Tag Archives: ACTRA Toronto

RDG’s Jason & Rafael celebrate last night’s ACTRA Toronto Awards

Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck (below, left to right) of RDG Entertainment Inc. attended last night’s ACTRA* Toronto Awards held at the Carlu in downtown Toronto. The fabulous soiree was hosted by TV and radio personality Arisa Cox, host of Big Brother Canada. The RDG guys were thrilled to meet up with ACTRA colleagues and friends, and they shared the evening with me via photos.

photo 1 (5)Actor and comedian Gavin Crawford (below right with Rafael) garnered the Outstanding Male Performance award for his role as Adam in the comedy-drama film Two 4 One, about a transgender person who unexpectedly becomes pregnant.

With Gavin CrawfordStar of sci-fi series Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany, won her second Outstanding Female Performance Award, and Cory Doran won in the category of Outstanding Voice Performance for playing Multiple Personality Mike in the “Final Wreck-ening” episode of the animated series Total Drama, a parody of reality shows.

Veteran film and TV actress Tantoo Cardinal, pictured below with Rafael (left) and Jason (right), was honoured with ACTRA Toronto’s annual Award of Excellence.  I will always remember Tantoo for bringing the real heart to Dances With Wolves and Legends of the Fall and many more productions over her 4+ decades of acting.

Tantoo CardinalJamie Jones, winner of the ACTRA Stunt Award, is pictured below (2nd from left) with fellow stunt actor Clyde Phillips Sr. (left), Rafael and Bart Badzioch, stunt actor (right)


Philip & Jamie JonesAnd actor Philip Moran shared a celebratory cocktail and V for Victory with Jamie.

“The performers honoured tonight make us proud to be Canadian. They show off Canada to Canada and to the rest of the world in all its marvellous diversity. And they do it with unique and outstanding talent,” said David Sparrow, President of ACTRA (pictured below 2nd from right with Jason, Philip and Rafael)

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Congratulations again to all the winners, nominees and ACTRA Toronto organizers.  Next up, Canadian Screen Awards on March 1st.  See you on the red carpet!

* ACTRA is Canada’s national union representing more than 22,000 performers in English-language recorded media. The Toronto chapter represents 15,000 union members.

 Visit Rafael and Jason at  http://reeldealguys.com/

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It’s been almost 30 years since DEGRASSI HIGH first hit our TV screens and since then, the show has evolved, moving with the times and has included story lines that has addressed the social, emotional and educational issues endured by every kid who ever went through high school. Commonsensemedia.com states: this Canadian series tackles big issues like sex, teen pregnancy, sexual identity, drug use, school violence, hate crimes, and mental disorders in a frank, thoughtful way. It presents these subjects as everyday factors in teens’ lives and explores their repercussions through the students’ eyes. This uncensored honesty gives the show credibility beyond that of many of the soapier series available to teens, but at the same time, it creates a classic know-your-kid situation for parents. Some episodes have a far heavier tone than others do, and the amount and type of controversial material varies widely from story to story, so previewing each episode is your best bet. Ultimately, though, this series manages a moral tone without coming off as preachy, which goes a long way in maintaining teens’ interest and earns it a spot among the best, most responsible series out there for teens. The content is edgy but both relevant and appropriate for the target audience.


The latest 21st century incarnation of the show, DEGRASSI, features a talented cast of young actors, one of whom is SARAH FISHER, and I’m please to share this interview I recently undertook with this multi-talented young lady who plays “Becky Baker”.


How old were you when you first performed in front of an audience?
I was twelve when I did my first singing performance. It was actually at my babysitter’s wedding in front of about two hundred and fifty people. I’m surprised she trusted me to be the flower girl as well considering all I put her through (laughs).

Once you realized how much you enjoyed performing, did you want to focus on singing or acting?
Acting actually came as quite a surprise for me, so music was always the focus. I have two vocal coaches: Kim Briggs, who focuses on classical training and Elaine Overholt, who works with me on my pop sound. They are both incredible teachers and I’m very lucky to have them both work so closely with me. Lately I’ve also focused on acting, too. I go to Armstrong Acting Studio in Toronto, and they have taken great care of me and they have helped me grow as an actress. They have incredible teachers and I would recommend the school to anyone interested in going into the business.

How did your parents react when they learnt that you wanted a career in showbiz?
Words cannot express how incredible my parents are. They have believed in me more than anyone, they have always supported me and let me be who I have always been, an artist. I could not have done it without them, and I really mean that. They are the reason I am so happy every day because I get to do what I love to do and have them with me every step of the way. I love my parents so much.

Do you play any instruments, and if so which ones?
I play piano, it took a while because of scales, but I’ve really fallen in love with the instrument. I played flute in grade 8 and got way too light headed to continue, then I played drums in grade 12.

You took classical voice training, yes? Tell us about your choice to focus on pop music for now?
I have been trained classically since I started voice lessons at the age of 11. I have been exploring my pop sound because I wanted to feel more comfortable singing pop songs and I never wanted to strain my voice. I wanted to be able to sing pop songs in a way that’s healthy for me while adding my classical sound to it as well. Plus the music I write has a pop sound to it.

