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Posts Tagged ‘geoff mcbride’

Undercurrents 2015 Part 1: Far & Air & Love (+Hate)

In Theatre on February 13, 2015 at 7:34 pm

I don’t know how to start this thing off today (700+ blogposts on this thing, surely you’re all wise to my smarmy little writer-tricks by now, right?) so let’s just jump right in…UNDERCURRENTS is back again, Ottawa’s dapper, smashing little juried Theatre festival that makes February all warm and snuggly for a couple of weeks. There’s a sweet lineup once again, courtesy of fest director Pat Gauthier, plus a whole new home at Arts Court, as Undercurrents cozies up to its new Mommy festival, the Ottawa Fringe. Last night was opening night, with a packed house all evening, and maybe the beer was having a little trouble pouring that smoothly, but the theatre was rolling out JUST right.

First up was Ottawa fav’rit Thunk! Theatre and their newly expanded and revamped FAR & NEAR & HERE, originally produced as a 20 minute entry to the Fresh Meat Festival 2 years ago. Created by and starring Thunk’s titanic tag team of Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome, the show follows the weird long-distance friendship (romance?) of Ned and Ted. Ted (Balcome) is a pragmatic list-maker and Aquatic artist from Near, while Ned (McBride)is somewhat misanthropic writer and Boat-builder from
Far…which is quite far from Near. After a brief chance meeting in Here, Ned and Ted strike up a postcard friendship that leads to their decision to meet up for Ned’s Birthday halfway between Far and Near, in Here. Which also happens to be in the middle of the Ocean.

Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride of Thunk!

Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride of Thunk!

Thunk! shows are like a warm hug to your soul, and F&N&H is no different. Gorgeously written, magically staged (you can very much feel the touch of director/dramaturge Emily Pearlman throughout) and of course wonderful performances from Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome, two immensely likeable creators with talent to match their charm. Some epic sound design from the ever-impressive AL Connors, plus Seth Gerry’s terrific lightwork makes this just about as good a start to Undercurrents 2015 as you could beg or scream for.

A brief intermission, and the second Act of the evening got underway, this time in the Studio, where Trevor Copp of Tottering Biped Theatre took to the stage for AIR, a pay-what-you-can show that is a pretty towering display of talent indeed, and whatever you CAN pay, I hope it’s a lot because his dude’s worth it. Featuring a trio of short, wordless, very physical character pieces of limitless imagination, brought to frickin’ beautiful life by Trevor and his clearly enchanted frame (plus director Richard Beaune, natch). The storylines ranged from a man stalking a Stag to the real answers you need about Death, and maybe you’ll follow every moment and maybe you won’t, but it’s easy enough to just lean back and wonder at the artistry on display. I do recommend either getting a good seat up close, or getting to high ground for a good view…you’ll want to be able to see every moment that Trevor brings to life up on that stage. Very impressed.

LOVE+HATE from the Peptides (image by Bonnie Findley)

LOVE+HATE from the Peptides (image by Bonnie Findley)

One final show for the evening back in the Theatre, as a Fringe fav’rit from last year made its triumphant return to the stage. Local musical superheroes The Peptides were back with their unspeakably entertaining LOVE + HATE, and there’s just nothing bad to say about this Goddam fun show. To anyone kvetching about Ottawa being a boring town, I present to you this show…watch it, then slink back to whatever desolate Hellhole you come from and bemoan the fact that there are no Peptides there to make life worth living. Tackling a variety of topics on the human condition, with more classical theatrical elements interspersed with a pop-noir rock concert, it’s a sight to see (and hear, oh yes, to hear) from beginning to end. While each member of the sizeable combo is clearly a musical prodigy in their own right, as a whole the Peptides prove to be a slickly oiled Theatre group to boot, tossing out choreographed dance numbers, comic scenes, live foley sounds and more with seemingly effortless appeal. Kitschy, kinky musical fantasticalness. I said it.

That was it for opening day, except for the hopping afterparty, which was a blast for everyone (and a somewhat grim discovery of the advanced state of my social anxiety for me, oh well), and a great capper to a kick ass opening night. I’ll be back tomorrow for a few more shows, best wishes and broken legs to the good folk playing there in the meantime! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

Fresh Meat 2014 – Week One Preview!

In Theatre on October 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Okay, so I’m not really getting out to see or review, well, anything these days.  Which sucks, because I’m missing some cool shows, which is kind of unlike me.  But even with my suddenly loopy rehearsal schedule, even I will be getting out this Thursday to catch the opening night of the coolest theatre party in town, the third FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL.  From humble roots at the Pressed Cafe on Gladstone to last year’s shenanigans upstairs at the Lunenburg, the DIY Fest and brainchild of Jonah Allingham is back, this time in an honest to gosh theatre!  Or, okay, Arts Court Library, but they have risers now and everything!  And the Courtroom next door is being converted into a bar/lounge for in between and after shows, so I’m calling it an improvement.  Like last year, the event is split into two weeks, now with five different companies presenting their original, twenty-minute works each weekend from Thursday thru Saturday.  Ain’t no funner theatre bash in town, and here’s what you can look forward to having your collective worlds rocked by in the first weekend:

Backpack 2MY CARDBOARD LIFE from Backpack Theatre.  Written by and starring Fresh Meat Founder Jonah Allingham his own bad self, and directed by the awesome Katie Swift (who Ottawa last saw in the amazing HROSES from Evolution Theatre).   It don’t get much more do it yourself than cardboard box props, and that’s where Backpack is starting their latest theatrical adventure.  Back for the third time at Fresh Meat, following the wicked cool SUMMER OF ’34 and THE B TEAM.

