Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: (Calgary) Mary's Wedding

Wedding Belle
Mary gets married at ATP
by Ryan Hurl

It is the night before Mary’s Wedding. We are invited into a dream. Some say dreams are the mind's way of filtering through information, absorbing lessons, and sorting emotion. In the true spirit of the theatre, this dream will be collective. Stark, stripped down, worn out beams parade up to a clouded sky that can glow with the sunrise, or shudder with a fierce storm. This is the duality of Steven Massicotte's brilliantly conceived Mary’s Wedding, a play that explores the nature of love in dangerous times–proving love is a vulnerable act that can be lost forever in our collective nightmares. Both love and survival struggle for surrender. The power of this story can be accounted for by the volume of productions it has received since the prèmiere production in 2002, across the globe. The story sits on an empyrean nerve, appearing to be capable of performance anywhere a heart beats.  It is soon apparent why…

Review: (Montreal) Intimate Apparel

Lucinda Davis and Quincy Armorer (photo credit:

The Unchangeable Past
Centaur has a dynamite cast for the Apparel
by Sarah Deshaies
Who hasn't tried to envision what their forebears' past might have been?

Playwright Lynn Nottage concocted Intimate Apparel out of a desire to know more about her great-grandmother, Ethel Boyce, according to dramaturge Caitlin Murphy in the informative playbill. Ethel was a religious woman, a Black immigrant who made her way from Barbados to Ellis Island in 1911, at a time when many were converging on New York City to create new lives for themselves.

Theatre For Thought, March 31, 2012

joel fishbane
Most people know me as a writer / actor / man about town, but every Spring I moonlight as a tax preparer for the self-employed. A lifelong relationship with the tax collector is an occupational hazard for artists and it would be a great benefit if schools were bestowing upon their students a rudimentary understanding of how it all works; since they’re not, allow me to briefly fill in the gaps. 
Most artists end up owing money and the reason is simple: those with regular employment are taxed at source, meaning that things like income tax and pension plan contributions are taken off their paycheques. Artists, though, are considered contractual employees and are often paid in lump sums. They must pay their income tax and pension plan contributions at the end of the year.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) The Communication Cord

Back row Janet Uren, Kat Smiley, Tim Oberholzer.  Front Row Michelle LeBlanc, David Whiteley, Genevieve Sirois, Alain Chamsi. (photo credit: Lois Siegel)

Capital Friel
More of the Irishman in Ottawa
by Jim Murchison
Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Translations by Irish playwright Brian Friel at the Ottawa Little Theatre. Although there was a fair bit of humour in that piece, it was largely dramatic in tone. After the success of Translations, Friel followed it up with The Communication Cord. Both plays are set in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg and both deal with language. Although The Communication Cord takes place 150 years later in the 1980’s, the picturesque rural setting is relatively the same, as it is set in an historic home in county Donegal. That is where all similarities between the plays end. 

Profile: Zach Fraser of The Game of Love and Chance

Trish Lindström and Zach Fraser in
The Game of Love and Chance (photo credit:

Globetrotting on a Bicycle...
...with a Puppet 

by Amanda Siino
Halifax, London, Paris, Singapore, Montreal – these cities are all brought together by a Montreal actor, director, puppeteer, professor and family man, Zach Fraser.
The six- foot tall Fraser has been most recently involved in Centaur’s new production of Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance.  
“This project is a co-production with Can Stage in Toronto. So most of the actors are out of Toronto and most of the design team is French Québécois. Then there are the few of us who are neither Québécois nor from Toronto, so it’s a nice coming together,” he said while drinking his cappuccino.  

CharPo's Real Theatre!, March 30, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

News: Canada Council responds to Flaherty budget

Press release: 

Review: (Toronto) Vieux Carré

Kaneza Schaal (Photo: © Franck Beloncle)

“Loneliness is an affliction.” - The Writer
Wooster Group explodes into World Stage
by Jessica Yen
The Wooster Group's Version of Tennessee Williams' Vieux Carré is not for the faint of heart. This mind-bending two hour experimental piece takes the audience deep into one of Tennessee Williams' most autobiographical plays.
In signature Wooster Group style, this piece is a multilayered landscape of movement, technology and text. We travel through The Writer's memories of his time as a young man living in the French quarter of New Orleans. In his encounters with the various tenants of the boarding house, The Writer undergoes a transformation, awakening sexually and artistically. 

