Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Video of the Week, October 31, 2012

Happy Hallowe'en from the people at Premier Acte...
Viande (Meat)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After Dark, October 30, 2012

Why We Must Care
An election is coming and it could hurt
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

It was an awful time. Ronald Reagan was president and Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney were prime ministers. Moreover, the three loved each other. There was a pall over the world. When we were not preparing for the end of the world, small-l liberals were watching everything they cared about go into the toilet.

What was worse was the utter lack of organization on the left and by the opponents of the unholy trio. Lesbians and Gays were fighting, feminists and free-speechers were fighting - each other! It was all over the issue of pornography. Miners in Britain were treated like Mongol hordes and sometimes acted like that. The IRA was blowing up innocents when they weren't starving themselves to death in prison. A play about Margaret Thatcher caused consternation - even on the left! - because it was called Ditch the Bitch. (This before a play called The Happy Cunt toured the Fringe circuit.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sunday Read: Michaela Di Cesare on going to New York

(photo credit: Joseph Ste-Marie)
No Sex and the City
8 Ways goes to New York
by Michaela Di Cesare

I fear I’ve become that person. You know, that person who’s always talking about the same project? I can just hear it now, “Oh, more 8 Ways?” you ask with a polite smile. And I think about responding, “No, actually, this is the sequel: 9.5 Ways my Mother was Conceived” but really I say, “Yeah. I can’t believe it. It’s been 2 years!” Alas, the truth is my little foetus has grown some strong legs and is learning to walk all over the place—all the way to New York City even! But, you know, since she’s a toddler in the terrible twos she bumps into things and has to latch on to people every now and then with her chubby, sticky little fingers. That’s where fundraising and community support comes in, I suppose. Wow, my analogy is going much farther than any analogy ever should. I’ll get back on track.
8 Ways my Mother was Conceived was accepted into the United Solo Theatre Festival, a juried and competitive New York City festival. It is the largest festival of solo shows in the world! When they informed me of the selection, I was very excited, my mother (the first person I called) was very anxious, my husband was very proud and my talented creative team was very supportive.

Tour Whore, October 28, 2012

Pride and prejudice
by Cameryn Moore

Last weekend I was out on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, just as I will be by the time anyone reads this, plying my trade, as it were, with the Sidewalk Smut. My two-night run of slut (r)evolution isn’t for another week, and sidewalk pornography is bangin’ business here, in the middle of one of the busier nightclub streets of this 24/7 party town. 

As usual, tourists from around the world are astonished, in that loud, tipsy way of people given license to drink on the streets. They are amazed at what I do, and proclaim it a marvel of this debauched city. “Only in New Orleans!” they yell appreciatively and stagger on down the street, narrowly missing the puddle of puke that one of their debauched colleagues has neatly deposited in the gutter. When a partier does stop and talk, I will happily correct their assumptions and tell them that Sidewalk Smut in fact happens anywhere that it’s warm enough and I have time enough on my tour. But if they don’t stop, I let them roar and let the mistake go. Let them think I’m from here. I’m fine, in fact I’m kind of flattered, about being considered part of the local color, a quick Instagram on a score of smartphones, a drunken tweet featuring my tits and the typewriter.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Number 14

Left to Right: Mike Stack, Courtenay J. Stevens Photo Credit: David Cooper

Next Stop: Canada
by Chris Lane

The Number 14 bus is making a trip across Canada to cap twenty laughter-filled years of their own Vancouver brand of slapstick comedy.

The Number 14 is a series of comedy sketches that take place on a bus, modelled after the real-life number 14 bus that still runs along Hastings Street. It features a series of completely wacky characters riding the bus together, and generally annoying the heck out of each other.

Axis Theatre Company's artistic director and co-creator of the show, Wayne Specht, directs this cross-Canada tour.  While many of the jokes have been updated over the course of 20 years performing around the world, the show still has a certain 1992 feel.

