Monday, December 31, 2012

CharPo-Canada's Photo of the Year, 2012

Sometimes a theatre photo is just right, as is this one from Bruce Monk. It is for MTC's Next to Normal with Jonathan Cullen and Steffi DiDomenicantonio and it captures perfectly that moment - that exquisite moment - before the kiss. Moreover, the colours are perfect (the subdued palette with the very subtle flash of red in the running shoes), the lighting frames (without being "theatrical"). It is the essence not only of theatre promotional photography but of the art itself. [Each of our principal sites - CharPo-Montreal and CharPo-Toronto - will be presenting their photo of the year today. Tomorrow we will be presenting THE photo of the year for all sites.]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

CharPo-Canada's Pictures of the Year, 2012, Runners-Up

From December 22-28 we will be presenting the best photos of the year at CharPo-Toronto, CharPo-Montreal and CharPo-Canada (different photos on each site so check them all out). On December 29 we will announce the finalists for the first CharPR Prize (for best PR) including best photographers. On December 30, 2 runner-up photos will be presented on each site (separate from finalists). On December 31 the best photo of the year for each site will be presented. On January 1 the single Photo of The Year will be announced. Finally, on January 2, the CharPR winners will be announced including best photographer, best PR (small, medium, large and indy). 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nominations: CharPR Prize, 2012

Nominations: CharPR Prize, 2012

The Charlebois Post is in a unique position in the Canadian cultural landscape. First, we are small, so there are only about five of us who have direct contact with publicists at the various companies we deal with. Secondly, with reviewers in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Quebec City, we are in almost continual contact with companies large and small, and because we publish articles about and from many companies outside of those centres, we have a fairly large reach. This is why we decided to create the CharPR Prize (pronounced Sharper).

It would be unfair to say that the PR of some companies makes the PR at others shine all the brighter. But it would be absolutely fair to say that the companies nominated below represent the best for reasons very specific to new media. You won't find any companies among the noms, for instance, who ask new media outlets like CharPo to prove and reprove their credentials every step of the way. You will also find no companies who have been reticent to put us in contact with their artistic directors, managers, technicians or artists. All of them understand the value not just of working with CharPo but - ask around - with new media in general. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

CharPo-Canada's Pictures of the Year, 2012, Finalists

From December 22-25 we will be presenting the best photos of the year at CharPo-Toronto, CharPo-Montreal and CharPo-Canada (different photos on each site so check them all out). On December 26 we will announce the finalists for the first CharPR Prize (for best PR) including best photographers. On December 30, 2 runner-up photos will be presented on each site (separate from finalists). On December 31 the best photo of the year for each site will be presented (separate from finalists and runners-up). On January 1 the single Photo of The Year (all sites included) will be announced. Finally, on January 2, the CharPR winners will be announced including best photographer, best PR (small, medium, large and indie). Two special awards will be announced at that time as well.

Monday, December 24, 2012

J. Kelly Nestruck: A Personal Top-Ten

(photo credit: Catherine Farquharson,

Top ten theatre productions of 2012: A personal list
This end-of-year list-making season, for the Globe and Mail, I put together an idiosyncratic top ten - strangest circus act, biggest Broadway bust, etc - and an article about the theatre newsmakers of 2012 (boards behaving badly). 
But a few folks have asked me: OK, but what were your favourite shows of the year?  So, here, on my semi-defunct personal blog, a personal list that includes shows I saw while off duty.
NB: In 2012, I saw theatre in Chicago, New York, Avignon, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Stratford, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Gananoque, Winnipeg, Calgary and Fredericton - but I spent most of my year in Toronto, so that's why it's so Torontocentric.
1. Maybe if You Choreograph Me, You'll Feel Better - at SummerWorks in Toronto
"Who is really in control when a woman says to a man: Tell me what to do, tell me what you want?" 
2. The Iceman Cometh - at Goodman Theatre in Chicago
I never got around to writing a review, but here's the Chicago Trib's rave. O'Neill is the greatest American playwright, and this is his greatest play. At least that's what I felt certain was the case when I came out of director Robert Falls' five-hour-ish, operatic production of The Iceman Cometh. The ensemble was to die for and included Brian Dennehy, Nathan Lane and the Stratford Festival's Stephen Ouimette (as if they own him; he is a natural resource owned by us all). Best of all was John Douglas Thompson as Joe Mott. Google just told me JDT is Canadian-American and grew up in Montreal - we gotta get him back here PRONTO.
3. The Matchmaker at the Stratford Festival
Happiest night at the theatre this year. Didn't sell super well, probably a bad idea to program in the Festival Theatre - I don't give a darn; so much joy.

