Lucky Luis by TJ Dawe @TJ_Dawe If anyone wears the crown for best stand-up comedian in the US, it’s probably Louis CK (real name: Louis Szekely). What if he steered the cultural ship into even more interesting territory by doing stand-up in Spanish.
He could. He was born in Mexico (his ancestry is Mexican and Hungarian). Spanish was his first language. He didn’t move to the US till he was seven. He looks and sounds like the whitest of white guys, but is more Mexican than many Mexican-Americans, and he’s said it in interviews.
As liberal and left-leaning as the US and English Canadian entertainment industries are, they’re pretty damn white. And English speaking.
It’s different in Quebec. In 2008 I saw stand-up Sugar Sammy (real name: Samir Khullar) do a headlining set in Montreal club. He riffed on the ethnicities of audience members near the stage (various combinations of Italian, Colombian, Iranian, Korean and much else). In one bit he imagined a Haitian doing play-by-play for Olympic hockey, in Haitian French. The crowd roared.
The Art of Packing by Cameryn Moore @cameryn moore The main thing you need to know before reading today’s column is: I am going back to Edinburgh Festival Fringe next year, to remount Phone Whore. I don’t know details, obviously, and I don’t know exactly how to manifest everything I’m going to need. It still feels a little overwhelming, actually, this decision and all the experiences that I’ve been having for the last five weeks. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, though, I know what helps: making lists.
WHAT I WILL BRING TO EDINBURGH NEXT YEAR
Emergen-C packets. For those times when stopping by the convenience store at 2am just seems like too much work.
Arnica cream. My ankle will get twisted, or someone’s will.
MOAR ADVIL. See above, plus sleep-deprivation headaches.
More cute stockings. Self-explanatory.
A sweatshirt for hanging around the house. That shit’s cold and damp up there!
My (soon-to-be-)patented Lumberjack Lingerie, i.e. the legs cut off from long johns and worn as stockings. That shit is definitely cold and damp enough up there for long johns.
Some kind of foldable coffee filter cone. Drip coffee isn’t really Done here. Neither is half-and-half, but I can’t do anything about that.
Folders in which to organize receipts as I go. Jeezus, I do not want to empty out that baggie when I get back to Montreal…
More slut (r)evolution pins. Badges. They call them badges over here. That shit was flying out the door.
More button designs, period, more tiny, portable, fun merch, and not necessarily show-related, either. I learn a lot from watching the way the Die Roten Punkte merch machine operates.
A Sharpie. Why did I not have a Sharpie with me? And a good extra-fine-point one as well.
Extra re-usable grocery bags. The ones I had ended up being used to port newly acquired props, and a few times I needed them to, you know, hold groceries.
An extra bra. I was able to perform a (so-far) successful emergency underwire-ectomy and transplant, using the two broken bras that I had on hand, but I can’t expect that sort of luck to hold out two years in a row.
More gum. I don’t know what kinda gum they’re selling there, but it ain’t right.
A new print-out of my script. This one is literally 3.5 years old; it is verging on archeological at this point.
A fresh Whorasol and a proper spare base. I was able to improvise off of a red brolly that was in the lost and found of my venue, but again, that was just luck.
Hopefully a new laptop. My iBook will be 10 YEARS OLD next year. It has done yeoman’s service, but it is time for something faster, that doesn’t weigh So. Goddamn. Much.
My Certificate of Sponsorship, all sorted out in advance. Because being detained at Heathrow was not a pleasant way to start out my UK tour.
In Cameryn Moore's creating a/broad column she speaks of frustration over ratings she received at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was not unhappy with the review; just the star system that was attached to it. We live in an age where there is such an abundance of information on just about anything, that we quick scan and choose based on what immediately catches our eye.
The problem with the star system is that it explains nothing and is just one person’s opinion. In the case of the Edinburgh festival it didn’t even accurately reflect the writer’s opinion on the quality of the play. A rating system as to content or age appropriateness would likely be more useful where someone has 50 to 100 or more choices to make. I like to know what a show is about without being told the entire story and it’s helpful to know a bit about how it was executed so I can make up my mind. Whether it is family or adult oriented matters to me if I am bringing someone with me, but there are some people out there that will not even consider going to see any show under four stars if they have budgeted time and money for 10 shows where there are 100 choices.
We’re All Mad Here Stratford flies over the cuckoo’s nest with 2014 season. by Christian Baines @XtianBaines
He’s finally cracked!