Theatre For Thought, October 27, 2012

joel fishbane

About ten years ago, I wandered into a production of Company, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s seminal musical that was hailed as the first plotless musical. It was electric, so much so that the following week I went back to the theatre, stood in the cancellation line and scored a ticket after someone’s date didn’t appear. A decade later, it remains one of the most engaging productions of Company I’ve ever seen. 

So who was behind this theatrical miracle? A regional theatre? Some scrappy independent company? Actually, it was McGill Players' Theatre, McGill University’s student-run theatre company. That’s right: one of the best productions I saw in fifteen years of Montreal theatre was produced by a bunch of twenty year olds, most of whom have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and aging hipsters with degrees they never use.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: (Calgary) Bashir Lazhar

Poster art
Alone, Together
by Joe Vermeulen

Bashir Lazhar, a franco-Canadian play by Evelyne De La Chenelière, is a fantastic exploration about racism, suicide and death, love and loss, and institutional failure. The play opens with a comic introspection where Bashir attempts to work out how best to introduce himself to his new class. As a supply teacher, he has to work out how far the class has progressed. While the opening and much of the show is comic, through his lessons we delve deeper into his experience as a refugee and the strength of children.

Haysam Kadri, in the title role, is simply phenomenal. He clearly emotionally connects with the character and thus the audience. We were moved to tears by his experiences of institutional failure, both of the immigration system and in his school. We yearn with him to express the feelings of his students after being witness to a horrific tragedy and we feel his frustration at the repeated attempts to silence and belittle their collective experiences. While the dialogue is only in English, every time he writes on the chalkboard he writes in clear French, solidifying the illusion that was built that we are watching a show in French, but hearing the words in English. This wonderful homage to the origins of the play in Quebec seemed so natural that it took a moment to realize what had happened. 

Review: (Vancouver) She Stoops to Conquer

Jennifer Mawhinney and Melissa Oei. Photo by David Cooper.

She Stoops...SHE CONQUERS!!!
by David C. Jones
It was tough going off the top of She Stoops to Conquer. Written in 1773 the language is archaic and it did not help that at the beginning, stepping around David Roberts 2-D set, was a chorus of servants (played with goofy charm by John Voth, Christine Quintana, Sebastian Kroon, Paul Kloegman and Christina Well Campbell) singing “wha wha blah wha wah wha plah twist”.  Couldn’t understand it but it was a pretty harmony. Then when the actors came out we are still trying to wrap our ears around the language. As with many older plays much of Act One is all about setting up the premise and it is not until the later acts that the plot and conflict really start gearing up.
Well-to-do Mr. Hardcastle (played with world-weary bluster by Norman Browning) and his wife the social climbing Mrs. Hardcastle (the hysterically certifiable Leslie Jones in a welcome return to the stage) are trying to marry off their kids. Lay-about drinker and “awkward booby” Tony (Chris Cochrane) is ordered to marry his cousin Constance Neville (Melissa Oei) - mainly so Mom can keep Constance’s jewels - and daughter Kate (Jennifer Mawhinney) is to meet with Charles Marlow in hopes they will hit it off. The problem with both plans is: Constance and Chris both are interested in other people and Mr. Marlow gets all tongue-tied around high society women feeling more comfortable flirting with lower classes. One of the many merry mix-ups and deceptions in the classic Laughing Comedy is that Kate will pretend to be a maid to put Marlow at ease. She will stoop to conquer.

Multi-Media, October 26, 2012

Ring 'Round Robert
Lepage's Wagner, Wagner's Lepage
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Unlike many proud Canadians, I am rarely delighted by two cultural icons: Cirque du Soleil and Robert Lepage. In both cases I find the mechanics - indeed, the literal machinery - devours what makes theatre theatre: humanity. In both cases I remember the theatrical philosophy of that zealot, Gordon Craig, who thought it might be a good idea to replace actors with marionettes.

Specifically, Lepage has used production size and length to consume audiences. The problem is that, often, the content wasn't up to the task of filling the time and space.

Well, M. Lepage, meet Herr Wagner.

