Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Santaland Diaries

Ryan Neil (photo credit: Tim Matheson)

When Santa is spelled S-A-T-A-N
by Chris Lane

Santaland Diaries certainly isn't your typically heart-warming Christmas yarn. Based on a short story by David Sedaris, it stays true to his politically-incorrect style of dark humour and social commentary.

The original is an autobiographical short story about Sedaris's experience as an elf in Santaland at a bustling Macy's in New York City. The story is filled with tales of screaming children, overbearing parents and the ridiculous and sometimes vile antics of harried shoppers in the lead-up to Christmas.

Multi-Media, November 30, 2012

(Garth Drabinsky, from the TIFF website)

Stop the Show, I Want To Get Off!
It's very hard not to be ambivalent about Show Stopper
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

There are those who like Garth Drabinsky, the theatre and cinema mogul convicted of fraud, and there are those who hate Garth Drabinsky. Representatives of both groups are interviewed for Barry Avrich's documentary, Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky. However, how you feel about both subject and film may have much to do with your own leanings towards praise or dislike of the documentary itself.

As a dyed-in-the-wool pinko, I saw the downfall of the showman as just another case of a gross, capitalist crook getting less than his just deserts. That he hung about with Connie (the Con) Black made him just that little bit grosser and seem that little bit more crooked. Morevoer, until he produced two grand masterpieces (Show Boat and Ragtime), I thought he was just another money-grubbing weasel who didn't know art from his arsehole; his movies (The Silent Partner, Tribute, The Changeling) stank, his hand in making cinema like TV (oh! God the multi-plex) and some of his bloated early shows (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera, Kiss of the Spider Woman) just made me dislike him all the more.

CharPo's Real Theatre! November 20, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Footloose

Fancy Free!
by Jim Murchison 

Last week was a busy week for theatre in Ottawa. So much so, that I did not have an opportunity to review Footloose until Tuesday evening. The play is an adaptation of the intensely popular film screenplay of the 80’s starring Kevin Bacon and written by Dean Pitchford. Pitchford and Walter Bobbie adapted the screenplay for the stage.

My seat was in row H and so I ventured down the aisle getting ever closer to the stage. As I reached row J, I stepped down two more positions and found myself at row G. That’s when it hit me! There is no I in the theatre. Actually there are lots of them. There are 42 people in this production. It makes Pride and Prejudice look like an intimate family gathering. The credit for making this production a true ensemble has to go to the dedicated production team headed by artistic director Shaun Toohey, but equally important is the musical direction of Wendy Berkelaar who also plays keyboards in the 8 piece orchestra and the choreography of Gabe Wolinsky. It is a huge task to move and motivate a group that large and mostly not possible for professional companies to undertake because of the expense. 

Review: (Calgary) Jack Goes Boating

Swimming in Life
by Joe Vermeulen

[Please note that this review is based on a preview performance.]

It is a cold New York winter, and Jack has just met the love of his life. Connie is everything he has been looking for in a woman. There is just one problem though, Connie wants to go out boating and Jack cannot swim. Jack turns to his best friend Clyde (who set the couple up in the first place) to teach him to swim. Clyde and his wife Lucy are then subjected to Jack learning how to cook a gourmet meal for Connie. Just as the young love is taking flight, Clyde and Lucy’s marriage is imploding.

Garret Ross brings awkward and fumbling Jack to life wonderfully. You feel his awkward nervousness and excitement at his new love. You experience him confronting his fears and growing his own expectations of what he can do. Ross’s chemistry with the rest of the cast is palpable and the stage relationships became completely believable. 

Picture of the Week, November 29, 2012

So...snow, eh. Perhaps a little White Christmas: The Musical to get us through...
(Monique Lund and Todd Talbot at The Arts Club; Photo by David Cooper)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: (Winnipeg) Miracle on South Division Street

Stefanie Wiens (by Bruce Monk)

The Unseen Statue 
by Edgar Governo

Miracles are always just around the corner. They happened to someone we used to know, they're sure to save us from this mess, they're going to change the world according to the prophecies in our holy text of choice. Somehow, though, the reality always turns out to be something other than we expected.