Stratford Festival Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is set to turn the theatre-loving rural community into his own personal funny farm next season with a program that dwells firmly in the realms of madness and drug-induced hallucinations.
Not that that's a bad thing.
The theme of ‘Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge’ pretty much grants Cimolino open slather on most of the Shakespeare canon. Indeed, on the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth, any Shakespeare company worth its salt had better have something a little special up its sleeve. For Stratford, that means a double dose of fairy dust, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream hitting the stage in two separate productions, with directors Chris Abraham and Peter Sellars at their respective helms. I must confess, the latter announcement got me very excited in my pre-caffeinated, more-than-slightly-hung-over state, before remembering that not only was the name spelt differently, but the poor man I was thinking of had been dead for 33 years!
OMG! Do you have any idea how rare it is to look at an image bank for a Fringe festival and have a picture jump out at you? Separating itself from the mountains of chaff is this Tisse Mallon shot of Aji Slater of Geek Life, this week at the Victoria Fringe. Mallon has offered the very best, especially within the terms established by an action shot. The movement is caught in full focus, the colours are insanely vivid (with the blue hat making all the red more vibrant) and he has framed/cropped the shot to virtual perfection. Huzzah!
Talk to a young artist and you will get a tale of woe about The Canada Council refusing funding. Talk to older artists and they will hit you with stories of croneyism and prejudices among peer juries at the Council. Speak to new-arts creators and you'll get a song and dance about the Council not "getting" tech (ebooks, web sites, online journalism, multi-media involving the latest advances).
The Canada Council is broken so how the hell can it be fixed?
Steve Galluccio burst into the mainstream with Mambo Italiano, one of the most successful plays in Canadian theatre history. The play was turned into a movie, which became an international hit. His Gemini award winning tv series Ciao Bella, was followed by his second feature film Surviving My Mother which won the audience favourite award at the Montreal Film Festival. Galluccio’s third feature, the bilingual Funkytown grossed over 1.5 million dollars. Created at Centaur Theatre, In Piazza San Domenico, Galluccio’s ninth play was the number one comedy in Montreal in the fall of 2009. The St. Léonard Chronicles opens Centaur’s 45th Season.
CHARPO: So here we are again! Lordie, you and I have been doing this for about 25 years - are you getting tired yet?
GALLUCCIO: Tired? Are you kidding me? I'm just getting started.
CHARPO: There's something I have to ask and it's about money: when I was in the game you could live off theatre royalties - can you still do that, if you're a beginner, I mean?
GALLUCCIO: If you write a huge hit, definitely.
CHARPO: Tell me about your relationship with Centaur - you once told me you never burn bridges - is this one result of that philosophy or do you just like the company and its bosses?
GALLUCCIO: I have a great relationship with Centaur. They are really cool, and I've been there a long time-- three years with Mambo, then there was Piazza, and now St Leo.
The mega hit, Les Belles-Soeurs (the musical) continues its tour with a stopover at Montreal's Monument-National. The production company has created a whole series of 15-second clips that are eye-grabbing. In passing, today is the 45th anniversary of the first performance of the Michel Tremblay play on which the musical is based!
This will probably be my final article about Fringe this season (though we have people on the ground to cover shows in Victoria and Vancouver), and it will also be, Lord hopes!, my final Fringe rant. (Though that is less likely.)
Fringers - and I hope to fuck you know who you are - listen up. I am not just talking about show producers as I also have a few barbs aimed at Fringe Festival organizers. Now because I am a fairly gallant fellow, despite reports to the contrary, I will not name names. But so help me, next year I will be a year older and that much crankier so watch out (or pray for my death).
- Estelle Rosen, the brains in the CharPo team, and I have thought seriously of doing one thing next year. Christ! We nearly did it this year! When we publish a review, we are seriously considering putting a big, hideous graphic with "No photo available" beside the review. In this day and age - when doctors can burrow cameras in our assholes and every piece-o'-shit telephone has a camera - that companies still have no pics for their show or - almost worse! - insist on using kindergarden-scribble poster art as their sole graphic are intolerable. And here's something else you notice when you see there is no photo available: invariably the show is similarly shit. And when it isn't (ie: our reviewers loved it) CharPo is not predisposed to link to, tweet to, or draw eyes to that review because there is always the danger that readers will think WE are bush league because there is no pic with the review.
