Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blog: Theatre Night Fever, October 30, 2011

Judge Dee and The Haunted Garden
October 30, 2011
by Howard Dai

For the past week leading up to Halloween, I’m volunteering for Seven Tyrants Theatre in Vancouver, for this Halloween site-specific production named “Judge Dee and The Haunted Garden”, re-written from the famous Judge Dee series by Robert van Gulik. We transformed Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden in Chinatown to make it look haunted-house-like, but instead it’s a haunted garden. The show features nearly 30 actors, dancers, and musicians, with an awesome site and amazing soundscape.  Arguably it's the best Halloween theatre this year in Vancouver.

The Abominable Showman, October 30, 2011

Another party in another place: The Bolshoi

To honour and respect
The Theatre du Nouveau Monde’s dumbfounding (emphasis on “dumb”) dismissal of women in this season’s “L’Affaire Cantat” proves the TNM is no Bolshoi Theatre
by Richard Burnett

There is no getting around the fact that “L’Affaire Cantat” continues to tarnish the current 60th anniversary season of the Theatre du Nouveau Monde and, had I been in charge of the TNM, heads would have rolled.

To recap, when the TNM announced its 60th season, it included Des Femmes, a trilogy of tragedies by Sophocles directed by playwright Wajdi Mouawad. That ignited an international firestorm (the production was to be performed at dozens of theatres in Europe as well as at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa) because Des Femmes featured Bertrand Cantat, a loathsome rock star who spent four years in jail for the 2003 “murder with indirect intent” of his girlfriend, the French actress Marie Trintignant.

Moreover, the trilogy of plays by Sophocles is about women and violence.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

First-Person: Vanessa Porteous on The Penlopiad

(Clockwise from top): Meg Roe, Laara Sadiq, Rachel Aberle, Ming Hudson, 
Sarah Donald in the Arts Club Theatre Company's production of
The Penelopiad. Photo by David Cooper.

a world of echoes, shadows
A second shot at a beloved play
by Vanessa Porteous

It’s better to hear a play than to read it. I knew of The Penelopiad, which premiered in an international co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Arts Centre in 2007. But when I attended a workshop of the piece at Nightwood Theatre’s Director’s Summit in Toronto in November 2009, that’s when I knew I wanted to do it. I walked out into the late afternoon sun on Queen Street, thinking ‘Why can’t we do a play like that?’ Then it occurred to me: I was Artistic Director at Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary, in the midst of planning the first season fully programmed by me. With some imagination, some cash, and some nerve, we could. So in September 2010, we did a Calgary production.

I knew immediately, right then on Queen Street, whom I wanted to play Penelope: Vancouver-based actor Meg Roe. Meg and I had worked together several times before, and I feel she is one of the most talented, creative, powerful and charismatic actors in the country.

Review: (Ottawa) Whispering Pines

A whisper of humanity
World premiere fails to move
by Jim Murchison

There is an added air of anticipation on the opening night of a World Premiere. You can feel equal amounts of excitement and anxiety in the air. Everyone is hoping for a new masterpiece; a hit that will turn the theatre community on its ear. Unfortunately we didn’t get that last night.

Review: (Toronto) Super-Villains

(Photo Credit: Ivona Nowak and Iwan Mota)

Against the Grain Theatre’s Super-Villains: Wicked Fun
You may have missed this show, but you mustn't miss the next
by Émilie Charlebois

As a graduate student who lives a 20 minute walk from school, any extended amount of time spent on transit feels like precious minutes that could be spent avoiding course readings. So as I made my way to AtG’s Super-Villains, all I could think was “wow, if I’m going this far West, it better be worth it” (I live in Chinatown and I was going to Junction). And it was so, SO worth it. Not only was the performance set in an antique furniture shop, there was free candy and comic books! But it wasn’t only the cool venue and awesome freebies that blew me away: the show itself was spectacular. 

Theatre For Thought, October 29, 2011

Until this week, Whedon’s legion of fans were salivating over the recently released preview for The Avengers...
joel fishbane

This being a theatre column, I don’t usually get to talk about Joss Whedon, which is a shame, since he’s one of my favourite artists. Unfortunately (at least for me) he’s working in film and TV, which means that I don’t get to bring him up in theatrical conversations. I’m sure Joss knows this and I’m equally sure that this is why he just finished shooting a film version of Much Ado About Nothing. 

