Monday, September 30, 2013

The Abominable Showman, September 30, 2013

l-r Vittorio Rossi, Steve Galluccio, Bugs (photo by Eloi Savoie)
The Italian Stallions
CharPo sits down for a revealing tête-à-tête with Montreal  playwrights Steve Galluccio and Vittorio Rossi – who also co-stars in Galluccio’s new play The St. Leonard Chronicles – and the boys dismiss all talk about their rumoured professional rivalry …
By Richard Burnett (all photos by Richard Burnett except when noted)

There’s one thing that Vittorio Rossi and Steve Galluccio do extremely well, and that’s cuss like sailors.

As we all settle on the terrasse outside the Centaur Theatre’s rehearsal studio on Young Street in Griffintown – the same building that used to house the police station where Susan Kennedy was charged with the beheading murder of Mary Gallagher in 1879 – I tell the boys that if things get a little rough or touchy during the interview, “Just tell me to fuck off and move on.”

“No fucking problem!” says Steve, smiling.

“Fuck do you guys swear a lot!” Vittorio pipes up.

And so begins a no-holds-barred conversation with the two finest Italian playwrights in Montreal.

“In Canada,” they both correct me, with gleams in their eyes.

The Question... Sarah Garton Stanley, Associate AD, NAC English Theatre

by Estelle Rosen

Montreal born and raised, Sarah Garton Stanley now lives between Ottawa and Kingston. She founded The Baby Grand, in Kingston, in 1985, then co-created Women Making Scenes in Montreal, and Die in Debt Theatre in Toronto, (a ground-breaking company dedicated large canvas site-specific work.) Sarah Garton Stanley is a former Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, she co-helmed the Directing Program at the National Theatre School and is adjunct at Concordia University. Sarah creates work with Michael Rubenfeld including The Failure Show, Mothermothermother, and upcoming Oopsala and The Book of Judith. She is currently directing Beatrice and Virgil, (Lindsay Cochrane’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel) at the Factory. Her latest adventure is launching The Collaborations in her role as Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada's National Arts Centre.

CHARPO: You've been involved in various aspects of theatre for many years. Would you say previous theatre involvement was the precursor to your current position as Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at National Arts Centre? 

STANLEY: There is a strong line that runs through all of my work: I am in love with theatre. (I am 50 now, and to declare such love seems unseemly at best, and positively Harlequinesque at worst.) Replete with this ardour are all the various attributes that present in a more conventional, person-to-person kind of love.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, September 30-October 6, 2013

Steve Galluccio

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Feature: Soprano Ileana Montalbetti on Ellen Orford, Peter Grimes and Ben Heppner

Ileana Montalbetti as Elettra in the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio performance of Idomeneo, 2010. (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Living a Dream: The Journey to Ellen Orford
by Ileana Montalbetti

Canadian soprano and Ensemble Studio graduate Ileana Montalbetti last performed with the Canadian Opera Company as The Voice of Antonia’s Mother in The Tales of Hoffmann. Her COC appearances include Clorinda (La Cenerentola), the Russian Mother/Newspaper Seller (Death in Venice), Anna Kennedy (Maria Stuarda), Mavra Kuzminichna (War and Peace), and with the Ensemble, the First Lady (The Magic Flute), Elettra (Idomeneo), and Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte). Ms Montalbetti’s credits include Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera); Leonore in Fidelio (Michigan Opera Theater); and the Fifth Maid in Lehnhoff’s production of Elektra and Anaï (understudy) in Moïse et Pharaon under Riccardo Muti (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma).

The journey to singing Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes has been long and winding and sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe that I am now living my dream; not only to be singing this role but of being a principal artist at the largest opera company in Canada!

