That’s it! Another 365 days down, and I seem to have survived with my clinical depression intact, thank Christ. Theatrically speaking, I’m calling it a great year, and it turns out it was pretty good for me in that sense as well, if I think about it. Let’s get to the numbers, straightaway…just what did I manage to see this year? Well…
5 Easy Steps (to the End of the World)
the 39 Steps
297 Bayview Clinic
All my Children
All my Day Jobs
Amelia: the Girl who Wants to Fly
Am I Blue
And Slowly Beauty…
the Animal Show (3)
Antony & Cleopatra
Charles: a Trip Through the Multiverse
the Daughter of the Father of Time Motion Study
Deliver Us From Evil
Dianne and Me
the Donnelly Sideshow
Double Yellow Line
Dreams of Whales
Dying Hard (2)
Every Story Ever Told
Exit the King
Exs and Ohs
Fallen: the Book of Samael
Fucking Stephen Harper
the Game and How to Play It
Giant Invisible Robot (2)
Giving Into Light
Grim and Fischer
Houdini’s Last Escape
I Do Not Like Thee, Doctor Fell
the Importance of Being Earnest
an Inconvenient Truthiness
In the Eyes of Stone Dogs
Into the Woods
Iphegenie en Tauride
I Remember Mama
Israeli Love Story
Jem Rolls is Pissed Off
Kismet One to One Hundred
the Lavender Railroad
Little Martyrs (2)
Little Orange Man (2)
Live from the Belly of a Whale
Love Letters for Georgia
Marcel Pursued by the Hounds
the Middle Place
A Midwinters’ Dream Tale
My First Time
My Mother’s Daughter
My Pregnant Brother
Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme
One-Act Comedy Festival
One Man’s Trash
Peter ‘n Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel
Peter ‘n Chris Save the World (2)
Pick Your Path
Playing Dead (2)
Playing for Advantage
Pretentious Young Ladies
Pretty Little Instincts
Queen For a Day
Question Period: the Musical
Rambo: the Missing Years
Retour a Pripyat
the Return of Love
la Rire de la Mer
Roller Derby Saved my Soul (3)
the Room Outside the Room
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
St.Carmen of the Main
the Search for a Reason for a Murder
Secrets of a Soccer Mom
the Shadow: A Christmas Mysteries Radio Show
the Shadow Cutter
Shadows in Bloom
ShLong Form Improv
Sins of the Mother
Something with Virgins and Chainsaws
Sonnets for an Old Century
Sounds from the Turtle Shell
Sparrow and the Mouse
Spitting in the Face of the Devil
Strawberries in January
Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles
This is a Recording
This is Our Youth
This is What Happens Next
A Tour de Morose
Trapped in A Vox
Ukrainian Dentist’s Daughter
Under Milk Wood (2)
When Harry Met Harry
the Year of Magical Thinking
Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl
Company of Fools Twelfth Night
Empty Space Series: Chekhov
Ottawa Improv Festival
Stories of Love
…Beat THAT, Langston! Yeah, I think no matter which way you cut it, that’s a heaping helping of live theatre. But I had more going on that JUST seeing shows, oh yes. For instance:
HOLY SHIT, I TOOK MORE CLASSES! Yeah, I went back to the OSSD well for two more courses, both with the delightful and wise Brie Barker as coach. I had a blast, learned a lot, and am eager to learn more. Also did my very first ever workshop, a movement adventure led by the amazing Alix Sideris, put on by the glorious gals of Deluxe Hot Sauce. I think I’m STILL sore.
HOLY SHIT, I AUDITIONED FOR THINGS! And from my point of view, WOW. I really did! Three things so far, starting off with a terrified stab at Nadine Thornhill’s COMPLEX NUMBERS earlier in the year, and just recently with two attempts at the Ottawa Little Theatre (for LOST IN YONKERS and TRANSLATIONS, for the record). No bites yet, but two callback outta three? I’m calling that a decent start.
HOLY SHIT, I WORKED ON THINGS SEMI-OFFICIALLY! Okay, that was an awkward intro, but the point is I did stuff outside of the purview of simple audience.reviewer mode. Like I made Front of House Manager for Evolution Theatre’s LAVENDER RAILROAD, and had a great time doing it. I also got tapped to do a mess of research and data mining work for the Ottawa Fringe Festival, for what would eventually become their OFF THE RECORD commemorative book. And while that book turned out to be, well, what it turned out to be (don’t get me started), I’m still pleased with the work I did, and feel kinda proud I was tapped for it at all.
