Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Idiot's Delight

Raquel Duffy, Dan Chameroy (photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Shearing Time and Place
by Ramya Jegatheesan

At first glance, Soulpepper’s staging of Idiot’s Delight has all the makings of a first-rate comedic romp. 

We are in a resort in the Italian Alps. The company is intriguing, kooky, and worldly. A French revolutionary, a Russian con artist with her munitions tycoon lover, and an American vaudeville entertainer with his bevy of blonde showgirls all make an appearance. 

The world is on the brink of war. The borders are closing. No one can get out. 

What more could you ask for? 

Plenty, it turns out. 

Review: (Toronto) Free Outgoing

Anusree Roy, Ash Knight (photo by John Lauener)
A Show that Deserves to Go Viral
by Keely Kwok

Normally when I review a show I take a lot of notes. I probably take too many notes and drive whoever’s sitting beside me crazy. But not last night. After the first two minutes of Free Outgoing, I closed my trusty notebook knowing full well I would not forget what I was about to witness. 

Free Outgoing is about a young 15-year-old girl named Deepa who, out of love and foolishness, becomes the focus of a nationwide scandal when a video of her and her boyfriend having sex goes viral. But the real story is about Deepa’s widowed mother and brother, Malini (Anusree Roy) and Sharan (Andrew Laurie), and what they must do to navigate the scandal in their conservative Tamil community in Chennai, India. 

News: Shaw Festival reports surplus for 2013 season (Press release)

CharPo's Real Theatre! January 31, 2014

A Fly On The Wall, January 31, 2014

What’s New?
by Jim Murchison 

I don’t do the resolution thing. December 31st moving into January 1st is actually just another evening that changes to another morning. I don’t usually do a big festive whoop up, get drunk or feel an increased need for a sexual conquest. 

Well it isn’t really just another day. It is a day when you get a brand new calendar, reflect on what you want the next year to bring and what you might want to avoid in the coming year. It is also a time to say, “Holy shit!!! How the hell did we get to 2014? We just squeaked into 2000 an eye blink ago!” 

My mom’s birthday is January 7th and when I called her up to wish her Happy Birthday, her first words were, “Well I made it.” She’s 93 so it is more of a blend of surprise and resignation than what a wonderful world moment. My mother is perhaps the brightest woman I have ever known: still to this day; not used to be. She is very frank about being ready to go at any time and has seen many friends and neighbours pass and even her only daughter, so is frankly completely baffled as to why she is still here. I love talking to her and will definitely miss her but I won’t feel sad for her when she goes. I will be selfishly crying for me when I can’t call her anymore. I cried for my sister; although no one wanted to see her suffer any longer, it was a terrible loss. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: (Toronto) This Clement World

Cynthia Hopkins (photo by Jeff Sugg)
Somewhere between fire and ice. 
A live documentary that warms up a cold winter night. 
by Lisa McKeown 

This multi media piece, written and performed by Cynthia Hopkins, was inspired by a voyage she was invited on by Cape Farewell, along with several other artists and scientists. Determined to throw off her usual themes of addiction and alcoholism, she sets out to make her first documentary about a pressing topic: global warming. This is not just any documentary, it's described as a live documentary, though the result is more a kind of multi-media live performance art. The show combines Hopkins's  footage with music written and performed by Hopkins, along with a live 15-member chorus and band. 

But Hopkins doesn't escape her artistic past as easily as all that. Throughout the piece the parallels to alcoholism become increasingly evident, that somehow we've become addicted to substances that satisfy in the short-term, but are not sustainable. But how do we overcome certain immediate animal instincts, like the desire for pleasure and satiation, for those that are more significant in the long term?

The Abominable Showman, January 30, 2014

Munich-born tenor Jonas Kaufmann makes his  Canadian debut in Montreal (Photo by schotzshootspeople)

The World’s Greatest Tenor
The world’s greatest living tenor, opera superstar Jonas Kaufmann, sits down for a one-on-one with CharPo on the eve of his much-anticipated Montreal debut …
Richard Burnett 

Everyone knew they were witnessing a historic concert when then-36-year-old Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra, hailed by The New York Times as the successor to Pavarotti, took the stage at L’Opéra de Montréal’s Signature Event back in 2004.

It was Licitra’s first-ever concert in Canada and last in Montreal: Tragically, Licitra died in September 2011 after crashing his scooter into a wall in Donnalucata, Sicily.

But a new tenor has risen to occupy the throne once held by Pavarotti (who passed away in 2007) and Licitra: Munich-born Jonas Kaufmann is considered by many to be the world’s greatest living tenor (73-year-old tenor Plácido Domingo transformed himself into a baritone five years ago) and one of the Top 10 tenors of all time.

