Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Parfumerie

Patricia Fagan and Oliver Dennis (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Christmas Comedy of the Best Kind
by Spencer Malthouse

OK, Cupid, what if you fell in love with someone you’d never met or seen but with whom you corresponded regularly? Now what if it turns out that not only do you know that person but that you actually despise her? A lot of dramatic irony and some great opportunities for slapstick would certainly occur and there would definitely be the potential for a Hollywood spin-off. Soulpepper’s adaptation of Miklos Laszlo’s Parfumerie imbues the situational comedy with quick and adorable theatricality. 

Set in a high-end shop in Budapest in 1937, six store workers and their boss prepare for Christmas. The central romance of the piece is a love story between two of the co-workers who adore one another as anonymous correspondents but loathe each other in person. Meanwhile, there is deceit and concern amongst the staff s as it becomes apparent that one of the employees has been shtooping the boss’s wife. The play flies along with superb pacing although a few pauses in the second act were longer than necessary. The first act contained a little too much exposition and could have been cut slightly. That said, the plot flows simply and is filled with comic moments and the play is a joy to watch. 

Review: (Ottawa) Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet)

A Wormhole to the Bard
by Jim Murchison

Imagine if Alice in Wonderland was about a beleaguered assistant professor who falls through a garbage pail, instead of a looking glass and finds herself lost in a land of Othello and Romeo and Juliet. That is what happens in Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet). It is a fantasy journey of discovery that has elements of Lewis Carroll, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare but is 100 per cent Ann-Marie MacDonald. 
Ann-Marie MacDonald’s script is witty, clever, insightful and thought-provoking as it examines one woman’s quest for literary and academic achievement that takes her instead to a place of personal enlightenment. Wrapped up in the middle of this, is a re-examination of Shakespeare and the lines between comedy and tragedy. Primarily though it is good fun. It plunges a dagger into the belly of Shakespeare and pulls out a rubber chicken. 

creating a/broad, November 30, 2013

Don't Want To Stay Still
by Cameryn Moore

I’m never ready for coming to ground.


Why can’t I be ready? Why does this still surprise and shock and dismay me? Why can I not wind down ahead of time? It’s maddening. This is the fourth year of touring, the fourth year of flying fast and far—and this year I’ve flown, actually flown in a plane, which means the actuality supports the metaphor and I’m still feeling the tug from overseas, the tentative roots that I sank into British soil and that it sank into me. I performed my last show of the year two weeks ago, and have been moving slowly up the East Coast ever since, I mean, slowly, glacially moving northward, stopping and lingering with lovers along the way, and still my body feels like I am moving at warp speed, the way that people feel like they are still on a boat even after they have come ashore. The momentum of my travelling has settled into my cellular structure and now I feel as though I must still be moving, every muscle in my body wants to feel the forward hum of the car and know that I am still moving.

I stand here on the ground, on the pavement that is no longer rushing along under my car, a little wobbly on my feet, looking around. This is home? This is stillness? This is what people call staying in one place? It isn’t, really, by most people’s definitions. Five months is how long I’m staying in Montreal this time around. For most people that is barely enough time to winter-proof the potted plants; for me that is full-out long-haul living. And I’m never ready for it. I’m never ready for stillness.

Friday, November 29, 2013

News: Statement from National Arts Centre on the death of Jean-Louis Roux

Review: (Toronto) The Little Mermaid

Ross Petty (photo by Rachel McCaig)
Holy Carp!
Petty’s Panto is Poised to Please Even the Most Picky of Patrons
by Stuart Munro

Hello friends! The holidays are once again upon us, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for Ross Petty’s 18th Annual Pantomime! I don’t mind telling you this is one of my favourite holiday traditions here in Toronto, and right from the brilliant opening number (about copyright law and the wonders of public domain. Seriously . . .) to the inspired finale (what does the fox say?!), this year’s production of The Little Mermaid had me cheering the heroes, booing the villains, and howling in my seat!

Helping to lead this year’s production to success is Stratford alum Chilina Kennedy as Angel, the titular Little Mermaid. Thanks to Reid Janisse’s clever book, this mermaid is no flighty princess (unlike a certain princess currently at another theatre a few doors north of the Elgin). Rather, she’s a self-assured, strong woman who has no interest in the world above her. Her primary concern? To help clean up her home, Toronto Harbour, from all the mess those pesky humans have thrown into it over the years. Ms Kennedy’s forthright manner and killer voice easily put her in control of any situation.