CharPo's Real Theatre! October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Picture of the Week, October 25, 2012

Mike Stack in David Cooper's deliriously silly photo from the cross-country phenomenon, The Number 14, now in Vancouver and then across the country, ending its tour in Montreal in the spring. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Video of the Week, October 24, 2012

The four young and attractive singers who play the four young and attractive lovers in La Bohème, now at Vancouver Opera.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reviews: (Vancouver) My Mother's Story, Pants on Fire, The Unplugging

My Mother's Story
Letter From Vancouver
Pants on Fire, TheUnplugging and My Mother's Story reviewed
by David C. Jones

My Mother’s Story
I was reluctant to attend this show. Based on the title and the premise – eight women tell the true story of their mothers – I thought ‘how boring’. Then something compelled me to go despite my misgivings and I loved it! Created by Marilyn Norry and Jenn Griffen a couple of years ago, this new version has been re-imagined by director Heidi Specht into a bigger production. Jamie Nesbitt has created a set of shelves with objects covered in grey fabric – protected, treasured but likely forgotten. They and the platform in the middle of the floor become a canvas for pictures, movies and other graphics. Muted and flowing costumes by Flo Barrett add to the earthy charm of the women;  precise and surprising lighting by Rebekah Johnson helps create the various moods of the stories they tell. The show has a lyrical feel aided by a wonderful sound track by Judy Specht. The diverse women are hilariously truthful and nobly dignified. Eileen Barret, Zena Daruwalla, Lisa Ravensbergen, Donna Soares, Hillary Strang and Colleen Winton step into other women’s stories whereas Suzanne Ristic and Wendy Noel tell their own mother’s stories. Ms. Specht has created tableaus and movement pieces that chronicle the lives of the women from their birth. We snap back and forth from story to story – sometimes we fold backwards and forward on the timeline and it can be a little challenging to follow the narratives – especially when they boil down to sound bites, like so many Facebook status updates – but it makes you lean in more to really focus. This is not a show about eight individual stories – the overlapping nature creates an all encompassing human experience of what it means to be a mother; the hope, the challenges, the regret, the loathing, the determination and the humour. They are very funny. The belly laughs are plentiful as are the pains of recognition when we see our experience in these stories. The choreographed stage movement is compelling – when one child is slapped all the women do the slapping sound. As the stories move towards their conclusions, the tears started to flow. And flow and flow. Great parts of the audience were audibly sobbing and Kleenex was being passed out in the front rows. They may not have followed every single individual story line but they were clearly involved and powerfully moved. Ms Specht and her team of designers and actors have created an artistically rendered production that is richly rewarding.
To October 28
Photo by Chris van der Schyf
Read Marilyn Norry's first-person article on the creation of My Mother's Story

After Dark, October 23, 2012

What are the limits?
One critic revives the debate
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

In my third year of acting school, one of my teachers - an inveterate bastard - decided to tell us the facts of life. He told us what we would play when released into the real world. "You," he said to one handsome boy, "would play Prince Hal." To a lovely young thing, "Juliet," to a less lovely one, "Mistress Ford." And on and on. It was a harsh lesson. In the real world, beyond our talent (or lack of), we would get roles based on our looks. (For the record: I would be Richard III...fucker.)

Let's face it (no pun intended) when an actor walks onto a stage his or her first job is to create the illusion. That's the work. If you are playing older, younger, uglier or prettier (or smarter or dumber) than yourself, you will spend a few long minutes of your first few on stage convincing the audience otherwise and then pulling them more deeply into the play. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

But here's the thing...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: (Winnipeg) A Few Good Men

Jeff Strome, Brent Hirose and Cole Humeny (Photo by Epic Photography)

Revisiting Men
by Edgar Governo

Any modern production of A Few Good Men must emerge from three shadows simultaneously: Aaron Sorkin, who has since become very well-known for creating television series (Sports NightThe West WingThe Newsroom) and writing award-winning screenplays (The Social NetworkMoneyball);  the film adaptation directed by Rob Reiner and its indelible starring performances by Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Jack Nicholson; and the changing historical connotations of the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, which has become far more associated in recent years with the legally questionable detention of alleged terrorists.

