Tuesday, April 30, 2013

After Dark, April 30, 2013

Moving beyond Cyber-serfdom
Wherein I share secrets about "us"
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Anyone who has failed (rather publicly) on their Indigogo or Kickstarter campaign, anyone who has loudly voiced their fiscal woes and missing audience, anyone who is in and around theatre (or journalism, for that matter) and is tired of being a cyber-serf can take what they can (and want) from CharPo's secrets.

Firstly, internet (and theatre) are not for the faint of heart or the impatient. (For the rest, you can substitute "theatre" or "journalism" for "internet".) I have been doing work on or near the net for 20 years - from moderating discussion boards at the Mirror (Babylon) to my own site on Geocities, to the creation of the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia, to this site (with stops at MySpace, Facebook, podcasting, Twitter and Vine). There was only once when money was to be made and it was when Quebecor leased the Encyclopedia for their Canoe website (for $250 a month). After they opted out, I endowed the site to Athabasca University because a woman (now important in Montreal) sent me an email saying, "Why the fuck is X in your fucking encyclopedia and I'm not?" It was the first time I'd been insulted for doing volunteer work. It was also when I decided that I would never embark on another internet project with collaborators unless the end result would be that everyone got paid.

Review Squared, April 30, 2013

Just Dance
Valerie Cardinal
I wasn’t going to write about dance two weeks in a row, but I had to – these reviews were calling out to me from the arts pages of both national and B.C. publications. Plus, I’m a sucker for modernized adaptations of classics, especially those that switch up a central concept and make it feel plausible.
The classical ballet I’m talking about is Giselle, and the big switch involves the story’s central love triangle. In the original, Giselle finds out that her beau is actually a nobleman betrothed to another. In Ballet British Columbia’s version, Giselle’s lover, Albrecht, is actually in love with another man. 
The reviews are all mostly positive. Straight.com’s Janet Smith sets up the plot changes right away, opening with a descriptive paragraph that drops you right into the atmosphere of the production. “The curtain lifted to stark silence, an army of droidlike dancers in black suits lined up militarily….  Male dancers Connor Gnam and Gilbert Small crossed the stage to meet, took each other’s heads passionately in their grip, and locked lips.” Two other reviews I found, one in the Vancouver Sun and the other from the Globe and Mail, agree that this is the riskiest production Ballet British Columbia has put on this season. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Openings We're Tracking This Week, April 29 - May 5

Highgate (photo via Facebook)

Lane's Week, April 28, 2013

This Week in The Nation's Theatre
by Chris Lane

Théâtre en français: 
This week brought out a pair of season announcements from French-language theatre companies. Montreal’s Compagnie Jean-Duceppe announced their upcoming season, which includes a couple well-known translated plays, Les Liaisons dangereuses and La Vénus au vison, alongside the home-grown La traversée de la mer intérieure, to name a few. Quebec City's Théâtre Premier Acte announced a lineup of nine plays from a selection of the city’s small-scale theatre groups. I recommend broadening your horizons and checking out what French-language theatre has to offer across the country. And if your French isn’t great, it can still be a fun to practice.

Happy birthday William Shakespeare: 
Funnily enough, both his birthday and deathday are on the same day, April 23 (or at least that’s our best guess; his exact birthday is unknown).

The Question, April 29, 2013

Falling into a Niche (a bit by mistake...)
by Estelle Rosen

Hawaiian pianist Maika'i Nash is a vocal coach and accompanist at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music (Glenn Gould School) and collaborates with a number of young singers throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe. In addition to coaching at an institutional level, Mr. Nash is also the Resident Musical Director for Opera 5 in Toronto and has been the Music Director and pianist for the Coleman Lemieux & Co. (From the House of Mirth), Summer Opera Lyric Theatre (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Opera Tchai (Eugene Onegin), Opera West (Il Trovatore) and Cowtown Opera (Hansel and Gretel) in Calgary. Mr. Nash is a graduate of the Schubert Institute in Austria and has studied at the University of Hawaii and at McGill University. He debuted with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra at the age of 11 and was a regular soloist with them for a number of years. This summer, Mr. Nash will be on faculty at the COSI Opera Festival in Sulmona and in the Fall, he will be one of the official accompanists at the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions.

CHARPO: Opera 5 is ending its season with Bésame Òpera, a double bill of Spanish Operas.  As Musical Director,  which operas have you selected and why? 

