Monday, March 31, 2014

The Question... Laura Orozco and Myrna Wyatt-Selkirk on Action Spectrum - Director's Project

The Actor/Director Relationship
by Estelle Rosen
Laura Orozco is in her third year studying Psychology and Theatre Studies at McGill University in Montreal. She is currently co-technical director at the Tuesday Night Café Theatre. She is also Festival Production Manager for Action Spectrum.
Professor Myrna Wyatt-Selkirk is an Associate Professor at McGill University in the Department of English where she teaches Acting and Directing. She is the Festival Director for the Action Spectrum: Director's Project 2014 festival

CHARPO: Tell us about McGill's Action Spectrum: Director's Project 2014 theatre festival directed by members of Department of English:Directing for the Theatre course. The festival includes both classic playwrights and student playwrights, did each director select the play they chose to direct and, what are some of the challenges for a festival that includes 12 plays?
OROZCO: Action Spectrum is the product of a huge collaboration. Behind the scenes of a 12-play festival there needs to be very clear communication and coordination. This year the festival is happening in collaboration with the Tuesday Night Café Theatre with performances happening in the unique TNC space on the McGill Campus. As a smaller company with a smaller space, executing a festival like this has meant a lot of shared time and space. (cont'd)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Feature: Joel Ivany on working with Peter Sellars and Hercules

(centre) Lucy Crowe as Iole and Richard Croft as Hyllus in the Canadian Opera Company/Lyric Opera of Chicago (LOC) co-production of Hercules, 2011, LOC. Photo: Dan Rest

Sold on Sellars
by Joel Ivany

Stage director Joel Ivany is the founder and artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). He was a recent finalist and prizewinner in the European Opera-Directing Prize for his concept of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi with designers Camellia Koo and Jason Hand. Recent directing credits include a new production of Verdi's Macbeth at Minnesota Opera, staging Handel’s beloved oratorio Messiah with AtG, Così fan tutte for The Banff Centre, a new production of Les contes d'Hoffmann for Edmonton Opera, revival director of Le nozze di Figaro at the Norwegian National Opera, knotty together (a new work composed by Njo Kong Kie and performed in Dublin, Ireland) and the world premiere of Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, in Victoria, BC. He has also served as associate director for Thaddeus Strassberger's acclaimed production of Nabucco at both Washington National Opera and Minnesota Opera. Mr. Ivany holds a music degree from the University of Western Ontario and an artist diploma in opera directing from the University of Toronto. Upcoming projects include directing the world premiere of East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon for the Canadian Children’s Opera Company, creating and directing Uncle John, AtG’s modern interpretation of Don Giovanni, for The Banff Centre and directing Carmen for Vancouver Opera.  

There were two directors that everyone kept talking about, and I knew that I had to work with them.  

Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars.  

As a young student just out of the University of Toronto’s Opera School, how was I going to make that happen?  They didn’t have websites and didn’t have email addresses or phone numbers (that I had). Regardless, I focused on my goal and set forth, striving to meet it along with several others. Within a few years, I had the opportunity to work with Robert Carsen in Oslo, Norway (of all places) and since, have had several occasions and in a few different countries. 

After seeing Peter Sellars’ productions of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas, I knew that he was someone different.  I thought it was a huge coup when the Canadian Opera Company announced that they were bringing his production of Tristan und Isolde to Toronto.  I was fortunate enough to see it last season in Toronto and was excited to learn that he was coming back with his production of Hercules, a COC co-production with the Lyric Opera Chicago. As the schedule permitted, I was overjoyed that I could work on this fabulous show with an outstanding cast and that Peter Sellars was going to be in Toronto for the entire period of production.

Sunday Feature: Set Designer Natalia Tcherniak on Frozen

Vivisecting a brain: an exercise in flexibility
by Natalia Tcherniak

Natalia Tcherniak, a graduate of both the University of British Columbia and Carleton University, spends her day working in the architecture field. However, at night, she transforms into a visual artist and designer, having created sets for productions of Six Degrees of Separation (Pink Shirt Productions) and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress (Carleton University Theatre Production Workshop). She has also performed on the stages of The Tranzac Club, Tallulah’s Cabaret and The Penthouse.

One of the things the director, Andrew Freund, established in our first meeting was that this set would abandon any known conventions for set design. We were not about to embark on a unit set with naturalistic doors and walls. Our production of Frozen would use an environmental design to surround the audience and fill the entire room in which the play would be staged.
Fulfilling that mission wouldn’t be an issue for me since I enter the world of theatre from a background in architecture. Coming from that training, this design proved to be a test of how flexible my skills are, since I would have to establish my own set of rules and reference points to measure the success of the world I was creating. Whether it was evocative and revelatory would be more important than if it was functional and, of course, it would have to be easily constructed and removed.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Charlebois Post Index of National Fringe Festival Coverage - 2014

Review: (Toronto / Dance) he:she

4 By 2
by Beat Rice

he:she is the title of a show made up of four choreographic works. Four musicians join a total of six dancers, including Peggy Baker. In the programme it states that the production celebrates ‘a world balanced by dualities’. The works do so much more than just that.

