Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Crush Smash!

In Improv on November 30, 2010 at 12:55 am

I’m stuck in an annoying stretch of zero-time at the moment, with something like four whole days sans new theatre to check out (unless someone has any hot tips..?).  If I hadn’t subbed in for an extra volunteer shift for VIMY (review may actually be coming soon now) on Saturday,  it woulda been even longer.

So, with naught else to keep me out of trouble, I thought I’d devote a quick post to some fine folks I’ve caught in action twice this past month, at the venerable Elmdale Tavern in Mechanicsville, and frankly, shame on me for not getting around to this sooner.  I speak naturally of Ottawa’s own CRUSH IMPROV troupe, and the good works they do.  Of course, I’ve mentioned once before on this chud that I traditionally have not been a big Improv fan…but I gave these lasses and lads a shot a few months back at MY SUMMER CRUSH IMPROV for the Arts Court ‘Summer fling’ series, and was duly impressed.  When I heard they were going to be popping up at the Elmdale with a new twist, I was all over that like green on Hulk.

Sorry, it just felt like a while since my last comic book reference.

The gang had two Elmdale performances, both under their new, booze inspired ‘BOUT TIME banner…two competing teams of Improvers going head to head, in various games and scenes, with an emcee calling the shots and the audience deciding the winners.  Sounded like fun, and guess what…it was!  Al Connors and Brad MacNeil provided MC duties in turn, each participating in the onstage action when they weren’t calling the shots.  The format broke down into one half of short, challenge/game-based scenes, followed by a 2nd half of each team doing one long scene.  I admit, I prefer the shorter bits…I really dig the various games, and kinda hope I get a chance to try some of’em out one day.  The alphabet, blind dubbing…check out their website (linked above) for the round of Questions that knocked everyone’s socks off a few week back.  I SO wanna do that with my class sometime.

There was a dynamite lineup for both shows…Ken ‘the God’ Godmere, Cari Leslie, Tim Anderson, Dan Lajoie, Jeff Lawson, Richard Gelinas, Averie MacDonald, Joel Garrow, Drew McFadyen, Jordan Moffat, and the aforementioned Al and Brad.  Messr.MacNeil makes a particularly acerbic and high-sterical host, heckling Tim’s questionable counting skills, and uttering one of my fav’rit lines of the whole run, “I want to see a scene called ‘Less Racist’.”  You had to be there.

But if you WEREN’T, there’s still hope for your withered soul, because Crush returns on December 3rd and 4th at the Gladstone Theatre (not dead yet!) for their 3rd Anniversary Special!   Featuring special guests UNCALLED FOR, SEX-T-REX and more, and at a mere ten smackeroos, it’s gonna be a good time.  Okay, no pickled eggs, but it’s too late now to whine about missing the Elmdale shows, sucker.  Just take what you can get and be thankful.  And if you find me, half-drunk and giddy after the show, feel free to challenge me to a round of Questions.  Seriously, I’ve been DYING to try it.  Peace, love and soul, you lot,

The Visitor (and Winston)

MotherF%*#ing Mechanicsville

In Theatre on November 26, 2010 at 5:34 am

What better way to deal with the pain of losing my acting-class crutch, than to step out and see a new show?  None, I say!  And if the venue is the venerable and belovedly decrepit Carleton Tavern?  So much the better.  And so much I in fact did, heading out tonite to the Carleton to see Chamber Theatre‘s MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II, the sequel to last years popular show (that I couldn’t make it into, it was so well received).  I was well stoked to see this’un, and I’m always pleased to be able to drink quarts of 50 while I enjoy.

This is an unabashedly filthy, raunchy show, and I god-damned well loved every motherfucking minute of it.   There are two dee-liteful framing sequences, one involving Tony Adams (Speakers, You Are Here) and Lesley
Hay as two increasingly disreputable real estate agents, and another with trombonist Robert Vogelsang (note: Second play I saw in a week featuring a trombone.  WTF?) accompanying the always amazing Kelly Rigole (This Is A Recording) as a particularly racy burlesque singer.

“Let’s see if I can make you cum while you drive.”*

Yes, that’s right, this show starts out with Kelly Rigole doing burlesque.  Note to the heterosexual males/lesbians in the audience:  Congratulations.  You’ve already won.  And it gets even better!  The show is a hit parade of one-person tales set in Mechanicsville, some in the present, some in the past, all written by one Donnie Laflamme, who clearly has some things to say.  And there are some great performances to go along with the words…Manon Dumas kills as a 60’s housewife looking to win the stale sandwich wars on her block, and Bob Reynolds as the Man in the Basement has the room in the palm of his hand.  And certainly, Cory Thibert’s take on Bridgehead will have most of us watching the strollers a little more closley from now on.