HOLY SHIT, I WAS IN A MOVIE! Hells yah! Specifically, the Ken Godmere written/directed/produced Digi60 short film bur. And okay, I was only a silent extra in the background who you can’t even see until the last minute or so…but god damn! 2011 is the year I was in a movie, and y’all ain’t taking that away from me!
HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE THINK I’M MEDIA! Zoinks, do they ever! First the lovely Natalie Joy Quesnel gets me a shiny-sweet media pass for the Fringe, and then, bafflingly, lots of other people started following suit. At last check, I’m on over half a dozen media call lists, which is just NUTS. Oh, and speaking of Fringe…
HOLY SHIT, I DID TWO FRINGES! Yes, I finally followed through on my age-old threat to do this, and flew out to Victoria for their 25th anniversary Fringe festival this summer. It was a tremendous, balls-out wicked good time, and I saw terrific shows I might otherwise never have gotten to catch. Not to mention late night waffles. And now Katie Hood knows who I am!
So, there’s all that. And looking back, it’s really gonna be kind of hard to top all that. But there were better stories than mine last year…
GCTC LAUNCHES UNDERCURRENTS FESTIVAL: Yay, a brand-spanking new festival of goodies for me to glom onto! Even as we gear up for the second edition in a few short months, it’s fun to look back and recall what a success this inaugural two-week showcase was, for all 6 shows involved. and, really, for Ottawa Theatre in general.
THE GLADSTONE THEATRE RETURNS: Dormant for what, a whole year? More? The dashing Gladstone Theatre off Preston thundered back to life thank to the tag team of Seven Thirty and Plosive Productions, and I couldn’t be happier. The shows have been zippy and fun, and even community mainstays Phoenix Players got in on the fun. The Winter season looks fantastic, and hopefully, the Gladstone is here to stay for good.
BRIGETTE DEPAPE STRIKES A THEATRICAL BLOW FOR DEMOCRACY: Fringe heroine Brigette dePape (She Rules With Iron Stix, one of my first and fav’rit Fringe shows ever) shoved a handmade red STOP HARPER sign in Parliament’s face, protesting the policies of Emperor Steve, losing her position as page, and making National headlines all at once. And we couldn’t be prouder.
ARTS COURT BUSTS OUT: Not only did the legendary arts.Fringe venue in downtown Ottawa clinch (it is clinched, isn’t it? Tell me it’s clinched!) a multi-million dollar redevelopment deal this year, but they also announced three new resident companies (Evolution Theatre, New Theatre Ottawa and Creations in Vivo) would henceforth be calling AC home. Which means more solid theatre for us, in a great old venue. Huzzah!
FOOFARAH ARRIVES, MASSES REJOICE: Trying to remember what your lives were like before the Monday Foofarah arrived? Don’t. You wouldn’t like it.
Now, there was bad news this year too, sure. The great Third Wall Theatre company was forced to cancel their season due to budget concerns, but they promise to be back, better than ever. And Nancy Kenny finally left town (about which I am still in denial, thank you very much)! But hey, let’s keep things positive here. Didn’t I publish, a few paragraphs back, a gigantic-ass fucking list of shows I done seen this past year? What up with those? Let’s ladle up some PRAISE, yo! But first off, I’ve kind of decided tyo leave Fringe shows out of htis roundup, if only because I already gushed over those and made my lists and such at the end of each respective festival. Which is, of course, no reason not to quickly recap some Fringey awesomeness right off the top:
FAV’RIT FRINGE SHOWS!!
