Another Year, and this silly, amateurish Chud is STILL HERE! Whod’a think it? Who would have even WANTED it?? Not me, that’s for sure, but in for a penny and all that. It has been a reasonably wild ride this past Gregorian calender year of 2013, for me at any rate. Major life changes and undreamt of milestones and all that, I’m sure you’re not interested, but I’m TOTALLY gonna talk about them anyways, because get your own damn blog, that’s why. But first things first…let’s take a look back and see just what was up in my theatrical viewing life in 2013. Because lists are fun!
2 Women in a 1 Woman Show
the 7 Person Chair Pyramid High Wire Act
Absurd Person Singular
All My Sons
Arms and the Man
Around Miss Julie
Ask Aggie: the Advice Diva
Barely Even There
Bat Boy: the Musical
a Battle of Demons
the Best Man
Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story
the Bike Trip
Billy Bishop Goes to War
the Book of Daniel
A Brimful of Asha
the B Team
Coach of the Year
the Comedy of Errors (2)
la Dame de Coeur
the Day we Grew Wings
Die Zombie Die (2)
the Drawer Boy
the Dreamer Examines his Pillow
the Drowsy Chaperone
the Edward Curtis Project
Far & Near & Here
the Farm Show (2)
Final Sparkle Ascension
Fool for Love
Forsaken Daughters of Winter
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
the Four of Us
the Frenzy of Queen Maeve
God of Carnage
Hal and Falstaff
Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos (2)
Hroses: an Affront to Reason
Innocent When you Dream
In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)
It’s About Our Goldfish
It’s What Dr.Jenkins Would Have Wanted
Ladies of the Lake
Little Orange Man (2)
Love’s Labours Lost
Meanwhile, Back in the Box
Merry Wives of Windsor
Mrs.Dally Has a Lover
Morro and Jasp: Lost and Found
Murder at the Howard Johnsons
Never Fall in Love with a Writer
Of Mice and Morro and Jasp
Out of Gas
Pride and Joy
Pride and Prejudice
Prince of Denmark
the Public Servant
the Rocky Horror Show
Roller Derby Saved my Soul
Sappho…in 9 Fragments
Servant of Two Masters
Sherlock Holmes: the Case of the Hansom Cab Killer
the Show Must Go On
Summer of ‘34: redux
the Taming of the Shrew
le Temps et la Chambre
There’s More to the Picture
This Canadian Life
To Hell in a Handbasket
the Top Job
Triangle Factory Fire Project
Ubu Sur la Table
Uncalled For Greatest Sketch Hits
Under the Mango Tree
Unpublished, Untitled and Unsettled
the Vanity Project
la Voix Humaine
The War of 1812
War of the Worlds
White Rabbit Red Rabbit (3)
Who Will Separate Us?
Winners and Losers
You Fancy Yourself
Company of Fools Twelfth Night Celebration
Ottawa Theatre Challenge
Prix Rideau Awards Gala
the Tragicall Historie of Nick Wade (and other fuck-ups)
Paul Hutcheson’s New Year’s Eve Cabaret
The Most Together We’ve Ever Been
How About You?
Enchanted Room/ T.+ Bernadette
Still Standing You
I know, I know, what’s with the short list, Vis? You been napping all year or what? I feel the shame, trust me, and I promise to do better in 2014. In fact, that’s my resolution: SEE MORE THEATRE. I looked back at the resolutions I oh-so-publicly made last year, and after seeing that I didn’t achieve a single one, thought maybe I’d play it safe this time around. Although I’d like to think the single ladies of Ottawa owe me a thank you for NOT, in fact, asking one of them on a date this past year. You’re welcome, gals. It would have been so terribly awkward. But what actually DID happen this year?
– KERFUFFLE AT THE FRINGE: The 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival got off to a rocky launch this year when longtime Producer Natalie Joy Quesnel was abruptly let go, for reasons likely to be eternally unknown. While some rabble-rouser already blogged about that at length (in what was my most read post ever by a country mile), and I still have grumpy feelings about the whole affair, two wonderful things have since followed in the wake: one is that Natalie Joy herself is now getting back into the creative side of things (even helping me out with some reviews at this past Fringe), and will in fact be returning to the Fringe this coming summer in her own one-woman show, about which I could not, COULD NOT be more giddy. And second, the Fringe made exactly the best post-Joy hire they could have when they gave the Executive Producer position to the amazing Pat Gauthier. I cannot wait to see what sort of stamp the Gruppo Rubato co-creator puts on the festival, not to mention who’s going to take his place running UNDERCURRENTS over at the GCTC.
