Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

What Happened Next

In GCTC on May 30, 2011 at 11:35 pm

A few days late with this posting…blame a hectic work schedule, local punk-rock killers THE UNCOOPERATIVES, and the long-awaited Evolution Theatre Wrap Party for THE LAVENDER RAILROAD.  I’m happy to say that I got through the heat of the kitchen, avoided bruising my ribs in the mosh pit this time, AND my Greek-style lasagna was a hit.  Also, Joel and Lawrence have a sweet, sweet pad.

But somewhere in the midst of all that was another volunteer shift for me at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, where their final production of the 2010/11 season is now underway.  And not just any production, but Daniel MacIvor’s latest, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.   Now, Daniel is a bit of a legend in the National playwrighting scene…your average Canadian Fringe Festival usually consists of approximately 60% MacIvor plays (NOTE: This is an exaggeration), and he’s frequently named as favourite writer in theatrical circles.  Myself, I’ve caught four of his works before this…HOUSE, WILD ABANDON, YOU ARE HERE and THIS IS A PLAY.  All gooders, so I was certainly looking forward to his latest…and he’d be performing it himself!   I love me a one person show, and from what I hear, Danny Mac rewrote the book on them.

After performing my own program-handing duties for the evening, I settled in to my seat and waited…the stage was flanked by a lighting rig that made it look like a boxing ring, with a few minimal props awaiting.  And at last, Daniel entered…an entrance designed to make us like him, endear him to us, make us WANT to root for him.  And it worked like a charm.   After a charming opening, things started to take shape.  A story was outlined, strange sounds began rising ominously in the background, Daniel got a little uneasy up there…and then we met Will, and things really took off.

MavIvor plays six or seven distinct characters in this semi-autobiographical piece that’s intimate, funny and larger-than-life all at once.  His characters, from a world-weary single Mom Lawyer to a hyperimaginative child named Kevin (who, like me, enjoys himself some LITTLE MERMAID…nothing wrong with that, Kev!) are engaging, tragic, hilarious, you name it, and MacIvor slips them on and off with the ease of a master.  It’s easy to see, watching this play, why people revere him as they do.  He’s earned it.  90 minutes straight thru, and Daniel had us right where he wanted us the entire time.  For those of you who haven’t heard of him before now, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself.   A wonderful work from a perfectly delightful genius.

Also, there’s a giant.  It’s really cool.

That’s it for me, for now…this is probably my last post of the year.  So Peace, love and soul to all,and see you next year,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Watching the Ships Sail Away

In Theatre on May 27, 2011 at 3:37 am

Always a good, giddy thrill to catch something new (at least new to ME) in local theatre.  And as I’ve only got a few years of catching shows under my belt, there’s plenty left for me to dig into.  Tonight it was my first go-round with Community Theatre group Goya Theatre, at the new studio space at Centrepointe so recently inaugurated by HAMLET 2011.  Goya, I learned, is a group that performs exclusively Canuck content…and musical content, at that.  I approve of this on several levels, and was thus tickled to head out for opening night of HOMECHILD: THE MUSICAL.

Now admittedly, I learned a lot of this stuff at the theatre tonight…previously, my only real draw to the production was that it was being directed by one Bronwyn Steinberg, a one-woman theatrical army who is underestimated at your own peril.  But it turned out there was much more to this show than just its dynamo director…the story, by Barb Perkins, concerns a rather guiltily covered-up bit of Canadian history about ‘Home Children’: British orphans, or simply children from poor families, shipped off to Canada to be essentially handed off to whatever nearby household needed some free labour.  In the case of this show, it’s Barb’s own history under the microscope, as the characters are her own ancestral family from Cardiff, at the turn of the 20th Century.

After some rousing scene-setting by Will and Ellyn, kindhearted heads of the Welsh Griffyn clan (Ron Clarke and Donna Castonguay, perfectly cast), tragedy strikes. Father Will dies and the large clan is left impoverished, auntil an orphanage service offers to help out…they take away four of the children, only to quietly ship them all off to Canada without any notice.  The children are split up and sent to various shabby foster homes, and spend the next 8 years trying to survive, and find their way back to one another.

The children are ‘led’ by eldest sister Nan, whose younger self is played by Marie-Pier Jean and, later, Julia Walmsley (there’s a scene in the first act where the young children hand things over to their older selves that’s just…mwah.  Gorgeous moment).  Both Nan’s are stellar, handling their solos AND acting moments like pros, and hitting some seriously killer notes.  I was duly impressed…but then, no one really DIDN’T impress me.  Matteo Belloni and Nabil Ayoub as Thomas, Cullen Armstrong and Nicholas Surges as James, and Samantha Pierre and Stephanie Crepin as Mary, they all get their moment to shine, and they take full advantage.  The ensemble/chorus is strong, Bronwyn’s use of the versatile studio space is just beautiful…and a lot of the songs are still stuck in my head, always a good sign.  ‘Imagine Something good…’…Awesome.