I was raised in a wonderfully artistic household.  My mother is a trained singer and Artistic Director of Saskatoon Opera and my father is a trained actor; they now both teach in their respective fields.  Performing has always been a huge part of my life and there was always a huge emphasis on singing and opera in my home.  I never felt pressure from my parents to pursue a career in the performing arts; I just did not know that other careers were an option.  Performing and singing have been my passion from a very early age and it seems very fitting that my first principal role at the Canadian Opera Company is a role in a Britten opera.  The first award I was ever given for performing was in the under 13 Folk Song Class at the Saskatoon Music Festival.  I sang Sweet Polly Oliver, a Britten folk song, and was awarded first place.  Skip ahead a few years and in the fourth year of my undergraduate degree, at the University of Manitoba, I sang the role of Ellen in an excerpt from the opera for our opera scenes class.  I then sang the Embroidery Aria as one of my audition arias for the University of Toronto Opera Division, where I was accepted.   After completing my Opera Diploma I went on to sing in the Canadian Opera Company Chorus and the following year I was accepted in to the Ensemble Studio and now here I am singing the role surrounded by a cast of world-class singers.

jackDawe, September 29, 2013

Oh! Lucky Man!
by TJ Dawe

I recently had a play of mine (Toothpaste and Cigars, co-written with Mike Rinaldi) made into a movie (The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe, directed by Mike Dowse), which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival to great acclaim, and garnered a fat distribution deal. 

The phrasing of that last sentence implies that I made it happen. I didn’t. If anyone wants advice on how to get their own stuff made into a movie, I have nothing to tell them. Other than this: it takes an extraordinary amount of luck. 

Here’s part of the story. A friend who saw the play at the Vancouver Fringe in 2003 liked it enough to offer to pass the script on to a few film contacts (she worked in documentaries). One of them bought the option. What if she hadn’t seen it? What if she wasn’t that crazy about it? What if none of her contacts wanted it? 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

creating a/broad, September 28, 2013

TRIGGER WARNING: performer vulnerability, financial chaos
by Cameryn Moore

I asked my FB family recently if they had any questions for me that I could cover in this column—hey, I definitely run on creative fumes sometimes!—and a fellow artist asked how do I deal with cheque-processing on the road; that was the hardest part for her about her 2011 tour, getting money from Canada to her US bank account. Of course, she had to worry about paying bills back home, and “maybe that wasn’t an issue for you.”

Of course I LOLed. Actually, I don’t do that acronym, so I just did this:


Now, the brass-tacks moving-of-money question is a little too specific for this space; people have all different ways of doing it, depending on your bank and your Internet savvy. Personally, this winter I’m opening up a Canadian chequing account.

But bills, yes. Of course I have them. How do I pay them? Barely, and with teeth-grinding despair. Because where is the money? I wait for payment, and wait and wait. Sometimes I get cash after shows. Sometimes it’s a cheque that could clear immediately or might take six to eight weeks to clear. Sometimes it’s delayed wire transfer that makes me want to claw my eyes out with frustration; One prominent Montreal festival—NOT the fringe—has yet to return my calls regarding the $2700 they owe me for my 13-show run in July. My income from phone sex plummets when I am touring, usually by at least half, and when I was in the UK for seven weeks, well, there are seven weeks where I am not getting any phone-sex money at all. I have a perennial cash-flow problem.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Salves

(Photo © Didier Grappe - Ennio Sammarco, Ulises, Alvarez, Vania Vaneau, Agustina Sario, Jeanne Vallauri, Teresa Cunha.)
A Chaos of Reckless Ideas
by Chad Dembski

I had heard of Compagnie Maguy Marin many times before as they had visited Montreal at the Festival TransAmériques and have been in existence since 1984.  They create Dance/Theatre a genre most famously done by Pina Bausch who changed the dance world with her use of performance and acting in her company in Germany.  The recent Wim Wenders dance documentary “Pina” was an exciting example of this hybrid that has been popular in Europe more and more with companies such as Needcompany, Les Ballets c. de la b. and Ultima Vez.  Here in Montreal we have Pigeons International, Carbone 14 (now disbanded) and the daring work of Dave St. Pierre as examples of choreographers who experiment with performance, text and theatrical tones in their practice.  

Review: (Toronto) The Flood Thereafter

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster (Photo by Bruce Zinger)

by Ramya Jegatheesan  

In a sleepy little fishing town somewhere in Quebec, a mermaid is pulled from the river. She ensnares the men, and soon the town becomes a ghost town bereft of wives and work. 

Twenty years later, the mermaid serves up fish and chips at a local dive while her daughter strips in a bar as the men weep, spellbound by her beauty but cursed because any one of them could be her father.  

Québecois playwright Sarah Berthiaume’s The Flood Thereafter (translated by Nadine Desrochers) is a beautifully lyrical play that delights in taboo. Incest, infidelity, and the contested female body are all woven into this darkly fantastical narrative. 

