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Friday, October 02, 2015

Reflections on Bone Cage, Theatre Yes...

I admit it. I had reservations about Bone Cage before I saw it. This was heightened when I read the Director's Notes which indicted the Oil Sands industry and it's toxic sludge of tailings ponds and the suggestion that if we really thought about what we were doing to make a living we would be sickened by it.  I've heard that rhetoric before and having spent most of my life in Fort McMurray I couldn't help but bristle a bit, but I was determined to view the play with an open mind.

I was expecting a rhetoric laden piece about the environment, with blame laid here and there... but that's not what I saw.  Instead, I didn't see much of the environmental message earned. It was there, but it felt pasted on as a convenient scapegoat for the unhappiness of the people in the play. What played out was that these people were screwed up because of past tragedies - a lost son/brother, a wayward mother, a missing father, bad parenting, poor choices in school, or general immaturity. Do people stay in jobs that they don't like because of the money - yes - but people do that all the time. I know former teacher colleagues who I could tell hated teaching, but they would never leave the field because the money was good. I know friends who don't leave jobs they dislike (because they have no passion for it) because they are scared of not knowing what else is out there. This is not something unique to resource industries.  I think Jaime, played with intensity by Neil Kuefler, tries to blame the work for his unhappiness, but he'd still be destroying ecosystems if he got his dream job in B.C. He'd just thinks he'd be happier if he was piloting a helicopter.  It is not the environment he cares for. He just wants something outside himself to blame for why he's unhappy, but really he has a myriad of things to blame for that.  With all the characters, the solution would be to take responsibility and change themselves, but no one seems to keen to actually do that. Their personal inaction and lack of true communication with each other gets somewhat irritating.  Why don't they just leave? I don't know how many times I asked myself that question...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Projects... I think I have a problem with Down Time...

Back in the spring of this year, I got a phone call from Elizabeth Bowering.  I had heard of Elizabeth because she had been quite busy at Walterdale over the years, but I had never met her. She explained to me that we had a mutual friend, David Kirshner Sr., and that she and David suffered from the same illness, MSA (Multiple System Atrophy).  I remembered when David was diagnosed and this terrible illness swept into his and his family's life.  A once vibrant and active man was suddenly stilled. Elizabeth was in the same boat. She went on to explain that she wanted to produce one of her plays, Wind in Her Sails, as a fundraiser and awareness project for MSA and she wondered if I might consider directing it. So I asked her to send me the script so that I might read it.  I read it and I was immediately in. It's a beautiful piece in tribute to her grandmother telling a story on a trip on a 60 ft. schooner in the early 1900s full of East Coast music.

Well, now it's fall and the show has been cast and we have started rehearsals.  The cast is terrific:

Narrator/Fiddler - Larissa Pohoreski
Mavis - Halee Pierog
Captain - Morgan Smith
Pike - Kris Loranger
Purdy -Murray Farnell*

No doubt I will regale you with more stories from rehearsal.  So far we have been having fun singing Lukey's Boat and learning a few other East Coast songs (Feller From Fortune, Killgrew's Soiree), as well as embracing the accent! As a former resident of Fort McMurray, it is fun to be surrounded by the accents of the rock and the script is peppered with the Newfoundland sense of humour I love. Whether you are an aficionado of all things from Newfoundland and the East Coast or whether you want to support this terrific cause, I hope to see you out!

The show runs November 12-21st at the PCL Theatre at the Arts Barns. Tickets can be purchased through Tix on the Square online or by phone 780.420.1757.

* appears with permission of Equity

Monday, September 28, 2015

September was a Two #yegbookclub Month! Next up in October...

Like last summer, I picked two #yegbookclub books to read other the summer and then we discussed them on twitter over two consecutive weeks in September.  So this was a 2 #yegbookclub month! I worked hard to get the books read (or at least started) early so that I wouldn't be caught up after the crazy Fringe-filled summer I had.

First up, on September 14th, we talked about Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton.  The novel follows, primarily through the exchange of letters, a relationship between Martha and James.  It was my first foray into Eco-fiction (except, someone said that Atwood's Oryx & Crake is eco-fiction, but I through that was more speculative fiction... I don't know the categories... ). This book took place in the past moving up to the early 2000s. A romance, but a subtle one, with environmental topics woven through the letters, along with a growing intimacy as their relationship evolves. Themes of death, loss and friendship are also explored. Here are a few tweets!

Then on September 21st, we talked about Love Letters From the Angel of Death by Jennifer Quist. Without planning it, I happened to select two books with similar themes of letters, love, death and loss.  They also both mention Fort McMurray which for me as a former long-time resident was a surprise. Here are a few tweets!

Next up for the #yegbookclub is Winterkill by Kate Boorman.  We'll be talking about it on Monday, October 26th from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Edmonton time! Use the hashtags #yegbookclub and #Winterkill to follow the discussion or follow me (@smeep22003) and I will retweet all the tweets!

I picked Winterkill up this summer and after I read it I simply HAD to put it on the list for #yegbookclub! The sequel, Darkthaw, is also coming out on October 13th so if you like it you'll be able to pick up the next in the series right away! 

A Fabulous and Frenetic Week with the Kick off to the Citadel's 50th Anniversary Season, Nuit Blanche, The HeART Beat Party, and BOOM!

September has been a bit of a blur for me.  We've been working extra hard to get ready for the Opening of the Citadel's 50th Anniversary Season,  It's been very cool looking back through the archive photos over the last 50 years and seeing who has been on the various Citadel Stages.  These will be coming out on throwback Thursday throughout the season.  I've by no means planned all of them so... if you have a favorite show you'd like to see pictures from, let me know!