Families and cities, like individuals, can end up clinging to this idea of the miracle—something that surely happened in the past or will happen in the future, without ever happening right now. The Polish-American Nowak family in Miracle on South Division Street rests their whole sense of identity on their Catholic faith in general and on the tale of a past family miracle in particular, only to have both fall apart when confronted with reality. All around them, the city of Buffalo is also slowly deteriorating, losing whatever sense of miraculous promise originally brought immigrants like the Nowaks there in the first place.

Video of The Week, November 28, 2012

Loucho, a very small circus, captures a good deal of its magic in this delightful video, filmed on the Montreal métro. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

After Dark, November 27, 2012

Lemons, Lemonade and The Sour Taste That Stays
Dutchman hangs around for a bit
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I have invited the contributors at CharPo to, when the mood strikes them, write what we are going to call "Reconsidered". The idea is that, after thinking about it, many people will revise opinions about a work of art. We come out of a play with friends, we go to a café, and over the carrot cake we parse what we have just seen. The others put ideas into our head, we into theirs and then - hours, days, weeks later - we are hit by a new idea about the show. Those ideas remain largely unexpressed. However, I feel they form the foundations of future considerations not just of the piece seen but of the art itself.

The "Reconsidered" pieces will not be, "I thought it was shit, but now I think it's great!" - though that's okay too. It will be along the lines of a comment a colleague made last year when he was considering his top ten for the end of the year. He said that the plays that he was remembering for his list were, more often than not, the ones he had not raved about. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Sunday Read: First Person - Deepali Lindblom on Satrangi

I have come to believe the reason for my delayed destiny as an artist was to understand what a precious gift and a responsibility it is to be one.
by Deepali Lindblom

When asked, what made me come here, I often reply, I didn’t choose Montreal. It chose me.

Let’s rewind. In India, where I come from, if you do not come from an artist family background, you do not become an artist. Unless you are a prodigy or get real lucky. My parents decided my career even before I was born. If a girl, doctor. If a boy, engineer. A dancer? Actor? No way!

But as long as I remember, I’ve loved to dance and act. It was my way of balancing a frustrating childhood while growing up in a tiny town, more known for its communal clashes than its rich heritage. There was no dance school I could go to but there was television. I would watch all the films and try to imitate the actresses. Their graceful dances, their emotional outburst. Deep inside, I dreamt of becoming one for real, one day.

Tour Whore, November 25, 2012

Ado and Farewell
by Cameryn Moore

As I write this, I have been in Boston for two days. It feels all the more unreal because of the way I left New York City, at 4am on the day before American Thanksgiving. I had intended to leave at 4pm, after finishing my phone hours for the day, but the more I thought about the massive pre-holiday exodus that would slam the entire five-borough metropolis into first-gear-all-the-way gridlock, the more I realized that is not the way I wanted to finish the tour. So I packed up my shit, and creaked quietly down the stairs, accelerated out onto the expressway, smiling the whole way. I wanted to fly onward, fast, go go go, ride the momentum a little further.

There was momentum, still. I didn’t think there would be. I expected a shitty turnout for my one full-length presentation of Phone Whore, and I expected to just come down from that with a sad little thud. It could have been that way, too. There were seven people in the audience, counting the bartender and not counting the technician. But five of those people had not seen it before, which made the Q&A session lively still, even at 10:45 at night. Three of those people I really wanted to see it, Fringe friends of mine who had seen at least one of my other shows but not the first. One of those people was a programming decision-maker at the venue and really enjoyed the show, which meant that coming back to this lovely venue should be easier next year; they know what I can do. So that was good.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Pride and Prejudice

Tyrell Crews and Shannon Taylor (photo credit: Trudie Lee)

by Jim Murchison 

By Canadian theatre standards NAC’s mainstage theatre is a relatively large house and while it works quite well for more intimate shows, it is fun to see it rev up to its potential of a performance space of more grandeur. Certainly, the large cast and Jane Austen’s epic story of class, courting and ritual in 19th century England would give the theatre the chance to strut its stuff.

