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Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Spoonful of Sugar... My Date with Gibson and Mary Poppins!

Last night I took my youngest son to see the Broadway Across Canada Production of Mary Poppins.  It was quite delightful.  The stage show is very different from the movie (at least what I remember of it), but it captures the essence of it and this production definitely went for creating the magical.  One of the most joyful things for me about it was being there with Gibson and seeing it through his eyes. From the moment the set started moving he was whispering "How'd they do that?" and "It's like magic!". He looked for the strings in the flying parts and told me when he saw they but seemed more delighted with that than when he couldn't see them and underscored it with "It's still cool, Mom!". Watching him (and feeling him - that chair was bouncing!) dance in his seat during Step In Time was pure fun! I loved it when he recognized that it was 'lucky' when Mr. banks shook Bert's hand (a big O-shaped mouth and a grab at my arm when that happened). I highly recommend taking a child with you if you get to see this show.

I might have to go and re-watch the movie, or not... I haven't decided.  I liked the differences.  I liked how it was more about Mr. and Mrs. Banks than I remembered.  I loved the whimsy and the colour of Mary Poppins' adventures as they contrasted with the dull greys of non-adventure London.  I liked the sweet romance between Bert and Mary.  This production was smooth and hit all it's moments just right. They certainly knew what story they were telling.  I also enjoyed seeing a variety of people up on the stage.   The story may be set in a very anglo-saxon world, but it is a children's fantasy story, and I felt it was a stronger piece for the inclusion of people of different colours. I was certainly glad to hear such a strong cast belting out with fabulous voices and was thrilled by the outstanding dancing.  I am always in favour when the most talented people are on the stage in front of me!  Mary Poppins (Rachel Wallace) herself was perfect and I enjoyed her vanity and sense of fun.  We saw the understudy for Bert (Con O'Shea-Creal) but there was nothing missing there. 

It was a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Night!

* Mary Poppins marks # 29 of my 2012 Theatre Goal (only 11 to go and I still have Fringe ahead of me!).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Celebrating my Mother, Nancy Strand - 70 Years Young!

This past weekend my mother turned 70 years old.  It is hard to believe it when you look at her, but she is.  She does not seem like a typical 70 year old, at least not what we stereotypically think of when we think of someone that age.  She is active in the community, in our family and in the country overall (she's into politics, to put it lightly).  I hope I inherit those qualities that have kept her so young!

To celebrate this occasion, my siblings and I put on a little party for her.  All the immediate family was there and many of her friends came out to celebrate with us.  We had food aplenty and drinks and photos to share and crafts for the kids.  My mother was delighted and had a wonderful time visiting with her friends and family.  It was a lovely way to spend the day and I was very pleased to see her so happy!

I know many people will say that they have The Best Mom in the world - but I know that I do. I try to emulate her where I can in my own role as mother.  I do not ever think I am as good as she is at it, but I try. She had five children and I know that each one of us believe we are her favorite - she makes us feel that way.  She does the same now with her grandchildren. It is hard to explain what makes her so great as a mom and as a person - once you meet her, you know.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Two Evenings of Spectacle and Shakespeare!

I bought my Festival Pass for Freewill Players over a month ago, however I was unable to use it until this week.  On Wednesday I bundled up and watched Julius Caesar and last night I took in The Tempest.  I don't always make it to both shows of the Festival, but I had never seen (or read) either of the shows this year so I really wanted to.  The focus this year seemed to be on spectacle and that choice served both pieces well.  I loved discovering the plays onstage and live and this was a true test for myself and for the productions.  I enjoyed both, but was a bit distanced from each for different reasons.

Julius Caesar was wrapped up in it's struggle with ambition vs. ideals and the world of politics. It felt like more of an idea play than an action play (even though there is action).  This is not a criticism, merely an observation.  It was and is interesting to think about whether you can do something wrong for the right reasons.  I was surprised to discover that Brutus is really the central character (I didn't know! I told you I went in totally unprepared beyond knowing about the ides of March and the stabbing.) and as always Chris Bullough was excellent.  I did find it hard to identify a villain because of the humanizing approach the production took with regards to Cassius (Kevin Corey), but discussions with others afterwards led me to believe that ambition was the villain. Although the spectacle did occasionally remove me emotionally from the play it did help to provide one of the best battle scenes I have ever seen on a stage.

