Paleoncology: The Exhaustive Thank You List

Here’s the tl;dr, folks: The 2014 Fringe tour of Paleoncology is done, and I’m absolutely loaded with gratitude.

That’s pretty woefully insufficient. I’m going to put up another post with some of my favourite little Fringe moments, but this post is purely focused on the many many people to whom I am extremely grateful I owe at least one first-born child. (The lab’s got the final tweaks done on them, they just need a little longer in the development tanks and then we have to wean them onto breathing air. Hope y’all like redheads.) Around Yellowknife, I had to start keeping my thank-yous on the back of the program city-centric because so many people contributed time or money or love or emotional support or a vehicle or whatever to making this tour of Paleoncology a reality.

So, find here an exhaustive list of thank-yous. If I miss you, it’s because I am exhausted and my brain doesn’t work anymore. I almost guarantee I will miss a name and add it below in the edits. If you see someone I missed, tell me!

First of all, thank you to the many donors and sponsors of the show. Money makes the world go around, of that we can be sure, and you guys helped us get around the world. Or, well, across the country. But that’s a feat in itself: not counting the workshops in Toronto, the show was performed in five cities across three provinces and one territory this summer.

So let’s do companies first. Our travel sponsor and producer of the show in Yellowknife, BDK Services, got us in the air for the western leg of the tour– we’d be hitchhiking without them. And speaking of Yellowknife, the Coffee Break News provided us with free advertising and postering for our shows there. Amazing.

Then there are the companies in Toronto who donated things to our silent auction fundraiser: Alexander Showcase Theatre, Banjo Puppets (side story: by incredible coincidence, an attendee of our Yellowknife puppet workshop brought their own Banjo bird puppet), and Jimmy’s Coffee. And of course, Black Swan Comedy which hosted the fundraiser. Great event space; make use of it!

Lastly, they strike me as more a community and organization than company, but Bento Miso in Toronto was wonderfully kind to us in providing space to write, get production work done, have a reading of the script, and shoot our production photos. Thanks to Henry Faber and the gang at Bento, and take pride in knowing your whiteboard wall has been featured online and in print across Canada.

Photo by Ryan Couldrey.

Hell, for this one we straight up wrote on the wall. Credit: Ryan Couldrey

Actual human beings donated beautiful things to the silent auction as well! Rebecca Grove-Foster, John Meadows, Matthew Pazzol, and Ryan Couldrey each donated some of their terrific artwork (or, in John’s case, artistry with a B&W shoot). Lynn Elkin donated a variety of northern items like a rabbit fur scarf and a dreamcatcher. Christina Gordon offered up a CD of her tunes and some great Springworks swag. Benjamin Rivers donated special drawing-signed copies of his graphic novel Snow along with download codes for his uber-popular horror game Home. People were only too eager to grab up such awesome treats. Thank you all.

Finally, in donors, there are the folks who straight up threw money at us. The first was Heidi Quicke. I told her about the show over lunch while she was in Toronto, and a couple of weeks later got a letter with cash enclosed for the show. That cash directly paid for the materials to make the dino-onesie that became almost iconic this summer. The next helpful donations came from some of my family like my Granny Hilya Hall, a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, and Bobby Arthur. When we launched our Fund What You Can campaign, the response was terrific and ended up being our top fundraising effort for the tour. Big thanks to all of our patrons, in order of time of donation: The Sasquatch, The United Federation of Planets, Brian Collins, Tom and Ann Hall, Jaysen Knight, Kevin Sean O’Connell (hi School Chum!), Moira Borshneck, Alex Dault, Jennifer Burry, Muriel Young, Ingrid Hansen, Benjamin Rivers, Sketchy the Clown (for Mayor!), Eugene Fong Dere, Gord Young, Carrie Young, Kevin Young, Laurinda Gorgulho, Deanna Underwood, Pam Johnson, Mike Petersen, Tony Culverwell, Hillary Thompson, Marc Gorcey, Sean Daly, and all of you folks who wanted to remain anonymous— let me shout your radness to the world, dang it. They were the coal for our engine (sure, we’re steam-powered, why not) and they rock my world, as do all of our monetary donors.

All of these people and businesses helped us take care of the money so we could give more focus to the art, and I honestly think the final product could not have turned out as well without that help. Thank you.

Woo! Money! Now we get into slightly more individual thank-yous, a little more personal, maybe a little weird at times, out of any recognizable order. Let’s ease into it.