Review: (Toronto) The Girl in the Picture Tries to Hang Up the Phone

Honest Picture of a Parent
or Where Theatre and Therapy Meet
by Christopher Douglas

In his elaborately titled play, The Girl in the Picture Tries to Hang Up the Phone, Hume Baugh tackles the minefield of a parent-child relationship – his relationship – with a dying, alcoholic mother.  And that is the key to this piece of theatre: it is Hume we watch onstage telling his own story.

As an audience, we sit in this small storefront theatre to watch Hume talk about himself and his mum as if he has had us over for tea or a beer: no fourth wall, no pretensions – pure honesty. Something which makes it admirable for him as a writer and lucky for him as a performer that Hume is as commanding and intriguing as he is, though odd for us watching. There is no pretence of an actor or a character stepping into the light; there is very little stage magic. As he states at the top of the show, there is only one sound cue and one projection. These two technical elements are the keys to the title however: one a recording of the phone trying to be hung up and the other a photograph from eighty years ago. These two artefacts symbolically bookend the life of Hume’s mother and his show about her.

Review: (Montreal) 2013 - Revue et Corrigée

                                                     (photo by François Laplante Delagrave)
Politically Corrected
by Élaine Charlebois

In this year’s edition of Revue et Corrigée, cast members took on the hot topics of this past year in Quebec, from the controversy surrounding the mayor of Huntingdon to, of course, the provincial government’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values. 

Though I may not be as well-versed in francophone pop culture as I would like to be (therefore missing a few of the references from time to time) I still got a huge kick out of the show. Among other wild impersonations, a Hairspray-inspired sketch featuring newly elected Montreal mayor Denis Coderre ended in a particularly entertaining manner when the man himself stood up to receive the audience’s laughter after the song and dance was over. Other highlights included Véronique Claveau’s uncanny impersonation of Céline Dion and Marc St-Martin’s recurring appearance as TV personality Julie Snyder.

The Best of CharPo's Real Theatre! November 29, 2013

A Fly On The Wall, November 29, 2013

Christmas is Coming
by  Jim Murchison

We have had our first major snowfall in Ottawa and it was that quiet falling flaky snow that everyone thinks of as Christmas snow. This has arrived just in time for the Christmas shows. Sometimes there are some surprises, but more often than not we have more musicals and family fare. 

This year there is a one day presentation of A Christmas Carol, but the main theatres are a little less obvious and are going more for the spirit of the season this year. Ethan Claymore at the Gladstone is being promoted with,  “just in time for Christmas, a story to warm your heart.”  The Sound of Music at NAC, although not a Christmas story per se, is still a clear choice for the  holidays. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Jabber

(photo by Gabrielle Kellock)

The Choices of Culture
by Jessica Yen

Fatima is just like any other Canadian teenage girl: she likes hanging out with her friends, gets nervous around boys and rebels against her parents. The difference is, Fatima wears a hijab and sometimes that can draw some unwanted attention and misperceptions from her peers. When anti-Muslim graffiti shows up at her school, Fatima’s parents transfer her to a different one. While navigating the new territory of her school, Fatima meets Jorah, a boy with a bad reputation. An unlikely attraction brings these opposites together, testing each of their personal boundaries. Jabber is a polished piece of theatre for young audiences that does an excellent job of creating conversation and asking difficult questions about cross-cultural respect and the choices we make to stay true to ourselves. 

Picture of the Week, November 28, 2013

Can we rave some more about the work of David Cooper or do we just need for you to look at this photo for Belfry's A Tender Thing (with Clare Coulter as Juliet and Peter Anderson as Romeo)? Cooper always works in exquisite complicity with designers (especially lighting), actors and captured moments from the text. There is nothing either staged or - especially - stagey about this photo. What is caught is the passion that still resides in the souls of an aged couple; the bed tells us this, Ms Coulter's open robe tells us this and Mr. Anderson's kneeling pose tells us this. Again and again Cooper redefines theatre photography. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

News: (Toronto) COC names Karine Boucher winner of Ensemble Studio Competition (press release)

Review: (Vancouver) Daisy Theatre

Wonderfully, lovably, hilariously Canadian puppets
Ronnie Burkett’s latest work ramps up the silliness
by Chris Lane

Ronnie Burkett is a true master of puppets, and with his latest work, The Daisy Theatre, he’s just plain having fun, and leaving the audience in stitches.

The production is a series of 'playlets' involving one or two marionettes, which are only roughly scripted and vary substantially from night to night. They all make up The Daisy Theatre, which is the kookiest and crassest travelling theatre troupe this side of the 49th parallel. The marionettes make so many snarky asides and Vancouver-oriented jokes that each performance feels like a special treat just for that night’s audience.

