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Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

2nd Class, and the tragic death of Sheriff Whatsisname

In OSSD Acting Class, Theatre on September 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm

After a rather dull staff meeting at the restaurant Wednesday (note: there are no other kinds of staff meetings), I started to get them butterflies in my tummy…yes, it was acting class day again.  I tried to chill out with a coffee at Bridgehead, but that didn’t work.  First of all, coffee does NOT chill one out, as it happens, and then I got blindsided by an unexpected Nancy Kenny ninja flyby.  Seriously, she comes out of NOWHERE.  I think I only half came off as a stuttering idjit…I don’t think the comic book I was reading helped.

Now in a suitably dazed frame of mind, I booted out to Westboro for the OSSD and my second official entry level acting class.  Outside I met up with Simon, one of my classmates, on his bike…I’m starting to know people!  And once in, we all met our instructor, Barry Carp…he missed the first class for some personal affairs, but is now here to guide us along, and he’s already one of my fav’rit people ever.  The dude just exudes him some charm, and i think we all felt pretty comfortable in his hands.  Well, most of us. Because class got a LOT more physical this time out.

We started out doing some quick loosening up moves, before getting into exactly what I’d been hoping we’d get into…some mimework. I think I did pretty well making the little invisible stick go around in circles, and I nailed the flat surface thing…still have to work on my weightlifter (and I will).  Then he ran us through a few quick individual exercizes, mimicking this and that (a samurai, Stephen Harper, etc…), before evolving to groups works of the same thing…a two-person water fountain, five-person cow, and the entire class as a dragon.  It was pretty fun, and a nice way to start helping us get rid of those ‘personal space’ hangups that will necessarily have to be chucked out the window if we’re going anywhere at all.  Fun, and a little scary.  Awesome.

Next we formed groups of five, and Barry shouted out a movie title, and we had to form a live poster for that title.  And here a funny thing started to happen, that I had not expected.  More often than not, I found myself…taking the lead?  Being the, I don’t know…center of attention, even.  And loving the Hell out of it.  And as I was doing it, I realized that I had never really actually DONE that before.  I mean, I’ve been in school before, sure…but I’ve never LEARNED stuff about myself before.  And it’s only the second week!

After a short break, we got into the big finale for today.  Barry split the class into two teams, and we each got to put together a quick play/scene based around a few lines he fed us, and the title ‘Terrible Dan McGraw’.  We workshopped shit around for a few minutes, adding our own touches.  I got to be the sheriff, and Surprised Sass (still working on some of those real names, obviously) was the titular Dan McGraw.  She and I had a pretty wicked cool scowl-off during our showdown…before she stole my gun and blew me and my admiring waitress to kingdom come.  I got to fall down a lot between rehearsal and performance, which was great fun.  And the other team’s show was dandy too….a great bit with the piano player (they had the side of the room with the piano, lucky bastiches) was the highlight for me.

We wound down with a quick game of tail-catching, at which I was spectacularly poor, before class broke and we headed our separate ways.  I left that place on such a high I could hardly believe it.  I’m already wondering if it’s too soon to sign up for the 2nd level class, but you better believe I’ll be there.

Oh, and the bit about McGraw stealing my gun and shooting me with it..?  My idea.  Just sayin’.  See you next class,

The Visitor

A Grievously Good Legend

In Theatre on September 29, 2010 at 3:24 am

Falling off my game here…I’ve had a show to review for days now, but nothing.  It MIGHT have something to do with the fact I just got my computer re-kanoodled or whatever, and everything works spiffy-shiny rocketship once again.  Basically, I can download stuff again, and man, am I ever abusing the privilege.  Still, where the hell else am I supposed to watch seasons three and four of MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE?

Comedy gold like this doesn't grow on trees, my friends.

But I’m starting to feel a little slackerific, and I’ll be too busy with studenting and volunteering the next couple of days to do this, so I’m sitting myself down at the keyboard and getting my house in order, so to speak.  Now all I have to do is remember back, way back, to those halcyon days of…this past Saturday.  Hey, if you had seen the state I got myself into SUNDAY night, you’d know this is no mean feat for me.  Oy.

Anyways, ON said Saturday night, the 25th, I had me a date with the NAC’s 4th Stage (not a DATE-date, you understand…I was on my lonesome, which we all agree is better for everyone).  Managed to miss some rain and got into line for the sold-out show of GRIEVOUS ANGEL: THE LEGEND OF GRAM PARSONS. The brainchild of one Michael Bate, ANGEL tells, well, the legend of Gram Parsons, obviously…which is fine, except as I walked into the theatre it occurred to me that I had no idea who, in fact, that even WAS.  In my opinion, as things turned out, I think that was a fine damn way to walk in.

See, it turns out old Gram was kind of an unsung hero in country music, troubled by a rocky past, losing both parents, and forever remaining in the shadow of other musical talents through bad luck, poor timing, or outright blunders on his part.  And then there’s that grim family ‘curse’ hanging over his head…

The show is billed as ‘a theatrical concert’, which means the music weighs heavy on the performance.  To handle it all, Bate found a swell fella called Anders Drerup, who fits the leading role to a tee, and seems like pretty much a musical prodigy to my ears.  He’s all down home charm as Parsons, telling his life story in between spot-on ballads, trying to be hopeful, but ever reaching for a nearby bottle.  Using his unique ‘Nudie suit’ as a sort of map to his personal history, Parsons recalls encounters with Peter Fonda, the Rolling Stones, and his own personal Jesus.

