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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Sweet Tarts 2: Sweet Tarter

In Theatre on February 22, 2011 at 1:08 am

It’s Monday, so you know what that means…the beginning of the work week for most of you rotten souls, but more importantly, new webisode of Sweet Tarts Takeaway to enjoy!  Yeah, I’m gonna write about every one of these, deal with it.

Following right on the heels of episode one, our plucky cater-heroines Janis and Sue split up in this one.  Sue (Kate Drummond) checks in on her pooch Jackson, whom she shares with her ex Dan (Jerome Bourgault making his series debut, and looking amusingly forlorn the entire time).  Janis (Kel Parsons) meanwhile, returns the ring from last week’s adventure to Repo Man Bob (Riley Stewart).  Bob’s angry, but a little bit impressed, and tries to tempt the girls into another caper.  And did I detect some Bob/Janis vibes in this ep?  Does the fanfiction need to start flowing?  I say yes.  Of course, it’s all about the slash these days, that’s just the way it went.  I remember back in the day…

Sorry, flashbacks. Anyways, the series is still picking up steam, setting up the story, and they ARE of course short little eppys.  Writer/Producer/Director/Everything Bonnie Robinson seems quite content to let things proceed apace, and I’m just fine with that.  Like any good recipe, these things cannot be rushed.  As for this ep, loved Kate Drummond’s dreamy air during her cookery, and scheming Bob doing his grubby best to get doubting Janis on his side.  They got a good crew on this series.  Looking forward to next week!

That’s it for this short post…more another day about my ongoing adventures in Chapel Perilous (I wasn’t out after all), progress on the 211 in 2011 project, and maybe even a little new theatre this week (hoping for a Long Weekend/ Crystal Basement double-bill tomorrow, we’ll see if that works out).  Oh, and I did end up seeing LITTLE MARTYRS again…but I’m not telling you about my feelings upon the second viewing, no I’m not.  They’re just for me.  Take care you lot, and maybe I’ll see you around someday.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fourth Class, Level 2 – Beat Yourself to Death

In OSSD Acting Class on February 18, 2011 at 4:53 am

I’d had a rough night of it the eve before class this week, I won’t lie.  Oh, the play I saw, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, was a god-damn delight, ’tis true.  But, as is often the case with borderline manic-depressives like myself, things took a dark turn by the time I got home, and I hadn’t really eaten, and the bottle of Jameson’s was right THERE…

It was a rough day, too.  And I was practically falling asleep when I realized I had to run out of the place to make it to class at OSSD on time (stopping for an emergency RedBull to wake up along the way), but I made it just the same.  Oh, I was woozy, scattered, fresh scars clearly visible (rough night, like I said), but acting class waits for no man.  And I’m…not…no man…that analogy fell apart.  Where was I..?

Right, class!  Big cheese Brie Barker greeted us (as I now presume to be the norm, but I’m not making any bets) in character, this time switching from his previous week’s tuxedoed gentleman to a British punk, impressing us with a taster of his new song, ‘Pope on a Rope’. He called the roll, asking each of us to reply with the name of our own punk song.  Mine was ‘beat yourself to death’, something I’ve given a peculiar amount of thought to recently.  Because that’s the kind of upbeat cat I am.

We turned a circle then for a quick game of ZIP (a sort of improv/acting version of dodgeball), then tried it while moving, which was a tricky challenge. Then Brie immediately had us all take on an animal…I chose cat, ’cause I have Winston on the brain.  Then, we did another.  Then ANOTHER.   All while moving around the room, sometimes interacting with our fellow ‘animals’…I had a tricky time as a fish, let me tell you.  Afterwards, Brie asked us where our ‘centers’ were…our head, chest, stomach, genitals (snickering in class) or anus (even more snickering).  I went two anus,one chest…where do cats and fish lead, if not from their butts?  I ask you.

We did a couple scenes each then, improv-stylee, one using a whole animal physicality from our previous excercizes, one only using a specific center.   I thought my monkey-physic Bathroom buddy take with Rachel was a winner, tho my Anus-driven pilot’s lounge scene with Catherine (my fav’rit partner, I’ll admit it) had me wondering…just how does one lead from one’s anus? Pffft.

We did a quick break (which was great, because as grotesquely hungover as I was, I think I was sweating through my wallet by this point in the evening), then back for some impromptu lottery action…we had to draw from a hat to pick a center for our continuously building ‘character’.  I picked genitals…and then, like, the next 5 people did too.  So, we had to do a few redraws just to ensure our whole class wasn’t genital-crazy…I ended up as ‘head’ centered, which was not quite as hilarious, but just as challenging.