CharPo-Canada's Pictures of the Year, 2012, Finalists

From December 22-25 we will be presenting the best photos of the year at CharPo-Toronto, CharPo-Montreal and CharPo-Canada (different photos on each site so check them all out). On December 26 we will announce the finalists for the first CharPR Prize (for best PR) including best photographers. On December 30, 2 runner-up photos will be presented on each site (separate from finalists). On December 31 the best photo of the year for each site will be presented (separate from finalists and runners-up). On January 1 the single Photo of The Year (all sites included) will be announced. Finally, on January 2, the CharPR winners will be announced including best photographer, best PR (small, medium, large and indie). Two special awards will be announced at that time as well.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

CharPo-Canada Pictures of the Year, 2012, Finalists

From December 22-25 we will be presenting the best photos of the year at CharPo-Toronto, CharPo-Montreal and CharPo-Canada (different photos on each site so check them all out). On December 26 we will announce the finalists for the first CharPR Prize (for best PR) including best photographers. On December 30, 2 runner-up photos will be presented on each site (separate from finalists). On December 31 the best photo of the year for each site will be presented (separate from finalists and runners-up). On January 1 the single Photo of The Year (all sites included) will be announced. Finally, on January 2, the CharPR winners will be announced including best photographer, best PR (small, medium, large and indie). Two special awards will be announced at that time as well.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

CharPo-Canada Pictures of the Year, 2012 Finalists

From December 22-25 we will be presenting the best photos of the year at CharPo-Toronto, CharPo-Montreal and CharPo-Canada (different photos on each site so check them all out). On December 26 we will announce the finalists for the first CharPR Prize (for best PR) including best photographers. On December 30, 2 runner-up photos will be presented on each site (separate from finalists). On December 31 the best photo of the year for each site will be presented (separate from finalists and runners-up). On January 1 the single Photo of The Year (all sites included) will be announced. Finally, on January 2, the CharPR winners will be announced including best photographer, best PR (small, medium, large and indie). Two special awards will be announced at that time as well.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Abominable Showman, December 21, 2012

Chip off the old block
Onetime child actor and two-time Tony-Award nominee Joel Blum pays homage to his own showbiz roots as he co-stars in the upcoming Billy Elliott the Musical tour across Canada
By Richard Burnett

It’s like veteran Broadway actor Joel Blum has come full circle: The onetime child actor is now the grizzled mentor for all the kids co-starring in the touring production of the hit West End and Broadway musical Billy Elliot.

“I grew up in a showbiz family,” says two-time Tony-Award nominee Joel Blum. “My father was 45 years old when I was born [in 1952] so he was actually around during Vaudeville! He and his sister were street kids who went to a dance every Friday night and they were so good they decided to put on an act together, like lots of kids did back then. 

Multi-Media, December 21, 2012

Mourning becomes electric
An original cast album haunts
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

There was a time when original Broadway cast albums actually made it into the top ten on the hit parade. I suspect it had much to do with the quality of the music and the fact that composers and lyricists like Lerner and Loewe and Rogers and Hammerstein worked hard to imprint on the audience and, as well, organized a production to have one or two show stoppers. It was no joke that shows were written so that people left humming the tunes. This was all, of course, before the Beatles, when songs from My Fair Lady, for instance, were played on the radio and were showcased on must-see-TV like The Ed Sullivan Show. 

When I was a kid we had a lot of these albums in the house. Fair Lady was one, Camelot, West Side Story. You didn't need to see the musical. They were not souvenirs of a visit to Times Square. They were both stand-alone and a passport to an imagined place. As I got older I became a collector of cast albums for so many shows I never saw and would never see (so much Sondheim). Many of them have no hummable tunes to speak of (as lovely as it is, I think immediately of Sondheim's Passion). However it's been a long time since I've bought a cast album (Lion King may have been the last one). Then, this summer, I watched the Tonys and for the first time in a very long time was hypnotized by a piece from one show: Once. It stood out from all the drek among this year's nominees. (Newsies? Really?)

