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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Busy Doing... Too Busy to Write!

Sometimes you get yourself so busy seeing things and doing things that you don't have time to write your blog.  That's what the last two weeks have been like for me.

I have caught a couple shows that were well done and great examples of the variety of theatre that you can see in Edmonton.  A week and a half ago I took in Happy Toes by Stewart Lemoine at Teatro La Quindicina.  It was a lovely piece which caught me off guard.  I didn't really know what it was about and my presumption that the happy toes were dancing was totally incorrect.  It was more about friendship, relationships and how our expectation and anticipations affect our personal happiness.  It was a subtle piece, set in familiar places and subtly brought to life by a quintet of actors: Ron Pederson, Jeff Haslam, Julien Arnold, Cathy Derkach and Davina Stewart. It's closed now, but the Varscona is moving into the Shadow Theatre season and there are some great shows on the horizons there!

Last week I hit two shows.  The first was Ronnie Burkett and The Daisy Theatre at the Citadel.  I saw this show three times last year, I loved it so much.  It has the wonderful quality of no show being the same as there is an element of improvisation and audience participation. This time I took a Ronnie Burkett newbie and it was wonderful to see her react to his mastery of the marionettes.  After the first 'number' she leaned to me and said, "This is amazing!". It took me back to my first Ronnie show where I was just totally blown away by how you completely get absorbed by the characters on the stage, not the man up above.  It's truly magic! Now, it's on the wrong side of ribald, so be prepared and at this point there are less than 250 seats left for the rest of the run so you're going to want to buy fast to get to see it.  There are great seats left on this Sunday night, so I would hope on the phone and pick those up if you want to catch it. It runs to November 2 and plays in The Club.

The second show I saw last week was Theatre No. 6's Proud by Michael Healey - the fictionalization of what might have happened after the 2011 election if the Conservatives won all the Quebec seats instead of the NDP.  It took liberties, as it was a fictionalization, so although the Prime Minister in question is named Harper, it is very clearly an interpretation.  It is also a comedy so there is a lot of play at hand.  It's not the most perfect script - there's a character in it that you're not quite sure why they are there - and the arc is not really clear, but it was excellently acted by it's cast of four: Brian Dooley, Melissa Thingelstad, Dave Horak and Richard Lee Hsi. What I really liked about it was the explanation of politics - the tactics and the strategies - the speculation on why some things were done. Some of what is in the play (in generalities) I know to be true.  The way a party will only woo the sway-able middle and they will not waste their time on those they know they can never win over - that's totally true. There was also some political theory that literally gave me some 'aha!' moments! It also had one of the funniest sex scenes I have ever seen. Proud closed this past weekend, but I look forward to what Theatre No. 6 will bring next.  It's an exciting mix of artists who have kicked off with a very interesting piece!

Tonight I am heading out to catch the first show in the Walterdale season, And Then, The Lights Went Out by Alberta playwright Andy Garland.  It's a play on Film Noir and Detective Fiction.  I had a very small hand in helping to paint the floor but I know a lot of people involved and they are all very talented, so I am looking forward to seeing what they have done with it!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

#YegBookClub - Next in the Queue! Santa Rosa by Wendy McGrath!

My apologies for not getting this out sooner - a rather densely packed life due to the start of both the school year and the theatre season led to a bit of a delay in choosing a book and finding a date for the club.  First, a brief recap of the last book club.  Mid September, we spoke with Marty Chan about Demon Gate, the first book in his Ehrich Weisz Chronicles.  It was a great chat and although it was mostly Marty and myself chatting, I could tell from the retweets and the favorites that there were others following the discussion.  I was pleased to hear hints about what was to come (but with no spoilers!) and it was great to get the insight on Marty's research and inspiration. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!

Here are some snippets...



What book next? For our next #yegbookclub we will be reading and chatting about Santa Rosa by Wendy McGrath.  Her sequel, North East has just been released and I thought it might be nice to read the first one before I dive into the second.  I've bought both so I might just read the second as well and see where that goes. 

When: Monday, November 17th, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Where: On Twitter - use the tags #yegbookclub and #SantaRosa to tag and follow posts.  
Who: Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion! The more, the merrier!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What you want to do? Isn't that what I said?

This past summer I directed two shows at Fringe, one of which I wrote (Little Monsters) and one written by my friend Anne Marie Szucs (Crack). Over the last several weeks a few lines from the latter have been rattling in my head, making me think hard about what my time is filled by.

     ANGELA: Sometimes I wish there were 2 of me - just to do everything I want to do.
     PAM: What you want to do.
     ANGELA: Yes. Isn't that what I said?
     CHRISTINE: Pam.
     PAM: Sometimes I think you do what everyone else wants you to do – Andy, the kids, church.  Where do you fit into the list?

I find myself coming back to that question... what is it I want to be doing?  I have many things I 'have' to do.  Some are things I have put in place, some are work or store related, some are volunteer commitments, some are things that people have asked me to do and I couldn't say no to...  I would say that most of them are things I like doing, even enjoy doing, but I think the big problem is that I am just finding more and more that there are simply too many things.  I know this because the thing I wish I was doing the most - writing - is not getting done.  It is the thing that gets pushed to the back burner by all the other stuff. 

I'm trying to clear the decks a little bit.  Some of the obligations will take longer to clear up.  Some will never go away because they are related to the children and you can't just absolve yourself of them once you have them. But I do intend to take some time to write this year, AND I do plan on getting onstage this year.  Those are my two 'Things I Want to Do' that I will make happen in between all the other things I have to do. And if you catch me saying to myself, what do I want to do, know that this is what's running through my head. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Telling Canadian Stories... Kim's Convenience at the Citadel...