Gretl, Snow White, Goldilocks and the Magic Mirrors by Estelle Rosen Dyana Sonik-Henderson is a dance instructor, choreographer, and Artistic Director of the Victoria-based company Broken Rhythms. Since returning to Victoria after seven years of travel and study, her productions and choreography have been performed locally at the You Show, the 2012 Fringe Festival (winning Pick of the Fringe), and UVic Dance Company. She has been commissioned to set choreography for local companies and has participatedin community events around Victoria. Her show Grim toured in the 2013 Island Fringe Festivals. She has also toured nationally and internationally with Carnival Cruise Line; OIP Dance where she worked with Luther Brown from SYTYCD in Toronto; Royal Winnipeg Ballet; and Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Calgary, in their show Live and Insync. Dyana has also had the opportunity to study dance and theatre at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music in Greenwich, England, and has performed in shows in Italy; London, England; Vancouver; Calgary; Toronto; Hawaii; Las Vegas; Texas; and Cuba.
CHARPO: We understand your presentation of Grim at Victoria Fringe is inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales. Assuming the background of this inspiration stems from growing up with Grimm's Fairy Tales, how will your dance/theatre piece reflect the tales which will be the focus of this production, and which tales?
SONIK-HENDERSON:When I was young I went to bed with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and many of the stories had a profound effect on me. They allowed me not to shy away from darker elements, but rather to embrace and enjoy them. I believe this genuine engagement has been pivotal in creating the dances I’ve choreographed. The gothic elements of the tales have been very inspiring for my work. Like many post-modern artists, I’ve found these elements particularly open to inquiry and re-interpretation.
Sarah Segal-Lazar, Will Roney (playing George-Etienne Cartier)
The 2013 Island Fringe PLAY List by Sarah Segal-Lazar
Sarah Segal-Lazar is the founding Festival Director of The Island Fringe Festival. In her not-so-spare time, she is also an actor, playwright, and singer-songwriter. Her show Talk, Mackerel, which she wrote, composed, directed, and starred in, will be part of the Wildside Festival at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre this winter. An island-dweller through and through, she spends her time between Montreal, PEI, and New York. www.SarahSL.com
I’m sitting at a coffee shop, where I opt to work instead of the Island Fringe office. 1) Coffee shops have bathrooms. 2) Coffee shops are not a billion degrees. 3) Coffee shops have coffee. I’ve just come from an interview on CBC radio about an event we’re having in the name of Fringe called “Scribbler Skeletons: Shameless Readings of Childhood Writing.” Like all shows in the Island Fringe line-up, it’s admission by donation. I hope they remember to say that in the post-interview segment.
I GUESS THIS IS GOODBYE…. joel fishbane @joelfishbane
About two and a half years ago – February, 2011 to be precise – the good people at New South Books released a bowdlerized edition of Huckleberry Finn. I was proud of them – not for censoring the work but for having the common decency to let the world know they were doing it. I promptly wrote an article on the subject and the folks at The Charlebois Post printed it. Then, for reasons unbeknownst to man, CharPo offered me the chance to shoot my mouth off once a week about the arts.
Well it’s been about 160 weeks now, give or take, and I regret to announce that I’m hanging up my mouth, at least in a weekly capacity. While I will continue to file reports and theatre reviews from time to time, this will be my last Theatre for Thought column.
Frustration by Cameryn Moore @camerynmoore In the final week of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I was a little frustrated about not being able to get reviews, this being one of the main reasons that I had for coming to EdFringe this year. When I finally got a review from one of the main Fringe outlets, I was actually pretty pleased on first read:
As Cameryn Moore makes adamantly clear before the play begins, ‘Phone Whore’ is NOT a comedy. What followed was an incredibly brutal, piercing and thought-provoking commentary on sexuality and the sexual taboos that exist in our society. To say that this isn’t for the faint-hearted would be an understatement: fully-grown adults were running for the door, nervously giggling, well before the sucker-punch of an ending. From a moral standpoint, you may not agree with or condone Moore’s views on how to deal with the more depraved sexual thoughts that some people have. But she is clearly a very intelligent woman, just trying to have a grown-up, buttoned-down discussion about the world’s greatest obsession.
Unfortunate that the writer wasted a full line on the audience’s response, but generally, that’s a pretty good review, right? So when I got to the bottom, I was totally blindsided: they had given it two stars out of five.
