So, 2016! That was a…well, that certainly was a period of measured time, am I right? All the way around the sun, and a few of us are still breathing. And if you hear a distant tapping, that’s me, knocking on wood.
But hey, it wasn’t all bad. Yes, in addition to the beloved celebrity deaths and ill-tempered trolls proving that Western democracy is forever shattered, there was some mighty fine Theatre to remind us why we feel, and love, and fight. I saw a lot of it, I helped make some of it, and I am better for all of it. And or me personally, here IS that all in handy alphabetical list form:
2 for Tea
Alpha Delta 86
the Amazing Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre
Angels and Aliens
Anton in Show Business
Attempts on Her Life
the Ballad of Frank Allen (2)
Barefoot in the Park
Burger King Lear
the Daisy Theatre
Da Kink in my Hair
Desdemona: a Play about a Handkerchief
Dial M for Murder
Does Not Play Well with Others
Everybody Dies in December
the Exclusion Zone
the Extremely Short New Play Festival
Forstner & Fillister present: Forstner & Fillister in: Forstner & Fillister
Frank: to be Frank
GET LOST Jem Rolls (2)
Getting to Room Temperature
Giant Invisible Robot
the Girl who was Raised by Wolverine
Great Day for Up
Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas
How to be a Gentleman
I Forgot to Fly Today
In the Blue of Evening
In the Trenches
the Inventor of All Things
In Waking Life
Jack Charles v.the Crown
Janet Wilson Meets the Queen
Joe the Perfect Man
the Jupiter Rebellion
the Lion the Bitch and the Wardrobe
a Little Fire
Love is a Battlefield
Love, Lust and Lace
Lovely Lady Lump
Magic Unicorn Island
Maltese Falcon: the Radio Show
a Man Walks into a Bar
Monstrous, or the Miscegenation Advantage
the Murder Room
My Fair Zombie
Oh No! Said the Parrot
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
One Man Star Wars Trilogy
Pool (no water)
Rideshares and Rope Swings
Roller Derby Saved my Soul
Romeo and Juliet
the Servant of Two Masters
Swordplay: a Play of Swords
a Tension to Detail
the Three Musketeers
Til Death: the Six Wives of Henry VIII
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Ze: Queer as Fuck
Company of Fools 12th Night
New Play Tuesday featuring Burnt Out, Wanting, and Finishing the Suit
Ottawa Theatre Challenge
Mop in the Grid
em, or Me, Mom and Medea (staged Reading)
Aiming to Float (staged Reading)
On the Fringe (movie)
Healing from Heartbreak
Not too shabby, eh? Packing in shows from two separate Fringe Festivals there, not to mention the usual suspects like UnderCurrents and Fresh Meat. And where to even begin culling this mass of amazing theatre into a ‘best of’ list of any kind? In my heart, that list would be almost identical to the one you just looked past. But people do love themselves some listing, so here’s my by no means definitive think back at some of my absolute fav’rit bits from 2016.
THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS. Odyssey Theatre shows they know how to extract gold from Goldoni with this Andy Massingham-directed adaptation of the masque classic, filled with archetypes of farce and funny, romance and madness, and enough mistaken identity for any ten plays.
PARTICLE / MOUTHPIECE. Two of the several amazing entries at Undercurrents this year, Kristina Watt showed us how it’s done in her clown collaboration Particle (with the great Martha Ross) that was inventive, hilarious and endlessly endearing. Meanwhile, Mouthpiece took the concept of feminist theatre and raised it to a new level, featuring unbelievable timing and performances from its two leads Norah Sadavaand Amy Nostbakken . Two very different, but very extraordinary shows.
CALLAGHAN / SWORDPLAY: A PLAY OF SWORDS. A one-night-only event that too few people had the sense to make it out for, the mad geniuses of Montreal’s Sex T-Rex busted out all over with this double bill adventure/comedy/fantasy/sketch hybrid that had to be seen to be believed. They’re the best for a reason, gang. Hoping they come back soon.
GET LOST JEM ROLLS. The fine whiskey (no wine, he) that is Fringe legend Jem Rolls just keeps getting better with age. After the brilliant historical bio INVENTOR OF ALL THINGS the previous year (which made a brief reappearance on Ottawa stages this year as ll), his latest rollercoaster spoken word adventure continued to up his considerable ante. I was lucky enough to catch it at 2 Fringes, and could happily go for thirds.
FALLING AWAKE / BELLA CULPA. Two different 2-person physical shows from 2 different companies (Ragmop and A Little Bit Off) at this year’s Vancouver Fringe, and both made my heart do backflips with joy and delight. From a tragicomic look at love and loss to a manic battle of servants vs.masters vs.rats, these were two unmissable shows that made me want to be better at what I do. Out. Fucking. Standing.
CARDINAL / OH NO! SAID THE PARROT. From Ottawa Fringe and then Fresh Meat, Aplombusrhombus (featuring Madeleine Hall and Mitchel Rose) knocked me out with two magically engaging pieces that should seriously be putting Ottawa’s clown community on the map. Winners of the Emerging Artist award at Fringe for very good reason. Watch out for these two clowns!
MAGIC UNICORN ISLAND. My fanboy crush on Jayson McDonald is no secret, and his latest, an imaginative, hilarious heartbreaker about the ultimate rebellion scenario did nothing to diminish my longing. You’re still my hero, Jay Mac! (bonus: his legendary hit GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT also made a welcome appearance in Ottawa this year, huzzah!)
