by Joe Szekeres, OnStage Blog | May 18, 2021
In her next upcoming show presented online this month, Canadian songstress Louise Pitre allows us to get to know her personally.
‘On the Rocks…stirred not shaken’ journeys through Ms. Pitre’s life and career with an intimate and revealing look at one of Canada’s finest artists through song and stories. The performance runs online May 27-31 from 7 pm – 9 pm ET. Opening night May 27 will feature a talkback with Louise. Links will be included at the conclusion of this article.
I had the privilege in compiling her profile last year for OnStage Blog’s Pandemic series on how the professional artist has been faring. To read Louise’s profile: ‘The Self-Isolated Artist’ Series: Toronto Profile of Louise Pitre — OnStage Blog.
In researching a bit further about her upcoming show, Louise told me in an email she had performed ‘On the Rocks’ at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille and had it filmed at that time. When she said it was time to share it online for audiences, I was quite happy to hear this as it will give all of us an opportunity to learn more about this lady who has appeared in such theatrical hits as ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and most recently as the tortured French chanteuse, Edith Piaf in Toronto’s Mirvish series.
Through email conversation, I let Louise know that I liked the sound of the show’s title because I felt it reflected what all of us have been experiencing and continue doing so in this last year and a half. Then I wondered perhaps I was reading too much into the title’s meaning, and that might not what she had intended.
“Actually it [Stirred] might even be more appropriate during this strange time of Covid. This show is extremely personal. What I do for a living has the power to stir me viscerally. It also has the power to shake me. But I choose to be stirred and keep going even through the disappointments, both in my personal and professional lives. These last 15 months have solidified my belief in the light at the end of the tunnel and in what truly matters in my life.”
We continued our conversation by email:
Describe the genesis of ‘On the Rocks’ and explain how it came to the stage.
Andy McKim, Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille at the time and Kendra Fry who was General Manager invited me to a meeting. They told me they wanted some music in their upcoming season and that, in a perfect world, the musical piece would be with me. At first, I suggested doing a series of concerts – maybe three different programmes that I could do in repertory.
But then as I thought about it, I realized that that was not scary in the least. I had been doing concerts all over for may years. It would just feel like more concerts…so I decided that perhaps I should write something…and not just a series of songs but a book with songs.
Andy and Kendra liked the idea.
My mother had kept some childhood things of mine without my knowing: drawings from Grade 3 AND my Barbie! She had surprised me with them awhile before my meeting at Passe Muraille. I had burst into tears looking at these things that basically encapsulated my childhood.
Those items became the idea to launch my story.
Tell me about some of the songs and if they’re based on certain elements of your life and/or in your life.
They are all original songs in ‘Stirred’, and they all have to do with certain elements of my life. ‘Please Say My Name Out Loud’ is about my father and his descent into Alzheimer’s; ‘When I Was Seven’ describes what I thought my life would be at seven; ‘If I Can See It’ is my mantra not only in my personal life but also in my work life too. It is about my belief that if I can see it in my mind and in my heart, I can make it happen. ‘Say Goodbye’ deals with the endless lineup of failed relationships.
Please share with us those individuals who have had a tremendous influence in bringing ‘On the Rocks…stirred not shaken’ to fruition.
When I decided to write myself a show, I knew I needed someone to guide me through the book writing. Jen Shuber was the first person to whom I spoke. I had worked with her on ‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ and Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre, and she had impressed me so much professionally and personally. Jen agreed to work with me and, for the better part of a year, she listened, read, commented, suggested, made me and my script better.
Diane Leah is my accompanist and has been for many years. We have the kind of communication you dream about as a performer. She is also a friend. This show was so personal that it had to be her at the piano. She also added all the extra underscoring that made such a difference to the feeling and flow of the show.
W. Joseph Matheson, my husband, and I have written songs together for quite some time. He knows me better than anybody so the lyrics he has written on some of the songs are ME.
He just has a more poetic touch than I do.
Do you dedicate your performance and work in ‘On the Rocks’ to any particular individuals or mentors?
I thank my lucky stars to this day that the late Don Fleckser was the first director I ever worked with in my fourth year at London Ontario’s Western University. I knew nothing. He was the biggest lover of musical theatre EVER!! He also had a sense of sense of humour and integrity. He gave me the gift of reverence for the craft which I will carry forever.
Rob Welland directed me early on too at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. He gave me the best advice about getting through a song and saving the big notes for the right moments!!
‘On the Rocks’ is dedicated to my husband. And more than ever, after these long Covid months, I know what we have together is what matters most.
What would you like online audiences to remember about your work in ‘On the Rocks’?
That I got really personal and felt very vulnerable on stage sharing what I shared. That I chose that photo for the poster because it felt like undressing in front of the audience.
I often quote Eleanor Roosevelt who said you should do something every day that scares you. I would like the audience to know that I gave it my absolute ALL and was scared to write and compose a whole show…but I did it.
What’s next for Louise Pitre? What do you believe you must and still would like to accomplish within the performing arts industry?
When Covid hit, Joe and I were performing our show ‘The Times They Are A’ Changing’ at Montreal’s Segal Centre.
How appropriate, non?
That run was cut short.
We were in preparation to take ‘Piaf/Dietrich A Legendary Affair’ to London, England.
I was waiting for ‘MARIE Dancing Still’ to have a Broadway Theatre doing the pre-Broadway production in Seattle.
I had symphony concerts in Philadelphia and Naples booked.
All these projects were cancelled or postponed. I do know that we will be on stage again one of these days. I BELIEVE!!!
It would be nice to cross off my to do list performing in the West End.
Joe, Diane Leah, and I have been writing a musical for children these last many months. My dream accomplishment is this: go out for dinner, have some great wine, go to a theatre, sit in the audience, and watch a musical we wrote.
To purchase tickets from May 27 – 31, 2021 for the online production of ‘On the Rocks…stirred not shaken’ go to https://louise-pitre-otr.eventbrite.ca. Show times run 7 pm – 9 pm. Louise will be featured in a Talk Back at the May 27 online performance.
To learn more about Louise Pitre, visit her webpage: www.LouisePitre.com.
All show photos courtesy of Michael Cooper @coopershoots.
Link to original article: https://www.onstageblog.com/profiles/2021/5/18/canadian-louise-pitres-upcoming-online-show-gets-personal