The Journey

Winter 2017 | The Short Story

Shortly after her mother’s death, Michelle writes The Departure Train as a short story. The inspiration comes to her suddenly in a moment of illumination.

Winter 2018 | Writing the First Drafts

Michelle reads the story to her friend, director Nicole Arends, who wonders about the possibilities of developing it into a play. They meet once a month as Michelle develops the script with Nicole working as her dramaturge (guiding dramatic structure and composition). Michelle spends the winter walking with the story, intuiting the nature of the train and Audrey’s interactions in the afterlife.

Michelle and Nicole

May 2018 | First Table Read

Nicole brings actors together at Michelle’s home for the first reading of play, and a lively discussion follows. 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 hold an Elegantly Staged Reading at the Gladstone Hotel. A thoughtful, enthusiastic audience attends, 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, reads the play and writes to Michelle to express his enthusiastic support for the script.

The remainder of 2019  | Creating a Sonic Immersion

Nicole is concerned about the “clunky” staging and wants to bring an otherworldly quality to the afterlife experience. “Why can’t the actors just float?” she jokes. After much discussion, Michelle re-envisions 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 conduct a two-day workshop at The Citadel in Toronto with five actors. They explore several of the more complex scenes to determine how to move in and out of Audrey’s memories. They play extensively with staging and a unique audience configuration that embeds the audience in the action of the play.  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 consider ways to offer The Departure Train in a format other than a stage play. Since they already have an immersive sound script, it isn’t a huge leap to consider creating a full audio play.

Nicole at desk
Michelle in studio

May 2020 | Online Reading

Rich script revisions culminate in 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 is 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 is selected after auditions take 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 comes 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 brings a powerful and emotional dimension to the story by creating the music and the sound of the afterlife.

man with cap at desk with laptop

April 2022 | First Call to Listen

The newly minted audio play is 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 is expanded when Jennifer McKinley comes aboard as Marketing Specialist and David Adkin as Video Director/Editor.

June 2022 | Private Launch

The Departure Train team conducts an exclusive private launch for friends and supporters who have been waiting for the train’s arrival since 2018.

Fall 2022 | Public Launch of The Departure Train!