Tuesday, January 31, 2012

After Dark, January 31, 2012

Playwriting for Today's Canada
How should artists create when there is no money?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I was 13 my father gave me a Brother portable typewriter for Christmas. On New Year's day, following, I spent the entire day on the machine writing my first full-length play: A Time For Madness. A woman is alone, her husband and two friends have escaped from prison and hole up at her place. Somehow it turns into a bloodbath with woman covered in her husbands blood and - like Lucia di Lammermoor (opera influenced by early writings - she does a long-ass mad scene. The only thing it had going for it was that it was a small cast and one set - cheap to produce. My next full-length play would have required 40 actors, was about six hours long and had a similarly pretentious title: A Life in Damascus. I dreamed as I wrote it, almost certainly aware it would never be done as we descended into a recession.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Abominable Showman, January 29, 2012

Where the COC goes to play
(Photo: Tim Griffith, courtesy COC)
Tale of Two Cities
L’Opera de Montreal’s premiere of Il Trovatore the same day Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company premiered Tosca highlighted some striking differences – and similarities – between Canada’s two leading opera companies
by Richard Burnett
(Photo courtesy Place des Arts)
I’ve been writing about opera and interviewing opera stars for about a decade now, though I still don’t consider myself an opera expert by any stretch of the imagination. So I learnt a lot by attending two operas last week, the opening performance of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Puccini’s masterpiece Tosca at Toronto’s gorgeous Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and L’Opera de Montreal’s solid production of Verdi’s classic Il Trovatore at the venerable Salle Wilfred-Pelletier in Montreal.

The Sunday Read: Caleb McMullen on Closer

I’ve always had an inclination to say yes to impossible tasks.
I had every intention of writing something articulate in some sort of essay format. However, I’m feeling particularly candid tonight. Perhaps it’s the red wine, perhaps it’s the pot. Who can say?
Tonight, being my calm before the storm, I find myself very pensive. My thoughts come in waves about how I got to where I am, producing and directing CLOSER. I started this project during the summer. My best friend Gaby had approached me with the prospect of producing and directing this play. It took three times (perfect comic humour) of hounding me about it, that I finally had to come to a decision, between continuing to live my happy little life or taking on this incredibly daunting task. As you can see, I chose the latter.
This was terrifying for me as I was still coming down from my last project, WOLFBOY. Mind you, that project had ended a year previously. So it was time for me to move on to new endeavours. My work on that project was one of the hardest things I had ever done, and I was reluctant to ever feel that insane again. However, it turns out that ‘feeling insane’ is more of a state of being for me rather than a choice.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Theatre For Thought, January 28, 2012

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: Carmen Aguirre and Blue Box
joel fishbane
Even the briefest of chats with playwright / actor / novelist Carmen Aguirre can be a refreshing experience. “I do not write for personal catharsis,” she told me in an all-too-brief email exchange. “I haven’t been trying to tell my story. I have been telling stories.” 

All her answers are like this: precise and taut, like a fine haiku. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Cruel and Tender

Arsinée Khanjian in Cruel and Tender. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

Atom Egoyan's return to the stage
Cruel and Tender was highly anticipated
by Beat Rice
Last night, the much anticipated production of Cruel and Tender written by Martin Crimp and directed by Atom Egoyan opened to a full, attentive house. The play is a modern drama based on Sophocles tragedy of Trachiniae, where Deianeira, wife of Heracles, waits at home for her husband who is at war. In Crimp’s version Amelia waits for her husband who is a General in a war zone in Africa. She finds out about his atrocities overseas and struggles to come to terms with his motives for destruction. International conflict finds its disturbing way home and into the relationships of the people living in the stark white house. 

Review: (Vancouver) Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

Bree Greig, Veda Hille, J. Cameron Barnett, Selina Martin, Barry Mirochnick, Dmitry Chepovetsky in Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata. Photo by David Cooper.

Another Hit Musical in BC
But is it the next Ride the Cyclone?
by mrAshley
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata is an aptly-titled production that attempts to capture the experience of using the popular classified ads website. The set is a collage of dissimilar, white-washed lamps which could have each been procured from the Free section of the show's namesake, each hanging above the stage or mounted above.

