visitorium

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Cleopantrony!

In Company of Fools on July 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I’m not actually that big a fan of the outdoors.   There’s no air-conditioning, bugs everywhere, and that giant ball of fire in the sky is constantly trying to cook you, or give you cancer, or whatever it does (ESPECIALLY in summertime!  And you can’t even keep your eye on it, or it’ll blind you! Fuckin’ sun).

But every now and then, there comes along a reason good enough to lurk cautiously out of my Visitorium and into the harsh light of fresh air, and that now and then is now, friends, because it’s Theatre in the Park season here in O-town.  Actually, it has been for a few weeks now, but as I’ve mentioned in the last few posts, I’m slacking off something awful these days.  But I did my level best to cut that shit out last nite when I ventured into the wilds of Centrepointe Park, risking life and limb and a possible ant bite or two to check out A Company of Fools and their annual Torchlight Shakespeare show.  Last year it was the dee-liteful MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, which I adored, so expectations were high and happy for this year’s entry, ANTONY & CLEOPATRA.

It looked solid as solid could be from the outside…Richard Gelinas and Catriona Leger starred as the titular lovestruck power couple, with the other roles being filled as need arose by Katie Bunting, Cari Lesli, Geoff McBride and Stewart Matthews.  And once the show got underway, well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the fools don’t fool around with their Shakespeare (HAVE I said that before?  Maybe not…not bad tho, eh?).  Well, all right, they DO fool around with it, quite a bit actually.  But that’s kind of the point of a Fools show, turning the potentially dry and stodgy Shakespearean productions of yore and making them something that literally the whole family can squeal with delight to.  There were a pair of red-nosed little girls seated next to me on the grass during the performance who couldn’t have been more into it if they’d been on stage (which I’m sure they wanted to be).

The story itself, based on real events (much in the same way, no doubt, that your average episode of Xena is rooted in historical accuracy ), tells of the manliest of men, Marc Antony, who has abandoned his duties to make time with foxy Queen Cleopatra down Egypt-way, and who could blame him?  Until he gets word summoning him back to Rome (dead wife, impending war and other pesky nonsense), where he has to marry Caeser’s sister to placate the Roman ruler, which irks Cleo to no end, ant then there’s that WAR, and then, well, things start to get complicated.

Gelinas does his usual smashing job as Antony, and is especially good at jibing with the audience during the performance.  And Cat Leger goes from Beer Tent Goddess to just regular old Goddess (Cleopatra is pretty much close  enough to a deity, in history’s babe-loving hindsight), vamping and camping it up with a wicked gleam in her eye all the while.  The others, as said, switch between a variety of roles, but some fav’rits of mine are:  Cari Lesli as the dread(-locked) pirate Pompey, rocking a toy xylophone like you only wish you could; Geoff McBride racing from one unlucky messenger to the next (and as a mush-mouthed Snake salesman); Stewart Matthews’ shrill Caesar, ever striving for the upper hand against Antony; and Katie Bunting as the perpetually sneering Agrippa, stalking around the stage like she’d love nothing better than to kick ALL our asses, just because they’re there.

It’s a fantastic and fun show, with all the attendant risks that come with performing an outdoor show with plenty of kids about (which is even MORE of the fun).  Director David Whitely done good…love the inclusion of the ancient Roman Can-o-Phone into the proceedings.  The show continues into August at a park near-ish you, with a pass-the-hat donation system footing the bill.  It’s as good a time in a park as you’re gonna have, folks, so get going already.  Unless you’re some kinda fool…the bad kind, not the good kind.

Peace, love and soul, Fools,

The Visitor (and Winston)

King of the Broadway Jungle

In Theatre on July 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Ow, but I’m neglecting this blog-thing something fierce these days!  Turns out my REAL coma came after the Fringe this year…I just can’t get back into the swing of things without that daily race between venues and a handy-dandy beer tent.  Must be why I’m spending most of my time these days eagerly anticipating my upcoming journey to the VICTORIA FRINGE FESTIVAL…and yes, there’ll be full Visitorium coverage of said event (any VicFringe muckity-mucks reading this, yes, you’re perfectly free to toss me a media pass for my troubles…hell, they fell for it in Ottawa…)

But life goes on here in hometown, and I really do have to get my theatre legs up and running again, not to mention the whole ‘writing about it’ bizness.   With that in mind, here”s the most absolutely useless post I will ever write…my review of Disney’s THE LION KING.  That’s the theatre show, not the film (which I have actually never seen), also known as the BROADWAY show…and me reviewing a Broadway show, well, that’s sort of like rubbing two sticks together during a forest fire.