The Abominable Showman, September 27, 2013

Photo Andrée Lanthier
In Praise of Extraordinary Women
CharPo sits down for a revealing tete-a-tete with theatre legend Roger Peace and Canada’s First Lady of Soul, Kim Richardson, about their collaboration on the iconic Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin' …
By Richard Burnett (all photos by Richard Burnett unless otherwise noted)

Legendary theatre director Roger Peace sailed from London to Montreal in 1957 on the ocean liner SS Columbia at the age of 21 and experienced the tail-end of Montreal’s famed and infamous golden Sin-City era. Montreal theatre scene wasn’t quite London’s West End, where Peace had landed a bit part in the musical Call Me Madam at the London Coliseum in 1952.

Kim Richardson
(courtesy Ms Richardson)
Roger Peace
(courtesy Mr. Peace)
But he has loved the theatre ever since, especially musicals, and has spent much of his professional life as a director and producer casting larger-than-life divas in his productions, notably his longtime muse, Montreal jazz great Ranee Lee, and another of his favourites, soul queen Michelle Sweeney. Lee and Sweeney co- starred in Roger’s first remount of Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Montreal’s La Diligence dinner theatre back in the late 1980s.

A quarter-century later, in his upcoming remount of Ain’t Misbehavin which opens at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts on Sept. 29, Peace cast another glorious diva in the role made famous by the late Nell Carter on Broadway, Kim Richardson, the pitch-perfect Juno Award-winning soul singer I have long called Whitney Houston of Canada.

CharPo's Real Theatre, September 27, 2013

A Fly on the Wall, September 27, 2013

Staged Madness
by Jim Murchison

Great literature requires some sort of dilemma that needs resolution. Conflict is often integral to an audience feeling connected or involved. Most often the conflict is between characters on a stage and what they speak of is not to be taken at face value. The underlying subtext is what is most interesting. The layer of intrigue in performing an internal conflict where the conflict is within the character himself as he struggles to maintain his own sanity is incredibly dynamic. 

I have seen a few plays recently that delved into this area. In the Next Room (The Vibrator Play) dealt in a mostly humorous way the treatment of feminine hysteria through mechanical stimulation. The Secret Mask dealt with recovering from the memory and motor skill loss after a severe stroke and how that helped strengthen and reinforce lost family relationships. Sometimes mad is contained in the title and often the point is that the madness that we refer to is in the world around us and not nearly so much as the ones that we label mad. In The Madwoman of Chaillot, Aurelia is more naïve than mad and it is the uncaring money hungry world that truly is oppressive and mad. Interestingly, the wisest character in the play is a man that gives it all up to be a ragpicker so that he may enjoy life on his own terms.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Other Desert Cities

Benjamin Elliott, Gwyneth Walsh (photo by David Cooper)

A family drama of secrets, divulgence, and more secrets
The Arts Club opens the season with a polished and compelling production
by Chris Lane

Other Desert Cities tells the story of what’s at risk when you try to tell your own story to the world – because your own story isn’t just about you, is it.

The Wyeth family is gathered together for Christmas at their lavish Palm Springs home, as for the first time in six years their 30-something neurotic daughter Brooke has returned to California from her new East Coast life. She’s there because she has a bombshell to tell her family: her new novel isn’t actually a novel, but a memoir about the family’s darkest hour.

Brooke wants to share the story of how her parents’ hard-right ideology was so fiercely at odds with that of their eldest child they abandoned him in a time of need; she wants to expose their part in the family’s sordid past. But she’s challenged by her parents and brother, who question if telling this story is truly worth alienating her family. And is her book a fair depiction of her family’s tale, or is there more to it?

The play is filled with twists and turns as the story of the Wyeth family unravels, and the motivations and faults of all five characters are revealed and reviled. They might appear as recognizable archetypes at the outset, but they all have multiple layers underneath that are gradually exposed. The power dynamics are very interesting, as they all have their own ways of exerting power, overtly or subtly.

Review: (Victoria) Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

Canadian Classic Kicks Off Belfry Theatre's Shakespeare Season
by Morgan McPherson

Tonight was the night where I got to experience that intangible transformation that takes words on a page and, as if through alchemy, changes them into an experience you can properly lose yourself in.  I got to see Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Canadian classic, Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) at the always-charming Belfry theatre.