NASH: We've known for a while that we wanted to put "Goyescas" by Enrique Granados on a program, but we needed a great pairing for it. We thought about some Latin American operas by Ginastera, Piazzolla, (FUTURE SEASONS!), but settled on having two mainland Spanish composers. While our Artistic Director, Aria Umezawa was in Boston earlier this year, she heard about de Falla's "El retablo de maese Pedro" and fell in love. She convinced us that it was a great pairing with the Granados - so we went with it! I have to admit, I had my reservations, but now I have also fallen in love with it. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Bloodless

(rehearsal photo)
Bob's your uncle
That bugger is better off dead
by John Herbert Cunningham
[This article has been corrected]

If a medieval jousting tournament was the first thought that entered the audience's mind as they filtered into the theatrical space of the new Cercle Molière in Winnipeg (just opened within the last six months or so), there would have been justification.

Theatrical spaces come in a variety of configurations. The most common are the proscenium, which is the design of most of the larger theatres, such as the Manitoba Theatre Centre's Mainstage and also its Warehouse. In these stages, the audience sits facing the stage. Smaller theatre spaces, such as the Prairie Theatre Centre, will often employ the thrust design where the audience surrounds the stage on three sides.

Cercle Molière is what is referred to as a black box theatrical space where the seating can be configured in a variety of ways including both the proscenium and the thrust.

But what Sharon Bajer, who directed version 3.0 of Joseph Aragonís Bloodless:  The Trial of Burke and Hare for White Rabbit Productions, decided on was a design completely unfamiliar to most theatre goers;  the alley stage. Here, the staging area runs between seating on either side hence the medieval jousting match.

Sunday Feature: Gillian English on Theatre Elusive's Love in the Time of Time Machines (Atlantic Fringe, Montreal Fringe)

Thank you Mindy Kaling
Theatre Elusive and The Fringe
by Gillian English

Gillian English is the Artistic Producer and founder of The Theatre Elusive. Originally from Nova Scotia, Gillian trained in theatre at Dalhousie University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). A Toronto based performer, Ms English is one half of the comedy duo “The Young Geologists”, who have headlined the London Big Comedy Go-To, and The Spring Fever Festival. In the past year she has been featured by the CBC, CTV, The National Post, and NOW! Magazine and many other media outlets for her work in the theatre and comedy. Recent theatre credits include: A Woman of No Importance (Alumnae Theatre), Antony and Cleopatra (The Theatre Elusive), I Don’t Like You (The Theatre Elusive), Matt and Ben (The Theatre Elusive), The Wormwood Prince (Next Stage Theatre)

Mindy Kaling is the only reason The Theatre Elusive exists. Ever since I read her play “Matt and Ben” (co-authored by Brenda Withers) I had wanted to play the part of Ben Affleck. By 2011, I realized that waiting for someone else to produce the show, and cast me was an inefficient way of pursuing my goal. So, having no idea what I was getting myself into, I started a company and became a producer.

With a great deal of help from Mikaela Dyke, Dahlia Katz and Rob Salerno I mounted my first production. There was a very steep learning curve, but I managed to come out of it alive. I didn’t burn down the theatre. I called it a win. After that I just wanted to keep going, so I did. I produced a Toronto run of Mikaela Dyke’s award winning show “Dying Hard”. I put on a festival of new works called “The Spring Fever Festival”. In the summer the company did a sketch comedy show in Halifax called “I Don’t Like You”. While in Halifax I picked up a copy of Mindy Kaling’s book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)”. I read it on the flight back to Toronto, and one piece of advice really stuck with me. It was essentially this: If you’re a young actor in this business trying to get noticed, write yourself the ideal role in the ideal play, then do it. It made enough sense to me. I set out to do exactly what Mindy Kaling told me to do.

Sunday Feature: Gwynne Hunt, artistic director of the new Alberni Valley Fringe

To Fringe or Not To Fringe
by Gwynne Hunt, Artistic Director, Alberni Valley Fringe Theatre Festival
Gwynne Hunt is a writer, publisher, researcher, artistic director and producer. Her last two books were, Rampage:the pathology of an epidemic and a chapbook, brusies and bad haircuts. She teaches creative writing and theatre and currently runs an arts and crafts supply store while doing as much theatre as she can.
In 1998 I volunteered for the Abbotsford, B.C. Fringe Festival. A freelance writer, familiar with community theatre, I thought it might make for a few good articles. It was a life changing experience. After a solitary writer’s life, never knowing what people thought of my articles, I realized that writing and producing for a festival was instant feedback, a forum for my words and I got excited about the possibilities. I watched the parade of shows recognizing that instead of writing about the Fringe, I could write alternative theatre.
My first play called Breadlines was about poverty and my characters lined up at a soup kitchen, each in turn starting their monologues with, “I don’t belong here, I’m not like the rest of them.” It was the beginning of my writing and producing over 20 plays. 
Soon Abbotsford Fringe organizers felt the job was too big, people were coming from all over the world and it was too much of a responsibility. It took about three minutes of thought before I offered to take over. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Christian Baines: Letter From New York City

