Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Sunday Read: Interview - Bill Millerd, Artistic Director, Arts Club Theatre

Last Man Standing?
Bill Millerd insists Vancouver does theatre - and proves it
by Christopher Lane (CharPo-Canada Vancouver Editor)

CHARPO: What's special about this year's season?

MILLERD: It's the third season that we've had the Revue Stage (the small intimate space on Granville Island), which is special since we've been trying to figure out how to fit it into the operation. When you're running three theatres, it's a bit of a juggling act, clearly. I want to make sure that each theatre fits together.

I'm very happy with the opening show Clybourne Park. Our subscriptions are at 10,000 and climbing, which is the most we've ever had, so that's pretty exciting. And the other part of the season that I always look forward to is the new plays that we present. We have a commission program, and Marcus Youssef, we partially commissioned him. He's doing a play, How Has My Love Affected You?, later in the season at the Revue Stage. Marion Farrant has adapted her memoir, My Turquoise Years; it'll be done in the spring at the Granville Island Stage. Right now we're in rehearsals for another premiere, The Unplugging, by Yvette Nolan.

The great thing about live theatre for me, somebody who's been doing it for awhile, is that no two plays are the same, and no two actors are the same. Every day is a different day. You know that the people involved in it are so wonderfully committed, in a way that is sometimes awe-inspiring for myself. Even after a number of years doing this job, to see a collection of people come together on the first day and get excited about what they're about to embark on, and then for it to eventually reach the stage and to see an audience reacting to it? It's pretty good.

Tour Whore, September 30, 2012

by Cameryn Moore

I did a show last weekend with 6 people in the audience, two of them paying. The next night was spectacular, relatively speaking: 17 people in the house, 14 of them paying. That’s an increase in paid ticket-holders of 600 percent. Holy crap! Wow!

I’m back in The Land of Tiny Houses.

TLoTH, for short. I don’t know if you can pronounce that, but I wanted to put a name on it. As soon as I put a name on it, I have something to hang my explanations on, to try to make you understand. I think it really captures the parallel-universe feel out here. I mean, doesn’t TLoTH sound like an alien city that you’d find in a near-future, off-planet, pulp-fiction novelette? That’s EXACTLY how it feels. The cars look pretty similar, but I suspect the people-looking people around me actually are hiding an external brain, or at least a USB port, at the nape of their necks and WHY DO THE HORSES ON MARS HAVE SIX LEGS. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Theatre For Thought, September 29, 2012

joel fishbane

When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky, you can bet that he’s doin’ it for some doll. But when you see one of Canada’s best known directors take on one of musical theatre’s most iconic shows, you can bet that she’s got other things in mind. “It scared me,” admits Diana Leblanc as she talks about taking the reins of a new production of the Loesser / Burrows musical Guys and Dolls. “But it was too wonderful an opportunity. And at my age, you can’t afford to turn things down.”

One of Canada’s best known artists, Leblanc is a founding member of Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre and has become known for her work as an actor and director for numerous theatres including Stratford, Canadian Stage and Théâtre Français de Toronto. She’s also forged a long term relationship with Montreal’s Segal Centre: Guys and Dolls will be her eighth time working with the theatre. It will also be the first time she’s ever directed a musical.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: (Montreal) Les Dishwasheurs

Steaming Panych
by Nanette Soucy

A path through St. Henri is not unlike the trip to the bathroom in a Montreal restaurant. Walking by dark alleys between oxidizing industry, covered in graffiti - like going down the steep stairs into the damp basements of eateries and hearing the dishwashers curse - gives the sense of catching a glimpse at the back end of things; of having gone behind a door marked “Authorized Personnel Only.” At Atelier Jean-Brillant, Théâtre Momentum sets its translation of Morris Panych’s Dishwashers in precisely the type of damp, poorly ventilated, concrete and steel room that makes up the engines of the neighbourhood’s fancy restaurants.