Director James MacDonald does his best to stand out from these competing legacies with mixed results. The central story, involving US Navy lawyers defending a pair of Marines accused of murdering one of their own, will be familiar to those who have seen the film, and the plot remains unchanged outside of some structural elements such as flashbacks. (I hesitate to delve too deeply into plot details, but how much spoiler protection is needed for a play quite faithfully adapted into a hit movie 20 years ago?)

Openings We're Tracking This Week, October 22-28, 2012

Lucinda Davis

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Sunday Read: Interview - Jackie Maxwell, Artistic Director, Shaw Festival

(photo credit: David Cooper)

Re-Oxygenating the Shavian Flame
Celebrating her 10th season as Artistic Director for the Shaw Festival, Jackie Maxwell talks Ragtime, voices in theatre, and defining the next 50 years of the iconic Shaw. 
by Christian Baines
CHARPO: With another month or so to go for this year’s Shaw, how has the season treated you so far?
MAXWELL: This season has been pretty good, actually. We have all the attendance difficulties that everybody has in terms of the general shifting of the world in the context of economics and all of that. But Ragtime, our big musical – which is kind of leading us not only this season but into our next years if you like, because this is our 51st season – really has done extraordinarily well. It’s always great to have a big signature piece kicking like that. Our Shaws, I’m glad to say did very well, as did Hedda Gabler and His Girl Friday. So there are always ups and downs within a season, but we’ve had a really strong showing. Artistically, I feel very good about the season. I think the company’s in good, strong shape. It’s always hard. Every week you’re always counting the box office,  funds raised and things like that, but everybody’s doing that. 

First Person - Djanet Sears on why she writes for theatre

Notes Of A Coloured Girl
32 Short Reasons Why I Write For The Theatre
by Djanet Sears

1  For me, writing for the stage reflects the hybridity of my lineage.  I am bi-cultural: African Canadian.  My practice is both oral and literary.  In the poem Talking Drums #1, African American author, Khephra, puts it this way :

     Carved from that same tree
     in another age
     counsel/warriors who
     in the mother tongue
     made drums talk
     now in another tongue
     make words to walk in rhythm
     ‘cross the printed page
     carved from that same tree
     in another age
          Talking Drums #1 (Khephra 125)

2  I was having lunch with Nobel laureate Derek Walcott.  We were mostly talking about a play of his that I'd directed called A Branch of the Blue Nile.  Towards the end of the conversation I said to him, "Can I ask you a stupid question?  His eyebrows crawled up to his hairline.  But he didn’t say no.  Not that I gave him much of a chance.  I quickly kicked all hesitation out of my mind,  and asked, "Why do you write?  What compels you to put pen to paper; finger to key?"  Derek Walcott retreated to the back of his seat, allowed his eyebrows to return to their original position, and looked at me.  Silence.  He seemed to be staring at me; almost looking right through me.  Realizing that I'd probably insulted him, I quietly set about plotting my escape.  Then all of a sudden a torrent of words spilled out of his mouth.  
“I don’t know why I write.”  That's what he told me.  
He said that for him writing wasn’t a choice.  From as far back as he could recall, he had written.  He described it as a kind of organic desire.  He didn’t know why he wrote, but when he experienced that urge, he felt compelled to act on it, whether he was on a plane,  whether it was first thing in the morning, or last thing at night.  He had to write.

Tour Whore, October 21, 2012

I’d call it networking, except...
by Cameryn Moore

It is exceptionally easy to get stuck in Producer’s Mind out here: How many tickets have I sold? How the hell am I going to get those posters up, and where? Who is my tech person for Austin, Nashville, New York? Even on the Canadian Fringe circuit, when these questions are easy to answer, or are already answered for me, I get into it, crunching the numbers, plotting the schedule, doing the interviews, hell, finding the great Secret Parking Spot. (Oh, yes, they exist in every Fringe, in every city. I haven’t found them everywhere, but that just means I haven’t spent enough time in that city yet. I’ll find them.)

