Sunday, November 18, 2012

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...

Clare Coulter in Centaur Theatre August,
An Afternoon in the Country
(photo credit:
Alison Darcy (actor, director, co-artistic director Scapegoat Carnivale)
I will always remember Clare Coulter in The Fever by Wallace Shawn. What an amazing performance of a stunning play. Clare travelled the world with that show, just her - sitting in a chair, in front of huge international audience or at a dinner party for 7 people -  ready to knock you over with her words at the drop of a hat. The simplicity and beauty of her storytelling taught me that everything starts with the story. It's the base of all art forms, it is the beginning and it needn't be adorned to show it's truth.
I was so fortunate years later to play opposite her in Age of Arousal at the Centaur.  I couldn't believe my luck when I saw that cast list for the first time and realized I'd be playing her girlfriend

Joe Vermeulen (writer, director, lighting and sound Designer and CharPo contributor for Calgary)
It was a warm midsummer night in Quebec City, and the smell of cigarette smoke and spilled beer filled the historic Plains of Abraham as literally thousands of people waited until dark to see Rammstein perform. I was sitting with my two friends on a hill about 400M away from and to the right of the stage. We arrived at 17:30 and the show did not start till dark and that was the closest spot we could find to the stage. When the first throbbing bass came the entire plains went crazy. The band launched into "Rammleid" and as the singer opened his mouth a bright beam of light emerged from it through the fog as he sang. As the show progressed the sound and costumes and lighting but above all the Pyro kept out doing themselves. The frantic energy of the band was a sight to behold and they seemed to truly love what they were doing and that there was nowhere else on earth they wanted to be than there playing for us. I have worked on and seen more shows than I can count but that night in Quebec city topped them all.

Steve Galluccio (playwright, screenwriter, producer)
Anne Marie Cadieux in Douleur Exquise at Le Théâtre des Quat'sous two years ago. She literally blew me away. What a performer!

Estelle Rosen (CharPo Editor-in-Chief)
Pierre Brault's riveting solo performance in Blood on the Moon was an extraordinary theatre experience. The combination of only a chair on stage; lighting so memorable it almost became a character, in particular the brilliant lighting representing a jail cell, and Brault's seamless transitions to the various dialects of the many characters he portrays, coalesced into theatre at its best. The play dramatizes the trial of James Patrick Whelan, convicted of assassinating Thomas D'Arcy McGee. Brault brilliantly depicts the ghost of Whelan with nuance and heart. 

Matthew Tiffen (director, writer, artistic director Ship's Company)
THE great live performance (and there have been a few) for me, was each and every actor in 'Les Danaides' directed by Silviu Purcarete.  Did I mention there were 100 of them?  An astounding, complex ensemble performance, and moment after moment of pure geometric genius. The ensemble was perfection from beginning to end; so much stage magic - I'll never forget it.

Gaëtan Charlebois (CharPo Publisher)
Maude Guérin in Serge Boucher's Motel Hélène at Espace Go. It was a play about grief in people who don't have a witty, literate way to express that grief. In one monumental scene her character and her husband, played by François Papineau (in HIS greatest performance as well) fuck. Not make love. They fuck. To escape grief. To pretend they are alive. Even as I write this I get a chill.

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