Two of the works are premieres and the two are part of the company’s repertoire. Because of this, I will address each piece individually.

1. Aleatoric Duet No. 2 (premiere)
The show opens with a duet danced by Sean Ling and Andrea Naan, with musician John Kameel Farah. Farah accompanies the dancers from above, improvising an electronic score surrounded by equipment. Ling and Naan are impressive movers. They harness a graceful strength with agility and control. They are like birds, moving in and out of shifting squares of light, crossing boundaries and merging personal spaces.

Review: (Ottawa / Theatre) Seeds

Eric Peterson (photo by Maxime Coté)
Food for Thought
by Jim Murchison 

Julie Fox's set strikes you on different levels. There are a number of lab tables filled with scientific instruments, there's a model of a double helix DNA molecule down stage right. Cameras stage left and right and a large screen covering almost the entire width of the upstage area. The stage itself at the start is bathed in bright green looking like a freshly seeded field. The actors are milling about the stage many in lab coats conducting experiments or discussing the results, one would imagine.

This is a Porte Parole (Montreal) production and it commences with a prelude. The audience is informed that it is helpful for the development of this style of documentary theatre for them to come into the audience and get some of our opinions. It seemed more like red carpet interviews at the Academy Awards to me than investigative journalism. People were complimented on how attractive they looked and applauded for their good answers. Perhaps it helps the playwright, Annabel Soutar, but it was pandering, unnecessary filler for me.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Minotaur

(photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
(Re)writing our stories. 
Greek myth meets time travel. 
by Lisa McKeown 

What do you want your story to be? 

This is the question (among others) asked in Kevin Dwyer's retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Directed by Alan Dilworth, the show depicts a story about stories: it shows us the dangers of letting someone else write your story for you, and what it takes to push back against that. Freddie wakes up on his 13th birthday to a text from his father - off in battle - asking for help. Freddie then embarks on a journey to save his father, and in so doing shapes his own story. 

The acting was as I remembered from when I visited Young People's Theatre as a child: intense, and slightly larger-than-life: Karen Robinson is a terrifying Persiphae, with commanding vocal intonation that resonates through the theatre. Jakob Ehman is mesmerizing as young Freddie/Theseus. But my favourite was Bahareh Yaraghi as Ariadne and the Gipsy Queen. When she was on stage I was totally captivated by the action. There is just something different about live theatre; it's powerful in a way that film simply cannot be. It's got a kind of magic to it, one that came out watching a hero's journey in an audience of children. There are a couple of elaborate fight scenes, and I found myself remembering what it was like to see theatre as a child. The actors always seemed imposing, and the action so real. I wondered (and hoped) if theatrical fighting carries the same magic for this audience of children as it did for me, given the updates in special effects. 

Review: (Vancouver / Theatre) The Old Curiosity Shop

(photo by Nancy Caldwell)

Dickens Classic Brought to Stage
by David C. Jones

Charles Dickens wrote The Old Curiosity Shop as an on-going story with regular instalments in 1840-41. 
Like most of his works it deals with social justice in 19th-century England, particularly concerning youth and poverty. This stage adaptation is by Simon Webb and is directed by the apparently everywhere Sarah Rodgers! They have quite a task trying to wrestle a long sprawling serial with dozens of characters, into a two-hour show.

This story focuses on a young girl and her grandfather who live in the curiosity shop. The unnamed grandfather tried to secure a better future for Nell by gambling. This puts them heavily in debt with a man named Quilp. The pair run away and meet many people. Back at the shop, Quilp takes over and Nell’s ne’er-do-well brother Frederick is mistakenly convinced that his grandfather has a fortune hidden away, so he convinces his friend, a gadabout named Dick Swiveller to marry Nell. Quilp arranges for Dick to work for a lawyer named Mr. Brass in order to keep an eye on him. A young man named Kit saves Nell’s canary and worries about her safety.  On the road Nell and her grandfather meet many people, including a pair of Punch and Judy actors, a priest and a cook who makes a fantastic stew.

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Norman

                                                                                        (photo by Victor Pilon)
by Chad Dembski
Norman is a Montreal original creation that has a had a healthy seven year history since its creation in 2007. Originally premiered at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa it has toured all over the world including France, Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. While multi-disciplinary work is not new to Montreal or Quebec it rarely can fuse together its various elements seamlessly. The collaborations often have unique results but come off more as experiments than a fully realized show. This is not the case with Norman where the fusion of text, choreography (by Peter Trosztmer and Thea Patterson), projection film (4d, Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon) and hologram (yes, that’s right hologram!) come together in a stunning piece that still seems fresh in 2014.  

Norman is a tribute to the National Film Board (NFB) films of Norman McLaren and his experimental films of animation and live action.  I went in knowing next to nothing about Norman McLaren and left with a deep appreciation of his dedication to experimental film and early animation. His presence is still felt in what is remaining of NFB (screw you Conservative government) and the strong animation still being made in this country.

