Fenton & White ask the question … What do you value?

 

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WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST IN LIFE?

We just returned from a trip to the west coast of Canada including stops in Vancouver, Victoria, Salt Spring Island, Tofino and Ucluelet.  We both wanted to get away from work on projects, internet and social media, and simply get out and enjoy life. That is one of the things that is important to us … making the most of however long we have on this great big blue marble called Earth.

As the vacation went on,  we both had time to reflect on the things that we value … and also reflect on things that we might be willing to release once we got back from vacation.  So this blog is going to be about those observations … shared … for whatever they are worth.  One thing is for sure … just taking the time to think about what we value, and how we express that to others was an incredibly worthwhile process … so in no particular order here’s what we discovered.

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WE VALUE EACH OTHER

It is hard to fathom that we have been together for 16 years, but from the time we met, we knew we were soul mates.  Staying together for that long isn’t just by chance.  We truly value one another.  And to ensure we don’t take that for granted, each night before we go to bed, we say thank-yous.  We thank each other for a minimum of three things that were done earlier that day.  It doesn’t have to be something we did for each other, it can be a kindness extended to another person, taking time to call a friend, or simply taking out the garbage.  Doing this daily ritual, and saying it with meaning each night has helped us to communicate that we do truly value one another.

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FRIENDS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR LIVES

During our trip we tried to connect with our friends in the places we visited.  The picture above is Pete and I with Mitch, one of Pete’s longest friendships.  We had the opportunity to do three meals with Mitch and his partner Sean, and we valued every second.  We also caught up with acting friends Janet and Wendy, life-long friends, Brian and Cori, theatre contacts and even a former co-worker of Pete’s.  We wanted to ensure we made some time for them.  In our daily lives, we do a lot of outreach through email trying to wish people a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary, sending good wishes on theatre openings (even when we can’t be there) and simply making time to share laughter.  It is amazing how a few minutes a day can keep friendships intact, make our friends feel valued and add value to our own lives.

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THE BEAUTIFUL GAL ON THE RIGHT IS MY NIECE … WE TRULY VALUE FAMILY

Although it can often be hard to keep up with family, we wanted to ensure that our trip included a visit to Ucluelet where my niece works at a hostel.  We spent a full day walking beaches, doing lunch and going whale watching … but most importantly … reconnecting.  Although we can’t always do this in person, we ensure we are in touch on special occasions, find excuses for yearly gatherings with family in our area and truly try to reach out.  We do regularly schedule phone calls to my folks and maintain contact with siblings around busy schedules by phone or email.   As the fall dawns, a personal project is to reach out to Aunts and Uncles who I haven’t seen in some time.  I need to show them that they are a valuable part of our lives.

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WE VALUE NATURE AND THE MANY WONDERS OF THIS WORLD

It’s no secret that we love to travel, but you don’t have to go far to find nature.  There are lots of parks and ravines to explore in Toronto, Calgary or any town you live in.  We love when friends post pictures of their trips or daily walks through parks in their home town.    On the west coast, there was so much on offer at every turn.  The picture above was taken at 9:30 in the morning as the mists slowly cleared from the rain forest which came right up to Half Moon Bay … a 30 minute hike in from a road in Ucluelet.  We were the only ones on the beach.  As the mist lifted, the beams of sunlight streamed through the old-growth trees creating an effect that truly made us appreciate the wonders of mother nature.  How do we value nature back?  By staying on the path, picking up any trash along the way that we see, and by taking pictures and sharing them to show others that in a troubled world, there are still many places filled with awe and beauty and peace.

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WE VALUE GOOD FOOD

When we take a vacation, it means that we have both worked really hard, budgeted out how much our trip is going to cost and made an effort to put that money in the bank before we travel.  This includes budgeting for meals out.  On Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island, we stayed in many cottages and cabins with kitchen facilities (allowing us to cook instead of going out), which meant we could venture a few times to fancier places, such as this extraordinary breakfast at JAM in Vancouver.  There will be more on this meal in the upcoming travel blogs.  We also value moderation … so this fancy meal was balanced with less extravagant food.  And all of it was balanced by as much walking as we could possibly do each day.  And at the above restaurant … we tipped generously, and thanked the staff and let them know that their attention to detail with the meal was something that we valued.  Clearly others felt the same way.  By the time we left, there was a line-up around the block to get in.  The restaurant valued their customers, and in return they had built a booming business.

