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Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Ladies Who Blog on What it is Podcast...

This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with 3 other #yegtheatre Bloggers and the What It Is Podcast to talk about the past theatre season.  It was a terrifically fun hour with the What It is guys, full of great discussion of theatre blogging in Edmonton as well as a ridiculously fun game where we had to remember what we wrote in our blogs, and what the others may have written.  The other 3 Bloggers were Louise Mallory (Ephemeral Pleasures), Jenna Marynowski (After the House Lights) and Savanna Harvey (The Pretentious English Major).  I know Louise and Jenna very well and often see them out and about and it was great to meet Savanna.  I think we each add something different to the online #yegtheatre landscape.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Summer is a Terrific Time for Arts Education! Artstrek and Foote Theatre School!

Friday, I got to have one of those incredible experiences that really underscores for me why I volunteer as a Theatre Alberta Board member.  We try to have our board meetings coincide with the programming that we offer: Emerge, Dramaworks, Playworks Ink, Artstrek.  It's a great opportunity to see what we are actually putting the work in for.  Two years ago, we were supposed to attend on one of the Artstrek sharing days, but the flooding that happened made that impossible as there were emerging issues that had to be dealt with and the board meeting was pushed to later in the summer. This summer, however, we were able to be there for Exploration I sharing.  I 'knew' that Artstrek was an awesome program, but I had never seen or felt it.  The energy and the spirit and commitment to practice that I saw on stage made my eyes well up with tears more than once during the one hour sharing.  There was such a phenomenal spirit of respect - from the students to the instructors and back - and from the students towards the art.  Truly wonderful.  I so want my sons to experience this.  I think I will be able to get my younger one to do it, but the older one needs more convincing.  I could tell that this was an incredibly safe place, where he would feel safe and where he would have fun and where he would learn.  Now I just have to figure out how to get him there. You can find out more about Artstrek here. 

How do I know this would be something for him?  Because Friday also was the final day for my kid's camps at the Foote Theatre School.  I worried that the older one was getting too old, but his enthusiasm every day when he came home, talking about the activities and games and how great his teachers were, was wonderful to hear.  The only thing I have heard him talk about with as much enthusiasm is Minecraft so it's great for me to hear him demonstrate a similar passion for something else.  The younger one was similarly engaged and having fun - he's more social so it's more about the other kids - but still he loved what he was doing and I can say honestly that the Foote Theatre School has helped him to feel safe onstage so that he no longer has his terrible stage fright (he used to cry about going onstage - no more!). I am glad I have a few more years with him there!

Foote Theatre School has camps and classes all year long for kids, teens and adults.  You can find more information on it here. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Freewill Players' As You Like It - Great to be back in the park!

Sunday night my husband and I took in As You Like It in Hawrelak Park - the comedy of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival.  It was so lovely to be back at the park under the big white canopy.  I enjoyed Taming of the Shrew last summer, but there is something about seeing Shakespeare outdoors that feels so right. It was good to be back.

The show was so much fun.  No terrific surprises in the delivery of the play, but solid performances from everyone and a lot of laughs for the audience.  I loved the Downton Abbey inspired costumes by Hannah Matiachuk. Everything was picture perfect and the aesthetic really seemed to suit the play.  As You Like It is one I have seen a few times before, and this look gave the play a really fresh feel.

The company is so very solid, and we see many familiar faces on the stage.  I think if you normally shy away from Shakespeare because you feel you won't understand it, then this is certainly the show to see to get you over that fear. The actors in Freewill, even the newbies, have a facility for the language that makes everything accessible.  It's also great fun.

Highlights in action for me included the wrestling (both the warm-up and the actual bout), the wonderful BFF connection between Rosalind (Mary Hulbert) and Celia (Belinda Cornish), Amiens' (Nicholas Donald Rose) wonderful singing, Touchstone (Ryan Parker) making his cane a character of it's own (he's hilarious, even when he messes up - perhaps more so!), and Ashley Wright's excellent portrayal of Jaques.  Jaques is often too morose for me, but Wright played him in a refreshing way, almost like a scholar of melancholy as opposed to a sufferer of it. There are lovely little moments in the piece that give testament to the maxim, "There are no small parts, only small actors." John Ullyatt proves this with his hysterical performance as Le Beau, as does Nancy McAlear with her delightfully abrasive Phebe.