Review: (Montreal / Theatre) 4000 Miles

photo by
Growing up and getting old
Herzog’s 4000 Miles gets loving treatment at Centaur
Sarah Deshaies

Leo shows up in the middle of the night, schlepping his dirty bike and worldly possessions. Ringing the bell at his grandmother’s Greenwich Village home, the 21-year-old is seeking physical and mental refuge. Awoken by the buzzer, Vera opens the door in her nightgown. “Are you high?” she demands. Leo almost leaves right then and there. But he doesn’t.

A self-described hippie, Leo is running from obligations, family and a summertime tragedy that he is reluctant to confront. Vera is lonely but stubborn, ensconced in a home with memories of her long-dead husband and their radical socialist past. Though they are both progressive lefties of different ages, the gulf between these two now de-facto roommates is decades-long and miles apart. He is trying to find his way, and she is losing her way of life. 

creating a/broad, March 29, 2014

The Ethics of Crowd-Funding
by Cameryn Moore

There aren’t many things that I remember solidly from my M.S. in Arts Administration, mostly because it was all about fairly to very large-scale institutions, planning multi-million-dollar approaches to target eight years ahead, using tactics such as offshore bank accounts… you see what I mean, though. The air was a little too thin up there, and I was working in a scrappy little community theatre. I needed to devote whatever brain cells I had left to legitimate challenges facing me right now, or maybe tomorrow. 

I could have used resources that were more to my scale, in other words. I need those kinds of resources more than ever, now that I’ve pretty much committed to the wild frontier of self-produced solo performing, so my interest was thoroughly piqued when a ethical guide to crowd-funding came across my feed

Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Me Talking to Myself in the Future

(photo: Frédéric Auger)

Of Two Minds
by Ramya Jegatheesan

If there’s one word I would use to describe this play, it’s psychedelic. This is bad news if you’re sober. 

Marie Brassard’s Me Talking to Myself in the Future is an invitation into Brassard’s inner consciousness. This journey is imagined and realized through atmospheric music created by musicians seated on-stage (one of them really should turn down his screen light) and a towering screen projecting 16mm video footage reminiscent of 1960s art house films. Brassard speaks in lulling hypnotic tones as she spins her tales. 

I was of two minds about this performance piece. 

Review: (Toronto / Dance) Around

(photo by David Hou)

Dancemakers and 40
by Beat Rice

This year, Dancemakers celebrates its 40th anniversary and premieres a new collaborative work, Around. The first thing you experience before the show is the space. For this production, the arrangement of the viewing space inside the studio was very meticulously planned and executed. The audience sits in two circular rows facing the centre, with the circle being enclosed by a white curtain on a track.  

Sitting in the round forces an awareness of space and the proximity of people near and far from you, performers and audience members alike. It creates a strong feeling of intimacy, which in turn creates a tension that is only increased when the performance begins. I became incredibly conscious that I could be watched. 

Review: (Montreal / Dance) So Blue

 (photo by: André Cornellier)

Nothing Cavalier
by Élaine Charlebois

There is no wonder why Louise Lecavalier recently won Le Grand Prix du Conseil des Arts de Montréal. From the moment the artist steps onto the Usine C stage, the audience is already sucked in. In So Blue, a piece choreographed by the dancer herself, this petite ball of strength fully indulges us with her amazing talent, inviting us into her awesome creative world.

News: (Montreal) Segal Centre announces 2014-15 season (press release)

CharPo's Real Theatre! March 28, 2014

A Fly On The Wall, March 28, 2014

Suspense Needs Surprise
Jim Murchison

I saw three plays in three nights last week. The third one was Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter. Pinter for some reason is not produced an awful lot in Ottawa. This is definitely the first time I have ever seen Pinter done in Ottawa and maybe ever. Theatre students though are always familiar with him. He has a style of creating tension out of nothing where the most innocuous or benign moments have underlying menace in them and allow for some very interesting choices for actors and directors to go for the laugh one moment and just scare the pants off you the next.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: (Toronto) New Ideas Festival (Week 3)

 Simprov (photo by Caolyn Zapf, Alumnae Theatre)

A Gamble and A Win
by Keely Kwok

Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival has definitely earned its name. With four short plays in the span of two hours, it’s always a gamble in terms of what you’re going to see. Thankfully, this festival is a win for its creativity and ingenuity. 

The first show Airport Tale, written by Carol Libman is a cute scenario of two strangers meeting at an airport and how they influence one another. With great characters like the sassy Evalina Applegee played by Jane Carnwath and the bumbling Roger Robinson played by Andy Perun, Airport Tale is a fun way to kick off the night.