Drerup as Parsons, putting a little Elvis on the evening.

As he misses opportunity after opportunity, you hope SOMEthing will come along to give Gram some hope…which it does, in act two, with the appearance of Kelly Prescott as Emmylou Harris, Parsons’ protoge at the time.  Without giving much more away, I will happily say that their duet on ‘Cash on the Barrelhead’ is in the books as one of my musical AND theatrical highlights of 2010.  Fucking dynamite.

It’s a great show, with a very strong performance from Drerup carrying the works.  Both he and Prescott are fantastic singers and musicians, and have the kind of chemistry you can’t learn in school.  Now, as a theatre fan, I DID find myself wishing there had been a little more wordwork accompanying the songs…and Prescott as Emmylou is rather criminally underused in the show, for my money.  Still, an amazing show is an amazing show…these are nitpicks, and I half imagine that as the gang gets more comfortable in their roles (they both ARE musicians first, after all), things might change a little if the show evolves further.  Not that I want them to take any of the music AWAY…fuck that.  Them tunes was awesome, and I do say so myself.

A little bit of synchronicity I would now like to share with you all, just for completion’s sake…a bit of a tagline in the Grievous Angel program reads that Gram Parsons ‘lived fast, died young, and left a charred corpse’.  Which struck me as a strange thing to read, because on that day, I was at the end of a book about rocket scientist and occultist JACK Parsons, who ALSO lived fast, died young, AND left a charred corpse.  It gave me a bit of a chill, and i’m suddenly sort of glad that my last name isn’t Parsons.

Then again, I suppose this means no one will ever write a book or a show about me.  But then again, there’s more than ONE way to char a corpse.  And as for GRIEVOUS ANGEL, as the show wends its way across Canada and the US for the next few weeks….stick to living fast.  You do it very well.  Keep on rocking,

The Visitor

A Flea in Her Ear

In Theatre on September 25, 2010 at 2:26 am

Still riding a good post-class high today.  It’s strange.  But in the span of just the last week or so, I’ve suddenly been able to add both volunteer AND student to my list of things I actually do that aren’t a complete waste of time (they’re the only things on the list, actually).    It’s very weird…I think I might actually feel proud.  Or at least some Bart Simpson-esqe ‘not shame’.  And believe me, that’ll do.

So I headed out, after fretting over which of the remaining shows in town I was actually going to see tonite.   I made my decision, and headed to the Gladstone Theatre, bought myself a subscription to their 3-show mini-season (because that’s how I roll…all or nothing, yo), and reserved my seat for tonite’s performance of SevenThirty Productions’ A FLEA IN HER EAR.  I’d been looking forward to this one for a while now, not least of which because my fellow blogger Tim Oberholzer was in the show.  SevenThirty’s got a long list of credits in this town, mostly on Irish plays, and the only work of theirs I’d seen previously was the excellent SHINING CITY.

Hit the Gladstone, had a Corona and wondered yet fucking again where I know that girl behind the bar from (did I just ask her?  No no, instead I talked with the coat check girl, who thought I was a total creep.  It was kinda funny).  Had a good seat in the second row, nice view of a lovely set, and waited for the show to begin.

The play, originally UN PUCE A L’OREILLE (translated for this production by the multitalented David Whitely) is by one George Feydeau, a French satirist from the turn of the last century who knew a thing or two about farce, in the same way that Edison knew a thing or two about lightbulbs, and electrocuting elephants… he practically invented it.  All I really knew about farce was that a lot of door-slamming was supposedly involved.  I noted a whole lotta doors in the set…this boded well.

The crucial element to any good farce.

The action got off to a steady start, with a quick introduction to more than half a dozen characters, including several well-to-do ladies (Robin Guy and Michelle LeBlanc lighting them up some stage), smooth Tim Oberholzer as Etienne the valet, Laurie Payton as his wandering wife, Nathan Ings in a tricky comic turn as a nephew who can only speak in vowels, aforementioned Dave Whitely as a smarmy lothario, and friend to Chris Ralph’s Victor-Emmanuel Chandebise, the suffering lord of the manor.  Oh, and the great Tom Charlebois as a smirking Doctor, Brian Stewart doing some masterful scene stealing as the jealous Carlos Homenides…that’s about the first 5 minutes.

This is a longish one, running nearly three hours counting two 20 minute intermissions for set changes.  fine by me…although, sadly, my Apache blood-brother Denis Armstrong didn’t share my enthusiasm for the twintermissions.  ‘Embarrassingly long’, says he.  Which brings me to a short aside, and what may end up being a regular feature here at the Visitorium (if he keeps opening his big mouth, that is), which I call DEAR DENIS.

DEAR DENIS: It’s only 20 minutes, there’s cheap beer and pretty girls in the lobby.  Have a Corona and SHUT the FUCK UP.  Thanks.