In a Word... Chris Hanratty and Shira Leuchter on The Tin Drum

(photo by Jennifer Liao)

Adapting Without Rules
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

A writer and director, Chris Hanratty's first full-length play, A Thousand Words, premiered at the 2012 SummerWorks Festival and was named “one of the top four productions” of SummerWorks by Lynn Slotkin. He has co-created many of UnSpun Theatre’s past work, including minotaur, Don’t Wake Me and One Block (Harbourfront HATCH program). He also works in film, and was the director and story editor for the shorts Family First (Worldwide Short Film Festival; Palm Springs International Film Festival), and Rung (Tribeca International Film Festival). He recently completed his third film Robert’s Circle. Mr. Hanratty studied Drama and Film at the University of Alberta. Upcoming: He will be directing The Speedy, part of Harbourfront Centre's 2014 World Stage season. 

Shira Leuchter is an actor, theatre creator and artist. Her work as a theatre creator includes: One Block (UnSpun Theatre, Harbourfront’s HATCH program), Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (UnSpun Theatre), Sperm Bank (with Julie Tepperman, SummerWorks Performance Gallery), Bardbie (Nuit Blanche/Engine Gallery), The Red Machine (The Room, Harboufront’s HATCH program) and Uninvited (with Julie Tepperman, Theatre Passe Muraille's Bring the Buzz Festival). She has performed with some of Toronto's most innovative artists and companies, including Cahoots Theatre (Paper Series - Magnetic North), Convergence Theatre, fu-GEN, Native Earth, The Room and others. Her ongoing series for the Praxis Theatre Blog, Your Process is Showing, explored the theatrical process using visual imagery. Ms Leuchter has created live art for companies including Praxis Theatre, Canadian Stage and The Room. She is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. Upcoming: She will be performing in The Speedy, part of Harbourfront Centre's 2014 World Stage season. 

CHARPO:  When I was a kid - a long, long time ago - everyone was reading Tin Drum - why was a book originally published in German an international best seller do you think?

LEUCHTER:  I think, firstly, that it's just an incredible piece of writing. I've never spoken to anyone that hasn't had a strong reaction to the book - they've either loved it or hated it. It's dark, it's funny, it's ugly, and it's full of magic.

HANRATTY: I imagine, in that postwar period, that there must have been a great deal of curiosity about the German consciousness. How could that horror have happened? The novel was one of the first German works that examined the culpability, the complicity of the German public with regards to Nazi war crimes. 

jackDawe, December 1, 2013

Good collaboration is like good sex. 
by TJ Dawe

Lately I've been fucking Harry Standjofski, a guy in Montreal I've never seen in person. My friend Julie Tamiko-Manning hooked us up. 

Harry organizes a cabaret every December: Urban Tales. It's a handful of monologues, related to Christmas in one way or another. Different writers for each one. Different actors. Harry dramaturging and directing.

He sent me a bunch of scripts from previous years. They were dark and edgy. Some of them grotesque and disturbing. I set my imagination to work. Came up with two ideas. Picked one. 

I wrote the monologue, and sent it to Harry, making explicit the attitude I always have when submitting work to anyone (including to this site): I'm open to suggestions, big and small. Including "burn this fucker and start again."

Video of the Week, November 27, 2013

This delicious video for Winners and Losers (now playing Canadian Stage) is as quirky as the play itself and part of a concerted promotional campaign on the part of Crow's Theatre, the producing company, that included enigmatic tweets as well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: (Montreal) The Book of Thel

(photo: Andrea De Keijzer)
A Dream within a Dream
by Chad Dembski

From the opening blurred image that slowly opens “The Book of Thel” the audience is instantly brought into another world. This is a surreal world of the subconscious, a place of dreams and nightmares. A duet performance (one performer onstage, the other backstage doing manipulation of objects and set), that plays with notions of time, space and reality. Based on the William Blake poem of the same name that was written in 1789, a poem full of rich images that Clea Minaker uses to full effect. 

After Dark, November 26, 2013

Serfing the Internet
Are artists becoming the slaves of new tech
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Every once in a while someone in my Facebook or Twitter feeds prickles me with a link to an article. The latest case of this was this one, in the New York Times, called Slaves of the InternetTo add insult to injury, a real friend on the Book added the comment, "People who write for nothing are amateurs."