The first hint you get that you are in for an evening of more traditional theatre is that the curtain is actually drawn. When it does open your eye is immediately drawn to the oversized hangings of pastel coloured sheets of writing paper and the large rosettes. Patrick Clark’s set is romantic and representational which allows for pieces to fly in and out, to create the different locations and let the actors have full use of the breadth of the space. Clark’s costumes are gorgeous. So the mood and the stage are set. 

Review: (Vancouver) Thrill Me

by David C. Jones
You walk down an unfamiliar alley and enter through a slightly ajar door at the back of a building. Inside is a warehouse with a large wooden staircase that goes up one wall. A series of mismatched seats are in three groups surrounding the playing area. The lights dim and a pianist at upright piano starts to pound out a grand overture in eerie minor keys. A single hanging light turns on and a handsome young actor steps into it.
Thrill Me is a twisted little love story about two lovers who plotted and murdered a young boy. Weary of petty B & E and arson, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb committed what was dubbed in its time, the crime of the century. Defended by the great lawyer Clarence Darrow they did not hang for their heinous "thrill kill" but instead were sentenced to "Life plus 99 years".

Review: (Ottawa) November

(poster art)

Electing Mamet
by Valerie Cardinal

David Mamet’s November is not a production for the easily offended – it seems like every ethnicity, culture, gender and sexual orientation is mocked and insulted equally throughout the show. However, this doesn’t come off as mean-spirited. In fact, Mamet’s script is frequently very hilarious in a way that is reminiscent of television shows like Veep. November is an entertaining, light evening for those who like their political satire with a heaping spoonful of absurdity.  
November centres on Charles Smith, the most hated president in American history. He’s only a few days away from the election, and destined to be kicked out of the White House due to his dismal approval ratings and lack of campaign funding. However, Smith isn’t going down without a fight. He tries to wheedle his way into leaving office a very rich man (at the very least) with the help of his surprisingly competent Chief of Staff, Archer Brown. 

Theatre For Thought, November 24, 2012

joel fishbane

Last month, while killing time in New York, I decided to get lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After taking the subway to 86th Street, I enjoyed a New York breakfast of street food and coffee on those iconic steps before heading inside to look the painting “Grey Weather” by Georges Seurat. Along the way, I plugged in my iPod and listened to the only musical worth listening to when you’re lost at the Met: Adam Gwon’s song cycle Ordinary Days.

“The Met’s the only place in New York City where the traffic patterns don’t make sense,” sings Deb, one of the four characters in this quirky musical about the crossroads of youth. The show is made up of two completely separate storylines, but the scene at the Met is one of the few times when all four characters manage to break into each other’s lives.  “The show is about how one small thing that one character does creates a domino effect on everyone else,” explains Kayla Gordon, who’s directing the Canadian premiere. “It’s a show about asking ‘what is my big picture? What am I doing with my life?’”

Response: Howard Dai on "My First Time"

[ED: Readers are invited to comment on articles appearing on the CharPo websites.]

My First Time
“Oh, no, not drama” I thought.
by Howard Dai

[In reponse to My First Time by Gaëtan L. Charlebois]

Howard Dai is a contributor to CharPo as well as a theatre practitioner in British Columbia.

It was another boring day in my elementary school. I was in Grade 7. It was the first year of my residence in Canada since I left this country when I was five to live with my grandparents and receive education in Taiwan. I had’t really spoken English for nearly eight years (except sometimes in English class in our school in Taiwan, but all we said was “This is a book” or something super simple like that), thus when I came back to Canada after I graduated elementary school - which goes to Grade 6 in Taiwan – I was doing so badly, and apparently the only word I said in the first week was “Hi”. Our tiny community elementary school doesn’t really have a proper ESL (English as Second Language) program; they only took me for two classes of ESL in the whole school year – and it was taught by the French teacher of the school. Basically I had to sit in and learn Grade 7 English with everyone else. Oh, and I had to go to French class too. Seriously? I couldn’t even speak English properly, and you want me to learn French with English? Needless to say, it was a year with a sad report card (surprisingly, I didn’t fail any subjects – probably because there is no F in elementary school).