– BIGGER AND BETTER: Ottawa’s theatre scene was on the rise this year, and I won’t hear nothin’ different. UNDERCURRENTS was back with another 6 shows plus the marvellous BREAD taking place in the lobby; the Gladstone announced a jam-packed season with an even dozen shows from almost as many theatre companies; Fresh Meat was back and almost doubled in size and scope, relocated to the more spacious Luneburg pub and packing them in over two weekends; Magnetic North returned to town, and brought SubDevision under its wing for the occasion, adding more shows and the mystical nooks and crannies of Arts Court herself to the already wonderful mini-festival; My Summer Crush was back, reinventing itself as a whole new festival in late summer with multiple shows, both local and out of town, and a slew of great Improv workshops that were not to be missed; plus the creation of great platforms and events like the Theatre Producers network, Ottawa Theatre.com, the Acting Company, Theatre Underground, and doubtless other great ventures I’m forgetting at the moment…it’s been an exciting year in local theatre, and I see no signs of slowing down.
– NADINE THORNHILL LEFT TOWN! Which is terrible and sad and I miss her, but she’s busy being all awesome in the US of A. Learning about THE SEXX! Don’t worry, it’s her thing.
– HOLY SHIT, I MADE MY ACTING DEBUT! I can still hardly believe it, but way back at the beginning of the year I got a message from May Can’s Tony Adams, asking if I wanted to join him, Cory Thibert, Jonah Allingham and Nick Fournier on stage in a new Fringe show they were putting together. I said yes before I could talk myself into saying no, and a few months later we launched the 7-show run of THE TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE (AND OTHER FUCK-UPS) at the TAN Café in Sandy Hill.
It was a great run and I had the most amazing time of my life, thanks in no small part to our brilliant director Mado Manseau (more about her later) and Lewis Caunter ‘the sound guy’. The icing on the cake was a completely unexpected win for the show of the brand new FUTURE OF THE FRINGE award at the closing ceremonies. I couldn’t have asked for a better gang to make my debut with, and this was only the beginning.
– HOLY SHIT, I DID IMPROV IN FRONT OF PEOPLE! At the aforementioned MY SUMMER CRUSH, I indulged in as many of their amazing workshops as I could, and learned invaluable lessons on the fine art of making shit up in public. I got put to the test when me and several of my fellow workshopees got thrown into the ring as opening acts for some of the main event shows. I got to perform improv onstage (something I never, EVER saw myself doing) multiple times, go a few laffs along the way, and made some great friends like Ryan, Liz, Jennifer, Kevin M, Adam, Andrew, Jillian and the lot…many of them have since banded together and kept working at it as AFTERMATH IMPROV, and I just wish I had the time to keep playing with them! But you see…
– HOLY SHIT, I’M GOING TO THEATRE SCHOOL! I finally did it. After years of wondering, “Should I..?”, my getting drafter into Fringe finally made up my mind that, yes, this was where I needed to go next. So I auditioned for my already beloved OTTAWA THEATRE SCHOOL, somehow made it in, and have only recently completed my first full semester. More on that in another post, coming either today or tomorrow…but it’s the best thing I have ever done, bar none.
– HOLY SHIT, I GOT INTERVIEWED! Yay, finally someone wants to know about my process! Recently had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with good guy Cory Thibert for his INTERVIEWS Youtube segment, and it were a blast. Here’s the whole happy event in all its glory:
But now it’s on to the really good stuff…THE SHOWS! Here are a bunch of my fav’rits from this past year (same rules apply, these ARE just my fav’rits, not ‘the best’ or some insane nonsense like that. The best doesn’t exist, folks, except in your own lunatic head). And some of you may have noticed over the years I have a tendency to single out the smaller shows along the way…not that full-out NAC productions aren’t the bee’s knees, because they ARE, but what can I say? I like it intimate (ladies). Read along as you will, agree or disagree
– FAV’RIT REPEATS!