I beg to differ. Whether it's YouTube, blogging, or - to bring this home - writing for The Charlebois Post, artists are finding new ways each day of expressing themselves and sharing their work that is immediate, without intermediary and without commercial concerns. The internet has released a flood of content - yes, much of it twaddle - that goes beyond censorship and straight into the faces and intellects of its audience.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Othello

Andrew Moodie, Amanda Lisman (photo by Andrée Lanthier)

Stabbing at the Air
by Caitlin Murphy

I’ve always loved Othello. It’s always struck me as Shakespeare’s most accessible play somehow. I like the scale of its plot (essentially a disgruntled employee’s sick ploy to get back at his boss) and the depth of its interest in human psychology (essentially how the mind is able to cannibalize itself). 

In the Artistic Producer’s notes for the Segal Centre/Scapegoat Carnivale’s co-production of Othello, we learn that this is only the third time the Segal has done Shakespeare. And though that is indeed surprising, given this is the Segal’s 47th year, perhaps it’s because the quick rehearsal process imposed by main stage productions can only serve Shakespeare ‘too little, not too well’.

The Question... Caleb Harrison on directing Old Times

Provocative Pinter
by Estelle Rosen

Caleb Harrison is from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. He loves his friends and family. He tweets (@venedikted), co-manages Scrivener Creative Review (@ScrivenerReview), and is finishing his degree in Linguistics, Psychology, and Russian at McGill. He writes.

CHARPO: Old Times has been interpreted as mysterious, puzzling and haunting. Silence on stage seems an essential element in this play. For Pinter silence on stage is the essence of drama.  What kinds of challenges does this, and the fact students are performing adult content, present? As an aside, Pinter once said he can't sum up any of his plays. This is what happened. This is what they said. This is what they did. He also likes to provoke. What is the provocation in this play?

HARRISON: Old Times is all of those things and more.

Silence is an important component in all art. Silence at its core is simply an absence. But it is much more than an absence; it is an opportunity. On a practical level, silence in this play is used to allow room for the imagination. The audience needs silence to see what is said. The reason for this is that all of the action happens off stage. There are also times when the opposite effect is achieved: an overwhelming collage of images that the audience can only briefly imagine.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Feature: Cristina Iovita on The Dispute, The Colony and The Slaves' Island

Marivaux Recovered
by Cristina Iovita

Cristina Iovita Director, Playwright, Founder and Artistic Director of Le Théâtre de l’Utopie, student in the PhD Humanities program, Concordia University, Montreal. After her graduation with honours from the UNATC I.LCaragiale at Bucharest, Romania (1984), Ms Iovita developed a decade-long career as a director, author in residence and artistic director of various theatre companies in her native country. She was awarded the Best Director Prize at the national and international festivals of Braila (1989) and Skopje (1991). Between 1993 and 1996 she studied and worked in Boston, and, along with earning her Master’s Degree from Emerson College and directing and teaching at various theatre schools in Massachusetts and Maine, obtained awards for playwriting at the New England and Emerson One Acts festivals. In Canada she continues to direct and write for le Théâtre de l’Utopie, the independent company she founded in 1999, to which she has given eighteen successful productions.

Why Marivaux?

Because he’s a great comic  author, sadly, neglected by  his contemporaries, and by the modern times. And when he’s not, it’s for the wrong reasons such as the famous marivaudage, something akin to boring conversations about love and relationships, which he would not have written to save his life. Some would say that textbooks and the French (francophone) stage keep him alive. This makes him a museum piece, a monument to the French language to be enjoyed only by connoisseurs. But  Marivaux  is much more than that : it’s theatre at its best, 'popular' by definition, full of spirit and joy, educational and entertaining at the same time. A great object of study for our students, and an invitation to the Montreal public to rediscover a classic - these are the main reasons prompting the project.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Needles and Opium

Marc Labrèche (photo by Nicola-Frank Vachon)

When the Picture Stars
by Beat Rice

Robert Lepage never fails to visually stun Toronto audiences and successfully marry different artistic disciplines to create a magical piece of theatre. However, though the production values and transitions of his Needles and Opium flow into each other seamlessly, some elements of the story did not. 

We follow three worlds, one of a heartbroken voice actor from Quebec in the present, and one of poet Jean Cocteau and jazz musician Miles Davis in 1949 when Cocteau and Davis were in each other’s cities; Cocteau in New York and Davis in Paris. Although the two artists never knew each other personally in real life, Lepage draws the parallels of their coincidental connections. Both artists struggled with drugs, Davis with heroin and Cocteau with opium, hence Needles and Opium. Both also created masterpieces and some of their most remembered works originated during their struggle with addiction. The mix of drugs, personal turmoil, and inspiration from another city, made for excellent art. 