Letter From New York
Vanya and Spike and Cinderella and thoughts on Kink
by Christian Baines
This past weekend marked my fourth trip to New York, and it’s kind of true. The most interesting theatrical experiences you can have there are often those that are impossible to find elsewhere. Take critical darling and hip-kids favourite Sleep No More, now entering its third year at Chelsea’s ‘McKittrick Hotel’. This immersive, interactive take on the concepts of Macbeth (I’m hesitant to say ‘story’ in this case) only grows more intriguing with repeat visits – in my experience at least.  Sure, maybe it’s the Lynch/Hitchcock/Kubrick freaks among us who’ll get the most from it. But honestly, if you’ve not yet freaked out down the halls of the asylum with Lady McB, or if you are still able to read the witch scenes in Shakespeare’s play without shuddering a little, I urge you to get down to Chelsea post haste and don one of the now infamous white masks. Still, that was two seasons ago, and for all the originality bubbling on downtown, the call of Broadway is strong. 
Too strong for this visitor. 

Review: (Ottawa) Big Mama!

Jackie Richardson (photo by Tim Matheson)
Some people have the right to sing the blues
The blues heal the soul, like snake venom heals a snake bite.
by Nanette Cormier
[Please note: This review is based on a preview performance]

Willie Mae Thornton left Montgomery, Alabama, when she was 15, about a year after her mother died, to join Sammy Green's Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue.  It was 1941. She had a chaperone who travelled with her from city to city in the south. None of the men in the revue drank or took drugs.  And of course, none of them were interested in a 15 year old girl.

Oh, all right, it was all true up to the word chaperoned. Willie Mae became a woman while a member of the review which toured from 1941 to 1948. She also earned valuable stage experience.

Nothing good in Willie Mae's life was made to last. In between gigs, she shined shoes, was a drummer/bouncer in an Oakland bar in the 50s, she slept in all night restaurants and bars, in barns, and she picked cotton in Mississippi for awhile; the work was insanely hard.

creating a/broad, April 27, 2013

When one does not get it
by Cameryn Moore

Someone hit me up on Facebook earlier this week asking how much a call with me would cost. If this were something I wanted to entertain—an unsolicited approach from a real-life acquaintance—I would have already had the infrastructure in place. I would have an adult-services-friendly payment system, along with an appropriate URL with a rate sheet on its own little page. This has happened to me more than once; if I took customers through any channels other than my company, I would have already had my intake process in place. 

But I don’t do that. My company doesn’t want me working “off the grid”; all customers come through them. I told him I wouldn’t do that, he persisted for a few more minutes via the Facebook chat box, and then finally stopped, visibly confused. I wrote a post the next morning, and I’m all good, but I can’t shake the feeling, that, well, his confusion is understandable. I’m so public about every goddamn thing in my sex life, how is this different? I deserved it…

Oops. That sounds familiar.

Theatre For Thought, April 27, 2013

joel fishbane

David Mamet’s controversial play Race is finishing its Toronto run on May 5th and while its characters confront their ideas of race in America, something equally interesting is happening off stage. Patrons of Race are handed the usual programme, only to find on the first page a unique message from artistic director Matthew Jocelyn.

Jocelyn begins by spelling out the contractual rider which Mamet attached to the play, a rider which forces all theatres to a) obey all stage directions; b) not use music or any artificial sound not included in the text; c) not have any “stage business” before or after the show; d) not employ any trick sets (sets that move, shift or fall apart); and e) forbids post-show talkbacks.  “Why does a writer go to such extreme lengths?” asks Jocelyn. “In Mamet’s desire to take an uncensored look at the ever-burning question of race, he oddly shackles the artists whose very job it is to interpret his work.”