Joss Whedon, for those not in the know, isn’t the most obvious person for the hardy Shakespeare fan to rally behind. He’s better known as the creative force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, four television shows known for the mashing of genres and the defiance of a single label that TV execs find remotely comfortable. The Cult of Joss is widespread across the world, not the least because of his characteristic writing style and his self-imposed mandate to create strong, unconventional female characters – in 2006 he was even honoured at an Equity Now benefit devoted to championing men who promote gender equality. He’s also revealed himself to be a fan of musical theatre, composing a musical episode of Buffy and the score for the award-winning Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, one of the best musicals written in the last ten years.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Shakespeare Authorship: Keir Cutler Responds to Joel Fishbane

[Editor: Keir Cutler sent us this article in response to Joel Fishbane's Theatre For Thought of October 22]

The True Story of Shakespeare
The Stratford-upon-Avon billion dollar tourist industry is perhaps the main reason there is such unwillingness to even look at the evidence that Shakespeare did not write his famous works.
By Keir Cutler

The movie Anonymous with its theme that “Shakespeare was a fraud” opens this week and it is bound to renew interest in the Shakespeare Authorship Question.  Those like myself who question who wrote the great works will be viciously condemned, showered with insults and labeled as elitists, fools, conspiracy theorists or worse, as in the case of Joel Fishbane of The Charlebois Post, compared to Nazis and eugenicists (Shakespeare and the other 99%).  The one thing you will not hear from the defenders of the orthodoxy is the true story.  So here it is.

The Friday Five, October 28, 2011

File under: Top Secret (filed under Bottom Secret).
by Matt Raudsepp of Matt and Kyle and Matt

Theatre was invented by an alien race
Long ago, just prior to the time the great pyramids were built, an alien race settled on Earth. While they had publicly enslaved us to build massive monuments to their gods, they had secretly come here to create an ancient-times “reality show” for their weekend entertainment. These aliens watched us in our newly built slave-homes behind the veil of an invisible “fourth wall”. Human interpreters were present in the alien viewing rooms to translate or expand upon things said or done by the unsuspecting ”performers”, and as such, developed an eye for the drama of human existence. Theatre was born.

CharPo's Real Theatre!, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blog: Critical Condition, October 27, 2011

Blog: Theatre Night Fever, October 27, 2011

David French and the Mercers
by Howard Dai

A month ago, I asked one of my theatre friends for a good dramatic monologue for me, he told me without any hesitation – “Go read ‘Of the Fields, Lately’ by David French.” I’ve heard about David French, and how awesome his plays are, but I’d never had a chance to actually read one. So last week, I finally spent time going to Vancouver Public Library and got the famous Mercer family plays in a book. I started from the first Mercer family play – Leaving Home, from the first few pages it already caught my interest, and I just couldn’t stop reading it. The contrasting characters make the conflict between them so breathtaking. I just started reading the second Mercer play – Of the Fields, Lately, which has the monologue that my friend suggested, and let me say, this play also shines on its own! Now I just really want to see this play live in theatre...

CPC's Picture of the Week, October 27, 2011

All the drama of Ibsen's Ghosts in Sian Richards
terrific production shot. At Soulpepper.
(Joseph Ziegler, foreground, and Nancy
Palk and Gregory Prest)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: (Montreal) Chaque jour

l-r Marie Tifo, Vincent-Guillaume Otis,
Anne-Élisabeth Bossé
(Photo credit: Suzanne O'Neill)

One less character, and you might have had brilliance
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I always liked what was shown at La Licorne. I just never liked La Licorne. When you went into the bar/theatre, back when, you almost felt like you had to duck as the ceiling was so low and during shows the lighting system was searingly obvious. It took great plays and great actors to make you forget the space and, for the most part, La Licorne had those. Now, in a their shiny-as-a-new-penny house you gotcher welcoming bar and atrium, generous main and studio spaces, and even a second floor terrace. You get to just enjoy the play now instead of fearing actors will brain themselves on a stage-light.

Review: (Ottawa) Salt Water Moon

Holly Gauthier-Frankel and Jamie Mac (Photo: Andrée Lanthier

Return to Coley's Point
David French goes home
by Jim Murchison

There is a saying that “you can’t go back home”. That may be true in some circles, but I think that a truer statement for Atlantic Canadians, is that you can never truly leave home (notice I didn’t say maritime Canadians). How else can you explain writers like David French?  He was born in Newfoundland before it was part of Confederation.  His mother brought him to Toronto after World War II. Yet what he will always be most known for is his intimate stories of the lives of characters from Coley’s Point, Newfoundland. 