These are important questions. I would never want to ignore them. But I have noticed that when I pull my attention back a little, away from the micro-management, room opens up for some truly serendipitous stuff. I realized a few days ago that I’m experiencing it more this year, probably because my Producer’s Mind feels a little more comfortable running as a background loop. Or I’m more comfortable moving it to the background. Whatever it is, it frees up the rest of my consciousness for connecting.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) The Glace Bay Miners' Museum

Francine Deschepper and Gil Garratt (photo: André Lanthier via NAC website)

A Maritime Story
by Jim Murchison
When you first walk into the theatre and see the beautifully rustic set design by Sue Lepage, it instantly informs you that you will be in for an evening of intimate story telling and human struggle. The central component is a cramped kitchen and the staircase that spirals around the stage right side does not have a single step that is exactly the same size or shape hinting to the audience that this is a community that has to make do with whatever is available. Paul Cram's sound design further sets the mood as the tin flute plays over the sound of the surf and Leigh Ann Vardy's light scape splashes across the sky.
I have to admit that I have a bias for maritime stories as I myself grew up listening to family tales, games, music and jokes in cramped seaside kitchens. I also had the profound and frightening experience of being at the face of a working coal mine in Sydney Mines and met the men that worked there. The beautiful thing about well crafted theatre is that it can transport you to that common part of the heart that informs all humanity regardless of personal experience, so I believe this production will touch everyone with its caustic wit, pain and warmth.

Review: (Calgary) Pride and Prejudice

Poster art

Meeting Pride and Prejudice
by Joe Vermeulen
I suppose as a theatre and arts nerd I should probably be embarrassed that I have never been exposed to Pride and Prejudice before tonight. Sure I am familiar with the loosely adapted musical based on the same story “I Love You Because”, but I have never actually encountered the real thing. Well, Theatre Calgary sure put that right.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story I will summarize its beginning. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters are thrilled to learn that their new neighbor is both rich and young (not to mention single). After meeting the family Mr. Bingley, the new neighbor, throws a ball to meet the town. Soon it becomes clear that the eldest daughter Jane and Mr. Bingley are becoming an item. Offput by this, his friend Mr. Darcy and his sister Caroline contrive a way to draw him back to the city. In the process of doing this, Mr. Darcy scorns and insults Elizabeth, the second daughter...

Theatre For Thought, October 20, 2012

joel fishbane

I’ve been in New York for five minutes when I meet Jennifer Lopez. Sitting on the F train, trying to make sense of the colored lines that zig zag from Manhattan into Brooklyn, I am interrupted by a heavyset woman with dark frizzy hair. “I’m Jennifer Lopez,” she tells us. “But not that Jennifer Lopez. I’m the homeless one. Will someone give me a dollar?” 

Meanwhile, in the pages of the New York Times, a more genuine entertainment story is breaking. Rebecca, a musical based on the book by Daphne du Maurier, was set to be the big opening on Broadway this Fall. Rehearsals were set to start the week I arrived but less than 24 hours before the first read-through, the production had been scuttled. According to the NY Times, stockbroker Mark C. Hotton likely invented four crucial investors who were set to bring in $4.5 million dollars of the show's $12 million dollar budget. The show had other troubles, having suffered cancellations and the death of a major investor earlier this year. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Multi-Media, October 19, 2012

Plummer (photo: David Hou, courtesy Stratford Festival)

An Actor Performs
Christopher Plummer renders Barrymore
by Estelle Rosen

[PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a new weekly feature where we will be reviewing theatre and theatre discussion translated to other media: books, playscripts, recordings, television broadcasts, DVDs etc.] 

Christopher Plummer as John Barrymore is one of the rare treats offered on TV. He presents the legend that is John Barrymore in his own inimitable style. Interspersing Barrymore’s story with song lyrics including Kalamazoo and Dancing in the Dark (an appropriate opening song), Plummer gives insight into Barrymore’s character - the good, the bad, and the outrageous - with talent and wit. He portrays vignettes from Barrymore’s life and reminisces while we learn and laugh. 