Picture of the Week, September 27, 2012

The image is as joyous as the show. It's Rebecca Northen in her high-wire act, Blind Date, now at The Cultch in Vancouver.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Video of the Week, September 26, 2012

You know the Morris Panych play, and the title has not changed much for this French-language production by the great Momentum: Les Dishwasheurs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

After Dark, September 25, 2012

Chronicle of a Death Foretold
We know it's coming, why aren't we prepared?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I was 15 I was an apprentice critic at Quebec City's Chronicle Telegraph - North America's oldest newspaper. It was a weekly, then, when before it had been the daily of the not-so-tiny Quebec City anglo community. Things happened. One of the biggest employers of my school-mates' dads, Anglo Pulp and Paper (yes, that was its name), became less Anglo. High-schools and primary schools closed down. Our hospital, Jeffrey Hale, became more bilingual. When I left, one of the last bastions of anglophony, St. Brigid's Retirement Home, became quite, quite franco. (When I was a boy we would take little St. Patrick's Day shows into St. Brigid's.) The community died, moved away to bigger cities for opportunity or because of politics, or was assimilated. According to the Chronicle Telegraph's website, there are more places to buy it in Montreal, now, than in Quebec City. Some consider what happened to Quebec's anglo community a tragedy  - a death foretold. Others (myself included) think of this as an evolution. A transition. Adaptation.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Spitfire Grill

Barbara Pollard, Julie McIsaac and Caitriona Murphy - photo by Francesca Albertazzi

Better than the movie
by David C. Jones
The Spitfire Grill is a blue-grass musical based on a film that I walked out of. The story concerns a young woman who spent five years in jail. She moves to a small town she saw in a magazine and gets work in its only restaurant – The Spitfire Grill. The owner, Hannah, is running an essay contest to get rid of the diner and get out of the small dead town of Gilead.
Vancouver is enraptured by musicals – we produced an inordinate amount of them – original or otherwise - and we simply don’t have the talent to produce that many. Often we have shows that have lacklustre singers or ones who can hold a note but can’t act their way out of a paper bag.
Thankfully The Midnight Theatre Collective was able to get a top notch cast who not only can sing beautifully and act their freakin’ guts out but they all play multiple instruments...sometimes switching instruments mid-song!

Review: (Quebec City) Tout ce qui tombe

Steve Gagnon (photo credit: Vincent Champoux)

Love, hope, words and decisions
Falling falling falling...falling down, falling to pieces, falling...and getting up again
by Isabelle-Ann Charlebois

Le Trident’s first play of the season gives us a very moving première from Véronique Côté - her first dramatic text - and a co-production with les Fonds de Tiroirs. Tout ce qui Tombe, directed by Frédéric Dubois, Artistic Director of des Fonds de Tiroirs, invites us to think about where we stand in our own lives, where we are heading, or where we’d like to be....questions, questions, questions, always putting our lives into perspective.

Côté’s play which I thought would have been a light and funny one, instead had weight with a pinch of German. It's four stories, three eras, one place: Berlin, Germany.

Review: (Toronto) Proud

Maev Beatty and Michael Healey (photo credit: Sean Howard)

by Gregory W. Bunker

What happened at the Berkeley Street Theatre last night was genius. Proud is an important contribution to the discussion of identity and democracy in this country, accomplished by examining the not-so-evident agenda of the current government. It just so happens that this examination can be, conveniently, narrowed down to the vision of a single person. Michael Healey cleverly creates a well-researched piece of historical fiction to convey his analysis, and he mashes it up with some sexy to keep it funny and awkwardly human.

The 90-minute play begins by assuming that the Conservatives—instead of the NDP—sweep Quebec in the 2011 federal election. The new majority government has a clear mandate for change (through discipline!) reiterated in a comically sober opening monologue by the new, unnamed, Prime Minister, brilliantly played by Healey. The audience is then briefly introduced to the clinical and somewhat psychotic sidekick Chief of Staff (Tom Barnett). Although the opening scene portrays the Prime Minister in his familiar public persona, the fantastic script does not allow him to be so easily demonized—what would be new or insightful about that? The real novelty of the play is what follows.