I helped!

But goddamit, I was there, and I need to remember how to put these things together before I become even more irrelevant, so here’s the tale.  It was really all my parents doing, as they wanted to take the whole family out to this Lion-thing, for the nieces, y’know.  So they bought the tickets (and thank Christ, because they ain’t cheap…fucking Broadway!)  and we were off.  I met up with the folks early, we had some eats at the Wellington Diner (thank you, Nadine Thornhill for hepping me to that joint!), then headed on down to the NAC for the Thursday afternoon performance.    We met up with my Sister and Brother-in-law, and the Niecelets Brynn and Clara, who were especially superoverexcited for the show in the way that only 6 and 8 year-olds could be.

Me, I was a little nervous as we headed into Southam Hall, a land I seldom venture inside…my usual theatre is on a decidedly smaller scale than what I was about to be hit with.  One person shows, there’s MY meat!  But I persevered, took my seat, and waited for the show to begin.  When it did, it was with a huge swelling symphony of sound, and a virtual army of extras and cast in some pretty spectacular costumes mimicking  an Ark’s worth of jungle critters storming the stage (elephant included), to celebrate the iconic moment of the birth of Simba, the titular Lion King-to-be.

I gotta admit, it was a hell of an opening.

From there, you probably all know the story, whether you’ve seen the movie or not.  Young Simba chafes at having to follow in the mighty shadow of his father, King Mustafa (a smashing Dionne Randolph).  Villainous uncle Scar (J.Anthony Crane having himself some fun) plots Mustafa’s death, and Simba is driven away into the arms of the comic relief, Timon and Pumbaa.  He turns into slightly-less-young Simba, is rejoined by childhood friend Nala, and returns to reclaim the throne and kick some Hyena.

Now, this is obviously a show aimed at kids, so a cynical misanthrope like me had the odd moment where I fell out of the performance, realizing that what I was witnessing was essentially just a soulless, money-driven rehash of a hackneyed cartoon that, like most of Disney’s modern pictures, doesn’t hold up very well under even the most minimal of moral scrutinies.  But then again, when they managed to recreate the enormous ghostly head of Mufasa addressing Simba by the riverbank, and Brynn leaned over to me whispering ‘that’s so cool!, it was really kind of hard to argue with her.

LION KING the theatrical show is what it is: a blockbuster.  A showstopper.  It’s big theatre, the kind we don’t really get to see that often in Ottawa, and it really was kind of a treat even for me.  The costumes and puppetry ARE fantastic, the performances all work, and the music does its job nicely (even if my worst fears DID come true, and I had that God-damned ‘Hakuna Matata’ song stuck in my head later on).  This is Event Theatre.  And it works perfectly as just that.

So after the house came down and a pleased crowd handed the onstage gang a standing O, me and the Fam split up and headed off through the delighted throngs still lining up at the concession stands (Disney, remember).  I walked outside into something like 45-degree heat which, after a show set in deepest Africa, seemed entirely appropriate.  If you wanna go and see yourself some might big theatre, LION KING is still going ’til August 7th.  And it IS fun, really. It’s just, you know…DISNEY fun.  If that’s your thing, you’re set.

Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

A Homegrown Affair

In Summerworks on July 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm

So, funny story: last year at the SUMMERWORKS festival in Toronto, like a Fringe Festival only juried, there was this play, HOMEGROWN by Catherine Frid.  I didn’t catch it myself, but even before it had been put up some folks at the Toronto Sun got themselves in a kerfuffle of a tizzy over it, saying it ‘glorified terrorism’, and using public funds no less!  Summerworks gets part of its annual funding from a gov’t grant, dont’cha know.  And they tried to explain that, no, no, the play didn’t glorify terrorism at all, here’s the script, why don’t you just…

…but, well, the Toronto Sun is a PROFESSIONAL GODDAMNED NEWSPAPER, son, they don’t need to read a play to know what it’s about!  And by God, neither does Stephen Harper, who ALSO vented about the terrorism-lovin’ going on in HOMEGROWN.  The whole thing seemed rather silly, the show went on, and Summerworks had a fine old time last year.