Anyway, as I was saying, it was another boring day in school. I didn’t really have friends in school because of my poor English. This day, our teacher handed us a course selection sheet to fill out for Grade 8 in the only secondary school in the city. Everyone was excited to finally get to have some kind of choices in their classes. I remembered I stumbled upon the arts electives section of the sheet. The options were Drama, Choir, Band, and Art. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Response: Tony Palermo on "My First Time"

[ED: Readers are invited to comment on articles appearing on the CharPo websites.]

My First Time
by Tony Palermo
I had never really seen (or paid attention to) a play until I was 19 years old.
[In reponse to My First Time by Gaëtan L. Charlebois]

(Tony Palermo was the founder of Gravy Bath Productions and the New Classical Theatre Festival. Having studied at John Abbott College, Tony was a producer, director and playwright from 1999-2006)

I too had an interesting cherry-popping experience with the theatre. It happened in two parts: First when I hated theatre (brutally disgusted is more like it) and then when I loved it (...uncontrollably at times).

I had never really seen (or paid attention to) a play until I was 19 years old. I think a few desperately lame productions travelled through my high school auditorium when I was a teenager but none of them left an impression (clearly) as I would usually take the opportunity to skip class ('foxer l'école' as we used to call it) or get severely intoxicated on hallucinogens and/or meth-amphetamines.

CharPo's Real Theatre! November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Elysha del Giusto-Enos on Practical education

Bridges Matter
Student-Artists Need a Practical Education Too
by Elysha del Giusto-Enos (Republished from The Link, with permission)

We were young. Everything that had never been done before was an opportunity for us to take. Only we could see that. We were artists.

We went to school in different disciplines. We found where we excelled above our peers and focused our efforts appropriately. We were playwrights, poets, actors, designers, writers, musicians and directors.  Some of us were several. In our classes, we got the lead roles and praise from our teachers, the recognition of our peers.

Now a generation that passed through academia like a dream is handing out flyers on street corners for $10.00 an hour. They are back home in the Prairies, working in call centres. They are pushing paper around in a small not-for-profit’s office.

It’s not that they didn’t try. They put on shows and emptied their bank accounts in the process. No one working on the creative side gets paid.

Picture of the Week, November 22, 2012

Like the play it is created to promote, this photo by Shimon Karmel for Race is as subversive and as uncomfortable as the play itself. We like that actor Kewsi Ameyaw (l) is out of focus - a phantom almost - hanging over the white man (Craig Erickson) like the title of the work hangs over the play. It provokes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Multi-Media, November 21, 2012

Hair Rock - From B'way to H'wood
by Christian Baines
By any rational laws of musical theatre, 80’s hair rock jukeboxer Rock of Ages should never have got off the ground. Yet next April will see it complete its fourth year on Broadway, with no sign of slowing down. Not bad for an LA import with a score composed of 80’s rock hits and a shamelessly tongue-in-cheek book.
The show’s success lies in its creators being smart enough to use the concept’s absurdity to their advantage. Simply put, it’s a polished, smart and wonderfully silly musical that wields its popular hits in service to the story, rather than trying to shoe-horn them in under contrivance. No need to name and shame failures here. The tendency of most jukebox musicals to disregard this simple rule is what’s earned the genre its woeful reputation.
Given Rock of Ages’ spectacular rise, it was only a matter of time before the West Coast wanted it back for a film version, which rounded up Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, alongside Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough as starry-eyed young rockers, Drew and Sherrie, drawn by the fame, fortune and filth of the infamous Bourbon Lounge. Rock of Ages is their story.
Or is it? In this film, it’s hard to tell. 