CharPo's Real Theatre, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Picture of the Week, December 20, 2012

Bernard Cuffling in David Cooper's magnificent portrait for Arts Club's It’s a Wonderful Life. Cooper's work always has style, shows a piercing eye and still - as you see here - finds the essence of theatre (humanity).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Video of the Week, December 19, 2012

Canadians have a lot invested in Les Misérables, the mega-musical. We have had productions at regional houses all over the country, but we also nurtured full-blown productions of the piece in Toronto and Montreal (in French and in English!). We want the movie to be good! (Critics are already weighing in - but you'll get to see it for yourself December 25). Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the film which explains the unique way the vocal music was recorded - gone are the days of the slightly odd (and off-sync) My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. This is, they claim, an acted musical.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

After Dark, December 18, 2012

Lucky '13
Moving ahead by looking back
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

There are goin' to be some big fuckin' changes around here!

That is the battle cry at The Charlebois Post, ltd., as we slide into our third year of life. But as we face our futures we look back at the past and try to make sense of it. That is a puzzle for the ages, dear friends.

One of the things we've done is try to figure out what draws eyes to these websites. We do that quite simply by checking out the stats for which articles, each day, draw the most readers. It didn't take long for us to realize that one thing that pleases readers are reviews. It's tempting to write raves all the time because then the production house receiving the praise will tweet and FB the heck out of the review and sometimes, even - jackpot! - quote a rave in their online and print ads. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sunday Read: Interview - Alisa Palmer, Artistic Director National Theatre School (English)

(photo credit: David Cooper)

Feeding the Young
Alisa Palmer prepares new theatre people for a new world
by Rebecca Ugolini
As she leads me up a narrow flight of stairs in the National Theatre School (NTS) and into an office where we chat a little before the interview starts, I learn a few facts about Alisa Palmer that no amount of research could have revealed. The award-winning director, dramaturge, playwright and artistic director is already well-known to The Charlebois Post readers for her diverse repertoire and devotion to women’s theatre companies such as Nightwood Theatre. In-person, Palmer is humble, funny, and welcoming. And as her schedule at the NTS will attest—the receptionist told me Palmer was in a meeting before I arrived, and Palmer herself said she had another lined up afterward—she is busy, busy, busy. That’s because Palmer is set to take over as the school’s Artistic Director in January of 2013. I sat down with her to discuss her new role as Artistic Director, her relationship to young artists, and the future of Montreal theatre. 
CHARPO: So you’ve directed and taught at schools across Canada. What do you hope to bring to the NTS as Artistic Director?
PALMER: I think the really unique opportunity with the NTS is that it’s a conservatory and all the aspects of theatre are under one roof—and it’s bilingual. So there is more than one culture, and more than one area of specialty in theatre. So just as I do a lot of different types of theatre, I’d like to synthesize and take the most of all the different resources of the fields that are here and get a synergy of the place, get the most out of all of them by weaving them together, in a kind of coherent pedagogy.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Miracle on 34th Street

(from the company website)

Christmas with a Raving Sentimentalist
by Jim Murchison 

Plosive productions annual Christmas radio play at The Gladstone this year is Miracle on 34th Street. It has been adapted by John Cook in collaboration with Teri Loretto-Valentik and director Nicole Milne from the original story by Valentine Davies. Of course the advantage to this type of presentation is that you get to use mostly the same set every year, although tucked downstage left this year was a cozy little room where Poppa played by Bob Lackey and grandson Jake played by Ben Blacklock added some ambiance and modern context. It's a nice touch since so many of us have shared the film experience of this tale with family.

First of all I have to disclose that I am a raving sentimentalist. I have some favourite films that I watch at Christmas: A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life and of course Miracle on 34th Street. What works best for me in theatre is when your own imagination creates the magic. Film can pull out all the bells and whistles if need be, but few theatre companies can afford to create incredible live effects. For the most part, happily it is the audience's suspension of disbelief and their own imaginations manipulated by cast and crew that create the finishing effect. You simply have to believe. That's how it is with theatre, books, radio and also with Christmas.