I can’t share Jocelyn’s belief that Mamet’s request is in any way “odd”. While it is definitely the job of other artists to interpret a play, it is also their job to not misinterpret the work. Last week I remarked on the glory of theatrical collaboration and while plays will always be incomplete without a whole team of artists, it is a reality of the industry that once a play finishes its initial run, subsequent productions occur without the playwright’s presence. Actors, designers and directors can have their input in the process but how is a playwright to make himself heard when he is somewhere else?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Falsettos

Eric Morin, Stephen Patterson. Photography: Joanna Akyol

The Joyful Dysfunctions of a Modern Family
by Christian Baines
Falsettos is possibly one of the most disarming ‘downer’ shows out there. All the more disarming for how bloody funny it is, pulled off in that absurdist tone that makes any William Finn musical such a treat. Yes, it sews together the latter two parts of a trilogy and the stitching occasionally shows. But somehow, that unevenness only adds to the credibility of what was at the time, a pretty brave show about the kinds of trials many New Yorkers had recently endured. The first act, March of the Falsettos, dealt with the changing concept of family in America, while the second tackled the AIDS crisis, giving the disease an insidious and appropriately chilling anonymity.
As a result, a great production of the show can be emotionally exhausting for all the right reasons. This production, by Acting Up, doesn’t quite reach that point, but it comes deliciously close. Much of the credit can go to its superb casting choices. Stephen Patterson is the perfect neurotic lynchpin as freshly out-of-the-closet Marvin. Glynis Ranney finds the ideal balance between high camp and vulnerability as his wife Trina. And as their son Jason, young Michael Levinson commands the stage with as much, if not even more presence than his adult co-stars. Then there’s Eric ‘jaws off the floor please’ Morin, who hits all the right marks as smarmy-turned-sympathetic muscle boy Whizzer. He handles the show’s radical shifts in tone with grace and conviction. He also oozes confidence – as Whizzer should, though truthfully, I would have liked to see him show a touch more vulnerability in Act 2. It’s there, but it’s a still a bit guarded, and letting it out some more would really have lit the necessary fire under Finn’s terrific closing songs.

Review: (Montreal) The Permanent Guest

He who would not leave
by David Sklar

We’ve all been there (and if you haven’t, count yourself lucky). We invite a friend to crash at our place, but they end up overstaying their welcome. And worse, they drink our booze! Welcome to The Permanent Guest. This brand new play premiered at the Freestanding Room. For anyone who’s been to the space before, you have to take into account what the weather’s like outside. Luckily, humidity hasn’t hit us yet. 

Review: (Montreal) Thinking of Yu

l-r  Shiong-en Chan, Danielle Desormeaux (photo by: Ange J. Murphy)

Head and Heart
by Caitlin Murphy

April has been quite the news month for stories that challenge our ideas about responsibility, consequence and our capacity for change.  Playing now at the Centaur Theatre, Thinking of Yu, written by Carole Frechette, directed by Micheline Chevrier, and produced by Imago Theatre, offers up another. 

The play’s starting point, as well as Frechette’s for writing it, is a news article about the 2006 prison release of a Chinese journalist Yu Dongyue, sentenced to 17 years for throwing red paint at a portrait of Mao during the 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Maggie, a middle-aged woman with a social-activist past, has recently moved, and finds herself lost in a sea of unpacked boxes and unclear ambitions. Stumbling across the article about Yu’s release, she becomes obsessed with his plight:  the courage of his gesture, the severity of its consequence. Unable to focus on her translation work, or give due attention to her sometime ESL student, Lin, Maggie falls down a rabbit hole of research and speculation.

Multi-Media, April 26, 2013

Really! It's Tennessee Williams!

The Play's the Thing?
Theatre and cinema - not always a match made in Heaven
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

This week we're going to have a bit of fun. We all like theatre. Most of us like film. But do the two work together? How about when it's made for TV? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes you see a movie—like Boys in The Band, say—and think, "This must have been a play because it pretty much still is." Other times you see movies that have little or nothing to do with their theatrical source material (was Othello more interesting when it became O...or worse?). And then there is the Goldilocks moment: source and medium are juuuuuuuust right. Here are three (highly personal) lists I tried once before that were lengthened both by more recent films and input by readers. They go all over the place because, as usual, we want you to discuss.

A Fly On The Wall, April 26, 2013

Running for It
by Jim Murchison 

The Taming of the Shrew Opened last Friday. There are a lot of things about it that went very well and a few things less so. It is definitely fun to be back and the cast and crew are great to work with. 