“Look at the cookies, look at the cookies, look at the cookies…”

The show is heavy on sexual politics, with several segments devoted to delving into the complexities of the changing face of women’s sexual power in the last few decades, and whether it’s done them any damn bit of good.  Laine Johnson (and did you give me my volunteer interview at the GCTC this summer?  Because I swear you did) and Jennifer Vallance both have segments filled to brimming with interesting insights on the matter.  And the always reliable Garret Quirk (Death of Tybalt, Shining City) scores a solid home run as ‘the lover’, a sex-obsessed lothario practicing his moves in a mirror.  honestly, there’s a lot to love in this show, and even though EVERY thing didn’t work for me, so fucking what?  It’s a buffet, people, something will come along that’s just for you.

Dear Tenant: Get all your shit the fuck out of here, then fuck off and die.”

Laflamme’s script is often hysterical, sometimes heartbreaking, and never dull.  The actors give great performances, even with the rather obtrusive backdrop of the Carleton Tavern to deal with (don’t expect to hear a pin drop during this show), and I bloody loved the whole sordid, blasphemous mess.  I only wish my issues with my server hadn’t soured the end of the evening for me, and forced me to do my last-minute scribblings at the Royal Oak instead.  And I’d so wanted another quart and a cheeseburger…

But whatevah!  Beers come and go, wicked fun theatre comes along only so often.  This is the latter, and you should shut up with whatever you’re saying (no one was listening anyways, because you’re so boring) and get out to the Tavern and catch this show.  Hell, I’m even thinking of trying to catch it again NEXT week, when Oberholzer subs in for Matt Smith as the shirtmaker…not that Smith was anything less than awesome, you get that, right?  And don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll sort out my server woes by then.  Until then, peace, love and soul to you all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

* Hey, Donnie, Lisa…I fixed it!  I swear I’m not a complete pussy, I just need encouragement sometimes! 🙂  Nice meeting ya!

10th Class – Adieu, Bateau

In OSSD Acting Class on November 25, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I just got back today from the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.  Not usually there during the day, but I wanted to get myself registered for level 2 of their acting course this January.  I guess I was feeling a little bit of separation anxiety, as last night was the bittersweet final class of level one.  Got there early early as always, got to chat with Boss Barry Karp as we waited for our classroom, the Nathalie Stern Studio, to clear out.  Watched as my classmates, those that are left, straggled in one by one…spotted Catriona Leger milling about (filling in for Pat Gauthier?  but I digress…) too.

There were only nine of us left standing come final roll call…myself, Rachel, Catherine, Stefan, David, Vanessa, Julia, Sabrina and Helene.  Tho I think a couple folks were out sick, so I still hope to see them again next semester.  We got right into it this class with our long-awaited, in some cases dreaded Enchainements.  One after another, rapid fire, and we finally got to my turn.  I was going for an undulation / weird infinite loop-hands-head thing (I forget the name) / flat surface / weightlifter / baton combo.  Naturally, I damn near fell over during the undulation opening…feet apart, Visitor, feet apart!  So stoopid…

But, I think I recovered by the end, and managed to escape with a shred of dignity.  From the performances, we got to dive right into Barry’s bin of hats, which was a treat indeed!  We just started grabbing them and wandering about, getting into diff’rent characters and interacting with Boss Karp and each other. I switched between a heavyset factory worker from Vladivostok, a snooty southern gentlewoman, rebellious preteen Tommy, and a clueless wannabe rapper dude.  Not bad for a few minutes work.
After hat time was over (awww!)  we started right into something Barry’s been promising for weeks…animals.  He gave us a rapid-fire guide to channelling the qualities of this animal or that, to bring out new aspects in a performance.  I think everyone had fun doing the mouse, although I for one found the elephant pretty tricky.

Then again, I never was much of a Monarchist.

We split into groups after the ensemble practice to do some 3-person scenes, all animal based.  Boss Karp stressed how crucial it was to remember what we learned during the plate game previously, about timing and…

…what’s that?  We never DID the plate game??  Right, full stop.  EVERYONE GET AROUND THE GOD-DAMNED PLATE!  And seriously, I don’t think I’ve felt Barry exude a sense of urgency before like what we got during the now-infamous plate game.  It was fairly awesome.  To imagine the plate game, imagine a groups of cowering theatre students in a huge circle, standing on an imaginary catwalk surrounding an imaginary giant plate, balanced just so on a single beam.  Someone then leaps into the center.  Then they deliberately upset the balance by moving OFF center, and someone else has to leap in to keep it even.  Then THEY throw the balance off, and someone else hops in, and so on…it gets pretty intense.  We heard quite a few shouts of CLEAR THE PLATE! from Boss Karp, as we kept on not-quite getting it.  But we got better!  We even managed to move on to level 2 (where a group is formed every time someone new leaps on) and level 3 (where contrasting emotional states are added…we totally nailed that one, yo).  Really, we were packing an awful lot into this final class, and I think we done good keeping up. Maybe the OSSD should consider 3 hour classes instead of 2…

But back to the animals!  After our crash course in theatrical balance, I think our scenes were a little better for it.  We managed a two minute epic each, in which a human (embodying some animal quality…I chose Lion), witnesses a battle between a monkey and a chicken, then scares the chicken away.

