The Journey

Summer 2023 | “Imagining the Departure Train”

This 19-minute documentary offers a revealing “behind-the-scenes” look at the five-year creative process behind the making of “The Departure Train”.

Narrated by playwright, Michelle Tocher, dramaturge/director, Nicole Arends, and music composer/sound designer, Phil Strong, the film offers a very personal, candid, humorous, and at times poignant account of the artistic challenges of bringing Audrey Doyle’s afterlife experience to the stage. First conceived as a short story, then as a stage play, the story finally flowered as a complex, rich and compelling audio drama.

Directed, shot and edited by veteran documentary filmmaker, David Adkin, Imagining The Departure Train interweaves original filming with archival video footage and photos, music from the play,  and arresting stock images that vividly bring the story of this drama production to life.


Winter 2017 | The Short Story

Shortly after her mother’s death, Michelle received a powerful inspiration to write a short story about a woman leaving the world by train.

Winter 2018 | Writing the First Drafts

Michelle read the story to her friend, director Nicole Arends, who wondered about the possibilities of developing it into a play. They met once a month as Michelle developed the script with Nicole working as her dramaturge (guiding dramatic structure and composition). 

Michelle and Nicole

May 2018 | First Table Read

Nicole brought actors together at Michelle’s home for the first reading of play, and a lively discussion followed. Participating actors: Susan Q. Wilson, Ruth Danziger, Rick S. Jones, Marisa King, Erica May/Wood, Jean Sheppard, Dan Giverin, Naomi Peltz, Alysa Golden.

December 2018 | Staging an Elegant Reading

 Michelle and Nicole held an Elegantly Staged Reading at the Gladstone Hotel. A thoughtful, enthusiastic audience attended, providing a generous amount of support and feedback.  Participating actors: Susan Q. Wilson, Ruth Danziger, Rick S. Jones, Pamela Barker, Erica May/Wood, Jean Sheppard, Dan Giverin, Naomi Peltz, Judith Johns Fiore.

Conductor during reading
Nicole and cast
cast group photo

Winter 2019 | Meeting a Supportive Influence

Layne Coleman, former Artistic Director of Theatre Pass Muraille, read the play and wrote to Michelle to express his enthusiastic support for the script.

The remainder of 2019  | Creating a Sonic Immersion

Nicole wanted to bring an otherworldly quality to the afterlife experience. “Why can’t the actors just float?” she joked. After much discussion, Michelle re-envisioned the script to create a sonically immersive stage play, allowing the train to feel more like a train of thought, and keeping the audience oriented in time throughout the play.

Michelle and Nicole masked in studio
Studio wide shot

January 2020 | Workshopping the Train at The Citadel

Nicole and Michelle conducted a two-day workshop at The Citadel in Toronto with five actors. They explored several of the more complex scenes to determine how to move in and out of Audrey’s memories. Participating actors: Pamela Barker, Erica May/Wood, Dan Giverin, Naomi Peltz, Judith Johns Fiore.

workshopping at the Citadel

Spring 2020 | Changing Tracks

With the onset of Covid-19, Michelle and Nicole considered ways to offer The Departure Train in a format other than a stage play. Since they already had an immersive sound script, moving to an audio play format was a natural progression.

Nicole at desk
Michelle in studio

May 2020 | Online Reading

Rich script revisions culminated n a private online reading of the new audio play.   Participating actors:  Liz Pounsett, Erica May/Wood, Colleen Simm, Jorge Molina, Liz Best, Chris Coculuzzi, Judith Johns Fiore, Naomi Peltz.

November 2020 | Composer and Sound Designer

Talented Composer and Sound Designer Phil Strong was chosen to create the music and sounds of Audrey’s afterlife journey.

Nicole with Phil on laptop

Summer 2021 | A New Cast Boards the Train

 The audio cast was selected after auditions took place in April 2021. Participating actors:  Jane Hunter, Pamela Barker, Melanie Stevenson, Chris Irving, Lynn Oldershaw, Scott Moore, Naomi Peltz, Michael Pearson.

Cast outdoors

September 2021 | Recording the Play

 After online summer rehearsals, the creative team came together at Canterbury Studios in Toronto to record the play.

woman in white in studio medium shot
Reader on floor
Reader smiling
man with white shirt recording
Reader smiling
expressive male reader
woman in blue recording
male reader with green sweater

Winter 2022 | Music and Sound Design

Phil Strong brought a poignant voice to the story by creating the music and sound of the train and Audrey’s afterlife experience.

man with cap at desk with laptop

April 2022 | First Call to Listen

The newly minted audio play was presented to the cast in a private “first listen”.

group shot in living room
group shot in living room

Spring 2022 | Preparing to Launch

 The creative team was expanded when marketing specialists came aboard, along with David Adkin as Video Director/Editor. David created a trailer and four “Postcards” to inspire audience reflection after hearing the play.

June 2022 | Private Launch

The Departure Train team held a private launch for friends and supporters who had been waiting for the train’s arrival since 2018.

Fall 2022 | Public Launch

In partnership with Andy Frank, manager of AMI Audio, Inc., The Departure Train had its first airings over the Hallowe’en weekend.