I had a lot of fun at HOMECHILD, and judging from the standing ovation at the end, a lot of others did too.   There was enough heartbreak, drama, joy, laughs, dancing, villainy and intrigue to keep about three shows going, and it’s a pretty amazing bit of history to boot.    If you have a chance to see it between now and the Sunday matinee, I’d get going if I were you.  She’s a gooder.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Sweet Five

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 1:01 am

How long has it been since a new eppy of SWEET TARTS TAKEAWAY?  Yes, you’re correct, Johnny Obvious, too damn long!  So what HAS been going on in the world of Janis (Kel Parsons) and Sue (Kate Drummond), would-be-caterers and newly inducted repo ladies?  Let’s watch, shall we..?

More nifty highlights in this ep, including the introduction of Janis’  slackerific son Curtis (a goofily amusing Evan Welchner), the welcome return of Riley Stewart as Bob, replete with handy tips on how to succeed in the repo business, and the final fate of the reclaimed sex toys from two eps back.  There’s good back and forth with Jan and Sue, and especially with the two of them and Bob.  We’re nearing the point now when enough of the pieces will be in play in this fledgeling series to really start doing intriguing things with the players on a slightly larger scale.  And if that sounds dirty, then so be it.  In for a penny…

And okay, that’s a fairly short review-ish thing of mine, which it shouldn’t be on account of it HAS been a long wait (cool opening street-searching montage, by the by), but I’ve been battling a sentient black hole that’s trying to form inside my Parietal lobe, and it’s making for a tough evening.  I was happy to have the Sweet Tarts as a distraction.  Much obliged, ladies, and I hope we’ll see you sooner!  Peace, love and soul from a fan,

the Visitor (and Winston)

Youth Infringement 2011 – Part 3

In Theatre on May 21, 2011 at 2:44 am

Well, one more day and two more plays, and I’ve done what I failed to do this time last year…I’ve seen every show in the YOUTH INFRINGEMENT lineup.  Okay, I only missed one show last year, but considering how sweet the price point is and how the schedule shifts and changes shape from one day to the next, I hardly think I can be excused.  So, apologies YI 2010, I hope this makes up for my slacking, at least a little.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

The first show of the night was a little late in starting tonight…not due to any technical glitches or behind the scenes drama, mind you.  No, it was rather because the lineup for tickets was SO long, they had to hold off in order to get everyone in.  This, as I understand it, is just about the best reason there can be to delay a production.  Cheers to the fest for drawing in such a packed house!  That first show, and my 6th of the festival, was Amy Zhou’s FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL.  Directed and light/sound/set designed by Arts Courts mainstay Nicolas Alain (today guest-starring in the production as ‘the corpse’…he does good work), FALLEN is a hardcore gangland-style retelling of the ‘War in Heaven’ bits of the bible (aka: the good parts).  Will Lafrance (recently of ZASTROZZI) plays Samael, one of the Brotherhood who has an epiphany about the ruthless nature of the orders he gets from the mysterious Poppa by way of Michael, a very fired-up Sami Botros.  All manner of hi-volume shenanigans ensue as a result, with the ‘angels’ picking sides and things getting bloody right quick.  It’s an over the top, occasionally campy piece of theatre packed with expletives, Batman references, pop tunes, cap guns and the excellent and scene-stealing beard of Keir MacDonald (also seen in THE SUMMIT this fest).  The large cast have great fun with the material…I was personally pretty impressed with Bubba Vien as the good-hearted Raphael.  And props to Lafrance for double duty as the fight director…good scraps near the end, too.  Did I mention the violence?

A quick break then for reset, and I ran into yet another of the mentors for the series, this time the ever lovely Bronwyn Steinberg (you’re coming to her Fringe show, MOMMA’S BOY, aren’t you?  You should).  We had a brief chat afore the house loaded up again, for what was to be my final bit of Youth Infringing for this year (aww).  But happily, I went out on a very high note, courtesy of Rebecca Garcia’s second show of the festival, QUEEN FOR A DAY.  A fun and witty romp about two duelling birthday girls and the one caught in the middle, and starring the triple threat of Danielle Savoie, Tess McManus and Hillary Downey…I guarantee, ALL names to watch out for.  This was a wonderful, colourful and hilarious little show, very cleverly directed by Lucy Collingwood, and made me want more.  I honestly almost stayed to catch Garcia’s THE GAME AND HOW TO PLAY IT, especially as Smooth Tim Oberholzer had joined Bronwyn and myself (as we enjoyed the musicl stylings of Cory T and Tony A in the lobby), but quite frankly, the AC in AC just isn’t what it needs to be, and that place was getting WARM.  So, with reluctance, I stayed out as the doors closed on the next show and, after a very nice meeting with fest producer Madeliene Boyes-Manseau, I took my leave.

