Well, so long 2014. You were a time and a half, I’ll give you that. It’s been a whirley-doodle kind of a year, and you can quote me on that, internet. I’ve got a shit-ton of stuff and looking back to get through today (don’t worry, I have whiskey AND chips, so I’ll make it), so we should get started. First up…the shows! Here’s the full lot of them from 2014 that I had the privilege to see, in pulse-pounding Alphabetical Order!!
Age of Arousal
Aiden Flynn Lost his Brother so he Made Another
A La Recherche des Escargots / Searching for Snails
Alice Through the Looking Glass
the Anger in Ernest and Ernestine (2)
As You Like It
the Bald Soprano
Bandolier of Dreams
the Big Weed
the Burden of Self-Awareness
Burnt at the Steak
By Any Other Name
Chase and Stacey present: Joyride
Cherry on Top
the City That Eats You
Classic Horror Movie Mistakes
Crook of my Dreams
Dancing with Rage
Death of a Salesman (2)
the Devil’s Circus
Dixie Swim Club
Don’t tell my Dad
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata
the Dysmorphia Diet
Empire of Dirt
the Ever-Present Witness
Extremely Short New Play Festival
Forsaken Daughters of Winter
Forstner and Fillister Present: Forstner and Fillister in: Forstner and Fillister
Garden in the Sky
Garden of Knives
the Glass Menagerie
Glengarry Glen Ross
God is a Scottish Drag Queen II
Grain of Salt
Gravity: a Tragedy
Great Battles in History
the Great Divorce
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Housebum: a Superhero on Trial
Hunchbacks of Notre Dame
Hurry on Down
IMO (In My Opinion)
the Importance of Being Earnest
I on the Sky
Jem Rolls: One Man Traffic Jam
Kitt & Jane: an Interactive Survival Guide to the Near Post-Apocalyptic Future (2)
Love + Hate
Love and War
Me and my Monkey
Me and my Monster
a Mind Full of Dopamine
Mr and Mrs Jones
Moonlight after Midnight
Morro and Jasp do Puberty (2)
Much Ado About Feckin’ Pirates
My Cardboard Life
My Playwright Sister
Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed
Oil and Water
Pommes and Restes: Shipwrecked! On the Tempestuous Lost Island of Never (2)
Portable#3: Not Just Another French Class
A Quiet Sip of Coffee
Rachel & Zoe
The Radio Show – Christmas Classics
Real Dead Ghosts
Roller Derby Saved My Soul
the Room Outside the Room
the School for Wives
the Screwtape Letters
the Shape of a Girl
Shirley Gnome: She’s Presenting
Silent Party Interlude
the Tale of a Town
Tales she Tells
the Tashme Project: the Living Archives
This is War
To Hell in a Handbasket
Touch & Go
Tusk Turns One!
What about Horses?
Who Killed Gertrude Crump?
Women Who Shout at the Stars
Young Lady in White
Company of Fools 12th Night Fundraiser
Revised from the Belly of a Whale
Acceptable Appearance Theory
Ottawa Theatre Challenge
Young Lady in White (reading)
Faster Than the Speed of Dating
Paul Hutcheson’ s New Years Eve
Kinda small this year, I know. Things do intrude, as I’ll get to in the second half of this post. But lots of amazing stuff did make it onto the list, and I’m still a little befuddled as to how to go about this year’s roundup. Kinda want to move away from the hokey ‘top 10’ whatever lists, as the notion that each of these shows occupies an iron-clad place in my heart and memory in terms of quality, value and meaning is patently absurd. I mean, that’s still probably what I’m gonna DO, because everyone does it, but just so long as we acknowledge its absurdity up front, yah? And of course, I must stress that these are not my lists of ‘the best’ of the year, but simply my fav’rits. Anyone who declares what is or is not ‘the best’ is guilty of hubris, mild hallucination, and is probably just a little bit of a dick. Onwards!!
I had the pleasure of hitting up two Fringe Festivals in 2014 as reviewer, both here in Ottawa as well as a jam-packed 4-day trip to Montreal Fringe. It was, as always, a major joy, and here are a few of my killer fav’rits from Ottawa Fringe this year, stuff that I hope will continue to be seen across the country and become the world-famous smashes they deserve to be:
CUPIDITY from Jessica Fitzpatrick.A show about being in love with love, that I fell in love with after the first 5 minutes. Jessica Fitzpatrick needs to make more shows and bring them here NOW.
