Doreen Brownstone Feature Film

Perk Update!

This post is of especial interest to all you fabulous people who supported our IndieGoGo (or post-indiegogo) campaign: our t-shirts have arrived and they look fabulous!

We will be rolling out the perks in the next couple of weeks, including delivering shirts and magnets.

We will also be unveiling our new Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular website (which will, among other things host the “Insider’s Knowledge” blog).

Thanks to all for your patience and especially for your support!



I am a huge admirer of Jim Henson’s, and I want to share a quote of his which really speaks to me.  It is excerpted from notes written in 1986 for an unpublished anthology “The Courage of Conviction”. I first read these notes in “Jim Henson: The Works (The Art, The Magic, The Imagination)”, published by Random House in 1993.


 “At some point in my life I decided, rightly or wrongly, that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about—acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold war, etc.—so what I should do is concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect.

I believe that we can use television and film to be an influence for good; that we can help to shape the thoughts of children and adults in a positive way. As it has turned out, I’m very proud of some of the work we’ve done, and I think we can do many more good things.

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here.

It’s a wonderful life and I love it.” Jim Henson, 1986.

My great admiration for Henson and the Muppets is often understood as a love of puppetry in general—but the truth is it’s much more specific (and non-puppet related) than that. I have an admiration for the incredible collaboration, teamwork and hard work that gave us early Sesame Street.  And I have a special admiration for the spirit of the man who wrote those notes. He’s who I want to be when I grow up.

The influence of Henson, and Sesame Street, can sometimes be seen directly in my work (such as my plays written for children, or my  educational videos), but it is always there, even (or perhaps especially!) when it isn’t obvious.

‘concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect’ is excellent advice, that can be applied to any project close to your heart:

▪       If you believe talented 91 year olds should have interesting work available to them, and not enough people seem to have gotten the memo, create that work yourself!

▪       If there are colleagues you want to work with, and the opportunities to do so aren’t falling into your lap, create that opportunity yourself!

There will always be difficulties, and harshness and unpleasantness in the world. There will always be things we can’t fix. But there is also always some opportunity to use our energy to make something better, something good.

“It’s a wonderful life. And I love it.”


Watch Rowlf the Dog (Henson) sing “What a Wonderful World” to a cocker spaniel puppy. (from season 2 of The Muppet Show)

Henson & Rowlf on Jimmy Dean Set 1964

After Indiegogo

It’s now been 23 days since the end of the Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the “Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular”.

This was our first ever foray into crowdfunding, and in the 40 days of the campaign, which took us over Christmas, the end of the deadline-for-tax-deductible-charities, and the credit-cards-are-now-due-for both those things season (the very worst time of the year to run a crowdfunding campaign, studies have shown), we raised over $16,000.  We also learned a lot, and amassed followers through Indiegogo, Facebook and Twitter,

As I have written previously, the goal of any crowdfunding campaign is twofold: certainly to raise funds, but just as importantly to raise awareness of, interest about, and participation in the project.

Since the campaign ended, we have continued getting requests from people who wanted to donate but could no longer do so through Indiegogo.

Indiegogo was an invaluable tool for us to set up the campaign and reach people we would not have otherwise. But just because that campaign is over does not mean that your chance to participate in the project with us is!

So, we have set up a donation page right here on our website.  Click here to get to it (you can also access it through the front page).  You can donate on line, or by cheque as you prefer.

Please check it out, and send us any feedback through the comments section, or by emailing this address. We’d love to hear from you.

Stefanie (and Angus)

Stefanie discusses The Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular on the Radio

Stefanie was on the radio yesterday (Tuesday, January 21, 2014) discussing The Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular.  In case you missed it, you can listen here:

Part One (5:30):

Part Two (2:15):

Thank you to Ismaila Alfa and everyone at CBC Radio.  Please do not send your lawyers to beat us up for sharing this…

To help support this worthy cause, click the link below.

Crowdfunding Fun Facts (Doreen and Me part 5)

For several days now, I have been trying to write a blog post about crowdfunding: why I think it’s a good match for The Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular, and what I like about it in general.

But, it is slowly turning into a blogpost about procrastination, and worse yet, one that mirrors its content in its process (ie: I keep procrastinating finishing it).