Eleven years ago, as a fresh-faced teenager, I took the one English class of my university career, and recall reading both Othello and Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). To be honest, until tonight, I forgot that I had read Othello at all, but never forgot Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).  I distinctly recall it to be one of the only works in that class that I enjoyed reading, and when given the opportunity to see it staged, I did a little happy dance and headed off to the theatre.  It’s so rare for someone who hasn’t studied theatre to have read a play, then finally get to see that work put forth onto the stage.  Everything about this production was fantastic, and a testament to the magic that can be worked when the right material meets the right creative team.

Review: (Toronto) Tick, Tick...Boom!

Ken Chamberland, Parris Greaves (photo: Vincent Perri)

Tick, Tick... Boom! goes off... eventually.
Jonathan Larson’s ‘other’ musical delivers on modest ambitions, even if it takes its time getting started.
by Christian Baines

There are few real-life musical theatre stories more tragic than Jonathan Larson’s. At least... stories about successful composers. His breakout hit Rent spoke to a generation of theatregoers – and in later years, let’s face it, hipsters. Though it proved Broadway musicals could both be critical darlings and box office gold, even in the 90’s, Larson would not live to enjoy its success, tragically passing away the night before Rent’s first Off-Broadway performance.

The show’s success however did open a crack in the window of opportunity for Larson’s other, lesser known musical, Tick, Tick... Boom!, which in a masterstroke of inventiveness follows a young musical theatre composer named Jon (Parris Greaves), who is turning 30 and still not self-sustaining in his artistic career.

Write what you know, they say.

jackDawe, September 26, 2013

I Oughta Be in Pictures
What was it like to see something of mine made into a movie? Fucking cool.
by TJ Dawe

More than a decade ago, Mike Rinaldi and I co-wrote a two-hander called Toothpaste and Cigars. It just debuted as a movie. Daniel Radcliffe in the male lead. Zoe Kazan in the female lead. Mike Dowse directing. Script by Elan Mastai. Title: The F Word. It got great buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival, and scored a distribution deal with CBS. I’m not sure when the theatrical release date is, but Valentine’s Day 2014 is what I’ve heard. 

What was it like to see something of mine made into a movie? Fucking cool. Not only because it was good in and of itself, but because of what a surprise it was. You see, Mike and I had very little to do with it. 

Ten years ago producer Marc Stephenson wanted to buy the option on the play. It would be cast with experienced film actors. It would be rewritten by an experienced screenwriter. If it got made. The vast majority of optioned properties don’t. Maybe one in twenty do. Maybe. 

Picture of the Week, September 26, 2013

Dance photos are almost always terrific, but set a photographer like Benjamin Von Wong on the art, and you end up with something truly exciting, like this portrait of Greg Sellinger for Body Slam. (In passing, we've also seen the photo used horizontally...and it works just as well!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: (Quebec City) Aiguilles et Opium

Mind-blowing; mind-boggling
by Isabelle-Ann Charlebois

Once again director Robert Lepage fills us with wonder with his hypnotic multimedia projections. We are transported in literal and figurative terms between Paris and New York, 1949-89, and also between lost loves and addictions. Notions of hypnotism, hypnotist and hypnotized are well represented by sets and projections and by the actors’ play and characters’ thoughts and lines. The rotating stage takes us deep into the characters’ hearts, minds and even the absences they are surviving.

Jean Cocteau (Marc Labrèche) is often suspended from the rafters and surrounded by a starry sky, taking us with him, into him, deep in his thoughts about life and about his lost love, the poet Radiguet.  Through Labrèche’s acting and words we can almost feel the wellbeing that opium procures. At other times, Labrèche plays Robert, a Quebec actor who escaped to Paris after a breakup. Living in La Louisianne Hotel, room number 9, where once stayed Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, Robert struggles with the desire to be rehabbed from his love for the girl. What unifies the play is the music and glimpses of the life of Miles Davis and his addiction to heroin and the chanteuse Juliette Greco. 

Even if the subject is often very heavy, Lepage brings out lightness throughout the play and Labrèche makes us laugh as well. This is a must see here, or in Toronto.

