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Monday Foofarah! – – – monday april 30th 2012

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2012 at 10:23 pm

….And welcome back!  Three posts in one day?  Why the Hell not?  Especially since I sweet-talked Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill into writing one of them (hint: it’s the Disco One).  And since recent Ottawa events…not the least of which being a show review by a revered Ottawa critic that reads like Waldorf and Statler channelling Madame Blavatsky…have convinced me that I have little choice but to up the ante and expand the scope of operations here at The Visitorium, I suppose the least I can do to start is to get the Foofarah back up to weekly speed. So without further ado…full speed ahead!  Let’s start with what’s IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:

SHAKESPEARE’S DEAD from A Company of Fools, at various locations (check their website).  If it’s a Fools show, that means it’s a good show, and you shouldn’t miss it.  They do Billy Shakes RIGHT.  Plays April 30th-May 11th Monday thru Friday, showtimes at 7:30.
BEYOND A JOKE at the Ottawa Little Theatre.  Some proper farciness from O-town’s oldest theatre group, still going strong.  Starting on May 1st, showtime at 8pm.

THE EXTREMELY SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL from New Theatre of Ottawa, at Arts Court Theatre.  12 locally-written plays of ten minutes or length, back to back!  You won’t find more bang for your buck, folks.  Previews start May 1st, Premiere on the 3rd, showtime at 8.

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN from Plosive Productions, at the Gladstone Theatre.  I won’t lie, folks…this one looks kind of tense.  Preview May 1st, Premiere on the 2nd, showtime at 8 (Saturday matinee at 3).

POINTE DE FUITE at La Nouvelle Scene. A Series of poetical texts (in French), woven into a unique night of theatre.  From the 2nd to the 12th.

SCHOOLHOUSE from the Lakeside Players, at the Ron Kolbus Theatre.  A fun sounding 1930’s romp…plays from the 3rd to 6th, showtime at 7:3o, Sunday matinee at 2.

LA ROBE DE GULNARA from Bandeladouze, at Beatrice-Desloges school (1999 Avenue de Provence, Orelans).  This one kinda snuck up on my radar, but the more I hear about it, the more amazing it sounds (scenography by recent Rideau-nominee Mishka Lavigne, word).  Running the 3rd to 5th, showtime at 7:30.  Here’s the performing troupe Bandeladouze, being awesome:

THE BIG QUESTION.  So this past Saturday, in the company of Nadine Thornhill (who is now officially the first ever Special Agent of the Visitorium, thanks to her guest-review…and I hope to recruit more agents in the near future), I shuffled on back to Arts Court to catch a  repeat viewing on closing night of the absolutely wonderful MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY from Evolution Theatre.  There was a packed house that night, with lots of friendly faces, which made me smile.  But it also made me wonder where those crowds were during the majority of the run, when houses were reportedly dismal.  And before you go blaming that on the cancellation of the bulk of [boxhead] performances (the show MM was double-billed with), attendance got bad even before those cancellations were reported.

*Quick aside…A very heartfelt get-well soon to actor Stewart Matthews, who fell ill during the run of [boxhead].  I was one of the lucky ones who got to see the show, and I still feel privileged to have done so.  I know how hard he and the whole crew worked on that show, and I also have a good inkling of how much pain he was in for some of the performances that DID get put on.  You did everyone proud, Mr.Matthews, and we ALL look forward to the remount!

Stewart's the one with the box on his head.

Aside over.  My rambling point is, this was great theatre, and nowhere near enough turned out for it.  Even despite Prix Rideau Award wins for the Director, Actor AND company halfway through the run.  And the big question in question is…what the fucking Hell is to be DONE about this?  Because lest anyone be fooling themselves on this note, if we don’t get out and support local, independent theatre with something more than lip service, WE WON’T GET IT ANYMORE. Ask Third Wall…they didn’t cancel their season as a practical joke.  I’d say ask the Vancouver Playhouse, but I’m afraid their phone may have already been disconnected. Evolution is not an isolated case by any stretch, and I have a few thoughts, still muddled, as to what to do about it.  Here’s my first challenge, to myself as much as anyone else:
BRING A FRIEND.  And by that, I don’t just mean get a comp ticket for your buddy.  I mean, talk one of your non-theatre friends…one of those workmates you have, who says they ‘don’t really like theatre’, and you know that just means they haven’t ever actually BEEN…into coming to a show with you.  Do it this month.  Just try it…I will!  Because I hear all sorts of nonsense about the need to increase the quality of the shows, and to this I proudly cry HORSESHIT!  The shows are awesome (and I see more of them than you, so don’t even TRY and call me on this), we just need people to come and SEE how awesome they are.  5 years ago, I was one of those non-theatre folks who would swear up and down that it ‘wasn’t my thing’.  Turns out I was just an idiot.  So do a public service this month…find an idiot friend of yours, and make him/her see the error of their ways.  They’ll thank you for it.

WEBSERIES: It’s been a while since I did any talking about original webseries’…remember when I used to do spot-reviews for the dee-liteful Sweet Tarts Takeaway?  Sigh.  Simpler times.  But I DO still dig me some cool webcontent, and especially if it stars one or more of the Sweet Tarts.  So it was with some measure of joy that I recently checked out Kate Drummonds’ new show on the YouTubes, a solo cooking show called A JOCK’S GUIDE.  So far I’ve only done the first two episodes, but darlin’ Kate is as charming as I would have expected from STT.  She offers up a nice, frill-free, homespun cooking lesson from the pov of a self-professed ladyjock, and Sweet Jeebus am I dying to try out her Granma’s recipe for German Pancakes at work next brunch!  And Kate D, I promise, if I do give it a go, I’ll take pictures and post them in the next FOOFARAH.