Review: (Vancouver) Race

l-r Craig Erickson, Marsha Regis, Kewsi Ameyaw, 
Aaron Craven (photo credit: Shimon Karmel)

Mamet and His Buttons
by David C. Jones
Fresh off the grand silliness of The Government Inspector director David MacKay offers up a stark and heady racially-charged drama. No music – just lights up and down. There it is, deal with it.
Race by the always-incendiary David Mamet is a behind-closed-doors story about two lawyers (one black and one white) along with their ‘honors’ student’ (also black) who are asked to defend a rich white man accused of raping a black woman. 
Mr. Mamet likes to push buttons and mocks smugness and righteousness – ironically by being pretty smug himself. He also knows how to twist and turn his plot so that at almost 10-minute intervals in the 80-minute play a new bombshell is dropped.

Review: (Vancouver) The Government Inspector

Great big buckets of fun
...and supremely, stylishly silly

by David C. Jones
The Government Inspector (sometimes known as The Inspector General) written in 1836 by Nikolai Gogol is an absurd comedy about greed and corruption in a small Russian town that gets thrown in a tizzy when they find out that an incognito Inspector is on his way.  
Studio 58 is the professional theatre training program at Langara College. They use professional directors and designers and the shows are performed by the 5th and 6th term acting students. This production also features a graduate and professional actor Joel Wirkkunen as part of the new Creative Collaboration program.

Review: (Vancouver) Dickens' Women

(photo credit: Prudence Upton)

From Pip to Miss Wade via The Waifs
by Chris Lane

My expectations were high before seeing Dickens' Women, as it's a rare chance to see a highly-acclaimed British actress on stage in Vancouver, and Miriam Margolyes certainly does not disappoint. Certainly a wonderful comedienne, she is also formidable in the more measured and dramatic scenes of the show.

Margolyes, known to Canadian audiences as Harry Potter's Professor Sprout, knows her Dickens inside and out, and her enthusiasm for his work is infectious as she performs a series of scenes from Dickens' books. She is also critical in her presentation of Dickens, lending some interesting insights into the more troubling aspects of his character. She presents him as a flawed man who created some masterful works of literature, but she also critiques certain aspects of his work, such as his penchant for sugary-sweet waifs.

The Video of The Week, November 21, 2012

In honour of the production of The Santaland Diaries, at Arts Club, here is the writer who inspired the play with his insanely odd (and David Sedar-esque) version of Silent sung by Billie Holiday. (Sound only)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

After Dark, November 20, 2012

On The Eating of One's Own Head
Can critics' dislikes and the internet be creating precisely what theatre needs?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

This week Andrew Dickson, one of The Guardian's many very able theatre critics, tweeted thusly: 

"Invitation arrives for Kiss Me, Kate, dir by Trevor Nunn. No, no, thanks awfully, very kind, really don't think so #wouldrathereatmyownhead"

I laughed out loud because I knew what he was talking about. There are productions I get invited to that I would rather eat my own head than spend an evening seeing let alone reviewing. Kiss Me, Kate would be in my top ten for sure, along with Annie (and a lot of musicals), anything by Ionesco, a lot of Albee, mime, a lot of Greek theatre, tons of Shakespeare, most French opera...need I go on?

The fact is, we all have tastes. My uncle loves opera but when I told him I had seen the Ring at Covent Garden he said, "Better you than me." He is, says he, "Saving Wagner for my old age." He's 75.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Abominable Showman, November 18, 2012

Mary Poppins musical co-star Ryan Hilliard comes to the Montreal stage after a storied journeyman career co-starring on stage and screen with the likes of Chita Rivera, Jack Nicholson and Bill Cosby
by Richard Burnett  
(Production photos by Jeremy Daniel)

Wisconson native Ryan Hilliard wanted to be a dentist when he grew up. But then when he grew up, he was really tall.