This Ex Machina production is at le Théâtre du Trident in French until October 18th
The production subsequently tours to Toronto at Canadian Stage as Needles and Opium November 22-December 1

In a Word... Stuart Fink on Stone Cold Dead Serious

Aiming to Beat the Odds
Presenting fearless theatre
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Stuart Fink has worked professionally as an actor and director in 3 provinces so far. Most recently he performed in productions of Self-Help by Norm Foster and the Wizard of Oz, with Kimberley Summer Theatre in Kimberley BC. He has been directing since 2010 when he directed, produced, and acted in Who's on First's production of Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon. Selected acting credits include Millet in Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire, Jack in the Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde, Juror #10 in 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. Mr. Fink has a DEC in Theatre from John Abbott College and a BFA in Acting from the University of Alberta.

CHARPO:  Before we get into the show or the company, tell our readers a little about yourself.
FINK: My name is Stuart Fink, and I’ve been focused on being a part of the professional theatre community my entire adult life. I was a relatively late starter to the theatre (having only been introduced to performing when I was 17) but since that time I’ve dedicated myself to nothing else (well... that and supporting the Habs).
I completed the professional acting program at John Abbott College in Montreal. Which gave me the backbone of knowledge to get accepted to the prestigious BFA Acting Program at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton.
The three years I spent there changed my life, both personally and artistically. It gave me the tools and the passion to want to create my own work, and make a real contribution to my community.

Video of the Week, September 25, 2013

Actor Laura Burke shares in this "visual poem". Watch it, dammit!, and go to bed a little less stupid tonight.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

After Dark, September 24, 2013

Pernicious Art
When art is not bad - just wrong
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I began to be conscious of feminist theory, I was still a big fan of Brian de Palma. However, when I saw his film Body Double and began to examine the oeuvre of the man, I realized he didn't like women very much. His much-praised Casualties of War was, for me, simply a relentless, entertainment-value depiction of a woman's torture, rape and murder not a necessary depiction of the horrors of war.

It was de Palma that got me to thinking about the concept of pernicious art. I know the very idea will raise hackles of many readers... so, come with me to my recent (and first) viewing of DW Griffiths' Birth of a Nation (BOAN).

I watched the film because everyone said I should, despite its controversial nature. So I tried to watch as two people: the leftwing crank and the appreciator of craft. The latter was told that modern film was born with the work - crossfades, multiple storylines, yadda yadda yadda - but this discussion seems to forget that many of the storytelling techniques film historians find innovative were simply iterations of emerging techniques of theatre; Ibsen's Peer Gynt and Wagner's Ring Cycle spring immediately to mind. So, no, I am not impressed by Griffiths' historic art. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Question... Gregory Selinger on Body Slam

An Escape From Thinking... Nope
by Estelle Rosen

Gregory "Krypto" Selinger's physical feats and eclectic style have made him a staple of the breaking scene for over a decade. His explorations of the largely unexplored possibilities of bboy vocabulary continue with exponential velocity. In 2008, he was invited to Brussels by Wim Vandekybus to train and dance with Ultima Vez in research for a new creation, and lived in Los Angeles with breakdance legend Jacob ‘Kujo’ Lyons. He has performed in numerous Cirque du Soleil projects, and has shared stages with music artists such as The Roots, K-Os, and The Flaming Lips. In 2009, Gregory choreographed Still Milking the New Sacred Cow under the mentorship of Victor Quijada, Artistic Director of Rubberbandance, and presented at Place-des-Arts. Since 2009, he interpreted for Solid State Breakdance's Breakdance for Solo Cello, a unique fusion with Bach’s intimate Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, highlighting  beauty and fluidity of the breakdance body. His duet ‘Vague’, co-created with Gélymar Sanchez, won the Studio 303 Flexi-Prix in 2010. His solo creation A Piece of: My Heart (Breaking), has been critically acclaimed, and has been presented in Quebec, Ontario, Germany, and Mexico. In January 2011, The Montreal Mirror selected him for their annual Noisemakers edition, recommending that Montrealers follow this emerging artist. He is the founder of Body Slam, an interdisciplinary improvisation collective which began at the Montreal Fringe Festival in 2011. Body Slam won two Fringe awards, before going on to perform in the 2011 Les Escales Improbables festival.    

CHARPO: Your press release indicates Body Slam is an interdisciplinary exploration into  human nature. Tall order! Tell us how you go about making this happen, and how has it changed since its beginning in 2011?