We really lucked out on this tour and had brilliant techs at every single venue. Emlyn Van (Der Bruinswaardt, I write anxiously) and Richard saw us safely through at the MAI in Montreal; Nicola Wanles winced at trains with us at Art Point in Calgary; Ian Johnston designed some sexy LX in Yellowknife after hanging it in the space with Martin Emslander; Freya Engman climbed a very tall ladder inside the Downtown Activity Centre to hang our screen every show in Victoria– which Andrew and I appreciated a lot because heights are neither of our favourite things; and Calum Smith added some nice touches at the stunning Cultch Historic Theatre in Vancouver. They are all terrific techs as well as great humans, and I am so glad to have met them.

Sophie Croteau came aboard enthusiastically as stage manager for Vancouver, because Andrew had to hurry back to Toronto for rehearsals. She did an absolutely bangup job, while also stage managing Al LaFrance‘s show The Quitter, which she has been touring with all summer. Total rockstar, and we were lucky to have her. (Thanks also to Al for sharing with us.)

When you’re travelling with a show by plane you need to find certain things in every city that you can’t fly with you. Kathleen Greenfield from SNAFU Dance Theatre (the crew behind the genius Kitt & Jane) was instrumental in helping us find materials in each of our new cities, including loaning us her own table in Victoria. She connected us with overhead projector owners/awesome puppety people in three cities: Tyler Klein Longmire, Katrina Brown by way of Will Weigler, and Chloe Ziner and Jessica Gabriel from Mind of a Snail (whose own overhead projection piece Caws and Effect was outstanding). I can truthfully say the show would have been a lot more boring without those projectors! In Yellowknife, Geri Elkin found us an excellent projector with a Baby Donald Duck sticker on it– extra points for being decidedly adorable. Susan Freedman of Spilling Family Secrets loaned us her projection screen in Vancouver as well, which added a nice level of class. Nancy Kenny from Roller Derby Saved My Soul schlepped a table from Victoria to Vancouver for us, because she is brilliant and wanted us to save $20.

The sexy folding Dukane projector Mind of a Snail loaned us. UMPH.

The screen from Susan Freedman and the sexy folding Dukane projector Mind of a Snail loaned us. UMPH.

We also had terrific billets in every city. Thor Kell, Jessica Roy, Kelsey Miller, Anthony Frattaroli and Léonie Armstrong, and Emily Nadeau and Marty Hallat all opened up their homes to me and/or Andrew and were most hospitable. In Yellowknife, we got to stay in my family home with Mom, Brad, and Ted— that itself is a special kind of treat. Larry and Cappy Elkin (aka Grandma and Grandpa) also loaned us a snazzy minivan to get around in in Yellowknife, which made life very easy.

But the hospitality didn’t just come from our gracious hosts; it came from the festivals themselves. The staff of the Fringe Festivals in Montreal, Calgary, Victoria, and Vancouver all worked their butts off and made us feel so welcome and cared for. I want to give particular shoutouts to Stéphanie Morin-Robert, Michele Gallant, Rose Jang, and Jess Amy Shead for dealing with many many crazy people, aka Fringe artists.

We’re going to dip into the broad thank-yous for a moment, because I have to recognize the hundreds upon hundreds of Fringe volunteers. Those brigades of cheerful, helpful people in their brightly-coloured shirts, answering questions, sorting out comps, herding crowds, soothing people who showed up late by giving them candy, and giving their time and energy and love to independent theatre. Everyone says they’re the heart and soul of the festivals, and I wanted to avoid that cliche but I honestly can’t think of anything better– they truly are. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Oh, and the artists! This summer I got to see over ninety different Fringe shows that made me think, made me guffaw, made me cry, inspired me to write and explore and try new things. And, best of all, I got to meet the people behind those shows. It was so wonderful to meet and make friends with such a hodgepodge group of driven, bold, creative folks, and to experience the care and support we all give to each other. I can’t wait until next summer when I get to see you all again.

A lot of work had to happen before this show was remotely road-worthy. Monday Night of New Works let me hear the third or so draft out loud, and then get some audience feedback. My Living Room, Lemon Tree Studios, the Fringe Creation Lab, and Videofag all provided us with space for rehearsals and workshop performances. When we held our Adven-Tour Time fundraising cabaret, a ton of performer friends came out to perform and bid on auction items. Rebecca Belton, Ren Brockhouse, Tony Culverwell, Morgan Joy, Dave McKay, Vicki Laufer, Esther Vallins, Allan Turner, Jo-Anne Wurster, and the singers of SONUS are all huge talents and I’m so grateful that they gave their time to supporting Paleoncology. Daniel Girard also gets big love for donating some delicious snacks and set-up help to the cabaret. And Michelle Urbano worked the door for both of our workshops and the fundraiser, and read Lea’s part aloud for me at Monday Night of New Works so I could hear it proper. What a machine.

