsyth — who is also one of the city’s most informed and adventurous culture vultures — is an aficionado of the finest bakeries. He is the first to know of new openings and the first to try them. If he likes them he will give them his patronage and loyalty.
Many of the bakeries and bakers on his list below came into being because of and during the pandemic. But they are so exceptional that they are sure to outlast it.
Note: The quantities of goods and the hours of these establishments are limited. Most bake in small batches. Some are only open a few days a week, and even then only mornings. Check their websites or Instagram accounts for menus and hours.
Barbershop Patisserie, 859 College St, just west of Ossington
Can you say sausage rolls? Chicken pot hand pies? This is a patisserie in the true French meaning of the word, offering both savoury and sweet. And what sweets they have. The apple chausson cake is divine. Jill Barber, the former pastry chef of Blackbird Bakery, bakes with love and you can taste it in every bite. That's the reason there is a lineup — but it's worth it.
Castle & Coal, 108 Dovercourt Rd., just north of Queen West
From sticky toffee pudding to the best Kouign-Amann in the city to delicious soups, everything is fabulous. Baker Junelle is an amazing talent!
Robinson Bread, 6 Brock Ave, just north of Queen West
Great bread made from organic grains milled and grown by Peter Leahy from Merrylynd Farms, in Douro, Ontario. The orange chocolate pound cake is to die for. Shares its space with Sam James Coffee Bar.
Ruru Baked, 659 Lansdowne Ave, just south of Bloor West
Homemade ice cream with flavours like banoffee pie, ribena and honeycomb cereal milk. They sell out in seconds but you can order ahead.
Ba Noi, 806 Bloor West, just west of Crawford St.
Delicious sourdough bread, chocolate chip cookies and butter tarts. There are two weekly online order days for pickup two days later. Limited quantities, sells out quickly.
Sherm's Bagels, online only
These delicious bagels are made by best friends, Adam and Jesse, both from the music industry, who started making bagels due to the pandemic. They only make two kinds: poppy seed and sesame seed. Bookings open on Monday and pickup is from Tommy’s Wine Bar, 1977 Dundas West.
Belmont Street Bakery, online only
Breads, scones and sweet treats that are truly homemade. In this case, the Belmont St. home of baker Elyse. Her cracked-sugar topped banana bread is awesome.
Special Shout Out: I’ll Crumble For You, online only
This brand new “small-batch made-from-scratch” home bakery is by Janet Komparefritz, a former customer service supervisor in the Mirvish phone room who started it during the pandemic. Hers is an organic kitchen. She says it is “mixed with love, laughter and a pinch of sarcasm.” She’ll even bake to order for your special occasion or just because. Note: Janet lives in Hamilton.
Can't forget the other faves!
Le Beau, 665 Dundas East, just west of Tubman Ave.
Amazing pastry from Olga Spivak who was trained at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie by Alain Ducasse and worked at a renowned patisserie in Paris under the guidance of a Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Get there early and join the socially distanced line. It’s worth it.
Sweet Bliss, 1304 Queen East, just west of Alton Ave.
Homestyle baking at its best. Cupcakes, cinnamon buns, scones, cookies and cakes. Famous for their whoopie pies. Baker Christine uses only the best ingredients.
Fleur du Jour, 603 St. Clair West, just east of Wychwood Ave.
Heavenly viennoiseries and patisseries.
Prairie Boy, 970 College St., West of Dovercourt Rd.
Breads, cakes, soups and lots more. Order only for curbside pickup. A new location at Yonge and St. Clair is opening in April. Also, come May when the city’s farmers markets in parks open up, you will be able to find Prairie Boy at many of them.
Blackbird Baking, 172 Baldwin St. (Kensington Market) & 635 Queen East, just east of the Don Valley
Famous for its sourdough and pullman loaves, Blackbird also has the best baguette with the best crunch in the city. Also pastries, sandwiches, spreads, flours and jams. Home delivery is offered and their products are also available in grocery and gourmet food shops across the city.