News: MTC's God of Carnage is going to Vancouver

Shauna Black and Oliver Becker in
Carnage (photo: Bruce Monk)
After being thrown into doubt by the recent closure of Vancouver Playhouse, a production from Manitoba Theatre Centre of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage will be going to the West Coast after all. It was reported by CBC that MTC stood to lose $100,000 if the presentation fell through. The performances in Vancouver will be presented in the venue once enjoyed by the defunct company.

The production is currently enjoying a successful run in Winnepeg.

See Charlebois Post articles about Vancouver Playhouse

Read the MTC press release:

News: (Halifax) Neptune announces blockbuster 2012-13 season

Hamlet solo

Neptune Theatre's Artistic Director, George Pothitos, can't be accused of doing things by halves as he announced, this morning, a huge season for the House's year.

Included in the roundup are two large-scale musicals, the brilliantly dark Stephen Sondheim work, Sweeney Todd, and the more overtly crowd-pleasing Legally Blonde. Also, at Christmas, will be the musical Elf. Among spanking new productions will be The Importance of Being Earnest.

Smaller works are scattered throughout the year as well. Notably: Raoul Bhaneja's raved-about Hamlet (solo) and a co-pro from Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador (Tempting Providence) directed by the newly appointed artistic director of NAC, Jillian Keiley. Other co-pros include Mulgrave Road's Bingo!, Ship's Company's The (Post) Mistress, The Glace Bay Miner's Museum (with NAC) and Eighteen (Eastern Front).

Théâtre français de Toronto time-travels with 2012-13 season

Théâtre français de Toronto's artistic director, Guy Migneault, yesterday announced a season that travels time and place, beginning with a work by the Father of French Theatre, Molière: Les fourberies de Scapin. The three other (adult) plays of the year are Canadian works: Philippe Soldevila and Christian Essiambre's Les Trois exile de Christian E. (previously seen at Nouvelle Scène in Ottawa), Il (deux) by Mansel Robinson (in a translation by the brilliant Jean-Marc Dalpé) and a revival of Albertine en cinq temps, Michel Tremblay's fascinating coup de théâtre about a woman's life as seen by her at five different times - from young woman to old age.

Two young people's works will be presented in the season as well.

See the TfT website (in French)

News: (Montreal) Segal Announces adventurous and audacious 2012-13 season

John Gilbert, Musical director of Guys and Dolls (via: frog)

Segal Centre Announces It’s 2012 – 13 Season
joel fishbane
“Paul Flicker, this is your baby this year,” said the Segal Centre’s Executive Director, Manon Gauthier at today’s press conference to announce their 2012 – 13 artistic season. Flicker, who took over for former Artistic Director Bryna Wasserman, is the driving force behind this new season – and if it’s a baby then its one that’s going to keep a lot of Montrealers up late at night. With four world premières, three musicals, a Hollywood star, the first lady of Canadian theatre, an  international co-production and a slew of multi-racial shows, the Segal has announced its boldest season in years.

Review: (Montreal) Lucy Lost Her Heart

by Chad Dembski
Lucy Lost her Heart is the third part of a trilogy that has been in development since 2005 by Theatre Junction Grand.  This is my first time experiencing one of their performances and this was the company's first time in Montreal.  
The show seems to start as the audience enters with all the performers in American Apparel underwear and warming up and rehearsing on stage.  They smile at the audience and seem to be preparing but also seem to be in some kind of character as well.  The show begins and the story of five “lost souls” who are trapped in more ways than one (in a mine, in the past, in their memories) a strange line between character and performer is constantly played with.  These characters include Flip (Mike Tan) who begins hosting the show and dreams of being a cowboy, Pocahontas who speaks en français as if in a constant dream and slowly paces back and forth on stage, Pierre (Stephen Turner) who has undergone a massive trauma that seems to both inspire and hold him back, Red (Isabelle Kirouac) the minor of the group who seems trapped in her own head and Lost Soldier (Ian Kilborn) who has returned from an unknown war.

CPC's Picture of the Week, March 29, 2012

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night in
MTC's God of Carnage with Vickie Papavs and Shauna Black
(photo credit: Bruce Monk)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Sia

Brendan McMurtry-Howlett and Thomas Olajide (photo credit: Sandra Lefrancois)

Searing Sia
Cahoots at Factory serves up pain and compassion
by Jasmine Chen

Last night’s opening of SIA at The Factory Theatre could not have fallen on a more appropriate day. On World Theatre Day, when we were asking ourselves, what is the purpose of theatre?, SIA answered. Matthew Mackenzie’s new play does what great theatre is supposed to do, challenge our perceptions, provoke thought, and be a mirror to society, reflecting what can sometimes be hard truths to swallow. SIA is grueling, painful, unforgiving at times, but in the end full of compassion. 