Picture of the Week, January 30, 2014

Arts Club Theatre doesn't screw around with their advance promo photos. They bring in David Cooper who has such a keen eye for detail it is almost scary. (The newspaper under the table? The New York Times.) We practically don't need to tell you that Robert Moloney and Andrew McNee, seen here, are posing for The Odd Couple.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Abominable Showman, January 29, 2014

Will the actors in the Montreal premiere production of The Full Monty take it all off? (Photo by Tam Lan Truong, courtesy Beautiful City Theatre)

Much Ado About Dick
by Richard Burnett

CharPo sits down with theatre director Calli Armstrong to preview the “full-frontal nudity” in the Montreal premiere production of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical The Full Monty. Audiences lap it up – but what about the actors onstage?

There is going to be full-frontal nudity in the Montreal premiere production of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical The Full Monty.

That may be a bit of a yawn for Montrealers who can see cock in Montreal strip joints seven nights a week, 52 weeks a year.

But it is still the first thing everybody asks before they go see this show, from Broadway to London’s West End: “Are they really going to take it all off?”

Yes, they will.

News: (Gananoque) Thousand Islands Playhouse announces participants in Playwrights' Unit (press release)

Review: (Winnipeg) The Seagull

Tom Keenan (photo: Bruce Monk)

I'm More Than a Bird
Unspoken regret is a Russian invention.
by Edgar Governo

It seems somewhat mystifying at first that the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre would schedule an entire playwright festival around Anton Chekhov, as he was a much more prolific writer of short stories--his three other major plays (The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya) are also being staged as part of ChekhovFest, but the bulk of the productions are more tangential adaptations and shows "inspired by" his body of work. Since Chekhov himself was continuously concerned with questioning the traditional art forms that had come before him, however, perhaps this is fitting.

The Seagull itself is concerned with these questions even more directly, as most of the main characters are people who produce (or wish they could produce) celebrated works of art. Boris Trigorin (Tom Rooney) is a noted writer of short stories engaged in love affairs with both the divaesque Irina Arkadina (Sharon Bajer) and later the aspiring actress Nina Zarechnaya (Bethany Jillard), who in turn is the object of affection for aspiring writer Constantin Treplyov (Tom Keenan), Arkadina's son. All of these artists and the others in their circle are at the estate of Arkadina's brother, Peter Sorin (Harry Nelken), who has retired after a long career in the Russian bureaucracy but wishes he could have spent his time writing instead.

In a Word... Gillian English on Drag Queen Stole My Dress

Making a Life Story...less sad
It's an autobiographical story about how I got lost in a toxic relationship and eventually called off my wedding. It's a comedy!
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

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

CHARPO:  Let me see if I have this straight - you enter the Fringe lotteries, prepare an idea for the ones you get into and - poof! - get an acceptance for Frigid in the Big Apple, set to happen months before our Fringe season. How the heck did all this come to be?

ENGLISH: I applied for the Frigid while I was at the Atlantic Fringe this past September. The 'first come, first serve' was what I was aiming for, it's how we got "Love in the Time of Time Machines" in the festival the year before. But there were technical internet issues, and my application was not one of the first 15 in, so I had to wait until the lottery on Halloween. Well, that came and went and I didn't get in. So that was that. Then at 1:15am on January 15, my phone made the little 'email ding' sound and woke me up. I checked it and it was an email from Frigid saying someone had dropped out, and I was next on the list if I wanted it. I had to read the email about six times before it sunk in what was going on. At that point the adrenaline kicked in, and my mind started racing. I hadn't planned on premiering my show until the Montreal Fringe in June, there was a lot of work to be done and less than five weeks to do it in. But it never occurred to me that I would say no. I had a director at LAMDA who used to say "If someone calls you up, and they say 'Gillian we need you to play Lady MacBeth. The show opens tomorrow.' You say YES. You always say yes. Then you figure everything else out later."

Video of the Week, January 29, 2014

Born at the Fringe, Belzébrute has gone on - as many anglo companies have - to present their delightful work outside of the festivals as they are, this week, with Mr P at the historic Gésu in Montreal.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

After Dark, January 28, 2014

Art v. Artist
Questions from Woody
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Anyone who watched this year's Golden Globes felt it. It was the Woody Allen tribute, it was Diane Keaton raving, it was (if you were on Twitter) Mia Farrow and Farrow/Allen's son Ronan Tweeting a couple of unpleasantries, notably this one from the younger, "Missed the Woody Allen tribute - did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?" 