It's one of Shakespeares earlier, lesser known works.

Monkeys and chickens conquered for now, we moved onto the final bit of the class, and the semester…a solo improv, with the appropriately final title, Adieu, Bateau (or Goodbye, Boat for the Franco-challenged).  The setup was simple…You realize you are late for a boat, carrying the most important person in your life.  You race to the pier, but are too late.  You see them leaving on the boat, in the distance, and give a single wave farewell.  We started, and tore through it in about 90seconds.  At which point Barry explained that Adieu, Bateau is a 20 MINUTE improv (I think he took some well-earned sadistic glee in some of our reactions to that).  Now, we were near the end of class and did not HAVE 20 minutes, but on our second and final attempt managed to stretch it out to about 8 minutes.  And I really felt it  this time…so, apparently, did the Boss, and it was a good emotional kick to end the class off on.

And…yeah, so that was it.  Barry had to beg off and pick up his wife somewhere, so just a handful of us headed out to Trio for a farewell drink.  It was a nice, mellow time, and I’m hoping a few of us are coming back.  Like I say, class, I’m already paid up and enrolled, don’t you dare leave me hanging!  To those who are not, it was a perfect goddamn delight playing with you these last few weeks (and feel free to drop a line here every now and then, or hook up on Facebook…I’m always looking for the false validation of more friends on that thing!).  And to boss Barry Karp, my Zen mystic master of Acting guru and all that..?  Thanks for the time, the passion, and the lessons learned.  I may not know much, but I know more now than I did ten weeks ago (shoutout to Mary Harvey, our beloved 2-time sub, as well…she was much fun indeed!).  See you all in January (and hopefully SOMEone I know tonite, at the Carleton for MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II), keep on practicing those enchainements (it never stops, people!), peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Back to School with 6 Characters

In Theatre on November 22, 2010 at 12:03 am

A while back, when Silurians still ruled the Earth, I spent a year at Carleton University in what was ostensibly a ‘student’ capacity.  I signed up right after graduating high school, like I was supposed to do, and took a series of random courses picked solely because they were nothing like what I’d taken in high school.  I did terribly, didn’t have much fun, and never went back.

In my defense, Silurians were even worse at running Carleton than the current mob.

…until this week, when I decided to hike it back to my old alma mater to check out a play (could have guessed that’s what it would take to get me back…theatre seems to make school a little more palatable for me).  Carleton’s long-standing Sock’n’Buskin gang were putting on Luigi Pirandello’s SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, and I felt like stepping out.  So I boarded the good old #7, already noticeably filled with younger and better looking people than myself, and headed to the sprawling campus off Bronson.  I should note that it seems a lot MORE sprawling now than in my day…then again, they didn’t have cell phones in ‘my day’, if that tells you anything.  I found the Uni center, stopped in for an early beer at Oliver’s, got a little misty watching the Pat Burns tribute on teevee ahead of a Toronto/Montreal hockey game, and then hit the tunnels.  Ah, the tunnels!  I’d almost forgotten…gotta love a university famous for its subterranean labyrinth.

I wended my way through the concrete woods below, until I found my goal…Southam Hall, and the Kailash Mital theatre.   Nice place indeed…got my ticket and headed on in.  Realized I didn’t know much about the company OR the play…I’ve since done a few seconds of research, and it turns out Luigi Pirandello was a Nobel prize-winning Sicilian philologist (and how many of those do you  meet in a week?), who was mighty prolific in his day, an even older day than mine.  I scanned the program some as I sat, entertained by a clever on-stage framing bit involving two techs trying hopelessly to assemble a set, and recognized a name…Mike Showler.  Where had I seen that name before..?

The play proper began, a play ABOUT a play, as the ‘actors’ were summoned, the techs were cleared off, and an airy Brit director (Fabian Weiss) made his flamboyant entrance.  They struggled to begin rehearsing., when something mighty odd occurs…six white-faced people appear out of nowhere, looking plenty odd and claiming to be charcters, you guessed it, searching for an author.  They identify themselves as a family, with the Father taking the lead in what soon come to be negotiations (that’s when I recognize him…Mike Showler.  ‘Dentity Crisis!  Trashcan Duet!!  Ahh, I’m in good hands…).  An increasingly troubling scene then starts unfolding, as our family of ‘characters’ try and tell their stories, play their scenes that seem to define them, while the director and his actors want only to interpret them for the right audience.  the director seems to be the one the family has chosen as their ‘author’…which may not be a good thing.

I had a lot of fun at 6 CHARACTERS…Showler was, as expected by me, grand as the enigmatic Father of this weird clan, and Weiss is great fun as the uppity director slowly losing his grip on everything that’s happening.  Special shoutout to Chandrika Singh as the Stepdaughter, who has a lot of pretty rough stuff to get through in this piece, and she handles it with style.  Keith Cressy and Dave Rowan, the aforementioned stage techs who occupy the stage before the show and during intermission, are lots of fun to watch and listen to, if you care to.  Carly Kastner’s eternally anguished Mother figure, Emilay Asmar’s gibberish spouting cameo as Madame Pace, Geoff Burnside rocking a mean unibrow…all great to see, as well as some pretty cool-ass lighting effects in a just plain intriguing show that I think could use a little more love. Pirandello crafted some amazing theatre here, and the SnB crowd give it some nice modern day justice.