The Sunday Read: Chris Moore on playing Hamlet

The Real Question: Why Not?
Facing one of the biggest challenges in theatre literature
by Chris Moore
A couple of years ago Persephone Productions presented Shakespeare’s “Henry V”. One year before that Artistic Director, Gabrielle Soskin asked me if I would be interested in co-directing with her. I agreed, but remarked "that means I couldn’t really audition for Henry" and she said "no. I think that would probably be a lot on your plate." I agreed and said, "Well alright then I guess you can make it up to me by casting me as Hamlet." She chuckled and we left it at that. A little time later we went back to the joke and she asked, "Why not?" and I agreed. 
The first time I ever saw Hamlet was Kenneth Branagh’s full version when I was in high school. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but I remember loving it. I can even remember thinking I wanted to wear the tuxedo that Branagh wore for my prom. Since then, my exposure to the play hasn’t been very high. I saw “Hamlet Solo” when it came to Montreal and last year I watched a version with David Tennant. This is a testament to how much of the play has seeped into our culture. Without seeing full productions as often as one might think, one is already thoroughly familiar with it. Many of Shakespeare’s characters have remained iconic and perhaps none more so than Hamlet. It would be silly for any actor playing Hamlet to think "well it’s best not to think about it, just ignore it and go on with your work". There are certain realities that go along with playing certain roles. The over saturation isn’t necessarily something to be feared. I won’t let past productions get in the way of any role and certainly won’t with this one. I’ll be influenced by past Hamlets as much as I’ll be influenced by myself and the artists I’m working with. 

Tour Whore, September 23, 2012

What the Fuck Just Happened?!
by Cameryn Moore

At this time of year, especially, my FB feed dies down a little. It’s not that all my Fringe colleagues ran out of shows to promote; I personally have gigs upcoming in eight different cities. No, I think it’s because everyone is taking time to assess what the fuck just happened. 

It’s a valid and legitimate part of the touring model: there needs to be some post-mortem. Or pre-vivem. I need time to figure it out, process it, make it fit into my future plans for global domination. Or not fit. That’s okay, too. For sure there were mistakes and glitches and bad luck, and things that I hope to God will never happen again. (Getting the artificially jaded reviewer in Calgary, or developing laryngitis opening weekend.)  But mostly we are all in a quiet moment, the calm before the storm whips up again.

As I write this, Vancouver Fringe’s Pick of the Fringe holdover programming is winding down, early-bird deadlines for the Orlando and Montreal 2013 Fringes have come and gone, and those touring artists who flung themselves out past Edmonton to the last Canadian Fringes of the tour—Victoria and Vancouver—have begun the annual … migration? Diaspora? I don’t quite know what to call it. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Theatre For Thought, September 22, 2012

joel fishbane

The twin corpses of Montreal’s independent papers (the Hour and the Mirror) are still fresh in their graves and meanwhile some other news has just come down the pipeline: according to a memo being circulated by the Quebec Drama Federation, the Montreal Gazette will no longer publish theatre reviews other than for productions by the Centaur or Segal, Montreal’s two major regional theatres. “This decision will have a serious impact on our community,” reads the memo, which goes on to say that there needs to be “a concrete and positive approach which could demonstrate that the community would be active participants in finding solutions.” 

For those of you in the rest of Canada, it’s important to realize that in Montreal there’s only one major English language daily along with a smattering of community papers. Getting press for theatre is difficult in any city, but here it can feel like a Sisyphean task. Given this, the time has come for theatre companies to shift focus and take advantage of the media outlets still available to them. Paramount among these is the university press. With the last surviving professional papers devoting less space to culture, the importance of The Link, The Concordian, The McGill Daily and The McGill Tribune has just been underscored and circled in red. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: (Montreal) Richard III