The Allen question was debated everywhere and particularly in a phenomenal thread on Facebook initiated by Brad Fraser. It's an important question: can you separate the art from the artist? Can you and should you?

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Question... Colin Lalonde on Studio Porte Bleue

In Search of a Deeper Connection
I hear far too often that people 'don’t get' theatre.
by Estelle Rosen

Colin Lalonde trained as an actor at John Abbott College. After completing his training he began a theatre company, Vanguard Productions, where he directed multiple performances including Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood. He went on to complete his BA in Honours Theatre at the University of Ottawa. While studying in Ottawa he became a part of the performance and research group Les Ateliers du Corps, a group led by Professor Daniel Mroz that offers its participants sustained training in embodied practices including Taijiquan, Qigong and contemporary voice work. This training is then used to devise new performances that are aesthetically similar to the work of Eugenio Barba and Odin Teatret. Mr. Lalonde went on to pursue his Masters in International Performance Research at the University of Warwick (UK) and the University of Arts Belgrade (Serbia). While travelling and researching he worked with the performance group Dah in Belgrade, attended workshops with Richard Schechner, and with his colleagues he helped begin a yearly performance series examining ignored and unused urban spaces entitled UNLISTED (performed in Belgrade in 2012 and Pittsburgh in 2013). He is now the Artistic Director of Studio Porte Bleue. 

CHARPO: It takes a lot of guts to start a new theatre company these days. What are the goals of Studio Porte Bleue and why was this piece selected as the first presentation?

LALONDE: After returning to Montreal after six years away, I decided to create a space in my native city that was dedicated to artistic development and experimentation. While away, I had the pleasure of working with a variety of different practitioners and academics from a wide array of performance and artistic backgrounds. This opened my mind to many different possibilities in performance. Studio Porte Bleue was born out of the motivation to dedicate myself to finding an outlet to explore and expand upon all of my experiences outside of the city. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Feature: Amélie Poirier-Aubry on Belzébrute's Mr P

(photo by Georges Dutil)
When Belzébrute meets Mister Potato Head
by Amélie Poirier-Aubry

Belzébrute defines itself as a theatre band that enjoys creating great shows on a small budget. Through its creation, the band explores theatre objects, puppetry, masks, image poetry and shadow play with carefree and contagious enthusiasm. The band creates imaginative, bold and clever shows, jam-packed with references to pirates (Shavirez, Gypsy of the Sea) or Samurais (Manga) that know no limits. At the end of January 2014, Belzébrute Theatre Band will present Mr P, its latest creation, at Gesù Theatre in Montreal. Following its run at the 2013 Montreal FRINGE Festival, Belzébrute is putting on a revamped version of the show, a theatrical work filled with humour and delightful madness that tells the untold story of Mr. Potato Head's spectacular rise and fall. Amélie Poirier-Aubry, musical and communications director for Belzébrute, tells us a bit about the show and its creative process. 

For more than 15 years, Jocelyn Sioui, founding member of Belzébrute Theatre Band, couldn't get rid of the vision in his head of Mr. Potato Head singing Mexico by Luis Mariano. The creator's fantasy spent a long time in the dark corners of his memory before finally appearing on stage in 2013. Well, sort of. In Mr P, you won't see Mr. Potato Head sing Mexico, but that's pretty well the only thing he doesn't do! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Once On This Island

Photo by Joanna Akyol
Why They Tell the Story
Ten years on, Acting Up Stage shows it’s here to stay
by Stuart Munro

Now in its tenth season presenting musicals to Toronto audiences, Acting Up Stage has become a leading player in the city’s cultural fabric, delivering shows that provoke and challenge assumptions and expectations. This holds true for its newest production, Ahrens and Flaherty’s 1990 piece Once On This Island, co-presented with Obsidian Theatre Company, Toronto’s leading Black Theatre company. Now almost 25 years old, the music of this sung-through one-act musical holds up incredibly well, and its message is as relevant today as it was when first produced. Despite a few bumps along the way, this new production is a powerful look at love, race and loss.

Review: (Toronto) The Lady's Not For Burning

Andrea Brown, Chris Coculuzzi (photo by Dahlia Katz)

Not Old-Fashioned, Not Fluff
by Lucy Wells

Despite the strong winds last evening, I was more than pleased to make the trek out to the Alumnae Theatre to see their new production of Christopher Fry’s classic comedy. Written in 1948 but set in the year 1400, either more or less or exactly, it was so popular for a time that Margaret Thatcher’s speech-writers referenced it in one of her most famous addresses. It references Shakespearean comedy and is written in rather florid verse, but it has its own cheekily anachronistic style.