We did another quick round of scenes with our new centers…me and Stefan did a try as Lifeguard and concerned Father, which started out fine and ended up in inappropriate laughter.  I blame myself.  We finished the class in a circle, giving our thoughts on the night’s lessons and feeding off one another, and it was just a good way to end.  I passed on a couple offers of rides home to do some walking, because I needed some cool night air to finally clear my head (also, the cheeseburger platter at the Carleton).  It was a good class.  And I can’t wait til next one.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

the Importance of Being Plosive

In Theatre on February 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I’m completely blanking on any sort of a clever intro for this post, so let’s just dive into it shall we?  Last nite was an evening I’d been looking very much forward to, not only as my return to the Gladstone Theatre (not dead yet! )(but really not looking too hopeful now either…), but for the premiere show by new company Plosive Productions.  The brainchild of local theatre action heroes David Whitely (who I totally spotted at SINS OF THE MOTHER last week), Kel Parsons, Teri Loretto Valentik and Fiona Currie, Plosive was in the house to kick off their decidedly populist mandate with Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

Setting their version in India under the British Raj, Plosive gave their version of Wilde’s tale a killer aesthetic boost right from the get go, not to mention heightening the sense of class barriers. A few folks I overheard in the lobby seemed a bit offput by the change of scenery from the classic text..even Citizen critic and part-time doodyhead Patrick Langston rebelled at the new locale.  So, some people did not like the idea.

Some people are also whiny bitches. Just saying.

Personally, I was delighted with the whole damn show, not the least of which is the epic cast Plosive brought in under Whitely’s direction.  Where do I start?  The group ranged from 20 year vets of the stage to high school student debuts, but everyone hit their strides impressively.  Sean Conforti as Lane steals a whole scene using nothing but a slow-moving fan, and Henna Kaur Sodhi entrances as nervous young Merriman (and she can DANCE..!).  Kel Parsons is just plain wicked fun as the Imperious Lady Bracknell, and her interactions with our hero Earnest, played by Stewart Matthews, are great stuff.   Matthews makes a wonderful comic lead, fawning over Katie Bunting’s hilarious Gwendolyn with heroic ineptitude.

I could go on…and screw it, I will.  Gladstone mainstay Chris Ralph shines as usual as Dr.Chasuble, playing merrily off of Teri Loretto’s hammy Miss Prism.  And Bronwyn Steinberg, charming and gorgeous as willful wee Cecily, throws herself into her lines with wonderful gusto.

Which leaves me with Garret Quirk.  Now, I’ve dug Quirk for a while now…saw him in SHINING CITY a ways back, was blown away by his Tybalt (in both DEATH OF TYBALT and ROMEO AND JULIET from Salamander), and he hit a comic home run in MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II.  I was pretty jazzed at his being pegged as Algernon in this one, and I’m thrilled to say he didn’t disappoint for a second.  Looking like a dandified Archie Andrews, he was every inch the Wilde hero and drew easy laughs from the audience at will.  And please ignore the mad ravings of Alvina Ruprecht, my man…you eat all the cucumber sandwiches you want.  You’ve earned them.

The show ended, appropriately enough, Bollywood-style, and by that time I was having a hard time imagining why you would NOT want to set this play in India.  This EARNEST is a killer fun night out, and I can’t wait to see what Plosive has up their sleeves for their next show.  I hope it’s a short wait.

Peace, love and Soul,

the Visitor (and Winston)

Sweet Tarts Takeaway: Episode Phantom Menace

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 at 1:26 am

Back again, after an interminable fifteen-minute absence, because it’s Valentine’s Day and I just can’t get enough of your pretty face, internet!  But mostly, because of this:

Yes, Ottawa and the world, today is the premiere of our homegrown new webseries SWEET TARTS TAKEAWAY.   Starring the legendary Kel Parsons and Kate Drummond as Janis and Sue, two would-be caterers who we walk in on as they’re trying to reclaim their repossessed van (which they were a TAD behind in the payments on).  Enter Bob (Riley Stewart, gleefully sleazy as well as the composer of the catchy STT theme music), a repo man who could use a couple of down-on-their-luck gals like our heroines to do some dirty work for him.

I’ve been hearing about this new venture for a while, mostly while following Kel Parsons on Twitter (yeah, I’ve gotten sucked into Twitter, don’t rub it in), and was happy to finally catch the debut.  It’s microbudget, DIY, and pretty damn fun.  There’s a good laugh or three in the short debut episode, especially as the Tarts make their repo debut at a health club stalking a suspicious woman and her expensive necklace.  I’d been familiar with Kel mostly from her two stints in the Fringe BEER TENT shows (fingers crossed I get name-dropped in the next installment!), but hadn’t seen Kate Drummond before.  Happy to say she makes a wonderful counterpoint to Kel.