Barrymore who wanted to be a painter; laments, ‘How did I ever get into acting?’ Yet in the midst of questioning why and how he ever got into acting, he admits he is transformed when theatre lights come up. Richard III - or Richard Turd as he calls it - was the first time he was taken seriously.

CharPo's Real Theatre! October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Picture of The Week, October 18, 2012

There is a sadness as a theatre season comes to its conclusion and that is nicely reflected in this Cylla von Tiedemann portrait of Ken James Stewart in - what else? - Stratford's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Ms von Tiedemann has also nicely captured the echo of the iconic pullover in Michael Gianfrancesco's set.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Initiation Trilogy

(photo courtesy The Electric Company)

Going Places
by David C. Jones
The Electric Company is one of the most celebrated and bold theatre companies in Vancouver – maybe all of Canada. They are so cerebral and artistic they can be terrifically exhilarating and sometimes confounding.  
Initiation Trilogy is a collection of three poems: Glossolalia by Marita Dachsel, What It Feels Like For A Girl by Jennica Harper and God of Missed Connections by Elizabeth Bachinsky that have all been adapted by Ms. Dachsel and then imagined/created by Naomi Sider, Kevin Kerr, Anita Rochon and directed by Ms. Rochon.
It is a thought-provoking and uniquely staged evening of art, at times very moving and sometimes a little elusive.

Video of the Week, October 17, 2012

As our grandparents used to say, "With the Greeks, be unique." Okay, we had weird grandparents...anyhoo! Scapegoat Carnivale, in Montreal, is doing it again. After their praised and rewarded Medea, they are tackling The Bacchae

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

After Dark, October 16, 2012

We Need to Talk About The Kids
Out of the mouths of babes...
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I was having a conversation with a bunch of much-younger-than-me film students, a few years back. We were working together on a movie project and I mentioned that the style we were shooting it resembled what I had heard and read about the shoot for Midnight Cowboy - very guerilla. To a person the group of four looked at me with a blank stare. I was confused. Yes, I realized that guerilla art was a fad of my own youth.

But Midnight Cowboy!! They had never heard of it. I blustered. Midnight Cowboy! I repeated over and over again, like the repetition itself would make this film iconic to them. It gets worse...except for Dustin Hoffman, all the names linked to this film (director John Schlesinger, actor Jon Voigt) meant nothing to them.

This was the moment my attitudes about art changed - I thank the four youngsters for this. I realized, later, that these young people were not a bunch of baboons - they had given me the same look I gave my older sisters and brothers when they talked about Rickie Nelson (pop star and star of the TV show Ozzie and Harriet, and cute - my sisters insisted). The roll of the eyes I gave my elder siblings was exactly that given me on Midnight Cowboy and for the same reason: this is not

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Profile: (Vancouver) Risky Nights

500 Days and Nights of Risk
by David C. Jones 
(Photos: Jan Snarsky)
Studio 58 – the professional theatre training program at Langara College in Vancouver, BC - is one of the most respected acting schools in North America. They audition all across Canada and accept only 16 students twice a year for the six-term/three-year program.
Risky Nights is a part of their evolving opportunities and training for the students. Conceived by former Artistic Associate Jane Heyman (when it was called The 4th Term Project) it was designed to be a bridge between going from class studies and projects in terms in the first three terms to suddenly being thrust onto the main stage with professional directors and expectations.

