Monday, April 30, 2012

After Dark, May 1, 2012

The Bard Knew
What drama teaches us
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I was raving about HBO's magnificent docudrama, Game Change, on Facebook. This is the film adapted from the just as magnificent tell-all book by Mark Halperin about behind the scenes during the 2008 presidential campaign. The film focuses more on the McCain/Palin side of things (the book also examines Obama's compaign).'s brill and I was saying as much on FB and one of my friends came back saying that he didn't want to watch it because he didn't ever want to like Palin.

I found the comment fascinating and the fact is that you will probably not like Palin if you watch the movie, but you will understand her a lot more and pity her a little too because she is as you suspect: profoundly ambitious with not a brain in her head. Moreover, Julianne Moore turns in one of those performances which will be remembered for decades because she illuminates Palin's humanity: the woman's frightening determination, her profound faith and - yes - her grizzly mom-ness.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, April 30-May 6

Present Laughter (illustration by Emily Cooper)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Sunday Read: Backstage at Semele

Quiet On The Set...and...Remember!
Backstage at the COC brings the past and the biggest question facing opera
by Alex Van Chee
(photos by Karl Forster from the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie production of Semele, 2009) 

So there I was standing in the backstage of the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts amongst a frenzy of camera crew, reporters, and other media writers like a fish out of water on a Friday afternoon, wondering what to do. It was Canadian Opera Company’s media meet and greet event for the upcoming big budget production of Handel’s Semele and everybody was excited. There were speeches about the history and the mechanics of the very impressive “set” (a real 500 hundred-year old Ming temple made of camphor wood, dismantled and put back together here in Toronto), about the multiculturalism and its significance both to the opera and the city of Toronto, about the impossible task of running 3 different operas simultaneously, each with its own sets. Having never been at an event quite like this before, I was suddenly at a loss: I didn’t know what I was doing there. I didn’t have a clear agenda (I knew I had to write something after the trip), I am an introvert (my friends would protest violently on this) so speaking to strangers in an event like this was quite frightening, and I was ill prepared for any one-on-one interviews (I didn’t know this was part of, or even the point of a media event). I must have sweat buckets because the media kit prepared for me that I clutched tightly in my hands was wrinkled and damp.

First-Person: Joseph Shragge on The Heretics of Bohemia

Dramaturgy of Disappointment
Failure in the Face of Comic Expectations
by Joseph Shragge
"Humor, I suppose, consecrates nonexistence." Lionel Abel, Metatheatre: 
a new view of dramatic form
The moment genre is invoked, expectations emerge. The process of dramaturgy for our upcoming play The Heretics of Bohemia consistently raised the question, “what is this?” Knowing the piece was a comedy didn’t help specify what kind of comedy it was. For a period I thought of it as a turn on festive or Saturnalian comedy, outlined by the critic C.L. Barber as, “Release expressed by making the whole experience of the play that of a revel.” This genre raises the expectations that social hierarchies will invert, and that all the energy put into maintaining inhibitions will be released into misrule, play, and a flight from the self. Trying to achieve the glorious freedom of this idyllic vision of life, I buckled. Trying to revise the text with the comic expectation of enjoyment met with unhappy results. When a character experienced a loss of self, it was unsettling; excesses and intemperance, produced guilt and dread. Instead of liberation, more energy was needed to maintain the exact inhibitions that the genre promised to allay. 

First-Person: Trevor Barrette on To Be

The playwright (l) with Chris Hayes (photo by Pamela Perrotti)

What Does It Mean to Be In Love?
Answers with music
by Trevor Barrette
Set in good old Montreal, 'To Be' is the story of Adam, a young man discovering what it means to be true 'to thine own self.' After toughing through a rough patch with love a friend brings him out to a night on the town, where he, accidentally, falls in love with another man. As this strange, new relationship blossoms, Adam is confronted by the ghosts of his past, the not-so-smooth course that lies ahead and the questions that resound in the lives of the Generation Y: What does it mean to be in love? To be a man? To be gay? And finally, simply, to be?