Some of my fav’rit shows from years passed came back for me to see again this year, and I was all too happy to oblige. Colleen Sutton gave Ottawa another chance at RIDERGIRL before she headed off on tour, to help the green men win the Grey Cup. And 2013 marks my third year in a row of seeing Nancy Kenny’s ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL (Can I keep the streak alive in 2014…?). Undercurrents brought back two fringe faves, HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS (complete with a new song!), and maybe the ultimate Fringe show ever, Snafu dance’s LITTLE ORANGE MAN starring the one-of-a-kind Ingrid Hansen. The NAC wisely programmed on of my special faves from Summerworks years back, Melody Johnson’s ultra-charming MISS CALEDONIA, not to mention Raoul Bhaneja’s inspiring HAMLET (SOLO), and May Can Theatre brought their awesome WOLVES>BOYS back for one night only at My Summer Crush. And speaking of one night only, Ottawa got treated to it’s first (but not last) full-length dose of Toronto clown dynamic duo Morro and Jasp, when the Canadian Comedy Awards presented their fantastically funny take on Steinbeck, OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP. If you made the mistake of missing it, do NOT miss them at Undercurrents when they return to town this February (ditto for RIDERGIRL, also on the Undercurrents roster for 2014)!
– FAV’RIT FRINGE!
It was another great year of Fringe (note: THEY’RE ALL GREAT YEARS), even if being in a show curtailed the amount of Fringey goodness I could partake in. But I got in plenty, trust me, even IF it can never be enough. Like the one-of-a-kind Bruce Horak painting a theatrical and literal portrait in ASSASSINATING THOMSON, or the criminally underseen BOTCHED from Cleen Theatre. Martin Dockery was back with two offerings, a solo storytelling thunderstorm that was THE BIKE TRIP and the beautiful and surreal THE PIT with co-creator and partner Vanessa Quesnelle. I myself got to share a venue with the amazing May Can Theatre and their latest smash hit HAPPINESS ™, and the crackerjack kids of Hopegrown productions and their superfun AROUND MISS JULIE. And what else can possibly be said about RED BASTARD..?
Of course y’all know that one-woman shows are my fav’rit thing EVER, and the Fringe is one of the best places around to find them in spades. Emma Zabloski touched my heart and taught me to make pierogies in the wonderful KEEPER, and Bronwyn Steinberg brought back her expanded SubDevision show OCCUPY ME. The amazing Cameryn Moore blew me away with her uncompromising SLUT (R)EVOLUTION, and nobody who saw Victoria Grove in SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS could ever forget her, or this incredible show.
My absolute Fringe Fav’rits were from duos, however…first up Emily Pearlman and Brad Long in the brilliant WE GLOW, a cleverly staged and wonderfully acted love story by way of a corporate pitch, set in a boardroom. And the biggest emotional wallop at the Fringe (in the smallest package) was from DOLORES, a French show from Nancy Kenny and Martine Roquebrune set in the most joyously intimate little basement kitchen they could find. Nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide, and why would you want to? This show NEEDS to be remounted.
– FAV’RIT FRENCH!
I started missing a whole bunch’a French shows after I started school (to my great regret…it killed me missing the Ottawa U French translation of LARAMIE PROJECT…), but I still managed to get a respectable-for-an-Anglo amount in before that. I already mentioned Fringe’s amazing DOLORES, but there was so much more. Sharing Dolores’ love of unique and intimate site-specifics, Theatre des Cybele put on an incredible translation of Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE in a squalid Vanier motel room, so close you only narrowly avoided the passionate embraces or violent outbursts.
I caught two great examples of ‘object’ Theatre at the NAC with KIWI and UBU SUR LA TABLE, as well as some awesome student productions like LE TEMPS ET LA CHAMBRE and LA TRAITEMENT. Theatre Tremplin got the Bard all Francophonic in their gender-friendly production of HAMLET, and Ottawa’s fav’rit little stilter Elise Gauthier helped bring to life the beautiful L’ARAIGNEE with Catherine Boutin. But my fav’rit might have been the absolutely heatwrenching (and warming) VIPERINE at the NAC, a show for children more mature than most ‘adult’ plays I’ve seen. Wonderful. Looking forward to even more Theatre Francais in the new year (and incidentally, and native French speakers out there interested in helping me out with the odd review? I might be looking for assistance in this department).