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WE VALUE UNIQUE EXPERIENCES SUCH AS THIS ZODIAC TOUR ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN

Be it hiking in the amazing old growth forests of Pacific Rim National Park, or taking an extraordinary zodiac adventure miles out into the ocean to visit seals, sea lions, otters and whales in their natural habitat, we challenge each other to try new things, seek out adventure, and learn from those experiences.  We value getting new perspectives that challenge our perception of our own limits.  Sometimes it is scary, but almost always … it is worthwhile.  We learned a new appreciation for the vastness of the ocean and the power of waves … even on calm seas.  We learned how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

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WE VALUE THE ARTS AND THE ARTISTS WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO WORK WITH

(Photo by Benjamin Laird Photography of Rennie Wilkinson and Guilly Urra in the Lunchbox Theatre production of Newfoundland Mary directed by Val Pearson with costumes by Marian Truscott, scenic design by Scott Reid and lighting design by Dave Smith)

We value the arts, the stories that are told through artistic mediums, and we truly try our very best to ensure that every artist that works on a project of ours is paid.  If we can’t pay them as much as we would wish, then we ensure they are valued through food, wine, flexible rehearsals and always … extending thanks and gratitude for bringing our work to life.  On our holiday we were able to reflect on the artistic highlights of the year, the above production being one of them.

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WE VALUE OUR FREEDOM TO MAKE CHOICES IN LIFE

This sculpture was embedded in a rock near the harbour in Victoria.  It shows a pair of hands holding onto a set of chains, rising out of the rock.  This sculpture stayed with me, but perhaps for reasons that might surprise you.  It made me think … what do I hold onto in my life that I believe I can’t let go of or I won’t survive? The answer that came back days later as I stared into the ocean surprised me.

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FINANCIAL SECURITY IS SOMETHING WE VALUE MORE AND MORE AS WE AGE

Pete will be retiring in four years.  He is fortunate to have a pension and I plan to continue working, but one thing that taking a big trip and budgeting forward makes clear … life is a series of choices when it comes to finances.  I have never been one to prioritize money over life experiences, but in the upcoming years the meditation on what I want brought about some revelations.  For the first time in some time I realized that I will really have to earn more money if we want to continue our present quality of life … and some of that will be achieved by simplifying or travelling a little less, but there were some revelations about my relationship to work and money and the arts.

The first revelation is that years of working as an artist have conditioned me to accept any and all work simply because when someone offers me work, it means they “like” me or approve of me. Seeking approval can be a slippery slope, because those who provide that approval sometimes inadvertently undervalue the work … because they know that you need it … at any cost.  Like those hands in that statue, one hangs on to whatever is available in order to financially survive.

 But upon reflection, some of those same employers have been paying me the same wage without an increase in over 10 years.  Unfortunately, costs in Toronto have continued to increase.  This year, looking back at my work, there were projects that I felt happy to do for less money … because I felt valued and I felt the work had value.  But there were other jobs that brought neither joy nor much income.  In fact … by taking many smaller jobs, I was less focused, my energies were scattered, and often the result was earning less money than I could have if I focused on marketing my own work, or taking on a more permanent job for a period of time with a stable income.  On this trip, it became clear that I have to let go of some of the things I have done simply because I am accustomed to doing them, and start prioritizing projects that value me through increased payment, or give me nourishment through the work itself. Which leads me to the last item.

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IT IS IMPORTANT TO VALUE YOURSELF

Every year, we try and assess where we can give the greatest value in life to others, and determine what we need in terms of financial value from those that employ us, but the most important thing to remember is simply that it is hard for us to be valued if we don’t value ourselves.  So this past holiday we took time to reflect on our goals, our dreams, and determine areas of our lives where we didn’t feel valued (either through our own inability to express that need, or simply because … we weren’t valued and were too scared to express our needs).

So this fall, I am making a list of areas where I feel valued, and areas where I feel undervalued.  In those areas where I feel valued, I will ensure that I express gratitude and let people know I feel valued.  In those areas where I feel undervalued, I will express that and determine if the cause of my devaluation is my own perception, if there is something that I want that I can get through communicating my need to feel more valued, or if it is simply time to let go.  There will be a transition into new work, retaining some work with previous clients, and possibly moving on from work that I have held on to for too many years.  I suppose one should do this every year, like a fall house cleaning.

So our challenge to you?

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Take a few hours sometime this month, and sit down and look at the things in life that you value.  Take some time to examine how you express your gratitude for the times where the things you value are present in your life.  But also take some time to identify where your life is filled with things that you don’t value or areas where you feel undervalued.  Are there things you can let go of?  If you feel undervalued, can you determine why and express that to those who don’t value you?  And if you still feel undervalued, do you have the strength to let go, value yourself and make a list of the things that you really WANT and start figuring out the steps to getting them in your life?  For us, the key to having the fullest life is knowing what we value, and taking action to ensure that we keep those things at the forefront of our lives.

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WE VALUE YOU!

  I have left one final thing of great value to the end of the blog.  We value YOU for taking time to read or skim these blogs.  Thanks for reading.  I love to write, and your interest gives me a great reason to continue blogging.  I hope that these blogs bring you joy, information, food for thought and a chance to go on our adventures with us.  We love to share in the things we have seen.

In the upcoming posts, we’ll be sharing our travel adventures in greater detail.  Be prepared for lots of food, friends, family, nature and adventure.