…sorry, where was I?  Oh yes, intermissions.  FLEA forms kind of an intriguing Farce-sandwich, with the first and third acts taking place at the Chandebise residence, and a spectacular middle scene at the gloriously named Chateau des Chasseurs de Phoque.  I’m starting to agree with the people calling Feydeau a genius.  Several new characters are introduced in the Chateau scene, with great performances by the likes of Bronwyn Steinberg, Matt Minter, Kel Parsons, Jerome Bourgault and Patrick MacFadden, as well as all the gang from scene one.  Innuendos fly, punches are thrown, identities are confused, accents are mangled and, yes, doors are slammed with alarming regularity.  It gets pretty delirious and madcap, and I loved it to bits.  So much so that, while awaiting the final act, a patron across the aisle from me caught my expression, leaned over and said with a laugh, ‘You’re grinning with anticipation’.  And god dammit, I sure was.  You’ll be too.

Kudos to John P.Kelly for pulling off such a massive work with this terrific cast, pretty much to die for.   I had a grand time, and I always like those.  And I’m keeping an eye out for Whiteley and Parsons’ next project in February, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at their new prod. company PLOSIVE, with Teri Loretto.  Best of luck!  And SevenThirty, by all means…keep on farcing.  Chassing some Phoque,

the Visitor

1st class, and the rise of Lovely Lando

In OSSD Acting Class, Theatre on September 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm

“To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.” Sydney Smith, English essayist, 1771-1845

So once again, I arrived early for my new gig, and once again, it was because I was killer nervous.  Last time it was for volunteer duty at the GCTC, but this time was even scarier…SCHOOL.  Yes, it had finally arrived…the first class in my entry level acting course at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.  Now, the last bit of ‘acting’ I did was a component in an Animation course I took at Algonquin College, and that was well over a decade ago (also the last time I had formal schooling of ANY kind), so I was sweating it a little bit.  Wisely had a pot of Rooibos tea at the nearby Bridgehead (coffee would have done my tummy no favours this day) as I counted down the minutes til classtime.  Finally headed on over to the OSSD builing on Picton…at first i was annoyed they had moved way out to this part of town, as they USED to be positioned, like, two blocks from my place of work.  Convenient, yes?  But then, I realized that, even with all my years in this town, I’ve never really explored the westboro area this far down before.  So, discovering a new part of Ottawa (to me) was actually pretty cool.  Even saw that ‘Wall Space’ gallery, which was cool cause they just retwatted one of my blogposts on Twiter.    Neato!

Got inside, milled about awkwardly with a bunch of other students in there for a variety of courses…discovered Fringe Ninja Pat Gauthier is here, teaching the level 2 class (will I see you next year, Pat?  Time will tell!).  At last, my gang was called in to the Nathalie Stern Studio for our initiation (after a frantic pilfering of chairs from other classrooms)…there were 14 of us, along with our instructor for the first class, Mary.  And then, well…I was back in school at long last.  But not no regular school (thank Christ).

I can merrily say I had a blast at my first day.  We played a couple of quick games that I’m sure the theatre-folk reading this will recognize (ZipZapZop, anyone?).  We were introduced to ‘square breathing’, and practiced tongue twisters for a spell.  Unique New York, Unique New York…

We were each asked to come up with a new name for ourselves that day, some fantastickal alter-ego befitting a course dedicated to make-believe.  To be honest, I remember most of my classmates so far more from their pseudonyms than their real names.  And I look forward to getting to know them all better…Antsy Annie, Proud Polly, Rabbi Jew (no, really), Brilliant Barbara, Arrogant Augustine, Cute Clarissa, Daring Dirk, Terrified Tex, Surprised Sass, the Masterful Mister Danger, Awesome Ace, Wily Wyrmling, one I’m drawing  a blank on (Sorry!), and of course, yours truly…Lovely Lando.

The highlight of the class was a game in which we split into teams, pick a photo at random, and then had to imagine a play that picture was the show poster for, and describe it to our teammates.  In that spirit, I invite you all to come out and see my new play THE BREAKFAST TABLE, the bittersweet story of an Eastern Ontario farmer trying to pass his family business on to one of his three sons, each slowly being seduced away from his traditional way of life by the big city lights (one of then becomes a rocket scientist over the internet!).  A little hackneyed, sure, but let’s see YOU do better with a picture of a loaf of bread as your inspiration.  Afterwards, teacher singled ME out and said I was using my whole body to sell the story, and…and goddammit, I made it through my first class, and I didn’t suck!  I was actually kinda OK!  And I’m looking forward to the next class so much I wish it were tonite.  Man.

I’ll finish this report off with a trip back to the start of the class.  We all picked a quote at random (mine was the one beginning this post), and were told to introduce ourselves, working the quote into our reasons for being here.  For me, that was  no brainer.  Since, as I told the class, I have a tendency towards solitude, and hiding away from the world.  But then there’s this passion for theatre that’s just been building, and building…

So, this is me.  Taking that leap, and crawling through the cold and the danger.  See you next class,

Lovely Lando

Soaring with BLACKBIRD

In Theatre on September 20, 2010 at 3:01 am

I got there too early.  WAY too early.  It was my first shift, volunteering at the GCTC, and when I’m on a new gig and nervous, I’m early.  Like, a good hour.  So, I sat down in the generously ceilinged foyer and had some coffee, read my book, and geeked out while overhearing leading lady and acting jedi Kristina Watt ordering some chili across the fairly empty room from me.  They come and hang out with us regular types, I remember thinking…SO cool  And as I sat and waited, I was treated to glimpses of LIST superstar Tracey Ferencz, John Koensgen, and naturally, Kris Joseph.  He’s just, you know, THERE.