Peggy Plummer took us on a magical fairytale journey.  Credit: Ryan Couldrey

Peggy Plummer took us on a magical fairytale journey during Adven-Tour Time. Credit: Ryan Couldrey

A big important part of making this happen was my family. Thank you to my brother and sister-in-law Devon and Chelsea Hall for spending a fun day out at the Royal Tyrrell Museum with Andrew and I. And thank you to oldest brother Brad Hall for helping out so much in Yellowknife, with advertising and space preparation and front of house. Of all the folks to see my show, I think I’m happiest that I got to share it with my brothers. And of course, my Mom and Dad each in their own way provided some of the most valuable support they can: wholeheartedly encouraging their daughter’s attempts to make a go of it in the arts.

Devon at the show...

Devon at the show…


I think I’m now at the point where we get down to individual thank-yous… they may get mushier as I go on, so you’ve been warned.

Thanks to Artichoke Heart Collective spreading the word about us to their friends, and doing a promo swap with us. (Go see We Walk Among You at Tarragon now, or at Mainline Theatre in Montreal this November!)

Thank you to Ted Studer for building some sweet risers from pallets for our Yellowknfie performances. They worked like a gem.

Thank you to Nancy Kenny for some great biz/life chats, and for sharing your wit and wisdom with this flaily up-and-comer.

Credit: Vancouver Fringe

I really should also be hugging a beer, but oh well. Credit: Vancouver Fringe

Thank you to Grandpa (aka Larry Elkin) for the archival footage you took of the show in Yellowknife. It’s brilliantly done.

Thank you to Bobby Arthur for bringing many cans of pop to our first snowstormy workshop, and for sacrificing his suitcase to the cause of transporting show materials.

Thank you to everyone in Yellowknife who attended our performance workshops and had some fun with us. Because we love fun.

Thanks to Shayne Monaghan and Chris Murray, two of the early voices for Daniel. Your interpretations had echos down to the final drafts; thank you for bringing dimension to Dan.

Thank you to The Yellowknifer for running a feature on Paleoncology. I will forever get a kick out of being in the local paper back home.

Thank you to Allan Turner for providing professional-level dinosaur consultation and front-of-house help for our Toronto final workshop showings.

And for delivering an underscored talk on extinction events. Credit: Ryan Couldrey

And for delivering an underscored talk on extinction events. Credit: Ryan Couldrey

Thank you to Olga and Ian Parkin at Brick Street Bakery for letting me go away for a summer tour, and being completely okay with me adding two weeks onto that last minute, and for still having a job for me when I got back. Awesome flexible employers are hard to find, and I’m glad I have some.

Thank you to all of my previous teachers from high school and post-secondary who came to see the show. I’m especially touched that you would come see what I’m up to, and I was glad of the chance to catch up with many of you.

Thank you to the gang from Theatre Howl/Neverending Highway and to Andrew Wade for handing out some of our flyers in Vancouver, and to Jeff Leard for doing latecomer program ad tradesies. Framily supporting framily! (The phrase “framily” unapologetically nicked from Tara Travis.)

Thank you for Alastair, aka Jamesy, for teaming up with Andrew to provide hours of clownfight entertainment. It was fun to watch, and cheaper than babysitting.

This was in the lobby of Montreal Improv, before a show.

This was in the lobby of Montreal Improv, before a show.

Thank you to Rory Ledbetter for radiating joy and Fringe spirit out of every pore. I do not understand how you keep that up but I’m glad you do.

Thank you to Claire Hill who tolerated my quiet living-room stress meltdowns in the late stages of preparing the show for tour, and made our apartment look real purdy while I was away. Thanks roomie.

Thank you to the people who I made have velociraptor fights in Victoria and Vancouver. In Van I wanted to say it was Sean and Beth? But seriously, excellent raptor fight skills.

Thank you to Pooria Fard for driving some of our stuff and letting us frequently take over your home during rehearsal.

Thank you to Dan Pollock for being a Fringe hero in Victoria not only for Wood Hall, but for every show you loved and told everyone about.