Until next time … warmest regards

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Fenton & White

 

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Fenton & White Prepare For Fall Fun

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FALL IS IN THE AIR

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August was a busy month.  Scott finished off the Sunday Serenades series, completed work with Theatre Direct, did a week of filming on a training video for Ryerson University and worked on several small projects for the Standardized Patient Program at The University of Toronto. Pete continued work on the data base for the collections in his section at the Royal Ontario Museum, did more writing on our comedy Some Kind of Happy and when I wasn’t available, began work on a new story called Macaron about a cat who gets caught up in a kidnapping caper when his owner goes missing from a Parisian cafe.

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THE ARRIVAL OF THE CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION IS A SURE SIGN OF FALL

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All work and no play is … simply no fun at all.  To celebrate the end of summer, Fenton & White took a trip to the CNE taking in a number of amazing sights.  If you are in Toronto, the Ex runs until Monday and you can get all the details of programming here.  Here’s a few of the things we saw.

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THESE PERFORMERS ON THE TRAMPOWALL SEEMED TO DEFY GRAVITY

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BUTTER SCULPTURES ARE A TRADITION AT THE EX

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FENTON AND WHITE VISIT WITH MAX STUSSI (A FELLOW STANDARDIZED PATIENT) WHO IS ALSO FEATURED IN THE RUSH PARKOUR SHOW AT THE EX.

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If you have never seen parkour, check out this video posted on YouTube by Stephanie Emma.  These fellas are fearless.

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Ex Day August 2017 089 COOL LASER LIGHT SHOWS ARE PART OF THE ENTERTAINMENT ON THE MIDWAY

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AND NO VISIT TO THE EX IS COMPLETE WITHOUT A WAFFLE ICE CREAM SANDWICH

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AND MIDWAY FAVOURITE … TINY TOM DONUTS

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But life can’t all be about strolling the midway and eating carnival food.  As you well know, Fenton & White’s passion is the arts, and as the fall approaches we are excited to talk about the upcoming work of a few of our friends … starting with this book that was just released last week.

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Stan's Book

STAN ROGAL’S NEW BOOK THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD IS DARK AND FUNNY

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Pete and I had the opportunity to attend the book launch for a collection of short stories written by our friend Stan Rogal.  The book is published by Calgary publisher Frontenac House and we were looking forward to hear Stan read from this … his 21st book. He is an accomplished playwright, novelist and poet.  To read more about the book and find out where to pick up your copy, click here.

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Fenton & White do a book launch

PETE AND SCOTT GET THEIR COPY OF THE BOOK SIGNED BY STAN ROGAL

(Photo by Jacquie Jacobs)

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Stephen Law's book

STEPHEN LAW’S NEWEST NOVEL WILL BE RELEASED IN HALIFAX ON SEPTEMBER 14th

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Another book that we are very excited about is the latest novel by Stephen Law called Under Her Skin.  Stephen’s last book (Tailings Of Warren Peace) was an intriguing read and his latest work promises to be equally compelling.  The book will be officially launched at the Halifax North End Library at 7 PM on September 14th.  To read a description of this novel published by Fernwood Publishing, click here.  After the book is launched, you will be able to order it online and Stephen may be coming to a city near you.  He is truly a fantastic writer. What better way to enjoy fall then to curl up with a good book?

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TIFF

FALL ALSO MEANS THAT IT IS TIME FOR THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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The Toronto International Film Festival starts next week and Scott will be returning to the festival as part of the venues team.  If you attend the festival, you may encounter him prior to a screening at the Princess of Wales Theatre.  This year is chock full of celebrities and a few of the incredible names going through the doors of our theatre will include Ed Harris, Dame Judi Dench and even Lady Gaga is getting into the action with a new documentary at the festival. She will be doing a mini-concert as part of the screening.  Needless to say …. it is going to be an insanely busy time.  As staff, I won’t be taking pictures, but you can follow coverage of the festival in the daily news and if you love celebrity … here’s a full list of the celebrities represented at the festival in film, or in person.

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SOME OF THE MOST EXCITING FILMS FEATURE CANADIAN STARS SUCH AS SHEILA MCCARTHY

(Image from the TIFF Film Website)

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When we aren’t at work, Pete and I plan to take in a few of the amazing films being screened.  We always prioritize films that are unique, films that may get limited distribution, or films that are Canadian and have friends or colleagues in them.  One of the films that hit our must-see list included Cardinals starring Sheila McCarthy.  For a description of this compelling film click here.

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DON’T TALK TO IRENE … ANOTHER INTRIGUING CANADIAN FILM

(Image from the TIFF film website)

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Don’t Talk To Irene is also very much on our must-see list.  Here is a description written by Magali Simard in the TIFF program book.

When Irene gets suspended and is forced to do community service at a retirement home — run by discipline freak Barrett (Scott Thompson) — alongside her bullies and her new friend, Tesh (a gender non-conforming, glitzy dreamer), an opportunity arises. If she can’t be a high-school cheerleader, maybe she can turn her new-found circle of elderly friends into an unlikely dance troupe. This is an empowering comedy about acceptance on your own terms.