I attended a launch of the Gladstone Theatre’s ambitious fourth season. It was done as a mock news broadcast and was a bit of unpolished fun. A few of the Gladstone regulars were about promoting their work and giving us a glimpse of what lies ahead very shortly in a season that kicks off with Noel Coward’s Private Lives very soon.
As much as I enjoy the fact that the theatre season for 2013-2014 will be in full swing very soon, I also know that as clearly as robins and flocks of redwing blackbirds are harbingers of spring, the launch of the theatrical season in Ottawa means that the summer is ending. I don’t like that one bit. I love summer. Barbecues and outdoor plays in the park, snorkelling and beachcombing on my annual P.E.I. vacation are the things I look forward to all year. I don’t indulge in any winter sports although I do watch some hockey games but I don’t skate to work on the canal.
Rivalries and Alliances by Jim Murchison @JimMurchison
There is something liberating about playing in the parks where one doesn't have to worry about echoes and sightlines in the same manner as one might on stage. Great stories have been seen in Ottawa parks this year from Shaw and Shakespeare and while John Brogan is not as famous a writer as the others, the principal characters of his play are two of the most beloved swashbuckling and romantic swordsmen of literature: Aramis of Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Rostand's title character Cyrano de Bergerac.
Lordie, photographer Cylla von Tiedemann is good. We have seen so, so many photos of so, so many productions of Waiting For Godot, but this one of Tom Rooney in the present Stratford presentation captures the beauty of the work (and design), its absurd humour and the bleakness of Samuel Beckett's central theme.
Historically, Medicine Shows were travelling horse and wagon teams which peddled ‘miracle cure’ medications and other products between various entertainment acts. This was in the day when ‘horsepower’ involved actual horses, and when a travelling act (good or bad) brought an entire town out to watch.
It isn’t always easy to be a nerd. Some of us sit alone at home, reaching out for companionship on the Internet. Others attend large-scale ‘Comicon’ –type conferences, clad in costumes or wearing t-shirts from Star Trek or Doctor Who. And other nerds – well, other nerds build a couple of crazy cool space helmets, rework the story of Moby Dick. “Which,” as one of the characters asserts in an aside, “Nobody has actually read, anyway,” to involve a Martian, a robot and a giant spaceship, and they present it as part of the Edmonton Fringe Festival.
In the program description for They Call Me Mr. Fry, audience members are warned to ‘Bring your Kleenex’ – I assume because they are supposed to be moved to tears by the acting, narrative or by the characterization of the inner-city children taught by Mr. Fry in this 90-minute one-man Fringe show.
Circle is a rare thing for a Fringe festival. It’s a smart, sophisticated, well-crafted two-hander, with two solo performers: a comedic actress and a dramatic storyteller, coming together to perform in what is described in the Fringe program as ‘a daisy-chain of sexual encounters’. And yes, there are indeed sexual encounters. Many of them, in fact, with each character (and there are several) being portrayed from two entirely different angles throughout the play. The writing - by New York director and playwright Suzanne Bachner - is snappy and sophisticated, and the actors do the clever script full justice.
Ah, South Africa. The country where zebras all drive SUVs, Giraffes have short legs and short necks, and where Tockalosh (whatever it/he/she is) runs just out of sight, day and night. It’s also the homeland of expert storysmith Erik De Waal, and the setting for his yearly hour of children’s fare: African Folktales with Erik De Waal. This is a superb bit of theatre from a master storyteller. It is located at the Theatre for Young Audience venue and is advertised as a childrens’ show, but the adults in the audience were equally rapt. De Waal is the ideal kids performer. He doesn’t patronize or oversimplify, and his accent adds a delicious flavour to his narrative.
Edmonton is home to a lot of clowns. And over the years, the Fringe has hosted such notable clown shows as Fools for Love and Sofa So Good. So, our standards are pretty high. And that’s what makes the Seattle-based touring show Apocalypse Clown extra hard to take.
If I were stranded on a deserted island and had to choose two people to be out there with me, it would surely be gifted comic actors Emily Windler and Brian Kuwabara in their roles of Poe and Mathews, from the aptly-named Edmonton Fringe show ‘Poe and Mathews’. This gem of a show is just about the funniest piece of theatre that I’ve ever seen at the Edmonton Fringe.
The premise involves the notable American writer Edgar Allen Poe and the lesser known (for, it seems, good reason) Cornelius Mathews, stranded together on a deserted island. How did they get there? Ask Mathews. Or rather, blame Mathews. Or rather, hand Mathews a rope, a rock and a sandwich and put him on a stage to see what happens next.