The Abominable Showman, April 29, 2012

The Healey Affair
Doesn’t anyone have the guts to tell Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre to fuck off?
By Richard Burnett
Evidently we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. Just look at the increasingly conservative theatre world in Canada: This past January award-winning Canadian playwright Michael Healey submitted an early draft of his play Proud to Richard Rose, artistic director of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre where Healey was playwright-in-residence the previous 11 years. 
Most importantly the play features a character simply called “the Prime Minister” that some have likened to Canadian PM Stephen Harper.
That’s when Tarragon reportedly got nervous: retired lawyer and Tarragon board member John McKellar (father of actor/writer/director Don McKellar) feared the play was potentially libelous and defamatory to Stephen Harper. But libel specialist Peter Jacobsen told Healey the play is clearly satire and therefore fair comment. Rose still chose not to produce the play, so Healey resigned his position at Tarragon, went public and here we are.
End of story? Not quite.

Tour Whore, April 29, 2012

Preview Perils
by Cameryn Moore

All the forms are in. (I think.) My marketing print material is in the pipeline. The promo/special event calendar is starting to fill up. R105 tax waiver application went out three weeks ago. A little more than a month until I head up to my first fringe, in Montréal. I can relax, right? No. I have my preview to write.
The preview is that little 2-minute piece that gets thrown into a preview showcase evening at many fringes, in theory so that audience members get a sense of what your show is about and make that crucial extra star in the program book next to your show blurb. I think for this season I am doing a preview at Montréal, Winnipeg, Victoria, and maybe Vancouver, I can’t remember. Calgary, do you have a preview night? If not, don’t. Or do. No, don’t. I can’t…. God, I am so conflicted. It throws me every year, even though, compared to the 31-page, multiple-choice script that I'm working from for power |  play, it is a tiny little thing, a piece of bathroom graffiti. How hard can a third of a page of script be?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Theatre For Thought, April 28, 2012

Should we be speaking out or shutting up during a show?
joel fishbane
My recent visit to Centaur Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel quickly became the quintessential night at the modern theatre. Before the first scene had ended, people across the auditorium were illuminated by the glow of their smartphones. Then my neighbour began to treat me to what would become a running commentary regarding the play. I probably wouldn’t have minded if my neighbor had been director Micheline Chevrier, but in this case it was just a middle-aged woman out for a night with her friends.
“Oh look at her!” she breathed to her friend upon actress Patricia Summerset’s entrance. “Isn’t she pretty?”  Later, when actor Quincy Amorer appeared, the woman turned to her friend and said knowingly, “Ooo! He’s a player.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi

Gun-Brit Barkmin, Michael König, Alan Held  (background) in A Florentine Tragedy (Photo: Michael Cooper)

One Almost, One Win
The COC double-bill is a great idea that (almost) works perfectly
by Axel Van Chee

I will admit that the double billed A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi currently playing
at The Canadian Company is, personally, my most anticipated opera event this season. And
I will also admit that it is times like this I am glad we do not use a star rating system. You see, I LOVE Zemlinsky, and this is one of his pieces that I have listened to for years but never actually seen on stage. And to be billed with Gianni Schicchi is quite an ingenious move on the part of the Company since both operas are set in Florence, written at approximately the same time (A Florentine Tragedy being composed a year earlier, so coincidentally, the double bill actually plays out in chronological order), and the two operas represent very distinct musical lineages. What plays out over the next two hours is something I was not expecting: a musically ravishing but dramatically uneven Tragedy, and the complete opposite for Gianni Schicchi.