And why is this film a priority other than it’s quirky subject matter?  Well, because a fantastic fellow Standardized Patient, Linda Goranson, happens to be in the cast and will be at the first screening.  We love to see our friends succeed … and best of all … she plays a dancer.  We can’t wait to watch the film and cheer her on.  If you want to cheer on your favourite stars while seeing a movie, go to http://www.tiff.net/tickets/.  Individual tickets go on sale on September 4th.

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AFTER TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL … A BREAK.

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Pete and I traditionally take a break in the fall and we had looked at a variety of destinations.  This year … the west coast of Canada won out with a trip that will include visits with friends in Vancouver, time in Victoria, wine tours on Salt Spring Island and hiking in the Tofino/Ucluelet area  on the west coast of Vancouver Island (pictured above).  We promise to take lots of pictures and share our journey with you in the travel blogs after we get back.

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THE KINCARDINE THEATRE GUILD GETS READY TO REHEARSE THE GIANT’S GARDEN

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While we are taking a break … others will be working to put one of our shows up on the stage.  We want to wish the cast, crew and creative team of The Kincardine Theatre Guild all the best as they start rehearsals on September 5th for their production of our family musical The Giant’s Garden. The show opens Friday November 16th. We love the above postcard, one of several created by Andrew O. French on the Kincardine Theatre Guild Facebook page.  If you want to see the countdown to the upcoming production, click here.  For more information on the Kincardine production and purchasing tickets, click tickets.

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We hope that you have a fantastic fall and wherever you are, we hope that you find out what artists in your area are up to.  There are so many people creating so many wonderful things.  Until next time, we send our best regards.

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FENTON & WHITE (WELL, OKAY … WHITE AND FENTON)

Fenton & White Discover Big Things Can Be Achieved By Thinking Small

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SOMETIMES THINGS SEEM TOO BIG TO HANDLE

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Have you ever looked at something coming up and felt completely overwhelmed?  A lot of the work that Pete and I have been doing over the summer has left us feeling like the tasks ahead were insurmountable.  We had several larger-than-life tasks and deadlines to achieve, and it just seemed like the challenges that lay ahead were as over-sized as the world’s largest rubber duckie which was moored in Toronto for Canada Day.

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THE KEY TO OVERCOMING BIG TASKS IS TO DO IT IN SMALL BITES

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So what do you do when you want to achieve big things?  The key is to think small! Break that big task into a whole bunch of smaller bites, but that isn’t the only thing that is going to get the task done.

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SCHEDULING AND ADVANCE PLANNING IS REALLY HELPFUL

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The biggest projects are often achieved by ensuring that at least one step per day is taken to move the project forward.  Setting short term goals, putting them into a schedule and sticking to them helped us to make BIG progress.  As each week passed, we were able to look back at all we had achieved, and the task in front of us seemed slightly smaller.

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PETE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MIGRATION OF THE DATA BASE FOR HIS COLLECTIONS TO A NEW SYSTEM

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Pete has spent the last two months trying to transition all of the records of invertebrate fossils in his collection area (which amounts to tens of thousands of records) into a cohesive new system that will integrate with a new data base.  The sheer volume of specimens makes the work seem overwhelming, but day by day he has been making huge progress, and as the work has gone along, it has gotten a little less daunting.

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SCOTT HAD A GIANT TASK AHEAD … FULL ORCHESTRATIONS FOR THE GIANT’S GARDEN

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While Pete was working on data systems, Scott was upgrading the present score for The Giant’s Garden to a score for 5 instruments for an upcoming production.   Eventually it meant creating a broad score of 380 pages of music, and then splitting that score into individual part books for the instruments that ranged from 50 to 110 pages.  All told, over 750 pages of music were created for the upcoming production.   For information on this production, click here. 

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The good news is that in both cases, with careful scheduling, daily perseverance and hard work … both of these tasks have hit their present targets and are on schedule.  But the work isn’t done yet!

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BIG BANDS KEEP THE CROWDS DANCING AT SUNDAY SERENADES

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Around scoring work, a little bit of Standardized Patient work and some filming for Ryerson, Scott has been able to schedule some time for his other projects, including hosting the Sunday Serenades series each Sunday night.  These free concerts draw hundreds of people out and give them a chance to dance to 15 piece big bands.  It’s a blast!  The concerts run in Toronto until mid August.  For more information click here

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Singing

WRITING AN ORIGINAL SONG PER WEEK FOR THEATRE DIRECT ALSO KEEPS SCOTT BUSY

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Scott also manages to sneak in one session a week as a guest artist with Theatre Direct, writing an original song inspired by the creative work the children in the weekly camps are devising.  3 songs down, and 2 more to go over the upcoming weeks!  See … I’m already 60% of the way there!