– FAV’RIT SHAKESPEARE!
Still enough Zombie Bill in O-town to shake a medium-sized stick at in 2013, from old regulars like Company of Fools (with their boffo touring show THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR and their punk mashup HAL AND FALSTAFF) as well as new park contenders Bear and Company with a dee-liteful westernized COMEDY OF ERRORS, plus an all-male TAMING OF THE SHREW at the Gladstone. A double dose of the bard with two productions of HAMLET that I saw, one French (from Theatre Tremplin), one solo (from Raoul Bhaneja). Sock’n’Buskin got back into the Shakespeare game this year with a fun take on LOVE’S LABOURS LOST, and honorary mention goes to the Othello/R&J twisteroo that was GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, (GOOD MORNING JULIET).
I think I have to give the nod to Bear’s COMEDY OF ERRORS as my fav’rit (noting that Hamlet (solo) was one I’d already caught a few years back, because it’s absolutely world-class), with huge shoutouts to director Anna Lewis and star Michelle leBlanc, not to mention a thoroughly impressive cast and crew. Somewhat sad that the Ottawa Shakespeare Company was not to be seen this year…maybe in 2014..? Even sadder that I missed out on the St.Lawrence fest this year…I’ll be there for sure next year, gang!
– FAV’RIT TECHNICAL STUFF!
Oh God, here’s where it all comes crumbling down and we find out that I don’t keep very good notes. I had a FEW things written down from early in the year when I was still on the ball…I seemed to have quite dug Sasha Chichagov’s sweet and subtle set design for MRS DALLY HAS A LOVER, Dave Magladry’s lighting work on ALL MY SONS at Ottawa Little Theatre, and AL Connors more-amazing-than-usual sound work on Evolution Theatre’s HROSES: AN AFFRONT TO REASON.
But I can dig up more! Like that impressive multi-story set by Robin Riddihough and Tom Pidgeon in NOISES OFF at the OLT, gorgeous costumes and props for Ottawa U’s PRINCESS T from Annie Lefebvre and Marie Claude Labrecque, or that incredible, towering set for the NAC’s TARTUFFE courtesy of Patrick Clark. But ya know what? I’m gonna give my fav’rit nod on this one to the terribly special gang fro COLLAPSIBLE, where MiCasa theatre teamed with a gaggle of preteens to help create and design sets and props for what was truly one of the most unforgettable shows of any year. If you missed the flood simulator in the basement, you missed out HARD.
– THE WINSTON THE CAT SCENE STEALER AWARD!
Awards time!! I didn’t write down as many classic scene-stealers as usual this year, but I still picked out a few good ones from what I remember about some of the great work being done making everyone else around them look like pikers without even really trying. I could almost give this award to various audience members in the three performances I caught of WHITE RABBIT, RED RABBIT, but I don’t want to give too much away about this seriously amazing experience. And there’s always Aaron Lajeunesse, striking from the shadows and leaving his mark upon such shows as FINAL SPARKLE ASCENSION and THE CHRONICLER, in typical LaJeunessian fashion.
But I think the award this year goes to none other than Samuel Dietrich, aka Checkers the Butler in Ottawa U’s PRINCESS IVONA. Ain’t nothing like a good comedy butler in theatre, and Dietrich brought it with his long-faced, much-suffering subordinate in a play all about beautiful people stepping all over the less fortunate. Barely a word uttered, but he brought joy every time he shuffled onstage. Well done, sir. Well done. Winston salutes you.
– FAV’RIT DUOS AND ENSEMBLES!
Breaking this one up, because this wasn’t going to be long enough otherwise, right? But really, there’s always a ton of titanic two-hander teams out there to fill up their own category, and this year was no exception. It all started off with Genevieve Sirois and Daniel Krantz steaming up the A.C. Studio in MRS DALLY HAS A LOVER and didn’t stop anytime soon. Fringe brought us more great stuff, like Nathan Howe and Loren Holfeuer signing up a storm in MATCHSTICK, and Nancy Kenny and Martine Roquebrune making kitchen magic in DOLORES. Likewise Magnetic North, where Ravi Jain and his real life Mum Asha reinvented the theatrical team-up in A BRIMFUL OF ASHA. And WINNERS AND LOSERS took uncomfortable to exciting new levels when James Long and Marcus Youssef pushed the boundaries of ‘real’ in theatre. Special love also to Morro and Jasp (aka Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee) for visiting not once but twice, with their Fringe smash OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP, as well as their original Subdevision Piece LOST AND FOUND. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Katie Swift and Nick diGaetano doing outstanding work in the underrated HROSES: AN AFFRONT TO REASON.