Metachroma presents a murderous, mad Richard III
by Rebecca Ugolini
A production of Richard III is an ambitious project to undertake for any theatre company, let alone one presenting its inaugural feature. Metachroma Theatre, a young Montreal-based theatre company whose mandate is to address the lack of visible minorities in Canadian theatre, deftly handles the long and complex Richard III by paying equal respect to the play’s violent, tragic, and humourous themes. 
Jamie Robinson is everything a Richard should be—perfectly hateable and yet irresistible, glib, sly, and as the Acts move on, increasingly terrifying and detestable. Whether he occupies the centre stage or stalks along in the background of a scene, he is the one to watch, and in those mute moments, his freakish, funny facial contortions speak almost as loudly as his acid-laden speeches.

Review: (Vancouver) Blind Date

Freaky Funny
by David C. Jones
Blind Date is one of the freakiest funniest most accomplished improv shows I have ever experienced! Go! 
But to say it is an improv show could possibly discourage from as many people as it excites to attend. This is not Whose Line Is It Anyway? or TheatreSports. This is a high risk / stupendously rewarding theatrical experience, a self described social experiment that captures that all encompassing human need – to find a desirable mate.
The witty and loving Rebecca Northan plays a clownish French character named Mimi. Before the show she and her two helpers wander through the lobby chatting with people and handing out pick up lines. This is when she is locating her ‘mark’. A male audience member who will be her co-star – for the whole show!
Now because the show is mostly Mimi and the audience member (the two companions play a small variety of parts like waiters and cops as required) it will be different every night. This can’t help but make it very in the moment and fresh experience each time. I was attending a show a couple of nights into the local run and in the audience was another local critic back for his second go round.

Review: (Calgary) Next to Normal

(photo credit: Trudi Lee)

We’re The Perfect Loving Family
by Joe Vermeulen
Next To Normal, the hit Broadway musical about a woman and her family who cope with her bi-polar disorder has come to Calgary!
Directed by Ron Jenkins, Next to Normal tells the story of Diana, her husband Dan, son Gabe, and daughter Natalie. They, along with Natalie’s boyfriend Henry and Diana’s Doctor, Dr. Madden, are caught in the middle of Diana’s delusions and bi-polar bouts of mania and depression. As her treatment options run out, Diana is given ECT (also known as electroshock therapy). 
Opening with “Its just Another Day” Diana (Kathryn Akin) introduces her family, son Gabe (Robert Markus), daughter Natalie (Sara Farb) and husband Dan (Rejean Cournoyer) as the perfect loving family, however the opening number falls apart as she loses control and starts to become detached from reality. Each member of the family expresses how they feel and just as things seem stable with Diana’s treatment there is a revelation that stops the show. The family all start again introducing themselves in context of the new discovery. As Diana’s treatment progresses we are also shown how Diana’s condition leads Natalie and Dan down a self destructive path with her. 
Next to Normal demands a strong leading lady to carry the show and Kathryn Akin seemed to be struggling with the role. Vocally she seemed uncomfortable with some of the songs, as though they were just out of her range, and instead of playing the bi-polar disorder internally, she makes large and bombastic gestures that were at best unnecessary and at worst a distraction. They also leveled out her performance so that the times when Diana was supposed to be extremely emotional and emotive were flat, since the over-use of gestures at inappropriate times gave no contrast. That being said she nailed the comic moments of the show and despite all the arm waving was still compelling as Diana in her interactions with her family.

CharPo's Real Theatre! September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

Theatre at the Elbow
by David C. Jones
This is truly a theatrical experience and a unique opening production for a brand new Vancouver company The Elbow Theatre Society. It takes risks as it tests some theories and it has some great successes but a few flaws.
Each night a different actor or performer is given a sealed script. On stage are a ladder, a chair and a small table containing two glasses of water and a small vial of white powder. On cue our actress opens the script and cold reads. We were very fortunate to have the intensely curious Carmen Aguirre as our reader. She becomes the conduit for Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour as he educates and manipulates both her and the audience to react, respond and recoil to stories full of parables, facts and analogies.