Theatre For Thought, December 15, 2012

Or What to Get the Struggling Actor in Your Life
joel fishbane

Snow is falling, carollers are singing and cities everywhere are a-glow with lights. The politically correct people of the world are wandering around with “Happy Holidays” on their lips, but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s Christmas-time and everyone knows it. And whether you're giving someone Hanukah gelt, Kwanza contributions, or winter solstice souvenirs, chances are you’re wandering through the stores with your hand on your wallet.

So without further ado, here’s six suggestions for theatrical gifts for the performer in your life who doesn’t have everything…

6. Headshots
All actors need new headshots all the time. This is an expensive fact of life for the busy artist – so why not help them out? Find out who their favourite photographer is and surreptitiously get a gift certificate – they’ll thank you, I guarantee it!

5. Food
Artists are physically incapable of turning down a free meal. So now’s the time to take them out for dinner or, better yet, cook them one of your own. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Multi-Media, December 14, 2012

Sunset Boulevard: From Screen to Stage
We move in for a close-up (beware of spoilers!)
by Stuart Munro

I was quite young the first time I sat and listened to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s musical adaptation of Sunset Boulevard. I confess, I didn’t get it – by the time the finale came around and Glenn Close proclaimed “And now, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up!,” all I could think was “Man, how clichéd is this?!” What I’d failed to realize (at 15 years old) was that this classic line had its origins in the film on which the musical is based (which, in my own defense, I’d never heard of). In the intervening 16 years, Webber’s music has grown on me, easily becoming one of my favourite scores by him; and I’ve also seen the film a handful of times, it too becoming a favourite. But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to see the film on the big screen a few months ago that I really began to consider the strengths and peculiarities of its stage adaptation.

Sunset Boulevard tells the story of Norma Desmond, a once famous silent film star who has since faded into obscurity. After a young, handsome screenwriter (Joe Gillis) mistakenly wanders into her home, she reveals her plan to make a “return” to the screen via her own adaptation of the story of Salomé. She falls in love with Joe and (spoilers), in the film’s dramatic climax, shoots him in a jealous rage as he walks out on her. The musical follows the film almost exactly with no significant plot changes. Webber is not the first person to have attempted transforming Sunset into a musical – the film’s original star, Gloria Swanson, spearheaded a musical entitled Sunset! That gave Joe a happy ending, and even Stephen Sondheim tried his hand at it, until Billy Wilder, the film’s director, told Sondheim it should be an opera.

CharPo's Real Theatre! December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Picture of the Week, December 13, 2012

Coming in January, and already on the verge of selling out, is the mystical, must-hear Tristan und Isolde at COC. The images coming to us from this import from Europe give even greater cause for excitement. (This is a video still by Bill Viola)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Video of the Week, December 12, 2012

fu-GEN, the Toronto-based company, has launched its tenth season. The Asian-Canadian theatre company presented this terrific video to give you a feel for the celebration. (And, we don't want to boast, but it was created by our own Jasmine Chen and Jaded Media...)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

After Dark, December 11, 2012

Dirty Work
Lessons we've learned and here comes The CharPR Prize!
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I love it when old movies have terrific quotes. In Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Bette Davis, playing the crazy Charlotte, bellows at her elegant cousin, played by Olivia de Havilland, "Let me see, what is it you call your job? Oh yes: Public Relations. Sounds like something pretty dirty to me."

Well, it is dirty. It's a dirty job. It is setting the foundation of a show, keeping the plumbing clean and making sure that the company's next show gets eyes on it. It is the job of making sure critics and directors and actors don't go to war. It is one of the most important - if not THE most important job- linked to every production and it is the one thing small companies think they can do without. And they learn the hard way...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Sunday Read: Sue Edworthy on Emerging companies and marketing