Report From Alberta

West is East and East is West, and Sometimes in Alberta
There’s not much happening in the Canadian theatre scene that doesn’t happen in Alberta.  
by Anne Nothof

Borders are blurring, Canadian plays are migrating, and in Edmonton Alberta, new arrivals are on centre stage.  Although fewer plays are being developed in-house, the repertoire range is wider, the offerings more diverse.  There’s not much happening in the Canadian theatre scene that doesn’t happen in Alberta.  

Edmonton’s Northern Light Theatre opened its 2011-12 season with Heroine, a tale of two women pirates by Karen Bassett, who is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Heroine is an action-filled feminist work set in the early 1700s, which features two women imprisoned in a Jamaica cell and condemned to be hanged.  It is based on the lives of Irish-American pirate, Ann Bonny, and British cavalry officer, Mary Read, who disguised herself as a man and fell in love with her commanding officer before her capture by pirates and decision to defect. Barry fights for independence and excitement, and Read for glory and honour, and they are ready to defend their very different values with their swords. Both also courageously resist the limitations imposed on them by a repressive society. Playwright Bassett acted Mary Read in the premiere production at BusStop Theatre 2010, a role which requires strong fighting skills, and a great deal of stamina. The Northern Light Theatre production (September 16-24, 2011), directed by Trevor Schmidt,  featured Lora Brovold and Natascha Girgis, both of whom demonstrated extraordinary prowess in swordfighting and acting.

Review: (Montreal) En Français Comme en Anglais, It's Easy to Criticize

It’s easy to criticize; it’s harder to do something about it.
National Theatre School celebrates 50 by getting together  
by David Sklar

NTS’ (National Theatre School of Canada) 50th anniversary is coming to an end.  After a year of showcases and promoting itself and its students, the party will come to an end next week with the reunion and Homecoming Cabaret. This week however, the third year graduating class is presenting, En Francais Comme En Anglais, It’s Easy to Criticize. It is hard to believe that this show is the first time both the English and French departments are working together on the same piece. A collaborative effort molded together from three earlier works by Jacob Wren and updated for the 21st century. The piece is designed to explore the place of theatre in the future and what, if any. impact it can still have on us.

CPC's Video of the Week, October 26, 2011

Okay, we're sorry: we've been holding onto this video for months
and we know it's nowhere near the opening but we just
like the images from this show so much - War Horse - coming to Toronto, 
via Mirvish, in February

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

News: (Toronto) Soulpepper announces 2012 season

Albert Schultz announced the new year's productions, this morning, for Soulpepper. Among the highlights of 2012 at the venerable Toronto rep house are the actors' dreamplay, Long Day's Journey Into Night, to be directed by Diana Leblanc for February. The warhorse ensemble work You Can't Take It With You arrives in April and the haunting David Storey work, Home comes in May.

See the company announcement.

After Dark, October 25, 2011

The Sickness of Home
It's everywhere and it's killing the culture
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Forgive me if I go Québécois on you for a moment (and Gay into the bargain).

My significant other and I watch a lot of French-language television (read: Radio-Canada). What this means is that we began the television season with an orgy of televisual self-congratulation on the network's 75th anniversary and endless hours of "The Way We Were." Okay, I get it - we were all there with the live plays, the badly-produced soaps, the awful wigs and costumes and weird film colouration and I don't mind a dip into the waters of the past from time to time. (I explained to the SO that my past was Chez Hélène, Friendly Giant, Mr. Dressup and Ed Sullivan.) 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Openings We're Tracking This Week, October 24-30, 2011

Lettice & Lovage with Heather Goodall (left) and 
Malorie Mandolidis (right). Photo by John McQueen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blog: Critical Condition, October 23, 2011

October 23, 2011
Starting up

by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I have been a critic for almost as long as I've been a theatre person. The main difference was that when I was 15 and writing for the Quebec Chronicle Telegraph (reviewing for the free tickets) I usally didn't feel like barfing before the play started. Stage fright (terror?) has been my constant companion since those same days. In highschool I appeared in a production of  Sorry, Wrong Number as the murderer and at the end just as I was meant to stab Christine Taylor to death, I felt the bile rise.  I fought it by hurling myself, instead, onto Christine's bed and stabbing away at her pillow with a butterknife. (It looked rather real in half-light.) I got my first review too when Richard Malone, in the audience, bellowed, "Kill the bitch, Charlebois! Yeah, man!"

The Abominable Showman, October 23, 2011

La Cattrall (Photo: Hugo Glendenning)

Photo of Louis Negin and Liliane Burnett - by Richard Bunrett

Glamour girls
Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Joan Collins, Kim Cattrall  (and even my mom) on the art of staging a head-turning entrance
By Richard Burnett

I absolutely worship a fabulous diva who owns – no, commands – a stage the moment all eyes are on her. It happened to me again this past week when I decided to check out the still-beautiful Kim Cattrall star in Noel Coward’s Private Lives opposite another Canadian actor, the still-handsome Paul Gross.