What is remarkable about theatre as opposed to other jobs is how it can be so different doing the same words and movement every evening. There is that balance between freshness and consistency that is very hard to get exactly right. Because audiences vary and an inflection can change the way you hear something and respond to it, one never truly experiences a show the same way twice. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! April 26, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: (Toronto) carried away on the crest of a wave

Richard Zeppieri, Mayko Nguyenn (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Brought Together by What Tears us Apart
carried away on the crest of a wave is a stunning new addition to the list of great Canadian plays
by Stuart Munro

“I am the one who pulled you out of the water. And you can call me if you ever need that again.”

These two sentences, spoken towards the end of Act I of David Yee’s new play, carried away on the crest of a wave, sum up everything this new Canadian work is hoping to express. The brilliance of it is that it is only at the play’s end that one is fully able to put the pieces together and realize why. Simultaneously, Yee’s first work as Tarragon’s playwright-in-residence cements his position as a voice worth listening to, not just now, but over the years to come.

Inspired by the 2004 Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami, the play is no simple retelling of the events of that tragic day. Rather, it explores its aftermath – sometimes in the hours immediately after, sometimes years later – in the hopes of answering one question: “what happens when the events that tie us together are the same that tear us apart?” This is no simple question, and there is no simple answer.

Smashed, April 25, 2013

Opening Night
by Stuart Munro

Well friends, despite school being done for the year, I’ve been as busy as ever this past week with my three jobs and various other commitments. So it’s always a pleasure to sit back and enjoy the newest installment of Smash. A lot happens this episode, so let’s get started, shall we? This week: Opening night! 

OK. It’s still just the last preview for Bombshell, but Tom and Julia are already looking ahead to their next project, because, you know, it’s never too soon, right? Tom rejects everything Julia suggests out of hand (including her idea of building a musical around the poetry of Ezra Pound), mainly because he’s still mad at her for helping with Hit List. Tom leaves for drinks with one of his producers who offers him a job directing a revival of City of Angels. And it looks like he’s taking it. Ivy, meanwhile, accidentally overhears two patrons who say that the only problem with Bombshell is “her.” I’ve been in that situation before (“ludicrously miscast” I believe was the phrase) and believe you me, it’s no fun at all. She ends her self-imposed media blackout to read the message boards on line (never a good idea. Again, I speak from experience.) Derek has spent the night, and they have a failed discussion about what their relationship actually is.

Review: (Vancouver) Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

Dmitry Chepovetsky, Bree Greig, Selina Martin. Photo by David Cooper.

Just what you need: Craigslist ads set to music
A clever, hilarious and completely off-the-wall spectacle

by Chris Lane

It’s the perfect fodder for a musical: Craigslist. Co-creators Veda Hille, Bill Richardson and Amiel Gladstone have harnessed the bottomless pit of quirkiness that is Craigslist to create a gleefully entertaining snapshot of humanity.

Do You Want What I Have Got is a song cycle inspired by real Craigslist ads, and it’s amazing what oddities the creators have managed to dredge up. There are the missed connections that you can relate to until they take a certain turn for the weird, or else just plain unfortunate. There are the personals, with their outrageous requests. And then there are the sale items: some just plain ridiculous, some brimming with intrigue, and some that tell an entire story in just a few words.

Picture of The Week, April 25, 2013

You won't find many operas as photogenic as Richard Strauss' Salome and not many productions of the piece as image-laden as one directed by Atom Egoyan. However, capturing those pictures for a stand-alone shot is no small task, but once again Michael Cooper has chosen the perfect moment in this COC production. Here he offers the scene everyone knows (but doesn't know like this): The Dance of the Seven Veils. Like Strauss' music, it is as sexual as it is violent - a queasifying blend of eros and pornographos with menace and submission also suggested. This is a classic theatre photograph in one very important sense: it makes one want to see the production.

The Album, April 25, 2013

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Visitations

Visit This
Interactive Paranoia and Paranormal
by Jason Booker

So Visitations resembles one of those dinner-party murder mysteries.  You know them?  They were popular about twenty years ago where everyone takes on a character from the personality cards offered, complete with secrets which lead you to figure out who killed Mr. Body – wait, he’s from that Clue game.

Anyway, Visitations is kind of like that.  Except with the paranormal and ghostly interference. Toss in some notes on dark magic, secret meetings in alleyways, a puzzle-box or two and a few experts with motives and backstories of their own to serve as guides and a show like Visitations is created, complete with creepy online trailer (so check out their website at the link below).