“I’m a rather large man, I’m very tall, so I’ve always been self-conscious about people looking at me,” Hilliard told me last week over the phone from the Tulsa Performing Arts Center in Oklahoma where he is co-starring in the national touring production of Mary Poppins.

“So, practically, I decided – as a defense mechanism – to make people laugh,” Hilliard says. “And that’s how my theatre career began.”

Hilliard arrives in Montreal this week with the Mary Poppins cast and crew for a run that begins at Place des Arts’ Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on November 21. 

The Sunday Read: An Artist Performs

A Raging Granny (photo credit: Joshua Sherurcij)
An Artist Performs
Unforgettable moments in the performing arts

Over the last few months we have been asking artists and contributors to share with us the most significant performance they ever saw - the one that marked them forever. The first article appeared at CharPo-Toronto. Here are others with their moments in the performing arts which are unforgettable.

Mark Leiren-Young (writer, playwright, critic, pundit)
Morris Panych and Ken MacDonald. Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Last Call - the post nuclear cabaret. Not sure if it was the first preview or the opening, but it was magic, funny, heartbreaking -- everything theatre is supposed to be. I'd never seen either of these guys before and I remember hoping I'd see a lot more of them. Morris, Ken and the amazing Babz Chula in the musical revue, Simple Folk at Kits Hall where they shared their favourite songs and their life stories. Ken Brown. Life After Hockey. As Ken's character shared his memories and dreams on stage at the Firehall Theatre in Vancouver I felt like I was seeing the great Canadian play... Robin Philips and William Hutt, The Dresser. Vancouver Playhouse. I remember my heart breaking for the dresser because of his palpable love of his old actor. Gina Bastone. Millions Die... the moment it dawns on her that the chicken she's eating from the fridge is the same as Old McDonald has a farm type chicken. "You mean chicken" she says taking a bite from the carcass in the fridge is "pok pok chicken" she says imitating a live chicken. You had to be there. So glad I was. Sticking with Gina-- the original run of The Number 14. Or Peter Weiss's Haunted House Hamlet and following Vancouver's best actors from room to room. Tom McBeath... I forget the name of the play -- maybe "The Man Himself" -- but it was a solo show at the now defunct City Stage with Tom and a cigarette doing a slow burn about why an ordinary British guy joins the National Front. Tom and Terry Kelly together in K2 at the Playhouse and, I think it was a Pinter play, at the Freddy Wood. Denise Clark. Erotic Irony of Old Glory. Edmonton Fringe. Who would have guessed modern dance was actually fun to watch -- and sexy as hell? This led me to La La La Human Steps and Margie Gillis -- both national treasures. Everything I've ever had the pleasure of seeing from One Yellow Rabbit. Colin Thomas' play 1000 Paper Cranes on a school tour. Jay Brazeau and Suzanne Ristic in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea - I was reviewing it and declared that if it didn't sell out at the old Arts Club theatre on Seymour that Vancouver didn't deserve to have good theatre. The shock and joy of the early shows of Mump and Smoot -- I admit it, I still miss Wog. Pochsy (aka the brilliant Karen Hines) at the Vancouver Fringe. Nicola Cavendish, Marilyn Norry, Jillian Fargey in... anything. Trust me. I had the pleasure of seeing Nicola Cavendish in a tiny role as a maid in Blithe Spirit starring Geraldine Page and Rochard Chamberlain. She was nominated for an award for her performance for "best Broadway newcomer" up against actors with starring roles. I phoned the head of the critic's association to ask how this happened and I still remember the critic telling me in one of those not quite British accents that theatah people sometimes affect something very close to, "before Nicola Canvendish came on stage it was a drah-mah, she turned it into a comedy."  Yes, she's that good. A non-theatre memory or two -- Bryan Adams at the start of his career opening for Supertramp at BC Place and being so clearly thrilled to be there that even people (like me) who had come in there with no interest in Adams came away thinking the concert was over before Supertramp stepped on stage. The first time I saw Spirit of the West sing Rock this House. The first time I saw Veda Hille sing at the Railway Club. Seeing kd lang live at the Commodore back when she was channeling Patsy Cline. Catching what I think was Cirque du Soleil's first show out of Quebec at the Vancouver Children's Festival and sitting there as they kept removing my breath. Bob Bossin's satirical solo revue -- Dr. Bossin's Home Remedy for Nuclear War -- at the Edmonton Fringe, which probably inspired my stage writing (and certainly my performing) more than anything else I've ever seen. Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie -- especially a couple of unforgettable sketches...  one on censorship where the narrator declared: "if Canada's new anti-censorship law passes you'll be allowed to see this" and they mocked up a gory war scene for about five minutes and then the narrator added, "but not this" -- and a scrawny Neil Grahn streaked stark naked across the stage."And my fave Trolls sketch... the late Joe Bird's audition for what I think was the National Theatre school where he comes out and does a scene from Rambo and he is on fire with the monologue and he's saying something like, "Johnny, I can't find your fucking legs" and then he pauses, blanks and shouts, "LINE!?!" And a terrified audition watcher, Cathleen Rootsaert, I think, responds deadpan, "I can't find your legs." And the first time I saw the original Raging Grannies raging in Victoria - off key and irresistible. I have to hit send now or the list will keep growing...