Pretend It’s Going to Print
by Sue Edworthy
Sue Edworthy Arts Planning offers Marketing + Communications + Planning – For Your Art. This is what my business card says I do. What I actually do doesn’t quite fit on a business card – what I actually do is the current culmination of nearly 20 years of working in not for profit arts and culture, all disciplines, all areas, but with a firm focus on marketing for your show or arts organization. I work with organizations from an independent artist putting up her first gallery show, to small arts orgs working their way towards operational standing, to government run arts orgs. I run (market?) the gamut.
In case you were wondering what else I do when I am doing that, I am Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Toronto Fringe Festival; Arts Advocacy Committee; Artsvote Toronto; Dora Jury, Harold Award recipient, ACCA member. I see a lot of plays, I see a lot of movies, I read a ton of books, I am what I call a “city enthusiast” and I talk to anyone who will listen about the amazing art and artists in our city and the impact all of this has in making Toronto an amazing place to live. I did a 12 hour art marathon earlier this year to prove it could be done.
That is some of what else I do. You may be wondering why this matters, but I’m telling you about it because it really kind of shows that I am fully immersed in the arts community in Toronto, and that MarComm for the arts is something I literally love to do. Some friends give me a time limit to talk about it, as I could go on for hours. I’m the type that gets mad when you mute the commercials, because I want to see them.
CharPo asked me to write an article on me and my company, and “what you see as marketing mistakes on the part of emerging companies”. And my first thought was, “where do I begin?” – Not in a snarky way, but in a “which ones should I talk about that would be most effective to hear about?”

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Theatre For Thought, December 8, 2012

joel fishbane

Raised on a literary pedestal, hailed as the greatest playwright that ever lived, poor William Shakespeare has long been a victim of his own reputation. Traditionally seen as the domain of the theatrical elite, it usually takes a gimmick or a radical re-interpretation of the text to get the average audience involved in his work. Last year, the Stratford Festival shoved Seanna McKenna into the title role of Richard III while down in New York, audiences can still see Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s site-specific, immersive re-telling of Macbeth. 

Now, for those who don’t fancy a night in the theatre, there’s a new adaptation in town: To Be Or Not to Be: That is the Adventure, a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet by Canadian comic book writer Ryan North.

The idea is as simple as it is brilliant: readers can opt to be Hamlet, Ophelia or the ghost of Hamlet’s father and then follow that character through the story (Yes, Hamlet’s father dies right away and, as a ghost, you are tasked with solving your own murder). While readers can follow the same choices as Shakespeare’s counterparts, there is plenty of leg room to change everyone’s fate. “You can battle pirates or invent indoor heating or both,” says North on the video found on his fundraising page at Each storyline is written by North, who founded Dinosaur Comics and co-edited the bestselling short story anthology Machine of Death

Friday, December 7, 2012

CharPo's Real Theatre, December 7, 2012

Multi-Media, December 7, 2012

Three Stand-ups, Three Flame-outs

Comedy stars miss, miss and miss
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Why can't everyone be like Louis CK. I have every one of his recordings and there is not a one that disappoints. I can say the same thing for Patton Oswalt. But for others of my favourite stand-ups (John Mulaney, Kathleen Madigan, Ryan Stout, Amy Schumer) you have to be prepared for disappointment and three recent discs from three comics who previously thrilled are - frankly - awful. 

Demetri Martin, Standup Comedian v. These Are Jokes
Martin begins Standup Comedian with a pretty good comment on the venue, "The best rooms for comedy are the ones that would be worst in a fire." However, that's pretty much as good as it gets. Compared to his previous outing, These Are Jokes, this is insanely weak material. Martin peaks somewhere 10 minutes in with a bit on the electronic gadgets in public washrooms, but - insisting on the title (Standup Comedian) - he eschews the quirky things that made him a star on his TV show, Important Things, and with Jokes (strange songs, drawings, jokes with musical scores). This is a mistake. Martin, for lack of a better term, is a hybrid prop comic. Compared to the worst (Gallagher and Carrot Top) he is incredibly subdued and that is his strength; jokes slip in. On the previous disc he does a song about Sames and Opposites that is doggedly goofy until the memorable: "Saying I'm sorry and I apologize are the same - except at a funeral." There is nothing memorable about Comedian. This could all signal Martin is tired of comedy. His acting career is solid (he was quite fine in the lead role in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock) and many of his roles are dramatic so that may explain the lack of timing here. Whatever the case, there is no tragedy if Martin is moving on. We are not talking about a standup who is iconic, but we are talking about one who worked outside the box and those are rare.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Production Diary: Andrew Cuk on Three Witches

Production Diary Written on the Eve of Opening Night
by Andrew Cuk
6 December 2011

5 December 2012
Tomorrow night we open.

29 July
First night that my anxiety woke me up at three in the morning. What was I thinking? A devised theatre piece based on Macbeth with a group of third year acting, design and technical students in the Professional Theatre program at John Abbott College. Am I crazy? I’ll have three weeks to improv and devise a  90- minute non-linear script, but most of the decisions about cast and production must be made by the beginning of the school term in August. Whose idea was this? Oh yeah, mine. Good thinking, Andy.