So, I find myself with the original version of that post, and instead, I’m going to celebrate day 20—the  ½ way mark of our 40 day Indiegogo campaign—by listing 20 interesting facts about crowdfunding that I’ve learned in preparing and/or running this campaign, or that people have brought up to me in messages or conversation.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. You don’t need to subscribe to Indiegogo, to follow and/or donate to a campaign.
  2. To get updates from the campaign sent directly to your e-mail address, click on the pink star (or the word “follow”)  below the pitch video.  You will then get any campaign updates e-mailed directly to you.
  3. You can contribute as little as $1 at a time.
  4. Donating a small amount of money does make a difference: the number of donors contributes to a campaign’s gogofactor.
  5. Gogofactor? Yes. Indiegogo uses an algorithm ( “gogofactor”) that tracks the amount of activity a campaign generates: and the more activity a campaign generates, the more visible the campaign becomes on Indiegogo, and the more donations from ‘strangers’ are likely to come in: think of it as your donation potentially spawning more donations.
  6. Thanks to “gogofactor”, you can help The Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular with no money at all in a number of ways:
  7. Simply commenting on the Indiegogo campaign will help our gogofactor
  8. Sharing or referring people to the campaign using one of the sharetools on the indiegogo page itself will also help our gogofactor.
  9. The total number of page visits a campaign receives also affects the gogofactor.

10. Moving away from gogofactor—if you have an Indiegogo profile, you get credit for every person who visits a campaign page because of your referral. Should you ever wish to run your own campaign, this is a good thing.

11. If you didn’t select a perk and wish you had, just get in touch with us through a direct message or private comment, and we’ll make the adjustment.

12. You can upgrade your perk for The Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular campaign by making an additional donation (again—just send us a private message after the donation; it won’t show up on the page, but as long as you use the same e-mail address, it will all get we will add up the total amount you donated(this can vary from campaign to campaign, but this is how we’re doing it here at DBFS!).

13.  You can keep the amount you donate private (only you and the campaign owners will know), or not. It’s your choice.

14. You can keep your name/identity anonymous, or use whatever moniker you like.

15. If you have an Indiegogo profile (which you can create free of charge), you have even more options, and can change your visibility status at any time.

16. You can donate as many times as you want.

17. You can even donate in someone else’s name: you could make several donations in the name of each of your kids, for instance.

18. Crowdfunding isn’t just about raising money: it’s also about raising awareness and hopefully sparking excitement about our project. Once the campaign is over, the Indiegogo page will stay up, and we will continue to provide updates throughout all the stages of the film.

19. “Crowd’ is the secret to crowdfunding: our campaign is nowhere without you and the other fabulous spctacular supporters. Thanks for reading all the way to the end—If there are things you’re curious about in regards to our campaign, we’d love to hear from you!

20. Having started this post on a procrastinatory note, it seems fitting to point out that it’s important to let people know the time limited nature of your campaign; it will end, and often sooner than we think.  The Doreen Brownstone Film Spectacular, for instance, is ending on January 26th, 2014.

20 days to go folks! You’ll be hearing from me again…unless I’m quietly procrastinating…


Meaningful Occupation (Doreen and Me, Part 4)

The start of a new calendar year leads many of us to reflect on what we’ve been doing, and what we want to be doing. It’s a chance to check in with ourselves about what is important to us, and whether we are on the path to doing more of what is meaningful, and wasting less time on what is not.

As an occupational therapist (OT) I believe that us human beings need/are driven to engage in the occupations* that are important to us in order for life to be its most meaningful and joyful (*occupations in the sense of activities, ‘things that occupy our time’).

Actually doing things is incredibly important to the concept each of us has of ourselves as a person.  The joyful “I DID it!” of a small child mastering doing up a zipper or putting on shoes is the distilled essence of the importance “doing” things has for most of us.

Spending time with Doreen Brownstone frequently leads me to reflect on the power of meaningful occupation.  I can’t help but see a link between her health and vitality at 91, and the fact that she makes a point of engaging in meaningful occupations every day: she bakes and knits for friends and acquaintances; she cooks for herself; does all the other activities she needs to do to run her household; she occasionally throws fabulous teas and coffee mornings; and, when she gets the opportunity to, she acts.

Acting is a meaningful occupation to Doreen, but she doesn’t let it (or lack of opportunity to do “it”) to define her; if she doesn’t have the opportunity to act, Doreen picks herself up and carries on with what she wants or needs to do; what will make her feel useful and alive.

Undoubtedly Doreen has her down moments: even 91 year old dynamos are human, after all. But her perseverance is remarkable and constantly inspires me: to do more; to engage in more productive, meaningful activities; and, of course, to pursue The Doreen Brownstone Feature Film Spectacular project.  This is a great example, actually, of how an activity can become meaningful depending on the context. Raising money is not, on its own, something that I would ever describe as a meaningful occupation; however, making it possible for us to make a film starring Doreen—a movie that will be fun and delightful, and preserve her joy in performance on video forever—well, that’s a meaningful occupation.

I’ll be blogging again tomorrow. In the meantime, check out our Indiegogo campaign page if you haven’t had a chance yet (click on any of this blue part for the link).

IGG Doreen image

There are only 24 days left in the campaign (!!).  There are more ways to participate than you might think, and participating in what might seem like a very small way has a greater impact than you might guess.