CharPo's Real Theatre! April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

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

Yeah, yeah, yeah we know the various Fringes aren't for a bit yet, but we're already getting some interesting stuff including a kit from Burnt Thicket Theatre about their production of Andrew Kooman's She Has a Name. Among the Fests it will be visiting: Montreal, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg with other stopovers across the country as well. 
...and we like the picture...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CPC's Video of the Week, April 25, 2012

We wanted to celebrate the arrival of the double-bill at Canadian Opera Company - A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi - by offering a wowser of a video of Schicchi's most famous aria - O Mio Babbino Caro (you only think you don't know it). There are mountains of videos out there but Jackie Evancho's was our favourite. Now go to COC and listen to the magnificent Simone Osborne offer Babbino too!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

News: (Toronto) YPT announces typically ambitious new season

Allen MacInnis, artistic director of Toronto's prestigious Young People's Theatre, has announced a 47th season based around the theme "I Wish". To that end the company will be presenting original works as well as co-producing with some of the most celebrated companies in the genre (notably DynamO, Carousel, Theatre Direct and Manitoba Theatre for Young People).
Read the press release:

News: (Montreal) Geordie announces 2012-13 season

Without fanfare or a press conference, artistic director Dean Patrick Fleming has released the details of his upcoming season. 

Two plays will be presented to the general public: Robin Hood adapted by Paula Wing and Head à tête by David S. Craig and Robert Morgan. School-touring productions are Whispers in the Air by Attila Cleman and Jabber by Marcus Youssef. The company concludes its present season this week with their production of Pinocchio.

News: (Montreal) Jean-Duceppe announces lineup for 2012-13

La Compagnie Jean-Duceppe's artistic director,  has announced its upcoming season and as usual it includes well-known international works (Lee Hall's The Pitman Painters - translated as Les peintres du carbon; Fools by Neil Simon translated as Le village de fous) and tested Québécois theatre (Les muses orphelines by Michel Marc Bouchard).

But Montrealers will also get to see a hit that started in the provincial capital, an adaptation of Michel Tremblay's second novel, Thérèse et Pierrette à l'école des Saints-Anges. The story takes on the childhoods of many of the characters we see in other novels and plays by the author.

See the website.

After Dark, April 24, 2012

Am I Myron Galloway?
Be careful of what you wish for...
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I was working at Centaur Theatre in the PR department when my boss, Pam Turpin, let out a "Tsk!" that could wake the dead. She was reading a review of a Fennario play by Myron Galloway. The review was a rave, as I remember, but Pam was mightily pissed that Galloway has described a character in the play as a "martinet". "Why couldn't he just say 'tyrant' or something. Why 'martinet'!" I thought she was pissed off by the erudition of the word. No, she was pissed off at the archaicness of the word.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Abominable Showman, April 22, 2012

(photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Broadway rocker
Beauty and the Beast’s Tony-nominated director Rob Roth dishes about Elton John, Anne Rice, Jackie Collins and Alice Cooper, as well as his critically-hailed book The Art of Classic Rock and the Tony Awards, as the new slimmed-down Beauty and the Beast touring production headlines Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa
By Richard Burnett
Famed Broadway director Rob Roth remembers the day he first met Elton John back in the mid 1990s before Roth developed and directed the inaugural production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s AÏDA, which debuted at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. 
Roth was then the toast of Broadway, even got a Tony Award nomination for Best Director after Beauty and the Beast premiered on the Great White Way in 1994. 

Review: (Quebec City) L'Odysée

Sensuality, rage, courage and determination
By Isabelle-Ann Charlebois
This was a magnificent "Season of Women" at Le Trident.  Even with this last production, an adaptation of The Odyssey, L'Odysée, every female actor fills the space in Martin Genest's production.Yes, we know that Ulysses' two-decade voyage was a hell of a journey but so too was the path of the women left behind -  one scattered with tears, hope and sorrow.

The Sunday Read: First-Person - David di Giovanni on The MAP Project

Toward the end
By David di Giovanni

You know, we’ve been involved in putting on a show a month at the Mainline since September, and never once did any joke involving ‘that time of the month’ come to my head.  