Still a few more shows left!

The show picks up on the 25-27th of this week, and if you got some time to spare, give’er a go.  Who are you kidding, you’re not getting tickets to VIMY anyhow.  Me, I’m glad I finally made it back to Carleton U, and plan to come back and see the Socks and Buskins doing their thing next time they have something on. Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

She, themselves and I

In Theatre on November 20, 2010 at 4:43 am

Missed a couple of potential theatre days this week, mostly on account of I wanted to spend some hang time with Winston the cat.  He likes his cuddles, and who knows how much longer I’ll have the little fuzzball?  Gotta get my kitty playtime in while I can.  But, as I say, I’m missing the odd show here and there (not that my wallet minds).

So it felt good to get out to yet another of the shows hitting the capital tonite, this one back at the mighty Gladstone Theatre, the world premiere of David Hersh’s I.  I always enjoy hobnobbing at the ‘Stone (Especially with its future so uncertain), and man, was I all goofy and starstruck tonite…the famous people were comin’ outta the woodwork!  I spotted Celine Fillion (who did double duty at this year’s Fringe Festival), Margo Mac of SHADOWS awesomeness, Ken ‘The God’ Godmere…and look, there’s Gauthier!  And Kate Smith!   Emily Pearlman!  Richard Gelinas even!

…pardon, I need a moment to wipe all these stars from my eyes.  Sometimes, I do indeed revel in my geek awe.  I guess even these guys and gals have heard the already-considerable buzz for this show, just a couple days into its run.  So at least I could say I was in pretty killer cool company when the lights went down on the sparse set…a room, occupied by a desk, an armoire, and a bed.   Simple, plain…and ready for just the slightest bit of tweaking.

Enter our heroine, played by the ridiculously pretty and talented Emmanuelle Zeesman, who I’d previously swooned over in THE ANDREWS BROTHERS at the ‘Stone (and who also just won a Capital Critics award for being smooshingly fantastic…look it up!).  The concierge, played by Kathi Langston, leads her into her new flat in Paris, where Emm’s character has come to write the world’s greatest play.  But there are a  few odd leftovers in the apartment from the former tenant, a famous playwright our heroine idolizes.  A typewriter, some books, and a student’s uniform our heroine quickly dons, before the concierge leaves with a cryptic warning.  Then, a knock on the door, and things start to go gloriously weird.

Enter the darkly cloaked Andy Massingham (who directed the aforementioned ANDREWS BROS. show) as the titular ‘I’, apparently the believed-dead playwright returned to give our girl some lessons in writing.  And he comes not alone.  Speaking in an occasionally Joycean torrent of words, and twisting logic to his own purposes, I is slowly joined on stage by one, then another, and ever more dark robed iterations of himself, forming a chorus that echoes his advice/madness to the ever stressed heroine.  The set itself cracks and widens, the walls move (in a wondrous bit of theatre magic you’ll miss if you’re not paying attention) and the hero worship that starts this strange relationship off turns sinister, smothering, hilarious, loony, and downright amazing to behold.  When the trombone comes out, all bets are officially OFF.

David Hersh, the writer and director of this gem, deserves a heaping helping of praise for pulling this show off, and so well.  The language and wordplay ALONE is giddy fun, the choreography must have been a special kind of nightmare (shoutout to choreographer Patricia Allison…nice one!), and the play as a whole works beautifully on a few diff’rent levels, and left me thinking plenty after it was over.  It’s an intriguing cautionary tale for would-be writers, and maybe the best show I’ve yet seen at the Gladstone.  Honestly, I wish I could manage to see it again.  It’s definitely that good.  If you haven’t already,  do yourself a favour and check it out.

Right, I gots to get me to bed…early rise for brunchwork tomorrow, and then maybe ANOTHER show that evening.  Sock’n Buskin, anyone..?  Well anyways, get out and see some shows, ‘kay?  It’s good for your spleen (science fact!)  Peace, love and soul, everyone,

The Visitor (and Winston)

9th Class – Hello, how are you?

In OSSD Acting Class on November 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Just got back from spending 3 and a half hours of my day off in the windowless GCTC boardroom, helping to stuff some 1625 envelopes for a ‘donation drop’.  I could feel some of the magic of theatre starting to fade a little near the end of the third hour, but I remain strong.  What sucks about it is that, if only we’d dragged our heels a bit, we could have gotten free pizza out of it.    As it stands, my fellow volunteers and I were just too damned efficient, even going so fast we had long pauses waiting for the printer to spew out more forms.  We were like a collective John Henry, smiting the steam engine of modern technology with our volunteer-ish vigor.  Or something.  Now give them all your money so it wasn’t wasted time, okay?  These plays don’t make themselves.  Geez.