Picture of the Week, March 27, 2014

We had to slightly crop this Tim Matheson photo to fit our format (we try never to do that) but we wanted you to feel as much of the impact of it as we did. It is for Theatre at UBC's production of UBU Roi, Alfred Jarry's skewed masterpiece. Mr. Matheson has certainly captured the skew with actor Naomi Vogt. The technique Matheson uses - false shadow - seems simple but is no small thing and the shadow here is particularly good (read: hair-raising). And, yes, that is a toilet-brush in the King's hand.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Cabaret brise-jour

photo by Guillaume D. Cyr

Weill Nights
by Beat Rice

Finally something different and original on stage in Toronto!

Hailing from Quebec, L'orchestre d'hommes-orchestres are a collective of eight musicians who have taken the music of Kurt Weill and made it their own. All performers use several instruments, including their voice. Some of the instruments are conventional and played in a non-traditional way, but most are original creations. In this unique production they have created a surreal cabaret world that merges different styles of music, language, and performance. 

News: Shaw Festival extends contract of AD Jackie Maxwell to 2016, begins search

News: (Toronto) b current’s new artistic directors announce 2014 line-up

In a Word... Soprano Miriam Khalil

The Baby, The Family and The Voice
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Praised for her alluring stage presence and distinctive vocal tone, Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil is described as being “a lush lyric with spinto overtones” (Opera Canada) and “on the road to future greatness” (Classical 96.3 FM). Credits include Almirena in Handel’s Rinaldo and Cleopatra inGiulio Cesare, both with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, UK; Mimi in La Bohème with Opera Hamilton and Against the Grain Theatre (AtG); Musetta in La Bohème with Edmonton Opera; Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Lyra Ottawa and AtG; Frasquita inCarmen with Pacific Opera Victoria; the Governess in The Turn of the Screw with AtG; and an Opera Gala with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. She was heard recently with the Thunder Bay Symphony in Raminsh’s Requiem, made her debut with Opéra de Montréal in their annual Gala and sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Symphony Nova Scotia. An alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, she also holds degrees from The Glenn Gould School and the University of Ottawa. In 2007 she won first place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, Great Lakes Region, and is a previous member of both The Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, UK. As a founding member of AtG, she is excited to help shape Canada’s most exciting young opera company.

CHARPO: Thanks much for taking the time - I feel like I've made the tour of the entire Against the Grain (AtG) operation only to discover I haven't found the melody yet! Before we dive in, tell us about your relationship with this unique company.

KHALIL: My relationship with AtG started in the early days when my husband Joel Ivany dreamed of having an opera company that was wholly accessible; one that would allow us to choose the works that spoke to us most and to be able to work together on the same projects and be in the same city doing what mattered to us both. I am now a founding member. I work with Joel on his librettos, I act as a sounding board to his ideas and I sing in the productions that are most suited to my temperament and voice. All the works that I’ve sung with AtG have been directed by Joel and it’s interesting to discover how we work together as a team but also as a singer and director. I have very strong ideas, and so does he. It can be tricky if our particular interpretations don’t coincide. Staying open to the other person’s ideas while keeping in touch with our own artistic impulse is what we try to keep in mind when working together.

Video of The Week, March 26, 2014

This little gem is a free-flow of images that recall the hideous story of Steven Truscott - that which is at the centre of Innocence Lost, presented now by Studio 58 at Langara College.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bonus Feature: First-Person - Choreographer Michael Trent on Around

On How I Make Work
by Michael Trent

Toronto-based dance artist Michael Trent was appointed Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of Dancemakers and the Centre for Creation in August 2006. He has garnered national recognition as a choreographer, dancer and teacher in a career spanning over twenty-five years. He is the co-recipient of the 2004 K.M. Hunter Award in dance, presented to Ontario-based artists who are making an impact in their field. Trent was nominated for a 2006 Dora Award for best performance in Louise Bédard’s Ce qu’il en reste, is a member of Project bk and the 8DaysII community. In 2000, Trent founded the empty collective, a crucible for the creation and presentation of collaborative projects that involve two or more media. The collective’s 2001 inaugural project, The Memory Show, brought together works by Trent, Sarah Chase and Laurence Lemieux. It subsequently toured to the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) and Dancing on the Edge Festival (Vancouver) with a repeat Toronto performance at Spring Rites. The collective’s second project, invisible borders, premiered at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto, in November 2004 with work by Trent and guest artists Louise Bédard and Doug Varone. invisible borders was co-presented by DanceWorks and co-produced by the Dancemakers Centre for Creation in association with Le Groupe Dance Lab.

From the informal to the highly institutionalized - performance is made in a thousand different ways under a slew of structures. 

I’m in the  process of creation right now so my focus is in the studio. I have the pleasure of working with 14 exceptional artists on this : five resident company dancers, five emerging dancers, one dramaturge, a composer and lighting and costume designers. It’s a four week process which may seem like a normal amount of time if you’re producing a play with a script but we start ‘writing’ the show the day the collaborative team comes together. I bring a question or curiosity into the room that I am thinking about and researching but other than that we begin with a blank page. Scary and exhilarating. I love it.

The new dance is called Around. “Around” as in a circle, literally: the audience sits in a circle. And “Around” as in approximate, relative, ”It’s around 10 o’clock.” I like this contradiction between perfection of a circle and the inexactitude of estimation because life strives for the former but often ends up in the later. And I am OK with that. I love the grey area; it’s so much more fun.