Review: (Vancouver) The Zombie Syndrome

My colleague Jose Os reads instructions given to us by The Locksmith (played by Ryan McDonald) while other team-mates don surgical masks for the next part of the adventure. We had to figure out the clues to unlock the bike locker behind us - we were warned if we guessed wrong we would be shot! That motivated us to guess right. (Photo credit: David C. Jones)

Walking Dead tonight...Zombie Syndrome now!
by David C. Jones
Vancouver seems to have set a standard for site-specific theatre. Years of Vancouver’s insane rising property values also helped drive up the rent; local theatres and young artists had to take to the streets or storefronts, local parks, warehouses or under bridges to stage shows. These are mostly original creations - although one company performed A Streetcar Named Desire in and around a house with the audience sitting on the lawn.
The Virtual Stage – which specializes in multi-media presentations - has taken things a step further with The Zombie Syndrome. Here a small audience is taken on an adventure that will take them from one side of downtown to the other, on sky trains, into storage lockers, back alleys, and a van. 
When you book a ticket – advance only – you first receive an email that includes instructions with QR Codes – it helps if you have a smart phone – but if you don’t when you rendezvous with your group there will be someone who will. 

The Sunday Read: Mack Gordon on ITSAZOO and "Debts"

The Horror of Inevitability
In order to be subversive and challenging, you've got to scare a few people away.
by Mack Gordon

With pupils so wide you can't identify its iris, Rosemary descends the stairs to an unknown sub-basement in “Rosemary's Baby.” Danny Torrance rides his big wheel down the hall in the Overlook Hotel while Stanley Kubrick's steady cam follows. Nosferatu's shadow approaches while the mirror gazing backwards sees nothing. This is horror to me: slow, threatening inevitability.

In 2009, Vancouver theatre company ITSAZOO Productions approached me to talk about their next project. They wanted to do a site-specific play at Halloween that blended the tales of Edgar Allan Poe with the aesthetic of 1980's slasher flicks.

I knew them well and I knew their company well. I'd seen most of their shows and understood their formats. In “Grimm Tales,” Hansel and Gretel lead the audience around to several different vignettes reenacting the famous stories of the Brothers Grimm. In “Robin Hood”, Alan of Dale is our host. “The Road to Canterbury” features a bumbling tour guide/historian. One host presents several tales in their entirety, wrapped together by a common thread.

Tour Whore, October 14, 2012

The Tour Whore FAQ
by Cameryn Moore

As I’m nearing the end of this year’s tour, it seems a good time to get some questions answered. Some of it is kind of a summary from previous columns; some is fresh, just for you. I know y’all are responsible enough to hang onto this for next year and come up with other questions.

Where are you from?
My car, the Toyota Corolla over there. Most recently from Boston; I gave up my lease there in April and have been travelling ever since. My winter clothes and my cat are in Montreal, so that’s obviously where I’m going when this tour is up in five weeks. The rest of my shit is in a storage pod somewhere in central Massachusetts. I was born and raised near Portland, OR, and spent 10 years in and around San Francisco. I identify most strongly with the East Coast, but I am rapidly becoming a citizen of the world. I am having a sampler made for the ceiling of the Deerinator: HOME IS WHERE THE KEYS FIT.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: (Calgary) Intimate Apparel

Not Just A Love Story
by Joe Vermeulen
Set in 1905 era New York City, Intimate Apparel is a story about growing up, betrayal and love. Esther (Karen Robinson) is a 35-year-old seamstress living in a boarding house for unmarried ladies. Known for making intimate apparel for ladies, she is highly sought after by the wealthy white upper class. After a wedding reception for one of her housemates, the landlady Mrs. Dickson (Kim Roberts) brings her a letter from a laborer on the Panama Canal. George (Andre Sills) has heard about Esther from a man who attends the same church as she does. He craves human contact from  a fine young lady. Encouragement from her friend Mayme (Abnea Malika) and client Mrs. Van Buren (Julie Orton) give her the courage to write him back. Meanwhile she is developing a very close and intimate bond with the Jewish cloth merchant Mr. Marks (Graham Percy). As her relationship with both George and Mr. Marks grow, she learns what real love is, and that she and others can change to let it grow.