I had a grand time at the YI this year, and am rather tickled at how good the houses were for most of the shows I saw.  And, of course, it’s great to see the young’uns getting all riled and fired up about theatre.  It turns out the Kids ARE all right.  And on that terribly cliched, cheesy note, so long for this year, Youth Infringement, it’s been a slice.  See one of you at the Fringe( and no, I’m not telling you which show I voted for)!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Youth Infringement 2011 – Part Two

In Theatre on May 20, 2011 at 12:51 am

I hadn’t really planned on going out tonight.  Actually, I had no idea WHAT I was going to do tonight…for the first time in a while, I had nothing solid planned.  There were a few new shows I could have done seen, although the NAC bits were looking a little pricey to my eyes (I’m saving my pennies for FRINGE, dontcha know).  And although I’d been planning on waiting until tomorrow to revisit Arts Court and the YOUTH INFRINGEMENT festival, something occurred to me as I perused the schedule today…namely, that i could head out today and catch one of my three missing shows right off the top, and get a writeup in while there was still a chance to do some good (tomorrow night is its last performance, so…).  And, good raised-by-DC Comics lad that I am, good deeds is what I always seek to do.

This picture goes a long way towards explaining how I turned out.

So off I rolled today, after some fruitless shop-browsing and slightly more productive scene studying (that long overdue class post is coming, I promise), to the Court of the Arts for a brief hit of Infringement.  Happy to see superstar director Teri Loretto there, one of the teacher/mentors for some of the YI gangsters, as well as MAY CAN Theatre lads Cory Thibert and Tony Adams.   We enjoyed some of the evenings musical guests The Walkouts in the lobby (not to mention a tasty chocolate-coconut cupcake…awesome) before the doors opened on the first (and my only) show of the evening…Colin Giles’ IT’S NOTHING.  I caught Colin G onstage just the other day in the dee-liteful A TOUR DE MOROSE, so I was intrigued to see what his writing chops were like.  Also, the show was a fairly rare one-hander for Youth Infringement, starring Colin #2 of the evening, Colin Lloyd.  And for the final bit of cool, the director was Christine ‘Guildenstern’ Hecker, who so recently rocked it in the killer Algonquin Arts production of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.  I was stoked.

The show was solid indeed…I don’t think I’ve ever seen Colin L in anything before, but he more than held his own up there as the neurotic, panicky George (with a G), trying painfully hard to explain to us just why it was he punched that little dog in the face.  Hey we’ve all been there.  Colin G’s script was very funny, heartfelt, and touching without delving into schmaltz.  They were good words, and Colin L rode them like a champ.  It was short and sweet, and I was happy to leave rooting for George in whatever came next for him.  Very, very nice stuff.

And, well, that was it for me tonite.  I’d half-planned on staying to catch TRAPPED IN A VOX one more time (very tempting indeed), but was just feeling the need to get home and write.  So off i went, but I’ll be back for my finale tomorrow to catch FALLEN and QUEEN FOR A DAY.  As extra added incentive, Cory and Tony will be providing the music during intermissions as well…who wouldn’t turn out for some DANGER PROJECT-style jams in between up’n’coming theatre?  With cookies??  No excuses, people, let’s pack that house all night tomorrow AND Saturday, and send this years Infringement off with a serious bang.  And don’t forget to cast a vote for which of these shows you’d like to see back at the Fringe Festival in June!  I’ll cast my own ballot tomorrow night.  But I’m happy to say that, so far, they’re all good enough to win.  Or maybe that’s just the SUPER FRIENDS talking.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Youth Infringement 2011 – Part 1

In Theatre on May 18, 2011 at 4:46 am

I’ve hardly been getting any theatre viewing in these days, what with all the money-handling I’ve been doing (not exactly complaining, but still…).  I managed to miss SPRING AWAKENING, THE CRUCIBLE, and the entire second half of PRAIRIE SCENE.  What I need is a quick and dirty festival, lots of shows in rapid fire format, preferably all in one venue, multiple shows in one night…perhaps with cookies…

…ah, bless you, YOUTH INFRINGEMENT, you’re just what the Visitor ordered!  Because fuck me, but I was yearning for something to write about.  So welcome to my first ever Youth Infringement installment of the Visitorium.  Not that this is my first time AT the Festival, held annually at Arts Court…I made my debut there last year, and had a swell time.  But that was back in my dark, pre-chud days, when random strangers on the internet didn’t have access to my uneducated, curse-ridden drivel!  Thankfully, we’re all a little more enlightened now, so for your perusal, here’s my take on the opening night of YI 2011!