The Ottawa 2011 version of this, basically.

There’s a lot to look forward to in this promising series…as I said, we sort of come in in the middle of things, so backstory aplenty is there for the getting into.  And I hear/read that Jerome Bourgault is upcoming in the cast, and that’s plenty fine, too.  So, thumbs up to good fun on the internet, and I do indeed look forward to the next episode.  Oh, and there’s recipes on the website, too, for those of you who want to taste what you see.  Nice touch indeed.

That’s it for me this Valentino Day…I’m off to watch some Pertwee WHO and drink whiskey, as is my tradition.  In the meantime (what’s so mean about it..?) be good to yourselves, and enjoy some peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston, god of love)

Summer Sins

In Theatre on February 15, 2011 at 12:34 am

Starting to slack off a bit…I’ve seen two shows over the weekend, and I have yet to get a post up about either one!  I may be suffering from a touch of  performance anxiety…the last post I made, about Evolution Theatre‘s epic LITTLE MARTYRS show has been insanely well-received (but then, with such rich fodder, how could I fail?), even prompting Ottawa’s squinkiest actress to make an entire post about it.  That, combined with the news of my involvement in the still super-secret Fringe project, makes this past week just about my proudest week in Ottawa Theatre yet.

But one mustn’t rest on one’s laurels, lest one’s laurels lose their robust shape and flavour!  So let’s get back to business…the business of sweet, sweet theatre fun!  Which in this case involves the two shows I saw over the past weekend, both on the last days of each play’s run, another reason why I perhaps haven’t been rushing to the review.  Once there’s a mathematical certainty I can’t convince anyone else to see a show, the fire kind of dims, you know what I mean?  But plays are plays, and they still deserve a few of my meagre words, and plenty more.

The first show, over at good ole Algonquin College, was David French’s THAT SUMMER, directed by one Cath Kenny and starring a gaggle of their theatre arts students.  My blogmate Smooth Tim Oberholzer was stage managing this one, so I for sure wanted to check it out…I often enjoy the student prods, and I can certainly relate to that up-and-comer eagerness.  There was a simple but good-lookin’ set, very sweetly including a rope swing and some rockin’ chairs.  i got a little nervous when a young couple showed up at the eleventh hour with their toddler in tow…seriously, folks, I respect parenting and know finding a babysitter can be hard.  But babies aren’t going to get that, once the lights go down and strangers start saying bizarre things all around them, that they’re supposed to remain silent, you dig?  They’re just not refined in that direction.  It’s all cool, but it isn’t their game yet.

So, anyways, yeah, screaming baby.  It happens.  The play went about its business, and managed nicely.  Laurie Payton, previously seen in the Gladstone’s fun farce A FLEA IN HER EAR, lent a nice touch of class as the narrator, telling us the story of a magical summer from her youth.  She (Margaret) and her flighty sister Daisy end up at a lake in Canada, where each embarks upon a journey that will change her life…the romantic kind, you dig?

The second half of THAT SUMMER felt like more fun to me than the first, and the Algonquin gang gave it a great effort.  Brianna Radnor and John Marochko make a nice bit of chemistry as young Margaret and her true love Paul, tho it’s Monique Floyd’s drama queen Daisy who steals the show, doing things with the theatrical pout that would give Kate Smith a run for her money.  Great fun, and a good night out.

Next day I was back at school again…this time the OSSD, for the New Ottawa Repertory Theatre’s production of Israel Horovitz’s SINS OF THE MOTHER.  Directed by OSSD playwrighting coach Paul Dervis, and housed in my familiar classroom in the Natalie Stern Studio, we entered the room to one of my fav’rit sights…the actors already in character.  Or rather, actor, as it was only Ray Besharah (seen last week at the Elmdale with CRUSH IMPROV…you were there, right?) onstage just yet, quietly reading a book as we waited for showtime.  I SERIOUSLY love when shit like that happens in theatre (OLD GROWTH, LAST GODDAMNED PERFORMANCE PIECE…even MY PREGNANT BROTHER come to mind).

