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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.