Made it to good old Arts Court for 6, good time to get my fest pass and settle in for the evening’s entertainment.  And okay, they had some problems with the ticket-printing system for the first few hours, but everyone was very much accomodating in that regard and it posed no particular issue in the end.  A lovely gal by the name of Erin Fagan provided music in the lobby (very nice) until the doors opened for the first of four shows tonite.  Each show is an original piece according to the festival mandate, written by, starring and crewed entirely by local youth aged 15-25.  sounds good to me, and I hustled on in to the front row for the fest opener, Mike Kosowan’s TRAPPED IN A VOX.

I know Mike from last year’s wicked fun RED NOSES show at Ottawa U, not to mention his work with Insensitivity Training and Sanitas Playback Theatre, and had high hopes.  Adding to it, the show was stage managed by my recent supahvolunteer Jess Preece, and starred Jake William Smith, who seems to always impress me when I see him on a stage.  The action centers around a hospital sleep clinic where Will (Jake Smith) is trying to get to the root of his insomnia.  And tho the doctor, played by Pirate Jenny’s Circus alum Ted Forbes, seems stymied, the problem MAY have something to do with the cruel voices constantly shrieking at Will to kill himself.  Kate Heney and Jacki Brabazon do the honours there with gusto, and VOX is a smart, funny piece with a gleefully dark edge to it.  Jake Smith is on target as always as the tortured Will, and props to director Brigitte Aube-Harrison for solid staging.

One brief intermission and cookie break later, and it was time for the second offering that night, A TOUR DE MOROSE by Martin Glassford.  A sharp and quick-paced comedy about heartbreak, miscommunication, and a lost orange hat that had the room laughin’ hard, as much thanks to the onstage work of Colin Giles, Jeremy Jones and Rebecca Laviolette as to Glassford’s clever script and the nifty direction from Alex Beraldin.  Short but sweet.  A winner.

Another break, and now I finally noticed Miss Emily Pearlman in the crowds, she being one of the mentors helping out with some of the budding playwrights and directors behind the scenes, on account of Miss Emily Pearlman is just plain awesome.  Always good to spot her around, and we both headed in soon to catch play number three, THE GAME AND HOW TO PLAY IT, one of two at the festival by Rebecca Garcia.  The set immediately looked invitingly cool and moody, and the show did not disappoint in that regard.  I don’t want to give much away on this one…suffice it to say it’s a dandy drama-thriller, with great stagework from Hannah Evans, Rana Laviolette, and Lisa Johnston ( I was personally especially impressed by Johnston’s Lou, but all three were terrific).  Director (and fest jr.Producer) Chris Jaworski makes the most out of his minimal setpiece, and this is a play I’d love to see get more time and work at a later date.  There’s great stuff here that’s worthy of love and attention.  Now I’m looking forward to Garcia’s QUEEN FOR A DAY later this week even more!

After one last pause, it was time to end the evening with play #4, Nicholas Amott’s THE SUMMIT.  A very fun story about a meeting between the mythologically-imagined ‘ambassadors’ of Health, War, Economy, Religion, Environment and Arts under the auspices of the enigmatic Alastair, to try and work out a solution to the world’s problems.  There’s a lot on the plate in a show like this, obviously, and while the pacing bogs here and there, the intelligence of the script continue to shine through.  Jenna Naulls, Keir MacDonald, Ian Huffam, Kate Heney (on double duty tonite after VOX), Kelsey Johnston, James Graziano and Kyle Cunningham all have great moments in a very intriguing show.  There’s a great bit involving a mysterious photographer, lots of physical stagework that must have taxed director Patrice Tremblay more than a little, and some lovely rhyming verse delivered nicely by Cunnigham’s ‘Arts’.  A nice finish to day one.  Well done.

So that was my first day back at YI, andI’ll probably be back on Friday, when I’ll get the opportunity to see the tree shows I still have to catch.  Big thanks go to fest producer Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, who by the way also rocked in last year’s SACRED SITES IN SUBURBIA.  Peace, love and soul, Youth Infringement, and I’ll see you in a couple of days,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Front of House diary, second entry (and about time)

In Evolution Theatre, Theatre on May 16, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Yow, I let a whole week slide by there…I don’t think I’ve EVER let a week go by on the blog without posting SOMEthing.  Well, maybe that grim few weeks in August, I’d have to check.  But that can wait, as I apparently have a ton of catching up to do!  Sort of.

I mean, it’s not like I really have much to TELL exactly…week two of my front-of-house managing for Evolution Theatre‘s LAVENDER RAILROAD show wasn’t exactly brimming with the kind of seat-edgy thrills today’s hip young audiences are used to.  The show, okay, but my seat in the lobby of Studio Leonard-Beaulne is pretty far from that action, symbolically speaking.  But I still managed to have me a swell time during week two.

Got back to work on Tuesday nite, with the awesome Jen Vallance as my volunteer for the evening.  We had good chatter about the acting bizness (ok, I let her do most of the talking), a pretty decent house, and a few famous people sightings, which by this point I was recording on my shift reports, because that’s the kind of rubbernecking geek I am, apparently.