Thank you to the theatre reviewers in every city, even the ones who didn’t give us glowing reviews. Every review is helpful and gives us new perspective. Plus, let’s be real, you guys have a rough job and everyone hates on you most of the time, so you could use a high-five. Thanks for sticking with it.

Thank you to Plank Magazine and SOlOS Festival who respectively sponsored our awards for Talk of the Fringe in Vancouver and Best Solo Theatre Production in Montreal, and to whoever made the freaking weird Favourite Drama statuette in Victoria.

The inherent drama of a triumphant antelope who has slain a zebra. Duh.

The inherent drama of a triumphant antelope who has slain a zebra. Duh.

Big thanks to Adam Francis Proulx, who was the first person to see anything of this show when we agreed to be writing buddies last summer. He pushed me to keep writing, gave me some excellent feedback, and shared his own writing… and we did a promo swap during Toronto Fringe! We’ve got similar brains, Proulx and I, and it’s always a pleasure working with him.

And one thanks that can’t be read the person to whom it is owed: Thank you to Braz King. A lot of people asked if Paleoncology was based on real experience. It’s a fair question; lots of solo Fringe shows are at least semi autobiographical. But, this one is not. There’s bits of me in there (having brothers, wanting to be a paleontologist when I was a kid), but it’s a fiction. I tell people this, but I always have to mention Braz, because he added more truth to the story than he probably knew. It was an unfortunate coincidence that as I was writing Paleoncology, Braz (who I knew through Lunacy Cabaret– he was a hell of a guitarist) was fighting pleomorphic (undifferentiated) rhabdomyosarcoma. We weren’t close– we were friends in that way that colleagues in weirdness are friends– but he was a big-picture-thinking, kind, saucy, family man for whom I had mountains of respect and fondness. I’ve lost family members to cancer before, but quickly and without hearing much from them. Braz was very open to all of his friends with his thoughts and feelings as he was going through treatment, and it gave a profound and sometimes difficult insight into what it was like to go through that experience. His words had grace, fear, sadness, appreciation. There were hard and eerie moments with the parallel of my writing and his battle. I remember researching the late stages of cancer and having to stop because thinking of Braz was bringing me to tears. Shortly after I wrote in a metastasis of Daniel’s cancer, Braz shared that his own cancer had metastasized. He passed away a little while after the second draft was finished, and Paleoncology is dedicated to him. It’s not about him, or inspired by him, but the small details from his fight are so ingrained in my writing that it would be a disservice not to give credit where it is due. Our last show in Victoria, which would have been our last show of the tour if we hadn’t taken Vancouver, was on the anniversary of his death, and my voice cracked a little as I told the full house that that show was for Braz– every show was, but that one more so. So thank you, Braz, for sharing your experience, and for your big big spirit which still resonates with me. Extra thank you to Rachel Parry for giving me her blessing to dedicate the show to him, and for being willing to share some of the details with me. I still want to do a charity performance of this show in the future…

Rock on, dude. Credit: Edward Eh

Rock on, dude. Credit: Edward Eh

And now, the dream team. The folks behind Moon Dinosaur Theatre, the ones who got bios in the program.

Sarah Grange showed up to record stuff for Snow and was coerced into lending her voice to the show for the smallest part: the doctor who speaks to Daniel right at the beginning, immediately after his diagnosis, and who is never heard again. That credit in the program caused so much confusion– Lea spends most of the show talking to an invisible, silent therapist, and people would read the program and think, “Was there supposed to be a voiceover?” Thank you Sarah for being game to jump in, nail it, and provide that consistent moment of facepalming.

The other voice in the project got a lot more airplay, and boy howdy did it leave an impression. I couldn’t tell you how many people commented afterwards on the depth of character that Matthew Gouveia brought to his voice work while playing Daniel. The care and emotional detail that Matt used with Daniel was beautiful to see in the process of rehearsing and recording, and the final product was deeply moving for the audience and for me, onstage as Lea, every show. Thank you so much, Matt. I’m so honoured that you were willing to bring your talent to Paleoncology.

The master at work. Credit: Ryan Couldrey

The master at work. Credit: Ryan Couldrey

The person who did all this voice recording coincidentally took our promotional photography for Paleoncology– which has now been splashed on blogs and in print across Canada, and deservedly so. Ryan Couldrey, aside from being a photography and audio wizard (he also took archival footage of both our Toronto workshops), was one of the play’s earliest cheerleaders, and continued to be through the entire process. Dude is also directing, cinematographing (is that a word?), writing, editing, producing his film Snow, which is an extraordinary amount of work– I should know, because I’m in it. And still, he offered to help out with Paleoncology, because he believed in the project that much. Lucky us. Thank you, Ryan, for your faith and your artistry.

