Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Waiting for the Barbarians

Chuma Sopotela (photo credit: Andrée Lanthier)

Grasping "The Other"
JM Coetzee's masterpiece comes to the Segal stage
by Caitlin Murphy

Though we think that we fear our enemies, we actually dream them. They are fictions that we fetishize as they give specific target for our untenably general fears.

This is the paradox that anchors South African born writer and Nobel Prize Winner J.M. Coetzee’s brilliant 1980 novel, Waiting for the Barbarians.  His narrative of imperialism, adapted for the stage by Alexandre Marine, premiered in Cape Town last year, and is currently being presented at the Segal Centre as a co-production with Maurice Podbrey’s South African theatre company, MoPo Cultural Trust.

Review: (Toronto) Cowboy Mouth

Photo credit: Adam Moco
The Coyote and the Crow
Revived Shepard/Smith play gives good mouth.
by Christian Baines

Cowboy Mouth, the collaboration between playwright Sam Shepard and rock legend Patti Smith is a story of delusions. Imaginary friends, imaginary power, and the biggest delusion of all, the American Dream. For Slim (Jason Collett), a pseudo-cowboy who ‘looks like a coyote,’ that dream means rock stardom, dangled before his eyes by Cavale (Jessica Huras), his damaged kidnapper turned lover – at least, when she’s not threatening his life or talking to her dead crow.

Review: (Vancouver) Winners and Losers (PuSh)

(photo credit: Simon Hayter)
Brutal Brawl of Words and Feelings
Sneak Attack 
by David C. Jones 

The PuSh Festival is all about stepping over the line, about taking risks. Themes emerging so far this year are about the tyranny of aging/death and man vs man in a struggle to thrive. Sometimes they pack an emotional wallop and other times intent not always clear. A couple of the shows have laid groundwork that seems less than compelling, then it sneaks up behind you and punches you in the heart.

Winners and Losers did that and it was entirely unexpected. Although its purpose is not immediately clear one cannot discount the visceral last half of the show. A co-production between Theatre Replacement, New World Theatre and Crows Theatre, the show was written and performed by actors Marcus Youssef and James Long, directed by Chris Abraham.

Review: (Toronto) Two Rooms / II

Elkahna Talbi and Jean Marc Dalpé (photo credit: Mathieu Girard)
No Room for Compromise
To love or loathe those “swinging Tunisian hips”
by Gregory Bunker

Théâtre Français’s Two Rooms elaborates on the racist overtones created by the “war on terror”. It uses an older, white, “old school” Canadian policeman and a young, intelligent, beautiful, Muslim immigrant to tell its story. Originally written in English by Mansel Robinson, Two Rooms has been tweaked and translated for a French audience, shifting the immigrant’s identity as an Uyghur Muslim to a North African Muslim, for example. Jean Marc Dalpé, the male lead, translated the play to reflect a more natural French rhythm. But anglophones need not fear: surtitles are provided, which were effectively used by this humble reviewer even if their near proximity made it a bit difficult to flit between the acting and the dialogue.

Picture of the Week, January 31, 2013

Isn't this a joyous picture? Yves Renaud, a photographer who captures opera splendidly virtually every time he aims his lens, represents, with this shot, all that is good about opera: you almost want to join the two men on stage and sing. Dominique Coté and Marc Hervieux let loose in l'Opéra de Montréal's production of Die Fledermaus

The Album, January 31, 2013

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Leave of Absence

Lucia Frangione and Tom McBeath (photo credit: Ron Reed)
Great cast and heartfelt writing
Lesbians and the Bible
by David C. Jones
This show is so heartfelt and presented with such integrity there is an audience for it and it even has the potential to expand some minds. Others might find it a little melodramatic or even uninvolving but there is humour and sadness to carry you through.

Leave of Absence is about a teenager who has been raised by a religious single parent. A thoughtful priest, a blunt but affable neighbour and a progressive (she is into female Christian mystics) but limited Catholic school principal surround her, which is a good thing because she is about to discover her Lesbian feelings, oh, and God is talking to her and “She” approves.