There are two integral elements to good standup comedy: clever, funny material and timing. In Serving Bait to Rich People, aspiring comedienne Alexa Fitzpatrick has neither. She tells the story of living as a ski bum in Aspen, Colorado and of working at a high-end sushi restaurant. It’s an interesting premise, and it has the potential to be a good story, if Alexa would Just Tell us The Story. Instead, she has devised a comedy routine, with such an eclectic mix of stale jokes and unreliable stories that the audience doesn’t know what is real and what is a setup for a gag.
I ask everyone, including myself, really hard questions.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Brad Fraser is one of Canada's best known playwrights, in addition to being a director for stage and film, a talk show host and wearing many other hats. Born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1959, Mr. Fraser won his first playwriting competition at the age of 17 and has been writing ever since. His play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love premiered at Alberta Theatre Projects PlayRites festival in 1989. It has since been produced worldwide, with highly successful runs in Toronto, New York, Chicago, Milan, Sydney and London. It has been translated into multiple languages, and was most recently produced in: Athens, Greece; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.Other produced plays include: Poor Super Man, Martin Yesterday, Snake in Fridge, Cold Meat Party, Mutants, Wolfboy, Rude Noises (For a Blank Generation), Chainsaw Love, Young Art, Return of the Bride, The Ugly Man and the musicals Outrageous and Prom Night of the Living Dead.
CHARPO: Who approached who for Kill Me Now and who said, "Yup, why not direct?" And how does casting come about long-distance between Edmonton and Toronto?
FRASER: Michael Clarke at Workshop West read the play and programmed it for their public reading presentation last Fall. It went very well and Michael wanted to see about scheduling it. We back and forthed for a few months, sent gentle feelers out to other directors who were busy and decided it would make things more expeditious if I directed it myself. I do have extensive experience directing my own work and we felt the script had enough development that it would be possible. Also I've never premiered a play in Edmonton in a professional venue and it sounded like fun to come back home in every way.
As for casting, we chatted about people, I asked around, went to Edmonton for a day of auditions and chose the five people who seemed best for the roles. Pretty much the way I'd do it anywhere.
When I began my professional career nearly 40 years ago, there was a joke about one of the biggest theatre companies in this country, "All the men are Gay and all the women are drunks; all the women are drunks because all the men are Gay." People spoke of the company in terms - and I kid you not - of having a "faggot mafia" and that they turned straight actors Gay and you couldn't work there if you weren't Queer.
At the first party held in my honour - after I won a writing award in Edmonton - as I got blasted on cancer-treatment pot provided by a researcher at the party - a woman began making passes at me by sharing gossip about everyone in the room: who was fucking whose wife, who was a hopeless alcoholic. Then, in whispers, she pointed out an actor and hissed, "He's a homosexual."
For the last show of its 100th season, The Ottawa Little Theatre picked Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy, and it’s easy to see why from this production. The award-winning script is backed up by an impressive set, loving direction and solid acting.
The Drawer Boy is set in 1972 and focuses on an actor, Miles, who ventures into the country to research farm life. He befriends Angus and Morgan, two farmers who appear to lead a simple life but are so much more beneath the surface. For starters, Angus has short-term memory loss after an accident during World War II left him with a brain injury. He’s good with numbers and can make a mean sandwich, but for everything else he depends on his friend Morgan – who may be hiding a thing or two about their past.
A...My Name Is Alice is a musical revue. Definition of “musical revue”: A musical show consisting of skits, songs and dances often satirizing current events, trends and personalities. A…My Name is Alice was conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd, first produced in 1983 written by a variety of composers (Davie Zippel, Winnie Holzman and Lucy Simon) and writers like the legendary Anne Meara (mother of Ben Stiller).
Comedy is best when it comes from a point of view. Be it satire, parody or slapstick, the best comedy comes from a place of anger. Deadpan or ridiculous situations pointing out that which is ‘stupid’, ‘hard’, ‘weird’ or ‘scary’.