All in all, it was a lovely night.  Next weekend I shall be back for Coriolanus (which I have NEVER seen - so I am SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!)!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Why Artistic Directors choose the plays they choose...

Tonight I will be attending and to some degree participating in the following event:
YEG Reading & Panel Discussion - July 4, 2015 - (7 pm)The Space - Casavant Productions - 6776 - 99th Street - Edmonton
Come and join us for our final event of the inaugural APN RBC Emerging Artist Mentorship Program.
The event features a panel discussion with Edmonton Artistic Directors entitled "What Was I Thinking?". Panelists John Hudson(AD - Shadow Theatre), Heather Inglis (AD - Theatre YES) & Bradley Moss (AD - Theatre Network) will be discussing what goes into the selection of works for presentation at their theatre.
Following the panel discussion there will be staged readings of excerpts from the plays that were created as part of the mentorship program. Readings from Sarah C. Louise, Alison Neuman, & Kristen M. Finlay.
This event is open to the public, but seating is limited. To RSVP please email: trevor@albertaplaywrights.com
Despite being incredibly busy (perhaps too busy) I participated in the APN RBC Emerging Artist Mentorship Program this spring.  I was mentored by Kim McCaw and we had terrific conversations that I've taken as jumping off points for two scripts and hopefully many more to come.  There were fabulous tips and suggestions that made me think differently about what I was writing.  I'm having a section from my script The Water Beneath Her Feet read, and although I have a long way to go on that script, it was good to get back into it. I have a feeling that this is one of those scripts that will take me many years to finish.  It was great to have someone else look at what I had and ask me the right questions to get me moving on it again. We also talked about The Easy Road and I am so excited about what I want to do with that script now.  I have worked a lot on that script and it is probably the closest to production, but it is amazing what having a different set of eyes look at it can do (someone outside the workshop experience). When you are knee deep in something it can be hard to see it in a different way.  Kim's questions have energized me on this and as soon as Fringe is done I will be jumping back into it with both feet! 
Anyhow, feel free to come by tonight.  I am looking forward to the panel and am a little nervous about the reading, but it would be good to see you there!

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Man of No Importance a moving celebration of community...

Last night I took in Opening Night of A Man of No Importance at Walterdale Theatre. It's a musical version of the 1994 movie starring Albert Finney, about a bus conductor Alfie (played with subtley and charm by Morgan Smith) in Dublin in the 1960s who finds a happy life leading a local amateur theatrical troupe in the local church and living with his older sister who is just waiting for him to get married.  He is deeply closeted as it is a time in the very Catholic Ireland when homosexuality is both a crime and a sin. When he decides to produce Salome by Oscar Wilde the resulting scandal turns his well-ordered life upside-down and he decides to confront the truth of who he is.

It's a wonderful piece of theatre.  It celebrates and it mourns. It celebrates the community of community theatre, really of any theatre collaboration.  All the members of the troupe come together to be something more than what their lives are.  As directed by Lauren Boyd, this cast does a lovely job of staying in the world.  The staging is fluid and dynamic and engaging, drawing us into these ordinary people's lives. We recognize ourselves and others on the stage and we also see the passion and love for creating art. It fits perfectly upon Walterdale's stage and you believe that you are watching this encapsulated world.  Joan Hawkin's simple but ingenious set does part of that, but so does Boyd's direction and the ensemble's commitment to the world.  There are imperfections, but those are owned as they would be by the actual characters of that 1964 Dublin.

The play also has sad and touching moments, without over-dramatizing we see the struggle for Alfie as he hides who he is and who he loves, finding consolation in his love of theatre. When that is taken from him and he sees so many other people in his world sinning without repercussion, and he decides to be he who truly is, the results are heartbreaking. A great deal of that goes to Smith's delicate delivery of Alfie and his anguish.  So many wonderful moments communicated internally subtly and honestly.

Smith is supported by a thoughtful and dedicated ensemble. The songs, though not particularly memorable, are well sung and tuneful, and if I had one criticism it was that volume of some of the solos was a little low and the use of mics or some muffling of the orchestra in places might help with that. My favorite was the ensemble piece,Art, but though that song says "in a week and a half, it'll be art," I beg to differ.  This show is Art right now.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Double Header Saturday - Saint Albert and Calvin Berger!