In a Word...Christi Rutledge, Social Marketing Coordinator, Stratford

As a culture, we’re becoming increasingly tech savvy

After graduating from Western University with a BA in English Language and Literature, Christi Rutledge continued her studies at the university through the post-graduate Arts Management program. She started her journey at the Stratford Festival as a Marketing Intern and was hired on as a Marketing Assistant before assuming the role of Social Marketing Coordinator. An avid lover of all things theatre, opera and fine food, she has thoroughly enjoyed working in Stratford and for the Festival for the past two years.  

CHARPO: Your title is Social Marketing Coordinator. Is this a relatively new position at Stratford?

RUTLEDGE: The Festival has been invested in social media for several years now; we’ve had a presence across various platforms since 2008. (That was fairly early on for a non-profit organization). The social media program was initiated and, at first, managed by our Director of Marketing and Audience Development, Lisa Middleton. As the program grew it required a full-time coordinator, and the position was created in 2010. 

Video of the Week, January 30, 2013

So many exciting things are coming together in the Segal Centre's production of Waiting For the Barbarians - a company from South Africa, a magnificent Canadian director (Alexandre Marine), music from an exceptional composer (Dmitri Marine) and a play by the great JM Coetzee - that the Centre should, indeed, celebrate. This simple, lovingly shot vid is narrated by the producer of the production Maurice Podbrey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review Squared, January 29, 2013

[Publisher: I am very pleased to be introducing a new column, today, from long-time CharPo collaborator Valerie Cardinal. Valerie is a senior contributor, living in Ottawa, who will keep an eye on theatrical reviewing, note trends, and draw attention to what works...and doesn't. GLC]
What to do when a show leaves you speechless?
by Valerie Cardinal
I will always be a Montreal girl at heart, that’s for sure. But as a hopeful future television writer, I realize that chances are I may have to move to Toronto someday. I kind of hate to admit it, but sometime I do wish I lived in Toronto. Really, I can’t help it when I see reviews for shows like The Wizard of Oz or Robin Hood: The Legendary Comedy Musical. My not-so-inner theatre geek starts flailing around a little in excitement. 
Even though I pine for the bigger productions that we don’t always have here in Ottawa, very few make me want to drop everything, pack an overnight bag and jump on the bus before closing night. But once in a while I read a review that excites me so much that I feel like I could do just that. 

After Dark, January 29, 2013

You know you're angry...but specifically why?
by GaëtanL. Charlebois

I am in a pissy mood these days. Since Christmas, I suspect. Normally I can point to one thing or a couple and say, "Ah! There's the source!" But when you're a publisher (even for a small-ish publication like CharPo) there are so many things which can get on your nerves that also float about your real life that divining the most important source is virtually impossible. So here's the deal: I'm going to lay some shit on you and think about would makes you angry (angriest).

- I live in an old apartment where we freeze if we leave a window open but breathe bad air (two smokers) if we don't. 
- I tweet using the @ like a good person should but even companies who get rave reviews don't retweet anything but print reviews.
- The Charbonneau Commission.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Question, January 28, 2013

Two cultures, two different senses of humour.
by Estelle Rosen

Harry Standjofski is an actor, playwright, musician and teacher based in Montreal who works in both English and French. Recent stage roles include Les Contes urbains 2012 at La Licorne (for which he also co-created and performed the music), Le Spa des Joyeux Divorcées  at Ste Adele, Don Quixote at the Centaur, Un Maison Face au Nord at Théâtre Jean Duceppe. In 2012 he directed Jean-Marc Dalpé’s August: an afternoon in the country for the Centaur and Patrice Desbien’s bilingual piece The Invisible man/L’Homme Invisible at the Monument Nationale as well as writing a new stage version of Pinocchio for Geordie productions. Recent big screen credits include the role of George Buchanan in the Quebecois cult film Un Capitalisme Sentimentale and Dr. Maury in Barney’s Version and he played the manic railway guard in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s upcoming The Collected Works of T.S. Spivet. For the past six seasons he has been directing, translating, writing some pieces for, acting in, as well as creating and performing the music for the Urban Tales a yearly collection of raunchy Christmas stories. His recently produced plays include two/three, Here & There (nominated for a Masque Award in 2005). He has been teaching acting at Concordia University since 1986.