29 August
The night before my first meeting with the set and costume designer. No script. My colleagues tease me by asking how’s the script going. There is no script. It’s a “devised” piece. It will be written with the actors. The student designers are worried. No script. How can they design a set and costumes for 21 actors with no script? They will hang on every word I say. They want me to have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. No script. Still waking up almost every night in a panic.

29 October
Set and costume design presentation and the first day of rehearsal. We have a set design and maquette. Costume renditions for 33 characters and 12 theatrical masks. A preliminary props list. Three songs written by Montreal composer Janet Warrington. And a structure of 13 scenes. How appropriate for a play entitled Three Witches...13. No script.

The Picture of the Week, December 6, 2012

It's never too early to plan for the new year's theatre outings and this is one that we plead with you to see. If you do not know the haunting, troubling, musical kick of Assassins, you do not know the evolution of the modern musical. Susan Benoit's photo features some of the characters of the show who all want to kill a president. MTC is presenting the piece as part of a festival of the works of Stephen Sondheim, a modern creator who truly deserves a festival. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Video of The Week, December 5, 2012

It's hard to beat a cast so clearly connecting with their material.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

After Dark, December 4, 2012

The Terrible Twos
We celebrate and look to the future
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

On November 30, The Charlebois Post celebrated its second anniversary. Since Estelle Rosen and I launched a little local blog in Montreal, we have grown to three active websites, two in test stage and probably a sixth and seventh to come. We have 30 regular contributors (reviewers, profile writers, interviewers), over 100 artists and theatre people who have contributed to the sites, and have published thousands of items. Each day our sites receive hundreds of visitors and over a thousand pages are viewed. 

And we at CharPo are all, to a person, volunteers. Some of us have contributed money to cover the expenses and all have worked hard to keep the sites hopping with activity. 

Now we are exploring options for expansion and as we do are trying to take into account the kindness of our contributors and to reward them. The reason for this is simple: most of our writers are or have become some of the finest commentators and theatre writers in the country and we'd like to hang on to them. I have already had several of them ask me to write references for them and although I am exuberant in my praise, I am heart-broken to see them move on.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sunday Read: First-Person - Keith Waterfield on Follies

Holly Gauthier-Frankel

How to Enter Vaudeville
by Keith Waterfield

“Let’s fuck and make art.” Those words solidified the relationship between Alain Mercieca and me a year ago. We first met at Theatre Ste Catherine (TSC to the inner circle types) at one of the hundreds of wrap parties for one of the hundreds of shows that the theatre puts on throughout the year. Alain, the artistic director, head-mopper and chief booze slinger at TSC and I had an instant repertoire that caused never-ending chortles of laughter from anyone within an earshot of our jibber-jabber. It became clear that we had to take our wit to the stage, to share it with anyone who would pay and thus we formed the neo-vaudevillian comedy partnership known throughout the Montréal fringe comedy circuit as Genius Gold. As a stand-up comedian I am used to working alone: artistic solitary confinement is a comfort and I thought it would be a difficult transition – relying on people is not something I am prepared to do. Throughout the year of “grinding” out shows, videos and sketches I have learned to share the stage and perhaps have become a little less self-absorbed. Alain’s head also takes up more stage space than my entire body. Our shtick onstage reminded me of classic vaudeville acts:  anarchy most of the time, carefully thought out. The variety shows we were involved in at TSC (like DeAnne Smith’s Freedom Nation or Mr McStevie’s Merry Good Time) got me thinking about an actual vaudeville variety program – an evening set in nostalgia.  It would be neo-vaudeville, it would be a punk rock cabaret, and it would feature the greatest talents in Montreal and beyond, to showcase their rare and sensational gifts.