Wrestling With Notions of Love by Estelle Rosen Zeb L. West is a writer, performer, and director currently living in Austin, TX. He is a member of Austin’s Trouble Puppet Theatre Company, and Brooklyn’s Alphabet Arts. He graduated from The Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre in Northern California, where he studied Commedia Dell’Arte, Clown, Maskmaking, Tango, Tumbling and Corporeal Mime. Prior to that, he received his undergrad degree at San Francisco State, studying Suzuki with Yuki Goto and Shakespeare with Bill Peters. In the past 15 years, Mr. West has worked in San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Austin and toured nationally performing with masks and puppets. CHARPO: As a Graduate from The Dell'Arte School of Physical theatre, it's no surprise that your show encompasses clowning and puppetry! How would you describe/pitch Innocent When You Dream? I would also be interested to know about the experience of participating in several Fringes including Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and how the experience will impact on the upcoming Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria Fringes.
WEST: Can you think of that one person you loved so much that just didn't love you back? It probably still hurts to think about them. You cracked open your chest so wide, holding your ribcage open with both hands, bare heart exposed, your goofy-eyed face radiating innocent adoration. And all of a sudden they told you it was over.
Innocent When You Dream is about what you do in the moments just after that. Where you must traverse the stages of grief, and ultimately decide whether it’s worth it to risk that hurt and try to love again. Or stay in that stuck place of fear, doubt, and anguish.
Stratford: The Next Generation ...ultimately, that’s why people come. It’s the work, the place. It’s the talent on the stage. by David Sklar (photos courtesy of The Stratford Festival) Senior contributor David Sklar spoke with Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of Stratford Festival, about the challenging experience of taking over the reins this past year.
CHARPO: How did it all begin for you here at Stratford?
CIMOLINO: I came here a number of times in high school but there was one time that changed everything. I was in a Catholic boys school at the time and the play is about four young men who decide not to drink, spend all their time studying and refuse to see any women and I knew that that wasn’t going to work out: things were going to happen. And sure enough four beautiful women show up but what was remarkable was that I saw my friends on stage. I saw the goofy guy; the one everyone makes fun of, the smart ass and the intelligent one: I saw my friends. I thought, “This is my gang. This play was written 300 years ago so how’s that possible?”
It was a very strange moment. And the other thing was that I was in a room with 2000 people, almost all older than I was but we were all laughing together. We were all moved together. It was an epiphany. I recognized a connection to humanity. I saw how great humanity was, both back in time and in that moment. I felt a union. So I went home, told my dad that I wasn’t going to go to Law School and that I wanted to be an actor. So you could imagine the response from my first generation immigrant parents but they eventually supported me. It was that moment where I just realized I wanted to do something else that contributed to what we are all about.
All photos by Olivia Bownman The Fringe adventure by Jean-François Plante-Tan
Jean-François Plante-Tan decided to live his dream of becoming an artist after completing an architecture and urban planning degree. He had a personal piano tutor when he was a child and came to love music at a young age. He learned to compose for competitions, where he was told that his music had a movie score quality. With this input, he decided to take on music after his studies and hired a voice coach to improve his singing. Two years into his artistic career he took a shot at musicals. Today, he is touring Canada with his first musical production La Cravate Bleue. He created the play in a month, and with the help of his director and artistic collaborator, they were able to produce it in less then three weeks from opening night.
My Fringe adventure started one year ago, on the night of September 16,2012. When I got in line five hours before midnight for early-bird registration, I had no idea I was going to tour Canada with my first musical production. And who would’ve thought that it was going to be in French. Also, I had no clue what the Fringe Festival was, aside from the fact that it’s an art festival happening in Montreal during the summer. I didn’t even know this thing was world-wide. Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting anything much out of this experience.
Summer’s almost over but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still time for that quintessential of all summer experiences – Shakespeare in the Park. Nor is it your usual band of lovers and clowns: across Canada, producers are trying to see how the Bard’s tragedies fare when performed under the setting sun. And it’s about time. There’s only so many times a person can sit through A Midsummer Night’s Dream, no matter how glorious the production.
I Am Tired by Cameryn Moore @camerynmoore I am tired. Yes. It is past the halfway point for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and I’m lying here on my narrow-ass bad at 12:30 in the afternoon, and my body is aching like some giant just wrung me out and hung me here to dry. I guess my habit of typing while I’m lying in my bed doesn’t help, but mostly it’s just Fringe fatigue.
It’s not doing the shows back to back to back (by the time you read this I will be at 16 shows in a row). The show is actually staying pretty fresh. Someone asked me about it once, how do I keep it fresh and alive when it’s scripted and I’ve done it so many times. The answer? Fresh audiences. Every night I have a new group of people down in that basement, reacting in different ways to what I say, therefore giving me different things that I can react to. So, yeah, insufferable heat of the basement bar and rapidly molding bread notwithstanding (heat and damp, what are ya gonna do?), doing the show down there, that much… not the reason for fatigue.