CHARPO: In addition to actor, director, playwright, and musician, you perform in both French and English theatre in Montreal. Are there differences in preparation or approach when preparing for a role whether French or English theatre?

STANDJOFSKI: No actor I have ever met likes the "first reading" on the first day of rehearsal; as much as everyone says it's only to "hear the play with the cast" there is always some pressure to make sure that no one around the table asks "geez, why'd they hire him?" - especially if it's a comedy (we should all be laughing, right?).

The more one knows the rest of the cast the easier it is but often we are seated with strangers from out of town etc.

And of course it is much more difficult when the play is not in your first language.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, January 28-February 3

I, Malvolio (photo credit: Bruce Dalzell Atherton)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: (Quebec City) Frankenstein

Christian Michaud (photo credit Vincent Champoux)

The Creature
Shouldn’t beauty be blind?
by Isabelle-Ann Charlebois

The play opens with an almost naked creature (Christian Michaud) trying to come alive.  As the apparent quadriplegic tries to stand up, I feel sick to my stomach. It is an endless beginning, I want to go home already.

Then Victor Frankenstein (Étienne Pilon) arrives and sees the creature agonizing on the floor. He looks amazed, but also scared.  The hideousness of his creation repulses him and he runs away, leaving the poor beast by itself.  It finally gets up on its feet; nothing to make me feel better as I cannot bear seeing stitches, blood or suffering.

The Sunday Feature: Mansel Robinson on II/Two Rooms

Elkahna Talbi and Jean Marc Dalpé (photo credit: Mathieu Girard)

Reflections from Mulligan's Bay
The journey from Two Rooms to II
by Mansel Robinson

You write a play to give it away.

Two Rooms has been on the road since last Spring, in a French translation by Jean Marc Dalpé, and produced by Sudbury’s Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario and Ottawa’s Théâtre de la Vieille 17. 15 cities and towns. A cheque arrives from time to time, like a post-card from Moncton or Montreal or Sept-Îles. Lovely. 

There is a lot of mileage between this play and myself. It was first produced in English at Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon in 2011. Set in a large urban centre, it touches down briefly in the deserts of North Africa, a tourist town in the South Seas, the Muslim region of Thailand. I live in an old cabin on the Chapleau River, in Northern Ontario. Winter neighbours: 17. As I type the temperature has been hitting 30 below, and that’s without the added delight of wind-chill. We had a chimney fire two mornings ago, and I cracked my ankle shovelling our rink on the Bay. I’m just saying that the desert sounds pretty good about now. Sitting in a warm theatre would be nice, too. But not about to happen.

Still, in spite of the distance, a few reflections from Mulligan’s Bay.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Testament (PuSh)

(photo credit: Doro Tuch)
Funny , Weird,  and Extraordinary
What Would Your Father say?
by David C. Jones
What a fantastic and special experience. Incredibly brave and audaciously staged, She She Pop Productions from Germany has blended King Lear with the real life examination of aging and familial responsibility.  But this is “real” real life as the artists are on stage with their fathers – all over 70 years of age.

And it is surreal too. At one point there is father sitting in an easy chair on stage right and as his face is projected on a large screen he sings “I will always love you” while his daughter is downstage on a microphone calmly reciting sacrifices and obstacles she will face when he moves in with her. On stage left the rest of the cast sits at a kitchen table bathed in red light, slicing and eating apples.

creating a/broad, January 26, 2013

Coming Home
by Cameryn Moore

I had a workshop reading of my newest play last Wednesday night. It was hard and weird and good, and I am going to write about that more next week after I’ve had time to sit with feedback and scribble all over my script and figure out how this work might be an amazing transition to an area of writing and performance that I am super excited and/or terrified to explore (which one depends on how much coffee I’ve had the day that you ask me). That’s going to be a good post.