Review: (Winnipeg) Other People's Money

Ashley Wright and Julia Arkos. Photo by Bruce Monk.

Money for Nothing
Once you have Other People's Money, you never give it back.
by Edgar Governo

Most of the time, you don't think too much about your investments, if you're lucky enough to have them in the first place. You're content to put some money aside in bonds or mutual funds or some other financial instrument, and although you care in an abstract sense about things like the environment or income inequality, you're not looking too closely at your statements to see where your money goes.

Simply not thinking about the consequences should make it easy to watch the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Other People's Money and believe that a go-go 80's Reaganaut like its central character, Lawrence Garfinkle (Ashley Wright), is nothing like you, but Garfinkle himself knows better. Dubbed "Larry the Liquidator," he is the Kevin O'Leary of his day; unapologetic in his pursuit of money, agreeing with Wall Street's Gordon Gekko that greed is good and living by the credo that profit is its own reward. Other People's Money is set in 1987, the same year the movie Wall Street was released, and much like that film, the line between good guys and bad guys blurs as every character begins to employ the same underhanded schemes to accomplish their own agendas.

Review: (Ottawa) Come Blow Your Horn!

An entertaining trip back in time
by Robyn Lester

As soon as you enter the Ottawa Little Theatre, you know you’re in for a treat. Music from the 1960s is playing.  Ray Charles. The Marvelettes. The atmosphere is fun, light, and lively.  And this production of Neil Simon’s, Come Blow Your Horn, is exactly that. First produced in 1961, this play brings the audience on a delightful trip down memory lane, with themes that are still entirely relevant today.  

Growing pains. Every character is struggling with them. Struggling with their transition into a new phase of life. It’s a reality for all of us, but this play manages to take that reality and make it absolutely hilarious.  The two hours of non-stop fun is kicked off when 21 year old Buddy Baker (Connor Marghetis) unexpectedly shows up at his brother, Alan’s (Corey Pelow) New York bachelor pad.  Buddy has run away from home! He’s free! He’s cut the umbilical cord! He’s an adult now!  Oh, and can he stay here for a while? 

In a Word...Keir Cutler on the Fringe (Montreal Fringe, Toronto Fringe)

Teaching Hamlet; Brett Watson (left) Keir Cutler (right) photographer Heather

From You Must Not Be Any Good

Keir Cutler has a Ph.D. in theatre from Wayne State University in Detroit, a playwriting diploma from the National Theatre School of Canada and has a B.A from McGill University. He is the author of the ebook, "THE SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP QUESTION: A CRACKPOT'S VIEW" available on Kindle. He is the playwright/performer of eight solo theatre plays. The multiple-award-winning, "Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody" (French translation, "Fou de Shakespeare"), "Teaching Detroit," a monologue adaptation of "Mark Twain's Is Shakespeare Dead?," "Teaching Witchcraft," "Lunatic Van Beethoven," "Teaching As You Like It," "Teaching the Fringe," and "Rant Demon." Mr. Cutler has performed his monologues across Canada, in New York City and other American cities. Four of his solo shows are on video and have been broadcasted on television by BRAVO!/CANADA. He has appeared in many local television and film projects filmed in the Montreal area. Notable performances include work with Jennifer Love Hewitt in "The Audrey Hepburn Story," and with Julien Poulin in "Bob Gratton- Ma Vie My Life."
CHARPO: You're a Fringe veteran. Tell us what has changed on the circuit, both good and bad.
CUTLER: When I started performing at Fringe festivals in 1999, the word “Fringe” had a poor reputation for lousy shows, particularly in Montreal and Toronto.  I remember photocopying programs and flyers for my new solo play “Teaching Shakespeare,” debuting at the 1999 Montreal Fringe.  A woman, that I’d never seen before in my life, making copies at the machine beside me, happened to look over my shoulder and see what I was doing and asked, 
“Are you performing in the Fringe festival?” 
I answered, “Yes.” 
She looked me straight in the face and said, “Well then you must not be any good!”

Nowadays, the Fringe has a much more respected reputation, since there have been so many hit shows, superlative performances, the Tony Award winner, The Drowsy Chaperone, and the original version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

What is bad about the Fringe circuit is it is now very difficult to get into Fringe festivals. Most festivals receive far more applications than they have spots, so setting up a tour is dependent on luck, and perseverance. In 2004, I performed at all eight major Canadian Fringe festivals, (something I have only done once), to do this today would be much more difficult.