Then must the Jew be merciful? Stratford’s Merchant of Venice tries too hard to deal with an unforgiving play by Stuart Munro @StuartMunroTO
I’m finishing my series of opening nights at Stratford with the Festival’s new production of The Merchant of Venice. The second offering this season from Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, Merchant is another of those well known plays with which I wasn’t too familiar. And while there are several strong moments, this production ultimately falls a little flat.
A large part of the problem is the play itself. Classically thought of as a comedy, Merchant’s anti-Semitism has become more complicated over the centuries, turning it into one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays.” To overcome this, directors often bend over backwards in an attempt to transform Shylock from the comic villain he was written as to a sympathetic, misunderstood antagonist. This results, however, in a woefully unbalanced plot and two separate storylines that are absolutely out of synch with one another – the comic love stories of Bassanio and Portia, Lorenzo and Jessica, and Gratiano and Nerissa; and the more intense story of Shylock demanding his pound of flesh from the eponymous merchant, Antonio.
They say that when you venture to write an original work you should write what you know. What I know now is not what I expected to know when I was a young acting student and a professional actor. The world outside the theatre is so full of injustice and corruption that it can be difficult to know where to start. There are so many things worth writing about.
So now I have to ask myself, exactly what do I know? I know a lot about the public service and bureaucracy. I never expected at the beginning of my life to have such an intimate knowledge of the provincial government but temp jobs turn into permanent positions and 25 years later I find myself a go-to-guy for clarification on legislation and assorted gobbledygook.
Graham Abbey (l), Dion Johnstone (photo by Michael Cooper)
Heavy Act With Heavy Heart Stratford’s Othello brims with intensity and passion by Stuart Munro @StuartMunroTO
There’s a certain amount of excitement involved in seeing a well-known play for the first time. I’ve been vaguely familiar with the plot of Othello for years now, but had never had the opportunity to actually see it until last night’s opening at Stratford’s Avon Theatre. I couldn’t have picked a better production. This Othello is intense and heart breaking, and is sure to become a hit of the season.
Othello is the story of a Moorish Venetian army general and his beautiful new wife, Desdemona. Othello’s ensign, Iago, enraged at being passed over for a promotion, plots to bring down his commander by planting the seed of an idea of an infidelity involving Desdemona and Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant, in Othello’s head. The result is disastrous for all involved.
Ready, aim…Educate? Schützen misses the mark by Gregory Bunker
Schützen, a work making its North American debut from Berlin, is about shooting people. The mercifully charming Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt reports on her research about the aforementioned, with field-recorded effects courtesy of front-row assistant Matthias Meppelink. Fourth wall removed, Ullerup Schmidt tells the audience that no violence would be a part of the show in a backhanded way so-if-you-see-violence-it’s-real kind of way. The reassurance-turned-warning was a promising trick that—considering that the topic is guns—made me both anxious and excited. But the yoga quickly mitigated that and I started to feel like I was quietly rooting for a friend to slam-dunk her high school presentation in a strangely nostalgic, now-let’s-go-out-and-play kind of way. So went the first 30 minutes, and then we actually went out to play.
There are precious few terrific images in most festivals, but sometimes, when looking at an image bank, one jumps out at you as was this case for this promo photo for X, now playing at SummerWorks. Photographer Leesa Connelly has encapsulated the central concept of the work "a magical, whimsical and honest look at addiction", reminded us it is, after all, a puppet show and with the stark, shadowless lighting given us a sly hint about the work's creators (that tattoo!) while not revealing the surprise of the technical marvels at the heart of the performance.
We Are Not Dead Yet The Thrill stumbles along its way to poignancy by Stuart Munro @StuartMunroTO
Who has the right to live, and who has the right to die? More importantly – who has the right to choose? These are the challenging and difficult questions raised by Judith Thompson’s new play, The Thrill, making its world première at the Stratford Festival this year.
Inspired by the life and work of disability rights activist, Harriet Johnson, The Thrill follows the last few months in the life of Elora (Lucy Peacock), herself a disability rights lawyer and activist; and of Julian (Nigel Bennett), a right-to-die educator and best-selling author. The two meet, and the result is different than anything one might expect.