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THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL IS COMING UP QUICKLY

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Once Sunday Serenades and the Theatre Direct work are past, Scott will dive back into work with the Toronto International Film Festival.  This will fill up the end of August and the first few weeks of September.

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Hiking Path

A LITTLE AWAY TIME DOWN THE PATH IS A GREAT MOTIVATOR

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So as busy as the summer has been, and as busy as the upcoming weeks are going to be, we are also balancing it off with some plans for some downtime.  We are planning a cottage get-away with friends in the latter part of August just before Film Fest hits and during the last half of September we will be making a get-away for a vacation to a yet undisclosed location … but we think we know where we are headed.  So if life seems busy and overwhelming … break it down into small manageable pieces, schedule at least one step a day to move you forward, and give yourself a reward to look forward to when you make progress.  If you think small, you’d be amazed how much you can accomplish.

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We hope you are having a terrific summer whatever you may be doing.  Until next time …

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Warmest Regards,

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FENTON & WHITE

 

Fenton & White Head East – Part 4

After a brief hiatus, the final installment of the train trip east is now ready.  As many of you know, the blogs are written after we return from our trips. Rehearsals in Calgary on  Newfoundland Mary have been filling the time day and night.  Read on to find out more about our adventures.  When we last left off, Pete and I had just finished dinner, and were heading back to the observation car before going to sleep.

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A SNOW STORM CLOSED IN AROUND THE TRAIN AND THE SIGNAL LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT BECAME FIERY BEACONS AS WE WHIZZED PAST AT HIGH SPEED

The further east we headed the stormier it got and there wasn’t a lot to see out of the windows at night so we made our way to our cabin to see what it looked like with the beds down.

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THE BEDS ARE COMFORTABLE AND EVEN WHEN THEY ARE DOWN THERE IS A FEW FEET OF WIDTH BESIDE THEM TO GET UP AND DOWN IN THE NIGHT

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A LADDER ALLOWS THE PERSON ON THE TOP BUNK EASY ACCESS UP AND DOWN

In general, the sleeping arrangements were quite comfortable.  One of the only challenges is that the light in the bathroom can not be shut off and so if someone gets up in the night and opens the door to the bathroom … the cabin is flooded with light.  The doors to the bathrooms also have stiff fasteners on them and to get them open you have to use quite a bit of force (they have a kick-plate on the bottom) so it is hard to open them quietly.  We traveled on through the night and as we slept the storm swept past us.  By morning, the skies were clear. We had an early breakfast and then decided to try our next adventure … showering in a moving train.

Montreal And Halifax March 2017 069  SHOWERING IN A MOVING TRAIN IS MADE EASIER BY THE FACT THAT THE BATHROOM IS SMALL, MAKING IT HARDER TO FALL OVER AS THE TRAIN ROCKS BACK AND FORTH.

In the above picture you can see the hose for the shower and the white dial that controls temperature.   When the door is closed (and it has a lip) the bathroom is well sealed and as you stand in the corner, the water drains out of the drain in the floor.  To shower you set your water temperature and press the button beside the white dial and it gives you 20 seconds of water and then shuts off.  The shower head is a small wand at the end of the hose that has a reasonable amount of water pressure, but the holes on the wand are small, so the volume of water isn’t huge.  So you shower in stages.  First you get wet (20 seconds).  Then you shampoo and soap up (as long as you like).  Then you rinse (20 seconds)  Then you press the button again to get more of the soap off (20 seconds).  Then you press the button a third time to continue rinsing (20 seconds).  Repeat appropriately depending on how much soap you used in the first place and how much patience you have.   Then you get out your towel and dry off.  Or I suppose you could use the provided hair dryer.  The shower actually worked out quite well. The water was hot and it provided an ample shower after a long day on the train.  I suppose for people who like long hot showers this would not be the best, but you can press the button as many times as you like and get your water in 20 second spurts.

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NEW BRUNSWICK WAS COVERED IN SNOW, BUT THE ICE WAS BEGINNING TO MELT

After our showers, we dressed and went back to the dome car.  It was a snowy sight.  We made our way through New Brunswick and spent some of our time in the observation car, some of our time in our cabin and of course our meal times (breakfast and lunch) were in the dining car.  The nice thing about train travel is that unlike a plane, there are different places you can spend time and you can get up and stretch your legs.

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WHILE WE MADE OUR WAY EAST, THE TRACKS STAYED BEHIND TO CARRY OTHER PASSENGERS ON FUTURE TRIPS

The scenery along the way was mostly tree and rock.  The train follows a direct path, sometimes along the highway, sometimes wandering in isolation, but generally encountering towns every 15 or 20 minutes.  We arrived in Halifax about 45 minutes later than scheduled on a sunny evening.  Arthur Smith was our host, and he picked up up and then we went for a delicious dinner and night time tour of Halifax.   The following day we toured other areas near the harbour of Halifax and then headed out to see Arthur’s River House and enjoy some quiet time away from the city.  We didn’t take a lot of pictures, but here is a sense of our time there.