What I want to write about this week is what came the day after my reading, when I drove off to Toronto to present Phone Whore as one of the closing events for the Sexual Awareness Week at the University of Toronto. It was an interesting contrast to the night before, a strange experience containing both of these experiences in one 24-hour period.

The reading was new work, fictional work, not strongly graphic, presented to “the public” at a stage that I have never exposed to public view before. Phone Whore, on the other hand, is the first solo show I ever wrote. It’s based strongly on my real life, there’s a lot of graphic language and content in it, and I’ve performed it all over the fucking place, at least 130 times, at last count.

Theatre For Thought, January 26, 2013

joel fishbane

“This is a raw, loud, raucous play.” So proclaimed director Esther Jun, more then a little pregnant and fresh into rehearsals for Cowboy Mouth, a notorious little piece of theatre by Sam Shepard and rock-star Patti Smith. The show is coming to Toronto thanks to Heart in Hand Theatre, an indie company that has vowed to mount unique shows with “inventiveness and some down to earth grit”. They’ll need all the inventive grit they can find to master this surreal little drama in which a girl named Cavale (Jessica Huras) kidnaps a boy named Slim (Jason Collett) and tries to convince him to be a rock and roll Jesus.

“My husband calls it a Chelsea Hotel story,” said Jun. “They’ve created their own fantasy world in this messy little room and I’m starting to see the magic in it.” 

The magic of Cowboy Mouth began back in 1971 when Sam Shepard and Patti Smith were lovers in a dangerous time. Much of the play is autobiographical, a delicious fact which threatened to distract Jun and her actors from the task of production. “We talked a lot about Sam’s voice and Patti’s voice,” Jun told me, referring to the fact that Shepard wrote Slim’s lines while Smith wrote Cavale’s responses. “Then we realized we have to stop thinking of it like that….Patti is extremely lyrical compared to Sam’s. But it’s been an interesting battle to treat the play as fictional.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Rhinoceros

Matt Reznek and Georgia Beaty (photo: Tim Matheson)

A herd of rhinos storms the UBC stage
Theatre students do Ionesco’s work justice in a strong and smart production
by Chris Lane

UBC Theatre students transform into a herd of stomping rhinoceroses in their current production of Rhinoceros, by Eugène Ionesco.

Ionesco’s play is a prime example of absurdist theatre. It’s funny, but it’s also a tragedy, and has a lot of meaning behind the ridiculous plot.

The play is set in a French village, whose townspeople are turning into rhinoceroses, one by one. The protagonist, Berenger, is a lazy fellow with a penchant for alcohol, but is forced to take life more seriously as he sees everyone around him willfully transform.

Review: (Montreal) Godspell

(photo credit: Tristan Brand)

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

by Caitlin Murphy

So goes the chorus to a song specifically written for the movie version of Godspell (though often since incorporated into stage versions as well).   And so goes the inspiration for the name and mandate of a new Montreal theatre company currently foisting itself into the fray with a production of the 1971 musical.  Beautiful City Theatre strikes me as that rare indie company that actually has its shit together.

Which is partly why I feel torn reviewing Godspell.  I loved it and hated it.  And the distinction lies quite neatly along that divide that musical theatre often unwittingly draws – the play vs. the music.  In this case, the play (book by John-Michael Tebelak) is long, meandering, dull and pedantic.  The score (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz) is at turns joyful, sultry, stirring, foot-stomping, and haunting.

Multi-Media, January 25, 2013

The Fucking A-Team
this is not a recording from some starving prompter who stuffed a primitive recording device down his pants
by Shannon Christy

I would like to preface this by saying I am not a BIG fan of Wagner. This is not to say that I do not respect his talent as an artist or a composer because I do. It just means that I do not worship the man nor do I donate large sums of money to his festival in Bayreuth year after year just in the hope of attending. 