Most of what we've been working hard on in terms of events this month happened this last week.  We opened the season on Thursday night with BOOM. Prior to the show, we we treated to speeches from various dignitaries, including the Lt. Governor, representatives from Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, sponsors, the Board, Penny Ritco, Bob Baker and Kayla and Marshall Shoctor. I think Kayla Shoctor's speech was my favorite as there was something about it that spoke to the magic of the creation of the Citadel 50 years ago, and I also really liked Bob Baker's speech as it really addressed that what we have is due in large part to the artists that create.  Following the speeches the audience was surprised by a flash mob consisting of local theatre artists and led in song (The Impossible Dream) by Susan Gilmour.  This was truly magical and I got all teared up as it happened all around me.  And then the show - BOOM - which was tremendous!  An artistic marathon for solo-performer Rick Miller wrapped up in technical magic.  It traversed the Baby Boom years from Hiroshima (1945) to the Moon Landing (1969) through events personal, historical, political and cultural with a distinctly Canadian flavour.  I liked it so much that I went back to see it again on Sunday evening with the husband and son #2! Following the performance there was a fantastic party in the Shoctor lobby complete with live band, champagne and delightful treats!  It was still going when I left at midnight!

The other major kick-off event this weekend was The HeART BEAT Indoor Street Party in celebration of the mile-stone anniversaries of the three resident companies in the Citadel Theatre: the Citadel (50 years), Rapid Fire Theatre (35 years) and Catalyst Theatre (20 years).  This coincided with Nuit Blanche happening on and around Sir Winston Churchill Square all evening.  First a large group of people gathered at 7:30 p.m. to HUG THE CITADEL.  It was amazing to see all those people surrounding the building and banging their Boom Sticks! Following the HUG, the husband and I took the boys to see Chimprov at Rapid Fire Theatre.  It was Doctor Whom and we're big fans, plus the kids love improv and they've never gone to a RFT show before so it was about time!  They had a blast and I know we will be heading back for more!  There was even a Tardis in the lobby that you could go in and/or take pictures with!

After the show we came out into the streets of the Citadel to the HeART Beat Party!  All three shows in the building let out at the same time so it was packed.  Plus there were lots of people coming in from Nuit Blanche to check out what was going on!  I think the security counted approximately 4,000 people coming into the building! Live bands (Scenic Route to Alaska, and Fast Romantics) as well as Thomas Culture provided music.  There were Food Trucks lined up outside.  There was a very cool interactive guest book provided by Catalyst Theatre.  I think I saw a lot of people who perhaps had never been in the building before.  Truly a terrific time!

We also spent some time taking in the installations for Nuit Blanche.  It was really fun to see so many people taking in downtown on a Saturday night.  I am not sure if it was the art, but it was all rather civilized and fun!

Now, if that wasn't the right way to spend Alberta Culture Days, I am not sure what would be!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Did a Show... Caught a Show! Love Letters...

Today we had our 2nd SOLD OUT show for Double Double: The Musical.  It was so much fun.  It's weird because we still have 3 shows left but it also feels like Fringe is almost over! Three more for Double Double and only one more for Shout! (which is already almost Sold Out).  So, this has certainly been a terrific Fringe! And now for a little watching...

Love Letters - This was a wonderful piece about two people corresponding from elementary school to late adulthood.  The correspondence between Melissa (Holly Turner) and Andy (Brian Dooley) is charming, funny and in some places heart-breaking.  It was a delightful piece of theatre with terrific acting.  You know they are good when you are completely captivated and they are just sitting there reading letters.

That's all I could manage.  With the 2 show schedule I have to take it easy (and it's killing me a little bit!).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2015 - Wednesday, August 19

I had a great time talking to people lined up to see Shout! today about what they would recommend for my Word of Mouth blog.  It's the halfway point so people have seen more shows and I am getting some variety.  One gentleman asked me to be sure to say that the shows recommended were well-done but that people should see read the descriptions, because not everyone likes musicals and not everyone likes Pinter.  So, if a descriptions interests you and it's on this list, this likely means it's well done and you can safely check it out!

Edgar Allan (this has been mentioned A LOT)
Kiss Around Pass Around
Beau & Aero
Ordinary Days
Fiddler on the Roof
Bonnie & Clyde
The Lover
Gidion's Knot
A New Brain

I hope you can check some of these shows out!

A Couple More Fringe Shows...

Yesterday I snuck in a show between my two shows and I forgot to mention one from the earlier day (all that hairspray I am inhaling is affecting my memory I think!). 

Life is a Musical! - It seems the only time I catch Improv is at Fringe and this is the 3rd time I have caught Grindstone Theatre's live improvised musical.  The story this time centered around a Barista from Starbucks named Sasha.  They cleverly tied it to West Side Story and it was a lot of fun. Highlights for me were the villans, Antonio (Neil Kuefler) and Banderas (Mark Vetsch) whose machismo was hysterical and the absolutely brilliant Mary Hulbert who played Sasha.  Hulbert sang a torchy long song (she's done this before) that I hope they recorded because it was so good. A sure-fire, super fun, hour of improv!

Loris and Beaver Play BINGO - I caught this earlier in the week. It's a play about writing a play.  As a playwright there were things I connected to in terms of the struggle to actually work and the things you do to avoid the writing (I however, do not drink nearly as much wine!). I really liked the scenes from the "play in progress" and would have liked to have seen more of that.  I think those where the places where the writing was strongest and most focused. All three actors are engaging and likable and quite natural onstage. 

Anyhow, I have my penultimate SHOUT! performance today.  Was excited to be approached in the Beer Tent last night by Laurie Blakeman who said she really enjoyed the show AND that she tweeted about it! Woo hoo! Catch us at 2:15 p.m. today or 9:00 p.m. on Saturday!