Review: (Vancouver) Mary Poppins

Scott Walters and Sara-Jeanne Hosie (photo by David Cooper)

Practically Adequate
by Jay Catterson

Mary Poppins floats onto the Stanley Industrial Alliance stage as Arts Club Vancouver tries to tackle the hit Broadway musical about the whimsical flying nanny. But is Poppins "Practically Perfect" in every way? Not quite. As with many Arts Club productions, this show is predictably passable.

Technical aspect-wise, this show works. The set design by Alison Green was effective, despite the hissing of the hydraulics being noticeable whenever the main house set moved in and out. The high flying wire work was impressive for such a small theatre. Combined with Valerie Easton's thrilling choreography, the production numbers sizzle, in particular the Act Two chimney-sweep number "Step in Time" and its proscenium-strolling tap dance act. And the costumes by Sheila White were ravishingly gorgeous. However, the Stanley is in need of a better sound system, for the orchestra sounded hollow and tinny at times. Heck, if you are going to pump in the orchestra from a room in the back of the theatre, you need to give the music some oomph to evoke the feeling of live orchestration!

Review: (Ottawa) Legally Blonde

Omigod I Had Fun
by Jim Murchison

The Orpheus season opened up with the frothy Legally Blonde The Musical. As frivolous as it appears on the surface, the themes are pretty positive. Be true to yourself, don't judge a book by its cover and apply yourself and you can succeed are the ideas that run through this play with book by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin.

creating a/broad, November 23, 2013

Landing in a Network - and a Home
by Cameryn Moore

I don’t know exactly what makes the difference between my having a good experience in a city and a great one, but after a whirlwind 10 days in Atlanta, I have something closer to a theory:

My time in any city is great in direct relation to how thoroughly interconnected the network is that I land in.

Obviously I mean 'a great time' as a joint consideration of both professional and personal results. Those are both important for me in order to have a great fucking time. I have gone to cities where I have gotten laid like whoa, or made friends for a lifetime, but my shows were very poorly attended. Other places I’ve walked out with an award or sold out shows, but left hardly knowing anyone new. Now I’m looking at the whole package, at the interconnectedness. Now I know what to look for in advance, to know whether I need to brace myself for 'meh' or get ready for amazing. 

First sign that things are going to be great: the producing organization has someone who is in charge of marketing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Pieces of Me

That Which One Cannot Escape
by Winna Tse

Do you have a past that you’re trying to escape from? Pieces of Me, a musical drama brought to us by Promise Productions, is about a restless wife, Pamela (Shahi Teruko),  trying to escape her past and live a stable life with her adoring husband, Parker (Sheldon Neil). Written and directed by Deon Denton, Pieces of Me is a lively production with music, dancing and acting all in one. The show runs for over three hours which can make for a very long and exhausting production. I found the music to be too repetitive at times and dragged on unnecessarily.  However, there are many good moments and it’s very evident the cast is incredibly talented. I loved the dancing which I found engaging, fun and well-choreographed.  My favourite musical piece is “Putting my chips on love” in Act I which is soothing and well performed by Roberta Baird who plays Dedra. I must give huge props to Denton for writing and composing all the music which is impressive for such a young playwright. All in all, the production flowed quite well. It is cohesive and the music and lyrics added great value in narrating the story. 

Review: (Toronto) The Gay Heritage Project

Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn (photo: Guntar Kravis)
Gay Heritage Moments: a concept for a new show?
But they don’t quite add up to a whole
by Jason Booker

Enthusiastically performed, amusing and touching by turns, The Gay Heritage Project is a great idea on paper. It aims to depict the people that have come before now, the events and actions that have shaped Gay history or the Gay identity up to the present day. The show, however, gestating for the past five years with performer-creators Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir, never quite figures out how to string all these ideas together – the parts are very strong but the whole doesn’t match.

The evening runs a little long and requires a stronger structure than these rough five acts each with an elusive title. And, of course, any time artists count off how long until the end of the show for the audience, the play feels two or three times longer than without the reminder. Often, these creative moments feel like sketches more than significant scenes, as there is no through-line or architecture. As a result, the lively and entertaining pieces assault the senses, the mind and the memory without offering a new voice or opinion, or even a final takeaway.