CPC's Video of The Week, March 28, 2012

Coming back for a short run, Theatre Junction's presentation of 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News: (Ottawa) NAC announces new AD, Jillian Keiley

2004 Siminovitch prize-winner and Artistic Fraud (NEWFL) founder Jillian Keiley will be the new artistic director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre.

See Artistic Fraud's website
Read Ms Keiley's acceptance speech for the Siminovitch
Read the Press release:

After Dark, March 27, 2012

Obscenity, libel and censorship in the age of the internet
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

In a US obscenity case back in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote in an opinion that hard-core pornography was hard to define but, "I know it when I see it." (He later regretted having written it and was convinced it would be on his tombstone - indeed, it was mentioned in most of the obits when he died in 1985.)

Indeed, if you consider all the hot-button words artists use, have aimed at them or bandy about, many fall into the vague and personal realm of "I know it when I see it" (IKIWISI): obscenity, pornography, erotica, slander, libel, racism, sexism, homophobia...

Let me give you my reasons for thinking about these things this week in particular:

Monday, March 26, 2012

News: (Montreal) FTA announces exciting 2012 lineup

Exciting lineup in Annual Fest
by Estelle Rosen

The sixth edition of the Festival TransAmériques (FTA), taking place from May 24 to June 9, 2012 includes plays, dance pieces, exhibits and film screenings.

At today's press conference conducted by Artistic Director Marie-Hélène Falcon along with Artistic Associates Karine Denault  and Martin Faucher, they reviewed the 24 plays, including film excerpts. We also heard about the annual free performances, meet-the-artists, and after-show parties.

As someone who has followed FTA for many years, exciting productions from all over the world featuring theatre presentations we'll never have another opportunity to see is a given. One interesting note is this is the first year I've seen more Canadian productions than ever in the program.

News: (Calgary) ATP 2012-13 Balances Charlie Brown and Petawawa

In a season that shows artistic director Vanessa Porteous' talent for balance, Calgarians will be able to sing along to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (getting a production in Stratford this season) and consider the ravages of war with the drama Petawawa.

Also appearing in the season will be productions of two works seen across the country this season: Red and Intimate Apparel as well as works by veterans Joan MacLeod and Daniel MacIvor. As Theatre Calgary tweeted this afternoon, another ATP production, the God That Comes will be playing at the same time as TC's God of Carnage.

See the full lineup at the company website.

News: Stratford WTD message remembers Van Playhouse

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's World Theatre Day message, co-written by AD Des McAnuff and General Director (and AD designate) Antoni Cimolino, begins with a celebrated quote from John Donne to speak of the interconnectedness of theatres themselves in a fragile economy, harking to the recent closure of Vancouver Playhouse. 

Read the Message:

Openings We're Tracking This Week, March 26-April 1, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

First-Person: A Day In The Life of Antoni Cimolino and Cymbeline

From left: Cara Ricketts, Graham Abbey, Geraint Wyn Davies (Andrew Eccles photo)

Occasionally I come up for air
Time is probably the most important and scarcest resource in Canadian theatre
by Antoni Cimolino

I’ve been asked by The Charlebois Post to detail a “day in the life”.  Since the announcement of my being A.D. designate, my days have been split between many of my previous duties as General Director, rehearsals for Cymbeline and planning the 2013 season.  Occasionally I come up for air.

Rehearsals are a blessing as they allow me to spend time with wonderful actors working on a great Shakespeare text.  The cast of Cymbeline is made up of many of Canada’s finest talents – Geraint Wyn Davies, Cara Ricketts, Graham Abbey, Tom McCamus and Yanna McIntosh among many others.

My first job in any rehearsal is to set up an atmosphere that encourages artistic exploration, listening and fun.  After our first reading, we spent the day in Complicité theatre games to build trust, a sense of community and play.  We return periodically to these exercises to break out a sweat and build a common sense of time and collaboration.

Sunday Read: First-Person Matthew Mackenzie on creating SIA

Full of Fire and Hope
A journey, cultural dislocation and a play
by Matthew Mackenzie (photos courtesy of Matthew Mackenzie)
In the fall of 2003 I flew from Alberta to West Africa, with a brief stopover in Toronto.  My plan was to go and research my play concerning the civil war that had recently torn the tiny country of Liberia apart.  Talked out of going directly to Liberia by my parents, I decided to go to Ghana, which was the most stable English speaking country in the region, where there was a significant Liberian refugee population.  Alarmed that I was travelling half way around the world without having done any kind of research, my Aunt Karen—who is a Librarian at the University of Toronto—hastily put me in touch with a Ghanaian student she knew, in the hopes that he would be able to offer some guidance.  As it just so happened, a member of the congregation the Ghanaian student belonged to back home, was the former Head Nurse of the Buduburam Camp—the largest Liberian refugee settlement in the world.