But my fav’rit duo of 2013 goes to Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome of Thunk! Theatre for their joyous offerings of BREAD at the Undercurrents festival, and later on the gorgeous FAR & NEAR & HERE at Fresh Meat. These two are ones to watch out for BIG TIME. Follow where they lead, my friends.
As for the bigger groups, there were plenty and lots of them were fan-fucking-tastic. Where to start? How about at home, where two generations of Ottawa Theatre School gangsters blew me away, first in THE FARM SHOW and just recently in SYLVIA. Other local schools were right on our heels though, with great casts lined up for Ottawa U’s PRINCESS IVONA, and Algonquin Theatre’s Chamber Theatre assembled a rock-solid gang for their terrific production of Mamet’s EDMOND, and MagNorth struck gold again with the Video Cabaret ensemble tackling THE WAR OF 1812 in stunning fashion. The Ottawa Little Theatre had consistently solid onstage groups this year in shows like ALL MY SONS, STEEL MAGNOLIAS and NOISES OFF, to name but a few. The GCTC impressed with the team from Rosa Laborde’s LIKE WOLVES, and likewise the Gladstone and Same Day Productions with one of my sleeper faves of the year, ETHAN CLAYMORE. Fringe brought us the fantastically funny team for DIE ZOMBIE DIE (living set of the living dead included), and My Summer Crush spotlighted the terrific Bad Dog Theatre and their brilliant Improv show THIS CANADIAN LIFE. And sheer vanity forces me to mention the epic May Can/Backpack theatre team-up crew that made Fringe greatness in THE TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE…I hear some idiot even made his debut in that show.
But I’m hitting a bit of an impasse on deciding my absolute fav’rit for 2013, so I’m cheating and going for a full-on THREE WAY TIE!!! First up…Third Wall and their Fantastic Theatre Four of Koensgen, Duckworth, Watt and Ellis in the epic dramedy of modern manners GOD OF CARNAGE. Next, May Can Theatre’s special trio team of Cory Thibert, Tony Adams and Mado Manseau in the cramped but unforgettable IT’S ABOUT OUR GOLDFISH, tucked away in a wee kitchenette at SubDevision. And last but definitely not least, the glorious gals of Deluxe Hot Sauce, scoring golds with two offerings…SKIN at Undercurrents, and MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE BOX at SubDevision. Variously showcasing the talents of Kelly Rigole, Sarah Finn, Doreen Taylor Claxton, Kristina Watt, Annie Lefebvre and Bev Wolfe (plus lone male representative Nick Carpenter in SKIN), the Saucies made 2013 their year. Here’s hoping we see them again in ‘14!
– FAV’RIT BOY PERFORMERS!
Here’s what you ladies have been waiting for…the theatre beefcake of 2013! And there was lots of incredible performances coming out of the Y-Chromosome this year, it’s almost impossible to narrow it down. But I’ll manage, starting with a crackerjack turn from Chris Ralph in the musical classic BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR from Plosive. Local Legend Paul Rainville continued to make it look easy, most recently in a supporting role in the wunnerful ETHAN CLAYMORE from Seven Thirty (note: that show also featured my fav’rit Tim Oberholzer performance to date). My theatre hero Jayson McDonald came to town with his absolutely mindblowing UNDERBELLY, and thank Superman he’s gonna bring it back in the New Year, because I’m gonna see it two MORE times.
MiCasa’s Nick DiGaetano crafted something incredible in HROSES: AN AFFRONT TO REASON from Evolution Theatre, and Geoff McBride had numerous great performances, with Thunk! Theatre, Company of Fools, and more. Fringe introduced me to the amazing clown performer Chris Kauffman and his masterful NHAR MOVES, as well as bring Martin Dockery back to me, who shows what engaging storytelling really is in THE BIKE TRIP (while equally impressing in THE PIT). Over at the Gladstone, their ONE NIGHT ONLY series saw some awesome work, most notably from my pal Jonah Allingham and his heartfelt SUMMER OF ‘34: REDUX, and the seriously impressive David Holton in I’M READY WARDEN: WORDS OF THE CONDEMNED.