Right off the top, I really enjoyed the set.  It is an elaborate stage, on several levels, with several doors and a large window to accommodate the many entrances and exits in this very physical comedy.  Characters run in and out constantly, popping in and out of the window, hiding behind doors, jumping on the furniture, and in one case, scrubbing the floor; as this play unfolds in the same room throughout, it was nice to have a solid enough set that it could be used without wobbling! 

Review: (Ottawa) Kim's Convenience

Jean Yoon, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Father Knows Best (Korean Style)
by Jim Murchison

The set for Kim's Convenience is a very authentic looking convenience store. Designer Ken MacKenzie has quite meticulously placed all the details there from the aisles and the well stocked shelves, the overhanging fluorescent light boxes, the register and of course the open and closed sign hanging from the window by the door. The remount has been directed by Albert Schulz with original direction by Weyni Mengesha. What has been added or subtracted in  this production is not possible for me to determine, but the balance is good and the play has honesty and truth that captures the essence of family dynamic.
The patriarch proprietor Appa Kim is played with stoic assurance by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. The comic interplay because of broken English and the steadfast determination to be right at all times is deftly played. It is clear that the audience relates to the father figure that believes any manner of doubt is weakness and tough love means aikido.

Review: (Toronto) Pacamambo

 L-R Amy Keating, Karen Robinson  (photo by Jeremy Mimnagh)

by Jason Booker
Partway through the English language premiere of Wadji Mouawad’s Pacamambo, after having heard the young protagonist and her grandmother speak in rapturous tones about “the road to Pacamambo” for what felt like the tenth or twelfth time, it occurred to me that this was not a piece of theatre set before the audience. It was a travel pitch for a place where people ignore racial lines to become one, escaping into some hippy-dippy heaven, that sounded so much more appealing than the seats in these cramped quarters. And when the seating is set up as a runway – half the audience facing the other with actors wedged into a narrow space in between – it became apparent there were a few audience members with similar thoughts.
Welcome to the Canadian Rep Theatre, founded in the fallout of Ken Gass’s firing from Factory Theatre. This is their inauspicious debut.

creating a/broad, January 25, 2014

The first 12 hours of a 24-hour play
Thursday night to Friday morning, January 23-24, Theatre Ste Catherine, Montreal
by Cameryn Moore

I agreed to it to give myself a jolt, to get out of the box, to fucking jump the rails of my own creative track. I’m not saying anything about the final product, but the process was fucking amazing…

The main room at Theatre Ste. Catherine has filled up, with directors, performers, and writers. There are over 30 people involved in this event, and I’m a little embarrassed to say I only know a handful by face and name. I need to get out more. Lots of people drinking already. Thank god I’m not a beer drinker, or I’d be tempted, too. I’m definitely nervous. I took the precautionary step last night of staying up until 5:30am, and napped this afternoon right before coming down to the theatre, just so my circadian would be sufficiently shifted later and I wouldn’t crap out too early. Nonetheless, I’m playing it safe and pouring the first coffee of the night.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Cabaret

(photo: Seanna Kennedy)

Kander and Ebb classic is a wilkommen addition to the LOT’s repertoire.
Occasionally misplaced excess won’t spoil your evening at this Cabaret.
by Christian Baines

Full disclosure before we begin. I really can’t overstate my personal affection for Cabaret, which has been my favourite musical for almost as long as I’ve loved the form. Kander and Ebb’s songs are timeless, Christopher Isherwood’s unforgettable characters engage us immediately, and the plot’s modular structure (based as it is on a collection of short stories) allows plenty of room for a unique take on it every time. 

Those qualities have secured Cabaret an enduring popularity with young audiences fascinated by Isherwood’s Berlin. If the energy of this production at Lower Ossington Theatre (LOT) is any indication, Cabaret has many more long and happy years ahead of it.

Review: (Toronto) London Road

Steve Ross and Damien Atkins (photo by David Hou)

Extreme complexity is the key
London Road an unexpected piece

by Dave Ross

The story of a community rocked by the serial killing of five prostitutes seems odd fodder for a musical, but a musical it is. And a rather pretty one at that. Canadian Stage has created a new production for London Road’s North American premiere, after a successful 2011 run at the National Theatre in the UK. 