The Friday Five, January 27, 2012

by Matt Raudsepp of Matt and Kyle and Matt
Give someone near you the middle finger
We've all been there before... you arrive at the theatre and run into that acquaintance you secretly despise. You're forced to be pleasant with them before the show begins, making small talk, secretly interior monologuing pure hatred and anger at your misfortune. Well, when the house opens, mark where your "friend" sits down. At the first blackout, stand up in your seat and violently flip the bird at your unassuming target. Do it stealthily and silently, but extremely forcefully for maximum enjoyment.

CharPo's Real Theatre!, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: (Montreal) Phone Whore

Into the Electronic Brothel...
...eyes wide open...
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

The way I have covered the Montreal Fringe is to split the venues up among reviewers; each has to cover everything, for good or ill, at their venue. So I did not get to see one of the hot tickets of last year's edition, Cameryn Moore's solo Slut (r)Evolution. Nor have I seen Phone Whore (which toured - and will be touring - the North American Fringe circuit). When I mentioned into Twitter that PW was coming here this week, the Twittersphere ignited and I was told (nay: ordered) to see it.

Blog: Theatre Night Fever, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012
Not a Good Time
by Howard Dai

It all started on Dec. 6, 2011. While striking after our band concert in Massey Theatre, I fell on one of the risers which left a huge open wound on my left shin. We went to a public clinic a few days after to get a tetanus shot; they gave me some antibiotic and said it would heal in a month. Three weeks later, the wound showed no signs of healing, so we went to the only hospital in my city, and they told me there are some bacteria living on my wound. 

News: (Edmonton) Edmonton Opera announces brave 2012-13 Season

While preparing to mount it's anime-inspired production of the Mikado, next month, the Edmonton Opera took time out to announce its three-work 2012-13 season. It has a delightful blend of popera (Verdi's Aïda) and delightful works which see the light of day more rarely (Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman with its luscious Barcarole).

Review: (Montreal) Il Trovatore

Hiromi Omura (photo credit: Yves Renaud)

Bugs clears the aria
The Remount has arrived
By Richard Burnett
Montreal audiences have been clammering for a remount of  Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) since it was last produced by L’Opéra de Montréal way back in 1998. Even amateur opera fans will recognize many of the songs in Giuseppe Verdi’s classic opera which, since its debut in 1853, has been known as the opera with hits. 
Thus the need for Il Trovatore to be sung by an ensemble of four top-notch leads. So L’Opéra de Montréal evidently spent much of their budget hiring four terrific singers: Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl as the Count di Luna, Italian mezzo Laura Brioli as Azucena, Korean tenor Dongwin Shin as Manrico (and his golden voice really warmed up in the second half), and Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura, making her debut in the role of Leonora.

CPC's Picture of the Week, January 26, 2012

Three Little Maids like you've never seen them
before in the anime-inspired Mikado with
costumes by Deanna Finnman

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CPC's Video of The Week, January 25, 2012

A terrific behind-the-scenes of Soulpepper's latest
hit, Kim's Convenience. Read our review.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Caroline, or Change

Michael Levinson, Arlene Duncan
(Photographer: Joanna Akyol)

Caroline's washing
A blend of fact and fantasy makes Caroline, or Change a winner
by Mary Lea

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Caroline, or Change, is not your typical musical. It is a piece that has the potential to move and inspire. Acting UP Stage Company and Obsidian Theatre Company are two powerhouses. It was a fantastic pairing.  I loved Tony Kushner's writing, Jeanine Tesori's music and the direction that Robert Mcqueen envisioned for this piece. I can’t possibly leave this man out: Reza Jacobs' musical direction was absolutely on point. 

After Dark, January 24, 2012

Artists make choices - should we respect them?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Biz is part of an arch-political rap group in Quebec called Loco Locass whose most popular song, Libérez-nous des Libéraux (Free Us From The Liberals), became an anthem here. Biz participated in a documentary, in 2005, called Star-Apoplexie, a trenchant criticism of another Quebec phenomenon, Star Académie - an American Idolesque talent show. (Many people point to SA as a perfect example of convergence for good or ill - produced by TVA, part of Quebecor, and plugged relentlessly in Quebecor magazines and newspapers with the show's music CDs made and sold by Musicor/Quebecor in its own record stores, Archambault.)


Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: (Quebec City) Thérèse et Pierrette à l'ecole des Saints-Anges

The hidden side of religion: lust, power and more.
Trident offers a solid new adaptation of a Michel Tremblay novel
By Isabelle-Ann Charlebois
Power is the essence of Thérèse et Pierrette à l'École des Saints-Anges, a new adaptation by Serge Denoncourt of Michel Tremblay's novel about primary Catholic school in the 1940s - pre-Quiet Revolution. We can feel it through the trio of Thérèse, Pierrette and Simone and in their environment.  Also, just as the evening’s program states, the seven deadly sins are well represented in Gilles Champagne’s direction.

Review: (Toronto) Tosca

COC offers the Tried and True...and Delivers
Tosca sounds and looks beautiful
by Axel Van Chee

Considered to be one of the most innovative and adventurous of all the opera companies in North America, it is interesting, and refreshing to see the Canadian Opera Company putting up a no-nonsense, traditional Tosca. After all, every opera house needs to balance its budget, and the COC is no exception to the rule. This is especially true with its upcoming, ambitious 2012- 2013 season (you really should check it out if you have not, it is alarmingly delightful), the COC needs all the money it can muster.

Review: (Toronto) Kim's Convenience

Jean Yoon & Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Soulpepper draws from the Academy for Kim
Waiting pays off
by Beat Rice
I cannot recall the last time I was this excited to see a play. While I was in the house I noticed I was sitting forward on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s the fact that I lined up for 2 hours in the sun for the same play during the Fringe festival this Summer and still did not get in to see it. But the last several months have been worth the wait. Ins Choi’s fully realized production tells a story of the Kims; a Korean-Canadian family living in Toronto. Appa, or Mr. Kim, works and owns a convenience store in Regent Park. I don’t want to give away the story but if family and Toronto have a place in your heart, and you want to see something funny and touching, you must see Kim’s Convenience. 

Openings We're Tracking, January 23-29

Camryn Moore

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First-Person: Antoni Cimolino on Enron

(Photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival)

Letter From Calgary
The corporation Enron still casts a shadow on this city.
by Antoni Cimolino

So its the end of week two of rehearsals on Enron at Theatre Calgary. A few quick impressions:

The cast I auditioned here in Calgary last April when I was still in the tech week of Grapes of Wrath in Stratford are terrific. They've worked so hard, quickly and well. We've shared many laughs.

There is a significant amount of movement and some dance in Enron. I've been very fortunate in having Anita Miotti as our Choreographer. She has worked in theatre but also in the modern dance world. One of the things I love about her work is that she is extremely collaborative with the actors. The results I find not only beautiful but advance the story.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Revew: (Toronto) The Golden Dragon

Foreground: Tony Nappo, David Fox; Background: David Yee
(photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)
Sit back and enjoy your meal. 
“Number 6: Thai soup with chicken, coconut milk, Thai ginger, tomatoes, button mushrooms, lemon grass and lemon leaves (hot).” 
by Dave Ross

Exotic dishes from Asia pepper Tarragon Theatre’s production of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon, in its Canadian premiere under the direction of Ross Manson, Artistic Director of Toronto’s Volcano Theatre. The Golden Dragon tells the stories of a number of characters, all of whom live seemingly-disparate lives: a young man from China with no landing papers, two flight attendants, two young lovers, and a neighbouring shopkeep, to name just a few. The common thread that binds these characters together is the “Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurant” and its enticing menu.

Theatre For Thought, January 21, 2012

joel fishbane

A few weeks ago, while most people were braving the Canadian cold, I was across the pond braving the damp chill of Mother England. It was my second time in the Queen’s country and as always I was struck by the giddy joy of the bookworm in the bookshop. London has long been a theatrical culture – even the Changing of the Guard smacks of theatrics – and the West End is both a madhouse and a wonderland. Having grown up in Toronto, I was reminded of my youth, when there were more shows then there were weeks of the year. 