There were a lot I loved..I do love me some Fringe…but a few from both Ottawa and Victoria still stand out in my mind as the kind of awesome you can only dream of. Shows like brilliantly unique ALL MY CHILDREN and ZACK ADAMS: LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL. The heartwrenching FALLING OPEN (due for an Undercurrents relaunch as we speak!) and powerful SPITTING IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL. Another Undercurrents returner LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE was joyous to behold, and the gloriously masqued GRIM & FISCHER left audiences cheering. Nancy Kenny (denial!) rocked many worlds in ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL, and Jayson MacDonald crushed whole cities in GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT. The brilliantly talented Mikaela Dyke and Ingrid Hansen positively floored me with DYING HARD and LITTLE ORANGE MAN, respectively. And, a special shoutout to the one wee lass who managed to make my list of fav’rit Fringe shows (with the same show) in two damned provinces…
If you missed it (or any of these shows), you’re a sucker. But I forgive you. Winston does not. Speaking of which, it’s time for the first award of the evening. Oh yes, there are awards! The Visitorium is a posh operation, dig? And we have to start upping the ante around here, so it’s time for the first ever WINSTON THE CAT SCENE-STEALER AWARD!
We here at the Visitorium are big fans of any thespian versed in the fine art of scene theft, and there were some beauts this year. And there were some beauties for consideration…Ross Tundo’s hilarious Polonius in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, for instance, or Tom Charlebois’ Ferapont in THREE SISTERS. Hell, Jackie Richardson almost stole the entire show in ONE scene in ST.CARMEN OF THE MAIN. Likewise, Katie Bunting nabbed whgole chunks of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA this summer with naught but a comic glare.
Still and all, I think I have to go with my gut on this one. So the award goes to: JACKIE BRABAZON as the maid in THE PRETENTIOUS YOUNG LADIES. She had me in stitches with the one-two punch of shuffling and mumbling, and half the show I was just keeping an eye on her to see what she’d do next. That, my friends, is scene-stealing. Well done, Ms.B, and you’ve won a slightly-used dvd copy of Jodorowsky’s film classic EL TOPO, should you choose to accept it.
Should we whiz thru the technical fav’rits now? I still tend to think of myself as too ‘layman’ to decide such things properly, but I guess if people are treating me like honest-to-gosh media now, I should at least put in the effort, right? And hey, it’s not like I didn’t notice some amazing work that the geniuses out there put in. For example…
COSTUMES: I really, really don’t do fashion, but there was some fine accoutrement going on this year. Like the fine duds on display in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (Andrea Robertson), IPHEGENIE EN TAURIDE (Genevieve Couture), ZASTROZZI (Judith deBoer), or Eo Sharp’s primary-themed ST CARMEN OF THE MAIN. There’s lots more, I’m sure, and I luv ya all.
SOUND AND LIGHT: Oh, I REALLY am an idiot when it comes to these two. But looking back, I have to bow to Al Connors, for his soundwork in shows like LITTLE MARTYRS, LAVENDER RAILROAD, and probably about a dozen others. Seriously, dude, I want an MP3 of that CARS slowdown from LM. I’ll buy you beer and everything. Also, Clement and Fairfield invented whole new zones of cool with their soundwork in TARAM. And lights?Shit, most of the time I’m lucky if I even notice they’re ON. I honestly have tgo pay more attention to this, and could probably use a few good conversations in that area. I’ll just say Pierre Ducharme and Jock Munro, and we’ll move on.
HAIR AND MAKEUP: Annie Lefebvre. Moving on!
SET DESIGN: Ok, THIS I notice. And I love me a good set. Like Benoit Brunet-Poirier’s industrial labyrinth for MEDEE-MATERIAU, or Anna Lindgren’s working-rainfall-and-all set for the wunnerful EURYDICE. Or even the simple, slapstick setup for BIFURCATE ME (Jon Lockhart, I think?). But if we’re calling ‘winners’ here, of fav’rits (better), I’m torn. Ivo Valentik designed so many insane gorgeous sets, from ZASTROZZI to SPEED-THE-PLOW to MIDWINTER’S DREAM TALE. But Pierre DuCharme designed my fav’rit set EVER, for LITTLE MARTYRS. So, fight it out amongst yourselves, dudes. There’s no actual prize here. There IS however, for this next one:
Yeah, Winston’s not the only one who gets an award named after him! What of it? I’m cool too!! Fuck you!
…But time for that later. First, we gotta give this thing away, and as to what it IS, exactly…it’s whatever. It’s to who I think is as excited, or rather ten times MORE excited about theatre, than I am (which is, quite frankly, a lot), and who shows it, and who I notice, and…you know what? This is getting complicated. Let’s just give the award to out two recipients…yes, in this inaugural award year, it’s a tie! Because I’m a noncommittal fuck, as my ex could surely tell you.