Missed Wednesday’s show due to class (and yes, I STILL owe some posting for the last few…I’ll get there, I’ll get there!), but was back and raring to go on Thursday, with two student volunteers, Robin and Aidan, kicking in to help out.  they were fine company, and I got a treat when Tania Levy, Brad Long and Katie Bunting from the recently closed HAMLET 2011 showed up to enjoy the show, and Tania especially kept me company in the lobby, arriving early like a good little soldier.  It was another very solid house, and I was getting my lobby-boredom routine down pat by now…finished Tom Robbins’ B IS FOR BEER, did a little brainstorming on my theoretically upcoming play/s, and even had some snacks.  although that was nothing compared to Friday’s show.

Friday was another two-volunteer night for me, although in what surely must have brought a sigh of relief to my Evolution bosses, only one of them was actually heading in to watch the show (leaving, of course, 1 more seat open for the payin’ public, dont’cha know).  My classmate Rachel joined me as volunteer #1, and along for the ride was the Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill.  She’d seen the show a week earlier, but now was jumping in front of house and stayed with me after the house closed (pretty much a sellout) and we enjoyed a good few rounds of Trivial Pursuit  during the performance.  Sadly, the show was occasionally marred by another group who decided to rehearse their 15-member musical theatre piece directly above our show DURING the performance, because some people are just occasionally, and perhaps accidentally, dicks.  But our gang made it through, and I said my g’byes to Nadine et al to speed over to the Mi Casa fundraiser…but that’s another story.

And then, all too fast, Saturday was ‘pon us.  Closing night.  I’d barely begun to make myself actually useful for something, and here it was speeding to a close!  And just when I was getting the hang of all this stuff….foofarah.  But I’d have a good closing night, by gum, and my two volunteers from the Ottawa Theatre School, Henry Austin Shikongo and Jodi Morden, would see to that.  I got them set up with their duties amidst some pleasant theatrical palaver, and a final show visit from Nancy Kenny, come to give me some in-your-face fretting as only she can.  Chris and Linda Bedford joined us as the show, another packed house, settled in to start.  It passed all too quickly, just like my time as FOH Manager for this amazing show.  Lawrence Aronovitch joined us just afore the house let out, and there was much chatter and glee as the crowd spilled out.  I said goodbye to my OTS gangsters (tho you can and should watch out for Jodi in the upcoming YICHUD at Magnetic North and at her upcoming Fringe show with the OTS), then did my final-final duties with Evolution.  Signs were taken down, headshots stashed out of sight, chairs glumly stacked into a corner…striking is a BITCH, for sure.  It was all sad and stuff.

After that…well, nothing, really.  Nancy K and I caught a bus outta Dodge, leaving Chris and Linda to finish up the finishing up.  Grand thanks to them all for giving me this very cool opportunity to help out…I’ve now volunteered for Evolution Theatre, GCTC AND the Fringe Festival so far this year.  Not bad for a crumb like me.

Thanks also to the killer cast and crew, who I hope to see again soon (especially now that I’ve FINALLY remembered where I know our stage manager from!)…and, as my final duty as Front of House Manager (yes, I still love calling myself that), a gigantic final batch of thanks to our all-star volunteer squad.  Roll Call!

Emily Pearlman

Stefan Smida

Catherine Mills

Jess Preece

Jan Paskovitch

Jen Vallance

Michael Fontaine

Robin Thomas

Aidan Reed

Rachel Segal

Nadine Thornhill

Jodi Morden

Henry Austin Shikongo

…You get all my love, folks, the thanks of both myself and Evolution Theatre (I’ll take the liberty of speaking for them here, by gum), and the well wishes of the God of your choice.  Cause you done good.  And now, suddenly free from that cold, lonely, wonderful lobby in SLB, I have to get back to it and remember what it is this chud is for before the first anniversary comes up in a few weeks (and yes…I’m thinking party.  Who’s in?).  Fortunately, YOUTH INFRINGEMENT starts this tuesday, perfect fucking timing if ever I seen it.  Just what I need right now, and I’d better see some of you kids there!  all right, I’m out…pardon being away for so long.  No more breaks.  Peace, love and soul,

the Visitor (and Winston)

Front of House Diary, first entry

In Theatre on May 8, 2011 at 11:59 pm

So as mentioned, if you’ve been diligently reading along (and I forgive you if not…New season of DOCTOR WHO and all), I’ve recently come into the position of Front of House Manager for the good folks at Evolution Theatre, and their killer new show THE LAVENDER RAILROAD.  Which, considering that in my preview post for said show I got one of the names of the two plays-within-a-play COMPLETELY wrong (Not to mention misspelling the playwright’s name…but shit, I just mentioned it), is pretty fucking near miraculous.