I, however, am a big fan of his music. The tones, the stories, the expressions, are rich. By rich I don’t mean it is something you can indulge in. No. Wagner is something you need to be ready for. I suggest listening to Mozart for foreplay and when you are raring to go and really want to hit your stride but do not want to be disappointed, put in Wagner. His is a mental probing the likes of which you need lube to slide into.

Once there you need the fucking A-team of talent to take you on this journey. If the talent is not there you will be frustrated, with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, anger, and disgust. 

A Fly On The Wall, January 25, 2013

Words, Words, Words
by Jim Murchison 

Invariably, the first thing that anyone that has never been on the stage says to someone after seeing a show is, "How do you remember all those lines?" It is a well meaning and intended compliment from people that don't realize that timing, subtext and understanding the characters is the key to memorizing most of the time. If a fellow actor or director says, "Wow!... Lots of lines!"  what they really mean is, "God that performance was shit!" 

I am not saying that words aren't the most important part of a play. It's just if you drop a line or a scene or mix the words up it's because you've lost control of the character. You're either wary, have never understood what the scene is about or are overconfident and cocky about last night's review.

CharPo's Real Theatre! January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Picture of the Week, January 24, 2013

Simply: we cannot remember when a promo picture was as provocative - even as horrifying - as this one by Adam Rankin of Joseph Pierre for Obsidian's production of Shakespeare's Nigga by Joseph Jomo Pierre. Even in colour, it is a perfect study in black and white contrasts; from the pure pitch of the background, to the actor's face (and the white light-reflections and black shadows on it) to the hands of the woman holding the cord over Pierre's face (and binding his tongue). As to content: that too is a brilliant set of contrasts: the expression on Pierre's face, the coarseness of the cord, the fact that the binding is suggestive of both enslavement and - as it is a kind of cat's cradle - child's play. Whoa!

The Album, January 24, 2013

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: (Montreal) The Glass Menagerie

In The World of Glass
Going back to the source of a well-known Williams work at McGill
by Élaine Charlebois
In a word, Rowan Spencer’s take on Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie was fantastic. 
As Spencer notes in the programme, he based his interpretation on Williams’ original edition of The Glass Menagerie, an uncommonly performed version of the story. While this version of Williams’ play may be less known, the cast and crew members of McGill’s Players’ Theatre were nevertheless successful in delivering a vibrant and captivating performance of the iconic playwright’s work. 

Review: (Vancouver) Ride the Cyclone (PuSh)

(photo credit: Fairen Berchard)
Ride the Cyclone is one roller coaster worth riding
Anything’s possible in a show where all the characters are already dead.
by Chris Lane

Ride the Cyclone begins with a mechanized fortune-teller (richly voiced by Carey Wass) telling the audience about six teenagers who plunged to their deaths on the Cyclone coaster. The computer brings them back to life in order to play a game.

The game is to decide which of the six adolescents the machine will allow to keep on living, while leaving the other five to remain dead. The deceased youth, who had been members of a choir together, then proceed to tell their stories, dreams and fantasies through a series of songs, each one wildly different from the others.

Review: (Montreal) L'Ouest Solitaire

Irish tale of sibling battles transposed for a Québecois audience
The sharp Irish-English playwright is one of the best of his class
by Sarah Deshaies

Quebec is often accused of being an introspective, navel-gazing culture that examines and celebrates only its own trends and personalities. Whether this is a function of "maître chez-nous" ideals or simple solipsism is not up for debate. 

What is certain is that L'Ouest Solidaire trumps any suggestion that Quebec culture wholly exists on a self-involved plane.

Review: (Vancouver) Photog (PuSh)

Jay Dodge (photo credit: Karri North)

Harrowing Stories Grab You By The End
Multi-Media and Acrobatics!
by David C. Jones
Boca Del Lupo is one of Vancouver’s most celebrated theatre companies. Their love of international collaboration - exploring human truths with experimental staging in both outdoor and indoor venues - has earned them legions of fans.