Forstner and Fillister 1FORSTNER AND FILLISTER PRESENT: FORSTNER AND FILLISTER IN: FORSTNER AND FILLISTER from, you guessed it, Forstner and Fillister.  A two-man comedy about the wild world of woodworking, starring Will Somers and Dave Benedict Brown, and directed by Melanie Karin Brown.  That’s an impressive list of talent, and a whole lot of funny for just twenty minutes to try and contain.  Will they be able to build something sturdy enough to do the job??  Come and see.

Thunk! 1smash.bam.kapow. from Thunk! Theatre.   Superheroic misadventures from the wonderful Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride, the dynamic duo that brought us BREAD and FAR & NEAR & HERE, as well as being the current holders of the coveted Rubber Chicken Award.  Always innovative and inspirational, their presence is reason enough by itself to get your ticket.

ME AND MY MONSTER from Cart Before the Horse.  Starring the unstoppable Megan Carty (soon to be seen again at the Avalon Studio in a reprise of SHAPE OF A GIRL starting on the 31st) in a one-woman show about the monsters under all our beds.  Directed by Paul Griffin, and sure to be powerful medicine indeed.

Traced_Theatre_2THE BIG WEED from Traced Theatre.  Some killer comedy to round out the first weekend, in this offering from the awesome Alli Harris, Lindsay van der Grinten, and director Gabbie Lazarovitz. After a solid debut at this year’s Ottawa Theatre Challenge, I can’t wait to see what Traced comes up with now.

That’s it for opening weekend…tho I should mention that smash.bam.kapow will only be playing the first two nights, and a SUPER SECRET SHOW will be offered in its stead on Saturday!  Remember, the bar will be open the whole time, and you can get your advance tickets at the Fresh Meat Website!  See you there, and again same time next week for a peek at Week Two (About which I’m oddly overexcited, for some reason…)!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

 

the Second Life of Desdemona and Juliet

In GCTC, Theatre on December 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Hey!  A GCTC Review!  Sweet Jeebus, that’s been a while.  You’d have thunk I’d broken up with them, we used to be so tight!  What with doing the volunteer gig there for a few years, plus catching all the shows in reviewer mode as well.  It was becoming my second home for quite a while.  But then along came the Ottawa Theatre School, review time got a lot harder to find, volunteer time became imPOSSible to find, and here I am now, getting my first review of their new season working a whole 3 shows in!  Somewhat scandalous, and you are right to hate me for my sloth.  For the record, I quite seriously enjoyed he previous 2 shows, PROUD and YOU FANCY YOURSELF, even if I didn’t get around to writing about them (SO SORRY!!).

But third time’s the charm, and I’m finally getting back on that GCTC horse with their latest production, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, (GOOD MORNING JULIET).  A Canuck fav’rit, Annie Mac’s story follows bookish Constance Ledbelly (the always wonderful Margo MacDonald) who, after getting the only-metaphorical shaft from her boss Professor Night (Geoff McBride), decides to focus on her groundbreaking new theory about two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, Othello and Romeo & Juliet.  Her theory?  That they aren’t tragedies at all, merely hastily adapted comedies that only need the addition of a helpful fool to change their dire outcomes.  As soon as you can say ‘special lighting effect’, Constance suddenly finds herself transported into Shakespeare-land, finding herself smack dab inside one of Othello’s crucial scenes (and yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m sure Ann-Marie MacDonald was probably not even aware of that classic MAN FROM ATLANTIS episode ‘the Naked Montague’ where Mark Harris washes up inside Romeo & Juliet.)

It's even better than it sounds!

It’s even better than it sounds!

Like any good dimension traveller, Constance soon mucks up the flow, revealing Iago (Zach Counsil) for the villain he is before Othello (McBride again) can be pushed too far.  This earns her the endearment of Desdemona (Sascha Cole, chanelling Xena Warrior Princess in a robust performance indeed), which has its own perils.  She then moves on to R&J, where her attempts to keep the death toll down end up wreaking their own havoc on gender politics in fair Verona. Evading the sword of Tybalt and the advances of both Romeo (Counsil again) and Juliet (Pippa Leslie) keeps our Constance quite busy, especially as she continues her fervent search for her Fool at all costs.