The Thread, October 23, 2011

The Thread

Occupy Wallstreet, Occupy Broadway, Occupy Stratford, Occupy the COC, Occupy the Canada Council. Theatre people, like it or not, are in the 99% - how do we advance our cause? Discuss.

(You might want to listen to episode 12 of This Is The CPC which throws some ideas out there.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blog: Theatrum, October 22, 2011

by Mark Leiren-Young 
(Reprinted with permission

Not long after Never Shoot a Stampede Queen was published, one-man-show sensation TJ Dawe called. He wanted to know if I was interested in adapting the book for the stage. After we met I discovered that he'd read the script for a production of an earlier incarnation of my crazy Cariboo tales that my friend Kennedy Goodkey (co-writer and star of The Beast of Bottomless Lake) performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. TJ had never forgotten the script or the stories and he wondered if I'd take another shot at a stage version.


Review: (Montreal) Coma Unplugged

Glenda Braganza and Éloi ArchamBaudoin

Into The Head of Another
A bizarre journey reveals truth about real life and imagination
by Estelle Rosen

What would we see if we were Daniel Martin (Éloi ArchamBaudoin)  living a life inside a coma?  At times he encounters people from his life, other times people who are figments of his imagination. Daniel is at a crisis point, questioning his values. 

Theatre For Thought, October 22, 2011

...the canon is a symbol for the ultimate possibilities of artistic thought and for the universality of the human condition.
joel fishbane

Hate laws are being re-examined in this country, but I’m going to come out and say it: I hate the movie Anonymous and I don’t care that I haven’t seen it. The film, which opens October 28, is to the movies what Keir Cutler’s  Teaching Hamlet was to the Montreal Fringe: a story that springs from the perpetual and irritating Shakespeare authorship debate. As if Shakespeare’s work wasn’t abused enough, now its very parenthood is being called in question, which is sort of like discussing whether Alexander the Great lied on his entrance exam to the Greek army. Even if you could prove it, which you can’t, it amounts to little more then a historical footnote. Attributing authorship would be a valiant task if there were any descendants left to sue for royalties: since there are not, discussing who “really” wrote Shakespeare’s plays is nothing but a parlour game for intellects. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

News: Finalists announced for Quebec Critics Awards

Review: (Toronto) The Normal Heart

l-r Jeff Miller and Jonathan Wilson (Photo credit: John Karastamatis)

Bring Tissues
“…it’s not a civil right issue, it’s a contagion issue.”
 by Beat Rice

The Normal Heart is one powerful play. The semi-autobiographical play takes place in New York when a strange virus without a name begins to take lives in the Gay community. The play premiered in 1985, essentially the time in which the story takes place. It is disturbingly surreal to watch this in the year 2011 and know how much of an epidemic it has become, still with no cure, and how, as one of the characters says in the piece, “…it’s not a civil right issue, it’s a contagion issue.” The play touches on the frustrations of politics, relationships, and wanting and needing to be heard. 

The Friday Five, October 21, 2011

For an actor, looking out into the audience during a performance can be perilous. You do not want your eyes to suddenly happen upon the wrong person, an unwelcome acquaintance, a confused or unenthused face. That’s why, over the years, I’ve learned to slightly unfocus my eyes, glazing them over, but without looking completely dead inside. Still, the wrong audience member can easily throw off even a seasoned actor like myself. 
by Matt G of Matt and Kyle and Matt

CharPo's Real Theatre!, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

After Dark, October 18, 2011

How long are theatre artists going to tolerate an underclass in the underclass
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

My old leftist heart has been beating a little faster, these last weeks, from the joy at seeing that the Occupy Wallstreet movement is holding on. I have learned through other movements (notably the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s) that it is all about time: the longer it goes, the stronger it grows, with more people rallying to the cause. Yes, right now, that cause seems vague but at its source is this very clear message: there is an underclass which is being crushed by poverty, debt and unemployment and the mega-rich are profiting from this with the utter complicity of governments.
Now let's make this a wee bit more personal.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Abominable Showman, October 16, 2011

The king of pop fizz
The Cirque du Soleil’s new one-act  show Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour cashes in on a legend
by Richard Burnett

I was reminded with all the hoopla over the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray and the world premiere in Montreal of The Cirque du Soleil’s one-act show Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, that Michael Jackson’s face was whiter and tighter than my ass.