After Dark, March 25, 2014

When Trigger Is Not A Horse
A hot Facebook debate blooms
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I have clearly been living in a profound ignorance because this month I learned a new internet abbreviation: TW. It has apparently been blooming all around me - on blogs, for plays, for movies, in reviews - and I only found out during a muscular Facebook debate that it means Trigger Warning. I pretty much grasped what it meant right away but had no idea how broad its usage has become.

Soon after I learned that epileptics could have seizures brought on by strobe lights (some 30 years ago), theatres started posting signs outside of auditoriums, in programs and even in ads that a play included strobe lights. Soon, this early version of the TW added that a play included gunshot noises. I had never heard that this could trigger anything, but it sort of makes sense that something that can make you jump out of your seat in terror in real life and that can bring back hideous memories should come with a warning. (I used to live on a street where gunfire became so common that it also became common to dive to the floor when it started.)

It makes sense to warn...or does it?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Question... Frank Cox-O'Connell and Evan Webber on Little Illiad (Spark Festival)

Skype it! - Space, Friendship, and the Trojan War
by Estelle Rosen

Frank Cox-O'Connell  is an actor and director in theatre, and a rock drummer in music. Evan Webber is a writer and performance maker. Together they have authored, co-­created or facilitated over a dozen performance works in Canada, the USA and Europe. “We task ourselves with performing what we think is real in order to see it change. We don’t always agree. Our plays are often about this disagreement. We’ve been doing this for almost ten years now in a lot of different contexts and with many different collaborators. We always make things a bit differently, but there is one thing that is consistent, which is that this theatre (EW&FCO) is about how the sometimes opposed interests and positions of different people can coexist in the same place and the same moment in time.”

CHARPO: Little Iliad audiences will experience this play in an unusual fashion; specifically why does the audience watch the show wearing headphones? And tell us about the Skype involvement.

WEBBER: Both of these decisions were made very early on. We first had the idea to make something that could function in the midst of the chaos of a festival, where there's lots of drunk people and music and other shows happening around it. We thought this kind of environment could serve to embody the spirit of togetherness that we think about in the play, the togetherness that inspires art, war and so on. For this to work, the outside needed to be bigger than the inside so the inside had to be made small. So, small audience.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review: (Montreal / Theatre) Glengarry Glen Ross

R.H.Thomson, Brett Watson (Photo by: Andrée Lanthier)
NBC (Never be closing...)
by Aleksandra Koplik

Walking into this play, I had only expected swearing and cursing, the fast-paced and dirty kind. I was not disappointed. Never had I heard of Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet or the movie. Shame on me! Having been provided with a program that, very conveniently, offered a short glossary of words to know, I started to understand what it was all about. In this play directed by Paul Flicker, four real estate agents in Chicago will do just about anything to sell expensive, wanted and unwanted property. They will even betray each other.

Sunday Feature: First-Person - Lindsay Wilson on Blind

Beyond Documentary
by Lindsay Wilson

Lindsay Wilson is a graduate of the Ryerson Theatre School in Toronto, Ontario and recently completed her M.A. in Creative Writing at Concordia University. She works as an actor, writer and director. Past projects include directing Final Girl at The Freestanding Room in 2012 and co-directing and re-mounting Jesus Jell-O: The Miraculous Confection - winner of the Montreal Fringe 2010 Mainline Award - at Mainline Theatre in Montreal in early December 2010. Her play Puck Bunny, presented during the 2009 Montreal and Toronto Fringe Festivals, was selected for the Long-Distance Dramaturgy Project with She Said Yes! Theatre in Newfoundland for its 2009 – 2010 season. She worked for two years as an invited artist with The Witchcraft Project, an interdisciplinary project at Concordia University. Ms Wilson was awarded a Conseils des arts et lettres du Québec grant for research and development, as well as a grant from the Cole Foundation’s Intercultural Conversations programme,  for her show Blind,  about witchcraft-related albino killings in Tanzania. 

“Retaining their role of storyteller, figurehead at the prow of memory. The legacy will otherwise be lost - night after night, wave upon wave, the whispers take up the tale, even before the child can understand, even before she finds her words of light, before she speaks in her turn and so that she will not speak alone...” - Assia Djebar (Trans. Dorothy S. Blair.)

There are so many factors that go into offering aid to another country; almost as many as go into telling stories. Especially when the stories are from a culture not your own. In ‘Blind’ I chose to write about the murders of people with albinism in East Africa. I am born-and-raised Canadian. In getting to know more about the context behind the attacks, I came to better understand the politics in the region, the culture, and the many stories that exist about witchcraft and people with albinism. Myths abound: albinos are not human; they disappear when they die; they are born this way because they have been cursed by their ancestors - these are a few, and there are many more. They are targeted because it is believed by some that albino body parts hold magical powers. These myths differ depending on the area of the country you are in but they have existed for a very long time. 