But for my fav’rit…well, I was almost gonna go with Eric Craig, who knocked my socks off in THE EXTREMELY SHORT NEW PLAY FESTIVAL mini-series from New Theatre Ottawa. But in the end, I’ve gotta give it to a fella who not only starred in numerous great shows this year, but three of which I happily saw twice. Those shows were HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS, DIE ZOMBIE DIE and A COMEDY OF ERRORS and that fella is David Benedict Brown, Ottawa’s newest legit comedy superstar. Here’s a hint: if he’s in it, watch it.
– FAV’RIT GIRL PERFORMERS!
Goodness gracious, where to start? This was a stellar year for the ladies, as always if you’re paying attention, and it’s gonna be seriously killer to narrow down a fav’rit out of this bevy of brilliance. Right off ya gots wee Sara Duplancic doing Jane Austen proud in OLT’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Then Katie Swift in the great HROSES, and later on in Mi Casa’s sparkling treasure COLLAPSIBLE. She co-starred in that one with Sarah McVie, who also helped turn THE PUBLIC SERVANT into one of the funniest plays ever at Undercurrents, not to mention a hit. Sascha Cole made a strong first impression on Ottawa, both in IN THE NEXT ROOM and GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, (GOOD MORNING JULIET). Her ROOM co-star Sarah Finn was busy too, and excellent as always in not only that show, but SKIN at Undercurrents, MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE BOX at SubDevision, and ETHAN CLAYMORE at the Gladstone. Speaking of SubDevision, great ladies were aplenty in that festival…not just Sarah Finn, but Kate Smith making magic as THE CURATOR, Cathy Gordon in AGENDA, Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee in MORRO AND JASP: LOST AND FOUND, Tania Levy in SEEDS, and Mado Manseau in IT’S ABOUT OUR GOLDFISH.
Oh, and Mado also knocked it out of the park at Fresh Meat with her solo show HELL IN A HANDBASKET. Likewise Norah Paton in FORSAKEN DAUGHTERS OF WINTER. Fringe ladies were on display all festival, including Emma Zabloski being irresistible in THE KEEPER, Alex Vincent in BOTCHED, Cameryn Moore in SLUT (R)EVOLUTION, and one other that I’ll get to in a moment. Outside Fringe, there was Michelle leBlanc’s workhorse performance as Shakespearean cowboy twins in A COMEDY OF ERRORS, Marilyn Perrault and Leonie St.Onge in VIPERINE, Tattiawana Jones’ fierce performance in THE DREAMER EXAMINES HIS PILLOW, the return to acting of Visitorium fave Danielle Savoie in PRINCESS T, and a powerhouse performance by Jackie Richardson in the NAC’s BIG MAMA: THE WILLIE MAE THORNTON STORY.
Like I said…it was hard to narrow it down. And lots came close…Mado was SO close, lemme tell ya. And I almost gave the nod to Madeleine Hall for her turn as a lovable dog in Ottawa Theatre School’s production of SYLVIA but y’all would have just accused me of nepotism (and you would have been wrong…she was fantastic, and if you missed that show your soul will scream for all eternity). But in the end, I just had to acknowledge one f the very genuinely jaw-dropping performances I saw last year, and that was Victoria Grove in SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS. Tackling multiple characters over multiple timelines and realities in a mindbender of a jungle gym set, under the supercool direction of Jessica Ruano, and faced with the not unenviable task of having to literally seduce herself in front of our very eyes, Grove made it easy to understand why this show is already a hit on multiple continents.
– SPIRIT OF THEATRE!
