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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The past few weeks...

I have been working on Proof at Walterdale.  We are a hair's width from Opening so that will mean my schedule will open up and I will be able to post in a more timely manner. I did manage to squeeze in a few shows over the last little while... better late than never!

A couple of weekends back I managed to get to Two One Way Tickets to Broadway's Forbidden Broadway at La Cite.  It was a fun night of parody of Broadway musicals.  I think it really worked for people who know musicals.  I am not sure how it would play for people who don't know the shows and performers being mocked.  It was pretty quick and the four performers all sang well and went for it.  My favourite moments were an outrageous Carol Channing performed by Kyle Thulien and almost every time Kristin Johnston was onstage. She has an electric stage presence and is a quadruple threat as you can clearly add comedian to the list of singer, dancer and actor.

Last weekend I grabbed the last available ticket for the Saturday Night performance of NLT Bitches and Money 1878 at the PCL Theatre. This was a surprising departure from last season's shows.  It was a non chronological steam-punk caper of sorts.  Very well directed, acted and designed with an intriguing script that left you with a few more questions than answers.  It was fun, but I do admit I wanted a little bit more, but I think that was the script more than anything.  I liked the play with chronology and the absolute commitment to the choices.  It was also a nice surprise in that I have seen two of the three actors before (Ben Gorodetsky and Andrea Jorawsky) but never quite in this way and it made me appreciate the depths of their talents more.  The third actor (Laura Gillespie) was new to me and a delightful discovery.  Nice to see three young and skilled performers bringing it with such an interesting piece.

Tonight I took a drive out to Spruce Grove to see Marion Bridge at Horizon Stage.  I'm a sucker for a Daniel MacIvor play!  Indeed, if I weren't directing Proof, I would have been auditioning for this show. I did get to take part in a small way by contributing to the sound design as the evil Kara Ryan in the audio from the TV Soap that the sisters watch off stage.  As it was, they certainly didn't need me as the trio onstage were totally up for the job.  Director Anne Marie Szucs kept it simple and let the script do the work. This was a wise choice in the severe thrust of Horizon Stage. It's a hard space to block in but I think they did a nice job considering the constraints. I really liked the interplay of the three sisters, eldest-alcoholic-rough-around-the-edges Agnes (Erin Forwick-Whalley), middle-never-a-problem-ever-patient Theresa (Julie Sinclair) and youngest-strange-homebody Louise (Sarah Van Tassel).  The three worked well together and felt believable as sisters. They managed to raise them above the potential stereo-types of the characters and make them real. I love the script but had forgotten how funny it was.  This production used the humour to lift it up above the events that could otherwise seem very sad.  It was a lovely night out and totally worth the icy drive!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Knee Deep in Proof, First Contact with Christmas Carol...

This week we hit an important milestone in our rehearsals for Proof.  We finished Blocking the whole show.  We now move into putting the whole thing together and getting the feel of the arc of the show through stumbles and runs of larger chunks of it.  Sunday will see our first Stumble Through of the whole show and we will see where we are at for lines.  Since we did so much text work off the top I am not worried about that.  Already my actors are taking sizable chunks off-book and trusting themselves.  With a cast of four that means that everyone has a lot to get into their brain and body but they are all hard workers and seem to be really trusting the process.  Already I am seeing them trusting the emotional response and on Tuesday night we had a few moments of us tearing up at the table as we watched their work.  Truly lovely moments coming through.  Makes me happy as a director!  Now to put it all together! We are also blessed with a super fast and dedicated production team.  The set is built and we have blocked the whole show in situ.  Layers of paint have made for cool discoveries as we come in to see the world becoming more and more real each rehearsal.  It makes it easier for the actors to inhabit the world when it feels so complete right off the bat. We are lucky!

At work, we started Christmas Carol rehearsals this week.  Tuesday was the Meet and Greet and First Read Through.  There are quite a few new faces this year.  I have only ever seen the show once (last season) and this is my first year on staff for Carol, so I stayed for the Read to hear it.  I was a little surprised to see how much it moved me just from the table.  I must admit I had a couple tears to wipe away.  It is a testament to the actors in the cast that they could bring the piece to life without anything but their voices and their emotional commitment.  It will be all the more magical with the sets and costumes, but for me there is always something special about that first Read-Through! In any case, it is going to be a bit more active and noisy at the theatre with all those kids and the rest of the cast in the building.  I am looking forward to it.  Some of my favorite local actors are onstage, so it will be great to see it again!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pig Girl - Hard to Watch, Important to Think About