The Abominable Showman, March 25, 2012

The Dame (photo courtesy Barry Humphries)
Good-bye, Possums
Bugs revisits Oz, the land that gave audiences worldwide Tony Award-winning drag icon Dame Edna, now retiring 57 years after her stage debut Down Under 
By Richard Burnett
Aussie rockers Airbourne opened for the nastiest, skankiest rock’n’roll sideshow of 2010, Mötley Crüe’s Dead of Winter Tour. Imagine, if you will, the hallways and dressing rooms backstage, throbbing with big-breasted blondes with orange tans and bad tattoos. 
When this out-of-control rock’n’roll circus pit-stopped in Montreal, I blabbed with Joel O’Keeffe, lead vocalist and lead guitarist for Airbourne, still the most fun, most hard-rocking boogie band on Earth. Except the afternoon I spoke with Joel O’Keeffe I was working a serious hangover. 
“Forgive me,” I began saying when Joel butted in: “I hear ya, mate!”
Joel became my new best friend. 

Tour Whore, March 25, 2012

You Can't Have a Bad Day in a Tutu
So what’s a broke-ass, nomadic Fringe fatshionista to do? 
by Cameryn Moore

How cold does it get in Nashville in November? How wet does it get in Edinburgh in August? What are the odds of finding a pair of red, mid-calf, fully ruffled bloomers in my size? 
Bizarre questions, but not random (answers at the end of this post). These are the sorts of things I ponder as I pack my bags for the road.
Bags. I say “bags” like I have a four-wheel coach with a maid behind me, or even two checked bags allowed on the plane, but not even that, lovies, no, no. After everything else is in my car, the set pieces and props and kitchen bag and toiletry bag and merch bags and manual typewriter and pillow and box with all my phone-sex note cards, I have room in the Deerinator for … one roll-on suitcase. Maybe two. And I am going to be nomadic for 18 months. I can leave a small box of hard-core winter wear where my winter base will be, but it does not do to trespass too heavily on the kindness and square footage of friends. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Importance of Being Earnest

Allan Zinyk and Ryan Beil (Photo by Emily Cooper)

Game, Set and Match
A winning Earnest at Arts Club
by Jay Catterson

The classic Oscar Wilde satirical farce The Importance of Being Earnest, now playing at the Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, is an absolute treat to behold. The direction by David Mackay is tight, and the ensemble is impeccably cast, delivering the notoriously wordy script with ease and gusto. Cast standouts include the dynamic duo of Charlie Gallant as Algernon Moncrieff and Ryan Beil as Jack Worthing, playing off each other's bravado and conviction to woo their respective love interests as the shared alter-ego "Earnest". But who really steals the show is Allan Zynik, whose turn as the highly cynical and demanding Lady Bracknell leaves the audience in stitches. 

Review: (Toronto) My Granny The Goldfish

Sincerity Wins The Day
The script is uneven, but the cast is superb
by Stuart Munro

“Yes, you may die. But are you happy with the life you have lived?”
These words are spoken early on in Act II by a loving grandmother to her grandson as they wait to hear the results of his biopsy. In many ways, this simple question is at the heart of Anosh Irani’s play “My Granny the Goldfish,” on stage now at The Factory Theatre.
Set primarily in a Vancouver hospital room, “My Granny the Goldfish” is the story of Nico (Kawa Ada), a recent arrival from Mumbai, India, who may or may not have cancer. His granny (Yolande Bavan) shows up unexpectedly in order to comfort him. Eventually, his parents Farzeen and Dara (Veena Sood and Sanjay Talwar) arrive as well, and the stage is set for an awkward family reunion; old grievances are brought up, and ultimately some wounds begin to heal.

Review: (Ottawa) East of Berlin

Simon Bradshaw on stairs (photo credit - GCTC/Andrew Alexander)

The Walled City
GCTC offers a work which is mysterious, thought-provoking and layered
by Jim Murchison

Before the play starts, as you enter the theatre there is a sense of ominous mystery and foreboding. An iron stairwell winds down from somewhere stage right. Wooden crates are stacked everywhere. An unused stone fireplace centre stage is filled with luggage. There are several light fixtures but not a single shade. All the light bulbs are bare and exposed. Black metal poles jut out from various angles, looking like God has been playing pickup sticks in a bomb shelter and at any moment all could collapse. Light spills through grates creating horizontal shadows that imply we are peering through blinds into some secret forbidden place.  
Set designer Ivo Valentik and lighting designer Martin Conboy have created an atmosphere that almost creates a living breathing character. The set and lighting implies we are going to see something mysterious, thought provoking and layered; and we do.  