When the show began, with the entry onstage of the mighty Jerome Bourgault (another FLEA veteran…they’re everywhere!) as well-seasoned old fisherman Bobby, the slow burn that is SINS got underway.  The staging was pretty brilliant…I’d thought it odd and rather risky that the show started with the big window open to the outside…until, a few minutes in Sean Tucker and Adam Skanks came loudly knocking on said window, shouting for Bobby to let them in.  Killer.  And with each character taking his turn grilling Ray’s newcomer Douggie about his past, his connection to their embittered Massachussets town, and eventually finding the dark secret that would slowly but surely twist its angry fingers around all of their throats…I can say I jumped in my seat a few times, hells yes.  Over three short acts each actor impressed mightily…Sean Tucker’s brash pride shone in two separate roles, and Adam Skanks as the kind but hapless Dubbah broke my heart halfway through act 2.
The music was picked by director Dervis to evoke Maritime villages, and connect them to Horovitz’ more American milieu…personally, I was getting odd flashbacks to my childhood trips up to Kenora, especially during the all-too-real wake in act 2.  It was a positively dynamite show, and well done indeed to the lads on stage.

After the show was over, we had a special treat, as the playwright himself, Israel Horovitz, was in attendance and took to the stage to field some questions.  He was polite and charming, and told a great story about the genesis of the play over the years, and basically made me feel terribly ignorant of the playwrighting world. It was totally cool.

And after THAT, when I was waiting for the bus to go home, who do I run into but Ray Besharah himself!   We ended up having a pleasant chat indeed…I thanked him for the show, as well as his role in my old Fringe fav’rit SATANIC PANIC a couple years back.  He reminded me about the upcoming Ottawa Theatre Challenge, and generally made a lovely gent of himself.  It was a great capper to a great weekend of theatre.

Plenty of good stuff lined up for this week, you bet…aside from a certain something I plan on watching and reviewing later this evening, I’m hoping to catch Plosive’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST on tuesday (although this is mighty tempting, too…), OLT’s THE LONG WEEKEND on thursday, and then back for more nightmares with LITTLE MARTYRS closing night on Saturday.  I swear, I’d better see some of you beggars out there for all this awesomeness, because…because…

Because it’s Valentine’s Day, that’s why.  And I know you love me like I love you.  Don’t try and fight it.  Just enjoy the peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

How to Make a Martyr

In Evolution Theatre on February 11, 2011 at 4:58 am

An apology.  Last week, after a great night of THIS IS A RECORDING at the Undercurrents festival, I was privileged enough to be invited out to Absinthe with a few Ottawa theatrical luminaries, including Nancy Kenny and Margo Macdonald, among many splendid others.  But Nancy and Margo Mac, they were premiering a new show this week, see?  And I, in my hubris, asked if I could hang around with them and the cast and all after the show, when I saw it on Thursday night.  Because that sounded fun and stuff.  They, all smiles and coolness, said that would be very delightful indeed, or words to that effect.

I saw that show, Evolution Theatre‘s LITTLE MARTYRS, tonight.  And when the house lights came up and the cast took their bows, I got the Hell out of there as fast as I could.  And I’m really, really sorry (not that I think any of the cast were all heartbroken at not getting to hang out with me, I’m not capable of thoughts like that), but, I just…I just couldn’t stay.  Not after that.  Hell, I could barely look you guys in the eye during the applause!

To explain…I’d been seriously looking forward to this show for a while…Evolution is a killer company, Nancy Kenny is a pal, the whole cast seemed awesome (although I was unfamiliar with one of them).  So I was excited to hit Arts Court (a new part of it for me, to boot) and head in for the second show of the run.  A sadly sparse house, probably thanks to the EARNEST debut across town, so I picked a good seat even as I tried to take in the set.  And when I saw the SET…holy Mother.  The set grabs you by the throat and just instantly starts twisting your brain in directions that haven’t even been invented yet.  I don’t know what mad scientist’s lab Pierre Ducharme escaped from, but thank fuck his talents have been channelled to good use.  The set is bafflingly cool in a way MC Escher only had nightmares about.

After drinking in the visuals, and perusing the program to marvel at the list of generous, handsome donors, the show began.  A woman is taking out the garbage.  A young man knocks on her door.  And even though it should seem normal, there’s something terribly, terribly wrong  in the air…

I’m not spoiling anything in pointing out that this play, by playwright Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf (here translated for the first time into English by Mishka Lavigne) is based on a true crime story of two ten-year old boys who tortured and killed a toddler.  It’s in all the promo material for the show, so I know Evolution is not concerned if you know that going in.  And it’s not a concern…hell, it only adds to the tension.  Of which there is considerably plenty.