Review: (Montreal) Oxygène

(photo: Matthew Fournier, Corinne Beve)

A Play Without Characters or Dialogue
by Aleksandra Koplik

Ivan Viripaev's Oxygène (Kislorod) is a piece divided into biblical commandments; discussions that reflect society, politics, culture and the morals of love. These discussions are at times comically developed by two actors on the stage - a woman dressed as a bride (Eve Pressault) and a groom (Eric Robidoux). The audience sits in a white tent, at round tables that seat at least six people. The air is romantic, the centrepieces lovely. When we see the bride and groom, it is understood that you are at a wedding reception. There are no characters, they are simply there to provoke the audience and to encourage their thought process, through body language and repetition (there were certain gestures associated with different words throughout the play). 

CharPo's Real Theatre! November 22, 2013

A Fly On The Wall, November 22, 2013

Blue Collar World
by Jim Murchison

Sometimes it can be valuable to change your environment. From an artistic point of view stripping things down to their most basic elements can be very helpful. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck understood working class problems. Pearl S Buck, Victor Hugo, Anton Chekhov and many others have looked at how the decisions of the upper class impact the lives of the unprivileged classes. Right now Duck Dynasty celebrates the lives of rednecks and pays homage to rural wisdom. As contrived as the reality in reality TV is, people are fascinated by what seems like a less complicated life where answers to daily challenges are meted out with a healthy dose of anecdotal humour and keen observation.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) 8 Ways My Mother Was Conceived

Like A Virgin
by Valerie Cardinal

I heard a lot about Michaela Di Cesare’s 8 Ways My Mother Was Conceived on the Montreal Fringe circuit in 2011. I never got to see it, so I was excited to review it now, after it’s had a few years and a few more shows under its belt. 

8 Ways uses a quirky starting point to tell a unique and personal family story. According to family legend, Michaela’s mother was born of a virgin, much like Jesus. Throughout the play, Di Cesare explores the different possibilities surrounding her mother’s conception (spoiler alert: there are eight). Along the way, it becomes an exploration of four generations of women, and what womanhood means to each of them. 

Michaela Di Cesare definitely deserved a bigger opening night audience than she got at the Gladstone. She is a charming and charismatic performer as she quite literally puts herself in the shoes of multiple family members. However, she sometimes had trouble disappearing completely into the characters; conversations between family members occasionally became difficult to follow because there didn’t seem to be much of a switch.

Picture of the Week, November 21, 2013

We don't think anyone will complain that a production from director/writer/actor Robert Lepage is unphotogenic. As can be seen here, with this photo by Nicola-Frank Vachon for Needles and Opium (now at Canadian Stage), Lepage's weird perspectives and unique stagecraft lend themselves to photography (indeed, Lepage's stage-pictures are halfway to photos).  What Vachon has captured wondrously well is the sense - a hallmark of most of Lepage's work - of "What am I looking at?"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Woman in Black

(photo by Seanna Kennedy)

To my horror, what appeared?
Woman in Black receives strong presentation
by Jason Booker

The Woman in Black, an adaptation by Stephen Mallatratt of Susan Hill’s novel, remains one of the longest running plays in London to this day. With only three actors in the show and a minimum of set and costume, it must be a simple show to run. Especially if the audience doesn’t yet know the twist – which isn’t contained in the recent Daniel Radcliffe film, nor the original book.

The play opens with a frame for the story to come: an extended dialogue between Mr. Kipps, who has written down his ghost story and wishes to exorcise it from his psyche in front of an audience of friends and family, and the actor/director whom he has hired to advise him on how best to spin the yarn. Unfortunately, there are only so many times that an audience can tolerate being vaguely told that a play is horrifying before simply wanting to scream get on with it. But that is a quibble with Mallatratt’s overwritten script, which takes a while to get started, uses a few too many words – particularly ones that are too eloquent – and which may have benefited from compression into one 90 minute act.

In a Word... Anton Lipovetsky on his musical Cool Beans

(photo - cropped - by Brandon Gaukel)

Dreams Manifesting
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Playwright Anton Lipovetsky is a writer, composer and actor. Most recently, he performed at Bard on the Beach in Measure for Measure and Elizabeth Rex and composed/sound designed Midsummer Night's Dream at Studio 58, where he is a graduate. Other credits as composer include The Park (Studio 58), FLOP! (Delinquent Theatre) and Broken Sex Doll (Virtual Stage) which earned him the 2013 Jessie Award for Outstanding Composition. He is the recipient of the 2011 Mayor's Arts Award for Emerging Theatre Artist and the 2012 Jessie for Most Promising Newcomer. This winter, he can be seen in Carousel Theatre's Seussical as The Cat in the Hat.