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DESDEMONA/JULIET is a fun and somewhat fluffy tale with some sneaky insight lurking beneath the laffs, and director Ann Hodges gets plenty of great action out of a mighty cast indeed.  Margo delivers as stressed-out bookworm Constance, fighting and bluffing her way though a merrily fanfictionalized Shakespearean landscape.  McBride and Counsil, two of O-town’s most beloved boy actors, are grand in their multiple roles…I’ll leave it to wiser heads than my own to debate the white Othello conundrum…and out tragic (or comedic..?) Heroines Pippa Leslie and Sascha Cole positively rock as Juliet and Desdemona.  Shoutout too for a great set and very cool light and sound throughout.  This is a merry romp filled with endlessly clever dialogue and boffo performances, and very worth watching, but get your tickets fast!  Opening week was packed, and shows no signs of slowing down (lucky you, you have until the 15th!).  So get your Shakespeare on, with a nice Canadian twist.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Fresh Meat 2013 – Preview part 1!

In Theatre on October 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Last year this town got a much needed infusion of cool when theatrical whippersnapper and Ottawa Theatre School alum Jonah Allingham inaugurated the first ever FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL in Ottawa, a micro-Fringe spotlighting a handful of local young theatre companies over a weekend at the Pressed Cafe.  Each group premiered an original short creation in a funky, intimate atmosphere…the bar was open, the mood was playful, and Ottawa’s theatre community was raring to go.  This year it’s back, more than doubling in size and scope and moving to new digs at the Lunenburg Pub.  All the original companies are back, and being joined by a swell gaggle of new blood, necessitating a whole extra weekend to squeeze everything in.  Which is fantastic, because Ottawa’s young theatre community is clearly just bursting at the seams with new stories to tell, and Jonah and crew deserve huge kudos for creating a place for them to tell them. Let’s take a look at what’s happening for week one, because yay!

GRIMProv, contemplating the consequences of their actions.

GRIMProv, contemplating the consequences of their actions.

Local improv scamps and Fresh Meat originals GRIMPROV will be hosting the opening weekend from the 17th to 19th, and if memory serves from their performance last year, you may want to bring an umbrella.  They’ll be presiding over the debuts of six new pieces of theatre, which you can catch for $15 a night,$25 for the weekend, or $40 for the whole festival.  And which shows, you ask?

Well, first up there’s returning company RAPSCALLION DIVERSION, aka Jake William Smith, who debuted last year with the solo HENCHMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE.  With his latest, MANIMALES, Jake teams up with local hero Tony Adams of May Can theatre (more on them next week) to bring us a tale of bromance and discovery in the great outdoors.

Jake William Smith and Tony Adams in MANIMALES.

Jake William Smith and Tony Adams in MANIMALES.

Also returning is the wonderful LITTLE GREEN HAT, a hat worn very well by company founder Tess McManus.  Miss Tess, understanding how awwesome my new alma mater at the Ottawa Theatre School really is, has drafted a couple of powerhouse OTS ladygrads to up the girl power of her latest, WHO WILL SEPARATE US?  featuring McManus herself, Victoria Luloff and Holly Griffith as three women locked in a Belfast prison (and before you start flashing back to your favourite Women in Prison movie moments, I suspect they have something a little different up their sleeves for this one).  That’s talent aplenty, folks, and the writeup promises a cool blend of music, movement, politics and drama.

Victoria, Holly and Tess in WHO WILL SEPARATE US?

Victoria, Holly and Tess in WHO WILL SEPARATE US?

The rest of opening weekend is comprised of all newcomer companies to Fresh Meat, starting one completely new company, WHIMSIMOLE from Emily Soussana and Lewis Caunter.  I know and luv Lewis the sound guy from my Fringe experience this past June and cannot wait for his company’s inaugural offering, TEMP.  After getting their feet wet at Lumiere festival and Nuit Blanch, Whimsimole is ready for their first helping of Fresh Meat, and it should be good stuff indeed.

Whimsimole1

Up next (and holy shit, are you guys in for a treat), the amazing Madeleine Boyes-Manseau is up to bat with her new solo creation TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET.  One of the most talented gals in town, and with the awards to prove it , Mado never disappoints and her latest looks like it’s gonna be fantastic.  Featuring curious items in jars and described as a play about ‘Old people’s skin, curious moral codes and (ultimately) hope’.  I fail to see what more you could ask for.

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau1

And god damn, fresh off THE FIGHT at Fringe, and mere weeks before the remount of their very first show MERCUTIO AND OPHELIA at the Avalon, Nick Amott’s FIREFLOOD steps into the Fresh Meat fray with WAKE, the solo story of an insomniac who believes himself to be the next stage of human evolution.   Continuing Fireflood’s mandate of epic storylines and intimate characters, Founder Amott himself takes to the stage for this, the first solo piece for the company.

FireFlood Theatre1

Last but you better believe not least,, THUNK! theatre returns to Ottawa audiences after a very special experience baking BREAD at the Undercurrents Festival in February.  Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome are both back with their new bit FAR & NEAR & HERE, presenting the story of Ted and Ned and how they manage to meet in the middle of the ocean, bridging the gap from their homes in Far, and Near.  Expect some magic from Thunk!, kids, and you probably won’t be disappointed.

Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride of THUNK!

Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride of THUNK!

So much good stuff!!  Honestly folks, if you’re not coming out for this you need to seriously ask yourself if humanity really even needs you around. Here’s the night-by-night lineup for opening weekend, with GRIMProv hosting all three nights:

Thursday the 17th: Rapscallion Diversion, Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, Whimsimole and Little Green Hat.

Friday the 18th: Little Green Hat, Whimsimole, Thunk and Fieflood.

Saturday the 19th: Rapscallion Diversion, Thunk, Madeleine Boyes-Manseau and Fireflood.

fmII

Note that the order of shows for each night will be drawn by lot that evening and NOT posted online, so expect some variation from the lists I just wrote.  Doors open at 6:30 and shows start at 7 every night, and yes, the bar is OPEN.  I’ll be back with a preview of Week 2 in, well, about a week, featuring more all-new shows from May Can, Egodeth, Dead unicorn Ink, Backpack, Here be Dragons, Obviously a Theatre Company and 2 ½ Women! And in the meantime, dig into some delicious Fresh Meat.  Even if you’re a vegetarian (don’t worry, it’s only metaphorical meat).  See you there!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s the Shakespeare

In Company of Fools, Theatre on September 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm

So, HAL AND FALSTAFF.  Let’s get right to it this time, hey, because I’m at home, stir crazy as all get-out, and just started dancing by myself to FREAKY STYLEY for the first time in about a dozen years.  I’m pumped, folks, and ready to make some theatrical writeup magick!

Now, maybe even old-school Red Hot Chili Peppers isn’t completely apropos background music for this post, as the production from A Company of Fools, under the loving guidance of Queen Margo MacDonald adapting and directing, is a little more late 70’s punk in its tone, and I couldn’t love it more for it. Set in a dingy, cluttered attic, our gang of six (Katie Ryerson, Matthew John Lundvall, Simon Bradshaw, Geoff McBride, John Doucet and Melanie Karin Brown) filter in, decked out in glorious punk fashion and sprawling about the set like they honestly couldn’t care less that any of us are even there.  Until McBride finds the crown, and then our rabble takes it upon themselves to begin telling the tale of Henry (or Hal, or Harry, or whatever Shakespeare felt like calling him that minute…played by a splendidly wigged Katie Ryerson) and his youthful collaboration with fiction’s greatest rogue, Falstaff (Lundvall, reprising his role from MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, now with about 200 lbs of extra fat suit for good measure).  The other players take turns filling out the sprawling cast of characters that make up this tale, culled from several of Billy Shakes’ historical plays, from Richard II to Henry V.  Telling this story is no mean feat, so it isn’t surprising that Margo is what, the first person since Orson Welles to attempt it?

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject RELEASE THIS ON  DVD ALREADY!!!

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject  RELEASE THIS ON DVD ALREADY!!!

The punk conceit works like a fucking charm in this, the sprawling tale of Henry’s path from rebellious layabout to monarch.  Falstaff, naturally, is far more constant that wee Hal, and remains a cowardly good-for-nothing right to the end, and we love him for it.  The moments of incredible storytelling in this show are too numerous to describe, and it coalesces into a whole that is one of the most satisfying pieces of Shakespeare you’ll ever be lucky enough to see.  Geoff McBride’s King Henry IV is absolutely out-fucking-standing, and I almost stood up and applauded after one of his final speeches.  Simon Bradshaw continues to amaze as one of the most versatile actors around, and getting some of the biggest laughs in the show as a lisping clergyman.  Melanie Karin Brown makes for a tremendously fun Scottish King AND courtesan both, while John Doucet scores some tough guy points as Hal’s nemesis, the brash prince Henry Percy.  Casting Katie Ryerson as Prince Hal was a bit of genius indeed, and she makes a lean and unpredictable heir apparent, playing marvellously against the wunnerful Matthew John Lundvall, an even better Falstaff here than in WINDSOR.  The childish joy of the character, all the disappointment and the heartbreak awaiting…it’s all there, and it’s all good.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Major truckloads of love to Vanesa Imeson, who handled the filthy/gorgeous costumes and set for this one, as well as Jess Preece for some clearly supernatural work assembling those killer props.  This is a darker direction for the Fools (and indoor to boot), and I’m so very glad they went there.  My only wish for this production is that it could have actually been a little MORE punk…I kept waiting for some of the characters to strut onstage sporting a Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone accent, but that might just be my roots showing.  At any rate, go see this show or you’re dumb as a sack of hammers, is what I’m saying.  It plays the rest of this week at the Gladstone , then hits Shenkman and Centrepointe for a week apiece. Get going, or don’t show your face around here again, get me?  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

A Merry Time in Windsor

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Well, it took me just over three weeks but I finally made it.  In my defense, I’m often pretty slow out of the gate when it comes to seeing Ottawa’s touring park shows…They’re just about the only game in town for two solid months, and I can’t resist the subconscious urge to stretch them out as much as I can.  But I DID try and see this one a couple weeks ago, I swear!  All I can say is Glabar Park is NOT where google maps told me it was (although apparently I was close).