The first winner is…MAY CAN THEATRE. Comprised of good guys Cory Thibert and Tony Adams, the May Can Boys have demonstrated a love of performing that borders on the ridiculous this past year. Besides their highly endearing Fringe show SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL, they put up the insane DANGER PROJECT in the backroom of the Avant-Garde bar, and spent 2 days showcasing 2 original works, 297 BAYVIEW CLINIC and THE ROOM OUTSIDE THE ROOM (among a great variety of other acts) during their anniversary celebrations at Cafe Alt. They showed that, whether you have a gig or a venue or not, it doesn’t matter too much…just go out and find that shit for yourself, and you’re good to go.
And recipient number two..? None other than ANDY MASSINGHAM, also known as FOR FUCKS SAKE WHEN DO YOU SLEEP??? Here’s what this cat appeared in this year (that I saw): BIFURCATE ME. THE SHADOW CUTTER. EXIT THE KING. HAMLET 2011. THE FAN. IN THE EYES OF STONE DOGS. And the EMPTY SPACE reading of Chekhov short stories from Third Wall. And how many of those was he amazing in? Oh yeah.. ALL that shit. And he’s already got about half a dozen project on the go in 2012…again, that I know of. Congrats, Mister Massingham, you’re the goods. And you and the May Can boys can politely decide which among you want my used directors cut of THE WARRIORS, my burned disc of SPACED, or if you just want me to get you all drunk some day.
I really have to get moving on this…it’s already, like, the longest thing in the history of long (Your Mom told me the same thing, by the way), and there’s miles to go. So let’s get fav’rit-ing!
This is just me loving gangs of actors doing some acting on stages, and wow, there were lots of them! And while some were visiting troupes, like the swell gals from the Missoula Oblangata who treated us to the amazing FATHER OF THE DAUGHTER OF TIME MOTION STUDY, or the dynamite One Yellow Rabbit trio with their challenging but brilliant KAWASAKI EXIT. Then there’s the amazing group assembled for AND SLOWLY BEAUTY at the NAC, or the hysterical gang from I DO NOT LIKE THEE DOCTOR FELL. More fine trios? How about McManus, Downey and Savoie in the lovely QUEEN FOR A DAY, Watt, Lyford-Wilson and Capogreco in THREE SISTERS, or Quirk, Skanks and Phillips in DIRTY BIRD? Third Wall’s EXIT THE KING had just about as good a gang as you could beg for, as did A MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE from a Company of Fools. SPENT’s duo was a sheer delight, and the onstage radio players from THE SHADOW really made me wanna come back again. And I’m gonna single out a particular fav’rit of mine…the Ottawa Theatre School gang. Not the new grad class….tho they showed their chops just fine in IN THE EYES OF STONE DOGS and I’m looking forward for more. But I’m thinking of the cats from UNDER MILK WOOD, GLITCH and HAMLET 2011. Diego, Greg, Henry, Kaitlin, Jodi, Kyla…you’re the goods. Hope to see you ALL up on stage again soon (and new gangsters…the bar has been set! Cant’ wait to see you top it!).
I’ve decided to do away with splitting up the sexes this year, because it just seems silly. So here’s my smorgasbord of boy/girl/whatever acting goodness, all in one!
There was plenty of greatness going around on Ottawa stages (again, not counting Fringe), and a solid bunch of them stand out in my memory. Like John ‘Killer’ Koensgen tearing it up as the King in ANTIGONE. Or Mary Ellis ruling in her PJs in DREAMS OF WHALES. Or Andy Massingham in EVERYTHING. Jason Cadieux positively owned Undercurrents in HARD WAYS, and Mackenzie Salhany was the awesomest Red Riding Hood ever in INTO THE WOODS. Brennan Richardson cut a very memorable MacDuff in Sock’n’Buskin’s MACBETH, Bev Wolfe cut to the quick as the sister in LAVENDER RAILROAD, and Guy Buller nailed villainous Iago in Salamander’s OTHELLO. But my absolute fav’rits..?