This production is one that confounds. The story is deftly handled by playwright Alecky Blythe, with music by Adam Cork. This isn’t the story of the murders, but the story of the residents of London Road, where serial killer Steve Wright lived during his crime spree. We never meet Wright, nor his victims. The script orbits around the events taking place leading up to Wright’s arrest and beyond, through the lens of the other victims of London Road, victims just by dint of living there. In writing the play, Blythe interviewed the residents, and then transferred their words verbatim into a script. Cork then listened to these same recordings and wrote music to match, a challenge considering the necessary preservation of the rhythm of the speakers on the tapes, and the desire to preserve the timbre and pitch of the speakers as well. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! January 24, 2014

A Fly On The Wall, January 24, 2014

Nerves and Adrenalin
by Jim Murchison

As I sit and write this, every audition I have ever done is running through my head looking for a point of reference. I have completed my audition for the National Arts Center (NAC) and I have survived it and in fact think I did a pretty good job. I think I did. The nerves were relatively in control. The transfer of adrenalin infused the characters, I believe, but in many ways it feels like a dream where I was outside of my own body as well as in it.
There is a huge difference in performing for hundreds of people in the warm nourishing bosom of an ensemble and alone for just one or two people who are considering whether to hire you or not. The latter is far more terrifying. Having said that, auditioning for Jillian Keily and Sarah Garton Stanley was as nice as can be. They are friendly and relaxed and even give you a chocolate send off with their thank you at the end of the audition.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: (Vancouver) A Brimful of Asha (PuSh)

(photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Inventive family drama is filled to the brim with humour
PuSh festival presents a clash of Indian and Canadian culture

by Chris Lane

As the house lights come down, Asha Jain, an Indian woman in her sixties, kindly welcomes the audience to her home.

“Well, not really my home, but let’s pretend for today,” she says.

And yet it really does feel like we’re in the Jain family home. Asha isn’t a trained actress, but rather the mother of Ravi Jain, an actor and director. The two of them created A Brimful of Asha and perform it together. As themselves, they tell the story of a dispute they had seven years ago – a cultural clash between Asha, raised in India, and her son, born and raised in Canada.

On The Fringe With Nancy Kenny, January 23, 2014

So You Want To Do a Fringe Show in the United States?
by Nancy Kenny

[ED: As we head into Fringe 2014, Nancy Kenny comes aboard to file an occasional story about her Fringe journey. Here, to start, is an article that first appeared on her own site and which has become the most read piece will see why.]
Are you an American citizen who has a cool little show you want to produce on the Canadian Fringe Festival Circuit? No problem! You DO NOT need a work permit if you are a performing artist who:
  • will perform in Canada for a limited period of time,
  • will not perform in a bar or restaurant,
  • are not being hired for ongoing employment by the Canadian group that has contracted you and
  • are not involved in making a movie, television or radio broadcast.
You just need a letter from the festivals you will be participating in confirming the items above.
Are you a Canadian citizen who would like to take your cool little Fringe show to one of the American Fringes (New York, Orlando, San Diego, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Boulder) who are members of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, or one of the many other unrelated Fringe Festivals in the U.S.? No probl…
Wait, what?
*  *  *  *  *

Picture of the Week, January 23, 2014

A single figure lost in a sea of black - illuminated only by an unseen light (screen). Photographer Cylla von Tiedemann seizes upon n00b at YPT, starring playwright Christopher Duthie.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: (Montreal) Moi, Feuerbach

(photo by Matthew Fournier)
Feuerbach, who?
by Aleksandra Koplik
This is a play about the reality of theatre today. Written by Tankred Dorst, a playwright who has not once debated the death of theatre, it discusses the many facets of the stage and those who revolve around it. It felt like I was watching a remake of Waiting for Godot or Rhinoceros, I was waiting for something to happen, but it never did. Instead, it became all about Feuerbach. This very fast paced absurdist-inspired piece, directed by Téo Spychalski, introduces the audience to Feuerbach (played by Gabriel Arcand), a middle-aged actor that appears at an audition after seven years of exile from acting. There, he meets the director’s assistant (played by Alex Bisping) and attempts to educate him on the many roles that he has played and why a person working in theatre should know these works in the first place.

Review: (Toronto) The Way Back to Thursday

Roy Kempson and Astrid Van Wieren  (photo by Michael Cooper)
Call Your Family… Today.
by Keely Kwok

For some reason one of the most defining moments in a person’s life has to do with the end of a romantic relationship. But that’s a been there done that topic. So when Cameron’s first song starts off about his boyfriend leaving him I thought, “oh boy, here we go again…” 

Well, we all know what assuming does… 

Way Back to Thursday is a musical about a young man named Cameron (Rob Kempson)  and his relationship with his grandmother, played by the stunning Astrid Van Wieren. Their bond begins in the form of Thursday night movies, particularly ones with love and Rock Hudson. The story follows Cameron as he gets older and finds himself consumed by school, internships, work, boyfriends, and well, life. And naturally, a distance grows between Cameron and his grandmother. 