Eventually I got tired of preparing to name-drop in my blog, and I wended my way to wherever it was I was supposed to meet my fellow volunteer and show captain.  My co-volunteer for the show was the delightful Pam, a fellow rookie, even though we’d both been expecting to be paired with a seasoned vet volunteer for our first performance  Still, we were both charming and gorgeous, so what could go wrong?  Answer…NOTHING.

The Captain walked us through our stations (I got to be ticket tearer!!),I stood outside the door to the upstairs studio trying to look smart, and was really feeling good to actually feel USEFUL, just for a minute.  It was nice.  The doors oened,and I sprang into inaction, remaining stock still and tearing the tickets!  Hello there, thanks for coming…hope you enjoy the show!  Hey, is that Ray Besharah, G-Man Defective I spy before me?  I believe it is!  I won’t say anything, because I didn’t actually SEE that show at Fringe, but still…cool.

My pemiere duties go off fairly hitchless…I have to make a cranky older gal head downstairs to buy a ticket, which provides some momentary drama, and the very pregnant lady seems concerned aout the 90 minute runtime and no readmittance policy, but I think she’s soothed by the knowledge that they won’t even let us volunteers back in, should we leave for any reason.  Like, say, escorting pregnant ladies to the washroom, so keep nature in check okay?  I wanna see this show!

Finally, the Captain shuts the door and I take my seat (not to self: volunteers get sweet motherfucking seats), ready for tonight’s show: Third Wall’s production of David Harrower’s BLACKBIRD.  It’s an award-winning play, but my good friend Denis Armstrong had forewarned me that this particular version would be winning no awards anytime soon.  After seeing it (and in fact, less than half an hour into the show), I was wondering if dear Denis might not have a problem wherein he is full of shit?  Perchance?

BLACKBIRD is a knuckle-punch to the cringe-centers of your reptilian backbrain.  It’s a play that starts out awkward, and then rather rapidly becomes much, much, much more awkward.  Starring Kristina Watt (As You Like It!  The Women come and Go!) as Una, and John Koensgen (Heroes! Educating Rita!) as Ray/Peter, a couple who have been separated for fifteen years.  And by ‘couple’ I mean ‘forty year old man and the 12 year old girl he had highly illegal sex with’.  The separation involved a prodigious amount of jail, shame, self-pity, loathing, deception, and enough regret to fuel a dynamite ninety-minute kick-ass play.  Una has, after all these years, managed to track Ray down at the plant where he now works under a new name, trying for a fresh start (arrested in the days before amber alerts and sex offender lists).  We’re immediately thrown into their world like the trash strewn about the break-room floor they meet in, and get to revel in watching these two genius actors go at one another, haunted victim versus flustered abuser.  The man who’d tried to forget it all, confronted by the woman who can never forget.  Unstoppable force meets immovable object. 

Watt and Koensgen, captured in a quiet moment

Both actors speak in Scottish brogue for the play, which always makes me nervous, but for what I could tell, they pulled it off grandly.  And the back and forth between the two…God DAMN.  This is a killer show, with not only no easy answers, it makes you wish for HARD ones.  Watt is as poised and fearless as always as Una, desperately confronting her abuser/illicit lover for reasons only she knows.  And Koensgen, trapped and confronational as Ray, is all-too sympathetic as he stammers his way through his convoluted reasonings and excuses.  God, it’s a wonderful, horrible thing to see.  I’m sorry I’m not seeing it again.

After the killer ending, I got up and waved and such as people left, and felt pretty great about just about everything.  A fantastic show…my first successful volunteer shift (and I can hardly wait for the next one)…even ran into Andrew Snowdon downstairs coming out of THE LIST…we’ll have to compare notes later.  Pam and I bothered the Captain with some chatter for a little while yet, before eventually going away.  She was a lovely partner, and I hope to see her again soon.  I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve met at the GCTC so far…and this was a great first night.  I hope for many more.  And I think I did ok.  In fact…great.  I volunteered the SHIT out of that show!   I volunteered that show so hard, that show’s grandkids are gonna look like me!  I…

…Ah, whatevah.  I gave something back, for one night. By my count, I’ve got a lot of nights left before I make up the good theatre’s done for me.  But that’s okay.  I’m just starting.   And just in time…I start acting classes this wednesday!  And if anyone’s reading this (which I doubt), yes, I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, go see BLACKBIRD, you fools!  It’s the goods.  Peace,

the Visitor

Return of the Zing

In Theatre on September 19, 2010 at 3:53 am

Just came back from volunteering for/seeing BLACKBIRD from 3rd Wall, and will post a pretty awed review tomorrow.  Promise (it’s great, go see it…spoiler alert!).  But for tonite, I wanted to restore a post I recently wrote, and then quickly took down (but not before eagle-eyed Nancy Kenny spotted it, bless her).  It was a rebuttal piece to something Ottawa Sun critic Denis Armstrong wrote on his blog, and I deemed my post, in the morning-after, recovery-from-a-drunken-rant clarity, unnecessarily negative.

…then, I read Armstrong’s reviews of BLACKBIRD and THE LIST, and now I deem it necessary.  Enjoy!