On a day like today, it was quite delightful to spent the afternoon and the evening in air conditioned theatres, particularly since my van's AC has crapped out (great timing...).  Anyhow, it's even better when the theatrical fare is entertaining and well done!

I took in Teatro la Quindicina's newest offering, Saint Albert, in the afternoon.  A last minute cancellation of my original date combined with great timing on behalf of my husband meant for a surprise afternoon date.  He'd never seen a Teatro show before so it was nice to finally introduce him. He had fun and I think he'd go again. The show is a bit hard to describe without spoilers, but provided quite a few laughs especially from Jeff Haslam as the mysterious Magnus.  There's also a terrific song, Onion Bun, evidence of the Europop success of Desi played by the bright and perky Rachel Bowron. I am hoping that we might be able to download it eventually.  It was super-catchy in the spirit of ABBA and Aqua! Following the show, my husband and I had a terrific chat about various historic Alberts and we felt a sequel with Albert Einstein could be a lot of fun! Saint Albert runs until July 4th at the Backstage Theatre. 

Then we went home, had a great steak dinner off the BBQ and gathered the boys and took them to see Threeform Theatre's Calvin Berger, a modernized musical version of Cyrano set in high school. The boys are getting to the age where real children's theatre is too young for them and I was pleased to take them to this.  They both had a great time and Oliver in particular found it hilarious.  He's almost 14 so the activities and emotions of high school students was particularly compelling.  All four of the actors (Matt Graham, Mackenzie Reurink, Sydney Williams and Kirkland Doiron) in this show were terrific. The score demands big, competent voices that soar and there was no problem with that.  We really have some talent in this city.  These are young up and comers that I expect we'll see more of in years to come.  They were also quite funny and worked well as an ensemble.  It closed tonight, but keep an eye out for more Threeform Theatre work as I have been impressed with everything of theirs that I have seen. 

Tomorrow I am back at rehearsal for both my Fringe shows, SHOUT! and Double Double.  I'm pretty sure that part of me will be wishing I was back in an air conditioned theatre, but the rehearsing is going very well and I get  bit of a break from Canada Day through the weekend. It's summer folks! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Trip to Runyonland... ELOPE presents GUYS AND DOLLS at the Timm's Centre

I have a fond attachment to ELOPE Musical Theatre.  When I moved to Edmonton in 2005, the first how I auditioned for (and got in) was ELOPE's Fiddler on the Roof. There I met many good friends who remain part of the core of my friends today.  A few years later I was in Baby with ELOPE which added many more terrific people to my friends list and a few years later I directed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which was an amazing experience.

This season, ELOPE is putting on the classic Guys and Dolls at the Timm's Centre.  It's a fun world of gansters, gamblers, showgirls and salvation army misionaries in New York in a time long past. The songs are highly recognizable from the cutsey A Bushell and a Peck, to Sue Me, to I'll Know, to the title song Guys and Dolls. This cast handled the music well, particularly the leads.  Christina O'Dell and Stephen Allred as the mismatched Salvation Army Missionary Sarah Brown and Gambler Sky Masterson both had sweeping voices well equipped to handle their soaring love ballads.  O'Dell handled the challenging If I Were a Bell terrifically with a full sounding soprano and Allred's Luck Be A Lady was similarly well delivered. James Toupin and Karin Thomas as the more comic couple Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide had a real chemistry.  They've appeared as a couple onstage previously (The Full Monty) and their ease with each other really worked onstage.  Thomas was a lot of fun and made some terrific character choices to great comic effect.  Toupin's Detroit was a great foil and always believable.  They were great onstage separately and even better when they shared the stage together. Another highlight for me was Joe Garreck as Nicely Nicely Johnson.  He did a fantastic job on the show stopper Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat.  

If I had one criticism, it would likely be to clip a few of the dance numbers both in length and in people onstage.  Sometimes in the big numbers like the Havana scene and Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat it got hard to know what to look at because there was just too much going on.  With a show this length some of the dances originally put in to cover scene changes could have been shortened to move it a long faster.  But that's me... I'm sure someone else has a different opinion on that.

It's a fun show and one you leave humming the songs.  A little birdie from Tix on the Square told me that it is selling really well, so this might be one to buy your tickets in advance for.  It was certainly a packed house last night!