– Chris Ralph in SPEED-THE-PLOW. Props to his co stars Kyla Gray and John Muggleton, but it was Ralph’s Charlie Fox that really killed it in Plosive’s stab at Mamet.
– Monique Floyd in THAT SUMMER. I can still almost FEEL her beaming, mischievous smile. A wondrous performance.
– Tim Oberholzer in ZASTROZZI: THE MASTER OF DISCIPLINE. The smooth one nailed it into the ground (or as close as one could come to it, in Valentik’s Escher-esque set) with his over-the-top showing as the classic stage villain. Marvellous.
– Matt Miwa in LITTLE MARTYRS. In a play filled with great performances, his stood out. As tortured Jacob, Matt made you feel every pang of conscience like a knife thrust. BLOODY marvelous.
– Jamie Mac in SALT WATER MOON. It ain’t easy, owning the NAC stage, but VIMY’s Jamie Mac pulled it off as David French’s rogue romantic Jacob Mercer, with a newfie accent to beat the band. Very well done indeed.
Which all leaved me with not much time to get this done, and that means the main event…
This is it…the shows that reached deep, grabbed my heart, and shattered my soul (in a good way). I’m gonna save my super fav’rits for last, but there’re lots of great ones to go around, like the Fools’ ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, and Third Wall’s absurdist EXIT THE KING. Or pretty much the entire run of UNDERCURRENTS. But let’s not forget student gems like Sock’n’Buskin’s wonderfully funny ONE-ACT COMEDY FESTIVAL, and the Youth Infringement gem from Rebecca Garcia QUEEN FOR A DAY. Plus the Missoula Oblangata’s DAUGHTER OF THE FATHER OF TIME MOTION STUDY, a beauteous DIY gem of a show, and Seven Thirty’s gleeful and high-strung Hitchcock cover 39 STEPS. But my own, personal, certified fav’rits of the year as of this writing are…
– THE PRETENTIOUS YOUNG LADIES from Obviously a Theatre Company. Yeah, I said it! I know not a lot of people got to see this free, debut show, and more’s the pity, because it was goddamn fabulous. Innovative, colourful, and merrily disrespectful to the conventions of theatre. Also fun. Remember fun?
– MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS from Chamber Theatre. It might have been the combination of great cast, directing, gorgeous/horrific subject matter and perfect Carleton Tavern venue that drove this one into the hallowed territry for me. Maybe. Maybe it just fucking RULED.
– A MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE from A Company of Fools. As fun a show as you’re even allowed to wish for, centered around the clown combo of Pommes and Restes (Scott Florence and Margo MacDonald) searching for ice cream in a winter wonderland, and running afoul of Fairies, Jesse Buck, and the audience, this is the joy of theatre served up to order.
– UNDER MILK WOOD from Ottawa Theatre School. Featuring the gangsters along with Todd Duckworth and Annie Lefebvre, and directed by wondrous Jan Irwin, this adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ glorious play was such utter magic to behold that it was only the second play I was all too happy to pay full price twice to see. The other one? My narrow victor for show of the year…
– LITTLE MARTYRS from Evolution Theatre. The purest gut-punch of the year, an adherence to the credo of ‘challenging theatre’ so pure that it scared half of their audience off. And theirs is the pity, because they missed a luminous theatrical experience, the kind that can only come from a dark place. Not to mention killer performances, amazing sound, brilliant set…I only wish I could see this show again.
And…that’s it! I suppose now would be the time for any resolutions…I know I ‘d like to hit the Mayfair and Bytowne theatres more in this new year. And I have one resolution I can’t tell you all about (you’d think it was very sad, and I don’t want to upset you). So instead, from all of us here at the Visitorium, have a good tomorrow, and try and hold out until the shows start up again. It won’t be long now! Peace, love and soul
The Visitor (and Winston)
ETA: I woke up this morning and realized I’d forgotten a couple of things I wanted to mention…stoopid, right? But I did want to make mention of another dandy ensemble this past year, namely the dynamite tag team of Jake William Smith and Christine Hecker as the leads in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, plus Garret Quirk’s pitch-perfect Algernon Moncrieff in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. And oh yeah, I seem to have totally forgotten about Directing in my whole ‘categories’ thing up there. They’re not important, right? Fuck, I’m dumb sometimes. Happy New Year everybody!