I give this one out every year, and decided this year to ask for some nominees on my Facebook page. Boy, did I get responses! And they were all good ones, and it just made this difficult spot even harder to award. But people out there love them some theatre, and are willing to go above and beyond to show it. People like David Whiteley, who tackled the task of taming the Gladstone theatre’s epic new season. Or Cory Thibert and Tony Adams of May Can Theatre, multiple Rideau Award nominees who managed to be in all sorts of shows like HAPPINESS, LIKE WOLVES and TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE not to mention SubDevision and Fresh Meat, had new works produced in the Youth Infringement Festival, and even hosted an epic Xmas party All this plus Cory’s YouTube interview channel (see above)..!
Then there’s Natalie Joy Quesnel, who took a setback and turned it on its ear, directing THE LAST DROP for Salamander Theatre, reviewing for this site, and will soon be back behind the reins for Groupe des Deux’ POP FICTION and a return to the Fringe stage in 2014. Also her successor at Fringe Pat Gauthier, who is currently ding double duty as top dog of both that festival and UnderCurrents, not to mention working on Magnetic North this past summer. There were also major shoutouts to new kid AD’s Eric Coates and Jillian Keiley at the GCTC and NAC, respectively, each already much beloved in the community. And hard working folks like Nick Fournier (actor, publicist, builder and whatever the heck else ya want) and Jess Preece (the stage manager your show desperately needs) got some earnest recommendations as well. Gregg Clark, the Fringe festival’s new publicity man, got high marks for going above and beyond the call of duty this year (not to mention his frequent volunteer duty at half the shows in town, plus being a dj and playing bass in local band Ponygirl). And Emily Pearlman, for helming two unforgettable shows…HROSES and COLLAPSIBLE, and co-starring in the great WE GLOW. And AL and HM Connors, for not only shepherding Crush Improv through another great year, but for recreating MY SUMMERCRUSH in what could very well (and hopefully) be the embryonic form of a major late-summer Ottawa Comedy Festival. Like I said, I got a ton of names. I’m going with one, but got a new idea out of the recommendations themselves.
I got that idea when I realized that about 90 percent of the names I got came from one man…the one guy I know in Ottawa who is probably more enthusiastic about local theatre than I am. A guy who not only had a best of venue Fringe show with DIE ZOMBIE DIE (later successfully remounted at Arts Court), and continues to work behind the scenes on the hilarious REMOTE PLANET radio show, but already is working on a new show for Fringe 2014, did work recently with Eric Coates and the GCTC, and will let nothing short of a lightning strike stop him from getting to a new piece of theatre that sounds even remotely interesting. He has the kind of enthusiasm for theatre that most of us only dream of…I speak of course of my buddy, Fringe-pal, theatre nerd extraordinaire and co-winner of the Spirit of Theatre award this year, RICHARD HEMPHILL. If Ottawa had more theatre fans like him in its numbers, Ottawa Actors and Artists would be living a sweet life indeed. As would we all.
And the other winner is one of the most prolific actors around, appearing in at least a dozen shows this year, but that’s not even the whole of it. Aside from duty in such varied theatrical productions as THE CHRONICLER, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, A COMEDY OF ERRORS, ETHAN CLAYMORE, FOUNDATIONS, SPARKS and BATBOY THE MUSICAL among others, this cat found the time to not only man the ticket office at the Gladstone Theatre, but spearhead both the budding Ottawa Theatre Producers Network and OttawaTheatre.com. Oh, and did I mention he created his own production company, Vanity Project Productions (and wrote and crafted the music for its inaugural show at the Fringe, THE VANITY PROJECT)? Smooth doesn’t even begin to cover it. Big love to the amazing TIM OBERHOLZER, co-winner of this year’s Spirit of Theatre Award. I knew I was on to something when I loved ZASTROZZI so much…thanks for all the hard work, friend, I dare you to keep it up in 2014!
– FAV’RIT SHOWS!
So it’s come to this…the big one, the final category, the end of this seemingly God-damned endless fucking post. Seriously, I’ve been writing this for over 8 hours as I sit here, and am just about ready to give it to the first show that comes to mind. But the show must go on! And no, and much as I enjoyed it, THE SHOW MUST GO ON isn’t my fav’rit show of 2013 (sorry Jeff…great show, though!).
I hate picking fav’rit show…because when I look back at my list, there’s always SO MUCH that I absolutely loved. Here’s a bunch of them:
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW from Sock’n’Buskin. The Carleton kids do good musicals (which has me high-hoping it for RENT in January), and they had an obvious blast with this production of the schlocky b-movie classic. Tons of fun, and well worth the dumb comments from the audience.