Video of the Week, April 24, 2013

You can't fault Against the Grain for its PR. Here's a little gem of a promo video for their upcoming show which is a true case of thinking outside the box - about publicity, about story-telling and, especially, about opera.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review Squared, April 23, 2013

How to Review Dance
by Valerie Cardinal

When I spend every weekend reading reviews, I can become jaded. However, there’s one type of review that I find endlessly fascinating. Those reviews of dance – and I’m fascinated because I don’t think I could ever write one. At least, not until I’ve seen a dozen more performances and internalized how to talk about it and interpret it. There’s a specific vocabulary and way of thinking that people seem to need to review dance. 
It can be a lot of fun to go to a dance show and then read a bunch of reviews of it after. Inevitably, someone will have a different interpretation of what you’ve seen, even more than in a straightforward theatrical performance. As a dance fan who doesn’t go to enough dance performances, I’d have a hard time knowing how to write about it. However, I like reading reviews written by other people. Often it seems like the writing is just as fluid as the dancing. 

After Dark, April 23, 2013

Softly, Softly
These are odd times
by GaëtanL. Charlebois

(This week I'm going to speak softly but still wield a fairly big stick...strap in.)

In the last two weeks the theatre-sphere has been hit by letters from two artistic directors saying somewhat of the same thing: our latest show has gotten great reviews but is still playing to tiny houses - help us figure out what happened!

In both cases, I have some thoughts and these are thoughts that apply to all theatre companies and come from my experience with them and these two and also from my experience with the internet (which I was introduced to in my early days at The Mirror, at the beginning of the 90s). 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Salome

(l-r) Hanna Schwarz and Erika Sunnegårdh (photo: Michael Cooper)

You’re my obsession
by Shannon Christy

John the Baptist (Jochanaan) always struck me as a rock star. A mysterious man who comes out of the desert and immediately picks up some followers while snubbing his nose at the authorities. Until, one day, those same authorities arrest him and he is beheaded at the behest of one of their spoiled daughters, Salome.  

This is where my imagination ends and it is what separates me from a literary giant like Oscar Wilde and a musical genius like Richard Strauss.  These two men re-envisioned the story first as Mr. Wilde’s play and then Mr. Strauss’ opera. The Canadian Opera Company, in a spring dedicated to tragedies, has revived Atom Egoyan’s 1996 production (remounted in 2002) for a tense audience eager to rediscover this beautiful work. 

Lane's Week, April 22, 2013

This Week in the Nation's Theatre
by Chris Lane

Seasons announced: 
Toronto’s Luminato Festival of arts released this year’s lineup. In June, audiences can see work by Marina Abramovic, Willem Dafoe and Ronnie Burkett, to name just a few. French-language theatres Théâtre du Rideau Vert in Montreal and Quebec City’s Théâtre du Trident both announced their seasons, which each include one play by Michel Tremblay. Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop announced their programming for the upcoming season, which will include the world première of Sal Capone, The Lamentable Tragedy of, by Montreal playwright Omari Newton. And in Ottawa, the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s season will include Canadian political satire, a world premiere, a comedic take on Shakespearean tragedies, and more.

Toronto’s Claire Sakaki has been awarded the $10,000 John Hobday Award from the Canada Council for the Arts. Sakaki is the producer and director of education at Soulpepper Theatre and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Toronto’s NXNE (North by Northeast) has announced a new festival director, Christopher Roberts.

Potential successes: 
Up-and-coming artists in the Manitoba theatre scene, take note: the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre is offering scholarship and apprenticeship opportunities. The deadline for applicants is May 1.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, April 22-28

The Question, April 22, 2013

What it Means
by Estelle Rosen

Christina Manolescu is the founder of Prince Chameleon Press: www.princechameleon.com. She has written, designed and published interactive story-workbooks for children, as well as award-winning literary fiction, poetry, and a step-by-step self-publishing guidebook. She has also undertaken translation, ghostwriting, editorial revision, book design, consultancy and print management for various clients, one of whose self-published books won a silver Ippy Award in 2009

CHARPO: The increasing popularity of eBooks has caused difficult times for the publishing industry. How has it affected Prince Chameleon Press? 

MANOLESCU: Well, I’d like to begin by quoting a factoid from Self-publishing Guru Dan Poynter’s 2012 newsletter. 