Not that I NEED any pancake help (having recently been praised in my skills by none other than the Green Bean himself…such an inside joke it’s pointless to write this in public, yay!), but that bizness looks TASTY.  I’m gonna catch up with my Jock’s Guide toot sweet, because I suspect Kate has some sweet recipes lurking.  And in case you hadn’t had enough of me plugging internet cooking shows, here’s another of the best around, one which endears me to it via my status as both cook AND loser…the entirely awesome Henry’s Kitchen:

THE FUTURE:  I don’t have much more Foofarah left in me tonite (seriously, it’s a three-post day, you’re lucky you’re even getting THIS), but I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to expand the scope of this blog.  More to come on that, but I want to at least plant this seed…if you’re someone in the Ottawa (for now) community, who’s passionate about theatre, and has a bit of the skill at writin’…stay tuned.  I may need you.  Despite what people very kindly say about me, I DON’T see everything.  That shouldn’t mean the Visitorium can’t write about it, though. The Visitorium is EVERYWHERE.

Or that’s the plan.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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Three Clowns Meet at a Bus Stop…

In Theatre on April 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I generally feel crappy about show reviews that are too late…in this case WAY too late…to be of any good. I feel a little extra-ratty about it this time, however, as I was ALL SET to catch MOUVING on day two of it’s four-day engagement here in Ottawa, at the beautiful Nouvelle Scene Theatre.  They’d even been kind enough to give me media status, which for an Anglo know-nothing like myself is definitely an honour.

But then I went and got my times mixed up, missed the show, and didn’t end up seeing it until late on day three.  THEN I was too busy (read: lazy) to do a writeup before the final performance, and now days and days have passed…sigh.  But, a show is a show, and this merry clown epic, a co-production of Satellite Theatre and Houppz! Theatre (presented here in Ottawa by Theatre la Catapulte) deserves talking about, even if it’s too late to help the good citizens of Ottawa .  But hopefully, this fantastic and fun show will make the rounds elsewhere.  It deserves to.

Starring Isabelle Roy, Mathieu Chouinard and Marc-Andre Charron, MOUVING is not so much a story as a series of wonderful skits revolving around a disparate trio of mostly-silent (at least in words) clown-style characters, starting with Chouinard’s uptight Grum.  Stranded at a bus stop, he hums and frets, trying to find the perfect placement of all his luggage, when along comes the smiling, flirty Bitz (Isabelle Roy).  It takes some doing to gain his reluctant trust, but with a peppy ‘Chin-Chin’ and a few aggressively offered marshmallows, she manages.  When Charron’s playful Horton makes his scene-stealing appearance, the audience is already primed and ready for some good, honest foolishness, and we get it by the bucketful.

Our three actors are clearly very skilled performers in a few disciplines, and it was hard for me not to flash back to Mi Casa Theatre’s amazing INCLEMENT WEATHER a few times during this show.  The slick simplicity of their gags, from the amazing song-and-dance ‘seduction’ number, to the Buster Keaton-worthy dinner scene, is wonderful to watch.  And Claude Fournier, the superb onstage musician is a one-man foley crew, providing nearly perfect comic accompaniment to the antics that abound.  There’s real magic in the air by the wonderful end of this show…a really special night at the theatre that, yes, is fun for the whole family.  And as it’s mostly silent, it doesn’t matter if you speak French or not.  Clown, it turns out, is a universal language.

The program lists no specific writer, saying only that the show is a collective creation of the 3 actors and Fournier, plus Etienne Bayart and Dan Watson  To all, Bravo, it must have been an absolute BLAST creating this one. And special thanks to Sylvain at Catapulte, for being so cool and forgiving about my terrible sense of timing.  Won’t happen again, dude!

Peace, love and soul.

The Visitor (and Winston)
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A Million Lights are Dancing!

In Theatre on April 30, 2012 at 7:19 am

Nadine Thornhill is a celebrated playwright and actor, sex-advice columnist, fabulous fashionista and six-hundred times more popular than me, so I’m hoping that my stats will go through the ROOF with this, the first ever guest-review here at the Visitorium by her own lovely self.  I thank her greatly for heartily taking this assignment, in return for my own schmoopy guest-post on HER blog a few weeks back.  Feed back on this one, folks…Nadine is worth your love.

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A Million Lights are Dancing!  – A review of Xanadu, by Nadine Thornhill

Kevin knows me well.

Kevin knows my love of seventies music in general and The Electric Light Orchestra in particular. Kevin knows that I have a personal mission to bring back the roller disco. That’s why Kevin knew that sending me to see Nepean High School’s recent production of XANADU would be a dream guest blogger assignment.

Xanadu is a hit Broadway musical based on the 1980’s musical fantasy film by the same name.  Now make no mistake. It is one hot mess of a movie. Nonetheless, I had mad love for this flick as a child and the soundtrack remains a favourite to this day. I re-watched it a few weeks ago with my partner and the fact that it was more ridiculous than I’d remembered made the experience that much sweeter.

Xanadu is the story of Sonny, a struggling painter who has lost his artistic direction and Kira, a Greek muse disguised as a mortal who inspires Sonny to open the ultimate art house/roller rink on the Santa Monica Pier. And did I mention that Kira (and her eight muse sisters) came to LA through a portal in a graffiti mural? And also that there’s an old dude name Danny who owns the site Sonny wishes to transform, but he won’t give Sonny access to the property, but then he totally does, and oh, by the way, Kira was also Danny’s muse like 40 years ago, but she went by a different name then?

Oh, Xanadu. I love you so!