But fortunately, even a dim stooge like myself can find Strathcona Park on a clear day, ad the weather was poifect this Monday for a trip down Laurier to where A Company of Fools were celebrating the second anniversary of their tenth anniversary of summer Shakespeare shows with their latest, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.  Directed by the ever wonderful Catriona Leger and featuring Billy Shakes’ most memorable rogue sir John Falstaff at his bawdy best, this underseen bit of bard was prime fodder for the Fools treatment.  Thee show features a giddily talented cast of familiar faces like Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin Brown, Katie Ryerson, John Doucet and Geoff McBride, along with first-time fool Matthew John Lundvall, subbing in as Falstaff himself for the originally-cast Chris Ralph, who has gone off to open a new theatre school or some such.

Our tale finds randy sir John newly arrived in Windsor, and already robbing people blind and trying to seduce their wives.  Specifically, mistresses Page and Ford (Melanie Karin-Brown and Katie Ryerson), who immediately see through his attempts and plot some serious revenge.  The only hitch is Ford’s jealous husband (John Doucet), who adopts a disguise to infiltrate Falstaff’s inner circle and glean the truth, although he somehow manages to get it wrong more often than not.  Meanwhile, the Pages’ young daughter Anne (Katie Ryerson again) is being promised to two highly unsuitable suitors, dull Slender (Melanie again) and fire-tempered Doctor Caius (Simon Bradshaw), while her true love Fenton (Doucet again, stealing the show in a Keanu Reeves impression that HAS to be seen) is shut out.  Amidst this, duels are nearly fought (between Caius and nervous Parson Evans, aka Geoff McBride), messages are passed between Falstaff and the scheming wives via robust Ms. Quickly (McBride again), fairies are summoned, beatings are given and merry is indeed had by all.

Mistress Page (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall).  Pic by Andrew Alexander.

Mistress Ford (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall). Pic by Andrew Alexander.

It almost feel redundant to write up a Fools park show, as the gang has it down to a pretty awesome science (or magic, more like) by now.  Plenty of amazing and hilarious character work from the Foolish entourage to entertain even the most jaded audience…I dearly loved Melanie Karin Brown’s dull-witted Slender, and Katie Ryerson’s jittery old Justice Shallow, among their other great moments.  Simon Bradshaw continues to be absolute comic gold on any stage…his Doctor Caius was a serious highlight, and I use ‘serious’ in the loosest sense here.Geoff McBride alternates nicely between upright Evans and borderline floozy Quickly.  And Matthew Lundvall makes a memorable Falstaff, cowardly and boastful often in the same breath.  All of this talent under the direction of Miz Leger is almost too good to be true, but here we are.  There are tons of high points in this absolute sure-fire crowd pleaser of a show, and it’s easy to see why the Fools are enjoying the longevity they so richly deserve.  Ottawa is lucky to have this gang, and the next time they’re in your neighbourhood, for Heaven’s sake stop on by.  Check their website for parks and dates, you still have plenty of time left to get in on the fun.  But don’t dawdle, because you might want to see it a second time.  It’s worth it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

UnderCurrents 2013: BREAD

In GCTC, Theatre, Undercurrents on February 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I was getting pretty hungry, I gotta tell ya.  After a little too much drinking, no eating, and the premiere show of the 2013 Undercurrents festival SKIN, my appetite was shouting at me something fierce.  There was about an hour to go between shows, which would have been plenty of time to grab a quick spot of nosh from the GCTC’s newly arrived lobby coffee concern, Cafe Michel-Ange.  Except, whoops, it wasn’t as long to the next show as I thought…it turns out that, without actually realizing it, I had successfully signed up to be in the extremely limited audience (10 per show, tho anyone can crane their neck and watch) of the sneaky extra show of this year’s festival.

snapped by the great Andrew Alexander, natcherly.

Pic snapped by the great Andrew Alexander, natcherly.

The show is BREAD from the newly birthed THUNK! Theatre, and it takes place right beside the lobby cafe all during the festival.  Lasting a scant fifteen minutes, stars and creators Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome (with director extraordinaire miss Emily Pearlman) pack a lot of heart into the short running time.  Telling a brief and endearing story about local bakers Seth and Ruby on their bittersweet last day in the neighbourhood, the duo have invited ten of their closest friends (that’s you, audience) for a final bout of bread-baking as they alternate between dreamy reminiscing and angry remonstrating.  The participating audience members really, truly are guided through the prepping of their very own personal loaf of bread during the show, even as Geoff McBride’s Seth lets his emotions get the better of him, and Karen Balcome’s endlessly supportive Ruby tries to talk him down.  And of course, there’s always the bread to remember.