It is not uncommon to see their actors airborne or strapped to contraptions that cause them to zig and zag through space.

In a Word... Ray Hogg, Artistic Director of Rainbow Stage (Winnipeg)

Because they are amazing!
My spirit soars with the knowledge that I will be able to help to facilitate the professional development of some of Canada's finest talents.

Ray Hogg received his formal training at Ryerson University Theatre School’s Dance Program. Upon leaving Ryerson, Mr. Hogg joined the Danny Grossman Dance Company, performing as a soloist in most of their award winning repertoire.  In 1999 he joined CORPUS, with whom he toured Canada, Europe and cable TV (4 Square) as the immensely popular Captain Krankovitch (a role he created for them in 1999).  After spending five years as a concert dancer, Ray decided to embrace his first love - musical theatre.  He moved to Stuttgart Germany to perform as Plato/MacAvity in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, and has since appeared in such shows as: Kiss me Kate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Dreamgirls, Seussical, The Producers, Evita and for the Stratford Festival, Oklahoma, South Pacific, and most notably My One and Only. Ray has also been on the dance faculty at George Brown College teaching Modern, Jazz and Performance repertoire since 2004. 

CHARPO: Tell us a bit about your journey - how does a Montrealer find himself doing musicals in the Praries?

HOGG: My parents were major cultural consumers!  Meaning they brought my sister and I out to see everything. I'm pretty certain I was the only kid in my grade tow class who had subscription seats to the opera.  We saw dance, went to the symphony, the Jazz fest (didn't hurt that my uncle, Aubrey Dayle, is an internationally know drummer and frequently performed at the festival).  I sometimes think that my parents were on a mission to bombard our young minds with beauty. Well, it worked...  In this cultural crusade that my folks were on, we also took in a lot of musicals.  

Video of the Week, January 23, 2013

An exceptional promo video for an exceptional play: the Crow's Theatre production of Kristen Thomson's Someone Else.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

After Dark, January 22, 2013

Jodie Foster, Actors and Privacy
The Queerest Question
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

After I wrote my column last week about the paradoxes of stardom in Canada I had an interesting lesson on the subject of stardom after the Golden Globes. 

Jodie Foster gave an acceptance speech for her lifetime achievement award. (Take a moment and look at it here.) I found the speech profoundly moving and particularly liked its intertwined threads of coming out and the need for privacy. Within seconds there was reaction (mostly negative) on Twitter and within an hour columnists were writing about it. I think it took me a little longer to process and what follows is partly shaped by the negative things which were said about Foster.

Firstly - the speech itself. Foster is a brilliant young woman. She was educated in French, thank you!, and then at Yale. She has been producing for nearly as long as she has been acting so the idea that she rambled is ludicrous. The speech was as structured as many good ones in many good plays. (Here's a delicious Guardian article that makes that point) I think the reaction to the structure of the speech is either sexist or another case of, "The stupid fucking actors..." 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Question, January 21, 2013

Creation is a tormented process until a shared vision emerges.
by Estelle Rosen

Since graduating from the playwriting program at the National Theatre School, Guy Rodgers has divided his time between writing and arts advocacy. During the 90s he began to specialize in writing large multimedia shows such as The Story of Montreal at the Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal, Washington Confidential at the City Museum in Washington, DC, Imagine Canada at La Villette in Paris, and all the film and videos for the Canada Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Germany. In 2005 he was the founding executive director of the English Language Arts Network (ELAN). 

CHARPO: As Executive Director of ELAN, have your goals and expectations been met and/or changed since founding ELAN in 2005? Don't hesitate to include trials and tribulations en route.