Tour Whore, November 18, 2012

Not with a Bang but with a "Should"
by Cameryn Moore

This is how my tour ends, these last four weeks, not with a bang or a whimper, just a “jeezus fuck, really?” Because the tail end of my tour, for the last three years, has been comprised almost entirely of Should Shows. I don’t want to do them, but I Should. Or so says my inner artist, the one who really wants to perform, spread the good word, you know, get Out There. It keeps telling me why I Should…

“You should definitely do X City. I know no one gets audiences in X City, but you’re passing through, you might as well, it looks good on your list of past gigs!”

“You should do Y City, I mean, yes, it’s in, ahem, a very rural state, but it’s a college town, and look, you always talk about how you want to take your shows everywhere, you’re such a fucking missionary, well, Y City is definitely taking it out there.”

Or the one that I never know how to fight, because after three years of touring to many of the same towns, this one is coming up more and more often:

“You should do Z City because you’ve done them already two years in a row. Yes, you had shitty audiences and a slack producer the past two years, and yes, you’d have to rent a venue this year, of course that’s less than ideal. But you know you like to finish the trilogy!”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Theatre For Thought, November 17, 2012

joel fishbane

Both the Conservative government and a slew of Canadian artists each got a chance to enjoy their favourite hobby this week. The Conservatives got to provoke the anger of the artists and the artists had a good time getting angered. This time around, the issue was the unglamorous Bill C-427,  a private members bill introduced by Tyrone Benskin, the former artistic director of Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. The bill was an attempt to rewrite the Income Tax Act to allow for income averaging for artists.

In layman’s terms, income averaging allows individuals who have a varied annual income to spread out their tax liability over a period of time. I won't bore you with the math – which, I assure you, is really boring – but the point is the bill was defeated and, as always, a few artists got their undergarments in a twist. I have a hard time taking it seriously whenever artists come down hard on the Conservatives. It strikes me as a Pavlovian reaction: at some point, artists were trained to think that the Conservatives don’t support culture and so whenever they ring the bell, the arts community begins to froth at the mouth. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Multi-Media, November 16, 2012