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PETE PREPARES TO ENTER THE RIVER HOUSE, A BEAUTIFUL HOME ON THE TIDNISH RIVER THAT OUR FRIEND HAD BUILT

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PETE WARMS HIS HANDS AT THE FIRE. THE TEMPERATURES WERE COOL

We spent Saturday exploring the roads in the area and enjoying the countryside.  Our travels allowed us to explore more of the coastal areas on our return trip to the city.

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THE ATLANTIC OCEAN ON A CLEAR SUNNY DAY

On Sunday we visited with friends at brunch.  All too soon it was time to return to Toronto by plane.  We had a week to prepare for our next adventure … rehearsals on our show in Calgary

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CALGARY WAS CALLING … AS WERE THOSE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

But that is a story for another day.  In the meantime, we hope you have enjoyed our four part blog on train travels between Toronto and Halifax.  Until our next blog, we wish you joy and the opportunity to do what you love most.

Warmest Regards

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FENTON & WHITE

Fenton & White Head East On The Train … Part 3

The Ocean is the name of the Via route that runs from Montreal To Halifax three times per week. Here’s a few quick tidbits on the journey.  As with the previous blogs, blue text can be clicked on for links to further details.

Distance:  1346 kilometres

Duration of Trip:  23 hours (ish).  Leaving at 7 PM and arriving at 6:00 PM the next day.

Cost:  $275  for 2 people in economy (no meals and you sleep in your seat)

First Class:  $825 for 2 people including room with shower, beds and 3 meals

So the big question is … is it worth it?  Via had a sale on with the route 40% off, and I get an extra 10% off due to my Canadian Actor’s Equity membership.  So when you consider you are getting a train trip, a night of accommodation, 3 meals each and you wind up on the East Coast … well at the discount rate, it was worth doing for the cost of $425 after discounts for us both.  It was a much different experience than our Amtrak trip a few years back, which was 3 days and 2 nights from Chicago to San Francisco.  For details on that trip go to our blogs about the California Zephyr .  We liked the layout of our room better on the Via train, but the Amtrak route was less costly on a per day basis, and although the food was good on Via, the Amtrak food surprised us and was better (cooked by a chef instead of prepared like an airplane meal).

Read on to see what the Via experience on this route was like.

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PRIOR TO BOARDING,  SLEEPER PASSENGERS HAVE ACCESS TO THE VIA LOUNGE WITH FREE POP, JUICE, COFFEE, TEA AND NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

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AT 5 PM WE CHECKED IN, GOT OUR WRIST BANDS THAT DESIGNATED US AS SLEEPER PASSENGERS, AND MADE OUR DINNER RESERVATION FOR THE LATE SEATING AT 8:30 PM.  WE ALSO CHECKED OUR LUGGAGE

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AT 6 PM IT WAS TIME TO GO TO THE PLATFORM AND BOARD THE TRAIN

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EACH SLEEPER CAR HAS 10 ROOMS ALONG ONE SIDE OF THE TRAIN WITH A NARROW HALLWAY THAT RUNS PAST THE DOORWAYS

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THE ROOM IS IN THE DAYTIME POSITION WHEN YOU ARRIVE AND THE CAR STEWARD GREETS YOU AND ASKS WHAT TIME YOU WANT YOUR BEDS MADE DOWN

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OUR COMPARTMENT HAD ITS OWN BATHROOM WITH A SHOWER. TOWELS AND TOILETRIES SUCH AS SOAP AND SHAMPOO ARE PROVIDED

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STORAGE SPACE IN EACH CABIN IS LIMITED SO IT IS WISE TO LEAVE MOST THINGS IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE AND JUST BRING THE ESSENTIALS IN YOUR HAND LUGGAGE … LIKE A BOTTLE OF WINE AND SOME SNACKS FOR ALONG THE WAY.

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IT WAS TIME TO EXPLORE THE TRAIN.  EACH ROOM IS KEYED SO THAT YOU CAN LOCK YOUR DOOR WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR COMPARTMENT

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IN THE CENTRE OF THE TRAIN IS A SNACK BAR WHERE YOU CAN PURCHASE DRINKS AND SANDWICHES

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ONE CAR AHEAD OF THAT IS THE DINING CAR

Meals are served with linens and on china plates.   Our meals were tasteful and served hot.  Each meal comes with a choice of two appetizers, a choice of three entrees and a dessert with coffee, tea, pop or water.  Meals are included in your sleeper class ticket, but wine is extra.  We paid the extra $7 per glass for the wine pairings.  The food is prepared in advance and heated, but it tasted good.  On the first night I had a lovely chowder, a fish meal with turbot, steamed vegetables (which were crisp and properly warmed through) and rice.  The dessert was a mint chocolate cake.  Breakfast and lunch are also included in your ticket.  Breakfast doesn’t take reservations and lunch … well they are supposed to take reservations, but there was a communication mix-up on our train.  We wound up eating breakfast at 7:30 in the morning and lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon.  Fortunately, we had those wine and nibbles in our cabin to keep us going.  Economy passengers can dine in the dining car if they pay (there is an a la carte menu with prices that we didn’t get a look at) as long as there is room after the sleeping car reservations are dealt with.   Otherwise, they bring their own food, or purchase from a snack bar at the front of the train.