RODGERS: ELAN is my third experience at creating an artists' network. When I graduated from NTS I got involved with the old Quebec Drama Festival.  While working part-time as a screenwriter I also worked part-time as Executive Director of QDF when it was reinvented as the Quebec Drama Federation. A couple of years later I was founding president of the Quebec Writers' Federation.  Having been through those earlier adventures in community building I had clear expectations and goals for ELAN.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, January 21-27, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Assassins

Kevin Dennis (photo credit: Bruce Monk)
The American Psyche Sung
by Edgar Governo

In theory, the American Dream is one of limitless possibility—no matter what your background is, you can achieve any goal you desire (even becoming President of the United States) as long as you're willing to put in the effort. In practice, however, there are many factors that get in the way or preclude that, along with the simple reality that not everyone is going to achieve the same level of success regardless of the conditions set out beforehand...and only 44 people have ever achieved the highest office in the land.

Assassins, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a libretto by John Weidman, confronts this tension in American society by expanding on the ultimate assertion of power from the otherwise powerless in that society: the assassination of its most powerful figure. Many people seem to think this is a shocking work to include in Winnipeg's SondheimFest, but it is more relevant than ever in light of a political climate that continues to reflect that inherent contradiction. As I write this, President Obama is being inaugurated for a second term while gun advocates are protesting any restrictions on gun ownership in state capitals across the US, and I could never come up with a better analogy in the headlines for these same issues at odds with each other.

Sunday Feature: Dahlia Katz and a Theatre Photography Mini-Masterclass

(photo credit: Scarlet O'Neil)
Theatre Photography Mini-Masterclass
by Dahlia Katz 

[Dahlia Katz is a Toronto photographer, theatre director/dramaturg, and winner of the Charpo-Toronto Photo of the Year 2012.]

Putting on a play?  If you want an audience, a buzz, a memory, a record of your work... then you need a photographer.  Here's a quick lesson on how to incorporate professional photography into your production.  Plan ahead and consider the following.

There are three times when you should ideally be hiring a photographer:
  1. Immediately after casting (The Branding Image),
  2. Halfway through the rehearsal process (Rehearsal hall shots)
  3. The day of your tech-dress rehearsal (Production stills and archiving)

Sunday Feature: Natalie Gershtein on Godspell (Montreal)

                                          (photo credit all photos: Eric Chad)

Two Beautiful Cities
by Natalie Gershtein

As I write this from my New York apartment in the Upper (extremely Upper) West Side, I am overwhelmed by the stronghold Montreal has on my heart. I moved to Montreal just over four years ago, and fell in love quite instantaneously. I know it was an emotional blow to my family in Toronto every time I called Montreal “home,” but that is exactly what it was. A youthful city, Montreal is constantly abuzz with the sound of driven and ambitious individuals bringing new ideas and initiatives to an already thriving cultural hub. In a city so vibrant and alive, who wouldn’t want to jump in and make noise?

Montreal has that special something, the “it” factor that makes it so remarkable. As a theatre artist, Montreal was the perfect place for me to grow and develop. The way I see it, Montreal has the look and feel of a large metropolis, yet maintains the intimacy that is only possible within smaller cities. I didn’t know it until I left the city, but I was blessed to be able to experience theatre the way I did in Montreal.  I was able to develop my own work through an institution that supported me (I owe a great deal to the support of the McGill theatre community), and could also take part in the larger Montreal theatre scene – from smaller groups like Teesri Duniya, to the larger theatre companies such as the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. After immersing myself in the Montreal theatre community for a few years, I reached a point where I yearned to collaborate with other artists I connected with in order to make our own contribution.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Abominable Showman, January 19, 2013

The Prince of Tenors
CharPo sits down with Marc Hervieux for a no-holds-barred interview just days after the famed Quebec tenor walked out on rehearsals for Die Fledermaus at L’Opéra de Montréal to protest the company’s publicity campaign for Die Fledermaus, which opens on January 26
By Richard Burnett