WUNDERJAMMER from Punchbag Playhouse. Fringe mainstay Richard Hemphill wrote this loony sketch show, and assembled the exactly perfect gang to bring it to life, from director Stewart Matthews to killer cast Victoria Luloff, Jordan Hancey, Allison Harris and Richard Gelinas. Features the best ball-shaving skit of the year.
KITT & JANE: AN INTERACTIVE SURVIVAL GUIDE TO THE NEAR POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE from Snafu Dance. A sequel of sort to the incredible LITTLE ORANGE MAN sees Ingrid Hansen teaming up with Rod Peter Jr. As a pair of adolescents racing the clock to save the world, in their own unforgettable fashion. Mesmerizing.
FIRST WORDS from Natalie Joy Quesnel. Directed by Emily Pearlman and starring the Joy herself, this lyrical based-on-a-true-story tale of family tragedy and finding one’s place was uplifting and unsettling all at once, and I hope hope hope it gets revisited before too long.
MOONLIGHT AFTER MIDNIGHT from Concrete Drops. Ottawa fave Martin Dockery and his brilliant partner Vanessa Quesnelle world-premiered this mindbendy love story/mystery/whatever at the Ottawa Fringe in 2014, and audiences rightly ate it up. Gorgeous, haunting, and unique.
JEM ROLLS ONE-MAN TRAFFIC JAM from Big Word Performance Poetry. I’ve seen several Jem Rolls shows before, but this one stood above the pack…the maestro has outdone himself, and I can’t wait to see him back again in 2015!
…And here are a small collection of shows from Montreal Fringe that I would dearly love to see come to Ottawa (and I’m gonna try and make it happen in a couple of cases, stay tuned) in the near future, because they’re awesome and need to be loved more:
SHADOW WALTZ from Wolfinger Productions. Dark and cool as the name suggests, star-in-the-making Lar Vi weaves a funny and unforgettably surreal tale in one of my Montreal highlights.
PALEONCOLOGY from Moon Dinosaur. Magically weaving family drama and dinosaurs, Kira Hall had an emotional hit with this innovatively staged charmer.
AIDEN FLYNN LOST HIS BROTHER SO HE MAKES ANOTHER from Theatre Howl. Oh God, Aiden Flynn…I still get misty eyed listening over and over to the amazing soundtrack. A wordless bit of fantasy that will never leave you.
LOTUS from Hopegrown. A wonderful drama from the Hopegrown gang inspired by terrible true events and given incredible life here. Affecting and smart.
BANANARAMALLAMADINGDONG from Flapjack Cadillac. Wicked fun sketch comedy from three goofballs who aren’t trying to change the world, just make fun of it a little bit at a time. Here’s hoping this trio reunites sooner than later! Also, best Fringe show title ever.
This is gonna be a shorter year end post than previous ones…not just because my reviewing schedule has waned in the past 12 months. But I’m cutting a bunch of smaller ‘categories’ that I usually do, like fav’rit performers and such, because it’s just too much now like I’m giving shoutouts to my pals. I know all you guys!! And I love ya, and you know who you are. Catriona, Lisa, Tim, Leslie, Donnie, Brad, Sarah, Alexis, Karina, and so many more…you did so good, and you make me wanna do the best that I can all the time. Thanks for the memories, and the inspiration. And now without further schmoo…
FAV’RIT SHOWS! Yep, jumping right to it, because why not? Here are a bunch of productions (besides Fringe, which I’ve already covered) that left me filled with YAY and SQUEE and OH GOD and WHAT THE HELL when they were over. This list is n no particular order, by no means complete, and if you were up there at all creating and performing and making it happen, you’re the goods. So there.
VOLLMOND from Tanzwuppertal. Okay, not entirely a theatre show in the traditional sense, and a bit of a cheat considering the scope and scale, but Holy blue freakin’ Hannah, Pina Bausch’s dance masterpiece was a wonderment to behold and I still can’ t believe I saw it. Inspiring to the nth degree.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN from Chamber Theatre. Bias admission: I worked on this show AND I’m working on their next show. But so what? Salesman was one of the most exciting pieces of the year, a fresh and daunting remounting of Miller’s masterwork of Americana. There’s a reason I wanted to work with Chamber on their next show, and this is a big part of that.