The film version of Xanadu is funny because it was so cluelessly sincere in its execution. The 2007 stage adaptation is well aware of its absurdity. It’s all about the sarcasm and the self-referential humour. Example?  In the film Kira is portrayed by Australian pop-star/actor Olivia Newton-John. The fact that Kira has a heavy Aussie accent despite being a muse of Ancient Greece is never addressed. In the stage version, not only is Kira’s accent acknowledged, it’s a running gag throughout the script.  Love ballads like “Suddenly” are now parodies of the film version, and the scenes that the film intended to be heart-wrenching are now gut-busting.

So how did the cast at Nepean High handle this homage to the best of 1980’s dreck? Remarkably well. It’s worth noting that the movie Xanadu was released almost twenty years before some of this cast was even born. Nonetheless they nailed the aesthetics of the period beautifully. More importantly they captured the balls-out enthusiasm that makes Xanadu so utterly lovable, despite its flaws.

Evelyn Bartlett and Peter Sarty were intensely likeable as star-crossed protagonists, Kira and Sonny. They also get serious props for spending a good deal of their stage time acting and dancing on roller skates. According to the program, the cast trained with the Ottawa Roller Derby. Bartlett and Sarty clearly took the lessons to heart, because they were wheeling around the stage like seasoned pros. As I mentioned earlier, the script requires Kira to speak with an over-the-top Australian accent. It’s a tough thing to speak in an accent not your own – let alone a bad accent – and still be understood. Bartlett struggled with the challenge in certain spots, but that’s a minor quibble about an overall strong performance.

Robyn Campbell and Emma Makin play Kira’s envious muse sisters, Melpomene and Calliope and holy hot peppers, these gals can SING! I had a double-squee moment when they lit into “Evil Woman”. First, it’s not in the original film but is my favourite ELO song EVER!  Second of all Campbell and Makin sang the hell out of that shizz!  Well done, ladies. You have put my karaoke version to shame!

I also have to give props to Paul Best as aging real estate curmudgeon turned aging roller disco enthusiast, Danny. The tough part of older characters in high school productions is that even with judicious application of grey hair paint, it’s hard not to see the young person underneath. But I totally bought Best as an older man. I belly laughed more than once during his introductory scene as he barked random authority into multiple desk phones.

Finally, a shout out NHS orchestra members, Greg Akeson, Devyn Pope, Kurt Grunsky, Joshua Yasbeck, Connor Smith and Connor Wong. As I said, the soundtrack is one of my favourites – I still listen to “All Over The World” and “Magic” on almost a weekly basis. When I’m that familiar with a particular recording of a song, I often balk at anything not that version (the Saturday Night Fever episode of Glee made me SUPER frowny!), but Nepean’s band totally did it for me! I was seat-dancing super hard during most of the musical numbers. I’m going to assume the woman next to me kept looking around because she’d spotted some friends, not because she wanted to change seats.

My only real complaint about Xanadu really has nothing to do with the NHS production, but with the musical itself. As I mentioned the stage version of Xanadu is far more self-aware than the movie. It knows its roots, it understands its flaws, and unlike Sonny with Kira, this play is much, much smarter than its inspiration. These are probably not bad things – particularly for anyone who’s never seen the film. But I have major nostalgia for the film. I did miss the sincerity of the original Xanadu  It was charming, not because it was clever, but because it had no idea how dreck it truly was.

But in the end staff and students at Nepean High School made me laugh, made me dance and made me pop in the Xanadu soundtrack as soon I as got in the car to drive home, which I suspect is exactly what Kevin intended when he sent me to see this show.

Like I said – the man knows me well!

Flying Solo, Flying High

In Theatre on April 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Just a quickie tonight, as I’m feeling a bit under the weather the last day or so, and want to try and kill this with some Irish home remedy afore hitting La Nouvelle Scene tomorrow evening.  This night, however, was all about the Algonquin.  The graduating class, that is, of Algonquin Theatre Arts for 2012, who (after a solid season of ACTOR’S NIGHTMARE, ‘DENTITY CRISIS, THEATRE OF THE FILM NOIR and SHAKESPEARE’S INTERACTIVE CIRCUS) were all set to give their final monologues in one big go-round known as FLYING SOLO.  I’d meant to see the one last year, but ironically (or is it..?) I had school that night.  No such problem this year, and when the mighty Teri-Loretto Valentik invites you to see her students strut their stuff, one does not say no. I even had the nice surprise of being joined by the Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill, there to see her former Insight Theatre student Aidan Reed make good.

All 16 of the students took to the stage (borrowed from the upcoming DEATH AND THE MAIDEN production from ‘Plosive), in a bit of choreography designed by prof Loretto, but the rest…costume, monologue…was all left to the kids’ own devices.    And right off, I gotta say I LOVED the costumes, ranging from stylish suits and punk-chic to full-on drag-glam and bloody rags.  In fact, before long I was realizing that an evening of multiple monologues like this is actually a fucking fantastic idea, a thought that would prove correct as the all-too short recitals got underway.  The pieces varied in length and period (Shakespeare was well-represented, and two pieces by Kurt Weill which surprised me nicely), but flowed well one from the other.  And the whole gang did bang-up jobs, getting off to a quick start with Peterh Catalfamo’s spirited bit of TWELFTH NIGHT and finishing with Michelle Stewart’s haunting excerpt from OTHELLO.  I won’t go into each and every one, but a few things that stuck in my mind:

– Bubba Vien did a goddam smashing job on his monologue from POOR JOHN, stripping himself bare (and not completely figuratively, folks).  And the evening’s drag queen Samuel Morgan seemed to have a ball with his piece from ST.SEBASTIAN (certainly, the theatre jokes in his monologue went over well with the crowd).

– The duelling Weill pieces were awesome, from Sam Kellerman and Earl Carriere respectively.  Carriere had the dance moves, but Kellerman gets the costume vote.  A close call.

– Aidan Reed did indeed rock in a short but bang-on bit of Malvolio from TWELFTH NIGHT.  Reminded me of a wee Greg Kramer.  I look forward to his next move.