****************************

Here’s an amusing link I gakked today from the lovely Dillemic Prisoner herself, Nadine Thornhill:  http://blogs.canoe.ca/nowopen/general/are-live-theatres-in-ottawa-dying-because-of-stupidity/
For those of you with better things to do than click and read a blogpost from a theatre critic (I don’t blame you), let me sum up what mister Denis Armstrong, owner of pehaps the worst haircut in Ottawa, is whining about.  It seems that the 2010-2011 theatre season is starting just a touch quickly for Denis, and he’s concerned.  Rantingly concerned, I tell you!  From the vitriol he spews, you’d think he actually had to pay for his own tickets or something (he does not).
The problem stems from the fact that five shows (Crossing Delancey, Blackbird, Someone for Everyone, The List, and A Flea in Her Ear) are all premiering in the same three-day span.  And, like, that’s a lot, apparently.  Which seems weird to me, who was personally excited at all the activity.  A busy theatre season means, well, MORE FUCKING THEATRE.  Which is supposed to be a good thing, if you’re a theatre fan.
But the distinction must be made here…Messr.Armstrong may or may not be a theatre FAN, that’s between him and his hairdresser.  What he definitely IS is a theatre critic.  And critics like to be pampered.  Now, Denis has already been accused of just wanting that free opening night buffet by one commenter already, and he’s dismissed it as a cheap shot.  Perhaps, although nowhere NEAR as cheap as my haircut comment above, I assure you.  But as he also points out, critics are only useful early on in a play’s run.   And logically, if they all start at the same time, well, then the critic must write his reviews all at the same time.  That means what the rubes call ‘work’.  Because most of these shows have between a 2 and 4 week run time.  Seeing 5 shows in a month ain’t no feat…I’ve done it in a day. Reviewed’em all, too…but then again, not to professional standards, freely admitted.  Funny and all, but not pro.
So what’s Denis’ beef, really?  Does he really crave that free food he feels is his birthright?  Can he just not stand the idea of seeing five plays in five days, and writing as many decently-written reviews in the same timeframe?  Is it SUCH a hardship (answer: it is not) ?
Personally, I’m at the point in my theatrical development (far short of Armstrong’s posted 30 years of reviewing, to be sure) where I don’t trust ANYone who never has to pay for their shows, unless they’re an actor, writer, director, or otherwise directly involved in the creative force of theatre.    They just seem to end up as bitches, is all.  First impression.  It’s one of the reasons why I’m really hesitant to ever ask people to comp me a show ticket, even though at this point in the chud, I could probably get away with it.  I don’t want to become a professional spectator.  I LIKE supporting theatre with something other than these easily typed words.  Actors can’t buy burritos with reviews…Taco Bell prefers cold hard cash, thanxverymuch.
So, bottom line?  Enjoy the crowded September, see as much as you can, and if you’re a theatre critic?  Go fuck yourself.  And get a haircut.  Skiddle up skat,
The Visitor

*******************

So, that was it.  Since writing that, Armstrong has claimed to have found  BLACKBIRD  ‘boring’ (I checked a medical journal, and that’ s a definitive sign of the onset of clinical brain death…time to push the panic button, Denis), and after THE LIST, he’s promised a ‘moratorium’ on one person shows.

So…the next time something awesome like SYRINGA TREE, ON SECOND THOUGHT, SPUTNIKS or SHADOWS IN BLOOM comes to town, I can go see it without Denis Armstrong stinking up the room with his sour aroma of bitter defeat?  May I humbly make a suggestion to the Ottawa theatrical community..?

OMG YOU GUYS START WRITING 1-PERSON PLAYZ RITE NOW!!
HE TOTALY WONT COME!!!

Now to figure out what would make Langston stay away…

Rantingly yours,

The Visitor

#1, see THE LIST. #2, write review…

In GCTC, Theatre on September 18, 2010 at 3:28 am

Before getting into the usual wacky-zany-amateurish theatre stuff I seem to revel in, I feel the need for a moment of sobriety.  Feel free to jump ahead a few paragraphs if that thought frightens you. 

This morning I woke up to the sound of my radio alarm, and a news bulletin saying that a member of an Ottawa theatrical troupe was killed while biking in New Brunswick.   Since I’ve gotten involved (at least peripherally) in the Ottawa theatre scene, I’ve met many, many troupe members in this town so this news woke me up in a hurry.  Then they mentioned the name of the group…’Otesha’.  I didn’t recognize it.  but it still hit a bad chord.  Some years ago, I received news that a dear friend of mine, on a trip to some improv games in Las Vegas she and her troupe were to participate in, was killed in a car crash.  The news devastated me…as I’m sure it has devastated Andrew Wolf’s family and friends at Otesha.  A car crash is a random, stupid, and all-too sudden way to lose someone.  There’s really no way to make sense out of an event like this, and believe me, I’ve tried.  All my good vibes go out to those affected by this tragedy, especially the other members of the Otesha Highlands and Islands tour that were hurt in the crash.  Here’s a link to their website, where you can get more information on them if you like.  And if you drive a car…well, could you just watch the road a little more closely?  For me?  I’d consider it a favour.  Peace.