Do you maintain a vocal training regime or classes?
I have classical training once a week and pop training every other week. I think it is so important to always continue working on your craft (I know that sounds cheesy) but I believe everyone should always continue growing and learning.

Apart from Degrassi, have we seen you in any other TV shows or films?
You will see me shortly (I believe) in a film called Lost After Dark. I had so much fun! Even though in one of my scenes before we were shooting, I was in a patch of long grass and couldn’t see my feet, and I felt something bite me. So I tried to tough it out and be professional but I’ve never run faster in my entire life…I was standing in a wasp nest!

How do you relate to “Becky” and what parts of Sarah do you bring to the role?
I think one of the main things I’m always asked is, “how are you so happy all the time?” (laughs). Becky is known on the show as ‘little miss sunshine’ and I can definitely say the smiles are all real. I love what I do and I am so thankful for that. I wouldn’t say I’m as stubborn as Becky, but because that’s not reality for me, it’s really fun to play.


How many more seasons do you see Becky being on Degrassi – when does she graduate?
I’m not sure! I wish the actors knew first but we don’t – she is technically in grade 12 this year, Season 14, but I would definitely not be upset if she failed school and stayed another year (grins).

You are currently recording some great pop singles and filming a music video – can you share anything about those or are they all super secret right now?
They are SUPER SECRET! But I will say the studio is one of my favourite places to be, I really could live there. Making music is such an amazing experience and I can’t WAIT to share it with you guys!


Anything you’d like to share with your fans?
You guys are so incredible! You are always so sweet and supportive and I love talking with you guys and getting to know you all. I respond to as many emails, tweets, Facebook posts as I can and I really appreciate all of your support. You guys are all fantastic – follow your dreams, I really mean that because every single one of you is special and brilliant and creative!


Sarah is the national spokesperson for the KIDS HELP PHONE and frequently participates in fundraising events for kids and teen-focused charities and causes – she will be appearing at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square on Sunday July 20th for YOUTH DAY.

If you’d like to meet Sarah, she will be making a special personal appearance at the TORONTO HORSE DAY on Saturday June 7th, down at Toronto’s Exhibition Place (at the Horse Palace). She’s be there between 11am and 1:30pm and at approx. 1:15pm she’ll be leading the kids in a “stick pony” parade in the main ring. Should be fun and if you love horses, like Sarah, this is the place to be. And it’s FREE!


Follow Sarah at:  Facebook.com/Sarah-Fisher  or  @SarahFisher28





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SCRABBLE WITH THE STARS celebrates 10 years of fundraising for PAL Toronto

Last Monday evening (May 5) many of Canada’s showbiz legends gathered at the Arcadian Loft at Queen & Bay Streets in downtown Toronto, to play Scrabble with the Stars and raise funds (and awareness) for the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) in Toronto. PAL is home to many of our mature leading lights of Toronto’s theatre, film, television and radio.

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Event chair, Kate Barris and SWTS Founder Vivienne Muhling welcomed all the guests including Councillor Pam McConnell (in red) who helped cut the celebratory cake along with SWTS celebrity hosts (and 2 of the funniest people in the country!) Deb McGrath and Colin Mochrie.

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I was thrilled to meet the charming Marilyn Lightstone (pictured below winning a prize & meeting Vivienne) who came to play and win…and who generously donated 2 works of art for our silent art auction.

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Canada’s most beloved children’s entertainers Bram and Sharon (of Sharon, Lois and Bram) joined us (below left) along with Glass Tiger frontman Alan Frew (below right) and the always wacky Jaymz Bee of JAZZ-FM (bottom).

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Proud-FM’s Mike Chalut shared a photo opp with TV goddess Dini Petty (below right), jazz diva Jackie Richardson (centre) came ready to lay down her tiles, and SWTS Committee member, show producer and all-round funny man Brianne Nazimok introduced young actor (Life with Boys) Michael Murphy to the finer points of Scrabbling (bottom)

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There was also a stunning art auction plus other wearable art handcrafted by our celeb guests, plus some pretty cool goodies donated by prize sponsors. Comedian and artist Jayne Eastwood posed proudly with her beautiful painting, perfect for Mother’s Day (below left) and Emmy-nominated writer/producer Eva Almos (bottom) donated a stunning necklace she designed specially for the event.

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More great photos from the night attended by a galaxy of stars, generous sponsors and auction bidders who helped raise funds for PAL.

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Acting legend Paul Soles enjoyed the “red carpet” treatment with Vivienne (below)

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And special guests Sean Cullen and Rick Miller (below) kept the audience laughing their tiles off throughout dinner.

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Here are lots more happy Scrabblers….

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My photographer, Gabriella, won tickets to Yuk Yuk’s and I had my own red carpet moment outside the Mirvish Celebrity Lounge!

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A big BRAVO to all the volunteers from the Scotiabank who kept things running smoothly…


….and to Kate, Vivienne and the entire committee who pulled off another glorious success at the Scrabble tables.