But who am I to argue with the poor judgment of others?  I eagerly accepted the gig and signed on, getting my name in the Program…and yes, I’ve lovingly and dopily stared at said inclusion with wide-eyed amazement for ENTIRELY too long already…I am easily impressed at this stage of my life, folks.  My first half-shift has already been recorded in my review of the show, which I’ll let you just scroll back to if you wish to peruse it.  I hate linking to my own posts here.  WordPress TELLS you you have a new comment, but you SO don’t, it’s just your own link.  A ‘Pingback’, they call it.  What the fuck is that?  ‘Pingback’.  I hate that shit.

…Sorry, I blacked out there for a minute.  Where was I..?  Oh yea, second shift!   My classmate Catherine met me outside of Studio Leonard-Beaulne for the Friday night performance, along with Evolution Queenpin and show publicist Nancy Kenny.  I showed Cath the ropes, Nancy reminded me of MY ropes, and we waited together for the screaming hordes to arrive.  I got a little flustered that first time behind the big table, and may have forgotten to write everything down as neatly as I should have, but who could blame me?  With the likes of Smooth Tim Oberholzer, Teri Loretto and Ivo Valentik,  and *rrowr* Catriona Leger showing up, who wouldn’t get a bit distracted?  But all the cash was accounted for (the important thing, I’m told) and once showtime was upon us, I let Catherine in, closed the door behind her and then…

…then, the experience really BEGINS, folks.  Oh, Nancy stuck around a few minutes with me, mostly on account of her adorable inability to relinquish control at any time, ever.  But once she finally left, that was it…I was alone.  In the, let’s call it ‘lobby’, of Studio Leonard-Beaulne, for the first of six solitudes during the run of the show.  For an hour and forty minutes.  For a show without an intermission, she’s frickin’ LONG, folks.  Especially when you’re the sod on the wrong wide of that door come showtime. But then, that’s the glamour of Theatre that I signed up for, innit?

I was a little awkward with my solitude that first night…didn’t get as much reading done as I’d planned, though I did finish up Paul Pope’s HEAVY LIQUID trade, so that was pretty good.

Now I've gotta track down BATMAN YEAR 100, goddammit...

The thing is, when you’re out there in that emptiness, hearing the faint echoes of the louder bits of the play going on through the doors, you feel just a little bit uncomfortable, like you’re listening to your best friends having sex or something.  You’re really glad they’re having fun, but you wish their were something YOU could do in the meantime, without distracting them.  And you gotta be quiet.  There’s some sort of class that gets out from upstairs about 15 minutes before the end of the show, and those kids are SO FUCKING LOUD on the stairs I want to murder them.  It’s all fine, of course, and they probably can’t hear so much as a whisper inside the theatre, but still.  Fuckin’ students.

After aforementioned comix, a stashed sub, and a brief almost-nap, the show  let out, and Catherine graciously gave me a ride home once we’d settled the house.  OK, I forgot to relock the ladies washroom, but what can I say?  I’m a bad man.  There’s always tomorrow night.

…And here we are at tomorrow night!  And This night I was a little worried about, not only because Nancy would not be there to hold my hand this time (though she WOULD make me call her, the dear), but because tonight was my first night working with a volunteer that I didn’t actually know.  And being the anti-social butterfly that I am, this caused me some palpitation.  Happily, the delightful Jess Preece was a gracious and easygoing gal, and an accomplished stage manager to boot (she has a show going up at Youth Infringement later this month, which I assume you’ll all be seeing..?).  She took to her duties with ease, whilst I got a chewing out from Stage Manager Sariana…okay, okay, she just reminded me to do something, but when a beautiful pregnant French woman tells you you did something wrong, you just feel TERRIBLE about it afterwards.  It’s genetic, I think.

It was a sadly small house that evening , because some people have no taste at all, but we still had the lovely likes of Celine Fillion and Chantal Plante in for the show, and after a brief wait for a last-minute VIP who never showed, we closed the doors and got underway.  THIS time I had shit to do.  In my begrudging day job I’m a cook, and occasionally set the specials for the week.  This was the task I’d assigned myself for the evening.  After some brainstorming, I came up with a beef and broccoli curry on couscous, herbed veg pizza, ravioli with shrimp, bangers and mash, and lemon chicken alfredo.  Fuck yeah.  Clocktower bank street, next week, good eats (plug).

Read a little of the Daily Show’s EARTH: THE BOOK (fun), when it was already time to open back up.   Got things squared away, hugged my volunteer goodbye, and skulked away into the nite.  Was pretty exhausted the next morning at work…as heavy-lifting free as this work is, doing the two jobs does take it out of you, and I was looking forward to an evening off with Winston the Cat tonight.  Although, as I arrived at home, I oddly found myself MISSING the experience of being locked in a small, cold room for an hour and forty minutes.  More miles on the path, I suppose..?

Next week, I’m hoping to get some first-drafting finished on at least one of the plays I’m working on while down there.  But who knows?  The mind, it starts to wander in those depths.  Maybe I’ll just dance like a monkey instead.  I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.