Another anecdote from Undercurrents springs to mind…the time Alvina Ruprecht mistook me briefly for Chris Bedford.  Well, after seeing how he directs a show tonite, I’m liable to send her an e-mail of gratitude.  At the risk of sounding film-school trite, this is the closest you’re coming to seeing a David Lynch movie live on stage in this town anytime soon.   And Al Connors..!  That fool knows his sound.  Impressive.

The cast is INSANE.  Matt Miwa, who shares the bulk of the scenes, and who was the only actor here I was previously unfamiliar with, is a revelation.  His tortured Jacob, seeking redemption for his crime through a funhouse mirror of religion and suffering, is wonderful and a little scary to watch.  His counterpart, the always great Brad Long as Ludovic, tries to find HIS salvation through beauty, all while rocking a sweater vest like you only WISH you could.  They both collide around Margaret, a spectacularly damaged young woman who has dark secrets of her own…and to my darlin’ buddy Nancy K, let me assure you, Winston is purring loudly with pride in my lap as I type this.  You are bold and amazing.  You’re still my hero.

Rounding it out are Jody Haucke as Margaret’s Father, loving, supportive, but oddly distant…possibly due to the overpowering and lusty Margo MacDonald, vaporizing the scenery as mother Blanche,  a creature of lust consumed by thoughts of bloody vengeance, for some terrible spectre in the past she can’t let go, and neither can Margaret…

I mentioned David Lynch before, and it wasn’t out of sheer pretension.  It’s just that, years ago, when I rented and watched his movie FIRE WALK WITH ME…when it was over?  I had this feeling all over me, like I’d just been hit with a truck.   I was not exactly numb, but…it’s a feeling I can’t describe, but you all know it (or will).  Shaken, let’s call it.   I felt that tonight.  And I simply couldn’t bring myself to shrug it off, say ‘hey, great show!’ and head out for a drink with these people who had just blown my mind.  I just couldn’t let myself look at them as people again.  Not yet.

…Maybe next week, because as I was writing this post I realized that I am absolutely, definitely seeing this show again before it ends its run.  Shows like this don’t come along that often, folks.  And like it, love it, flee screaming from it…you should see it.  Yes.  Yes, you should.

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Third Class, Level 2 – Heavy

In OSSD Acting Class on February 10, 2011 at 6:07 pm

We had a snow day last week.  Ordinarily, when your school gets closed from a blizzard, it’s cause for joyous celebration and wild, toboggan-fuelled orgies.  Not so, however, when you actually LOVE your schoolwork, as if you take an acting class, you probably do.  So I was a bit bummed out when we got the word last week that the doors would be dark, and we would all have to find something productive to do with our lives for one night.

Well, fuck that.  Thank God we’re back this week, last Wednesday SUCKED.  This one, however…this one kicked all sorts of ass.  Check it out…after the good times at IPHEGENIE EN TAURIDE the previous night (seen it yet?  You really should), I got to have a coffee date Wednesday lunch with the wondrous Natalie Joy, Fringe Mastermind and all-around supergal.  We had swell palaver, about theatre and Buffy comic books and other important things, AND a super-special secret something coming up that I, in Natalie’s infinite graciousness, get to partake in.  No details from me yet, but I’m so excited I could power a small fictional city.

That should do nicely.

With that pep under my belt, I practically sprinted back to the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama for the return of classes, and was rewarded for my enthusiasm with coach Brie Barker greeting us all in full-on formal wear, because that’s how the big cheese ROLLS, yo.  Pretty much a full compliment of students tonite, the mythical ‘Steve’ on the roll notwithstanding.  We each answered the headcount with our spiffy new spy names (I chose Scooby, because I’m a little kid apparently), then formed a circle and began walking in place.  Brie would ask us where we were headed, and we had to think something up pdq.  And again, and AGAIN…today, as Brie explained to us with a gentlemanly grin, was all about impulses.

We then settled into an improv challenge, two of us at a time with the rest of the class watching, and given a very sparse character/scenario setup.  The big trick was…it wasn’t supposed to be funny.  Everyone always thinks of Improv as something that’s necessarily supposed to be a laugh riot no matter what…it’s just sort of burned into our popular consciousness.  Personally, I blame these guys.

Brie urged us not to worry about trying to sneak in the jokey twist or what not…he literally gave us permission to be dull.  And as odd as that sounds, it really felt like it helped me a lot.  Many times now, when given a choice up there, I’ve opted for the somewhat loud, wacky approach.  I think it feel safer, somehow…like, if there’s a chance you’re going to get laughed at, you might as well be trying to be funny, right?