– The ladies were well-represented, and each one impressed.  Ali Caudle’s dramatic THE HOLIDAY excerpt nicely balanced Robin Thomas’ great comic turn from LES BELLES SOEURS.  Maggie Matian SO rocked with BONJOUR LA BONJOUR from Tremblay, and Elizabeth Franklin..?  I WANT to see that production of HAMLET.  And Nadine Thornhill, who was sitting next to me and absolutely HATES Shakespeare, agrees with me.  Nailed it, girl.

– The Boys represented with some blood’n’guts, including two bits of TITUS ANDRONICUS (from Mark MacDonald and Aaron Lajeunesse) and a little dash of MARAT/SADE from Dillon Rogers.  I actually caught Nadine visibly squirming to that last one, nicely done. 🙂

– Okay, I guess I AM going into each and every one, screw it. Who haven’t I mentioned?  Natasha Montgomery, giving a heartfelt bit of A CHORUS LINE, and Austin Fogarty being right commanding as Gremio from TAMING OF THE SHREW (and I bloody LOVED the cane).  Seriously, was anyone taking pictures tonight?  I’d love to see some pix of the gang in full dress.

Anyways, that’s it from me, and I can’t wait to see what this gang goes on to do next…I’m fairly certain it’ll be awesome.  Friend me on Facebook, you lot, I wanna keep up with what’s going on! You’re the goods, and no fooling.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS: as graduation presents, you now all have your very own WordPress ‘tags’.  Feel free to make me use them as much as possible.

A Factory of Slogans

In Theatre on April 25, 2012 at 12:37 am

So I was TOTALLY supposed to go and check out the new Ottawa Theatre School show last Friday, but found myself delightfully sidetracked on the night in question.  Although I have to admit I’ve been chomping at the bit to catch this show, for a few reasons.  First, their last show WE WANT LIFE was one of the high points of the theatre year.  Also, it was directed by Pierre Brault, easily a de facto member of Ottawa Theatre royalty.  Plus, any excuse to hit up my alma mater at the OSSD is good news to me.

Sputtering rain aside then, I headed over to Westboro and got ready for Nikolai Erdman’s suppressed Russian classic THE SUICIDE, written in 1932 and instantly banned from production by no less than Joey Stalin himself. It was rediscovered in the 70’s, and that’s good news for us.  It’s a darkly satirical look at Socialism, Marxism, life and death…and there’s a tuba.

You didn't believe me, did you?

Starring the current graduating class of the OTS and featuring a finger-snappingly good soundtrack, THE SUICIDE is almost disturbingly hilarious considering the subject matter, but it works a treat.  Drew Moore is our downtrodden hero Semyon Semyonovich, out of work, short-tempered, and harbouring particularly unlikely dreams of becoming a musician.  He lives with his devoted, overworked wife Masha (Victoria Luloff) and her Mother Sarafima (Dyna Ibrahim).  In short order, Semyon’s despondence leads him to thoughts of ending it all, and worried Masha calls on mysterious neighbour Alexander Petrovich (Mitchel Rose) to help them out.  Alexander (and his gleefully wicked galpal Margarita, aka Jazmine ‘Jazz Camp’ Campanale) have other plans, however.

Before long, Semyon is being courted by one after another cloying strangers (James Smith, Caitlin Corbett, and Adam Pierre, all looking great with awesome, scene-stealing turns), each seeking to manipulate Semyon’s forthcoming suicide to their own self-serving, supposedly righteous ends.  It’s actually a pretty wonderfully clever bit of writing that leads our hero  slowly, and quite amusingly, to his inevitable (?) demise, as well as maybe a new way of looking at life.  Rounding out the cast is Jonah Allingham as Yegor, the politically paranoid and permanently hunched Postman, providing more than a few choice comic moments.  Likewise Dyna Ibrahim, especially the bit about the Wiener Dog (trust me).  The whole cast is great, natch…it was nice to see Luloff back in action after being sidelined by illness for WWL, and she shone as Masha.  And can I just say I’m becoming a big fan of Caitlin Corbett and Mitchel Rose?  Because I kinda am.

But I hate to play fav’rits (except when I do), and the whole gang does great in a very smart, very funny, and fast-moving piece that deserved  a WAY bigger audience that it had tonight.  I didn’t hallucinate that huge turnout of so-called theatre lovers at the Rideaus on Sunday, right?  Well, you know what’s even better than giving someone an award for their theatre work a year after the fact?  Actually SEEING their work TODAY.  So no excuses, you lot!  Get on out there and commit to this Suicide (I said it)!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS: All love to Andrew Alexander, for the above photo!

Monday Foofarah! – Gala Edition

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm

A quiet Monday in for me, even if the rest of Ottawa is all agitato about some sporting event or other (on that note…Hey, Senators?  Could you be dears and lose the next two games?  Nothing personal, I just want my barspace back.  Ta very much.), and I could use the rest.  Last night was…well.  We’ll be getting to that soon enough.  As always in the land of FOOFARAH, first things are first (except when they’re not, but that’s not today):

IN TOWN THIS WEEK: Lots to see and do, kids…continuing from last week are THE SUICIDE at the OSSD, which I’m eager to catch tomorrow night.  And at Arts Court, my favouritest double-bill around from Evolution Theatre, MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY (starring Rideau Award WINNER Nancy Kenny), and [boxhead], and I’ll be back for a second viewing for sure. Starting up are MOUVING at la Nouvelle Scene, a clown-based show I can’t wait to see (25th-28th).  HIS GIRL FRIDAY, the annual GCTC Lawyer Play Fundraiser also runs 25-28, and THE MIKADO from the Savoy Society hits the Adult High School from the 26th to 29th.  And you KNOW you want yourself some Gilbert and Sullivan, yo.