Keep up to date with Scrabble with the Stars news for 2015:  http://www.ScrabbleWiththeStars.com


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Celebrity participants of SCRABBLE® WITH THE STARS, one of the year’s most anticipated showbiz events, are set to start laying down tiles the evening of Monday May 5th at the Arcadian Loft in downtown Toronto.   Benefiting the Performing Arts Lodge, (PAL) Toronto, which provides affordable housing to members of our entertainment industry, 2014 marks the 10th anniversary for this important fundraiser. Hosts COLIN MOCHRIE and DEB McGRATH (pictured below) will again be at the helm to ensure the evening is both a financial success and a fun-filled soiree for the stars, sponsors, media and PAL residents!


Today, Tuesday April 29, several sponsors joined Colin and Deb, and SWTS Chair KATE BARRIS, Founder VIVIENNE MUHLING and other committee members to add the sparkly sponsor stars to the Thank-You sponsors’ board located in the lobby of PAL. Featured in photos below with Kate (in green), Deb & Colin are sponsor reps: VINCE COMMISSO, President of 9 Story Entertainment (2013/14 Celebrity Sponsor)

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The new sheriff in town (below) is ALAN HOLLINGSWORTH, VP & Partner of HUB International (2013 Celebrity Sponsor)

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Below are BOB UNDERWOOD, President &  CEO of ACTRA Fraternal Benefits Society (left) and RON ZAMMIT (ctr) CFO of  ACTRA Fraternal Benefits Society (2013 & 2014 Production Sponsors)


Colin & Deb are real troopers, hamming it up with the PAL photographer, Norm, and myself…. and even playing a quick round of Scrabble just to get in the mood.

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There are still a few individual tickets available for anyone in Toronto who fancies themselves a keen Scrabbler, and there are lots of cool prizes to be won as well as raising funds for PAL.  For more details & to purchase tickets, please Email: info@scrabblewiththestars.ca or visit www.scrabblewiththestars.ca

Monday, May 5th from 6:00pm to 10pm at the Arcadian Loft, (Simpson Tower) Toronto 
Individual Tickets: $175 – Includes dinner & prizes galore …everyone is a winner!

Founded ten years ago by PAL resident VIVIENNE MUHLING, I had the pleasure of chatting with her, asking how Scrabble With the Stars started and how it supports the work done at PAL. I’d like to share that “interview” with you here:

What first inspired you to create Scrabble With the StarsI was brainstorming with our then-President, Nigel Napier-Andrews, about raising funds and awareness for PAL and we discovered Centennial College had a non-celebrity Scrabble-based fundraiser for a children’s charity. I myself am deeply into Scrabble, in fact, I’m a life member of the North American Scrabble Association and play in tournaments around the world.  At 75, I was still working both as a publicist and producer and had celebrity friends to whom I could approach — and it was worth trying!

10 years ago, who were your first celebrity players? David Warrack., Margaret Atwood, Sharon Lois & Bram, Dave Broadfoot, Don Harron, RH Thomson, Michael Burgess, Colin Fox, Paul Soles, Gordon Pinsent, etc

Why is it important to support the event? It’s The Performing Arts Lodges, Toronto,  only annual fundraising event and helps PAL to fulfill its mandate of “caring for our own” – these being all manner of aging and needful performing arts professionals.

How do the funds raised help PAL? In earlier years, the funds raised helped PAL hire and pay a professional Health Care worker who works in our “Supporting Cast ” department and helps needful seniors find the services they need, and helps our volunteers to also help those who need trips to doctors, etc.  For the last few years, we’ve been focused on raising funds essential to build or renovate a nearby building where PAL’s aging and ailing residents can receive extended care without having to move away from the friends who share their common interests and life’s work.

How have your sponsors helped drive Scrabble With the Stars to success?  Centennial College brought a Scotiabank executive as their table guest in our 2nd year. This executive was so enamoured by being able to rub shoulders with celebrities she admired that she was happy to bring the bank on board in year three. Their support has grown every year – they supply volunteers on the night, and the executive is always there to offer advice when we ask her for assistance. ACTRA Fraternal Benefits Society has been a sponsor from day 1 and has been very helpful in leading us to other major sponsors.

Anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge? There are so many…Jayne Eastwood, who told me that she and Gordon Pinsent painted and suggested we hold a celebrity art silent auction along with the Scrabble which has proven to be very successful. Marilyn Lightstone, who donates her art work and helps us reach interested journalists in the Zoomer media family; PAL Vice President Dan Lyon who vets sponsor prospect lists for us; my Toronto Scrabble Club pal Heather McCall who has been a hardworking committee member since day 1; John Chew, the celebrated international Scrabble Tournament Director who donates his skills to Scrabble With the Stars each year – I could go on……

Are you already planning next year’s event? We always have a wrap up committee get-together soon after each year’s event where we exchange notes of what went well, what needs improving or a new approach, and we will consider those notes at our first meeting for SWTS 2015 in early September this year.

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