The other night I took in Pig Girl at Theatre Network.  I am not one to shy away from shows with difficult and challenging topics, as I like theatre that leaves me with a pang in my heart and thinking for days.  The topic is the abduction and murder of marginalized women in the Vancouver area by Robert Pickton and the impact on their families. Although Pickton's name is never mentioned, it's pretty clear that he is the model for the Killer (Randy Hughson).  It's a tough piece to watch for many reasons. The topic itself is not very palatable.  In real time we watch the Killer assault and prepare to kill Dying Woman (Nadien Chu), this is itself is very hard to watch as it is graphic and unrelenting and ever present.  Side by side with that we watch the frustrated Dying Woman's Sister (Elinor Holt) plead for help from the Police Officer (Brian Dooley) over the many years of her sister's disappearance.   It challenges everyone sitting in the audience about how much they care about these lost women.  It's very clear to me that playwright Colleen Murphy is angry and this comes through in her play very clearly in her representation of Police Officer.  I think this was what was hardest for me.  As the figure of authority, Police Officer represents all of society, and the anger leveled at him in this script is palpable.  As he appears uncaring and annoyed at the persistence of the Dying Woman's Sister it says something about the world as a whole.  Initially, when I left I was ticked off at that portrayal as I thought that the play actually was dehumanizing the police, making them more monstrous than the actual killers. I know RCMP officers and they truly care about the people they work with, most of whom are marginalized like the Dying Woman.  But then I started to think about it and why I was so angry.  In this play, the Police Officer is all of us.  The Police Officer is those of us who read the horrifying stories in the newspaper and are appalled, but distanced. We feel sad, but we are thankful that this is not our world.  We might hold our children closer and use the Dying Woman and Killer as a cautionary tale, but we do not do much more than that.  I am not sure where to go further though. We can think more of these lost women as humans who did not deserve what happened to them no matter what their life choices.  We can think more about their families who have lost precious daughters and sisters and mothers.  We can give money to the organizations that help protect those women (you can do this right in the lobby of the theatre). Beyond that, I am not sure what else we can do, because there will always be monsters in the dark that take the shape of humans and prey on those least able to help themselves...

Friday, November 08, 2013

Salome, The Fierce Awards, A Visit from my Sister, Opening Night of 2 Pianos 4 Hands, Hallowe'en and a Second and Third Helping of The Daisy Theatre... Just Another Week...

The trouble with having so much great stuff on your plate is that when you don't have much time to actually blog about it!

My incredibly busy spree started last Thursday with the Invited Dress for the Edmonton Opera's Salome.  It was a gorgeous and lush show and I loved Salome's ( Maida Hundeling) soaring high notes, although she was difficult to hear in the lower sections.  They told us that because it was dress the performers might be marking their voices, so I imagine that this did not happen during actual shows. I just wanted to hear! Compared to the last two operas I saw, this one took me a little longer to get into as I felt the opening half was a bit slow and I was a bit distracted by the disembodied voice of John the Baptist (Jakonen).  Once we met all the characters I was much more invested.  I really loved what they did with the Dance of the Seven Veils and Salome's final aria as she cradled the head of John the Baptist was quite lovely.  The world was striking itself.  I loved the fractured moon and the lighting and the use of chains as a framework/scrim was quite ingenious, and the lighting (designed by Brette Gerecke) - Oh! the lighting was gorgeous.   I feel like I am being challenged as an audience member when I see opera so I am excited for whatever comes next.

The next night I was at another Invited Dress as I took in 2 Pianos 4 Hands at the Citadel.  I hade read the script because it's part of my job but it really didn't prepare me for how incredibly good the show was going to be.  I think that is because the script doesn't really have all the music in it and the two actors (Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt) are so good at both acting and playing that it took it to a whole new level. I am going back tonight with my kids and husband because I MUST share it with them.  My boys have done piano for 4 1/2 years so I think they will get a kick out of it. It's selling really well so I would advise getting tickets earlier rather than later - so totally worth it!

My sister came to visit on the weekend.  I took her to The Daisy Theatre as I thought she'd like that.  She did and I did.  It was my second time.  About 65% of the show was the same with 35% of new stuff or stuff I hadn't seen, but even the things that were familiar were fresh and alive as Ronnie Burkett certainly keeps it current and he mixes it up a bit.  I actually went for a Third helping last night as well, so I feel like I am stalking the show.  I am not sure if I will catch it again, but I kind of want to because there are characters I still haven't seen and I want to see it all!  Last night was
particularly hysterical, with a new piece that had me howling!  Only two more weeks of this show and the seating is limited because it's in The Club so I'd get on this one.  It's not one to miss!

On Monday I was at The Fierce Awards for which I was nominated.  I didn't win, but I felt like a winner because I had some great friends there with me to support me and make me feel special.  The chocolate martinis and cotton candy didn't hurt either!  It was nice to see so many talented women (and men in the Champion category) from the community being recognized. It was a night filled with cheesy jokes, belly dancing, some cool hula hoop tricks, great singing and hip hop dancing.  Most inspirational were the winner's speeches.  Some really great women got recognized!

I squeezed in a couple of Proof Rehearsals and then Hallowe'en/Opening Night hit. It was exciting to hear about the audience's reaction to 2 Pianos 4 Hands.  This show has gotten standing ovations every night so far and has been so well received that we had to add another show to accommodate the demand.  That's pretty exciting.  I took my boys a few nights later and I will be writing a separate post about that.   Suffice it to say, I was impressed, entertained and touched by the show and the performances.

A busy week!  I have more to write about since, so I will wrap this up and hope that you can check out some of the shows... there are more on the docket in town so, as I like to say on twitter, DON'T STAY HOME! SEE A SHOW!