‘Blind’ began when Alison Darcy and I were asked to create a short piece based on the subject of witchcraft. Alison brought in some photos to share; one of which caught my attention. It was a photo with a blind child at the centre of the photograph surrounded by other students, most of whom were children with albinism. I was curious about the blind child. I was curious about his voice, and how he might make sense of the stories of the students around him. After some research I came to understand that the children I saw in the photograph were targets for corrupt traditional healers who wanted to cull their body parts and sell them for money. The children were at this school in an effort on the part of the Tanzanian government to make sure they were safe and accounted for. The reason for this? There are over 100,000 people with albinism in Tanzania. There has been an increase of attacks on people with albinism since 2000. Many attacks still go unreported. Children are among the most vulnerable.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review: (Ottawa) The Dumb Waiter

Tense Rumblings
by Jim Murchison 

When you walk into the theatre and sit down you notice that there are two rather uncomfortable looking single beds at right angles from each other. The walls are draped with spattered sheets as if the place is preparing for some kind of renovation. Hidden somewhere under the draped cotton is a dumb waiter, used to transport what to where we don't know.

The Avalon is a very intimate space and so fits the intimate and tense style of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter. Third Wall Theatre presents this play a little differently in that they have two women playing the roles of Gus and Ben. I don't really think it matters. It certainly doesn't hurt it. The star of Pinter is Pinter's words and the spaces between them so the most important thing is to cast people that do the text justice. Mary Ellis and Kristina Watt are such people and director Todd Duckworth understands stage dynamics and the value of a pause  and a word so the production is played in the right key and well worth seeing.

creating a/broad, March 22, 2014

Feeling Bad
by Cameryn Moore

Sorry, can you come back later? This is a bad time to talk. Or write. This is a bad time for me to do anything, really, with anyone. 

I don’t mean I’m busy, although I am, but I don’t want to fetishize that as some amazing thing. It’s a natural outcome of being ambitious and broke and also an intensely procrastinating sort of personality and having shitty boundaries, and did I mention broke? This is just a bad time. If you hang out anywhere near me, you’re going to get an earful. It feels stupid, the sort of overdramatic, underwritten angst that thrives in dimly lit open mics and bars near theatres everywhere, but my editor wants the life of an itinerant artist and this is where it’s at this week, kids. I’m feeling bad, gutter-curdlingly bad.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review: (Ottawa / Theatre) Dancing With Rage

(photo courtesy The Collection Agency Entertainment)

Only the Tickets Sell Out
by Jim Murchison 

It really doesn’t matter what I say in this review as to the bottom line for the GCTC. The entire run is already sold out! There are no tickets to be had or sold barring inheriting one or an extension to the current run. People will tell you that there is no star system in Canada, but Mary Walsh appears to be an exception to the rule.
Mary Walsh has developed a story about Margaret Delahunty’s quest for her lost lovechild conceived during an adolescent fling at Expo 67, after breaking away from centennial pied piper Bobby Gimby. That’s the simple straightforward story, but there are many twists and turns and character changes on the wicked meandering road to the final chapter of the story. There are many changes of costume and character, most done in view of the audience and there are a number of sound bytes and rear screen projections that help Ms Walsh to have conversations with herself as another character or fill in parts of the storyline, the very few times that she actually leaves the stage. 

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Miss; Mange-Moi

Photo by Svetlana Atanasova

Women's Bodies
by Élaine Charlebois

This past Thursday night, Monument National hosted two short performance pieces by Tangente. First came MISS, a piece created by Jade Marquis and performed by Joannie Douville, which follows a dancer searching to establish her persona as a performer while maintaining a sense of female empowerment. Douville does well to fully use the intimate space of the venue, travelling slowly through the audience as she delivers an interesting take on the nature of the dance scene. While my choice to sit in the balcony section of the venue hindered my visual experience of the piece, causing me to lean over the railing in order to get a shot of Douville entering the room from under me, the piece nevertheless had its effect. MISS managed to raise questions regarding our notions of the female image in dance culture while at the same time displaying the various personas females can take on when performing. Although I did not grasp the meaning surrounding all of the projected images accompanying Douville’s performance, the piece as a whole was intriguing and at times thought-provoking.

Review: (Vancouver / Theatre) Helen Lawrence

Lisa Ryder (photo by David Cooper)
Like a movie, but performed live
Helen Lawrence innovatively brings a slice of Vancouver’s past to life
by Chris Lane

Seeing Helen Lawrence is like watching a live performance of a movie. It combines the power of film to transport you with vivid visual scenery and to get up close and personal with actors, while at the same time delivering the energy of a live performance – thanks to the magic of projections.

The play uses an innovative mixed-media style to transport the audience just down the street to two parts of Vancouver that no longer stand: Hogan’s Alley, and the old Hotel Vancouver, which both have distinctive roles in Vancouver’s cultural history. The story takes place in 1948, a year before the grandiose Hotel Vancouver (second of three) was demolished, when the hotel was still being used to house Second World War veterans. Hogan’s Alley was the hub of Vancouver’s black community, as well as being a centre for gambling, drinking, and the sex trade – just a few blocks away from the present-day centre of the Downtown Eastside. This play brings together a cast of characters from both places, alongside the police who go between the two.