But more important even than a morning of dull clerical duties, last nite was the 9th of my ten entry level acting classes at the OSSD!  the end is all too nigh, my friends, and I’m dreading a bleak, classless December.  So let’s enjoy the moments while they last, hey?  The day started off good, what with not one but two new Grant Morrison-penned BATMAN comix on the stands, and a sweet copy of Kino’s SHERLOCK Jr./3 AGES special edition waiting for me at Invisible Cinema.   So I was in good spirits breezing into school, keener early as usual. Chatted briefly with classmate Sabrina and Boss Barry Karp, back from his production run at the NAC’s 4th stage last week.  Class got underway with the usual excercizes…and I’m getting a little concerned at how our numbers are shrinking as we stumble towards the end.  Only 9 left?  Come on Julia, Erik, Rachel, Denise…tell me you’re gonna make it back for the big finish!!  I don’t usually like a crowd, but I like THIS crowd plenty.  so let’s pull it together next week.  Deal?

Now that THAT’S settled, on with the class…we did some more practice on our final enchainement, with Boss Karp providing one-on-one commentary and criticisms, which I find I’m oddly loving.   Seems I really do want to get better at this stuff (incidentally, I was glad to see a good show of hands this class for folks planning to go on to level 2).  And I’m feeling pretty good about the routine I have made up…I mean, it’s no big whoop what we’re doing, but I still think I’ve got it pretty good.  So, there’s that.  Then we did a few on-the-spot mini-scenes, before we split into groups of two (or three in my case, uneven number as we were) to tackle our dialogue we’d been given a few classes previous.  Just simple words (‘hi’ ‘hello’ ‘how are you?’ and so forth), but we kept on switching the setting and characters for them, completely changing the presentation each time.  We did this for a few minutes before settling on ones to present to the class.  Me, Helene and Justin did 2, with Justin in both.  He and I did what I think was a pretty successful ‘Professor and student’ routine.  Everyone was very solid, really, but big hats off to Catherine and Simon for cracking the whole class up with their routine.  Absolutely fucking hilarious…we got some talent in the room, dig?

We broke briefly after that, in which time I got some old-fashioned networking done…more and more folks in the class are now finding out about this blog, which is…interesting.  I’m not sure how comfortable I am, losing the secret identity like that, but then, I could certainly do with considerably less comfort in my life.  So welcome aboard, gang!    Now let’s get back to class, for…

…storytelling!  Hey, remember about 4 classes ago, when we brought in some short stories from our families and told them to fellow class members?  Turns out it’s time to do that again, only, y’know, to everyone.  Which was cool, except mine was actually sorta half made-up, on account of my parents didn’t really HAVE any proper ‘stories’ to give me (ie: things with a beginning, middle, AND end, as opposed to just a beginning…thanks, folks),  but I think I muddled through, as did we all.  And Boss Karp was right, David DOES have a commanding voice up there.

We finished up with a little more last-minute enchainement prep before breaking up, for the second last time.   Sigh.  It sounds like the Boss has a fulll clas planned for our finale, tho…we’ll see how much we manage to squeeze in.  Me, I’m up for going out with a bang (and, following that, a good party at the nearest pub).  And to any of the gang reading this who I haven’t facebooked yet, check out CRUSH IMPROV at the Elmdale Tavern this Monday the 22nd.  Starts at 8, I’d get there at 730 to get a good spot.  Ya know I’ll be there! And the rest of you, show up to, cause it’ll be a good time.  Until then, peace, love and soul to you all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Short but Sweet

In Theatre on November 16, 2010 at 1:22 am

Really dragging my heels on posting these days, or so it feels like to me.  And I’ve even had a good little theatre weekend!  Friday nite I saw VIMY again, during my first-of-three volunteer shifts for it.  And I’m STILL not gonna review it yet.  I mean, just think how dazzlingly comprehensive a job I’ll be able to do on it after FOUR viewings!  I’m all a-tingle.

What I WILL talk about is my nite out at the Ottawa Little Theatre on Saturday, for the Eastern Ontario Drama League’s One-Act Play Festival, or rather the last of three parts of it.  I was sadly only able to make it to the final grouping of three short works, put on by various community theatre groups from across Eastern Ontario.  I’ve felt kinda bad that I haven’t been to any of the OLT’s regular season stuff yet, so it was good to be able to hit up their fine establishment again, and the first time ever in my silly ‘Visitor’ reviewing mode.

The Little Theatre, a wonderful room (with 5$ bottles of Guiness, yo!), was hosting the annual get-together for the EODL, and staged three showings of three plays each, over two days.  Every play had to be between 25 and 60 minutes, so it had a bit of a Fringe feel to the proceedings.  Which suits me just fine.