Review: (Montreal) La Valeur des choses

(photo by Dominique Skoltz)
by Chad Dembski

True Collaboration of inter-disciplinary artists is hard to find; there are a lot of combinations tried but few ever seem to effortlessly co-exist. Yet in La Valeur Des Choses playing now at La Chapelle until Jan. 25th Jacques Poulin-Denis has assembled a fantastic group of artists from Montreal and Vancouver. I had seen a work-in-progress showing of this piece as part of The Segal Centre’s dance residency program with Danse Danse in 2013.  At that point I was very intrigued where the piece would develop and what elements would be kept in future incarnations.

News: (Toronto) Opera Atelier announces 2014-15 season (press release)

In a Word: Director Chris Robson on Freud's Last Session

The challenge in doing plays about actual people from history is to balance the information with the inspiration.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Chris Robson is a UBC graduate with an MFA in Directing and a BFA in Acting. His thesis production was George F. Walker’s Suburban Motel plays: Problem Child and The End of Civilization.  Recent directing credits: Our Country’s Good (UBC Players’ Club); Welcome to My Wake and Figment (Vancouver Fringe Festival); The Last 5 Years at Jericho Arts Centre (also set/lighting designer & pianist); for Fugue Theatre: The Lover and Sex, Madness, Rock n’ Roll (also writer, music director, actor, pianist). 

CHARPO:  For starters, tell us about your theatrical journey - first what brought you to UBC and then to directing. Everyone has that moment as a kid where we think: this is for me! Tell us about yours and what actions you took to make this happen.

ROBSON: As a little kid, my older sister and her friends would dress me up and we would then go and make all our parents laugh. This seemed like a good thing to do. By the time I had graduated from High School and acted in a few school and community productions, I had made up my mind I was going to act. My parents wanted foremost for me to have a good education, so I got my acting training at UBC. I have acted in over 20 plays at UBC, but in 1995 I was curious to try my hand at directing. I figured that since I didn't actually know how to direct, my best strategy would be to surround myself with the best actors, designers and stage managers. After working as a freelance actor for 25 years, I became disillusioned with 'the treadmill' of TV and commercial auditions, and more inspired by my theatre work and colleagues. So I decided to go back to UBC to actually learn the techniques and philosophies of directing - which include surrounding myself with the best collaborators!

Video of The Week, January 22, 2014

Seagulls are popping up all over, but Peter Hinton is adapting and directing Chekhov's wondrous work, coming to the Segal - this is a teaser that truly teases.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bonus Feature: First Person - Stéphanie Morin-Robert on Me, Myself and Eye

Dance: Memory
by Stéphanie Morin-Robert

Multidisciplinary artist Stéphanie Morin-Robert graduated both from Cégep de Drummondville with a DEC in dance (2008) and Concordia University with a degree in Contemporary Dance (2011) where she was titled the most outstanding graduate underlining her successful run as a Fine Arts student. Ms Morin-Robert is the choreographer, artistic director and administrator for the company pour corps et lumière/for body and light (a collaboration with musician/spoken word artist Ian Ferrier) creating pieces that are intimately inspired by the memory, imagination, strength and fragility of the human body.  After a creative residency at L’arrêt de bus (Montreal, Québec) and at the Main & Station (Parrsboro, Nova Scotia) Ms Morin-Robert is presently continuing to develop her work at MainLine Theatre (Montreal, Québec), where she has been artist in residence since September 2013.  In Montréal, her work has been presented at the St-Ambroise Montréal FRINGE festival, Bouge d’ici dance festival, Mile End Poets festival, Carmagnole festival, Canadien Spoken Word festival and Phénomena festival.  With 40 confirmed performances in Montréal (QC), Ottawa (ON), Saskatoon (SK), Edmonton (AB), Victoria (BC) and Vancouver (BC) the company is currently planning a tour starting in February 2014 with a new show titled COMING AND GOING, that will be premiering at Tangente. Ms Morin-Robert recently joined the DIRTY FEET podcast team as a co-host and is a collaborating member of the multidisciplinary improvisation collective BODY SLAM directed by Greg Selinger.  She is also one of the eight artists selected to create and present work at studio 303’s Défi Edgy (Edgy Women) on March 9th at Sala Rossa.  Ms Morin-Robert currently works as Artist Liaison of the Montreal FRINGE festival and is Media Ticket Coordinator of the Just For Laughs PR team in Montreal.

Me, Myself & Eye is a story that merges authentic storytelling and movement.
An honest performance involving the multiple transitions experienced while facing self-discovery.

and (almost) total control.  