Tonight Previews for Kim's Convenience started at the Citadel Theatre.  Last night, I got to watch the final Dress Rehearsal. As part of my job, I had read the play and thought it quite a nice story on the page, but it was so lovely to see it realized on the stage.  Beyond the picture-perfect corner convenience store and the sounds of the Toronto street, seeing the story live on the stage really emphasized for me the the play was truly a Canadian story.  So many of us here are from somewhere else and the freedoms and hopes of the immigrant coming to Canada for their children is a story that I certainly understood.  It was also both funny and touching.  I didn't know that I would laugh so much -  in recognition of things in my own world, in the deliberate misunderstandings between people, and in the unique relationships between parents and their children. I also didn't realize, despite reading the play, that I would get a little teary-eyed. Because Canada is a softer country than others with a tradition that is more flexible due to it's youth it is a place where you can make mistakes and go home again. 

I'm looking forward to seeing it again. 

Fatboy... Hard to Describe... Harder to Stop Laughing...

I took in the ridiculous and excessive Fatboy by John Clancy (not to be confused with the author of The Hunt For Red October) directed with controlled abandon by Dave Horak and presented at Theatre Network by the Edmonton Actor's Theatre. This is not a show for the faint of heart. It's rude, and bawling and lusty and violent and irreverent and full of more curses per minute than any of show I have seen in my life. I will admit, at first I wasn't sure what I was watching.  The show starts with a belligerent bang of a shouting match between Fatboy (Frederick Zbryski) and his extremely buxom wife, Fudgie (Melissa Thingelstad). It's over the top - not in a Broadway musical kind of way - but in a nightmarish, twisted circus of lechery and violence.  Once acclimatized to the phenomenal patter of cursing interspersed with cries for Sausages!! and Pancakes!! I just held on and went for the ride. They are joined by a multitude of characters played brilliantly by Ian Leung, Tim Cooper and Mathew Hulshof.  The entire cast is incredible.  This kind of piece only succeeds with 100% commitment to the choices and, boy, do they commit.  There were so many times while watching that I marveled at how good they all were.  The world was so complete and there was never a glimpse of the real person beneath the white pancake make-up on their faces. It was as though they had been doing this show for years.  Zbryski's patter is both frightening and hilarious. Thingelstad is marvellously brash.  It's all complimented by a delightfully tilted and distressed set designed by Scott Peters and costumes that are whimsical and macabre designed by Melissa Cuerrier.

The tale is a twisted reinterpretation of the scandalous Ubu Roi (1897) by Alfred Jarry - famous for opening and closing on the same night and causing a riot in the theatre. A comment on the excess of our world, and on the inherent selfishness of humankind, particularly those in power.  It's a little mind-blowing at the end.  I am personally not quite as cynical as the play is in it's final moments.  I can't see the world quite in the way that is suggested by the wrap up.  What can I say? I'm an idealist. But after the roller coaster of violence and ridiculousness is over, the closing comments are what you'll be talking about with your friends for hours afterwards. Depending on where you sit on the spectrum of political and social belief, I think you will come away from this with a completely different reaction. It's really whether you can see Fatboy in Kim Jong Il or perhaps  Rob Ford or your Next-door-Neighbors or even yourself that will tell just how you see the world.

I'd say this is a must-see for those that can handle the language and violence (the violence is all very comical, but for the faint of heart...).  If you are an Edmonton theatre aficionado you simply
have no excuse.  If you are a drama student at either of the two Universities I would be appalled if you missed it. It's a masterclass. Give yourself permission to laugh, and buckle-up for the ride!

Photo credit: Ryan Parker

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Smallish Project on the Horizon...

This Sunday I will be starting a smallish project for Walterdale Theatre.  When I was asked to be Master Painter for the first show of the season way back in the early summer I had to say No.  I knew that I would be too busy with the advent of the new theatre season and my new position at the Citadel.  However, a request from the set designer, former student Brendan Boyd, for help with painting the floor made me do a slight reversal. It's hard to say No to former students, especially those like Brendan. I came in with conditions, because my time is tight, but this Sunday I will go in and start the process.  I have yet to see the set design, so I am hopeful that I will have the right colours in the shop (it's a wood floor and there were a lot of varied browns in the paint shop). It should only take a couple days - for me, this month,that means Sundays.  There are a couple of wrenches in the works with the theatre being over-shared and the surprise of finding out an Open House and Tour is being held on one of my limited painting days, but I am optimistic about getting it done. I might be a little 'grumpy old man' about it, but it will get done.  I'm looking for suggestions for a good place for a massage in early October to recover from floor painting (it's the hardest on my back) so if you know any, let me know...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Terrific #yegbookclub with Michael Hingston's The Dilletantes

Last night a group of readers met on twitter for an hour and chatted about Michael Hingston's The Dilettantes.  This was the first of our two summer reading choices.  It was a lively discussion with many threads and side roads and the hour flew by.  It was a great way to spend a snowy evening in September (yes, there was snow!).  The conversation swerved from favorite weird sodas, to student newspapers (comparing U of A's The Gateway to SFU's The Peak) and angst... plenty of angst.  Michael joined in and it was great to have the author chime in and answer questions. If you want to check out the conversation, use the #yegbookclub on twitter to search.  You should be able to pick up most of it.

If you want to check out the book, here's a link to find out more.

Next week we tackle our second summer reading choice, Marty Chan's The Demon Gate.  I think you have time to get it read and join in! See you on twitter on Monday, September 15th at 7 p.m.!