The first show of the evening was MY NARRATOR, a Norm Foster bit put on by Studio Theatre Productions in Perth.  The story is a fun one about artist Lacy and her would-be paramour Miles, and more importantly Lacy’s onstage externalized Narrator, Barb.  It was a great, fun production, and would later go on to win the audience award for the entire festival, so I lucked out with a gooder indeed.   I’d happily see this merry play again.

My second show, actually WAS a repeat for me, a show I’d seen at my first Ottawa Fringe with, obviously, a different cast.  Daniel MacIvor’s THIS IS A PLAY, put on by the Peterborough Theatre Guild (Peterborough shoutout…hi Caren!), is a terrifically fun show about the inner thoughts of a group of actors putting on a bad play (badly).  It was terrific back at the Fringe, and it was terrific this time too.  Kudos to the players, who did a great job with the material.  It’s all too short at half an hour…not because it needs to be longer, you just don’t want it to end.  Now I’m looking forward to MacIvor’s THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT at the GCTC even more.

The final show was one that I was glad I caught, if only for the brilliant, wonderful name…Carl Cashin’s THE VISITOR, performed by the Bay of Quinte Community Players.  A curious period/genre piece about a night in London during WWII, an aging publican and her chatty regular, two pilots and their ladies, and…a time traveller from the present.  It’s a bit disjointed, to be honest, and was hard pressed to follow up the two more polished shows (from more well known playwrights) that preceded it.  But there was some nice performances in it, especially from the older actors, and, again…man, what a great title.  Good one, Bay of Quinte.

All in all, I had good fun (although mental note: next time, don’t stay for the public adjudication.  Very well-intentioned but boring as all merry get-out.  Go straight for the free food in the lobby, you’ll be the better for it).  And I hope next year I can make it out for the whole thing.  Although it probably won’t be held in Ottawa next year, I suppose…ah well.

Oh, and on the fast-breaking news scene, congrats to John Koensgen for not only nabbing a Capital Critics Circle award for his contribution to Ottawa theatre, but also for  himself, Peter Froelich and Paul Rainville winning a special jury award for the perfectly goddamned delightful HEROES.  What is the Capital Critics Circle, you ask?  Well, some conclave of critics about town, near as I can figure.  They even count among their number my beloved old Gymkata sparring partner Denis Armstrong!

I believe this is where they meet...

But I kid…it’s nice to see the media using their powers for good instead of pure, unadulterated evil ONE day out of the year.  Congrats to all the other winners…It sounds like a fun party, but I needed to spend some time with the roomie tonite.  Winston’s been a little squirrely these days, making the occasional poo in, quite frankly, not at all the correct place.  I suspect he is merely confused by the rumours that his Mom has been spotted lurking about town in period garb.  Cats are so easily disturbed in the brainpan.  Sigh…

Well, I just found out today that I’m not working tomorrow nite as dreaded, so maybe I can hoof it out to TAMING OF THE SHREW if I get my shit together.  And later this week there’s I, Martin Yesterday, Six Characters in Search of an Authour, the Blacksmith…phew.  Don’t know how much I’ll make it out for, but you lot will be the first to know, wont’cha?  And yay, I’m off-page for the script we were to memorize for wednesday’s class!  Okay, it’s only, like, 12 lines, but I still nailed it.  It’s a start…capital critics, here I come!  Peace, love and soul, y’all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

8th Class – Improv all around

In OSSD Acting Class on November 11, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Little while since my last entry, although stuff HAS been a-going on since then.  Got to catch the dress rehearsal of the new GCTC/NAC co-production VIMY.  It was faboo, but I’m gonna hold off on a full review until after Friday, when I see it again during my volunteer shift.  Why?  Because it’s already, like, ten thousand percent sold out in advance (seriously, if you wanna go, get thee to the box office yesterday), so my review is really neither here nor there as far as helping the show out.  And I like to be a helper.

Then on Monday, there was some fun at the Elmdale Tavern with CRUSH IMPROV and their battle-stylee jam, ‘BOUT TIME.  Got to see some O-town potentates strutting their stuff on stage…Ken ‘the God’ Godmere, Cari Leslie, the Brad MacNeil and more, all awesome, and especially cool as we just started doing some improv in class.  Also, I got to schmooze with some folks in the crowd…talked class and stuff with Pat Gauthier, catching up with Wayne C, and a very pleasant chat with Cat Leger.  And wow, did I ever feel like an underachiever after she got through telling me, like, half her upcoming plans.  If I get two loads of laundry* done in a WEEK, I feel like I deserve a cookie.

But then along came Wednesday, my favouritest time of the week, and class at the OSSD.Got there all keener-early like usual, and took the opportunity to drop off my order for Alan Dean and the headshots I got taken a few weeks earlier.  Figger I can get at least one 8×10, so my folks will have one good picture of me from the last decade.  That taken care of, I shuffled into Studio D, where this week’s substitute teach Mary Harvey was awaiting.  Good to see her again after all this time, she’s got a very diff’rent style from Boss Barry Karp.  We started off, as always, with some warmups, today with a synchronistic twist.  Mary was putting us through an improved exercize wherein you pick a part of the body and draw figure 8’s with it.  fun and a little weird, but even weirder is the movie I’d bought that very same day…Shaw Brothers classic 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER!   Ya gots to pay attention when the universe throws shit like that at you, sez I.