SELINGER: Thanks for asking. For me, this idea of “exploring human nature” through performance, is one of the only reasons why I think that preparing a show is actually worthwhile. It takes so much time and effort to organize, promote, practice, and even just to show up and perform, that I really want to give and to gain something profound when I perform; I rarely feel satisfied by simply entertaining, these days. People often talk about dance as being so wonderful because it’s a kind of escape from thinking; I don’t really think that this is true. At least it’s not the whole truth. 

Openings We're Tracking This Week, September 23-29, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Feature: First-Person - Baritone Phillip Addis on performing two roles (La Bohème)

(photo by Kristin Hoebermann)
Parallel Existence
by Phillip Addis

A rising star on the international stage, Canadian baritone Phillip Addis has performed in opera, concerts and recitals throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan. He’s been called “a star in the making” (MusicOMH) and praised for his creamy, bright, smooth voice as much as for his spell-binding, daring, yet sensitive interpretations.  He makes his Canadian Opera Company debut in the company’s production of La Bohème this October, singing the role of the musician Schaunard and the  painter Marcello.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can only really be in one place at a time, both physically and mentally.  While I have different roles to play in life I can only really be in one of those roles in a given moment. Normally this would be true of the roles that I play on stage as well, but I have been working with a curious predicament these past few weeks in preparation for the Canadian Opera Company's production of La Bohème.  I have had the great fortune to be given two roles to prepare; that of Marcello, the painter and of Schaunard, the musician.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Bone Cage

L to R Kyle Purcell, Nathan Bitton (photo by Scott Gorman)

Lost in the Sticks
by Gregory Bunker

A winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama (Catherine Banks), Bone Cage has the promising CanCon premise of how rural youth deal with their employment in, and the exploitation of, the countryside—their home. The performances are solid and the show can be entertaining, but this theme struggles to shine through its other subplots.

The play starts off on a confusing note with a musical number in the bush that feels forced and long. Moving on, we learn about the problems of each character, and some familiar rural stereotypes emerge: a high school marriage in the works (country kids marry young but this is a stretch), excessive drinking, physical abuse, and the limited intelligence of nearly everyone on stage. There are other uniquely backward issues, including resurrecting dead children and being molested by the town perv. Far too much time is devoted to these last two peripheral threads.

Review: (Ottawa) Private Lives

                                                                                      (photo by Andrew Alexander)
Cowardy Custard
by Valerie Cardinal

Written in 1930, Noel Coward’s Private Lives is considered to be among the great drawing room plays along with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. Despite being set between two world wars, its themes and text still resonate with a modern audience.

Divorced couple Elyot and Amanda find their respective honeymoons with new spouses ruined when they happen to be staying in neighbouring hotel rooms. This allows the pair to revisit the reasons they love each other – and the reasons they hate each other, of course.

Private Lives’ strength is in its cast, with everyone bringing their A-game. However, David Whiteley and Alix Sideris as divorced couple Elyot and Amanda really shine in their scenes together thanks to their obvious chemistry. Steve Martin wins the award for best facial expressions as Amanda’s bumbling and well-meaning new husband Victor. Martin has the ability to crack up an audience with only a single bewildered glance. Bronwyn Steinberg is a delight as Elyot’s new wife Sybil, who is the human incarnation of naïve femininity.

Review: (Montreal) La preuve ontologique de mon existence

Into Darkness
by Élaine Charlebois

In the opening scene of La preuve ontologique de mon existence, a piece inspired by the works of great American author Joyce Carol Oates, we find a tormented Shelley (Nora Guerch) trapped in a dingy basement room of a condemned building. Having been put there by her abusive lover and captor Peter V. (Frédéric Lavallée), Shelley has become the object of his manipulation and violence. She is caught up in a twisted feeling of loyalty and fear of Peter, and thus fails to escape her prison. And although her tormentor has decided to marry her off to a creepy stranger named Martin Raven, Shelley remains under Peter’s spell, hypnotized by his rhetoric that her existence is irrelevant and worthless. 

The Abominable Showman, September 21, 2013

(courtesy Audrey Luna)

La Bella Luna
American soprano Audrey Luna embraces her diva status and her hardcore gay fans, on the eve of her L’Opéra de Montréal debut
by Richard Burnett 
(photos by Richard Burnett unless otherwise noted)

“I have always wanted to sing and perform, from when I was three or four years-old,” says American soprano Audrey Luna, who won over audiences and critics when she starred as Ariel in The Tempest at The Metropolitan Opera in 2012.