Picture of the Week, September 20, 2012

Myrto Papatanasiu as the illness-crazed Violetta in Opéra de Montréal's La Traviata (photo credit: Yves Renaud)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Clybourne Park

Robert Moloney, Deborah Williams, Marci T. House and Daren Herbert. Photo by David Cooper.

Races in the Park
by David C. Jones

Bruce Norris wrote Clybourne Park, first produced in 2010, in response to Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun written in 1959 and he, in fact, borrows a character from her play. Norris's Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play is a social comedy about race and property values. Act One takes place in the 1950’s and Bev and Russ are selling their home after a family tragedy. Because they sold it to a black family, Karl Lindner (the borrowed character) leads the charge to ‘save’ the all-white neighborhood. Act Two takes place 50 years later and the neighbourhood has become an all black one facing the arrival of a white family. The same actors play different characters but many are related to people from the first act.

Video Of The Week, September 19, 2012

It's very short, but the sound and image are so right for La Bohème (coming to Vancouver Opera) that it is an object lesson in concision. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

After Dark, September 18, 2012

I Want To Live!
Potboilers and our lives
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I was a kid, my mother plunked me in front of our TV and made me watch a potboiler called I Want to Live! Starring Susan Hayward, it was ostensibly a true story about a woman committed to death row for mere fringe participation in a crime that went wrong. She is executed at the end in a moment I remember as being vigorously realistic. My mother tended to plunk us in front of "lesson" movies - racism is bad, justice is harsh, the Holocaust was not nice. She helped me develop a wide streak of leftism (even as she continued to be a mad-ardent Catholic - arguably the least leftist church on the planet).

The lesson I took away from I Want to Live! was that life isn't fair.

I think it's a lesson that hit me again this week when my medical life went swirling around the toilet bowl again. Now, before you turn away from what looks like a poor-me piece, I promise it is leading to a point that I hope will have more universal resonance.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: (Montreal) La Traviata

Alfredo (Roberto Di Biasio) shames Violetta (Myrtò Papatanasiu) (photo credit: Yves Renaud)

joel fishbane

Grand and glorious, La Traviata arrived at Place des Arts this week with five different sets, an immense cast, a full orchestra and one of Giuseppe Verdi’s most famous scores. Opéra de Montréal has aimed to make a splash with the opening production of their new season and they’ve succeeded admirably, creating a great pageant of song and spectacle that brought the first nighters to their feet almost before the final curtain fell.

Most people of any wisdom don’t go to the opera for the story, which is a good thing when sitting through La Traviata - the less said about the “plot” the better. Suffice it to say there’s the requisite lovers (Myrtò Papatanasiu and Robert de Biasio), a father who drives them apart (Luca Grassi) and a little tuberculosis to threaten things just as the lovers are getting reunited. It’s a silly plot which provides ample room for sweeping arias, gorgeous recitives and chorale numbers that leave you breathless, all of which Opéra de Montréal are more than happy to provide.

Review: (Ottawa) Hay Fever

by Jim Murchison
Saturday was a big deal. 100 years of entertaining the community is monumental in Canadian theatre. The official opening of Hay Fever is Tuesday, but when you have achieved what OLT has achieved it should be marked by a special celebration. The grand opening was attended by dignitaries and special guests and paid special tribute to long time patrons that had remembered OLT in their wills. Before the play commenced, The Capitol Chordettes led the audience in the singing of both God Save the King (circa 1913) and Oh Canada to frame the 100 years of history.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, September 17-23

Pippa Johnstone as the Duchess (photo credit: Tim Matheson)

Interview: Paul Flicker, Segal Centre Artistic Producer

An Artistic Producer on Producing Art
by David Sklar 
(photos by Paul Ducharme)

CHARPO: Why do you have the title of Artistic Producer and not Artistic Director of the Segal Theatre?    