Review: (Ottawa / Theatre) Frankenstein

poster art
Right Choices, but...
by Jim Murchison 

First of all I have to apologize to The Algonquin theatre class for arriving late. I tried to take a short cut to building N and got myself lost. For that I am dreadfully embarrassed. I was accommodated even though they were sold out and I was very pleased to see that. I love it when a theatre is full.

Mary Shelley's story is a classic tale of science gone wrong, society's preoccupation with appearance over substance of character, fear, ambition and revenge. Director Zach Counsil spent a lot of time trying to find the right version and as fortune would have it, veteran actor Walter Learning had co authored with Alden Nowlan an exceptional version faithful to Mary Shelley’s vision. The play and the version were the right choice.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Sea Sick

Alanna Mitchell (photo by Chloé Ellingston)

The New Big Blue: Warm, Breathless, and Sour
by Gregory Bunker

You can’t make this up: It’s the kind of story that has to be non-fiction to believe. Sea Sick, a solo performance by storyteller extraordinaire Alanna Mitchell, marks the grand opening of the new space at The Theatre Centre. Mitchell is a journalist by trade and the author of Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis (2009), from which this performance is adapted. Sea Sick is a personal reflection on the trips and interviews she conducted to help her understand and explain how climate change is affecting the oceans.

Mitchell has a TED-Talk-type delivery that emphasizes the knowledge-is-power ethos, but she also makes herself vulnerable during some touching, and riotous, moments with the audience. It’s unconventional theatre, and an example of art bringing meaning to science, which is so sorely needed with the topic of climate change. With just a table, glass, pitcher, chalkboard, and shell on stage, the focus is sharp, and the stories well-balanced between the scientific, the thought-provoking, and the hilarious. Directed by The Theatre Centre’s Franco Boni with Ravi Jain, Mitchell’s movements and moods are enhanced by the delicate lighting (Rebecca Picherak) and sound (Tim Lindsay).

CharPo's Real Theatre! March 21, 2014

A Fly On The Wall, March 21, 2014

Coming Full Circle
by Jim Murchison

It is amazing to me how greatly things have changed and how little I have. There have been some big changes in my life over the years. I have been married, had children, gotten divorced, made money, lost money. I have also been exhilarated and depressed. I have made good friends and lost them to distance, time or death. 
Those however are individual accomplishments and events that stand out as memories. I have had some illuminating moments but I don’t feel any wiser or sillier than I was 40 years ago. I still daydream a lot, still account myself as socially liberal and fiscally retarded and like the same kind of people. There were times when theatre occupied much less of my time than it does now, but when I think of what I choose to do when I have a choice absolutely nothing has changed.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

News: (Hudson, Qc) Heather Markgraf-Lowe, Village Theatre AD, resigns

Picture of the Week, March 20, 2014

We never get tired of photos by Cylla von Tiedemann, the grande dame of Canadian performance photography, because once in a while she lets herself go and has a blast with both subject and presentation. She does precisely that here with young actor Omari St. Aude for YPT's upcoming production of Minotaur. We especially love the Greek columns in the foreground, echoed in the background by the CN Tower. And don't miss the shadow-play. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Abominable Showman, March 19, 2014

Director Hugo Belanger and mezzo-soprano Emma Char (centre, rear) during a rehearsal for Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic 1893 opera Hansel and Gretel

Young hearts, run free
The Atelier lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal, National Theatre School of Canada, and the National Circus School join forces to create a brand-new cutting-edge production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic 1893 opera Hansel and Gretel
by Richard Burnett 
(All rehearsal photos by Richard Burnett)

Canadian mezzo-soprano Emma Char was among the very lucky few to be chosen to study in the renowned Atelier Lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal, a school that has bequeathed the opera world such talented singers at Etienne Dupuis, Marie-Josée Lord, the handsome Phillip Addis, as well as Taras Kulish, who today is executive director of the McGill Chamber Orchestra.

The 29-year-old Atelier Lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal offers professional internships – combining training and on-stage experience – to young Canadian artists who have completed their studies and intend to pursue a career in the field of opera.

Char is one of 10 young artists chosen for the 2013-2014 season and while she may be young, Char has already experienced some terrifying showbiz moments, like the time she sang the title role in La Cenerentola when she completed her Artist Diploma at Cincinatti’s prestigious College Conservatory of Music. 

“It was one of the first operas I ever did, my scene partner forgot he was supposed to stay onstage with me during my entire aria!” Char recalls today. “He left the stage and I had to improvise my acting right there on the spot. I was freaking out, but I was like, ‘I can do this!’”