Profile: Soprano Hiromi Omura

(Photo credit: Yves Renaud)

Hiromi Omura is Not Madama Butterfly
By Richard Burnett

There are not many great opera singers who come out of Japan. And fewer who take the opera world by storm. But Hiromi Omura makes opera aficionados swoon.

“I played the violin when I was child – I wanted to be a great violin player,” Omura tells The Charlebois Post. “But I began too late. And then one day I found my voice.”

Omura became Madama Butterfly.

But Japan’s celebrated soprano has been fighting that stereotype ever since.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Blood on the Moon

D'Arcy McGee

Filling In (Well)
Blood on the Moon at GCTC ropes in the audience
by Jim Murchison
The play originally set to open last night was You Fancy Yourself, but due to a serious illness, actress Maja Ardal on Doctor’s advice was forced to withdraw.  The news is that she is responding very well to treatment and the Artistic Director Lise Ann Johnson hopes to bring You Fancy Yourself to GCTC patrons at a later date.
Pierre Brault was asked to step in with his acclaimed solo show, Blood on The Moon and he accepted. The play is about a little known but interesting piece of Canadian History, the trial of James Patrick Whelan, the alleged assassin of Thomas D’arcy McGee.  Canada was less than 1 year old on April 7, 1868 when McGee was slain by a gunman’s bullet in the back of his neck. Many believe that Whelan’s ghost still haunts the streets of Ottawa and it is his ghost that seeks redemption in this play, looking for the fairness he never received in life.

The Friday Five, January 20, 2012

5 Reasons Why There Should Be More Nudity in Montreal Theatre. 
I hardly need to list 5 reasons, do I?  Nudity is a reason in and of itself. This may as well be a Friday One. The reason there should be more nudity in theatre is because it’s nudity, and it’s great. But so as not to break with tradition, here are five other reasons why there should be more nudity in Montreal theatre. 
by Matt G of Matt and Kyle and Matt

1. Actors are beautiful. 
Actors and Actresses are sickeningly beautiful. More beautiful than regular people. And as punishment for being so beautiful they should be naked all the time.  

CharPo's Real Theatre, January 20, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Avenue Q

(from left to right): Mark Willett as Brian, Amelia Hironaka as Christmas Eve, Adam Norrad with Rod,  Adam Proulx with Princeton, Phil Skala and Shannon Dickens with Nicky, Jazz Testoline as Gary Coleman, Kira Hall with Kate Monster (Photo credit: Seanna Kennedy Photography)

Crucial life lessons from cynical puppets on Avenue Q
Today’s review has been brought to you by the letters E and C
by Émilie Charlebois

I have now seen Avenue Q twice and I would most definitely continue to see it, again, and again and again. My first time was during a trip to NYC with friends determined to catch a Broadway show, and Avenue Q was the only one (off Broadway) we could afford. I already had a good feeling due to my not-so-secret love of the Muppets, but was completely blown away by the production. Although I already knew what jokes and gags to expect this time around, the cast at the Lower Ossington Theatre still had me mesmerized and fully entertained from beginning to end.  I remembered how much I enjoyed it, but last night’s performance reminded me how a-m-a-z-i-n-g it is! 

Review: (Montreal) Ars Poetica

Noel Burton, Danielle Desormeaux, Elana Dunkleman

Carry Me Away!
Fundamental concepts of theatre are raised...especially in winter
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

As I trudged through the ice-slush to get to tonight's opening of Arthur Holden's Ars Poetica, I realized I desperately needed a mood change. I didn't need to roar with laughter (I don't even expect comedies to do that - and Holden's piece is billed as a comedy). I needed what theatre does best: take me and those around me away, make me forget the here and now, put me in a head-place where ideas and visions and emotions swirl together.  Sure, a good laugh would be nice too, but all I wanted was theatre that was theatre and not TV, movies, radio or a book...or now.

CPC's Picture of the Week, January 19, 2012

Insights: The Poster Design For Three Sisters
by Rosaura Guzman

The concept for the poster for Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov’s most famous play, arose from our discussions about the broken dreams of these educated women from the privileged classes in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

News: Porgy and Bess director helms new Cirque Show

Diane Paulus, the controversial director of Porgy and Bess, now playing on Broadway, will be taking on the task of bringing themes from Shakespeare's Tempest to the new Cirque du Soleil show Amaluna.