“[English composer Thomas Adès]’s Ariel is a dazzling creation, and Ms. Luna conquers the role,” The New York Times swooned.

The Opera News says Luna “has power and a blazing coloratura facility that most lyric sopranos can only dream of.” 

But Luna – who will star in the title role in the opera Lakmé that launches L’Opéra de Montréal’s 2013-2014 season – only figured out she wanted to be an opera singer when she was 16. 

creating a/broad, September 21, 2013

15 Minutes and a Boom Box
by Cameryn Moore

After lugging the entire set of Phone Whore across the UK via train, taxi, and an incredibly clever little collapsible dolly, I like to say “give me 15 minutes and a boom box and I can stage this show anywhere.” 

Which sounds great, in that plucky, boot-strappy, “ah, Showbiz !” sense, and is essentially true, but it’s not entirely true. I need a contained space for my shows. I need venues. And some days, like today—like the next three weeks, like the last 12 years —it feels like all I’m doing is looking for that. Venues.

It’s true that I have done my shows just about everywhere, especially Phone Whore. In addition to the standard Fringe-issue built theatre spaces and black boxes, that show has happened in women’s bookstores, the basement of a pub, the room above a pub, rec rooms, movie theatres, living rooms, and even in a tent at 2am, with no furniture and no boom box, just a couple of sleeping bags and my props and a fellow Fringe artist saying “ring ring” at the right moments.

But just because I can do my shows in those places doesn’t mean that I prefer to. There’s barely do-able and then there’s desire-able, and somewhere in between there’s “totally possible, with a few technical compromises”. Ah, those compromises. I dream about those at night, apparently. My Montréal lover told me this morning that most of my show-related sleep-talk that I’ve been doing ever since coming back from Edinburgh, most of my late-night, clear-as-a-bell, show-obsessed ramblings have actually been about tech issues: lights and ladders and “how big is the stage again? Okay, okay, that should work.” These issues are fundamental to everything I do, and apparently my sleep consciousness knows it and is trying to save me some awake-time effort?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Pig

l-r Blair Williams, Bruce Dow, Paul Dunn (photo: Jeremy Mimnagh)

Buddies’ Pig Serves Up Nothing but Slops
The only thing butchered in this slaughterhouse is goodwill.
by Christian Baines

Pig has all the ingredients of a yet another quality Buddies production in 2013, including committed, well defined performances and a clever director’s hand. These elements occasionally earn it a good laugh – even the odd twinge of fear. It’s too bad the play itself is a steaming pile of slop.

Imagine for a moment that Eli Roth has just stumbled upon the world of gay BDSM and thought ‘Hey, isn’t this just the coolest shit ever? This’ll shock the kids!’ He then starts waving it around, expecting praise for how cutting edge he is without paying the slightest attention to character or plot development. So it is with the script of Pig. There’s never a glimpse of the motivation driving either the sadists or the masochists in Tim Luscombe’s indecisive and irredeemably anti-erotic tale. 

News: (Ottawa) NAC Launches Jillian Keiley's first season (Press release)

News: (Montreal) First META Nominations announced (Press release)

CharPo's Real Theatre! September 20, 2013

A Fly on The Wall, September 20, 2013

The Madness Within
by Jim Murchison 

Last week I talked about a world that seems mad and how art can save you from it, but there is a dark dangerous side on the edge of genius that sometimes is exploited with complete disregard for the artists that bring light to so many other lives.

Sometimes when a commodity is hot and developed too quickly it cannot keep up with the force of the publicity machine nor bear the weight of the pressure brought on by unrestricted adulation and disproportionate wealth and fame. A spotlight can be a formidable weight and talent is a commodity bought and sold as readily as farm produce and flipped as quickly as real estate.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Foursome

(photo by Angela Besharah Inside Light Studio)

by joel fishbane

There’s a lot to admire in The Foursome, the dark comedy by Jane Ford that’s being produced by Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre Collective: it’s a new Canadian work penned by a woman and featuring an all-female cast. This alone is such an exciting combination that one is tempted to be a lot kinder to the text which is, sadly, not quite ready for prime time. This isn’t to say Jane Ford isn’t talented; merely that audiences are being treated to what is clearly a second draft.