Review: (Vancouver / Theatre) Between the Sheets

L-R Caitriona Murphy, Stephanie Moroz (photo by Tim Matheson)
Wild trip in a confined space.
by David C. Jones

Pi Theatre has done some very theatrical shows over the years, but this time they have simplified and it was super-theatrical.
Between The Sheets is a 2012 script written by Jordi Mand; it concerns a parent-teacher interview in an elementary school that turns into a battle of wills in unexpected ways.
Artistic director Richard Wolfe has set it to great effect in Admiral Seymour Elementary School and there is no lighting design or sound design. Just the hum of the lights in a small classroom decorated with children’s art and school projects. 

News: (Ottawa) NAC announces 2014-15 dance season

Book Review: Conversations with George Luscombe

I don't train actors, I train citizens
 by Lib Spry

Lib Spry has worked for 50 years as director, playwright, teacher, performer and translator in physical, popular, TYA and site-specific theatre in Canada, the USA, the UK and France. She is founder of Straight Stitching Productions, Passionate Balance and Theatre Agile. Recent work: directing Letters to My Grandma and Where the Blood Mixes for Teesri Duniya Theatre, writing and performing her solo Trance For Matron at the 2013 Montreal Fringe, devising We Are Old! We Are Wonderful! with Montreal seniors’ group RECAA, and co-creating Luna Allison’s Falling Open. 

You want to inspire the spirit as well as the mind, as well as the body, as well as, perhaps, things we can't put our fingers on or can't describe. Therefore, those unknowns have to be free to work and they won't be unless you have a free body, a free feeling, and a good feeling about work.  
George Luscombe

Reading these conversations between George Luscombe and Toronto director, actor playwright and teacher Steven Bush, I found myself wondering how many people in today's Canadian theatre have heard of Luscombe? Is he, his ideas, and the 30 years of dedicated and inspiring work he put in at Toronto Workshop Productions (TWP)  a major section in every Canadian Theatre History class? Are students researching his use of Laban's Efforts or comparing his interpretation of Stanislavski with others?  Do the hopeful founders of new companies look at his creation of a true ensemble and scheme how to emulate him?  Do directors dream of having the time and money to gain the commitment from actors to stay long enough to train them in exacting ways of working together? I suspect not, which is a pity. His vision, his rigour, and his methods should be part and parcel of our daily work in the theatre.

In a Word... Tim Oberholzer on Hedwig and The Angry Inch

Hedwigging Out
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Tim Oberholzer is an Ottawa-based actor, theatre creator, producer, and graduate of Algonquin College’s Theatre Arts Program. He is also a recent nominee for the 2013 Emerging Artist Award from Ottawa’s professional theatre awards, Les Prix Rideau. Mr Oberholzer has most recently appeared in Age Of Arousal,  The Comedy Of Errors, The Taming Of The Shrew, (Bear & Co.), Ethan Claymore (Same Day Theatre) and The Chronicler (Screaming Artists’ Collective). Tim Oberholzer is a founding member of the Ottawa-based theatre collective Bear and Co., and also serves on the advisory board of SevenThirty Productions.  He is the artistic director of Vanity Project Productions and oversees the Ottawa Theatre Producers’ Network.

CHARPO:  First off, what brought you to Hedwig?

OBERHOLZER: My first connection to the piece was through the Original Off Broadway Cast Recording, which I purchased purely out of curiosity. I was immediately  struck by how beautiful, powerful and accessible the music was. I’ve performed in a few rock musicals over the years, and have always been a fan of the genre, but this is definitely one of the best rock musical scores out there. At the time I had taken a break from producing, but I definitely filed it away mentally as a potential future project. After seeing the subsequently released film adaptation, I was only more intrigued by the show and the Hedwig character, so sought out the script and since then have just been waiting for the right conditions to present themselves. 

Video of the Week, March 19, 2014

Pacific Theatre gets all spooky with this marvellous trailer for The Seafarer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

After Dark, March 18, 2014

Our Transgressions
Where our performing arts get it wrong
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

As I am falling asleep, I like to play little games with my memory. One of my favourites is trying to remember the time and place I learned certain words. For instance, I learned the word "assassination" the afternoon JFK was killed. I got home from school to discover my stricken mother in front of the TV (which would stay on for three days solid) and asked her what that word - used over and over again on the tube - meant. Another word, "tautology", was shared with me by a young coworker - one of those admirable people who don't just devour books but keeps a dictionary nearby to look up every word they don't understand. 

I always knew "transgression" (I was raised Catholic, after all) but "transgressive" and its application to art was during an interview I was doing with an art critic at Village Voice, C. Carr, who was explaining the burgeoning phenomenon of performance art. Our wondrous talk was a little all over the place - as there was (and never would be) a true definition of performance art.  But she did suggest that one of its hallmarks was that it was transgressive. I guessed the meaning of the word but added, "Like Andres Serrano's Piss Christ?" She explained, yes, that's what she meant. (But she also explained - and this few knew - that Serrano was a devout believer and that Piss Christ was simply a thematic which rose from Christ the Redeemer - His blood and ostensibly all other bodily fluids were forms of salvation.)