BWW Interview: Matt Lacas and Chelsea Johnson talk SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD
Later this month, We Are Here Productions, in collaboration with Cue to Cue Productions, will present SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, a song cycle to benefit the Canadian Women's Foundation, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Why are you so excited for Nov.27th?
Matt: I'm really excited for November 27th because myself and Chelsea Johnson from Cue to Cue Productions have come together to put up SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD to benefit the Canadian Women's Foundation. And it's a really cool venture in terms of putting on this show which is really topical and speaks to what's going on in the world right now. This is the first time that We Are Here Productions has ever done a co-pro, so it was great that Chelsea bought this idea to us and thought of this company to make her dream show a reality.
Chelsea: My excitement comes from knowing that the impact of this show will continue long after the curtain call. To be able to use this show in support of such a worthy organization such as the Canadian Women's Foundation in combination with the beautiful score and talented artists with the biggest hearts takes the excitement to whole other level, for me.
I know that Matt has been producing these shows for a while, so Chelsea, what is your background, and how did you get involved?
Chelsea: I am a graduate of the Sheridan College Music Theatre Performance program. I have been performing/teaching/directing for over a decade.
I am also known for arts podcast called Cue To Cue - the performer's podcast where I sit down with artists' in the performance arena and discuss all things creative, creative life style and performing arts. I have had guests such as Colin Mochrie, Sheila McCarthy, Shawn Wright, Jeff Dimitriou, Ryan Styles, and Lisa Brescia to name a few.
I don't think I could have asked for a better collaborator in Matt Lacas. We have a very similar work and communication style. We often find ourselves completing one another sentences and are on the same page creatively. Matt has a wonderful work ethic and always puts the project first, which is exactly what I look for in a collaborator.
Matt, what has it been like co-directing and co-producing with Chelsea?
Matt: We Are Here Productions has been a two-man team, myself and Quinton Naughton, our musical director, for a really long time. We have a lot of volunteers and a lot of people that work with us, but at the end of the day the creative and scheduling and producing and everything like that has all come from myself and Quinton.
So Chelsea not only being a co-director and co-producer, along with Meredith Busteed as someone who is helping produce - who is also a cast member - is shaking up that formula, it's shaking up how we run things.
I would also say that Chelsea is the main director of the show. We are co-directing, but it's really Chelsea's vision that I am helping her with. So this is the first time in the company's history that I have let go of the creative reigns. I'm finding that's a little weird, but it's really good to shake things up.
Can you tease anything from the show? Your favourite number? A fantastic moment? Something the audience can look out for?
Chelsea: There are so many stand out moments in this show. The rest of the cast inspires me daily with their amazingly unique voices and their ability to share their hearts through story.
We are definitely taking risks with a few numbers and giving fresh new perspective on many of the pieces. From Instagram Influencers to a dominatrix, we are making bold strokes with our choices in our visions with this show. I think the audience will have fun watching the cast take risks in front of them and push their own creative boundaries.
Matt: Chelsea came to us with this wonderful vision of changing the formula slightly of the show. So, SONGA FOR A NEW WORLD is a song cycle originally with two male tracks and two female tracks. Chelsea has opened up the show to three male tracks and three female tracks - we have a six person cast, which is not normally how this show is done.
So if anyone has seen SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, is a fan of it, we're going to be kinda changing it up a little bit in terms of where the storylines go. It's going to be a new experience for anyone who has seen SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. And anyone who is seeing it for the first time is gonna get this really interesting experience that Chelsea has set up with pushing the limits to what this show can do. And that's always fun to see from an actor's point of view, from a producer's point of view.
The talent in this show is ridiculous. We have six extremely talented performers, and this show covers all different genres of music. There's going to be something in the show they love, and they're going to fall in love with all six of these performers, who are donating their time to do this show. You know when someone's donating their time they love. There's no other reason why they would do it. Their hearts and souls are really into this, and it's really starting tos how in the rehearsal process.
I was going to say, it must be difficult to find performers willing to donate their time. How do you find these performers, or how do they find you?
Matt: Like any other company, we run auditions. Usually, our auditions pull in 100-120 auditions with another 20 or 30 self-tapes. So we do get quite a response for a small company that isn't paid. I think people are drawn to us because there are a couple mandates in the company that speak to people. We do shows that people want to do or see. All the shows that we've done have been shows that are rarely performed in Toronto. In the Heights, Heathers, then Urinetown, now SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. These are shows that people care about that don't go up often, so people are gnawing at the bit to get involved.
And then of course you have the charities. People really responded when we said we were doing Heathers for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Or Urinetown for Water Aid. Those two aspects really get people coming in.
And I think the third is that we really focus on collaboration. I don't want to ever say I'm paying someone in exposure. I'm an actor and I was told that for years, and exposure has this very weird, negative connotation. But for some people, for some young actors that we've worked with, that's something that they're interested in, and we give that. At the end of the day, you're going to collaborate with a bunch of artists. Lighting design, sound tech, the artists who have done our posters and artwork for the show. We always do live bands for our show.
There's a lot of things that draw people in. We understand that this is omething that we're doing for free, but we're doing it together, and everyone respects that. And it turns out great shows.
SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD runs from NOVEMBER 27-29 at BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE, 12 Alexander St, Toronto.
For more information or to buy tickets, click here.