THE HUNCHBACKS OF NOTRE DAME from Under the Table Theatre. A hilarious clowning meta-show about three inept but earnest siblings trying to mount a production of Hugo’s tragedy. Things go wrong in the best and most wonderful ways.
THIS IS WAR from the Great Canadian Theatre Company. Eric Coates directed Hannah Moscovitch’s harrowing and acclaimed look at life in wartime and the result was fantastic. Terrific performances from Sarah Finn, John Ng, Brad Long and Drew Moore pushed this one to terrific heights.
THE ANGER IN ERNEST AND ERNESTINE from Vacant House. For their first ever production, Vacant House decided to put on one of the best shows of any year, and they did it in a cramped laundry room in a Byward Market hostel. Alexis Scott, Karina Milech, Nck Fournier and Patrick Kelly delivered a brilliantly funny and engaging take on marital non-bliss, with David Whiteley at the helm.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE from Bear and Company. Eleanor Crowder’s crafty directorial take on the Tennessee Williams fav’rit helped get this one out of the gates running, and terrific performances from Tim Oberholzer, Sarah Waisvisz, Rachel Eugster and Cory Thibert kept it going to make a truly memorable production. And speaking of Tim…
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH from Vanity Project. The show that had everybody buzzing this past year (directed by Stewart Matthews), and has put smooth Tim Oberholzer on the theatrical map to stay. Now hurry up and get your ROCKY HORROR tickets before they’re all gone.
SEARCHING FOR SNAILS/A LA RECHERCH DES ESCARGOTS from the Ottawa Stilt Union. Whimsical theatre of the best kind, and a show that proves that the OSU are capable of some far more fantastic feats than just walking tall.
MORRO AND JASP DO PUBERTY from UNIT productions. This show is a few years old, but made its Ottawa debut at Undercurrents this past year, and we’re very glad it did. Everyone’s fav’rit clown sisters shone in this fresh take on being, well, not-so-fresh. Comic gold, and heartwarming to boot.
POMMES AND RESTES: SHIPWRECKED! ON THE TEMPESTUOUS LOST ISLAND OF NEVER from A Company of Fools. Not to be outdone, Ottawa’s homegrown clown duo returned at the GCTC with a fantastical and loopy take on Shakespeare’s TEMPEST. Funny and endlessly inventive, with Scott Florence and Margo MacDonald sparkling as the mismatched red-nosed leads, and an impressive supporting cast of Pierre Brault, Jesse Buck and Katie Ryerson.
I ON THE SKY from DynamO Theatre. A lot of regular theatre folks probably missed this show, nestled snugly within the Ottawa International Children’s Festival, but I’m forever grateful I caught it. A simple and beautifully staged nonverbal, physical show about a woman waiting on a park bench, I was weeping with joy by the end of this show…pure magic.
…And that’s about all I gots to say today on Ottawa Theatre, honestly. Well, not honestly…I could go on for hours and hours, but I have other fish to fry. Like the ever-changing face of this blog, which has been all but dormant the last few months. And that’s due to my own increasing involvement behind the scenes, and on the stage, of local theatre, a trend I pray will continue unabated. And while I do hope to start blogging a little more ABOUT that in the near future (as soon as I teach myself how), I wanted to devote a little more space than usual for a look back at how my personal life in Theatre went in 2014. It was a ride, I’ll tell you that.
THE WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN. Well, metaphorically at least, when in early January of this past year me and all my fellow classmates at the irreplaceable Ottawa Theatre School got the devastating news that the conservatory program was being cancelled due to bankruptcy (followed in short order by its sister program, the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama). Starting my year off with the worst kind of Bang I could think of outside of a goddam bullet to the brain was a helluva thing, and it still hurts. Still proud as Hell of the work I did in my short time at that institution, fiercely in love with my teachers and schoolmates, and ever indebted to them all.
This terrible event shaped my year, without question, and will continue to go on shaping my life. It was sad, challenging, and very, very painful, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the whole Goddamn world. Onward and Upward!