ACTING!  So I haven’t been to any auditions in some time, and I’m starting to think maybe I should sign up for a new course at the OSSD, just to keep my toe in the water, when I get an invitation from the man himself Ken Godmere.  Seems he’s putting on a Fringe show that’ll be touring the nation starting in Ottawa this June (read more at the Facebook Page, which you should totally like), and he needs some people to come in and record a few voices for the audio track.  Hey, I’M a people!  I hustled my way through the occasionally terrifying wilderness of Blackburn Hamlet to Ken’s abode, where he, superstar Director Tania Levy, and their right-hand gal Serena (sorry, I’m blanking on your last name right now!) awaited with their makeshift upright-sofa recording studio.  I don’t want to give anything away about the storyline this early, but Ken had me read for a number of small roles, various faceless entities who interact with his brilliant character Vernus throughout the show.  I had a blast doing it (and WAIT until you hear Tania’s niece in the show…best actor I’ve heard in a LONG while, truth), and was delighted to get some good reactions out of my ‘audience’.  It’s a good sign when the Director runs over and hugs you, right?

Anyhow, Tania went so far as to suggest I might make a bit of a run at this ‘voice acting’ thing, mentioning Richard Hemphill and his delightful bit of radio Foofarah, REMOTE PLANET.  As Richard and I get along like gangbusters already, let me just say this:  Richard, if you’re reading this, and ya ever need an extra voicebox or two to read the odd line, give me a shout, I’d love to try this again.   And wow, but that was the laziest attempt to get a gig that I could ever imagine happening.  Here’s to sloth!

So what else is going on?  Not really anything else that I can think of, except for (piano-roll please…)

THE PRIX RIDEAU AWARDS GALA! Yay, it’s that time of year again!  Dressin’ up, gettin’ down, and watching cool people win cool stuff.  Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!  I was pretty stoked for this year’s shindig, as lots of my pals were nominated for stuff, lots of shows I loved were up for awards, and at the last minute I went and picked up a new zoot suit from Ragtime (my favouritest clothing store EVAH!).  Drove on in to the doings, this year in Orleans at the swanky Shenkman Centre, with my date from last year, Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill, who looked amazing as always (just wait for her Fashion Friday post on her blog, you’ll see what I mean).  We checked our coats, I grabbed a drink, and soon enough met up with my date, the sweet, talented, and enthusiastically Irish beauty, Tess McManus (of QUEEN FOR A DAY and COMPANY fame, and also a freakin’ cool gal), who did me the  honour of checking out the gala by my side.  I can honestly say she’s the reason I’m drinking Guinness and Jameson’s as I write this…the Irish are SUCH good influences (and that’s NOT sarcasm)!

The awards were given out in the big room at Shenkman, which I had never even set foot in before, and…yeah, it’s big.  The show’s theme was ‘All that Jazz’ and they kicked it off hardcore with a show-stopping show-starter performance of the classic song from the amazing trio of Annie Lefebvre, Natalie Joy Quesnel, and Pirate Jenny (Gabrielle Lalonde for you nitpickers out there), before handing the show over to hosts Lefebvre, and CBC’s Alan Neal, who make a perfectly goddam wunnerful duo onstage.  And as with last year, I won’t go into ALL the winners and onstage goings-on with you, although I will pick out a few hilites for myself:

– Andy Massingham won for EXIT THE KING.  Good.  That’s the one I would have picked.

– I didn’t see many French shows last year, but a couple of the ones I did see, FRERES D’HIVER and TARAM, cleaned up big, and I’m glad as fuck. Those were killer shows, and deserve all the love.

– Only the French award for ‘Behind the Scenes’ heroes was given out this year, on account of not enough English companies bothered nominating anyone.  Let’s not repeat that shame next year, hey?  Companies, send those letters in NOW, and don’t stop until Xmas, deal?  Represent.

– Fucking YAY!!!  For Nancy and Tania and Nick, and their award for ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL as Outstanding Fringe production. What did I TELL you people about that show??  And an extra YAY!!!  for the lovely Katie Bunting, our Emerging Artist 2011 (and her French counterpart, Marjolaine Beauchamp).

– Fav’rit moment of the ceremony: Joel Beddows, already taking the stage for Best Director for FRERES D’HIVER, realizing he’s also won Best Director for LAVENDER RAILROAD (or was it vice versa? I forget).  So very cute.  Second fav’rit moment: Andy and Julie’s impromptu onstage pratfall after winning best original work for BIFURCATE ME (with Kevin Orr).

– I’m a LITTLE bummed that UNDER MILK WOOD didn’t nab Outstanding Production (and you HAD to give it to the one show I didn’t see?  Dammit, St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, now I have to plan a road trip your way!), but I’m still happy it got nominated for a few things.

-And the interludes from the OTTAWA DANCE DIRECTIVE?  I’m happy to say they did exactly what they were supposed to do, and I now really, really want to go see an ODD show.  Started strong, ended AMAZING.  Good show.  All that Jazz indeed.

…but enough of that!  For a complete list of winners…I don’t know, try google or something.  There’s drinking and merriment to be had!  And oh, oh, but the rubbernecking and gawking to be had!  SO MANY FAMOUS PEOPLE!!  John Koensgen, Zach Counsil, Kate Smith AND her Mom…it makes one swoon.  And while I start reminiscing about drunkenly dancing the night away in my blue 60’s tightpants, lets get to the nitty-gritty of this post – THE RIDEAU 2012 CRUSH LIST!
(Yes, I know it’s called Rideau 2011 on Twitter, but Twitter is stoopid.  I KNOW what year it is, thank you very much)

#1 – Tess McManus.  As Always, the lady I came in with is the lady to beat, and Miss D’Arcy McGee Rose is no exception, especially in red.  Thanks so much for coming out with me, Bunny, let’s do Salt’n’Pepper Tofu soon!