FLICKER: There are a few reasons why I wanted that. One is, I am not a director of plays. I also wanted to establish a distinction between my predecessor who had been so well known in her job here. But because of that, there are now two parts to my job.  First is the overall artistic direction of the theatres and then producing the other activities that take place here such as our dance, music and special events. So while I feel I have a more territorial role with the direction of the theatres, the actual producing role takes equal importance.

CHARPO: So run me through a typical day at the theatre. 

FLICKER : Well, the great thing is, there is no typical day here. There are weekly occurrences such as production, sales and marketing and manager meetings.  But most days are completely different. I am rarely at my desk. Almost never. And notoriously difficult to reach.  So if people need to get in touch with me for productions, they call my assistant.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Sunday Read: Miles Potter on Proud by Michael Healey

Michael Healey

The Play (not the controversy) Is The Thing
Michael's Shavian examination of right wing Canadian politics could be a delightful surprise.
by Miles Potter

Last year I was listening to my radio one morning in my kitchen when I heard Michael Healey's name mentioned. Now this was CBC, and while it's not totally unusual for artists to show up on the CBC, it's not usually on the national news. I tried to pay closer attention while cooking or cleaning or whatever I was doing in the kitchen; I live in the country when not away working, and I don't get newspapers so I'm often woefully out of the loop when it comes to the theatre news. But hearing Michael's name on the news made me think I'd better listen up; the report was almost over, so I only got a partial version of the story. 

So I went and booted up my steam driven (it seems) dial-up internet to see if I could find out what Michael was up to. I got an article from somewhere laying out the bones of the story; I gleaned the facts that he had written an apparently controversial play and his “home” theatre, the Tarragon, didn't want to do it. And so he had quit. Interesting. I was actually in a kind of conversation with another theatre at the time, and I suggested that this would be a great time for some theatre to step in and grab it, which was probably foolhardy as I knew virtually nothing about the play, but in any case that particular conversation went nowhere anyway. 

The Abominable Showman, September 16, 2012

No Greek tragedy
Montreal-bound Greek diva Myrto Papatanasiu leaves home to find international acclaim
By Richard Burnett
(Portrait photo courtesy L’Opéra de Montreal, Photos of dress rehearsal in Montreal by Yves Renaud, courtesy L’Opéra de Montreal)

The classic opera originated in Italy around 1600, but it’s also true they were modeled on the music of the ancient Greek tragedy. In other words, the Greeks invented opera. Ironically, the great Greek diva Myrtò Papatanasiu had to leave her home country to find the acclaim she deserved – a recurring theme many Canadian entertainers can identify with.

“I love going home and singing for my country but it doesn’t happen a lot,” Papatanasiu told me one recent evening following a rehearsal for L’Opéra de Montreal’s 2012-2013 season-opening production of Guiseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, which originally debuted in Venice back in March 1853. The soprano will perform the role of Violetta in her Montreal debut with L’OdeM.

Tour Whore, September 16, 2012

by Cameryn Moore

Hardcore Fringer. Any artist who has more than one Fringe city under their belt falls into this category, in my mind.

It means that you have been in at least one city where you don’t know anybody, where you are sleeping in a stranger’s house. It means that you have had to take special steps to unplug yourself from normal life, asked for time off from work, possibly had issues with cell phone access, been apart from your lover for at least two weeks or more, and you have modified your life seriously in many other ways—expectations, planning, supplies, wardrobe—to accommodate your Fringe tour.

I am not saying that companies or artists performing only in their hometown are not having an awesome and legitimately challenging Fringe. I’ve never had that experience, though. I find it much easier to get along with other artists who live or have lived through that same rootlessness, for however long; they have had that same experience of being out there alone and not alone at the same time. I can bond better with them, because we have many of the same experiences. We are Hardcore Fringing.