Among Americans who read eBooks, those under age 30 are more likely to read their eBooks on a cell phone (41 percent) or computer (55 percent) than on an eBook reader such as a Kindle (23 percent) or tablet (16 percent).

So what does that mean? Well, for me, surveying the evolving eBook landscape is like watching a slow-motion kaleidoscope reconfiguring itself over and over and over again. Why? Well, because publishers are striving to understand, keep up with, and even anticipate consumer preferences; at the same time, the unstoppable march of communications technology is driving us all toward the unknown. 

So much so that, till now, I’ve been taking a wait-and-see approach until the ‘E-landscape’ settles. It could be a long wait. I realize that, while I’m waiting and watching, I might well be left behind.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Closer

(photo by Joseph Ste. Marie)
Let’s get Closer
Marber play steams up MainLine Theatre
by Sarah Deshaies

What is Closer? A claustrophobic tale of four people ensnared in a web of love, deceit and infidelity in modern London. We observe four people, each with a different understanding of love, truth, and kindness: a failed writer, a spritely stripper, an entrepreneurial doctor, a photographer.

Dan meets Alice after a glance in the street bridges their interest; he’s bound to her once she’s hit by a taxi in the following moments. Our other two heroes, Larry and Anna, come across each other’s paths when wiley Dan sets them up through a cyber prank. Their four lives will collide in often unpleasant ways. 

Sunday Feature: Robert McQueen on directing Falsettos

The Bright, Dark Chaos of Family
by Robert McQueen

For Acting Up Stage Company Robert McQueen has directed Caroline, or Change and The Light in the Piazza. His other recent work includes productions of Capriccio for Pacific Opera Victoria, The Magic Flute for Vancouver Opera and La Bohème for the Canadian Opera Company. Internationally Mr. McQueen directed Carousel at the Galaxy Theatre, Tokyo and the world premiere of Where Elephants Weep in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He has worked in the development of new musicals and operas in Canada, the US and internationally for companies including COC, Vancouver Opera, The O’Neill Centre and Cambodian Living Arts, in Phnom Penh.  Most recently Mr. McQueen directed a workshop of Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose’s new opera When the Sun Comes Out, which will have it’s premiere production next summer as part of the Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver. 

Mitchell Marcus’s invitation to join Acting Up Stage to create a production of William Finn’s musical Falsettos has been a gift. Composed of March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1990), Falsettos tells the story of a man who leaves his wife and son for his male lover against the backdrop of the very chaotic social and political climate that was 1980s New York City.  The special permission granted by Finn himself to revert to the original versions of these one acts, rather than the combined product which appeared on Broadway in 1992, has proven to be an infinite source of inspiration, as we have been able to craft our own piece which mines the way an original audience would have felt upon first seeing these one-acts in 1981 and 1990. 

Sunday Feature: TJ Dawe on directing Never Shoot a Stampede Queen

Pinning Pages
by TJ Dawe

TJ Dawe is a Vancouver based writer/performer/director/dramaturge. He's participated in more than 100 theatre festivals. He's been involved, in one way or another, in the creation of 30 or so plays. One of them has been made into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe. Another one has been touring the world for 10 years. Seven have been published.

I’m in Kamloops. Directing the premiere of a solo show. Adapted by Mark Leiren-Young from his memoir Never Shoot a Stampede Queen. It tells the story of his first journalism job, as a reporter for the Williams Lake Tribune in 1985. 

Mid-wifing this show is bringing to mind something I once read about P.G. Wodehouse. I’ll get to that in a bit. 

If you don’t know where Williams Lake is, don’t worry. Neither did Mark, when he got the job. The opening line of the show is “Where the hell is Williams Lake?” It’s in Northern BC. It’s a mill town, population 13 000. 

Mark worked there for a year. He went in with the brash attitude of any city-bred 22- year old university graduate, thinking this job would be a stepping stone to a real reporting gig, at a real newspaper in a real city. That goal did actually come to fruition - Mark has written for many major newspapers and magazines since then (he’s currently the head theatre writer for the Vancouver Sun). Not to mention writing scads of songs, sketches, plays, screenplays, teleplays, biographies and autobiographies (he has a memoir coming out this week, titled Free Magic Secrets - about a disastrous magic show he and two friends put on in their late teens). But in less than a year of arriving in Williams Lake he grew to value the place and the people who lived there. Against all probability, he found himself sticking his neck out to help form a Union at the newspaper, in spite of physical threats and the easy out of an already secured better job in Vancouver.