#2 – Tania Levy.  Simply smashing in her gown, and with maybe the best hair in the building (I said it), plus which she said nice things about me, which always makes me like people more. Also, Tania Levy is FUCKING AWESOME.  So there.

#3 – Steve Martin’s Jacket.  Sweet Mother of Pearl, that was a hot jacket. I would TOTALLY put out for that jacket.  Auf Wiedersehen indeed, bitches!

#4 – Laura (Lee Bell, according to my minimal back research…I never got her last name in person).  Former Youth Infringement Producer, and apparent dance floor Queen, whom I just met that evening, and she got some MOVES, dig it. Also, YI starts in less than a month, and that’s FANTASTIC.  Side note, but still.  It’s cool.

#5 – Jess Preece and Hilary Nichol.  Both awesome, both gorgeous, both experts at the tin whistle, Jess and Hilary are this year’s Kydi…I’m still working on their nickname, tho.  Jessary?  Hilaress?  I may have to take it to a vote.

A rare photo of 'KYDI', known to frequent the Rideaus in search of fresh victims to enslave (aka the amazing Jodi Morden and Kyla Gray, two of the swellest gals EVER).

…and as ever, I could have gone on and on.  There was darlin’ HM, looking amazing and giving me my fav’rit compliment of the evening (that goes a long way with me), the return of Bronwyn Steinberg AND Cat Leger, Kelly Rigole and her ziploc dress, the awesome Micheline Marin from TARAM (strutting around like she owned the place…SO cool), and that tall girl with the glasses who I never did identify.  Also, Lawrence and Joel looked positively ADORABLE, defy that statement if you dare.  And it almost goes without saying that Nadine is the tops, my dance and fashion soulmate (I didn’t even know I gave a shit about fashion until I met her), and dancing with her is a high point of my year.  Together, we successfully brought the Hat back to the Rideaus, and we’re not gonna let it go anywhere anytime soon.

And now, it’s getting late.  Time to say goodnite, but not without one last look back at the Gala, courtesy of the unbeatable Andrew Alexander and his dancing camera (just give’em a click to make them bigger):

Pirate Jenny and her new crew (do any of you even get that joke?)

Nancy Kenny's victory dances ALWAYS occur in blurry FX mode. It's how she rolls.

Joel realizes he's won best director TWICE. Tell me that's not adorable!!

Marjolaine Beauchamp and Katie Bunting, accepting their Emerging Artist Awards. Could not have happened to better folk.

The Ottawa Dance Directive, being awesome.

Me, saying Peace, Love and Soul, Ottawa...

The Visitor (and Winston)

The Young Fools

In Theatre on April 20, 2012 at 12:18 am

Okay, let’s get real.  It’s 40 minutes to midnight as I’m starting this post, I’ve been up since 7 AM, I’m doing the same thing tomorrow, and I’ve already written two show reviews today.  And as I’m probably gonna have to remind a certain special photographer any day now, no one pays me for this shit.  So let’s get right on to the good stuff, hey?
And the good stuff tonight was happening, as it often does, at Algonquin College, where their Theatre Arts Dept was having their final show of the season, SHAKESPEARE’S INTERACTIVE CIRCUS, a show with no specifically credited writer (but all props to Billy Shakes, as always).  Originally a touring show performed by A Company of Fools at whatever venue would have them (I saw it myself a year or so back at the outdoor Lumiere Festival, and it was a gas), it’s been reshaped and reborn by founding fool fool and show director Al Connors for the college crew.  Here, with a reliable indoor venue, willing and large 8-person cast, and a rubber chicken, was the chance to make some magic.

And I admit, having seen some of the greats do this piece (when I caught it, it was Scott Florence, Nancy Kenny, Richard Gelinas and Emmanuelle Zeesman performing…that’s some hard cheese right there, folks!), I was a touch skeptical.  And there WERE a few rough bits, mostly in transitions…the show mostly consists of different zany/irreverent takes on Shakespeare, from a troupe suddenly bereft of its mythical leader, the Great Actor Sir Richard (not Gelinas, we already covered him).  And while I recognized a few bits (the Romeo and Juliet Rap, the tag-team Taming of the Shrew), a few were joyously new to me (Mackers: the Musical, and the new, Enya-inspired take on King Lear).

They assembled an enthusiastic cast for this giddily Foolish venture…Ryan Acheson, Earl Carriere, Peterh Catalfamo, Sam Kellerman, Maggie Matian, Samuel Morgan, Michelle Stewart and Shekinah Wright.  Each had their times to shine, and it looked to me like they were each having a grand time being there.  A few hilites for me were: Catalfamo as the hyper-accented King of the infamous Scottish Play; Morgan and Kellerman as Pyramus and Thisbe (and Carriere as the Wall), from the intentionally shitty part of MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM; Shekinah Wright in…pretty much everything she did; Maggie Matian as Queen Tamora from Titus Andronicus, gleefully leading her cast to certain death (not to mention her constant rubber-chicken flogging); and the traditional tag-team Taming of the Shrew was pulled off masterfully by this young crew of Fools…a good sign of things to come.

It took me a little while to get into the groove of this one, but one I did, I was hooked.  The gang threw themselves into it (seriously, the KING LEAR bit is worth going for all on its own), the music is as hot as you would expect from a Connors-directed project, and my only regret is that I didn’t have any of the often-delicious Algonquin snacks.  Well, okay, that and that I was too shy to talk to Maggie Matian when she showed up at my bus stop after the show.  But she was probably really tired, and didn’t want to hear from ANOTHER fan…sigh.