Gloriously backlit in Bento Miso's upstairs room.

Gloriously backlit in Bento Miso’s upstairs room.

When we got into rehearsals in the spring, Andrew knew we would need someone doing actual stage management stuff for the Toronto performances so he could, you know… be a director. We had worked with Kristina Abbondanza before during We Walk Among You, and I was super keen to have her on board as our stage manager. Andrew did it during the tour, but Kristina gets the title because she is an absolute machine. She coordinated rehearsals, built soundscapes and cues, took LX notes, provided additional script feedback in the cutting stages, ran the show at Videofag, made Andrew a big tour-ready binder, found spare projector bulbs, provided hours of hilarious commentary… oh yeah, and let us rehearse in her condo’s study room so we could save some of our non-existent cash. Amazing. Kristina, I want you to stage manage everything I ever do. Thank you so much for being such a crucial part of our team.


Okay, it isn’t Kristina, it’s her assistant. Credit: Kristina Abbondanza

And then we get to Andrew Young. Andrew, the dramaturg, director, and tour stage manager, who was always and is still asking, “What’s next?” I’ve never worked this closely with another single human in artistic collaboration before, and I’m so glad to have got Andrew because it just worked. He’s a body person who works from physicality, I’m a brain person who works from words, so we balance each other nicely, coming from different backgrounds but sharing enough vocabulary and theatrical sensibility to connect and create. At work, Andrew asked all the right questions, called me out on my bullshit, pushed me to the edges of my comfort zone, and saved the show from being a talky indulgence. And a straight month on the road with him didn’t drive me insane, so double bonus! (I can’t speak for Andrew, here.) He was a sturdy rock in the maelstrom of my fluttery tour brain and it was a mercy. Doing the show without him in Vancouver was really bizarre, because Paleoncology is our show. I would talk to people in lineups and say “we won this award” or “we’re playing at the Cultch” and they would be confused and say, “We?” Maybe they thought I meant the dinosaur puppets… but I digress. Andrew, thank you for saying “yes” and going wholeheartedly along on this ridiculous adventure when I really had no clue what I was getting us into. Thank you for trading the beer coin, for walking down unfamiliar streets making fart noises, for letting me take the Coleman bed when I had a show the next day, for making your very own dinosaur tail, for talking me down off my many ledges of artistic angst, for letting me give you hugs which I know is not really your jam… I could go on for days, but I won’t, because I’ll see you Monday for a production meeting anyway because IT NEVER ENDS. The Moon Dinos shall ride again, because we’re too rad not to. Thank you, so so so much.

Oh, come on, you know it was fun.

Oh, come on, you know it was fun.

Obviously this list of thank yous will just grow and morph into some monstrous leviathan of gratitude as we keep doing Paleoncology (next stop, Montreal, then…?), but with the 2014 summer tour being done, I figured it was a good time to lay out where all this stands. One last thank-you, though:

Thank you to EVERY person who came out to see the show, whether you came to a workshop or to one of our Fringe performances. Without your bums in the seats, there is no show, and there is no theatre, and there are no festivals. You provide the most precious support to the arts of all: your time, and your attention, and your curiosity and thoughts and feelings. Also, your money for tickets– which sounds silly but in this time when Netflix is the name of the game, it is so wonderful to see people still want to spend their hard-earned dough on live theatre. Thank you for coming out, and for laughing, and for crying, and for applauding, and for talking to me afterward, and for sitting in the dark and letting us make you feel feelings. I’m so happy we got to share with you.

Rawr. Dino out. FOR NOW.


"No, don't take a picture. It's too sad." Credit: you can probably guess.

“No, don’t take a picture. It’s too sad.” Credit: you can probably guess.

In case it wasn’t obvious, if you ever supported Paleoncology in any way, even if you couldn’t make it to the show, if you loaned emotional support or Facebook likes or retweets (Stacey Slager, I’m looking at you), I LOVE YOU. It’s one thing to have faith in your own project; it’s another to know that other people do, too. Thank you.

Also, I forgot to thank Rebecca Black and Dahlia Katz for loaning me things that lit up so I could play around with shadows and transparencies in the early early days.