Over the last three years, I have been particularly interested in finding ways to re-connect with my personal experiences through childhood.  As life goes on, I’m finally starting to understand how much our upbringing has an impact on our adulthood and the people we become: an accumulation of moments overlapping each other to create something whole, like the layers of an onion.

Memories can be either very strong and vivid or blurry and disconnected. The most interesting challenges of true-life storytelling are the empty gaps we fall into when details are lost or unclear. If we really don’t remember, do we make up how we felt or how others reacted?  Do we ask for a second perspective?

One platform that has helped me to gradually revisit certain traumatic, hilarious and often ridiculous memories is Matt Goldberg’s storytelling event: Confabulation. It’s a very warm and welcoming platform for sharing true-life stories here in Montreal. This is where my hunger for working with storytelling started. 

As a choreographer, I use voice as a tool to support a vivid storyline, but I also see it as an extension of the body. I incorporate movement to allow the story to breathe, to expand, to shift and to trace through time and space. I hope this recipe allows me to make contemporary dance and storytelling more accessible and relatable to a larger audience, letting them choose to connect one way or the other. 

After Dark, January 21, 2014

The Paper Trail
What has happened to outreach?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

In the last months I have heard two very sad things.

The first was that a company in Montreal had their opening night to a whole bunch o' empty seats (not unusual in Montreal). The other story was of a friend who went to a Saturday night performance of a show in Toronto and said that the house was not close to filled. This was particularly shocking because the play had gotten across-the-board raves and not just from pipsqueaks like us, but also from The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, National Post and TV as well.

While this attests to the waining power of critics, it also signals something else as well: wretched planning by the theatres themselves.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bonus Feature: First Person - David-Benjamin Tomlinson on Arlecchino Allegro

(photo by Tariq Kieren)

What, exactly...?
by David-Benjamin Tomlinson 

David-Benjamin Tomlinson is a writer and actor who performs much of his own work; stage works include Starf#ckery: Life Lessons Learned From Working the Red Carpet (2013), Memoirs FromCracktown (2012), Wingéd (2010), Cordelia (2010), Sunstroke: Icarus Speaks (2006), Keyed (2005), and the Canadian Comedy Award-nominated Things Under the Bed.  David-Benjamin has appeared in Hope Thompson's She Walks the Line and Tyrolia, Toronto Masque Theatre's Arlecchino Allegro, three seasons of Sky Gilbert’s Shakespeare Experiment, and Sky’s plays Rope Enough, Happy, and Dancing Queen.  Media performance credits include the feature film Grey Gardens, and the television series Orphan Black, Train 48, Queer As Folk, and The Newsroom.  David-Benjamin is a writer of film, television, stage plays, web series, and radio drama.

“So exactly what kind of show is it?”

That’s usually the first question I hear after I tell people about Arlecchino Allegro. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a hard question to answer. I get the reason why people ask: Renaissance music and clown, in a presentation that would be considered neither theatre nor a straightforward concert. In fact when Diana Kolpak first pitched the idea to me almost a decade ago, I have to admit I was initially wary. I was quickly talked off the ledge (all these years later, I can’t remember what exactly she said, but man… it must have been good), and made a part of the project.

Not only did I have a blast working on the initial presentation of the show (which was then called Tears of a Clown), the production  was a tremendous success.  Re-visiting it 10 years later, you wonder, of course, whether  it will have the same magic, whether  you’ll be able to capture what it is you were able to capture before. It’s foolish thinking, of course, and you ignore those voices as best you can, but they still can be found lurking in the shadows. 

The Question... Director Matthieu Labaudiniére on All My Sons

Why Not?
by Estelle Rosen

Matthieu Labaudiniére is in his third year studying mechanical engineering at McGill University. He was born in Paris, France, but raised in the United States. In addition to his studies, he stays involved in the theatre community and the soccer community around McGill. He is part of a racing team that designs formula style race cars to compete all across the world.

CHARPO: Why does an Engineering student direct a theatre production, and what are the challenges of directing a classic play as your first effort?