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THE SLEEPER CARS AND THE BULLET LOUNGE AT THE BACK OF THE TRAIN ARE RESTRICTED TO THOSE WHO HAVE A WRIST BAND

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THIS IS THE MURAL LOUNGE WHICH IS A PRIVATE LOUNGE FOR SLEEPER PASSENGERS.  IT OCCUPIES THE FRONT CORNER OF THE REAR CAR OF THE TRAIN.  IT HAS ITS OWN BARTENDER WHICH IS NICE BUT YOU STILL PAY FOR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

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IF YOU CLIMB UP THE STAIRS, THERE IS A PRIVATE OBSERVATION CAR FOR SLEEPER PASSENGERS

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THE BULLET LOUNGE HAS 24 HOUR FREE COFFEE, TEA, JUICE AND FRUIT

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AFTER EXPLORING THE TRAIN, IT WAS TIME TO SETTLE IN FOR HAPPY HOUR IN OUR CABIN.  ON THE WALL IS AN EMERGENCY CALL BUTTON, HEATING AND COOLING CONTROLS AND LIGHT SWITCHES FOR VARIOUS MOODS.  THE BATHROOM LIGHT STAYS ON ALL NIGHT, WHICH MEANS IF SOMEONE IN YOUR CABIN USES THE RESTROOM IN THE NIGHT, IT FILLS THE CABIN WITH LIGHT

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WE BID FAREWELL TO MONTREAL

Tomorrow … how to sleep and shower on a train.   But first … dinner.

FENTON & WHITE

Fenton & White Go East Part 2

On our second day in Montreal we started with a  morning jacuzzi in that big tub in our room, then made our way down to the restaurant for our free hot breakfast.  Our train to Halifax didn’t leave until early in the evening and we didn’t want to carry our bags around all day.  Fortunately, the hotel offered a free luggage storage service so we checked out and left our bags behind.  The plan was to meet up with Kevin, wander the streets, eat good food and check out the some of the local sights.

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OLD MONTREAL IS FILLED WITH CHARM

Walking around Old Montreal brought back a lot of memories.  We went past Club Soda where I had played the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival over 20 years ago as a side man with a sketch troupe called Skippy’s Rangers.

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WALKING PAST VENUES FROM 20 YEARS PAST BROUGHT BACK GOOD MEMORIES

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ENROUTE TO THE MUSEUM, WE TRAVELED THROUGH THE UNDERGROUND TUNNELS THAT PROTECT RESIDENTS FROM THE CHILL IN THE WINTER.  THIS IS THE DESJARDINS CENTRE … A SHOPPING COMPLEX AND BUSINESS TOWER.

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KEVIN OLSON WAS OUR GUIDE TO MONTREAL FOR THE DAY … HE’S ALSO A GREAT STAGE MANAGER

We made our way to the  Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art., where we met Kevin and explored a range of truly thought provoking exhibits over the course of a few hours. It is hard to encapsulate all that we saw, but below are a few compelling images.  Some of the most powerful work was by Teresa Margolles whose work focuses on border towns in Mexico where the promise of a better life has slowly eroded due to crime and corrupt government.  During the present political tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, the installations were particularly powerful.

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THE MATERIALS FOR THIS PIECE ARE MADE UP OF THE THE HOME OF A RESIDENT IN A SMALL TOWN

The installation above is called The Promise and is made up of materials from a house that was knocked down in a town called Ciadad Juarez.  Once filled with hope and promise,  the town ultimately has become a place where there is violence and corruption.  The materials for the exhibit are transported to each museum, mixed with water and compressed into a long rectangular block.  Each day for one hour, a team of people come and slowly scrape away at the block, spreading the debris to indicate the diminishing lives of the residents and the broken promises of a solid life by the government.  By the end of the run of this exhibit, the block will be gone and the room will be strewn with pebbles and rubble.

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THE THEME OF MANY OF THE WORKS BY OTHER ARTISTS WAS SOCIETY IN TIMES OF WAR

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PETE EXPLORES THE CONTENTS OF GLOWING BARRELS FILLED WITH WATER

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THE GLOW IS CAUSED BY VIDEO IMAGES IN BLACK AND WHITE OF PEOPLE SLEEPING

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WHEN SEEN UNDERWATER … IT IS A DISTURBING JUXTAPOSITION

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SURREAL SCULPTURES MAKE UP A PORTION OF THE EXHIBITS

After looking at the art for a few hours, it was time to go and get some food.  Kevin took us on a walking tour of his favourite neighbourhoods in Montreal and we wound up at The Main, a favoured deli for smoked meat sandwiches.  Frome there we moved  onward to a fine coffee shop and then to a bakery for Portugese tarts.