What else goes along with that? I asked my cohort of touring Fringe artists for their thoughts (credit given where appropriate). But you know, a lot of these came up on their own, in my tour-fevered brain…

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Theatre For Thought, September 15, 2012

Your Canadian Theatre Fall Preview
joel fishbane

There’s a chill in the air and the other day I had to cycle wearing gloves: I don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the country, but here in Quebec autumn is making itself known. For the theatre world this means the start of another season of shows: the 2012-13 season is upon us and actors everywhere are shaking away their tans to step once more into the footlights. It would be impossible to cover everything going on in Canadian theatre between now and Christmas but here are just a few of the highlights. 

Chris Abraham, who last season helmed Annabel Soutar’s Seeds (now playing in French in Montreal), will return for a double bill, at least if you feel like crossing the country. At the start of November you can catch his production of my favourite John Mighton play, The Little Years, over at Tarragon (Toronto). Two weeks later, all the way over in Gateway Theatre (Richmond), Abraham teams up with Marcus Youseff and James Long for Winners and Losers, a devised piece in which a harmless game turns into a ruthless dissection of the players’ intimate lives. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) The Secret Mask

Within (and without) the Family
by Jim Murchison
Usually, the conflict and resolution of family rifts and the discovery of truths that we all recognize and relate to makes for good theatre. When it is layered and crafted as meticulously as Rick Chafe's understated masterpiece The Secret Mask it makes for great theatre. Most of the time we grow up not learning enough about each other, not speaking our minds and harbouring our resentments, but in The Secret Mask father and son meet as virtual strangers. George never really knew his father Ernie. Ernie left when he was two. At the beginning of the play the father is more the child, learning to speak and grabbing at fragments of thoughts in an effort to pull himself back to cognition after a stroke has severely reduced his memory.  George naturally resents his father deeply for leaving and dislikes him more for what he imagines him to be because he has never really known him.

Review: (Montreal) Where the Blood Mixes

(photo credit: Mateo Hernandez)

the bitter winter seeps in through the cracks
Teesri Duniya forces us to pay attention
by Jessica Wei

Canada's a fairly unassuming country. We're known for confusing politics, casual beers, icy temperatures and warm smiles. However, any true Canadian – especially anyone who lives in Quebec – knows, when it's hot, it's sweltering and when it's cold, it numbs to the bone. Some of our history is like that, too. We love our proud moments in history: the invention of insulin, the Battle of Vimy Ridge,  passing universal health care in '62, our tumultuous road to victory during the Summit Series in '72 against the Soviets, the entire Vancouver Olympics in '08 (including our tumultuous road to victory in Men's Hockey)... warm, friendly, glowing moments engraved on our currency, celebrated in our newspapers on anniversary years, boasted in our textbooks. 

But the bitter winter seeps in through the cracks. Those are times we just don't comment on the weather. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all, and most of us just don't say anything at all. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Open Letter: Rob Salerno to Edmonton and Winnipeg Fringe Festivals

Dear Chuck McEwen and Jill Roszell,

Let me begin by thanking you once again for your work running the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Festivals. These festivals each represent an amazing feat of organization, passion for the arts, and opportunities for artists. I’m writing you this letter, and posting it publically, in a spirit of great appreciation for the work you do and love for both festivals. I don’t know of any artist who doesn’t feel this way. 

But I have deep reservations about decisions that both festivals made this year, and I feel the need to share these concerns, with hope that future festivals will be stronger because of this. 

In short, I and many others believe both the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Festivals are growing unsustainably, and it seems as if the people running those festivals are unaware of the problem – indeed, press releases from both organizations are full of boasting new statistics (which I demonstrate below are meaningless) showing that the festivals were ‘the biggest yet!’

Picture of the Week, September 13, 2012

It's Christmas Eve and Musetta (Laura Whelan) hoisted on the shoulders of the waiters at Café Momus, while her abandoned lover, Marcello (Joshua Hopkins), glares. A bit of the excitement surrounding the new production of La Bohème from the revived Opera Lyra in Ottawa. (Photo, cropped from an original, by Sam Garcia/OLO)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Video of the Week, September 12, 2012

A special project by the design students at the National Theatre School in concert with Moment Factory. The School will be featuring the project as they participate in Les Journées de la culture. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

After Dark, September 11, 2012

The Language of Disrespect
Things have actually gotten worse
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Last week I wrote about how politics should be teaching us, in theatre, lessons about respect and civility. You just had to look at political campaigns in Quebec and the United States to understand that when we have grievances in the arts, we clearly should not be as rancorous. Firstly, because our community is too small to contain feuds and, secondly, because somewhere - down the line - most of us will have to work together. Grudges must die (or at least be set aside and painted over with a smile).