The Tempest was delightful and playful.  It was not as dark as I was expecting (I think I was influenced by Julie Taymor's trailers for her film) and I laughed quite a bit, particularly at the clownish servants - Troy O'Donnell, Kevin Corey, and Nathan Cuckow.  Mat Simpson and Cayley Thomas-Haug were also quite fun as the young lovers.  I enjoyed the spectacle as it served the piece (so full of magic). I think my challenge was in finding a villain - but it is once again a character trait that plays that role - vengeance.  John Wright, perfect as Prospero, anchored the piece magnificently and Ariel (Amber Borotsik), along with her fellow island spirits, created a magical world.



* Julius Caesar and The Tempest mark #27 & #28 of my 2012 Theatre Goal

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Skirts Afire - What are you Passionate About?

Monday evening I was delighted to attend the launch for Skirts Afire - HerArts Festival at The Carrot on 118th Avenue.  The brainchild of local actor and playwright Annette Loiselle and a group of equally accomplished women in the Edmonton Arts scene, Skirts Afire, is an upcoming theatre/arts festival that focuses on stories told by and for (but not limited to) women. Certainly looking around the room on Monday night I could see why this was a focus topic.  It was a great collection of female artists and art supporters in the space, come to find out what this was all about. it was a great event and we were treated to a visual art display, some poetry, a short reading from The Passion of Mary, as well as the musical talents of Andrea House.

The inaugural festival is set for March 7-10, 2013 and will be held in various locations on the Ave.  They group hopes to incorporate a variety of art mediums, including theatre, visual art, dance, and music. Still in the planning stages, programming has not been finalized, but the group is working on that and plans to bring an exciting mix to the community.  One thing is for sure, the stories shall reflect the voices of women.

In Edmonton's theatre scene, this certainly makes sense.  When I think about the number of power-house women we have to draw from, particularly in the independent theatre scene it makes me quite excited.  It is interesting to note that most of the major theatre companies in town (The Citadel, Shadow, Teatro, Theatre Network, Northern Light, Workshop West) are headed by men, and while their programming often takes into account the strength of the women in our city's theatre scene, it will be interesting to see what happens with this festival which is entirely female driven.  It has me personally and artistically excited as my own company, FinallySauces, has a mandate for telling women's stories  and I certainly write from a very female perspective (it's what I know).

A lot must go into creating a festival like this and the group is hoping to raise not only awareness, but funds, in a fundraising event tied to Loiselle's playwrighting debut, The Passion of Mary at Theatre Network this fall.  The September 8th, 2012 performance of The Passion of Mary will help support the cause.  A portion of the box office (20%) on that evening will go to Skirts Afire.  The performance will be preceded by a reception hosted by fellow committee member, Nadien Chu.

At this important stage in their development the group is looking for support in a variety of ways.  They can be contacted through their newly launched website.


SkirtsAfire Objectives
  • To create a festival that empowers, celebrates, develops, supports and highlights women in theatre and other art forms.
  • To create a platform for Canadian women’s stories and the female voice.
  • To provide opportunities for women to take on directing, writing, designing, dramaturgy, visual arts and other art forms.
    Preference will be given to female artists but not exclusively.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Good End to a Fabulous Adventure...

Nine closed last night to another Sold Out house.  I watched it for the 5th time during the 10 show run (7 times including Previews) more than any other show I have directed outside the ones I also wrote.  I think I could have watched it even more if I had had the time to do so. One of the things which made that possible was the absolute commitment to being present from the entire cast. Last night I held my breath with the rest of the audience and laughed as though I were seeing things for the first time.  It was a wonderful show.

We followed the run with a final performance of A Call From the Vatican which Cory requested because he had never seen it (his preference - he wanted to rely on his imagination through the number during the run). It was great fun to sit next to Cory as he reacted to Erika's brilliant interpretation of the number.  I think what she did was even more than he imagined! It was a wonderful way to see the number through new eyes!

Then we struck the set, cleaned the theatre, partied and said our goodbyes.   I would have stayed later (I finally left at 3:30 a.m.) but I had a family reunion to attend today in Pine Lake! I look forward to working with so many of the cast and team again in the future and if I don't get to do that, I hope to see their work on other stages.  I shall be their loudest cheerleader.

A good ending to one of the best theatre experiences I have ever had.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Be Disappointed...

There are only 3 more shows of Nine left.  I love the show, but I am the Director, don't take my word for it.  Take instead the word of the people who have come to see it - we have been overwhelmed with positive feedback from our audiences - and the three reviews we have received.  Two are posted in the previous post and I will get Vue Weekly's up as soon as it is online.  Vue's Review is absolutely glowing - I scoured for negative comments - there are none - it's all kudos.  People (strangers to me) have sent me messages saying they loved it so much they are coming back to see it twice! So blessed to receive this positive feedback.