But once we got the greenlight to just…BE, it was wonderful.  I did about four mini-scenes over the class, and at least three of them I felt really good about.  Me and Catherine played out a Mother and Son on an awkward train voyage…we tried it once from ourselves, then got restarted with instructions to swap physicalities with one another.  ie, my loose, sprawled out slacker son had to switch with Catherine’s proper, upright Mom.  And suddenly, even with the exact same dialogue (more or less), it’s a hippy-dippy, free-spirit earth Mother and her son, Rain Man.  Kinda mind blowing how little it took to totally change the scene.

We had a small break, chatted amongst ourselves, and then dove right back into it with a walking exercize.  We had to decide what kind of walker we were…the kind who ‘plowed’ through the air, the kind who more ‘floated’, or one who simply ‘flies’.  Oddly, I was the lone person who chose flying as their default.

You mean not EVERYONE pretends to be Superman when they're alone?

We then had to switch to one of the other options, and add that to our slowly growing character repertoire.  I picked ‘plowing’, and was immediately struck with a very heavy sense of gravity.  That really informed the rest of the mini-improvs we did that class, from a somewhat comical tale of two competing divers trying to outboast one another, to me and the big cheese himself as a patient and therapist.  The extra gravity I was feeling just made my characters feel extra serious, sombre even.  I couldn’t help it.

I had a great time in this class, maybe my fav’rit Brie class so far (my fav’rit Barry Karp class was when we got to do the seven stages of movement with the masks on…fuckin’ magic, mon).  And my fav’rit part OF this great class..?
Actors.  When Brie called us up to perform, he didn’t ask for ‘students’.  He called for actors.  He meant US.  And I loved it.  I think I want more people to call me that someday.  Yes.  Yes, I sincerely do.

Well, shit.  Now I’m screwed.  Peace, love and soul, you lot,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS:  Hope to see some of you out at Evolution Theatre‘s LITTLE MARTYRS tonight at Arts Courts.  It’s gonna be faboo!

Iphigenie en Ottawa

In Theatre on February 9, 2011 at 7:57 am

A week or so ago, I read myself a play, all on my lonesome and out loud, like God intended.  It was IPHEGENIA IN TAURIS by my old pinochle buddy Euripedes, and I was reading it because I was soon to see a French translation of this play performed, and I wanted to know the gist of it because, ma Francais, elle n’est pas ci bonne.  Should that even have been in la feminin?  I don’t even know.  You see my problem.

So I read it, and I dug it well enough, and figgered I was equipped to tackle the show.  Least I could do, since director and Fringe deity Natalie Joy Quesnel had personally invited me to the show.  And lemme tell you, that does not happen too often.  So off I hustled to la Salle Academique on Ottawa U. Campus, a much beloved Fringefest venue of mine, where I was quickly and happily greeted by the Joy herself (and Tweedy old Andrew Snowdon, because, well, why not?).  She even gave me a free poster for the show, because Njoy is the coolest director EVER.   Although it WAS around then that I took a glance at the program, and realized that she had based this play not on the Euripedes show, but on the later adaptation by Goethe.

You fucking son of a BITCH.

So had all my research been in vain?  Had I actually read a play for nothing?  We’d soon see, as we filed in to the hall for IPHIGENIE EN TAURIDE, Njoy’s all-girl version of the Euripi-Goethe classic.  Social animal that I am, I sat as far away from everyone else as I could…although, oddly, closer to the STAGE than anyone else.  Do they not realize that’s there the play happens?  Hmm.

The stage was set up pretty cool, with layered risers on either side and a trippy backdrop that had a bit of an HR Giger feel to it.  The mainstage was painted up like ocean waves, and if it sounds like I’m paying more attention than usual to this sort of thing, yes it IS because I’m trying to overcompensate for the fact that I hardly understood anything the actors actually SAID.  But boy, I sure liked hearing them say it.

The story is basically a follow-up to the Trojan War saga, where poor Iphegenie, daughter of Agamemenon was sacrificed, but secretly saved by a Goddess and hied to savage Tauride, where she was made head priestess in charge of killing dudes. Her only hope in life, besides her constant chorus of similarly clad gals, is the thought that her brother Oreste is still alive…which, it turns out, he is…and in Tauride to boot.  Enter the jealous, cloying king, and we’ve got ourselves a Greek play over here!

Well, turns out Goethe made what I would call improvements over the original, and doubtless, so did Njoy and her dynamite cast. With splendidly cool staging and *gorgeous* costumes, the action kept even a middling francophone like me entranced for the duration.  Sariana Monette-Saillant as our tortured lead Iphigenie was solid as a rock, and she and her chorus (Caroline Lefebvre and Gabrielle Brunet Poirier) made marvelous visual music together on the stage, flowing, dancing, moving in synch throughout.  Marieve Gauvreau-Pressau rocked it as Taurian King Thoas, very much NOT the one-dimensional villain he could have been.  And, honestly, it’s a little hard for me to judge the performances since my conversational French has devolved to pretty much grunt-level, so I’m winging it a bit here.  But I loved what I saw.