Our 8-diagrams were not quite THIS cool, it should be noted.

Jung aside, we finished our stretches and spent about 10 minutes getting in some practice time for our final ‘exam’, what Barry calls an Enchainement, stringing together 5 of the various mimes he’s been teaching us into a single mini-performance.  I think I’ve got my 5 picked, but I’m having some hiccups with the transitions.  Getting there…

Next, Mary got us working on her specialty…Improv!  I felt all smart for having gone to see CRUSH in action, it was like extra study time.  We gave each other a mystery present the other person had to identify and gush over, did some over-the-top mugging, which was great fun, then did a few min-scenes in pairs, sort of hit-and-run theatre, with scenarios Mary would call out.  My fav’rit was playing the guy who runs into the 6th grade teacher he had a wicked crush on.

Quick break, nice palaver with Simon, Justin, Vanessa…really gotta get some of this gang out for a pint or two soon.  But first, back to class for something called ‘repair shop’.  We split into teams of 5, sent one member each out of the room, then decided what it was that person would be bringing in to have repaired.  They would NOT know, and could only guess at the size and shape of whatever they ‘carried’ back to us, and we’d have to try and make it work, and get them to guess just what it was they had.  Had a blast with the wedding cake one, especially when Catherine kept the improv going even after I’d guessed what it was (she didn’t actually hear me, and I was having too much fun with the act to stop her).

We ran through a few shop scenarios, then settled in for the final, and my absolute fav’rit, improv of the class ‘Martian’.  3 chairs got set up…one for a journalist, one for an interpreter, and a third for the Martian.  The Martian speaks only gibberish, and the interpreter must relay the questions, and answers, speaking both tongues.  We rotated along every 90 seconds, and it was pretty fucking hilarious all around.  Could’a done that all night.

But that was it for another week…only two classes left!!  Gotta ‘member to practice my lines for Boss Karp’s return next week, and let the class in on Crush Improv’s return to the Elmdale on the 22nd (and the Gladstone on Dec.3-4)…I expect to see some OSSD peeps in the audience, fo’ sho’.  So until then, peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

*Reminder…you need to do laundry.  NOW, dude.  Recycling stops being ok when it’s socks.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Plague…

In Theatre on November 5, 2010 at 4:58 am

Had a rough go of it this daytime.  Felt exhausted, dispirited, and generally all-around malaisacal (yay, new word!).  It’s starting to occur to me that, if I’m gonna keep up with this acting class  jazz, it can’t continue to be my only workout of the week.  Because, manoman, are my legs SORE the days following.  Also, ingesting something other than noodle soup and whiskey might be a thought.

But in spite of my mood AND the gray weather, I managed to haul my butt onto a long-ass bus ride down to Sandy Hill and Ottawa U for tonite’s performance by their Drama Guild of Peter Barnes’ RED NOSES.  I’m always psyched to see a show in the lovely Academic Hall, a wonderful showspace.  And a mere 15 bones for a damn-near 3 hour live show?  Beat THAT value!  Ya know the Visitor loves himself a theatrical bargain.

Barnes’ story, directed here by Lib Spry, centers around the 14th century priest Flote, struggling to find a way to ease the suffering brought on by the plague.  Medicine and religion seem to have failed mankind, so after a revelation, Flote hits upon his path…don a red nose and make’em laugh.  It takes some doing…the church has to be convinced to back his plan, and he needs a few more zanies for his red nose troupe.  Then there’s his competition for the people’s attention: dedicated flagellant Grez, seeking to embrace the pain of life, and the morbid ‘black ravens’, trying to use the plague itself to further their own ends.  And the Pope and the gold merchants also have their OWN ideas.

It’s a pretty smart, deep show, and the Ottawa U gang pull it off with the usual flair and passion (as in last year’s OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD, another winner).  Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin nails it as Father Flote, providing the singing, dancing, japing glue that holds everything together.  His counterpart Father Toulon (Cody Zulinski) makes a great foil…assigned by the Archbishop as a sort of medieval Scully to Flote’s Mulder, Toulon is hilarious as the unwilling member of the ‘Floties’.   Nicholas Amott and Martin Glassford , both from this year’s amazing Youth Infringement show SWEET LITTLE NOTHINGS, both shine as out-of-work soldiers who sign up with Flote.  Another YI star (this time for the fest-winning SACRED SITES IN SUBURBIA), Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, helps round out Flote’s starting troupe as almost TOO loving sister Margueritte.  And really, there’s plenty of standouts and scene stealers here…Mike Kosowan’s gleefully nasty Pope Clement, Garret Brink’s lusty Pellico, Danielle Savoie’s wicked Scarron, and of course Fraser Mackinnon as the wonderfully Harpo-esque Master Bells.  And hey, Ted Forbes is back in this one!  With the other two I saw in the audience, tonite was almost a full-on PIRATE JENNY’S CIRCUS reunion!  That can only be a good omen.

