Theatre Artists Branching Out (Cont’d)

by Lynn on July 20, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

I have written before about theatre people branching out from their usual calling to create in other ways, in these weird times.

I started last month with a post about, Steven McCarthy, a fine actor, musician and screenwriter who decided he would try and recreate the bagels he ate every day in Montreal when he was a student at the National Theatre School.

He made the bagels and sold them to his neighbours and friends in the area. Word got around how good they were. I was able to buy them twice before Steven, his wife Alyx and dog Ben, decided to buy a house and move to Hamilton, Ont. I was sorry to see them go—wonderful bagels.

Then I read a Facebook post from Kim Blackwell, the creative Managing Artistic Director of 4th Line Theatre Company, that Courtenay Stevens was making planters out of repurposed wood skids (I think that last part is right.) She had pictures of the planters she bought. I wanted one.

Courtenay Stevens’ Planter with Autograph

Courtenay Stevens is a terrific actor (his last gig was in the ARC production of OIL) who is very handy with making useful things with wood. He makes planters of various sizes that he lists on Facebook Marketplace. I wanted one of the “regular” ones about 10” long and wide enough and deep enough to plant herbs. I messaged him and yes, I could buy one of the planters. I just got in under the wire as he said he was taking a break from making them because his wife wanted the backyard back and it would give the neighbours a break from the sawing and the hammering.

Am I detecting a theme here: Steve McCarthy sells me his bagels twice and then leaves town; Courtenay Stevens makes wonderful planters and sells me one before he goes on hiatus? Should I be concerned….is the pandemic making me paranoid? No matter. Moving on.

I went to his house to pick up and pay for my planter. There are two neat planters in front of his place in which he is growing flowers, dill and other herbs. He has carefully enclosed the planters in chicken wire so various creatures can’t nibble the herbs.

My planter is in the middle of Courtenay’s living room with a few other planters. They are all sturdy, beautifully made. I liken them to a work of art and so I have Courtenay autograph my planter right on the side for all to see. It’s a thing of beauty and now herbs are growing in it. If Courtenay doesn’t take too long of a hiatus I will seriously consider buying a bigger planter. And of course, have him sign that one too.

Bonnie Beecher is a celebrated, brilliant lighting designer but with all theatre shut down she needed an outlet for her creativity, so she started baking. Bonnie’s Bread Co. was born. A square sticker was designed (by Haui Hinton-Davis) with various loaves of bread on it along with “Bonnie’s Bread Co.” written on it, and a sticker is stuck to every bag of Bonnie’s baking.  

Bonnie’s Bread Co. has a presence on Facebook. Each week there are beautiful postings of the various breads, bagels, scones and now pies that Bonnie is baking and selling. She announces that she is taking orders for the following week etc. and those interested can private message her.

I placed an order. I arranged to pick it up at her house (she does deliver for a small charge). As I was walking up the street near the appointed time, I saw a young man walking towards me with his arms out, as if he was carrying something. He was—two large paper bags were laid across his arms. I saw that the bags said “bread” on them in swirls of blue strokes. He was coming from Bonnie’s house. He looked like The Pieta with his arms out, holding precious treasure and of course he was.

When I got to Bonnie’s I was stopped in my tracks. The front door was open and the fragrance of freshly baked bread wafted onto the street.  The ever-theatrical Bonnie Beecher was setting the scene, illuminating it. I had to smile.

She came down the hallway from the kitchen bearing my treats: a bag with the blue strokes that said “bread” with a challah, a baggie with six bagels and another paper bag with six cherry/blueberry scones, still warm. Each bag had the square Bonnie’s Bread Co. sticker.

It’s interesting that I have never actually met Bonnie before picking up my bread order. I sit in the dark at a theatre; she illuminates it; I go home and write about it without any stops in between to make an acquaintance. That dispenses with any conflict of interest even in a slight way. But a pandemic that shuts every theatre down and has theatre artists segueing into other creative pursuits is another matter.

Bonnie is charming and meticulous—the logo sticker, the paper bags with “bread” written in blue strokes, the care in the baking. She didn’t realize how tired she was working non-stop in the theatre with no time off. Now she bakes bread and sells it and is able to take the weekend off (“Weekend? What’s a weekend?”).

Ahhhh the bread. I ate a scone in the car because they were warm, I couldn’t wait and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I did not eat and drive. I sat there to savour the moment. The scones are in plump long triangular shapes. There is a sprinkling of sugar on top so that when the scone is baked the sugar provides a subtle crunch. The texture of the scone is dense without being heavy. It’s flaky and not too sweet. I bit into a blueberry and it was like a small explosion of tart and sweet at the same time. The same thing happened when I bit into one of the cherry bits. Delicious. No crumbs were left behind.

When I got home I laid out my bounty on the table. The half-dozen bagels were an assortment of poppy seed and sesame seed. They were as substantial as a Montreal-style bagel. They were chewing with a slightly crunchy crust without being tough. They also toast beautifully. The challah is beautifully, evenly browned and each ‘mound’ is shiny. The texture is delicate with a hint of sweetness, and I think I detected a touch of salt. The challah also toasts beautifully. It’s the quality of the baking/breads/etc. that makes you stop and pay close attention to every bite. Delicious. I’ll order more from Ms Beecher’s Bread Co. And so should you.

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