Remarkable, eh?

MAP started Season One, at least for me, from the desire to search for theatrical forms which would attract a younger demographic to the theatre.  So what exactly does that mean?  Well, here’s how it went for me.  

Tour Whore, April 22, 2012

The poutine wasn’t great, but the company was
by Cameryn Moore

Last week I talked about the haters on tour, and how much that hurts sometimes. This week I just wanted to let you know that I AM NOT A DELICATE FUCKING FLOWER. Also, I may have given you another wrong impression, because it’s not all, or even mostly, an uphill struggle out there. No. Sometimes it goes like this…
A couple of weeks ago I did a set at a comedic storytelling show in London, ON, which I had gotten into by dropping a Facebook note to Jayson Mcdonald, whom I had met in the BC fringes last year. Before the show, I ran into Jeff Culbert, who collaborated with me for a talent show piece at the 2011 Vancouver Fringe. And then on the line-up were Chris Gibbs, who bought me at least three ciders last year in Calgary; and Mikaela Dyke, who at one time had offered to tech my show this year in Winnipeg. (I got into an official venue, so didn’t end up needing her services, but still.)  Before, during, and after this event, I met one Fringe director, two Slutwalk London organizers who wanted to bring me to town next year, and one performer and producer of stuff in Toronto, who was determined to come see my show the following week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Shakespeare's Interactive Circus

In The Company of Fools
Shakespeare's Interactive Circus and Algonquin are a happy marriage
by Jim Murchison

I went to the Algonquin Theatre School not quite knowing what to expect. A Company of Fools production would have a tendency to be unpredictable anyway, but this was one performed by students without any members of the Company of Fools in the cast. 

Director Al Connors wisely allowed the students to find their own inner clown rather than putting them into the uncomfortable situation of imitating their teachers Scot Florence or Margo MacDonald whose characters Pomme Frit and Restes are Ottawa’s most recognizable clowns.

Review: (Calgary) Baobab

The Real Jungle
Baobab will please parents as much as their children
by Ryan Hurl

In the heart of the urban jungle, at the base of the Calgary tower, an ancient tale pushes up toward the sky in the form of a Baobab tree. Y stage has arranged for Theatre Motus and Troip So (Mali) to present their beautifully crafted children’s show about “How to make it rain” – Baobab. 
The show is an eclectic mix of shadow, puppetry, music and storytelling, used to weave a shamanistic imagining of a chosen boy who brings water back to the scorched earth. Ralph Propser, Mireille Tawfik, Nathalie Cora and Aboulay Kone vibrate across a simple set that mimics a barren desert littered with Baobab trees, harnessing instruments, ears, and childrens' attention. 

Theatre For Thought, April 21, 2012

joel fishbane
“We all have strings holding us together,” says Pierrick. “But it’s whether or not the strings pull you or push you that makes you a marionette or a puppet.” It seems important to him that I understand this distinction as I sit down to interview him and his castmates about The Heretics of Bohemia, a new play being produced in Montreal by Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre. Heretics is one of those rare shows that features humans and puppets working side by side and it’s easy for a novice to get tripped up by terminology. “Marionettes generally have a bit of an elitist attitude,” Pierrick adds. “But I’m not trying to be racist. It’s just what I’ve found in my experience.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

News: (Sudbury) Sudbury Theatre Centre announces 2012-13 season

The Sudbury Theatre Centre has announced a six play season that includes the trans-Canadian hit Henry and Alice: Into the Wild, the two-hander classic Same Time, Next Year and what is being billed as a "musical soap opera": Suds.

See the website.