It’s a terribly fun and sweet show, lots of fun, and I apologize to Geoff and Karen if my attention wandered once or twice during the performance, but I was really, REALLY hungry and it was starting to get the better of me.  Granted, the baking members of the audience ARE promised a special reward…their loaves get baked during the following studio show, and when the get out they have their very own delicious homebaked bread waiting for them.  It’s maybe the best audience participation idea I’ve ever encountered, and works so beautifully and organically (thanks in large part to the easy charm of our hosts) that it never once feels like a gimmick.  I just didn’t want to wait a whole hour before eating…thank goodness Little Orange Man‘s Ingrid Hansen showed up, and saved the day by tossing me a blueberry protein bar (seriously, that woman’s a miracle).

BREAD has 13 performances left, and you can sign up to bake at the box office…HIGHLY recommended, folks, I had mine for breakfast today and DAMN.  I can bake, yo.  And the kids at Thunk! can and do put on a helluva fun show.  But as mentioned, it was time now to race off to one more show for the evening, once I washed the flour off my hands.  Next up…THE PUBLIC SERVANT! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Rowan, King of Fools

In Company of Fools, Theatre on January 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

New Year!  And that means new seasons to announce, and that means new sovereigns to crown (yes it does, don’t argue), and that definitely means it’s time for the Company of Fools annual TWELFTH NIGHT CELEBRATION fundraiser show at the NAC 4th Stage.  This is my third year attending, and it was a blast the first two times.  If anything, it was even Blastier this year.  Here’s how it went down…

I actually bought my ticket in advance this year, instead of my previously established policy of just sort of stumbling upon one at the last minute (nice trick, but I’m no Nancy Kenny and I didn’t want to push my luck about getting in to sold-out events).  Spent the day doing some much needed laundry, stuffing myself with a little homemade bolognese, then heading out to the show, where the head Fools (Scott Florence and AL Connors) would be mastering the ceremony, and announcing the Fools’ upcoming season for 2013.  I spent a little frantic time hunting around for decent seat for my lonesome self before I was dutifully rescued by the lovely Kelly Rigole (soon to become the first actor to appear in TWO separate shows at the UNDERCURRENTS festival, FYI) to the stageside table she’d secured, along with supahstar Dave Benedict Brown of 411 Dramaturgy (soon to knock Ottawa out yet again with HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE, also at Undercurrents).  I was mightily thankful for the accommodations, as we listened to the pre-show musical stylings of Mi Casa Theatre’s Nick DiGaetano on the gee-tar.  Very nice, as always.

The show proper began as Scott and AL  took to the stage to a) encourage us to buy AS MANY RAFFLE TICKETS AS POSSIBLE, and b) introduce the spiffy cast who would take the stage a moment later to perform a not-even-a-little-bit rehearsed staged reading of TWELFTH NIGHT.  Alongside themselves, they were joined by Geoff McBride, Catriona Leger, Margo MacDonald, Chris Ralph, Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin and Richard Gelinas, a seriously talent-heavy who’s who of Ottawa Theatre that would be hard-pressed NOT to entertain an audience.  The show was a hit as expected…major props to Geoff McBride for managing so much scene-stealing on  a stage that packed with incredible performers.  Also, fine legwork from Gelinas.  Many laffs were had, and the audience was primed and ready for the second half and the announcement of the Fools’ 24th season.

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First off, of course, is the Fools annual SWEETS AND SONNETS DELIVERY, wherein you can hire your very own Fool to deliver a Shakespeare sonnet to your loved one, in person, on Valentine’s Day (OR Mother’s Day this year!).  Tell your sweetheart how much they mean to you by embarrassing them at their place of work!  To accompany this announcement, it was time for the annual crowning of the new King or Queen of Fools!  With last years departing Queen in attendance, the torch was passed to Rowan, who proved a generous monarch indeed when he appointed his Mother (Fools alum Virginia West, last seen inn HENRY V) to receive an onstage sonnet from AL Connors himself.  Hail Rowan, wisely may he rule!

Next up was announcement of the OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE in honour of World Theatre Day on March 27.  We were treated to a performance of last years winning piece by Melanie Karin, which I’ll just call LIP SMACKERS in lieu of actually knowing the title.  Good stuff!  The multi-company battle (with 48 hour prep time to keep things interesting) will happen again this year at the 4th Stage, for the coveted Rubber Chicken Award!

The next proclamation was an exciting one indeed, a the Fools make their first venture into non-Shakespearean territory.  From May 7th to 25th, Ottawa will be witness to Nassim Soleimanpour’s hit show WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT at Arts Court library.  A play like no other from the sounds of it, the show will feature a different lead actor EVERY NIGHT, for a total of 18 performers over the run…and none of them get to see the script until the moment they get on stage!!  I’m so stoked for this  I can’t tell ya…apparently the show killed at Summerworks and Edinburgh Fringe, and I’m already making plans to see it at LEAST twice.  And the ticket price?  Well, you might be delighted to hear that the Fools, fools that they are, have made the official decision to take their pass-the-hat, pay-what-you-can pricing model from their outdoor shows, and apply it to their INDOOR shows as well.  So yeah, no excuses for missing this one, Ottawa.

