Theatre meets TV sitcom in The Theatre Circuit’s Inch Of Your Life Trilogy

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Massimo Pagliaroli; photo by Robert Fulton

The Theatre Circuit’s Inch of Your Life, written and directed by Artistic Director Massimo Pagliaroli, is part theatre experience and part prophetic symbol. The idea for the show came to Mr Pagliaroli many years ago when he was performing in a long-running improv show at The Second City. The show was very different from the type of theatre he was used to — and had trained in while completing his degree in directing at York University. He found himself smitten with sketch comedy’s minimalist aesthetic and fast-paced structure, as well as its inherent “television” sensibility: “I was inspired  to create a show that included those elements but was also an episodic series with a recurring cast of characters.”

And this is exactly what he did: “The original concept for the show was to create an ongoing serial with a new installment every month (we got as far as four!).” Scheduling restrictions and other professional commitments made that challenging to maintain, so it was re-formatted as a trilogy. “The second episode of Inch of Your Life, Episode 2: The Middle Part is readying to open at Theatre Passe Muraille. If you missed the pilot, you need not worry. In the time-honoured TV tradition, it will catch you up with a recap. And if you are a TV aficionado who is theatre-curious, Inch of Your Life  might also be your ticket.

“Inch of Your Life is about family and how well we think we know ourselves and the people in our lives,” Mr Pagliaroli explains.”It deals with the day to day interactions with those we hold relationships with, and the seemingly insignificant moments which shape us the most and propel us forward.”  At the centre of series is Sam Catelli, a young Toronto man of Italian heritage, recently fired from his job and determined to establish his independence from his overbearing siblings. The characters are based on real people that Mr Pagliaroli has either met and known both personally and professionally, and who have made distinct impressions or had a significant impact on his life. “They represent both the ‘traditional’ world associated with my Italian heritage and upbringing, and the modern world connected to my life as an artist in Toronto,” he offers. “All eight characters are also incarnations of some of the most personal aspects of myself—my aspirations, fears, strengths, flaws—and are therefore the most personal characters I have ever written. They are like family to me. As are the vibrant and talented actors who bring them to life.”  

Ceridwen Kingstone as Jill and Giovanna Pandullo as Sylvia in Inch of Your Life, Episode 1 – The Pilot; photo by Robert Fulton

The show was originally workshopped in Toronto, then received its US premiere at Edgemar Theatre in Santa Monica, California. The cast is composed of Toronto-based actors of varying performance backgrounds whose passion and eight month commitment to the project is an “incredible gift,” and something he is truly grateful for: “They have been instrumental in the further development and realization of this show. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast.”

The Theatre Circuit itself is a brand new indie theatre company whose core value is to produce “work which celebrates and highlights the artistic diversity of Toronto.” The genesis of The Theatre Circuit is inseparable from Inch of Your Life. In 2009, Mr Pagliaroli took a 7-year hiatus from “anything theatre-related” and found himself pondering whether or not he still wanted to pursue a career in the field. In 2016, he applied to the Toronto Fringe Festival under the condition that, if his play was selected, he would take it as an indication to “jump back in and fully commit” to a life in the theatre. Not only was it selected, but it proved so popular that it earned the “Patron’s Pick” for the venue. “The 2016 Fringe production of Inch was my slow re-entry into everything, and I was both nervous and excited, not to mention feeling rusty, having been away from it all for so long,” he recalls. It not only reinforced how much he loved and missed theatre but also rekindled his passion for it, leading him to realize it is all he truly wants to do.  

This epiphany led Mr Pagliaroli and Carlo Vitelli, the producer of Inch of Your Life (and Managing Director of The Theatre Circuit), to revamp the show and use it as a catalyst to launch a new theatre company. Their goal was to cultivate a hub where other returning artists could reintegrate themselves into the theatre community, foster relationships with established artists, and provide opportunities to emerging artists. Armed with this vision, they invited some members of their Fringe production to assist in the development of the company. Over time, more associates came on board, and, through a series of regular monthly meetings, they have arrived at their current configuration: “We are still very early in the process, learning through trial and error which is the best way to operate and create the work we want to do, but it has been a very productive and rewarding journey so far.”

Inch of Your Life Ensemble; photo by Robert Fulton

One inviolable objective is for the company to be Toronto-centric: “to produce new work that is created and/or inspired by the people and artists of Toronto, as we are passionate about this city and the art and artists it generates. It is one of the main principles around which we are building our brand and mandate,” Mr Pagliaroli proudly declares. When asked where The Theatre Circuit is taking its locally sourced theatre mandate next season, Mr Pagliaroli will divulge only that the company folks “are currently in discussion”. He hints that there are a number of ideas  on the table, most involving the creation of new work that they would like to “spearhead” in the near future. At the moment, one of their main objectives is to “introduce new voices, in order to provide a showcase for artists who are emerging in their career.” In keeping with that aim, emerging actors and writers can anticipate training workshops and social events to come. All in all, Mr Pagliaroli is enthusiastic at what “will shape up to be a very exciting second year.”

In the meantime, the cast of Inch of Your Life is readying for the run of Episode 2: The Middle Part while anticipating the 3rd, The Last Bit, in July. Will it really be “the last”? The website states that it is a wrap, with the tantalizing addendum “for now”. What the future holds for The Theatre Circuit and its innovative creative vision seems limitless. For now, their wish is to be a company “that this city can be proud of, that artists feel supported and nurtured by, and audiences always feel at home with….There is so much incredible stuff happening, and it’s thrilling to be a part of it!”

The INCH Cast (image courtesy of The Theatre Circuit)

News You Can Use

What: Inch of Your Life, Episode 2: The Middle Part, written and directed by Massimo Pagliaroli

Featuring: Alex Clay, Jack Everett, Luis Fernandes, Ceridwen Kingstone, Brandon Knox, Giovanna Pandullo, Antonino Pruiti and Jonathan Sconza
Creative Team: Produced by Carlo Vitelli; Lighting Design by Lisa Van Oorschot; Percussion composed and performed by Evan Bowen; Stage Management by Laura Philipps

When: May 9 – 19, 2018; Preview May 9; Run Time: 100 minutes (including one intermission)

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille – Backspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto, ON

Info and Tickets: TheTheatreCircuit.com 

© 2018 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

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