BACK ON THE BOARDS. Out of that tragedy came opportunity, thanks to a groundswell of support from our wonderful Theatre community. Out of the aftershocks of the OTS fall I somehow came out with two pretty nifty gigs. One was an opportunity to work behind the scenes on Chamber Theatre Hintonburg’s terrific, long-delayed production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN as an assistant to director Lisa Zanyk. The other was an onstage role in Dead Unicorn Ink’s ACCEPTABLE APPEARANCE THEORY, co-written by OTS gangster Victoria Luloff herself and part of the mini-festival TROIS.
It was a blast, especially getting to work with several of my fellow OTS Orphans in the show, and a very welcome respite from feeling sorry for myself. Some days I can still see those tattoos glowing on my skin…
FOOFARAH LIVE. I wrote in my personal journal that this event was ‘the best night of my life’, and remembering back it’s hard to argue. A fourth anniversary Foofarah party for this here Chud featuring guest-performances from a ridiculous crop of my supertalented pals including Nancy Kenny, Madeleine Hall, May Can Theatre, Loose Cannons, Nick Wade, Tess McManus, and a couple of mini-shows from yours truly. I had ten kinds of fun, got great feedback and learned a ton, and one of those pieces I did would eventually lead to something I never, ever expected. As big a success as I’ve ever experienced, and I still plan to do it again in 2015. And thanks again for the song, Cory, Tony and Mado…I’m not a Visitor, I’m home.
CLOWN CAMP. With no full-time school to keep me busy, I looked elsewhere for some Theatre learnin’. And that elsewhere ended up being Manitoulin Island, where I headed out for a two week Mask and Clown intensive under the tutelage of the legendary John Turner of MUMP & SMOOT. I pushed myself hard learning and feeling the Richard Pochinko style of clowning, making masks and creating turns, trying to let myself have fun, drop the script every now and then, and did it with a class full of inspiring and enthusiastic Brother and Sister clowns to boot. My approach to theatre is forever changed after this experience, and I heartily recommend it to anyone with a sense of wonder. Check out their info at their Website, and don’t forget to get yourself off. 😉
FRESH MEAT. On a last-minute, spur of the moment decision, I applied to enter the 2014 edition of the FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL. When I got accepted (with my nouveaux production banner STRANGE VISITATIONS) it was time to start brainstorming a show. Inspiration came from the good old OTS and my 5 minute masque THE FLOWER, remounted at the Visi4ium Foofarah, and now sequelized and improved into the two-hander FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF DATING with co-star Madeleine Hall and the amazing Jodi Morden behind the scenes.
It was a collaborative, intense and wonderful experience, and the final product was something I’m immensely proud of. I think we brought something new to the Fresh Meat table and challenged ourselves in the bargain. Thanks so much to the incredibly warm audiences who gave this silly show such an amazing reception! You made my year.
OTHER BITS. There actually WAS more, astoundingly enough…two dynamite weekend Laban workshops with the incredible Alix Sideris that left me bruised but invigorated. And for the last few months I’ve been slugging away at the early rehearsals for next year’s Chamber Theatre production of THE HAIRY APE (I’ll be playing your friendly neighbourhood Union Secretary, as well as pitching in as a member of the squinky ensemble we’ve got going). She’s gonna be a gooder, folks, I promise.
And, in the last insane bit of news for 2014, Strange Visitations (like my page!) has officially been picked as one of the companies to receive a formal slot in the 2015 Ottawa Fringe Festival, which qualifies indeed as a dream come true. I couldn’t be there at the lottery party, but I’m told a mighty cheer rang forth when my name was drawn. That humbles me plenty, and I try to imagine that cheer when things get dark. Of course, that news means a whole heap of work in the coming months for me and my team (reuniting with Jodi and Madeleine for something just a bit familiar, but hopefully a whole lot surprising as well…stay tuned!), and I can’t wait.
There’s more to say, so much more, and I’ll get to it. For now, enjoy the New Year, comment if you like, and head on over to my Facebook page to nominate someone worthy for the Spirit of Theatre Award…which as far as I’m concerned we all win. Now I need a sitdown after this past year, before diving into the new one. Tho if anyone wants to talk new projects soon…I’m all ears. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)