Review: (Toronto) The Game of Love and Chance

Gil Garratt (photo credit:

Taking Chances
Marivaux continues to seduce
by Jessica Yen

Hot on the heels of a month-long run at the Centaur Theatre, The Game of Love and Chance has finally arrived at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto. This close to 300 year old farce written by Marivaux and adapted and translated by Nicolas Billon will have you smiling in your seat. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! April 20, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Oil and Water

Neema Bickersteth as Adeline and Starr Domingue as Vonzia in the 2011 run at the LSPU Hall (St. John's, NL) 

ACT I Problems
Oil and Water takes its time
by Beat Rice

I am instantly curious when I hear that a play is inspired by real events and true stories. What about this story intrigued playwright Robert Chafe so much that he felt the need to translate the events for the stage?  Oil and Water is inspired by the story of Lanier Phillips, the only surviving black male from a shipwreck of U.S. marines off the coast of Newfoundland in 1942. He is rescued and cared for by the people in St. Lawrence, Canadians who have never seen a person with coloured skin. We experience the majority of the events through Phillips’ older self’s reflections, although it was not consistent.

CPC's Picture of the Week, April 19, 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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: (Toronto) Armide

Photo: Bruce Zinger / Marie McDunnough & Jack Rennie, Artists of Atelier Ballet.

The One by Lully
Armide - the singer and the opera - are gorgeous
by Axel Van Chee

The story of Armida by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso about an Arabian sorceress and her unrequited love with the Christian soldier Rinaldo during the First Crusade is a popular subject in opera literature; Handel had one (of course, it is actually harder to name what he doesn't have), Gluck had one, Rossini had one, even Dvorak and Haydn, who is not exactly known for his operatic works had one. The first known rendition of the poem in operatic form however, is Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide, first performed in 1686, and it opens at the Elgin Theatre in a visually stunning production by Opera Atelier.

Reincarnated from its 2005 run, Marshall Pynkoski unfolds the story like an enchanted fairy-tale manuscript, with the sets and costumes exquisitely designed by Gerard Gauci and Dora Rust D’Eye. There are intricate details everywhere, enfolding both Asian and Western motifs to further accentuate the conflicts between the East and the West. The lighting design by Bonnie Beecher further adds a layer of spectacles to the opera.

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

The creation of Jupiter's Eagle for Stratford's upcoming 
production of Cymbeline directed by Antoni Cimolino.
"Our pleasure his full fortune doth confine:
and so, away: no further with your din
Express impatience, lest you stir up mine.
Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

News: (Ottawa) NAC French Theatre announces season

A new season, a new artistic director: Wajdi Mouawad, the outgoing AD, literally gave incoming director Brigitte Haentjens the keys to the house yesterday. The new commander, a well-known name in Quebec and Franco-Ontarian theatre circles, announced a lineup that includes 22 shows; 13 for general public, nine for young audiences.

Highlights include: Patrice Chéreau's production of La Douleur (also announced as part of the TNM's season);  Denis Marleau's collage Oulipo Show; The Changing Room, a drag queen drama where the house will be transformed into a cabaret; Ubu sur la table, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry's Ubu plays by Olivier Ducas and Michel Monty.

See the company website.

News: (Montreal) TNM announces a 2012-13 season including Chéreau

Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (TNM) is presenting an eclectic season that bounces from Ionesco (Le roi se meurt) to Molière (Les femmes savants) to a musical based on Michel Tremblay (Le Chant de Sainte Carmen de la Main).

But it all starts with the sensation, in September, of bad-boy director Patrice Chéreau's La Douleur. Chéreau is an internationally renowned creator, notable for theatre, film and opera (especially his seminal production of Wagner's Ring at Bayreuth for the Wagner centennial in 1976). Chéreau is also known for his film Intimacy, a drama starring Mark Rylance in which some scenes tempted censors and redefined art and pornography. TNM is promising that the production will "extreme emotions".

The musical Tremblay is the second work from the team of René Richard Cyr and Daniel Bélanger who are currently enjoying a gigantic success with their musical adaptation of Les belles soeurs (which has just returned from a successful run in Paris).

See the company website.