And the big show of the year, the touring TORCHLIGHT SHAKESPEARE park show that will be celebrating its tenth (give or take) year this year?  The Fools have tapped directorial juggernaut Catriona Leger, who will take the reins of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR from July 3rd to August 17th at parks across the region.  A short excerpt from Billy Shakes’ goofy comedy was performed to our giddy amusement, and Catriona’s excitement about the show was pretty infectious.  Oh, and opening day, July 3rd?  That will also, by proclamation of the Mayor, be pronounced officially as COMPANY OF FOOLS DAY in Ottawa.  Yeah, I think our little Fools are starting to make people notice them.  Good news.

An Andrew Alexander pic of last year's amazing Torchlight Shakespeare show, HENRY V.

An Andrew Alexander pic of last year’s amazing Torchlight Shakespeare show, HENRY V.

But wait, there’s more!!  A second Shakespeare joint (call it TORCHLIGHT TOO) will follow WIVES up in September, this one directed by the Queen herself, Margo MacDonald.  Her show, appearing indoors at three different theatres in town, is HAL AND FALSTAFF, an adaptation featuring all the good Falstaff bits from HENRY IV I & II, and a little bit of HENRY V.  I think it’ll probably be along the lines of Orson Welles’ classic CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT…but probably with more foam swords.  Both shows will star the Fools’ new acting company:  Chris Ralph (who will play Falstaff in both shows, too), Simon Bradshaw, John Doucet, Melanie Karin, Geoff McBride, and Katie Ryerson.  A sweeter lineup you’d have to be a fool to hope for.

I’d call the night a great success…fun was had, great shows were announced, the Company reached their fundraising goal and then some, and I even won some swag in the raffle!  This swag might be turned into contest-fodder on this blog in the next week or so, so stay tuned!  And start planning your summer now, gang…it’s a great year to be a Fool in Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor

Alice, Queen of Fools

In Company of Fools, Theatre on January 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm

It’s a whole new Year, and that means it’s time to crown a new head fool!  Or, at least, NOW I get that that’s an annual thing…I did not realize that a few days ago, when I first heard there was going to be another COMPANY OF FOOLS TWELFTH NIGHT CELEBRATION happening at the NAC 4th Stage.  I made it out to last year’s shindig and had a blast, but by the time I found out they do this regularly, I thought I’d missed my chance to get a ticket.  But luckily, I know amazing people who are much, much cooler than myself.  One of these is Smooth Tim Oberholzer, who had two tickets for the event he didn’t need, and most generously gifted them in my hapless direction.  I figure the least I can do is tell him what he missed.

With the effervescent and pun-tastic Leslie Czerepy in tow, I hit the 4th stage to see what was up, meeting the loverly Kelly Rigole on arrival.  Kelly just finished up a brilliant run with the Fools at the GCTC with their remount of A MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE, and part of the fun of tonite’s fundraiser was to announce their 2012 season.  After some drinks, some food and some raffle-ticket-nabbin’, Fool Al Connors took to the stage, joined by legendary clown-combo Pommes Frites (Scott Florence) and ‘Restes (Margo MacDonald).  There they made several doomed and hilarious attempts to tell at least ONE scene from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  They managed (adding in a few extra lightsaber duels and mass deaths than I recall in the original, but whatevah), and after a brief cake break it was time to crown the new King or Queen.  Last year’s matriarch, you’ll recall, was Hazel.  And hers was a glorious reign.  But time goes on, and by decree of the red dot on the bottom of her cake plate, the new Queen of Fools is Alice (oddly fitting for a company whose last show put them in a Winter Wonderland), maybe she rule wisely.  She got off to a good start by commanding a pie in Scott Florence’s face.

A final scene ensued, with Scott, Al and Margo gathering for a tag-team take on MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, performing the Pyramus and Thisbe scene in their insane, patent-pending sudden-switch style that has to be seen to be believed.  I’ve caught their TAMING OF THE SHREW before like this, with each actor leaping mid-pentameter into a different role at the shout of ‘SWITCH’ from anywhere in the audience, and it was great to see them give a different play the Fool treatment.

Following the festivities, the new season was finally and merrily anounced.  I’m sure it’s all on their website, but if you’ll permit me the indulgence of a recap:

SHAKESPEARE AND YOU – Appearing in the lobby of the upcoming UNDERCURRENTS festival (much as THE LAB did last year) Feb.7-19, the Fools will be engaging in some interactive development of a new piece with willing (ideally) volunteers, to build their next show from the ground up.  Yes, you can be a part of it, folks, one more good reason to go to that festival.

SWEETS AND SONNETS DELIVERY – Send your sweetie a Fool with a personalized Shakespearean love sonnet!  Valentine’s Day, but potentially other days too.  Just ask’em!

OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE – March 27, the Fools will host Ottawa’s annual event in honour of World Theatre Day.  Competing companies have 48 hours to brainstorm their pieces.  Rubber Chicken glory awaits the victor!