THE PUBLIC SERVANT from Theatre Columbus. A bit of a gimme in Capitol City, but Columbus brought some major funny anyways with this laugh riot about life behind the lines at Parliament Hill, starring Sarah McVie, Harley McGee and Amy Rutherford.
BUBKUS from Jesse Buck. A one man clown show that appeared at the Glasdstone ONE NIGHT ONLY series, featuring A MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE’s Jesse Buck in a proper tour de force as a hapless clown inventing his day. A blink or you’ll miss it bit of magic.
HROSES: AN AFFRONT TO REASON from Evolution Theatre and MiCasa Theatre. Teaming up the visionary squad of Mi Casa with the envelope-pushers of Evolution was a dream come true, and the result was the trippy, unique Hroses starring Nick diGaetano and his VIMY co-star Katie Swift. Thoughtful, sexy, dangerous and demanding.
TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET and IT’S ABOUT OUR GOLDFISH, from Mado Manseau and May Can theatre, respectively. The Mado double bill blew my wee mind this past year, from her solo performance in Handbasket at Fresh Meat, to her participation in the extraordinary May Can show with Cory and Tony at SubDevision, making better use of kitchen cabinets and drawers than anybody since…I dunno, probably Batman.
COLLAPSIBLE from Mi Casa. Another from the MiCasa house of ideas, thisone directed (like HROSES) by Emily Pearlman, and starring Sarah McVie, Katie Swift and Andy Massingham, plus a giddy squadron of children acting as tour guides and propmasters in a multi-story house n New Edinburgh in a mythical tale about a flooded village. A show that almost shouldn’t be possible.
TOUGH! From Kirsten Rasmussen. A show shamefully few Ottawans saw when it played at My Summer Crush, which just makes me feel all the more special for having laughed myself to tears while watching it. Kirsten’s one-woman show about a lady boxer trying to make good, and a nightclub singer trying to get out from under her Father’s shadow, is a brilliant showcase for the comic and character talents of this incredible performer. Since you embarrassed me a little bit this time out, Ottawa, I’ll explain it in really simple terms…when Kirsten Rasmussen comes to town with a show..? YOU. SHOW. UP.
DOLORES by Broken Turtle Productions. Nancy Kenny’s terrific French translation of Edward Allan Baker’s play, starring herself and Martine Roquebrune, was my fav’rit of Fringe and one of the most intense theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. ‘Nuff said.
SKIN from Deluxe Hot Sauce. A miracle of direction (from Martha Ross) and performance (from the ladies collective known as the Saucies) turned into an incredible Undercurrents show that I sorely wish I had caught a second time (Hemphill tells me it makes al the difference). I cross my fingers and pray for a remount, unlikely as it may be.
THE FARM SHOW and SYLVIA from the Ottawa Theatre School. There’s a reason I went to this school, and it’s because they put on amazing shows like these. Farm Show showcased last year’s grad class in fantastic fashion (including a live-action tractor battle and multiple farm animals), with Andy Massingham at the helm. This year, with only four in the final year, director Peter James Howarth put the quartet into AR Gurney’s Sylvia with amazing results…I still have ‘How deep is your love’ stuck in my head. I just hope I get to take part in something half as good in my own graduating year!
UNDERBELLY from Jayson McDonald. My Fringe hero takes it to a new level, making me forget all about giant invisible robots with his epic retelling of the life and times of William Burroughs. Set your giant insects to vibrate before entering the theatre.
And my personal fav’rit show of 2013…
EDMOND from Chamber Theatre. Maybe David Mamet’s raunchiest play, set at Ottawa’s raunchiest occasional live theatre venue, aka the Carleton Tavern, and featuring a cast of Chamber veterans like Don Laflamme, Manon Dumas and Bob Reynolds, alongside killer talent like Jonah Allingham, Leslie Cserepy, Cory Thibert, Karl Claude, Allison Harris, Adam Pierre, Anna Lewis and Jen Vallance. Spot-on and inspired direction, great performances, perfect melding of material and venue, and fearless tackling of deliriously profane material. Get your dick out!
And that’s me out too. Peace, love and soul, and I’ll see you at the theatre in 2014,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)