Theatre For Thought, March 24, 2012

joel fishbane
Bennett and I are walking through the park when she remarks that she thinks it’s ridiculous for Montreal arts reporters to review any show that doesn’t come out of the Segal Centre or Centaur Theatre. Being the two largest Anglo theatre companies in Montreal, she argues that their audiences are large enough that they can risk a bad review. But the smaller theatre companies are struggling to survive and while they should be supported through preview articles, reviewers should stay away. 
I frown as she speaks. Usually I agree with Bennett, which is why I spend time with her. When you’re a curmudgeon, it’s good to find people who keep you calm. 
I try to explain the artistic value of theatre critiques. In my view, it’s insulting to independent theatres to treat them differently than larger companies, as if they aren’t worthy of the same scrutiny. “The only question is whether a show deserves to be seen,” I postulate. “Championing a company just for existing degrades a city’s cultural landscape.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

News: (Winnipeg) Prairie Theatre Exchange announces tried and new 2012-13 season

Among the names popping up in the Prairie Theatre Exchange's new six-play season there are some which are familiar to all Canadian theatrephiles (Hanna Moscovitch's This is War and Morris Panych's The Dishwashers) and one familiar to all Canadians (Magical Mystery Munsch adapted by Debbie Patterson from the internationally renowned children's author Robert Munsch) as well as the professional and world premiere's of two plays (Kate Hewlett's The Swearing Jar and Ellen Peterson's The Brink, respectively).

There is also some news: Being revived from the late, great Vancouver Playhouse is Scott Wentworth's Gunmetal Blues. (GLC)

See the season .pdf here.

Interview: Centaur Theatre Artistic Director Roy Surette

(photo credit: Yannick MacDonald)

Beyond The Launch
After announcing his 2012-13 season, the Montreal AD talks candidly about Healey, Rose, Vancouver Playhouse and the challenge of here and beyond
by David Sklar

CHARPO: So you just had your season launch. How did it go?
SURETTE: It went well. It’s always a bit intense. I think I talked for about an hour about the season and all our upcoming activities. 
CHARPO:  What goes through your mind when picking a new season? How do you choose what shows to pick?
SURETTE: It’s a mystery.  As they say in Shakespeare In Love, my favorite theatre quote, “it’s a mystery how it ever works”.  There are so many factors that go into selecting a season. And there are many questions that I am always asking myself, still feeling relatively new to Montreal. I’ve been here for almost four and a half years now and as someone who programs a theatre in a unique city like Montreal I think, needless to say, it’s challenging. You need to know what’s evolving with the audience.  I’m always of the belief that you want to do a season that people want to come and see. There is no point in doing it for yourself and in fact when you get to the scale of operation like us, you have to sell a lot of tickets. We’re about 50 percent run by our box office.  We do a lot of fundraising as well as applying for government support. But we’re still white knuckling it in  terms of, are we going to make
our box office targets? And usually in a year, it’s a real rollercoaster ride. Some shows are quite a bit under, some are over so in terms of balancing a season, you've got to compromise. I wish I could say I have the magical formula but I don’t. I feel I've got a pretty good track record and the confidence of the Board and staff and the city but you never know. We don’t do the same thing over and over again. Every time we embark on a new production it’s a risk, especially if it’s a new play. Even if you are doing something that was very successful somewhere else, it doesn’t necessarily translate. Having the privilege of working across this country and outside of it as well, there is no guarantee.  You can’t go, “Oh ya this was a really big hit in Australia, it’s just going to rock in Montreal, or it did really well in Vancouver, it doesn’t mean anything for here.”

CharPo's Real Theatre! March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Barber of Seville

Joshua Hopkins as Figaro, Sandra Piques Eddy as Rosina (photo credit: Tim Matheson.)

Lights, camera, Figaro!
Vancouver Opera seduces with Rossini
by Angela Descalzi
If you watched the Looney Tunes as a child, you will remember Bugs Bunny’s version of The Barber of Seville. That was my first ever encounter with Figaro and this comedic opera. It remained in my memory for years, up until last night, when for the first time, I went to see the Vancouver Opera’s production at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.