The whole show, the sound, the look, the delivery, was great, supercool fun, and that’s from a dumb Anglo perspective.  I personally enjoyed the changes from the original version I had read,  and wish there’d been a bigger house out to see how these gals rocked it out.  If you’re free the next few days (it’s on from the 8th-12th), do your soul a favour and go check it out.

It was a serious blast coming out for IPHIGENIE tonite.  Great hanging with Joy and Snowdon (and I FINALLY know what the secret project is!!), and now I’m up way too late, but whatever.    See it if you can, you fiends.  Now, I’m off to read the Goethe version of the play, and compare if I dare.  Peace, love and soul to you all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Undercurrents – My Last Day

In GCTC, Theatre, Undercurrents on February 6, 2011 at 7:41 am

It’s almost 130 in the morning as I start to write this.  I just drank more than I should have, missed my last bus and had to walk 45 minutes home. I really, really should not still be up writing (and drinking), as I have to be at work at 8 in the morning.

But fuck that noise.  I saw THIS IS A RECORDING tonite, and if anything else matters then there is no God.  Also, I met Bronwyn Steinberg tonite and that too was also cool.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Today was my very own, very sad last day at the GCTC‘s UNDERCURRENTS festival, which to my mind has been a smashing goddamn success.  I’ve enjoyed all the shows I’ve seen, and tonite was my go at the last one on my list, the grand finale I’d planned for, Kelly Rigole and Simon Bradshaw’s Fringe ’09 killer THIS IS A RECORDING.  I caught this show, pretty much on a whim, two years back at Ottawa U’s ample Alumni Auditorium.  And if you’re wondering what size that room was, I’ll direct you to the ‘auditorium’ portion of the previous sentence.  This time, it was being staged in the GCTC Studio, which is every bit as cozy as the word ‘studio’ implies.  That shift alone had me curious as to how the show would play this time.

But more than that, the Ditto Productions gang (Kelly and Simon) had brought on board Fringe Superking Natalie Joy Quesnel to direct this time, reshaping and trimming the show into a potentially new animal indeed.  Much to look forward to, even IF I hadn’t already caught it.

After arriving, chatting with my GCTC barmaid pal Emma, saying hello to my old acting boss Barry Karp, and bothering poor Nancy Kenny as I am wont to do (btw, please read her latest post and try and help Evolution Theatre out, if you can…it’s the right thing to do, and you’re an awful person if you don’t) we headed in to the studio.  I snuck into a front row seat, eschewing human contact as always, and watched as Kelly and Simon set up, with perfectly practiced casualness, before our eyes.
…it actually never ceases to amaze me, in shows where the actors are out on stage before the play officially starts, that more people are NOT watching them closely.  It’s like skipping the opening few stanzas of a poem.  But whatever.  Soon enough, the lights dimmed, the stories began, and Kelly and Simon turned their multicoloured sheets, chairs, and coatrack into magic right in front of our eyes.

A product of ‘Verbatim’ theatre, where the words of regular, ordinary folk are reenacted onstage, RECORDING is a show about heroes, personal or otherwise, in our lives. I remembered a lot of it from the Fringe…the ‘Green Lantern’ kid, the girl who got married too young, the weed sale gone wrong, the random ninja..!  The stories ranged all over, from goofily ridiculous to painfully true.  And a few new ones had been added for this run, stories about our own heroes onstage, Kelly and Simon themselves.  It helped, I thought, to make the show a little bit more about them, as well as the random or mercurial heroes mentioned in their various verbatim stories.  Because that’s how they relate to it all…the heroic journey is THEIR journey, too.  And if it’s THEIR journey…well, shit.  It’s ours too, isn’t it?

I won’t give anything more away other than to say that before the show was over Simon and Kelly each had me pretty much in tears AND stitches, and if you can ask anything more from theatre you’re a greedier sonofabitch than I.  It doesn’t get any better, my friends, than THIS IS A RECORDING.

After the show, I milled about with Nancy, Tania Levy, shook hands with Brad Long, met the supercool Michelle LeBlanc and Bronwyn Steinberg, and eventually congratulated and thanked Simon and Kelly…who, by the by, are probably the two coolest, easiest to talk to people I’ve EVER met in theatre.  They’re just awesome folk, and the connection they have…easily noticeable on the stage, even when one is acting and the other is waiting in the shadows…should make anyone in range green with envy.