Then came the election, a Harper majority, and the funny part of the story, where the very same Summerworks festival THIS year finds itself being cut off from its gov’t funding at the eleventh hour, with no particular reason given (okay, not funny ha-ha, depending on which side of the ideological divide you hang your hat, but STILL…).  The PC’s swear it had nothing to do with HOMEGROWN, and say that anyone who believes so is a tin-foil-hat-wearin’ loon.  So fine, it’s not about HOMEGROWN (except that it absolutely, totally is, and everyone know it).  But it sure as hell is about showing them uppity arts hippies who’s in charge now, when 50 grand and change is yanked after five years of growth with nary so much as a ‘sorry ’bout that, chaps‘.

To counter this state of affairs, said dirty-artsy-terrorist-loving hippies sprang into action.  Aside from a flood of private donations, an event was organized across the nation by one Michael Healey…staged readings of the supposedly inflammatory HOMEGROWN, by whichever companies chose to participate, with proceeds going to the Festival..  It was a grand idea, and to my delight Ottawa took up the baton (with local heroes GRUPPO RUBATO and MI CASA THEATRE leading the charge).  The GCTC donated some space, McAuslan donated some beer (hooray!) and were off to the readings!

It was a simple affair, as you might expect of a reading, which is what it sounds like…actors on stage reading the scripted words right to you off the page, with someone calling out the scene changes and what not.  Directed my the luvly Miss Emily Pearlman, the night’s event starred Kris Joesph, Nick DiGaetano, Mary Ellis, Todd Duckworth, Greg Kramer and Sarah Waisvisz.  Being killers, they obviously performed grandly under the conditions..this WAS thrown together rather quickly, after all.   The play itself, by the already mentioned Catherine Frid..?  A work in progress, quite literally.  Tho I missed seeing it at SUMMERWORKS last year, there were bits in the version we saw that couldn’t possibly have been included at last year’s event.  The show is based on the authour’s interviews with a suspected member of the ‘Toronto 18’ terror plot and his plight being detained without trial for years on end.  It’s a good, engaging  story, with more work to be done to make it a better play…but that isn’t really the point of this, is it?

No, the point, as we all cheered and filtered out into the lobby to drink beer/support the arts, was getting back what had been taken away.  It was coming together as a community.   And it was about showing our Prime Minister that, even though he’s got his beloved majority, even though he thinks he’s got the power to do what he wants (and what he wants seems to be to hurt arts festivals like this one, just for the sake of it), Stephen Harper can think again.    He tried to bully them dirty hippies, getting all Godfather on their asses and trying to his them where it hurts.  But in the end, Summerworks will survive, and be stronger for the troubles.  They had recouped some 34 thousand of the shortfall already through donations (click on the link to their webpage, above in this post or on the left side of this page, if you still feel the generous urge), and I have a feeling this evening’s festivities will nearly close the gap.  And Harper proved to everyone that, when faced with a real fight, he’s no Vito Corleone.

He’s Fredo.

Peace, love and soul, Summerworkers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Summer Soccer Secrets

In Summer Fling, Theatre on July 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Gee criminy, but it feels like it’s been forever since I used this bloggy-thing.  It’s been as inert as a carbon rod since the end of the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and to be honest I’ve only been half-wanting to get it started back up again.  Loved the Fringe of course, but blogging for it this time around felt oddly unsatisfying.  Plus, I’m starting to get the idea that I’m moving too far into the ‘spectator’ spectrum on this whole theatre bizness.  People really do seem to be thinking of me as ‘media’…and I’m not at all convinced that’s a good thing.

But, a new show is a new show, am I right?  And since my life since the Fringe has consisted of sitting at home getting tipsy while Winston the Cat looks on disapprovingly.  So, with a hopeful spring in my dilapidated step, it was off to the newly-renovation-approved Arts Court for the start of this year’s bigger SUMMER FLING series, with the premiere of Kathleen Clark’s SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM.  And can I say, it was very good medicine indeed to get out and about with some theatrical folk after this little drought.  Seeing Wayne C, Rich Hemphill, Kyla Gray, Pat Gauthier, Emily Pearlman and others milling about the AC lobby did my poor wee heart a world of good.  I had definitely missed this.

Headed on inside to the lovely wisps of fake theatrical fog I dig so much, and a minimal set in three parts, one for each of the main actresses about to take the stage.  Tania Levy, Kate Smith, and Maureen Smith, all looking fabulous, and all revving on hi-octane fuel for this peppy story of a trio of Moms playing in a mother/son soccer outing.  Naturally, most of the exciting stuff happens on the sidelines, and after a funky dance intro that had me smiling so much I coulda cried, the match was ON.