538,571 Minutes Without Theatre
Friday, March 13, 2020 was the day that our theatres had their final shows before the pandemic shuttered them. It has been exactly 538,571 minutes from the time Hamilton ended its performance that night at the Ed Mirvish Theatre to when we deployed this issue of Meanwhile via email. (Hamilton [175 minutes] was the longest of the shows playing that night in Mirvish theatres. The other shows had shorter running times: Come From Away [100 minutes] at the Royal Alex, Summer [100 minutes] at the Princess of Wales and Us/Them [80 minutes] at the CAA.)
Those 538,571 minutes feel like a lifetime. We’ve experienced so much in that time, including a myriad of emotions — shock, anger, fear, confusion, anxiety, despair, loneliness, boredom, occasional joy, hope and then the cycle started all over again. Perhaps the most common emotion has been longing. Longing for when we can have dinner with our elderly parents and hug our siblings and share a night out over dinner and drinks with friends. Longing to be able to be part of a community again without being fearful of other people.
And if you are a theatre lover — and you probably are; otherwise why are you reading Meanwhile? — longing for when you can take your seat in a beautiful auditorium steeped in history, read your show programme, share some small talk with other theatre lovers around you, all of you waiting for the house lights to dim and the show on stage to begin.
We asked some cast members to share what was going through their minds on that final Friday night performance. At the time, nobody knew that it would be the last one for a long time. Although we all knew we would be affected by the pandemic in some way, we didn’t know when and how and for how long.
Here’s a video of some of their memories:
What about you? What do you remember from this time? What emotions have you had over the last 538,571 minutes?
Email us your thoughts. Write to email@example.com. We will share some of them in the next issue of Meanwhile. If we choose to share your memories we will send you the Mirvish Theatre Collection of four attractive, sturdy and practical tote bags. Deadline is March 30th at 11:59 pm.
Ken Dryden’s Masks
Ken Dryden, the celebrated hockey player, politician, sports executive and author, has had a long history with masks. After all, as one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players” (an honour he received in 2017 on the 100th anniversary of the NHL), he had worn a mask as the goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens from 1971 to 1979.
The goaltender mask was introduced to the NHL in 1959 by Jacques Plante. Before that, goalies had no protection at all from the flying pucks shot at them and would suffer many different facial injuries, including loss of sight. But because the game had been played for more than half a century without masks (or helmets, for that matter), it took almost a decade before they were used by every goalie in the league. The last goaltender to play without a mask was Andy Brown in 1974.
“People complained that wearing a goalie mask compromised your view,” explained Dryden. “They also said the mask made your face too hot. But within half an hour of wearing one, you adapted to it. A mask, even the ones we had in the seventies, which were not padded, was better than no mask. It made a big difference to your safety.”
It’s the same story for the masks that we’ve all been wearing for the last year. They were uncomfortable at first — fogging up our eyeglasses, overheating our nostrils and lips, making our noses and chins itchy — but in time we’ve learned how to solve all those inconveniences. And what a difference masks have made to our health and safety. In fact, people have been commenting that there have been very few colds and cases of flu this winter. Many people have said, even after Covid-19 has been eliminated, they will continue to wear masks in certain circumstances during flu season. It’s a small price to pay for the protection they offer.
So it was only natural that Dryden decided to put a blue surgical mask on his NHL mask. He did this when an artist asked him for a photo of his famous goalie mask, which the artist wanted to use as a model for a large two-panel painting.
“I took several photos of both the front and the reverse of my old mask, and I thought I would have a bit of fun. I used one of the disposable non-medical masks I wear when leaving the house these days and put it on the goalie mask."
Traditionally, masks have been used in ritualistic ceremonies; as a disguise, at masked balls; or to pretend you’re somebody else, which is how they've been used in classical theatre. In this case, there was a mask to protect against contaminated aerosols and droplets on a mask that protects you from physical injury.