Anyways, this CIRCUS is a goddam hoot, and you should check it out if you can…and you know you can.  Two more nights!  Do the right thing.  Peace, love and soul

The Visitor (and Winston)

One Day, a Young Geneticist… – Evolution Times Two 2 of 2

In Evolution Theatre, Theatre on April 19, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Right!  Intermission is finally over (I certainly hope you availed yourself of refreshments at the Visitorium bar…Winston mixes a mean margarita), and now it’s time to dim the lights, pull back the curtains, end this stupid goddam metaphor and get on with part two of my Evolution Theatre double-bill review.  Because now I’m two shows behind AGAIN in writeups, and I’m not getting any less tired.  So hang in there, Algonquin Theatre, I’ll get to you soon!
But there’s another show that I have to cover first, having already spoken somewhat glowingly of its sister show, MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY one post back.  And part two of that 2-bill was Darren O’Donnell’s weirdsterpiece [boxhead], maybe the most perfectly apt title for a show in the history of theatre (not counting the original title of Shakespeare’s timeless classic, ROMEO AND JULIET PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO THEIR PARENTS).  The story of a young geneticist who wakes up one day to find a box on his head that he can’t get off, leaps to several incorrect conclusions, dances, contemplated suicide, and finally accidentally clones himself.  Well, not ‘finally’…that’s just where things start getting interesting.

Because this story of singing and dancing scientists with cardboard boxes for heads had been SO dull and predictable up to that point.

I don’t want to spoil much of the show, and really, it’s impossible to.  From the first minute to the reality-bending final scenes, [boxhead] is one of the most bizarrely and endearingly unique plays that I’ve ever, and ever expect TO see in Ottawa, at least anytime soon.  I was actually acutely aware during the show that I was watching something really special…not to mention ball-bustingly hysterical and beautifully, batshit insane.  Directed by the Lady Alix Sideris, and starring Stewart Matthews and Chris Bedford (almost ridiculously impressive as the twin Boxheads, each bedevilled by mysterious,Godlike disembodied voices), the sheer level of skill, ingenuity and chutzpah on display in this production alone makes it worth the price of admission.  From Pierre Ducharme’s beautiful light-based set, to some amazing choreography (especially from actors with highly impaired vision) and priceless physical comedy (and yes, full-frontal nudity…Evolution puts on a SHOW, god dammit), there’s something mind-boggling around every sharp corner in this production.  It honestly is not to be missed, because people don’t get crazy enough to tackle projects like this very often.

And you know that bit at the end of a show?  When the actors are taking their applause, and they point up to the heavens like the Babe calling his hit?  Well, what they’re actually doing is pointing towards the Tech booth, and asking that you give the folks up there some love.  BELIEVE me when I say you want to clap a little harder than usual when Stewart and Chris do it this time, because what Stage Manager Nick Alain and his team were going through with this show (hint: 600+ technical cues is kind of a lot) deserves more than a little kudos.

As does Andrew Alexander, whose pictures these are!

I’m not going to even try and go into the meaning of this piece…fuck that.  This show is like a bowl of Alpha-Bits…every person is gonna read it differently.  Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of smarts under that madness  And more than suffice it to say, the MARY MAGDALENE/[boxhead] double-bill might just be the best bang for your theatrical buck all year.  I still can’t believe it, myself.  It’s…it’s just so fucking awesome, gang.  PLEASE go out and support this stuff, because if you don’t, then…then I don’t know.  I guess maybe JERSEY SHORE is on somewhere..?  But don’t watch that.  Watch this instead.  That’s really what I’m saying.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Is It Blue? – Evolution Times Two 1 of 2

In Evolution Theatre, Theatre on April 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm

As is often the case these days, I’m a little under the gun with this post. REALLY should have written and posted these reviews last night, but I didn’t get home til after midnight, and I just don’t have those Fringe-levels of reckless energy at my disposal just yet (Curious aside..less than TWO MONTHS UNTIL FRINGE!!!).  And now I have two reviews to try and write up before I have to leave the homestead I only just got back to after work, to head out to my third show of the week.  Which I’ll then have to try and review before going to bed, or I’ll be right back in the same stoopid position tomorrow.  No WONDER people try and get paid for this jazz.

Yesterday WAS, I must say, a solid Theatre day.  Lunch with Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill and visiting Ottawa expatriate Nancy Kenny (more on her in a few moments) was as delightful as it sounds.  Then I had the privilege of sitting in on some rehearsal time with New Theatre of Ottawa as they worked on a few pieces from their upcoming EXTREMELY SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL.  What I saw looked pretty cool…but more on THEM in another post (and don’t forget to enter the Extremely Short Story Competition too, over on Aronovitch‘s Blog!).

Then I had a brief, weird thing where it seems like I may have made a date…with a GIRL…which I’m fairly certain I must have imagined, so let’s just move on.  What else did I do that day..?

Right, Theatre!  That’s a thing that I do! And yesterday was the premiere of Evolution Theatre‘s ambitious double-bill production of Berni Stapleton’s MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY, and Darren O’Donnell’s [boxhead].  I had an inkling of what to expect, having interviewed Both Casts a few weeks earlier about the shows.  At least, I thought I had an inkling.  But as soon as I stepped into the Arts Court venue, I realized they had more than a few surprises waiting.

This woman just stole all your cupcakes. Surprise!

The first part of the bill was MARY MAGDALENE, a solo show starring Nancy Kenny (Who I mentioned already, remember?  That’s called Foreshadowing!) and following the highly engrossing personal misadventures of an alcoholic street person who claims to be the actual Mary Magdalene, still around after all this time, and looking a little rough around the edges.  The show starts off at a nice, manic pace, and one can quickly see why Nancy Kenny was so keen on this show, and this character in particular, as it seems tailor-made just for her.  The part fits her like a glove, and director Andy Massingham has crafted a particularly impressive show (with some ace help from designers Pierre Ducharme, Jess Preece and Steven Lafond) around her.