CHARPO:  First, tell our readers about your personal journey to this production and, while we’re at it, how much you are participating in the show (and whether you’ve been present in productions of your pieces before).

LIPOVETSKY: It's been two years since Solo Collective commissioned me and my writing partner / friend Ben Elliott to write a musical. We went through tons of different ideas—a farm, an ice winery, a mad scientist's mansion, a book club... Nothing seemed to stick... It was our first time being commissioned from scratch and I think the amount of choice was intimidating... We didn't know what we wanted to write about, or “say.” After we went separate ways over this project (Ben's on tour now rocking it in Chelsea Hotel) I began exploring the hipster-coffee-shop-world further and uncovered a theme I was really interested in-- identity. Where does it come from? How do you define yourself...and is that even possible? With dramaturg Aaron Bushkwoski and Director Rachel Peake's guidance I began developing some characters that I've really fallen in love with. And so began the long process to get to this full musical (it's about 70 pages with 12 full musical numbers). I reached out to the talented writers I know and took as much advice from them as I could. Many times I questioned whether I was cut out for it and I faced writer's block constantly--I'm so new to writing and I feel like I'm constantly learning things, basic things, through trial and error, and the trials and the errors added up into something of which I'm quite proud. Always trying to push myself. Now, I'm ready to enjoy the process and watch others bring their talent to it, bring it to life. Usually on a musical that I compose for I am also musical directing the actors, but this time I have Mishelle Cuttler's great vision and guidance—I feel lucky to have her perspective and participate simply as the writer. In rehearsal I'm observing, making changes wherever I can to tighten the script and score. Soon I'll need to get out of everyone's way completely, give them the space they need to make the show their own.

Video of the Week, November 20, 2013

This terrific little video - a unique behind the scenes piece from Théâtre de Quat' Sous- takes you to the creation of their season brochure. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After Dark, November 19, 2013

The F*** Effect
When news gets in the way
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Last week a strange thing happened. 

Despite a mountain of reviews and truly great features, our traffic plummeted. Normally, when we run a lot of reviews - especially reviews for shows in Toronto - we see an explosion in traffic. 

I hit the numbers - especially Google Analytics (an in-depth analysis of traffic sources, numbers, etc.) and saw that - indeed - compared to the same week in years past - when the theatre season is in full swing and before the Christmas break - our numbers have been superior. In raw numbers the only figures that were growing were those of the fucking hackers. Worse, the variety was growing,

We were not getting the usual suspects from China, Brazil and Russia, suddenly hackers were pouring in from the Ukraine, Bangladesh, India, and even - and this was new for us! - a few from Moldova! (Which, until now, I thought was an imaginary country in a Marx Brothers movie!) So I thought about it and thought about it and started to worry that all these hackers were choking real traffic to the site. But there was absolutely no proof of that at Google. 

Then it hit me. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

In a Word... Danielle A. Caddell on fundraising

Promoting The Cause
by Estelle Rosen
Danielle A. Caddell is the Artistic Director of Beyond the Mountain Productions and is currently the Production Manager for Tidbits from Talk, Music from Mackerel.
CHARPO: Fundraising has many aspects to it including what actual good the fundraising provides, and how does one promote the cause without looking like they're promoting themselves? 

CADDELL:  The great thing about working with the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation is that they often tell us exactly where the money goes. For instance the money we raised our first year with a performance of Paul Van Dyck's Paradise Lost went towards the music therapy department at the hospital. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: (Victoria) A Tender Thing

Belfry poster art
Life Long Loves
Changing Romeo and Juliet’s Stars
by Morgan McPherson

Young love. Burning, all-consuming, can’t-imagine-life-without-the-other passion that lights up the soul.  There’s no more classic example of this type of love than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We all know the tale.

But what if that kind of love endured over time?

Ben Power's A Tender Thing (directed by Peter Hinton), now playing at the Belfry Theatre, paints a stirring picture as to what this might look like.  Romeo (Peter Anderson) and Juliet (Clare Coulter) did not commit suicide in their early teenage years, as originally written, but they have lived their lives together and are every bit in love now as they were then. However, not everything in life can stay golden forever, and the play raises this question: what would you do for the love of your life? How far would you go?

Review: (Toronto) Journey's End

Some Men Die Before they Go Over the Top
by Spencer Malthouse

In the midst of the calamity of noise and mud are men. R. C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End is a story of how they coped with the fear and the blood and their attempts to keep a stiff upper lip when all they knew turned to blackness. Empty Room’s production is forthright, honest, and gut wrenching. We are carried right along with the emotion of going over the top and the bleak burning pointlessness of it all. 