From left, clockwise: Tennille Read, Andy Trithardt, Kelly McCormack, Kaleb Alexander (photo credit: ZAIDEN)
On a delicate subject... by Zoe Erwin-Longstaff
Theatre Brouhaha promises to produce work that will wow the 'HBO generation'. This helps to explain why watching Artistic Director, Kat Sandler’s, new play Delicacy, at the Lower Ossington Theatre, I felt more like part of a studio audience than someone watching a play. The set, suggestive of ones seen on sitcoms, a sea of white, done up with all the flourishes of crude wealth, from a tacky shag rug, to a hideously expensive phallic sculpture.
While it’s comforting to think of memories as stored away treasures nestled safe in the attic of our mind, recent scientific developments have us disabused. Rather than waiting for nostalgic moments to emerge fully formed, memories are created afresh each time we summon them. Even at their most robust, these recollections are elusive, and not to be trusted. Still we rely on memory, we have to, to form a coherent narrative of who we think we are.The tricky quality of memory and its role in identity formation is the fodder for Sook-Yin Lee, resident artist at SummerWorks, and her collaborator, Ben Camino’s, experimental multimedia performance, How Can I Forget.
As the title might indicate, Murderers Confess at Christmastime gets a bit dark.
Jason Chinn's play subverts the "most wonderful time of the year" into a chance for a cross-dressing kidnapper, a drug-addicted former model and a rejected office worker to let the crumbs of Santa's cookies fall where they must. The piece cuts between the three scenarios to expose us to the ever-delightful Amy Keating, the nebbish Aaron Willis and the tenderness of Tony Nappo delivering outstanding performances. However none of these seven actors should be shrugged off either.
Beautiful, but is the emperor naked? by Jason Booker
Salome's Clothes often captures the reality of a moment, whether it's a mother-daughter argument over going to the mall or the disappointed disillusionment of a woman in a nursing home. Sadly though, the blending of realistic scenes confuses as the years of mundane activities become blurred in a montage of relationships and subtexts that are never outright addressed.
For Me? begins in one place and ends in another, like so many of the human relationships the piece seeks to explore.
The audience assembles in the lobby of the nearby theatre and walks (or cycles) the six blocks to the designated location, outdoors, beside some decommissioned train tracks, in front of an outdoor parking garage. There, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood stand, between a pair of audio speakers, stools prepared for viewers who care to sit.
Original, uncomfortably funny, and ultimately unsettling, The Art of Building a Bunker or Paddling the Canoe of My Self Down the River of Inclusivity and into the Ass of the World is a brilliant one-man tragicomedy that sees an everyman unravel over the course of his much-loathed, company-mandated sensitivity training sessions. The training is so farcical that you’re almost certain Elvis, the protagonist, can quietly mock it all the way through. As we begin to learn more about Elvis, and as Elvis begins to learn more about himself, we realize how perfect the title really is.
Oh the 60s. What a decade it was. 7 Important Things explores this illustrious decade, and the ones that follow, through the life of George Acheson, also performer, collaborator and writer. As a teenager in the 60s, he defied the traditional ways of his family, followed the hippie movement and as a result got kicked out of his home by his father. The years that follow prove difficult as he struggles to fight the status quo in an ever growing capitalist society. Written, performed and directed by Nadia Ross and brought to us by STO Union and the National Arts Centre English Theatre co-production association with W.A.C., 7 Important things is an unusual dramaturgy that combines narration, improvised discussions and enactments.
Director Rick Tae boasts many musical theatre experiences, including Falsettos, Company, Baby and Flower Drum Song. With a BFA in theatre arts, a Leo Award, a Gemini Nomination, a film company, a tech company, and work with A-list Hollywood executives, Mr. Tae aspires to continue bringing diversity, unique storytelling and humour to his wide spectrum of projects. Returning to his first love of Broadway shows, alongside community partners VACT, Skycorner Productions and Pixarola.com, he's always triggered by an enthusiastic and talented Vancouver theatre community who inspire him to share rare musical gems with local audiences eager for spirited entertainment.
CHARPO: Before we get to ....Alice, I notice a good deal of your bio is in other art forms with theatre credits being a lot of musical theatre. What is it about musicals that tempts you back?
TAE: Musicals move me most as my first love because they provide an ability to mix a very fantastical world with a multitude of complex issues in our own reality. As they say, music is a universal language, and so the appeal is far-reaching. The immediacy of musical theatre, having the artists and an audience inside the same room at the same time breathing in the same air, gives me a sense of communion and belonging that other digital art forms tend to lack.