So, I hope to see some of you out at the show next week…Prairie Scene is over, Hamlet 2011 is over, and your excuses are running out.  Let me see your beautiful face and sell  it a ticket!  And hey, if you want to volunteer Wednesday night, I’m TOTALLY stuck so…

..But no, I’ll leave the soliciting for another venue.  And I’ll be back with an update in a few shows, and maybe I’ll actually have something to talk about then.  Peace, love and soul,

the Visitor (and Winston)

Take a ride on the Lavender

In Evolution Theatre on May 7, 2011 at 3:41 am

This whole ‘reviewing shows’ thing is officially getting a little conflicted.  I mean, it was already becoming odd as I started to know more and more performers…how to remain unbiased about that guy on stage when you just had beers with him the say before yesterday?  And now, it’s even stranger, as for reasons passing understanding, I’ve somehow been fortunate enough to be named as the Front of House Manager for Evolution Theatre‘s  latest show, THE LAVENDER RAILROAD  by Lawrence Aronovitch.   So now, more than ever, the question becomes…how do I maintain my professional, critical detachment when writing my review..?
HA!  That’s a trick question, of course…I never had any of that useless bullshit to begin with!  And now, on with my thoroughly one-sided and goddam rave review of this production, and not just (but okay, partly) because my name is in the program.

My first night was actually their second show (not counting the closed dress), on account of my class at the OSSD (and yes, I know the posts for those have been AWOL..there’s an explanation and catchup coming!).  Having been placed in charge of recruiting volunteers for the production, I’d roped my old classmate Stefan into joining me, and we both showed up at 7, looking quite usherific if I do say so myself.  We were greeted by FamousActressNancyKenny, one of the three grand poobahs of Evolution Theatre, who showed us both the ropes.  I don’t know if were the quickest of studies, but I think we managed to not set the place on fire with a sort of quiet dignity that spoke volumes.  I felt good.

The House opened, and once we got out patrons inside and happily seated, we got to join them.  And, joy of joys, actors were already placed onstage as we went in.  Have I mentioned how much I fucking love that?  Thank you, director Joel Beddows (wouldn’t be the first time I’d thank him this night).  Now, TLR is actually two plays-within-a-play, SAFE HOUSE and EX CATHEDRA (yay, I got them both right this time!!), each taking place in the same linked universe, a cheery version of our world where homosexuality is punishable by death.   Now I know what you’re thinking…Aronovitch somehow got a sneak peek at the new Harper government to-do list (too soon?).  But no, this IS a work of fiction…at least, in our part of the world, and at this moment in history.  And it never hurts to be reminded how bad things could be.

The first story, SAFE HOUSE, stars the dead brilliant Simon Bradshaw as Sebastian, a mathematician involved in the wrong kind of relationship who’s been targeted for death, only to be rescued by the enigmatic (that’s a pun, but you have to see the show to find out why) Mother Courage, played by an almost cruelly-composed Tom Charlebois.  Mother courage is the head, perhaps, of a movement called the Lavender Railroad, dedicated to helping Homosexuals escape to safety whenever they can.  But we soon see that Sebastian’s ‘rescue’ is somewhat fluid, and depending on his use of a never-seen mathematical MacGuffin, might be short-lived indeed.  Charlebois’ poetical Mother Courage, holding all the cards, tries to delve deep into Sebastian’s carefully locked psyche, leading to a very entertaining clash of wills, a search for worthiness over value, and several questions with no easy answers.  Simon’s slow crumble into desperation over the course of his maddeningly polite interrogation is great to watch.

The first piece segues neatly into the Railroad’s second stop, EX CATHEDRA, where things actually manage to turn up a notch.  Starring Maureen Smith as a commander of the ‘Security Services’ dedicated to hunting errant homosexuals, and Beverly Wolfe as a Nun (or Sister, as she insists) bookkeeping for a Papal visit to Japan, the whole space fills with tension almost instantly upon Bev’s appearance with Maureen.  Seems she and the Commander have a bit of a past (read: one whole heaping lot of past) together, and, having rediscovered one another, the Commander has reasons to bring the Sister back into her life.  What follows is a joy to see, as Maureen Smith’s bold and defiant Commander volleys and parries with Bev Wolfe’s controlled and cunningly diplomatic Sister Frances, using their long-buried feelings as a weapon.  You’re rarely sure from one moment to the next which of them has the power in the scene, which makes it perhaps the more interesting of the two plays.  It’s certainly an all-too rare opportunity to watch two amazing actresses clash like that onstage, and especially at such length.  Mahvellous.

The whole play is linked beautifully by Margaret Coderre-Smith’s gorgeously simple set in the reworked studio space, not to mention more of Al Connors stunning sound design, accentuating the mood at every turn.  And that final shot..?  Fuck me, but I love a good closing shot in theatre.  Beddows…ya nailed it.