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PORTUGESE TARTS ARE FILLED WITH A RICH CUSTARD.  A DELICIOUS TREAT

We had walked almost to the base of Mount Royal by this time.  It was mid-afternoon, and we started our walk back towards the hotel, but we had one final stop before picking up our luggage and bidding Kevin farewell.

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MARY QUEEN OF THE WORLD IS A SPECTACULAR CATHEDRAL IN MONTREAL

On previous trips, we had been to see Notre Dame Cathedral, but we found another Cathedral that is much quieter, a little less known, and in our opinion, equally beautiful.  Instead of the hues of blue that Notre Dame is known for, Mary Queen Of The World Cathedral is painted in a light green shade.  It is immense.  Walking around the space is a humbling reminder that in Quebec, the Catholic faith is still going strong.  We were told that on Sundays, the church is full every week.  Visiting on a weekday, it was a peaceful respite from the chilly outside where one could sit and reflect in silence.

We finished our visit, made our way back to our hotel, bid Kevin goodbye and made our way to the train station.  It was time to start our journey to Halifax.

 Tomorrow … riding the rails through a snowy night.

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FENTON & WHITE

 

Fenton & White Go East Part 1

This blog has been slightly delayed because of a very busy schedule.   Over the next few days I’ll try and get out some photos from our East Coast adventure.  I’ve added links (underlined in blue) so you can find out more about the places we’ve been and the places we are going. The focus over the upcoming weeks will be putting up our show Newfoundland Mary in Calgary at Lunchbox Theatre .  Until then, here is a snapshot of our trip from Toronto to Halifax on the train.  The trip was taken in two parts.  On Tuesday March 21st we headed to Montreal to visit friends and take in a theatre festival.  It is a pleasant 5 hour trip.

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EVERY FENTON & WHITE JOURNEY BEGINS WITH A COFFEE

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THE SUN SHONE BRIGHTLY AS WE PULLED AWAY FROM UNION STATION IN TORONTO AT 9 AM

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AS WE HEADED OUT OF TORONTO, WE CROSSED THE DON RIVER AND WAVED FAREWELL TO OUR CONDO WHICH  IS VISIBLE IN THE DISTANCE

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WITHIN A SHORT TIME, GORGEOUS VIEWS OF LAKE ONTARIO OPEN UP ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE TRAIN.

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ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE TRAIN THE SCENERY IS GENTLY ROLLING FARM LAND

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WE TRAVELED ECONOMY ON THIS LEG OF THE JOURNEY AND AT THE HALF-WAY MARK, ORDERED A BOXED LUNCH WHICH WAS VERY TASTY.

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AT AROUND 2:30 IN THE AFTERNOON WE CROSSED THE ST. LAURENCE RIVER AND PULLED INTO MONTREAL

I know a lot of people use bargain sites, such as Trivago to shop and compare, but we have still found cheaper rates on Hotwire at the last minute.  In order to get the best deal, you choose an area of the city you are visiting and a star rating.  The name of the hotel is blocked until after you book, and you have to pre-pay your reservation.  Using this method, we got a four star room a 10 minute walk from the train station and a 2 minute walk from Old Montreal for $127 Canadian.  This rate included all taxes and a hot breakfast in the morning.  We wound up staying at the Embassy Suites, and it was a terrific deal.  Below are a few shots of the suite.

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THE KITCHEN WAS LARGE WITH A NICE CALIFORNIA BAR

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THE LIVING ROOM HAD A LARGE TV, A NICE DESK AND ENOUGH ROOM TO ENTERTAIN

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POCKET DOORS ON THE BEDROOM AREA ALLOWED YOU TO CLOSE OFF THE BEDROOM IF YOU HAVE COMPANY OVER

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THE BATHROOM HAD A JACUZZI TUB WITH A STAND-UP SHOWER IN THE CORNER

Our evening plans were to go for dinner, meet up with my stage manager from the Becoming Carol tour (Kevin Olson) and then go and see the play Jabber as part of the Geordie Theatre Festival.  We wound up at the Le Saint-Bock microbrewery at 1749 St. Denis Street. If you click the link above, you will see the beer menu.  We tried a fine cognac beer with a marshmallow in it.  And the food was pretty spectacular too.  I was recommended to a variation on poutine that had fries and curds, but was dressed with meats and peppers and a light gravy.  It was tasty.

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A TASTY VARIATION ON POUTINE AT LE SAINT BOCK

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THEN IT WAS ON TO SEE THE SHOW … WHICH WAS TRULY FANTASTIC

After the show, we had time to catch up with Haylee Tucker our former assistant stage manager from our show Bemused which played Theatre Northwest a few years ago.  She is studying at the National Theatre School right now.   And then it was off to bed.

Tomorrow … exploring Montreal’s museums, food and culture.

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FENTON & WHITE GIVE THEIR FIRST DAY IN MONTREAL A THUMBS UP