And speaking of theatre, Dryden and his wife are big fans. They are regular theatregoers in Toronto and will often travel to London and New York to catch the latest productions there.
“Lynda and I miss going to the theatre. We miss the all-encompassing storytelling experience, the ideas plays explore and share, and especially the joy great theatre can bring. Shows in Toronto are consistently excellent. They are as good as what we’ve seen in London, where we will go for 10 days and see 12 shows. A feast of theatre-going. New York, too, has so many choices. One of the last shows we saw there was the new production of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was excellent. I hope when theatres reopen, that production will come to Toronto because we’d like to see it again.”
Dryden’s belief in the power of theatre is not new. When he was president of the Maple Leafs he would encourage the team’s players to take in a show. In fact, when Mamma Mia!, the new musical based on the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA and which been a huge hit in London, had its North American premiere in Toronto in 2000, he arranged for a team outing.
"Lynda and I had seen Mamma Mia! I had been sure I wouldn’t like it because the whole concept seemed so artificial — and we loved it.
"A season opening is a big deal, or it can be. Here is a group of people — players and their wives and partners — who are setting out together on something, so it’s nice to try to imagine some sort of special occasion for everybody to experience together. Usually it’s a dinner, and that’s fine, but it’s not more than that.
"When we saw Mamma Mia!, it was, No, this is it! This is what we have to do. Mats Sundin was the captain. Swedish players are always so respectful of Canada. Mats’ teammates needed to experience a little bit of him, something out of his background.
"David Mirvish understood and he arranged the tickets for us. With coaches and trainers, there must have been 60 or more of us. The players I don’t think had any idea of what they were going to experience. Within a few minutes, I looked around and, the wives first, then many of the players, were up in their seats and in the aisles dancing. It was fantastic!
"If there had been a Stanley Cup final seventh game the next night, we would’ve blown any opponent away.”
Dryden says the pandemic has not only reacquainted him with mask wearing but also brought back an activity he remembered from childhood.
“Growing up in Etobicoke, my mother liked to organize Sunday drives for us. When you’re a kid and all you want to do is play with your friends on days you don’t have to go to school, Sunday drives are boring. You’re stuck in a car looking out the window on passing scenery.
“But during the pandemic drives in your own car around the countryside, even in city neighbourhoods are an excellent outing. Especially in good weather, Lynda and I would pack a picnic lunch and head out in the morning and not return home until sunset.
“We’d take secondary roads and let them lead us to wherever it looked interesting. And you know what? Ontario has many pretty little towns. There are gorgeous landscapes — parks and rivers and lakes.
“Even in Toronto, it’s great to visit neighbourhoods you haven’t been to in decades. Each neighbourhood wears its history in its buildings. In East York, you see the post-war bungalows and then you see how some of them have been transformed into three-storey modern palaces. You see old factory buildings repurposed into condo lofts. There’s a wealth of architectural, social, economic, even landscape design of public parks history just waiting for you to discover in the safety of your car. Or you can park, put on your mask and walk around a neighbourhood.
“This is another example of learning to adapt to new circumstances."
Continuing on the theme of goalie masks, during the first lockdown, artist Stephen Cribbin started drawing goalie masks with Covid masks over top, completing 12 such drawings featuring some of the classic masks of 70’s era hockey (Dryden, Palmateer, Parent, Esposito etc.) Of the series, Gerry Cheevers' mask is the only one without a face covering, and features a skull with the Covid "corona" acting as a clown’s nose and serving as a warning against not wearing a mask. Cribbin has created a line of buttons and magnets based on the drawings.
Visit his website: www.cribbin.ca
l-r: Ken Dryden, Mike Palmateer, Gerry Cheevers, various buttons
The Winner of What’s My Wig?
The winner of our What’s My Wig? contest is Lisa Morrison from Ajax. Congratulations, Lisa. You managed to identify all 10 faceless but wigged characters from 10 different shows that have played Mirvish theatres over the years.
Here are the photos again with the names attached.
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.