First-Person: Matthew Gorman on Cart/Horse

Matthew Gorman in Rum and Vodka

Actor, Audience, Story is the tag line we’ve chosen to define our mandate.
by Matthew Gorman
(all photos by Scott Gorman)

We’re a very old fashioned theatre company made up of very old fashioned people. We have very simple tastes, and unfortunately, simple tastes are the hardest to satisfy. When you’ve had the best scotch in the world, it’s hard to get that flavour to leave your memory. As soon as you catch a hint of that smell your mouth waters as you remember not just the taste, but the experience of having that glass. You remember the people you were with, the coziness of the pub, the conversations. When I think of the best plays I’ve ever seen, I think of the whole night, I remember the atmosphere, the collective experience. I remember the story I was told, that feeling that comes from being invited into someone’s life for an evening.

This is what I wanted to create with Cart/Horse.

The plays we’ve chosen to produce have all been deceptively simple. A simple setting or premise. But there’s always much more going on once you enter the room. Like that cozy pub, once you’re inside you get to see the people around you for what they really are, with nothing hidden.

Actor, Audience, Story is the tag line we’ve chosen to define our mandate. Challenge the actor, trust them with difficult material and push them to invest in the work. Invite the audience in, talk to them, not at them. The audience is part of the company, not its customers. Tell a good story, don’t sugarcoat and don’t hide away from difficult truths.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) The Number 14

Sarah Rodgers, Scott Walters (Photo Credit: David Cooper)

The Wheels on The Bus
by Jim Murchison 

There is a vintage 1959 bus sitting outside the GCTC. The lobby is filled with memorabilia. Video and artwork of Chris Brown and Stuart Kinmond represents the history of city bus travel in the Fritzi gallery. That is the big hint that The Number 14 is about a bus. It is one weird, wacked out bus.

If you can remember the craziest bus ride you ever took and then magnify it and multiply it by a thousand, then you kind of have an idea of what The Number 14 is all about. It is Cirque du Soleil on acid on a bus. It is not a play as much as an experience. It has been going on for 20 years since it was first developed by Vancouver’s Axis Theatre. Director Wayne Specht was part of the original company that developed the show and he directs it with precision. It is essential when you have six actors that have to create the illusion of braking and accelerating on a completely stationary stage.

Theatre For Thought, December 1, 2012

joel fishbane

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A Producer, a Marketer and a Quantitive Analyst walk into a bar. “I want to produce a hit show,” says the Producer. “No problem,” says the Marketer. “We just need to take a known product that appeals to children while touching the nostalgia lurking within all middle class adults.” The Quant promptly crunches some numbers. “You’ve got a choice,” she says. “You can produce a musical based on Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz.” The Producer thinks about it. “Musicals based on Alice in Wonderland have never worked,” he says. “And best of all, The Wizard of Oz is already written.”

Flash forward a few months and we have Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of the famous 1939 MGM musical of what happens when a girl from Kansas realizes she’s definitely not in Kansas anymore. The show hits Toronto in a few weeks and while I’m usually pretty open-minded when it comes to theatre, I’m having trouble finding anything redeeming to say about this production. At the risk of hyperbole, it strikes me as the greatest evil to appear on stage since Mephistopheles first graced us in the inaugural production of Faust. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Santaland Diaries

Ryan Neil (photo credit: Tim Matheson)

When Santa is spelled S-A-T-A-N
by Chris Lane

Santaland Diaries certainly isn't your typically heart-warming Christmas yarn. Based on a short story by David Sedaris, it stays true to his politically-incorrect style of dark humour and social commentary.

The original is an autobiographical short story about Sedaris's experience as an elf in Santaland at a bustling Macy's in New York City. The story is filled with tales of screaming children, overbearing parents and the ridiculous and sometimes vile antics of harried shoppers in the lead-up to Christmas.

Multi-Media, November 30, 2012

(Garth Drabinsky, from the TIFF website)

Stop the Show, I Want To Get Off!
It's very hard not to be ambivalent about Show Stopper
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

There are those who like Garth Drabinsky, the theatre and cinema mogul convicted of fraud, and there are those who hate Garth Drabinsky. Representatives of both groups are interviewed for Barry Avrich's documentary, Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky. However, how you feel about both subject and film may have much to do with your own leanings towards praise or dislike of the documentary itself.