Hey, that sounds like a topic for the next blog post…


PS: Such Creatures opens in Winnipeg tonight–featuring Doreen Brownstone–and runs for only 4 shows (more information here).

PPS: Wondering just what an Occupational Therapist is, or does? I sometimes describe my job as an OT as enabling  people to do the things that they want, need or are expected to be able to do; the curious can find a longer and more graceful definition of OT here, at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists website.

Doreen Right Now: Such Creatures

December 29, 2013

Coming up later this week, Winnipeggers will get the opportunity to see Doreen Brownstone (and Gislina Patterson) perform Judith Thompson’s Such Creatures at the Colin Jackson Theatre.

As you will guess if you read my last blog post, the advice I am inclined to give is “Go see this show”.

However, I went in to that experience (the subject of my last blog post) with no expectations, which undoubtedly formed part of my reaction in that moment.

So, maybe I shouldn’t tell you to see the show. By telling you to see this show, will I inadvertently affect your experience of it negatively?  I have no idea.  But I do want to do my part to get the word out about it; to be on the safe side, I just won’t tell you you’re going to like it.

It’s kind of like I was looking out the window and saw a pair of cardinals.  I would call to anyone else in the house: “Hey, come see this—there’s a cardinal at the bird feeder!” I mean, I don’t see cardinals very often, and they look beautiful against all the white snow.

Now, imagine you are in the house with me. perhaps you have aesthetic dislike for white on red, or you just don’t like birds.  Or you’ve been luckier than me and seen lots of cardinals in your lifetime. It’s all possible.  But maybe you’ll be as excited as I am and come running. In case it’s the latter, I don’t want to deny you the opportunity to see the rare bird by making the mistake of not telling you.

So, the purpose of today’s blog post is to encourage people to go see Such Creatures by sharing useful information about where and when to find it.

I am not producing the show or associated with it: just a fan of some of the principals involved, who wants other fans to have the opportunities I’m lucky enough to know about.

So, I’m telling you: check out Such Creatures this week—4 performances only!

Stefanie (poster and details below)

such creatures-poster


Such Creatures plays at the Colin Jackson Studio Theatre for only four performances:

Thursday, January 2nd at 8 pm,

Friday, January 3rd at 8 pm

Saturday, January 4th at 8 pm

Sunday, January 5th at 2 pm.*

*The final show is at 2:00 pm Sunday. Don’t let that trick you into missing it.


The Colin Jackson Theatre is located in Prairie Theatre Exchange—on the 3rd floor of Portage Place Mall.  It shares the lobby with the PTE mainstage theatre.

When you get to PTE, just walk right into the lobby ‘til you see some friendly welcoming people: tickets will be sold at a table inside the lobby (just outside the doors of the Colin Jackson), not at the PTE box office.


Tickets are only $15, and can be paid for at the door by cash only (there is an ATM in the mall)

You can reserve tickets by e-mailing

Reservations are recommended: who wants to be disappointed at the door?

Parking and Transportation:

There is underground parking at Portage Place.  It’s only $5 most nights, and $7 (I think) on Jets game days.   Take the elevator directly up to the 3rd floor, walk past Imax and turn right.

When it’s this cold and snowy out, an extra $5 or $7 may be worth it. However, there is also free street parking in the area (both in the evenings and on Sunday afternoon); just make sure you read the signs before parking.  I’m pretty sure you can park on a snow route as long as you move your car before midnight (and the show is not much over an hour, so that shouldn’t be a problem).

Other Reasons You should go see this show

  • Such Creatures is being produced by Incompletely Strangled Theatre company, which presented a remarkable production of The Walworth Farce last winter.
  • It’s directed by Arne MacPherson.  Arne has a long track record as a director of creating moving and intelligent shows.  As an audience member, I’ve enjoyed and admired both his acting and directing for years, including The Walworth Farce last year.  Last January I had the pleasure of being directed by him for the first time (in Gallery Works’ Sunday in the Park With George as part of SondheimFest), which only served to increase my admiration.
  • It is the Winnipeg premiere of a play written by Judith Thompson, a governor-general’s award winning playwright.
  • And finally, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s a chance to see Doreen perform. Watching a 91 year old expert practice their craft—in any field—is a rare opportunity, and I don’t want anyone to miss it because they don’t know about it.

Hope to see you there!

Half of SWAK Productions, Stefanie Wiens is a Winnipeg actor, writer, producer, occupational therapist, and fan of independent theatre.  She is currently engaged in her first ever crowdfunding campaign to raise money to create a scripted comedy feature starring Doreen Brownstone (more information here).

Doreen and Me Part 2: the Eureka moment.

On a Saturday afternoon a few years ago I went to Prairie Theatre Exchange to see a reading of Joan MacLeod’s Another Home Invasion (part of PTE’s Carol Shields Festival of New Work).