SHAKESPEARE’S DEAD – April 30 – May 12, at various venues across the city (to be decided).  An indoor twist on the Fools’ annual outdoor show, this tale of a troupe of actors visited by the spirit of Shakespeare (who forces them to act out all of his death scenes) will be touring the city in a host of diff’rent venues.  And I can attest that th eFools are just as good inside as out.  But when they go out…

HENRY THE FIFTH – July 2 – Aug 18 at parks across Ottawa.  This year’s in-the-Park parade is Billy Shakes’ legendary war romp, directed by ANTONY & CLEOPATRA’s Geoff McBride and featuring an almost entirely female cast (with Margo Mac herself as Henry 5, whee!!).  We got a wee taster of this show in one short scene, and it’s gonna be so terribly sweet.  I’m for SURE bringing the nieces to this ‘un.

And I’ve also heard tell that Al Connors will be bringing the Fool’s classic SHAKESPEARE’S INTERACTIVE CIRCUS to this years Algonquin Theatre Arts season, so there’s that much more Foolishness to look forward to!  I couldn’t be exciteder, and it was a great night out with one of Ottawa’s finest companies (even if Tim Oberholzer’s borderline mystical raffle-luck didn’t manage to transfer to me, sigh).  And this time, I’ll plan ahead for next year.  Peace, love and soul to Fools everywhere,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS:  Thanks again, Tim!

Cleopantrony!

In Company of Fools on July 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I’m not actually that big a fan of the outdoors.   There’s no air-conditioning, bugs everywhere, and that giant ball of fire in the sky is constantly trying to cook you, or give you cancer, or whatever it does (ESPECIALLY in summertime!  And you can’t even keep your eye on it, or it’ll blind you! Fuckin’ sun).

But every now and then, there comes along a reason good enough to lurk cautiously out of my Visitorium and into the harsh light of fresh air, and that now and then is now, friends, because it’s Theatre in the Park season here in O-town.  Actually, it has been for a few weeks now, but as I’ve mentioned in the last few posts, I’m slacking off something awful these days.  But I did my level best to cut that shit out last nite when I ventured into the wilds of Centrepointe Park, risking life and limb and a possible ant bite or two to check out A Company of Fools and their annual Torchlight Shakespeare show.  Last year it was the dee-liteful MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, which I adored, so expectations were high and happy for this year’s entry, ANTONY & CLEOPATRA.

It looked solid as solid could be from the outside…Richard Gelinas and Catriona Leger starred as the titular lovestruck power couple, with the other roles being filled as need arose by Katie Bunting, Cari Lesli, Geoff McBride and Stewart Matthews.  And once the show got underway, well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the fools don’t fool around with their Shakespeare (HAVE I said that before?  Maybe not…not bad tho, eh?).  Well, all right, they DO fool around with it, quite a bit actually.  But that’s kind of the point of a Fools show, turning the potentially dry and stodgy Shakespearean productions of yore and making them something that literally the whole family can squeal with delight to.  There were a pair of red-nosed little girls seated next to me on the grass during the performance who couldn’t have been more into it if they’d been on stage (which I’m sure they wanted to be).

The story itself, based on real events (much in the same way, no doubt, that your average episode of Xena is rooted in historical accuracy ), tells of the manliest of men, Marc Antony, who has abandoned his duties to make time with foxy Queen Cleopatra down Egypt-way, and who could blame him?  Until he gets word summoning him back to Rome (dead wife, impending war and other pesky nonsense), where he has to marry Caeser’s sister to placate the Roman ruler, which irks Cleo to no end, ant then there’s that WAR, and then, well, things start to get complicated.

Gelinas does his usual smashing job as Antony, and is especially good at jibing with the audience during the performance.  And Cat Leger goes from Beer Tent Goddess to just regular old Goddess (Cleopatra is pretty much close  enough to a deity, in history’s babe-loving hindsight), vamping and camping it up with a wicked gleam in her eye all the while.  The others, as said, switch between a variety of roles, but some fav’rits of mine are:  Cari Lesli as the dread(-locked) pirate Pompey, rocking a toy xylophone like you only wish you could; Geoff McBride racing from one unlucky messenger to the next (and as a mush-mouthed Snake salesman); Stewart Matthews’ shrill Caesar, ever striving for the upper hand against Antony; and Katie Bunting as the perpetually sneering Agrippa, stalking around the stage like she’d love nothing better than to kick ALL our asses, just because they’re there.

It’s a fantastic and fun show, with all the attendant risks that come with performing an outdoor show with plenty of kids about (which is even MORE of the fun).  Director David Whitely done good…love the inclusion of the ancient Roman Can-o-Phone into the proceedings.  The show continues into August at a park near-ish you, with a pass-the-hat donation system footing the bill.  It’s as good a time in a park as you’re gonna have, folks, so get going already.  Unless you’re some kinda fool…the bad kind, not the good kind.

Peace, love and soul, Fools,

The Visitor (and Winston)