Following Mary as she rushes headlong from one boozer to another, bonds with a potted plant, and tries to come to grips with maybe the most famous personal loss in religious history, MM is an often absolutely hilarious show that also damn near had me in tears by the end. You really can’t help but completely adore the character Nancy and Andy create for us, stumbling often blind as she does through the 10 commandments, the 12 steps of AA, and however many stations of the Cross she decides is correct that day.    It’s a wonderful and utterly human performance, and a really fun and exciting production of Stapleton’s terrific script, balancing cheekily on the edge of blasphemy for most of its hourlong running time.

And let me just get it out of the way…yes, I’m biased.  Nancy’s a dear pal (certainly Winston the Cat has a soft spot for her), and I was really excited to see her in this.  So if you don’t believe me when I say she blew me away and made me all proud and stuff, then that’s totally fair enough.  Or, no, wait…fuck you.  That’s what I meant to say…Fuck you, Nancy was flat-out AMAZING, and that’s that!

Oh yeah. She cool.

This show easily would have been entertainment enough to have justified Evolution’s ticket price, but they weren’t done.  By a LONG shot.  And since it turns out I won’t have time to write the second review right now after all, I’ve split this one up (it WAS 2 shows, after all), and will be back later tonite to finish up with a look at [boxhead].  So hats off to the MARY M gang, for what is easily one of my new fav’rit shows this year, and it’ll be one of yours too.  An absolute joy.  Go now, and tell Nancy the Visitor sent you.  She’ll know what it means.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Monday Foofarah!

In Just me doing stuff, Uncategorized on April 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I’m home at last after some major grocery shopping and a crummy five days of drudgery at the day job, chilling with Winston the Cat, sipping a tasty beverage and listening to the new Mel C album (why didn’t someone TELL me Sporty had a new album out??).  And I’ve come to accept that the Foofarah seems to have evolved into a biweekly thing…which is only a downer if you consider that the reason I DON’T do one every second week is because I’m just too goddam depressed to write one.  Unless that actually amuses you, which I hope it does, and even if not, who cares?  This is the OTHER week! And just what IS going on this week, you ask?

IN TOWN THIS WEEK:  Well, over at the NAC, the de-lovely COMMUNION from Danny Mac continues, to what I hope are packed and enthusiastic houses.  Starting this Wednesday are three shows you just GOTTA catch…from Director Al Connors and based on the show from A Company of Fools, Algonquin theatre presents SHAKESPEARE’S INTERACTIVE CIRCUS on the campus for four days.  Over at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, the Ottawa Theatre School present THE SUICIDE, directed by the man Pierre Brault.  And at Arts Court, Evolution Theatre provides one of my must-sees of the year, the double-bill of MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY and [boxhead], which if you scroll not too far back on this blog, you’ll find me discussing interview-stylee with their respective casts and crews.  And on the 19th, Phoenix Players debut their three-day run of BEDROOM FARCE at the Gladstone. and if only for the glorious effort they’ve put in at promotion, you should check it out.  Plus, Fringe musical MOMMA’S BOY returns for a few days over the weekend from Bear and Co.  Lots to do!  Oh, and that silly Prix Rideau Awards thingamajig…

Mel C break!!!

SHORTS:  Next month, New Theatre of Ottawa will be presenting their EXTREMELY SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL, which I TOTALLY wimped out and didn’t enter.  But while I work on getting an interview with THAT gang of good kids, here’s another fun thing they’ve got going: The EXTREMELY SHORT STORY CONTEST!  Hosted on playwright (and festival-winning entrant) Lawrence Aronovitch’s blog, the rules is simple…simply post your six word (or less) play in the comments section of the contest thread.  The winner will be announced on May 1st, and will win tickets to the show.  Sounds cool, right?  That’s because it is.  And I hope you can enter as often as you want to, because unless someone tells me I can’t, I’m posting an entry EVERY DAMN DAY until the contest’s over. And maybe for a while after that.

AN APOLOGY: An Edited apology at that, as I’ve found myself needing to pretty much eliminate the original goofy rant I had posted in this spot, as I may have not written it as clearly as I meant to in the first place..?  Not a shock, but there you go.  As a result, people seem to think I meant something entirely other than what I actually DID mean to convey, and I don’t have the particular desire to keep it alive any longer.  Suffice it to say, I personally was quite modestly pleased with the guest post I recently did for Nadine Thornhill’s  Adorkable Undies, and am gladdened that a few of you out there were too.  Now dance!

Don’t it tho?  What the Hell else is going on?  Well, I’ve been reading some George Carlin recently, and one does not peruse Robert Anton Wilson’s  fav’rit philosopher without being profoundly moved.  A few choice excerpts from the current tome:

“All patriarchal societies are either preparing for war, at war, or recovering from war.”

“Christians must be sick in the head.  Only someone who hates himself could possibly think of the pleasures of masturbation as self-abuse.”

“Whenever you hear the phrase Zero Tolerance, remember, someone is bullshitting you.”

“Why is it the only time you hear the word figment it’s in relation to the imagination?  Aren’t there other kinds of figments?”

I picked this book (‘WHEN WILL JESUS BRING THE PORK CHOPS?’) up, used, at the St.Vincent dePaul on Wellington, which I’ve found to be a GREAT source of unexpected literary greatness.  I’ve nabbed several vintage Monty Python books there, a Rick Mercer volume, and my recent prize of the Book of the Subgenius, and highly recommend that you shop there as much as possible.  I leave you now with a bit from a great Carlin routine I have on vinyl, his take on Muhammed Ali during the Vietnam war.  Sheer genius.  Have fun in Valhalla, George!

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)