Anyhow, so if you are my friend, or if you just like good musicals, please buy your tickets in advance.  We have sold out 3 of the 7 shows so far and have had good sized houses for the other 4.  Apparently Tix on the Square says the tickets have been selling fast this week.  Do not miss the best show on in the city at the moment (yes, I am bias - extremely so!). I'd just hate to run into you at Fringe and hear you say, "I tried to come, but it was Sold Out."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Enjoying the Kudos...

We are halfway through the run of Nine and it has been a blessed experience.  This gang is such a good group to work with, not just the cast, but the crew and the Production Team - everyone is lovely.  There are a few who verge on crazy, but it's a good spirited crazy and it makes for more fun.  I am enjoying the kudos.  I have gotten quite a few emails and messages from people about how much they like the show.  Some of them complete strangers! It is gratifying to know that you are putting something out there that people respond to.  I don't want to have people leave thinking they didn't get what they deserved as an audience member.

The reviews we have received have been extremely ego flattering - there's one in the St. Albert Gazette and one on Sound and Noise online.  I expect we will have one in Vue Weekly sometime this week and the Journal had both a photog. at media call and media comps on Opening Night so I'm waiting to see if anything shows up there. We are doing quite well in the run - being SOLD OUT for 3 of the shows so far and fairly large houses for the remainder.  We are Sold Out tonight and it's a Tuesday, so you have to be happy about that!  Between the reviews and word of mouth we can be sure the news is good!

I know it will be a bit sad when it's over, but like Guido, I tend to live some of my time in memory so I am pretty sure I can call it all back if I need to.  For now, we shall enjoy the second half of the run and try to keep cool.  The theatre proper is Air Conditioned for the audience, but the actors are upstairs in a furnace (some of them camp out in the shop where it is cooler). I think that generous souls have brought Popsicles and other cool treats to beat the heat!

* photo of Kate Holley, Mama Maddellena in Nine, by Janine Hodder

Friday, July 06, 2012

Dramaworks - Working on a New Play with Vern Thiessen... sort of...

Dramaworks is upon us!  Hooray!  I am taking the One Weekend, One Play course with Vern Thiessen.  I had to wrangle some creative childcare to make it happen, but happening it is.  We started last night and continued today and we still have two more days to work on our plays.  The first evening was a refresher, but a welcome one.  Too often we only think of the abstract artistic part of writing - the ideas and themes and poetry of it all - and we forget the crafting and the nuts and bolts of it.  Thursday evening we reviewed and learned some techniques for that aspect.  This was very good for me.  I often have 'things I want to write about' but I have a hard time figuring out the best structure to tell the story, so a mechanics lesson was well received!

Today we applied those techniques to the plays we had percolating in our brains.  We had to pitch three of them and then choose one to go with.  I finally started working on Pitchfork, which I first thought about while driving over a year ago.  Sometime tonight I need to do a little more writing on it as we are to assemble 10 pages or so by lunch tomorrow! I have 2 done after today, that's a good start, I think... I am glad to actually be writing as it always feels so good to get something done, and this idea has not left me since I had it last summer so I think it is one of those ones I need to write.

There were some added benefits.  I know that I can apply some of the work from the past two days to Little Monsters and The Water Beneath Her Feet and Girls in White Dresses (the latter will require a total reworking after I get on it!). I am excited because I can see the techniques helping with all three of these.  I would like to finish some of these works on the shelf. A fresh start and new eyes and all that will help!

Tomorrow I will probably miss the afternoon of the session as I have good hopes of being elected to the Theatre Alberta Board.  Cross your fingers and vote for me! I am excited at the idea of joining this Board.  I have been a member of Theatre Alberta for many years and I love their mandate and the work they do. It will be cool to be on the other side of the equation!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Opening Night - Sigh...

Tonight Nine opened.  It was a fabulous night. I was so pleased with the show and the reception the fabulous audience gave it.  We were Sold Out (at least on paper - there were a couple of empty seats in the house so I guess we had a few no-shows).  I laughed and I cried and it was lovely.  The audience treated us to a standing ovation which is always so gratifying and a wonderful surprise. After the show was the traditional Opening Night Reception and it was great fun talking to my Walterdale friends and the cast and crew.  I realized that I know so many lovely, lovely people and I feel blessed. I will not be back to the theatre until Friday night for archive photos so it will feel weird tomorrow night to know they are all onstage and I am not even in the building.  They know their stuff and they do it all wonderfully, but I will miss not being there.  I came home to kudos on FB from friends and strangers.  A perfect evening.

* Nine marks #26 in my 2012 Theatre Goal