After I wrote that editorial two things happened:

- There was an assassination attempt on our premier-elect, allegedly by some guy spouting stupidity about how "The English are awakening!" What made the event more chilling and tragic was that there was an actual death during the attempt, a stage techie named Denis Blanchette.

- I received an open letter (email) about the crisis at Factory Theatre that I suspect I was meant to publish but where the content of the letter was so angry and uncivil I decided I would not put it up on the site. I stated that I would no longer publish pieces that did not advance dialogue that might resolve the situation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) La Bohème

Michael Fabiano and Joyce El-Khoury (photo credit: Sam Garcia/OLO)

From Rent to La Vie Bohème
The joyous return of Opera Lyra
by Jim Murchison
Saturday evening at Southam Hall marked the return of Opera Lyra after a year of hiatus brought on by financial difficulties. Now even people that have never been to the opera are aware of  La Bohème because of the phenomenal success of the modern musical it inspired: Rent. The other thing that the two pieces have in common is that very few people feel halfway about them. People love or hate Rent and the same thing can be said of opera. I would never be able to convert a zealot one way or the other, but here's the thing: many people that don't like opera have never been to an opera. If you have only ever heard opera on record or seen a production on the CBC it is not the same as going to the opera. Theatre and opera do not play well on television.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, September 10-16

RH Thomson and David Fox (photo credit: Joy von Tiedemann)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Sunday Read: Rahul Varma on Where The Blood Mixes

For the child taken, for the parent left behind
    “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” 
© Rahul Varma, Sept 7, 2012

Kevin Loring’s play Where the Blood Mixes started as a monologue, which he wrote for his theatre school graduation. The original title was The Ballad of Floyd, which portrayed Floyd, an aboriginal man celebrating his lost daughter’s birthday in, of all places, a bar. In 2001, Kevin performed this monologue at the Talking Stick Cabaret organized by Margo Kane’s Full Circle: First Nations Performance to great admiration from the public. But Kevin was not satisfied. He decided to develop the play beyond its form and content. He gave himself a goal: “let this play teach me how to write and produce a play.”  Next, the monologue transformed into a one act play. What remained common between the monologue and the one-act was Floyd’s inability to escape from alcoholism. Kevin had set the play in a bar as a purgatory for Floyd, in which Floyd would go to the bar, lose his senses, and keep waking up again and again until breaking out of the cycle of alcoholism, and leaving the bar never to return again. This version of the play was work-shopped and read at the Factory Theatre’s Crosscurrent Festival of New Works, where highly respected Native actor Gary Farmer was assigned to read Floyd’s character. Which playwright would not be honored to have Gary Farmer read his character? But Mr. Farmer did more than read a character, he gave Kevin a lesson. He slammed the script on the table, “35 years in the business and here I am playing another drunken Indian in the bar. So what? So he is a drunk in the bar. So what now?”
So What Now? 
That day, this highly talented aspiring playwright was told out loud what no one had told him for the 4 years he was working on this play. “So what now?” from Mr. Farmer made Kevin understand what was wrong with the play and what to do about it?  The “so what now?” made Kevin embark on a journey to discover the greater story -- the story behind the story. What was behind the drunkenness, behind the pain and behind the isolation of Floyd? Why was he so damaged? What will happen to him? Audiences will find that out after seeing the play! What will happen to The Ballad of Floyd? It will become Where the Blood Mixes telling us the story behind the story.  What will happen to Kevin? He will go on to win the Governor General’s Award for Where the Blood Mixes.