The plot revolves around the impact that peppy Dylan (Caitlin Driscoll) has on a trio of tennis players who need a fourth player. Dylan’s influence leads Tanda (Kirsten Johnson) to gain new self-esteem while Jaz (Kathryn Greenwood) and Kris (playwright Jane Ford) are made to confront dark secrets they’ve been hiding for years. All the ingredients are in place for a comedy that offers opportunities for new and unique glimpses into the modern women….yet, while the play is often funny, the plot meanders and skirts the chance for true drama. 

Picture of the Week, September 19, 2013

There is so much happening in this promotional pic for Venus in Fur at Vancouver's Arts Club that you may not even see it at first but David Cooper's photo draws you in to find it. Yes, yes, yes Lindsey Angell's leg is quite fine, and the BDSM boot is provocative. But here's the thing: this is actually two boots, two legs. Look at the toes, and look at the heals. Now what this does - without the eye even catching it - is suggest both domination (one boot; i.e.: in a victory pose) and submission (two boots; i.e.: in a "polite little lady" pose). That is the essence of the play - a tricky play on power dynamics between an actor and a writer/director. Whoa!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: (Victoria) Marilyn Forever

Marilyn Monroe show has a happy birthday
by Morgan McPherson

Opera. Intimidating, stodgy patrons, opera glasses, and fat ladies in horns belting their hearts out? Not this opera! I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of Marilyn Forever, in all of its glorious modernity, and it was an experience unlike any I’ve had before.

Opera and I have had an interesting relationship. I have seen three operas prior to seeing Marilyn, and all of them were quite different from one another. I have seen a modern retelling of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (where I first discovered that even though the libretto is in English, it can be downright unrecognizable when sung operatically), Mozart’s The Magic Flute (light and fun, as Mozart’s works are wont to be), and Tchaikovsky‘s Eugene Onegin (a highly dramatic and stunning Russian opera based on a novel by Pushkin). As an instrumentalist of nearly 20 years, I have previously found it a struggle to stop watching the orchestra pit and pay attention to the stage.

News: (Winnipeg) 7 Local Playwrights to be celebrated (Press release)

News: (MTL) Marie-Hélène Falcon cedes artistic directorship of Festival TransAmérique (press release, French)

News: (Montreal) Dawson College Theatre Program announces season (press release)

News: (Toronto) Tapestry announces season (Press release)

News: (Montreal) MPROV Festival announces lineup (Press release)

In a Word... Conductor, pianist, music director, répétiteur Topher Mokrzewski

The Good Season
put your trust in the artistic process and in artists. They may succeed or fail, and you can debate that to your heart's content
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Christopher "Topher" Mokrzewski is Resident Conductor at Calgary Opera, Music Director of Against the Grain Theatre and a frequent music staff member at the Canadian Opera Company. A graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio and the Eastman School of Music, he resides primarily in Toronto with his wife. More information may be found at

CHARPO:  So a new season begins. Where is Topher going to be this year?

MOKRZEWSKI: Am I ever lucky that you've asked this question in a good season! It is so often the case in this business that we encounter uncertainty and periods of professional inactivity. Nothing is certain! I am very fortunate to have an extremely active season ahead of me. I begin my tenure as Resident Conductor and Coach at Calgary Opera this October. Throughout the season, I'll travel between Toronto and Calgary and will be involved in four productions there: The Italian Girl in Algiers (Rossini); The Flying Dutchman (Wagner); Madama Butterfly (Puccini); and Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, which I'll be conducting. I'm delighted that I'll also be coaching and performing with the members of the Emerging Artists Program as well.

Like a proper maniac, I have managed to fill in the remaining bits of free time in the season with all manner of other exciting projects. When I return to Toronto in December, my Against the Grain Theatre comrades and I will delve right into our winter (as yet unannounced) project. In February and March I shall be doing a concert tour (details to be announced soon), and I'm over-the-moon-excited to report that I'll be serving as conductor for Saskatoon Opera's production of The Magic Flute (one of my very, very, very favourite pieces!) in June. I'll round off the season by spending the summer as a member of the music staff at the Chautauqua Institute. It's going to be an exciting and inspiring year, I think!