There was a talkback after that night, with members of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (a real life, and sadly necessary, Lavender Railroad), which I unfortunately didn’t manage to hear, but they may be back.  I hope so.  And for sure, for SURE, if you haven’t seen this show yet, GO.  Or should I say come, because in all likelihood I’ll be there already, waiting to sell you your ticket.  Is that not ENOUGH reason to check it out?

No?  Fine.  it’s awesome, there’s your reason.  I’ll see you there, yeah.  Oh yeah.  Peace, love and soul from the Front of house,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Shakespeare v.2011

In Theatre on May 4, 2011 at 5:41 am

I’m getting so far behind, I’m behind on whining about how far behind I am…even tho it seems like all I really DO on this chud any more.  Haven’t even mentioned either of the Prairie Scene shows I’ve done so far (AVATAR=cool!  TALK=Interesting, but remember your lines, fellas, c’mon), or DELIVER US FROM EVIL at the OLT (also fun).  What these two-second reviews just now tell me, though, is that I have to start putting in the kind of work these shows deserve once again, and that means making myself post about them right after I get home, sleepy or no, cuddly-kitty issues notwithstanding.  Fringe is coming soon, after all, and I have to get in shape!

So after a quiet day at work and a bit of dvd shopping that netted me another Miyazaki flick for my collection (I’m up to 7 now with today’s score of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO!), it was off, off I went to the Centrepointe Theatre to check out their sweet new studio space (it really is pretty fucking sweet).  and in that studio was something I’d been anticipating for a while now…the debut of the Ottawa Shakespeare Company and HAMLET 2011.

Now, I’ll fess up…when I say ‘anticipating’, that’s not entirely true.  There was, I must say, an element of dread creeping in there too.  Not only was this production, from director Charles McFarland,  on Denis Armstrong’s now-infamous must-see list, but the company had once described the show as Hamlet for the Twilight Generation.  As someone who thinks the Twilight Generation deserves little more than a swift kick in the kidneys and a few forced viewings of TETSUO THE IRON MAN , this worried me, I gotta tell ya.  But, there were good names attached to this show, and dagnabbit, I still wanted to see it.  Surely even Denis could be right ONCE in a while..?

The show is ostensibly set in the present day, tho still using all of the original language from Zombie Bill’s classic text.  But the dress is modern, Hamlet sports a cellphone, Ophelia digs herself some FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, etc. It’s a ‘twist’ that others have used before, but it all works quite smoothly here…it feels natural, and that I think is largely due to the quality of the performances.  Right off the bat, our leading melancholy Dane, as played by OSC co-founder Michael Mancini hit the ground running.  He starts off brooding, alternately pining over Katie Bunting’s wistful Ophelia and casting daggers at his Mother the Queen (a ravishing Sara Botsford) and her new husband and King Claudius (Andy Massingham in a very, very cool performance).  Enter the ghost, and suddenly we’ve got ourselves a tortured revenge-thriller to last the ages!

Now with 60% more Arcade Fire.

Our hero Hamlet, aided by his close (occasionally VERY close) friend Horatio, aka Scott Angus Wilson, sets about avenging his Father’s untimely murder at the hands of Claudius.  This leads to a lot of unpleasant business, multiple deaths, and a smashing good night at the theatre.  As mentioned, the performances are spot-on…Robert Welch’s Polonius is a wonderfully watchable bootlick, and Brad Long (who must have some sort of sweater-clause in his contracts) rages quite nicely as Laertes.  My beloved UNDER MILK WOOD gang from the Ottawa Theatre School add to the entourage (Henry, Kyla, Jodi, Kaitlin, Diego and Greg) as a number of characters, most notably Diego Arvela’s Rosencrantz (teamed with Stavros Sakiadis as Guildenstern), Jodi Morden’s wonderfully hammy sendup of a travelling tragedian (alongside Peter Haworth in a great play-within-a-play scene), and Henry Shikongo trading barbs with Tania Levy’s hilarious gravedigger in the famous ‘alas Poor Yorick’ bit.  Really, is any scene in Hamlet NOT ‘the famous bit’?

You go up against a lot of baggage when you do Shakespeare, and it looks like the OSC is certainly raring for the challenge.  The production is ambitious and fun, with liberal use of specialized lighting from Rebecca Miller, killer sound, and a smoke machine that just won’t quit.  I had a lot of fun with this one, and you’ve still got a few more days to take it in and see what the fuss is about.   And did I mention that the Centrepointe bar has Labatt’s 50?  I was totally impressed!  Something else to look forward when I return for HOMECHILD in a few weeks.  But in the meantime, HAMLET 2011 is a winner (and Mancini really is bloody terrific in the lead, no fooling), and you should head on down.  Then come to THE LAVENDER RAILROAD, but more on that soon.    Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)