Right…</serious>.  It’s safe now, you can look again…wacky old Visitor is back, and with new theatre to yammer ill-informedly about.  And some big-time theatre to boot, the premiere show of the GCTC’s 2010/11 lineup, no less, Jennifer Tremblay’s THE LIST. An award winning French Canadian play in a new translation by one Shelley Tepperman, and directed by acting Artistic Director at GCTC Brian Quirt (who did last year’s sensational PORTRAIT OF AN UNIDENTIFIED MAN).  Heavy credentials, and Iwas excited about the stage concept I’d gotten a glimpse of weeks earlier at my volunter orientation.  Hit the lobby eager for some playtime…spotted good old Wayne C in the crowd, also spectating for the festivities.  And was amusingly/embarrassingly introduced to the legendary Kris Joseph (Airport Security, represent!) as he was videographing folks in the audience for the purpose of letting them make fools of themselves for posterity.  I know I certainly did, and I’ll post the link to my duly recorded douchebaggery as soon as the fine Mr.J ups it to the intertubes.  I suppose this at least makes good practice for my upcoming acting classes, even if it doesn’t make me fancy my chances.   But then, failure is more funny, isn’t it?

WAY better than the shit on 'epic-WIN.com'

The play let in only minutes before showtime, unusual for the GCTC but a clever twist based on the stage design.  The audience is let in near the back of the stage and allowed to walk around it, seeing the set from all angles even as solo actress Tracey Ferencz stalked nervously about the sparse, gorgeous set, giving off a palpable aura of longing even before the lights went down.  It’s the kind of stuff I live for in theatre.  A good start indeed.

The show began softly as barefooted Tracey carefully puts on her slippers, puts away her cellphone, and explains calmly that she ‘didn’t lay a finger on her’…she didn’t kill her.  And then, slowly, gracefully, the story behind those words is told.  Tracey’s character seems cold and lost, having moved to a small country town to be alone with her husband, but only succeeding in simply being alone.  She gets through her days by clinging to rituals, and her seemingly neverending lists…do laundry, buy milk, make vacinnation appointments, find Doctor’s number…

…wait, what was that last one?  Enter Caroline, a cheery, round-faced mother of four down the way who befriends our heartsick heroine despite herself.  They’re near opposites…Caroline is untidy and disorganized, optimistic and hopeful…it’s only through motherhood that the two manage to bond.  for better or worse.

THE LIST is  slow-paced pressure cooker of a play, quietly building steam until the loud POP near the end.  A few beautiful musical interludes courtesy of songstress Sarah Hallman lend a really otherworldly quality to this otherwise utterly real piece, completely carried by some a-list acting courtesy of Tracey Ferencz.  She never wavers from the uncomfortable truth of the central character, the great flaw in her design.  It almost seems TOO low-key at times, the closest I could come to a complaint about this show.  But then, my favourite movie is BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, so maybe my eye for subtlety has been somewhat diminished over the years.

There is absolutely none of this in THE LIST.

At the end, I walked out of this show just a little off, a little shaken, and pretty happy about having been treated to that performance.  If you’re a reader of this chud, you KNOW I love me a one-woman show.  There’s still several weeks of this goodness left, so scoot your boot on over to the Oiving Greenboig theatre and do the right thing.  And if you come on the 30th, yours truly wll be the tall volunteer who clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing (but looks good doing it)!  See you at BLACKBIRD tomorrow nite (and hey…drive carefully, right?),

The Visitor

4 Everyone, Someone

In Theatre on September 16, 2010 at 4:23 am

What a day!  What a…okay, most of it wasn’t that interesting.  I did laundry, tho, three whole loads!  Which is important, because I’m embarking on my first volunteer shift at the GCTC this weekend, and have to look all sharp and shit.  Come on out to BLACKBIRD this Saturday nite, you rabble, and watch me strut my stuff tearin’ your tickets like they was parking tickets you were serving me, only I wasn’t havin’ none of that!  As IF that’s a no-parking zone on Thursday between five and seven!  Since when??  Here’s what I think of that!  Rippity-BAM!

Now enjoy the show.

Clean clothes aside, I had a few other errands to run before the evening’s festivities.  Stopped by the already mentioned Great Canadian Theatre company to get a ticket for THE LIST this Friday, as I’m a moron and missed the free Dress Rehearsal on Sunday.  Then downtown, where I picked up another ticket, this one for GRIEVOUS ANGEL at the NAC 4th stage on the 25th.  Busy time, and I’m loving it (as much as someone like me is capable of that human emotion, naturally).  Puttered a bit, bought some cheap dvd’s (NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD and the promising-sounding AMAZONS VS.SUPERMEN), had a tasty veg burrito at AHORA, some beers at the Dominion and a few more pages out of the biography of Jack Parsons I’m digging into, before the hour started getting short.  I made the familiar trek to Arts Court for tonite’s opening night show of SOMEONE FOR EVERYONE.  And who did I end up riding the elevator up with but director Pat Gauthier hisself!  Surely a good omen, non?
It was a somewhat sparser crowd than you’d hope for on opening night…but then, THE LIST and BLACKBIRD were opening the same night, so crowds may be cut a little thin.  Shit, maybe that Denis Armstrong was on to something when he complained about the crowded opening week going on..!

…naahhh.  Fuck that whiny cunt AND his terrible hair.  Thin crowd or no, we managed a bit of a gaggle in there when the lights went down (some local supahstarz included…I spotted Tania Levy, Al Connors and Kris Joseph my own self), with myself front row center.  Why not, no one ELSE was sitting there.  I figured to be in for a treat of a show…and hey, Iwas right!  That’s nice, sometimes.