News: (Toronto) Buddies Goes Back to Normal in 2012-13 season

Buddies in Bad Times artistic director Brendan Healey has announced the company's new season and among the highlights is a return of the critically acclaimed The Normal Heart, produced by Studio 180 Theatre.
l-r Jeff Miller and Jonathan Wilson
(Photo credit: John Karastamatis)

With the season the company continues to fulfill it's mandate of offering Queer visions of the world and that is clear from the first outing, in September, when the house presents Obaaberima, a work about a Ghanian imprisoned for a violent crime and who feels he must tell his story to his cellmates. Also notable in the lineup is the return of Daniel MacIvor with his work Arigato, Tokyo; a new work from the company's founder, Sky Gilbert (A Few Brittle Leaves) and Queer performance company Ecce Homo's Of A Monstrous Child: a gaga musical.

Read the press release:

After Dark, April 17, 2012

A Critic's Commandments
No, we're not God
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I was listening to an episode of This American Life, the radio show hosted by Ira Glass which presents a series of stories, each week, around a central theme. (Listen to it. It's on iTunes.) Last week's episode was on The Ten Commandments and it started by listing the commandments of various groups and organizations like umpires (Thou shalt keep your eye on the ball). Immediately I wondered what my commandments - a critic's - would be. Feel free to add your own or modify these in the comments section below.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: (Calgary) Cats

Director Jacques Lemay giving notes backstage before the opening of Cats
(photo via Theatre Calgary Twitter feed)

The Mystery of Cats
A perennial takes Theatre Calgary's audience by storm
by Ryan Hurl

The Mystery of Cats in our collective imagination dates back to the pharaohs. Wherever man has gone, with our domineering quests for luxury, a cat has never been far behind. 
Unlike dogs - who bound into our lives becoming substitutes for love, affection, and character definition - cats have a more symbiotic relationship with their human kin, leaving a burning mystery in man's ego: How can we "own" this feline pet, yet never truly know it's inner workings - and worse yet, not be able to command and dominate this shifty beast. It was a particularly haunting question in the booming capitalistic empire that was the 80's, when ownership and luxury was the name of the game. But maybe not much has changed - perhaps one of the reasons why the Cats came back? 

Openings We're Tracking This Week, April 16-22

Chantale Demole in Hay Fever (poster by Rosaura Guzman et al.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Sunday Read: Robert Chafe on Oil and Water and Lanier Phillips

Chafe and Phillips (photo credit: Don Ellis)

Lanier Remembered
Oil and Water explores the consequences of lives lived
by Robert Chafe
In February of 2011 my company, Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, premiered my new play Oil and Water in St. John’s. The première marked the culmination of three years of research, scripting, workshopping and revisions, but truly the story of Oil and Water and its genesis stretch back for me as far as 1996. That summer myself and my collaborator, Jillian Keiley, had the occasion to spend a significant amount of social time with Newfoundland painter Grant Boland. On one trip to his studio he showed us a work in progress, a large striking canvas depicting tired, near naked men, covered in dirt being bathed by a set of angelic women, they themselves stained by their labours, their toil visible on their cheeks and aprons. One of the hallmarks of Grant’s work is its consistent narrative clarity. There was a story behind this painting, and I had to know it.
On a stormy night in February 1942 a convoy of American Naval vessels ran aground on the south coast of Newfoundland. Two of the boats sank in the ensuing hours, with a huge loss of life. The USS Truxton had wrecked a mere one hundred feet from land and a few miles from the small isolated town of St. Lawrence. The men of the town, mostly workers at a nearby Fluorspar mine, mobilized to help the survivors, collecting them as they reached shore, exhausted, frozen, and coated in the thick black bilge oil leaking from the foundering ship. One of those surviving men was Lanier Phillips. He was eighteen years old, on his second voyage since joining the navy, a private, a lowly mess attendant, and one of only four people of colour on the entire ship. He was to be the only black man to survive.