As a dyed-in-the-wool pinko, I saw the downfall of the showman as just another case of a gross, capitalist crook getting less than his just deserts. That he hung about with Connie (the Con) Black made him just that little bit grosser and seem that little bit more crooked. Morevoer, until he produced two grand masterpieces (Show Boat and Ragtime), I thought he was just another money-grubbing weasel who didn't know art from his arsehole; his movies (The Silent Partner, Tribute, The Changeling) stank, his hand in making cinema like TV (oh! God the multi-plex) and some of his bloated early shows (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera, Kiss of the Spider Woman) just made me dislike him all the more.

CharPo's Real Theatre! November 20, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Footloose

Fancy Free!
by Jim Murchison 

Last week was a busy week for theatre in Ottawa. So much so, that I did not have an opportunity to review Footloose until Tuesday evening. The play is an adaptation of the intensely popular film screenplay of the 80’s starring Kevin Bacon and written by Dean Pitchford. Pitchford and Walter Bobbie adapted the screenplay for the stage.

My seat was in row H and so I ventured down the aisle getting ever closer to the stage. As I reached row J, I stepped down two more positions and found myself at row G. That’s when it hit me! There is no I in the theatre. Actually there are lots of them. There are 42 people in this production. It makes Pride and Prejudice look like an intimate family gathering. The credit for making this production a true ensemble has to go to the dedicated production team headed by artistic director Shaun Toohey, but equally important is the musical direction of Wendy Berkelaar who also plays keyboards in the 8 piece orchestra and the choreography of Gabe Wolinsky. It is a huge task to move and motivate a group that large and mostly not possible for professional companies to undertake because of the expense. 

Review: (Calgary) Jack Goes Boating

Swimming in Life
by Joe Vermeulen

[Please note that this review is based on a preview performance.]

It is a cold New York winter, and Jack has just met the love of his life. Connie is everything he has been looking for in a woman. There is just one problem though, Connie wants to go out boating and Jack cannot swim. Jack turns to his best friend Clyde (who set the couple up in the first place) to teach him to swim. Clyde and his wife Lucy are then subjected to Jack learning how to cook a gourmet meal for Connie. Just as the young love is taking flight, Clyde and Lucy’s marriage is imploding.

Garret Ross brings awkward and fumbling Jack to life wonderfully. You feel his awkward nervousness and excitement at his new love. You experience him confronting his fears and growing his own expectations of what he can do. Ross’s chemistry with the rest of the cast is palpable and the stage relationships became completely believable. 

Picture of the Week, November 29, 2012

So...snow, eh. Perhaps a little White Christmas: The Musical to get us through...
(Monique Lund and Todd Talbot at The Arts Club; Photo by David Cooper)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: (Winnipeg) Miracle on South Division Street

Stefanie Wiens (by Bruce Monk)

The Unseen Statue 
by Edgar Governo

Miracles are always just around the corner. They happened to someone we used to know, they're sure to save us from this mess, they're going to change the world according to the prophecies in our holy text of choice. Somehow, though, the reality always turns out to be something other than we expected.

Families and cities, like individuals, can end up clinging to this idea of the miracle—something that surely happened in the past or will happen in the future, without ever happening right now. The Polish-American Nowak family in Miracle on South Division Street rests their whole sense of identity on their Catholic faith in general and on the tale of a past family miracle in particular, only to have both fall apart when confronted with reality. All around them, the city of Buffalo is also slowly deteriorating, losing whatever sense of miraculous promise originally brought immigrants like the Nowaks there in the first place.

Video of The Week, November 28, 2012

Loucho, a very small circus, captures a good deal of its magic in this delightful video, filmed on the Montreal métro. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

After Dark, November 27, 2012

Lemons, Lemonade and The Sour Taste That Stays
Dutchman hangs around for a bit
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I have invited the contributors at CharPo to, when the mood strikes them, write what we are going to call "Reconsidered". The idea is that, after thinking about it, many people will revise opinions about a work of art. We come out of a play with friends, we go to a café, and over the carrot cake we parse what we have just seen. The others put ideas into our head, we into theirs and then - hours, days, weeks later - we are hit by a new idea about the show. Those ideas remain largely unexpressed. However, I feel they form the foundations of future considerations not just of the piece seen but of the art itself.

The "Reconsidered" pieces will not be, "I thought it was shit, but now I think it's great!" - though that's okay too. It will be along the lines of a comment a colleague made last year when he was considering his top ten for the end of the year. He said that the plays that he was remembering for his list were, more often than not, the ones he had not raved about.