The story, by one…GATD Caplan?  Is that right?    Is that a person, or…or, like, an investment firm? And what does it have to do with real estate rep Barry Caplan, whose ad is on the back of the program?  This is some theatre in-joke I don’t know about, isn’t it?  Either that, or someone is gonna have to explain to me how to pronounce GATD.  Damn. (apologies to the writer, but sorry, friend, your name just reads weird…worse things have happened)

Where was I?  Right… the story, by my good friend GATD, tells the tale of Steven, a well intentioned Jewish Canadian lad who is, to put it mildly, unlucky in love.  Perenially stuck in what Chris Rock identifies as ‘the Friend Zone’, he’s been hung up on the same so close/far away galpal, Beth, since childhood.  Now, nearing 40, he’s no closer to her OR a real relationship than he was dancing to Hebrew-ized top 40 hits at B’nai Brith camp all those years ago.  Over the course of the play Steven’s self-assured inner self (who never gets let out to play) tells us the sad story of Steven’s life, and all the women who have (almost) made themselves part of it.

Really, it’s something that could easily go almost apocalypitically wrong.  The kind of ‘poor me’ guy play that I myself have considered writing on occasion, because Geoff McBride as Steven was basically telling the story of my life (minus the Judaism and all), but talked myself out of because it felt too self indulgent.  But that shows what the fuck I know about theatre.

The Gauthier gang work some sweet magic with the script, starting right out with the fantastic use of video in the proceedings.  The play opens up literally like a movie, introducing what I never realized was missing from stage productions…opening credits.  McBride, mentioned already as our hapless lead Steven, is every bit the Woody-Allene-esque hero he’s supposed to be (except, unlike Woddy’s movie characters,Steven doesn’t always get the girl), and is wonderfully brave in the role.  Jordan Hancey (from 3rd Wall’s production  of AS YOU LIKE IT last year) makes for a solid and likeable anchor as the narrator of the piece, trying to help us all make sense of the uniquely modern paradox that guys like Steven really are.  And the ladies..!

Well, sorry boys, but the ladies really do steal this show.  Sarah Finn (last seen getting Ottawa Fringers into packed houses in SHADOWS) absolutely captivates in her multiple roles, but mainly as the hauntingly recurring Beth, always flitting tantalizingly in and out of Steven’s life just when he needs her most, or least, depending on your point of view.  And Catriona Leger, who between this and AIRPORT SECURITY earlier this year, is rapidly becming my favourite comedic actress EVER…

Whatever, Fey. Try harder next time.

…well, there’s no way to describe her chameleonic performances in this show.  She’s like a cute, funny Gary Oldman/Charlie Chaplin hybrid on some particularly wicked uppers.  Appearing as anything from a sexual diagnostician, drunken coed, Steven’s Mom AND his Rabbi…man, and I used to think she was just the chick at the beer tent at Fringe!  Pardon me, the Goddess of the Beer Tent (I saw on Twitter she liked when I said that last time..!)

But as I hopefully got across, the whole gang was stellar here.  The stagework was smartly done, especially considering the many rapid-fire role-changes the gals had to go through.  And the heart of the story, Steven’s arm’s length love and longing, certainly wasn’t lost on me.  But then, as an emotionally-challenged ‘nice guy’ myself, I’m an easy convert.  I sure hope that the word gets out on this pretty awesome piece of theatre, and we get some denizens out to Arts Court to pack them seats!  Here’s me trying to do that.  I loved the presentation, the performances, and the play.  I know there’s lots to see right now, but don’t be a Denis Armstrong and complain…see lots of theatre (including this one), and be happy about it.  Now doesn’t that sound good..?  Have a good night, and see you fiends, at THE LIST,

The Visitor

YouTube spam #1

In Just me doing stuff on September 13, 2010 at 11:51 pm

This is your old pal The Visitor here, posting just because I can.  Had a few days there where I was locked out of the system, as WordPress had informed me there was trouble with ‘the content of my blog’.  That had me sweating, a rather terrible week of events seemed to have hit a crescendo.  Were all my swears coming back to haunt me?  Well, fuck.

But now it turns out the problem was nothing more than a computer glitch, and there was actually no problem at all.  To celebrate, I’m making this post to pimp some of my fav’rit videos on YouTube that I can think of in the next thirty seconds:

JET GENERATION from the awesomest band in the world GUITAR WOLF, a gang of rockandroll killahs so hardcore they even have their own sci-fi zombie action movie.

From channel Babelcolour, the epic DOCTOR WHO vs. BENNY HILL vs. EMINEM mashup.

A rather great Rogue Traders music video about my fav’rit bad movie, SUPERGIRL.  Which reminds me, I still have to watch my new version with the director’s commentary…

The mighty DIE ANTWOORD.  Pink Floyd boxers shorts in your FACE, bitches.

…and to finish off,the amazing STORM LARGE and 8 MILES WIDE, from her one-woman show CRAZY ENOUGH that I would kill you and everyone you hold dear to see.  Nothing personal.

Back this week with writeups of new stuff…how much depends on what I manage to buy tickets for tomorrow.  Money grows on trees, right..?
…well, fuck.  Later,

The Visitor

PS:  Almost forgot, now you kids can follow me twatting on Twitter!  At the moment I’m grumpy that people aren’t paying enough attention to me there, so I’m starting to tell stories to myself.  Come and watch me self-destruct in a slightly different setting!