War Horse...everywhere
War Horse the play is NOT War Horse the book, and the Steven Spielberg movie is neither the book nor the play.
by Dave Ross 
On January 6, 2013, the Toronto production of War Horse will be closing, having had a run of 368 performances. This is a record setting run for any professional drama in Canadian theatrical history, and is not surprising – I had the opportunity to review it on opening night, and was absolutely “gobsmacked” when I left the theatre. It was (and still is) one of the most compelling pieces of theatre I have seen, and I delight in hearing other people talk about their experiences with the play. 
However, while leaving Toronto, War Horse will live on in numerous productions and a U.S. National Tour that embarked this summer. It will also live on as a film. War Horse is a prime example of a cross-media production. Originally a young adult novel, War Horse was written by Michael Morpurgo in 1982, and by his own admission, it didn’t perform well. It was only after the National Theatre in Britain decided to develop a story based on Morpurgo’s book that the War Horse phenomenon began. The phenomenon was such a success that Steven Spielberg decided to make a film, released in the Winter of 2011. The result is a cross-media cultural franchise that exists across three separate media platforms. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Kid Gloves

(from the website)

Making History
by David C. Jones
A lot of the truly interesting things about our Canadian history are lost, either because at the time no one thought what was happening was note-worthy or, worse, they suppressed or deleted history in hopes of preventing a changing time.
Vancouver writer Sally Stubbs (Herr Beckman’s People, Wreckage) became intrigued by the first female police officers in Canada and discovered that Vancouver was the first city in Canada to have not one, but two officers in 1912. Not a lot is known about Lurancy Harris and Minnie Miller, it’s not conclusive where they came from or even how their names are correctly spelled.
So Kid Gloves, at Firehall, is the imagined story of what happened those first weeks on the job based on what was happening in Vancouver at the time and a few scraps of historical information.

Picture of the The Week, November 15, 2012

If, when looking at this promo picture for The Santaland Diaries, you think "HELP!" then photographer David Cooper and actor Ryan Beil have done their job. They have conveyed the essence of the truthy tale of a writer, David Sedaris, and his chronicle of the time he worked as a Macy's Department Store elf. From cleaning up vomit, to parents smacking their kids into a smile for a with-Santa photo to not knowing how to void a charge on the cash register...HELP! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Video of the Week, November 14, 2012

Set and costume designer Roger Schultz, talks about designing ATP's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown...scaling up and capturing his namesake's spirit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After Dark, November 13, 2012

My First Time
The importance being exposed
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

My mother died when I was 13. You need to know that because it is important to the story of my first time.

My mother was the kind of Catholic who, if Christmas fell on a Sunday, would bring us all to church twice - once for Christmas, once for the Sunday. When my mother died my father - profoundly in love with his wife of 25 years and the mother of his six children - went mad with grief and got through it two ways: by falling in love with another magnificent woman and by blaming the Catholic Church for my mother's death. My mother had not been a well woman since being hit with rheumatic fever as a child and so her seven pregnancies (she lost one) had been hellish. My father thought she had died so young because they had never used birth control because of my mother's Catholicism. (Stay with me...there is a point to this.)

My father, relieved, I believe, of my Mother's staunch Catholicism, became a lot more liberal. When I was 15 he allowed me to start the house...with him. (His own father was an alcoholic and he preferred I do my drinking at home so he could see how I handled it.) He brought me to my first x-rated film at about the same time. (I have always looked like I was 30 so he suspected I was already buying nudie magazines. He was right.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: (Winnipeg) Red

Oliver Becker (photo credit: David Cooper)

Red: An Abstract
by Edgar Governo

Many people think of Abstract Expressionism as a joke—just a collection of "random" colours or lines or shapes that could be put together by anyone, ignoring the weeks or months of deep thought and effort being put into each work by those who were part of that movement. The version of Mark Rothko we find in Red (as played by Oliver Becker) agonizes over this while in the midst of creating his Seagram Murals in the late Fifties, tortured by the idea that his patrons think of his work as nothing but a commodity without realizing any of his artistic intentions.

Playwright John Logan is no doubt intimately familiar with this classic conflict between art and commerce, as someone who has written award-winning plays like this one along with numerous commercial screenplays, including both a Star Trek feature film and the latest James Bond outing (now playing in a multiplex near you). It's all too easy to imagine Logan coming across a marked-down DVD copy of one of his movies in a video store and painfully recalling countless hours bent over a keyboard.