PERFECT PIE. From Judith Thompson’s great script to perfectly cast and beautifully directed stage production, this show was my fav’rit from the latest Tactics series (with the trippy WOLCZECK’S HEAD a close second). Deeply affecting, unflinching, catastrophic and present. Terrific bloody theatre.
And there’s so much more! Other Vancouver Fringe faves like THE BALLAD OF FRANK ALLEN, TIL DEATH: THE 6 WIVES OF HENRY VIII, GREAT DAY FOR UP and FRANK TO BE FRANK. Or Ottawa Fringe beauties like EVERYBODY DIES IN DECEMBER and RIDESHARES AND ROPE SWINGS. Ow about Ottawa Little Theatre’ grandly theatrical THREE MUSKETEERS? Kate Smith’s fast food breakthrough BURGER KING LEAR? The brilliant nostalgia-fest BOOM? The silent but deadly MACBETH MUET? Or my own record setting 7th viewing of ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL (I’m just about ready to start writing RDSMS fanfiction at this point. Hmmm…) ? Or maybe I could stop talking about other people’s stuff for a second, and start yammering on and on about…
MY STUFF!! Yes, I did some theatre stuffs in 2016, in fact more than I ever did done in a year before! It started early on with my first ever step into the Ottawa Theatre Challenge ring alongside Madeleine Hall in the short piece PARKS AND TREACHERY. We didn’t win, but we didn’t get booed off the stage neither (in fact, I think got my first ever Brian Carroll laff in that show, so I’m calling it a victory).
Next up was maybe my most ambitious project to date, my first solo Fringe show NORMAN BISBEE GOES TO WAR. With thee great Erin MacDonald as SM, Jodi Morden, Leslie Cserepy and Pierre Ducharme helping out, I was ready to bring this solo drama/adventure/comedy to the ODDbox. Small audiences, middling reviews, money lost, lessons learned. Will Norman be back> Time will tell, but he doesn’t give up easy!
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I wasn’t done with Fringe yet, and I packed up my bags (as well as Jodi Morden and Madeleine Hall) and headed out to Vancouver to hit the west coast with FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF DATING. My first out of town performance, and it was a treat from start to finish. We didn’t set records but we had good houses and great fun and we’d all love to come back to the finale Fringe ASAP. I still miss it.
Back home, it was time to get personal. Longtime Visitorium mainstay Winston the Cat transubtantiated to Valhalla in 20116, and he needed him some immortalizing, Theatre Style. That came at Fresh Meat with UNZIPPING THE CAT, my storytelling debut. Even Patrick Langston had to grudgingly admit it was pretty good.
I figured I was done acting for the year, until Eddie May came calling, and drew me into the madcap mystery that was HAVE YOURSELF A SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS out at the Kanata Velvet Room. After a year of DIY theatre, it was a nice change to end the year with a collaborative production (great working with Andy Massingham as director, plus sharing the cozy little stage some swell kids), tight alleyways, loud audiences, fake bloodstains and all. A great time being introduced to a whole new way of guerilla theatre-making for me, and a great way to close out 2016. And huge thanks to EVERYONE who came out and saw one of the abovementioned shows…it means the world, as you all do know so well.
GETTING PERSONAL. As mentioned above, my roommate and best pal Winston the Cat had to be put down many months back. It was a rough bit, and I still miss that fuzzy little guy (tho I’m still finding enough of his leftover fur that I could likely construct a replacement Winston if I saved properly). As was truly said, Winston was an Ottawa Theatrical Institution, and he will always be missed, loved and remembered. Goodbye, my dear pal. I love you.
There’s one more friend I ALMOST lost in 2016, but was blessed beyond my worth to get back. A few months ago, I almost threw away the best thing to ever happen to me, because I didn’t even realize how much she meant to me. After the worst and best night of my life, she helped me break through a lifetime of damage and bad wiring to see things more clearly, and I’m ecstatic to say that I am still very happily in a relationship with Caitlin Oleson, my beautiful, smart, sexy and ridiculously goofy girlfriend. She makes me happy, she makes me better, she puts up with my nonsense and shares this made-up life of mine in a way I never imagined anyone doing. Thank you so much, Otter, for sticking with me and smiling the way you do. You make things worth doing. I love you.
That’s just about it, folks! 2016 saw lots of big theatre doings in Ottawa that I didn’t even touch on…the continuing redevelopment at Arts Court, NAC renos, the end of arts coverage in the Citizen (leaving our theatre reviewing state in such a sorry state I’ve already started doing a little of my own again…to be continued). 2017 promises some exciting things to come, hopefully a little extra theatricals from the 150 celebrations, and the return of Magnetic North. I’ve got some behind the scenes work coming soon with a local production, plus the Ottawa return of FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF DATING in this years Undercurrents festival, hooray! After that..? Well, I punked out on the Fringe lottery, so who knows? Working on a few projects, but isn’t that just artist code for masturbating? We shall indeed see, folks. In the meantime, I DO hope to be writing a little bit more than recently usual about local theatre on this blog, because I goddamned LOVE local theatre and I want to see people getting excited about it. S o get getting excited, gang, and I’ll see you in 2017. Peace, love and soul,