Paulus recently received a lot of ink for "adapting" the Gershwin opera for a Broadway run - notably, criticism came from Stephen Sondheim. However, Paulus also mounted a successful revival of Hair on Broadway in 2009 (winning the Tony for best revival). Ms Paulus is the artistic director of The American Repertory Theatre (where Porgy and Bess was road-tested). (GLC)

Amaluna opens in Montreal April 19, prior to a tour.

News: (Toronto) Canadian Opera Company Launches Exciting 2012-13 season

The COC team pitches the season

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) announced its season earlier today and it promises to be one of the most solid years in the house since the death of Richard Bradshaw and the beginning of the management by Alexander Neef. All are productions which promise to thrill both opera newbies and hardened purists. The season consists of Verdi's Il Trovatore, Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Mozart's La clemenza di Tito, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Richard Strauss's Salome and Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites.

Three Penelopes, Three Approaches

CharPo has lucked into first-person articles by three directors presenting the same work: Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad. Read the articles by director Kelly Thornton (Nightwood Theatre, Toronto)Vanessa Porteous (Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver) and Andrew Cuk (John Abbott College, Montreal) (photo, The Penelopes, l-r: Megan Follows, Nightwood, photo, Robert Popkin; Meg Roe, Arts Club, photo, David Cooper; Melanie Desjardins, John Abbott, photo, Kelly O'Toole)

CPC's Video of The Week, January 18, 2012

It's coming! Stratford's 60th!
AD Des McAnuff and General Director Antoni Cimolino
discuss the upcoming season

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First Person: Kelly Thornton on The Penelopiad

Megan Follows (l) and Bahia Watson (photo credit: Robert Popkin)

Giving Voice to the Voiceless
Staging The Penelopiad 
by Kelly Thornton

As the Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre, it has been an epic journey to produce Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, but as Canada’s premiere feminist theatre, I don’t think there is a more fitting play for our company to have brought to the stage. 
The power of Atwood’s The Penelopiad is that her Penelope, captured in myth as the archetypical woman of virtue, chastely waiting for a long absent husband, is constructed as a wholly contemporary voice. Now with two thousand years of knowledge, of ongoing misrepresentation, of being made a grotesque example, “a stick used to beat other women ” into servitude, comes this outspoken messenger. 

Her voice is potent not only because it reframes The Odyssey, arguably the most popular myth of all time but because it calls into question the “heroic actions” of Odysseus. Rather than validating the existing social order, as myth had traditionally served to do, The Penelopiad dissects the ethics of such actions filtering it through such issues as gender and class. Here Atwood steps out from behind the tall shadow of patriarchal myth-making to “spin a thread of her own”. 

After Dark, January 17, 2012

The Touchy (Feely) Business of Theatre
A recent story makes one question the dynamics of theatre creation
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

A story in the news, here in Montreal, has a lawsuit being initiated against a teacher (of theatre, among other courses) by an ex-student. Sex is involved. Most of the accusations are fairly unpleasant but it boils down to this: a person well-known in local theatre is accused of misusing his authority for purposes of attaining sex.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Red Snow

Zoé Doyle (photo credit: Alex Felipe)

Isabel's Journey
Red Snow provokes, fascinates
by Beat Rice

ALPHA stands for the Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia. Their mission is to educate about what is not taught in high school history classes; about what happened in Asia during the war. Aluna Theatre believes in works that deal with social issues that inspire change. These organizations, along with playwright Diana Tso have accomplished their mandates. I walked away moved by the emotional, historical, political, and educational story of young Isabel’s (Zoé Doyle) journey to learn of her grandmother’s past. Her trip to China leads her to Jason, a Japanese Canadian. She falls for him, knowing well that her Gung Gung (her grandfather, played by Richard Tse) will not approve. Gung Gung lives with his daughter, Popo, played by Janet Lo, who has never told Isabel of her father’s identity. The three family members share haunting memories of Lily, Gung Gung's late wife who was lost during the war, whose ethereal presence is played by Vienna Hehir. Beatriz Pizano, who did an excellent job in bringing this drama to life, directs Red Snow.