Fistfuls of Awesome for Everyone

In Theatre on September 11, 2010 at 6:21 am

Today my streak of good fortune continued as my rear bike tire decided that flat was better than round, and suddenly it’s ‘walk your bike to work day’.  What the Hell, at least it’s more honest than ‘Family Day’.   I’ve been getting used to the idea that life in general has it in for me.  I’m that kind of uplifting fellow.  So much so that, there was his weird, one-night only theatre thing going on tonite…at Emily Pearlman’s house, if you can believe that, and I’d drunkenly signed up on Facebook that I wanted to attend.  But let’s face it, there was no way yours truly was getting the green light for anything THAT cool, and…

…and as I illicitly checked my facebook shit at work (no sense working every hour God sends, Albert Finney wisely reminds us all), it turns out I was wrong.  Again.  Not only had smooth Tim Oberholzer commented on my blog, and I found out someone had actually read my super-secret Anti-Denis Armstrong rant from earlier this week (blink and ya missed it, kids), but the talented and deeliteful Emily Pearlman had graciously given me the go-ahead to come on along to the killer night ahead!  Me!  I was stunned, I was floored, I was…what the fuck was going on again..?

Right…a DIY punk theatre group from Baltimore, doing some such…ok, fine.  I’ll be there.  BYOB?  Taken care of!  As IF I needed another excuse to enable my borderline alcoholism!  And Baltimore?  Well, that town manages to turn out some pretty epic shit, so I was hopeful.  Homicide?  John Waters?

Mary Prankster, motherfucker!

Showed up at the perfectly wunnerful Pearlman residence a shade early as is my wont, and tried my best to mix with the crowd.  Which is to say, I stood awkwardly stock-still in a corner and blushed brightred if anyone spoke in my direction.  There was a memorably dorkish moment where I tried to speak to Cari Leslie, of this year’s MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM park production, that ranks among my more splendidly hilarious breakthroughs in social failure.  Sorry, Cari…you were the bomb as Puck, yo.

But still, I managed to hammer out a few chiselled words with some of the Salamander gang…thank goodness Garrett Quirk recognized me fom the Royal Oak earlier in the evening.  And Miss Emily herself is a brilliant hostess, and her COUNTRIES co-star Nick DiGaetano happily remembered me from our meeting at SUMMERWORKS.  Also, there was liquor.  That got me through to showtime.

Showtime itself was a bit of a revelation.  Seems what we were in for tonite was one of a 37 city madcap tour from a gang calling themselves the BALTIMORE ANNEX THEATRE,and a show called, among other things, A FISTFUL OF FLOWERS.  The Annex, much like Emily and Nick’s MiCasa Theatre, will play pretty much anywhere, and this evening they were putting that ideology to the test by staging their show in Emily’s living room.  I got a seat (or squat, on a carpet in the middle of the room) right near the action to come, and right in front of the Annex’s central lighting-rig/thingamajig.  It promised to be a good, fun time, if my back and butt could hold out.

What ensued when the show began was nothing short of the kind of theatrical magick every good boy and girl can only dare to dream of.  Our musical narrator, a grand gent named…Gerry?  Am I remembering that right, Annex..?…started us off by blowing the whole room away with throat singing straight out of dreamtime, and the story got underway.  Villainous Dupont (Rick Gerriets), clad in classic black, and armed with any number of absurd objects that, under pressure, could become a lethal weapon with the help of a well-placed snare drum, embarks on his evil mission.  His nemesis, the stalwart Lee Matthews (played by the darlin’ Kaitlin Murphy, and I’ll take my heart back anytime, thanxverymuch), sets out to get her man. 

From there, it’s brilliant comic chaos.  It will obviously vary from show to show depending on the venue, but in a cramped quarter like Em’s drawing room, it was nothing short of wonderful. The Annex gang step over and through the audience like the pros they are as the weave the musical, mythical tale Evan Moritz’s story encompasses.  Killer laughs, smiling cactii, banana rocks, a use of the space that makes you imagine Feng Shui’s smarter older brother…this is all very particular to my own experience, at this show, and fuck you, that’s all I know, all right?  There was a moment…the lights went down, and one of the cast (Freda, I believe) was singing one of her several positively beautiful songs, and a lone flashight was shining, through Rick Gerriets’ hair, right towards where I was sitting.  All I could see was the forelit profile he was giving, and it was one of the most amazing moments I’ve ever experienced in theatre.  A goddam privilege.  If this show is coming to your town, cancel whatever crappy plans you had that day.  Your kids can get themSELVES home from soccer practice for once, the ungrateful bastards.  This is important.

The show finally came to a close (and I only say ‘finally’ because I had to take a killer slash and had a charley horse that would have made Cal Ripkin cringe…like I say, experiences will vary), and…and that wasn’t the end.  We all applauded, and tossed some cash in the hat for these awesome cats, and…and that wasn’t the end!  I hung around, and, buoyed by an amazing show and more than a little booze…I talked!  I talked plenty, with lots of the great folk from Annex, and what a cool bunch they were.  Tim, Sarah, Rick, Evan, Gerry, Kaitlin *sigh*…It was a great, great night, and I needed one of those.  I bought a poster, I passed my mini-bottle of Jack Daniels around before it was time for me to go, and with regret, I eventually took my leave.  I wish I could’a stayed. I wish THEY could have stayed.  I wish their show were playing here for two weeks, and I hope they come back.  Fucking best theatre night in Ottawa this year.  Nominations closed.  Thank you, Baltimore.  Miss ya already.  Good luck in Detroit, and come back soon,

the Visitor