But as I said, it’s a deep show, and the laughs are only part of the fun.  They Do end up committing the crime of making the audience think, in between the pratfalls, innuendos and dances.  After all, clowns are fine to ease the hard times when the suffering is inevitable.  But when things change, and the suffering becomes intentional…

I hope everyone who is able will get out to catch one of the last two performances of this dandy show.  I know a lot of folks tend to prefer the more professional and polished shows, but I have a piece of advice for those people…fuck that shit.  Seeing the students, the up-and-comers, the amateurs strut their stuff and lay it on the line is watching the beating heart of theatre.  Also, the seats in Academic Hall are really comfy now.  AND they have cupcakes.

That’s it…it’s late, I’m tired and have to work tomorrow.  If you’re not convinced yet, you’re a heartless bastard.  Which means you could probably use some laughter.  I can recommend a good priest for that…

Peace, love and soul, you lot,

The Visitor (and Winston)

7th Class – Walkabout

In OSSD Acting Class on November 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Was feeling pretty unwell yesterday…I’m taking in a little too much of the bad, not enough of the good these days, and my body was feeling it.  Bit of a mild panic/heart attack or something a few hours before class, so I napped it a bit, and then to Bridgehead where a nice pot of Rooibos fixed me up a treat, for the time being.  I wandered over the the OSSD for class the seventh, and this time it was ‘Bring a friend to class’ week at the school!  Three of our gang partook, and I would have myself, but I completely forgot that I don’t HAVE any friends, so that really was a bit of a non-starter.  Ah well.  Class ahoy!

Before we started I got my print sheet back from the Alan Dean headshots I sat for the week previous.  They look as good as pictures of me can realistically look, and now I have the option of shelling out cash (it’s a fundraiser for the school, so I dinna mind) to get some prints or digital copies.  I likely will…what the hey, at least my folks would probably want a copy.

We got underway the usual style, with warmups and our by now familiar excercizes.  This time, tho, we were told by Boss Karp to do them with an eye towards the approaching final class, where we will be doing a solo routine of five of them mashed together, an Enchainement as he calls it.  I’m looking forward, and wow, I sure hope I pass, or I’ll be spending all this money on headshots for nothing!  (seriously, tho, I really, really hope I pass)  I was sweating it a little bit…but mostly because I hadn’t really eaten well that day (remember?) and my body was reminding me of that rather loudly.  I tend to get a little woozy/crashy when I have these weird hunger attacks.  I was hoping the usual adrenalin buzz the class provides would carry me through.  It would.

After warmup we made a circle and got walking.   Just walking, one at a time, and someone else following that person with mimicry on their mind.  It was fun, especially since I’d been doing exactly that at the Rideau Centre a few days previous.  It was a little weird, tho…you certainly do feel just a little bit like a piece of meat, parading around solo for the gang.  I found that my folowee this class, Rachel I believe, was a little tricky to get right.  And apparently, as the running commentary from behind ME had it, I tend to slump.  It’s a fair cop.

We split into some of the quickie improv one-on-ones from last week then, before splitting into bigger teams to improv some machinery, growing more interconnected and mobile as the challenge went on.  As a Transformers fan of old, this was clearly no problem for me.

My high school yearbook picture.

No break after that, and we split into yet another team to tackle a bigger challenge.   We were given a 3-tiered montage to take on…victory, challenge, and defeat, in that order, and had to make a rhyming storyline to act out in not too long a time.  Being the so-called ‘writer’ of my little group, I got the task of scribbling our little masterpiece down, as well as the role of narrator.  One of the guests to class this week, a gent named Ryan, had a lot of good ideas for our piece, and along with Denise, Julia and Stefan I’d say we pretty much nailed the tale of the Democrats rise to power, and recent fall in the House.  Although there was another piece about a competitive dance troupe that was a fuckin’ hoot and a half, so kudos there.

That pretty much ate up the rest of class.  Barry gave us each a simple little script to memorize for the next time we see him, which will be in two weeks time.  He’s off next week to produce KISAGEETIN: A CREE CABARET at NAC’s 4th Stage.  It plays next tuesday/wednesday, the 9th and 10th, and I’m seriously considering checking it out on the 9th.  But next wednesday, we’ll be getting Mary, our fill-in instructor from way back at the 1st class, once again, which I’m kinda tickled about.  I mean, I loves me some Boss Karp, but I’m glad to getting the chance to interact with Mary one more time, so she can see how we’re coming along.  Hope she remembers us!

Oh, and as I picked the wrong bar to haunt after class (Carleton instead of the Oak), I missed out on being able to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the loverly Nadine Thornhill in person yesterday.  So keep on keeping on, Ms T.  See the rest of ya soon,

The Visitor (and Winston)