I got invited to head over the the Absinthe Bar then, and of course since I was working at 8 in the morning the next day and am not a hopeless, attention-seeking drunk…

…HA HA HA, I couldn’t finish that sentence.  I headed over, sat next to three of Ottawa’s best actresses (Kelly, Nancy and Margo MacDonald, who taught us all about how best to enjoy Absinthe), wished I had the nerve to stroll over and tell Johanna Nutter how amazing I thought her show, MY PREGNANT BROTHER was (note: I did not have the nerve, someone else please tell her for me..?), but did get to tell Kevin Orr what a wicked good time BIFURCATE ME was.  It was a good time.

SO good, that I stayed about two minutes too long and ended up missing my last bus home.  It was a pretty mild nite tho, so I decided to walk, having a few interesting solo conversations with myself about the realizations I’ve come to about my role with theatre recently (more on that another day), and just enough renewed adrenalin to stay up and write this post.  I’m glad I did.  Because really, tonite felt almost like one of my Fringe days from this past summer…and really, that’s exactly what I’d been hoping for from UNDERCURRENTS.  So a billion thanks to Pat, Lise Ann, the GCTC gang, and every performer and crew that took part.  I hope you all understand that we’re very much expecting more of the same this time, next year.  Also, I’m expecting at least some of you to come out to the Elmdale Tavern this monday nite for CRUSH IMPROV (except you, Kenny…you can’t drink right now, and going to the Elmdale would just be cruel).  So, awesome festival everyone, loved every minute of it, and happily look forward to UNDERCURRENTS II.  And now, I gotta go to bed, or I’m getting fired.  Peace, love and soul to all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

You Shot My Pony! …and other funny things.

In Theatre on February 5, 2011 at 4:44 am

Haha, I FINALLY got off my ass and put that package in the mail!  Caren, if you’re reading this (you’re totally not, but, y’know, pretend), you should have gudstuff arriving by the middle of next week.  I hope you think it’s good, anyways…

Oh, shit, this is a blog.  Sorry!  My mind wanders sometimes.  I’m supposed to be talking about theatre, and so I shall.  In fact, after getting Caren’s package (you’re SO gonna love it..!) in the post, I hopped on the #7 and wended my way back, back to my old alma mater at Carleton U once again.  The last time I was here had been for the Sock’n’Buskin production of SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOUR.  I had a fine time, and so ventured back into the tunnels tonite for their latest venture, the ONE-ACT COMEDY FESTIVAL.  With a little help from blind luck I found the Kailash Mital Theatre…and seriously, that’s a fucking wicked cool name, guys…and once again found it almost criminally underfilled.  This time I sat right up front, because why not?  And wondered what to expect.

A halfway decent crowd had assembled by showtime, and the 90-minute show of nine consecutive short cemedic scenes got underway.  And whatever I had been expecting, I can very shamefacedly say I had NOT been expecting it to be THAT fucking good.  But I had the time of my life at this show.

I really don’t know any of the source material, if they exist only AS these small scenes or what (at least one was written by show director Adam Smith himself), but they were good fun, occasionally wicked brilliant.  From the opening DRIGS ARE BAD  skit featuring a dragged-out Kyle Roenick and stern Dave Rowan (who, yeah, I completely remembered as Stage Tech #2 from 6 CHARACTERS), to Kayla Isabelle’s fierce about-face on Danny Tedla in NO DOGS ALLOWED, which featured some of the finest vicious threats I’ve EVER heard uttered.  Virginia Woodall very much shone in the surprisingly sweet POST-ITS, and Bev Hinterhoeller had the place howling in BEST DADDY.  Adam Smith’s OVER THE HILL was a crazily cool look at a horrible homeless hierarchy, MISS YOU was beautifully staged and all too believable…and the finale, CONTROLLING INTEREST, pretty much brought the house down (LOVED Alex Lai constantly letting people know what she knew how to do).

And a special shoutout to the two I kept confusing with one another, the Champagne boys, Jon and Jamie…shit.  Silly talented, these cats.  Someone put them in a movie!  Oh, wait…they already did.

I left the KM theatre very, very impressed tonite, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for a lot of the names I learned in this show for the next long while (I expect great things).  This was a good, fun show and if you’re free tomorrow nite (Saturday) you fucking well HAVE to go.  Trust me, awright?  Laughing is fun.  Do it while you have this kick-ass opportunity.  Until next time, SnB, Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)