Review: (Toronto) La Cage Aux Folles

Sieber (l) and Hamilton (photo credit: Paul Kolnik)
Sieber's Show
by Christian Baines
With all the gay-affirming, drag-embracing shows that have found success in its wake, it’s easy to overlook just how revolutionary La Cage aux Folles must have seemed when it debuted on Broadway in 1983. A musical that not only featured a gay couple as protagonists – just as America was entering a new era of conservatism and AIDS-fuelled homophobia – but dared to present the notion that families with same-sex parents might be, not just the equal of, but indeed, pretty much the same as their heterosexual counterparts.
The musical went on to sweep the 1984 Tony Awards, and has since been popularized by two Tony-winning revivals and a popular Hollywood remake of the original French play-turned-film (that’s The Birdcage, for those who’ve been living under a rock for the past decade and a half). That, along with the leaps and strides made by gay rights in the last 30 years, can make the show’s remarkably inoffensive book and broad ‘dude in a dress’ gags seem almost quaint in an age where foul-mouthed Mormons and puppet sex are considered mainstream fare. 

Theatre For Thought, October 13, 2012

Eloi ArchamBaudoin and Jennifer Morehouse

joel fishbane

Emma Tibaldo has never been shy when it comes to her thoughts on Medea, the famed murderess of Greek myth. “She’s always been a hero to me,” says the artistic director of Playwrights Workshop Montreal, one of Canada’s longest-running play development centres. It’s a bold statement, given that Medea murders her own children to enact revenge on a faithless husband. But Emma Tibaldo sees it as something more then just an act of infanticide. “She’s a hero to me because of her willingness to do something extra-ordinary to get justice.”

Her ability to sympathize with a woman who commits a heinous act may be what makes her the ideal choice to direct Nadine Desrocher’s English translation of The Medea Effect, originally penned by Québécois playwright Suzie Bastien in 2005. Both a modern tale of trauma and an emotional tug-of-war between two lost souls, the piece stars Jennifer Morehouse and Eloi ArchamBaudoin. It’s the latest show by Talisman Theatre, the Montreal based company that produces English language premieres of Francophone plays. Founded by both a director and a designer, its shows always find a way to incorporate design into the narrative. Designers often start a year in advance and Tibaldo works in conjunction with them to make sure that both text and design work together to highlight the play’s themes. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Little Shop of Horrors

Greg Delmage, Nicole Stevens, Kerry O'Donovon, Veronika Sztopa Photo credit: Devin Karringten
Well, that was a lot of fun!
by David C. Jones
Little Shop of Horrors is a morbid little comedy musical about a young dweeb who finds a fascinating plant that starts him on a path out of the gutter and onto stardom. But this is a deal with the devil because Seymour Krelborn discovers to his horror that this plant thrives on blood.
Based on the 1960’s non-musical Roger Corman film – that marked the screen debut of Jack Nicholson as a crazed patient – this 1982 off-Broadway show is a cult hit containing a witty doo-wop Broadway rock score by composer Alan Menken and writer the late Howard Ashman. (Note to producers: Their names are illegible on the program cover and bios of them would seem fair. After all you couldn’t do the show if they didn’t write it.)

CharPo's Real Theatre! October 12, 2012

Multi-Media, October 12, 2012

[PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a new weekly column where we will be reviewing theatre and theatre discussion translated to other media: books, playscripts, recordings, television broadcasts, DVDs etc.] 

The Phenomenon that is Tig
In 30 minutes, your perceptions of performance (and life) will change
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

He was standing offstage and minutes later everything was different. That is how one of the finest comics in the world, Louis CK, described what he saw and heard when Tig Notaro walked onto the stage. "What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life." After the performance he asked the club manager if he had recorded the set, found it had been and was, in fact, well-recorded. Then CK decided the world needed to hear Notaro's half-hour. He put it up as a $5 download on his website and told everyone to listen.

And I am telling you as well: you must listen to Tig Notaro Live.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Picture of the Week, October 11, 2012

Danette MacKay and Chip Chuipka in Centaur Theatre's (photo credit:
August, An Afternoon in the Country
We like this captured moment as it looks like an actual family photo (as opposed to a theatre photo) - aside from the gentle tension of consternation, the actors wear clothes which don't look like costumes, in front of a set that does not look like a set.