A year ago plus a day, I pressed "Send" on my first post for So Sumi.
Finally fed up with working for months without pay for my employer of 25 years, something my union rep told me was definitely not a good idea, I signed up for a CMS, chose a cheeky, irreverent name, wrote a few introductory notes and dug up an old picture of me (with hair!) interviewing Elaine Stritch.
And voila! So Sumi was born.
The day after (I guess that would be a year ago today), I was shut out of my NOW Magazine email account, with all my contacts, archived interviews, transcripts and photos, lost to the ether. (I have yet to reconnect with many of my film industry contacts.)
But, as the indomitable Ms. Stritch famously sang, I'm still here.
It's been a rough year. My father passed away in late January, and I'm still feeling the emotional aftershocks from that. I don't know what I would have done without my brothers, the rest of my family and my friends.
Speaking of friends, I lost a relatively new one in the fall. Andrew and I had known each other for about two years and most of our conversations were about theatre. Each time we saw something together, he made me think a little differently about what we'd seen. I assumed we'd have years to deepen and expand our friendship and branch out to other things. Never assume anything. Never take anything for granted.
Thanks to the generosity of the theatre's publicists and marketing teams, I managed to keep on top of most of the Toronto openings. After a prolonged, pandemic-induced absence, I even ventured back to Stratford and Shaw.
I did my best to keep up with seeing shows and posting reviews, but there were periods when it all became overwhelming, especially during weeks with multiple openings. There was one night – I think it was back in November – when four major shows opened against one another.
I've been fortunate enough to write about theatre and comedy for several publications. I'm grateful to all the editors who assigned me articles or accepted and refined my pitches. Writing about the performing arts again – and being compensated for it – gave me back some of the confidence that had been chipped away the last half a year at NOW.
Some of my favourite freelance articles this year included a piece about theatre artists leaving the industry and pursuing other careers (depressing but sobering); how theatres dealt with unruly, often drunk, audience members (sobering – literally); interviewing the Fringe's executive director Lucy Eveleigh on the eve of the latest festival and then, a few months later, as she decided to move on to a position at Luminato.
The funniest interview I conducted was a toss-up between the co-creators and actors behind Blake & Clay's Gay Agenda (which incidentally is getting remounted at the Assembly Theatre next week) and real-life couple Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram discussing their series of improvised plays in The Script Tease Project.
And then there was my chat with Gavin Crawford, whose Let's Not Be Kidding podcast about dealing with his mother's dementia was one of the finest and most moving pieces of art of any kind I took in this year.
I also loved stepping back and thinking about how the Toronto theatre scene had changed in the last few years for this piece in The Grind.
A couple of my year-end lists have already come out. I collaborated on this Top 10 theatre productions list with J. Kelly Nestruck at The Globe and Mail. And my roundup of the Top 10 Canadian comedy albums just came out at the Toronto Star. Look for my list of Breakthrough Toronto theatre artists in the Star soon.
If I have time, I'm going to do a separate post here about some other Toronto productions that stood out for me in 2023. And although I'm taking a few days off this week, I hope to write about the most impressive Toronto theatre artists – continuing a tradition begun by my NOW theatre colleague Jon Kaplan – before the calendar turns over.
It feels nice to end this post thinking about Jon. I used to love hashing out these year-end lists with him and reminiscing about all the great art we were privileged to see and write about.
Thank you for supporting this niche site and following along as I try to keep up with covering the busy and ever-evolving Toronto theatre scene. I promise not to take any of that for granted in 2024.