Kate Smith (finally back after THE TURN OF THE SCREW) plays Alison, a competitive, athletic Mom looking to take a break from her life.  Maureen Smith (who I haven’t seen since my fun front-house stint with THE LAVENDER RAILROAD) is Nancy, a seemingly aloof former model with issues of her own bubbling beneath the surface.  And Tania Levy (fresh off a heroic gig directing Fringe hit ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL) is Lynn, a seeming supermom juggling a dozen community efforts at the same time.  Director Kate Hurman balances a lot of good physical action and humour against the occasionally lengthy bits of dialogue.  Most of it is nice, witty stuff…a few zingers I’m sure will be getting the biggest laughs from fellow Moms in the audience.  And the dramatic shifts are all handled beautifully by the gang, even if they could sometimes get a bit much…we know you love your kids, ladies, you can stop telling us ANYtime.  Sheesh.  Mothers, am I right..?

Anyways.  SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM is a perfect bit of summer fun for THIS lad, and had me feeling like a million bucks when I left the theatre.  Kudos to Arts Court for kicking the fling off with such a fun piece, showcasing three amazing actresses and bringing us along on their dynamic journey onstage.  Tania, Kate and Maureen are my fav’rit trio since, well, THE HEROIC TRIO.

Really, any excuse to reference this movie.

Had a bit of post-show palaver with Miss Levy and others before I skipped on out for home, supposedly two write this post, but more realistically to go to sleep and put this post off until tomorrow.  Which is now, so here it is!  Thanks for the good times, ladies, and I look forward to more fun flinging in the weeks to come.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor

Oh, Right, I have a Blog…

In Just me doing stuff on July 6, 2011 at 12:55 am

So, I just noticed that I haven’t updated this thing in over a week, after posting daily for almost two straight weeks.  And while that’s mostly because I haven’t done a blasted, blessed thing since Fringe (Winston the Cat needed a little attention), I still can’t help but feel like a deadbeat dad (I even neglected to do my ritual COMING UP THIS MONTH post).  So, sorry Blog, here’s what’s been going on:

– Caught CRUSH IMPROV, fresh from their award-winning run at the Ottawa Fringe, back in their Hintonburg home at the Elmdale Tavern.  No celebrity guest-stars this time (unless you count Nick diGaetano shouting helpful suggestions from the cheap seats), just the typical ‘Bout Time hijinks, featuring the resurrected JUDGES squad squaring off against THE STRAIGHT MEN.  A good Showgirls-inspired time was had by all.  The Judges prevailed this time, and will be back to defend next month against….who?  Any takers?

– Done lots of brainstorming/plotting on a new play I’m trying to write, and hopefully enter into the Fringe 2012 lottery.  Feels VERY good to be writing again, and I’m already falling into the terrible geek trap of assembling my ‘dream cast’ in my head.  Also, my backup dream cast.  I think I’ve got a good shot at at LEAST a couple of them.  John Koensgen, I’m looking at you…

– Got a couple tickets for the premiere next Wednesday of SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM at Arts Court.  Ladies, I don’t wanna go stag, so start fighting over me RIGHT now if you want in.

– Just about rock-solid on my decision to head out west in a couple months to catch the VICTORIA FRINGE FESTIVAL.  Katie Hood, Gemma Wilcox AND Giant Invisible Robot?  Sold.  Just have to secure the time off at work, and find me some digs out there.

– And, in the spirit of my missing COMING SOON…post, everyone should stock up on bug spray, because ’tis the month of arts in the parks!  OTHELLO, ANTONY & CLEOPATRA and THE FAN all kick it this month, and they all look dynamite.  Not to mention that SUMMER FLING shindig…and on the subject, does anyone know what shows are gonna be part of the FRINGE BENEFITS next month, or are they still sussing that out?

– And then there’s still that thing that I haven’t talked about.  And I suppose at this point I probably won’t bother…it’s all over now anyways, not much to be gained.  But boy, was I fired up about it!  And incidentally, as long as I’m not talking about it, if you were one of the folks who happened to buy a COPY of that thing-I’m-not-talking-about at the Fringe this June?  Do me a favour…grab a black marker and cross my name out of the intro in your copy.  You’d be saving me some shame and embarrassment.  Thanks!

– That’s about it…like I said, I been takin’er slow since the Fringe.  But ya gotta get back into it sometime, and I figure I can take all that money I’m saving by not giving a shit about BLUESFEST and start seeing a show or two again.  Anyone heard anything about this ENGLAND thing at the Cube gallery..?

Peace, love and soul, gang,

Kevin and Winston