Second Lieutenant Raleigh joins C Company in spring of 1918, immediately before the largest German offensive of the war. He has come to follow Captain Stanhope, one of his school heroes. He meets a Blackadder-like troupe of officers, led by the once proud but now broken and alcoholic Captain Stanhope. The 2 hours, 45 minutes of the play take place over the three days before the German offensive. 

Sunday Feature: Pierre Simpson on Les Zinspirés 2.0

Écrire à coeur ouvert
Writing with an open heart or How teens can blow your mind
by Pierre Simpson

Pierre Simpson is a bilingual actor and director whose roles have included L’Emmerdeur, Le Dîner de cons, Les Médecins de Molière (Dora nomination and Rideau award), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Canadian Stage), Strawberries in January (Great Canadian Theatre Company) and The Bookshop (National Arts Centre). Directing credits include Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska and Ducharme’s Ines Pérée et Inat Tendu (Théâtre de la Licorne) as well as co-directing Oz by Vox Théâtre, whose cross-Canada TYA tour ran several seasons. Film and TV credits include Hannibal, Nikita, The Border and Let the Daylight Into the Swamp (National Film Board, Toronto International Film Festival). Les Zinspirés 2.0 is his second venture directing for Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT).


Creating Les Zinspirés 2.0 for TfT has been a long, exciting journey.

Spurred on by the success of the first edition of Les Zinspirés, version 2.0 started in September 2012 when we launched the writing contest that would find the source material for the show. Along with a team of writing coaches, I gave several conferences in Toronto-area French-language and immersion schools talking to grade 10-12 French and Drama classes about le conte urbain (the urban tale) a form of writing where a character appears on stage to share directly with the audience a story they’ve lived – be it zany, fantastical, spooky or tragic. After receiving approximately 100 short stories from schools across Southern Ontario, a jury at Théâtre français chose their 12 favourites and those young writers were invited to spend a long weekend at TfT where they received one-on-one coaching from professional authors and feedback from young professional actors who would bring their characters to life in a public reading to be held on the Sunday afternoon for friends and family. After repeating the exercise in the second semester, over 20 stories had been reworked. From these, five lucky finalists were chosen. This final group met to hear each other’s urban tales, reflected on how they could perfect their stories and brainstorm on ways to make them all part of one cohesive, yet eclectic whole. Multiple working sessions, Skype meetings and rewrites happened over the summer and by the fall : voilà! a solid draft was ready for the new team of actors to sink their teeth into. After 100 plus hours of rehearsal (and a few more tweaks to the scripts), the show is ready for its audience!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Sacrifice Zone

Michael Spence and Joel Benson (photo by Michael Cooper)
A Company Soars
...the script...?
by Ramya Jegatheesan

The Sacrifice Zone is a story about living in a dying place, where the birds are silent and industry devours and poisons the land. 

It is the story of a tragedy. It is a tale of David versus Goliath. 

You’ve heard this story before, maybe seen it in one too many headlines: Deadly explosion rocks industrial town. Workers killed. 

The Sacrifice Zone begins in the aftermath of this industrial disaster. Two grief-stricken widowers search for answers and justice. The corporation, and many in town, want them to take the money and be quiet. Questions are inconvenient when there is big money to be made. 

Review: (Toronto) Winners and Losers

Marcus Youssef and James Long (Photo by Simon Hayter)
A dialogue we want to have, but frequently don’t…
Winners and Losers a contemplative work
by Dave Ross

It’s taken me a couple of days to think about, chew on it, and roll this play around in my mind. On one hand: we have this work by two noted playwrights and performers (Marcus Youssef and James Long); performing an autobiographical piece that works with thoughts many of us have in our friendships; directed by Chris Abraham, the recent recipient of the Siminovitch Prize. This is a trio of men who punch far above their weight, and succeed in doing so. On the other hand, we have a script that while autobiographical, seems to lack cohesion in places. It makes for a challenging think.

Review: (Toronto) A Room of One's Own

Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf
by Gregory Bunker

Ladies and gentlemen, Virginia Woolf. It’s 1928, and in what seems hardly a stretch, the Bloomsbury Collective has transformed Campbell House into Girton Women’s College – where Woolf made her first of two lectures that would together form her iconic feminist essay A Room of One’s Own. The play, adapted by Patrick Garland, is a period performance piece that sees Naomi Wright brilliantly channel Woolf’s wit right into 2013.