Famed Quebec lyric tenor Marc Hervieux was starring as Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera La Boheme with another well-known Quebec opera star, Marie-Josée Lord, who was playing the part of Mimi, when Lord fell ill during her performance at L’Opéra de Montréal back in January 2004.
“She wasn’t performing like the other nights, so I began to worry that something might be wrong,” Hervieux recalls. “So I whispered in her ear, ‘Are you alright?’ and Marie-Josée replied, ‘I think I’m going to be sick.’”
There was panic on the set as – with Mimi on the brink of death in Act IV – Hervieux carried Lord offstage, as both opera stars remained fully in character. Hervieux then returned onstage carrying Lord’s understudy in his arms.
“I placed her in the bed and of course, the audience then realized that something was up, because Marie-Josée is black and the understudy was white. 
“But like they say,” Hervieux adds, “The show must go on.”

creating a/broad, January 19, 2013

Yes, It's Fucking Personal
by Cameryn Moore

I got dumped this week. We had the phone call on Wednesday, met on Thursday. We’re talking, we’re on good terms, but this thing between us is not going to go the way either of us thought it would. Long-term, it just wasn’t going to work. Things have changed. It wasn’t me, it was him.

My director dumped me.

I wasn’t really surprised. I only knew the barest aspects of his departure from a theatre space, but I knew that the odds were not good for our relationship, if our rehearsals and readings and tech time and performances were all supposed to be at that space. Of course it would be hard for him to be there.

I wish he hadn’t overestimated, three weeks ago, how quickly he would be able to move on. But I’m not mad. No. I know what it’s like. I have been involved in “artistic differences” and in-house disputes and organizational break-ups, we’ll just go ahead and use that word, and it all sounds one way in print and it is so much fucking harder in real life. My previous performance company folded three and a half years ago, and the scars are still tender. For a year and a half after the split, I had to leave before curtain calls, furtively wiping tears from my eyes, when I saw former members performing elsewhere. But I did my best to keep my public self neutral. It’s just a business decision. They were drawn to other projects. It’s just the way things are. It’s artistic differences. It’s not personal. 

Theatre For Thought, January 19, 2013

joel fishbane

“Have you seen it yet?” 

This question permeated my recent holiday season. Ever since Christmas Day, it has been asked of me by family and friends. It’s asked with the same tone a lawyer uses in court when conducting a cross-examination; in other words, they think they are asking a question whose answer they think they already know. 

The “it” in question is the film version of the musical Les Miserables. I am, as so many know, a musical theatre connoisseur; Les Miserables is one of my favourite shows. I imagine my friends and family assumed that I have been awaiting the film version with the same breathless anticipation that theatre fans await the discovery of one of Shakespeare’s lost plays. But the truth is, I awaited the film with the same minor curiosity I have regarding my credit card bill. I know it’s going to be something unpleasant; the only question is how bad the damage is going to be.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Pervers

(photo credit: Rolline Laporte)

One Tight Knot
A dense entanglement of issues leaves us jangling.
by Nanette Soucy

With all the ambition, work ethic and foresight of a film grad who lives in his mom’s basement, young Gethin decides to take the world of cinema by storm by tackling an edgy subject: the pedophile on the block, and the neighbourhood’s reaction to his presence. He’s devised some sort of perverted Rosenhan experiment, wherein he twists the rubber arm of his kid sister Sarah into spreading vicious rumours about him through school.

Review: (Ottawa) Blue Box

Carmen Aguirre's Blue Box
It's Not About Recycling
by Jim Murchison

Last night was the coldest night of the year so far. There was a certain anticipation I had of what one might refer to as Latin heat. Anything remotely warm at that time would have been inviting but hopefully I was going to experience something that sizzled. When the play starts the first surprise for the audience is that the play they are seeing is not actually called Blue Box. That is merely a title more suitable for marketing purposes. I do not wish to destroy the play's first revelation, so you will have to see it to discover for yourself the actual title.

The sanitized for public consumption title is likely the only compromise that this production made. As Carmen Aguirre recounts her underground life in the resistance of Pinochet’s oppressive Chilean regime, she discusses how one might have to select comfortable clothes to be tortured in. She engages directly with the audience to the point where her body is leaning into the front row inches from the face of an audience member discussing the passionate fucking she received by someone she calls Vision Man. She pulls people from the audience to demonstrate surveillance techniques and invites them up to dance as well.