Call me blasé, call me jaded, call me an insensitve jerk. But let me remind you all that in the recent wall-to-wall coverage of everything Michael Jackson that it was the King of Pop who first crowned himself the King of Pop. Jackson invented his own moniker and then demanded he be referred to as such in every media interview he granted.

The Thread, October 16, 2011

The Thread

Something is wrong with the Governor General's Awards for drama. Frank Moher, in an editorial this week, put his finger on all the problems. We'd like to add our comment: the GG winners are often quite nice on the page, but too paper-bound to reach audiences beyond the library. So...How do we fix the GGs? Discuss.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: (Montreal) The Little Prince

First-Person: Dan Bray on Vile Passéist

Just Another Renaissance: Vile Passéist’s Theatre of the Obscure
by Dan Bray

The first thing anyone asks me when they hear about my theatre company is always the same: why is is called “Vile Passéist Theatre”? 

Sebastien Labelle as Hippolito and Matthew Peach as Vindice in The Revenger’s Tragedy
(2011, dir. Dan Bray) Photo by Clare Waqué.

Theatre For Thought, October 15, 2011

Politicians, murderers and feminists all have something to offer
joel fishbane

Artists should always keep their ears open for advice from unlikely sources, lest their development becomes dependent on the same cotillion of friends, colleagues and kindly aunts. I’d suggest giving the critics the benefit of the doubt, but for most artists admitting that a critic might be right is a lot like someone on Fox News admitting the folks occupying wall street might have a point: it seems to go against something in the blood. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Friday Five, October 14, 2011

Five Comments Actors Love To Hear After a Performance
Just saw someone you know perform in a play? Struggling to think of something to say about it? Well turn that struggle upside down into a smile, because I'm coming to your rescue with five foolproof comments that will leave the recipient thinking, "Wow, this person's comment was so good that they should consider writing an article about how to talk to actors after shows and then post it on the internet."
by Kyle Gatehouse of Matt and Kyle and Matt

CharPo's Real Theatre!, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: (Montreal) Hyena Subpoena

Cat Kidd (Photo credit: Tristan Brand)

Cat's Play
Exploring new territory
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Full disclosure: I have only seen Cat Kidd's work on YouTube. However there was a chorus of people, in and around CharPo, who told me that it was time I changed that. Kidd, I was told, was a force of nature and her work absolutely unqualifiable. What egged me a little bit more was the fact that her new work, Hyena Subpoena, is helmed by Alison Darcy - an actor/director whose career I have been following from the start and who has an almost unerring theatrical intelligence.

Opinion: Frank Moher on the Governor General's Award

What the GGs are, aren't and could (should) be
The problem is that the GG is a book award.
By Frank Moher (Reprinted from Back Of The Book with permission)

The Governor General’s Award finalists were announced on Tuesday and, as usual, I looked at the drama list and sighed. Not because I wasn’t on it -- I didn't have anything eligible -- but because I was reminded once again that we don’t have a proper playwriting award in this country.

Now, let me hasten to say that I congratulate those who've been nominated and am happy for them. I've been a finalist for the English-language Drama Award myself, and it's a fine thing. It's a welcome reward after all those hours at the computer and in rehearsal, it's a great PR boost, and it may even change your life a little bit.

The problem is that the GG is a book award. The only plays eligible for it are ones that have found their way into print in the previous 13 months. That means it's chosen from a relatively small pool of contenders, especially as compared with the books in other categories. This year, publishers submitted 230 books in the English-language fiction category, 215 in non-fiction, and 170 in poetry. In drama? 39. The numbers are similar in the French-language categories: 173 in fiction, 104 in poetry, 69 in non-fiction, 22 in drama.

CPC's Picture of the Week, October 13, 2011

Conrad John Schuck, John Rubinstein & Cast of 
MTC's Grumpy Old Men: The Musical (Photo by Leif Norman)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breaking News: Canada Council announces Governor General's Awards finalists

See the complete list.

First-Person: Andrew Zadel on Closer

Looking Closer
when a choice of a play should have been obvious
by Andrew Zadel

No matter how starkly obvious it seems to me now, the decision to mount Patrick Marber's Closer was not made overnight. I read dozens of scripts, as did Lydia Zadel, the co-artistic director of Chesterfield Productions, and Inka Malovic, a young Bosnian actress who trained at the Lee Strasberg Film and Theater Institute in New York. We made lists, had meetings, debated over spicy Thai food, made shorter lists, and had meetings in which previously shortened lists were made long again.