From the description I’d seen, I knew the play was about an 80ish year old woman, that it probably had something to do with a home invasion, and that it was going to be read by Doreen Brownstone. I liked Joan MacLeod’s writing, and I liked Doreen Brownstone’s acting, so I thought I’d go.

There was an armchair and a rug and I think some kind of a coffee table on the set.   Doreen walked out and sat in the arm chair; Bob Metcalfe introduced things, and sat down off to the side. Perhaps the lights changed. And then it started.

I was so utterly taken in that I didn’t even notice it was being read, and by the end, I was crying. Hard.  As a general rule, I have a harder time getting completely immersed in a reading than I do in a full production. But, as they say, exceptions prove the rule.  As is often the case with theatre, it wasn’t a single thing, but a number of elements coming together that turned this reading into a seminal moment for me.

The first was the play itself. I will resist the urge to synopsize the plot, or say much about it at all: if you want to read a well-written, pretty spoiler-free description, you can do so here (it is published, and I own a copy—I bought mine at McNally Robinson).

The second element was the production/performance.  Doreen’s reading was so simple, so absolutely perfect.  Part of the magic was that she wasn’t playing age, she was just playing the role. But the biggest part of the magic was that Doreen is just a really damned fine actor. And what struck me that day was that she seemed to just be getting better and better.  And why not—she keeps racking up life experiences, and performing experience—there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be continuing to get better, right? And yet just how excellent her performance was surprised me, which brings me to the third element: me.

The themes of the play resonated extremely closely with me because of my work as, and what you could call my world view as, an occupational therapist. The excellence of Doreen’s performance filled my actor-self with admiration, and transported my audience-self into Jean (the character)’s living room for the hour of the show, and also spoke to everything I believe in as an OT (the topic for another blog post, perhaps).

I left the theatre thinking and feeling a lot of things but the one that overrode the others, and has ultimately come to inform what I’ve chosen to spend my time on for the last few years, is that Doreen Brownstone is an excellent actor, and I wanted there to be more opportunities for audiences to see her, and for people like me to get to work with her.

So, that was the more recent beginning of this project.

It is also why my next blog post is going to be about a fabulous opportunity to see Doreen perform, which is coming up in less than a week, for only four performances, which I think anyone in Winnipeg should take the opportunity to see.

More about that later this weekend.


Comments? Questions? Thoughts? Please post them below–I’d love to hear them!

Doreen Brownstone and Me: the deep background

When I first thought of writing a blog about the Doreen Brownstone scripted feature project, I figured the first post after the launch of the Indiegogo campaign should be about how the idea for the project started.  I generally think of it as having begun at a reading I attended four or so years ago…but then I realized that wasn’t really right.

The beginning was really over 20 years ago.  The summer of 1993 was full of exciting firsts for me including (but not limited to): I had just finished my first year of university; I had gotten accepted into the School of Med Rehab (Occupational Therapy) to start in the fall; I was cast in my first fringe show; and as if that wasn’t fabulous (I’d say “awesome”, but it was 1993, so we didn’t use that word that way yet) enough, I was also cast in my first ever Rainbow Stage show: Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Tibor Feheregyhazi. Things were definitely coming up Stefanie.

I was part of the non-Equity chorus, but it was a professional show—my first—and, for a starry-eyed 18 year old, the whole thing was a pretty exciting big deal.

I was in the Mamas’ chorus and I had a few lines, and a tiny solo at the beginning of “The Rumour” (I could still sing it for you if you’d like), which meant I was speaking directly to Yente, Yente! A real character in the play! (exclamation marks belong to the starry-eyed-18-yr-old me).  And Yente was, of course, played by Doreen Brownstone.

What I really remember about Doreen from that show is how genuinely nice she was to me: inclusive, collegial and kind. The fact that I was just in the chorus, or that I was just 18 and had never done this before did not seem to affect how she treated me. As the English might say, “there was no side to her”.

She invited me to come into her dressing room to visit, which I did more than once.  Those visits form my strongest memories of Doreen.  I remember that I learned she had come to Winnipeg as a war bride, and that we talked about Great Britain: Leeds, Yorkshire where she grew up, and St. Andrew’s Scotland where I had recently lived.

After that show, it was about 10 years before Doreen and I crossed paths again but, I realize in retrospect, the memory of her behaviour towards me informed how my then nascent understanding of how a professional could, and should, behave, and formed part of the standard I try to live up to.

And, now that I’ve stopped to think about it, I realize that Doreen’s experienced, inclusive collegiality 20 years ago has not only informed who I am today, and undoubtedly planted the seed of wanting to work directly with Doreen again, which ultimately led us here.

So, that’s the deep, deep background.  In my next post I’ll talk about the more recent ‘beginning’ of the project; unless, of course, I get side tracked onto something else.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the project, check out the video for our Indiegogo campaign, posted below, or available by following this link