LABAUDINIÉRE: Why not? Man is not a one-dimensional creature, but is full of contradictions. Just like he is capable of a whole range of emotions, he is also capable of mastering many skills. In the past year I have acted, directed, studied engineering, given business presentations, written articles about soccer, played soccer, announced soccer games, worked as a camp counsellor, been a frosh leader, and enjoyed the benefits of a healthy relationship. Could I pinpoint one of those that was the most important, that I would have enjoyed doing for the whole year? No, of course not.  Each of those activities helped me grow as a person in its own way. I need to stimulate all dimensions of my personality and that includes engineering and theatre together.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Così Fan Tutte

Tracy Dahl, Sir Thomas Allen (Photo: Michael Cooper)
Double Trouble
by Shannon Christy
Twitter User ID: schristy79

Mozart must have been hard to hang out with.  On one hand you have a musical genius and on the other you have a guy, who by modern standards would have had a fraternity sense of humour.  Still beyond his shenanigans and through his lighter works emerges a dark image of humanity where the illusion of individuality gives way to uniformity of human behaviour where all individuals are beholden to their base instincts.  This piece contains all of the above.

In Così Fan Tutte this notion emerges through the relationship of two couples Ferrando (Paul Appleby) and Dorabella (Wallis Giunta), and Guglielmo (Robert Gleadow) and Fiordiligi (Layla Claire).  Ferrando and Guglielmo challenge an indecent proposal from their friend Don Alfonso (Sir Thomas Allen) that all women are incapable of being faithful despite their oaths of allegiance and that given enough time and pressure all will submit to seduction.

Director Atom Egoyan has taken a slight spin away from the original fatalism versus individual freedom interpretation of Cosi Fan Tutte (everyone does things that way regardless of their will), and substitutes it for a more sexual liberating one where everybody is doing it (Mozart would have been proud).  To do this he has set our protagonists in a school dedicated to the art of seduction and transformed Don Alfonso from a philosopher to a professor.  In addition, Mr. Egoyan provides a motif of several different butterflies pinned and preserved and the image of Frida Kahlo’s Two Frida’s to illustrate that love is an ephemeral emotion that can cut the heart with surgical precision.  It is a very impressive imagery that sears into your consciousness.

Sunday Feature: Deepali Lindblom on Wake, Butterfly

Thirteen Blocks
by Deepali Lindblom

Deepali Productions was founded in 2010 with the goal to create dance and theatre productions that enlighten, while being entertaining. Since then, Deepali, the company founder, has taught Indian dances to more than 5000 people and given numerous performances including at Just for Laughs, Opéra de Montréal, and Place­ des­ Arts. In 2012, in collaboration with MainLine Theatre, Deepali Productions created its first comedy dance/theatre, Poutine Masala. It was an instant hit and completely sold out. Last year it was chosen to be part of the WildSide Festival at Centaur Theatre. This year, Deepali Productions is presenting Wake, Butterfly at Infinitheatre Jan. 23 - 25.

Bombay. Bustling, busy, bursting. A teenager hurriedly walks down the narrow streets of Kamathipura, India’s biggest red light district. 
1 block gone, 12 more to go...

She squirms inwardly as men make lewd remarks and call her names. Yesterday her friend had come along, filled with fire to volunteer, but today she refused. She said she didn't have the nerve to walk down 13 blocks to Aasha (Hindi for hope), an organization that worked towards education, health and betterment of the sex-workers of Kamathipura.
2 blocks gone, 11 more to go...

Sunday Feature: Director Brett Haynes on The Lover

The Lover's Acute Accent
by Brett Haynes

Brett Haynes is a producer, director, playwright, and founder of Triangle Pi Productions. He is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, having majored in Drama while apprenticing as a set designer. He then went on to graduate from George Brown Theatre School in 2008. In 2010, Mr. Haynes started Triangle Pi Productions with a drive to produce new Canadian work by emerging artists. Triangle Pi Productions first show, Breaking News, was showcased at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival and went on to win Critic’s Pick and Patron’s Pick. Triangle Pi Productions went on to produce Vacant by the emerging playwright Fraser Elsdon and Hatched by Claire Burns. He has directed several shows in Toronto and throughout Ontario, including the new play It All Leads to the Lemon Scene which debuted at the New Ideas Festival in Toronto and then went on to be produced in New York City.

Through my studies, I have had the opportunity to work on some of the greatest texts to have ever been presented on the English stage but one thing always bothered me. Why was I instructed to present each of these plays with a British dialect? Why weren’t we encouraged to take a risk and try something new or different? Why is there so much resistance to taking plays, such as any of Oscar Wilde’s work or Pinter’s and present them in a modern day, Canadian setting without adding accents? I have seen a few productions, since leaving school, who have taken such a risk but I can honestly say that I have rarely seen a Pinter or Wilde play presented outside of its original period and without a British dialect. Why are there not more companies taking risks? If Oscar Wilde, for example, were with us today, would he have had a problem with his work spoken with a Canadian accent? He is quoted for saying “I aim not at doing good or evil, but at making a thing that will have some quality of beauty.”